Cancun 2014

I never thought I’d complain about the heat after the Winter we have had this year. But I returned from my morning run in Cancun sweating and feeling nauseous because of the sun beaming down on me. I think my body was in shock after running in 5 degree weather the last two months. But that was the only hot weather complaint I had while on our annual Cancun vacation with Jon’s work folks.
We left on Wednesday morning at 4:30 am (I braved 10 degree weather in shorts with the excitement of landing in 80 degree weather). We arrived at the hotel at 11 am, did our Chevy Chase Vacation head bobbing on the balcony of our room while taking in the ocean, and headed down to swim. We had a blast playing in the waves. Meanwhile, Ri called us four times in a row to tell us how much she missed us. Mario was perfectly content with Grandma Ionno but Ri missed having us around her. We better take that in while we can because I have a feeling that may not continue in a couple of years.
We hung out a good deal with Jon’s friend Craig and his wife Julie. Julie and I tease Jon and Craig about their bromance but it is quite darling. They told Julie and me that they take care of one another – when one is having a bad day, the other lifts him up. And when Craig heard Jon ordering a coke at McDonald’s one morning, he counseled him on making better choices. Precious. Julie talked to me about Pure Barre and how much she loved it. I think that will be my new adventure in exercise…. They are a sweet couple and we all laughed a lot when we were together.

Jon and I engaged in our normal routine: I get up and workout, we meet for the killer breakfast buffet (Ri would adore it), we jump in the ocean and swim, we get massages, we jump back in the ocean, we eat dinner, we crash. Not a bad life. I even swam with a shark this year! I didn’t mean to by any means…. I was looking for shells a ways down the beach and stood up to find a three foot shark swimming by me. I froze and let him continue to circle me and when he moved away a third time, I darted onto the beach. I couldn’t wait to tell Jon and Mario! And Jon experienced a first at the beach, too. He got a pedicure! His feet were baby soft and he had to admit he loved it. I imagine he will be sneaking away at lunch to get one every three weeks. He did have to endure his guy friends giving him grief about his robe though. The front desk lady gave him a super short one to wear even after he asked for another. When he walked into the waiting area, his buddy Phil shook his head and said “Jon, you just made my day.” His other friend told him that the robe looked like it would fit his twelve year old daughter. Nothin’ like guy friends to calm your anxiety. When we got up to the room, there was a present laying there for Jon – a toddler-size robe compliments of “The Guys”. We laughed for ten minutes straight.
Jon’s boss, Jim tried to teach us to body surf to no avail. The man is like balsa wood the way he rides a wave nearly into shore. Jon and I made it about five feet from where the wave crested.
We missed hanging with Dave and Jen and Joe and Lydia – our Michigan buddies. Our schedules never lined up except when Jen and I got to dance to our Violent Femmes song in the pool Friday night. We are gonna need some time on Dave’s boat this Summer….


Patty cranked out four straight days with the kiddos, god love her! Maria got strept throat on Thursday. She called us up barely able to speak but mustering up the words to tell us that “this is the time when she most needs her parents near her.” Talk about knowing how to give a guilt trip…! When we arrived home on Saturday night (a day early between Ri’s strept and the snowmageddon predicted for Sunday), these posters were hanging:

I love how this one has our ages.

And this one poses questions to us (answers: I’d rather eat with Michael Jackson and Jon would rather eat a snail).
We got the most warm and welcoming hugs from the munchos when we stepped in the door (we need to leave more often).
And Rocco was in heaven with his doggy pals at the farm. As Jorge commented “Rocco likes Winter.”

All is back to normal again: kids, Rocco, 48 year old dad and 42 year old mom are back at home together waiting for Spring to come.

Woman’s Best Friend

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

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

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

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



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.


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.

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.




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.



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!

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.




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.




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.


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!”



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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.





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.

Weekend bliss

This weekend rocked on so many levels – the weather was incredible at a mild 72 degrees; the kids were in great moods; I didn’t get bombarded with work calls….

