Weekend update

Another rousing weekend for the family. I am really impressed by how I can get up on Monday morning and take a run with as tired as I am on Sunday night (that double dip UDF ice cream at 10 pm must rev up my cells through the night).

Patty and Alana and Gio attended Mario’s football game on Saturday morning. It was nothing less than pure chaos an hour prior to kick-off with Jon trying to get the dog to poop and Mario dressed and me trying to find cupcakes for after-game snacks that had football rings on them. When I got home at 10:10 am, Jon had left with Mario to get him to the game by a 10:30 kickoff. Except he forgot Mario’s mouthpiece. I got the “Are you on your way?!” frantic call at 10:15 and I rushed Patty, the kids, and the dog out of the house to get to the game. Nothing like doing 80 on the highway with your mom-in-law next to you.
Mario played the entire game because a lot of kids were absent. He kept reversing the ball and running backwards away from kids to try to move forwards but he never made it far, which frustrated the heck out of him. But he hung in there for the entire game; it’s amazing to see the difference in his attitude and playing style this year versus last year. And he loves being the life of the party amongst his team mates.

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Maria and Alana kept Rocco busy at the playground. Alana loved helping with the pup (she adores dogs) and they both were very good about watching him around kids (Ri acts like a mother hen shooing kids back when Rocco acts up). Rocco did surprisingly well with people coming up to him. Knock on wood, let’s hope he’s learning not to bite quite as much.

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After the game, Patty and I walked the crew up to Panera for lunch. Mario and Gio rode in the stroller so they could play on the iPads while the girls rode scooters (and Jon wants to get rid of the stroller – no way!). Lunch was hilarious: the boys were in the bathroom for fifteen minutes doing their business and messing around; the girls wanted to eat alone and ride their scooters by themselves up and down Grandview Ave. Luckily, Patty goes with the flow as well as I do so we just ate our salads and took it all in.
We took the pup to the woods by our house when we got home and he loved it. I think I have found the perfect spot for him to run without a leash that only takes us 8 minutes to walk to back and forth. I told Mario a story about a troll living in the woods a while ago and he still asks about the troll when we head to the woods. If he sees a bunch of sticks piled up, he will excitedly say “the troll may hide out there” or if he sees tracks he will point at them and yell “troll prints!” So sweet.

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Patty and Meg joined me for evening fun – we ate chips and watched the game. The girls played Quirkle (such a great game) and the boys reunited with their iPads. Patty left around 9:30 (what a machine she is to drive an hour home with Alana and Gio at that time of night); we all hit the sack as soon as they hopped in Patty’s car.
We enjoyed Stauf’s on Sunday morning. Rocco walked some of the way with us but then decided he wanted to stroll with Mario. He leaned over the edge after a few blocks and stumbled out of the seat so he decided to walk again. The stroller wheels freak him out though and he just kept whining and trying to bite them (note: ignore my last comment about the wonders of the stroller: Mario needs to stop riding in that thing and bike to Stauf’s).

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I took a wonderful 7 mile run after Stauf’s through UA and then got treated to an amazing delicioso brunch at The Kitchen</a. These women know how to cook – I had a yummy combo of mushrooms, kale, cabbage and tomatoes over grits with a fried egg and fluffy French toast with caramel sauce. My sis and Meg had sweet potato and onion hash that had to be sent down from heaven. Everything tasted so so so good.

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We walked off the amazing meals in the woods with Rocco. Jorge loved the tree with the climbing spikes and scared us all to death with how high he climbed. Rocco would whine loudly and try to climb the tree when any of us climbed up.
We came home and played HORSE in the backyard. Maria made everyone coffee while Mario kicked our butts making nearly all of his b-ball shots. Because we still hadn’t done enough through the day, we made a trip to Petland to look at the dwarf hamsters and pups. Rocco scored new toys and treats because I can’t resist buying him something anytime I am near a dog aisle. We hit Party City after Petland and I’m happy to report that we have a zombie ninja and a valley girl in the house for Halloween.
We ended the day with more food – gyros from the new Greek Express. They were mighty fine as you could tell from the way we slouched in the booths – or maybe that was just sheer exhaustion….Us Menkedicks work hard but play harder!

