Be happy with this moment

My latest quote obsession. How I embodied it this week:

1. Watching Maria as lead attorney at her Mock Trial at the courthouse. She defended a student arrested after tampering with eggs for the school breakfast. The girl is a natural trial attorney. She grilled the witnesses on cross examination (and even got recognized by the Judge). She used inflection in her voice while giving the closing. She’s a natural. The judge awarded her “Most Outstanding Attorney.”

2. Playing Mexican Dominoes with Mario and hanging out in the kitchen with him and Jon. We spent nearly 3 hours, cleaning the kitchen and playing Mexican dominoes this afternoon. He was forced to hang with us because this was part of a consequence he earned, but he didn’t complain too much and we all had a really good time together. I kept trying to ask him questions he did not want to answer like what major he’d choose in college or what he likes most about himself. Jon knew he did not want to answer so Jon rang a little buzzer to alert him he didn’t need to answer. It was quite hilarious. Jon was able to get Mario talking a bit more than I was , and by the end, we learned a few more facts than we had known.

3. Watching Mario play basketball. Damn, he and his teammates are fun to watch! The game is so much more physical in high school, and Mario plays tough.

4. Watching Maria give tours at the new high school. Girlfriend was chosen to give a speech at the ribbon cutting, and lead one of the tours of the school. She has certainly positioned herself as a leader at that place, and ingratiated herself amongst her teachers.

5. Making food for the kids. I will be the first to admit, and the kids will be the first to inform me, that my cooking is not premier. It, frankly, is not even that good. But I can crank out microwavable foods and do a few things on the stove. The kids have learned to live with that. So, when either of them asks me to make them breakfast or lunch, I do it in a heartbeat. Mario asks much more than Maria. There is something about making their food that brings me joy. It is a way to take care of them now that they are so independent.

6. Watching the kids interact together. There is no greater joy that I can get than seeing the two of them talking together or goofing off together. Thank God Maria is the older sibling, and is a natural nurturer. Mario doesn’t know how good he has it. And Mario is good about loosening Maria up at times she needs it!


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.




Ri conquered her first out-of-the-country trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit her baby cousin Elena, Aunt Sarah, and Uncle Jorge. She has mastered the art of travel at age 10. When we arrived at airport security, she nagged at me to get her passport out to be prepared to show the agent. Then she schooled me about taking my laptop out of my book bag and placing it in a separate bin. Once we were through security, she wanted to get her Starbucks drink and go straight to the gate to be ready to board (Jon would have been so proud). And as I fretted about how tiny the plane was, she calmly pulled out my computer from her bag, slipped on her earbuds, and started up the movie she downloaded the night before.

Our flight arrived on time into Houston so we had three hours to chill before our flight to Oaxaca. Ri wanted some good ol’ American cuisine before we headed south so we ate at Ruby’s 50’s diner. I let her splurge on whatever she wanted. She chose a bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato fries. I have not witnessed a more gleeful girl than Ri when she took a bite out of her burger.

“Now, this is a burger, Mom! Bacon and cheese and a huge piece of meat. Yum!”  Gotta love this girl. We filled ourselves up and waited anxiously for our flight. The plane to Oaxaca was just as small as the one from Columbus. Ri calmed my nerves by holding my hand. 

 We landed in Oaxaca so excited to see our clan. Ri stood next to the conveyor belt waiting for our suitcase. It arrived quickly and we got in line to give our papers to the agent. The automatic doors opened for the person ahead of us to leave and we got a glimpse of Elena. Ri leapt in the air.

And so our epic Oaxacan adventure began. We had such a marvelous, magical time. Some highlights:

1. Bed jumping! Elena loves her some bed jumping; it was one activity that guaranteed smiles from her. It was also a mighty good incentive to get her to eat her oatmeal. She loved to strategically place Ri on the bed, and then me, and then proclaim “Jump!” We’d jump and she would fall and look up at us and smile or let out a bubbly laugh. Then we’d do it again and again and again.

