Today is Take Your Daughter or Son to Work Day. Ri begged to get off of school to come with me to my work. I had a day full of meetings, which sounded Ike heaven to her.

During our very first one at 9 am, this is the poem she wrote:

we depend

Does that sum it up well folks, or what? My colleagues loved it. My one colleague, Eunice, had to get a picture with the poet wearing her pink headband.


Ri bolted after the first meeting complaining her eyes hurt. I believe it was really the thought of five more meetings…. and the fact that Grandma Lolo and Lou offered to come spend the day with her.



Patty watched Mario two weeks ago and couldn’t help but write down a few “Mario-isms” as she calls his quotes. Here ya go…(my commentary to Patty’s narrative is in parenthesis).

Mario was getting dressed, picked up a shirt and said “Don’t even think of me wearing this, it is too small, I don’t know why Mom keeps packing it.” I said, well you could give it to some poor little boy to wear and he said “no, I am going to sell it.”

(Mario is quite the capitalist. He wants to sell anything in order to get money in his pocket. His latest has been to work on birdhouses (with Peepaw) to sell for $90).

While we were going near a pair of Canadian Geese’s nest where they are hatching an egg, the geese kept hissing at us and coming toward us and we kept running away. We went on the bridge which is above the nest and the geese were still mad at us for being too near them. Mario yelled to the geese, “I am a citizen of mankind, I am only trying to help you protect your egg.”

(He is insane).

While he was eating breakfast, he looked out of the sun room windows and saw a huge bird sitting on a rock at the pond. We went on the patio and the bird took flight, the wing span was enormous. Mario excitedly said, “I know what that big bird is, I saw it on WildKratts, it is a Harris hawk they will eat geese and other birds and animals.” I don’t know if that is the spelling of the bird’s name, but that is how it sounded. Anyway, later we were walking around the pond and saw some whitish bird feathers on the ground. I said maybe the Harris hawk had eaten the bird. Mario said “no, Grandma, they won’t eat anything that is white”, he took hold of the white scarf I was wearing and said, “they wouldn’t attack you, Grandma, because you are wearing this white scarf.” I asked him if he knew why they wouldn’t eat anything white and he said “will there is a legend that a white snake attacked and killed a Harris hawk and that probably is why they are afraid of white.” (I don’t know how true the legend is, but it a good story.)

(I will let him watch PBS WildKratts any time because he learns so much from that show – he tells me about animals I have never heard of in my 41 years).

I taped the inauguration of Pope Francis and while Mario was here, I would watch it (in pieces because of its length). I told Mario to look at the man at the altar and I started tell him who it was, before I could explain who it was Mario said “I know that is the Pope and he is important. In our States, the Popes wear red”. I explained to him that they were cardinals, etc. He said “okay Grandma”. He apparently had seen the election of the Pope and it stuck with him.

(When he was on the computer and the news popped up, he saw the Pope and said “Grandma really likes that man.”).

While on the I-Pad he was checking on his program/game about the Simpsons and wanted to buy some “donuts” (These “free”games are sure not “free”, they entice the kids to play and then they entice them to buy stuff to advance to the next level, in this game it is donuts) anyway, he currently had 107 donuts and wanted me to buy more. I said no, we will earn them a little at a time. Well, Mr. Impatience doesn’t want to wait so he was bargaining with me to buy the donuts. He held up his index finger on one hand and then tried to make two zeros on the other hand to make the sign of 100 and then add seven. (He was so serious and cute while trying to show me the number 107 on his fingers) and then if we buy 100 more how many he would have and then proceeded to tell me what he could get with that many donuts. Smart kid. I put him off buying them. He finally gave up on me.

(He has perseverance when it comes to money).

While running in the house, he slipped and fell forward (didn’t hurt him) but he smiled and said “I think I just cracked my donut” and laughed and laughed (so did Joe and I). What an entertainer!

(He calls his privates a range of names – lately he says “I crushed my batteries.” Interesting).

When he and Maria were here, I kept getting after them to eat healthy things (apples, and other fruit), so one day he was eating lunch and had trail bologna and cheese and I had given him some potato chips. He said he wanted more meat and cheese, but didn’t want to eat any bad stuff for two days, so didn’t eat the chips.

(He is definitely conscious of his body image. He ate a ton of cake the other night and his stomach was distended. He lifted up his shirt and said “I can’t do that again. I look horrible.”).

