Sharing Breakthrough


Maria taking care of her brother

Maria has always had a generous heart.  When she was as young as two, she loved to take presents to her daycare teachers and bring in treats for all of her friends to eat along side of her.  I remember one time at Christmas when I had made stockings full of goodies.  One of the goodies was cookies – Maria’s favorite.  When I gave the stockings to her to present to her teachers, she looked at the cookies.  She looked up at me and asked “are any for me?” I told her that all of the cookies were made for her teachers.  She swallowed deeply and said no more.  She took the stockings into them and gave them a huge hug putting aside the cookies she was missing out on in favor of the thrill of giving. 

Then there is Mario….  Jon and I stood aghast the day we took Mario into school with his Timbit donuts and he refused to share any with his friends or his teachers.  And he not only refused, he was rather mean about it shoving people away from him and holding the donuts so close to him that you would have thought they were gold.  We explained to him how important it was to share because it made others happy, and in turn, made you happy.  He looked at us like we were insane.  Maria tried to explain the importance of sharing, too, by taking a different approach.  She went after his interests by telling him if he did not share, they others would not share with him.  Still nothing. 

The face of a non-sharer

But today, we had a major breakthrough.  A succession of acts of sharing.  First, we headed into daycare this morning with ten Timbits and a sleeve of crackers (yeah, please avoid the commentary on the breakfast selection).  When Mario strolled into class, his class mates swarmed around him and his Timbit box begging for a donut.  Mario stood paralyzed.  The teacher asked the piranhas to step back so Mario could breathe.  Then Mario announced that he would pass out donuts and crackers to his friends.  He handed out Timbits first and then crackers to the remaining friends.  I praised his generosity and he beamed a smile my way. 

After we ate dinner tonight, we made some more of our Zoku pops.  As the kids licked them, I realized I had forgotten to return a red box movie from two nights ago so I made them throw on their coats and head to the car.  On the way out, Maria lost half of her popsicle.  She wailed and pointed to the ground.  She continued to cry all the way to the car and I continued to try to console her.  As she stood in the car, Mario got in his seat and lifted his arm up with popsicle in hand.  ‘Maria, you can have my popsicle.”  I felt like the heavens opened up.  The world shifted on its axis.  Maria and I both looked at each other in awe.  She accepted his offer gladly since he had barely licked his at the time.  I buckled him in his seat and whispered in his ear how proud I was of him. 

Sibling love

 That same beaming smile washed over his face.


Winter has arrived.


The New Year brought snow.  I should clarify – light flurries.  But that differentiation did not matter to Maria. She threw on her coat and gloves and hat and took advantage of the dusting of snow to make snow angels on the deck of the house.  Mario sat in his room sulking because Maria did not tell him she was heading out to engage in such activity.  The New Year also brought a stroll down memory lane.  Jon took the memory card from our camera and found a way to put the slide show on our giant screen tv.  Very cool.  The pictures were only as far back as a year ago but we still waxed nostalgia about how the kids have grown, how old our former house looks, and how relaxing and warm our trip to Cancun was in February 2011.

Waiting for the pool!

With the light flurries came blustery winds and temperatures in the teens with the wind chill.  We are not ready for this yet since we have been spoiled with 45 degree weather over the last two weeks.  So what is the best way to beat the winter cold blues?  Go to a swimming pool! Indoor , of course.  We dusted off our suits, found our goggles, called our cousin, Alana, and headed to the Dublin Recreation Center.  The kids threw on their suits in record time only to find out that they had to wait seven minutes for the rest break to end.  One aspect of the Dublin pool I dislike is that they have 15 minute rest breaks every hour.  You freeze.  Especially little Mario who shivers and turns purple.  I hold him close to me and feel his tiny body shiver against me. 

When they blew the whistles to jump in, Maria was the first to jump.  Alana was a distant second and Mario right after her.  He went swimming across the pool.  Maria gingerly walked on her tiptoes around the pool.  Alana clung to me.  Alana knows how to swim but she must still not feel comfortable with it.  She also likes to goof around with me and splash me.  I am so used to Maria doing this it didn’t bother me too much but I was hoping that her and Maria would play more together to let me chill.  Of course, Mario was also in his clingy state wanting me to act like a dinosaur.  He wanted to breathe fire on me and shoot lasers at me but he wanted me to live and just be hurt – not die.  He has specific instructions with all of his games. 

The pool has a lazy river that Alana and Mario loved.  Alana wanted me holding her hand the entire time and Mario wanted me to be within a foot of him in case he went under too long and needed help up.  I have gotten better at sensing when he wants me to hold him and when he wants to be left alone but every once in a while I grab him when he wants to be on his own and he growls at me.  I usually give him a look and he says “Sorry, mommy.”  At least he recognizes his issues too!  Maria went around the river by herself.  I would look over at her on the other side and see her laying her hair in the water letting the current push her along.  She is so calm in the water compared to Alana who is clingy and hyper (it’s funny because out of the water, it can be the opposite). 