When I came home on Friday, Ri and Mario were hiding in the trees with their walkie talkies. I saw Mario but didn’t dare tell him I did or he would have been so upset. He loves thinking that he’s getting one over on us. Both of them were in camo – Maria was wearing Mario’s 4T jacket and shorts – and rockin’ them out!

On Saturday, we cranked out some house cleaning due to the incessant rain. Ri cleaned the top of the fridge and Mario cleaned the floor (he stopped prematurely because Dragonvale kept calling out to him). Ri hung in with me though – we can count on her to help clean anywhere but her own room.

The rain let up in the late afternoon and the kids and I took a walk up to Lazy Days festival at the library. I was a sucker and let them each buy a hand-made stuffed animal from a local vendor, Cherrie. I justified the purchase by telling myself that I’m supporting local business – I was secretly hoping that one of the kids would get the pig with a tutu but they chose the alligator and owl. She had the cutest animals ever.

Ri had to get her shaved ice drink with apple and lemon-lime flavors. She loves those things.

We got home and played Candy Land. Mario opted to continue his Dragonvale game on my phone so Ri and I played together. Ri has gotten a bit of a competitive streak since playing softball so when I took the lead by picking up the Ice Cream Princess and she got pushed back to near the start of the game by picking up the gingerbread man, I knew there was trouble. She threw our plastic men and the cards and cried “I can’t I believe I’m going to lose to my mom! I can’t even beat an old person!”

Mario cocked his head at me and quipped “She sure has some emotions!” That added fuel to the fire.

After she calmed down, we took a bike ride to the park. Ri loves when I rode my bike with her rather than run so Mario hopped on my bike in the “baby” seat he can still fit into and we were off. We zoomed down two hills and therefore, had to go up two of them. Ri was a trooper pushing her bike up. At the park, Mario wanted to try the monkey bars. He got across three bars and fell. Determined, he tried again. And made it. He was charged up.

I cheered him on but knew in the back of my head the entire time that Ri was gonna be upset if she couldn’t do it. Sure enough, she tried over and over but couldn’t get across. I told her that I could never do it as a kid either and there were lots of kids that couldn’t do it. Nothing helped. Mario tried to help by detailing every step he took to go across the bars. That really didn’t help. Ri stomped off and got on her bike to leave. We joined her and I continued to tell her that she was wonderful at other things. Mario chimed in with the sweetest little attribute: “Ri, I’m so scared to go off the high dive and you do it without being scared at all!” What a doll. Those moments seal the deal as to why we chose to have two kids. Ri smiled and kissed his cheek (Maria style which means she smashed her lips into the side of his face).

This morning, Mario got up for a run at 7:10. He got into bed with me in his t-shirt and shorts and whispered “I’m going for a run.” I heard the door open and knew he was off. Jon and I stood outside and watched him run all the way to the end of the street. He wants to sweat so much that he has “big sweat balls” dripping from his face, he tells us. My boy.
Ri took a four mile bike ride with me to Stauf’s and Giant Eagle. Her butt killed when we got home.

I made the kids play outside while I mowed the grass and picked weeds. Mario played like he was all alone in the woods and had to build his own fire to survive. Ri kept begging to play with him but he refused so Jon helped Ri find her own hiding spot, which of course spiked Mario’s interest. He wanted one, too. Before I knew it, there was silence for a while. I came around the corner and found them in their own secret spaces – Mario on his phone and Ri reading US Weekly that she had begged for at the store.

Pure bliss.


Lovin’ the Reds 10K

On Mother’s Day, my girl cousins, Liz and Maggie came up to Columbus. Maggie recently started running and has been on a mission to get others to run. She succeeded at getting Liz to start up and they informed me that they were going to run the Reds 10K race on June 1. The race started near the stadium and ended in the stadium. In The Stadium?! How many years did I go to Reds games as a kid and dream of going on the field? Definitely a bucket list wish. But my non-committed self said “I will think it over” and went about getting dinner ready. As we sat at the table an hour later, Liz asked for my computer.

“I’m signing you and the kids up for the run because I know you won’t do it.”

She typed in my info, asked for my credit card number, and it was done. One thing about me is I don’t like to waste money. There was no way I was going to miss the run if I paid $50 for it. And so it was.

