Mario’s ride

Mario could not wait to participate in the Kids Bike Race held on Friday night as part of the adult bike races that come to Grandview every year. I mentioned it to him and Ri about a month ago and Ri had zero interest but Mario jumped on it.

He had his last baseball game that night, too. I told him we’d have to leave early if we wanted to make the race. He was willing to do it in order to be in the race. Of course, the race was 20 minutes behind so we sat there waiting and waiting. He had the pre-race jitters like I get before running. He kept looking around at his competition.

“I will beat that boy; he’s on training wheels.”
“Is he racing me? He looks too old.”
“That boy doesn’t have muscles like me.”

And the quotes kept coming. Maria just kept rolling her eyes and begging to go to Doris and Kim’s party. The announcer finally called for the kids to line up. Mario dutifully sat on his bike awaiting instructions.



I kept coaching him to get his foot on the pedal so he could get a good start but everyone was taking pictures and there was confusion abound. When the announcer yelled “Go!” one big kid took off and blew everyone away. Mario hung in there with the group and didn’t come in last – but I think he was second to last – which meant fourth because there were only five kids in each heat.


He was not a happy camper. When I got to the finish line to see him, he exclaimed “That was it, mom?! That was the entire race? That is so stupid! I want to race like those guys!” He pointed to the professional riders. I had tried to explain to him that his race was a short race – one block in length – but he didn’t grasp it. He looked around and said “did I win at least?” I told him that he didn’t but he did a good job. He stomped his foot on the ground and pronounced “I want to race again!” A dad walked up to his son and looked at Mario. “Good job, Mario. I think you were third.”

I went with it. He was at the finish line when they crossed sobI trusted his memory and it was oh so much better than fourth in Mario’s eyes. He asked if he won anything and I told him no. He again proclaimed his irritation with the race. I think I will need to sign him up for at least a ten-mile one in the future.

He rode his bike to Doris and Kim’s house with Ri and I following. When he arrived, he got a winner’s welcome with everyone clapping for him. This brought a smile to his face. If he can’t win, at least he gets attention. The rest of the night he told everyone he raced and came in third. And he beamed all the while folks gushed over him.

Spring Break 2013 – Phoenix


“The Grand Canyon is not that big.” This was Mario’s initial observation as we stared down into the vastness of the Canyon. It takes a lot to impress that kid.  Jon and I decided to pay for a four-hour tour knowing full well that we would not be able to provide the education that a guide could provide.  Maria is at the age that she slurps up all the facts and information provided by teachers so we knew she would enjoy it more.  Mario, well, we could have just led him run throughout the canyon and he would have loved life.

mariamarionutsWe had a guide named Dora who had been a park ranger for years.  Her husband is a geologist.  She focused in heavily on the trees and the berries and, of course, the rocks in the Grand Canyon.  Our first stop was at a juniper tree.  There were berries just beginning to mature on the tree and Dora plucked on off for us to try.  When you cracked open the berry, there was a tiny nut to eat.  RI and Mario were skeptical but they each asked for one to try.  Neither of them spit it out but neither of them were overwhelmed.  Then Ri looked in her berry and found something.  A worm.  Jon and I and even Dora dismissed her telling her it was just part of the berry.  But  Dora took a second look and said “you are the first person to find a worm in their berry.” Ri kept eating and was proud as can be. She also introduced us to mariamariodoraPinyon Pine and pine nuts (we all loved those), oak, and ponderosa trees (Ri loved the ponderosa pines on my behalf because “they are named after mom’s favorite restaurant!”).  Next, we learned about the different type of rock  making up the Grand Canyon. Ri asked a ton of questions and held a long conversation with Dora about the different layers.  She loved the look of the sandstone. She bought a bag of rocks to take home with her to show her class. The last adventure as a fossil find.  Mario loved it.  He would grab Dora’s hand to pull her over to a rock with a fossil to show her.  When she confirmed it was a fossil, he looked up at me with that look of self-pride and moved on to the next rock.  Jon spotted a mule deer on our way out. Maria peppered Dora with more questions ending with the ultimate one “how did we get here on this Earth?”  Our old-soul girl.  Dora loved it.