Ready for the showers

Maria’s friend Zach arrived about a half hour after we got in the pool.  All was fine for a while but then Maria felt torn between Alana and him.  Zach wanted to go down the big slide (which Alana could not do) and Alana wanted to go down the baby one.  Maria looked at me with those big blue eyes and said “I feel torn, mom.  I want to be with Alana because she is my cousin but I also like Zach and they don’t want to do the same things.”  I explained to her that such a thing happens a lot and she just needed to split her time the way she felt best.  I also explained that she had brought Alana with her so she needed to be sensitive to that.  In the meantime, Alana only wanted to play with me so it didn’t matter.  But Ri stuck with us for the most part since her and Zach have about a 15 minute tolerance for each other before they spat. 

After the pool, the kids stood in the showers for 20 minutes.  Mario loves to stand under a hot shower and let it run over his head.  Maria and Alana just like to be goofy in it and act like they are famous stars.  Maria is also getting modest with her old age.  She did not want to get naked and dressed int he “main” locker area because too many people were around.  This was surprising from the girl who used to run naked around my aunt’s house to make my Grandma Heile laugh hysterically.  We sat with Zach and Grace and Amy in the lobby and ate pretzels and subway sandwiches.  We asked questions to the kids like “who would you most like to meet?”  Mario answered “my butt” while Maria and Alana answered “BIG TIME RUSH!”  When asked where they would like to visit, Maria and Alana both answered NYC because that is where Big Time Rush lives (not sure about that) and Mario answered with his stock answer: Hawaii.  Jon and I can picture him on his surf board with his blonde hair and chiseled little body riding the waves all day long. 

As we drove home, I looked in the rear view mirror.  Mario’s head was cocked to the side and he was fast asleep.  The holiday celebrations finally catching up to him.  Maria and Alana intently watched Thumbelina on the DVD entranced with the friendship between Thumbelina and Tom Thumb.  The snow lightly hit the car windshield and blew over to the grassy bank.  I took a few deep breaths and thought of Jon waiting at our warm home for us.  Winter has arrived.

Gloria would be proud

Sleeping over at Maggie's!

I picked up Maria and Mario from Cousin Maggie’s apartment at 9:00 am.  Maggie had offered a sleep-over for them last night and they jumped with joy at the prospect.  A night filled with pizza, play-doh, fire in a real fireplace, muffin-baking and movies.  She had them asleep at 9:45 pm, too (I swear, my cousins Laura and her need to write a book!).  When I picked them up, they interrogated me about whether St. Nick had come to the house last night.  When I grew up, I always remember St. Nick coming on December 6 (which I believe is truly St. Nick’s Day).  I typically got candy and maybe some small toy but I just remember the thrill of feeling something in my stocking when I came down the stairs in the morning.  I have kept that tradition up with M&M but instead of doing it on December 6, I do it on the weekend so we aren’t rushed with school. 

When the kids and I home, they ran straight to their stockings.  They plunged their little hands in the stockings and big smiles emerged (in addition to other little things, Maria got earmuffs she had been wanting and Mario got a transformer).  We all sat in the living room together, which we rarely do because the family room has the recliner chairs, the tv, the Wii.  But it was so nice to be in the living room with the natural light that can’t help but perk you up. 

After the kids reviewed all of their presents, Maria looked at me.  Earlier on the ride home, I had told the kids how excited I used to get for St. Nick.  Maria had asked if he brought me anything.  I told her that usually St. Nick just brings kids toys.  After she looked at me for a minute, she got up and rushed out of the room.  I knew what she was doing – trying to gather some “gifts” for me.  She has got such a kind soul.  She came back five minutes later with a bag full of my things – shoes, old barbie, clock.  “Here, mom, St. Nick brought you some things, too!”  Mario caught on how impressed I was with Maria’s thoughtfulness, and immediately ran out of the room.  He ran back ten seconds later with a frog ornament and presented it to me saying “Here mom, this is from St. Nick, too!”  I told him how happy I was to have him and Maria and he responded “did I give you a better gift than Maria?”  He always wants to be number 1 – he is going to be brutal on the court or field. 

We played around , cleaned up, and at 2:00 pm, left for the Pump-It-Up gym for a birthday party.  On the way to the party, the kids asked to watch Power Rangers. I put it on for them and I heard them in the back talking about the different Rangers.  Mario told Maria that she could be the blue power ranger and she agreed.  I blurted out from the front “there is a blue power ranger who is a girl?”  Maria immediately hit the back of my seat and scolded me. 

“Mom, you make it sound like a girl can’t wear blue.  You make it sound like a boy can only wear blue and a girl can only wear pink.  That should not be how it is.”

Yeah, I could have just eaten her up.  All of those years that I sang “Free to Be, You and Me” to her rubbed off.  She would make Gloria Steinem proud.  Earlier that day, I had tried to move our bed.  After realizing it was way too heavy, I stopped.  Maria approached me and shook her head.  “Girls never give up, mom. You can do it.”  

Maria sliding

Pump-It-Up was chaotic and tiring.  I can’t stand to just sit around like the other parents so I go through all of the exercises with the kids.  After 45 minutes, Maria and I were spent.  Maria kept asking when we would go to the other room and eat.  Mario just wanted to keep playing.  When we finally got to the room, Maria immediately sat down in front of a piece of pizza and cheese curls and went to town (I was jealous and wanted to sit right by her!).  Mario only wanted water.  These two could not be more different when it comes to food.  Maria is my healthy, ready to devour, eater.  Mario is my grazer, a bite here or there eater.  During the entire meal, Mario wanted the plastic crown and scepter that the two birthday kids got and he was going to every length to get them.  I had to keep telling him not to try to steal them but he kept trying to sneak ways to do it. I told Maria that we would have to leave.  She had a meltdown because we had not eaten the cake yet.  I guess along with teaching her how to be self-sufficient and not stereotypical, she also learned my love for sheet cake.  I could not bear the thought of disappointing her and not letting her eat cake.  So we stayed and I policed Mario a bit longer. 