My little sis found out about it and decided she’d come in for it, too. Of course, she wanted to come in to actually race it. I was trying to avoid that piece. I get myself so worked up over these events so I just stopped racing in them years ago. But now Sarah was resurrecting that fire in my belly and I knew as much as I told myself I didn’t care about time, I’d try to win.

My mother and I engaged in much heartache for the three weeks between Mom’s Day and the race about what to do with Mario. We knew Ri would stay close to Julie during the race but were worried Mario may run off. We debated what we could do over and over until Jon finally stepped in and said that he was taking him to Mario’s house to shoot a beebee gun. Mario would prefer that over just about anything (going to Grandma Ionno’s house being the only exception).

Ri and I packed up on Friday night and headed to Cincy. We arrived to welcome arms from Gracie; she and Ri played house and baby dolls all night. Ri slept over at Aunt Julie’s house and got treated to goetta and pancakes in the morning. What a life.

Meanwhile, Sar and I got our sleep. I went to bed at 10 and woke up at 6:30 am ready to head downtown. Liz and Mag drove us and we got pumped up listening to some old school rap (those gals know how to do it).


The Riverfront blew me away – completely different than the Riverfront I grew up with in the 80’s. Is that how you know you’re old, when you start reminiscing like that?! We all piled out of the car and took off for the porta potties before the race began.



Sar found out that your time began when the gun was shot even though we wore chips on our shoes so we made our way to the front of the line. Sar got a heck of a start when the gun shot off and there was no catching up to her after that. We had made a pact to not feel bad if one of us ran ahead and she abided by it! I’m glad she did because it gave me additional incentive to keep my pace up and try to catch her.

I hit mile 1 at a 6:30 pace. Mile 2 at a 7 minute pace. On my way to mile 3, my mind really started to mess with me. A brief synopsis:

“You are over this ego thing. Who cares about your time?”

“Your body is gonna kill if you keep up this pace. Stop!”

“This is ridiculous. Just walk the rest of the race and stop torturing yourself.”

“Push harder. You can beat these gals in front of you.”

“Look at that guy running past me. Show him who’s boss. Catch him.”

“You only have three more miles. That is nothing. Run harder, girl!”

And so it went like a washing cycle – over and over again.

Until I hit mile 5 and saw 36 minutes on the digital screen. Holy cow. One more mile and I could stay under an eight minute pace. The mind games lessened and I concentrated on keeping pace with the guy in front of me. I could see the stadium ahead and then there was confusion. A lady holding a 10K sign told me to turn left onto the bridge. I didn’t think she was right but I turned. Someone yelled “no turn back!” I turned around and headed to the stadium entrance. There were a ton of people standing around and people walking in so I figured it was the end of the race. I was also amazed to be in the stadium – a place I had dreamed of standing when I was a girl. But then reality hit me, literally, as a female runner brushed by me. I looked ahead and saw the blue mat laying on the ground. Shit, the finish is up there! I bolted fifty feet and crossed over the blue sea. I made it. 45 minutes after I began.

I looked around in awe. The green field. The towering stands. Right field where I used to root on Dave Parker. And then I saw my baby sis making her way up the stadium steps.


She turned her head and we stumbled towards each other. We hugged.


We posed for a picture.

And then we walked up the stairs talking about the hell we had just gone through. Sarah hated the last mile and was confused just like me at the finish. But she thought she got third among women based on a spectator yelling “You’re third!” as she crossed the blue sea. We found the white tent and waited for a print out of our results.

Meanwhile, Maggie called and had made it in an eight mile pace. Pretty impressive for just starting to run. Us Heile women are no joke.


Sar was the first to get her printout. She came in 1st in her age group but it said she was 7th in females. She was bummed. How could that be? While we were contemplating that, I got my print out and saw that I was 1st in my age group! I couldn’t believe it. What a feeling of elation and pride.

We met up with Liz who ran almost the entire way (yet another Heile girl feat for just starting to run!) and their dad and sis and friend. We all gave high-fives and congrats. Then the phone rang. Julie and mom and Ri and Grace had arrived. We all hugged and laughed and took way too many pictures.




