Happy 9th birthday, Mario!

Mario turned nine yesterday. At least, he turned nine in biological years. In Mario years, he’s 21. 

If he could break free from the confines of his parent’s house, he’d do it in a heart beat. If he could head to the bar and drink a cold one, he’d be off. If he could head to the coffee shoppe and get an espresso, he would walk there in a second. If he could bike to campus to hang out with millennials, he’d grab his helmet and take off. 

This is not to say that he doesn’t still ask me to get him water or rub his back at night. It’s not to say that when he’s chillin’ on the couch he doesn’t ask me to sit next to him and snuggle. He even still let’s me squeeze and kiss him in private (he’d die if I did it around friends). 

But he has definitely hit an independence streak. I think he may deal with us until age 16 and then pack his bags for California and take off to hang with the surfer dudes and make vlogs. But he loves  money so much that if he did move out, he’d be one of those young, hip entrepreneurs who drops out of high school but makes millions.

So, how to sum up Mario’s eighth year of life? He loves you tube. He loves watching music videos. He loves playing video games with his buddies. He loves going to football games and playing on the hill with his friends and talking with the older kids. He loves wrestling and jumping all around the house. He loves sports. He enjoys biking by himself to the library or down to school. He still craves chocolate everything. He will drop all plans to go fishing. He remains a total character. He is compassionate and sweet, and loves to make people laugh.

Some highlights from his eighth year:

1. Football games with his buddies and sideline passes with his dad.

2. Halloween trick-or-treating with his two friends (and mom not standing too close to them as they went house to house)…and a boatload of candy!

3. Serving Thanksgiving meal to homeless men at the Y and chatting it up with them.

4. Christmas morning opening presents – oh, the drama and anticipation!

5. A broken arm! At 11:20 pm on NYE, you ran into my friend’s dining room  holding your arm and crying that it was broken. Your friend had fell down on it as you were playing. Sure enough, it was. We sat at the hospital as the New Year was brought in laughing at you in your “high” state from the pain meds. 

6. You took care of Grandpa Ionno’s grave in Marietta.

7. You went to Feed the Streets with me and walked a mile passing out water and lunches to people in need.

8. You went hunting with your dad and “had the best day of your life!”

9. You watched OSU hockey with your buddies in a suite with tons of cookies, and met Brutus!

10. You got all dressed up for Easter and killed it on the volleyball court.

11. You went on Spring Break with the Webers and Muellers to Hocking Hills. You went fishing and hiked. I met you there two days into break and we explored together. You loved taking risks and climbing steep rock climbs.

12. You cranked baseball this year – one of the strongest players!

13. You fed a baby calf and named it after a girl at school (romantic, just like your dad).

14. You starred in your first talent show singing “We will rock you!”

15. You became enamored with ball pythons.

16. You started sporting sweet Panama Jack hats.

17. You won Elena’s heart by making her laugh with your silly antics.

18.You kayaked and fished on Lake Erie.

19. You went white-water rafting, zip lined, and completed a mud obstacle course in West Virginia!

20. You blobbed your sister!

21. You swam in the creek at Park of the Roses with your pup!

22. You won a poop emoji at the Ohio State Fair!

23. You started third grade – your last year at RLS!

24. You celebrated your birthday with a bunch of friends at Get Air and a sleepover!

Happy birthday our sweet Mario. I hope this year brings you lots of learning experiences and lots of adventures. And guess what?

We love you (you weren’t here to say it before me:)!).


It has been a bit of a struggle this school year in dealing with Mario and his voracious streak of independence. Actually, let me strike the word “struggle” and change it to the word “battle.”

We never had this issue with Ri. She begged to be driven to school every day and enjoyed if Rocco and I walked with her on the other days. She had zero desire to trek 1.3 miles to school.

Since the end of last year’s school year, Mario has been pleading with us to allow him to bike or walk by himself to school. Jon and I would discuss it here or there but never arrived at a decision (yes, we are the ultimate procrastinators). Then, the school season arrived. And there stood Mario, at our sides, begging to bike by himself to school.

The bike ride is a simple one. Straight down the main strip with one small downhill at the end. There are three crossing guards spaced out at different sections of the strip. Kids are walking and biking along the strip from 7:30 until 8:15. 