Mario stopping!

On the way home, Mario reviewed his goodie bag.  He pulled out sunglasses and complained that they “weren’t cool.”  Maria schooled him:

“Mario, life is not about finding happiness in things.  If you have family and friends around you, that is all that matters to be happy.” 

And that sums up the beauty in our girl, Maria.  Mario is catching on, too, because instead of throwing the glasses at her like he may have a six months ago, he shook his head and acknowledged Maria’s insight. 

“You are right, Maria.  I will like them.” 


Thank God For Friday…and pizza…and cousins…and head massages

Between fighting the flu early in the week and fighting work insanity late in the week, I am relieved it is Friday night and I am able to sit in front of my computer and eat a DQ blizzard.  We received a treat tonight with Maggie and Laura coming over for pizza and hair brushing.  Yeah, that’s right – not together though!  We ate pizza (before pizza, Mario said grace and stated he was thankful for his cousins and his family and won Maggie and Laura’s hearts forever).  Maria hung on Maggie’s and Laura’s every word; she looks up to them like I looked up to their moms.  

M&M with their cousins

As we ate pizza, Mario began fidgeting in his seat and jumping out of it to dance around.  Jon and I told him to sit down and eat.  He kept talking. Maggie and Laura have always teased us about how lenient we are with discipline and we have always teased them about running a tight ship.  But, I have always admitted that a little bit more of that “hard ship” attitude would be helpful, especially at dinner. Laura took his arm and firmly stated “Mario, your dad spoke to you and asked you to sit.Sit.”  He sat.  We completely ignored him until he began eating his pizza.  He finished it in 5 minutes.  Laura figured out that his one “treasure” that would hurt him the most if taken away was attention.  He lives to be the life of the party.  Take that away, and he is bored.  And that is what we did when we ignored him and paid him no attention – he was forced to eat his pizza to get that attention back. Genius!  

After pizza, Maggie started a bath and Laura got hair products to comb out Maria’s knotty hair.  Maria’s hair looks like strands of gold when it is fully combed out and only Laura has the ability to get it combed to that level without Maria screaming and carrying on like an insane person.   After Maria’s hair, Laura combed mine, and if that was not heavenly, she massaged my head.  I sat at the table lost in another world while Maggie kept the kids busy and Laura kept my head amongst the clouds. 

After dinner, they helped clean up and wrestled with the kids.  They called it a night around 9 pm since they had to take a shower and get ready to hit the bars!  Oh, to be young again.  Jon and I are seriously contemplating paying them a salary per year to live in our attic; I do believe it is the only way that M&M will learn their manners, pay attention, and behave appropriately in society.  Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit but they are good and on Friday night when Jon and I are exhausted, they are awesome!

Marietta or Bust

The fearless foursome on the bridge

Jon and I have not spent a weekend together in our new home.  I was in Italy for the first two weekends and Jon was in Colorado for the third and what was supposed to be the fourth.  However, he is such a good shot that he got his elk early and decided to head back on Wednesday so that he arrived back at the house on late Friday night.  The original plan was that he would arrive home on Saturday late afternoon.  Based on that plan, I had agreed to go to Marietta with Jon’s mom and dad, Maria and Mario, and Maria’s and Mario’s cousins, Alana and Giovanni.  Patty and I are very similar in nature – we both talk a lot, are boisterous, and enjoy taking too much on!  So, when Patty found out that Marietta had a Zombie Night on Saturday night, she figured why not round up the kids, go to the event and spend the night at a hotel.  I liked the idea right away. 

Of course, Jon got home on Friday night, which put a little damper in the plans since he was hoping to have us home with him for the weekend but I think he quickly got over any melancholy with the thought of having the house to himself for 24 hours.  Patty arrived at the house around 11 am on Saturday and after shuffling kids and clothes and stuffed animals around, we were headed East to Marietta, Ohio where Patty grew up along the Ohio River.  We arrived to the hotel after two and a half hours of Tom & Jerry and “the word game” where I give the girls a word and they need to write it in a sentence.  Alana loved the game so much – she would craft a sentence quickly and then patiently wait for Maria and when they both recited their sentence, she would immediately beg for another word.  Maria, on the other hand, played the game four or five times, and then finally said “Mom, you are acting like we are in school!”  The girl needs her down time. 

