A Blink of an Eye

The other day, I was standing outside of Stauf’s talking to an older woman while Mario petted and loved on her puggle (half pug/half beagle). The woman’s 20-something son walked out of Stauf’s and she looked at him and then at Mario.

“Enjoy your time with your son because pretty soon he will look like my son. The years go by with a blink of the eye.”

If I’ve gained any wisdom in these parenting years, it is too more fully take in and appreciate these days with my young kids. They are at the perfect ages: smart and inquisitive and able to engage in full conversations but still wanting hugs and to hold hands as you walk down the street. 

The last two weekends, I have gotten full-on M&M time, and it has put me in such a good mood for back-to-work Mondays. They are both hilarious in their own right with their completely unique senses of humor and takes on life. And they get along pretty daggone well most of the time. 

Last weekend, we took a walk with Rocco to  Edison Park. He flipped out with the kids on the swings. He bites at their ankles as if he doesn’t understand they are part of their bodies. We were relegated to the jungle gym and non-swing activities so he’d stay calm. Ri came up with an obstacle course thanks to her Coach Amy, who had created a similar course for Ri’s soccer team during practice. Ri and Mario had me time them each time they ran it – each one wanting to beat the other’s newest time. 


After the park, we drove to the garden shop to buy flowers for our front door planters and seeds for the kids to plant flowers of their choosing. Mario found a Venus fly trap plant and was totally enamored with it. Ri found a dainty cactus in a pink artistic pot. It was a perfect day for gardening. I let the kids off on their own to plant their seeds while I mowed for the first time in 2017. God only knows if the kids planted the seeds far enough in the ground or far enough a part. We will find out in May, I guess. I promised them a pedicure if they helped me garden so when they were done, they begged me to go. I asked them for 20 more minutes so they decided to have a water fight in the meantime. The first water fight of the year, too!


We had to hit the doggie day spa after the water fight because Rocco rubbed his entire drenched body through the dirt lining our flower beds. 


After cleaning up the two kids and the dog, we finally made it to the salon. On the way there, Mario told me I need a new car (he tells me this every time we get in the car). I explained to him that my car is perfectly fine. He then informed me he’s getting a Lamborghini when he is 16. Yea, ok. Maria tries to talk sense into him, too, but it’s no use. He swears he’s gonna have the best of everything. I told him he better invent something that gives him millions or get in the NBA. He looks at me like “duh, not a problem. I got it.” 

Of course, with his love of luxury, he thoroughly enjoyed his pedicure. Ri and I kept looking over at him cracking up because he was fully relaxed in his massage chair reading his magazine and enjoying the foot scrub. He went for gold nail polish as well (which totally reminded me of Dennis Rodman), but he quickly asked the woman to remove it after she put it on. 


After the pedicure, we went home to roller skate and roller blade down the hills. Ri was smooth as always while Mario jerked and fell on his blades. But he kept trying. He loved the hills once he could take off his blades and use his electric scooter. He’d fly down the hill and then watch for cars so Ri could skate down. She flew, too, but I had a bit fewer heart palpitations after the Pittsburgh hill craziness. 



We wrapped up the evening watching a couple of episodes of blackish, and called it a night. 

Yesterday, it was much colder than last Saturday. Therefore, no gardening was in order. However, we did get another trip to Edison in with Rocco.


 Then we decided on a trip to Worthington pool. I used to take the kids there when they were toddlers. The memories came flooding in as we entered the pool area and I saw the baby slide. Mario was always nervous to go down it. Now, he was Mr. Cool unable to remember ever being scared of that slide. He and Ri went on the big slide and we all braved the cyclone pool where they used to get sucked in and it would take all my might to pull them out. Now, they handled it with ease and didn’t need my assistance. Although they still wanted me by their side to experience it with them. I remember when they were younger and they’d pull on me every second in the pool. They wanted me to constantly play with them or watch them or catch them. Exhausting. I’d think about how great it would be when they’d play in their own. But yesterday, I let myself enjoy their constant need for my presence. I soaked up every breakdance Mario asked me to watch. I waved at Ri and clapped as she did her trick off the slide. As Ri states, I was being mind-ful rather than mind-full. 

After some Air Hockey and Sun Chips, we left for home. 


We all needed to shower before going to the Escape Room that Ri recommended for our evening adventure. I was hesitant about it and was hoping they may want to do it without me. But they wanted us all to enjoy. I had no idea what to expect – I was picturing the zombie-type escape room where you are scared too death constantly. Thank god it was nothing like that. It was a 1920’s set-up in a Speakeasy, and we had to find all the clues to get out before the police arrived. We had a blast. We were in the room with four others – early 20 somethings – who were great with Ri and Mario. 

We had 60 minutes to try and escape. We got three hints. It was intense. Every time we’d get exhausted, someone would pull through and find a clue to help us progress. We were so close to escaping – probably needed 3 more minutes. Mario was bummed we didn’t escape but felt better when the owner said a majority of folks don’t escape. 


We were pretty beat after that escapade so we decided on Subway and home to watch The Middle. Ri was nearly passed out by the end of the show and Mario and I weren’t far behind. 

And with a blink of an eye, I woke up to Rocco jumping on the bed and Ri yelling “time to get up and get to Stauf’s!” Another blink, and she will be driving to Stauf’s from her own apartment and Mario will be pulling up to the curb in his Lamborghini. 