Weekend round-up

We got treated to a visit from Aunt Jane, Uncle Steve, Robert and Laura on Saturday morning. They came up to see Mario’s football game. We took Rocco to the vet at 9 am to hear that he was looking good and then rushed to Tim Horton’s to get lucky timbits for Mario to eat pre-game. The line inside and out was ridiculously long so Jon took me and the kids home and drove to another Tim Horton’s while we changed. The ovens at that Tim Horton’s were down so there were no donuts. You would have thought Mario was just told he would never be able to walk again. He lost it. Flailing everywhere. Bawling.

Once he calmed down, I told him we could get some magical donuts at BP and a cereal bar. Maybe they would work even better to allow him to score touchdowns. We stopped for them and got on the highway at 10:15 – his game started at 10:30. The highway we needed was closed. We spent the next 20 minutes trying to find an alternate route that wasn’t busy. I was irked because Jane and Steve had come to see the game and we were late. Jon was irked because I was irked. The kids, luckily, were oblivious listening to Radio Disney on their headphones. I was telling myself the whole way that I cannot control the situation; stay calm; breathe. I eventually convinced myself when we were two minutes away.

It was great having Jane and Steve and Robert and Laura at the game – they completely got into it jumping up and down and yelling for Mario as he ran for a touchdown.
I had ice cream with them later and reminisced about the good ol’ days when I rode in the trunk of the station wagon with no seat belts and played in the deep water with no life vest!

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When we got home, Jon swept Mario away to Big Mario’s and Aunt Vickie’s house to fish and go four-wheeling. Mario’s dream come true. He got treated like royalty between cookies and pasta and a coyote skin that Big Mario had treated just for him. He couldn’t wait to show it off when he got home Sunday night.

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Meanwhile, Ri and I got her present ready for her sleepover at the Hyatt. Yeah, a hotel sleepover. The birthday party detail continues to be raised up notches. Pretty soon you will be expected to rent out a ballroom and boy band for an eighth birthday party.

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After I dropped Ri off at 4:00, I had the night to myself. I got a massage at 4:30 and then spent the rest of the night with little dude.

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I was like this with Cy, too. I would make big plans in my head to go to the movies or the coffee shop to read but then Cy would look out the window at me and I’d turn around and spend the evening with him. So Rocco and I enjoyed the evening together with a walk to Pet People that took two hours with all the stops we had to make (between sniffing, laying down, and people petting) and watched a Sarah Polley documentary (which was quite good). We hit the sack at 10:15 pm and started all over at 6:30 am.
Maria texted me from her friend’s mom’s phone at 9:30 am asking me to pick her up. One of her friends had called her “heavy” and not let her participate in a game. Ugh, girls. But Ri is such an old soul and was able to process that her friend was probably mad about something else that had happened at the party and took it out on Ri. Pretty impressive intuition for an 8 year old.

She wanted time with her mama anyway – we took Rocco for a walk, bought a pooper scooper and a toaster at Target (she loved that I combined these two things in one sentence), and got a pedicure!

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As the night wore on, and Rocco got in his chew stage (Maria’s friend came over to apologize and Rocco accidentally caught her little brother with those sharp puppy teeth while chasing him), I started to get testy. I made Ri get on Xtra Math and she complained. Then, once on, she did poorly. She was not answering simple subtraction quick enough and I let my end of day fatigue take over.
“Come on Ri, you have to get these more quickly. This is why you have to do Xtra Math everyday. You aren’t getting simple problems right.”
She started crying as I peered over her shoulder and watched her every move. I let out a sigh when she missed another and she jolted up and ran upstairs crying and yelling “you are the worst mom ever!”
I sat on the kitchen chair staring at the computer. I definitely could have handled this better. I know how much Ri hates pressure and stress so why did I stand over her shoulder? Yea, I know why….

