Weekend fare

Ri fasted with her friend on Friday morning through Saturday afternoon in order to raise awareness and money for individuals who die from starvation every day. She did not eat breakfast Friday morning even though I told her that she should at least have a piece of fruit since she would be in school all day. She called me once she arrived at school, and was hysterically laughing.

“Mom, we don’t need to fast until noon today. I could’ve had breakfast!”

Lucky for her, I stashed a few cereal bars in her book bag. She came home from the fasting event at her friend’s church on Friday night around 9:30 PM. She told me about learning how much starvation occurs in the world, what it’s like to not have enough money for clothes and food and medications, and how to help those in need. I am so grateful that she is interested in social justice issues and does not shy away from discussing them.

I asked her if she was going to continue to fast through Saturday and she looked at me like I was crazy.

“Of course I am, Mom. This is a very very important issue and we need more people to get concerned about it.” 

Then she leaned over to me and asked if she could have one lick oh my whipped cream… 

Sure enough, she left on Saturday morning for her babysitter class without any breakfast. The class ended up being ok but not ideal. They learned safety tips and “every way you can get hurt” while babysitting (scraped, burned, cut – they were cracking me up as they described that session) and they got to change a real live baby’s diaper, which Maria could do with her eyes closed. But they did not learn CPR, which is one thing I had hoped would be included in the training.  Nonetheless, they had a good time together and got a “good sitter” certificate. Now, they want to get together and start their own babysitting business to earn money to go to a camp this summer. More power to them!

Meanwhile, Mario had begged me to take him to the mall on Saturday. I had absolutely no desire to drive 20 minutes to walk around that box so we agreed that we would go to GameStop instead. His friend was over when I got home from working out so he went with us. They each brought old video games to turn in for cash. GameStop was filled with mighty fine folks in their sandals and sweatpants and disheveled hair ready to buy the latest Pokémon game. I felt a bit out of place. Mario’s friend had six video games to turn in –they offered him a total of $5.40 for them (3 cents for one of them). Mario had two recent video games, and he got a total of $7. His friend commented how sad it was that his dad spent $60 on each of the games and he only got back $5 for all of them. His comment was a perfect segway for my speech to Mario about spending all of his money on games he would play for a week and then discard. Mario listened to me but obviously didn’t hear me because he walked over to me with several “mature” video games he wanted. I swiftly declined each request much to his dismay. The “dude” at the front desk saw his dismay and pointed out an “awesome” video game that had a teen rating. Mario looked skeptical but decided that he would try it out. When we arrived home, he immediately loved it. I have to thank the dude because I got two hours of cleaning done as Mario described his every move while playing the game.

Ri spent the night at Alana’s on Saturday night so she could spend time with Alana’s new kitten. Yes, she got a kitten for her birthday. Her name is Lillian and she is adorable. Mario and I watched Dude Perfect videos and I let him sleep with Jon, which made him so happy.

On Sunday, Mario and I washed Rocco at the Doggy Spa; Mario had missed out at our last washing so he was excited to go with just me. 

We went to Stauf’s afterwards and ate a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. Yum. Sweet Rocco waited outside and we watched him through the window. Several people walked up and petted him. Such a doll baby. 

Ri came home at noon and we all headed to her basketball tournament up north. She’s on a tougher team this year and has to step her play up a notch. Jon and I were very proud of her defensive skills and we know her offensive skills will improve with practice. She was hard on herself, as always, but settled down after the coaches talked to her (and Jon – she doesn’t like to talk to me until after the game).

We finished the night with Mario’s practice and some stuffed green peppers compliments of our loving chef, Maria. 


I am such the procrastinator. It’s August 4 and I’m just getting around to trying to find a sitter for the kids for after school. Granted, I thought our summer sitter would be able to do it and just attempted to confirm that fact with her two weeks ago when she quickly informed me that her classes would not allow her to do it. Lovely.

I immediately signed up Mario for Kids Club at school but am still waiting to hear back about whether they have space. There’s a non-procrastination point for me!

I trust that Ri could head home on her own and stay at the house until we got home from work. She is more responsible than Jon and I combined and is definitely a born mother! The other day Jon didn’t have on his seat belt and she barked at him to put it on…now! When I drove her to Target, my phone beeped and I looked at it for a second to see if it was work and she reached up to the front seat and yanked it from the console.

“Mom, do you know how many people die every year from looking at their phones while driving?”

But Jon and I still feel like she’s too young to come home and be all alone for a few hours. So, the mad search continues. I’ve got other moms helping, colleagues, friends, and babysitting sites. I wish someone wouldn’t have decapitated that robot walking across America – I bet he would have been good with the kids.

Last night, Ri and Mario got on one of the babysitting sites and looked at prospects. Mario wants a boy sitter (a manny) so badly. He’s over girls already…. Ri could go either direction although I know she’d rather stick with a girl. But she’d give that desire up to appease her little brother (as always). Mario found a guy that he thought looked cool. He was an athlete with cropped hair. 

