Blake Shelton!

We got VIP tickets to the Blake Shelton concert for Maria for Christmas. It is all she wanted – she made it very clear that she could care less if she got any other present from any other family member other than these tickets. She wanted everyone to chip in so that we could buy the “VIP experience” with the singer she has adored for over a year. Jon and I are still at a loss as to how she enjoys country music so much. Neither one of us listen to it. It must be our two former babysitters from years ago. They both listened to country music as they drove Maria around town and that genre must have seeped deep down in her blood.

Maria counted down the days remaining before she got to see Blake in Pittsburgh. I could hav really cared less about seeing Blake but was excited to spend some quality mother/daughter time. We had to drive three hours to Pittsburgh, and another three hours back home to Columbus (I knew we wouldn’t get much alone time while in Pittsburgh because we were watching my sweet niece when we weren’t at the concert).

I kept reminding myself not to place any expectations on the mother/daughter time with Ri. I repeated the mantra “just enjoy her presence.”. I knew better than to expect her to give me insight into her friendships or boys or thoughts about her changing body. Any conversation like that would have made her recoil and clam up. So, we talked about random, and fairly insubstantial things such as what we would do with Elena, what Mario and dad were probably doing on a Saturday afternoon, when our cousin would have her baby….. We also found a good car trivia site and answered questions about countries, polar animals and presidents (she knows I love to get some education in on car trips).

Sarah and Elena dropped us off at PPG Arena at 4 PM. The line was already 30 people deep when we got there. We stood out in the chilly weather for about 25 minutes before they let us enter. We had a slight scare with me not being able to find our tickets on my phone right away but I came through. We retrieved our VIP lanyards and travel mug, andstood in line waiting to be escorted back to the lounge.

Maria stood twirling her lanyard anxious to head back. After what seemed like forever, they began to escort us through the hallways to the lounge. When we arrived at the lounge, there were escalators to the left. The guides were escorting fans down the escalator to get merchandise. However, when we got to the bottom, people were going back up to the lounge. I knew we had to be one of the first to enter the lounge or we would not get close to the stage. So, Ri and I left the merchandise counter (the next day I realized we got one free item with the VIP package that we lost out on) and squeezed in the line to enter the lounge. We saw the Voice chair as we walked in, and a small stage over to the right with a wood fence in front of it. There was already a group of older women and men who had placed seats against the fence to create a front row. Maria and I darted directly in back of the seats. People were starting to move over towards the area and we knew that if we left our position somebody would grab it. Maria and I quickly realized that we would be standing in the same spot for the next 2 1/2 hours.

I allowed her to go back to the Voice chair to get her picture taken. I also had her scour for any food. She returned with a huge chocolate chip cookie. There was nothing more. The time moved slow as we glanced around at the crowd and watched for any movement behind the curtain on the stage.

Maria’s phone was almost ready to die and mine was only at 60% so we did not want to play Crossy Road in order to pass the time away (we played this game while waiting for flights to Oaxaca and during down time with Elena – it’s our go-to). We played a couple of rounds of 20 questions and then the ABC game but we were both struggling to concentrate – Ri because she was so excited to see Blake and me because I was so excited for Maria to see Blake. She had been waiting for months for this moment. My favorite part of the wait was when Ri’s legs got tired and she leaned into me to hold her. The side of her face laid on my shoulder and I rubbed her back as I listened to the rhythm of her breath. I held the same person who, 13 years ago, used to ride in a snuggli on my chest up and down the streets of Grandview. The same girl who had me carry her in the backpack until the age of five, and would rest that same face on my shoulder when she tired of walking the hills.

7 PM arrived and fans were antsy. People started chanting Blake’s name. Maria continuously darted her eyes back-and-forth to each side of the stage to determine whether Blake was behind the curtain or not. Each time a song would end, the crowd silenced with the hope that his stage manager would be introducing him. But then a new song would start up. Finally, at 7:15, the stage manager bounced onto the stage and without much fanfare, introduced Blake Shelton. Maria immediately bawled when she saw him first come out.

He greeted the crowd and immediately went into his first song. Maria stood there with her phone in video mode and tears slowly trickling from her eyes. She was standing right in front of him! I was so happy for her. He finished his song and informed the crowd that he was going to read a couple of questions. He scrolled through the iPad in front of him and picked a question. It was from a random woman in the back of the lounge. He asked her to wave and thanked for her question. This made me want him to pick Maria’s question even more because he would then make eye contact with her to thank for the question. He moved onto another question – it was not Maria.