Mags and I did some congratulatory push ups…

while Ri performed her Strongman exercise and picked up Aunt Sarah.


I found out Sarah won third place among women when I happened to see her name in the third place slot and confirmed it with the race worker. Her prize? To throw out the first pitch at a Reds game! So jealous! Sarah has won gift certificates, tvs, and the like but for this race she got a certificate to throw out a pitch, which would have been cool if she didn’t have to come back all the way from Pittsburgh. And what’s more hilarious is when we went up to the tent to ask what we got for winning our age division, the girl beamed at us and chirped “you get a Reds bobble head!” Sar and I about died laughing. It’s the simple joy of giving your all, I guess….


Ri and Grace got to join in the fun, too and run the warning track. Poor Ri fell within two seconds of her run. Some six year old boy pushed her. Her little knees were scraped and one was bleeding pretty good. But she had her aunt and mom pushing her to keep going so she cranked it out. She’s got that runner in her when she needs it.




Aunt Sarah and I were very proud when she got her medal. Gracie and the crew were up in the stands cheering Ri on as she walked up to them. What an awesome event with family. I was delirious with joy the entire day.

And to top it off, we got to go down the Fan Slide (something they never had when I was little!). Ri made me get a picture of Aunt Sarah because she found it hilarious that we went down, too.


We drove home, put on our bathing suits, and headed to Blue Ash pool. Sar and I took turns heading to the whirlpool. That was pure heaven – I almost fell asleep three times.

Geese, Brownies and Grandma time

Mario rather enjoyed the geese out front of his day care last Friday. At first he tried to pet them but when they moved away he decided to chase after them. They were not amused.


Mario continued to have a word with one goose as he crossed the lot. The poor fellow was all the way across the lot just watching for big bad Mario when I left.

Mario was happy to go to school that day because he knew that Grandma and Grandpa Ionno were picking him up before lunch. He got an entire weekend with them since Jon was at a conference and Ri and I had her Girl Scout Campout. Patty also picked up Giovanni and kept both boys at her house. She is, as I always say, a machine. A full weekend with those two boys would be considered a major punishment to most but to her, it’s delightful. She is so good with them and stands her ground when they go off course. I was talking to her and she had to tell them to settle down and her voice got fierce. All of a sudden I didn’t hear boys’ screaming anymore.

She described to me Mario’s negotiation, or rather, swindling techniques when it came to money. He told Patty he had money to buy a web shooter if she’d take him but when they got there he said “oops, I forgot it.” Then he proceeded to finagle her into buying that and something else. The boy loves money and loves to spend it. When a commercial comes on that deals with saving money (“buy this insurance and save!”) or getting money (“we’ll give you $2000 for your old car…”), his ears perk up and he’s glued to the tv.

The boys built a “tent city” throughout Patty’s and Joe’s condo and begged not to have to leave one another on Sunday. It’s so wonderful that they are at an age where they enjoy one another’s company.


Meanwhile, Ri and I were freezing our tails off in 35 degree weather at the Girl Scout Campout. Ri was so excited about the camp out and literally hopped in my arms when I met her at school to take her out to it. It was a little rough at first but ended well. Ri does not play with a lot of the girls in scouts, probably for numerous reasons. They have stay-at-home moms who arrange after-school play dates. Some of the moms hang out together a lot so their kids do, too. It could also be that Ri does not have the typical silly, antic-oriented playful style that most 8 year-old girls have. I look at her and Alana and there is such a difference in style. Alana would have been running around loony with those girls. Maria is more contemplative and seems to work better when she’s one-on-one with people. At one point, I could tell she felt awkward and she admitted that she was disappointed that no one was really including her. So of course I jumped in the girl mix with her and got her playing with the girls. She had her moments of just sitting back (the girls put on a talent show and each little clique did a different act; Maria held the flashlight because she didn’t want to perform) and I told myself to let her be. I sat back and bit my lip, and all was fine in the end. She did have a blast staying up until 11 pm with one of her girlfriends. They kept flashing lights on us and running around the lodge. She also loved making s’mores (as did I)!