And there we have it. He keeps us all laughing, that kid. Thanks, Patty, for recording It all.


Packin’ It In

Maria and GracieWe headed out of Cincy on Friday night with Cheez-Its, Diet Coke, and apples.  We were set for our rush hour drive down I-71.  Half-way through the trip, I found a kids size bag of M&M’s in my side pocket so all was good.  The kids watched Tom & Jerry and Maria drew pictures as she glanced up at the tv.  We burst into my mom’s house in record time; traffic was surprisingly light on the way down.  After playing on the treadmill for a few minutes, and eating some Girl Scout cookies, we headed over to Julie’s to pick up Gracie for a park trip.  Gracie is about the cutest little thing possible.  I venture to say that she may even compare to my munchkins when they were her age.  You must want to eat her up.  She loves her “Aunt Mary” so I get big hugs and kisses when I come over. 

Liz let Gracie come to the park with us while she picked up Laura and they got pizza for dinner.  Liz warned me that Gracie would not want to ride int he stroller but I told Liz that Gracie had never seen the “Cadillac” of strollers before.  Sure enough, when Gracie saw the BOB, she hopped right in it as comfortable as can be.  Maria strolled Mario and Gracie nearly the entire way to the park (she loves playing mom).  Maria took control of the climbing wall, as she always does.  The girl may just be a professional climber one day.  She has amazing upper body strength and she scales up the wall like she’s spidergirl.  It is awesome to see.  It’s funny how she likes these “untraditional” sports like rock climbing and frisbee while Mario enjoys the more “traditional” sports like baseball and basketball. 

The kids tried to find frogs for me in the stream but had no luck.  They did get plenty wet though.  Maria likes to go off on her own and “think” as she puts it.  I keep a distant eye on her but she does enjoy her space.  Mario feels like he has to do the same so he announces that he is going off, too, but inevitably within two minutes he is calling for me to show me something.  I like how they feel comfortable enough to go out on their own (just as long as they tell me first!).

After the park, Liz and Laura graced us with LaRosa’s pizza.  The best pizza ever.  We ate at Julie’s house, and Mario ate three pieces of pizza.  I almost fainted.  He has a little appetite lately.  After dinner, the kids went downstairs (Julie’s basement is the play area for the kids and is heaven-sent).  Liz and Laura and I got some alone time to talk, which was also heaven-sent.  I love their love for family and their respect for who I am.  The two of them are a lot more strict in the discipline area and tend to lean more conservative than me, but they have a respect for how I raise M&M, and we have a healthy dose of ribbing with one another on our parenting styles (Laura is like a second parent to my kids and Grace).  

We all traveled over to my mom’s for a viewing of “Babies.”  My girlfriend had recommended it to me and I was excited to think of watching a movie that wasn’t animated or geared towards four-year-old boys.  The movie turned out to be a delight, especially with Liz and Laura’s quips here and there.  It is about four babies growing up in different parts of the world – the San Fransisco, rural Mongolia, Tokyo, and Africa.  It follows them pre-birth to age 1 or so.  The movie does a great job showing the immense differences in the cultures.  The only constant is the breast-feeding mother, and the cats.  Each house had a cat that provided pleasure in one form or another to the babes.  I found myself getting a tad annoyed at the San Fransisco mom.  She did a lot of the activities that I did with M&M but putting her up against the other mothers made the things the SF mom did look ridiculous.  In one scene, the SF mom was in a class with her baby where they were listening to African music and waving their hands back and forth overhead in a dance-like motion.  The baby stands up and makes a bee-line for the door.  “That’s right, get out little one,” quipped Laura, and we all laughed.  After seeing the African women with their babies sitting in the dirt, with flies swarming around them, with smiles on their faces talking it up amongst each other, it was hard to take seriously the group of five white parents trying to sing African songs with their babies.  However, I fully admit that it may be something that I would do with M&M to introduce them to other cultures’ songs.  The kids were intrigued with the babies.  They enjoyed certain scenes like the African baby eating mud and water from the ground, seeing the Mongolian baby taking a bath with a goat coming up from behind to drink his bath water, observing the Tokyo baby trying to put a toy together and getting upset each time she failed, and watching the American baby take a poop in her diaper (with all of those memorable “poop” faces).  They also enjoyed Laura’s and Liz’s comments throughout the film.  On the way home to Columbus, Maria and Mario made the same comments while watching the movie in the car.  What influences those girls are!

