Old Man Winter

These days grow longer and longer. It is flippin’ freezing outside; you know it’s been a rough ride when you see the temperature will be 16 degrees and you are excited.  I can’t drag the kids outside with me in the evening to walk Rocco because I would be accused of child endangerment.  I can barely head out there with Rocco for more than fifteen minutes.  My poor toes have steadily remained purple through the days.  All I can say is that sweet Spring cannot get here soon enough.  I will embrace it and not let go.  I will not complain when we have 90 degree, humid weather this Summer.  Just get me out of this frozen tundra.

There have been some highlights to the last few weeks – thank goodness for these kids and their activities; they force us to get out when we would be hibernating.

On February 11, Maria had her first play.  She played Susan B. Anthony and had IMG_0601a whoppin’ three lines.  But she rocked it – she was one of the few kids who you could hear (thanks, Heile family).  She got on line and found a colonial costume to wear for the show and a hilarious white wig.  Grandma Ionno, Grandma Lolo and Aunt Sarah, Jorge and Elena showed up to see her in action.  She did not seem nervous as she waited for the IMG_0606play to begin; rather, she ran around with her friends and laughed.  She was annoyed with me and Grandma trying to get pictures of her.  She was nervous about one thing – that Elena would start wailing during the performance.  Elena tried to do that but Sarah swopped her out the back doors before she could get a good one out.  We cheered hard IMG_0617 IMG_0615 IMG_0623for her after the performance; she shot us a quick glance but focused all her energy on Luka (Bethany brought him to see the show).  Afterwards, we took the actress to Barley’s for her much loved ribs and beans.

On February 13, the kids celebrated Valentine’s Day at their schools.  Ri took in tattoos and Mario took in Sponge Bob.  I had bought them mustaches on a stick that said “I mustahce you as a Valentine.”  They were adorable.  Both Maria and Mario were appalled at the the thought of giving IMG_0647 IMG_0651them to the respective opposite sex.  “That would be so embarrassing mom!”  So back to Target we went for the tattoos and SpongeBob cards.  Boring.  Ri got ice cream sundaes at her party; she did not care that I did not come.  On the other hand, Mario begged me to attend his, which I happily did.  You can’t walk away from those parties with a sour attitude.  The kids are too dang cute and so excited about making heart-shaped towers and paper flowers.

On February 14, Ri had a pool party for her friend Janira at Westerville pool.  IMG_0669 IMG_0677 IMG_0683They stayed there from 12:30 until 5.  She got pizza and ice cream and cake and non-stop pool action.  When I came to get them at 4 pm, they begged to stay for another hour.  They all tried to jump in an inner tube together without tipping over, which failed every time.  But they had a blast and it was great to be in a heated pool area and see bathing suits!

On February 17, Ri had her skate party with 10 friends.  Mario got to attend, also IMG_0713 IMG_0716 IMG_0719 IMG_0730 IMG_0732(Ri let him use one of her friend passes for one of his friends).  The moms may have had more fun than the kids….  I was happy to see many of the moms head out on the rink with me.  The girls all did a great job skating and falling.  No broken bones.  Ri greeted all of the girls as they trickled in at different times – she is a good host.  Mario tried to help Rohan skate but it was not easy.  So the two of them ended up playing games the entire time.  Mario was not disappointed about that.

On February 19 and 20, the kids got off school due to the extremely cold temperatures.  Bums.  They were so psyched up.  On Thursday, Bethany took them to Galaxy Games and Golf from 3 pm until 9 pm.  They played tag and hide-n-seek and Mario won 1000 tickets.  He was so pumped up.  On Friday, Mario feigned illness to stay home with Jon and Bethany and Ri went to COSI.  Not bad for two days off of school.

