Ri does basketball

Maria decided to go out for basketball. Her eighth grade team needed a couple more players so she volunteered to join. She has become good friends with a girl on the team, Maggie, who I think acted as a big influence in her decision.

Maria loves to hang with a large group of girls. She seems to have most fun around a group of gals versus one on one. She likes a big party! I think this is a big reason why she loves to play sports. It is not necessarily the love of the game but rather, a love of friendships and camaraderie. She roots her teammates on fiercely. My personality is so different than hers; I am the one who wants to be on the field and be the star. People should root me on. I am not looking to cheer on other’s accomplishments without having some of my own. But not this girl of mine. She is happy to play a bit and then sit on the bench and cheer on her friends. And damn she does that well. She claps and cheers when a friend makes a play. She gives hugs and high fives when her friends come out of the game. She’s a mama hen. If someone gets hurt, she is the first one to get ice and help out. If someone is sad about how they played, she wraps them in a hug and makes them laugh.

I am amazed at her because it is so foreign to me. I think it’s a wonderful trait to have – this lack of concern about being a star and this joy in just being a part of the team. It’s this plain and simple – she’s a happy, happy kid. She enjoys life. She feels comfortable around all sorts of people. She enjoys conversations with others.

If you would have told me a year ago that Ri would be playing basketball and hanging out with the handful of gals that she is hanging with, I would have been skeptical. She’s really blossomed this year; it’s been a strong year for her. She is planting her roots and coming into her own, and man, it is exciting to watch.

My baby turns 13!

How is it that my little pumpkin girl is turning 13? It seems just a breath away that I was walking down the street calling Jon to announce our pregnancy. I was at the corner of Grandview and Third when Jon answered his cell phone.

He had traveled out of town that weekend to hang with his best friend, Paul. He answered the phone and I think we made chit chat for a minute. I can’t recall exactly how I brought up the pregnancy but I do recall the reaction, pure silence.

There were a lot of “oh my gosh” statements after the silence – a symbol of both joy and fear. We were having a baby! What the heck would happen once we had a baby? We are pregnant! How the heck were we going to handle a newborn?

I recall the first three months of morning sickness. I sat at my desk at Carlile Patchen, and stared into my computer screen hoping that the nausea would subside. I craved giant-sized hamburgers. I longed for chocolate and pickles. The thought of toothpaste made me want to throw up. It was so strange to have all of these sensations. My belly did not start to expand until about the fifth month of pregnancy. It was only then that I could show off my little baby bump. I would rub that bump as if the more rubbing I did, the healthier you would be.

It was around that time that Jon and I found out the sex of our little nugget. I swore I would have a boy. I have always been a tomboy, always been aggressive, loved my sports, and hated dresses. I was positive the universe would deliver a boy to me. I also figured Jon would want a boy even though he kept saying the cliche-ish line “I don’t care what sex it is as long as it is healthy. ” I laid on the table while the nurse pressed the wand hard against my belly. She moved it around and around and finally asked us if we were ready to learn the sex.


“You have a girl. ”

How was that possible?! How could my testosterone-laden body produce a girl? Whereas I was in shock, Jon was not. He took it all in stride – happy as a peach to have a baby girl. I, however, had major trepidation. That would mean we would have a mother/daughter relationship. Heaven help me. I had past experience with a mother/daughter relationship and it was a struggle. I remember calling my mom to announce that we were having a girl. Her reaction: “oh.” We both must have still harbored a bit of PTSD from my teenage years.

It took a while to get used to the thought of having a girl. I remember walking Cy, our dog at the time, and thinking “how will I ever love a human being as much as I love my loyal pup?” What was my problem?! Yet, although those thoughts went through my head, I still spent countless hours rubbing my expanding belly and listening to Free To Be on any car trip I took.

And then the day came. I went into the doctor’s office for my 9 AM appointment after I had taken a 3 mile run and lifted weights earlier that morning. My doctor performed her weekly exam. While she felt around, she poked her head up.

“You are going to have a baby today.”

