Love my girl

I was talking with a friend the other day about how hectic her mornings are with her tween daughter. 

“I have to get her up, make her get dressed and brush her teeth, fix her breakfast, and beg her to get to the bus on time.”

I shook my head and comforted her. I told her I was sure she’d get in the swing of things as school progressed. She went off to a meeting. I looked down at my phone at a picture of Ri. I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for my girl.

My girl – who I found in the kitchen this morning after my run – putting a spoon of Rice Krispies in her mouth as she dumped leftover quinoa salad into a container to take for lunch at school. She had alsomade Mario a bowl of Fruit Loops and had let Rocco outside. I’m telling you, she was my mom in a past life. Or someone’s mom. She has the routine down pat.

I sometimes take it for granted. 

“I’m biking to soccer practice, mom. See you in an hour and a half.”

“I looked up the recipe for sugar cookies and got them started.”

“I found workbooks on line for Mario and me this Summer.”

“I’m going to be late for school mom. You can’t take another picture of me!”

She might as well be 30. And her carefree, let it go, attitude about life sets a good example for all of us. Last night, she played a soccer game until 7:30. She was starving but I made her go to Kroger’s to pick up food before we ate. She pouted as she got out of the car but as soon as I kiddingly tapped her side and smiled, she livened up.

“I’m getting a crouton from the salad bar since you dragged me in here!” She skipped over to the salad bar with a mischievous smile on her face. 

I caved in and got her Chipotle afterwards. She got a burrito bowl filled with rice and beans and cheese and sour cream. With a big dollop of guacamole on top. She knows how to live. When I told her that I was gonna take 90 percent of the guac to eat with my chips, she grunted.

She carried the bowl in her right hand and a grocery bag in her left while kicking the soccer ball up the sidewalk to the house. When she got to the steps, she kicked the soccer ball super hard with the hopes that it would bypass all the steps and land near the door. Instead, it ricocheted off the second step and collided with her burrito bowl, which flew out of her hand and all over the ground. 

She looked at me. I looked at her. 

I expected either (1) tears or (2) a demand that we get her another bowl at 8:45 at night. But neither reaction occurred. 

Rather, we both cracked up. And then she bent over and scooped up the sloppy mess of cheese and beans and tossed it back in the cardboard bowl. 

“It’s all good. Besides, I get more guac now because it’s all mixed into the cheese and beans!”

I can’t love this girl anymore.

  

Amen, Patricia Arquette!

I have loved Patricia Arquette since watching her act with Christian Slater in True Romance.  Her character name,  Bama, has served as my password for nearly all of my technological devices. She played a bad mama chicka in that film, and I have been smitten with her ever since.  I still have not seen her in Boyhood, much to my disappointment, but I will be finding a way to head to the movies after watching clips of it on the Oscars tonight. She is a rock star.

And she continued to wow tonight when she gave her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.  Damn, it is awesome to see a strong woman up on that stage using her stardom to shine light on the necessity of providing equal pay to women.  What a way to rev up the audience members and the folks at home! Her exact words…

“To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

Amen, sista.  In hopes that Maria experiences that equality when she heads out into the world to become a veterinarian, a teacher, a historian, a politician, or hmmm, maybe an actress.

43 for 43!

On my birthday… Top 43 things I’ve done in my 43 years:

1. Given birth without any drugs. Some of the most excruciating pain I’ve experienced but the miracle and grace of both childbirths cannot be described.

2. Rode the Beast at Kings Island without completely soaking myself.

3. Married my hubby. Some of the most excruciating pain at times (ha) but his humor and love for family surpasses anyone’s on the planet. He is my number one supporter and I’m so glad I get to share this life with him.

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4. Swam with a shark! Yes, only a three foot shark but still, a shark!

5. Traveled with my dad and Meg on family vacations to Michigan and Washington. I would pout up a storm as a teenager about having to go and now I am so grateful for those memories and for instilling a deep appreciation of nature the outdoors in me.

6. Parasailing! I would never do it with Jon in Cancun but Ri convinced me in Florida. I was scared sh–less but I did it.DSC03900

7. Watched my sister give birth to my niece. It was one if the most tender, intimate, amazing experiences of my life, and it was kinda nice not to have to push and struggle in order to see the birth!

