Coneflower Trail

I woke up yesterday morning to my usual Sunday routine. Throw on a pair of running shorts and a T-shirt, slip on my running shoes, leash up Rocco, and head to Tarpy for an elongated morning run.

The weather made it easy to want to run. It was the type of morning where you could feel Fall sprinting up to take the lead over Summer. I consciously took some deep breaths as we walked into the woods. The leaves of the oaks and ash and basswood created patches of light along the mulched trail. I watched Rocco sprint ahead, stop to sniff, and continue down the path.

There is a fork in the trail right before the train tracks. If you take a right, your led up a small hill that ends in the backyard of the Tarpy house. If you take a left, you go over a bridge and up a small incline to a field of wildflowers. Over the last year or so, Rocco has decided that he likes the left side of the woods more than the right side. He will take the right side loop with me a couple of times on Sunday morning but then he waits at the fork for me to finish the right side loop and joins me on the left side. It is rather precious to run down the hill and see him sitting upright, tongue out, eyes wide, waiting to take my side as we run around the left side of the woods.

As I witnessed the wildflowers by sight and Rocco witnessed them by touch (running after some critter I have to assume), I thought about what to do with the kids during the day. Back when they were young, it would have been a trip to Cincinnati or a day at the zoo. As they get older, I am lucky to get in a couple of hours before they complain that they want to be with friends or that they need to get homework done.

I have gotten the backpacking bug from going with my dad and sister a couple of weeks ago. I was hoping the kids would want to go with me this weekend but it did not happen for us. I need to just set a date and go for it but I’m really bad at doing that. Although we’d missed out on our backpacking adventure, it didn’t mean we couldn’t take a hike. I searched up Metro Parks and found two that looked good. One of the two was only 18 minutes away. The other was 28. My hatred of driving played a factor in the decision. The one 18 minutes away was the Coneflower Trail at Prairie Oaks. It was a 2 mile loop, which was about all I could get from the kids without serious whining.

I arrived home to break the news – we were taking a hike. Maria immediately went to homework she had to finish. Mario went to his number one argument – it’s a day if rest so he should be able to chill…. I listened politely and then told them it was too gorgeous outside to stay indoors all day so they had to deal with it. They knew there was no hope in complaining so they grabbed their gym shoes and we were off (Starbucks may have been promised after the hike).

We loaded Rocco in the backseat with Mario and headed out west to Prairie Oaks. We arrived to a fairly empty parking lot, which was a relief. We found the trail head and started on our way. We walked along a grass path for a bit before coming to the actual Coneflower trail. It had a “x” on the picture of a dog, which we promptly ignored.

The trail sat parallel with the Darby Creek and we could hear Rocco run through the grasses and brush to hit the creek for a quick dip. At one point, there was a clearing and we walked down to the creek to find Rocco splashing around happy as can be. The pup loves him some water. There were two other pups dipping their feet in the water – French bulldogs. Their faces are made to be squeezed. Maria was in love asking the owners all sorts of questions about them. Mario remained quiet but enjoyed petting the bigger one.

We headed back to the trail to continue our discussion about Mario’s birthday. Maria had all sorts of ideas for his birthday party, all of which Mario shot down. As I think back to our conversation, Mario’s birthday took up a chunk of it. I am getting more comfortable with time spent with the kids where no big revelation is given. I have had these dreams of walking with Ri and Mario where they divulge all their dark secrets and fears and we talk through them.

Not so much.

So I’ve learned to change my expectations, which has led to a much more enjoyable experience. I simply appreciate the time with them.

At the end of the trail, there was a fork and I took to the right side. It ended up being the longer way back to the parking lot. The kids realized this after it was too late. They took my phone to try to locate our car. They saw that it was another quarter mile away. I smiled and they knew I was excited to get a few extra minutes with them. We walked along the yellow and purple wildflowers and I asked them to take 20 seconds to just breathe in the beauty of the day.

Silence. 10 whole seconds (Mario blurted out “Done” after 10 seconds).

I made them name something they were grateful for – family, they both said. Even after a forced outing, they were still grateful for me and Jon and our family. I responded I was grateful for them coming with me. They smiled, and gave an even wider smile when they saw the Volvo up ahead.