During our trip, Elena did to Ri exactly what Ri did to Sarah when Ri was little – pushed her away. Ri used to shout “No, Sarah!” every time Sarah came near her when she was little. Elena just liked to use the word “No” and raise her right palm to push you away. I was worried Ri would get sad by Elena’s actions but she completely rolled with the flow after I talked with her about how most babies go through this stage. Sarah kept reiterating how much Elena would be begging to be with her when she got older. And Sarah and Ri learned to condition jumping on giving kisses. So every time Elena asked Ri to jump, Ri would demand “give me a kiss.” Elena would quickly abide to get the jumping started. 

 2. Fresh juice. I remember the juice from my last trip to Oaxaca. There is a stand that Sarah frequents with the nicest gentleman. He always carries a smile and a raucous welcome. Ri loved the strawberry mango juice, and it came in a plastic bag with a straw, which she thought was super cool.  3. The Cerra del Fortin. Could I please wake up every morning to a run on this trail? Absolutely stunning.

Ri did not want to go to the Fortin with Sarah and I but we begged and cajoled her and she broke down and agreed. She was so glad she did when she got to witness Sarah driving her Blazer up a 90 degree hillside freaking out that we were going to flip (I was too, frankly). But the Menkedick sisters pulled it together and got turned around. Sarah and Elena went running and Ri and I walked the trail. She was a bit irritable at first but then ten minutes in, she whispered “I’m glad I came.” How couldn’t she be with this view?! And Aunt Sarah persuaded Ri to run with her at the last leg of the trail so that Ri could brag that she ran the Cerra del Fortin!

4. Walks with Elena. Elena loves hanging with her mama but there were some times when Sarah would quickly hand her over to Ri before Elena knew what was happening! Ri had to do all sorts of tricks for her to keep her amused but Ri had no issues doing them in order to be able to hold her. We walked to breakfast or lunch most days and Ri would bounce Elena on one hip and then quickly move her to the other hip. Elena thought this activity was awesome. Or Ri would put her on her shoulders and Sarah and I would hold Elena’s back to make sure she stayed steady while pointing out everything and anything we could to have her forget she was on Ri’s shoulders.  

 5. Nuevo Mundo. Jorge’s brother owns this coffee shop close to the Zocolo and it is scrumptious. Ri fell head over heels for the strawberry cream crepes and I looked forward to their double cappuccinos. 

 Ri also found a treasure at the coffee shoppe. They had little pamphlets organized in different compartments on a wooden box on the wall. Elena loved to take the pamphlets out and put them back in the different compartments. So Ri would scoop up Elena and stand in front of the wooden box to allow Elena to play.

6. Village parade. Jorge found a parade for us to see in a small village about 45 minutes away. We had planned on a different parade the night before but Elena was still not feeling the best so we waited a day to take her out. And this parade was worth the wait. It was a parade to celebrate being gay, and there were many cross dressing males,  including the queen of the parade. We followed the music to an area containing many homes in a small camp. A man was passed out in front of the first home. We knew it was gonna be a good party.

Jorge spoke to a man at the entrance and the man invited us into the area. There were men dressed up in animal costumes and dressed up in extravagant dresses and sparkling heels. Kids ran around after a puppy. Ducks waddled around us. Ri, a bit taken aback at first, eventually soaked it up and watched the scene unfold. After a few minutes, the crew was ready to start the parade. The music started up and everyone went out to the street. Jorge shot a ton of pictures and we danced in the street with our new friends. 

