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.


Obama Rally

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

Friday Stasis

I did not want to leave the house today. 

I wanted to stay cuddled with Maria on the bed watching Justin Bieber on the Today show and listening to Mario chuckle as he threw his sock at the ceiling fan and witnessed it ricochet across the room. 

I did not want to sit in meetings and make phone calls. 

So, I took my time getting ready for work.  I appeased Mario and watched him throw his sock into the ceiling fan twenty times chasing him to try to be the first to retrieve the far-flung sock.  I stared at Ri mesmerized by the tv showing Justin Bieber singing to the massive NYC crowd.  I took Mario downstairs and made him peanut butter crackers for breakfast (I know all my health-nut friends are disgusted – sorry).  He begged to watch one of his library movies and I agreed since it is a Friday.  Maria came running downstairs and exclaimed “I got $5 from the tooth fairy!”  Man, inflation has shot up the average gift from the Tooth Fairy. 

When David arrived, I took off.  I got to work just in time to get my decaf americano, answer two emails and leave for a 9:30 am meeting.  The day went quickly; I had a YMCA board retreat from 2-5 that I really did not feel like attending.  Not because I don’t like my colleagues on the board or because I had something much more fun to do.  Maybe it was because I knew I would have to engage and talk and I just felt like keeping to myself.  But I find that I get into that loner mode a lot, and I have to force myself to go to something in order to defeat it.  It’s one thing to enjoy my solitude; I think that is a necessity in this life.  It’s another to just not want to converse with people because it will take effort and you might get stuck talking with the guy that you think has an ego the size of Mars.  I think it’s also a necessity in life to make that effort, especially when it relates to a larger goal – here, creating more teamwork and collaboration amongst YMCA board members.  So, I went, and I really enjoyed it.  I talked with people I have never spoken with before and learned that the guy I thought had an ego the size of Mars ran another non-profit that I was really interested in for future volunteer work.  I learned that the YMCA hosted a lot more activities than I knew of – activities that I believed passionately about (teaching inner-city kids how to swim and working towards getting the Y residents more fit through nutrition and exercise). 

I talked with Maria about the retreat when I got home.  She loves the YMCA and has gone to several board meetings with me.  Of course, at this age, it’s all about the food (she loves the home-made mac-n-cheese) and not about the mission.  But she gets it in general because when we pass by a homeless person from time to time, she will say “Mom, maybe he should try to live at the YMCA.” 

After a few minutes with Maria, we rushed Mario to tee-ball.  Grandma and Grandpa Ionno came down to watch him play.  It was picture night, too.  Mario was hilarious with the photographer – he did his cool mac-daddy smile when she posed him and would not open his mouth for a full one.  Patty and Joe got a kick out of watching him in the field – when a kid hit it, all of the kids ran towards the ball no matter where it was hit in the field.  Mario even dove with another kid for the ball at one point and when he got it, he just looked at him with a cocky grin and threw the ball to first.  Competitive can we say?

We hit Bob Evans after the game for some hotcakes and dinner rolls (we all needed to carb up after watching two long innings of tee-ball in 88 degree weather).  Maria was cracking us up as we ate dinner.   Mario went to the bathroom and had been in there for a while.  Jon came back from paying the check and went to see if Mario was ok.  Maria watched Jon pass our table and told him he better go check on Mario because there was no way his dad (her grandpa) was going because he was resting comfortably in his chair!  She is a trip.  

The kids rode their bikes for Grandma and Grandpa when we got home.  We adjusted Mario’s bike seat up a few inches, and it made a heck of a difference.  He sped along with no problem on the sidewalk.  Poor guy just couldn’t get enough power earlier because his knees almost scraped the ground when he peddled.  When Patty and Joe left, Maria strolled Mario up the street with all of her bears in one side of the stroller and Mario in the other.  They flipped the stroller about five houses up the street.  I was busy watering the yard so I did not bolt up the street like I normally would have to make sure everything was ok.  This time I just yelled “Come on guys, get back home!”  I am sure the conservative, cautious family up the street about had a heart attack but hey, it was Friday, and I had reached my limit of crisis.  I had survived a day of work, a tee-ball game, 90 degree weather, and I was ready to chill.  They did manage to get the stroller erect and head home, and we all chilled in the house for the remainder of the night.

Making our way

The kids woke up at the break of dawn again Sunday morning.  Jon and I heard them in Maria’s room talking quietly, probably about superheros or barbies.  Jon got out of bed first and shut the door behind him to allow me to continue dozing.  That is true love. 