As we drove home on Saturday, she told me she had a good time. Looking back, I did too. I’ve got to let my crap go in those situations and just let her work through it. If she needs me, she’ll get me. She and I had a blast at my work and getting hot cocoa and coffee at Stauf’s that afternoon. We laughed together and had her friend Ceylone over. We both crashed that night by 8:30 and slept until 7:30 the next morning we were so tired from the cot sleeping the night before.

On Sunday we took a run/bike ride, hit hot yoga, and ate bagels at Stauf’s while I read the Times and Ri wrote poems. Here is one to Sarah for graduation:

So much depend
You getting there
So much depend

Not only a budding environmentalist but a budding poet? I just want to eat her up.

While we were camping out and building tents, Jon was getting legs wrapped around him on the dance floor and jammin’ to Gangum Style with his buds. I told him he owes me a night out on the town like that (something about Barthel and Loeshner brings out the tiger in him).

When Mario got home from Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, Jon bought KFC and we got out our tray tables and turned on Duck Dynasty for some quality family time. The immediate family is back together again!

Weekend Round-Up

A list of all the events from the weekend of March 8:


Ri headed to Kids Night Out at Stevenson. She stayed in Ms. Palmer’s room with the third graders to help watch Ms. Palmer’s little boy, Colin. She would give up friend time to watch a little kid anytime. She also got a healthy dose of Spongebob while they waited for Mrs. Palmer to get organized.


When I picked her up from KNO, I ran down the hall with her and out the door trying to pinch her behind. We jumped onto a stone structure and laughed as we tried to get our breath. She looked at me and said “you are the funnest mom ever!” Words tucked away in my heart.


2. While Ri was at KNO, I took Mario to Target to buy new shirts and a Skylander (he got to buy that with his own money). We got our icees and headed straight to the Skylander aisle. And… we stood there for what seemed like two hours deciding which Skylander to buy. Another kid came over while we were standing there and he and Mario acted like old friends as they chatted about their favorite Skylanders. Hilarious. We ended up with Stealth Elf who Mario reported was liked by everyone – even our babysitter David. A cute little gal, I must admit. Then we headed to the clothing aisle. Doggone Spring clothes were already out so we could only find a few long-sleeved shirts. He found some boxers that “looked just like dad’s” so we got those, too. We got a good deal on a Dr. Seuss book – $5 – and Mario “read” it on the way home. He is hilarious with reading. He simply looks at the pictures and makes up his own story. He’s pretty creative, and usually some up with a more interesting story than the one in the book.


We took advantage of 55 degree weather! We also took advantage of Mario’s new running shirt – as soon as I came home from my run he begged to go out with me for another run.

“I have my new running shirt, mom! I want to test it out!”

Ri biked (her worst nightmare is running!) and Mario and I ran. I explained to him about keeping a steady pace which he adhered to for two seconds and then sprinted again. After about two blocks he turned around and said “why aren’t I sweaty yet, like you always are?!” He wants to come home sweaty just like his mama (another one if Ri’s nightmares!). We played at the park a while and then went home to toss the football.




After running around, the kids were ready to chill in the car for a trip to Cincy for Cy’s 18th birthday party. Mario made dad and I engage in a singing contest (dad won with his famous song “Spicy Meatballs”) and Ri drew a picture for Cy’s birthday. When we arrived, the kids went straight to Robert and Cy and their girlfriends to play. Robert tossed the football with Mario and Cy messed around with Ri. There was a two-year old boy at the party so Ri was in heaven chasing him around and holding him. She is gonna be a heck of a babysitter.

Jane made killer lasagna and garlic bread: the Italian Ionno family was quite pleased. Liz and I ate with the kids downstairs cracking up at Ri going to town on her lasagna and Mario trying to play pool. Jane has hosted 72 birthday parties over the years for her kiddies – what a machine! We sang happy birthday to Cy, gobbled up chocolate cake and ran around the house wild until it was time to head home.





Ri rode her bike and I ran up to Stauf’s. We took a long way up and down side streets to make it a three mile ride/run and Ri cranked it out on her old, run-down bike. She prides herself on being able to ride this bike (she always asks “do you think [insert friend’s name] could ride this bike like I do?). The chain is rather rusted and the pedals are tough to push but she has her parents’ strong leg muscles!

