No Seat Belts!

We woke up craving Giant Eagle donuts. Their bakery is getting better and better and it’s become harder to resist the variety of sugary love in the cases. I figure the stroller rode or bike ride to get to Giant Eagle makes up for the calories consumed (maybe if we biked back and forth twenty times over…).

We decided to take the COTA bus downtown after breakfast. Jon drove us a few blocks up the street to the bus stop (yeah, kinda defeats the sustainability argument for taking the bus, but hey, we saved five miles of gas going downtown!), and we waited patiently for the No. 5 to arrive. After a mere seven repetitive questions of “when will the bus get here?”, it arrived! The kids jumped onto the bus steps and dashed to the back. I paid $2 and joined them. Mario’s first response:

“There are no seat belts!”

He was charged. Maria enjoyed the thrill on Mario’s face with me since she had already experienced COTA with me a couple of years ago. I explained to them that a lot of people rode COTA during the week to get to their jobs, and that people read while on the bus or think about their day ahead. M&M soaked it in and asked questions galore. It was heartwarming.


Our trip lasted a mere 27 minutes and we exited at Bicentennial Park. I have been taking M&M down to this park for years. It doesn’t have any swings or a playground. It just has bronze statutes of mythological creatures and cement blocks to hop on and off of as you go from one statute to the next. But the kids have always loved to read about the creatures and climb on them.


They also have loved to jump from one block to the next. Mario had such trouble the last two years trying to jump from one particular block to another that was situated just a bit farther away than the others. This year he flew right onto it. II told him the story about how it used to be hard for him and he said “Mom, look” while he acted like he was scared to jump. I smiled at him and he responded “I’m getting bigger, mom.” Yep, you are bud.

We headed to the Santa Maria next. They had tours going on so we got three tickets and joined the rest of the group. It’s always interesting to see who the guide is for the tour. Last time it was a very boisterous young girl who had wavy brown hair and thick glasses and loved getting the kids roused up with stories from Columbus’ time. This time we had a scholarly-looking lad with white tube socks and loafers. He was maybe 17. He loved espousing his knowledge and hearing questions from the audience. He answered all of Mario’s questions with a slight chuckle before each response. A 17 year old in a 50 year old body. He was good though and we learned about what they ate on the ship (hard bread they softened with water and animals they housed on the ship), what games they played (ring toss and checkers), and how they killed rats on the ship (not too humanitarian). We skipped out of the tour a bit early to head to Dirty Franks with dad. Maggie and Laura were supposed to meet us but showed up late and there was no seating for them. They decided to meet us back at the house. When they walked out, Maria started crying. “I want them to stay, mom. I want to be with them.” I ran out with her to try to stop them. We were successful – Maria jumped into Maggie’s arms and fled away with them. Meanwhile, Mario ate two hot dogs with Jon and me. Two! He has to be going through a growing spurt.

We met the girls back at the house and sat around and talked to them about Australia and life in general for two hours. I miss that girl cousin time so very much. Ri hung with us for an hour and then crashed on the floor. Mario knew it was his opportunity to play computer and he took full advantage of it.

A low-key Sunday with a splattering of COTA bus trips, ship trivia, hot dogs and girl talk. What should we have in store for tonight? I see Graeter’s as a perfect end to the day….

Dogs and Hamsters and a Super Bowl, Oh My

This past weekend was one of those weekends where you wake up Monday morning feeling you totally took advantage of the weekend’s purpose – to relax, be silly, watch football, and eat chips while vegging in your pjs.

On Friday, Jon and I took Mario to the hockey game. Maria had to make the executive decision on whether to go to Kids Night Out at school or to the game with us. It was a brutal decision because she had her girlfriend asking if she was coming to Kids Night Out but she had her dad going to the hockey game. She LOVES hanging with her dad lately, especially when it’s dad and mom and Mario (she is the pack dog). But, ultimately a brief description of the hockey game (watching boys skate on ice and try to hit a puck in a goal) led her to choose Kids Night Out with popcorn, grape juice, friends and a movie. The pack dog strays when there is food and entertainment….

Mario loved the hockey game. He ate his favorite food – a hot dog – and watched the players skate along the ice and hit each other up against the wall.  Jon and I thought he might enjoy that activity more than he did since he is all into fighting.  Rather, he enjoyed hanging on the railing and talking to the older boys behind us in the box.  He also enjoyed the cheerleaders…. We left the game during the third quarter and picked up Maria.  It seems that every time I see her at school, she is even older and more independent.  She reminds me of me when I was in fourth and fifth grade (probably like when I was in first grade, too, but I can’t remember that time at all!) hanging out with my girl posse.  When I picked her up, she was laughing with her three girlfriends and they were falling all over each other.  Too cute. 