When I finally dragged my tired butt out of bed 20 minutes later, I found Maria on my Ipad playing Pet Shop (her favorite game now) and Alana and Mario fighting it out on Wii Table Tennis.  They would take turns rubbing a win in the other’s face and then when the other rubbed it in his or her face, they would cry about it.  They are competitive as heck together – something Maria is not.  Maria wants everyone to win and every time she starts a game, she prefaces it by saying “Let’s just play for fun.”  To the contrary, Mario prefaces it with “I am gonna whoop you up!”  However, he wants a fair fight – he doesn’t just want to whoop you up without a good fight.  So, when I could not figure out how to shoot in basketball Wii, he stopped the game to tutor me so that I could give him a run for his money.  He continued to whoop on me a bit but then I stole the ball from him.  He gave me a look of amazement.  He wanted to congratulate me but he also wanted to win.  So he just shook his head and kept playing. 

Meanwhile, Maria just kept playing Pet Shop.  She bought two new kittens and some pups and a fish.  She arranged them all and proudly showed them off to us.  Then, when she decided to play Wii, and lost badly to Mario, she got angry.  “I hate these games!”  Mario looked at her kindly and explained “Maria, you have to practice a lot to get good. I practice a lot.”  She shook her head at him in disgust.

The girls and I headed to Washington Courthouse to meet up with my Cincy girls for brunch.  We ate at Bob Evans – my new favorite restaurant because of their breakfast food.  I could eat their eggs and hash browns with onions and bacon and multi-grain pancakes everyday.  I choose the multi-grain pancakes because it makes me feel like I am being healthy but after I eat three of them with syrup, I don’t feel too healthy.  In fact, I have learned to make sure to wear sweats when I head to Bob Evans so that I am not uncomfortable after my meal.  Maria takes after her mom – she got chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. Alana did, too, but only ate half of her food.  Maria and I swooped in like vultures and finished it off.  Maria hugged on Grace through  the meal.  Kathy is so good about letting Maria hold her and walk her.  Maria loves it.  She has got the babysitter gene in her body – something I never had.  My girlfriends and I talked for a bit over breakfast but between Gracie grabbing our attention and the quick service, I felt like we didn’t get to talk for too long.  I must still be spoiled from Italy. 

The girls and I headed to the outlet mall after our meal and tried to find clothes for my Cancun trip with Jon next week.  Just shoot me.  Is there any store in that outlet mall that has a mirror that flatters?  Maria and Alana just kept saying “You are having a baby!”  Nothing like that comment to stroke your ego.  I was ready to buy a mumu and call it a day.  I did score some pretty jewelry but no hot dresses.  I should just stick with Target.

Mom and Mario

When Maria and I got home, we found out Mario was spending the night with Jon’s mom and dad.  He loves spending the night with them because he is spoiled like crazy and he gets out of school.  He cracks them up as much as he cracks us up, too.  Patty took him to the store and they looked through the toy aisle.  He wanted a toy and Patty told him it was too much money.  His response: “Grandma, you need to get a job and earn some money!”  Patty bought him some boots, and he is charged because he can “track animals” now.  I miss my boy like a mad woman.  It is nice to have him visit Patty and Joe – the break with just Maria means a lot to her and us – but after a day or two, I miss his contagious smile and his wild antics and his bear hugs.  I let Maria sleep on the couch while i watched the rest of the movie “The Way” starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez (my old 80’s crush) as father and son (just like real life).  It is a tender film about a father who loses his son while the son is on a pilgrimage to El Camino de Santiago.  The father decides to take the pilgrimage on his behalf and meets up with a few quirky pilgrims who he befriends by the end.  It is a wonderful tale of understanding and opening up and taking a leap.  And it put Maria to sleep in ten minutes. 

Sick girl calling her grandma

Maria was sick today.  She woke not feeling right but we forced her off to school, if only because we had to work, but got the call at 10 am that she was not doing well at school.  I picked her up and brought her home.  I rubbed her back while she watched Toy Story 3.  I made her soup.  I laid with her.  When she got a second wind, I tickled her and laughed with her.  We made “nests” out of the covers on our bed and slept in them.  We stared out the window at the tree cutters.  We cuddled.  Not a bad day at all.  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and she is trying with all of her might to get better so she can hit her class party.  Mario could care less.  He begged to stay with Patty and Joe.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Don’t leave us, Autumn

We are getting down to the last few weekends where you can still go outside in a sweatshirt and shorts (or jeans for those cold-blooded folks), view a few remaining leaves on the trees, and feel the warmth of the sun on your face.  I can’t stand to be inside on these weekends because I know in a very short period of time, I will be relegated to the house staring out the windows at the bleak, frigid, bare-treed world. 

