I remember being told to “be nice” when I was younger.  I can’t recall the situations where I was told to “be nice”; probably when I was dogging on a friend of mine who had gotten on my nerves by showing off a new Swatch watch or Forenza sweater.  “Nice” grates on me now.  It seems so saccharine-like and bland.  Maybe it is simply because I heard it so often in my childhood, and as a grown-up, even, on the playgrounds and in the schools.

I drove over to Kroger’s this afternoon after Maria’s soccer game to get all the fixings for loaded baked potatoes for our evening dinner.  I had to park at the very end of the lot because all the non-procrastinators were there to stock up on Super Bowl items.  I hurriedly pushed my cart around the aisles grabbing all the necessities in order to get out of there under 20 minutes and back home to bake the potatoes.  For once, I even got in the correct lane – the one that moved the fastest – based on my intuition that the line with the thin lady dressed in crisp trousers and sporting a perfectly coiffed bob would never get checked out before the older gentleman purchasing four 12-packs of Diet Coke (she also brought her own bags, which is great for the environment but is an automatic sign that she will want everything placed in the bags in a certain manner (she was still there directing the bagboy when I left)0.

I scurried out the doors and hoofed up to my car at the end of the parking spaces.  As I placed my last couple of bags in the trunk, a man got out of his car in the spot beside me. He began walking towards my cart and stopped.

“Do you want me to take your cart back for you?”

I paused for a minute to fully appreciate the gesture.  I said sure and thanked him.  He swung the cart around the other direction and headed down the lot towards the front doors.  I opened my car door and plopped in my seat.  I smiled. I was so taken aback by his gesture.  Granted, he was heading that direction anyway but he could have just slipped by me and went on his merry way.  I am sure I have done that on many occasions – busy in my own head with what I needed to get, rushed to get home.  Also, even though the cart lot was only four cars away, it always seems like such a burden to return the cart to its lot.  It’s like that added 30 feet is a mile.

I called my mom to tell her the story.

“Wasn’t that so nice of him” I asked her.

“Yes”, she said but then continued to tell me how my Uncle Terrance would say that it was a “kind gesture.” She told me that when he experienced a gesture like I did, he would always respond by thanking the person for their kindness.  I loved that story, and love the word “kind.” Kind is more genuine, more lasting.  I feel like being told you are “kind” would resonate on a much deeper level than being told you were “nice.”

I made some amaze-balls twice baked potatoes for the family.  We sat down at the dining room table and ate together – the first time we have done that in a while.  I told the kids and Jon my story about the man taking the cart.  I told them about using the word “kind” to describe his gesture rather than “nice.” They nodded their heads and smiled at me not quite knowing what to say.

I thought of my Uncle Terrance and gave him a nod, continued to dig into my potato.



Chipotle love


These babes make me topple over with the love I have for them. I let Ri Grace have a whole burrito (black beans, cheese and sour cream) at Chipotle after she begged me the entire time we stood in line. When I ordered her one, she exclaimed “you are the best mom ever!” So worth a burrito!

Book fairy and birthday parties

My sis is a book fairy.

She has been gifting books to me over the last few years and has a 100% satisfaction rate. Truly amazing since I am not typically a book reader. A package came in the mail on Wednesday night from Amazon. I ripped it open and found a gorgeous hardback book staring up at me.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward.

Loved loved loved it. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t wait to get home from work to read a book. Finished it in three days. Her story is powerful on many levels but I connected strongly with her mother and the sacrifices she made in order to provide for her family. Ri listened to me read a few pages on Friday night as we laid on the couch together while the boys watched some hunting show. Ri asked a ton of questions with each new page I read and I eventually got so annoyed I had to put my book down and pick Ri’s book up to read with her. We read Wonder together. She was on the chapter where the family dog dies. She began reading the first page of the chapter and we both figured out what was happening. She slowed her reading and when she got to the point where the little boy is crying about his dying dog, she began to bawl. And I joined.

She choked her tears back as she said “I remember you bringing Cy to see me at school before he died. I miss him so much.” Then she cried again. And I joined again. This girl has some serious emotion in her and I’d have it no other way. We laid on the couch in an embrace and cried about our sweet Cy. Then we went to bed.