“Come on” I kept thinking to myself. How could he resist a 13-year-old’s question? Maria was one of two teens in the entire crowd. He finished answering the second question and pronounced he would read one more. He scrolled through and then stated:

“This next question is from Maria in Grandview Heights, Ohio, age 13″…. My stomach dropped. I looked over at Maria. She was sobbing as Blake Shelton stared at her. I guess without knowing it I had begun pointing at her when Blake Shelton started reading her question so he fixed his eyes on her. He noticed her sobbing and asked her why she was crying. She could not respond because her mouth would not open. She was paralyzed with awe. He proceeded to read her question, and expressed to the crowd how confused he was by it. It was hilarious. As she tried to talk through her sobs to explain it, he noticed that there was more to her question so he continued reading it. By the time he got done answering it, she was smiling and he was relieved. It was the sweetest interaction. He then grabbed his guitar and told the crowd that he was going to play another song. What came next was magical for her. He dedicated the next song to Maria. He made a joke about the song being a drinking song and that it was a little odd to dedicate it to a 13-year-old but he was doing it anyway. She stood there trying to videotape him while her shoulders and body shook with pure joy.

He wrapped up his time with a few more questions from the audience and then thanked everybody for coming to see him. As he stood up, he looked right at Maria, smiled, and threw his guitar pic to her. I just could not believe it. She was in complete shock. The crowd beside us all congratulated her when he left the stage. Her eyes were as big as a doe’s eyes in the headlights. She was trembling.

We walked to the back of the room to breathe. Two of his stage hands, two women, approached us with the blue plastic cup we had seen him drinking from earlier. They offered it to Maria. They told her that it was endearing to see her so excited to see Blake Shelton, and they thanked her for being a great fan (I am convinced those two women were the ones that picked Maria’s question for Blake Shelton to read).

Maria remained in a state of shock as we rode the elevators down to the show. She bought a Blake Shelton longsleeve shirt in order to wear it to school on Monday. She snap-chatted with all of her friends to tell them the news. I don’t think she came to her right mind until long after the concert started.

How many times had I dreamt of Andy Gibb or Prince or Michael Jackson looking straight at me from the stage and saying hello?! Her first concert as a teenager and she gets that treatment. It’s all downhill from here, baby doll….:)

There is no doubt that the memory of Blake Shelton looking at her and speaking to her will be seared in her mind. It is definitely seared in my mind. But also seared in my mind is the absolute joy on her face when she saw him walk on stage. I am so grateful for having been in her presence to witness.

Summertime fun

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

20140605-184804.jpg
After a yummy chicken and salad meal and some good laughs about 80’s and 90’s music with Meg and Sarah and Emily, I left to head home to Jon for a night together sans kids. Ri and Mario headed out with Peepaw to fish.
20140605-184941.jpg

20140605-184953.jpg
They didn’t catch anything but they did swim at the beach until 8 pm. They are lucky they have some energetic grandparents. The next night they slept in the barn all by themselves. Mario was scared and kept trying to convince Ri that they should rethink the barn. “There are spiders in the barn, Ri.” She would not be scared. They took Rosie to sleep with them and they had a huge flashlight. I can’t believe they did it.
On Sunday, Meg and Jon drove back and forth to Zanesville twice to make sure that Ri got to partake in 30 minutes of softball pictures with our Reds team. I’m glad though because I wanted her in the picture.

20140605-194606.jpg
Meanwhile, Peepaw and Mario fished on the banks of the river. Mario called to tell me he caught 13 fish and they were all bigger than Peepaw’s catches (of course). He also excitedly relayed how he and Peepaw found these big rocks to fish from and how they cast their lines and waited and when one bit, how they pulled and pulled to reel it in to them. Mario will have some good memories and some well-honed skills as he gets older. Ri sat around the cabin chatting with Sarah as she cooked dinner just like another 30 year old in the room. And they christened the new corn hole game that dad and Jorge built and painted. Ri and Meg kicked some butt against the boys, I hear.
The kids returned on Tuesday in time to go to Music on the Lawn at the library. Ri thinks she’s “too old” for it but she was happy to take Luka and play the mom role.

20140606-100846.jpg

20140606-101026.jpg
She also let me slip in some selfies with her.

20140606-101118.jpg
How long will that last?
Mario found a few boys from his class and went to town on the wrestling front. Ridiculous – wrestling with shoes off and eventually shirts off looking like little rugrats.

20140606-122351.jpg

20140606-122406.jpg
And when they were worn out and sore from beating each other up, they relaxed in front of Henry’s mom’s phone to take turns playing Goat Rampage. Boys.

20140606-122536.jpg
The music ended and we headed home to see Jon, who brought me home a steak and scalloped potatoes from Hyde Park where he took a colleague out to dinner. It sure beat the bag of Cheetos I chowed down on at the library (the kids drank root beer floats and donuts – yes, we are the poster children for healthy eating…)!