     The parade ended at a stage with folding chairs set out around it. We sat down and a short, hunched-over old woman walked over to sit next to us. She wore a strawberry shortcake winter cap on top of her head and wore an interminable smile. After a while, we rose out of our seats to look around at the village church and square. Then we spotted them – the little devils.  The boys dress up in these colorful costumes and wear masks, and turn into little devils. They hold wooden sticks with flour-filled eggs on top of them and run around looking for girls to “flour.” Ri was a chosen one and before she could know what was happening – BOOM – a dust of flour fell on her shoulder and face. It was awesome.   One of the local men kept prodding Ri to climb the metal pole next to the church because she could grab prizes on top. They have a metal ring at the top of the pole that holds a bike, backpacks, and toys. If someone makes it up there, they untwist the string holding the object, it falls to the ground, and they get to keep it. If it’s not hard enough to climb a 40 foot metal pole, they grease it so its impossible to grip. I really want to try this at Mario’s 9th birthday party.   7. Hierve el Agua. Jorge and Sarah took Ri and I to Hierve el Agua, a spectacular site with springs and petrified waterfalls. It was a 90 minute drive from their apartment  through the countryside. We planned the car trip around Elena’s nap at noon – which she never took (but she was pleasant as can be holding her mama’s hand in the backseat). I think the reason she never took her nap was because Ri was jammin’ it out to Taylor Swift in the front seat with Jorge. And jammin’ to Maroon 5. And some other artists who Jorge had never listened to in his lifetime. Ri enjoyed uizzing him and singing the lyrics to him (Jorge, you will be sainted).

We arrived to a windy plateau. Sarah put the cutest bathing suit ever on Elena. Ri and I had to stick to shorts and t-shirts. Ri didn’t care at all, though; she just wanted to plunge into water. She had been dealing with over 80 degree days for three straight days and she wanted relief! The springs were nestled in the mountains, and the views were magnificent. We walked down to the first pool of water. Ri was the first one down and rushed into the water. She didn’t get two steps into the water when she went BAM – feet in the air and butt landing hard on the concrete. My sweet girl; everywhere we go she seems to find a way to go down. Sarah and I laughed so hard our sides hurt. Ri, as always, laughed it off with us and dove headfirst into the deeper part of the water.   She begged me to go under with her; I refused.  But I did get in to the water up to chest level, and it was freezing. We played around in the pool with Elena who loved the water as much as Ri. After a while, Maria wanted to try out the water down the hill. We gathered our things and traveled down to that pool of water. It was a bit warmer and Ri and Sarah walked in together. Elena and I followed. Jorge snapped pictures and we enjoyed the views. But if you stood up with your body out of the water, watch out. Freezing wind. Baby Elena started to get cold so Sarah went back on land with her while Maria and I braved it for a few more minutes. The landscape was beautiful as you looked out on it from the edge of the water.

    But the departure from the water was brutal! It was freezing with the wind, and we had no towel to wrap around ourselves. So we sprawled our bodies out to get maximum sun exposure and waited to bake.

 We eventually warmed up enough to be able to conquer the trail to the petrified waterfall. Ri and I ate Chex Mix as we climbed over boulders. We arrived at a sharp precipice and Ri immediately gravitated to the edge. Daredevil. I made her stay 15 feet back and I stayed 30.       Sarah, Jorge and Elena met up with us on the way down the trail and Elena was all dried off and back in her darling toddler attire. We walked past the pool of water but Ri couldn’t resist jumping in one more time. She’s insane. I refused to follow suit but I did walk Ms. Elena around the perimeter of the water. She held my hand and talked away.


She also got a kick out of watching Ri kick her legs up out of the water. The little things in life.  At the entrance to the springs, there were a handful of fruit and food stands. Sarah swore by the coconut water so we decided to try it. Ri was not convinced so she went with the tried and true pineapple. It did not disappoint.     On our way home, we got a taste of the countryside. A weathered older gentleman walked his goats on the side of the road.    Two minutes later, we witnessed donkeys carrying sticks up the path.   Pretty surreal to catch this site while listening to Taylor Swift and eating coconut wedges with spices drizzled on them.

8.The Tree of Tule. On our way home, Jorge steered us to Santa Maria del Tule to visit one of the widest and oldest trees around the world. It is a Montezuma’s Cypress and it’s over 2000 years old. Beautiful.    8. Espresso! Ri tried her first espresso at Nuevo Mundo.   She looks sophisticated in this picture but this is the “before sipping espresso” picture. I didn’t get an “after” shot because she spit it out so quickly.

9. Fried grasshoppers. We almost left Oaxaca without Ri tasting them but luckily the restaurant we went to on the last night served them. Ri was so happy to hear that! This girl is game for most anything, god love her, so she readily tried one. She didn’t spit this out so it beat espresso! Jorge and I devoured a few in comraderie with Ri. Not bad.