The cousins ready for a train ride

We woke up on Sunday to a balmy 59 degrees (most mornings nowadays are in the high 30s) and I over-bundled the troops for our morning stroller ride.  We hit Giant Eagle for something different and its close proximity to CVS where I needed to develop pictures.  Jon and I bought a picture frame collage when we bought our new furniture for the house a few months ago and the frame has a bunch of different sized frames that look really cool in the spur of the moment.  However, once you get home and are forced to fill 2.5 x 3.5 and 4×4 and 3x 3.5 it is a different story.  I think I have spent  over 4 hours at CVS trying to correctly develop pictures to fit in the frames.  It is driving me batty.  And yet I won’t give up (although I did feel like throwing the collage frame out the second story window one night at 1 am).  But I digress…

Mario got a chocolate muffin and Maria got a chocolate sprinkle donut at Giant Eagle (Mario said “Why do you get chocolate donuts when you don’t like chocolate?!” Maria’s response “I like chocolate donuts – who wouldn’t?!).  After Giant Eagle and CVS, we headed home reading Berenstein Bears Moving Day.  Yes, I stroll them and read them a book held by Maria who does a great job turning the pages and holding it just right so I can read the words.  As we approached home and the sun peered through the few remaining leaves of the big oak trees, I decided that I would brave it and see if my niece and nephew wanted to head to the zoo with us.  My sister-in-law agreed to let them go and Maria and Mario screamed with excitement. 

Having fun on a statute

We got home and packed pretzels, raisins, and fruit roll ups for the trip.  We grabbed the library movies we had rented earlier in the week, and we were off to Hilliard to pick up M&M’s cousins.  We packed everyone in the truck, fastened seat belts, and headed north to zoo land.  I thank the heavens that I only have two kids but if I had four, I would be able to crank it out.  I packed those kids in the car in less than a minute and that’s with buckling seat belts, too.  I have become a pro. 

We arrived at a quiet zoo with parking close to the entrance.  When we entered, everyone grabbed a map and began to review as if they knew what they were reviewing.  We decided to head to the Petting Zoo first.  Of course, it was closed.  The barn was open so you could see the goats but it’s not the same as being in the pen with them.  We decided to head to the North American region and come back to the Petting Zoo. 

Watching the polar bear

One of the coolest sites of the day was the polar bear exhibit where you can go underground and watch the polar bears dive into the water to play or catch fish.  Two polar bears jumped in while we stood underground, and the kids got to witness them playing and swimming around in the water.  They were darling.  We tried to hit a playground after the polar bears but it was closed, too.  The kids were upset and began with the whiny complaints (“This zoo is awful…”).  I explained to them how lucky they were to be able to come to the zoo and how a lot of kids don’t even get that opportunity.  Maria understood it immediately but the rest of them failed to comprehend at all.  Nonetheless, we continued on to the bobcats, pumas, and moose and their minds were promptly diverted to how cool those animals looked. 

The metal statutes were a big hit for the kids.  They loved to climb on them and swing from them.  We hit one of those at almost every new geographical location.  The bird sanctuary was a bigger hit than I thought it would be.  They searched for birds throughout the sanctuary and when they found one they made a mad dash to the chart to see what kind of bird it was.  After the bird sanctuary, we hit another playground and it was closed, too.  This even pissed me off. I get that they close the playground areas at a specified time each year but really, on a day that is 60 degrees?  More disappointment on their faces when I told them it was closed.  I think it was disappointment and exhaustion from walking for two and a half hours.  Tension began to rise in the two groups of siblings, also.  Giovanni had found a feather and Mario wanted to touch it.  Gio refused.  Mario begged.  He still refused.  At that point, Maria walked up to him and pointed her finger scolding him about how selfish he was being and how he needed to learn to share.  Alana hurried up to defend her brother and tell Maria to leave him alone.  Maria proceeded to tell Alana that Mario would not share his toys with Gio if Gio continued to act selfish.  Alana said that Gio didn’t care.  And yes it kept going just like that for another minute or two before I interjected.  What would spark up 4 and 6 year olds after an exhausting day at the zoo?  McDonald’s Playland!  Let’s go kids!  

Tunnel Fun

My kids are used to the Playland because of our trips to and from Cincy where the McDonald’s Playland acts as a rest stop half way in between Columbus and Cincy.  Their cousins are not used to McDonald’s Playland because their parents do not frequent such establishments.  Aunt Mary is a lot different from Aunt Carrie.  I could care less about the dangers of such playlands – germs are good for kids in order to build up tolerance.  Heck, I never worried about germs as a kid and I turned out healthy.  But Aunt Carrie is polar opposite.  I am sure it sickens her to think about playing at McDonald’s.  I respect her for that – I sometimes I wish I had a little more of her style in me – but if the kids are with me, we will head to these types of places because they are cheap and the kids like them.  Heck, they spent a half hour running around and exhausting themselves so that when 9 pm came that night, they should have been out cold (Maria was knocked out; Mario was just getting a second wind). 

