The life of a pinball

Mario and I met up with Maria and her friend and friend’s mom at 9:30 am at Stauf’s.  The rest of the day is a blur.  Thank god for iced coffees.

We walked down to the parade on First Avenue – the same place we go every year – nearly parallel to our old house but two streets over.  We sat with Amy and Gracie and Joe and made a sign saying “Go Mets” in honor of Zach.  Zach is on the Mets baseball team this year; Amy was so excited to see him in the baseball truck with the other soon-to-be second graders.  All I could do was think of Mario in that truck three years from now, and the only visions of him were ones of him pelting people with tootsie rolls.  There is always one or two little squirts that engage in such activity each year; last year, Mario got pelted in the eye by someone.  So hopefully that horrific experience forever scarred him and he won’t engage in such behavior.

The parade was fun this year because we knew so many kids in it (and they limited the politicians)!  After an hour parade, we gathered our two hefty bags of candy and walked a mile back home.  Maria walked the entire way with me holding Mario.  She is a machine (she did it in sandals; even I would have complained).  We made a pit stop at the library to take a computer break.  Maria played Go Girls Games and Mario played Ben Ten.  I got a little reading time in, which was just the break I needed.  Middle-school kids were signing up younger kids for the reading program.  Maria asked to sign up.  I was excited about her initiative.  She asked to do it last year, too, but she could not read on her own and she wasn’t that into it.  I am hoping that her ability to read better will lead to her reading more this Summer.  She picked out a Junie B. Jones book and a couple more random ones.  Let’s cross our fingers….

We plodded our way home from the library in the 88 degree heat.  We immediately threw on our bathing suits, grabbed our goggles and towels, and jumped in the car.  We had to drop the stroller off at the bike store because Mario and I bust a tire on our stroller ride earlier that morning (there was a loud firecracker-like bang and Mario yelled “Cool!”).  Once at the bike store, Mario spotted a sweet red and black bike with training wheels.  He jumped on it and flew around the store.  I looked at the tag and it was expensive.  How can a kid’s bike be over $100?  Really?  But I have had such bad luck with used bikes for him – none of them are steady or ride well – and it has caused him to get scared about riding.  I do not want that with as much as Maria likes riding.  So, I decided to bite the bullet and get it reasoning that he will have it for the next few years. 

We left the store for the pool, which was absolutely packed since it was opening day.  Mario and Ri went off the low dive and high dive, respectively.  Mario tried the high dive but second guessed it after getting on top (I don’t blame him).  He will jump off by the end of the Summer, I am sure.  We only lasted at the pool for about 45 minutes; I was exhausted and luckily, the kids probably were, too.   

Once home, we made bowls of cereal and rested in front of a Ben Ten on tv.  Within ten minutes, Maria was snoozing on the couch.  I tried to move her but she was solid dead weight – there was nothing waking her up.  Mario, meanwhile, was wide awake and insane, jumping all around the room and acting like random aliens.  I let him play on my computer while I went out and mowed the grass and watered the flowers.  Then I came in and cleaned out the Study a bit in order to move our new desk in it.  I was in cleaning mode.  You’d think that it may have been wise to put my feet up and nap a bit with Ri, but that would have been too easy.  Gotta keep the momentum going – once I sit down, I am useless for the rest of the day.

Maria finally woke up – two hours later –  and she was a piece of work.  Pissed off at the world.  She stomped across the kitchen moping and pouting and crying.  I left her alone and she finally buried her head in my chest and rested for a few minutes.  Then she finally morphed into the Maria we know and love ready to ride her bike and play.  We got Mario off the computer (not an easy task) and headed off on his new bike.  He rocked it out on his bike almost keeping up with Maria.  We had hoped that the Art Hop would offer a bouncey house or kids’ music but it only offered a couple of vendors selling necklaces.  We dealt with our disappointment by going to the church park.  I played tag with Mario and Maria climbed up the top of the slides (her favorite thing to do at the park).  Amy and Joe met us up at the park with the kids and they all played for a bit.  We all looked like zombies.  It was comical.  The day felt like three days.  We finished the night off with Orange Leaf and a bike ride back home. 

When we pulled in the driveway, there was a spectacular slice of moon looking down at us.  We all stopped and gave reverence.  Then, Maria shouted “Mario’s old bike is still at the library!”  So, what else to do but jump in the truck and head to the library to pick up his bike.  We finally got into the house at 10 pm.  Maria wanted to read Junie B. Jones, and Mario was listening to music on my phone so I didn’t fight it.  I just let them be and relaxed over a bag of Cheez-Its, and Maria later joined me. 

