6 am wake-up call

It was just me and Mario on Saturday night. We planted a few flowers and watered the lawn and hit the sack but only after a bit of a meltdown because he wanted Quinn to spend the night. They had gone to the talent show at school from 6:30 until 8:30 pm and were hoping for a sleepover. To compromise, Stephanie and I agreed they could play as “soon as they woke up in the morning.” Before we went to bed, Mario made me promise I would wake him up whenever Quinn came over in the morning. I explained to him that he would definitely be up before Quinn and he attempted to convince me that Quinn got up when it was still dark.
Mario awoke at 6:05 am on Sunday morning – the birds were chirping but the sun had not risen.
“Is Quinn here?” He asked as he popped up from the bed fully expecting that he was at the foot of the bed ready to play.
“No buddy, he is not.”
“Can I go get him at his house?”
I reiterated that Quinn would not get up until 8 or so – a normal hour for most children. He looked at me in disbelief but I made him lay next to me and try to go back to bed. When I opened my eyes up five minutes later believing he’d be back to sleep, he was wide awake staring at the window. “I know Quinn is up.”
There was no going back to sleep. We got up and got ready to walk to Giant Eagle for a donut; I had convinced Mario that Quinn would be awake when we got home. It was close to 7 am by the time we fed Rocco and let him out. Mario plopped in the stroller and we walked down the driveway… and who do we see at our front door? Quinn. Gotta love it. Do you think they will be getting up this early when they’re teenagers? (I will wake them up at the crack of dawn and torture them as payback). Quinn hopped in the stroller with Mario after I went in the house to get an iPad for him to use. Look at these techno-geeks rocking it out in luxury up to Giant Eagle!

They played Minecraft and Animal Jam as I got in a little run. We stopped at the park to let out some energy. I did yoga while listening to these crazy boys act like they were commanders in a war. Quinn would act like he was shot and Mario would go run around him protecting him from bad guys. It was so sweet, in a macho boy sort of way…. Then they actually played on the swings and the slides. I gave them underdogs on the swings and they laughed hysterically as they flew up to the sky. That was sweet in a darling boy sort of way….

We eventually made it to Giant Eagle for donuts and when we walked back into the house, it was a whopping 8:45 am. By the time lunch rolled around at noon, it felt like 8 pm. But as crazy as it sounds, I really wouldn’t have it any other way (well, actually, if we could stretch the wake up time to 7 am rather than 6 am…).


Pinch me

Pinch me.

My life is ridiculously good.

Sweet, generous, loving kids.

Hilarious, caring hubby.

Warm, ever-present family.

True friends.

Great colleagues.

I am very lucky. Most days I stop myself ten times over and process this fact. Is it my culture transformation work I did at the university? Is it that I’m getting older and with that gaining a fuller picture of what it means to be happy? Is it that all the self-help books I read in my 30’s have finally hit home?

My weekends with the kids rarely disappoint. They are at ages now where they are able to play on their own or with each other but they also still want to hang with me and go to the park or take a bike ride. It’s perfect: I can get fully caffeinated, brush up on world events by reading my Times, and then later engage in a full-blown pillow fight.
And I love how their minds are developing; it leads to really awesome questions ranging from the benign – how are sidewalk made – to the sublime – why do we go to war. Mario points out things he sees in books we read together that I would never notice. Ri continues to practice the art of compassion by never judging others – the other day I about cussed out a young guy who cut in front of me in line at Kroger’s and she pulled me aside and whispered “mom, he may have somewhere really important to be.”

Yesterday was another day where I stopped myself over and over amazed at how wonderful I had it. The day brought wonderful near-Spring weather. The girls took a bike ride while I walked Rocco. We got a picture on the same rock we took a picture on when Rocco was a pup. Ri was very excited about that!


Mario met us at the park and the kids decided it was time for Rocco to adventure down a slide. Their eyes about popped out of their heads when he did it.


I love this picture of the kids running with Rocco. It’s a perfect depiction of the joy of warm weather.

And this is the perfect depiction of Ri laughing hysterically as she tries to catch up with Rocco!

Love love love these beginning days of Spring.
Next up, a trip to the river where Ri and Mario and I used to go on Sundays to collect rocks. It was closed for a year to create a bike path and I was anxious to see what the trail looked like. We piled in Stephanie’s van with the pup sitting next to Ri and the boys carrying their weapons (in case we encountered zombies) and headed down the street. We parked at the gas station and unloaded. What a sight.

The bank where we used to collect and throw rocks was still ready for us. But it was rather insane trying to make sure the kids didn’t fall (there were huge boulders lined up where there used to be gravel). Rocco added to the insanity by trying to jump in the river; Mario screamed like a maniac for me to hold his leash because “he didn’t want his dog to die!” So, I held him as he pulled me all over the rocks while I held Paxton to ensure he didn’t fall. Good workout.
The kids found great hide-outs made of sticks and leaves (I didn’t inform them that homeless folks probably used these “shelters” because I didn’t quite know how Steph would react but I did feel compelled to talk to M&M later that evening to help them appreciate the struggle all people face at times). The boys played capture and the girls played dorm room (whatever that is).


