Summertime fun

The kids went to Mama Meg’s and Peepaw’s house last week. I took them out to the farm on Saturday. We brought a movie for them to watch but my video player didn’t work. Maria sighed and whispered “this is why you need a new car.” She’s been watching ads for cars during the Today show and knows the safest ones and least safest ones. Volvo was not the safest anymore, she reported. I turned off the video after my tenth try to get it working and pronounced happily “this means we can talk!” Both Ri and Mario sighed. But we ended up having a great time. We listened to the entire Free to Be You and Me CD. When “It’s alright to Cry” came on, I explained to Mario that sometimes people make fun of boys who cry and he should always feel alright to cry when he was sad. Ri chimed in “don’t you want to give the same advice to me?!” She prides herself on being like her dad and never crying. Mario requested a little Uncle Jack music after Free to Be You and Me. We jammed to some Innocent and Simple Words. Then we moved onto Ohio trivia. I know more today about presidents from Ohio and Ohio historical milestones than I ever did in the past. Ri grilled me.
The farm was wonderful as always. I took a short hike with Sarah to get an update on how she was feeling. I was just waiting for that belly to pop!

After a yummy chicken and salad meal and some good laughs about 80’s and 90’s music with Meg and Sarah and Emily, I left to head home to Jon for a night together sans kids. Ri and Mario headed out with Peepaw to fish.

They didn’t catch anything but they did swim at the beach until 8 pm. They are lucky they have some energetic grandparents. The next night they slept in the barn all by themselves. Mario was scared and kept trying to convince Ri that they should rethink the barn. “There are spiders in the barn, Ri.” She would not be scared. They took Rosie to sleep with them and they had a huge flashlight. I can’t believe they did it.
On Sunday, Meg and Jon drove back and forth to Zanesville twice to make sure that Ri got to partake in 30 minutes of softball pictures with our Reds team. I’m glad though because I wanted her in the picture.

Meanwhile, Peepaw and Mario fished on the banks of the river. Mario called to tell me he caught 13 fish and they were all bigger than Peepaw’s catches (of course). He also excitedly relayed how he and Peepaw found these big rocks to fish from and how they cast their lines and waited and when one bit, how they pulled and pulled to reel it in to them. Mario will have some good memories and some well-honed skills as he gets older. Ri sat around the cabin chatting with Sarah as she cooked dinner just like another 30 year old in the room. And they christened the new corn hole game that dad and Jorge built and painted. Ri and Meg kicked some butt against the boys, I hear.
The kids returned on Tuesday in time to go to Music on the Lawn at the library. Ri thinks she’s “too old” for it but she was happy to take Luka and play the mom role.


She also let me slip in some selfies with her.

How long will that last?
Mario found a few boys from his class and went to town on the wrestling front. Ridiculous – wrestling with shoes off and eventually shirts off looking like little rugrats.


And when they were worn out and sore from beating each other up, they relaxed in front of Henry’s mom’s phone to take turns playing Goat Rampage. Boys.

The music ended and we headed home to see Jon, who brought me home a steak and scalloped potatoes from Hyde Park where he took a colleague out to dinner. It sure beat the bag of Cheetos I chowed down on at the library (the kids drank root beer floats and donuts – yes, we are the poster children for healthy eating…)!

Back to school

I got a glimpse of what our mornings would look like this school year when I asked the kids to get ready for back-to-school night at Stevenson. Ri threw on an old tank top and a hat because she didn’t want to brush her hair. She was ready in five seconds. Mario, to the contrary, was in his room for ten minutes before I yelled to him to hurry up.
“I can’t get my button buttoned!”
He sounded frustrated. I walked upstairs and saw him standing in his room with clothes scattered around him. He clearly had tried on numerous outfits before landing on the one he was wearing. I buttoned the too button of his shirt but not before trying to convince him that he could keep it unbuttoned and look cool.
“Mom, it looks stupid like that and it bothers me. I want it buttoned to the top.”
Mario knows best.
He then walked into our bedroom and found the hair gel. Jon gave him his old gel to use and Mario thinks that is too cool. He stood in the mirror for at least five minutes dipping his fingers into the gel and tussling his hair. I kept telling him he looked fine and he kept saying “hold on one more minute, mom, I’m almost ready.”