After the movie, we hit the sack.  The kids slept on the floor – Mario in a sleeping bag that he thought was awesomely cool and Maria in a regular blanket because she allows Mario to have what he wants.  She was actually burning up for some reason so did not want to be stuffed into a sleeping bag.  They slept until 7 am, which was a gift to me.  By 7:45 am, we were in the stroller heading to Marx Bagels for our bagels and cream cheese.  Heaven on earth.  Pumpernickel combo toasted burnt with cream cheese.  Maria has fallen for the strawberry bagel.  Mario eats a small bite of the raisin bagel.  After the bagel shop, we hit the pet store and found a floppy frisbee.  I was charged after looking at three different places in Columbus.  The kids have taken to frisbee but we lost our old floppy one and the plastic one I bought produces much pain when they fail to catch it and it strikes them.  Mario wailed the last time we used the plastic one, and now he is gun-shy with the floppy one. 

We headed to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Cincinnati at 11 am.  I had been looking forward to the parade for the last few days.  In all my years growing up in Cincy, I never hit the parade even though I lived in Clifton and worked downtown for years.  Also, the kids had never seen downtown since we always stop at the Blue Ash line.  I had big plans to go to Bicentennial Commons and the Riverfront but those were squashed after the long parade. 

Our Party GirlWe partied on Fountain Square for a half hour before the parade, and then found a goodLaura and me seat on Fifth Street (thanks to Laura pushing us along).  The parade brought much excitement, especially when the participants threw candy at us.  I scored a green cowboy hat, and Mario scored a fireman’s hat.  Maria got mega compliments on her green hair.  The kids loved the clown that was part of the parade.  He walked out in the middle of the road and dropped his pants.  They laughed so hard.  We loved the Irish dancers and the bagpipes. But after an hour and half (and hardly any candy), the kids got restless and we took off.  We were all exhausted.  Laura had to do round two with her girlfriends, and I had to get us home to Columbus.  So, it was definitely Energy Shot time and time to head home (only after we took a glance at our mom and mine’s old Clifton house and reminisced about our time living together).

The rockin' shirtWhen we got home, Laura surprised Maria with a rockin’ Big Time Rush home-made shirt.  It is nothin’ but cool with BTR on the front and ruffles on the bottom.  She looks too cute in it.  She got it a little muddy later in the day and she freaked out crying that her shirt was dirty (she never does that with any other shirt)!  Laura is a sewing machine and has started a blog, Finding Red Fern detailing her escapades.  Laura also has stored an inordinate amount of facts in her brain.  She has answers to anything – I mean anything.  It always amazed me when I was with her the things that she would know.   Maria has since picked up on this fact as Laura blurted out random facts during the Babies movie and then gave descriptions of things at the parade that only Laura would know.  When we were driving home, Maria questioned me from the back seat: “Why does Laura know so much and my mom doesn’t?”  Lovely. 

We played frisbee outside of my mom’s condo in the parking lot.  Then we played jump rope.  My mom bought a jump rope for her exercise kick and the kids became interested.  We twirled the rope as they tried to jump.  Again, Maria did surprisingly well.  Again,it is those random, non-traditional sports that she enjoys.  Mario did alright, too, but again, he is much more proficient at picking up a ball and bat.  We had to take the dogs for a walk before we left so we dropped by Julie’s to pick them up.  Maria always takes Butters because he is heavier and pulls harder.  Mario takes Willie because he is a piece of cake to walk and he allows Mario to do anything he wants. M&M love dogs, that is for sure.  They are very gentle with them and always patient. 

We finished up the day with a bath (and the duckies that the kids remember from times past) so they smelled fresh for the ride home (I almost passed out on the ride down to Cincy because Maria took off her shoes and her feet reeked!).  We arrived home to beautiful skies (it had called for rain).  We played outside the rest of the night.  Maria and Mario built a rock wall for me in the front yard and brought blankets and pillows out in order to be able to lay down.  I love that they engage in these activities. Anything outdoors makes me giddy.  When it got dark, I laid with them on the blankets and we found stars in the dark blue sky.  Not an easy task with the immense amount of clouds.  It was idyllic for about 5 seconds and then Mario shot up and jumped on me and acted like a monkey.  He could not sit still.  We lasted another 10 minutes before we packed it up and moved it inside for nighties and a book. 