I called her back down to finish Xtra Math, which she did. Then I swung her legs around to meet mine, looked her straight in the eyes (those beautiful blue eyes) and told her I loved her more than anything. I also apologized for putting undue pressure on her. She reached out and hugged me and apologized, too. We both decided that the fight warranted an ice cream cone so we headed off to UDF for double dip peanut butter ‘n’ chip.

And we both concurred that ice cream solves all problems.

Labor Day Chaos

I am feeling this past weekend as I turn off my watch alarm clock that I purposefully set even later this morning with the hopes I’d climb out of bed and take a run. But the magnetic power of Ri on my right side and Mario on my left and Jon on the far right (thank god for king sized beds) drew me closer to the sheets and farther from my running shoes.

In my twenties, this would have happened because of a night of partying: shots devoured, beer guzzled, and feet moving to the beat. Now this happens because of traveling all over the state with kids in tow visiting relatives, swimming, playing, and stopping at McDonald’s for rest room breaks every thirty minutes. It’s exhausting. But we’ll worth it.

Mario rocked out his football game on Saturday with two touchdowns and two pulled flags. He was a superstar. Jon and I were so charged up for him because he had been getting so mad at practice about not getting the ball. I was like a crazed woman out on the field screaming like a lunatic for him. I can’t imagine what I will be like when he’s older.

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We left for Cincy later in the day with the hopes of heading to my old grade school’s festival and seeing some friends. Unfortunately, as soon as we hit the outskirts of Cincy a sheet of grey covered us and lightning and thunder came clammoring down on us. I hate driving in that weather and proceeded to white knuckle it to my mom’s house. Mario was fascinated with the lightning letting me know every time he saw a flash. Ri kept me in line: when I whispered “shit” under my breath after a car jerked in front of me, she scolded “listen lady, you need to replace that “i” with an “o” so you say shoot and not the bad word.

Lou and mom and Rod greeted us at the door with a tasty sheet cake awaiting us. We couldn’t wait to dig into it so we had Gracie and Liz over and sang happy birthday to Mario. He took forever to think of a wish but eventually blew out the candles so we could eat the world’s best food: sheet cake.

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The cousins played downstairs together for a while so mom and I could catch up on her new third shift schedule. I’m amazed at how well Grace and Ri and Mario get along. They played barbies and watched Spongebob (tv always bonds, heh?). At about 8:30, mom and I decided to head over to Nativity festival with the hopes it wasn’t canceled even though it was still raining. No luck. But we did get to go inside and see where I used to have lunch and music class. I was more excited to see it than the kids.

We made up for the disappointment of the festival by heading to Skyline at 9:15 at night. Nothing like 4-ways and coney dogs right before bed.

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One thing about my mom’s house is that she has really dark shades so you can’t tell when the sun has risen. On the other hand, she has Lou who inevitably pushes the bedroom door with his nose and let’s the light in that way. He performed that trick at 6:45 am on Sunday morning. I rose to go downstairs with the kids and had that feeling I typically get on weekend mornings when we rise that early: “how am I gonna get through this whole day??”

But we started it out well walking with the pups through the Timbers. Mario got to pet other dogs and Ri got to walk Willie. And our reward was home-made goetta and pancakes from Aunt Julie. Ri is such the Cincy girl – she loves goetta more than any other meat. After breakfast, we walked to the park with Grace. The kids performed shows for us at the amphitheater and swung on the swings. Mario helped me push Grace and Ri tried to morph into a two year old by squeezing herself into a baby swing. I was so irritated trying to get her out but had to laugh when she exclaimed “I’m making progress mom – I almost have one cheek out!” The girl is a trip. We eventually got her freed and she stayed away from the swings the rest of the time. Mario loved the creek. He must have thrown ten different sized sticks in the water to see if they would all go down the waterfall. The heavier ones didn’t and he noted that by sticking his finger in the air and calling himself a “great scientist!”