 10. Moments with Elena. Let’s face it. The overwhelming reason for this trip was to be with Elena! We love Sarah and Jorge tremendously but we wanted some quality time with the munchie-munch. Elena had a bit of a different idea of our purpose for vacationing in Oaxaca. At 20 months old, she is just learning the thrill of using the word “no.” She mastered it by the time we left. Ri loves to tell people about Elena’s four hand gestures to articulate “no.” She saw each one of them scores of times. Sarah, Ri and I would laugh hysterically at Elena’s dogmatic hand gestures to us as we approached her. Despite Elena being in her new phase, Ri was still able to spend some quiet, sweet moments with her, like this one when Maria was explaining to Elena how to have fun with water (Elena got to see a second slip and fall by Maria when she slipped on the stone and her leg fell into the water; the girl keeps us laughing).  Or this one when Ri carried Elena in the backpack at the Cerra del Fortin.  Or when Elena was fascinated watching Ri climb a tree and wanted to follow suit.

 11. Spicy Medicine. Aunt Sarah bought Cocoa Krispies cereal for Ri at my request. I knew that if all else failed she would live on Cocoa Krispies. The first morning we woke up, Sarah was feeding Elena berries and oatmeal. As soon as Elena saw Ri sit down with her Cocoa Krispies, she pointed and begged for some. So, we had to come up with a reason she couldn’t have them. Hence, the creation of Spicy Medicine!  Ri would say “you won’t like this, Elena, it’s spicy medicine!” I can’t wait until Elena stays with us and gets a taste of that “spicy medicine!” The oatmeal days may be long gone….

12. Hot Stone massage. Ri got her first massage while in Oaxaca, and even better, a hot stone massage. Spoiled. Sarah and I dropped her off for a 30 minute massage and got a coffee with Elena. We told the masseuse to go lightly on Maria because I did not want anything to happen on this first massage. Meanwhile, I got to spend some quality time with my niece and spoil her with tastes of cappuccino foam. We went to pick up Maria, and she came out of the room crying. At first I was scared half to death that something had gone really wrong but then she sniffled “they didn’t give me a hot stone massage.” The masseuse explained that she thought we meant no hot stones when we said “go lightly.”  So being the sweet mama I am, I gave up 30 minutes of my massage to Maria so that she could get her much anticipated hot stone massage. She loved it.

13. Crossy Road. Maria is addicted to an iPhone game called Crossy Road. It is very similar to the game Frogger I used to play as a kid. She and I had intense battles in the afternoon when Elena would nap or in the evenings before bed. I think I beat her three times out of 150. Jorge played it for the first time when we were at a restaurant and he started screaming as he tried to move the little chicken across  the road. It was hysterical.

14. Gourmet cooking. On our last nightt, we went to a very fancy restaurant. It was the same restaurant we went to with a group of people when Sarah and Jorge got married. They have the most delicious food. Sarah and Jorge and I split three different dinners (scallops, ribeye and duck) that were all scrumptious. Maria ordered  something out of the blue: a rice dish covered with feta cheese and onions. She devoured it in seconds. The girl is up for anything.   15. Playing with balloons as tall as a telephone pole. While Sarah and I got massages, Jorge took Ri and Elena to the Zocalo and bought two tall balloons for Ri. Jorge said the people in the square loved her because she was having so much fun with the balloons. She even managed to endear the folks she accidentally whacked on the heads with the balloons. And Elena loved watching Ri try to manage those giant characters.

 16. Pulling the wooden pup around the terrace. On our second morning in Oaxaca, we bribed Elena to eat oatmeal and then we would go on the terrace. She has a little wooden puppy that she likes to pull around with her. We took the puppy out with us for Elena to pull. But the joke was on us. She directed Maria to pull the pup the entire time. Maria gladly obliged, nonetheless, and we spent 20 minutes watching Maria pull the  wooden puppy while Elena followed her pointing to where Ri should go. It was golden.