As I unpacked our clothes (I pack as if I will be gone for a week for an overnight stay), I grinned.  Then I smiled, Then I smiled wide.  What a jam-packed St. Patrick’s Day full of new adventures and old ones.  The kids built a rock garden.  We ate bagels and cream cheese.  Gracie warmed us up.  We saw clowns and bagpipers. Butters and Willie let us walk them.  We learned to jump rope.  What a wondeful life we have.

Ups and Downs

Sunday morning began with a kiss on the cheek from Maria as I lay in bad trying to avoid the sun peeking through the blinds.  It only got better from there with Mario jumping on me five minutes later and smothering me with kisses.  Jon came up from downstairs and goofed around with me and the kids. We all laughed.  Life is good. 

So why do I still feel catch myself feeling cruddy?  I assumed, somehow naively, that I would bounce back from my grandma’s death and be back to normal after the funeral.  Grandma would have wanted that.  But it’s not worked out that way.  Rather, I am having really tough moments along with just feeling plain crummy at times.  I guess this is my grief process; I just wish it would hurry on up!  But that is typical me – always ready to move on and start the next thing.  Maybe Grandma is trying to teach me a lesson even still – slow down, sweet grand-daughter. 

M&M at age 4 and 2 in the strollerAnd indeed, Sunday was  wonderful day.” The kids and I took a stroller ride in the morning to Stauf’s.  Maria still gets in the stroller like she is two years old but that is ok with me.  The stroller is like other people’s cars.  I don’t like to drive anywhere around the neighborhood so the stroller is our mode of transportation.  And when we want to get somewhere fast, it is easier for me to load them up and run there then it is to pull the car out, buckle in, and find a parking spot.  Jon surprised us at Stauf’s and we ate breakfast together.  A simple act and very enjoyable on a Sunday morning.   

After Stauf’s, we got haircuts and went to the park.  It was beginning to get warm out by that time so we stayed at the park for a while climbing up the slides (yes, we do things backwards) and swinging.  Maria and Mario love when I do the “underdog” swing where I hold onto the metal chains of the swing and run underneath it to give an even bigger push.  They love it.  Pure daredevils.  Maria is finally getting the hang of using her feet to swing herself but still hates to have to do it. 

My tree climberAfter the park, we went to the second-hand bookstore to look for books.  We found some that looked promising about a beaver and another about horses.  Mario found some Dr. Seuss, and we read four of them before we headed out.  I take every opportunity I get to read to him since he usually only wants to play on the computer. 

When we got home, we began work in the yard.  Maria tried to find a place to hang our chimes and I gathered up dead leaves and branches.  Mario sat inside and played on the computer.  He is a fanatic.  He spends hours playing on the Wild Kratts website trying to win the cheetah game.  It is ridiculous the perseverance he has to win that game.  Maria laid on the deck while I cut the ornamental grass and talked to me about the flowers we should plant around the house.  She also found some baby buds starting to bloom.  I love times like those with my daughter.

My HikerWe eventually got Mario away from the computer and outside.  He kicked the soccer ball while Maria tried to perfect her cartwheels.  My girl does not have natural athletic ability but she puts her heart and soul into it.  Mario, on the other hand, has much natural athletic ability, but gets completely upset if he can’t master a move right away.  Jon worked on putting in the screens to our windows.  Jon’s parents arrived for the OSU game at 3, and Patty helped us drain all of the beer leftover from winter parties that had been sitting on the deck for months.  She should be sainted.  The house smelled like a brewery the rest of the day. 

We watched some of the game in between windows and yard work.  The Buckeyes lost.  But we had Ray Ray’s to cheer us up.  Nothin’ like some brisket and ribs to brighten up your day.  We sat around the dining room table listening to Maria rat out Jon for comments he made about Maria’s friends.  Little does Maria know that she is very much like her father and has his same sarcasm and wit.  When Jon dishes it out, she dishes it right back.  Patty and I laughed so hard at some of her retorts to Jon’s comments.  The two of them could put on a show together.  After dinner, we finished up the yard work, and called it a day.  It was so nice to have Patty and Joe with us for the afternoon just hanging out and chatting and watching the kids.  The kids love having their grandparents around them; Mario tries to usurp a lot of their time because he begs for them to watch his every move. 