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After the park, we got treated to some Aunt Jane and Julie time…and we got treated to round two of cake and ice cream. Ri and Mario don’t know how lucky they are to have such a supportive and loving family. It warms my heart to see the aunts who helped raise me help me raise my kiddos.

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Next up, swimming! Thankfully, the kids wanted to go to the Timbers pool rather than Blue Ash so we threw on our suits and crossed the street. Mario showed off his dives and Ri and Gracie made a huge contraption with noodles.

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Our last dip in the pool until next year. We dropped ourselves in the bath after the pool and finally got the stink off Mario’s feet. He doesn’t wear socks with his shoes (“they don’t feel good with socks”) so his feet and shoes are disgusting. After baths, we reluctantly left the Timbers to head home. My mom was rightfully exhausted after our tornados came through but she always misses us as soon as we leave. Meg and Patty feel the same. You can’t wait for some peace and quiet but then you can’t wait for some chaos again.

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I was a few hundred feet from the highway home when I made a brash call to head to Nativity’s festival. I had to let Mario play Big Six. It was my favorite game as a kid and he was so excited about winning money. He loved it just as much as I did. Ri was ready to stop gambling after she won some quarters but Mario got bit by the bug and it took all my night to pull him away. They both ended up pocketing quarters in the end, and I lost $20. Never fails.

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The kids and I and Jon met back at the house at 10 pm and we all crashed hard. 5 am came way too early but I did my sisterly duty and picked up Sarah at the Mega Bus station at 5:30 am. And what did we do at 5:45 am when we got home? Went for a five mile run. Why not? It was actually a wonderful run with the moon shining over us. It almost makes me want to get up at that time every morning… but then it doesn’t.
We hit Stauf’s at 8 am with Jorge and dogs in tow. Again, I looked at my watch and thought “I’ve been going since 5 am and I have an entire day left to go. Ahhhh!” But it only got better from there.

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We drove up to Marion to have a family celebration at Patty’s house with all of Jon’s brothers and some of their kids. We also visited Jon’s dad in the rehab center. The kids love seeing their cousins. It never ceases to amaze me how close they are even when we don’t see each other for months. They fished on the bridge into the pond, swam at the country club, and played in the basement. Maria cried and cried when we had to leave. I got to chat with Jon’s brothers and wives and Sherry and Micah and reminisce about old times and laugh about new ones (Micah and Sherry and Mario comparing biceps size (Sherry won)). Patty and I got to experience Mario holding her hand as we walked through the rehab center and saying “this is a nice place for grandpa to be.” It broke her heart. And Maria giving a gentle peck on Joe’s cheek when we left for the night. We have some sensitive, empathetic kids.

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And here I am on Tuesday night forgetting about the lethargy I felt this morning and grateful for all of my family and the joy they contribute to this one amazing life.

Magnificently wonderful

Top Ten Reasons I loved last night…

1. Ri rocking out new polka dot Reds socks for her softball game!

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2. My crazy Menkedick clan (all of them!) coming out to cheer Ri on at her game. She was beside herself happy!

3. Ri going three for three and catching a few grounders (she almost had an out at first but the batter outran her by an inch).

4. Mario sucking on his ring pop and playing a fishing game on Jon’s phone; he grabbed Peepaw every two minutes to report the type and weight of his catch.

5. Sar Bear informing me that she got an agent!!! She is on her way to being a world renowned writer (or a psycho killer if this picture says anything)!

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6. Dude man announcing that he may be headed on a cruise ship to swoon the old ladies and party it up with the crew all while blasting out some sweet clarinet and saxophone.

7. Jon having all of us in stitches with his stories at dinner about past vacations and times at the Glendale Ave. house.

8. Mildred’s sauerkraut balls. Enough said.

9. Watching dad race Mario to the car and being so thankful for inheriting those Menkedick genes.

10. Spending an evening with such a gregarious, joyful, loving family. These are the moments you grab hold of and tuck away; they are what make this brief time on Earth magnificently wonderful.

