camp time

I have been all out of whack the last few weeks. Irritated at people much sooner than I usually am. Snapping at Jon. Sighing loudly as I wait for the person ahead of me at the grocery to load their items on the cart. 

Why this irritability?

Because my babies have been away at camp. The earth is off its axis, or so it feels. I’m used to coming home and seeing their smiles, hearing their stories, watching them wrestle.  It has been non-stop camp time this July with Ri going to Eco Chic Girl Scout camp for 6 days, Mario going to Boy Scout camp for one week, and Ri going to Camp Akita for 5 days. 

Ri was less than thrilled with Eco Chic. She was in good spirits upon her return and didn’t complain about it until I started digging. Then she divulged that it was super dirty and they didn’t do much and they had way too much down time. The biggest issue was the cleanliness – and my girl is not one to really care to much about that so it must have been gross. But she did meet new friends and got girls’ phone numbers and emails. And she said there were some fun times during the trip like swimming and getting manicures. 


She also thought it was cool to stay in a yurt. I thought that was cool, too. I lost the mom of the year award by not writing her a letter during her stay. Everyone else got letters from their moms and family during the trip. I felt really bad about that one so I made sure I wrote her one for her Camp Akita stay (watch, no one will have letters on this camping trip and she will be embarrassed that I sent one – never fails). 

All the parents talk about how much their kids love Akita so I’m hopeful Ri comes back loving this experience. And she was placed in a cabin with seven of her other girlfriends so she was happy about that. Can you tell?!


Mario was not overly thrilled with day camp for Boy Scouts. None of his other scout friends went this year and Jon and I decided to drop him off and not stay with him this year (last year a parent had to be there). We knew it was going to be a crapshoot as to whether he’d take to it or not. He’s much more a homebody than Ri. And sure enough, he asked to stay home on Wednesday and Thursday rather than go to camp. We let him. But he did go on Friday to finish up the week. The good parents that we are did not realize that it was only a half day on Friday so I went to pick him up at noon (Jon had dropped him off and picked him up each day and Mario LOVED that). I searched for Mario when I arrived – not finding him amidst the mass of kids. But then he popped up before my eyes and grabbed my hand. 

“Mom, let’s go fishing!”

It was free time in the afternoon and that’s all he wanted to do. He caught two fish within ten minutes. As we were waiting on number two, I commented that I liked fishing because it was relaxing.

“Mom, it is not relaxing! You have to be pumped up and ready to pull that fish in if it gets your line. You gotta be alert. It is far from relaxing!”

Well, ok then. He told me.


Unfortunately, all the other kids wanted to fish, too so we had to give up our pole after 20 minutes. But Mario was ok with it (so happy he caught two right out of the gate). We tried archery but the line was long. So he introduced me to ga-ga ball. It’s like gladiators but with a rubber ball. These boys were brutal in the wooden ring trying to take each others’ legs out with the ball. Mario loved it.

So here I sit on a Friday night with my hubby. We had a delicious La Tavola dinner together and hit up Kroger’s for some groceries afterwards. Then we came home to an empty house. Should we play cards? Watch a movie? We are paralyzed with the strangeness of no kids in the house. 

But we still have the Rocco-man. 

Walk time.


Geese, Brownies and Grandma time

Mario rather enjoyed the geese out front of his day care last Friday. At first he tried to pet them but when they moved away he decided to chase after them. They were not amused.


Mario continued to have a word with one goose as he crossed the lot. The poor fellow was all the way across the lot just watching for big bad Mario when I left.

Mario was happy to go to school that day because he knew that Grandma and Grandpa Ionno were picking him up before lunch. He got an entire weekend with them since Jon was at a conference and Ri and I had her Girl Scout Campout. Patty also picked up Giovanni and kept both boys at her house. She is, as I always say, a machine. A full weekend with those two boys would be considered a major punishment to most but to her, it’s delightful. She is so good with them and stands her ground when they go off course. I was talking to her and she had to tell them to settle down and her voice got fierce. All of a sudden I didn’t hear boys’ screaming anymore.

She described to me Mario’s negotiation, or rather, swindling techniques when it came to money. He told Patty he had money to buy a web shooter if she’d take him but when they got there he said “oops, I forgot it.” Then he proceeded to finagle her into buying that and something else. The boy loves money and loves to spend it. When a commercial comes on that deals with saving money (“buy this insurance and save!”) or getting money (“we’ll give you $2000 for your old car…”), his ears perk up and he’s glued to the tv.

The boys built a “tent city” throughout Patty’s and Joe’s condo and begged not to have to leave one another on Sunday. It’s so wonderful that they are at an age where they enjoy one another’s company.