Mario and I took a walk after Patty and Joe left.  On the walk back home, it grew darker but it was still pleasant outside (upper 60’s).  We could hear the birds chirping and kids playing outside.  I felt alive on the one hand but also still so sad about the loss of Grandma.  I took a deep breath and exhaled and just let my emotions run through me.  I guess there is nothing more to do but let it process… and remember all of the wonderful gifts around me.

Character in my Characters

“Mom, I am Catwoman and Mario is Batman and you are WOnder Woman.  The Joker is following us and we need to escape.”

“Drive the jet faster, mom! We need to get away!” 

And that’s how our morning started.  I drove the Volvo jet down King Avenue in order to escape the Joker.  Catwoman kept an eye out and fixed my lasso while Batman made all sorts of plans for our get-away.  We didn’t watch any tv in the car.  Beautiful.  We arrived at the nursery having escaped all bad guys. 

I promised the kids that they could each get a small plant to put in their rooms.  I figured that such a gift was a lot healthier than a plastic toy.  I had read numerous articles about the attributes of house plants recently and hoped that it would get Maria and Mario jump started on green thumbs (I need all the help I can get with my back yard).  Mario spent the first fifteen minutes in the nursery frightening the fish in the pond by trying to reach in and grab their tails.  I ignored him for a bit but when the nursery employee kept giving me the evil eye, I told him to stop.  Maria played with the nursery kitty – a big ol’ plump tabby cat who let Maria carry her everywhere.  I found some pots to re-plant my grandma’s flowers from her wake, and waited for Maria and Mario to pick out their plants.  Mario chose a plain green one and Maria chose a green one with white polka dots.  They got their pots (Maria, red and Mario, green) and we headed home.  They took their plants out of the plastic container and re-planted them in their pots – so proud of doing it themselves.  Maria built a little “home” for her plant with a balcony and a hot tub and a bed.  Mario placed his on his chest.  They do add some life to their rooms.

By the time we finished that adventure, it was starting to warm up outside.  I enticed them to head to the woods with me by telling them we may find baby bunnies or eggs in a bird’s nest.  Of course, we found no such things but by that time, they enjoyed just running through the woods and climbing rocks.  I needed to be outdoors.  I have felt stifled for the last week and a half with grandma’s sickness and eventual death.  Even though I have gotten outdoors for runs with my sis or walks by myself, I have not been able to enjoy the sunshine and the songs of the birds.  My brain constantly wafted into a separate world – blurry and lacking much emotion.  I just got by for those days.  To actually feel some emotion again and the warm sun on my face was refreshing.  And Maria and Mario only added to the day by making me laugh again and again as we walked through the woods and played in the sand volleyball court and the swings.  

After my grandma’s funeral earlier this week, a few people approached me to comment about what personality Maria and Mario exhibited.  One commented at how they were both so spirited and happy; another commented on how outgoing and engaging they were; another at how confident they acted.  It naturally made me proud as their mama but it also made me happy.  And as we hiked up a hill full of sticks and mud, making jokes and laughing at one another, I remembered those comments, and felt such an intense moment of joy.  These babes of ours are genuinely happy creatures, not scared to take risks and adventures, ready to question ideas they don’t understand, comfortable in their skin, able to laugh at themselves.  They take our lives up a notch. 

Jon met us at the park and we watched them brave a climb up a huge rock.  

We didn’t say a peep. Just stood back and admired the view.        


Goodnight, Grandma

My grandma died on Saturday.  She passed.  She left us.  She moved on.  However one wants to characterize it, she is gone.  The woman who fed me pringles and coke as we watched the Love Boat.  The woman who awed me with her confidence and devotion.  The mother who raised my dad. The great-grandma who laughed with my kids as they jumped into her swimming pool.  The friend who traveled all over the world.  The faithful servant who took meticulous care of her employer’s accounts for 40 years.  Gone.     

Good timesI miss her.

I spent the last days with her. First at the hospital and then at hospice. 

I held her hand at the hospital.  All night.  She let me know that I was a good grand-daughter and she loved me. I kissed her forehead.  I shared my favorite memories with her.  She smiled.  We held hands in silence.  And then she looked at the ceiling and whispered “thank you for everything … and now, goodnight.”  She closed her eyes.  Something out of a movie, I thought.  She said her goodbye and will now go peacefully.  It did not play out quite that way.  She would fall asleep for a minute and then wake up seemingly irritated that she was still in the hospital room.  She was ready to go. 