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8. Walked with Ri and Mario as infants in the Baby Bjorn. I still can feel their tiny head resting on my chest and their baby feet cupped in my hands.

9. Finished a marathon! I would have never done it without Sarah asking me to run it with her. Hell from mile 15 on but it was like childbirth: hell going through it and within ten minutes afterwards, you are ready to do it again!

10. Trips to my Grandma Menkedick’s house. She never disappointed. Always had chips and cookies to share and hilarious stories about card games with her friends or vacations she took. She was a true grandma in the sense of the word and we loved each other dearly. As I laid with her in her final days, she continued to whisper “you were a good granddaughter, Mary.” And I made sure she knew she was a beautiful grandmother.IMG_0351

11. Danced with a turkey in Mexico. That’s right. At Sarah’s and Jorge’s wedding. Mexican tradition we were told. My dad and I had drank enough Mezcal to not care whether it was tradition or not.

12. Taught aerobics. I was no Jane Fonda but I taught a mean class for a while.

13. Traveled to New York with my mom in my early 20’s. What a hoot we had between seeing Phil Donahue in person and getting hit on by New York construction workers.

14. Spent a lot of time with my Heile aunts. These women showed me love, let me watch inappropriate movies and listen to disco music, played card games with me, fed me junk food, let me spend the night, and listened to me ramble on and on about my superball collection and my stuffed animals. They will all be sainted for that.

IMG_9012 15. Took a 40th birthday vacation with my long-time girlfriends to Italy. Nothing like connecting with old friends over wine, the Italian countryside, and home-cooked meals.IMG_0250

 

 

16. Coached girls’ softball. I love watching these girls gain confidence in themselves and support one another. And it’s awesome spending time with my girl.IMG_9407
17. Hosted a surprise 60th birthday party for my mama. She is the last person to ask for pampering and I was thrilled to give her some.

18. Biked 100 miles in Pelotonia to support cancer research. On a mountain bike even!

19. Took an 8th grade class trip on a bus to Washington DC. Everyone has got to partake in that experience once in their lives.

20. Kissed a dolphin. One of Jon and I’s favorite excursions in Cancun.

21. Watched my brother act in a play at Ohio State and jam it out with his musical band on stage. He is an artist in every sense of the word and I marvel at his talent. I love how Ri proudly brags “my Uncle Jack is famous because he has a CD.”

22. Bought a gorgeous home in Grandview that is already filed with hundreds of memories of times with kids and family and friends (Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are the best!).IMG_6905

23. Had a super short 80’s spiked-on-one-side haircut that I will never ever have again.

24. Stood front row in a field in Ireland and watched Michael Jackson perform a full two hour long concert.

25. Caught a baseball thrown to me by my favorite Reds player of all time, Dave Parker, and completed a 5K that ended in the Reds Stadium (and won first place in my division!).IMG_3718

26. Wrote to Anna Quindlen after the birth of Maria telling her how much that her article in Newsweek about her daughter, Maria, deeply affected me. She wrote me a thoughtful letter in return. Cherish.

27. Went sled riding down Wyman Woods hill with Maria and Mario nearly every Winter – even when there was barely any snow and a lot of molehills that had my butt bone aching for days.IMG_7550

28. Hunted turkeys with Jon at 5 am in the morning. Nothing like spacing out to a gorgeous tangerine sunrise only to be awakened by rifle shots and turkeys squawking.

29. Entered a hot legs contest but came in second. Allegedly it was rigged for the girl who won first to win it – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

30. Took in the Grand Canyon with Jon and the kids.  One day we will head back and hike to the bottom and back up.  IMG_2524
31. Got my law degree. I wish I could change careers every three years but this degree has done me well.

32. Participated in the Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca with my mom and sis and Jorge. The reverence and beauty in the celebrations of their deceased is beautiful.

33. Flew right next to the pilot in a tiny airplane from Key West to some city in Florida I cannot recall. But I can recall the amazing sunset that occurred before my eyes. Both terrified of the flight and mesmerized by the beauty of the falling sun.

34. Dipped my legs into the Arctic Ocean. Jon dipped his entire body and shivered for four hours afterwards (even with 30 minutes in a steam room).