On Saturday, we hit Mario’s friend, Jack’s party at Sports Ohio. Ri wanted to come with me and Mario didn’t freak our about it amazingly. Kate told Ri she could play in the inflatables with the other kids and Ri was so excited. Mario just didn’t pay her any attention as he ran around with his “bros'” (as he calls them affectionately). They played flag football, too. Ri gave it a try, which completely surprised me. Mario pleaded for the ball at every play.

Then came cake and ice cream. I scored a huge slice since no other moms wanted any.



After the party, Ri and I picked up Evie and headed out to my friend’s bonfire party. Ri and Evie were quite happy to see hot dogs and marshmallows and chocolate galore lined up on picnic tables. They played and performed shows for the adults that involved singing and goofy, eight-year-old girl antics. On the way home, they sang Rihanna and Michael Jackson songs.

Meanwhile, Mario opted to stay home with his dad because he much prefers Jon over me these days. They played Wii football and watched hunting shows and got wings at BW3s. Very manly activities that Mario loves.

On Sunday, we traveled to the farm for another birthday celebration with Meg, dad, Jack, Sar and Jorge. Jon slaved over homemade meatballs and sauce so that we could have a fabulous lunch out there. Meg-pie scored a yummy sheetcake from a bakery out in the hills and even bought chocolate chip ice cream! They do love me!

We took a hike as soon as we arrived out to the vine where Peepaw swung Ri and Mario back and forth to see who fell first. Except they changed into Mabel and Gramps when on the vine and Peepaw called out “how are Mabel and Gramps doing?! I think Gramps is falling! Oh no, Gramps is down!” Ri and Mario laughed hysterically.


Jack and I walked together and chatted about light-hearted topics like the meaning of life and being in the present moment. I just adore my little bro. And so do Ri and Mario. He raced Mario down the hill and picked him up over his head. He listened to Ri and all of her stories about school and family.


We came home to a warm meal and lots of kid jokes. Mario told a joke to Jack that Ri taught him:
Mario to Jack: "what's your name?"
Mario: "what does h-a-s spell?"
Jack: "has"
Mario: is it good or bad to kill someone?"
Jack: "bad"
Mario: "what do you put in your car tank?"
Jack: "gas"
Mario: "Jack has bad gas!!"
Ahh, the frivolity! That started my dad up and he got Mario to say "Mario has a screw loose." Now Mario gets me and Jon with that joke every day.


I am so lucky to have such a tender good-hearted family. And a family that knows my taste buds! The cake was superb!

We took another hike after devouring the cake and came back to the house ready to go to bed. The kids would have enjoyed that but we had to get home for school on Monday. And I got yet another birthday gift on Monday – a day off work while the kids were in school!

Pittsburgh weekend

It started with a German Shepherd and a little mutt jumping in the back of the Volvo. Our trip to Pittsburgh to visit Aunt Sarah and Jorge was awesome on so many levels including the hysterical ride in the Volvo with the kids in the back seat nuzzling up to Stella and Mona until Stella tried to jump over the seat and Sarah jumped in the back to school her. Ri and I laughed so hard.

We made it to Sar’s apartment in one piece. We decided to forego the kids museum because we got in later than we expected and because the kids were much more into hanging out with Sarah. We decided to head to the animal shelter because the kids were wanting to hold a dog and Sar and I were each secretly thinking maybe we would take one home (Jon, meanwhile made me swear that I would not engage in such activity).
The shelter was clean and did not contain the usual musty-dog smell of a shelter. It had to be privately owned. We looked at all the doggies in their kennels and quickly decided we wanted to hold Paquita, a chihuahua. We approached the front desk attendant and asked to get him out.

“You have to fill out this paperwork first.”

It was two pages of questions. The lady read over my responses and quickly pushed the paper to the side.

“We don’t allow adoptions farther than 75 miles away.”