The next day, she moved to hospice.  My sis stayed with her the first two nights sleeping on the ground in her sleeping bag.  My grandma surprised us and ate oatmeal and drank orange juice in the mornings.  I stayed with her Friday night and she was clearly not doing as well as she had been doing in days’ past.  I held her hand, nonetheless; she had no problem maintaining her grip around my palm as she slept.  When my dad arrived in the morning, I was wiped out.  Physically and emotionally.  Jon and the kids came down Saturday late morning.  Maria stood by her side and told her that she loved her.  Mario stared at her and said goodbye.  Jon sat in the corner thinking of past times with her.  We left to take the kids to my aunt’s house.  I got a call from my dad not long after our departure.

“She’s passed, Mary.”

“What? How?”

He explained to me that she simply fell asleep and did not wake up.  No pomp and circumstance.  No fireworks.  That is how she was.  She did not want anyone to fuss over her.  She wanted her independence.  She wanted to be the provider for her family.  She wanted to reach into her dishwasher and retrieve cookies for her great-grandkids.  She wanted to grab a bag of Cheetos from her popcorn tin and give them to me for the ride home. She wanted to have everyone over on Christmas for ham and potatoes.  She wanted to love fully and completely. 

I surprised myself with my lack of outward emotion at her wake and funeral.  I assume I felt like I had to be fairly composed for the kids and the guests.  I, after all, am her oldest grand-daughter.  I did shed some tears during the mass as the soloist sang “Be Not Afraid”, a song I remember hearing when attending mass with Grandma.  Maria and Mario both took their kleenex and wiped under my eyes and my nose.  Maria rubbed my back while Mario explained to me that “Grandma was really old” and “you knew she may die, mom. It’s ok. Everyone dies, mom.” 

My babies. 

Jon wrapped his arm around me after Communion.  My sis gave me a huge kiss during Peace.  Jon’s mom hugged me tight before Mass.  My dad patted my back and told me he loved me as we stared at Grandma’s casket.  Meg made sure I was hanging in.  Jack smiled at me as we listened to the priest. Meg’s sisters embraced me at the cemetery.  My girlfriends smiled at me as I walked up the church aisle.  Love floated everywhere those two days.  Grandma would have liked that.

Skippin’ Football Sunday

The family woke up on Saturday and got working on cleaning our rooms.  It caused much heartburn in Maria on Saturday night – she worried that she would be bored cleaning her room.  “How can I make it fun, mom?” 

“I used to listen to music and dance around my room while I cleaned,” I told her.

A while later, she headed to her room to go to bed.  Jon and I were sitting downstairs when we heard Justin Bieber’s voice coming from upstairs.  A few minutes later we heard crying.  Jon went upstairs to see what was wrong.  Maria stood in her room with tears down her cheeks and told Jon “I am trying what mom told me to do but it isn’t working.  I am still not having fun.”  Poor thing….

That is why when we woke up on Sunday morning, I jumped out of bed and made cleaning fun!  I smiled and laughed and skipped around as I helped Maria pick up her room.  Mario jumped right in, too, picking up barbies and folding clothes.  Maria picked up a book here or there, made her bed and then moved on to getting dressed.  She is going to be one that takes two hours to clean her room on Saturday morning.  When we moved to Mario’s room, he lost interest in cleaning.  He was more concerned about jumping off his loft bed and doing kick stands around his room.  Maria helped me check the clothes on his floor to determine whether they were too little for him anymore and if they were dirty.  He somehow still does not understand where the laundry basket is located. 

Maria and Alana outside of the hospital with the flying pig

After cleaning, we got ready for the day.  Jon scooped up Mario under his wing, and headed to Dover, Ohio to visit Big Mario and Vicki for a day of pasta and wrestling.  I scooped up the Maria and Alana and headed to Cincinnati to visit my grandma in the hospital and to play at Aunt Julie’s house.  We listened to Big Time Rush for most of the ride and then colored pictures for grandma.  The kids were anxious to see grandma – I think they were more anxious to see “sick” people and the devices and instrumentalities of the hospital.  Neither of them remember a hospital.  They peered at the people in the hall and in the beds entranced by the fragility of life.  When they got to grandma’s room, they greeted her skeptically not quite sure if they should get near her.  As time went on, they got better at engaging with her eventually singing Christmas songs to her and talking to her about school.  Alana must have sung her 10 religious songs that she learned in Catholic school.  When Grandma asked Maria to sing a song, Maria belted out Jingle Bells!  My grandma looked at me and said “you need to get Maria in Sunday school.”  