“Can you call him, mom” he asked.

Maria stepped in and covered his contact info. 

“No way! We cannot have him!” She declared with force.

“Why?” Mario pleaded. 

“Because he’s not CPR-certified” Ri responded matter-of-factly. 


New Year’s Eve 2014

Jon and I brought in the New Year together for the 16th year in a row. In our beginning years, we’d be at the bars whooping it up. In the mid-years, we were settling down to nights at home in bed watching the ball drop. After the kids were born, we’d be lucky to stay up until 10:30 pm. Then the kids got old enough to understand NYE and we’d make a night out of it by getting snacks and playing games and watching Dick Clark or Ryan Seacrest on tv. Jon and I were looking forward to another NYE together because the kids were away so much this Winter Break. We missed them.
Ri got home early Wednesday after watching Elena at the farm. She and Henley stayed out there for a few days. Each time she returns home from watching sweet Elena, she has two words: “I’m exhausted.” But she loves every minute of it.



Mario returned home after a few days with Grandma Ionno and his cousins. He went ice skating with them and loved it.

Ri and I went out and got some chips and dip and we all planted ourselves down for the evening. We forgot about dinner though so at 6:30 Jon went out for KFC – that’s right folks, we brought in the New Year with chicken legs and mashed potatoes (Mario begged for chicken legs, his new favorite). No high class Mitchell’s for us. Looking back, I think it set the tone for the night…. At one point, Mario was play fighting Jon and wouldn’t stop when Jon told him to so Jon put him in a headlock and pronounced “this is a hillbilly night in this household!” Indeed, between the KFC and wrestling, we were on our way there.
Mario was pissy about not being able to play Call of Duty, Ri was tired and mad that Mario was pissy. I was irritated because I wanted everyone in a good mood and Jon was laughing at all of us. We got out the game of Life and started to play. But this was the look on Ri’s face.

Mario’s wasn’t much better and he wouldn’t look at me.

Then we heard a knock on the door. Quinn asked if the kids wanted to go down to his house to eat NY cheesecake and dance to a few songs. They both agreed and headed down. I told Stephanie to send them back by ten. I thought maybe friends would liven them up.
They both came back a half hour later looking sullen.
“We just wanted to be with you guys tonight and now we ruined it by going to the Markle’s house.”
They are crazy kids. We resumed our Life game and tried to liven them up. But boy they were both exhausted to the extent that Life didn’t even liven them up. Ri laid on the chair and Mario, Jon and I sat on the couch. We watched a little news and some awful NYE coverage on NBC, and looked over to find Ri passed out. Jon prodded her but it was no use. She was out cold.

Meanwhile, Mario was trying with all his might to stay up in order to get the dollar Jon promised him. He had heard the story of Uncle Patrick slapping himself and going outside to stay awake on NYE and he was trying all the tricks. He looked pathetic.

He finally couldn’t hang on and fell asleep at 11:35.

Unlike Ri, he woke up with Jon’s nudging and watched the ball drop – and then promptly fell back to sleep. He was getting that dollar.
Jon and I gave our smooch and hug to one another. Then I carried the kids to their beds and he let Rocco outside. I was nearly asleep when he came up to bed.
And so this year was brought in on a tired note. I was a tad saddened by the lack of fanfare and frivolity as we had in years’ past but with many things in life, my perspective changed after having time to reflect on the evening.
And here’s what I believe about NYE 2014:
It was a night that happened to come after many nights playing with cousins and staying up late and hosting holiday parties. Of course we were tired and barely able to keep our eyes open. Of course we were emotional and susceptible to outbursts about not being able to buy a house in Life. But we were together and persevering through the night together despite our fatigue. We still hugged one another at night’s end, and still woke up to laughter in the morning. We don’t need the pomp and circumstance to bring in the New Year; we are good with board games and potato chips.
In retrospect, this past NYE couldn’t have been more telling about how 2015 will go. This family will continue to grow together; love one another in good times and bad; enjoy the simple moments together; treasure all the laughter; and forgive one another.

Although we have learned a lesson for next NYE, skip the KFC.

Watching Ms. Elena

God bless it’s hard to watch a six month old baby! I forgot what those days were like with Ri and Mario – where they need pretty much constant attention and cry like banchees when their mama leaves. I was whooped after an hour and breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the front door open. Ri gave up after about 20 minutes and played video games with Mario. Smart girl. That actually helped me because Elena appreciated the quiet and sat with me for 20 minutes chowing on her sweet potatoes! But holy cow, it took my undivided attention to keep her happy.