The night before we stayed at the Best Western Hotel near the park.  It had no indoor pool but it did have a hot tub, an arcade room and, strangely enough, a bowling alley. We arrived at 6 pm which is 9 pm our time so we were all exhausted. We went down for dinner to the seedy sports bars near the arcade where the waiters looked completely miserable and the clientele consisted of locals or other exhausted families. Mario had a breakdown waiting for dinner – he was so tired and irritable and saying “I hate this place!” every two seconds. Ri was completely dazed out.  The food was horrid except for Ri’s baby back ribs. Yeah, that is what she ordered at the seedy sports bar. She does know how to live it up.

By the time he hit the arcade it was close to midnight our time.  I knew when Mario put quarters into a hunting game and it didn’t work, that all hell would break loose.  Although he reacted better than I thought he would, he was still shot.  It really was time to just head upstairs and call it a day.

After the Grand Canyon, we headed back to Phoenix with Mario watching movies on the iPad and Ri talking up a storm about everything and anything.  She’d finish telling one story and there would be a pause, Jon and I would open up our mouths to say something, but then Ri would jump into another conversation.  We laughed at the difference in the two of them.  Mario could plant his nose in technology for five hours; Ri needs conversation.  Three and a half hours later, we were at Desert Ridge Marriott.  What a place!  A lot different from the cabins and tents I stayed in as a kid.  Ri and Mario have now stayed in the RItz in Naples and Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix.  I think their significant others will be treated well when they find them years from now.

rabbitThe hotel grounds were gorgeous with a huge grassy area out back that led to the lazy river, regular pool, and fountain pool.  We were on the fifth floor and had a balcony overlooking a desert garden and a large patio for parties.  The kids loved the balcony and got an awesome surprise as they stood looking into the garden.  There were bunnies everywhere!  One hopped out of the cactus and Ri and Mario screamed for us.  Then another bunny hopped, and a baby followed.  They could not believe it.  And that became our entertainment every morning and afternoon.  One afternoon we came up to our room to take a little break in swimming and the kids sat on the balcony for over an hour acting like scientists studying the movements of the bunnies.  They got water and soap and spread it on their bodies to attract the bunnies and them got notebooks and pens to write down their observations.  Every five minutes they’d come in to give us a report.

mariamarioswimmariamarioswimphoenizThe lazy river was great because you could float in it or you could swim or walk in it.  Mario typically chose to swim, I walked, Jon floated, and Ri did a combo (she always had a tube in hand but would switch between floating and walking with it; she used it as her laboratory spying on people).  It had a slide in the middle of the river that the kids loved.  It wasn’t that fast and the kids were a little skeptical at first but it quickly endeared itself to them and they were doing all sorts of poses as they slid down.  They about lost it with glee when Jon went down; they stood on the side of the pool and waited anxiously and when Jon flew out, they laughed and applauded as if he was a celebrity.  When it came to me, well, I was just expected to slide down with them.

The breakfast buffet was a slice of heaven.  They had anything your heart desired (they should have at the amount you have to pay) – the typical eggs and bacon to corn meal pancakes to donuts to granola.  Ri and I were mariamariobuffetbeyond excited every morning to hit it – we asked for the table closest to it so we could dig right in.  We got our money’s worth with me and Ri; however, Mario ate a few bites of donut and piece of bacon and he was done.  He was more concerned with going out on the green space and playing with the other kids.  The only problem was that the other kids all knew each other and had no desire to ask Mario to join them.  He looked like such a sad soul standing outside watching them.  mariamariodonutRi went out to cheer him up.  I followed after one last bite of a chocolate muffin.

We did cartwheels on the lawn while Jon watched (I swear he looked like Don Corleone when he sat in the garden chair with no one by him).  Other families looked at us with either awe or disgust but we didn’t care. It was refreshing.


mariamariofoozWe swam everyday and hit the Family Play Room the last two days.  The Family Room provided a refuge from the sun and the pool (after being in it for four hours).  RI and I colored pictures, Mario played Wii and on the iPad, and we all played foozball (I am horrid).  They had cubicles of hershey kisses, caramels, tootsie rolls and apples and raisins.  I grabbed Mario an apple to eat when he complained of being hungry.  He ate it and then turned the corner and saw the hershey kisses.  I wish I would have had my camera to capture his reaction.  He stood with his mouth agape absolutely flabbergasted that all of those kisses were available to eat.