I’m soaking it all in now before I blink again.

Old Man Winter

These days grow longer and longer. It is flippin’ freezing outside; you know it’s been a rough ride when you see the temperature will be 16 degrees and you are excited.  I can’t drag the kids outside with me in the evening to walk Rocco because I would be accused of child endangerment.  I can barely head out there with Rocco for more than fifteen minutes.  My poor toes have steadily remained purple through the days.  All I can say is that sweet Spring cannot get here soon enough.  I will embrace it and not let go.  I will not complain when we have 90 degree, humid weather this Summer.  Just get me out of this frozen tundra.

There have been some highlights to the last few weeks – thank goodness for these kids and their activities; they force us to get out when we would be hibernating.

On February 11, Maria had her first play.  She played Susan B. Anthony and had IMG_0601a whoppin’ three lines.  But she rocked it – she was one of the few kids who you could hear (thanks, Heile family).  She got on line and found a colonial costume to wear for the show and a hilarious white wig.  Grandma Ionno, Grandma Lolo and Aunt Sarah, Jorge and Elena showed up to see her in action.  She did not seem nervous as she waited for the IMG_0606play to begin; rather, she ran around with her friends and laughed.  She was annoyed with me and Grandma trying to get pictures of her.  She was nervous about one thing – that Elena would start wailing during the performance.  Elena tried to do that but Sarah swopped her out the back doors before she could get a good one out.  We cheered hard IMG_0617 IMG_0615 IMG_0623for her after the performance; she shot us a quick glance but focused all her energy on Luka (Bethany brought him to see the show).  Afterwards, we took the actress to Barley’s for her much loved ribs and beans.

On February 13, the kids celebrated Valentine’s Day at their schools.  Ri took in tattoos and Mario took in Sponge Bob.  I had bought them mustaches on a stick that said “I mustahce you as a Valentine.”  They were adorable.  Both Maria and Mario were appalled at the the thought of giving IMG_0647 IMG_0651them to the respective opposite sex.  “That would be so embarrassing mom!”  So back to Target we went for the tattoos and SpongeBob cards.  Boring.  Ri got ice cream sundaes at her party; she did not care that I did not come.  On the other hand, Mario begged me to attend his, which I happily did.  You can’t walk away from those parties with a sour attitude.  The kids are too dang cute and so excited about making heart-shaped towers and paper flowers.

On February 14, Ri had a pool party for her friend Janira at Westerville pool.  IMG_0669 IMG_0677 IMG_0683They stayed there from 12:30 until 5.  She got pizza and ice cream and cake and non-stop pool action.  When I came to get them at 4 pm, they begged to stay for another hour.  They all tried to jump in an inner tube together without tipping over, which failed every time.  But they had a blast and it was great to be in a heated pool area and see bathing suits!

On February 17, Ri had her skate party with 10 friends.  Mario got to attend, also IMG_0713 IMG_0716 IMG_0719 IMG_0730 IMG_0732(Ri let him use one of her friend passes for one of his friends).  The moms may have had more fun than the kids….  I was happy to see many of the moms head out on the rink with me.  The girls all did a great job skating and falling.  No broken bones.  Ri greeted all of the girls as they trickled in at different times – she is a good host.  Mario tried to help Rohan skate but it was not easy.  So the two of them ended up playing games the entire time.  Mario was not disappointed about that.

On February 19 and 20, the kids got off school due to the extremely cold temperatures.  Bums.  They were so psyched up.  On Thursday, Bethany took them to Galaxy Games and Golf from 3 pm until 9 pm.  They played tag and hide-n-seek and Mario won 1000 tickets.  He was so pumped up.  On Friday, Mario feigned illness to stay home with Jon and Bethany and Ri went to COSI.  Not bad for two days off of school.

On February 21, we got seven inches of snow!  The world turned white and Rocco couldn’t get enough of it.  I am surprised his nose did not freeze off as much as he dug into the snow with it.  Ri and I took him on a walk up to IMG_0747Grandview Grind and he leapt with joy, literally, throughout the entire walk. We visited Ri’s friend and their new pup and Rocco found a playmate.  They played great together.  Ri ended up staying at Anna’s house while I walked Rocco home.  The neighbors were making a giant snowman in the front yard.  I walked in the door and told Mario we had to go sledding.  There is a small hill by his school that I knew was open.  He shook his head no and told me he didn’t feel like it.  I kept prodding him until he finally got on his jeans and sweatshirt.  He had to wear his Cabella’s overalls and coat since we don’t have any snow pants that fit him.  He was all stressed out about how he would look.

“No one else will be wearing this, mom.  I will look stupid!”

IMG_0774This boy is more concerned about his looks than I ever have been.  Jon and I reassured him that he would be fine.  If someone laughed, he should ignore them.  Each person is unique.  I don’t think he so much agreed with us than he just wanted to shut us up so he threw on his boots and headed to the car.  It was IMG_0779 IMG_0775 IMG_0767funny because Ri showed up with her friend, Anna to sled an hour after we arrived and she had on a huge pair of brown bib overalls that did not fit her at all but she could have cared less. They all had a blast going down the hill, engaging in a massive snow ball fight, and making a ramp to jump over.