Jon and I know now that we will need to wake him up a half hour earlier than Ri so he can get dressed and do his hair. God love him. When he walked outside, Ri exclaimed “look at that darling baby boy!” Mario frowned and yelled “stop embarrassing me Ria!” He was clearly nervous.
But the night went well. He found his classroom and chair with Ri’s help. She made him practice putting his magnetic name on the “Packing” side and the “Buying” side of the wall, and she showed him where to write his name. She’s a good mama bear.


Mario made a new friend immediately and ran around with Quinn and the new friend all night. Maria was off on her own with her girlfriend, Anna, never to be seen until the night was over. I couldn’t even get a picture of her. Just wait until the first day of school tomorrow…she will be begging me to leave.

Red White and Boom!

I got home from work last night, made beans and hot dogs, and watched the Smurfs movie with the kids. We were all laid out on the couch we could have crashed for the evening if we weren’t so tied to tradition.

It was Red, White and Boom last night – Columbus’ fireworks show. Every year I have taken the kids to see the fireworks. We can see them well from Grandview so it’s a piece of cake for the kids to jump in the stroller and trot on down to the park.

I knew just the thing to rev things up. I got the hoses out to water the plants. Within seconds, the kids were outside. They have a keen water hose smell. Ri grabbed the hose out back and proceeded to douse herself with water. In her hair, soaking her clothes, against her face. She loves it. Mario is usually more hesitant not wanting to get his shoes soaked or his clothes sipping wet. After all, he went through four pairs of shorts earlier before he found a pair “that weren’t so wrinkled.”

But he dove into the activity with Ri and enjoyed himself thoroughly. He especially loved when I came outside (supposedly unaware that he had a hose – heehee) and he sprayed water all over me. Another one of those moments where I kept resisting because I didn’t want to have to change clothes but then thought “what the he–!”



Of course, Mario came inside afterwards and immediately bummed out about his shoes. “They are soaked, mom. How can I wear them?” He gets fixated on one thing lately and wants to wear it all the time. Luckily, our neighbors came down shortly after the shoe incident and asked if we wanted to go to the fireworks with them. Mario was so excited he forgot all about his wet shoes. We piled in their van and headed to Grandview Yard, a fairly new establishment at the edge of Grandview that has a hotel and lots of grassy areas. It still hasn’t caught hold yet so it wasn’t packed. However, there were a good number of folks.

Mario played with Quinn the entire time except to say “hi dude” to Beck, his football buddy. Ri played with Sophie and Sophie’s friend Lily who is heading to Singapore for five years with her family. She is a gem of a girl. I talked to folks I never get to talk to and really enjoyed the time. I take for granted this amazing community we live in sometimes and last night reinforced its wonder. People are so down-to-earth and the kids all play well. We are so close to downtown and have bike lanes and tons of parks. Schools are excellent. A little gem in the Mid-west.

The fireworks didn’t disappoint. Mario only begged for my phone one time but I distracted him by telling him to name the fireworks. “Super star!” “Super wonder star.” That kept he and Quinn busy. Ri sat quietly next to Sophie and took it in. The grand finale was spectacular and everyone clapped and cheered at the end.





And so the tradition continues albeit at a new location. We are definitely tossing our blanket down for next year.

