Mario and fairy books

Maria has innate compassion and nurturing genes in her body. She has always been a caretaker. When Mario was born, she would beg to give him his Binky or put him in his swing or feed him his smashed peas. I have a ton of pictures – back when you had to develop them – of the two of them together and inevitably, Maria’s arm is always wrapped around Mario. His protector.

In preschool, she had a girlfriend who was petite and quiet. Whenever another child would boss her around, Maria would step in and protect her. The girl’s parents nicknamed Maria “the muscle.” This weekend, Maria and I were just getting ready to sit down to play a card game. Her phone rang and she left to talk to her friend for a few minutes. She came back and told me that her friend needed to stop by. Within a minute, I heard the door open. Her friend was sobbing; Maria wrapped her arm around her friend, and walked with her down the stairs to her room continuously whispering “you will be ok.”

Mario did not quite inherit the compassionate and nurturing genes.  That is not to say that he doesn’t care for others; he just doesn’t have that automatic response of nurturing and caretaking. He expresses his care and concern by trying to make people laugh – by being goofy. When he was in preschool, he would get up in front of all of his friends and perform a crazy dance (he loved Gangnam Style). When one of his friends took a nasty fall while they were skateboarding, he jabbed him with playful jokes to keep him laughing until I arrived to take him home. Last week, I had a crappy day at work and he amused me with his little quips.

I have made Maria do more volunteer activities with me than Mario. This is partially because the moms of Maria’s friends tend to plan volunteer events more often than the moms of Mario’s friends. It is also because she didn’t put up as much of a fight as Mario did when I talked about doing something for those in need.

Lately, I have been lamenting about not pushing harder on Mario when he puts up a fight about volunteering. He needs to gain some perspective when he starts begging me for $150 pair of basketball shoes for the upcoming season. I have told him that there may be a possibility of purchasing such shoes but it does not come without putting forth some effort for others. Accordingly, he has agreed to put together hygiene kits for men at the homeless shelter along with a few of his friends. We are heading out this week to buy the supplies and then put them together to deliver. It just takes me putting forth some effort to get him to do it.

But I was excited to see him come downstairs on his own last night and read a book to Elena with me. I had mentioned reading to Elena over dinner with him and Maria and Jon last night. I threw in a comment that it would be really nice if the kids or Jon joined me for a chapter or two. They all rolled their eyes.

I situated my computer at the dining room table, and jumped on Facebook messenger with Elena. I was just getting ready to start reading the Weather Fairies book when Mario trotted down the stairs to join me. Elena started giggling like she always does when Mario enters the screen. I gave Mario the parts of Kirsty to read.

To my delight, he completely acted the part. He raised his voice up a few octaves to mimic Kirsty’s voice. Elena cracked up every time he read off the page. He read a chapter with us, and then I allowed him to head upstairs to finish his homework. I spent another 45 minutes reading to Elena. I didn’t make her chuckle like Mario had but we did have fun reading about the goblins and talking about the different weather fairies.

I visited Mario in his room after I finished with Elena. I told him how happy he had made Elena by simply reading a chapter of a book to her. I explained how a simple gesture can mean a lot to somebody. 

I recall telling my dad about taking a walk in the woods without looking at my phone the entire time. We had been talking earlier in the week about needing to disconnect more often. His response via text was “baby steps.” That phrase came to mind as I left Mario’s room and went to log off the computer for the night.



And there you have it

Jon took Mario to Mario and Vicki’s house this weekend to scout turkeys and eat some of Vicki’s killer pasta. Jon got the sweetest picture of Mario Sunday morning. Breaks my heart.

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Maria got to have Alana over to spend the night on Saturday. It is so awesome to have them at an age that they can scooter a couple of miles without needing assistance. I never thought I’d see the day when I didn’t need my treasured stroller (Mario still uses it when he’s tired; Jon wants to get rid of it as of yesterday).

And so It was a scooter-filled weekend with the girls – we went to Wendy’s for dinner and then scooted ourselves to the park and to Orange Leaf before heading home. I love that Ri sports cowboy boots on her scooter.

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I also love that she is able to crank out a rap song with a leg-kick dance move while on the scooter (she’s come along way baby).

