Spectacular everything

Another rip-roaring weekend last weekend. Moving non-stop but loving it because the weather was so amazing – crisp and sunny.
Ri had a sleepover with Sophie on Friday night. Jon reminded me she had soccer on Saturday morning and I expected when I told Ri that she’d have to go, she would pitch a fit. But I was pleasantly surprised by her reaction.
“Ok, mom.”
She’s really digging soccer. I cannot get over it. This is the girl who, for years, has been adamant that she does not want to play soccer.
“Too much running.”
This was always her response. Thank goodness for Henley deciding to play because that is the only reason Ri agreed to sign up – she was losing her friend during Mario’s football practice. Henley has a brother on the football team, too, so they’d play at the park while their brothers practiced. But then soccer started.
It was gradual love affair. At first, Ri would look at me on the sidelines and plead to come out of practice to get more water. Or she’d say her side hurt. But she never left practice saying she didn’t want to play anymore. And with more practices, she asked to come out less and less.
On the way to her game on Sunday, she proclaimed “I love soccer!”
I smiled so wide it felt like I could touch both ears with the sides of my mouth.

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Ri and Mario had birthday parties on Saturday afternoon. Jon took Mario to his and I took Ri to hers. I love the girl who had the party – she chose gem mining at a local cave for her party activity. All the girls were talking about getting dirty and finding cool stones. Awesome.
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I got myself a much-needed Yi’s Relaxation Station massage. 40 minutes for $40 and they go to town on you. Even so much as climbing on the massage table to walk on your back. Heaven. And chocolate bars to take home afterwards.
Patty and I picked up Ri from her party and headed to Hilliard for Mario’s last football game. They played under the lights at 7:30 pm. He was excited. Patrick and the kids came to watch, too. Very sweet. Mario and all of his teammates played so hard and ended up in a tie. It was a great season – Mario had so much fun and made friends with second and third graders, which helped so much at the beginning of school.
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Meanwhile, Ri, Henley and Alana could have cared less about Mario or football. They spent the entire time on the jungle gym.
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On Sunday, I got a long run in with the Rocco pup and then went Halloween shopping with Patty and the kids. That was at once hilarious and maddening. The kids look so precious and goofy in their costumes and masks they try on but it gets frustrating waiting for someone to help you determine whether they have the costume in your size and then trying the daggone thing on over clothes and shoes and kids who fuss and whine over the proper placement of the shoulder pads or sleeves (aka Mario).
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It’s also quite sad looking at the selection of costumes for girls. Boys have doctors in scrubs, Spider-Man, werewolves, firemen. Girls have nurses in skirts barely falling below the top of their behinds, wonder women in tight tank tops and belly shirts, and princesses in sleeveless chiffon. I love my girl who after looking at all of the outfits remarked: “I don’t like any of these. They are too pink and not scary at all.” We ended up in the boy section. This is the first one she tried.
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Mario simply wanted anything that came with a horrible looking face and some type of weapon. That was nearly half of the costumes for his age.
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We finally arrived at a pirate costume for Ri and a grim reaper for Mario. And 10 Hershey kisses for the road.
Ri had a killer soccer game and we came home to steaks on the grill and twice baked potatoes thanks to Patty.
A weekend of spectaculars – spectacular weather, spectacular sports, spectacular family, and spectacular food.
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Mario time