17. The Zocalo. I walked down to theZocalo  nearly every day when Elena would nap. I loved it. There were always musicians playing music and people selling vibrantly colored balloons. We all walked down after dinner one night to let Ri see the scene. It is a wonderous refuge to read a book, take a rest, and people watch.  

    18. Kefir. My dad gave me a piece of advice before Ri and I left for Oaxaca. Drink some kefir while you are there. Kefir is cultured milk with lots of good gut bacteria. Yep, good gut bacteria. Jorge made Ri and I some after we ate fish at a local restaurant and felt a little queasy. I had been warned by dad and Sarah that kefir can be rather disgusting tasting.  But I guzzled down a half of a glass, and Ri got a few sips in before she gave up. And, dad was right (or else Ri and I just have iron stomachs) – we left Oaxaca with absolutely no sickness!

19. Mid-afternoon cafe lunches. We went to a little cafe close to Sarah’s apartment for lunch one afternoon and it was so good. The salad was phenomenal – we had one with turkey and chesses and avocado with  an out-of-this-world dressing. And the sandwiches were scrumptious, too. Ri stuck with her German roots and ordered sausage and potatoes!  20. Belly laughs. We had some serious belly laughs together on this trip. Ri falling in the spring water was a good one. Or Elena standing on the side of the bed and demanding Ri to stand on one side of her and me on the other and jump up and down incessantly. Or, the greatest one, listening to Ri call out songs on Sarah’s iPod and quizzically call out “Sarah Menkedick, Goats? You have a song, Aunt Sarah?” It was Sarah’s audiotape of an essay, and we all laughed for ten minutes straight while listening to Sarah read “Goats.”

But best of all was just the ability to spend a good chunk of time with my sister and brother-in-law and niece without work interruptions or errands or other daily pokes. Sarah and I have not gotten that in quite some time.

I’m thrilled we got to visit Jorge’s birthplace. Mexico provided us with wonderous contradictions: rugged yet tender; vibrant yet muted; raucous yet serene. It calls out to you: I remember the morning Ri and I were hiking and we kept hearing what sounded like a cow in the distance. I asked her if she heard the cows.  She laughed and corrected me. “That is the sound of a gas truck, mom!” Uncle Jorge had taught her that the day before.

Give me the money!

Mario is in love with his beyblades lately. He’s dying to buy Japanese ones on eBay. But he has little to no money in his wallet. So he decides to clean his room, Maria’s room and the bathroom to earn some money. Granted however, he does not tell Jon or me about this  decision so we did not set any price we’d pay for him to do these chores. And Maria never did either. 

He finishes “cleaning” Ri’s room, which entails throwing her clothes in random drawers and tossing random objects on the ground onto her bed. I think his mantra is “if the floor is clean, the room is clean.” He walks downstairs and informs Ri that he cleaned her room and she needed to pay him. She casually finds her wallet and whips out a $20 bill to give him. This all happens while Jon and I are at work.

When we come home, we hear what happened. Mario now assumes because of Ri’s ridiculous generosity that he is going to score serious cash from me and Jon for cleaning two rooms. Wrong. He’s deflated when we tell him we may give him $1 for his efforts. Ri comes to his side advocating about what a thorough cleaning job he did.  

Patty came in town to watch M&M while we went to Cancun last week. She lost her phone the day before her arrival and she was upset she’d have to buy a new one. While she was taking Ri to school one morning, Ri found Patty’s phone hidden in the car seat. Patty was so relieved. She offered Ri $5 for finding it. Ri’s response: “you keep it Grandma for when we go to the lake this Summer.” Mario later found out Patty offered $5 to Ri. His response: “What?! I didn’t have a chance to try to find it in Grandma’s car and get $5. Not fair!”

Jon and I arrived home from Cancun. We had bought a couple of drinks at the airport and I had gotten two Mexican coins back from the cashier. I slipped them in my pocket without looking at them. As Ri and Mario opened the last of their souvenir gifts, I remembered the coins. I took them out and handed one to Ri and one to Mario. Ri looked at it and said “cool, a $5 coin.” Mario looked at his and said “wait, mine is only $1.” Ri looked at me with a concerned look. She immediately handed her $5 coin to Mario and told him she’d trade. I stopped her arm from reaching his hand. But he had already rejected her offer. It’s like he innately knew there wasn’t anything he was going to do with pesos here in the US so why use his good will on that exchange with Ri. Or, for all I know, he innately knew that $5 pesos wasn’t even worth $1 in US currency so why bother. It would not surprise me a bit.