On February 21, we got seven inches of snow!  The world turned white and Rocco couldn’t get enough of it.  I am surprised his nose did not freeze off as much as he dug into the snow with it.  Ri and I took him on a walk up to IMG_0747Grandview Grind and he leapt with joy, literally, throughout the entire walk. We visited Ri’s friend and their new pup and Rocco found a playmate.  They played great together.  Ri ended up staying at Anna’s house while I walked Rocco home.  The neighbors were making a giant snowman in the front yard.  I walked in the door and told Mario we had to go sledding.  There is a small hill by his school that I knew was open.  He shook his head no and told me he didn’t feel like it.  I kept prodding him until he finally got on his jeans and sweatshirt.  He had to wear his Cabella’s overalls and coat since we don’t have any snow pants that fit him.  He was all stressed out about how he would look.

“No one else will be wearing this, mom.  I will look stupid!”

IMG_0774This boy is more concerned about his looks than I ever have been.  Jon and I reassured him that he would be fine.  If someone laughed, he should ignore them.  Each person is unique.  I don’t think he so much agreed with us than he just wanted to shut us up so he threw on his boots and headed to the car.  It was IMG_0779 IMG_0775 IMG_0767funny because Ri showed up with her friend, Anna to sled an hour after we arrived and she had on a huge pair of brown bib overalls that did not fit her at all but she could have cared less. They all had a blast going down the hill, engaging in a massive snow ball fight, and making a ramp to jump over.

It was so beautiful today because although we had seven inches of snow it was 33 degrees so you could go outside without your face freezing off.  Tomorrow the high is 23 degrees and I think it starts to plummet even worse Monday on.  I keep telling the kiddos to have dreams about Spring flowers and birds chirping and open windows with a warm breeze wafting in, and maybe that will help move old Man Winter along.

But we’d be amiss if we did not thank Old Man Winter for giving us the snow to play in today.






Hamsters, pups, oh my…


I could offer Maria and Mario a round trip vacation to the Bahamas, a trip to Disney, or a new bike, and they’d still pick a trip to Petland over all of them. They have loved that store since they were toddlers. They find so much joy when they walk in the door between the dwarf hamsters (Mario’s favorite), the pups (Ri’s favorite), kittens, bunnies, and gerbils. We made a trip up there on Sunday morning because we had to buy party supplies for Sarah’s shower at Party City, which is right next door. Ri has a future in party planning, for sure. She worked on invites at the house and when we got to Party City she immediately moved to the decorations aisle to coordinate themes. We would have spent $500 on decor if she had her way. She couldn’t stop herself: “this is adorable; we need these steamers; these games are a must….” Meanwhile, Mario found himself some killer gold glasses. He wanted gold glitter to spray in his hair but I refused.

A piece of bubble gum made up for the glitter. We delivered our bundle of party goods to the car and headed into Petland. Ri darted for the pups and Mario rushed to the dwarf hamsters. He yelled for me to come over to him “mom, there are six of them and they are sooo cute!” He could stand there all day and pick them up, put them in their wheel, pick them up again, put them in their wheel again….I was tempted to buy one but realized I was reliving my childhood and my love for hamsters (supposedly I was allergic and therefore had to give away my hamster after days of nurturing it, and yes, there were years of counseling over that). But now that I’m the one that would have to clean the cage, I don’t have as much of a desire for one. I told Mario he already had fish to love. His response: “As soon as my fish die, I want this hamster.”

Those fish of his need to watch out. Ri found herself a little chow puppy and loved on it. However, when I commented on how cute it was, she promptly replied “not half as cute as our Rocco.” She is loyal to the bone.
She and Mario had a blast with the pups. One little sprite fella wouldn’t stop biting Mario’s shoelaces and jeans. Mario loved it and purposely darted all over the space to play with it. He was belly laughing so hard I thought he’d hyper-ventilate.

It’s great to know that we can find so much happiness in such a tangible trip. And one day, when fish have traveled to another place, we may have a hamster in the house.>

Pinch me

Pinch me.

My life is ridiculously good.

Sweet, generous, loving kids.

Hilarious, caring hubby.

Warm, ever-present family.

True friends.

Great colleagues.