What?! I was not having any contractions; I did not feel weird at all. Wasn’t there supposed to be some big revelation that I felt the baby was coming? I called Jon on my way home and told him that we were having a baby. His reaction was the same as mine had been. I arrived home and told Jon I was going to take Cy on a quick walk. He thought I was crazy, but he allowed me to do it (he knows me all too well). We got to the hospital around 11 AM; by that time, I was starting to feel some contractions. They felt like mild cramps, nothing to worrisome. The doctor checked me out around noon, and asked if I wanted to break my water to speed up the process. By that time, my mom had arrived from Cincinnati. We decided to go for it. It was not 20 minutes later that I was sitting on my green yoga ball pushing myself back-and-forth from the hospital bed. The contractions were getting worse. Breathe, Breathe. Breathe. That is all I could hear. It began to hurt worse and worse. But I was in it for the long run with you, baby girl. I wanted to feel every single ache. And boy, did I. There was a period of time where I was on my hands and knees rocking back-and-forth and feeling like I would not be able to survive another minute. Then the contractions would calm down a bit and I’d be able to breathe. But then they would start right back up and I would want to cry. Jon and my mom championed me through it right by my side. Finally, the nurses told me I could turn over and start pushing. What a relief. I pushed so hard, so quickly that I busted all of the blood vessels in my face. I wanted you out! I got to see the top of your head in the mirror and I could not believe it. There you were. All of that belly rubbing produced this little pipsqueak. I pushed one final push and before I knew it, I was holding your little 7 pound body in my arms. What a day.

The politically correct thing to say next is I fell completely and totally in love with you in that moment. Not so much. It took a while to absorb that intense bond between mother and child. At first, as I stared at you while she slept, I felt too many emotions to feel that deep connection. Would I do alright as a mom? Would you love me back? Were you getting all your nutrients? Craziness. And the questions running through my head! Why weren’t you taking my milk? Why didn’t you want to snuggle on my chest rather than move all around in every direction? Why did you have to get up every hour?!

As I became more confident in my role as a mother and you clocked in a greater amount of time on this earth, the connection clicked. My heart exploded with love and adoration for my baby girl, and I swallowed up all of you. And then, there was no turning back. I loved seeing you round, buddha face in the morning (even when you kept me up all night). I could not wait to get out of work and pick you up. I loved taking you on long walks, and having you touch the bark of different trees or smell the scent of different flowers. I couldn’t wait to walk up to Stauf’s with you on the weekend, and have everyone fawn over how cute you were.

I would read the book, Someday, to you nearly every night. The mother in the book watches her daughter grow up, and expresses has hopes and dreams for her daughter along the way. I would tear up every time I read it. One night when you were in preschool, I finished reading it and had those tears in my eyes. You looked up at me as you sat on my lap in that yellow rocking chair. You had tears down your little buddha face.

How biased I was to assume I would have a boy because I had so much testosterone and hated dresses? Sure enough, you were known as “the muscle” at preschool because you would defend some of the timid kids when kids were picking on them. Don’t mess with my girl; she will put you on her place. Heck, you are able to pick up your mom without a problem (there is no doubt your physical dominance is directly from your mom and dad).

You continue to want to be a daredevil. One of the presents you asked for your 13th birthday is a hot air balloon ride. You also asked to skydive (you know your mother will not agree to that) and bungee jump (no way). You will try anything. We love your intrepid spirit.

You continue to forge friendships with a wide array of people. Girls that love sports; girls that love boys; girls that love video games; and even boys. You get along with anybody and everybody that crosses your path.

You love to hug people. You sometimes even ask to hug a family friend you just met. You have no fear of jumping into any conversation. We love your willingness to embrace.

You are the goofiest, dork of a girl at times. You are not scared to make fun of yourself. You are not scared to act like a total fool around people. We absolutely love this about you. The more self-assured you are, the better it will be as you get older. Keep that goofiness about you and do not care what other people think.

You love school this year, as always. You love broadcasting in the mornings, hanging out with your friends, and going to your sporting events and practices. You loved your softball season with the bus rides to and from softball games. You are easy-going and spirited.

Quite simply, Ri, you are a great kid. Dad and I hit the jackpot with you as our first born. You have given us immense joy, and we know that you are going to knock this world out as you continue to get older.

Happy 13th, love!

Mom and Dad

Odd years

“2016 bit the big one so 2017 has to be better.”

I recited this mantra incessantly towards the end of 2016 and the beginning days of 2017. It gave me some hope with the impending new year that all it would take was a flip of the calendar page and *TA-DA,* everything is better. I even subjected Ri to the mantra when she cried to me about her uneventful New Year’s Eve (while viewing all of her friends partying on Snapchat). New Year’s Eve occurred in 2016 so it’s gonna be wrapped up in the horrible mess of a year. 

But here we are, two weeks into the new year, and I haven’t found any revived spirit or amazing promise. Did I flip the calendar page too quickly or with not enough force to clearly show 2016 we wanted it out?

Last week, the kids agreed, without any fighting, to walk to Stauf’s with me for lunch. I asked, and they agreed. No pleading, begging, bribing. It wasan exquisite moment. We braced the 2o degree weather and walked up to the coffee shop with playing cards in tow. We even lucked out and got our favorite bar table and stools. Ri talked about becoming a pediatrician while Mario talked about packing it up and heading to Hollywood or Miami. The conversation was delightful. 

So there, 2016, take that! 