Six year old boys … Will be … Dorks

Boys are strange, goofy, little creatures. How is it that I thought I would do better with a boy than with a girl? I remember being pregnant with Ri and swearing she was a boy. How could I, the consummate tomboy, ever have a daughter? Then I found out I was pregnant with a girl and was terrified for months. But then something magical happened when she was born – I became a mother to a girl. When she started 1st grade, I remembered starting first grade and all of the crap that girls – even at that age – put each other through. I could sympathize when she came home crying because girls were ignoring her. I could reassure her that she is a strong, smart girl and that no one should make her feel differently. And I could carry a passion in my voice because I’ve been there and I’ve survived.
But then there’s Mario. When I got pregnant again, Ri was almost two. I was digging having a girl, and I had trepidation about having a boy. When Jon and I went to the doctor’s office to find out the sex, and the doctor announced “you’re having a boy!”, I remember the stress I felt. “How would I handle a boy after having a girl? How would Ri enjoy a little brother versus a baby sister like I had?” I walked around after we found out the sex worried I may not love him as much as I loved Ri.
Ahh, but then he popped into this world (quite literally) and my heart melted. He cried and ate and slept just like Ri (lots of eating and crying; not much sleeping). He learned to crawl and walk like Ri. He mumbled the words “mama” and “daddy” just like Ri. He went to daycare and preschool and learned about numbers and characters just like Ri.
But then he went to kindergarten. Just like Ri…at first. But progressively, not so much like Ri. While she came home and dutifully did homework and talked about her day, he wiggled around in his chair and wanted to forego talking in order to wrestle. Ri would never bring home any grade less than a three (out of four) but Mario brought home some twos (and laughed about them). Where Ri cried her eyes out the day a note was sent home from the teacher that informed us she had talked when she wasn’t supposed, Mario tried to hide a similar note and then tried to justify why the teacher was wrong and he was right.
Yep, it’s a whole new ball game dealing with a boy. I can still hang with him when it comes to wrestling or playing football or tossing the frisbee, but when it comes to these goofy boy antics, I am lost. I took him and his friend to lunch, and all they did was punch each other, talk in weird voices, and wrestle on the ground. What do you do with that?!
We will need to set limits on appropriate behavior with him – like when we went to the doctor’s office today and he gave inappropriate answers to her questions or didn’t answer at all – that’s just not gonna fly. But his overall day-to-day goofiness and dorkiness is here to stay, I believe. Therefore, I better take a deep breath and embrace the dork in me and try to appreciate him for all his boy goofiness. After all, I know I will miss it when he’s 19 and too cool for school.





Now will you stay? We were all going a little nutty the last month, especially Mom who wanted the kids outdoors but couldn’t throw them out in rainy 40 degree weather or snowstorms. But today, oh gorgeous sun and blue skies and mild weather. We couldn’t handle more than ten minutes indoors. Bike rides, the woods, yard work, trampoline – anything to soak up the rays.

Even Rocco seemed in a better mood.
But alas, the school and work week must come and night must fall. We gathered in the babes to finish homework. I was busy helping Mario with his timeline when I called into Ri to see if she wanted corn or peas for dinner. No answer. I peaked in the family room and saw this:

Ahh, Spring, another aspect I love about you. Kids asleep from exhaustion at 6:45 pm. >

Spring is coming…

Yesterday ranks at the top of my list for awesome Winter days because it delivered hope that Spring will be coming shortly. We got up to 50 degrees!
I got in a long run in the morning and then came home to the kids playing the card game, War. Mario had all the aces and was whooping on Ri. Thank god Ri is a good sport and can laugh it all off. Every time Mario won, she’d growl at him and he would laugh hysterically. That was more fun than the actual card game.


