Cooking with Ri

My junior chef and I produced another wonderful creation this week. Ri loves to cook; she definitely takes after her Aunt Sarah. And she loves to cook healthy, which cracks me up since all I wanted at age 9 were hot dogs and potato chips.
But here we were cutting up cauliflower and broccoli and brussel sprouts to add to pasta. We tossed the veggies in olive oil and sea salt and placed them on a cookie sheet to roast in the oven for 20 minutes. We boiled some pasta (fiber plus white pasta since Ri hates wheat – just like her dad) and saved one cup of the water we used to boil the pasta. Then it was as simple as mixing the veggies and the pasta with the water and olive oil and feta cheese. Sprinkle a bit more sea salt and pepper and thyme and it was ready!

Ri and I sat down at the table together and toasted to another successful dinner creation, that included three veggies even! She’s carried me a long way from my hot dog and chips’ days.
Bon A Petit!


Style vs. Cut

Everyday over the last week I have felt like I have 30 tasks I need to accomplish. If I get one completed, I’m happy. So when I took Mario and Ri to Great Clips on Saturday for a haircut, I was pumped up because I was hitting two birds with one stone. One stop shopping baby.
But then Ri threw a curve ball on me. She brought up the bangs thing again. She’s been begging for short hair and bangs for months. I’ve been putting her off. For two reasons – I love her long hair and I keep forgetting to call a salon to get us in for a cut. The first reason is one that I told myself I have to get over. If Ri wants her hair short, I will have to life with it. Besides, how many times do I have to tell her to brush her hair during the week? She’s fine with it a tangled mess and it drives me nuts. The second reason should have rung like a church bell in my head when Ri begged me in front of the haircutter to let her get bangs and short hair. I’d told myself over and over before that day that there was no way I should allow Great Clips to give her bangs and a bob. But that “get ‘er done” personality wrestled its way in and knocked away common sense. Holy Sh–.
What a mistake that was.
Ri looked like Thor. Her bangs were chopped to mid-forehead and straight across with no style at all. Her thick head of hair shot out of her head like a big cone had been placed on her temples. I am not a vain person and could care less about looks so when I was aghast, I knew there were problems. It took all of Jon’s might not to cringe when she walked in the door. But Ri, my sweet little Ri, did not see her cut as horrid. She liked it. She had bangs, albeit crazy bangs that were short and flopped up on both sides, but bangs.
I tried to convince myself that Ri’s hair wasn’t that bad. Her bangs would grow eventually. We could tame her cone head. But by the end of the day I could not take it. I called a hair salon in Grandview and begged for an early morning appointment on Sunday. They had one available at 9:30 am. Hallelujah!
The stylist was a lifesaver. She had to cut Ri’s hair into a true bob – up to her ears – but it was an actual “style” versus just a “cut.”

I was so relieved when we left the salon – Ri’s hair looked presentable. I still love her long hair but it’s not about me – she loves her bob.

(She wouldn’t let me take a post-cut picture because she wanted to surprise everyone).
As for me, I learned my lesson and vowed to take a deep breath next time I felt rushed and on the war path to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish … at least when it comes to Ri’s hair.
Baby steps.

Calling it out

My poor girl has been sick all weekend but she mustered up enough energy to help me buy gifts for colleagues on-line. During the process of trying to find personalized picture frames and ornaments, it struck home how she is so perceptive and aware at age 9.
The first moment was when we were looking at ornaments and flashing letters splashed across the screen informing us that we had 11 MORE HOURS to get free shipping on all our gifts.
“Mom! Hurry up and find your gifts! You don’t want to lose out on free shipping! It costs a lot to ship!
That’s my frugal girl.