The upcoming cast of Jersey Shore II

The girls decided they wanted to sleep with me and the boys would sleep with Patty and Joe.  We threw our clothes in the rooms and decided it was time for a swim.  I love seeing the kids’ faces light up when you tell them that we can go swimming.  Swimming in a hotel pool is like heaven for them and they get so excited and slap-happy whenever they know they are able to go.  The only downside with this pool was that it did not have a hot tub for Mario.  I was glad of this fact because I do not like him going in them (I know kids should not be in really hot ones – we have had mild ones in the past) and if I was not around, he would want to sit in one for an hour.  Luckily, this hotel had a fairly warm pool so Mario was not purple when he came out.  Patty and Joe went to Patty’s sister’s house to start the food while I took the kids to the pool.  Mild chaos in the pool area but nothing I can’t handle; I don’t know how parents have four kids willingly though.  I played around with the kids for a while and then let them play together (I am really trying to get Maria and Mario to play by themselves or with each other and not rely on me).  Mario is so funny in the water – he goes like a madman swimming and splashing and jumping – and then he just completely peters out and wants to leave right away.  The others just play around, lounge on the side, splash a bit, and could stay there all day.

Dancing with a young zombie

After the pool, we headed over to Patty’s sisters’ house, Aunt Mae (Mario loves Aunt Mae because that is the name of Peter Parker’s aunt).  She lives right on the river and her house also ended up being the center stage for the zombie contest.  The stage set up right outside of her house so we got to see zombies parading the street all night long.  Patty and I were not sure whether the kids had to dress as zombies or whether they could enter the contest in their other costumes since we had never experienced a zombie fest before but it ends up they would have looked very out-of-place as an angel, a groovy 70s girl, a pirate and a transformer (unless they would have put fake blood all over them and tore their clothes up).  Everyone dressed up in some zombie fashion.  Alana begged to put fake blood on her and ragged clothes.  Patty drew red lipstick on all of their faces but we could not find any old clothes that fit.  Maria immediately asked to have the lipstick taken off. “It looks really dumb, mom.”  When Alana started dragging her foot down the street and tucking her arm into her shirt in order to look more like a zombie, Maria rolled her eyes at me and whispered “we look dumb trying to act like zombies when we don’t have real costumes.”  That is a huge difference between Maria and Alana: Alana very much acts like a 6-year-old girl – playful and silly whereas Maria very much acts like a 40-year-old executive woman – serious and direct.  

The claw woman

Dinner reminded me of my Grandma Heile’s house.  We had pulled beef, cole slaw, baked beans, green beans and cookies. People also brought chips and brownies and cupcakes.  This is a very bad scenario for Maria and me. We both like to graze at these “buffet” like events.  And graze Maria did.  She ate two meatball sandwiches, beef, baked beans, chips, cookies and cupcakes.  By 7:30 she was complaining of a hurt tummy and asking to lay down.  She was knocked out at 8 pm.  I took the remaining crew out to the stage to dance to lots of 80’s music.  They were hysterical dancing.  Mario acted like he had a microphone in his hand and he sang made-up words to the songs.  Alana danced like she was on Dancing with the Stars, and Giovanni went from one side of the stage to the next hopping and bouncing.  They loved looking at all of the costumes.  There was one girl who had claws for hands with really long fingernails.  THey intrigued Mario who kept swearing to me that they were her real hands.  I should have known when he had me look at her for the tenth time that he would have nightmares about them that night….

We finally called it a night at 9:30 pm and left for the hotel.  Maria never quite got out of her slumber and Mario was pretty tired when we got into bed (Alana was going to sleep with us but decided last-minute she couldn’t bear to be without Grandma).  We watched one show and fell asleep for about an hour before Maria woke up with a belly ache and Mario woke up with the claws in his head.  It was a restless night.  But the morning brought a buffet breakfast downstairs in the hotel and we got our energy back in us for another round of swimming (Maria and I paced ourselves with a half of a waffle, cereal, and hash browns). 

The crew with grandma and grandpa

This swimming episode was a little more chaotic because I got under water with them, threw them, and let them play “beauty shop” with my hair (much pulling and water splashing).  But, what our trips for if not to hear the laughter of children happy to be able to do whatever they want to the adult in the water?!  We swam for nearly an hour and half and then forced ourselves out to get showers and head back to Mae’s.  It was a splendid day outside at 64 degrees and the leaves changing colors to vibrant reds and yellows and oranges.  The kids and I did another walk over the bridge to the other side of the river and got sticks to pretend we were fishing off the dock (we had taken a walk on Saturday, too, which was so wonderful up until the time that Mario looked at me with that “I just pooped” look on his face and we had to do an emergency throw away of his undies as well as a poop under the bridge).  The kids found a platform to climb, also, and they acted out a play about a girl who wants a car and her mom refuses to get her one.  Hilarious. 

Cheesing it up on their platform

We hit the road back to Columbus around 3 pm – close to four hours after I thought we would take off.  But it was well worth it between the zombies, hanging out with family we rarely see, watching the kids enjoy the hotel and the pool, spending time with Patty and maybe best of all, taking in the beauty of Marietta’s changing leaves and old bridges and wide river.  I felt ready to move and walk and hike with the gorgeous outdoors.  When we got home tonight, Mario begged me to sleep with him.  I gave in and rubber his back and Maria’s legs for a while.  At one point, I mentioned that I wished we were back in Marietta.  Mario shot up and said “Why, mom?”  I answered that I liked waking up to no schedule, seeing the river, hanging out with grandma and grandpa and all of the kids.  He looked at me quizzically and then responded “But why would you like Marietta – there aren’t any pigs or baby monkies?”  He knows those are my favorite animals but to put those two together cracked me and Maria up.  A good way to end the weekend.