35. Petted an alligator. The kids got a kick out of this adventure – where else but off the highway in Florida.

36. Nursed my babies. It didn’t last long and pumping was a bit– but the experience while it lasted created such a peaceful intensity.

37. Strollered my babies everywhere the first five years of their lives. God, I loved that BOB. It took us to the river to throw rocks, up to Giant Eagle for donuts, all around Grandview for me to get my run in, through Blue Ash to get Marx Bagels, to the parks. I was depressed for a good month when Mario would no longer ride in it.20141106-213506.jpg

38. Saw Prince in concert twice. Once in 6th grade with my mom – dressed in all purple and sat at the top of the coliseum and once with Jon and sat in the first 20 rows of the arena. Prince was sexy and amazing both times – total crush on him.

39. Witnessed Jorge get sworn in as a US citizen, and witnessed the joy and determination in the scores of immigrants’ faces who were joining Jorge in the process.  There was no way to not feel immense joy for the entire rest of the day.IMG_0633

40. Climbed the steps of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh with Sarah and Ri.

41. Ate a fried grasshopper.

42. Jogged the 7 hills of Cincy race and ran up every hill.

43. Kept a blog so I can remember all these things. With each year, I forget more and more!

I by all means know how blessed I am to have been able to experience all I have in these past 43 years, and to possess such a richness of both family and friends. There’s no stopping me at 43 – can’t wait to see what’s on my list of things I’ve done at 86!

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Face Reality

I came home ready to play around with the kiddos. They had friends over and I was gonna challenge them all to a game of Monopoly. I walked in the door and yelled hello. They came booking up the stairs from the basement to greet me. Mario and Rowan told me about their Beyblade challenges and Ri and Henley told me about the show they were watching. Rocco jumped all over me.
Then my phone rang.
Work needed me. “Can you send documents ASAP?”
I scurried around my email trying to find the documents. My computer was acting up, of course. I was getting irritated and pounding on the computer keys as if that would make the documents readily appear. The phone rang again. “Are you sending them?”
Arghhh. Twenty minutes later, I found them and angrily sent them off.
Meanwhile, the kids were sliding down the steps on their beanbags and spilling food everywhere. They were having a blast. I didn’t feel too bad that I had been pulled away for work since they were actually happy about it (another 20 minutes together!). But I did feel irritated and overwhelmed
In general. Then I stewed about the request for an hour afterward.
Jon told me to get over it – nice and simple. And he was right. And he’s a good example of how to get over it. He doesn’t stew. He let’s it go, turns on the game, and chills. I want to get there.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had to answer emails or a phone call after 5 pm. I can safely say a lot. So why am I getting so upset when I know it’s par for the course at times? I think it had to do with the house being a mess, my my expectations of coming home and having the kids swarm around me and all of us sing kumbya together, and the dog going nuts. In other words, living in a different reality. I should be grounded in the fact by now that the dog is gonna go nuts when I walk in the door, the house is gonna be a mess, and the kids are not gonna twirl me around in a circle singing “you are the best mom ever!”
As this article adeptly points out “Face Reality!” If I know that work may ring and interrupt my evening, then I can change my thinking from “dammit, the stupid phone!” to “I will take this call for 10 minutes and then be with the kids .”
At the same time, though, I need to keep some perspective and set limits to when I will and won’t answer work calls. If they call before 6:30 or after 9, I will respond. Anytime in between is dinner and kid time. An exception may be needed here and there but I think that is not unreasonable for the normal course.
I continue to appreciate it is all a learning process and will continue to be. A few years ago, I would have bawled my eyes out with a call like that coming through.
“That’s 20 minutes I didn’t get with my babies and they need me.”
Now, they don’t need me so much. They need their friends…and the computer…and Austin and Ally. It’s not quite as traumatic when the work phone rings and I need to get on it for a few minutes. And it’s also not as hard to let it go to voicemail at times – like when it’s 8 pm and I’ve just finished the dishes and feeding the kids and getting homework done and reading a story to them. I am getting better at turning that phone off when I need to – and doing something I want – even if it’s getting the mail, looking at the latest Title IX catalog and standing at the kitchen counter eating a handful of Cheez-Its.
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Party planner

Ri has a career in party planning…starting now. She is hilarious with the things she thinks of for the parties we host – she’s much more creative and daring then me.
I picked her up from her friend’s house at 11:30 am on Saturday and we worked until 4:30 getting the house together for Sarah’s Kickstarter fund-raising party. The night before, Ri and her friend created bookmarks to give away as gifts to the women that came to the party. They wrote Vela in all types of styles and designs and the words “thank you.” They also added peace signs or words (“Vela is awesome!”). We stuffed the bookmarks into little paper bags and wrote Vela on the front of the bag. Ri explained that we needed a different design on the bag than on the bookmark because that livened it up more. She also thought we should add chocolate to the bag so I dutifully bought some chocolate squares to throw in.