What a whirlwind of a holiday Saturday.  I swear to myself as I sit here tonight that tomorrow will be low-key day but I know myself better than that.  We will be off and running – but not until 7:30 am.

Sleeping in

Maria excited about making b-fast!This past weekend, Jon and I re-lived our sleep-deprived nights when the kids were babies.  The nights weren’t quite as awful as years ago when we lived on two hours of sleep a night, but bad enough that we were awakened several times in the night by moaning kids with coughs and fevers and runny noses.  We were exhausted when the sun arose.  But, that being said, over the last month, the weekends have gotten increasingly better for us because of Maria’s ability to work the tv remote.  Yes, she has mastered the great art, and we are quite happy about it (at least until she becomes interested in shows she should not be watching).   She is able to locate Ben Ten or Batman for Mario to watch, fix them bowls of cereal, and play mother hen.  A win-win for everyone in the family, especially Jon and me because we can finally “sleep in” until 8 am. 

I remember years ago waking up with Maria or Mario through the night and dreaming about the day that they would sleep for more than 2 hours at a time.  Some of Jon and I’s worst spats were at 3 am when we were both sawing logs and Maria or Mario would wake us up with their wails from the crib. 

“It’s your turn.”

“Are you crazy? I was just up.”

“No way!  I just climbed back to bed!”

Maria learning how to be the "mother hen" early!The expletives were scattered throughout our words.  One of us would stomp out of the room and back into the room after having rocked Maria or Mario for a half of an hour in the rocking chair.  The next morning, we would apologize and laugh at how crazy we were becoming from the massive sleep deprivation, and we would swear that we were going to let the bugger cry it out that night.  But that night came, and there was one of us always rockin’ the babe to sleep (they better be taking good care of us when we are old and grey). 

Eventually, they made it up to three hours, then four, then five until finally at 18 months, yes, 18 months old, each of them decided to sleep through the night.  However, as soon as they started sleeping through the night, they began waking up at the crack of dawn (Maria at 5:30 am; Mario at 6 am) ready to rock-n-roll.  Jon always teases them that when they become teenagers and want to sleep in until noon, he will be at their bedside with the blowhorn waking them up at 7 am. 

I can’t wait.

Swimmin’ in Cincinnati

The family takes a trip to Cincy while dad is out of town

I decided late in the day on Thursday that I was going to head to Cincy with the kids to spend the night with my mom and visit my grandma.  We were supposed to pick her up on Friday afternoon for a Friday evening bridal shower for my little sis but her world turned inside out with immigration lines, visas, broken down cars.  There was no way she was making it back to Cincy by Friday night from El Paso Texas.  So, I felt like I should get down there anyway to see grandma as she is 90 years old and thoroughly enjoys seeing me and her great-grandchildren (she is a sucker for punishment!).  Besides, Jon got to head to Baltimore for a Baltimore Ravens football game (down on the field before the game and box seats during it – the bum!) so I needed family to sop up my jealous tears!

When we arrived on Thursday night, we headed straight for mom’s pool.  Mom brought some cheese its and apple juice boxes in order to avoid the wrath of Mario (last time Grandma Lolo came to visit Mario asked “did you bring cheese its and juice boxes?” Mom answered no, and he looked very distraught “But, but why?”).  Maria loves the “neighborhood” pool so much more than the big Blue Ash community pool.  She likes to keep it tight and close rather than deal with everyone and their mother.  She swam and jumped around.  Mario sat on the first step of the pool and dipped his head in every five minutes or so.  He played with his noodle (blowing in one end and seeing the water squirt out the other end).  He ate his cheese-its.  

Maria and her noodle

We played hard at the pool for an hour or so and then ravaged some spaghetti, bread and m&ms when we got home.  We decided to head to Aunt Julie’s for some dessert and much to our surprise, for a kitten/possum adventure.  Julie and Ron put out food for stray kittens and a stray baby possum every night.  The critters arrived once dark hit like clockwork – first the kittens and then the possum.  The kids sat at the door watching them for 20 minutes.  When we left to go back to my mom’s house, Mario’s eyes were like hawk eyes watching out for that baby possum.  

We all ended up sleeping in my mom’s full size bed.  I tried to move one of the two of them to the floor but neither of them would have it.  Needless to say, I had cramps and twitches throughout my entire body when I woke on Friday morning from trying to twist my body into a needle to avoid hitting one of them.  In order to stretch my body out, we took a morning stroller ride to Marx Hot Bagels.  I used to go to this bagel store when I was a kid with my mom and dad.  The poignant smell of bagels never leaves you.  I walked in with M&M and immediately felt like I had been blasted back to age 10.  We ordered a sunflower, pumpernickel/onion and a wheat raisin bagel with a mountain of cream cheese and went to town.  Yum!  I could eat one of those every morning.  