The next moment was while we were looking at personalized frames for a friend and her wife who were recently married. All of the frames were titled with your typical middle class white names – “Jim and Nancy” and “Steve and Susie.” I was secretly smirking at the name choices and the pictures of the couples leaning against a tree laughing or embracing in front of an impeccable brick home. As I continued to look for a present-worthy frame, Ri remarked in a mocking tone “look at Jim and Nancy so quaint and happy.” Then she followed it right up with “all the couples here are a man and a woman; there aren’t any gay couples.”
Indeed, Ri, isn’t it a shame.
“But,” she concluded sarcastically, “they did include one African American couple in the mix….. Just sad.” She shook her head in disbelief.
I chuckled at her sarcasm and keen perception. But then I remembered that it wasn’t my girlfriend I was talking with, it was my nine year old daughter. I stared at her – as she continued to search for frames – in amazement and with pride over her ability to grasp how tilted this world can be in addition to her boldness in raising the issue.
After a half of an hour, we eventually found a wooden frame we likes. And we promptly replaced the names “Jim and Jennifer” with “Eunice and Marsha.”


There are days I feel so incredibly blessed to have my children in my life. And days, well, I really can’t fathom why I have been cursed with my hellions.
Yesterday was a day of blessing.
Jon and Mario headed out early for the Bengals game in Cincy. They went with one of Mario’s football team mates and his dad. Jon was excited to take him to his first pro game, and Mario was excited to hang with his dad all day.

We saw the boys off and then we headed around the streets of Grandview – Ri on her bike and me on my feet – to try to find a friend’s blue parrot who had escaped during the night out an open bedroom window.
We yelled “NoDo” throughout the neighborhood streets and squinted up at the old regal oaks trying to spot the bird among the colorful leaves. The baby blue of the sky contrasting with the deep brown branches and primary colored leaves left me in awe. I stopped Ri on her bike and pointed upwards.
“Isn’t it gorgeous?”
“NoDo!” She yelled for the twentieth time. Give this girl a task involving helping someone, and she is on it.
We thought we heard the parrot on a few occasions. We’d stop in our tracks. Ri would quietly dismount from her bike. We’d walk under the tree where the noises were heard and wait. We saw a blue jay, a chickadee, a bright red robin, but no parrot. We walked past the friend’s house and saw the empty bird cage on the porch – metal door swung open – food lying all around in a valiant effort to entice the lost bird back to its home.
We sighed.
Ri had soccer at 12:45 and Mama Meg and Peepaw were coming to watch so we had to hurry home to get Rocco for our Stauf’s trip. I love Stauf’s trips with my girl. Always laughter and darling comments. I told her to get her bike while I got Rocco and meet me out front. When I walked out the door, she was standing on the step with no bike.
“Whatcha doing?”
“I thought I’d walk with you, mom.”
I pretended to faint.
This girl does not like to walk anywhere. She will get on her scooter or her bike even if we are going around the block (she later told me that she wanted to make my day do she sucked up the walk).
We held hands as we walked up the street. I talked for Rocco half the time because she thinks it’s hilarious. She kept me entertained by adding her two cents.
She wanted to order our food and my coffee. She even brought me out a side of milk to add to my coffee and some cinnamon to sprinkle on too. She is a doll baby girl.

Rocco loves her to death, too because she gives him pieces of her bagel. He pushes his wet nose against her thigh and licks her hand constantly until he gets another nibble. Spoiled completely.


She wanted to hold Rocco’s leash on the way home. Don’t you know he stayed by her side and never pulled her once? She’s got him wrapped around her cream cheese finger.
Grandma Meg and Peepaw were at the house when we got home and we piled in the car to take Ri to her soccer game. They got to see my girl running the field and me screaming commands and encouragement to Ri and her team the entire game. I’m born to coach.
Afterwards, we went to Jason’s Deli for some lunch and free soft serve. Ri got her meatballa sub, which was yummy. Peepaw got two rounds of chocolate soft serve and that affirmed my close relation to him. We can’t resist our chocolate.

We worked on homework after Mama Meg and Peepaw left. That was even enjoyable as we worked on definitions together. Then we took Henley to Giant Eagle to grocery shop and get a gelato. Those two are hilarious together.

We ended the evening playing States of America and drinking hot chocolate. The boys sauntered in at 8 pm after having an awesome time at the Bengals game. Mario scored a football player’s glove as he and Jon took a picture after the game. That kid is just plain lucky. He gave Jon a huge hug before bed and told him sweetly “I love you dad!” I tucked Ri in and she gave me a hug I could not escape. She, too, whispered that she loved me. I held on tight around her torso and whispered “I love you too, doll baby” right in her precious ear.