A Blink of an Eye

The other day, I was standing outside of Stauf’s talking to an older woman while Mario petted and loved on her puggle (half pug/half beagle). The woman’s 20-something son walked out of Stauf’s and she looked at him and then at Mario.

“Enjoy your time with your son because pretty soon he will look like my son. The years go by with a blink of the eye.”

If I’ve gained any wisdom in these parenting years, it is too more fully take in and appreciate these days with my young kids. They are at the perfect ages: smart and inquisitive and able to engage in full conversations but still wanting hugs and to hold hands as you walk down the street. 

The last two weekends, I have gotten full-on M&M time, and it has put me in such a good mood for back-to-work Mondays. They are both hilarious in their own right with their completely unique senses of humor and takes on life. And they get along pretty daggone well most of the time. 

Last weekend, we took a walk with Rocco to  Edison Park. He flipped out with the kids on the swings. He bites at their ankles as if he doesn’t understand they are part of their bodies. We were relegated to the jungle gym and non-swing activities so he’d stay calm. Ri came up with an obstacle course thanks to her Coach Amy, who had created a similar course for Ri’s soccer team during practice. Ri and Mario had me time them each time they ran it – each one wanting to beat the other’s newest time. 

After the park, we drove to the garden shop to buy flowers for our front door planters and seeds for the kids to plant flowers of their choosing. Mario found a Venus fly trap plant and was totally enamored with it. Ri found a dainty cactus in a pink artistic pot. It was a perfect day for gardening. I let the kids off on their own to plant their seeds while I mowed for the first time in 2017. God only knows if the kids planted the seeds far enough in the ground or far enough a part. We will find out in May, I guess. I promised them a pedicure if they helped me garden so when they were done, they begged me to go. I asked them for 20 more minutes so they decided to have a water fight in the meantime. The first water fight of the year, too!

We had to hit the doggie day spa after the water fight because Rocco rubbed his entire drenched body through the dirt lining our flower beds. 

After cleaning up the two kids and the dog, we finally made it to the salon. On the way there, Mario told me I need a new car (he tells me this every time we get in the car). I explained to him that my car is perfectly fine. He then informed me he’s getting a Lamborghini when he is 16. Yea, ok. Maria tries to talk sense into him, too, but it’s no use. He swears he’s gonna have the best of everything. I told him he better invent something that gives him millions or get in the NBA. He looks at me like “duh, not a problem. I got it.” 

Of course, with his love of luxury, he thoroughly enjoyed his pedicure. Ri and I kept looking over at him cracking up because he was fully relaxed in his massage chair reading his magazine and enjoying the foot scrub. He went for gold nail polish as well (which totally reminded me of Dennis Rodman), but he quickly asked the woman to remove it after she put it on. 

After the pedicure, we went home to roller skate and roller blade down the hills. Ri was smooth as always while Mario jerked and fell on his blades. But he kept trying. He loved the hills once he could take off his blades and use his electric scooter. He’d fly down the hill and then watch for cars so Ri could skate down. She flew, too, but I had a bit fewer heart palpitations after the Pittsburgh hill craziness. 

We wrapped up the evening watching a couple of episodes of blackish, and called it a night. 

Yesterday, it was much colder than last Saturday. Therefore, no gardening was in order. However, we did get another trip to Edison in with Rocco.

 Then we decided on a trip to Worthington pool. I used to take the kids there when they were toddlers. The memories came flooding in as we entered the pool area and I saw the baby slide. Mario was always nervous to go down it. Now, he was Mr. Cool unable to remember ever being scared of that slide. He and Ri went on the big slide and we all braved the cyclone pool where they used to get sucked in and it would take all my might to pull them out. Now, they handled it with ease and didn’t need my assistance. Although they still wanted me by their side to experience it with them. I remember when they were younger and they’d pull on me every second in the pool. They wanted me to constantly play with them or watch them or catch them. Exhausting. I’d think about how great it would be when they’d play in their own. But yesterday, I let myself enjoy their constant need for my presence. I soaked up every breakdance Mario asked me to watch. I waved at Ri and clapped as she did her trick off the slide. As Ri states, I was being mind-ful rather than mind-full. 

After some Air Hockey and Sun Chips, we left for home. 