Sarah and I looked at each exasperated. We just wanted to hold Paquita. We knew what to do. Sarah filled out the paperwork as if she was going to buy a dog. The attendant knew exactly what we were doing. She started to grill us with questions and then chirped “we don’t have anyone to show you a dog until later.” Sar and I would not be stopped. Sar filled out another piece of paper to see a kitten. After ten minutes, we were in a room with a grey-colored kitty. The kids fought over who could hold her. Sar and I cracked up over the paranoid attendant checking in on us every three minutes. Not exactly what we expected but it was all worth it when we headed to the door and found big ol’ plump bunnies. They were too cute with their double chins and short legs.

The kids were dying to see the hotel after that so Sar dropped us off while she got the dogs. They knew exactly what to do once we checked in – they got on the elevator, found the room, opened the door, scoped out the room and put on their bathing suits. We took a quick swim and met Sar downstairs for a trip to the downtown fountain.

The kids took turns holding Mona as we walked from Market Square to the fountain. Market Square is a quaint little dining area with a center courtyard. I really liked downtown Pittsburgh. You could see the inside of the baseball stadium from our walk. The hills were magnificent with houses peppered all over them. Trains clamored past us. I love old downtowns.
Sar told the kids they could wade in the fountains and they wasted no time. Mario went in up to his chin and Ri quickly followed. They had many admirers, including the dogs.




After soaking themselves, we walked over to the Reflective Pool for more “wading.” Sar and I were chatting when Mario came out with his fist balled up. He opened it to reveal a load of change (mostly pennies) that he had gathered. “This is awesome, mom!” Soon after that, a policeman stopped on his bike and chastised Sar and I for letting M&M in the pool (it’s not allowed; I told the kids that they had one cool mom letting them engage in illegal activities). As soon as they got out, Mario started whining about being cold. I knew it.
I carried him back to the car while Ri walked without one complaint (she could last in the Arctic with no issues). We were almost to the car when Ri noticed a horse-drawn carriage. She begged for us to take a ride and I could not say no. Sar stood back with the dogs and we hopped in. The lady waved Sar over and yelled “you can get in with your dogs!” We couldn’t believe it. There we all were in a carriage riding through downtown.


Ri was in heaven and kept repeating “this is the best!” After the ride, we traveled back to Shadyside, changed at Sarah’s, and headed up the street for Mexican. Sar ordered fish tacos much to my concern but I found out that I love them. They were delicious. Mario took two bites of his quesadilla and passed out on my lap.

Sar and I got some quality sister time in at the restaurant which was my heaven. Then she got to try out Mario’s scooter on the way home. She cranked it with Ri even doing a jump! When we got home, Ri begged to stay with Sar. We explained to her there would be no breakfast buffet or swimming. She decided to go with me. On the way home, Sar called complaining that she missed the Ri-ster. I asked Ri if she wanted to go back and she jumped up in her seat and shouted “yes!” So I drove her back to Sarah’s and Mario and I went to our room and slept soundly together all night.
We woke up the next morning at 8 (beautiful) and went swimming. He raced me in the pool (swam four laps like it was nothing) and performed “magic” in the hot tub (he waved his hands underwater and made ripples). We were both starved by 9:30 and devoured some waffles and bacon at the buffet (Mario commented “Ri is going to be so mad she missed this.”).
We said goodbye to the hotel and booked it over to Sarah’s. The whole crew was there. Ri loved spending the night with Sar; she slept with the dogs and then with Sarah and Jorge in their full size bed. There is no way Jon and I would have slept.
The family drove to Frick Park for a Sunday hike with the dogs. It was a typical Menkedick hike full of inclines and great finds – touch-me-nots for the kids to squeeze, daddy long legs, beetles, and a snake in the porta potty.





We were famished when we left the park and darted straight to a quaint brunch restaurant in the Point Break? neighborhood. It had ridiculously yummy food – frittatas, pork and slaw omelette, salmon watermelon salad, and chocolate waffles. We ate and laughed and guessed who sang songs that Ri named.
We took a walk around Sar’s neighborhood after brunch and found a darling street with shops. I loved a card shop called Kards Unlimited. It had New Yorker cards and a ton of others. I could have sat in there for two hours.
Dad attempted to ride Mario’s scooter, which provided much laughter. Actually, I think his nickname should now be Speed Racer. He moved on that thing.

We left Pittsburgh at 4 and got home by 7:20 (with a stop at the gas station for ice cream and potato chips even). Exhausted and spent, we walked in the house to hugs from Jon and Patty.

