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.

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.


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?



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.

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.

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.


Our meatball poet

Maria and her third grade class hosted a poetry cafe on Tuesday this week. She kept enticing Jon and I with how much we’d enjoy her poem. I asked her a few nights before if she was nervous. She replied “a little but some kids stood up and cried or shook the entire time they spoke so I’m doing better than them.” God love her.
I arrived home Tuesday to find her already made up in her new Target dress, hair flowing, lip gloss on, and a dab of light pink eye shadow rubbed perfectly on her eyelids.
“What do ya think?” She knew exactly what I’d say.
“I think you are beautiful inside and out and I think you are gonna rock out the poetry cafe tonight.” She smiled wide and twirled around the driveway.
We ate some Mac-n-cheese and headed down to school with three boxes of Girl Scout cookies (I forgot I volunteered to bring a snack – I knew the 15 boxes we ordered would come through in a pinch).
As we were walking towards the school door, Maria looked back at me to tell me to hurry up. She stared at me from my head to my toes and cried “that’s what you’re wearing to the cafe?!” I thought I had done pretty good – I had on a new t-shirt, nice jeans and a pair of sporty gym shoes. I curtly replied “you gotta dress hip for these caf├ęs.” She kept walking. When she looked back at me, I pouted. She gave a tiny smile and said “sorry mom, I’m just nervous.” Oh, sweet baby. I hugged her and she was off to her classroom. Mario and I were off, too, towards the baked goods table.
Grandma Meg surprised Ri and Jon made it on time, too (dad waited to go to Michigan until after the cafe, which landed him up north at 1 am – true love for his baby girl).
Ri gave an impeccable performance. She wrote about a Swedish meatball hosting a party for international friends. It was smart and funny (and of course, the best from her mama’s eyes!).



They had paper and chalk on the tables so families could write poems to the kids. I looked down after Ri finished and Mario had written “you did a gud job Ri”. Break my heart.

Afterwards, the kids rushed to the sweets table and ran around together giggling.

Mario took the stage to sing – he can’t resist not being in the spotlight.

As we left the school, Ri turned around and moved close to me.
“This may sound a little weird, mom but … I’m really proud of myself.”
The night bursted into color and the sky sang “Alleluia”. I was so excited to hear her say those words to me. I think she’s starting to believe more in herself and recognize all of the amazing qualities she possesses. There is nothing more gratifying to a mom that’s seen those qualities all along.

Wise beyond her years

She accomplished it.

The 2014 Brain Blast occurred last night at Edison Commons, and Ri stood nervous but proud at her poster about horses. She practiced the night before with me and did fabulous. The first time she read off her poster but made eye contact with me every once in a while. The second time she tried without reading it and she struggled a bit. I told her to look at the poster when she needed to if she got lost.
She has a knack of being able to bulls– when she doesn’t know the answer. I asked her what a horseshoe was made of and she responded without flinching “it’s made of 100 different metals.”
Hmm, really. I gently asked her how she knew that and she gently noted back to me “she just did.” I think this could either be a very good sign that she can stay composed under pressure or a very bad sign that she can lie through her teeth! I let her know that her dad is amazing at being able to answer questions that he doesn’t know the answers to and she’s inherited his quick thinking. But, she’s gotta be careful to not purposefully lie about things. I showed her Wikipedia and it’s description of what’s in a horseshoe. Basically two metals, maybe three or four. She lurched back and looked surprised.
The day of Brain Blast, she did not want to practice. She wouldn’t practice with David or my mom. I took her for a quick walk when I got home from work to calm her down. She was nervous but not overly so. We couldn’t find her name when we arrived because another girl had set up camp in her spot. We didn’t let Ri know (no unnecessary stress) and we set up in another location next to a “Cheesehead” (his project was how to make cheese). A few of his friends came up and started tasting the cheese samples. No one approached Ri. My mama bear sonar went off. I had to fight my urge to grab a random parent and ask him to hear Ri’s presentation. I did inform her that lots of kids were just hanging out and people were passing by their posters.
She seemed a little dejected but then her teacher came by and listened and asked questions. I had to move away so I didn’t butt in and tell Ri what to say. Let her be her, Mom! I kept that mantra in my head the rest of the night whenever I wanted to help her talk about the bridle she had as an exhibit or some of the fun facts she wrote down (actually, I did mention a fun fact once to keep the conversation going – I couldn’t resist).

She did really well with staying calm under pressure. She kept asking the time so I knew she was ready to go. But we hung in for an hour. Mario was very sweet with her, too. These two take care of each other, for sure. When I whispered to him that Ri was a little nervous and anxious for people to see her poster, he walked up to her and hugged her. Then he asked her to tell him about horses. It was darling.