After grandma’s, I took the girls to a delicious bagel shop in Blue Ash.  I grew up on these bagels and cream cheese.  They are fabulous.  We got toasted bagels with a load of cream cheese and sat at the bar.  Heaven.  Next, we headed to Julie’s to see her dogs and visit Grandma Lolo.  The girls LOVE to walk Julie’s dogs because they are just right for them.  Both are maybe 25 pounds and do not pull on their leashes.  They allow the girls to drag them anywhere.  A win-win situation for all. 

I went back to the hospital to be with grandma. We had a pleasant conversation about her friends, card parties, and needing solitude.  Us Menkedick brood all have that solitude gene in common – we need alone time to be our best.  We picked it up from grandma, I learned. When I returned to Julie’s house, the girls were downstairs listening to records on a Fisher Price record player.  Yes, records!  Maria was amazed at the looks of the record player, laughing at how I used to have to listen to music on such an antiquated device!

We hopped in the car to head back to Columbus.  Alana’s parents are much more strict than Jon and I and wanted Alana home by 7:30 since it was a school night.  We raced up I-71 in order to hit McDonald’s Playland for ten minutes (it has become a staple with each Cincy trip).  We got Alana home 1 minute late and proceeded to Orange Leaf for a frozen yogurt treat before bed. 

Mario walking up the long hill.

The boys met up with us at the house – they were exhausted from four-wheeling and wrestling all day.  Little Mario also decided that he was old enough to walk up the long hill from Mario’s shop to Mario’s house all by himself.  He got tired of waiting for Jon to finish his conversation with Big Mario and informed Jon that he was big enough to take the trek himself.  Jon agreed, not sure if he would make it or not.  But that boy has determination and will when he needs it and he made it.  

We all gave each other kisses hello, got in our pjs and headed to our beds – no time to watch football on this jam-packed Sunday….

Grandma’s Roses

Jon and I went to our new house today to mow the grass and water the plants.  I continue to be amazed at how comfortable I feel in this new house even though we have yet to move in to it and I have never liked change too much.  I will miss our old home tremendously, especially on those nights that I wake up and go downstairs to make a bowl of ice cream and my familiar kitchen island is not standing before me or my basement door with the kitty escape carved in it is missing or my old wooden table where I write and read is no where in sight.

But, I will soon create new rooms to love and different items to cherish.  Nevertheless, I diverge… back to the mowing and watering….  I thought the new yard would be a challenge to mow but it only takes me an extra 5 or 10 minutes to finish.  The true challenge is all of the flowers and plants and vegetables growing around the yard.  They present a much more difficult challenge for me and my non-green thumb.  I am starting off easy – merely trying to water all of these living creatures.  It would be a fairly easy task if I didn’t get antsy after standing still for two minutes.   I figure someone has a plan for me to slow down and “smell the roses” and so they bestowed this large garden on me.  I will learn to breathe and take in the moment somehow, someway. 

And that I did.  I stood over the hostas and showered them with water.  They glistened.  I moved to the hydrangea and the tomato plants and to some fuzzy looking tall purple flowers.  They perked up.  And then I got to the pink rose bush, and I felt like someone laid their hands on both of my shoulders and pushed me back with all of their force.  My grandma’s rose bushes stood in front of me and so did she; she was watering them and looking over her shoulder at me like she used to when I would visit.  She stayed with me for those few minutes that I sprayed them.  I smiled and soaked her in. 

Grandma and her great-grandkids

A butterfly caught my eye by the grasses waiting next in line to receive hydration, and the brief moments with my grandma vanished. For the rest of the evening, I carried her with me.  As I sit here tonight writing, I am reminded of Whitman’s words on death: 

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

I can’t wait to water my garden again. 

Shout out to Moms

M&M hanging with their mama

Mother’s Day is this weekend.  I hope for a few hours to veg alone either at Stauf’s or on a massage table or on a run along the river.  I hope for nothing more than a couple of home-made pictures from M&M telling me that I am the bomb and that I am super cool. 