We drove over to Jon’s best friend, Paul’s house to visit him and his wife and their kids on Thursday night.  They got pizza and Mario glued himself to their son, Sam (age 15) and Ri did the same with their daughter, Eve (age 11).  Sam played football with Mario and listened to Mario’s stories; Eve showed Maria her horse awards and let her play with her iPod. Jon got to hang with his best buddy and I got to hear all the particulars about how their daughter’s fiancée proposed.  We left at 8 pm, and both kids were passed out within ten minutes of our drive back to the hotel.  I carried Ri and Jon hauled Mario from the car all the way to our hotel room.  We were both sweating and out of breath.

mariaputtmarioputtWe hit the putt-putt for tradition’s sake.  The course was the most boring one we have been on to date.  I kicked everyone’s butt (my lucky day).  Maria got a hole-in-one and Mario stayed calm about it.  He did not play well but instead of acting out, he just kept to himself laying on the grass or sitting in the shade.  It broke my heart.  He’d go to the next hole and just sit under a tree looking like a little orphan.  But he perked back up at the end when we agreed to let them bounce on the trampolines.  After the trampolines, we played in the arcade and all found out we love air hockey.



mariamariohikeThe kids and I also got in a hike at Pinnacle Peak.  I loved that.  I was surprised that the kids made it up nearly a mile (the entire route up was 1.75 miles).  I was worried about Mario in the beginning because he slipped and cut his knee on a rock.  You would have thought it was deep gash by the way he was hopping around and crying.  It was a small cut that barely even bled.  But he just kept saying “I can’t go any farther, mom, I can’t.”  Luckily, a mother approached me with two band-aids.  “I know how kids can be about cuts,” she told me.  I bandaged him up but he still made me hold him.  That was the first sign we probably wouldn’t make it the entire way up.  But then his competitive spirit awoke when he saw Ri charging ahead.  He started to walk with a little limp and a big bodybuilder walked by him and said “Way to go guy mariamariopeak– keep it up!”  Mario looked at me and asked if I heard what the man said.  I told him “yes” and Mario said “he said it just to me mom, not to you or Ri.”  Mario, Mario.  But that is what it took to get Mario motivated.  Within five minutes, Maria complained of feeling sick and complained that she couldn’t go any farther.  That sealed the deal.  I could not carry her for 1.5 more miles.  I held her for a while and then we’d stop in the shade for a bit.  We did this off and on until he hit a perch near mile 1.  A kind soul saw that I was carrying Ri and said “congrats – you reached the top!”  Mario looked at me and asked “we did?”  I winked at the woman and declared “yes, we are here!”  Mario would have freaked if he knew we did not make it the entire way; he wanted to find the bodybuilder on our way down to tell him that he hiked to the top.  The flowers were gorgeous and the sights beautiful.  Ri walked the entire way down and when we got to the bottom both kids were sweating.  I told Ri she could empty the remainder of her water on her when we reached the bottom.  She promptly did so.  Mario followed suit.  They filled their bottles up with more water and did it again, and again.

cactus mariamariobikingphoenixI did not want them to get their car seats soaked so they took off their bottoms for the drive home.  They both found this hilarious, and laughed the entire way home (I must admit I was chuckling when I glanced back at these two half-naked goofs).  They made me crack up even more with this picture near the cactus.  Cards, they are.  

Jon and I found out they had bicycles to rent and a trail to ride around the hotel.  We had this idyllic scene in our head of all of us on our bikes riding past gorgeous cacti and flowers ad smiling at one another.  Reality took over with Jon and Ri biking and me running alongside Mario who was too nervous to ride a mountain bike.  Mario complained that he wanted to stop biking while I kept saying in my cheerful little voice “Come on, you are doing great. We are having fun.” My hypnosis didn’t work and our bike ride was all of fifteen minutes.

Out of all of that fun, the kids may most remember being asked by the pilot if they want to sit in his seat.  Their eyes opened wide and they looked up at me like it was a practical joke.  But there they were ready to fly us around the world.



I tell my folks that I have a new-found appreciation for my vacations as a kid because I realize the work that goes into them on the parent side now.  But boy are they worth all of the planning and hand-holding and fuss when you see the faces of your kids entranced by the glory of the Grand Canyon or the simple hopping of a bunny.

Weekend Round-Up

Biking up to the Annual Cake Walk was bad luck. How were we going to carry a cake home if we won?