Hoping we don’t mess ’em up

I loved reading Michelle Obama’s quote from an Interview with Michelle Obama on  “Like any mother, I’m just hoping I don’t mess them up.” 

Ain’t it the truth, ladies?!  And isn’t it so refreshing to hear a bit of reality out of the mouth of the first lady of the United State of America?  I commend Obama for speaking her true concerns about parenting and not trying to sugar coat the process with a boiler plate feel-good response.  Women need to feel comfortable expressing their challenges with raising children, and having other women, albeit powerful women, express similar feelings is a godsend.  “Oh, it’s not just me trying to juggle work and marriage and outside activities with the kids’ homework and kids’ mom time and kids’ talk time?”  Alleluia! How many days have I spent sitting in front of my computer at work wondering whether Mario was going to have co-dependency issues because I left him at daycare at three months old?  How many days did I have to take a walk around my building in order to shed some tears because I felt so guilty for not staying home with my kids?  How many hours did I spend awake at night wondering what else I could be doing or learning so that my kids would learn more?  Too many.  

But I have gotten a lot better over the years with being aware when I am heading down a dead-end path of guilt and berating for choices I made.  I stop.  STOP.  Stop as soon as I can and tell myself that my kids are happy and laugh constantly and draw wonderful pictures and enjoy books and care about others and hug me all the time.  

I enjoy my time at work.  There are days I don’t like my job but in the end, I want to keep up my law practice, retain my connections in the legal community, have the opportunity for lunch with my colleagues, and advance myself in the public speaking realm.  Maria and Mario will grow up in a flash and have their own lives so why should I put my career on hold for 18 years and then have to start all over? If there was a definitive study out there that showed that working outside of the home destroyed a child, I would undoubtedly give it all up in a heartbeat.  But there is no such study out there and in the end, I have faith that providing constant love and support and encouragement to my children will foster independence, curiosity, self-assurance, and confidence as they continue to mature. 

And besides, I know no matter if I stayed home with them or had a job outside of the house, I would still always hope that I was not messing them up too much.   That concern is any mother’s burden to bear.  But in the end, it may not be such a bad one.  It reminds me to stay aware of my actions, continue to grow and learn, and stay connected to my fellow mamas.  Kudos to Michelle Obama for reminding all of us moms that being a mom is tough and it’s ok to have our doubts but in the end, we need to be true to ourselves and have faith that we are doing the best we can for our little munchball, pumpkin seed, babycakes.

Tearing up Kings Island!

We tore up Kings Island yesterday!  On Wednesday, I watched the weather report for the rest of the week.  They called for beautiful weather on Thursday and Friday and storms all weekend.  Maria starts school this coming week and I had been wanting to do something special with her for the last week.  I pulled up Kings Island’s website and took a look at the rides.  I debated back and forth on whether to take the dive.  I finally called my girlfriend who has a Season’s Pass and asked her what she thought about taking M&M to the park.  She sealed the deal when she told me she had coupons for $20 a person to get into the park (normally $59 and $39).  Now was the time to brave it.

We woke up on Friday morning and gathered up our suits and shoes and movies and workbooks.  A couple of granola bars, waters and movies later (Maria found the headphones for the video player in the car so she gets to watch hers and Mario watches his (not spoiled at all)), we were already at the park.  The kids stood in awe of the gigantic roller coaster 100 feet away, and listened to the screams of the riders.  Mario exclaimed “Mom, you and dad could not ride that because you would be so scared!”  I asked him if he would ride it and to my surprise he said “No way!”  He is normally my daredevil.  Maria said she would though – she is my daredevil lately. 

Looking down below

We charged in the gates with our bag of cheese pretzels, raisins, waters, and cheese and crackers.  Jill pointed us to Kiddie Land.  The first ride we saw was the Boo Monster ride.  The line was just slightly out the door and the clock indicated that it would be a 30 minute wait.  Maria and Mario begged to go on it.  I was hopeful that they put the little hands on 30 minutes with the thought that you would probably get in within 15 minutes but if you didn’t, you would not get so irritated.  My hopes were shattered when we moved into the cave and there was a line twirling around 6 lanes.  I did not think that Maria and Mario would do too well in that line but they surprised their mama.  They barely whined at all as we crawled through the lanes and got to the ride.  Mario hung on the bars and danced to the music and Maria stood in her own little world thinking about what 6-year-old girls think (?!).  The ride was pretty lame by my standards, and I think Maria felt the same way.  Mario, on the other hand, loved it because it involved using a plastic gun to try to shoot ghosts and goblins that popped up while on the ride.  Any ride that involves guns and violence will win my boy over.

We moved over to a couple of “kiddie” rides (helicopters, cars, etc.) and then we made our way to the log floom.  My favorite when I was a kid.  My girlfriend, Beth and I would stand in line for an hour or longer just to get on this ride and get soaked by the water as we plunged down the hill.  I told stories about Beth and me while we waited.  Luckily, we were there early enough to only have to wait about a half hour before getting on the ride.  Mario had already taken off his shirt and shoes before we got in the boat.  Unfortunately, the workers made him put on his shoes.  This really bothered my little man.  He did not want to get his gym shoes wet.  Maria wore her suit, too and had begged to wear her flip-flops so she was in a good state.  When the boat took off, Mario wanted the front.  By the time we had moved 100 feet, water had splashed in the boat and gotten his shoes wet.  “I don’t like this ride, mom!”  I calmed him down until we got ot the top of the hill and got ready to take the plunge.  maria was so excited.  And then, swoosh!  We flew down the hill and Mario and I got a decent soaking (not as good as my teenage days)!  Maria was in the back so she didn’t get as much (and she is the one that wanted it!).  Mario stepped out of the boat pissed as can be.  “Mom, I never want to go on that again – my shoes are so wet and my hair is messed up!”  Yeah, I kid you not. 