We all needed to shower before going to the Escape Room that Ri recommended for our evening adventure. I was hesitant about it and was hoping they may want to do it without me. But they wanted us all to enjoy. I had no idea what to expect – I was picturing the zombie-type escape room where you are scared too death constantly. Thank god it was nothing like that. It was a 1920’s set-up in a Speakeasy, and we had to find all the clues to get out before the police arrived. We had a blast. We were in the room with four others – early 20 somethings – who were great with Ri and Mario. 

We had 60 minutes to try and escape. We got three hints. It was intense. Every time we’d get exhausted, someone would pull through and find a clue to help us progress. We were so close to escaping – probably needed 3 more minutes. Mario was bummed we didn’t escape but felt better when the owner said a majority of folks don’t escape. 

We were pretty beat after that escapade so we decided on Subway and home to watch The Middle. Ri was nearly passed out by the end of the show and Mario and I weren’t far behind. 

And with a blink of an eye, I woke up to Rocco jumping on the bed and Ri yelling “time to get up and get to Stauf’s!” Another blink, and she will be driving to Stauf’s from her own apartment and Mario will be pulling up to the curb in his Lamborghini. 

I’m soaking it all in now before I blink again.


So we were down to one kid Saturday night. And it was Ri. And she had slept overnight at a friend’s house Friday night so she was exhausted. There was a good chance she may sleep in until 8 or 8:30 on Sunday morning. Jon and I stayed up later than usual. It was a wild night – bed after 11 pm!

If it’s not the kids, it’s the dog. Jon heard Rocco at 6 am crying in his kennel. I barely heard him get out of bed but then, five minutes later, he was in our room jostling me. 

“Rocco got sick – I need your help.” The stench overpowered me as soon as I hit the bottom stair. His kennel looked like a murder scene. Diarrhea everywhere. The walls and cabinets were splattered with brown flakes. 


I went outside and saw blood droplets on the steps. Then in the grass. Poor guy was bleeding, too. I went upstairs, got dressed, grabbed a cereal bar, and we were off to the ER. Jon stayed back with Ri. 

Three hours later I was back home running a brush through my hair and trying to find Ri’s softball shirt. Jon got her bag and water bottle, we rushed into the car, picked up Ri’s friend, and headed 30 minutes up north to her double header softball game. Meanwhile, I waited to hear from the ER vet. It was scorching hot outside – 88 degrees. The temp was extra hellish after being treated to 65-70 degree days for a few days. I could have laid in the grass under the oak tree and napped the entire game. But I cheered on my girl who got two hits and was so happy. 

We got home at 5 pm. Jon crashed upstairs and I ate two bags of Whoppers. I was starving. I tried to nap on the couch but Mario was playing Madden Football so every 30 seconds he yelled “Mom, look at this play!”

I dragged my body off the couch and drove to the grocery with Ri. The vet called. Rocco needed to stay overnight to keep fluids in him. At least we’d get a full night of sleep (we’d end up paying $500 for that night of sleep but hey…). Ri and I picked out brownie mix and cookie mix at the store to make treats for my girlfriend’s birthday. Then we shopped for lunch and dinner necessities. She could have thrown ten bags of donuts in the cart and I wouldn’t have noticed. I was beat.

We arrived home to Mario greeting us. I asked him to help with the groceries and he declined. I loudly commented about how strong Ri was to carry so many grocery bags and he ran over to carry just as many. I still have it….

 We stepped in the house and missed our Rocco immediately. We take for granted that warm, leaping hello we get from him every time we enter the house. Ri grabbed bowls and measuring cups and we started our chocolate chip cookie batter. Between the two of us licking the spoon and the spatula and the sides of the bowl, we probably only baked half the mix. 
The brownie batter was even worse. The cookie dough was our appetizer and the brownie mix was our dinner. We did make a bowl of green beans to go with it though. By 9 pm, the desserts were complete and we were all ready to crash. I’m not sure teeth even got brushed before bed – we all just zombied our ways to our rooms and called it a day. 

Sunday Woods Day

Ri and Mario held me hostage Sunday morning. They would not let me go to yoga or run Rocco. They forced me to make a plate full of chocolate chip pancakes while they both cooked me some delicious over easy and sunny side up eggs.


Being held hostage ended up being a delight. Eggs and pancakes and hilarity out of the hostage-takers’ mouths. Mario cracked me up when he got out the crossword puzzle to work on while eating his breakfast. “Grandma Ionno does the crossword everyday so I will, too,” he told me.