The Middle School gym was packed with no ability to avoid touching another human (Jon would have been very unhappy). I am usually ok in those situations for a brief period of time but then I reach a rapid breaking point and need out quick. There were the parents who loved every second of the event watching the crowd and chatting with other parents.  Then there were the seriously irked parents in the crowd silently bemoaning their children for making them endure such conditions. I was in-between.  This was the first year that I felt comfortable allowing Ri to leave my sight and run around by herself or with friends. And thank god I did because there was no way to let her walk ahead and still keep an eye on her. Ten feet ahead and she was in the masses. Mario wished he was Ri and could be on his own. He is so over having to be next to me and not run around on his own. Luckily, there was a toy/game area cordoned off upstairs so I could stand back and let him do his thing  (inevitably he’d run back to me though and say “Mom, come watch me play!” (he needs me more than he thinks)). Mario found Quinn and followed him everywhere. He’s got a complete boy crush on him. Ri hung with Sophie.

We failed on the cake front. Mario got so mad after our first loss that he pronounced “this is stupid, I’m never playing again!” Mario is intolerant of games of chance. He played a few more times and got irritated at losing every time.  Ri could have cared less; she was busy bragging about how Uncle Jack played in the band at the Cake Walk when he was in middle school. I love this picture of us: I was stunned because I almost won; Mario was mad because he didn’t; and Ri was zoning out due to a sugar overdose.


Saturday brought 40 degree weather which meant we were on our bikes and trolling the neighborhood. We hit Panera with Jon (Mario ate his entire ham sandwich – miracle!) and trekked over to our old digs to see if our bird’s nest was still up in the corner of the neighbor’s house. It was! But we found no mama sitting on eggs. Maria again lamented like she always does about the new owner not taking care of our old house. “He doesn’t care for it like we did. He doesn’t even plant flowers.” I’m worried if he ever comes outside, she may give him a piece of her mind. We stopped at Doris and Kim’s house to say hi but they weren’t home. The kids wanted a sad picture to send them so they’d know we missed them.

But then our always joyful Ri chirped “Now turn those frowns upside down, folks! Unfortunately, her stranglehold on Mario produced a greater frown.

Next, we hit Zach’s house. They were preparing for Grace’s birthday party so we helped fill the piñata and broke out SpongeBob tattoos (we know how to party). Zach let M&M ride his go-cart which thrilled Mario. He also played b-ball with him. Mario is gonna love making boy friends at Stevenson. Meanwhile, Ri threw on Zach’s football pads and completely played the role of linebacker.



We left Zach’s and headed up to Kroger’s for eggs. We had our Paas coloring kits already. The kids engaged in their annual egg coloring doing better this year than in any year past (usually there is at least one colored water spill). After coloring 20 eggs we called it a night. Ri read Martin Luther King Jr.’s book to us before bed.  The book contained his “I Have a Dream” speech. Mario paid no attention to which Ri scolded “you are never going to learn about history, Mario!”

We skipped out on the farm on Sunday due to the Winter Storm predicted for the day (ended up to be a false alarm with hardly any snow through the day – daggone meteorologists. Mario jumped on me at 7:30 in the morning begging to color more eggs. So there we were at 8 am coloring away.




Ri went to Yoga with me at 10am. She loves playing on the iPad and watching me sweat. She is at once in awe and disgusted. We came home and found Mario in heaven because he was playing with Quinn. Ri and I took off to Stauf’s for a scone and Uno and then picked up Sophie and Paxton to head to the woods. Nothin’ like a girl climbing a tree in cowgirl boots.


After climbing trees and playing in the shallow creek, we called it a day and went home. Quinn and Mario were playing mutant ninja turtles in the basement and eating peanut butter and Ri and Sophie took sleeping bags to her house to sleep outside in the snow.  When Quinn had to leave, Mario gave him a big hug and told him that they would play again tomorrow “because we’re best friends.” When Jon questioned Mario about Gio being his best friend, Mario told him “it’s complicated, dad, let’s not go there.”

We ended the night with a family card game of Three Little Pigs and Beat the Parents.  The kids demolished us.  We blamed it on being tired but I think it’s more likely a lack of sugar from no cake.

Weekend Round-Up

A list of all the events from the weekend of March 8:


Ri headed to Kids Night Out at Stevenson. She stayed in Ms. Palmer’s room with the third graders to help watch Ms. Palmer’s little boy, Colin. She would give up friend time to watch a little kid anytime. She also got a healthy dose of Spongebob while they waited for Mrs. Palmer to get organized.


When I picked her up from KNO, I ran down the hall with her and out the door trying to pinch her behind. We jumped onto a stone structure and laughed as we tried to get our breath. She looked at me and said “you are the funnest mom ever!” Words tucked away in my heart.