It was so beautiful today because although we had seven inches of snow it was 33 degrees so you could go outside without your face freezing off.  Tomorrow the high is 23 degrees and I think it starts to plummet even worse Monday on.  I keep telling the kiddos to have dreams about Spring flowers and birds chirping and open windows with a warm breeze wafting in, and maybe that will help move old Man Winter along.

But we’d be amiss if we did not thank Old Man Winter for giving us the snow to play in today.

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude to the core

I find myself feeling grateful so very often these days. The gratitude
is down in the core of my being – entrenched and unmovable. I find myself getting worried about losing the feeling because that would suck, I think to myself when I get caught in my “what can I worry about today phase.” I can’t remember a time in my past that this sense of gratitude was as strong, and I want it to stay. It makes me calmer and more content and more compassionate.
The kids and I went to Cincy on Friday to visit my mom over the holiday weekend. I had memories of Ri as an infant and me heading down on a Friday after work to sleep for an entire night while mom got up with Ri every two hours. And memories of Ri and Mario playing in the Timbers pool while Grandmas Heile and Menkedick sat on the side of the pool belly laughing at their antics.
We brought Rocco with us which ended up being great. He played nicely with Lou. We were going to leave him with Jon but when we went to load up the car, he ran out and hopped in the trunk and refused to budge. We even yelled “Treat!” but to no avail. He did great in the car. Just stared our the window and laid down. Stared and laid down.
We hit Blue Ash pool even though it was freezing. Mario and Ri loved the slide. They showed off their swim strokes to Grandma Lolo. Then we headed to the baby pool for old times sake. Besides, it was 20 degrees warmer. Aunt Julie came to swim with us and revved things up with her energy. She grabbed Ri and I to go off the diving boards. She got everyone in line – from old to young – to play follow the leader. We were doing splits, touching toes, you name it. Hysterical. Ri watched her aunt in amazement. Julie even went down the slide with her. TMF – Julie’s signature letters for “too much fun!”

20140705-205717.jpg

20140705-205736.jpg

20140705-205748.jpg
As we headed to the car, Julie announced “I’m sitting in the way back!” Ri and Mario pleaded to sit with her for the half mile way home. Hysterical.
>

20140705-205913.jpg

20140705-205925.jpg
When we got home, Grace was back so the kids played downstairs while Liz and I caught up. That lasted a while but then they begged to go to the park. I love Blue Ash park so it was not hard to convince me. Plus Grace-bug is irresistible.
>

20140705-210152.jpg

20140705-210206.jpg

20140705-210234.jpg
We arrived home to pizza and a little Walking Dead for Mario and Grandma Lolo. It was just like old times (minus the Walking Dead!).
>

20140705-210453.jpg
I drove home with two happy kids in the back seat, an exhausted pup in the hatch, and the contentment of a day well spent.
We woke up on Saturday morning and headed right back out again. This time Jon drove. He dropped us off at Riesbecks and headed to big Mario’s to do farm chores. The kids and I went to the farm to visit baby girl Elena. She is growing like a weed at 9 pounds. Her face has changed from a newborn face to an infant face in the matter of two weeks. I could not believe it. And her little thighs had some meat on ’em! M&M were so happy to hold her and love on her.
>

20140705-213748.jpg

20140705-213801.jpg

20140705-213821.jpg

20140705-213837.jpg

20140705-213858.jpg
Elena even opened her eyes for a while and took us crazy Menkedick Ionnos in full force. It’s precious to hear her cooing and sighing and breathing on you. She is vocal – there is no doubt she will voice her opinions just like us Menkedick gals.
Ri begged to stay out on the farm. She wanted Mario to stay, too, but he wanted to come home with Jon and I. Ri was not swayed; she had no issues waving goodbye to us.
Jon drove Mario and me home. Mario watched Willy Wonka and I read some Vela. Every few miles I’d glance over at Jon and a smile would form on my face. And the awesome feeling of gratitude swelled through my core.>

Whirlwind

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  I signed up to coach Ri’s softball team and had to participate in “the draft” and practices for the last two weeks.  The kids had their last week of school prior to the Memorial Day weekend (yes, they get out way too early), which consisted of school parties and fretting about presents for teachers.  Oh yea, and Jon was out of town all week.  But we persevered with just a few rough spots (really rough).  The kids biked (Mario) and scootered (Maria) to school every day during the last week of school, which was a god-send since it allowed me to start my day with some fresh air.
The last week of school was nuts.  Maria had an end-of-the-year party at McKinley Park all day on Thursday.  They wore bathing suits and took down tennis rackets and water guns.  Ri was not happy about the fact that they had to walk to the park from school – she begged to take her scooter.  By the time I made it down at noon, she was playing “family” with Riley and Anna and hanging close to Mrs. Pharion in the shade (she likes hanging with adults and listening to the conversation).

20140527-153209.jpg

20140527-153228.jpg
They all looked so tired – teachers and kids – and I knew softball practice would be dreadful that evening.
I got to Mario’s room at 1:45. The moms told me he had been looking for me the last ten minutes. He glanced over as they told me and ran over to give me a big hug. We worked on postcards and decorating frames. The boys ran around like nuts while the girls sat in place. Why is that?! Mrs. Page passed out “candy” awards to each kid. Mario got a peppermint patty award because “he is a burst of energy every day!” Who does that sound like?!