It was just me and Mario for 24 hours straight on Saturday and Sunday morning. He played his football game Saturday morning with his dad on the sidelines (Jon is the videographer lately) and me shivering over on the fan side with some other parents. He got one unassisted tackle and I missed it – ugh!
We got home around noon and he dove straight to his iPad. He wanted me to watch him build a place in Roboblox. Now, I remember as a little girl begging my folks to watch Family Feud with me – a plea to which they routinely declined. I don’t particularly remember being heart-broken – I got my Doritos and planted myself in my bean bag but I am sure a part of me processed their denial as not wanting to be with me or not being interested in me. I see today that it was far from that reasoning – it was that they had two seconds to do something they had an interest in like reading a book or writing a story. Or maybe not even so idyllic – they had time to do laundry or wash dishes.
So when Mario asked me to watch him play, I agreed. But damn if I didn’t channel my parents as I watched him for five minutes and was ready to move on to a book or some chores. I hung in for a bit longer with him and then told him how impressed I was with his building. “What a cool spaceship you built in the middle of the field!” (I am quite sure that sitting with him for five minutes and acknowledging his work will do the trick – when he’s an adult, he will undoubtedly remember how much his mom was there for him…!).
After mowing, I got a text from the mom of one of his friends telling me that they were at a Taste of Grandview. Mario agreed to bike down to the event with me, which made my day. I love that time together. We talked the entire way down. Two of his buddies were down there when we arrived and were playing in a little patch of grass behind the food stands. They played football and played in the trees (throwing pine cones at one another – what fun!) for five hours straight. I could not believe it. We got down there at 3 pm and did not leave until close to 8. Another mom and I kept praying that maybe they’d go to bed as soon as we got home from exhaustion.
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Not so much – Mario is a night owl. We biked up to Stauf’s and ate a bagel. I told him how he used to love to go to Stauf’s with me and eat blueberry muffins and bagels. I’d break off the smallest pieces and dip them in cream cheese worried that he’d choke with any bigger pieces. Mario rolled his eyes at me and asked me to watch him play Wipeout on my phone. He thinks it’s hilarious to watch the person ram her head against the foam rollers or fall into the water. Boys. Then we biked home and talked about poop the entire way – easy to do with a boy. He was fascinated that certain foods weren’t digested and came out in your poop. The little things in life….
I promised him that I’d watch a movie with him – no computer or iPad on my lap as we watched (I’m really bad about that). We snuggled on the couch with popcorn and Milk Duds and watched Spiderman 2. I thought he’d surely doze off but that boy stayed up for the entire movie. It was 11 pm and he was still wide-eyed. I made him go to bed knowing that he’d be up at 6:30 am no matter what. He begged me to do “spider up his back” which entails me gently tickling the length of his back up through his hair and whispering “spiders crawling up your back….” He loves it and becomes completely relaxed by it. He was out in five minutes.
I carried him upstairs and tucked him in bed next to me. Little munchball boy. To my elation, he did not wake me up until 7:05 am. What a gift he gave me. And even then, he let me lay in bed as long as we could talk. Gladly. Poop came up as a subject again but so did other more appropriate topics. We laid and talked until 8 am. Heaven. Then we got up and started our day with waffles and chocolate chips and a trip to the grocery store. He helped me pick out food for the farm and found out that Kroger’s donuts are even better than Giant Eagle’s donuts! I know where we are heading every Sunday morning.
We got home and he helped me round up Rocco and his food. He even gathered up his books and markers for the back seat. Yea, he is definitely a keeper.
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Football and cake = an August weekend

We made it out to the farm on Saturday with enough time to eat lunch, eat cake and play one badminton game. But Ri got to soak it up a bit longer out there with her friend Henley. Jon, Mario and I had to head back to Columbus for his Meet the Team night in the Grandview Stadium.
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Ri and Henley had a good time holding Elena and riding the horses and playing yoga kickball with Peepaw and Jorge. Poor Henley took a hike with me and Ri and fell on her back as she tried to swing on a vine. Then she got stung by a bee. I’m not sure a trip back to the farm will be happening soon for her…!
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I always forget how self sufficient Ri is on the farm. She’s completely able to traverse the farm without any issues, and when she falls she just picks herself up and keeps truckin’. A true farm gal. But we gave kudos to Henley for not giving up and trying that vine again. She succeeded at swinging on it the second time.
Meanwhile, Mario, Jon and I went to Meet the Team night. Mario was in his element with his guys. He soaks up that testosterone and jumps right into all the boy antics.