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Family farm day

We made the trek to the farm Sunday morning to celebrate Father’s Day with my pops. Sarah and Jack also made it out – the first dad’s day we’ve all been together in a long while.

Mario watched Goosebumps the entire way out; these are his new favorite movies. He holds his pillow tight across his chest and reports out to us what is happening in the scary scenes. Ri is not a fan of the movies. She played Minecraft on the iPad and wrote poems about Stella and Mona.

When we arrived at 10:30 am, everyone was still bleary-eyed and making coffee. Emily was in town from DC. Ri loved listening to her stories as we stood in the chicken coop listening to Mario rustle around trying to catch a chicken. Ri eventually left our conversation and caught “Peepaw’s girlfriend” for Mario. Mario gave no appreciation to Ri; instead he got mad that he wasn’t the first one to catch a chicken and proceeded to work twice as hard to pin one down (but in the most gentle fashion possible). He eventually got one and we were impressed with how delicate he held her. Ri boosted his ego as she always does and shouted “Good Job Buddy!”

Ri soon found delight in throwing the frisbee with Sarah, Jorge and Jack. The trick was to keep it away from Stella. Not an easy task. Ri was not scared to catch that disc with 80 pound Stella running at her. Mario not so much. He darted to the side and let Stella bite that frisbee and carry it off. We took a walk in the woods and found the swing vine. Sarah tried it out for us first. She looked like a ten year old swinging back and forth. She used to get so mad when she’d go to restaurants at age 17 and they’d ask if she need a kids menu. Now she can eat it up being age 30 and looking 18.

Uncle Jack and I gave the vine a try, too. Nothing like the kid coming out in you for the few seconds you’re hanging on for dear life. We all screamed wildly. The kids love love love being around me and my siblings. They can’t get enough of them. Everything is “look Uncle Jack” or “watch Aunt Sarah” or “come on Jorge!” Precious.

We returned to yummy barbecue chicken and cole slaw and beans. Mario threw a fit because he wanted to sit next to Jon at the “big person” table. He pushed his chair back and angrily crossed his arms and pouted. Jon gave in and pushed his chair over and let Mario sit by him. Mario beamed. It’s the little things. Maria sat next to me because we were right next to the food.

After we ate, Jon and I threw to Ri. She could not hit a ball to save her life. She progressed from sighing to heaving to throwing her bat and yelling “I hate softball!” I felt so bad for her. She wants to be perfect at whatever she does but she doesn’t like to practice. I tried to talk to her. Then Jon. Nothing worked. Meg came out and told us she was heading to the stable. Ri followed. I went inside to get a cookie and then made my way down to see them.

Maria stood by Taz brushing out her hair. She looked completely at peace. Meg stood on the other side adjusting the saddle. I could hear Ri talking with her about her horse camp. Meg listened and quietly commented back to her. I could have watched the two of them all day. Ri was so in her element next to that horse and talking with her grandma. Meg let her ride Taz on her own and gave her tips as she circled the grounds. Dang, I wish they lived closer so Ri could get lessons from the Meg-pie.

We played some Quirkle (the new favorite Menkedick game) while Mario and Jorge played some mean badminton. Sarah won, again. After Quirkle, we broke out Mario’s beebee gun. Jorge drew a bear and some type of elk/goat mix (ha! poor Jorge agrees to draw and then we make fun of him!) as the targets to shoot. At first the boys shot alone but then they asked us to bring down cans and paper and we became intrigued and joined them. I think we have a new Menkedick past time – target shooting at fake bears and pop cans. We all got into it.

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With each hit, the kids and Jon and Peepaw would check out the paper to see where the beebee hit.

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The pressure was on to be the first person to hit the pop can. We all tried but Peepaw hit it. He’s still got it.

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And what did we do after target shooting? What else but recited poetry on the back porch.

Is there any talent this family doesn’t have?!

Pittsburgh

In my twenties, I remember my girlfriend talking about sleepless nights with her sick daughter. They were horror stories to me full of broken sleep, house-bound days, and snot wiping events.