20140528-133114.jpg

20140528-133126.jpg
Friday was clearly going to be a free-for-all day for both teachers and students after Thursday’s insanity. Ri got to watch a movie and Mario got playground time most of the day. I picked them up with Patty at 2:50 and they were charged up. School was officially out! Grandma took them to get DQ and they played with Sophie and Quinn. Mario declared “It’s summer, we don’t have to do anything!” So he wishes….
Friday was a much better ride-to-school day than Thursday. The kids goofed around together and gave me a sweet picture to remember their last day of third grade and kindergarten.

20140528-133530.jpg

20140528-133547.jpg
Thursday was not quite as sweet. Mario woke up on the wrong side of the bed and was pissy the entire ride. I asked for a picture of him and Ri and he refused to look at me. After the third time asking, I said “fine, be that way, Mario.” The inflection in my voice told him I was disappointed. This creates quite a conflict in him. He wants to stay pissy but he doesn’t want to disappoint me. He stopped his bike and told me I could take a picture. When I went to take it though, he wouldn’t smile. So I said “forget it” and kept walking. He started crying and telling me he was just about to smile. He then flew past me on his bike mad as heck. We got to the school and he waited for me. I knew he wanted me to ask for another picture. He plays these games when he’s mad. Instead, we dropped Ri off at her classroom and went to his room. I said goodbye. He ran out as I left and said sorry and begged for a picture with Ri. This kid. Of course I did it (even though he still didn’t smile big) even though I probably should have told him too late to teach him a lesson that he couldn’t get his way all the time.
>

20140528-135100.jpg
And just like that, no more bike rides to school for two and a half more months. Now the bike rides are to Stauf’s for Black Russian bagels – yum.

On Saturday, Ri and I walked in the Memorial Day parade for our Reds softball team. I love this parade in Grandview. It has such a small town feel with everyone lining the streets and waving at you. We bought bags and bags of candy for the girls to throw and we still managed to run out blocks before the end. The girls chanted “We are the Reds” throughout the parade. It was a blast.
>

20140529-100609.jpg

20140529-100641.jpg

20140529-100728.jpg
Patty and Jon took Mario, Gio and Alana to watch the parade and scream for Ri. They got three full Kroger’s bags of candy. They were very happy campers. It was insanity when we got to the field. The kids were all hoarse from screaming the entire parade route. I was exhausted from working out at 7 am and then sheparding the girls for two hours. Parents were everywhere looking for their kids. Kids were begging for water. Craziness! But opening ceremony was awesome with the Star-Spangled Banner and old plane overhead and Ri by my side and all the kids ready to play ball. I’m a sucker for that stuff. We headed directly into our game at noon. There was confusion about who was home team so Jon jumped in to do the concession stand. Mario loved helping him. When the game ended, Jon pronounced he never wanted to see a hot dog again.
The girls were a little shell-shocked their first game. They didn’t look comfortable on the field and the pitchers were nervous. The girls didn’t bat as strong as I would have liked either. But I think it was first game nerves. The good news is that we came back from a 6-1 deficit to make it 6-5 in the end.
We were all popped afterwards. Jon’s feet hurt, my back ached, Ri was hot. So Jon and Patty and I sat on the deck and chilled (after I mowed the grass!). The kids played on the computer and ate parade candy.
>

20140529-185323.jpg
On Sunday, we found out the pool was open so we flung on our suits and headed down.

20140529-185455.jpg
And guess who jumped off the high dive without flinching?


Last year, he’d climb up a few steps and stand there terrified, and I would have to help him down. Amazing what a year will do. Ri continued her high dive jumps – this year doing mid-air splits. She was so proud of her little bro after he jumped off and told everyone we ran into afterwards.
On Monday, we traveled down to Cincinnati for the long-awaited pool party at Aunt Susie’s and Uncle Kenny’s house. Oh, how the kids were dying for this party. They love having a private pool to play around in with Jon and me and the cousins. We brought Rocco down with us after Susie invited him (she is the consummate dog lover). The kids and I threw on our suits and jumped in without five minutes passing from stepping into the yard. Guess who joined us? Yep, Mr. Rocco. He loved the pool, and refused to get out. I tried to pull him out to take a breather after 20 minutes and he hopped right back in when I turned my back.

20140530-144940.jpg
Mario and I suffered serious cuts from Rocco’s nails as he swam by us but it was a joy to see him in his element. We had to pull him out for the spectacular pool volleyball game. The Heiles against the Non-Heiles! The Heiles dominated, and Jon joined me for some post-game fun.
20140530-145142.jpg
And it remained all fun-n-games until one of the many dogs playing at Susie’s house decided to let loose on Rocco. Rocco was engaging in his friendly antics, sniffing butts, when one of the dogs attacked him. His ear was sliced and face gashed and blood was everywhere. It seriously was like a murder scene. Jon and I had specks everywhere on us. Mario was mesmerized with all the blood and Ri was scared too death about Rocco. My mom and Rod and Mario and I jumped in the car and headed to the emergency vet at 5 pm. We ended up there until 9 (par for the course on a Memorial Day). Luckily, they were able to glue Rocco’s ear. He also got to leave with a cone.
>

20140530-145655.jpg
Yep, it’s not a party until someone leaves in a cone. At least mom and I got some quality time together. And Mario learned how to make some killer Keurig coffee and tea.
Rocco keeps us laughing with his inability to maneuver around objects with his cone head. Ya gotta laugh at this crazy life or else you’re screw–, no I mean, you’re coned.