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On Sunday morning, I was awoken by two giddy girls talking about their respective schools and friends and cute boys in their class. We sat in bed for an hour chatting away. Then we were on our scooters heading to Tim Hortons for breakfast and the park for tree climbing. Maria sported some fashionable sandals for the morning ride.

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As we were riding up the hill, Ri asked if our old neighbor Kim was working at the fire station. She is a dispatcher. She was and we surprised her. This led to a full-blown one hour tour of the fire station. Fire fighter Harris and student Ashley were awesome showing Ri and Alana everything on the fire truck and in the ambulance (they even got to experience an EKG and watch their perfect hearts beat). Ri had a ton of questions and listened to every word coming out of the fire fighter’s mouth. I love how interested she is in learning.

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By the time we got home it was noon and time for planting our miniature flower garden. Pink cosmos and sunflowers. Alana really wanted pink cosmos even though that was Ri’s Easter present. Ri graciously gave her two out of the six seeds to plant with her sunflower seeds. If there is one trait that makes me so proud of Ri it is her generosity and understanding. When Alana refused to let Ri try on her headlamp, Ri didn’t pitch a fit. She just let it go. Later on when it was just Ri and me, Ri mentioned it. I told her I was sorry she didn’t get to try it on and I told her that we all have things we need to work on and Alana should work on sharing a bit more.

“But mom, I can’t be mad at her because she really loves that headlamp and if it broke she wouldn’t get another so I can understand why she’s protective over it.”

Well. What more to say to my mature 7 year-old daughter? Nothing. I just gave her a hug and we sat on the steps waiting for Mario and dad.

Hittin’ the jackpot

Jon and I hit the jackpot with our kids. No doubt about it. Sure, they may be rather animated at times and want to butt their way into many a conversation but their warmth and depth and compassion bring me to my knees.

Last night, instead of playing Skylander or having a friend over, they gathered clothes and books to take to the Overflow Homeless Shelter. We drive over and dropped off our items and ended up staying for a half hour because Mario was making the male staff members crack up with his dancing and Maria was engaged in an in-depth conversation with the female staff members about school. As we walked out, they both thought of ways we could help out next week.

“Maybe we could get blankets so they stay warm.”

“Could we bring them coats so when they have to leave in the morning, they won’t be cold?”

Ri has always had that caring soul instilled in her. Since she was three, she has always been willing to give her stuffed animals away to children in need. Mario, well, he needs a little more teaching. But he is coming around. He likes to give his time to others and loves to make people laugh.

I was so proud of them last night.

Then we wake up this morning and I come out of the bathroom to find Mario rubbing Ri’s back because her tooth hurts. I asked him what he was doing and he looked up at me as if I had no reason to be surprised by his actions and says: “I’m taking care of my sissy.”
8 am rolled around and Ri engaged in her usual sergeant drills pushing Mario and I to hurry up. But when she saw Mario struggling with tying his shoes and heard him plea with Ri and me to watch him tie them, she let go of the time and watched him. Indeed, she even video-taped him so dad could see “what a big boy Mario was this morning.”

Yep, no doubt about it, we hit the jackpot with these two pumpkins.

Compassion and Febreeze

Jon went hunting last night with the hopes of bringing some deer meat home to his family (I’m just hoping for some of Vicki’s meatballs!).

It was just the kids and I and I had to help out a local non-profit with decorating for a gala tonight. So the kids got to head downtown with me and “work” their little butts off. They had a blast doing it. The gala is at the Vault, which I believe is an old bank converted to an event hall. It has a vault in the back of the hall that provided a secret hideaway for M&M. They loved running around the place and hiding from me. But they also provided assistance putting favors in bags and decorating table trees with red ornaments. They thought placing the plastic red cardinals on the tree was the bomb!

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They were polite yet animated and the volunteer crew loved them. I love that I can share with them my passion to help others and they enjoy doing the work with me. I hope I am instilling in their little bodies a life-long desire and passion to care for others. With each project, I imagine their souls expanding to make room for all the compassion, empathy and purpose pouring from their little bodies into the work.

But, alas, they are kids and must mix a bit of childish fun along with virtues of compassion and giving. Mario found Febreeze in the ladies bathroom and thoroughly enjoyed spraying its remnants among the four walls of the tiny room. I thought a cheap perfume grenade had exploded when I stepped in to retrieve Mario but his face said it all – no grenade, only Mario orneriness.

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