Tender Mario moves

I woke up the other morning to a horrible cough. This happens to me more often as I get older. I can’t catch my breath and as I try to take a deep inhale, I cough worse. Anyway, my coughing woke Mario up from his sleep (he had had a nightmare earlier in the evening and we allowed him to sleep in our bed). It was a good thing it did because it was 7 AM and a school day. Mario jumped out of bed to head into our bathroom to take a shower. I heard him turn on the water faucet, and opened one eye when I felt him standing next to me a second later. He whispered “here mom, take a drink.” It was such a tender gesture from him. I grabbed the cup and watched him head back into the bathroom.

I came home from work a few days ago and Mario popped up from the downstairs. He gave me a big hug and told me he did the dishes. I looked in the sink and sure enough, they were all washed and placed haphazardly in the plastic drainer on the left side of the sink. After Mario washes bowls, he places them right side up so the water remains in them. It drives me crazy but I won’t complain since he took the initiative to do the dishes in the first place.

We finally got to Dick’s Sporting Goods this weekend to get Mario a new pair of gym shoes. He is definitely his mother’s child when it comes to his love for gym shoes. His Adidas were completely worn down with a hole in the toe and huge rip in the heel lining. He eyed quite a few basketball shoes before he chose his black and gold LeBrons (he knew I could not say no to anything LeBron-related). After he got his shoes from the salesman, he led me over to the women’s running shoe area. He was set on getting me a pair as well. I told him that I was good to go and we were just there to get him shoes. But, he was adamant that he wanted me to be able to experience the joy of getting a new pair of shoes as well.

On Saturday morning, I was lifting weights at the gym when I saw Mario’s number pop up. I answered the phone and he asked where I was. I told him I was at the gym, and he told me that he would walk to Stauf’s with me when I got home. The offer to walk to Stauf’s with me is equivalent to an offer to give me $25K. I would take the walk and time at Stauf’s over cash any day.

Mario and I walked to school together last week. I dropped him off to the basketball game. We talked about his favorite songs and about his plan to watch a movie a week this Summer with his buddies. As we talked and walked, he reached for my hand and held as we continued our stroll down the street. No big gesture on his part – just a gentle embrace of his left hand with my right as he continued his conversation with me.

We were eating dinner the other night – Jon and Mario and I (Maria was at dance club) – and out of nowhere Mario blurted out “I have the best mom – she plays basketball with me and always has fun.” Then he continued to eat his pasta and talk about roller skating in gym class.

Tinkerbell

Maria nailed Tinkerbell. It was as if Tink swept into Maria’s body one evening as Maria slept. Maria fully brought out Tink’s feistiness and orneriness. She was magnificent.

When she learned of the play in December of last year, she wanted to be Peter Pan or Wendy so badly. Those were the two roles that she knew would be able to fly during production. She asked me to call one of the directors from the December play and see if she would coach her. She agreed to meet with her on two different occasions before auditions at the end of January. She prepared Ri on how to present herself at the audition, how to memorize her lines, and how to give life to them. Thank god she did because it gave Ri the confidence needed to rock her audition. She auditioned knowing that she would not get the roles of Peter Pan or Wendy. They had announced that you had to be under 100 pounds for those roles. My muscular girl would not make the cut.

We got a call back the night she had a sleepover with a few friends. I was going to wait to tell her about getting the Tinkerbell role until after her friends left the next morning. At about midnight, she came running into our bedroom asking if I had heard what role she had gotten. Two of her girlfriends spending the night had received calls from their parents telling them what roles they had gotten. So, I was forced to tell her. She was so psyched.

I did not go to any of her rehearsals. She did not want me at any of them. This, from the girl who was too nervous to audition two years ago and stood by my side until her brother auditioned and brought up the nerve in her to go for it (at that time, they simply had to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat). She likes that the rehearsals and shows are her time to shine. She does not want to be overshadowed or have the disruption of chatty parents (me) or little brothers. She definitely held her own with all of those actors and actresses. The few times I did go backstage to pick her up, she was jabbering away with her fellow cast members who I had never met. She loves that. She is completely comfortable making new friends. And they all love her. Who doesn’t though? Everyone Jon and I meet talk about how down-to-earth and kind Maria is to everyone she meets.

She worked her butt off the week of the play going downtown at 5 PM every night and not returning home until 10:30 or later. She was excited on opening night. Patty, Meg, I and Alana came to watch her. Her voice was a little raspy but she hung in there. She got home that evening and her ankle was bruised and swollen from jumping off the bed in these little flat shoes she had to wear. She drank 3 cups of hot tea to help soothe her throat.