Labor Day Chaos

I am feeling this past weekend as I turn off my watch alarm clock that I purposefully set even later this morning with the hopes I’d climb out of bed and take a run. But the magnetic power of Ri on my right side and Mario on my left and Jon on the far right (thank god for king sized beds) drew me closer to the sheets and farther from my running shoes.

In my twenties, this would have happened because of a night of partying: shots devoured, beer guzzled, and feet moving to the beat. Now this happens because of traveling all over the state with kids in tow visiting relatives, swimming, playing, and stopping at McDonald’s for rest room breaks every thirty minutes. It’s exhausting. But we’ll worth it.

Mario rocked out his football game on Saturday with two touchdowns and two pulled flags. He was a superstar. Jon and I were so charged up for him because he had been getting so mad at practice about not getting the ball. I was like a crazed woman out on the field screaming like a lunatic for him. I can’t imagine what I will be like when he’s older.

20130903-092837.jpg

20130903-092859.jpg

20130903-092915.jpg

We left for Cincy later in the day with the hopes of heading to my old grade school’s festival and seeing some friends. Unfortunately, as soon as we hit the outskirts of Cincy a sheet of grey covered us and lightning and thunder came clammoring down on us. I hate driving in that weather and proceeded to white knuckle it to my mom’s house. Mario was fascinated with the lightning letting me know every time he saw a flash. Ri kept me in line: when I whispered “shit” under my breath after a car jerked in front of me, she scolded “listen lady, you need to replace that “i” with an “o” so you say shoot and not the bad word.

Lou and mom and Rod greeted us at the door with a tasty sheet cake awaiting us. We couldn’t wait to dig into it so we had Gracie and Liz over and sang happy birthday to Mario. He took forever to think of a wish but eventually blew out the candles so we could eat the world’s best food: sheet cake.

20130903-093906.jpg

20130903-093924.jpg

20130903-094004.jpg

The cousins played downstairs together for a while so mom and I could catch up on her new third shift schedule. I’m amazed at how well Grace and Ri and Mario get along. They played barbies and watched Spongebob (tv always bonds, heh?). At about 8:30, mom and I decided to head over to Nativity festival with the hopes it wasn’t canceled even though it was still raining. No luck. But we did get to go inside and see where I used to have lunch and music class. I was more excited to see it than the kids.

We made up for the disappointment of the festival by heading to Skyline at 9:15 at night. Nothing like 4-ways and coney dogs right before bed.

20130903-130812.jpg

One thing about my mom’s house is that she has really dark shades so you can’t tell when the sun has risen. On the other hand, she has Lou who inevitably pushes the bedroom door with his nose and let’s the light in that way. He performed that trick at 6:45 am on Sunday morning. I rose to go downstairs with the kids and had that feeling I typically get on weekend mornings when we rise that early: “how am I gonna get through this whole day??”

But we started it out well walking with the pups through the Timbers. Mario got to pet other dogs and Ri got to walk Willie. And our reward was home-made goetta and pancakes from Aunt Julie. Ri is such the Cincy girl – she loves goetta more than any other meat. After breakfast, we walked to the park with Grace. The kids performed shows for us at the amphitheater and swung on the swings. Mario helped me push Grace and Ri tried to morph into a two year old by squeezing herself into a baby swing. I was so irritated trying to get her out but had to laugh when she exclaimed “I’m making progress mom – I almost have one cheek out!” The girl is a trip. We eventually got her freed and she stayed away from the swings the rest of the time. Mario loved the creek. He must have thrown ten different sized sticks in the water to see if they would all go down the waterfall. The heavier ones didn’t and he noted that by sticking his finger in the air and calling himself a “great scientist!”

20130903-132045.jpg

20130903-132111.jpg

20130903-132138.jpg
After the park, we got treated to some Aunt Jane and Julie time…and we got treated to round two of cake and ice cream. Ri and Mario don’t know how lucky they are to have such a supportive and loving family. It warms my heart to see the aunts who helped raise me help me raise my kiddos.

20130903-134222.jpg

20130903-134237.jpg
Next up, swimming! Thankfully, the kids wanted to go to the Timbers pool rather than Blue Ash so we threw on our suits and crossed the street. Mario showed off his dives and Ri and Gracie made a huge contraption with noodles.

20130903-134544.jpg

20130903-134601.jpg
Our last dip in the pool until next year. We dropped ourselves in the bath after the pool and finally got the stink off Mario’s feet. He doesn’t wear socks with his shoes (“they don’t feel good with socks”) so his feet and shoes are disgusting. After baths, we reluctantly left the Timbers to head home. My mom was rightfully exhausted after our tornados came through but she always misses us as soon as we leave. Meg and Patty feel the same. You can’t wait for some peace and quiet but then you can’t wait for some chaos again.

20130903-135057.jpg
I was a few hundred feet from the highway home when I made a brash call to head to Nativity’s festival. I had to let Mario play Big Six. It was my favorite game as a kid and he was so excited about winning money. He loved it just as much as I did. Ri was ready to stop gambling after she won some quarters but Mario got bit by the bug and it took all my night to pull him away. They both ended up pocketing quarters in the end, and I lost $20. Never fails.