After breakfast, Ri did my hair while I tried to tickle Mario as he rolled all over me (one of his favorite games with me). Rocco started to get wild by this time and began jumping on me and the couch and Mario and anything else he could as a way to tell us he wanted to go outside. I informed the hostage-takers that they needed to take Rocco on a walk to the woods with me before he tore up the couch or broke a bone in one of us by all his mad hopping. With a little pushing from dad, they agreed. We bundled up and headed off to the woods, which turned out to be a delightful hour of exploring and creating.
There is nothing better than watching your children use their imaginations while in nature. They found a few makeshift tents made with sticks and fallen branches. Mario thought the trolls had made them. Maria winked at me while she agreed with him. Maria found a stick with a rock tied to to it. She proceeded to tell me that it had to have been made years ago. She let Mario use it to cut wood (when asked why he was cutting wood, he had no purpose – just the sheer thrill of cutting into something). They found a half-enclosed area with a log in it and decided they wanted to work on fixing it up. Ri and I rolled a second log down the path so they’d have two to rest on as they worked on their fire pit. I was complaining about how heavy the log was to roll and Ri chirped “you’re getting a workout in, be happy!”



Mario worked on his firepit and positioned the sticks along the border of the shelter while Ri gathered more materials. I made sure Rocco didn’t destroy their creation. He can’t stay away from a good stick.
I had to drag the kids out of the woods at 11:30 so Mario could make his b-ball game. I told them to remember how much fun they just had so that next time I asked them to come with me, they wouldn’t whine about going out in the cold. They rolled their eyes at me and I yanked them both close to me for a hug. Rocco was up at the end of the trail gnawing on a huge branch he found. I looked up at the blue sky and knew the day was gonna be great.



Why I’m in shape

Even though I run and lift weights and do yoga, that is not what keeps me in shape. These three keep me in shape.

The pup goes nuts in the house if I don’t take him on at least two runs a day. This is a sign that the run was long enough.

As for Ri and Mario, they require a different energy. They are not so much into running outdoors as they are into indoor play. It is this type of play that is ten times more tiring than my Rocco runs.
Our first game was an obstacle course created by Ri. We had to toss a football ten times. If it dropped before you hit ten passes you had to start again. Then you had to hold a sticky pad and throw a ball to one another ten times without dropping it. After you did that, you had to connect the sticky pad with your teammate’s sticky pad and jump on separate chairs. Then you jump off the chairs and climb under the table together and then run into the family room to find the hidden potato. There were three different teams: Maria and I; Mario and I; and Mario and Ri. The person not playing kept time. It took Ri 15 minutes to explain the rules to us. After playing that game several times, we moved onto a board game, Life. Life has changed since I was little. I don’t remember “Action” cards. Each time you land on a blank space you pick up an Action card. This takes the game from a sitting game to a moving game because the Action cards require you to “show off your dance moves” or “walk the catwalk.” Seriously, what happened to spinning the wheel and moving your car?

After an hour of Life, we moved onto body jumping. Yea. You lie down on your stomach on the bed. Then you get covered with blankets and pillows. Then someone jumps on top of you. What fun!


Finally, we ended the night of “games” with a tickling bout. Basically, Ri and I tickling Mario who loves the torture. Oh, and a piggy back ride for each kid to their respective rooms to get in their pjs. No gym could offer a class as good.