She had her last soccer game on Saturday afternoon. I thought she may want to skip it, which I was against, but instead, she was all in. She is dedicated to her team. We all went to Easton to watch her and when we got home, Sarah and Elena arrived. She played with Elena until her ride picked her up to go to the show. Sarah, Elena, Jon, and my dad went to see her Saturday show. I stayed behind, much to my dislike, with Mario, who felt sick. He had a fever and we figured it was strep throat due to a couple of his buddies who had it the week before. He was bummed out, too, because he had wanted to see Maria in the play. Jon reported that she did fabulous. She spent the night with her three girlfriends who were in the show with her. I went over to the girlfriend’s house to hang out with some moms until midnight. The girls were still up when I left. I was a little worried about how she would feel for Sunday show but she deserved to have a little fun after a week of craziness.

She arrived home on Sunday morning at 8 AM. She had gotten up at her friend’s house and asked the dad to drive her back home so she could be with Elena. Ri roller skated and Elena biked up to Stauf’s for breakfast. Then we hit the park. We did not arrive home until 11 AM. My mom had arrived at that time. We went to the basement for a dance party while my mom gave Sarah a massage. An hour later, Maria had to leave us again to head to her last show. My mom and I arrived 30 minutes early and the line was already out the door. They had sold out of tickets. Luckily, I was able to get my mom a seat. Elena and I played at the park across the street. We met up with my mom at intermission and we were lucky to have somebody leave and give us their seat. I was so happy to see the second half of the play. Maria got a rousing round of applause at the end of the show with some people even standing up. The cutest thing was when we were getting pictures with my mom and a little girl came up to her to ask if she could get her picture with Tinkerbell.

Absolutely adorable.

And Maria was as sweet as sugar giving her a hug and turning around for the camera to pose for a picture. She’s a natural.

Lattes and swings

Sundays can be rough for me. I know I have to get up early the next morning, start a new work week, make sure the kids get homework done, take them to practices, make lunches … but they become much more tolerable when I can start them with a Stauf’s coffee and scone with my babies. 

Of course, we all enjoy different modes of transportation to Staufs: Maria roller skates, I walk, and Mario bikes. Ri talked about a trip to California and how excited she’d be to visit the Kardashidans’ house. Mario wants to hit Hollywood with the hopes of being spotted as the next heartthrob movie star. Always interesting conversations heading to Staufs. 


At Stauf’s, Mario decided that he wanted to try a latte. The boy wants to be 25 years old so badly. I decided to allow him to try it with the thought that he would inevitably hate it and then I could drink it. It was a piece of art when it was delivered to us. Maria had to Instagram it.


Maria got her everything bagel and onion cream cheese, Mario got his black Russian bagel with cream cheese, and I got my yummy chocolate chip scone. We decided to play the political question game that Stauf’s houses in a game cabinet. The first question was “what foods best embody America?” Without hesitation, Maria shouted “hamburgers and fries!” Mario went with hot dogs and apple pie. The next question was “describe a holiday you’d create.” Maria said that she’d create a “giving” holiday in June that would be exactly six months after Christmas. It would be a holiday where everybody would give to the poor and the needy and not take any gifts themselves. Sweet. Mario pondered the question for a bit and then decided that he would go with the “after Super Bowl holiday.” He was looking out for his immediate interest.

After Stauf’s, we hit the old church park we used to go to all the time. We even managed to still be able to all go down the enclosed slide together.


But the most fun was the swings. Mario started a jumping contest. He had me give him an underdog push and when he got as high as he could, he’d jump off – sometimes on his feet and sometimes on his side and sometimes in a roll. Ri was nervous but then did her typical Ri move – she swung her arms and stood tall and pronounced “if Mario can do it then I can do it!” And she did (although she did land on her side the first time but quickly shook off the pain).


We spent nearly an hour trying to choreograph a simultaneous jump. This is as good as we got.


Not bad, heh?!

The sun was shining as we walked home, and I couldn’t have been happier. Now, to just keep this feeling later in the evening when Sunday evening blues creep in….

Weekend busy

Ri and Mario spent the entire weekend in sleepovers with their friends. Friday night, Ri and Mario headed up to the football game tailgate with Jon. They arrive an hour early to party it up with the rest of the parents parked in the lot by the field. Ri chatted it up with Jon’s friends and ate the unending line of dips while Mario threw the football with his buddies. 


I made it up in the second half (after letting go of the week’s work and taking my pup for a walk in the woods). When I arrived, Ri and Evelyn were already asking for a sleepover. Mario and Zach had already gotten approval from their dads for one at Zach’s house. I agreed and we decided to leave the game to head to Choclate Cafe for a late night snack. As I cleaned up the kitchen, the girls primped up for the Cafe. I had no clue that’s what they were doing and when they came down, I was caught by surprise. They really need to not dress up because they look like high schoolers and it makes me cringe! 


We enjoyed caramel truffles and milkshakes at 10 pm. Meanwhile, the boys played some serious x box at Zach’s house. 