We lost – get over it.

My girls lost their tournament game last night by an unspectacular score of 3-0. They were not hitting anything and our pitching could have been stronger. The bottom line – the other team was more “on” then we were for the hour and a half we played. Oh well, you win some and lose some, right? WRONG!
I was so bummed for my girls. The night before I had been anxious about the game and had nightmares about forfeiting it. How ridiculous. A half hour prior to the game, I had the girls throw and hit to prepare. I got them all revved up and put black ink under their eyes.
We got up to bat and my three best hitters struck out. 1-2-3. Are you kidding? Then my best pitcher went out on the mound and threw balls. The other team was well aware she was off and the girls just waited for a walk. Nonetheless, the first two innings our infield made spectacular double plays and kept the score 0-0. But we had one bad inning in the third – combo pitching and infield errors – that allowed three runs to score on us. And that did us in for the season. We could not get ourselves on base to save our lives. The girls just did not have their game on the way we needed to beat the other team. And that happens and it is ok, right? WRONG!
I lined up the girls after the last out and counseled them to congratulate the Giants and be proud of what they accomplished this year. Inside, I was churning though. After we shook hands, we circled up and I told the girls how proud I was of them; how they’d grown; how they’d come together as a team. They were dejected, and I was too. But I kept the mood upbeat and did not show it. We put our hands in the circle and chanted 1-2-3 “Go Reds!” one last time. One of my assistant coaches said “let’s also do a cheer for the Giants in order to be good sports.” The girls cringed. I followed up and demanded it was the right thing to do. Hands in the middle. 1-2-3 “Good game Giants!” we all cheered. And then the girls dispersed. Parents left. And I cleaned up bubble gum wrappers and sunflower seed kernels. I felt like I hadn’t done enough.
What is this perfectionist gene I got stuck with and why can’t I ship it off to never never land? Somehow my mind warps an excellent season with my third and fourth grade girls’ softball players to a lame one. The parents are probably mad that I didn’t coach better. The girls are going to be in a state of ruin because they didn’t get trophies. I should have worked harder at throwing and catching with them. Stop brain. Just stop. Do these gals pictured below seem dejected?!

Loosen up on the control, Mary. You can’t mold the future and what it will bring. You can’t do anything about a girl striking out or a missed catch. Life can suck sometimes and you don’t always get what you want. Life is messy and imperfect, girls, but you keep moving forward. It doesn’t help being a control freak and a bit OCD about needing everything to go perfectly but the game provided yet another teaching opportunity to me that things aren’t perfect and I can’t make them so. And DQ helped lessen the pain a bit, too….

And so we all move on to a new season in 2015, and embrace the great memories we have from this 2014 season, right?

Ri’s first Women’s Fund Keyholder event – 2014:

I first learned of the Women’s Fund when I got an email that Gloria Steinam was a guest speaker at one of their events. I admired Steinam and had read essays and speeches she had given. I knew she was a crucial voice in the women’s’ movement and that my mom had admired her as she grew into her own in the 70’s. My mom had also gifted me an autograph from Gloria Steinam to me after my mom attended an event with her in the early 1990s. I hadn’t given that autograph much thought since I had received it from my mom in my early 20s. It was stored away in a box with other childhood items. But when that email came across, something jolted in me.
I went home that evening and found the framed autograph. I’m sure I played with Ri, who was not even two at the time, and fed her dinner, and rocked her to sleep for hours. And then I made it downstairs to my computer, and typed in my Visa number to make a contribution to the Women’s Fund. They allowed you to write a tribute and so I did: to my mom for introducing me to Steinam and feminism and belief in self and hard work and equality. I thanked her for helping to make me a strong and loving mom to Maria. A few weeks later, I got a call from the Women’s Fund. They asked if I’d make a video of my tribute to play the night of the event. I was flabbergasted and thrilled. And immediately agreed. As I prepared my words to my mom, I brought out my framed autograph and hung it in Ri’s room. I believe there was a surge of power that entered her room when I hung it over her dresser that night. I think she felt it, too, as she squealed (or it could have been gas, but that’s not as riveting).
When I went to shoot the video, I had a plan. I was going to ask if Gloria Steinam would autograph the Women’s Fund invitation for Maria. How awesome would that be? There was no way that Ri could be anything but a strong, powerful, aware woman with two framed autographs from Gloria Steinam! And because Gloria Steinam is the incredible woman she is, she agreed. And Ri now has two autographs hanging on her wall.
Fast forward to a week ago – May 1, 2014. One day before Ri’s 9th birthday. I got to bring her as my guest to the Women’s Fund Keyholder event with Ashley Judd as the speaker. I explained to Ri about the Steinam autographs, about my commitment to helping women in need, about women supporting women, and she soaked it all in. She ran around City Hall’s grounds and posed with statues before we met up with her girlfriend and her mom.