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The high school boys came out last and all the younger boys get to form a line on each side of them to cheer them on. We watched Mario smile as he slapped the high school boys’ hands. The high school boys got to introduce themselves and name their favorite breakfast food. Mario will fit right into this football group based on the answers we were hearing. I believe 80% of the boys answered that their favorite breakfast food was donuts or pancakes.
After the stadium event, the Touchdown Club held a gathering at the Italian Club down the street. We weren’t going to attend but after sitting around the house for an hour, we decided to head down. Mario was again in his element. He partied it up with his football buddies tossing the football and running around the place. He even jumped on stage without hesitation when Gangum Style came out of the speakers.
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We had to drag him out of the building at 9:30 to head home.
While Ri and Henley were trying to read to Elena Sunday morning, Mario was chowing on eggs and waffles preparing for his first football game.
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Jon headed up to the field with Mario at 11 am. He had to get weighed in and practice before the noon game. I gasped when I saw him – big ol’ shoulder pads and jersey with his name on it. He looked like a miniature pro football player.
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He was ready to play. He has no desire to throw or catch the ball; he just loves to tackle. He’s not scared of the big boys either. I thought I’d be scared half to death watching him but I wasn’t. I saw him hold his own play after play and felt surprisingly calm. Now, I’m sure the day will come where I will exhibit nerves and fear (especially if he is catching the ball and getting tackled) but I’ll enjoy watching him play for now. He’s also quite the nut of the team.
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They ended up tying the game. Mario looked like me after a long run – completely drenched in sweat. He got a celebratory hot dog and walked out with the love of his life, Grandma Ionno.
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Of course, he had to take off his shirt and strut it out back to the car. I used to not be able to picture my little guy as a teenager but as I snapped this picture, all I could see was Mario at age 16.
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Hence why I agreed to read Dracula to him for a half hour last night at bedtime – I’ve got to get the snuggle time in with him while I am able.
And Ms. Maria is heading right up that path, too. I go to say goodnight to her and find her in her pjs, wet hair combed from a shower, looking up iPhones on her iPad. But just when I was about to leave her room, she noticed me and sang “mom, can you scratch my back and bring me water.” There’s my baby girl.
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Gulp

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I really don’t think it’s possible to love this kid anymore. I went to his back-to-school night last night and the above poster was hanging up outside his classroom. What a dear friend he is to have his number one wish be to spend every second with his buddy, Quinn. Jon and I have to rent a RV to make Mario’s second wish come true. Mario has been begging for a trip in a RV since he was four and hooked on the show Ben 10 (where Ben rides around in a RV). Before he wanted to go to Mt. Rushmore in the RV but now I see it’s Hawaii. We better rent it soon before he opts for Asia.
Mario is working hard on his third wish. Jon and I are amazed at his perseverance and grit on the football field. He’s the youngest boy in tackle but he is one of the strongest.

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He also has a lot of heart. He wants to get out there and tackle the heck out of kids. He could care less about catching the ball. He just wants to hit. He’s been this way since he was a toddler; he’s always loved to wrestle. Jon and I have spent countless hours on the family room carpet going round after round with him. He’s a strong little sucker. Last night, he got in his football stance and ran towards us to tackle. Both Jon and I woke up this morning with sore chests from his pushes.
He tells us that he wants to play pro because then he’d make one million dollars. He also thinks he will get money in college. I explain to him he may get a scholarship where his room and board are paid and then mom and dad would save money but he would not get actual money in his own pocket. He doesn’t quite get that and dismisses me each time I explain it. However, by the time he becomes a college football player, the NCAA will probably allow stipends, if not a paycheck… so he will probably be right in the end.
I read his note he wrote to Jon and I as I listened to his teacher talk about the class routine. In his note, he told Jon and I “do not be scared.” I thought that was interesting advice to give us. He must know that he’s gonna take risks (example, playing tackle football at age 6) and that he needs to reinforce in Jon and I that we need to swallow our fears and let him try….
Gulp.

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Weekend Round up

We took Rocco for an evening walk on Thursday or Friday night. The moon was glorious – as full as it could be and casting a muted yellow light onto the earth. I stopped the kids and made them absorb it. Then I shouted “make a wish!”
Mario pleaded for lots of toys at Christmas and a new Skylander. Sophie begged for new Legos. Maria pleaded for her mom to have the best birthday ever. That’s it. All she wanted from the moon. My sweet baby. She has got every caring gene in her body (Mario has them too but the toy gene trumps quite often).
On Saturday, Jon took the kids to Marion to visit their cousins at Patty’s and Joe’s house. I got in a killer 11 mile run in and lifted weights. It was superb. And then to top it off, Rocco took a walk with me and didn’t stop every second and make me beg him to move. It was delightful. I love taking him to the woods by our house and letting him off the leash; he rips through the leaves and dashes from log to log smelling the remnants of other animals.

