Happy Birthday, Little Man

Baby Mario

 Mario turned three today

It was right about the time I am writing this post that I was pushing him out with such intensity I swore that I was going to split in half on the birthing table.  Yeah, after him, I swore I would never go through the birthing process again without drugs.  

Yet, here we are today laughing hysterically as he sings “I like to Move It, Move It.  I like to Shake It, Shake It” while he lifts his right leg in the air and shakes his booty.  

Mario enjoying the heat and the pool.

 Here we are basking in the sun as Mario runs around the back yard with Maria goofing off in his new “cool pool.”

Here we are today listening to him explain how his new plastic sharp tooth dinosaur has sharp teeth but his arms are too small for his body.  

Mario playing dinosaur with Maria (roaring like the sharptooth roar!)

Here we are today smiling as we see the thrill he gets from tossing big boulders into the river and making a SPLASH! 

Mario waiting to throw his boulder in the river

Here we are today laying with him in Maria’s bed because he continues to jump out of his crib and run downstairs or in Maria’s room to play and the only way to get him down is to lay with him in Maria’s room and rub his back.  

Here we are today patiently waiting for him to get dressed and put his sock on with the line perfectly across his toes.  

Water Mario!

Here we are today playing in the pool with him and watching him go underwater for the first time this summer!

The next rock star drummer!

Here we are today cringing as he cries hysterically because he does not want to eat his breakfast but rather, he wants to eat M&Ms or brownies.  

Mario trying to cajole me for M&Ms

 Here we are today holding our ears as he bangs on the drums at the local arts festival impressing the drummer enough to be given his drumsticks.  

Here we are today hearing him beg his sister to read Pocahontas to him for the fifth time in a row. 

"Please read Pocohontas, Maria!"

Here we are today watching him cuddle up with his three-year old blue blankie and his trusted binkie.  

Here we are today amazed at how he recites his ABC’s and sings “Baby Bumblebee.” 

Here we are today anticipating Maria’s exasperation as Mario begs Maria, after five previous “tricks” to “watch one more trick, Ria.” 

Sleeping beauties

 Here we are today sighing as we go upstairs to bed and see that Mario has climbed into Maria’s bed to fall asleep. 

Here we are today pleased when Mario looks up while playing and says “I love my grandma.  I want to see her.” 

Here we are today cautious and hesitant when Mario yells “Watch mom and dad, I can fly” and leaps off the couch onto the floor.  

Here we are today shaking our heads as he strips off his clothes and runs around the house free and naked screaming “I naked everyone!” 

Mario's "girl outfit" as Maria calls it - he is a trooper, too!

 Here we are today impressed and slightly taken aback with Mario’s “new look” after a makeup session with Maria and her girl cousins.  

Here we are today commending Mario for saying “thank you” after retrieving his ball for him and chuckling with him after he divulges that “Maggie told me I needed manners.”      

Here we are today watching him swing a golf club almost as well as Tiger Woods, and hitting the ball over the fence.  

Mario and Cy

Here we are today apologizing to him after we held the neighbor baby without his permission: “You don’t hold the baby!” 

Here we are today relishing the moment he throws his arms around our necks and says “I love you to the moon and stars and to poopyhead!” 

Here we are today singing him Happy Birthday as he stares into the three candles on his brownie.  

Thinking hard about a wish!

 Here we are today telling him to make a wish and tearing up when he whispers “I wish I could go fishing.” 

To our Mario:  You, my love, continue to make us not only laugh but laugh hysterically and with such great gusto.  You are a gem to us all.  Happy 3rd Birthday, my little man! 

Here's looking at you, kid!

The Beauty in a Touch

The rascals ready to head outside

Maria and Mario have been giving us a run for our money lately.  Jon and I have threatened on a few too many occasions that we are going to send them off to a deserted island to make it on their own.  I think they are at the point of agreeing to such a proposal. Maria asked me tonight whether Jon and I would agree to let her move in with a boyfriend if she had just gone on one date with him.  Yeah, I am not kidding.  Age 5. Yikes. Of course, at this point, I am ready to bellow “yes, go!” but I restrain myself knowing that my mind is warped from too many jigsaw puzzles and barbie dramas.  I look so forward to the weekends but by the time 7 pm Sunday hits, I am done.  Cooked. 