Trudging through with love

I finally walk among the living today. It has been three weeks of coughing, fevers, headaches, stomachaches, nausea, fatigue, and grouchiness and I am so ready for my world to revert back to healthy bodies and laughter and positive spirits!
First, Mario got sick before Thanksgiving. If I don’t get the sickness he carries, I still get run down because I end up staying up with him half the night. Even if he’s not calling out for me, I lay awake because I can’t stand to hear him coughing. It was that hoarse, gagging cough he had and it sent chills up my spine to hear him. I’d go into his room and make him blow his nose and give him water and then rub his back to settle him down. I’d reach a time when he wasn’t hacking and think “yes, he’s asleep and well.” Then I’d climb back into bed and within 30 seconds he’d start hacking again. I’d toss and turn as Jon snored away beside me. How can he sleep so soundly?! I’d sit in bed both worried about Mario and pissed at Jon for being able to sleep (to give Jon credit, as soon as I nudged him and told him to get Mario water, he would). The mother gene kicks in full throttle when our babies are sick. I can’t rest peacefully unless they are. And when I don’t get 7 hours of sleep, I go downhill. And so I did. The day after Thanksgiving, I began to feel crappy. And just when I began to feel a bit better, Rocco got sick. He had the same hoarse cough as Mario but with one difference. He had gotten into the bag of turkey bones. So, at 2 am when he was wrenching in his crate, and Jon was snoring away, I awoke. Those mama genes in high alert even for my non-human baby. Poor pup had thrown up everywhere and continuously gagged. I found no turkey bones in his puke (what a life) so became increasingly concerned that one was stuck in his throat. Jon came down and we agreed I should take him to the ER (I’m better at hospitals is Jon’s reasoning for not going). So at 3:15 am, me and my pup drove to OSU Vet Hospital. At least it wasn’t too busy. Lots of dollars later, they diagnosed him with kennel cough and pneumonia and told me I could keep him at the hospital for a boat load of money or take him home and watch over him all day. By this time (7:30 am), I was exhausted, sick, and distressed. I decided if stay home to rest and watch over Rocco. But Monday was the day that all hell broke out at work and I was on phone calls all morning and afternoon. As I left to go to Ri’s geography bee, Rocco threw up blood. Are you kidding?!
So, I ran to her bee, watched her kill it, and then ran home to take Rocco back to OSU. Another chunk of cash later, they confirmed no turkey bone. Still just the kennel cough and pneumonia. The blood must have been from all the coughing. I got a handful of different meds and headed home at 8:30 pm. Jon could see how tired I was and told me to go to bed with the kids. He stayed downstairs with Rocco. I fell asleep before the kids and slept until 4:30 am when Rocco came upstairs to heave beside my pillow. At least I got 7 hours of sleep. It’s all I needed to feel somewhat revived and at least be able to make it through most of the day before wanting to crash.
But then Ri got sick. She was at a concert at Mershon Auditorium when I got the text from a mom friend. She reported she was hot and pale and miserable. Ugh.
Jon was in a meeting so didn’t answer my call. I had a meeting at 1 that I couldn’t miss and it was 11:30. I called the doctor and got her in at 12:15. Tried Jon again.
I scooped up my coat and keys and drove to Mershon. My girlfriend brought her outside and she laid in the back moaning about her head.
Jon called.
He would meet me at the doctor so I could get back for my 1 pm meeting. This constant juggling and meeting and exchanging and dropping off is the sign of a true partnership and of true love. Jon and I may not see rainbows and stars every time we look into each others’ eyes but we do see deep devotion and love. We see perseverance and dedication and mutual struggle and joy. I watched him and Ri talking as I left the doctor’s office and felt such affection for him. I also wanted to pass out from exhaustion.
Ri was sick all weekend and therefore, Jon and I and the kids just chilled around the house all day Saturday and Sunday playing board games and watching football. It was wonderful and much needed for the body and mind.
Here’s to this upcoming holiday season being free of bacteria and viruses and full of the warmth and love that, thankfully, so beautifully fills our home and keeps us among the living – even when we are completely exhausted.


Another Fall weekend

Another gorgeous Fall weekend. I can’t keep myself indoors – the pup is well-exercised these days.
Saturday was a bit rainy in the afternoon but I had errands to run anyway. I dropped Ri off at her birthday party way out in Canal Winchester (anywhere not within five miles of the house is far away to me). Ri took a very excited Alana to the party, too. Lots of gymnastics and lots of snacks.


I bought a huge flower pot while I waited on the girls to plant my elephant ear plant in this winter. I think I got one that is way too big because it is drooping big time and looks close to death after only one day. I couldn’t get a green thumb if some planted it in green dye. I am pathetic when it comes to tending to plants.
I picked up Ri and Alana and took them to Alana’s house to spend another night with Grandma Ionno. Thank god for that woman – gave me and Jon a bit of alone time this weekend. We treated ourselves to lobster and crab dip at the Fish Market. It’s been a while and we needed it. Don’t we look relaxed and happy?!