After War, they built a fort on our bed and played together while I cleaned up the downstairs. Then Mario rode bikes with Quinn while Ri and I took Rocco for a walk. Ri broke out her bike for the walk, too. The first bike rides of the year! Whoo-hoo! Spring is coming.

Rocco followed her like a bodyguard on the walk. It was Girl Scout cookie pick-up day so we headed over to Kimberly’s to pick up Maria’s 207 cookies. she rocked it out this year! The entire car trunk was full of boxes of Samoas, Thin Mints, Do Si Dos, and Trefoils. If we got stranded, we’d be fine for 3 months.
We came home and unloaded them in the garage and then started on our way. Mario decided he wanted to help us, too. So there we were just like a couple of months ago when we went out to sell the cookies – all three of us and Rocco walking door to door and enjoying each other’s company. I just adore these kiddos. We passed out the initial round to six houses and then needed a pb&j break. After chowing on some lunch, we headed out again (sans Mario who decided he needed done dad time). This is how the stroller looked as we headed out on our next delivery.

Ri was a trooper – she made it to every house. I was so proud of her! She would calculate how much people owed before she walked up to the door and always say “thank you.” What a good business woman.
As a treat, I allowed her to take Rocco to the doggie wash. We’ve passed it a hundred times on our walk and wanted to take Rocco but never got around to it. Rocco, we found out, would have rather kept it that way. He was not fond of the water or the shampoo. I had to hold him tight the entire time. Ri wanted go help wash him but Mario declined because it would have meant he got a little wet (he can’t stand for his clothes to get wet).

He had to spend 45 minutes under the dryer. We left so we didn’t have to see the torture. I am sure he was like “seriously, people?!” But look at how darling he looked afterwards!

Love love love the day. I am so grateful for sweet kids, a supportive hubby, a running partner pup, and an incredible family. And for Spring coming….

Future careers

It came to me last night. Maria is going to be a lawyer and Mario is going to be an actor.

I took the kids upstairs last night to get them ready for bed. On the way up, I asked Mario if he gave Grandma and Peepaw a kiss and hug when they left that afternoon. He looked away from me as he muttered the word “yeah” and I could see a little grin. I repeated my question and asked him to tell me the truth. He looked at me and explained that he forgot. As he explained, he tried to jump from the bed to hug me. I stepped back and told him “no playing” until we talked. He fell to the ground and looked up at me with pathetic, watery eyes and cried “I can’t believe you wouldn’t hug me. My own mother wouldn’t hug me!”
Maria swooped in like Superwoman and started at me.
“Mom, how could you be so mean to Mario? All he wanted was to see his mom when he got home and you won’t even hug him?!”
I explained to Ms. Justice that I just wanted Mario to understand that he needs to appreciate all he gets from his family and make sure he says thank you to people. Maria started it up again:
“He did say thank you, mom. He even hugged them earlier in the day. But he couldn’t kiss them because they left too quickly. He would have ran out and grabbed them if he knew they were leaving but he was upstairs cleaning his room for you.”
I knew that was an exaggeration, which Maria has gotten very good at lately. Adding one little, additional fact to seal the deal. Meanwhile, Mario stood to the side of the room looking completely dejected. I walked up to him and said “I love you pumpkin. I just want you to appreciate all you have. Now give me a hug.” As I reached out to wrap my arms around him, he backed away. I could see him start to smile but he held it back.
“I won’t hug you now. You wouldn’t even let me hug you earlier so I won’t hug you now.”
He looked away towards the wall and I am almost sure he was smiling. He does this so I will keep going after him and beg him to let me hug him.
When I walked away, he faked a little, muffled cry. I walked back and wrapped my arms around him. He wiggled around. I continued to hug him and kiss him. He finally gave in and let me hug him without restraint. He eventually looked up at me, brushed the hair out of my face, looked at me with a serious look, and said “love you, mom” just like actors I used to watch on the Guiding Light soap opera.
Maria joined in the hug. As she leaned over me, she explained “we just want to be perfect for you and that’s hard to do all the time so you need to understand that and not get so upset.” Just like a trial advocate who taught me in law school.
Heaven help me.