2. While Ri was at KNO, I took Mario to Target to buy new shirts and a Skylander (he got to buy that with his own money). We got our icees and headed straight to the Skylander aisle. And… we stood there for what seemed like two hours deciding which Skylander to buy. Another kid came over while we were standing there and he and Mario acted like old friends as they chatted about their favorite Skylanders. Hilarious. We ended up with Stealth Elf who Mario reported was liked by everyone – even our babysitter David. A cute little gal, I must admit. Then we headed to the clothing aisle. Doggone Spring clothes were already out so we could only find a few long-sleeved shirts. He found some boxers that “looked just like dad’s” so we got those, too. We got a good deal on a Dr. Seuss book – $5 – and Mario “read” it on the way home. He is hilarious with reading. He simply looks at the pictures and makes up his own story. He’s pretty creative, and usually some up with a more interesting story than the one in the book.


We took advantage of 55 degree weather! We also took advantage of Mario’s new running shirt – as soon as I came home from my run he begged to go out with me for another run.

“I have my new running shirt, mom! I want to test it out!”

Ri biked (her worst nightmare is running!) and Mario and I ran. I explained to him about keeping a steady pace which he adhered to for two seconds and then sprinted again. After about two blocks he turned around and said “why aren’t I sweaty yet, like you always are?!” He wants to come home sweaty just like his mama (another one if Ri’s nightmares!). We played at the park a while and then went home to toss the football.




After running around, the kids were ready to chill in the car for a trip to Cincy for Cy’s 18th birthday party. Mario made dad and I engage in a singing contest (dad won with his famous song “Spicy Meatballs”) and Ri drew a picture for Cy’s birthday. When we arrived, the kids went straight to Robert and Cy and their girlfriends to play. Robert tossed the football with Mario and Cy messed around with Ri. There was a two-year old boy at the party so Ri was in heaven chasing him around and holding him. She is gonna be a heck of a babysitter.

Jane made killer lasagna and garlic bread: the Italian Ionno family was quite pleased. Liz and I ate with the kids downstairs cracking up at Ri going to town on her lasagna and Mario trying to play pool. Jane has hosted 72 birthday parties over the years for her kiddies – what a machine! We sang happy birthday to Cy, gobbled up chocolate cake and ran around the house wild until it was time to head home.





Ri rode her bike and I ran up to Stauf’s. We took a long way up and down side streets to make it a three mile ride/run and Ri cranked it out on her old, run-down bike. She prides herself on being able to ride this bike (she always asks “do you think [insert friend’s name] could ride this bike like I do?). The chain is rather rusted and the pedals are tough to push but she has her parents’ strong leg muscles!

We had a wonderful Stauf’s trip – we sat outside in the 60 degree weather eating a chocolate chip scone and talking about school. I love mornings like that. We brought home a donut for home-body Mario and got ready for the Ionno clan to arrive.

We hadn’t seen Alana and Gio for a while so the kids were excited to have them over.  As soon as they arrived, Ri and Alana were upstairs playing barbies and Gio and Mario were on my bed with my iPad and Grandma Ionno’s iPad. When we made them come downstairs to play, they picked up their nerf guns and acted like they were zombie killers.

I took the girls to the woods to try to find baby bunnies. No luck on that front but we did find a good tree to climb. It was only 65 degrees but Ri was “so hot.” She had to create a “belly shirt” to cool down and slip off her shoes. God help her when Summer hits.






The boys were next. I took them to the woods by the train tracks (I didn’t let them go near the tracks, Aunt Kathy!). They were hilarious talking about Skylanders and zombie killing. Mario kept asking Gio if Gio had a running shirt like he did. When Gio said no, Mario scolded him that he needed to get in shape.



When we returned, I had to play zombie. The boys destroyed me with their nerf guns (they did an excellent job aiming from the waist down). Then Grandma Ionno got in the mix and wrestled Mario. For 70+ years, that woman can hold her own. I can’t get over how much energy she has. She was on the carpet rolling all around with Mario. Good way to stay fit ad work off some of the calories consumed from Jon’s killer homemade spaghetti and meatballs meal.

We ended the weekend on our backs looking up at the sky and debating what the tree in our yard most resembled (I thought the tree stump from Skylanders and Ri thought a mom asking her kids why they broke something – you can see who is more creative).


And here’s to the start of a new week.

Taking in the morning

This weather is ridiculous. Close to 60 degrees in mid-December. It makes me think twice about living in California or Colorado where it would be a temperate 70 degrees most days. But in the end, I do like the change in seasons and hope that we will get some sled riding in this Winter.