20130903-135438.jpg

20130903-135448.jpg
The kids and I and Jon met back at the house at 10 pm and we all crashed hard. 5 am came way too early but I did my sisterly duty and picked up Sarah at the Mega Bus station at 5:30 am. And what did we do at 5:45 am when we got home? Went for a five mile run. Why not? It was actually a wonderful run with the moon shining over us. It almost makes me want to get up at that time every morning… but then it doesn’t.
We hit Stauf’s at 8 am with Jorge and dogs in tow. Again, I looked at my watch and thought “I’ve been going since 5 am and I have an entire day left to go. Ahhhh!” But it only got better from there.

20130903-140023.jpg
We drove up to Marion to have a family celebration at Patty’s house with all of Jon’s brothers and some of their kids. We also visited Jon’s dad in the rehab center. The kids love seeing their cousins. It never ceases to amaze me how close they are even when we don’t see each other for months. They fished on the bridge into the pond, swam at the country club, and played in the basement. Maria cried and cried when we had to leave. I got to chat with Jon’s brothers and wives and Sherry and Micah and reminisce about old times and laugh about new ones (Micah and Sherry and Mario comparing biceps size (Sherry won)). Patty and I got to experience Mario holding her hand as we walked through the rehab center and saying “this is a nice place for grandpa to be.” It broke her heart. And Maria giving a gentle peck on Joe’s cheek when we left for the night. We have some sensitive, empathetic kids.

20130903-140718.jpg

20130903-140737.jpg

20130903-140746.jpg

20130903-140808.jpg

20130903-183625.jpg
And here I am on Tuesday night forgetting about the lethargy I felt this morning and grateful for all of my family and the joy they contribute to this one amazing life.

Summer vacation 2013

We packed our bags and headed to West Virginia last Wednesday. They say that a procrastinator should never marry another procrastinator or nothing gets done. Jon and I are both procrastinators so a summer vacation never got scheduled. We found ourselves near mid-July without any plans. I just happened to be on a conference call at work and a flashing ad came up for Oglebay Resort in W. Virginia.

“Paddle boats, fishing, putt-putt, swimming, zoo, and more!”

The ad enticed me between the kids activities and the short distance (2.5 hours away). Pretty soon I was on the website looking up rooms. I remembered my grandma talking about this place and I faintly remember another older relative (was it Grandpa Bill?) talking about it, too. I remembered this because the website was geared towards 65+ year olds and the rooms looked like ones decorated by my grandma – big florals and gawdy colors and maroon carpets that looked like they were straight out of my grandma’s retirement home.

I called a few other resorts but they were booked. I debated with Jon whether to do it or not and after listening to me him and haw for 30 minutes, he demanded I just go for it. So I did. Wednesday through Saturday. A short trip. Even if it was unbearable it was only two full days.

Ri played with her barbies on the way there while Mario watched Ben Ten. We held our breath under the West Virginia bridge. We commented on the old school restaurants off the exit – Perkins! Hardee’s! Long John Silvers!
As soon as we pulled into Oglebay, we spotted deer grazing on the hills. The kids went nuts pointing them out. The land sloped up and down and was peppered with pines and oaks and deer and a random groundhog. It was quite serene and poetic. Jon and I glanced at each other and raised our eyes silently saying “hmmm, maybe it won’t be so bad.”

We got our room keys and had the requisite talk with the kids about fighting over who opens the door. “We take turns back and forth, got it?” They shook their heads with excitement not getting anything. The room was huge. We had a living room and side kitchen and bath and a bedroom suite with a large bath and two queen beds. The kids mouths dropped for an entire five minutes and they dragged us all over the rooms to show us every detail. The living room couch pulled out into a bed which they believed to be a piece of heaven brought to Earth. “We can watch tv all night and fall asleep out here alone!” Jon and I were so excited we booked another night so we stayed until Sunday.

We checked out Schenk Pond and did some paddle boating and fishing (Ri and I boated and Mario fished all by himself, god love him).

20130722-201902.jpg

20130722-201919.jpg

20130722-201939.jpg

After paddle boats and the Aqua Cycle, Ri and I joined Mario on the bank. Within ten minutes, he had a fish. Luckily, a teenage boy helped us unhook him. Mario wanted to throw it back in the water but got scared so Ri took control. Thank god for big sisters.

20130722-202221.jpg

20130722-202237.jpg

After pleading with Mario to stop fishing to no avail, we finally had to bribe him with the pool. We threw on our suits and headed to the rather small indoor pool. Over the four days, however, it grew on us. One plus was that it was heated. Another plus was that you could jump off the side, which led to lots of cool cannonballs and dives.

20130722-202529.jpg

20130722-202544.jpg
The kids begged for room service after the pool. They loved the idea of getting food served in our room and eating it while watching Spongebob. Ahh, the vacation life!
Every morning we had to drag Mario to breakfast – he wanted room service for every meal. Meanwhile, you had to strap Ri down for a few minutes in bed or she would have thrown on a pair of shorts and bee-lined for the breakfast buffet as soon as she opened her eyes. She has her mom’s and great-grandma’s love for buffets (Grandma Menkedick used to love to bear witness to Ri’s excitement over the Season’s buffet bar). She is a total carb lover. Her plate always included two types of muffins, a cinnamon roll, biscuit and waffle (she was stacking up her energy for the day). Mario’s plate was the same every day. Cinnamon rolls. And maybe a slice or two of bacon. And that’s it.