Mario still contemplating the telescope

In order to make it up to him, I took them to the “Eiffel Tower.”  We rode up on the glass elevator and my stomach sunk with each additional foot we rose.  I cannot hang with heights any more.  When we stepped off, the kids darted straight to the edge to look down.  It took me two minutes to gain my composure and head their way.  Mario yelled “Mom, come here, you can see Africa and North Carolina!”  Maria wondered where Grandma Lolo and Grandma Menkedick lived.  They loved it.  I was happy when they wanted to head down ten minutes later.  Next, we went to the games area.  Why?  I still have that competitive kid in me that wants to win a stuffed animal.  When Beth and I went to the park, we spent hours at the games trying to win animals (how did we have that money?!).  I loved the bowling game (probably because it only cost 25 cents).  You have to push the bowling bowl over one hill and make it stay in the valley and not come back over the hill again.  It is hard as heck but when I was young, I had some knack for it.  I won many a stuffed bear and monkey playing that game.  As an adult, not so  lucky.  Maria and Mario and I tried numerous times and only left frustrated.  We moved to the slingshot game and the plinko but no wins.  Our only hope was the Guess your Weight or Birthdate game.  Maria walked up and asked the girl to guess her weight.  She got on the scale and topped 63 pounds.  The girl had guessed 59 and could only be off by three.  She won!  Mario was next and I knew should guess his weight so we did birth month.  She guessed May and she had to be within 2 months so Mario won!  Maria took two seconds to pick out her bear.  Mario took 20 minutes.  He could not choose between a telescope (that would have cost a $1 at the dollar store) and a whale stuffed animal.   He begged for both of them.  He finally chose the darling whale.  When we walked over to watch another game he told me he wanted the telescope.  We went to exchange it and he begged me again to let him have both.  After ten minutes, he decided to keep the whale but kept mouthing to me “And the telescope.”  He never stops.  As we left, he tried to bargain to come back to KI on Saturday to get the telescope.  He knows how to keep the pressure on.

Maria enjoying the lazy river

After the games, we were all starting to break down a bit.  The kids were leaning back in the stroller holding their animals and I was moving a lot slower.  But no rest for the weary!  We decided to trek it over to the waterpark for some water fun!  I asked where is was located and a worker told me where to catch the tram.  I asked if I could walk, and he laughed.  “Sure, but most people take the tram.”  When we got to the tram pick-up, I saw a path to the park.  I decided to walk with the kids.  The waterpark could not have been 1000 feet from the tram pick-up.  It would have taken more time to load up the stroller than to walk.  People need to move more.  ALl sorts of different folks packed the waterpark.  We hit the shallow pool and then moved onto the slides and squirters.  I got rather freaked at that station because I could not keep a good eye on Maria.  Mario was so cold that he clung to me but when Maria went up the stairs and through all of the jungle gym squirty stuff, I lost her.  I watched the slides hoping to see her.  Nothing.  I ran to the other side.  Nothing.  I ran back and climbed the steps. Nothing.  Finally, I looked down and saw her going down the slide.  “Maria!” SHe looked at me and it was love at first sight.  One of life’s greatest feelings – to find your kid when you think they are missing.  I warned her that she had to stay close.  Some of these parents just let their kids go on their own throughout the area but I am so not one of them.  I know I am going to be bad when she gets to the age that she can go off by herself – I get anxious already about the day.  We rode the lazy river next.  Mario and I got in an inner tube for about 3 minutes and then we were ready to walk and end the trip.  Maria, on the other hand, laid back in her inner tube, head propped on the headrest and eyes closed.  She enjoyed every minute of it.  

Family pose waiting for a ride (with Mr. Comedian)

After the water park, we headed back to the rides for some bumper cars (Mario loved hitting other kids’ cars but was mad he did not hit enough) and the “mini” roller coaster (cars go around in a circle and speed up around the corner).  We also hit a little bigger roller coaster that actually had a hill to it (albeit small) and Maria sat in the front and held up her arms.  Mario leaned into my chest to hide.  You get the picture of the daredevil in the family, heh? 

I finally persuaded them to leave the park 6 1/2 hours later by telling them we would go to McDonald’s play land up the street.  Yeah, I am not kidding.  I was craving a hamburger anyway.  I just needed out of the park, too.  The kids played in the Playland; we saw Grandma Lolo; and I loaded up on Diet Coke and fries to steer us back to Columbus.  On the way home, Maria and Mario held their animals tight as they watched the rest of their movies.  When we got home, Maria begged me to sleep with her.  I said no at first but then the thought of lying horizontal sounded too good.  I tapped her shoulder as she laid in her bed, and she came running into my room.  We laid together talking about KI and school and how much we would miss our house when we moved.

Ronald McDonald visited us!