G for Grumpy

I walked in the door this morning after hitting the gym and found this precious sight. Mario was reading his baggie book out loud while Ri listened. He struggled with the word “grumpy”. He saw the expression on the boy’s face in the book and took a stab at the word.
“He is ‘angry.”
Maria gently corrected him.
“Good try little buddy. It’s not ‘angry.’ It starts with a ‘g.’ Try it again.”
“Oh, grumpy!” Mario exclaimed. He must have recalled reading that word with his teacher earlier.
Maria praised him.
He completed the book and asked me to sign his paper. Maria spoke up.
“I already completed it, Mom. You just need to sign your name.”
I looked at the paper. It had the book’s title on it, the date, and then the words “Mario did amazing!” in the Comments section. I felt a burst of happiness at the entire sight, and knew my Wednesday would be wonderful.


Surviving Winter

This Winter is absolutely killin’ me. I think they said we’ve had over 29 inches of snow and a ridiculous number of days at 15 degrees or below. I can’t stand not being able to get up in the morning and take a run. I actually drove to the gym this morning, which already irritates me because I can’t stand having to drive to a gym (when I got home and Ri saw that I drove she gasped “Mary Menkedick Ionno DROVE to the gym?!”). Once there, I can’t stand to run on a treadmill so I hit the weights. I will look like the Hulk by springtime.
At least the kiddos have gotten out here and there to play. It’s great having Rocco around because he’s always in a playful spirit. The kids immediately latch onto it and join right in with him.


Last weekend, Grandma Ionno came down to stay with us. Alana and Gio came over, too. It was a whoopin’ good time. We took the kids to Galaxy Games and Golf on Saturday afternoon. They climbed up and down the gym set for 45 minutes. I joined them for 20 minutes and was exhausted when I went to sit down. All of them were actually sweating when they came out. Love it.

It wouldn’t be such a hit in the pocket if we left after the gym. But the kids are addicted to the video games, or moreover, the tickets generated from playing the video games. It floors me how a kid can spend over $20 to get 100 tickets and then have a choice of a plastic alien, a bag of sweet-tarts, or a balloon. But, I’m the idiot that keeps buying tokens….




It’s worth it to see the smiles on their faces. Patty hung right in there with me amidst the insanity of people running all over the place (kids and adults). She can hang really well. No wonder she can still take all four grand kids for days on end. She is the energizer bunny.

After Galaxy, we headed home to chill for a while. The kids played the rest of the day and evening (they got a sleepover!). It is a beautiful thing to have a niece and nephew practically the same age as my kids. And to have them at an age where they get along well and get excited at the prospect of a sleepover is all the better. Weekend trips to hang with my aunts (who were only a couple years older than me) make me appreciate the importance of routine cousin get-togethers.
On Sunday morning, the kids begged to head to DK Diner for breakfast. Ri and Mario had been filling Alana’s and Gio’s heads with stories of their incredible, gargantuan donuts. We made it before the big rush and promptly segregated ourselves to a girl table and boy table. Mario had to sit at the bar where he and Jon sit every Saturday morning (and Ri when she goes). Mario interacts with a cook named Mario. The cook Mario hooks little Mario up with some serious scrambled eggs. Then Mario adds a big chocolate long john to the mix. Gio copied Mario’s order, and they both sat staring at SpongeBob on the tv.

Meanwhile, us ladies sat at a table and talked about fractions and our favorite music and our crushes. Alana got a cinnamon roll the size of her head and Ri switched it up with a chocolate croissant. They both decided on Mickey Mouse pancakes and devoured them.

I wish Patty and I could have taken a walk but the cold and snow kept us inside. The kids loved having us all together though (all the kids slept with Patty on the floor in the family room Saturday night). Alana and Gio had to leave us on Sunday evening to get ready for school but Patty stayed to watch the first half of the Super Bowl. We made chili and got chips and dip. The kids wrestled with me and jumped all around with glee in having Grandma around. Mario wanted us all to root for Denver but Grandma was adamant that she wanted Seattle. She must have had that grandma intuition…!