I am an impatient person; I want to see immediate change, feel immediately more hopeful, witness immediate kindness in the world. 2017 has been my wake-up call. It ain’t gonna happen. 

Slow and steady may need to be my new mantra. The world ain’t gonna be fixed (or destroyed, hopefully) overnight. I just gotta keep plugging away at being there for my crew – the kids, family, friends – and taking on causes and acts of kindness as time allows.  

My girlfriend told me the other day that odd years end up being better for her than even years. Interesting – I never looked at years in that fashion. But as I thought about it, I was born in an odd year as was Jon, Ri and Mario. We moved into our new home in an odd year. We got Rocco in an odd year. So there you go. 2017 is gonna be better than 2016 if only because it’s an odd year… I will take that immediate assumption and run with it.

Time to run

I signed Ri and I up for a 5K run/walk in support of research to cure Batten Disease. One of Ri’s friends has a twin brother and sister who are both battling the disease. The twins attended nearly all of the girls’ soccer games this Fall so a bunch of parents and girls signed up in support of the family. 

Ri was not excited about the event at all. I told her about a week in advance and nearly every night, she’d confirm “we don’t have to run the entire race, do we?” She still has PTSD from the Girls on the Run 5K where she nearly keeled over in exhaustion from running so long and hard. She is just not into running for running’s sake. And I’ve accepted it … for the most part….  

But as much as Ri dislikes running, she adores helping people. And I knew she’d go along with me to the race without a huge cry because she knew we were helping out her friend’s sister and brother. She has a monstrous heart. 

We arrived to lots of other girlfriends playing at Audubon Park and moms and dads registering for the race. Ri ran over to talk to her girlfriends while I signed us up. It was uplifting to see so many Grandview moms and dads with their kids coming out to support the cause. I can’t remember who the guest was on Krista Tippett’s show “On Being” but the guest opined that we all want to feel connected. That gives us purpose and joy. I thought of that guest’s words as I stood with my group of girlfriends and stretched my not-quite-awake-yet legs and watched Ri laugh with her friends. Others smiled at me as they walked to the start of the race. I saw Ri help a little boy off the bars. Connection. 

They had the siblings of the children inflicted with Batten Disease countdown for the start of the race. We stood together waiting to take off. And 3-2-1…we were off. Ri and a few girlfriends ran in front of me talking and smiling together. I was excited to see the girls running and laughing and I yelled “You got this girls!” Within a few seconds of my shout, I witnessed Ri stumble and fall to the gravel path. Blood, cuts, tears. 

I moved her over to the grass and sat down with her. She had a scraped knee and torn-up arm. Blood slowly oozed out. I could tell she was both shocked at the quick fall and stinging from the gravel cuts. I held her head into my chest. Slowly, I got her back up and told her we should walk it off and see how we felt after a bit. She was hesitant at first asking if she’d have to run. I told her we could walk the entire way and turn back if she hurt too much. 

We walked up to the bike path. She looked over at me and then at her friend, Evelyn. 

“Let’s try to run to the telephone pole ahead and then we will stop and walk a bit.” Evelyn agreed. And so we ran to the pole. Then walked. We caught up with other friends and walked with them. And ran. And before we knew it, we were at the finish line and all the girls formed a circle to talk. Some ran hard, others jogged with parents, others ran and walked and others simply walked and talked. No judgment, no pressure. 

I was so proud of Ri for plugging away to finish the race. I knew she was uncomfortable and the cuts stung. But she forced her mind to think of something else – friends, curing the disease, finding water, getting Mark Pi sesame chicken for lunch….whatever. She is one amazingly tough mama chica.

After the race, you could buy raffle tickets for the numerous gift baskets on the tables. I let Ri buy $5 worth of tickets. She gave me one ticket and she took four. She put them all in one canister for a wildlife basket. It had a bear hat, stuffed animal, zoo passes and gift cards to a pizzeria in it. All she wanted was the bear hat. 

We left before they drew names of the winners. They never called the rest of the day so Ri and I figured someone else won. On Monday, however, I received a call from one of the sponsors that Maria had won the wildlife basket. It was as though I’d been told we won 1 million dollars. I couldn’t wait to tell her that she had won. And for a few minutes after that call, I basked in the glory of that daughter of mine – her strength, her courage, her positivity, and her luck!


A little Beethoven and a lot of hope

The past couple of days have been rougher than usual between Jon being out of town, Maria being a premature teenager, and Mario being a pipsqueak.  Work hasn’t added any joy to my life either.  I definitely need a vacation soon – as does the rest of the family.  I think we all need to take a load off and remember what it is about each of us that makes us all love each other so much!  I am betting Mario and Maria will make us laugh hysterically just like we did in Florida and Jon and I will talk about things outside of the kids’ schedules, house chores and work.  How wonderful that will be.