Finally, we ended up at Joann Fabrics to look for vases and flowers for the house.  I could not believe how good the kids were at that place.  They had every opportunity to run all around the store when I was looking at flowers, but they stayed by my side or within earshot of me.  I was very impressed, and because I was so impressed, I let them each buy a little something.  They helped me select flowers for the dining room and tried to find me some artwork for the room.  Nothing would do the trick so I made an impulse last-minute buy of two flower pictures.  I got them home and decided against them immediately.  Oh well.  I do like the flowers we bought. 

We got home at 6 pm and helped Jon with the remainder of the garage cleaning.  He had worked on clearing out the garage while we went to the zoo – no small task since we threw every piece of junk and unnecessary item in the garage when we moved into the house.  To my surprise, after we were done, he asked if we wanted to go to Bob Evans.  Heaven.  I had been craving their pancakes for weeks.  We loaded up and headed down to Bob’s for pancakes and dinner rolls with butter and mashed potatoes.  Thanks, Mother Nature for giving us such a beautiful Autumn day.

New kicks and patience

New kicks!

We had a showing on Wednesday night from 5 to 6:00 and 8 to 9:00 so the kids and I strolled down to the Lennox Center to buy some new school shoes (Maria has lived in flip-flops all summer).  They each found two pairs of shoes – Maria finally invested in a sweet pair of Nikes along with a pair of black and pink funky Skecher gym shoes.  She only chose those two pairs after beggin’ me for a pair of high heels that were at least three inches off the ground (obviously adult shoes).  I was tempted to buy them for her to watch her twist an ankle within two minutes of wearing them but because I am a nice mom, I just told her “no.”  

Mario fell in love with a pair of converse basketball shoes.  And a pair of Nikes.  He had to try them both on two different times in order to make sure that they looked ok and that he could run fast in them.  At one point, an older lady approached him and commented that his converse shoes were cool “tennis” shoes.  He immediately corrected her and told her “they are not tennis shoes – they are basketball shoes.”  Then he went on to tell her he was going to play basketball and football and hockey.  She smiles politely and moved on down the aisle.  Mario looked at me and rolled his eyes “She thought these were tennis shoes, mom.”

We left the shoes store and hit Bob Evans for some chocolate chip pancakes and french toast.  I could eat Bob Evans’ pancakes every meal, especially with chocolate chips in them.  Mario loves them, too but without whipped cream or syrup (freak child).  Maria has taken to french toast lately with lots of syrup and whipped cream.  She loves sausage links, too.  We sit at the bar every time and get waited on by the same young waitress who is studying to be a teacher.  She asks Maria all sorts of questions about first grade and she lets Mario flirt with her waitress friends.  She also lets me order off the kids menu so I can get a bunch of random items for $1.99 each (pancakes and bacon with grilled cheese this time). 


Mario in his new shoes

After Bob’s, we headed home to take showers to be clean for Maria’s first day of school.  After showers, Mario put on his new converse shoes.  He asked me to tie his shoelaces for him and all hell broke loose.  The right shoelace was not tied exactly the way the left one was tied.  Then when I re-tied the left one, it wasn’t tied just like the right.  Then the right one had too big of loops and the left had too big of a knot.  It took 20 minutes to get it right and even then he wasn’t completely happy with it.  I struggle over how far to let his compulsiveness go.  He is only three (soon to be four).  If you work with him, he eventually feels satisfied.  I feel like it is good to do that for him – to take our time and gently deal with his compulsiveness.  But then there are the days that we have to get Maria to school by 8:15 and its 8:05 and he is still trying to place the top strip of his shoe perfectly on the bottom velcro strip.  On those days, I have to finally give him one more try and then just make him leave it as is so we can get to school.  When he flips out, I can usually stay calm and explain that I gave him time to do it but we have a deadline that morning that we cannot miss.  Every once in a while, I am not that sane and I simply go into crazy mom mode and scream “Mario, we have got to go – just put on the daggone shoes and move!”  Likewise, Mario usually makes the deadlines once he knows I am serious.  Every once in a while he goes into crazy son mode and scream “Mom, these are not perfect and I will not leave this house!”  In the end, we respect each other’s mania, and let it go as part of life.  Of course, Maria always stands up for Mario and tells me “Mom, he is just a baby boy and you need to calm down.  Just calm yourself…”   And, she is right.  Mario has taught me patience – a virtue I have always struggled with since I was a child.  I like to think I am a little better because of him.