Take me out to the ball game!

It is baseball/softball season in the Ionno household. We are in full swing this month with Mario’s games on Friday nights and Ri’s games on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Mario is still in tee-ball even though he was not happy about that deal. He wanted coach-pitch this year (“babies hit off tees,” he said to me after I signed him up.) He does have a heck of a throw on him – he throws it back to the coach and nails it nearly every time. And he has some buddies on his team and on opposing teams so he has fun.
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They still all move in one big mass when the ball is hit in order to try to be the first to get the ball. It is no holds barred with elbows and kicks being used at any cost. And rarely does anyone cry about getting hurt – if this behavior happened in any other setting, it would be chaos but there is something about a ball field that makes it tolerable.
Mario got to play 1st base on Friday night. He needs to work on scooping up the ball but he was ready for it every time. I love watching him play. He hit some good balls, too. He loves to hit last so that he can run all the bases at one time like he got a home run. Very Mario-like!
After his game, he asked if I could coach his team next year like I coach Ri’s now. Warmed my heart that he’d ask me. I don’t know how I will swing both but I will find a way after that request.
He and his buddies partied it up after the game. They played keep-away and tackled each other to the ground. It took all our might to make him leave. But he had a sis that was dying to get to a swim party so she put down the gauntlet.
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Ri had a game on Saturday. Peepaw and Mama Meg came in to watch it. I get so anxious watching my girls play – I want them to play well and win so badly. They are all making great strides in their playing. The defense is making outs and we have a girl who could not hit to save her life getting hits! The girls are great about cheering each other on and patting each other on the back when they miss a ball or strike out. That was one of my goals – learning teamwork – so if all else fails, we accomplished that one.
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Ri had a great play at third on Saturday – she scooped up a grounder and tagged third for an out. She scared me because she was confused at first about whether to tag the girl or the bag and when she went running for the bag I was worried the girl would pass her (she’s strong as heck but not the quickest!). But she got an out and she was charged up because the girl she got out was the girl who had gotten her out the previous inning! Little did I know that she likes her some revenge!
But what she likes more are after-softball hot dogs and ice cream. Those girls run for the concession stand like bandits!
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And, of course, she loves having visitors cheer her on like Peepaw and Mama Meg (even if they are carting two mattresses in a flat bed truck to the game!).
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Lovin’ some DIrty Franks

Jon and I used to be ambassadors of Skyline Chili.  We are not embarrassed to admit it (well, maybe a bit embarrassed when people learn we had our picture up in the entrance way and our own “ambassador plates” to eat our three-way chilis).  Skyline bestowed this title upon us back when we were young pups with no kids and lots of time.  Now we go into Skyline and we are granted no privileges; we are just another family in the crowd eating oyster crackers as we wait for our food. 

But that is ok with us.  We like the relaxed atmosphere, the oyster crackers as appetizers, and the hotdogs with cheese.  Mario typically eats 2 of them before we leave (which is huge for Mario).  Maria typically eats one hot dog and a chili spaghetti.  They love the place, and may one day get our title back for us. They especially love the Oreo cookies that they get as a special dessert at the end of the meal (I admit, I am rather jealous although Jon gives me a quarter from his pocket so I can get Reese Pieces out of the dispenser). 

But Jon found another, cooler dive for us to head to when we are craving dogs.  A little hole in the wall on 4th Avenue downtown called Dirty Franks (http://dirtyfrankscolumbus.com/).  They have hot dogs with anything you can imagine spread on them.  Maria has fallen in love with the Octodog (macaroni and cheese with a hot dog shaped as an octopus).  Mario likes a plain dog with cheese on it.  I love the beanie weenie (baked beans with a hot dog and cheese and onion).  Jon typically gets a dog with sauerkraut or one with pickles or fries on it.  We also get the hush puppies with chili and cheese, which could subside anyone’s late night, hung-over cravings.  The walls are filled with artwork of famous singers like Michael Jackson and Prince (the only two I recognize).  Maria always asks me why Michael Jackson looks white when he is brown.  Mario loves all of the pictures of crazed looking rockers, especially the one with blood out of his mouth.  We find a new piece of artwork each time we go (keeps the kids busy!). 