On Saturday, we headed to Hamilton Parker to find tile for our bathroom.  The kids ran around checking out the showroom showers and the kids’ room while Jon and I talked to the sales guy.  Maria explained where everything was in the showroom since she had come to the store with me back in September.  “Buddy, the kids’ room is over here and it has a tv.”  Mario’s response: “Will the tv have Godzilla?”  Maria’s reply: “We’ll see buddy and if it doesn’t, we”ll find something else for you.”  The way she calls him “buddy” makes our hearts melt.  After Hamilton Parker, we headed to BW-3’s for some wings and nachos.  Nothin’ like a healthy lunch.  We waddled out to the front of the restaurant and the kids begged to play a game.  They put a dollar in a chicken and egg machine and each of them got a plastic egg.  Maria scored a tattoo and Mario scored a little orange plastic cone that had the words “Back away slowly.”  I read it to Mario and he laughed “I know, mom and dad, I am going to put this in my room and when you walk in, you will have to walk back slowly.” 

We headed to the pet store in the late afternoon to torture ourselves by holding sweet little precious pups that needed a home.  Maria always picks the most docile puppies that love to be held.  She sits in the little room with them caressing and talking to them.  Mario hangs out at the hamster bin trying to put the hamsters on the exercise wheel or in the tire.  They run from him like he is death.  Mario does not have quite the touch with the pups like Maria does.  He likes to put them on the ground and watch them run around and play.  If they don’t move much, he picks another.  I can usually handle about 45 minutes in that store because it is such a madhouse of people but I made it an hour on Saturday.  When we left, Maria begged to go on Sunday. 

On Sunday, I skipped yoga because Maria and Mario begged me to stay home.  We ate cereal and read books.  Maria and I went on a stroller ride to the store to get pencils for her class project – a timeline of her life – all 6 years.  We headed out to Dirty Franks for lunch (yeah, two for two on the healthy lunch front for the weekend!).  When we returned, the kids and I took a bike ride to the library to grab some movies and new books.  Maria and I watched Mario ahead of us – his little legs pushing the clunky wheels of his tricycle.  He wants so badly to lead the group but usually Maria cannot help but bolt ahead because she is on a two-wheeler bike and can’t easily slow down without falling off.  But I held onto her on this bike ride so Mario could take the lead and he was one proud puppy.  When an older lady passed him, he stopped and said hello to her.  When we stopped at the library, he said “Mom, an old lady said hi to me and I said hi to her back.  I stopped my bike and everything. Are you proud of me?”

We headed to Kroger’s before the Super Bowl and Maria and I stocked up on chips and dip.  Maria was grabbing all sorts of dips and chips for our party arguing that “it is the Super Bowl – we had to have a real party!”  When we got home, we turned on the Super Bowl and watched all of the commercials.  We all sat on the couch together – Mario on Jon’s arm playing Leapster, Maria in between Jon and me.  She loved it.  She kept saying “I love cuddling with my mom and dad and brother.”  We have got to start up family movie nights.  Maria fell asleep with 30 seconds left of the Super Bowl.  Mario remained wide awake playing his Leapster Ben Ten game.  I dragged him upstairs with me to hit the sack, and we were both out cold in three minutes flat.

Lovin’ some DIrty Franks

Jon and I used to be ambassadors of Skyline Chili.  We are not embarrassed to admit it (well, maybe a bit embarrassed when people learn we had our picture up in the entrance way and our own “ambassador plates” to eat our three-way chilis).  Skyline bestowed this title upon us back when we were young pups with no kids and lots of time.  Now we go into Skyline and we are granted no privileges; we are just another family in the crowd eating oyster crackers as we wait for our food. 

But that is ok with us.  We like the relaxed atmosphere, the oyster crackers as appetizers, and the hotdogs with cheese.  Mario typically eats 2 of them before we leave (which is huge for Mario).  Maria typically eats one hot dog and a chili spaghetti.  They love the place, and may one day get our title back for us. They especially love the Oreo cookies that they get as a special dessert at the end of the meal (I admit, I am rather jealous although Jon gives me a quarter from his pocket so I can get Reese Pieces out of the dispenser). 

But Jon found another, cooler dive for us to head to when we are craving dogs.  A little hole in the wall on 4th Avenue downtown called Dirty Franks (  They have hot dogs with anything you can imagine spread on them.  Maria has fallen in love with the Octodog (macaroni and cheese with a hot dog shaped as an octopus).  Mario likes a plain dog with cheese on it.  I love the beanie weenie (baked beans with a hot dog and cheese and onion).  Jon typically gets a dog with sauerkraut or one with pickles or fries on it.  We also get the hush puppies with chili and cheese, which could subside anyone’s late night, hung-over cravings.  The walls are filled with artwork of famous singers like Michael Jackson and Prince (the only two I recognize).  Maria always asks me why Michael Jackson looks white when he is brown.  Mario loves all of the pictures of crazed looking rockers, especially the one with blood out of his mouth.  We find a new piece of artwork each time we go (keeps the kids busy!). 

I am thinking that Skyline may have to miss us for a bit while we frequent our Dirty Franks establishment.  Although, I do find myself craving that Cincinnati chili every once in a while – a girl can leave Cincinnati but Cincinnati can’t leave the girl!