She asked if she could walk around and see other people’s projects. She hung with a few boys from her class and watched their experiments. She ate a cupcake. She seemed fine and dandy. It was me that was a nervous wreck. We left an hour later and she picked Bob Evans for dinner (Cap City was first but the wait was too long). I asked her if she had fun. She hesitantly said yes. I asked if she’d do anything different next year and she answered “I’d do an experiment to attract more people.”
I thought that was extremely mature and self-aware of her. She didn’t throw a tantrum that less people approached her than she expected. She didn’t blame anyone. She didn’t make excuses. She acknowledged reality and took accountability. Her horse presentation was good and something she enjoyed talking about but she also accepted the fact that kids seemed more attracted to experiments. I’m telling you, she is wise beyond her years.
While at Bob Evans, Mario had a meltdown because he wanted to see pictures of his food choices rather than mere words (yes, that is our Mario). Ri gently consoled him and then said “we will get you extra yummy chocolate chip pancakes and I will play tic-tac-toe with you until our food comes, ok little buddy?” He smiled and hugged her. Yep, wise beyond her years.


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.


Throwing a curveball

I love my girl so much; she never fails to do something that completely cracks me up. She brought home this cut-out of her hand and told me she had to write five things about herself at school.


In order:

1. I hate sports except softball.
2. My grandpa was in World War 2 and is still alive.
3. I have a new puppy.
4. I started horseback riding when I was 1.
5. My uncle is Mexican.

Jon and I laughed so hard. She’s always throwing us a curveball. Jorge, be proud, you made the list and she surely adores you!

Halloween 2013


One ninja zombie and one valley girl showed up before my eyes when I walked into school Thursday for the Halloween school parties. Some other mom was helping Mario into his costume and an irrational streak of anger jolted through me. “That’s my kid”, my jealous self thought. But then he looked over at me and exclaimed “there’s my mom, she made it!” Yep, work can always be put on hold for that type of reaction; I gently shoved the mom aside and took over wrapping ninja yarn around Mario’s head.
Mario and his boy friends were jumping all over the place and play boxing while the girls were standing around watching. It was a hoot trying to get them to pose. The boys kept punching each other and the girls kept giggling.


Meanwhile, my girl was in the bathroom with her other third grade classmates getting ready. Aunt Sarah and Jorge were helping her out (blue eye shadow and pink lips to add to the costume). I met up with her after I walked the parade route with Mario (who highly complained about the parade being termed a parade: “this is simply a walk around the block, mom, not a parade with music and lots of people!”). Ri was adorable with her 80’s self.


The rain started coming down right when we hit the school doors – perfect timing. I stayed with Mario in his classroom since this was his first grade school Halloween party. He was grouchy as heck because he expected candy and games and running around thanks to his sis who had given him false hope that his party would be all that. What Ri failed to understand was that I brought in cupcakes and sugar and crazy games because I’m a sugar nut whereas the moms in charge of Mario’s party were wholesome and nutritious and brought in bananas with raisin eyes and did spider crafts. Mario sat pouting as his spider legs wouldn’t glue correctly and his scissors wouldn’t cut well and he was forced to sit in his chair. But then a cupcake appeared with an Oreo on top and life was good again; he even smiled for a picture with his mom!

Meanwhile, Ri partied it up in her classroom. Sarah and Jorge stayed for a bit but then felt like Ri wanted left alone with her friends so they hit up Stauf’s. A while later, Ri came down to Mario’s room sad that I wasn’t in her room with her. She’s had three straight years of me all to herself. Nonetheless, after she saw how down Mario was, she was her generous self as always and told me I could stay with Mario. She stole a candy corn from his table and bolted back to her room.

Bethany met us back at the house (we were soaked from just getting in and out of the car). Mario threw off his shoes and played Star Wars Wii and Ri threw on her robe and played Minecraft. I headed into work for a quick meeting and prayed the rain would stop by 6. No luck. I got home at 5:30 and Sarah and Jorge had the kids ready to go. We threw on our rain coats and headed up our street for our first time ever trick-or-treating on our street (we usually head to 2nd Ave.). It was Jorge’s first trick-or-treat experience. Too bad there weren’t more kids out due to the pouring rain – but he did get to witness a human taco. My little munchos were making their mama very happy by ignoring the downpour and hitting up all the welcoming houses.



Meanwhile, Rocco cried and cried whenever the kids walked up the sidewalk to get candy.