The kids found a big rock pile on our way out and I asked them to pose as savages. All complied except Mario who continued to laugh like a hyena!

In order to get them to leave, I had to promise them a snack at the gas station. They booked it after that promise. The boys got chocolate donuts (they slipped me one in thanks) and the girls got ice cream cones. They were happy as heck driving home.
We ended the night watching my girlfriend’s kids. A six week old and two year old who I had never met… Huh. I was a bit worried. But it ended up being absolutely joyous. Ri was excited all day to hold the six week old, Emerson Lois. She kept asking “when will it be 5:30?!” Mario kept telling me he didn’t want to babysit. But when they dropped off Miles, Mario took to him like sugar. He threw the ball with him and led him around his room to play. It was precious. And Miles couldn’t be more chill of a kid. He just followed Mario and played with whatever Mario gave him. He never cried once (kudos go all to Mario!).


He taught him how to crawl up the stairs so he wouldn’t fall down and how to beg for (and receive) a cookie. He was so compassionate and sweet with him. Warmed my heart.

And Ri was, as I knew she would be, a doll with Emerson. She laid with her and held her and couldn’t wait to change her diaper. Emerson is a real life baby doll!


Emerson pitched a little fit at one point and I had to put her in her seat while I got Miles’ dinner. The next thing I knew, Ri had her quiet by rocking her back and forth. She also had picked up the mom talent of multi-tasking as she rocked the baby and read a magazine – love it!

I sat at the kitchen table when my girlfriend left with her kids and my kids and Jon had gone to sleep and felt engulfed with gratitude. Another day full of laughter and sunshine and good kids and nature and a tired pup and chocolate donuts. Really, it doesn’t get any better.


Friend. Good.

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

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


And we had to hit the Michigan welcome center…


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

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


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

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



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

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

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


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

Girl bonding around diarrhea and poop

Maria and Anna dressed up for Halloween

Maria wanted a girl in her class to come over after school so badly on Monday.  Maria had gone through a couple of rough spots with girls in her classroom and I was excited to see her wanting to invite a friend over.  I had been talking to her about how important establishing friendships with girls was during school. 

Mario was still hanging with his grandparents (and wanting nothing to do with his parents) so I thought Maggie could earn her share of money for the day by picking Maria and her friend up from school.  Maggie took them to the park, walked them home, and let them play in Maria’s room.  I got home around 5:30, and as soon as I walked through the door, Maria  and Anna were dragging me upstairs. 

“You gotta see my room mom!”

“Yeah, you have to see Maria’s room!”

I closed my eyes to the point of not being able to see most anything in front of me but open enough that I knew what room I was in when we arrived at our destination.  Maria’s room was CLEAN!  You could walk on the floor instead of on clothes; you could select a book from the bookcase versus the floor; you could see the sheets on her bed rather than fifty-five stuffed animals.  Unfortunately, five minutes later the room was back to its natural state with Maria and Anna throwing animals at me, karate-chopping me, and jumping all over the room.  They were HYPER, laughing hysterically at anything I said or did or anything the other one did.  Both of them rolling around on the floor beggin’ me to tickle them: the simple pleasure of being goofy for a while; just what I needed after a crappy day at work.

We decided to head to Panera for dinner. I put the two of them in the stroller and began our walk up the street.  I was excited to talk with them about school and friends and teachers and being a girl and dealing with boys – ya know, all the stuff that a mom wants to chat up with her daughter and her girlfriends (already wanting the scoop in kindergarten!). 

Instead, the entire way was full of talk about diarrhea and poop. 

The two of them played off of each other like a comedy team.  I was reminded of an incident with my friend’s son a few years back.  The subject of “poop” had come up between another girlfriend and I, which my friend’s son overheard, and he laughed harder than I had ever seen him laugh before at the word “poop.”  My friend walked in the room and asked “Did you say something referring to poop?!”  Shocked, I answered in the affirmative and she just shook her head smiling.  There is something about excrement that is innately funny to kids – and obviously not just to male kids.  Nearly the entire meal consisted of this lovely talk – even with me trying hard to steer it to another topic. 

So much for my female bonding moment with the girls.  I can only imagine the conversation with Mario and his friends in a couple of years.  Nonetheless, when we returned home, the girls sat down at Maria’s table and drew pictures for one another.  The pictures consisted of two girls holding hands and hearts around them.  They both wrote each other’s names and their own names above each girl and handed their respective picture to the other.  When I dropped Anna off to her mom, the girls hugged and Anna yelled “I love you Maria!” and Maria responded “Love You, Anna!”  I was grateful to hear that from them and witness a friendship develop (even if it has to be around diarrhea and poop)!