I am very lucky. Most days I stop myself ten times over and process this fact. Is it my culture transformation work I did at the university? Is it that I’m getting older and with that gaining a fuller picture of what it means to be happy? Is it that all the self-help books I read in my 30’s have finally hit home?

My weekends with the kids rarely disappoint. They are at ages now where they are able to play on their own or with each other but they also still want to hang with me and go to the park or take a bike ride. It’s perfect: I can get fully caffeinated, brush up on world events by reading my Times, and then later engage in a full-blown pillow fight.
And I love how their minds are developing; it leads to really awesome questions ranging from the benign – how are sidewalk made – to the sublime – why do we go to war. Mario points out things he sees in books we read together that I would never notice. Ri continues to practice the art of compassion by never judging others – the other day I about cussed out a young guy who cut in front of me in line at Kroger’s and she pulled me aside and whispered “mom, he may have somewhere really important to be.”

Yesterday was another day where I stopped myself over and over amazed at how wonderful I had it. The day brought wonderful near-Spring weather. The girls took a bike ride while I walked Rocco. We got a picture on the same rock we took a picture on when Rocco was a pup. Ri was very excited about that!


Mario met us at the park and the kids decided it was time for Rocco to adventure down a slide. Their eyes about popped out of their heads when he did it.


I love this picture of the kids running with Rocco. It’s a perfect depiction of the joy of warm weather.

And this is the perfect depiction of Ri laughing hysterically as she tries to catch up with Rocco!

Love love love these beginning days of Spring.
Next up, a trip to the river where Ri and Mario and I used to go on Sundays to collect rocks. It was closed for a year to create a bike path and I was anxious to see what the trail looked like. We piled in Stephanie’s van with the pup sitting next to Ri and the boys carrying their weapons (in case we encountered zombies) and headed down the street. We parked at the gas station and unloaded. What a sight.

The bank where we used to collect and throw rocks was still ready for us. But it was rather insane trying to make sure the kids didn’t fall (there were huge boulders lined up where there used to be gravel). Rocco added to the insanity by trying to jump in the river; Mario screamed like a maniac for me to hold his leash because “he didn’t want his dog to die!” So, I held him as he pulled me all over the rocks while I held Paxton to ensure he didn’t fall. Good workout.
The kids found great hide-outs made of sticks and leaves (I didn’t inform them that homeless folks probably used these “shelters” because I didn’t quite know how Steph would react but I did feel compelled to talk to M&M later that evening to help them appreciate the struggle all people face at times). The boys played capture and the girls played dorm room (whatever that is).


The kids found a big rock pile on our way out and I asked them to pose as savages. All complied except Mario who continued to laugh like a hyena!

In order to get them to leave, I had to promise them a snack at the gas station. They booked it after that promise. The boys got chocolate donuts (they slipped me one in thanks) and the girls got ice cream cones. They were happy as heck driving home.
We ended the night watching my girlfriend’s kids. A six week old and two year old who I had never met… Huh. I was a bit worried. But it ended up being absolutely joyous. Ri was excited all day to hold the six week old, Emerson Lois. She kept asking “when will it be 5:30?!” Mario kept telling me he didn’t want to babysit. But when they dropped off Miles, Mario took to him like sugar. He threw the ball with him and led him around his room to play. It was precious. And Miles couldn’t be more chill of a kid. He just followed Mario and played with whatever Mario gave him. He never cried once (kudos go all to Mario!).


He taught him how to crawl up the stairs so he wouldn’t fall down and how to beg for (and receive) a cookie. He was so compassionate and sweet with him. Warmed my heart.

And Ri was, as I knew she would be, a doll with Emerson. She laid with her and held her and couldn’t wait to change her diaper. Emerson is a real life baby doll!


Emerson pitched a little fit at one point and I had to put her in her seat while I got Miles’ dinner. The next thing I knew, Ri had her quiet by rocking her back and forth. She also had picked up the mom talent of multi-tasking as she rocked the baby and read a magazine – love it!