Another weekend well spent – goodbye Pittsburgh and Spahr Road – we are lobbying hard for a Sarah and Jorge move to Columbus!

Kings Island 2013

I don’t know who was more excited about my brother and sister and brother-in-law coming in town – me or Maria and Mario. We had planned a Kings Island trip for a Monday hoping it would be less crowded. Sar and Jorge got in town on Sunday afternoon and we met them in my office so that I could hang Jorge’s photos that he framed for me. They look awesome.

Maria and Mario glued themselves onto Sar and Jorge from that point on insisting to ride home with them. I am as good as gone once those two come around. Jorge became a Candy Land whiz playing game after game with Mario.

Meanwhile, Ri enjoyed some adult talk with Sarah, Jack, and me. This is her version of heaven.

We woke up at 7:15 on Monday morning and got prepared for a day at KI! A mandatory Stauf’s run was in order and then we were off down I-71.

We played the “Conversation” game that Ri loves. It consists of a deck of cards that contain questions about love, passions, secrets…. We learned a lot about each other on the way down (I.e., Jorge has jumped through a hoop of fire and Jack would love a night with Lindsay Lohan). We arrived at KI at exactly 10 am and the lot was already filled with people and cars. Amazing. We skipped towards the front gate energized to take on the roller coasters. We figured we’d better hit the Beast right in the beginning to avoid a long line. It took us ten minutes to get through the line. Ri didn’t hesitate to get in the seat with Sarah. I could not believe it. Mario seemed fine with the fact that he was too short to ride and I was fine standing back with him.

It was Jorge’s first time on a roller coaster and although he was nervous as hell, he stood strong for Ri. I love this before and after shot of Ri and Sar.


Ri was rather shaken after the four minute ride. Her stomach hurt for two hours afterwards. Poor girl. I think back and realize she was probably scared too death but wanted to impress her Aunt Sarah so stayed calm and quiet. I was proud of her intrepid spirit.
The kids and I headed to Kiddy Land after the Beast to let Ri’s stomach calm down. We went on a miniature ride where it shoots you up about 100 feet and back down. That was a thrill to Mario and me but I think Ri thought it was lame after the Beast experience. Ri and I begged Mario to ride the Log Floom. Last year, he freaked out because his shoes and shirt got a little wet so we were prepared this time. I brought his flip-flops and bathing suit. He changed on the steps leading to the canoe while Ri and I surrounded him. Luckily, he’s not shy. He ended up loving it this year. Next, we headed to the haunted house; the line was ridiculously long for it only being 11 am. The kids waited patiently but Mario was done waiting in lines after that ride. We rode the bumper cars and posed with some characters and went to meet Sarah, Jack and Jorge at the Vortex (Jorge’s favorite roller coaster!).




We hit LaRosas for lunch knowing we would hit Skyline for dinner. Grandma M. would be so proud of us chowing at all the local eateries.

After lunch we went up the Eiffel Tower because Mario really wanted “to see the whole world.”

While up on the Tower, I asked Ri if she wanted to go on the Racer with me. She agreed to do it because I promised her the hill was tiny compared to the Beast. I could tell she was a bit hesitant but she got into line with me and Sar and Jack while Mario strolled around with Jorge (and fell asleep for a few minutes). I think I was more nervous than Ri to get on the coaster.


There are two different types of people on coasters – the “hold everything in” types and the “let it all out” types. Maria is the former and Sarah and I are the latter. I could barely talk after the ride. Sarah had hilarious pictures of Ri holding her breath with her cheeks puffed out like mini balloons. But we made it through alive and just a little shaken.
We headed to the water park next but stopped at the White Water Canyon first. We stood in line for a half hour with Sar worried about her shoes getting soaked for most of that time only to be told that Mario was an inch too short to ride the ride. Sar and I laid into the teenage girl worker but she held her ground. So all of us boycotted the ride in solidarity with Mario (who was mad as heck at the rules and the girl worker). Maria, always the positive one, chimed in as we walked away, “at least Aunt Sarah’s shoes will stay dry.”