We sipped on smoothies and talked about Ashley Judd (since the girls had not heard of her (when Ri read about her she was flabbergasted that she made a movie in 1995!)).



While waiting on my girlfriend outside of the Ohio Theatre, Maria spotted a local news anchor from NBC 4 (her favorite weekday morning show). She pulled at my sleeve in awe.
“It’s Mikaela Hunt, mom!”
We walked over and Ri said hi to her. Ms. Hunt asked her some questions and Ri answered shyly. As we walked away, she stopped. She wanted her picture with her. We walked back and asked and this picture was taken:


She was charged up. And she stayed that way throughout the night. They had videos in the beginning of the evening of women and girls talking about themselves and at the end of the clip, the women and girls would fill in a word on a blackboard that read “I am ______.” One wrote “brave”, another wrote “kind.” It was powerful, and I whispered to Ri that she was all those things.
Ashley Judd surprised me with her humor and grace and humility. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. She spoke of her humanitarian work and how overwhelming it can be to feel like you can’t do enough. She’d go back to her hotel room and sob in despair. And then she met a guide who clarified for her that she can only do what she is able and what she’s doing is powerful and effective. And she reminded her that she needs to make room for those closest to her because it’s only when we nourish those relationships with partners and kids and friends that we can truly give and feel satisfied giving to a range of others. That hit home for me. She was genuine and funny and inspiring.
At the end of the event, they asked for donations. Ri and I took the envelopes out of our bags. I explained to her what you could do with a donation, i.e., make it in honor of, or in memory of, someone. She brushed me away and said “I got it mom.” She then asked me for a sheet of paper. I looked over in the corner of my eye and saw her writing blank lines. Because she’s Ri, and so thoughtful, I had an inkling she was doing something for me. She bundled up the paper and put it in the envelope and gave it to me (she didn’t quite understand that she was supposed to add a Visa number and give it to the folks at the doors as we left). She told me to wait until we left the Theatre to open it. As we walked down High Street towards the car, I opened it.


She had written all the adjectives that she believed described me. I was taken aback by her gesture and did the only thing I knew to do: capture her in a huge hug as tears formed in my eyes.
“No crying is allowed tonight, mama! Wipe those eyes and put on a smile!” (She’s got a lot of her dad in her). I listened to her and put on a smile as we posed by the statutes and giggled at each other on our way to the car. I am blessed with a strong community of women by my side between my moms and aunts and cousins and grandmothers and friends and colleagues. I am grateful for the women power at the event that night and for being able to allow my daughter to absorb it all. She clearly fit in perfectly.



Friend. Good.

I saw these two words written on a greeting card along with a silhouette of a big dog staring at the silhouette of a puppy. I immediately thought of my Cincy girls.