The Big Apple


NYC babes

I visited my sis in the Big Apple last weekend and came home on Sunday night with a Big Smile.  Lord, she is a machine.  Meg and I kept up with her, but barely, and not without some whining every once in a while.  But even when we were so tired we could keel over, we knew if we kept going, it would be worth it (e.g., picnic lunch in Central Park).  

On my way home to Columbus, I saw a picture of Disney’s Tinkerbell on a kid’s suitcase.  It hit me – that is my Sarah!  She is a tiny, floating, magical fairy that sweeps you from place to place.  But she kicks Tinkerbell out of fairyland because she not only sweeps you around but she also keeps you entertained with good Gospel music, outrageously delicious food, and awesome picturesque views from century old parks.  


Ready to chow on picnic food but waiting for the subway

On Friday night, Sarah surprised me with an evening of Gospel music with Shirley Caeser.  We sat in Prospect Park in Brooklyn and praised the Lord for two hours while watching hundreds of others dancing and bellowing out the Lord’s praises.  The crowd exhibited all walks of life, old and young, African-American, white and Chinese, poor and rich.  I love the energy that comes from so many different walks of life who gather together and just let loose (and it is hard not to let loose a “Praise Jesus” or an “Amen!” with Shirley singing.  

On Saturday morning, Sarah pushed me to go on a 12 mile run through Central Park.  The thought of running through Central Park intrigued me since I have never seen all of it.  Besides, I could keep up with that little fairy sis of mine.  Right?  Yeah….  I actually did make it but there were a few times I thought I would pass out or experience a massive coronary as we ran up a hill.  To Sarah’s credit, she tried to make me stop and walk back to the hotel numerous times but I have that Menkedick determination and it got the best of me (she also used her old trick of continuously asking me questions to try to get my mind off the pain.  She used to do this when I gave her massages, too, with the hopes I would get so engrossed in the conversation that I would massage her for hours)!  When we got back to the hotel, I felt so spent but so cleansed at the same time.      

Admiring David in Little Italy

After cold showers, we rocked out some Dim Sum at a little chinese place in Chinatown and then headed to Little Italy for a stroll along the pedestrian street.  Meg showed us around Washington Park where she had planted herself on Friday while waiting for Sarah to get off work.  We watched the pups stroll along with their owners – 90% of the pups not weighing more than 12 pounds and sporting serious attitude.  We chowed down on some Italian food in the evening – ravioli with goat cheese and two homemade pizzas. We drank a bottle of white wine with it. Yum. 

On Sunday, we  bought foods for a picnic brunch at Eatlery (delectable italian grocery store and restaurant) and then proceeded to Central Park (subway to Eatlery, subway to the Park and a walk through the park to find the perfect spot – we were ready to chow)!  We sat in a shady area and ate cheese and bread, blackberries, peaches, a prosciutto panini, and amazing NY cupcakes all the while watching the runners go by and reading the NY Times.  Ahh, waht a way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.   We topped off the day with a 15 block walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Sar and Meg looked inside while I walked around the Upper East side trying to find a Hulk figurine for Mario and something cute for Ri.  However, all I found were shoe shops, luggage shops and high-priced clothing shops.  Ugh! 

Picnic food

By the time we all met up, we had to hike back to a subway station to take the subway to Times Square.  After getting off the subway 8 blocks from Times Square, we sauntered back to the hotel to get our things and send me off to my flight home to Columbus.  We were exhausted but were satisfied that we had experienced New York City in the matter of two days!

When I got home to the kids, they immediately informed me of their weekend with dad at Uncle Mario’s farm. 


“We went four-wheeling. I painted my toes and fingers with Bianca. We ate spaghetti and meatballs. We went to the candy store.”  I started to tell them about NYC but they were busy finding books for me to read to them.  I have to start gathering books about NYC, Aix-en-Provence, Oaxaca and the other cities that Sarah for her travel.  Somehow I can see that little Maria following in her fairy footsteps.

Running (after my sis)

Sarah and Stella

Years ago when my younger sis (by 10 years) was in high school and deeply involved in sitting at the coffee shop with her friends philosophizing about life as she knew it at age 16, I was the workout monster in the family.  I ran, lifted weights, biked, taught aerobics.  And no one could beat me in a run.  My sis, Sarah, was known for her writing and her love of books.  One of her favorite activities was sitting in the bathtub with her favorite book and reading for two hours.  My brother loved his music, and should adore my parents for letting him spend countless hours in the basement jammin’ away on his drums and sax.  When we went on family hikes, I was the one with ten rocks in my pockets to give me an extra struggle as I climbed up a hill.

Meg and I braving the steps when we visited for Sarah's wedding

Then my sis grew up.  And as she aged, she found a love for running.  Afterall, she has the perfect runner shape – 100 pounds when wet and just tiny!  Her running has been a constant for her as she traveled to different countries and engaged with new people and new work.  I will never forget going to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit her.  She had told me about a course that she ran almost daily with her dog, Stella.  I couldn’t wait to check it out when I arrived.  The first morning after I landed, we awoke to a gorgeous 65 degree day.  She asked if I was ready to go.  ‘Of course”, I thought. 