We paid $12 for a locker at the water park – what a deal… and had high hopes for some water fun. It ended up bring a bit of a disappointment but we still had our laughs.

We stood in line for 45 minutes for a rafting ride that Sarah remembered being scared half too death of as a kid. It was quite the disappointment after the long wait (Sar was ready to head back down but we made her wait) but the kids loved it! They also loved the Lazy River but us old foegy adults were freezing! Luckily, the kids started to get cold after a couple more slides so we packed it up and hit the games. Mario had been begging to play games since we walked in the park.
They always play the water gun game because someone is bound to win. Ri purposely lost the second game after winning the first so Mario could get an animal. Ri loves the Guess your Age or Weight game so we headed over there, too. She loves for them to guess her birth month. And they were wrong again so she got a prize. Mario used his Aunt Sarah to win his prize; she knew they’d guess a really low weight for her and they did so Mario got the famous hot pepper!


We played two more games to ensure we’d walk out with three stuffed animals each and then called it quits (with just a tad bit of begging for more games from Ri). We had to buy the key chain at the end with all of us on it for memory sake (Ri and I are sentimentalists).
By the time we left at 6:30, we were fried and starving. We headed straight to Skyline and devoured the oyster crackers and then the five-ways and coneys. It’s like we hasn’t eaten on a year.

We barely spoke a word as we shoveled food in our mouths. It was delightful. Jack and Ri passed out within ten minutes of our trip home. Jorge and Mario watched Looney Tunes. Sar and I talked about writing and blogs and definitely having to make this an annual event.

Summer vacation 2013

We packed our bags and headed to West Virginia last Wednesday. They say that a procrastinator should never marry another procrastinator or nothing gets done. Jon and I are both procrastinators so a summer vacation never got scheduled. We found ourselves near mid-July without any plans. I just happened to be on a conference call at work and a flashing ad came up for Oglebay Resort in W. Virginia.

“Paddle boats, fishing, putt-putt, swimming, zoo, and more!”

The ad enticed me between the kids activities and the short distance (2.5 hours away). Pretty soon I was on the website looking up rooms. I remembered my grandma talking about this place and I faintly remember another older relative (was it Grandpa Bill?) talking about it, too. I remembered this because the website was geared towards 65+ year olds and the rooms looked like ones decorated by my grandma – big florals and gawdy colors and maroon carpets that looked like they were straight out of my grandma’s retirement home.

I called a few other resorts but they were booked. I debated with Jon whether to do it or not and after listening to me him and haw for 30 minutes, he demanded I just go for it. So I did. Wednesday through Saturday. A short trip. Even if it was unbearable it was only two full days.

Ri played with her barbies on the way there while Mario watched Ben Ten. We held our breath under the West Virginia bridge. We commented on the old school restaurants off the exit – Perkins! Hardee’s! Long John Silvers!
As soon as we pulled into Oglebay, we spotted deer grazing on the hills. The kids went nuts pointing them out. The land sloped up and down and was peppered with pines and oaks and deer and a random groundhog. It was quite serene and poetic. Jon and I glanced at each other and raised our eyes silently saying “hmmm, maybe it won’t be so bad.”

We got our room keys and had the requisite talk with the kids about fighting over who opens the door. “We take turns back and forth, got it?” They shook their heads with excitement not getting anything. The room was huge. We had a living room and side kitchen and bath and a bedroom suite with a large bath and two queen beds. The kids mouths dropped for an entire five minutes and they dragged us all over the rooms to show us every detail. The living room couch pulled out into a bed which they believed to be a piece of heaven brought to Earth. “We can watch tv all night and fall asleep out here alone!” Jon and I were so excited we booked another night so we stayed until Sunday.

We checked out Schenk Pond and did some paddle boating and fishing (Ri and I boated and Mario fished all by himself, god love him).




After paddle boats and the Aqua Cycle, Ri and I joined Mario on the bank. Within ten minutes, he had a fish. Luckily, a teenage boy helped us unhook him. Mario wanted to throw it back in the water but got scared so Ri took control. Thank god for big sisters.



After pleading with Mario to stop fishing to no avail, we finally had to bribe him with the pool. We threw on our suits and headed to the rather small indoor pool. Over the four days, however, it grew on us. One plus was that it was heated. Another plus was that you could jump off the side, which led to lots of cool cannonballs and dives.