I’ve known these babes since the womb it feels like; actually it’s more like 1st grade. I’ve had many a crazy experience with them both individually and as a group. Lisa and I used to cheer the Reds on at the old Riverfront Stadium (and had the biggest crush on Dave Parker); Jill and I used to play house at our old kindergarten; Ericka used to catch my fast pitch softballs in high school; and Kathy and I used to get rowdy and break car door windows (actually that was just Kathy on my car window!).
We all are very different at this stage of our lives having pursued different life paths, different cities, different hobbies. But oh doesn’t that make for some fabulous conversation and some hilarious moments.
I took Maria Grace with me on the five and a half hour trek to Midland, Michigan where Kathy resides. She couldn’t wait to babysit Kathy’s kids and hang with her “aunts.” We, of course, had to stop off for some snacks along the way…


And we had to hit the Michigan welcome center…


Ri knew her father would enjoy those pictures. We were the first to arrive at Kathy’s sweet abode. What a magnificent house and location. Ri was excited that Grace was so excited to see her. And she adored Rose from the minute she set eyes on her. Kathy and Andrew were off the hook from feeding her, reading to her, and bathing her as soon as Ri walked in the house.

Lisa arrived a couple hours later with Josh and Emma. Maria was a bit irked at first because she liked having Emma and Rose to herself but she quickly bonded with Ms. Emma and babied Josh so all was good.


The kids played while we caught up on life. We chatted about Christmas presents, school, work, hubbies. Ericka and Jill finally arrived and we broke out the wine and snacks and cozied up on the downstairs couch together. Such a quaint setting with a fireplace and wood siding. Ms. Maria hung in with us until 12:30 am contributing quite often to the conversation. There is no doubt she will be engaging on the same all-night conversations with her friends years to come.
I woke up to a winter wonderland on Saturday morning. The neighbors had their snow blowers revved up but they had not cleared any snow yet. I walked in an all white landscape and listened to the ice crackling and the random bird singing. Heaven.
When I returned, Ri was playing away with the other kids. I watched her laughing with Emma and I was taken back to being 8 years old and playing with my girlfriends sitting in the next room. It was pure joy to see my daughter with my girlfriends’ daughters. A new generation beginning life-long friendships.

We got dressed and headed out to lunch in downtown Midland. The kids drew pictures for us in their booth, ate their food, and ran around like maniacs. We talked about our lives, our irritations, our blessings. It was like we had never moved away from one another.



We had to do the funny face picture after our meal. I knew all these gals and kids would participate. Next we headed to the mall. We all did some last minute shopping and let the kids sit on Santa’s lap. I was el cheapo and did not buy a picture. I was pissed at myself when we left because I remembered I had a Buddha picture of Ri when she was seven months old on Santa’s lap and it would have been a hilarious contrast seeing her now on his lap. Next year….
We hit Barnes and Noble to look at books and that was where we experienced the epic Grace meltdown. It was classic. At first, all was well. Ri read to the kids and they were all smiles.

Then I wanted a picture of the moms in the same pose. Kathy sat in Grace’s seat. Oh my. Ms. Grace let us know her anger at that move and went to town on Kathy. All the rest of us could do was laugh our a–es off because we’ve all been there. Kathy packed it up immediately and we all followed her. On the way to the car, Josh had a follow-up meltdown that rivaled Emma’s because he dropped his gum on the floor. There’s one big difference between Lisa and me. I would have brushed it off and popped it right back in his mouth but Lisa promptly discarded it. By the time we all got back to the cars, we were ready for the comforts of home and wine.
We broke out pizza. wine, guacamole and my beloved sheet cake and went to town after singing happy birthday to E.

We decided to head out to a wine bar at 9 pm just like we would have done in our twenties. We still got it. Except we only lasted until 10:45 pm. Ri was so sad for us to leave and all the other kids were going to bed so we let her go with us. She was ecstatic. She played on the iPad the entire time until she passed out on my lap at 10:30 (from exhaustion, not wine).


On Sunday morning, we ate sheet cake for breakfast and packed up our things dreading the ride home both because it was nasty outside and because we wanted a longer stay. These gals are my soul sisters who I can trust to be there for me no matter what. It’s hard to believe we’ve known each other for 35+ years and we still love each other so much! However, there are tines when we are just like an old married couple – committed but on each other’s nerves! But that’s the beauty in a long, thriving relationship – you take each other for who you are. I can’t imagine my world without these gals and I’m awfully glad that Ri got to share in the love with me.