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Saturday evening, Jon and I drove up to Marion to pick up the kids and visit Patty and Joe and Jon’s brothers and their families. The boys spent most of the time watching each other play Minecraft on the iPad while the girls played make believe in the basement. It’s so freeing to have them all play together alone while the adults chatted upstairs.
Ri woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. She’s such a machine, though. She washed down some Tylenol and just went back to bed without complaining at all. When she woke Sunday morning, I knew she didn’t feel the best but she kept a straight face and went with me to the YWCA to do crafts with the homeless kids. She has such a big heart. Within about twenty minutes, I could tell she felt horrible and I made her sit down. But soon I saw her up helping a little girl with her Halloween mask. We left the Y and went home for a day of relaxation. She slept on the couch while I raked leaves with Rocco. It was so gorgeous outside I didn’t mind the manual labor at all. She mosied outside after a while and recited recipes from one of her kids’ books.while I made a leaf pile. Then she began to take pictures of all the glorious flowers in the yard. She’s got a bit of an eye on her….

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She slipped in this one (Rocco’s poop bag) and thought it was hilarious!

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Meanwhile, Jon took Mario to his swim birthday party. Jon talked it up with the moms at the party keeping them laughing with his jokes. He reported that Mario had a great time with his dudes splashing around the pool and being silly. When Mario came home, he reported to me that one of the boys swam in “panties.” I looked at him quizzically and Jon chimed in “they were speedos, Mario.” Mario had never seen such things since he has been wearing boxers for the last two years to be like his dad. Indeed, anything he can do to be more like his dad makes him happy. He watched football with Jon in the evening jumping off the couch every few minutes to act like he was catching a pass (Jon does not do that).
Ri and I read Janes and the Giant Peach for 45 minutes, which made me oh so happy. I love reading with her and dreamt about it since she was a baby. I tucked her in bed at 8:30 with the hope that she would be better in the morning. Mario stayed up until 10 with his dad watching football and making us watch his pretend touchdowns (and touchdown dances). I think he’s ready for the NFL at age 6.
Oh, and we got Boo’d last night, which means we have to “Boo” two houses in Grandview tonight. I’m not sure if I like this “Booing” idea – seems to be yet another way to commercialize a holiday (I now have to go our and buy candy and bags to put at the two houses we “Boo.”) But the kids were so excited to be the “Boo” recipients so I will play the game like a good citizen and go buy candy and bags after work. I will make them walk to the houses we “boo” tonight though – it’s too nice outside to drive anywhere today. Winter will sneak up on us way too soon….

Homecoming night

Mario walked in the homecoming parade and could not have been more ready to walk by himself. Every time Ri and I got close, he’d yell “go away!” He wanted to bask in his football glory without dawdling family members close by him.

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Ri and I were so out of there after the parade. She had no desire to watch the football game. Mario, on the other hand, was all about it. He was so excited to sit with Jon the entire game. Some of his little buddies were playing down by the concession stand and he joined them for a bit but sat up in the stands most of the game. Jon gets a gold star for making it through the entire game (most folks with younger kids hit the road at half time).
Meanwhile, Ri and I hit Grandview Ave. for a wild night: Panera for Mac-n-cheese and Orange Leaf for ice cream. We know how to rock the town.

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Weekend update

Another rousing weekend for the family. I am really impressed by how I can get up on Monday morning and take a run with as tired as I am on Sunday night (that double dip UDF ice cream at 10 pm must rev up my cells through the night).

Patty and Alana and Gio attended Mario’s football game on Saturday morning. It was nothing less than pure chaos an hour prior to kick-off with Jon trying to get the dog to poop and Mario dressed and me trying to find cupcakes for after-game snacks that had football rings on them. When I got home at 10:10 am, Jon had left with Mario to get him to the game by a 10:30 kickoff. Except he forgot Mario’s mouthpiece. I got the “Are you on your way?!” frantic call at 10:15 and I rushed Patty, the kids, and the dog out of the house to get to the game. Nothing like doing 80 on the highway with your mom-in-law next to you.
Mario played the entire game because a lot of kids were absent. He kept reversing the ball and running backwards away from kids to try to move forwards but he never made it far, which frustrated the heck out of him. But he hung in there for the entire game; it’s amazing to see the difference in his attitude and playing style this year versus last year. And he loves being the life of the party amongst his team mates.

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Maria and Alana kept Rocco busy at the playground. Alana loved helping with the pup (she adores dogs) and they both were very good about watching him around kids (Ri acts like a mother hen shooing kids back when Rocco acts up). Rocco did surprisingly well with people coming up to him. Knock on wood, let’s hope he’s learning not to bite quite as much.