I sat at the kitchen table when my girlfriend left with her kids and my kids and Jon had gone to sleep and felt engulfed with gratitude. Another day full of laughter and sunshine and good kids and nature and a tired pup and chocolate donuts. Really, it doesn’t get any better.

Woman’s Best Friend

This bundle of love was my running/walking partner all weekend. The kids have been loving life in Disneyworld between buffet meals, 70 degree weather, animated character greetings, and cool rides. Meanwhile, Rocco and I have been working it out in all this snow. We went for a total of 26 miles together over Saturday and Sunday – a marathon!
I realized how much I absorb when I run with the pup versus when I run alone. With the pup, I have no iPod. I am forced to concentrate on the trees, birds, clouds, yards. I think about writing that letter to my sis I’ve been wanting to write. I consider taking those hip-hop classes I always wanted to try. I smile at the fat robin trying to get her grip on the tiny branch bending to hold her. I am grateful for my folks and the lessons they have taught me. I appreciate all that I have been given and respectful of how fleeting it all is….

And then Rocco finds a stick and I get jerked to the right as he stops dead cold in the snow to chew away at it.

I prod him along and he eventually rips off a small piece of the stick to chew as we carry on. He loves to run ahead of me and I don’t mind it because he makes me keep a pace. However, my dog trainer and hubby continue to razz me about making him heel. What I really enjoy is taking him to the woods by our house. It is about a quarter to half mile loop. I can typically let Rocco off his leash because the only other visitors have dogs who run off-leash as well. I have been training Rocco to heel when I first let him off leash or when we are approaching the bridge and I can’t see who may be up ahead. He’s doing better each day with it. But I love when I finally say “OK” to him and he is able to run free. He runs with such force – like a stallion – and he seems overjoyed with his ears flapping.

And then he stops when he no longer sees me and waits for me to catch up. Such a gentleman. Then he lifts up his leg and pees on new territory. Such a gentleman. I love having a pup back in my life.
Ri and Mario have grown attached to him. Mario loves to wrestle with him and try to grab toys from his mouth. The last thing our trainer would recommend but it’s sweet to watch a boy and his dog play so hard (plus, Mario and Rocco get worn out, which is a blessing). Ri just loves to cuddle with him which is fairly hard to do because he is a bit of a loner when he decides to rest. But he has warmed up to Ri and often gives her kisses our of the blue.
I hope this little bundle of fur is able to see the kids off to college. I certainly don’t think we’ll have any trouble keeping him in shape after our runs this weekend.



Cone dog

Our poor cone-head pup. Ri, Mario and I picked him up on Monday afternoon in the freezing cold weather (the kids were off school due to wind temperatures below zero) and we all “ohhhhed and ahhhhed” over him when they brought him to us. He was pretty out of it from being sedated and the kids were able to hug all over him without him being disturbed. Maria held him against her in the backseat and Mario rubbed his back. Rocco was trembling and the kids kept demanding that I go faster.
When we tried to get him out of the car, he refused to budge. I had to scoop him up in my arms and carry him into the house. Ri and Mario got a kick out of that. As soon as we stepped inside, the kids ran upstairs and got blankets for Rocco. I sat him in the family room and they covered him up. They reached in the cone and rubbed his ears. They told him they loved him. Every time any of us moved away from him, he whined. So, we took turns sitting with him. This was easy for the kids because they got to chill on their iPads.

In the evening, we played crazy eights. I kept jumping up from the table to console Rocco who continued to whine. We finally all got up and went in the family room to be with him. He placed his head on the carpet and let us rub all over him. “He loves us!” Mario announced happily.
The next day he was up and walking around like nothing happened, except he couldn’t quite understand why he had to wear a cone. He was a bit more use to it but he continued to run into his cage and the walls, which continued to crack up the kids.

We got eight more days with this cone. I can’t wait until it comes off, and I know Rocco can’t either. The kids kinda dig it though….