Meanwhile, Ri and I were freezing our tails off in 35 degree weather at the Girl Scout Campout. Ri was so excited about the camp out and literally hopped in my arms when I met her at school to take her out to it. It was a little rough at first but ended well. Ri does not play with a lot of the girls in scouts, probably for numerous reasons. They have stay-at-home moms who arrange after-school play dates. Some of the moms hang out together a lot so their kids do, too. It could also be that Ri does not have the typical silly, antic-oriented playful style that most 8 year-old girls have. I look at her and Alana and there is such a difference in style. Alana would have been running around loony with those girls. Maria is more contemplative and seems to work better when she’s one-on-one with people. At one point, I could tell she felt awkward and she admitted that she was disappointed that no one was really including her. So of course I jumped in the girl mix with her and got her playing with the girls. She had her moments of just sitting back (the girls put on a talent show and each little clique did a different act; Maria held the flashlight because she didn’t want to perform) and I told myself to let her be. I sat back and bit my lip, and all was fine in the end. She did have a blast staying up until 11 pm with one of her girlfriends. They kept flashing lights on us and running around the lodge. She also loved making s’mores (as did I)!




As we drove home on Saturday, she told me she had a good time. Looking back, I did too. I’ve got to let my crap go in those situations and just let her work through it. If she needs me, she’ll get me. She and I had a blast at my work and getting hot cocoa and coffee at Stauf’s that afternoon. We laughed together and had her friend Ceylone over. We both crashed that night by 8:30 and slept until 7:30 the next morning we were so tired from the cot sleeping the night before.

On Sunday we took a run/bike ride, hit hot yoga, and ate bagels at Stauf’s while I read the Times and Ri wrote poems. Here is one to Sarah for graduation:

So much depend
You getting there
So much depend

Not only a budding environmentalist but a budding poet? I just want to eat her up.

While we were camping out and building tents, Jon was getting legs wrapped around him on the dance floor and jammin’ to Gangum Style with his buds. I told him he owes me a night out on the town like that (something about Barthel and Loeshner brings out the tiger in him).

When Mario got home from Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, Jon bought KFC and we got out our tray tables and turned on Duck Dynasty for some quality family time. The immediate family is back together again!

Can a Woman

I have been crushed with work lately. So when I called the courthouse yesterday to confirm that Maria’s Girl Scout troop could still meet with a female judge during our tour that afternoon and was told “not sure,” I was ready for my head to spin around 100 times and my mouth to spit out fire. I expressed (in a cordial, polite manner, of course) how important it was for these girls to see a female judge and hung up the phone confident that it would happen.

And it did.

Maria and her troop of 7 and 8 year old girls met Judge Kim Brown. Before that though, they walked through a metal detector, which may have provided the most fun of the entire trip ( actually, it was probably second to the tunnel walk).


Before meeting the Judge, the girls visited the jury room. We talked about what a jury does and asked them if their parents had been jurors. However, all of our questions fell on deaf ears. The girls were more intrigued with the giant tvs. The first question posed: “what movies do jurors get to watch?” That question prompted a series of discussions amongst the girls about movies they loved and had recently seen. Not quite the captive audience I wanted.

After checking out the vending machines and bathroom (with a shower!), we headed to Judge Brown’s courtroom. The girls’ mouths dropped as they entered. Questions bounced all over – “who sits at the tables”, “does the judge use her gavel”, where does the jury sit”?

Surprisingly, all the chatter ceased when Judge Brown entered the room. It’s as if they innately knew to be quiet (either future lawyers or they are going to be respectful defendants one day).


Judge Brown talked with them about running for judge and about using her gavel and about the cases she hears. They sat and listened taking glances over at the juror box and up at her bench. All of those little minds taking in the atmosphere. I was hoping the presentation would have been a little more kid-friendly but I think the girls would have taken away what they ended up taking away all the same. And that is that they can choose whatever path calls to them. They’ve got a great big, exciting world in front of them and it’s theirs to gulp up. If Ri takes away one nugget from the trip, I hope it is that.

We ended our time with the Judge by singing her a song titled appropriately “Can a Woman.” The girls belted it out so that any one in the courthouse could hear.

I stood across from the girls to videotape them and wanted to shout “Amen” with every “Yes I Can” they sang. I wanted to hoist every one of them on my shoulders and reinforce that the sky is the limit. The power and confidence in that courtroom during that song was palpable and I will work like mad to keep it that way as Ri moves into pre-teen and teen years. Those girls will struggle together, laugh together, yell together over their school years like all of us remember doing with our girlfriends. And when they need a boost, I just hope they remember the confidence they exuded when they sang this song together.