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After the game, Patty and I walked the crew up to Panera for lunch. Mario and Gio rode in the stroller so they could play on the iPads while the girls rode scooters (and Jon wants to get rid of the stroller – no way!). Lunch was hilarious: the boys were in the bathroom for fifteen minutes doing their business and messing around; the girls wanted to eat alone and ride their scooters by themselves up and down Grandview Ave. Luckily, Patty goes with the flow as well as I do so we just ate our salads and took it all in.
We took the pup to the woods by our house when we got home and he loved it. I think I have found the perfect spot for him to run without a leash that only takes us 8 minutes to walk to back and forth. I told Mario a story about a troll living in the woods a while ago and he still asks about the troll when we head to the woods. If he sees a bunch of sticks piled up, he will excitedly say “the troll may hide out there” or if he sees tracks he will point at them and yell “troll prints!” So sweet.

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Patty and Meg joined me for evening fun – we ate chips and watched the game. The girls played Quirkle (such a great game) and the boys reunited with their iPads. Patty left around 9:30 (what a machine she is to drive an hour home with Alana and Gio at that time of night); we all hit the sack as soon as they hopped in Patty’s car.
We enjoyed Stauf’s on Sunday morning. Rocco walked some of the way with us but then decided he wanted to stroll with Mario. He leaned over the edge after a few blocks and stumbled out of the seat so he decided to walk again. The stroller wheels freak him out though and he just kept whining and trying to bite them (note: ignore my last comment about the wonders of the stroller: Mario needs to stop riding in that thing and bike to Stauf’s).

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I took a wonderful 7 mile run after Stauf’s through UA and then got treated to an amazing delicioso brunch at The Kitchen</a. These women know how to cook – I had a yummy combo of mushrooms, kale, cabbage and tomatoes over grits with a fried egg and fluffy French toast with caramel sauce. My sis and Meg had sweet potato and onion hash that had to be sent down from heaven. Everything tasted so so so good.

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We walked off the amazing meals in the woods with Rocco. Jorge loved the tree with the climbing spikes and scared us all to death with how high he climbed. Rocco would whine loudly and try to climb the tree when any of us climbed up.
We came home and played HORSE in the backyard. Maria made everyone coffee while Mario kicked our butts making nearly all of his b-ball shots. Because we still hadn’t done enough through the day, we made a trip to Petland to look at the dwarf hamsters and pups. Rocco scored new toys and treats because I can’t resist buying him something anytime I am near a dog aisle. We hit Party City after Petland and I’m happy to report that we have a zombie ninja and a valley girl in the house for Halloween.
We ended the day with more food – gyros from the new Greek Express. They were mighty fine as you could tell from the way we slouched in the booths – or maybe that was just sheer exhaustion….Us Menkedicks work hard but play harder!

Weekend round-up

We got treated to a visit from Aunt Jane, Uncle Steve, Robert and Laura on Saturday morning. They came up to see Mario’s football game. We took Rocco to the vet at 9 am to hear that he was looking good and then rushed to Tim Horton’s to get lucky timbits for Mario to eat pre-game. The line inside and out was ridiculously long so Jon took me and the kids home and drove to another Tim Horton’s while we changed. The ovens at that Tim Horton’s were down so there were no donuts. You would have thought Mario was just told he would never be able to walk again. He lost it. Flailing everywhere. Bawling.

Once he calmed down, I told him we could get some magical donuts at BP and a cereal bar. Maybe they would work even better to allow him to score touchdowns. We stopped for them and got on the highway at 10:15 – his game started at 10:30. The highway we needed was closed. We spent the next 20 minutes trying to find an alternate route that wasn’t busy. I was irked because Jane and Steve had come to see the game and we were late. Jon was irked because I was irked. The kids, luckily, were oblivious listening to Radio Disney on their headphones. I was telling myself the whole way that I cannot control the situation; stay calm; breathe. I eventually convinced myself when we were two minutes away.

It was great having Jane and Steve and Robert and Laura at the game – they completely got into it jumping up and down and yelling for Mario as he ran for a touchdown.
I had ice cream with them later and reminisced about the good ol’ days when I rode in the trunk of the station wagon with no seat belts and played in the deep water with no life vest!

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When we got home, Jon swept Mario away to Big Mario’s and Aunt Vickie’s house to fish and go four-wheeling. Mario’s dream come true. He got treated like royalty between cookies and pasta and a coyote skin that Big Mario had treated just for him. He couldn’t wait to show it off when he got home Sunday night.