We hit Grandma Lolo’s park on the way home and M&M got up on the amphitheatre stage to perform for me.  Mario sang “I like to Move it, Move it” and took a bow.  Maria sang one of her love songs, which went something like this “I wish we could be together but you are not for me.”  I kid you not! Her songs are all about lost love and boys not being good enough for her.  At age 5!  Ahhh! 

As soon as we got home, we headed back out to visit Grandma M.  Ahh, it is always so stress-free and calm 

Mario writing with Grandma M.

 when we head to her assisted living facility.  Ha.  The chaos ensues from the beginning with Maria and Mario having to show off for the residents, sign their name on the visitor sheet, punch the elevator buttons.  That is all in the 1o minutes before we hit grandma’s apartment.  Once we are in the apartment, it is a more enclosed space and ten times more chaotic because the kids can’t touch half of the things she has in the apartment even though they are within kids’ reach and they are so tempting to touch (kittens, dolls, statues, glass – I mean come on!!!).  

How is it that I always played with the same toys over and over again every time I visited grandma, and seemed to enjoy my time but these kids cannot play with a game for five minutes without wanting something different?  Could it be the parents are to blame?  Probably, just a little…  hehehe.  What can I say?  My biggest goal in parenting when Maria was born was to give her the freedom to do what she wanted and learn from her actions.  I did not want to stifle her.  But I see now that there is a limit; they are going to be seeing that limit a lot more from me!    

 

Maria in her grandma "get-up"!

However, they have gotten better at grandma’s through the multitude of times we have gone over to see her.  They played in her bedroom writing with her pencils and punching her calculator.  Maria put on her sweater and a bag on her head and acted like her.  Grandma stays very calm through it all – she only gets worried when they get near her pills.  I think that may be a valid concern.  

She took us down to her pool, which is perfect for the kids.  It is 3 feet high in most places.  Mario plays on the steps and Maria floats around the pool.  Maria got brave and even dove off the edge by herself.  She reminded me of Anna Quindlen’s little girl, Maria, who is my Maria’s namesake.  Quindlen wrote a Newsweek article about her daughter at age 16 – so intrepid and filled with adventure.  That was my girl yesterday – embracing something new and a little scary.  After an hour swim, we headed back to the room for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, vanilla wafers, butter cookies, and hershey kisses.  Who could ask for a better feast?!  

Mario loving the pool

We took grandma to Kroger’s to get her weekly stash of food (it is a 45 minute ordeal for about six food items but at age 90, I am still impressed), and then we headed to Blue Ash pool for some more swimming.  Mario LOVES Blue Ash pool with all of the fountains and slide and cushion bottom.  Maria, as I stated earlier, would rather stay in the confines of her own neighborhood but she agreed to come if there was pizza and popcorn at the pool.  After an hour and a half, I thought I may pass out from exhaustion so we packed up and traveled back to Grandma Lolo’s to pack up.  A bath, treadmill walk, popsicle, and golf game later, we were in the car waving goodbye to grandma and grandpa and accelerating the Volvo north to Columbus.  

We ended the trip with songs from Free to Be You and Me.  Maria has fallen in love with the CD much to my pleasure.  She loves the song about friends and the talking babies.  When the song “Parents are People” comes on, she yells “Mom, this is for you!”  

I was so exhausted when we walked in the door at 6:30 Friday night.  I could barely drag myself upstairs to lay down.   Luckily, Mario stayed asleep during the transfer from the car to the crib.  A little blessing from above.  Of course, he was up at 1 am standing next to my bed crying “Mommy, I sleep with you.”  The rest of the night I might as well have been doing laundry, cleaning the house, finishing up work, because he kept me wide awake between complaining that his leg hurt or he needed water or he wanted to watch tv.  At about 2:45 am, I thought I might jump out the window just to be able to sleep in the bushes below – broken legs/arms and all – it would be better than sleep deprivation.  But, we survived as always and were up and playing airplane on the bed at 7 am.  

Ahh, did I really ever sleep in until 8 am? 

Sleeping Beauties

We can spend forty-five minutes trying to get them to bed, absolutely exhausted and irritated at their hyperactivity and zeal at 9 pm at night (and with little to no naps!).  There comes that tipping point, like in the movie Terms of Endearment, when Debra Winger’s sons are walking out to the car with her and her interested man.  The sons try to ask her a question and she politely asks them to go to the car and wait for her.  They do not listen and ask again, and with a little more irritation in her voice she responds “go wait at the car hunny.”  They ask yet again and she finally bursts out “GO WAIT AT THE CAR HUNNY!”   