We walked to the steps that we had to climb to get to the path that led to the trail.  I had heard rumors about these steps from Meg and my dad who had visited Sarah earlier in the year.  “Horrid” and “killer” were adjectives I remember hearing upon their return.  We ran up all of them (at least 150) to a plateau that overlooked some of Oaxaca.  “Ok”, I thought, “I can hang although my heart was beating quite fast.  We continued up a brick path to the trail.  One long hill.  When we got to the trail, I was again winded but continued to smile and assure Sarah I was ok.  Then, the trail.  Heaven help me.  Every time you thought you had reached the top, you found out it was just a short plateau with more hill up ahead.  I was sweating through every pore of my body, and my legs burned like they had been thrown in a fire pit.   

I thought “I have met my match.”

When Sar and I returned home, I laid on the bed massaging my legs and getting my breathing back to normal.  It was at that moment that I knew my reign as workout monster of the Menkedick family was, if not over, at least shared with my sis. 

Sar and I on a bus trip in Oaxaca

So, it is that realization and determination to keep up with her that led me to agree to run the Columbus Marathon with her in October.  She is already cranking out 10-15 miles with no problem.  I have been trying to run more on the mornings that Jon is home and I am able to get out.  I used to run 3-5 miles and then spend a decent amount of time lifting at the gym.  Now, I am running 6-10 and doing less lifting.  I went out this morning and took the bike course downtown and back for ten miles.  In the beginning of the run, you always feel so strong and so free – zoning out to NPR and thinking about events from the past week, what you have going on in the future (a side note – for a mom of two, this freedom and time away is crucial).  By the middle of the run, when you are farthest away from the house, you start to wonder why you went so far and your legs start to wonder with you.  By the end of the run, you just keep repeating “You can do it. You can do it. Don’ think about it anymore, just keep going.”  Then you finish.  And you have that gratification down in the deepest part of your soul that you completed what you set out to complete.  Your body feels wasted and tired but also surprisingly refreshed – you worked all of those toxins out and as spent as you are, you are also so alive.

Nonetheless, as much as I appreciate the thrill of a good, long run, that good, long run has consisted of 10 miles – not 26.  I am not so headstrong to go the 26 in October if I am hurting (my IT band has not been cooperating with me lately).  Of course, I am fully aware that because I am a Menkedick, I can talk the talk now but come race day, I will need to be completely unable to stand on my legs before I will give up. 

I will just have to depend on that little sis of mine to take care of me.

Field Days

Maria walking to school on field day

Maria had a field day today at school.  She got to go outside on the playground in the morning and play random games (Memory, tictactoe) and draw with chalk all over the blacktop.  Then she was treated to a pizza lunch with chocolate milk and the Toy Story 3  movie in the afternoon.  During the movie, the kids got snacks and juice.  When she got home, she proudly declared “Mom, guess what?  We did not have to do any work today!” 

I remember field days during my days at Nativity school in Pleasant Ridge.  I remember walking across the street to the park and playing softball, competing in three-legged races, and eating lunch in the grass with my friends.  I remember being so excited about field day because all I did was play, especially softball.  One year, I went to steal home and my teacher, Mr. Beiting, winged the softball towards the catcher and it hit me in the head.  Of course we did not wear helmets back then so I had a nice-sized bruise on the side of my head for a while.  But even with that hit, I continued to love to play. 

Maria running to school on field day!

Like her mama, Maria was most excited about hanging out with her girlfriends and not having to do any school work for the day.  I think she has had a really good first year of school with only occasional whining and crying about having to go (and those times were usually when she was absolutely exhausted).  In the beginning of the year, we experienced some drama with a couple of the other girls in her class (every girl wanted to be friends with one particular girl so when that particular girl chose someone other than Maria, Maria would get sad, angry, depressed and either completely close up or act out.  When she acted out, she further alienated the particular girl and the girl who was playing with her, which in turn, got Maria more sad, depressed, angry.  I finally convinced her that it was not worth her time and energy to worry about the particular girl – she just needed to go to school and make other friends and have fun.  It took a while to sink in but of course, as soon as it did, the particular girl warmed up to her because, after all, my daughter is beyond super cool. 

Ri is heading to Kids Club this year for two days a week.  We picked two of the funnest days – Monday and Tuesday.  Monday is pool day. They walk to the pool with their packed lunches and swim for a few hours.  On Tuesday, they go on a field trip ranging from an audobon center to an inflatable fun house, to a state park.  I think she will love those opportunities. 

I am actually extremely jealous and want to go on most of these trips with her.  I think they should have field days or field trips for parents.  Could you imagine going into work in your sweats and t-shirt, meeting up with your colleagues, getting in line, heading out the door, and walking to the closest park.  Once there, you take out your water bottle, get a drink, and head out to the green field for some dodgeball.  Next, you play a game of softball, and then you wind down with some Duck Duck Goose.  Lunch is PB&J with cheetos and a chocolate pudding.  After lunch, you resume activities getting more dirty, more exhausted, and more slap happy.  By the end of the day, you go home and think “What a great day – life is good. I have great colleagues, work is wonderful for letting us unwind, and I am ready to crank it out for my precious employer tomorrow.”  Imagine how much more positive we would be after one simple day like that. 

So, let’s start an on-line lobbying movement to enact federal law requiring one field day a quarter for employees –  mandatory game-playing, mandatory participation, mandatory letting loose.  I bet ya productivity would sky-rocket within six months.  A win-win for all!