My baby turns 13!

How is it that my little pumpkin girl is turning 13? It seems just a breath away that I was walking down the street calling Jon to announce our pregnancy. I was at the corner of Grandview and Third when Jon answered his cell phone.

He had traveled out of town that weekend to hang with his best friend, Paul. He answered the phone and I think we made chit chat for a minute. I can’t recall exactly how I brought up the pregnancy but I do recall the reaction, pure silence.

There were a lot of “oh my gosh” statements after the silence – a symbol of both joy and fear. We were having a baby! What the heck would happen once we had a baby? We are pregnant! How the heck were we going to handle a newborn?

I recall the first three months of morning sickness. I sat at my desk at Carlile Patchen, and stared into my computer screen hoping that the nausea would subside. I craved giant-sized hamburgers. I longed for chocolate and pickles. The thought of toothpaste made me want to throw up. It was so strange to have all of these sensations. My belly did not start to expand until about the fifth month of pregnancy. It was only then that I could show off my little baby bump. I would rub that bump as if the more rubbing I did, the healthier you would be.

It was around that time that Jon and I found out the sex of our little nugget. I swore I would have a boy. I have always been a tomboy, always been aggressive, loved my sports, and hated dresses. I was positive the universe would deliver a boy to me. I also figured Jon would want a boy even though he kept saying the cliche-ish line “I don’t care what sex it is as long as it is healthy. ” I laid on the table while the nurse pressed the wand hard against my belly. She moved it around and around and finally asked us if we were ready to learn the sex.

YES!

“You have a girl. ”

How was that possible?! How could my testosterone-laden body produce a girl? Whereas I was in shock, Jon was not. He took it all in stride – happy as a peach to have a baby girl. I, however, had major trepidation. That would mean we would have a mother/daughter relationship. Heaven help me. I had past experience with a mother/daughter relationship and it was a struggle. I remember calling my mom to announce that we were having a girl. Her reaction: “oh.” We both must have still harbored a bit of PTSD from my teenage years.

It took a while to get used to the thought of having a girl. I remember walking Cy, our dog at the time, and thinking “how will I ever love a human being as much as I love my loyal pup?” What was my problem?! Yet, although those thoughts went through my head, I still spent countless hours rubbing my expanding belly and listening to Free To Be on any car trip I took.

And then the day came. I went into the doctor’s office for my 9 AM appointment after I had taken a 3 mile run and lifted weights earlier that morning. My doctor performed her weekly exam. While she felt around, she poked her head up.

“You are going to have a baby today.”

What?! I was not having any contractions; I did not feel weird at all. Wasn’t there supposed to be some big revelation that I felt the baby was coming? I called Jon on my way home and told him that we were having a baby. His reaction was the same as mine had been. I arrived home and told Jon I was going to take Cy on a quick walk. He thought I was crazy, but he allowed me to do it (he knows me all too well). We got to the hospital around 11 AM; by that time, I was starting to feel some contractions. They felt like mild cramps, nothing to worrisome. The doctor checked me out around noon, and asked if I wanted to break my water to speed up the process. By that time, my mom had arrived from Cincinnati. We decided to go for it. It was not 20 minutes later that I was sitting on my green yoga ball pushing myself back-and-forth from the hospital bed. The contractions were getting worse. Breathe, Breathe. Breathe. That is all I could hear. It began to hurt worse and worse. But I was in it for the long run with you, baby girl. I wanted to feel every single ache. And boy, did I. There was a period of time where I was on my hands and knees rocking back-and-forth and feeling like I would not be able to survive another minute. Then the contractions would calm down a bit and I’d be able to breathe. But then they would start right back up and I would want to cry. Jon and my mom championed me through it right by my side. Finally, the nurses told me I could turn over and start pushing. What a relief. I pushed so hard, so quickly that I busted all of the blood vessels in my face. I wanted you out! I got to see the top of your head in the mirror and I could not believe it. There you were. All of that belly rubbing produced this little pipsqueak. I pushed one final push and before I knew it, I was holding your little 7 pound body in my arms. What a day.

The politically correct thing to say next is I fell completely and totally in love with you in that moment. Not so much. It took a while to absorb that intense bond between mother and child. At first, as I stared at you while she slept, I felt too many emotions to feel that deep connection. Would I do alright as a mom? Would you love me back? Were you getting all your nutrients? Craziness. And the questions running through my head! Why weren’t you taking my milk? Why didn’t you want to snuggle on my chest rather than move all around in every direction? Why did you have to get up every hour?!