We made it all the way to Broadview before Mario started to peter out on us. He was wet and cold – two things he can’t stand. Sarah and I pushed him hard though saying “look at this house here – it will have good stuff!” He held on for a few more houses (he scored big on the last with eight pieces of chocolate) and then Jon rescued him from his misery (Jon got in from England in the afternoon and drove from Detroit back home to make the tail end of Halloween). Maria left with her friend Riley around the neighborhood so Sar and Jorge and I were left contemplating dressing up and getting candy ourselves. Sar could have completely passed as a ten-year old ghost but we forgot a sheet.
We met back up with Ri and headed to Doris and Kim’s house to say “hi.” We saw our old house on 2nd Ave. and got a handful of candy from Doris and Kim. We also saw our old neighbor Carolyn who still sends b-day cards to the kids. She gave Ri a big squeeze (and a lot of candy). Ri and I hopped in the car as Sar and Jorge brought it around to us and Ri gloated as she showed them her loot. A bag filled to the top – just what I had begged for over the last two weeks. Kit Kat, Reese’s, Butterfinger, M&Ms, Snickers… Pure heaven.


Ri sat sorting out candy for Sarah and Jorge and me while Mario ate his stash. I was concerned about whether this Halloween would be a bust but it turned out to be delightful.

And the kids really got a treat when Sarah and Jorge stayed with them the next morning and played an epic two hour Monopoly game with them. Pure heaven.

Mario continues to party

I started Mario’s birthday off right yesterday. I brought him home a chocolate long john donut after my run (of course, I brought me one home, too, which defeats the purpose of the run but how can one resist?!). He was on the living room floor in his boxers playing on the iPad. I serenaded “happy birthday” to him and got a big ol’ Mario grin from him.

I took cupcakes into school for him. The night before, three moms asked if I was making homemade cupcakes as if buying Kroger brand ones was a sin. Sure enough, as soon as we walked in the room, a mom of a little girl in Mario’s class held a box full of homemade goodies with colorful stickers pronouncing “Harriet is 6!” I shot her a look and continued on with my synthetic neon-colored iced cupcakes with my chin up high.

I returned to Mario’s school at 1:30 to help pass out the cupcakes. I juggled three calls and document drafting from 12:30-1:15 to get to the school on time. I swore a while back that when I made a commitment to my kids it would take a major catastrophe for me to not show up. And it was worth the juggling. Mario beamed when I showed up and took me all over the playground.


He even let me get a picture of him with Harriet. It took all my might to explain to him I had to leave and come back to get him but he finally let me go. I ran home to mow the grass so my folks and Patty would not see a jungle, and went straight back to pick him and Quinn and Maria up. Ri ran up to me and asked “did Mario get his name called on the announcements for his birthday?” I told her I didn’t know. Her flippant response:
“No, he didn’t. Do you know who did? Ms. Harriet. That is who. She has the nerve to have the same birthday as Mario and she took all the credit. I marched down to Ms. Bauer’s (the office assistant) office and told her they forgot my brother’s birthday.”

“Will they announce him tomorrow?”

“They better” she replied. Then she added “Harriet may not make it to school on Friday….” My mouth dropped and I started cracking up. She is her father’s child. He is Mr. Protective over his family and she is just like him. Of course, she started laughing too and meant no harm towards sweet Harriet but if you didn’t know her, you might think…!

Mario hugged Quinn like it had been years they were apart and we headed home. I went back into work for a couple hours while Ri and Sophie decked out the house with birthday decorations. Grandma Ionno came to help. We met up with Mama Meg and Peepaw and Sarah and Jorge at Barleys for dinner. We reminisced about the time Mario was in his crib and Jon went in to get him. He asked if I was home and Jon said no. Then he pulled out his binkie and said “well then I want Grandma (Ionno)”. Gotta love him. And the times that Sarah would come in town and Ri would cry “No Sarah” whenever she got near me. Ahh, fun times.
After dinner, Maria had a game “for people age 18 and older” when we got home. It did not involve alcohol unfortunately. But it was precious. She had paper slips in little wine glasses and each couple had to fill out the paper based on the question she gave us. Each question related to Mario’s future. Jon and I got “how many kids will Mario have?” I wrote 5 (Jon wanted 0). Sarah and Jorge got “what kind of pets would Mario have?” They wrote a “guinea pig named Spike, mini pig named Porky, fish named Fluffy, and dog named Pirate.” Pirate is now a leading choice in pup names for us. Meg and dad got “what will Mario do when he gets older?” They wrote “be an acrobat in Circue de Soleil.” Love it, and weirdly perceptive.
Patty got “where will Mario live?” She wrote “in Rome Italy with me.”

After the game wrapped up, Ri quipped “This boy of ours is going to have an interesting life.” Indeed.

Ri asked Mario the same questions we answered and he said he’d have 1 kid, 3 dogs, be an acrobat, and live in Marion with Grandma Ionno. Meg and dad won with Patty a close second!
We ate sheet cake and laughed at these crazy little beings we call our kids. Mario opened his presents and fainted when he got Skylanders from Ri (she used her gift card from Christmas to buy them).