I went and saw the Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. That movie could have been the dumbest movie on Earth and it still would have been worthwhile to see because of Robert Downy, Jr. Lordy, Lordy. But it ended up being a pretty good movie, absent him. And I cried my eyes out through the ending credits, on my way home and for 20 minutes at home. That’s what movies about family and perseverance and loss do to me. But Milk Duds and popcorn made it better.
My Sunday could not have been more joyous. I woke up to a four mile run while listening to NPR and then came home to take Rocco on a six mile run through the woods and around some of the Columbus Marathon route. The woods were magical with the multi-colored leaves strewn everywhere and the light streaming in through the branches of the trees. Hallelujah.

I arrived home to my man trimming the bushes and I grabbed my rake to help in the yard. Strangely, I love doing yard work together.
The kids arrived home at 11 in time for Patty to hit church. I bundled them up and we headed up to First Avenue to watch the Marathon. The music blared and the runners sweated it out. I loved the vibe. The kids loved the face painting and ballon maker. Mario got his sword, of course. The rest of them got crazy hats. And they all got face paint – Ri went with an OSU theme and Mario went with a tiger. Alana got a cheetah and Gio got a scary skeleton.






After 45 minutes playing around at those stations, we finally arrived at Stauf’s for a much-needed coffee. Mario had a dollar on him and asked me how much a chocolate chip scone cost. I knew what he wanted to do – treat me to a scone. He knows how much I love them. I told him I thought they were $1 and then motioned to the cashier that I’d pay for the rest. He ordered a scone. She bagged it up and gave it to him. He tapped me as I made my coffee and handed me the bag.
“I got this for you, mom.”
I loved all over him and told him what a sweet son he was and he ate all my words up. He loves being generous as long as the person acknowledges his generosity fully…!
We sat down at a table and played chess. He wanted to teach me all he has learned from his chess club at school. The girls played War and Gio played Dominoes.



Patty met us at Stauf’s and we all walked home while cheering on the last of the runners (Mario’s take on the last runners: “they need to work harder so they aren’t last.”). Patty resolved to doing the Marathon next year so I’m doing the same (if I will ever let my leg heal).

We went to Ri’s soccer game and I was loud and cheering her on as usual. I get so excited and can’t keep quiet. I was born to coach, I think.

After the game, we finished up the yard and sat down to a family meal of chicken and twice baked potatoes (Patty is the queen of those babies!).
We ended the night with an epic jump in the leaf pile created throughout the day. Sophie and Pax joined in the fun.



One more walk for Rocco, a bed time story about Danny the Diamondback, and a Klondlike bar, and the night was over. Goodnight.

Canine love, and baby too

Ok, so this article explains why – 9 months pregnant – I was worried that I’d never love Maria as much as I loved my pup, Cy. And why, even when Ri was born, I sometimes felt a closer connection to Cy than to my newborn. Those first few months, all Ri did was cry and feed and poop. But then there was Cy who stared at me with sweet eyes, licked me, and jumped up and down every time I came near him.
I figured my feelings were all screwed because of hormones but this article confirms that dogs bring on the same positive, loving responses that children do. And I’m sure if the study would have went deeper, it may have found that your pup actually elicits more positive reaction from you when your child is a crying newborn and you are a first time mom…!
Now, I did eventually grow to wholeheartedly love and adore sweet Ri after I settled into the fact of being a mom to a human baby – not a canine one. She eventually looked up at me with adoring eyes and goo’d at me and I was forever gone – she had my heart over any four-legged creature (and yes, Mario, too).
Now, if I look at nine-year-old Ri or seven-year-old Mario and then at Rocco, I can confidently state that I am a thousand times more in love and dedicated to my human babies.
But I still do get a tingle in my soul when I walk in the house and Rocco comes rushing towards me with tail a waggin’ and tongue a lickin’. Especially when those human babes are fighting and screaming and carrying on like animals.




