Lettin’ loose on a Thursday afternoon

My grandma has not been feeling well for a couple of weeks.

Work has been stressful and energy-draining.

The kids have been going non-stop with school and parties. 

I felt disengaged and needed to take a break from the normal routine.  I moved my meetings so I had a blank sheet on Thursday afternoon.  I picked Mario up from school at 1:15 just as he was laying down to take a nap.  When he saw me, he shot straight up in the air and asked “Are we leaving, mom?”  When I responded affirmatively, he leapt in the air, grabbed my hand, and shot towards the door. 

Mario concentrating on Wii

“Did you bring the bike, mom?”

“I did, little man.”

“Good, we can save energy!”  I have been trying to teach him about the importance of riding bikes and walking over taking a car everywhere and was happy to hear some of it was sinking in to his budding brain. We clipped on his Spiderman helmet and rode down the bike path.  On the way down the path, Mario turned his head around to me. 

“Mom, thanks for picking me up early today – it made me really happy.  We are going to have fun today!” 

Chalk that moment up for one to put in the memory banks.  The statement absolutely blew me away with the warmth and genuineness of it.  I let him play a game of Wii basketball when we got home while I packed our bag.  Yes, a bag for a three-hour stay in Cincy.  I packed an extra set of clothes, nighties, extra shoes, popcorn, pretzels, and ham.  Jon is still amazed at my strange packing habits but you can never have enough food – you never know when you might get a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere and be stranded for three days until discovered (even on a straight shot down I-71!).  My girl would not be able to live on berries. 

M&M with great-grandma

Mario and I picked up Maria an hour early from school.  We stopped at the gas station for gas, pop, and chips, and got on our way (this has been our routine since Maria was a baby – nothing better than a long road trip with pop and snacks!).  I promised the kids we would stop at French Park (the park I went to during my childhood) if they promised they would be good when we visited Great Grandma at her assisted living apartment.  It was strange to drive on the street I used to travel on as a kid.  Memories popped up in my head with each new block we passed.  French Park looked the exact same as it did when I was a kid.  We parked at the top of the first hill and walked down to the creek.  The kids hopped the rocks to the other side of the trail.  Maria found a set of stairs and we followed those through the enchanted forest with the overhanging trees and vines and the delicate flowers.  When we got to the top of the stairs, we noticed tracks from an animal.  Maria thought a dog, Mario thought a lion.  As we continued, Mario spotted a rabbit amongst the tress.  He was so proud of himself repeating to me every five minutes “I spotted a rabbit, mom!” 

After a few minutes, the kids decided that they wanted to head back down to the creek.  The thought of dipping their toes in the water was too enticing. 

M&M in the creek

We found a good spot to take off our shoes and socks, and we gingerly stepped into the freezing cold water.  The sun beamed through the spaces of leaves in the trees and the rocks seemed perfectly placed to lead us down the creek.  Maria tried to find frogs (for me) and Mario found rocks that resembled guns and acted like he was the captain of a boat fighting off pirates.  We threw rocks in the water (after trying to skip them with no luck (pee-paw is needed)) and splashed each other.  The kids had a blast.  When we headed back to the beginning of the trail, they both begged to come back to the park again.  I need to look for some good ones in Columbus – there is such a sense of gratitude and appreciation that floods over me when I hike and play in nature and I think it infiltrates the kids as well.  They were so good on the way to Great Grandma’s house and at her house, too.  It can be a battle to keep them under control in her apartment because it is so small and there is not a lot to do. But on this day, they played quietly with her blocks and balloons, ate their dinner, and stayed quiet while I talked with Great Grandma.  I did poke them a few times to make sure they were not aliens who had stolen my children. 

Deep in thought

We ended to trip with baths at Grandma Lolo’s house and a walk on the golf course.  The kids found 5 balls each, and were so excited to bring them home to show Papa Rod.  The ride home was even a positive because both kids fell asleep before home.  Maria fell asleep within ten minutes (as always). Mario watched Scooby Doo.  I kept hoping I would turn around and see him asleep so I could just put them both in bed when we got home and I could relax (otherwise, Mario gets his second wind and takes forever to fall asleep).  With about 20 minutes left to go, I glanced back to see if he had fallen asleep and saw that he had unclipped his seatbelt.  I scolded him and demanded that he re-buckle it.  He started wailing and could not get himself together to buckle up so I had to pull over and do it for him.  He cried and cried.  I held his hand for about a minute as I stood outside the car and looked down to see he was sleeping.

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