Mother’s Day 2013

Top Fifteen memories from Mom’s Day 2013

1. Watching Ri and Mario fight over who gives me my gift bag.
2. Using my Garmin GPS watch from Jon and the kids and clocking eight-minute miles.
3. Making frames with Ri to give to the Crutcher ladies.
4. Getting a voice mail from Meg and dad wishing me a great day and telling me I was the best mom (after Meg, of course!).
5. Hanging out with hilarious and loud women all afternoon (Patty fit in with us Heile women perfectly).
6. Scratching a winning lottery ticket from Patty for $8!
7. Receiving a ceramic painted mushroom to place in my garden and a flower basket from mom.
8. Eating chocolate truffle that Patty made.
9. Having Liz and Mag register me for the Reds Stadium 10K on June 1 (I finally get to go on the Reds’ field – I’ve been dreaming of that since 6th grade).
10. Getting a hug from Grace-Bug.
11. Watching Patty climb a tree.
12. Experiencing Lou running away from us after Ri accidentally let go of his leash. Pure madness on Bluff Ave. as mom, me, and the five kids chased Lou through yards and the street for eight minutes of intense emotion ranging from panic (“what if he bites that other dog!”) to gut-splitting laughter (watching the kids and mom try to pounce on the leash to catch him).
13. Learning how to angle the iPhone camera to hide a double chin (thanks Mag).
14. Eating leftovers when everyone departed.
15. Walking up to Stauf’s with M & M at 8 pm to get a coffee, bagel and giant chocolate chip cookie and hear them both say I’m the best mom ever (buying the chocolate chip cookie probably helped)!











All in a day’s work

We got our Ri back today and it was so marvelous to have her running around the house. Our first activity was sled riding on Wyman Woods hill. It was quite a taxing event for Ri and me. We didn’t have any traction on our boots ( we wore rain boots) and the hill was icy in more places than not. We literally had to crawl up to the top of the hill from mid-way up because of the ice. People were laughing really hard at our expense. Meanwhile, Mario just cranked it up the hill without us and sped down on an old-school wooden sled that his friend brought to the park. Maria and I broke his red plastic slide within five minutes of arriving at the park when we tried to go down on it together. It cracked in 10 pieces and my bottom was soaked from Ri using me as her sled the rest of the way down the hill.

Ri was not as big of a fan of the sled-riding as Mario. She was nervous heading down the hill and tried to stop herself by putting out her hands and legs and then flipping over on her stomach and jumping off her slide half way down the hill. When she did go down properly, she liked it by the end of the slide but she had no desire to do it more than twice. She was much more happier making snow angels.


Mario finally joined us after his friend left and proceeded to bombard us with snowballs. He even managed to get one down my pants, the bum.



The kids played around in the snow a bit and then it hit them that they were freezing. They whined all the way to the car. Once home, they tore off their clothes and got in warm ones and we took down the tree. Yes, I am Scrooge as Jon says. Ri helped me take it down while Mario dropped pieces of an ornament that slipped out of my grasp to see how many more pieces he could see shatter. I did make him watch out not to step on the broken pieces….

They eventually got bored with that activity and decided to massage each other on our cushion in the front room. Maria belted out orders to Mario: “Massage my back, go higher, get my arm, now my head….” Mario smartly decided to charge her $20 and then she decided to leave the massage joint.

We got outside before the evening set in and built a snowman. Ri and I actually built it while Mario threw snowballs with Jon. Quite impressive snowman compared to our past attempts.


After freezing ourselves again, we headed in for warmth. I decided to pull out Maria’s homework with the hopes I could get her excited about it. Somehow, by the grace of a higher being, she didn’t complain and even turned the page after doing the first set of problems. I wanted to set off fireworks.

We got stuck on one question involving a trapezoid and three triangles. It asked what traditional shape the four shapes could make. Jon and I thought about it and drew some things but couldn’t get anything. We were thinking triangle or square…. So Ri and I called in reinforcements – Peepaw and Mama Meg . We gave the scenario to Peepaw and he immediately thought that the shape would be a parallelogram. At the same time he told Ri that, I had drawn a parallelogram. Us Menkedicks are always on the same wave length. We texted the shapes to Peepaw and Mama Meg to see if they thought we were right, and Meg also came up with a hexagon. We are set!




Talk about a full day – sledding, snowman building, breaking down the Christmas tree and ornaments, and solving math problems. I think it’s pjs and movie day tomorrow.

It’s 90 degrees – why not head to the zoo?

Reminder to self: avoid zoo when it’s 90 degrees, humid and packed.

I had originally planned on the Katy Perry movie with Maria and her friend but that was yesterday when it looked like rain all day. There is something in me that just will not allow me to go to a movie theatre unless it’s pouring rain or unbearably hot. It didn’t seem unbearably hot when we biked over to pick up Janira so I asked if they’d rather hit the zoo. When they said yes, I ran with it. But after two hours of zoo walking and hardly any animal sights, I was kicking myself. Air conditioning, popcorn, Goober’s, and a movie sounded much better.