The kids and I took advantage of the weather with a stroller ride and bike ride to our tried and true Tim Hortons. Ri rode her bike and Mario lounged in the stroller. Ri talked to me about her friend’s mom and how mean she was to her friend. I listened to her as she talked about the things this mom said to her friend. She is definitely much more strict than me (who isn’t?!) but her words do seem rather harsh. Nonetheless, I explained to Ri that every mom is different and there were surely wonderful traits this mom possessed. Ri looked doubtful. She biked a bit longer and then looked over at me and said “I have a great mom.”

Can I please package that up with a bow and bring it out when she’s 15 and hating me?!

Meanwhile, Mario informed us that he knew why he woke up last night unable to breathe. It scared Jon and I half to death. He woke up at 2 am gasping for air and could barely drink water. He was raspy voiced. I would have thought he swallowed something if it wasn’t 2 am. After ten minutes, he fell back to sleep and woke up fine. Mario told us that he woke up and was unable to breathe because the trees in the nearby park had been chopped down recently.

“They cut down all those trees and hurt our environment. Now it’s hard to breathe good.”

There is our little Sierra Club member.

After Tim Hortons, we got a rare treat. A train passed through right in front of our eyes as we walked towards the park. We had passed over the tracks hoping to see it and as soon as we passed over, it came roaring by us. We all sprinted to the tracks to see it right before our eyes (Maria held her sides heaving and smiling and said “my body hasn’t gone that fast ever!).

The park was all ours to enjoy. We ran up and down Wyman Woods hill. We played in the sand volleyball court. M&M climbed the old pine tree to the near top. Mario was so excited because he had never climbed that high before. We climbed the monkey bars.






And all of this before 10 am!

On the way home, we passed a couple jogging. Mario pointed at them and said “they are helping the environment by using their legs and not driving, right mom?” I shook my head yes. Maria was dazing off into space and I didn’t think she heard us until she declared “why run when you can bike? I’m going to bike everywhere because I hate to walk.”

Mario confirmed that Ri could take that route because she was using her own energy to move and that was good for the environment. Ri and I smiled at sweet Mario. Then we passed two newly planted trees and before I could point them out, Mario squealed “new trees, mom! I can breathe better!”

Obama Rally

Obama pins, Obama cups, Obama shirts. Protestors. Loud music. Welcome to the OSU Obama rally, Maria and Mario.

I asked our babysitter to drop the kids off at my office with the stroller so that we could walk over to the rally on the Oval. I made the last minute decision when I found out they had a few more tickets at the Obama headquarters downstairs from my office. With as much back and forth between M&M about the candidates, I thought this would be a good experience.


I knew from the beginning of our stroller ride that Mario was not gonna hang with me in all of the chaos. He has a nasty cold that has him headache-y and coughing. He perked up a bit when the Secret Service guys talked to him as we went through security and he even danced for them when he caught a bit of Black Eyed Peas on the loudspeaker. But when we moved into the crowd and the speakers were blasting and the crowd was cheering, he wailed “I want to go, mom!” I tried to distract him but there was no use. So, I made them take in all of the people and excitement and energy of the place and always remember how important it is to vote. On the count of three, we all yelled “Vote!” And then we headed back to my office.


Of course, once in my office, Mario came alive with the sight of chocolate everywhere (a lot of us have bowls of chocolate on our desks). He remembers the chocolate all too well and went directly to the rooms that had it. Maria went directly to my desk to be “the boss.” They could have played in my room all night.

But Jon rescued me and drove up like a knight in shining armor to pick us up. We ate Bob Evans (could I live on chocolate chip pancakes? Yes), and then I rode home (no room for my bike in the truck) only to find M&M in the driveway riding their bikes in the dark waiting for me.

“We beat you, mom!”
“Yea, but I’m gonna get you now” I remarked as I chased them down the driveway listening to them laugh and prod me to chase them faster.


After engaging in these chases for twenty minutes, I finally petered the kids out. They parked their bikes and went inside. Mario turned on the computer and yelled “Mom, come here!” I walked over and he said “see mom, I told you Mitt Romney is more famous because he’s on the front page of the computer!” Maria and I shook our heads and scrolled down to find a picture of Obama to show him.

Rest on Sunday? Ha!

Coffee, chocolate chip scone, and… sprints? Apparently that was in the cards for us today.