Me and the babes posing for the camera

The family did have a good weekend this past weekend, however. We went to “Big Mario’s house on Saturday afternoon to go fishing.  Mario had fished with Jon a few weeks back and Jon thought it would be great to have the entire family out on the dock fishing.  He got poles, lines, bait.  We got to Mario’s, said our hellos and then headed down to the dock for some good ol’ fishing.  While we waited for Jon to get the poles together, we threw catfood into the water to attract the fish.  Mario cracked us up with his utter joy in seeing the ripples formed from the fish grabbing at the food.  He would see a snatch and his eyes would bulge out, his right arm would shoot up, and he would exclaim “look mom!” Precious.  Maria just wanted to put her feet in the water and move them around in the mud.  She has always been sensual – feeling the silk of her blankie, soaking her hair in the bath.  She loved the feel of the mud on her feet.  After Jon got the poles together, he brought one to Mario.  He clung to me and yelled “no, mom – I am scared.”  Huh?! Jon informed me that during the last fishing trip, a catfish’s barb had gotten Mario and so he may be gunshy (or hookshy?) now.  That he was.  He wanted nothing to do with fishing.  Well, one down. 

Maria and her dad with their catch

Maria gave it a try.  Within 5 minutes, she and her father got a catfish.  But after that one, she became bored because the fish did not bite right away.  Poor Jon.  So much for our lovely family outing.  I gave them a bath (they adore Mario and Vicki’s bubble bath tub) and Jon continued his fishing all alone.  We did have a kickin’ pasta family meal thanks to Aunt Vicki who made meatballs, homemade bread, and zucchini muffins with icing.  Yum! 

On Sunday, we hosted Grandma Lolo at Stauf’s.  What a time that was.  My poor mom.  She had bad allergies and then the kids were insane with energy and goofiness, and would not sit still or give us a moment to talk.  I was ready to strangle them both but there were too many people around.  I continue to struggle with allowing them to talk and express themselves at the table (I am not one of those parents that think kids should be silent at the dinner table) but not allowing them to be rude and interruptive.  

Sibling love

When we got home, I told Jon I was ready to go nuts.  He had his talk with them (“You will listen to us” with Mario responding “no, I will not.”).  We all went our respective ways to cool off.  It worked because within fifteen minutes we were off on a run in the stroller through Grandview.  Maria and Mario brought their coloring and sticker books and Maria played teacher with Mario telling him how smart he was and how cute he was 9. 

We rushed down to COSI when we got home for Maria’s friend’s birthday party.  Jon and I watched Mario while Maria went to her private room.  He had a blast.  We decided he is definitely going to be a mountain climber or an extreme sport adventurer.  He climbed up these wood decorations on the outer part of the steps and did not miss a beat.  There were nooks and crannies that he needed to step in or avoid and he was right on.  It was hilarious.  And he wanted no help.  If he did not get it right away, he kept trying with all of his heart.  He does not give up.  Maria had a blast with her friends and was fine being on her own for two hours. 

We came home and called it a night staying around the house.  Mario had a few meltdowns because he failed to take a nap during the day.  He hit me a few times, also, which promptly led me to place him down and walk away from him.  Within three seconds of being put down, I hear “MOMMMMMY!” along with whimpering of “sorry mommy.”  He laid next to me on the couch watching a movie before bed, and at one point he placed the inside of his hand on my cheek.  I looked over at him and he whispered “I love you mom.”  Meltdown.  That is all it takes to forget the major tantrums he had throughout the day.  He knows the tricks. 

We went upstairs to play before bed and Maria played barbies.  She told Jon that her barbies were models and that they were all “perfect.”  Jon asked her if she thought I was perfect.  Maria responded “no, mom is alright.”  I gave her a sigh and told her that I would rather be smart and funny and engaged in life than be a size 0.  Hopefully that soaks in.  However, she did go on to clarify that these models also went to college.  Ok, getting better.  We eventually got them to bed but Maria came downstairs about a half hour later.  Jon asked what she needed and she said she wanted to tell me something. 