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Meanwhile, Ri and I got her present ready for her sleepover at the Hyatt. Yeah, a hotel sleepover. The birthday party detail continues to be raised up notches. Pretty soon you will be expected to rent out a ballroom and boy band for an eighth birthday party.

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After I dropped Ri off at 4:00, I had the night to myself. I got a massage at 4:30 and then spent the rest of the night with little dude.

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I was like this with Cy, too. I would make big plans in my head to go to the movies or the coffee shop to read but then Cy would look out the window at me and I’d turn around and spend the evening with him. So Rocco and I enjoyed the evening together with a walk to Pet People that took two hours with all the stops we had to make (between sniffing, laying down, and people petting) and watched a Sarah Polley documentary (which was quite good). We hit the sack at 10:15 pm and started all over at 6:30 am.
Maria texted me from her friend’s mom’s phone at 9:30 am asking me to pick her up. One of her friends had called her “heavy” and not let her participate in a game. Ugh, girls. But Ri is such an old soul and was able to process that her friend was probably mad about something else that had happened at the party and took it out on Ri. Pretty impressive intuition for an 8 year old.

She wanted time with her mama anyway – we took Rocco for a walk, bought a pooper scooper and a toaster at Target (she loved that I combined these two things in one sentence), and got a pedicure!

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As the night wore on, and Rocco got in his chew stage (Maria’s friend came over to apologize and Rocco accidentally caught her little brother with those sharp puppy teeth while chasing him), I started to get testy. I made Ri get on Xtra Math and she complained. Then, once on, she did poorly. She was not answering simple subtraction quick enough and I let my end of day fatigue take over.
“Come on Ri, you have to get these more quickly. This is why you have to do Xtra Math everyday. You aren’t getting simple problems right.”
She started crying as I peered over her shoulder and watched her every move. I let out a sigh when she missed another and she jolted up and ran upstairs crying and yelling “you are the worst mom ever!”
I sat on the kitchen chair staring at the computer. I definitely could have handled this better. I know how much Ri hates pressure and stress so why did I stand over her shoulder? Yea, I know why….

I called her back down to finish Xtra Math, which she did. Then I swung her legs around to meet mine, looked her straight in the eyes (those beautiful blue eyes) and told her I loved her more than anything. I also apologized for putting undue pressure on her. She reached out and hugged me and apologized, too. We both decided that the fight warranted an ice cream cone so we headed off to UDF for double dip peanut butter ‘n’ chip.

And we both concurred that ice cream solves all problems.

Weekend Round-Up

Biking up to the Annual Cake Walk was bad luck. How were we going to carry a cake home if we won?

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The Middle School gym was packed with no ability to avoid touching another human (Jon would have been very unhappy). I am usually ok in those situations for a brief period of time but then I reach a rapid breaking point and need out quick. There were the parents who loved every second of the event watching the crowd and chatting with other parents.  Then there were the seriously irked parents in the crowd silently bemoaning their children for making them endure such conditions. I was in-between.  This was the first year that I felt comfortable allowing Ri to leave my sight and run around by herself or with friends. And thank god I did because there was no way to let her walk ahead and still keep an eye on her. Ten feet ahead and she was in the masses. Mario wished he was Ri and could be on his own. He is so over having to be next to me and not run around on his own. Luckily, there was a toy/game area cordoned off upstairs so I could stand back and let him do his thing  (inevitably he’d run back to me though and say “Mom, come watch me play!” (he needs me more than he thinks)). Mario found Quinn and followed him everywhere. He’s got a complete boy crush on him. Ri hung with Sophie.

We failed on the cake front. Mario got so mad after our first loss that he pronounced “this is stupid, I’m never playing again!” Mario is intolerant of games of chance. He played a few more times and got irritated at losing every time.  Ri could have cared less; she was busy bragging about how Uncle Jack played in the band at the Cake Walk when he was in middle school. I love this picture of us: I was stunned because I almost won; Mario was mad because he didn’t; and Ri was zoning out due to a sugar overdose.

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Saturday brought 40 degree weather which meant we were on our bikes and trolling the neighborhood. We hit Panera with Jon (Mario ate his entire ham sandwich – miracle!) and trekked over to our old digs to see if our bird’s nest was still up in the corner of the neighbor’s house. It was! But we found no mama sitting on eggs. Maria again lamented like she always does about the new owner not taking care of our old house. “He doesn’t care for it like we did. He doesn’t even plant flowers.” I’m worried if he ever comes outside, she may give him a piece of her mind. We stopped at Doris and Kim’s house to say hi but they weren’t home. The kids wanted a sad picture to send them so they’d know we missed them.