We had a wonderful Stauf’s trip – we sat outside in the 60 degree weather eating a chocolate chip scone and talking about school. I love mornings like that. We brought home a donut for home-body Mario and got ready for the Ionno clan to arrive.

We hadn’t seen Alana and Gio for a while so the kids were excited to have them over. ¬†As soon as they arrived, Ri and Alana were upstairs playing barbies and Gio and Mario were on my bed with my iPad and Grandma Ionno’s iPad. When we made them come downstairs to play, they picked up their nerf guns and acted like they were zombie killers.

I took the girls to the woods to try to find baby bunnies. No luck on that front but we did find a good tree to climb. It was only 65 degrees but Ri was “so hot.” She had to create a “belly shirt” to cool down and slip off her shoes. God help her when Summer hits.






The boys were next. I took them to the woods by the train tracks (I didn’t let them go near the tracks, Aunt Kathy!). They were hilarious talking about Skylanders and zombie killing. Mario kept asking Gio if Gio had a running shirt like he did. When Gio said no, Mario scolded him that he needed to get in shape.



When we returned, I had to play zombie. The boys destroyed me with their nerf guns (they did an excellent job aiming from the waist down). Then Grandma Ionno got in the mix and wrestled Mario. For 70+ years, that woman can hold her own. I can’t get over how much energy she has. She was on the carpet rolling all around with Mario. Good way to stay fit ad work off some of the calories consumed from Jon’s killer homemade spaghetti and meatballs meal.

We ended the weekend on our backs looking up at the sky and debating what the tree in our yard most resembled (I thought the tree stump from Skylanders and Ri thought a mom asking her kids why they broke something – you can see who is more creative).


And here’s to the start of a new week.

Taking in the morning

This weather is ridiculous. Close to 60 degrees in mid-December. It makes me think twice about living in California or Colorado where it would be a temperate 70 degrees most days. But in the end, I do like the change in seasons and hope that we will get some sled riding in this Winter.

The kids and I took advantage of the weather with a stroller ride and bike ride to our tried and true Tim Hortons. Ri rode her bike and Mario lounged in the stroller. Ri talked to me about her friend’s mom and how mean she was to her friend. I listened to her as she talked about the things this mom said to her friend. She is definitely much more strict than me (who isn’t?!) but her words do seem rather harsh. Nonetheless, I explained to Ri that every mom is different and there were surely wonderful traits this mom possessed. Ri looked doubtful. She biked a bit longer and then looked over at me and said “I have a great mom.”

Can I please package that up with a bow and bring it out when she’s 15 and hating me?!

Meanwhile, Mario informed us that he knew why he woke up last night unable to breathe. It scared Jon and I half to death. He woke up at 2 am gasping for air and could barely drink water. He was raspy voiced. I would have thought he swallowed something if it wasn’t 2 am. After ten minutes, he fell back to sleep and woke up fine. Mario told us that he woke up and was unable to breathe because the trees in the nearby park had been chopped down recently.

“They cut down all those trees and hurt our environment. Now it’s hard to breathe good.”

There is our little Sierra Club member.

After Tim Hortons, we got a rare treat. A train passed through right in front of our eyes as we walked towards the park. We had passed over the tracks hoping to see it and as soon as we passed over, it came roaring by us. We all sprinted to the tracks to see it right before our eyes (Maria held her sides heaving and smiling and said “my body hasn’t gone that fast ever!).

The park was all ours to enjoy. We ran up and down Wyman Woods hill. We played in the sand volleyball court. M&M climbed the old pine tree to the near top. Mario was so excited because he had never climbed that high before. We climbed the monkey bars.






And all of this before 10 am!

On the way home, we passed a couple jogging. Mario pointed at them and said “they are helping the environment by using their legs and not driving, right mom?” I shook my head yes. Maria was dazing off into space and I didn’t think she heard us until she declared “why run when you can bike? I’m going to bike everywhere because I hate to walk.”