My mood got a big boost from this video that I found tonight on American Public Media’s On Being with Krista Tippett.  I take refuge in the expressions of hope on the faces of the bystanders, and the childrens’ pure merriment in dancing in the street.

Selling a House = Painful

We have had eight showings of the house since we listed it two weeks ago.  Not bad, I am told by my agent and others.  But I can’t help but still be down in the dumps about this whole process.  It is a time killer and emotionally taxing.  We spent hours and hours getting the house to a point where it did not look like we had children – all of their toys and our extra “stuff” is shoved in corners and closets and in the attic and basement and garage.  Nearly every night, Jon or I are scolding the kids to pick up their toys and not drop a crumb on the floor.  Last night, I chastised Maria about getting toothpaste in the sink (I got the “Really, mom, really?” response which immediately made me laugh and see the ridiculousness of it all). 

M&M showing what they'd do if they lived by themselves

And, I never dreamed that I would take the rejection so personal.  When we got the buyer’s reasons for declining the house, one reason was that it was “underwhelming” to them.  My first thought “take this “underwhelming” fist and shove it…” My blood pressure shot up and has remained in the “Above” range for the last two weeks as I continue to be inundated with rejections.  Jon and I should have known it would be this way because too many people told us that we would sell this place immediately: “You will have no problem selling your house – its in a great location; great curb appeal….”  Complete jinx.  Granted, it has only been listed for two weeks, but it feels like two years. 

Last weekend, we had a couple walk through for the second time.  We got the house completely scrubbed down, flowers everywhere, window sills sparkling.  They called our realtor within 15 minutes and told him they were going to put in an offer.  By 5 pm, we had it.  $30,000 lower than our asking price with a ton of contingencies.  Still, we kept hope alive and gave them a reasonable counteroffer back.  They never responded.  Finally, their realtor called ours and told him they weren’t interested any longer because we were too far apart monetarily.  Whatever – my irritation and frustration have been mellowed by sheer exhaustion from cleaning the house, loading up Cy to take to my parents’ apartment, and stuffing things away in closets. 

Maria keeps reassuring me that we will sell the house and if we don’t, it’s ok.  She and Mario can live in this house and Jon and I can live in the other for a while.  “I know how to clean, mom.  And I help you cook pancakes all the time.  Mario and I will be fine.”  If they had the mortgage money, she would have the keys.

Anne Lamott quote

M&M splashing it up at the pool

Ok, so I just had to talk one more day about Anne Lamott and put a quote out here that I love of hers.  It comes from Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith.  Wonderful Book.  Here is the quote:

“I don’t know why the most we can hope for on some days is to end up a little less crazy than before, less down on ourselves. ”

That wraps up my day today.  I felt a little less crazy than I have felt in a few weeks and a little more positive about where I am, who I am.  Ferron helped, too, I believe.  And that german chocolate cake Doris made tonight.  And hearing from my sis.  And a fun night at the pool with M&M.  I will go to bed with those soothing thoughts on my mind and hope for an even less crazier day tomorrow and less harshness from my own head about what I am doing, who I am, why I do the things I do.  Just be for once.  Ahh, it is all so clear at 11 pm at night…:)

Loving Anne Lamott

I have been thinking about faith lately.  It is inevitable when I have two kids who constantly make me question my existence and purpose. 

Jon and I were both raised Catholic and head to church every so often but definitely do not attend on any type of regular basis or have an urgent need to take the kids.  We want them to have faith, however.  I feel that is necessary to ground them, make them more thoughtful, make them more empathetic and understanding people.  If it was completely up to me, I would head down south to one of those small churches to just hear the people sing like it was their last breath and dance and have fun and truly engage in a celebration.  That to me is one thousand times better than sitting in a quiet church listening to a man give a monotone sermon about Jesus.  It is so dull to me.  I have only met one priest in my entire life who had some pizzazz and “umph” that got a rise in me and made me want to continue to sit in the pew. 

I want M&M to have their hearts filled with spirit when they go to church.  I want them to feel more alive, more hopeful when they leave. 

This leads me to Anne Lamott.  She is my faith at this stage of my life.  She is my refuge – she is who makes me hopeful and makes me feel alive.  Her stories about her son, her fears, her obsessions, her downfalls are so true and so real and so raw that I can’t help but dive into them and become a part of them.  I walk away from one of her stories and I have learned something.  I have faith that all will be ok.  I smile at her comparisons.  I feel reassured that I am doing the best I can with where I am.  I see beauty in M&M even if they almost drive me to buy a one way ticket to Istanbul. 

Thank you Anne Lamott for giving me this faith that I continue to struggle to find.  Someday I may find a chapel, cathedral, temple, church, park, where I feel a part of the community and I believe in what is being expressed and taught.  Until then, I have you.  Amen!