And then came Maria and Mario. And broken sleep, house-bound days, and lots of snot wiping. And survival through lots of ice cream, 5 hour energy shots and Vela blogs.

Almost two weeks ago, Maria developed hard-core allergies. Her eyes swelled and watered and became bruised. We went to the doctor three different times over an eight day period to try to find the root cause. At first, it was diagnosed as allergies, then pink eye, and then a skin infection with allergies. It took her out of school for the last three days of the school week. I stayed with her for one of them, my mom for one, and Patty for the last (thank god for family). Patty was going to keep Ri for the weekend until I told Ri that I was still heading to Pittsburgh for Sarah’s graduation. Ri freaked and begged to come even with swollen eyes. I couldn’t say no since she looks up to her aunt so much so I agreed to meet Patty half way in order to get Ri Friday night. At the same time, Mario had no desire to go to Pittsburgh. He was starting to feel hot and had a rash on his cheeks. Patty offered to take him so that Ri and I could go to Pittsburgh without the stress of a sick kid. What a god-send she is. Not only did it help me but it also made Mario’s day because any time with Grandma is the best time ever for him. I have no doubt that he would choose Patty over me anytime.

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After driving back to get Mario and sitting in major traffic, we arrived at the Wendy’s in Delaware for the exchange. Mario hopped right into Patty’s car without hesitation. Ri jumped in mine and begged to head straight to the farm. She wanted to see Savvy who recently returned to the farm. She also wanted to be closer to Pittsburgh to see Aunt Sarah. And so I downed my Five Hour Energy at 8 pm and we were off. Ri played market on the iPad most of the way asking me what foods I wanted to buy and re-asking me after the first grocery trip was completed… and second… and third. I didn’t mind the constant interaction, however, because I needed stimuli.

We got to the farm way past Meg and dad’s bedtime and Ri was so slaphappy she laid next to me giggling for 20 minutes. Meg and I both commented the next morning how soothing it was to hear that core laughter coming from her little soul.

We woke Saturday morning to an exquisite day and headed east to Pittsburgh. We made it to Sarah’s apartment and Ri ran inside to greet Sarah and Jorge, and most importantly, the dogs. Maria got her fill of kisses and we were off to graduation.

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The Cathedral of Learning has been Sarah’s second home for the last three years. It sits amongst the bustle of traffic and looks like a building out of Florence, Italy. You just know minds are churning away inside of it. When Ri and Mario and I visited two years ago, we met Sar in her classroom. She hadn’t arrived yet so Mario did a dance for her class and Ri stood near him completely embarrassed.

It was a good thing that Mario stayed back because the graduation included an hour and a half of graduate readings. Each grad read a piece of their work for five minutes. I gave Ri the iPad but hoped she would listen to the stories. I didn’t think she spent too much time listening until she and I were walking to Stauf’s this week and I said “let’s make up a poem. I will start. One day I walked in the woods.”

Ri stopped me immediately. “No mom. You should say ‘One–day–I–walked–in the woods.” She had totally picked up on the voice inflections during the readings. I Love It.

Sarah read a lyrical essay about my grandma. Ri knows how sentimental I am so she crawled down to my chair and rubbed my cheek as Sarah spoke. Always the caretaker. I could listen to Sarah for hours and read her writings all day long. She is talented beyond belief (and her professor, Jean Marie completely agrees).

Afterward, Ri and I walked down all 36 flights of steps and took the elevator back up to five to chow down on desserts at the reception. There was a little girl there and Ri gravitated right to her while Meg and I spoke to Sarah and her professor. It really was a lovely afternoon.

And the loveliness continued when we dined at a Thai restaurant with an outdoor patio. They had a warm atmosphere with vines of flowers surrounding us and the sun laying its rays upon us. It is such a beautiful thing to be able to have an entire conversation with another adult without a child interrupting me. And to eat amazing food.

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After stuffing our face, we took the dogs for a walk in Frick Park. The ride over in Jorge’s and Sarah’s little car and the two dogs was comical. Stella sat on Mona and then leaned over and licked Ri too death.