I remember reading Anne Lamott’s piece on Mother’s Day (Why I hate Mother\’s Day) a year or so ago.  My girlfriend at the time was contemplating whether to have a child – she is a professional with a good job, husband, house, dogs and she is heavily involved in the community. 

In thinking about her dilemma, I thought about what M&M have brought to my life.  Can I imagine life without them now?  No way.  Could I have imagined life without kids before I had them.  Probably.  It would have allowed me to get more involved in the community, go to events I wanted to attend whenever I wanted to do so, get up in the morning and go for a long run, have more freedom to do just what I desired.  Now I have to adjust my schedule for the kids and give up on events and gatherings that I would otherwise be inclined to attend because I want to be with M&M (and when I don’t to be with them particularly, I feel obliged to be!).  I would never regret the decision to have my munchballs – they fill me with joy and amazement and good times – but I do believe that a person can decide to forego the baby route and still lead a fulfilling, complete life as Anne Lamott argues in her piece.  My girlfriend ended up going the baby route and she has her ups and downs and her frustrations like all of us moms do.  And I know that she does not regret her decision but I am sure there are those days that we all have where we daydream about all we were able to do in this world “pre-baby.”

Me and my girls with sweet baby Grace

I don’t mind the idea of a Mother’s Day celebration or any “Hallmark” celebration for that matter.  We lead such hectic lives that if it takes a special day to make us slow down to recognize the people who mean the most to us, why not?  Earlier today, I watched the newscasters on NBC became emotional when looking back at their moms’ presence in their lives.  As much as I wanted to roll my eyes at this manufactured sentimentality, I found myself thinking about the women in my life and feeling appreciation and gratitude for their presence in my life.  In the end, it is those moments we have throughout our days that keep us plugging along the bumpy road that life can bring us. 

I hope that my mom realizes how much I love her in spite of our battles throughout high school and college.  I now look back at those spats and my anger and frustration and don’t see the woman I saw through my 17 year-old eyes; rather, I see a woman who was full of passion and wonder and yearning to try to find herself and the life that she wanted to live –

My mom and Ri

very similar to the struggle I face in juggling motherhood, my job, being a wife and a member of my community.  Now she has stepped into the grandma role helping me raise M&M and giving me a sounding board whenever I struggle with work issues or anxiety about whether I am damaging my children.  She has reinforced in me that I am a strong, intelligent woman, and she has always supported me.   

Meg and Ri


I hope that my stepmom realizes how much I love her for sticking with our crazy clan during the roughest of times (me as a teenager and Sarah as a toddler – god help her).  Meg-pie walks to her own tune refusing to conform to any norm.  She exudes confidence and strength and has always provided support and comfort to me in the worst of times (between breaking up with my high school boyfriend to managing a rogue boss).  She has taught me to always question and to always wonder – as hard and taxing as it may be at times – it’s the only way to grow. 

Patty with M&M

I hope that Patty realizes how much I love her for being a warm, dynamic mom to Jon and providing him with the skills and compassion to be such a loving father to M&M.  Patty exudes energy and has a zest for life that challenges my energy (and we’re thirty years apart!).  She has gone to the limits for M&M taking them for days at a time and playing with them for hours on end.  She gives her whole self to her family, and never declines a chance to spend time with us.  Her spirit is infectious. 

Great Grandma!

I hope that my Grandma Menkedick realizes how much I love her because she is an amazing, incredible, persevering woman who has made a mark on me that serves me well every day of my life (my late Grandma Heile also serves the same role for me).  G-ma teaches me to be humble and gracious and to stand up for myself.  She is the first one to tell me that I need to tell my boss that I won’t work late hours; tell M&M that bedtime is at 9 pm and there will be no getting out of bed; and make my body take some rest time.  She keeps me in line and she reminds me of the power of living in the moment and appreciating the small things be it vegetables ripe from the field or watching late-night tv on the couch with a glass of coke and Pringles.

I have been lucky to have so many strong, energetic, passionate players in my life, many of them women. As Anne Lamott states:

“The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men. I have loved them my entire life, even after their passing.”

So on this Mother’s Day, I give a shout out to all of those women and the many others who have marked my life – thanks for bringing me the experiences that have led me to who I am today.  I love you all.