On Thursday, we took the trolley to the Oglebay Zoo. Yes, it has a zoo…. with zebras. It was a tiny area with about ten different animals scattered around. It also had dinosaurs that would roar at you as you passed. The kids are finally at an age where they understand they aren’t real but they still had fun with them (thanks to me pretending to be scared too death). The lorikeets were the biggest hit since they drank nectar from cups M&M were holding.

20130723-113300.jpg

20130723-113319.jpg

20130723-113338.jpg

20130723-113347.jpg

20130723-113623.jpg
The best part of the zoo trip was eating popcorn while we rode the train around the zoo and spotted animals.

We returned to the hotel and did some more fishing and paddle boating. Maria had been longing to head into the fountain in the middle of the pond when we went paddle boating the day before but I had nixed the idea. When she pouted, I steered the boat just enough into the fountain that she got wet and I just got a drizzle. On Thursday, I decided to let her go for it and steer us right into the fountain. And she didn’t flinch. I got soaked to the bone with her. The smile on her face made my heart happy (a saying I got from Meg-pie). Jon and Mario stayed on shore trying to catch fish. Mario gets so angry and frustrated when he doesn’t catch one. There were little fish that would swim up to the bait and nibble at it until it was gone leaving none for the bigger fish. This got Mario red hot.

“Those stupid As!”

Mario heard the word “a–hole” a while ago and knows its a bad word so every once in a while when he gets super mad he yells out the “A” vowel.

We ordered room service for a second night on Thursday not wanting to head out after another long day. Pizza for Mario and burgers for Ri. Jon and I determined we were food snobs after all our nights out at Hyde Park and Mitchell’s – the hotel food just didn’t do the trick for us.

Each night, the kids and I would head to the pool for a swim nightcap. We played mean games of hot potato with our beach ball where you had to name a super hero while you threw the ball. They were exhausted by the time we got back and were fast asleep as soon as they hit the pillow to watch tv. And they slept in until 8 am! Alleluia.

On Friday, we hit the Wheeling Park pool. It had a water slide. A nice sized slide at that. The only problem was that it kept thundering and the guards would shut the pool for 20 minutes with each round of thunder. Ri wanted to call it quits bit Mario wanted to stay. What else were we gonna do? We made Ri stay, bought hotdogs and soft pretzels, and played charades. The kids put on our flip-flops. Nothin’ better.

20130723-162112.jpg

20130723-162123.jpg

20130723-162134.jpg
Finally, we were allowed back in the water. Ri and Mario jumped off the diving board (Mario dove). Mario wanted to do a flip like some kids were doing but couldn’t quite get up the nerve. The slide was a blast – it was actually fast and dumped you out into a giant wave of water. The kids loved it.

After the pool, we went to High Tea at the hotel. It sounded super fancy and Ri had been wanting to go badly. It ended up being a carafe of hot water and Lipton tea bags and a few random cookies and cinnamon bread. But that was all that was needed by Ri. She loved it. We filled up our cups, got our treats, and sat outside on the balcony. Ri actually enjoyed the tea!

20130723-165919.jpg
Mario came with us the next day and loved the cinnamon bread. He did not enjoy the tea.

20130723-170200.jpg
The kids and I took the trolley Friday evening to the mansion and the flower shop, sweet shop, and glass store. They both wanted to take pictures on my phone of random things… Ri took the fountain and wine picture (true Italian) and Mario took the butterfly ones.

20130723-170631.jpg

20130723-170647.jpg
Mario and I went to town at the sweet shop. So much chocolate we could have lived there forever. Ri liked looking at all the trinkets and the wine holders. Mario fell in love with a stuffed animal bear that sings “Will you still love me when I’m 64?” He absolutely fell head over heels for it. He played the song and stated into its eyes. He hugged it. He begged me to buy it. I couldn’t resist. My aunt Julie has a bear like this one that Mario has loved since he was little. It has a top hat and sings “My way” by Sinatra. My Grandma Heile would chuckle watching Mario stare at it as a baby.

Maria found a last minute gem – a night light with horses on it. She also forced me to buy a Yoda coffee cup knowing that I never buy anything for myself. “I will pay you back $12.95 if you buy it, mom.” I told her she didn’t have to pay for it later and she reiterated “I will mom because you need souvenirs, too.” She’s always looking out for us.

20130723-173246.jpg
On Saturday, we hopped in the car to Cabela’s. It was a rainy day and Jon had allowed me to get an hour massage so I owed him one. Mario loved looking at the animals; Ri was appalled, especially at the stuffed Bobcat – her school mascot.

20130723-173522.jpg
They enjoyed the toy section (Mario checked out every gun possible and Ri gawked over Duck Dynasty memorabilia).

20130723-173705.jpg

20130723-173719.jpg
Ri ended up with a Cabela’s Barbie set with a tent and horse (I approved of that Barbie who was dressed like a cowgirl) and Mario got a walkie talkie set. They made out. We ate ourselves some Cabela’s lunch and headed back to the hotel for more fishing and boating.
The hotel had a s’mores campfire that night, which Ri enjoyed immensely. Mario just liked burning the marshmallows for me to eat and then watching the stick burn in the fire. I’m pretty sure I saw the word pyromaniac rise from the ashes as he sat on the stone bench in awe.

20130723-174144.jpg

20130723-174154.jpg

20130723-174203.jpg
We hit the game room last – we had avoided it the whole trip. It was a small little room with only a few games. Jon and I competed on Ms. PacMan and the kids drove fast cars.

