Celebrating Maria’s 11th



How did this munchball girler whirler blossom into an 11 year old gal so quickly?!


We prepared for this birthday for the last month between debating birthday parties with friends and cake pops for school mates. If there is one thing Ri loves, it’s planning a party. She always has. She used to go down to Cincy and help plan showers. She’d go to the farm and help prepare for picnics. She’d go to Marion and throw St. Patty Day bashes. 

By April, Ri had asked all of her classmates in fourth period what was their favorite sport. She had a sheet of paper detailing each person’s name with their favorite activity. For five seconds, I considered making these cake pops from scratch but then realized I would never accomplish making anything remotely presentable. Luckily, after calls to a couple bakeries and being discouraged ($3 per pop), I called Kroger’s. They were reasonable and they’d do all three different sports’ themes. Cha-ching!

As for Ri’s party, we are still debating what all we are going to do. She wants an all-out cupcake war like the one you see on reality tv where everyone bakes from scratch and makes their own icing. Every time I suggest doing something not in line with the show, she gets flustered and complains that it won’t be a real “cupcake war”. I think we’ve finally arrived at a compromise where the girls can make the batter from a cake mix box and we will have icing pre-made. We will see though; I’m sure as we buy things there will be more debate. She is the quintessential party planner, after all. 

As for gifts she wanted, well, it got complicated. She had wanted a laptop badly. There was no way Jon and I were getting her one but we had not told her one way or the other. Low and behold, a few weeks ago, Ri accidentally spilled a glass of water directly on my Apple laptop and fried it. Can’t be fixed. So, she knew then and there that she would not be getting her own laptop (she felt horrible and we continue to tell her accidents happen). So she moved on to other items. She’s still not that into clothes but she did want a pair of Converse to wear with her tights. The most random thing she wanted was to find out her ancestory. She found a website where they test your DNA and can tell you more about your ancestory. My girl. 

She also wanted me to skip my morning run and stay home on her birthday morning to make her pancakes, bacon, and eggs. I remembered that she was enamored with the way one of her friends had her door decorated by her mom for her birthday. So, with Mario as my co-conspirator, we decorated her door after she fell to sleep (Mario was definitely in because it allowed him to stay up late). 

Precious Mario. He acts big and bad lately but deep down inside he is a softie. And he loves and looks up to his big sis. He got balloons and streamers ready to go. He came up with the idea that we could put a letter per page spelling out Happy B-Day Ri and it would be 11 letters for her 11th birthday. He and I also thought up the idea of putting an adjective below each letter describing Ri. Mario put “hilarious” for H and “bold” for B. 


He was so worried that we’d wake Ri up while we were decorating. But she’s the heaviest sleeper in the house so there was no chance of that. He also worried that we wouldn’t get up before Ri. He was adamant that we needed to get up before her and start her breakfast so she could smell bacon and pancakes when she walked downstairs. Softie….

I woke him up at 6:40 am and we hurried downstairs to start her breakfast. Mario watched and directed me. I placed chocolate chips in her giant pancake in the form of the number 11. Mario looked down to assess and informed me I only had 10 chocolate chips making the number 11 and I needed 11. Done. 

Ri walked in the kitchen and smiled. Her wish came true. 


An even greater wish came true when Mario hugged and kissed her cheek. She was ecstatic.


After breakfast, she gave her dad a birthday hug and we left with two boxes of cake pops to school.


Grandma Ionno picked her up at 2 pm to go to the orthodontist to get her braces off. She purposely scheduled it on her birthday. Then they went to Target to get a few items for her camp out and to DK Diner to get a birthday donut and hang with her girlfriends. By the time they got home, I was pulling up on my bike and Grandma Meg and Peepaw arrived. Ri was starving so we left immediately to Columbus Ale House. I tried to covince her to go to Perkins but had no luck. She was craving fried calamari. And nachos. And wings. Nice and healthy. And she topped it off with a hot fudge brownie sundae. My girl.


Mario acted as Ri’s advocate when we got home and corralled everyone into the house to open presents. The girl got showered with gifts and used one of them – the Beats Pill – to allow us to jam it out to Prince. 


She ended her birthday with an email from Uncle Jack and a Skype call from Aunt Sarah and Elena. Elena calls Ri “Mee-maw” which is the most hilarious thing ever. Mario would try to talk to Elena and she’d frown and call out for Mee-maw. 


I have a feeling we will be traveling to Pittsburgh quite often this Summer. 

Ri ranked her birthday a 20 on a scale of 1 to 10 so I think we did well. She deserved a day to be showered and treated like royalty. She has worked really hard this year to excel in school. She asked for a tutor to help her with her reading; she came home nearly every day and got started on her homework; and she gave extra effort on class projects. She even scored some 4s on her report card. She also seems more self-confident. She made a video for the school to watch about feeding people in need. She wasn’t nervous at all to make it. She has a large group of friends and can get along with anyone. She hasn’t yet begun to worry about what she’s wearing or curling her hair, for the most part. Every once in a while she asks me to do her hair or get her a dress but it’s far and few between (thank god because me and curling irons do not get along). She’s more concerned about taking care of others than fashion- buying presents for Elena or babysitting my friends’ kids to let them go out on a date night. 

Some highlights from her 10th year of life are as follows:

1. Was selected to be mayor of Biztown.

2. Went zip lining.


3. Played in her first basketball league and won the championship!


4. Traveled to Mexico.


5. Was in her first talent show.


6. Professionally colored the tips of her hair twice (ombré and red).


7. Won a cake at the Cake Walk.


8. Played the saxophone in band.


9. Took Jon to the father/daughter dance.


10. Fed the homeless men at the Y shelter.


11. Baked killer cupcakes.


12. Ran two 5K races – one for Girls on the Run and one for Batten’s Disease.



13. Traveled to Cape Cod and ate lobster!


14. Got dunked in a dunk tank.


15. Visited Siesta Key and played in the waves!

16. Learned how to dive into the pool!


17. Drove 22 hours home from Siesta Key with an ear infection.


18. Made delicious dinners for the family including orange chicken.

19. Got her first massage – hot stone at that!

20. Tried espresso for the first time (and detested it)!

21. Ate chapulines!


This girl is an adventure-seeker and a lover of a raucous party. She is so fun and genuine and inclusive. She adores her family and stands up for them in a nanosecond. The little things she does on a daily basis – making us laugh, giving us hugs, taking care of her little brother, feeding Rocco, keeping us on task and time, prepping board game play, cuddling – keeps us going and adds depth and joy to our lives. She is an amazing, unique, brave gal and we look forward to seeing what this 11th year brings her (definitely bungee jumping, she informs me). 

We love you Ri!

Mom and Dad

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