On Saturday, the girls humored me and walked to Stauf’s for breakfast. We sat outside with Rocco and played cards while eating our yummy muffins. Then we hit Target for dress shopping – the girls’ favorite activity. The boys went, too, in order to sucker me into buying them face masks for their Nerf battles. Mario brought up his previous two eye scratches and that’s all it took. I bought them. Ri found a dress after trying on three of them. Ev wanted her to get one with polka dots but RI’s style is much more subdued – plain black. 


After Target, I took Ri to get her hair conditioned. A week ago, she mixed coconut oil and baking powder in her hair and it felt like hay. It looked awful and you couldn’t get a brush through it. She didn’t seem to care but it drove me nuts. It took two washes to get it clean but it finally looked normal again.

The girls had a b-day party on Saturday afternoon, and the boys wanted to hang out our house since we’ve got all the “bad food.” I agreed to take them for the night and our friends would take the girls. The boys begged me to take them to Get Air like I took the girls one evening a while back. But Zach is still recovering from a concussion so we couldn’t do trampolines. They decided on Galaxy Games and Golf for a round of putt-putt and some gym play. Little did they know that I am quite the putt-putter. I amazed them with my hole-in-one. Actually, I heard Mario whisper to Zach “my mom is really good.” Precious. 


We walked inside after their crushing defeat and right in front of us was a claw machine – Mario’s addiction! He begged for coins to play. Again, sucker mom. It doesn’t help that I love those dang claw machines, too. Mario, of course, immediately won a stuffed animal and a ball. It took Zach a few more tries but he nabbed an animal and a ball, too. In trying to get an animal, he nearly got a stuffed animal chicken. Mario was set on winning it because I was dumb enough to whisper “oh, I would have loved that chicken!” He’s gonna spend all his money on his dates trying to win them stuffed animals. He kept trying and trying but the chicken kept winning. I finally stepped in and asked if I could try it. I clawed the chicken and a random teddy bear – won two in one try! Can you sense my excitement still?! The boys were amazed again….


I had to put a stop on the claw games much to their dismay. They would have spent a fortune there if they could. We moved on to the gym, which was full of kids. I read my book and ate my snacks while looking up at Mario here and there when he shouted at me. 

We stopped at McDonald’s on the way home for some delicious dinner and then turned on the Buckeyes game when we got home. They made their way to the reclining sofa and commented on every play of the game. Jon got home shortly after us and we all watched the game together. Mario fell asleep around 10 but Zach hung in with us until the end. 

The next morning the boys and I walked to Stauf’s (two days in a row!). We ate bagels while playing cards and watching the marathoners. Heaven. Then we topped off the sleepover by heading to the woods for a Nerf gun battle. Rocco refused to leave Mario’s side. Alana and Patty were at the house when we returned. 

Alana and Ri loved working the concession stand at Mario’s football game. They each made some cash from it. 


Meanwhile, Mario and his teammates suffered their first loss of the season. They played hard with two of their stars out with injuries. I’ve never seen so many crying boys after the game. But they have next week to recover. 


So there you have it – another non-stop weekend with friends and parties galore. It’s a new kind of busy from the days of toddler-hood but I love it all the same.

Sunday Stauf’s day

   
 I mean, seriously, can these two get any cuter? I haven’t gotten a Sunday walk to Stauf’s with these munchballs in months so when they agreed to go with me yesterday, I was so excited. We had the added bonus of being able to wear shorts since it was 55 degrees out!

Ri tried a raspberry, white mocha coffee, which was gorgeously made. But much to my glee, she did not like the taste of coffee. Mario was upset that they did not have chocolate muffins but he finally agreed to try a chocolate chip coffee cake muffin and he devoured it. We played cards and laughed. Jon visited us on his way home from a coffee run and the kids shrieked with joy when they saw him walk across the street. 

Mario got tired on the walk home and asked to get on my back. He’s still my boy.

  
Ri rubbed his leg as we walked home and purred about how happy she was that he was her baby brother.  Then she attempted to kiss him. So much for the piggy back ride and the warm, touching ambiance. He jumped off my back and ran towards Ri warning that he was going to tackle her. They wrestled on the grass in front of the funeral home until I said cool it. Then they hopped up and came running after me. I dodged them though. They continued right past me, and I watched them race home to see dad. 

Putting up the tree

I can’t believe we got our Christmas tree up the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That is a record for us procrastinating folks.

Sundays have been deemed “mom-not-allowed-to-run” days by the kids. Sunday morning, Mario hopped on our bed with a huge smile on his face and announced “mom, no running today!” Maria jolted into our room 30 seconds later and we all laid together (thank god for a king size bed). These moments are some of the best. Inevitably, Mario will say something that makes us laugh hysterically and Ri will follow up with some witty response. Then there’s lots of hugging and squeezing … and wrestling. It all makes me so pleased.