The kids begged for room service after the pool. They loved the idea of getting food served in our room and eating it while watching Spongebob. Ahh, the vacation life!
Every morning we had to drag Mario to breakfast – he wanted room service for every meal. Meanwhile, you had to strap Ri down for a few minutes in bed or she would have thrown on a pair of shorts and bee-lined for the breakfast buffet as soon as she opened her eyes. She has her mom’s and great-grandma’s love for buffets (Grandma Menkedick used to love to bear witness to Ri’s excitement over the Season’s buffet bar). She is a total carb lover. Her plate always included two types of muffins, a cinnamon roll, biscuit and waffle (she was stacking up her energy for the day). Mario’s plate was the same every day. Cinnamon rolls. And maybe a slice or two of bacon. And that’s it.

On Thursday, we took the trolley to the Oglebay Zoo. Yes, it has a zoo…. with zebras. It was a tiny area with about ten different animals scattered around. It also had dinosaurs that would roar at you as you passed. The kids are finally at an age where they understand they aren’t real but they still had fun with them (thanks to me pretending to be scared too death). The lorikeets were the biggest hit since they drank nectar from cups M&M were holding.





The best part of the zoo trip was eating popcorn while we rode the train around the zoo and spotted animals.

We returned to the hotel and did some more fishing and paddle boating. Maria had been longing to head into the fountain in the middle of the pond when we went paddle boating the day before but I had nixed the idea. When she pouted, I steered the boat just enough into the fountain that she got wet and I just got a drizzle. On Thursday, I decided to let her go for it and steer us right into the fountain. And she didn’t flinch. I got soaked to the bone with her. The smile on her face made my heart happy (a saying I got from Meg-pie). Jon and Mario stayed on shore trying to catch fish. Mario gets so angry and frustrated when he doesn’t catch one. There were little fish that would swim up to the bait and nibble at it until it was gone leaving none for the bigger fish. This got Mario red hot.

“Those stupid As!”

Mario heard the word “a–hole” a while ago and knows its a bad word so every once in a while when he gets super mad he yells out the “A” vowel.

We ordered room service for a second night on Thursday not wanting to head out after another long day. Pizza for Mario and burgers for Ri. Jon and I determined we were food snobs after all our nights out at Hyde Park and Mitchell’s – the hotel food just didn’t do the trick for us.

Each night, the kids and I would head to the pool for a swim nightcap. We played mean games of hot potato with our beach ball where you had to name a super hero while you threw the ball. They were exhausted by the time we got back and were fast asleep as soon as they hit the pillow to watch tv. And they slept in until 8 am! Alleluia.

On Friday, we hit the Wheeling Park pool. It had a water slide. A nice sized slide at that. The only problem was that it kept thundering and the guards would shut the pool for 20 minutes with each round of thunder. Ri wanted to call it quits bit Mario wanted to stay. What else were we gonna do? We made Ri stay, bought hotdogs and soft pretzels, and played charades. The kids put on our flip-flops. Nothin’ better.



Finally, we were allowed back in the water. Ri and Mario jumped off the diving board (Mario dove). Mario wanted to do a flip like some kids were doing but couldn’t quite get up the nerve. The slide was a blast – it was actually fast and dumped you out into a giant wave of water. The kids loved it.

After the pool, we went to High Tea at the hotel. It sounded super fancy and Ri had been wanting to go badly. It ended up being a carafe of hot water and Lipton tea bags and a few random cookies and cinnamon bread. But that was all that was needed by Ri. She loved it. We filled up our cups, got our treats, and sat outside on the balcony. Ri actually enjoyed the tea!

Mario came with us the next day and loved the cinnamon bread. He did not enjoy the tea.

The kids and I took the trolley Friday evening to the mansion and the flower shop, sweet shop, and glass store. They both wanted to take pictures on my phone of random things… Ri took the fountain and wine picture (true Italian) and Mario took the butterfly ones.