Cake Walk 2014

Cake Walk 2014 kicked my butt. I don’t know if it was the opening and closing of the festivities or the loud band music and even louder kids, or the chocolate cake we devoured once home.
Maria went with her friend, Kathryn since she had a play date with her after school. This year she continued to step one foot closer to teenage-hood. She came to see Mario and me only a few times and it was only to ask for money and water. She hung out with one group of girls for a minute and then others the next. I likes seeing that.

20140405-143338.jpg
Then she found our next door neighbor who is Grandview’s baton twirler and stood with her to try to learn how to twirl. She must have stood up there for 30 minutes.
>

20140405-143609.jpg

20140405-143644.jpg
Meanwhile, I should have left at 8:30 to head up to the event with Mario because he would have never known what time it started. I gotta take advantage of his youth while I am able. And all he wanted to do was play the kids games and all I wanted to do was try to win a cake. Guess who won?
>

20140405-145414.jpg

20140405-145443.jpg

20140405-145504.jpg
He played the golf game again and again. Then he moved onto the football game where the volunteer was absent. All the kindergarten boys were loving the freedom of that. Soon a volunteer showed up so we moved to the lollipop game. Such anxiety each time he pulled a sucker out to see if it had a blue tip or not. He moved to the treasure chest and scored these dandies.
>

20140405-145816.jpg
Then we hit the baseball pitch. He was allowed to stand on the line closest to the catcher but refused. He wanted to stand where the older kids had to stand. And don’t you know he got a strike on his first pitch.
>

20140405-150001.jpg
Ri kept trying to win a cake but to no avail. I finally got Mario to head down with me and try to win. After three more hole-in-one attempts, he finally followed.
There was Ri standing in line with Kathryn and Evie. She smiled when she saw me and waved (at least I still get that). Mario and I went to another line and danced to the music as the band played. The music stopped, we sat in our chairs and hoped. Unfortunately, our numbers weren’t called. Mario got livid last year when this happened but this year he brushed it off. We stayed for the band’s last tune and although we didn’t win a cake, we bought a sweet blue one in the form if a mustache that Kathryn and her mom had made. And we dug in at 10 pm when we finally got home.
>

20140405-164320.jpg

Serenades

I asked Mario to sing me a quick song for Valentine’s Day last week after I sang one to him on our drive home. The only way he’d agree to sing me a song is if I’d stop singing to him (neither child appreciates my voice).

And this is why I will never refuse a request from the kids to jump in bed and snuggle.

20130218-170148.jpg

When we picked up Maria, I did the same thing – sang her a Valentine’s ballad. She, too, agreed to sing me a song if I stopped crooning. We went from sweet, innocent Mario to sultry, Lady Gaga Maria.

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Weekend wrap-up

Big Mario, as we affectionally call our Italian cousin, celebrated his 60th birthday last night with a surprise party at a restaurant near his home in Dover. Jon, the kids and I drove to Dover yesterday at 3 pm in order to be there by 5 and avoid ruining the surprise by pulling in at 5:30 with Big Mario. I was feeling a little “puny” (as Patty calls it) on the way out but the birthday sheet cake boosted my spirits. Ri enjoyed dipping her fried chicken in ranch dressing. Mario enjoyed crooning with Larry, Mario’s friend and the singer for the evening.

20130127-134721.jpg

20130127-134732.jpg

Mario was truly surprised and grateful. He went around hugging family and friends. All of his kids made it to the party, which I’m sure meant a lot to him. Jon and I always crack up at Big Mario and how much he wants his kids to stay around him. He would have them all live in his house with him and Vickie if he had his way. On the other hand, Jon and I are dreaming of the day M&M go off to college…. Ha.

Mario was fascinated with Larry’s singing set-up and just stood next to him most of the party. Larry let him sing at one point and Mario chose “Gangum Style.” A little different than Moon River. Maria sat with some older women and listened to them gossip. Her favorite activity at these events. I can just see her gabbing away when she’s 60 years old as she sips her coffee and eats her pie.

We got home at 9:30 and I went straight to bed with M&M. Usually I can sleep off these funks. I felt a tad better this morning. We stayed in and made pancakes and eggs. Ri and I had to improvise on the chocolate chips for the pancakes since Mario ate the rest of the baking chips. We cut up Hershey Kisses into small pieces and added them. Not bad.

Mario saw a dinosaur exhibit at the Convention Center on tv so we decided to give that a whirl. They advertised bouncey houses and dino digs and mining areas. It was $16 admission but I figured we’d be there a good chunk of the day. Maria brought Janira so $50+ dollars later we were looking at mechanical dinosaurs. And that’s all we were doing. It was the biggest rip-off. They had a quarter of the area cornered off with mechanical dinos and the rest was a few bouncey houses and dino digs. The problem was that you had to pay another $20 per kid to play in those areas. Unfrickenbelievable. I was so irritated. So, in the end, I paid over $50 to see ten dinosaurs. We were there less than 30 minutes.