The train was a nice break and we spotted a mama moose and her baby. Nothing like the thrill that Sarah and Jorge felt when they looked outside of their tent in Yellowstone and spotted moose in their natural habitat a couple of days ago but hey, we will take what we can get in Columbus. The girls
mostly loved all of the stone statutes throughout the zoo. Janira begged me to take their picture each time they climbed on one.


We searched and searched after seeing the elephants in Asia Quest for the Dippin’ Dots stand – we were all craving that “ice cream”. It is a strange little food but the chunks of Oreos perked me up enough to walk back to the exit and out of the zoo. The girls found a photo booth on the way out and begged to get their photos. God, technology bums me out sometimes. I remember sitting in a photo booth with a girlfriend, inserting 50 cents, and having to create two or three poses immediately without knowing if both of your heads were in the picture or you looked ridiculous. When I swiped my Visa, it charged me $5 and then you got to adjust your faces perfectly and get your pose ready before the camera clicked. The girls knew no better and thought it was awesome but I waxed nostalgic about it as they waited for the pictures.

By the time three hours had passed, we were ready to hit the road. Unfortunately, so we’re the rest of the visitors who had been at the water park (thunder had closed the park). Perfect timing. Nothing like jamming your body next to other sweaty, unknown bodies. Between that and the heat, I’m lucky I didn’t go off once. The girls were really good, though, which helped keep my nerves calm!

Jon, meanwhile, took Mario to Grandma Ionno’s house for a few nights of sleepover. He’s only been asking about going for six days now. When he woke this morning, he beamed when he realized this was the day! He loves him some grandma and grandpa time!


Pot-bellied pigs and marshmallows

Maria and I traveled downtown on Sunday afternoon.  There were actually people and cars all over the place!  What a promising sight to behold!  The Columbus Commons is a new development in the heart of downtown.  It is a large grassy area with a carousel.  Yoga classes are held there, kickball games, music fests.  On Sunday, they had a holiday festival for kids.  I had wanted to take Maria and Mario to it on Saturday afternoon but it rained/snowed all afternoon (the kids were so excited to see tiny snowflakes!). 

We took Maria’s friend Anna since Mario spent the day with dad at “Big Mario’s” house in Dover, Ohio engaging in “manly” activities like wrestling, play fighting and hunting deer. They chatted the whole way downtown about games on their moms’ I phones and how they wanted their own for Christmas (keep dreamin’ sista!).  When we arrived, the place was booming with people.  It was an awesome sight compared to the emptiness the downtown usually contains.  The first stop was the petting zoo.  For a mere $5.00, the kids could feed baby bottles of milk to the goats, llamas and pot-bellied pigs!  Yes, pot-bellied pigs – my absolute favorite animal on Earth!  I could have sat in that pen all day holding those little munchball swine.  Maria was even more excited for me.  “Mom! Mom! They have your pigs!”  We must have spent 45 minutes in that giant pen, feeding the pigs and goats and petting the llamas and camel.  They loved watching the pigs guzzle the milk and hugging on the llama. 


Next, we moved onto s’mores.  They had a giant fire pit in the middle of the Commons for people to get warm and make s’mores.  They provided each kid with a stick, two graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows (what about the adults?!).  Maria likes her marshmallows barely melted (I think she actually simply has no patience to let them cook!). and Anna likes her marshmallows burnt to the crisp (the way I like them, too).  We warmed ourselves up (I even scored a tiny bite of a s’more from Ri) and hit the carousel.  Maria rode the elephant.  Two years ago she would have waved at me every time she passed me, but this year, she chatted with Anna nearly the entire time never even taking a glance at me!  However, towards the end, I did see her glance over at me to see if I was still around so I secretly know she still needs her mama! 