20130723-174330.jpg

20130723-174338.jpgz
They also won a few super balls in honor of their mom’s childhood obsession.
We ordered room service once again and watched Jessie episodes for Ri. The kids just could not get over how awesome it was to be served food in bed while watching their shows. “This is the life” they thought as they fed their faces and then lied back on their pillows with the tv blaring.

20130723-200546.jpg
Maria gave a toast on our last morning in the hotel.

“This is a toast to Oglebay. We had some good times here fishing and swimming and being together as a family. But we must go and so we wish others as much fun as we had here.”

20130723-212652.jpg

20130723-212702.jpg
Amen sister!

Living it up

I have been blasted at work over the past few weeks. Mario and Ri have been killing me with their pleas to stay home with them one day (which tears me up on one level but on another I know they get over it minutes after I’m gone and they have their friends over). I noticed on Tuesday that I only had one meeting on Thursday afternoon so I canceled it and decided to take the afternoon off with the kids. It looked like possible thunderstorms so I found a discount coupon for Fort Rapids, called Patrick to make sure Alana and Gio could go, packed up swimsuits, told David to feed them and keep it a surprise, and cranked out some serious work Thursday morning.

I stepped in the door to the house at 12:30 and received a star’s welcome.

“Mom!”

I hugged them both and told them the plans. Maria was ecstatic and kept saying “you are the best mom ever!” Mario retreated and said he didn’t want to go. He has been wanting alone time with me lately. But Maria quickly pepped him up talking about the slides and fountains at Fort Rapids.
We gathered our stuff and took off for Patrick’s house. I traded cars with Carrie and we were off down I-70. We walked into the hotel and the kids were in awe of the antlers on the walls and the high-heeled leopard shoe seats.

20130628-124229.jpg

20130628-124237.jpg
While I got tickets, Mario and Gio filled up on Jelly Bellies from the dispenser not understanding that they had to actually pay for them. Luckily, the cashier was a young high schooler who could care less. We got our passes and headed to the locker rooms to change. Mario hated the swim trunks I brought him so luckily I had a second pair. He adjusted those for five minutes but finally felt comfortable enough to head to the slides.

And the fun began! Mario and Gio played in the main area and Ri and Alana went to the lazy river and the big slides.

20130628-124715.jpg
Mario is anti-picture taking lately so I couldn’t get a good one of him until he went on the big yellow slide. I raced him; he won.

20130628-124831.jpg
Gio joined us after a while but he found a friend in the main area that he ran around with for a majority of the time. Mario became addicted to the yellow slide and then witnessed the long line for the black slide and became intrigued. The black slide is the favorite slide among most Fort Rapids’ guests. It takes you into a black bowl where you go around and around until you shoot down a hole into a pool of water. Ri went down with me last year when we went to Fort Rapids for Zach’s party and she loved it. We were worried Alana wouldn’t be tall enough but she barely made it. Those two rode down at least twenty times.

20130628-125356.jpg

20130628-125415.jpg

20130628-125429.jpg
Mario was not nearly tall enough for it but we were able to sneak him on with me a few times and he loved it! We both laughed so hard when we shot out into the pool. Then a young, militant girl put the smack down on him and refused, even after the most pitiful of pleas, to allow him to go down. He pouted and called her a jerk to me (which I promptly scolded him about but did express my appreciation that he didn’t call her that name in front of her- baby steps). But he soon found good times in the main area with me and Gio.

I got called by folks at work a few times and spent 45 minutes working out an “emergency.” I wavered on the edge of frustration and anger but did not tip over into the black hole. I kept my thinking positive – happy to be able to take the day away from the office and give my kids this treat. I knew I may be called away and I knew the kids would be just fine playing with their cousins amongst the slides and fountains. I find that so many of my days turn on that shift in thinking. I could easily have gotten angry and walked back in the park in a foul mood. Sulked at the table and not played with the kids. Thought about another job where they wouldn’t have bothered me. But what would have been the result? A day lost laughing with my kids. The experience of riding 15 miles an hour through a tube with my giggling son. The expression on Ri’s face when I told her I’d ride down the black slide with her?

Granted, there were times while we were there when I thought “I should just grab a coke and read something on the Internet.” But I kept running up and down those steps and sliding down those slides. First, to be in the moment with the kids. Second, to experience the joy and carefreeness they were experiencing. Third, to get some killer exercise (my calves are still killing me today!). I always have this unrealistic mindset that I will arrive at the water park or Kings Island or zoo, and I will spend the entire day enmeshed with the kids and the fun of the place. But the reality is that I do think about reading a book or checking my email when I’ve gone down a slide eight times in a row. And that’s ok. I am 41 years old. Even though I think “when can I do something else” sporadically during our adventures, I keep hanging on and sliding and splashing and in the end when the kids have finally tired out, I have the awesome recognition, if only self-recognition, that I participated fully in the day. I experienced the thrill of the slides, the exhilaration of the bucket of water on our heads; the nonsense of standing on a fountain spout and spraying the kids.

When we were leaving, a worker said “good-bye ma’am.” Maria looked up at me and laughed.

“You may be 41 mom but you act like a kid.” What a compliment. And with that, I joined them in the video arcade.

20130629-153017.jpg

20130629-153056.jpg

20130629-153109.jpg