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Sar let Ri walk both dogs when we got to the park. That is a helluva job seeing that Stella is a big mamba jamba and pulls whenever a dog or squirrel comes near. But Ri surprised us all. She jerked back the leash when Stella pulled and bellowed “NO!” Sar and I turned our faces to one another and cracked up. She’s no joke.

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We sat in New York traffic in the middle of Pittsburgh but finally arrived back at reached Sarah’s apartment and gave her graduation present to her. A little bubbly and cheez-it’s as well as a Street Food cookbook and wooden cookbook holder. Ri knows her aunt.

We hit the road back to the farm to spend the night again. When we arrived at 9:15, we got to surprise Peepaw at the cabin. He had his friends around the table getting ready for some poker. We decided to leave them be and stay down at the house. Grandma Meg had some Nashville clips to show us on Hula. Ri was addicted at first blush and I was soon thereafter. We finally hit the hay at 10 pm and Ri’s cough only kept us up half the night. When we got up in the morning, Ri got to ride her Taz and even persuaded me to ride for a second. She loves her horses.

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We drove home at noon and I was exhausted. I told Ri I needed 10 minutes to rest and before I knew it, we both woke up two hours later. Sarah tired us out. Jon arrived shortly after our nap with bad news – no turkeys. We all laid on the carpet and talked about our weekends as the sun faded away. We were in bed by 9. Mario, to the contrary, was busy wrestling Grandma Ionno until 11 pm.

Burrito night

Ri and I were headed to Chipotle last night but had to pick up some medicine at Kroger’s first. As we walked down the aisle, I saw black beans and tortillas.

“Let’s just make burritos at our house, Ri.”

She stopped pushing the cart and whipped her head back at me. “Let’s do it mom!”

She rolled off six items we had to buy as if she had known all along we would be making burritos: cheese, sour cream, corn, black beans, tortillas, and rice. I added salsa and refried beans. We made a mad dash home and began cooking the chicken. In fact, that was all we cooked on the stove. The corn, rice, and beans all allowed for the microwave. My type of meal! Ri laid out all the sides across the kitchen counter for us and yelled “Dig in folks!”

Mario enjoyed his burrito with chicken and a mound of cheese only. Maria loaded hers with beans and rice and corn and chicken and cheese and a huge dollop of sour cream. We sat down at the table and went to town on our creations.

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Then Ri and I went for seconds. And thirds. That is the only problem with a “buffet” style meal – Ri and I have not quite developed the willpower to stop the multiple trips. But, unlike Ponderosa, our buffet lacked a dessert bar so at least we were eating healthy (we did slip in an ice cream sandwich later, however!).

Three Cheers for the microwave

Jon always makes fun of my over use of the microwave. The running joke in our family is “Who is a better cook?” The kids yell “Dad!” However, if you ask “Who is better with the microwave?” they immediately yell “Mom!”

Well babe, here’s an article for ya. I am actually thinking outside of the box and down with the newest trend.

Except I didn’t read anything in the article about the beauty in using the microwave like I do – for heating frozen dinners and corn dogs?!

Ri time

Ri is so fortunate it’s Winter. It’s the only way that I’d agree to manicures right after work and school. In the Spring, Summer and Fall, we’d be on our bikes or at the park. But the dark combined with the cold leads us indoors. In addition, Mario got to go to Grandma Ionno’s house this week and Ri had to go back to school so I promised her a night where she could choose our itinerary.

When I picked her up at Kids Club, she had it all set. Janira would come with us and we’d go to the nail salon and to dinner. She is not a cheap date.

“Chop chop lollipop!” She pushed me out the door towards the car. “We’ve got some nails to make pretty!”

She begged for a pedi along with the manicure but I nixed that request. Janira and Ri flipped through magazines while I got my gel polish scraped off. I never used to get my nails done but recently felt uneasy about my nails while sitting in a work meeting. Everyone had gorgeous manicured nails and mine looked like a cave man’s. So I tried this gel process. I regret it. You have to get your nails done every couple of weeks and I hate sitting in a salon for an hour. So, I asked the tech to take off my gel polish and just put on regular clear polish. She looked at me like I had just told her to cut my wrist.