I am thinking that Skyline may have to miss us for a bit while we frequent our Dirty Franks establishment.  Although, I do find myself craving that Cincinnati chili every once in a while – a girl can leave Cincinnati but Cincinnati can’t leave the girl!

Summer Teenage Control Program

Mario copping his attitude while at Five Guys eating his fries!

Tonight, I turned into my father (AHHHHHH!).  I instituted the Toddler and Kindergartner Dinner Control Program.  Jon and I have done a horrid job at sitting down to dinner with the kids.  Both of us grew up having dinner with our parents, and want to carry that tradition down to Maria and Mario.  However, for numerous reasons (some lame and some legitimate), we have failed.  We both work and have used that as an excuse to order in food most of the days of the week or simply skip dinner and eat some random foods through the night.  Now, before we have Child Welfare knocking at our door, we do feed the children decent meals.  They just usually eat them at their little Dora table as Jon or I (sometimes both) watch them gobble up their food and begin play again.  If they are not eating at their little table, they are out with me at one of the parks eating a picnic dinner or at Panera or Cowtown Pizza.  During the Spring, Summer, and Fall, we live outside.  Therefore, we carry our dinner with us.  So, here comes Winter and darkness at 5 pm.  We need to make the change. 

Maria wanted a “feast” for this dinner so she decided on turkey dogs, peas, leftover pasta and meatballs, grapes, and bread.  We cooked the meal while Mario and Jon played in the dining room. 

Maria doing her model pose (as always) while eating her fry!

After fifteen whole minutes, we had our meal.  Maria and Jon cleared the dining room table, Maria placed a vase of flowers on it, and we served the dinner plates.  We all sat down.  Maria and Mario fought for five minutes about who got to say a meal prayer (Grandma Ionno instituted this ritual in them!).  Finally, Maria caved and Mario went first and Maria second.  We then began our next soon-to-be ritual: telling each other our favorite part of our day.  Mario again got to go first (yes, Maria is a saint and so patient).  Mario’s favorite part of the day was learning about manners at school (always say “please” and put a napkin in your shirt when you eat sloppy foods).  Maria’s favorite part was sitting next to her friends, Zach and Trent, at lunch and laughing about “silly things.”  Unfortunately, Jon was stopped cold in his story because at this point, Mario was standing up in his chair and dancing.  We scolded him to sit down and eat warning him that Spiderman only gets bigger if he eats his food (the only thing, if anything, that works on him to get him to eat).  Maria, by that time, was begging for some of my spaghetti since she had eaten her food.  Maria skirted all around her chair and managed to get cottage cheese and spaghetti sauce in her hair, on her forehead and on her shirt.  We were asking her to scoot around to the table when Mario stated he was finished (although he had only ate half of his hot dog and nothing else).  He lifted those tiny arms up with his palms facing upward pleading “But, mom, I am not hungry. My tummy will hurt.”

He knows exactly what to say.  Maria, meanwhile, was set on finishing the rest of my spaghetti.  She is a girl who knows how to eat well.  Unfortunately, I do not think Mario will rise to her level anytime soon.  Right in the midst of all of this, guess  who calls?  My Father!  The Architect of the Teenage Summer Control Program that I morphed into the Toddler and Kindergartner Dinner Control Program!  Little did he know what influence he had on his daughter. 

Maria and Mario ready for our Fall picnic at the park!

As soon as I got on the phone with him, the kids were out of their chairs and wrestling on the floor.  It had been 16 minutes since we began eating our dinner – not bad for the Programs’s first night.  Tomorrow we will explain the Program in more detail to the kids and try for 18 minutes.  I may also have to give them a carrot like my dad did for me and tell them if they sit in their seats for 18 minutes, they will get a yummy treat for dessert.  I better stack up on vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and skittles!