After Jon had enough of Mario’s jackknifes into his side, he got up to get his coffee. The kids and I decided to head to Stauf’s for breakfast (actually I begged and they gave in). I made them both walk with me rather than scooter or bike. Lots of whining at first but then they realized that it wasn’t so bad, especially when you play 20 questions. The kids picked a bar table and chairs for us to sit at Stauf’s. We got our bagels and cream cheese (all three of us got the same Black Russian bagel but three different cream cheeses) and started in on Go Fish. Mario whooped on us. Usually it’s Ri. We moved on to War and when Mario started killing us in that, we had to shut it down (Ms. Maria gets a bit competitive nowadays). 

   

 On our walk home, we played Pac Man on the brick enclosure in front of the real estate office. It was all fun and games until Mario tripped into the middle of the flower bed and fell on a Thanksgiving wire ornament. Ri and Mario died laughing while I reoriented the ornament. 

About two blocks from home, Ri announced “we should put up the Christmas tree!” Mario agreed. We’d never put up the tree this early but we had nothing planned for the day so I thought we better crank it out. We use the tree my Grandma Menkedick gave us when Ri was  a baby. She used it for years before handing it down to us. It is about eight feet tall and looks kinda real…. The kids love putting the branches on and could not fathom a “real” tree. 

Mario lost interest as we started on the ornaments. Ri tried to entice him by putting on Christmas music. It helped for a bit. He just wanted to find the pickle ornament. He loves to hide that ornament every year and dare people to find it. Ri got out some old, precious ornaments that I had bought my grandma in the 1970s. We found some of Jon’s when he was little, too. The kids loved to hear stories of our childhood.  

I see all these pictures of friends’ trees – they are so organized with matching gold ornaments and icicles sprinkled throughout the fir. Our tree is a hodge podge of randomness. An old 1970s ornament alongside a handmade paper ornament along side a plastic M&M guy alongside a plastic dog. But I wouldn’t change it at all. 

It was Ri’s turn to place the “blue star” on the tree. It is more like a North Star compass- every year we talk about getting new tree topper and every year we fail to do so. Mario begged to put it on instead of Ri but for once Ri didn’t give in to him.    

He didn’t get upset though (he really is getting so much better at letting things go)  and we all posed for a picture by dad. Rocco even joined us (after his tail knocked over two ornaments – a warning Jon had given us three seconds prior to it happening).

 After Jon took the picture, we begged him to get in one with us. It took the kids’ longing eyes to convince him (he has no problem saying no to me!). Of course, none of them turned out Christmas card worthy but at least he’s in one. I keep telling him he will appreciate that I made him get in these pictures when he’s old and can’t remember these times – these pictures will help him out….

  

So here’s to Christmas 2015 and a holiday filled with family and laughter and gratitude for those who have left us – Grandma would have just adored our little tree.

Mario time

We’ve only had Mario all week with Maria gone to camp (how is she at a six day overnight camp already?!). We promised him dinner of his choice and where do you think we went two nights? Skyline. After night two, Jon and I swore we would not head back there for at least six months. It’s so good when you’re eating it, but then….

Mario has been the BEST son this week. I wish I could say it’s just because he decided to turn over a new leaf and not argue when it’s time for bed or time to do homework. But no, it’s not that. He has been an angel child because he wants an electric scooter and he keeps hoping that if he is excellent for us, we will get him one. 

He took out the trash, got his own water, cleaned up his mess, fed Rocco, took Rocco on a walk, went straight to bed. You name it. Everything that used to be a fight or end up in whining tirades, is simple now. It really has been a beautiful yet strange week. 

He’s also been Mr. Independent wanting to ride to the library by himself and read books. Whether he does that or not, I’m not sure. But I did follow him up there one evening and couldn’t find him anywhere. Sure enough, he was in a study room reading his Wings of Dragons book. Impressive. He had his blue sports bag on the table in which he carried his book. When we left, he tossed his bag over each shoulder and hopped on his bike. He looked 13. It seems everyday he grows another inch. 

   
 

We’ve been biking together every night, which he loves. I used to refuse to bike and only walk along side of him. But I do enjoy biking with him because he loves it so much and it’s much more relaxing to be by his side and able to talk. We biked to Stauf’s last night for a bagel dinner. He beat me at Crazy Eights four times in a row and won $6 off of me. He was stoked about that. We biked home talking about that electric scooter again. 

“Mom, I’ve been so good. Don’t I deserve a scooter now?” 

I told him I was concerned about what he’d be like once we got the scooter. Would he go back to complaining at bedtime and whining about cleaning his room?

An emphatic “no” shot from his mouth as if he knew that would be my question. He shot those pacific blue eyes my way and I knew he had me. But I didn’t let him know. I just reiterated that dad and I would talk about the scooter knowing full well we would end up getting it for him as an early birthday present. How could I resist this sweet biking partner of mine?