Rocco finds his way home

So this sweet cone-head dog gave me a heart attack last week. I decided to take him to the woods since he hadn’t been there for four days due to his incident in Cincinnati that led to his ear being sliced and glued, and of course, the cone of shame. The ear looked like it was healing and the doctor had told me he could take a walk after a couple of days so I thought this would be a nice treat. I left the kids at home and ran to the woods with Rocco Taco early in the morning. I kept his cone on him so he wouldn’t brush up against something and hurt his ear. As we ran into the woods, I let him off his leash like I always do. He went flying down the path and to the right like he always does. I followed. I didn’t see him but that’s not unusual since it’s covered over with plants and trees (wasn’t it yesterday that it was barren and 10 degrees outside?). I turned the bend, about 300 feet up from the right turn, and started to head back yelling for Rocco to come. Usually, I can hear the charging steps of his paws and then feel a swoosh of air blow by me as he runs past me. But nothing happened. I went to the fork of the trail and yelled for him. Nothing. By this time, I was concerned that he had gotten the cone stuck in the brush and was frozen. The day before, Bethany had called me freaking out she couldn’t find him. She searched and searched and while on the phone with me, found him stuck in the bathroom; he had accidentally shut the door with his cone. He hadn’t made any noise while stuck in there – no whining or barking. So I was concerned the same thing was happening in the woods and he was waiting for me to find him. I called for him incessantly and scratched up both of my legs climbing through brush. Nothing. By this time, it had been 20 minutes since I saw him. I called the kids and told them to come to the woods with Bethany to help find him. I called Bethany and told her to swing by and pick them up. I called Jon and told him what happened. I hesitated to call because I figured I’d find Rocco eventually and I knew what I was in for if I called…”why did you let him off the leash when he’s wearing a cone? why didn’t you watch him better? you can’t let him off the leash – you know he doesn’t listen.” And I knew what my response would be – defensive. But I had no choice. I could not find my pumpkin anywhere. A lot of what I imagined Jon would say came out of his mouth (I know my hubby ( and I would have said the same to him along with some cuss words!)) but he also told me to calm down and just keep looking. He turned around from his trip to work to come help me. About 30 minutes into the search, Bethany called from the house. I thought she’d ask me directions on how to get to the woods. Instead I hear this: “Rocco is on your front steps.” I was at once relieved and amazed.
They say that dogs have an amazing sense of smell, which allows them to find their way home if lost. Check out this little guy who made it home after traveling 500 miles! All those annoying stops along the way to the woods to sniff the grass or the sidewalk or the leaf were worthwhile in the end because it helped bring my pup home.
Let’s hear it for doggie noses!



The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  I signed up to coach Ri’s softball team and had to participate in “the draft” and practices for the last two weeks.  The kids had their last week of school prior to the Memorial Day weekend (yes, they get out way too early), which consisted of school parties and fretting about presents for teachers.  Oh yea, and Jon was out of town all week.  But we persevered with just a few rough spots (really rough).  The kids biked (Mario) and scootered (Maria) to school every day during the last week of school, which was a god-send since it allowed me to start my day with some fresh air.
The last week of school was nuts.  Maria had an end-of-the-year party at McKinley Park all day on Thursday.  They wore bathing suits and took down tennis rackets and water guns.  Ri was not happy about the fact that they had to walk to the park from school – she begged to take her scooter.  By the time I made it down at noon, she was playing “family” with Riley and Anna and hanging close to Mrs. Pharion in the shade (she likes hanging with adults and listening to the conversation).


They all looked so tired – teachers and kids – and I knew softball practice would be dreadful that evening.
I got to Mario’s room at 1:45. The moms told me he had been looking for me the last ten minutes. He glanced over as they told me and ran over to give me a big hug. We worked on postcards and decorating frames. The boys ran around like nuts while the girls sat in place. Why is that?! Mrs. Page passed out “candy” awards to each kid. Mario got a peppermint patty award because “he is a burst of energy every day!” Who does that sound like?!


Friday was clearly going to be a free-for-all day for both teachers and students after Thursday’s insanity. Ri got to watch a movie and Mario got playground time most of the day. I picked them up with Patty at 2:50 and they were charged up. School was officially out! Grandma took them to get DQ and they played with Sophie and Quinn. Mario declared “It’s summer, we don’t have to do anything!” So he wishes….
Friday was a much better ride-to-school day than Thursday. The kids goofed around together and gave me a sweet picture to remember their last day of third grade and kindergarten.