Maria wanted to bike to Stauf’s this morning – a welcome change from our Tim Horton’s runs. She asked if we could bike down the hill next to us and I told her that would mean she had to bike back up the hill. Surprisingly, she still wanted to do it. A very proud moment for me. And an even more incredible moment when she willed herself half way up the hill (which is steep) and then got off and walked it the rest of the way without complaining once.

We met Jon at Stauf’s and got chocolate chip scones and muffins. Mario told us how stars come from nebulous clouds – just a typical morning with our five year old son. Maria told me that she was going to be my coach and make me run on the track. So we headed to the track after breakfast and Ri timed me as I ran sprints.

“Move it lady!” she screamed at me. “Go faster!” She could definitely move straight into the army.

Mario and Jon arrived shortly after us and Mario dove right into my sprints… and push-ups. He is an animal. Maria and Jon timed us over and over.



Then Ri got into the mix and sprinted across the field to us. I am not sure what got into this girl of ours but she turned into a monster, too. She continued to sprint back and forth a few more times and then biked home. Love it!

Soon after we got home, Ri had to go to cheer leading. I was worried that she may peter out but she stayed strong belting out the cheers and kicking that leg up!


While at the game, my brother texted me about a gig he was playing at the riverfront. The kids have been wanting to see him play so I thought it would be perfect since I didn’t need to take them to a bar to see him! I told Ri to get dressed up like a rocker girl and she didn’t joke around! Blue eye shadow and all (dad was not pleased nor was I but we let it go this time!)


The kids made some quick friends with my law school friend’s kids. They all sat together waiting for Jack’s band to start. The Evan Oberla Project jammed it out.

Mario sat on the stone seat and watched the entire show getting up every once in a while to get out some dance moves and then chillin’ again in his seat. He loved it and even got a shout out from the band members who said he was by far the best dancer of the day. He was smitten!



We wrapped up the day the way I love most – with Jon’s yummy spaghetti and homemade meatballs. Heaven. Our cousin, Robert and my bro, Jack ate with us, too. What a treat, especially for M&M who idolize the both of them.


A full day for us – we will all be crawling into work and school tomorrow morning. But there is no other way to live!

Tornado hits Cincy

I planned a trip to Cincinnati with the kids for the entire weekend because Jon was heading to England Saturday morning. However, his trip got delayed so he informed me he’d be home all weekend. Lucky dog, I thought. But he really wanted me and the kids to stick around so I compromised and took the kids to Cincy after Mario’s game on Saturday and decided we’d come back Saturday night.

Mario is doing better and better with football. I think the key is to have Jon present; he likes impressing his dad and routinely looks over to Jon after a play and gives a “thumbs up” to him. He’s been running after the other players more and even dodged another player while running with the ball for his team. I must agree with one parent who mentioned to me “he will be really good next year with this practice.”

After the game, we headed down south with our popcorn, cheese pretzels, and powerades. Oh, and with National Geographic’s Wild Kratts show. Mario has been waiting patiently for it to arrive from another library and it was worth the wait. It had the Alaskan bears that Mario asked about every time a new show came on tv. Very cool.

Our trip to Cincy was like most other day trips down there. My mom and her husband describe it as a tornado coming through the house. Pretty accurate. My Aunt Julie, who lives across the driveway in the condo complex would likely describe it the same. The kids jump out of the cars, surprise mom and Rod, play with Lou and run over to Julie’s to say hi to her and Gracie and Liz and Maggie. It’s a cousin-fest! We break out the chips and candies and play with toys and make lots of noise. We tickle Gracie and pounce on Liz and Mag and act crazy. After that gets old, we head outside and show off our bike riding and toss the bouncey ball. Within a few minutes, we are ready for the park. Gracie gets in the stroller, Maria and Mario get on their bikes and we head north to the park where cousin Laura meets up with us. She swings Maria and Grace while I play with Mario and mom walks Lou. The kids put on a show for us that I want to kick myself for not recording. Of course, Maria emcees it and Mario and Grace do funny dances and songs.

After the play, we moved onto the main playground where Maria decided to take an eight foot fall off the slide. I knew she was hurt when I picked her up and she cried incessantly. She brushes off most falls but this one hurt. We carried her to the “ambulance” (Laura’s car) and transported her back to my mom’s. The only thing that would help calm Ri’s pain was Larosa’s spaghetti and meatballs so we ordered from there. I devoured a veggie pizza, and the kids ate garlic bread, pizza and spaghetti. We had worked up an appetite.