I remember laughing so hard at that scene when I was a teenager not having any clue that such a scene would be my life in my thirties with two kids.   Actually, I guess that scene does not occur very often… I think back to Debra Winger’s acting and wonder if it was that hard for her to act that scene out or whether she just imagined her own kids doing that and nature took over. 

I pulled a Debra Winger the other night with M&M when I was trying to get them to go down to sleep.  Maria had chosen a book to read, which we did as Mario ran around the room pointing guns at us and threatening us with his plastic sword.  Then it was Mario’s turn. 

“Get a book Mario, and then it is bedtime.”

He  continued to play Ninja.  

“Ok, bedtime, then.”

“No, Mommy.  Book.”

“Get your book, then, Mario.”

He continued to run around chasing Maria with his sword.

“Get your book, Mario,” I pronounced a little more emphatically.

He stayed the course of chasing Maria with his sword.

“Mario, GET YOUR BOOK OR ELSE BEDTIME NOW!”

He placed the sword down on the chair and got Clifford.   Maybe I just need to start at that tone right away?

After reading and rocking, I finally got to head downstairs for some peace.  I wrote, ate some ice cream, and trekked back upstairs to call it a night.  And what did I find? 

Mario sleeping with his two obligatory binkies

 

Those boisterous, high-energy children sleeping like little fairies in their beds.  Maria had even changed into one of my old silk nighties (that I got for my wedding!), which made me just want to eat her up.  It is funny how your mind lets all the irritations and anger slip away in one quick second after seeing little babes resting like this.  I guess it is nature’s way of protecting the young.  Make sure they look sweet and angelic shortly after their tirades so mom and dad stick around another day. 

Smart move.

My little fairy

Four year old Hosts Baby Shower

Maria "Wonder Woman" getting ready for the big event

Maria had been waiting for my mom’s stepdaughter’s baby shower for a month.  There was not five spare minutes that went by that she did not pose a question or a thought about it:

What games should we play?”

Papa Rod needs to ask his daughter, Kristen, what cake she likes to eat so we get the right kind.” 

“I think we should buy lotions and lipstick for the people who win the games.  I think we should buy “I love Cincinnati stickers, too, because they live in Cincinnati.”

She came home from school in the evening and made lists of the games we could play and the gifts we could buy.  She thought hard about what inscription should be on the cake. 

“I got it, mom” she exclaimed on afternoon.  “Happy Birth and Love Your Baby.”  Perfect. 

We had to drive down to Cincy on Saturday evening in order to ensure that we were there first thing Sunday morning to decorate and get the food together.  Unfortunately, both Maria and Mario slept horribly and we all looked like walking zombies at 7 am when we dragged ourselves out of bed.  Maria had thought of Sunday like Christmas and was simply too anxious to sleep.  Mario, on the other hand, just decided to be a rascal and move around all night restless and ornery.  Nonetheless, there was no time to rest – we had a party at 2 pm!  Maria was engaged and ready.  She reviewed all of the decorations and got us to work.  Task master at age four. 

Maria directing the troops as she guarded the "big" gift

“The streamers should go right there.  The centerpiece right there.  Give me the baby favors – I will put them over here.” 

After the decorating ended, she moved on to the food and drink. 

“What food did Grandma get? Did she get pop for everyone?  Where are the plates and cups?”

Martha Stewart had to have swept into her body for the last month and set up camp.  She was unreal.  When we finally got everything together, she made a run over to my Aunt Julie’s house for some last-minute “make-up” (blush and lipstick) and new hair-do.  She promptly returned to greet the guests and play an impeccable hostess.  Meanwhile, her brother acted insane as usual.  We thought he had gone out the door to play with marbles only to hear him coming down the stairs and see him at the foot of the stairs with no pants on, butt-naked.  Before we could blink, he darted to the middle of the room and yelled “Naked Party!”  Maria, playing the good hostess, immediately shooed him up the stairs and reprimanded him along the way: “Mario, you cannot come downstairs without any pants on little boy!” 

Mario "the Rascal" posing for the ladies

Maria helped me with all of the games – holding the string while people guessed the length of string to go around Kristen’s belly; yelling out the type of food in the baby jars; and passing out presents to the winners of the game. But Maria’s most impressive act was assisting me in passing out the cake and ice cream to ALL of the guests before she sat down to eat any herself.  A truly selfless act because she loves sheet cake as much as her mama!  Mario, meanwhile, continued to dart around the room shouting nonsense and flirting with the guests. 