Mario and I went to town at the sweet shop. So much chocolate we could have lived there forever. Ri liked looking at all the trinkets and the wine holders. Mario fell in love with a stuffed animal bear that sings “Will you still love me when I’m 64?” He absolutely fell head over heels for it. He played the song and stated into its eyes. He hugged it. He begged me to buy it. I couldn’t resist. My aunt Julie has a bear like this one that Mario has loved since he was little. It has a top hat and sings “My way” by Sinatra. My Grandma Heile would chuckle watching Mario stare at it as a baby.

Maria found a last minute gem – a night light with horses on it. She also forced me to buy a Yoda coffee cup knowing that I never buy anything for myself. “I will pay you back $12.95 if you buy it, mom.” I told her she didn’t have to pay for it later and she reiterated “I will mom because you need souvenirs, too.” She’s always looking out for us.

On Saturday, we hopped in the car to Cabela’s. It was a rainy day and Jon had allowed me to get an hour massage so I owed him one. Mario loved looking at the animals; Ri was appalled, especially at the stuffed Bobcat – her school mascot.

They enjoyed the toy section (Mario checked out every gun possible and Ri gawked over Duck Dynasty memorabilia).


Ri ended up with a Cabela’s Barbie set with a tent and horse (I approved of that Barbie who was dressed like a cowgirl) and Mario got a walkie talkie set. They made out. We ate ourselves some Cabela’s lunch and headed back to the hotel for more fishing and boating.
The hotel had a s’mores campfire that night, which Ri enjoyed immensely. Mario just liked burning the marshmallows for me to eat and then watching the stick burn in the fire. I’m pretty sure I saw the word pyromaniac rise from the ashes as he sat on the stone bench in awe.



We hit the game room last – we had avoided it the whole trip. It was a small little room with only a few games. Jon and I competed on Ms. PacMan and the kids drove fast cars.


They also won a few super balls in honor of their mom’s childhood obsession.
We ordered room service once again and watched Jessie episodes for Ri. The kids just could not get over how awesome it was to be served food in bed while watching their shows. “This is the life” they thought as they fed their faces and then lied back on their pillows with the tv blaring.

Maria gave a toast on our last morning in the hotel.

“This is a toast to Oglebay. We had some good times here fishing and swimming and being together as a family. But we must go and so we wish others as much fun as we had here.”


Amen sister!

Summer love

I typically sigh when someone talks about how much they love summertime.

My stock response is always: “it’s too hot!” I have always preferred Fall and Spring with their reasonable temperatures. I don’t like stepping outside and feeling like I stepped into a sauna.

But this year it’s been different for me. I have rather enjoyed this Summer and not been so exhausted with the high temperatures (it’s only the beginning if July, I know). Maybe it’s that I don’t care if I sweat like a piglet anymore – the world can gasp and point at my soaked armpits or sweat-stained shorts – doesn’t bother me a bit. Or maybe it’s that the kids are able to jump on their bikes or scooters and ride up to the park or Stauf’s without me having to haul 100 pounds in a stroller (however, I still have my days that I love to do that). Or maybe it’s that I am more observant and I find such delight in an exquisite, orange flower amongst bright green grasses or a yellow finch darting across my path to a resting spot. Or maybe, and likely the most probable, it’s that I get to enjoy gelato on the wooden bench on Grandview Avenue with two of my favorite people ever.





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)!











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.

KFC and Duck Dynasty

Jon used to joke that we were like Ronald and Nancy Reagan because we would pull out tray tables after work and eat our dinner while watching Jeopardy. I guess there’s a picture of Nancy and Ronald doing this exact activity.

Well, I doubt Ronald and Nancy bought tray tables for their kids and let them eat dinner on them while watching Duck Dynasty! Yea, folks, we have now started a weekly ritual: Kentucky Fried Chicken and Duck Dynasty on Thursday nights. Jon’s friend, Joe would keel over on this one (he makes fun of Jon for dressing the kids in camo).

We are quite the crew with our tray tables lined up, our greasy chicken, and our mashed potatoes. The only thing missing tonight was our biscuits – KFC dogged us in the drive-thru! I have a feeling that was a mistake meant to be, however, because we may have all been comatose if we added biscuits to the meal.


Next week, we are getting iced tea to drink to fit in with the Duck Dynasty family. Yea, that’s how we roll….