After Larosa’s, we hit the outdoors again for some cheer leading lessons from Ri who may be the world’s strictest coach ever. She showed me a cheer and then I tried it. She looked at me with sheer disgust. “Oh, Mary, that was not good….” So much for a gentle touch! Meanwhile, Mario and Laura threw the ball up on the carport roof and watched it bounce down. Mario thought it was the coolest activity ever but he could not get it up to the roof like Laura. It would bounce under the carport and over the small fence behind the cars and we’d spend ten minutes looking for it acting like it was lost treasure when we found it! Mario finally bounced it up to the roof and his smile was as wide as it was long when he turned to me. “I did it,Mom!”


Laura took off for Oktoberfest and we headed inside for baths. The water looked like the Olentangy when the bath ended. The kids both wore goggles and laid parallel to one another to see who could hold their breath the longest. What a sight to behold. Two white round butts in the air attached to two tanned still bodies trying to beat each other in under water breath holding. Mom and I stood over them in awe and joy. They’d come a long way since the nights of bottles and binkies and crying at 2 am.

We ended the night with ice cream and the Dog Whisperer. Maria sat mesmerized by the show while Mario concentrated on making letters with marbles. We looked down and he had spelled “Rex.” He is a Ben Ten fanatic.
We dragged ourselves out to the car, got situated with a movie, and started our journey back home to Jon.

The tornado struck Cincy again but the destruction was well worth it, as always.

Biking for health and quicker access to coffee

I appreciate any assistance in persuading people to get out and bike more often. This article confirms the benefits to both our health and our environment when we stay away from our cars and hop on our bikes.


In addition to making us healthier and improving our environment, biking is usually more efficient when you are traveling 5 miles or less. It takes me less time to get to work – 4 miles away – on my bike than in my car between lights and traffic and parking. It also takes less time to bike with the kids to Stauf’s on Sunday morning to get my coffee. If that’s not convincing, what is?!

Determined to bike (and be near family).

My boy didn’t give up all day Sunday. He sat on his two-wheeled bike, adjusted the pedal so that it was at the northern-most direction, placed his foot on it and rode until the pedal went a half of a turn to the southern-most direction; and then threw both his feet down on the ground to stop himself.

He started the process again. And again. And again.

Every time Jon and I would try to hold the back of his bike to give him a little push to get him started, he would berate us and push our hands away.

“I can do it myself!”

He’s a determined little sucker. He wants to accomplish things on his own. But he also wants you to watch his every move while he works on them. And if you don’t, he lets you know. At football on Saturday, I coached Mario after a play he made telling him to make sure to run after the ball. He darted over to me on the sidelines and yelled “you weren’t even watching me, mom, so don’t talk to me because I don’t have to listen to you!” (I had been listening to Maria read me a book during his play and had not had my undivided attention on him).

A tad bull-headed.

But being bull-headed has its positive side. Mario was not going to let Monday roll around until he could pedal a few turns without falling. Jon and I took turns watching him start and stop and start and stop and start…. Maria tried to coach him, too, instructing him to get a running start before putting his feet on the pedals. He actually listened to her and tried it but clearly felt like that move was a little too risky for him.

Nonetheless, by the time we went inside Sunday evening, he was able to pedal three or four turns before falling to one side. On Monday evening, he was able to go up or down the driveway before screeching to a halt. Jon and I watched with pride and amazement as he biked from the mid-point of the drive to the end. We cheered and roared as though he won the Olympics.

Tonight, he biked on the sidewalk of our street. He cranked out three or four house lengths before rolling into the grass and starting over. Incredible. Just last week Maria complained about Mario never wanting to try the two-wheeled bike and Mario was adamant that he would not give into her complaints. He had no desire to ride a bike sans training wheels. But something or someone changed his mind on Sunday and now there is no turning back.

Yet another milestone achieved. A milestone that pushes him towards independence and self-sufficiency. After all, once you can bike, you can go anywhere (isn’t that a Dr. Seuss rhyme?!).

Why is it that the mind understands that these babies of ours need to grow up but the heart so desperately wants to keep them young?

I stood and watched his tiny determined face as he situated the pedals just right and took off down the sidewalk. My little munch was not so little any longer. Five years old and riding a bike and playing football and operating a computer. He’s set.

I can only imagine the short amount of time it will take before he begins begging to ride to the next street over, then the next, and then even further away. But for now I will soak in his response when I told him that he was an official two-wheeled bike rider:

“This is great mom. Now the whole family can ride two-wheeled bikes together.”

Always thinking of his family – my sweet biking son.