Yes, the selfies actually helped. She likes looking at herself in the mirror. My only goal was to not have her crying when Sarah got home. I had to prove I was a worthy babysitter! Mission accomplished. Once Sarah walked in the door though she was a much happier camper.
And Ri was back in full-on mode following Sarah and Elena everywhere. Sar asked if Ri wanted to hold her in the Ergo Baby and Ri jumped at the chance. Did that work out good or what?!


She walked around with her for 25 minutes straight; Elena’s eyes fixated on the Christmas lights and objects throughout the house. And, of course, on her awesome older cousin. Now I know the magic bullet when we babysit her next time….


Pinch me

Pinch me.

My life is ridiculously good.

Sweet, generous, loving kids.

Hilarious, caring hubby.

Warm, ever-present family.

True friends.

Great colleagues.

I am very lucky. Most days I stop myself ten times over and process this fact. Is it my culture transformation work I did at the university? Is it that I’m getting older and with that gaining a fuller picture of what it means to be happy? Is it that all the self-help books I read in my 30’s have finally hit home?

My weekends with the kids rarely disappoint. They are at ages now where they are able to play on their own or with each other but they also still want to hang with me and go to the park or take a bike ride. It’s perfect: I can get fully caffeinated, brush up on world events by reading my Times, and then later engage in a full-blown pillow fight.
And I love how their minds are developing; it leads to really awesome questions ranging from the benign – how are sidewalk made – to the sublime – why do we go to war. Mario points out things he sees in books we read together that I would never notice. Ri continues to practice the art of compassion by never judging others – the other day I about cussed out a young guy who cut in front of me in line at Kroger’s and she pulled me aside and whispered “mom, he may have somewhere really important to be.”

Yesterday was another day where I stopped myself over and over amazed at how wonderful I had it. The day brought wonderful near-Spring weather. The girls took a bike ride while I walked Rocco. We got a picture on the same rock we took a picture on when Rocco was a pup. Ri was very excited about that!


Mario met us at the park and the kids decided it was time for Rocco to adventure down a slide. Their eyes about popped out of their heads when he did it.


I love this picture of the kids running with Rocco. It’s a perfect depiction of the joy of warm weather.

And this is the perfect depiction of Ri laughing hysterically as she tries to catch up with Rocco!

Love love love these beginning days of Spring.
Next up, a trip to the river where Ri and Mario and I used to go on Sundays to collect rocks. It was closed for a year to create a bike path and I was anxious to see what the trail looked like. We piled in Stephanie’s van with the pup sitting next to Ri and the boys carrying their weapons (in case we encountered zombies) and headed down the street. We parked at the gas station and unloaded. What a sight.

The bank where we used to collect and throw rocks was still ready for us. But it was rather insane trying to make sure the kids didn’t fall (there were huge boulders lined up where there used to be gravel). Rocco added to the insanity by trying to jump in the river; Mario screamed like a maniac for me to hold his leash because “he didn’t want his dog to die!” So, I held him as he pulled me all over the rocks while I held Paxton to ensure he didn’t fall. Good workout.
The kids found great hide-outs made of sticks and leaves (I didn’t inform them that homeless folks probably used these “shelters” because I didn’t quite know how Steph would react but I did feel compelled to talk to M&M later that evening to help them appreciate the struggle all people face at times). The boys played capture and the girls played dorm room (whatever that is).


The kids found a big rock pile on our way out and I asked them to pose as savages. All complied except Mario who continued to laugh like a hyena!

In order to get them to leave, I had to promise them a snack at the gas station. They booked it after that promise. The boys got chocolate donuts (they slipped me one in thanks) and the girls got ice cream cones. They were happy as heck driving home.
We ended the night watching my girlfriend’s kids. A six week old and two year old who I had never met… Huh. I was a bit worried. But it ended up being absolutely joyous. Ri was excited all day to hold the six week old, Emerson Lois. She kept asking “when will it be 5:30?!” Mario kept telling me he didn’t want to babysit. But when they dropped off Miles, Mario took to him like sugar. He threw the ball with him and led him around his room to play. It was precious. And Miles couldn’t be more chill of a kid. He just followed Mario and played with whatever Mario gave him. He never cried once (kudos go all to Mario!).


He taught him how to crawl up the stairs so he wouldn’t fall down and how to beg for (and receive) a cookie. He was so compassionate and sweet with him. Warmed my heart.

And Ri was, as I knew she would be, a doll with Emerson. She laid with her and held her and couldn’t wait to change her diaper. Emerson is a real life baby doll!


Emerson pitched a little fit at one point and I had to put her in her seat while I got Miles’ dinner. The next thing I knew, Ri had her quiet by rocking her back and forth. She also had picked up the mom talent of multi-tasking as she rocked the baby and read a magazine – love it!

I sat at the kitchen table when my girlfriend left with her kids and my kids and Jon had gone to sleep and felt engulfed with gratitude. Another day full of laughter and sunshine and good kids and nature and a tired pup and chocolate donuts. Really, it doesn’t get any better.