After the carousel, we hit the bouncey house.  This bouncey house was brutal – they allowed 7 kids in at one time.  Luckily, Maria and Anna were the oldest so they did not get trampled.  They even were sweet enough to watch out for the little tykes in the bouncey with them (let’s see 6  year old boys do that!).  After the bouncey house, we moved onto the train ride.  By this time, my hands felt like ice.  I had thin gloves on and any more my hands turn purple if out in the cold for longer than 15 minutes.  Fortunately, Maria lost her ride ticket after the train ride so I was able to convince the two of them to head to Target with me for icees (no, not hot cocoa because that makes too much sense!) and pretzels.  The girls read Teen magazine while I found cookbooks for my girlfriends.  That night I dreamt of m little pot-bellied friends with the hopes that Santa may bring me one for Christmas (hint, hint, Jon!).

Jammin’ with the Harmony Project

I took the kids to Harmony Project last night at the Southern Theatre (Maria was so excited to get dressed up and to “help” me get dressed up, also!).  In one word: amazing.  I had not heard of this non-profit group until a colleague invited me to the event a month ago.  The Harmony Project works to bring individuals from diverse backgrounds together to sing and get to know one another with the hope that the more we understand one another, the more tolerant and inclusive society we will become.  The Project succeeded in its mission last night bringing together individuals from all walks of life and bringing them to their feet clapping and bellowing out tunes. 

Count Mario as one of them.

He rocked it out for the entire time we sat in our balcony seats.  They showed a documentary in the beginning of the program to educate the audience on what the Harmony project is, and I was impressed that it held Maria’s and Mario’s attention.  They both started to get antsy towards the end but they didn’t throw fits or beg to leave.  Very impressive.  Once the documentary ended, a group of mostly older teens walked out on the stage, each wearing a black t-shirt with the word “Beautiful” on it, and sang the song “Beautiful.” They mesmerized Maria who stood up in her seat and stared at the singers intently.  I caught her mouthing the words “you are beautiful” at one point.  Sweet  girl.

Mario listened to the song but did not become engaged until the next song that was much more lively.  The singers smiled strongly while clapping their hands and tapping their feet.  Mario stood up from his seat and immediately moved to the beat, waving his hands and acting like his fist was a microphone.  The people around us were cracking up.  Mario leaned into me after the song and whispered “Could you sign me up for singing lessons, mom?”  Maria laid back in her seat for most of the songs, intently watching the musicians and their gestures.  She is much more reserved than Mr. Mario when it comes to these types of events.  She takes it in while he throws it out.

Mario acting like a monkey and Maria showing off the brochure

As we waited for Jon to pick us up, I asked how they liked the show.  They both gave me nods of approval and Mario asked “did I sing good, ma?”  I confirmed that he did and he smiled broadly.  The boy loves his praise.  As much as I did not want to get dressed up and head out at 7:30 pm, I am glad that we went to the event because I know that  it has a positive influence on M&M as they grow into themselves and this world.  I think they are off to a harmonious start.

Lovin’ some DIrty Franks

Jon and I used to be ambassadors of Skyline Chili.  We are not embarrassed to admit it (well, maybe a bit embarrassed when people learn we had our picture up in the entrance way and our own “ambassador plates” to eat our three-way chilis).  Skyline bestowed this title upon us back when we were young pups with no kids and lots of time.  Now we go into Skyline and we are granted no privileges; we are just another family in the crowd eating oyster crackers as we wait for our food. 

But that is ok with us.  We like the relaxed atmosphere, the oyster crackers as appetizers, and the hotdogs with cheese.  Mario typically eats 2 of them before we leave (which is huge for Mario).  Maria typically eats one hot dog and a chili spaghetti.  They love the place, and may one day get our title back for us. They especially love the Oreo cookies that they get as a special dessert at the end of the meal (I admit, I am rather jealous although Jon gives me a quarter from his pocket so I can get Reese Pieces out of the dispenser). 

But Jon found another, cooler dive for us to head to when we are craving dogs.  A little hole in the wall on 4th Avenue downtown called Dirty Franks (  They have hot dogs with anything you can imagine spread on them.  Maria has fallen in love with the Octodog (macaroni and cheese with a hot dog shaped as an octopus).  Mario likes a plain dog with cheese on it.  I love the beanie weenie (baked beans with a hot dog and cheese and onion).  Jon typically gets a dog with sauerkraut or one with pickles or fries on it.  We also get the hush puppies with chili and cheese, which could subside anyone’s late night, hung-over cravings.  The walls are filled with artwork of famous singers like Michael Jackson and Prince (the only two I recognize).  Maria always asks me why Michael Jackson looks white when he is brown.  Mario loves all of the pictures of crazed looking rockers, especially the one with blood out of his mouth.  We find a new piece of artwork each time we go (keeps the kids busy!). 