The other parents walking out with me were just as pissed. And I felt for a lot of them who told me they saved up to come only to have their money wasted on nothing. I complained to the people taking money about the false advertising but that was like talking to air. Whatever, I made myself let it go but those dino promoters will get theirs someday.

Ri and Janira had begged to sit in the massage chairs prior to the dino exhibit and I had said no. When we left, that was our only saving grace. Mario treated the girls to a massage ($1 each) and they were in heaven thanking him over and over again.

20130127-143243.jpg

So, what to do at noon on a winter Sunday? I tried to get them to head to Barnes and Noble but they wanted a bouncey house. The only place I could think of was Galaxy Games and Golf. They were game. I think half of Columbus was there with us and it didn’t help my headache at all but the kids did expend some serious energy. Somehow that still doesn’t tend to equate with an early bed time, however.

20130127-144518.jpg

20130127-144525.jpg

And now, a pizza, cookie and coke later, we are heading home for some relaxation and some Spa Science in the tub. I’m hoping that Ri can create an elixir to take all my winter cold aches away, and make my stomach feel better after that delicious meal at Galaxy Games and Golf.

Playing his sax

20130104-154445.jpg

A picture taken by my brother-in-law of my little brother playing the sax at my folks’ farm on New Year’s Eve.

I love everything about this picture. It makes me want to get M and M into music lessons. I wish I would have stuck with piano when I was younger but sports beat it out. Why can’t we create a button that allows you to see into your future when you’re a teenager and realize what a gift it would be to play a musical instrument?

Maria took lessons with Uncle Jack for a bit but Jack got too busy and she wasn’t that into it. My girlfriend recently told me that she requires her kids to practice one musical instrument and play one sport. I like the idea….

Little do Ri and Mario know what they are in for based on this one captivating, magical picture!

Playing the Steps

Ri found this video on my Facebook as she perused through all of my friends’ posts. She called Mario and I in the room to watch it with her and we all thought about putting that on our steps. As Ri pointed out, there’s just one problem: when I sneak out at 6:30 am to run, Mario will hear me for sure as I tip-toe down the steps.

Not a bad way to wake up though!

Alpine Ghost fever

20121124-221221.jpg

Jon and I got an evening to ourselves thanks to Meg and dad. We ate incredibly royal food at Hyde Park (au gratin potatoes are ridiculously good) and then I felt a little crazy and decided to make a night of it by going out to a campus bar to watch my extremely talented little brother play in his band Alpine Ghost. His musical talent floors me. How did he get so much and me so little?! I should have stuck with piano at age 9….

I recorded this video –

– for Mario to watch tomorrow because he loves screaming the lyrics like his Uncle Jack!

Obama Rally

Obama pins, Obama cups, Obama shirts. Protestors. Loud music. Welcome to the OSU Obama rally, Maria and Mario.

I asked our babysitter to drop the kids off at my office with the stroller so that we could walk over to the rally on the Oval. I made the last minute decision when I found out they had a few more tickets at the Obama headquarters downstairs from my office. With as much back and forth between M&M about the candidates, I thought this would be a good experience.

20121010-172807.jpg

I knew from the beginning of our stroller ride that Mario was not gonna hang with me in all of the chaos. He has a nasty cold that has him headache-y and coughing. He perked up a bit when the Secret Service guys talked to him as we went through security and he even danced for them when he caught a bit of Black Eyed Peas on the loudspeaker. But when we moved into the crowd and the speakers were blasting and the crowd was cheering, he wailed “I want to go, mom!” I tried to distract him but there was no use. So, I made them take in all of the people and excitement and energy of the place and always remember how important it is to vote. On the count of three, we all yelled “Vote!” And then we headed back to my office.

20121010-173441.jpg

Of course, once in my office, Mario came alive with the sight of chocolate everywhere (a lot of us have bowls of chocolate on our desks). He remembers the chocolate all too well and went directly to the rooms that had it. Maria went directly to my desk to be “the boss.” They could have played in my room all night.

But Jon rescued me and drove up like a knight in shining armor to pick us up. We ate Bob Evans (could I live on chocolate chip pancakes? Yes), and then I rode home (no room for my bike in the truck) only to find M&M in the driveway riding their bikes in the dark waiting for me.

“We beat you, mom!”
“Yea, but I’m gonna get you now” I remarked as I chased them down the driveway listening to them laugh and prod me to chase them faster.

20121010-183044.jpg

After engaging in these chases for twenty minutes, I finally petered the kids out. They parked their bikes and went inside. Mario turned on the computer and yelled “Mom, come here!” I walked over and he said “see mom, I told you Mitt Romney is more famous because he’s on the front page of the computer!” Maria and I shook our heads and scrolled down to find a picture of Obama to show him.