She came over to the computer and said “Mom, I am sorry for saying that you are not perfect earlier.  You are the best mom.”  A second meltdown.  And she got what she wanted – me upstairs laying with her until she fell asleep.  Sometimes giving in is the best route to go.




An entire month before my travel to Oaxaca, I lamented about my upcoming trip with colleagues, friends and family. 

“The flights are so awful.” “I am going to miss the kids.” “Mario is having his big cookout for the 4th.” “I just want to rest on my three days off.”

The day crept up on me and I found myself dragging my body out of bed at 4:45 am to get ready for a 5 am pick-up.  Kissed the babies good-bye and hugged my hubby and off I went to the airport.  A coffee and oatmeal.  A Sky Mall magazine. A few words with my younger brother. A subway sandwich. Peanut M&Ms. A cranked neck.  We were there.


Plaza down from the hotel where kids play soccer

My younger sis, Sarah, has lived in Oaxaca for close to three years. She met the love of her life while going to school in the city.  He is a native to Oaxaca – his family lives in the hills abridging the city. We met him about two years ago.   He survived the family orientation. He posseses a calm demeanor, which is perfect for my energetic sis. He is a photographer – she is a writer.  They both love adventure and coffee and dancing.  They decided to “go on this journey together” and marry.  That is the reason for my departure to Oaxaca.

Sarah picked us up in a flat bed truck owned by a Mexican friend of hers.  We drove in the flat bed with the luggage back to Sarah’s apartment and our hotel.  The hotel was quaint and adorable. My room consisted of a bed, a desk, and a bathroom.  There was a courtyard on the first level and a terrace on the second level.  The courtyard had a small fountain with two snapping turtles floating in it. 

My turtles

We went to restaurants, we drank, we laughed, we reminisced.  It was wonderful.  The weather was perfect. No

The crew partying it up at a local restaurant

 humidity. Perfect blue skies. Puffy white clouds.  Large twisting trees. Incredibly difficult hiking trails. Crosses. It did not feel foreign to me – it felt like my little sister’s home.  Her wedding is able to be summed up with two rather opposing adjectives – quaint and spectacular. 

The sister and brother of her husband, Jorge, hosted the wedding in their backyard.

Getting ready for the ceremony

  Jorge’s nieces were the flower girls.  A mariachi band played. They wrote their story as the ceremony and they recited their own vows.  We danced with a live turkey. We drank Mezcal.  We jammed to old ’80s music. And at the end of the night, Sarah looked just as radiant and beautiful as she had the moment before the wedding.  

Dancing the night away

As I stood next to her and looked over at my little brother Jack who is six years younger than Sarah, flashes of their childhood came back to me with a vengeance and it seemed surreal that I was now standing in a Mexican yard watching one of them marry and the other graduate college soon.  There are moments where I feel like life is moving like molasses and the day will never end, especially when Maria and Mario are ont heir worst behavior.  But I see my little sis and bro and I see my babies at age 5 and almost 3, and I know that it in the end, it all goes lightening speed.  As it should, I suppose. Who would want to remain in high school forever?!

Dancing with the turkey

On Sunday, Jorge’s mother hosted a blessing ceremony at the same house.  She cried as she caressed Sarah’s hair and explained to us in Spanish how important it was for her to give a Catholic blessing to the new couple.  Her emotion moved us all.  The Bible verse read was raw and appropriate – one I had never heard before.  She etched the sign of the cross in the air to both Sarah and Jorge and hugged them hard.  It was one of the most tender moments.  We continued to drink Mexcal and beer and eat home-cooked food and soak in the Mexican atmosphere.  We ended the night with a round of pizzas and a game of cards.  Does life get any better?   

Meanwhile, Maria Grace celebrated at her Aunt Susie’s house with all of her aunts and her Grandma Lolo.  They toasted one to us around 6:30 pm (5:30 Mexico time when the wedding

Maria partying with her aunts

 began).  They laughed and partied and swam all night – Maria Grace had a blast with Grandma Lolo who treated her like a princess for three days straight.  She came home with toys and dresses, and coloring books and lots of fun memories. 

Proud fisherman

Mario celebrated with a night at Grandma Ionno’s house and then a trip to Uncle Mario’s house where he caught his first fish.  A catfish he would have you know.  And it was really big he would have you know.  A man’s man.