As I became more confident in my role as a mother and you clocked in a greater amount of time on this earth, the connection clicked. My heart exploded with love and adoration for my baby girl, and I swallowed up all of you. And then, there was no turning back. I loved seeing you round, buddha face in the morning (even when you kept me up all night). I could not wait to get out of work and pick you up. I loved taking you on long walks, and having you touch the bark of different trees or smell the scent of different flowers. I couldn’t wait to walk up to Stauf’s with you on the weekend, and have everyone fawn over how cute you were.

I would read the book, Someday, to you nearly every night. The mother in the book watches her daughter grow up, and expresses has hopes and dreams for her daughter along the way. I would tear up every time I read it. One night when you were in preschool, I finished reading it and had those tears in my eyes. You looked up at me as you sat on my lap in that yellow rocking chair. You had tears down your little buddha face.

How biased I was to assume I would have a boy because I had so much testosterone and hated dresses? Sure enough, you were known as “the muscle” at preschool because you would defend some of the timid kids when kids were picking on them. Don’t mess with my girl; she will put you on her place. Heck, you are able to pick up your mom without a problem (there is no doubt your physical dominance is directly from your mom and dad).

You continue to want to be a daredevil. One of the presents you asked for your 13th birthday is a hot air balloon ride. You also asked to skydive (you know your mother will not agree to that) and bungee jump (no way). You will try anything. We love your intrepid spirit.

You continue to forge friendships with a wide array of people. Girls that love sports; girls that love boys; girls that love video games; and even boys. You get along with anybody and everybody that crosses your path.

You love to hug people. You sometimes even ask to hug a family friend you just met. You have no fear of jumping into any conversation. We love your willingness to embrace.

You are the goofiest, dork of a girl at times. You are not scared to make fun of yourself. You are not scared to act like a total fool around people. We absolutely love this about you. The more self-assured you are, the better it will be as you get older. Keep that goofiness about you and do not care what other people think.

You love school this year, as always. You love broadcasting in the mornings, hanging out with your friends, and going to your sporting events and practices. You loved your softball season with the bus rides to and from softball games. You are easy-going and spirited.

Quite simply, Ri, you are a great kid. Dad and I hit the jackpot with you as our first born. You have given us immense joy, and we know that you are going to knock this world out as you continue to get older.

Happy 13th, love!

Mom and Dad

Give that Job to the mom

If you want to get multiple tasks done quickly and effectively, call a mom. Without a doubt, she will be able to crank out the job better than anyone. 

My Christmas Eve night this week:

Arrived home at 7:30 PM from Cincy.

Unloaded the entire car full of boxes and gifts.

Dragged a mini refrigerator and a huge cozy seat up the stairs and into the kids’ rooms. 

Assisted the kids with unpacking the mini fridge and getting it set up in Mario’s room. 

Assisted the kids in unpacking Maria’s cozy chair and setting it up in her room. 

Cleaned Mario‘s room under his bunkbed and near his closet so that Maria would have a space to sleep. 

Took four loads of clothes and other random items up to the attic. 

Gathered winter clothes from the attic and brought them back downstairs. 

Cleaned the clothes off of Maria‘s floor. 

Hung up my clothes from Cincinnati. 

Cleaned the top of the kitchen counter. 

Fed Rocco. 

Took Rocco on a two-mile walk. 

Helped the kids make sugar cookies. 

Unpacked all of the gifts from Cincinnati and put them in their respective rooms. 

Wrote two letters to family members to put on their gifts. 

Wrapped the remainder of the gifts – seven in total. 

Drove to Walgreens to pick up some last minute items. 

Drove to CVS to pick up other last minute items not found at Walgreens. 

Drove to the liquor store to get a 40 ounce (just kidding – I wish). 

Went to bed at 11:15 pm. 

Seriously, all a mom should have to do is put “MOM” on the top of her resume and the job is hers. In the matter of minutes, we can wrap a gift, cook dinner, solve a math problem and clean up spilled milk. We can also answer any question posed such as “how do you start the dishwasher” or “how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.” 

Put us in a board meeting and we would run the roost. Give us a managerial position, and we’d bring up the profits. Bottom line: shit would get done – and done well. 

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.>