I am thinking that Skyline may have to miss us for a bit while we frequent our Dirty Franks establishment.  Although, I do find myself craving that Cincinnati chili every once in a while – a girl can leave Cincinnati but Cincinnati can’t leave the girl!

Shopping Country

Mario doing his model pose before he leaped off the tree stump

We braved heading to Polaris last night.  Polaris is a little city in intself with strip malls on one side of the street and a shopping mall on the other.  It’s north of the city and takes about 25 minutes to get to it on a good night.  I purposefully left at 6:30 pm with the hopes we would miss traffic but cars were braking constantly creating walls of red in front of us.  When we finally arrived at the lighting store, it felt like midnight and I had lost all enthusiasm for picking out lights.  I got some of  my enthusiam back when Maria and Mario discovered a playroom in the showroom, which allowed me to spend more than two seconds looking at lights.  Shops that contain kids’ playrooms rock this Earth and I just want to kiss all over the owner for thinking of us crazed parents that need to bring our kids with us to shop.  

The showroom overwhelmed me.  Lights hanging everywhere – silver, bronze, chrome, gold, amber….   I am finding that I need a limited choice of things when I go shopping or I get overwhelmed and cannot make a choice.  Not like I can make a quick choice between two things but 100 things just make my brain freeze.  I could have stayed at the showroom for hours, though, because Maria and Mario were content in the playroom watching Ariel with a new friend whose mom was enjoying a reprieve, too. 

We hit Great Indoors next.  That store looks like it is going downhill.  It used to feel more perky and alive.  We walked in and there were hardly any people, aisles were practically empty of items, and the mood was dejected.  But, they did have some pretty lights.  Luckily, they also had a mattress section right across from the lights that kept M&M busy (they loved the remote-controlled adjustable beds, of course).  I fell in love with one but it was not in stock.  I want the light before Thanksgiving so that I can show it off to my family.  Of course,  the practical right-minded part of me is saying that I should order the light and not care about getting it up before Thanksgiving since I will have it forever and I will love it.  But the anal, perfectionist that I am wants to have my lights installed prior to Thanksgiving so that the house can be in order, and that part of me prevailed.  I left the store with no lights but an idea of three or four that I would continue to consider until I went back to the store by myself on Friday afternoon. 

Maria "flirting" with Jack Hanna

About ten minutes prior to us leaving for the Playland, Maria walked over to me and begged for us to go. “Mom, I am ready to die.  I am so so hungry!”  Mario, on the other hand, begged to go to the Playland first.  Maria conceded as long as we got pizza and an Oreo brownie afterwards.  As we passed mannequins in the Ann Taylor store window, Mario looked up to me and whispered “hot girls!”  He is so wrong.  He acted like a wild man at the play land leaping off rocks and animals.  Maria ran around with him for about ten minutes and then her growling stomach forced her to stop.  It took us ten minutes to round up her insane brother but we finally got him to go by telling him that he could hop all the way back to the Food Court. 

We took down some pizza and an Oreo brownie at the Food Court.  While we ate, I asked M&M what lights they liked best at Great Indoors.  They ignored me as they ate their pizza but then Maria finished her food and began to lecture me. “Mom, you WANT new lights but do you need them?  There are things that we want but that we don’t need.  Do you think the lights are something you want but you don’t need?”

Huh??!  Where did I get this little minimalist, philosophical girl?  Oh yeah, she’s my daughter and I helped raise her to think just like this.  Meanwhile, Mario sat in his chair making strange faces and putting the remainder of his pizza on his head and stomach to try to make us laugh.  Where did I get this over-the-top, comedian boy?  Oh yeah, he’s my son and I helped raise him to be insane!   We drove home and called Jon to wish him sweet dreams good-night, laid down in my non-reclining bed, and fell fast asleep.