He got a Ninjago t-shirt to go with the Lego set Grandma Ionno got him on Sunday. She spoils him rotten. He about fell over again when he opened Grandma Meg’s and Peepaw’s gift – a Mario Bros. wii game. Sarah and Jorge brought him coins from all over the world (he will appreciate those when he’s a world traveling acrobat) and a bullseye and stand for his target shooting! We got him shoes and undies (definitely a parent gift) and a new bike. He certainly is loved.


The party had to close down at 9 since school was happening in the morning. Jon left with everyone else to pick up a kennel from Sherry. Nothing like stepping from one party to another – Jon brings home our new pup tomorrow night.

Kindergarten woes


Ri took this picture earlier this week at drop off to kindergarten. I was trying to console Mario who was completely distressed at the thought of going to school. Jon and I were taken aback with this behavior because Mario has been so excited to start at Maria’s school.

Every single day was awful. He cried and pled to leave with me. He asked to be “disqualified from Kindergarten.” He begged to stay home “just one more day.” It was heart-wrenching to look in his tear-filled eyes and see that baby boy pout. The worst was Friday. The guidance counselor came in to be with him while I left. She asked him if he wanted to draw. He shook his his head no. Then she said;

“Let’s go see Mr. Hopper, the bunny rabbit.”

Mario shook his head no again.

The counselor said: “Come on, it will be fun. You can even take a friend with you.”

Mario’s response: “Ok, I will take my mom.”

My heart crumbled. I’m his friend. I so can’t wait to use that when he is a teenager.

In my mind, I know that he is going to be just fine and we will look back at this transition and find humor in it. After all, he runs down the steps after school in a great mood. But in my heart, I am sick to my stomach as I walk out the doors every morning. I just want to start my day with a smiling child. So, I am dedicating my free time to researching every website about how to deal with a child that hates kindergarten. I know it will likely be a task of futility because every kid is different and I need to just figure out what Mario needs… but it makes me feel better. Probably by the time I have researched every site, Mario will have acclimated to Kindergarten and all the techniques I read about will be useless. Let’s hope….

Rocco Awesome goes to school


Dear Mario:

Mom and dad love you to the moon and stars and sun and back. How many times have I said “Hey Mario, guess what?” And how many times have you replied “I know, you love me to the moon and stars and sun and back.”

As I walked out of your classroom this morning feeling a little nervous about how your first day in kindergarten would go but also really excited for you to experience school and all that it entails, I thought about all the times we had mouthed those precious words to one another: “I love you to the moon and stars and sun and back….”

I hope that when you start to feel a little lonely or scared, you will reach for those words and they will lift you up and bring you the confidence to get through the day. Because you are an incredible little being full of imagination and curiosity, and dad and I have no doubt you will take that kindergarten class by storm!

You have been so excited to start school – counting down the number of days since the end of Spring. We could tell you were a little nervous this morning but you got dressed and packed your lunch and put on your book bag like a pro. And when we talked about walking in with you, you demanded to walk in alone. Eventually, you let down your guard somewhat and let us walk in behind you.


You did exactly as Ri instructed – placed your book bag on your pre-selected hook, deposited your lunch box in the bin and stuck your magnet on “Packing.”


Then you sat at your desk and began to complete your first kindergarten task: draw flowers in a vase. Other kids ran around and held onto parents but you got to work. After all, you’ve been anxiously awaiting homework since watching your sis do it all last year!



And then we said goodbye.

And you shyly looked up with those melting eyes and that perfect face and I wanted to sweep you out of the chair and take you with me. But instead I smiled , hugged you, told you you’d be great and walked towards the door. Dad hugged you, too, and gave you a fist pump. You waved at us with a bit of hesitancy but also a bit of pride. You were officially in kindergarten, and you had completed your first task as instructed by your teacher.


You are going to be a superstar; we have no doubt about it. After all, you did name yourself “Rocco Awesome” when you were only four years old. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Mom and Dad

Can and can’t


We have decided this is it.
You can’t go any farther than third grade.
You can’t get any taller or lose any more teeth.
You can’t need a bra.
You can’t keep getting bigger feet.
You can’t grow out of stuffed animals.
You can’t giggle about cute boys.
You can’t put on deodorant.
You can’t want to walk home by yourself.
You can’t want me to stop at your classroom door.

Ok, we know all of those are impossible but can you at least fulfill some of the “can’s” below…

You can stay our baby.
You can keep hugging us.
You can kiss us a thousand times a day.
You can snuggle with us.
You can laugh so hard with us and Mario that you fall off your chair.
You can draw us pictures.
You can ask us to rub your back.
You can sit on our laps.
You can talk to us about anything.

We know you are gonna have an incredible third grade year, Ri Grace, and we love you so very much! Always stay curious and open to new possibilities!

Love, Mom and Dad