Thursday was not quite as sweet. Mario woke up on the wrong side of the bed and was pissy the entire ride. I asked for a picture of him and Ri and he refused to look at me. After the third time asking, I said “fine, be that way, Mario.” The inflection in my voice told him I was disappointed. This creates quite a conflict in him. He wants to stay pissy but he doesn’t want to disappoint me. He stopped his bike and told me I could take a picture. When I went to take it though, he wouldn’t smile. So I said “forget it” and kept walking. He started crying and telling me he was just about to smile. He then flew past me on his bike mad as heck. We got to the school and he waited for me. I knew he wanted me to ask for another picture. He plays these games when he’s mad. Instead, we dropped Ri off at her classroom and went to his room. I said goodbye. He ran out as I left and said sorry and begged for a picture with Ri. This kid. Of course I did it (even though he still didn’t smile big) even though I probably should have told him too late to teach him a lesson that he couldn’t get his way all the time.

And just like that, no more bike rides to school for two and a half more months. Now the bike rides are to Stauf’s for Black Russian bagels – yum.

On Saturday, Ri and I walked in the Memorial Day parade for our Reds softball team. I love this parade in Grandview. It has such a small town feel with everyone lining the streets and waving at you. We bought bags and bags of candy for the girls to throw and we still managed to run out blocks before the end. The girls chanted “We are the Reds” throughout the parade. It was a blast.



Patty and Jon took Mario, Gio and Alana to watch the parade and scream for Ri. They got three full Kroger’s bags of candy. They were very happy campers. It was insanity when we got to the field. The kids were all hoarse from screaming the entire parade route. I was exhausted from working out at 7 am and then sheparding the girls for two hours. Parents were everywhere looking for their kids. Kids were begging for water. Craziness! But opening ceremony was awesome with the Star-Spangled Banner and old plane overhead and Ri by my side and all the kids ready to play ball. I’m a sucker for that stuff. We headed directly into our game at noon. There was confusion about who was home team so Jon jumped in to do the concession stand. Mario loved helping him. When the game ended, Jon pronounced he never wanted to see a hot dog again.
The girls were a little shell-shocked their first game. They didn’t look comfortable on the field and the pitchers were nervous. The girls didn’t bat as strong as I would have liked either. But I think it was first game nerves. The good news is that we came back from a 6-1 deficit to make it 6-5 in the end.
We were all popped afterwards. Jon’s feet hurt, my back ached, Ri was hot. So Jon and Patty and I sat on the deck and chilled (after I mowed the grass!). The kids played on the computer and ate parade candy.

On Sunday, we found out the pool was open so we flung on our suits and headed down.

And guess who jumped off the high dive without flinching?

Last year, he’d climb up a few steps and stand there terrified, and I would have to help him down. Amazing what a year will do. Ri continued her high dive jumps – this year doing mid-air splits. She was so proud of her little bro after he jumped off and told everyone we ran into afterwards.
On Monday, we traveled down to Cincinnati for the long-awaited pool party at Aunt Susie’s and Uncle Kenny’s house. Oh, how the kids were dying for this party. They love having a private pool to play around in with Jon and me and the cousins. We brought Rocco down with us after Susie invited him (she is the consummate dog lover). The kids and I threw on our suits and jumped in without five minutes passing from stepping into the yard. Guess who joined us? Yep, Mr. Rocco. He loved the pool, and refused to get out. I tried to pull him out to take a breather after 20 minutes and he hopped right back in when I turned my back.

Mario and I suffered serious cuts from Rocco’s nails as he swam by us but it was a joy to see him in his element. We had to pull him out for the spectacular pool volleyball game. The Heiles against the Non-Heiles! The Heiles dominated, and Jon joined me for some post-game fun.
And it remained all fun-n-games until one of the many dogs playing at Susie’s house decided to let loose on Rocco. Rocco was engaging in his friendly antics, sniffing butts, when one of the dogs attacked him. His ear was sliced and face gashed and blood was everywhere. It seriously was like a murder scene. Jon and I had specks everywhere on us. Mario was mesmerized with all the blood and Ri was scared too death about Rocco. My mom and Rod and Mario and I jumped in the car and headed to the emergency vet at 5 pm. We ended up there until 9 (par for the course on a Memorial Day). Luckily, they were able to glue Rocco’s ear. He also got to leave with a cone.

Yep, it’s not a party until someone leaves in a cone. At least mom and I got some quality time together. And Mario learned how to make some killer Keurig coffee and tea.
Rocco keeps us laughing with his inability to maneuver around objects with his cone head. Ya gotta laugh at this crazy life or else you’re screw–, no I mean, you’re coned.