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But then our always joyful Ri chirped “Now turn those frowns upside down, folks! Unfortunately, her stranglehold on Mario produced a greater frown.

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Next, we hit Zach’s house. They were preparing for Grace’s birthday party so we helped fill the piñata and broke out SpongeBob tattoos (we know how to party). Zach let M&M ride his go-cart which thrilled Mario. He also played b-ball with him. Mario is gonna love making boy friends at Stevenson. Meanwhile, Ri threw on Zach’s football pads and completely played the role of linebacker.

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We left Zach’s and headed up to Kroger’s for eggs. We had our Paas coloring kits already. The kids engaged in their annual egg coloring doing better this year than in any year past (usually there is at least one colored water spill). After coloring 20 eggs we called it a night. Ri read Martin Luther King Jr.’s book to us before bed.  The book contained his “I Have a Dream” speech. Mario paid no attention to which Ri scolded “you are never going to learn about history, Mario!”

We skipped out on the farm on Sunday due to the Winter Storm predicted for the day (ended up to be a false alarm with hardly any snow through the day – daggone meteorologists. Mario jumped on me at 7:30 in the morning begging to color more eggs. So there we were at 8 am coloring away.

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Ri went to Yoga with me at 10am. She loves playing on the iPad and watching me sweat. She is at once in awe and disgusted. We came home and found Mario in heaven because he was playing with Quinn. Ri and I took off to Stauf’s for a scone and Uno and then picked up Sophie and Paxton to head to the woods. Nothin’ like a girl climbing a tree in cowgirl boots.

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After climbing trees and playing in the shallow creek, we called it a day and went home. Quinn and Mario were playing mutant ninja turtles in the basement and eating peanut butter and Ri and Sophie took sleeping bags to her house to sleep outside in the snow.  When Quinn had to leave, Mario gave him a big hug and told him that they would play again tomorrow “because we’re best friends.” When Jon questioned Mario about Gio being his best friend, Mario told him “it’s complicated, dad, let’s not go there.”

We ended the night with a family card game of Three Little Pigs and Beat the Parents.  The kids demolished us.  We blamed it on being tired but I think it’s more likely a lack of sugar from no cake.

Mario’s trophy

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Mario finally received his trophy for flag football. He’s been talking about his award ceremony for weeks questioning when it would happen and dreaming about what he would receive. Jon and I figured there would be trophies for the boys but weren’t sure. We kept telling him that he should just focus on seeing his football buddies and having fun.

He could barely eat his dinner last night his body was so pumped with adrenaline. He ran around the kitchen doing kicks in the air and asking “how much longer until my awards?”

We arrived at the middle school and boys from ages 5 to 11 were running around the cafeteria pulling at each other and sliding across the floor. Mario found his nirvana and joined right into the mix. It is at once heartening and disheartening to see your little boy making school-age friends and hanging out on his own. Part of me wanted him to sit on my lap like he used to as a toddler and play with my hair or clutch my hand. But the other part of me loved to watch him spread his wings and engage with this group of boys who would be his buddies for years to come. Jon and I agree that he will be quite the social butterfly.

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When the coach called his name to receive his trophy, he had a smile so wide I thought it might come off his face. He shook the coach’s hand and sat down. He promptly admired his trophy for the next ten minutes. When he finally got up and came to show Jon and me, he exclaimed “I was the leader and did the best on the team so I got the highest number – 2000 and something.” He was pointing at the date “2012” on his trophy. Jon and I just let him continue on with his musings.

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Ri was the sweet, cheerleader sister congratulating him on his trophy. When he first received it, she looked sadly at Jon and me and whispered “I don’t have one yet.” We reassured her that we were sure she’d get one if she kept practicing hard. She quickly changed her demeanor to one of joy when Mario walked over. That is one of Ri’s best traits – supporting others even if she feels a bit jealous. She is so mature in that area.

Of course, Mario’s first words as we left were “has Maria ever gotten a trophy like me?” We told him he is not in a competition with his sis. Maria and I rolled our eyes at each other while Mario held on tight to his trophy.