Ri time

Ri is so fortunate it’s Winter. It’s the only way that I’d agree to manicures right after work and school. In the Spring, Summer and Fall, we’d be on our bikes or at the park. But the dark combined with the cold leads us indoors. In addition, Mario got to go to Grandma Ionno’s house this week and Ri had to go back to school so I promised her a night where she could choose our itinerary.

When I picked her up at Kids Club, she had it all set. Janira would come with us and we’d go to the nail salon and to dinner. She is not a cheap date.

“Chop chop lollipop!” She pushed me out the door towards the car. “We’ve got some nails to make pretty!”

She begged for a pedi along with the manicure but I nixed that request. Janira and Ri flipped through magazines while I got my gel polish scraped off. I never used to get my nails done but recently felt uneasy about my nails while sitting in a work meeting. Everyone had gorgeous manicured nails and mine looked like a cave man’s. So I tried this gel process. I regret it. You have to get your nails done every couple of weeks and I hate sitting in a salon for an hour. So, I asked the tech to take off my gel polish and just put on regular clear polish. She looked at me like I had just told her to cut my wrist.

Ri and Janira waited patiently for their turn and loved every minute of it. They read about Katy Perry and Beyonce. When their nails were finished, they flaunted them off to me. Two different colors on each hand just like Katy Perry would do.



We decided we’d stay in for dinner since they wanted time to play. They wanted a “fancy” dinner so we got out candles and china. They got dressed up – make-up and all – while I made their dinner. They made me call their names for dinner (yes, I am a trooper). They walked in the room and owned it with their confidence and style.


They turned on some Bieber to eat to and made me leave the room (gladly). We stopped at DQ for dessert and took Janira home. Ri and I returned home, watched National Geographic Wild, and snuggled in bed. We were asleep within 10 minutes. I woke to Ri kicking me in the head.

When we turned on the Today show at 7 am, it was 39 degrees. We decided that Ri would ride her bike to school and we’d stop at Stauf’s for a hot chocolate and bagel. Ri begged me to get her a hot cocoa in a cardboard cup so she could drink it in class. Another girl had done that last week and she thought it was cool.

And there she was at her computer as I went to leave her school. Looking like a college kid. For a brief few seconds, I had an image of her at age 19 sitting in her frosh English class with her hot chocolate (I think she will stick with that hot drink over coffee) waiting for her girlfriend to sit next to her to chat about their weekends. Then the image left me. Good riddance I thought. Let me keep her my little second grader for a bit longer.


Intrepid Girl

I can’t think of a daughter who I could love more than this little girl below holding a hissing cockroach.

Her teacher informed me that all the kids bypassed the cockroach except my girl who confidently approached the table and said “I’ll hold it!”

She is a rock.
Just like she describes herself in her artwork hanging at school. I saw it today when I volunteered for her class.

That’s my Rebe!

Salons and DQ



I had to get my hair colored last night. I try to put it off as long as possible because I hate going to the salon. I hate having to chat it up with a stylist about plans for the weekend or the latest movies or best restaurants. Maybe if I had a stylist who was a friend it would be ok. But I always go to different people because I make appointments at the last minute in accordance with my last minute schedule. I also hate having to sit around in a salon for two hours when I could be outside enjoying the park or a bike ride. It just seems like such a waste of time for simply … hair!

But as you can witness from the pictures above, my daughter does not share in my dislike of salons. She rather enjoys the idea of putting your feet up and getting pampered. Jon dropped Ri off at the salon while he took Mario to football practice. She made herself right at home chatting it up with the stylist about her tattoos, hair color and the reasons for different types of brushes.

She asked if she could get her hair done while I waited for my color to soak in and I agreed. She got the royal treatment – shampoo, head massage, cut, and blow dryer. She loved sitting under the blow dryer while reading Elle and Vogue. She perused the newest fashion (always opting for the mini skirts or tight pants, of course).

But just as I gave up hope that she was truly my child, she walked over to me as I was getting my hair blown dry and asked “can we go yet?!”

Yes! She is my daughter! She can only handle so much salon life before she’s ready to hit the road. We headed out to the 65 degree weather and walked home together talking about where we should go for dinner and if we should stop at DQ for dessert. Now that’s definitely my daughter taking after her mama!