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Ri moved on to arranging the chairs in the living room for optimal talking space. I told her we needed a sign for the table where guests would lay down their books for the book exchange. There was no where to tape it on the table or wall so she created a sign to tape onto a book and then stood the book up on the table. Simple but creative. I love her so much.
She couldn’t wait to babysit Elena and another little girl, Sophia, whose mom was coming to the party. She did a good job as always in that area.
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Her girlfriend, Henley spent the night, and I learned she is just as crazy as Ri. I came home from a quick walk with Rocco and found her with dangling earrings hanging out of her braces. All I could think was her mom was going to kill me when I called her from the ER.>

Smart talk

Yet another article confirming that I have sent my daughter down a path of failure. I thought I was doing well by praising Ri as being smart when she correctly completed a math problem but apparently I’m setting her up to head straight to trucking school after 12th grade.
My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.
The researcher continues to say that not only is telling our daughters they are smart unproductive, but it actually may be harmful to their development.

Sweet Jesus.

Here I was thinking that I was a superstar because I was commenting on Ri’s brains and not her beauty but not quite….

I appreciate these studies in order for us to learn more about how to raise our girls to be confident and excel but damn if they don’t make me second guess everything before talking to Ri.

But, alas, change and growth and questioning are a part of life so I guess I need to keep reading these studies and shifting my praise accordingly (oh, how my grandma would be shaking her head at all the analysis we engage in as parents in 2014!).

Tonight, Ri told me that she completed 91 subtraction problems in five minutes when she had only completed 78 two nights ago. I replied “You are my smart girl!” But then I caught myself and quickly replied: “You worked so hard to raise the number you could complete and never gave up – great job!” So who knows where that mixed message will take her.

In the end, I think she will be just fine. After all, does she look like she lacks confidence?!

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Mama Bear

The Mama Bear is in full force today. Hear me roar.
I thought I signed Ri up for soccer this past Spring with Kiwanis. Turns out I didn’t. But last week, I went to the first practice without Ri to ask the coaches if I could add her in the mix. They agreed. So Ri practiced last Thursday and actually enjoyed it! She wanted to keep playing. I, in turn, was even more excited since I’ve been wanting Ri to try soccer since she was two. She took a soccer ball home with her and was ready for practice tonight.
Then the email arrived at 8 am. It stated that Ri never registered and therefore could not play. The team was too full.
I wrote back and pleaded that she be let in since she already went to practice and got a ball and was so excited. No response. I emailed again asking if I could simply speak to someone for a few minutes. No response.
How obnoxious.
As a parent, I would at least have the courtesy to call a distressed parent back and talk through why the decision had been made. Maybe think of some alternatives. Maybe not. But at least give the courtesy of a call.
I get that there needs to be deadlines. I get there are rules. But really, we are talking 3rd and 4th grade girls here and a team that is not “competitive” in relation to a select team or the like. So why not bend the rules a bit to let a girl who wants to try out a sport try it? I’m annoyed even more that two women are the ones ignoring my request to talk. Shouldn’t us women try to help each other out when it comes to our daughters?
I know I’m blowing this up to be a much bigger issue than it is. Jon has better perspective: Ri will probably take it in stride and move on. I did fail to register her on time. She can join a team in the Spring. Move on, Mary.
But damn if it doesn’t just grate on me. Probably because I didn’t sign her up on time so I feel bad. And probably because I’ve been wanting Ri to play more sports. Ok, I see a lot of these are my own issues. But I also feel that non-competitive leagues at this age should be a bit more fluid in admission; and girls at this age should be given opportunities at every turn in order to grow and learn more about themselves and what they love and don’t love.
Ok, so I will move on now, or at least after I make one more call….