Mario confirmed that Ri could take that route because she was using her own energy to move and that was good for the environment. Ri and I smiled at sweet Mario. Then we passed two newly planted trees and before I could point them out, Mario squealed “new trees, mom! I can breathe better!”

Wonder Woman Saves the Week

This week felt like it lasted 30 days. My birthday on Monday created momentum for a perfect week but Tuesday quashed that momentum ten-fold. Work was intense and maddening with a score of phone calls every hour and fire-alarm situations. I didn’t get to vote in the morning so I was stressed all day about getting to the polls. I had this burning sensation that I would not get my vote casted in time and then NBC news would announce “Obama lost Ohio by one vote” and I’d be scarred for life.

Chalk another win up for women’s intuition. When I made it to the polls at 5:30 pm, I was excited to see only two people in line. The guy ahead of me shuffled back and forth and mumbled something to the poll worker. The worker shook his head sadly and stated “if your license is expired, you need a bank statement or utility bill.” I thought “what an idiot. How can you not check on your license before this big election?!”

And then I panicked. Hard. My birthday was November 5 – one day before the election. I was sure it had not expired this year – that would be crazy and unfair. I, not that guy in front of me, was extremely busy raising kids, working, volunteering, helping out Democrats, for goodness sake! If my license had expired, it should magically re-set to an expiration date of 2016 because that was only right.

I pulled out my license and there it was staring at me: Exp:2012. You got to be kidding me. I showed it to the worker just in case he thought it was still November 5 but I lost that one. I darted home to find a bank statement. I rummaged through garbage. I ripped out drawers. Nothing. Damn electronic banking.

Then my sitter saved me. “Fifth Third is open until 6:00 tonight”, he said matter-of-factly. Now that is cooperation and maturity. I believe him to be a Romney supporter yet he still coughed up those words that would allow me to possibly get in my vote. I high-fived him and the kids and sped to the bank. No line and a bank statement in three minutes. Thank the Lord. I got my vote in by 6:15 and all was good. But I crashed and burned when I got home from the furor of the day. Ri broke down a few hours later when we turned on the news to see the election status and I read from the tv “Romney 51% and Obama 49%.”

“My world won’t be safe, mom. Our world will never be the same if Obama loses.” Genuine fear and concern poured out of my bleeding heart liberal girl. I tried to clam her down but she sniffled herself to sleep.

She woke up at 6:15 begging to turn on the tv. She was ecstatic when she learned that Obama won. When Mario realized it was over and Obama prevailed, he switched sides and yelled “Yeah, Obama!” He is a fair-weathered fan making sure he always sides with the victor.

Jon had left for Illinois on Tuesday and caught that nasty flu going around. He got holed up in a hotel for two days and made it home Thursday with barely enough energy to make it up the stairs. Poor thing. I was going nuts by Friday morning and the kids could sense I needed an early morning run. We bundled up and Ri rode her bike while I strolled Mario. It was a glorious break from the car and the indoors where I had found myself all week.

Then, Mario dropped my iPad and it shattered. This week was not gonna give me a break.

I decided I needed to put my mind elsewhere and not go off on Mario; after all, I let him walk with it unprotected so I assumed some risk…. I went in the dining room and leafed through the mail. I had a little package from my sis! I had assumed it was for Jon as most packages are that come to our house. I ripped it open needing some type of sisterly goodness to get me in a better mood. And she did not disappoint.




Again, women’s intuition. Sar knew just what I needed with that magnet espousing power (then again, it’s a pretty sure-bet that after working, raising two kids, staying active, and volunteering all week such a magnet would be a boost for any mama).

The card’s words from Walt Whitman comforted me. I felt Sarah giving me a big Menkedick sister hug as I read Walt’s words and Sarah’s words in it. And then she topped the gift off with a photocopy of Ms. Magazine’s current issue cover. Yes, it’s Wonder Woman for all my 70’s gals who grew up watching. She got a subscription to Ms. magazine for me. I love it.

I took a step back from the table and looked at the pictures Sarah also sent of the kids and Jon at the farm. Jorge’s eye captured the kids’ joy and Jon’s manliness! I brushed my finger over them and smiled… wide and long.