Ri and Janira waited patiently for their turn and loved every minute of it. They read about Katy Perry and Beyonce. When their nails were finished, they flaunted them off to me. Two different colors on each hand just like Katy Perry would do.

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We decided we’d stay in for dinner since they wanted time to play. They wanted a “fancy” dinner so we got out candles and china. They got dressed up – make-up and all – while I made their dinner. They made me call their names for dinner (yes, I am a trooper). They walked in the room and owned it with their confidence and style.

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They turned on some Bieber to eat to and made me leave the room (gladly). We stopped at DQ for dessert and took Janira home. Ri and I returned home, watched National Geographic Wild, and snuggled in bed. We were asleep within 10 minutes. I woke to Ri kicking me in the head.

When we turned on the Today show at 7 am, it was 39 degrees. We decided that Ri would ride her bike to school and we’d stop at Stauf’s for a hot chocolate and bagel. Ri begged me to get her a hot cocoa in a cardboard cup so she could drink it in class. Another girl had done that last week and she thought it was cool.

And there she was at her computer as I went to leave her school. Looking like a college kid. For a brief few seconds, I had an image of her at age 19 sitting in her frosh English class with her hot chocolate (I think she will stick with that hot drink over coffee) waiting for her girlfriend to sit next to her to chat about their weekends. Then the image left me. Good riddance I thought. Let me keep her my little second grader for a bit longer.

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Shots and donuts

Mario survived.

It was a trying ordeal but he persevered after counting to 100.

Yes, the dreaded doctor’s appointment is over. He’s only been sick about it for weeks. When we got to the office, he was initially excited about getting weighed and measured (25th percentile height (he’s got his Grandma Ionno in him!) and 60th percentile in weight). But when we got in the examination room, he turned on us.

“I’m scared mom. My stomach feels funny because I’m so scared.”

Maria chimed in before I could speak.

“It’s ok baby boy. You are going to be brave just like your big sis. You are just gonna get those shots and act like nothin’ happened to you buster.” She pinched his cheek just like your eighty year old grandma would do.

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He tried to stay stoic. He began counting to 100. Ri continued to try to make him laugh. The doc eventually came in to look him over and he impressed her with his counting and his spelling of “Mario.” She gave him a clean bill of health and then told him he’d only need two shots. We had told him four because that’s what Ri had gotten at age five so we thought he’d be relieved. But instead he took the opportunity to bargain.

“How about just one shot?”

The doc laughed. Maria looked dejected. She wanted him to get all four and be brave.

“Can he get three?” she asked. “And can I get an examination done on me after you are done with Mario?” She’s the only kid I know that enjoys visits to the dentist and doctor.

The doc left and it seemed like an eternity until the nurses arrived. Mario asked every 30 seconds when they’d be in to give him his shots. Maria rolled up both his sleeves and kissed the top of both of his arms.

“Grandma Ionno’s mom used to kiss her on the place where she was going to get a shot so I’m keeping up the tradition, Mario.”

He let her kiss him with the hopes that this ritual would somehow lessen the pain. The nurses finally stepped in and Ri and I held his hands while they inserted a shot in each arm.

He screamed. And cried. I held him.

Maria repeated “you are our strong baby boy, yes you are.”

Five minutes later we were driving to Giant Eagle to get the donut we promised him.

When Ri and I were getting ready eraly that morning, she had wondered what we could do for Mario after his shots as a reward for being brave.

“It was easy with me because all I ever wanted was ice cream or spaghetti. Mario doesn’t like food like I do! We may need to buy him a toy!”

But then as she stood in the mirror brushing her hair, she shouted “Oh duh! Mario loves donuts! We can get him lots of long john donuts!”

And so it was decided. He’d get a donut and Ri, by default of being with us, would get one, too. I have a feeling she set me up for that one….

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