The shower ended, the guests left.  We packed up our stuff and loaded our bodies into the car.  We were absolutely, undeniably exhausted.  We had managed to pack into a 24 hour period of time a trip to the outlet malls, two trips to parks (one to Blue Ash and one to Reading where I used to go as a kid); two trips to Aunt Laura’s house; a trip to Grandma Menkedick’s house; a trip to the store; and a baby shower! 

We are going to feel like we stepped into molasses this weekend because we have nothing planned.  Ahh, no complaints from us.

The problem is you think you have time.

 

M &M enjoying the rain

I facilitated a retreat at my work a couple of months ago and my co-facilitator delivered this quote during one of our sessions:

“The problem is you think you have time.”

This serves as a powerful motivator for me.  It reminds me to do the things in life I sometimes have no desire to do but that in the end always end up adding a little something to my day and expanding my life experience.  Whether it be letting Maria and Mario stay up late to watch a movie and eat popcorn after I have had an exhausting day at work and just want to curl up in bed; reading them one more looonnngg book after I have already read them five before bedtime; or driving out to my family’s house when I just want to take a long walk around the neighborhood and read the newspaper at Stauf’s – it is forcing myself to not succumb to the gravitational pull of my tired or indulgent self.  

Let’s face it – between working full-time and taking care of two youngins, I get tired and I want some self-indulgance.  No doubt, there is a time and place for that.  But there also is an understanding that time is fleeting.  I want to spend it well enough that when I am 75, I am able to look back at my 30s and 40s and think “I led a pretty exciting, adventurous, fun-filled life and took full advantage of my days.”    

Take the kids to the park, have lunch with that old friend, spend some quality time with my hubby in the evening. 

Saturday was a rainy, chilly day and we were all inside doing random tasks.  Jon’s parents were down and they decided to go to the nursery for fertilizer.  As Jon and his parents were leaving, Mario stepped onto the porch to say goodbye.  I went out to grab him, and looked down at the sidewalk.  Big puddles.  Lots of mud and sticks.  What could be more fun to a kid? 

I rounded up Maria and Mario in their rain gear and their rain boots and off we went.  I knew Jon and his folks would come back shaking their heads and I knew I would have my hands full taking off all of their dirty clothes, carrying them up to a bath, scrubbing them down….  but hey, the problem is you think you have time. 

M&M with their worm friends

By the way, we not only got muddy and wet, but we found two wiggly worms to examine and hold.  Does life get any better?

From Monsters to Cherubs

It has been a long week. 

Jon was gone two days.  I let the kids stay up late with me so they were grumpy and mean in the morning.  Mario had a horrid meltdown when I turned off the fan yesterday morning.  He flung his little body against his crib and wailed.  I tried to turn the fan back on and allow him to turn it off but that just pissed him off more.  “No mommy, go away!”  Wah, wah, wah, wah.  Ugh, I just want to scream at the top of my lungs during these moments and tell him to get a life. 

But rather, I walk into my room, lay on my bed, and breathe. 

It usually takes 3 minutes and then he brings his sobbin’ butt onto my bed.  Maria, on the other hand, turns completely silent when she is grumpy or angry.  While Mario was busy wailing and flailing all around, Maria was in her room, door closed, stewing over the fact that I told her I didn’t want to play Barbies 2.2 seconds after we woke up.  I need time to get into that Barbie playing thing.  Before I could even get out the words “not right now” she stomped away from my bed, slammed her door shut, and yelled “Don’t come in my room, Mom!”  Oh, that is so fine with me, little girl. 

After Mario got in bed with me, he realized Maria was not around.  “Where’s Ria?’ I think to myself “the prima donna spoiled thing is in her room wishing evil on me” but I paraphrase that thought to “Ria is in her room.”  He jumps up to check on her sensing something is wrong. 

I continue to lay on my bed, eyes on the cracked ceiling, thinking about what this life is all about.  I tend to get philosophical in times like these for good or bad.  After about 10 minutes of silence out of Maria’s room, I decide I better check on the insane children.  I go in and see this picture.  

Maria reading to her little brother

Every horrible thing they have done or said in the last twenty minutes is forgotten and I am consumed with affection.  Maria is such the mother hen to that little brother.  She is patient when he asks five questions about the same thing on a page and she allows him to choose any book he wants to read.  He is mesmerized with her as she reads to him and trusts her words completely.  The scene is heart-stirring.  

Why can’t it be like this every second of the day?  I mean, really?! 

In sum, it would be boring, I guess.  I wouldn’t get any philosophizing done without the craziness.  I need those meltdowns over fans and Barbies to genuinely appreciate such charming moments.