But they are typically with an adult.  

“Typically with an adult.” These words scorched Mario’s ears. He did not hear anything more. Then came the persuasive arguing.

“You let me bike to the library by myself. You’ve biked with me to school and back and told me I did a great job. I am responsible and call you every time I should.” And so on and so forth…. On and on…. 

So, in a fit of whining fatigue and  unbridled trust, we let Mario bike to school two days straight. The first day, Jon followed Mario on his bike. When Mario got to the hill to go down towards school, Jon stopped him and told him he did a great job. Mario had no clue he had been following him and he broke down in tears.

“Why did you follow me, dad? I thought I rode by myself.”

Jon apologized and took off down the street. Mario thought that Jon was upset with him, so he biked towards where Jon drove. He couldn’t find Jon. One of our friends approached Mario and saw that he was sobbing. Mario called Jon from the friend’s phone and told him he was sorry for yelling at him. Jon felt horrible. He reiterated that he just wanted to see how well Mario biked to school, and he waited to give Mario a hug at the end of the hill.  The next day, we let Mario bike all by himself. He did great, policeman waved at him as he went by, and he called and said that he got home after school.

But that night I talked to my mom and a couple of girlfriends and all of them thought that having Mario bike to school at age 8 was a bad idea. I had been questioning in my own head whether I should continue to allow it. On the one hand, Mario craves independence and loves achieving physical feats. He was so excited to go to school those mornings. He felt awesome. 

On the other hand, he’s only eight. Other kids likely crave independence from their parents too, but they arent allowed to bike all the way to school. Jon and I have always given a lot of leeway in raising Ri and Mario. But what is the limit? If something happened to him on the way to school, I knew I would never forgive myself. Yes, something could happen to him when he’s in fourth grade and riding by himself but that feels different than allowing him in third grade at age 8. Besides, the fourth grade school is much closer to us. But he’s also a responsible 8 year old about to turn 9 year old. And he craves the independence so why not continue to give it a chance? It is a safe neighborhood, there are crossing guards, there are police. Parenting is ping-pong in the head. 

In the end, Jon and I pulled the plug. We sat with Mario the night before school and told him that for the time being we did not feel comfortable with him biking by himself. We discussed our concern for his safety at his age. We told him that we believed in him and we believed he was responsible but that he was just too young to go to school by himself. 

He was absolutely deflated. He cried. He gave us his case as to why he felt he was responsible and able to bike down to school. He begged for us to change our minds. It broke my heart. I was still so torn but I could not go back on my position at that point. 

The next morning, he did not want to get out of bed. He did not want to eat cereal. He did not want to go to school. I was sick to my stomach. Why had I allowed him to bike to school in the first place only to take it away. Why would I give him a tiny taste of it only to pull it back? I was beating myself up all day long.

After school that day, we allowed Mario to have a friend over to spend the night. When I got home from work after fretting all day, Mario and his friend were having a blast together. They were playing basketball and video games. Mario had nothing to say about not being able to bike to school. As it is many times with kids, the worry we put on ourselves is lost on them after a few hours. Over the weekend, at random times, Mario continued to bring up his wish to bike by himself. He made his case on how responsible he was and how he stayed on the sidewalk and how he would never let a stranger take him. We listened and continued to mull over what to do with him. My “all or nothing” personality was shining bright in my thought process. Either he can bike everyday by himself or nothing at all…either I eat an entire sleeve of cookies or none… either I win the race or don’t run at all. Maybe I needed to learn to loosen the reins of that  personality trait a bit.

On Monday morning, as I made his waffles and talked with him about his day ahead, I flexed my rigid trait and told him that we would just see how things go throughout the fall and the spring. I also told him that I had arranged for him to be able to walk with a couple of friends once or twice a week (I didn’t include the fact that I or another mom would be walking behind him).

Sure enough, this past week, he got to walk with his buddy (and yes, I walked far behind them to make sure they got to school on time). He also got dropped off  by Jon and picked up by our sitter. And he biked to school with me a couple of days. Jon and I allowed him to bike home by himself those days since our babysitter was waiting for him and she could call us to let us know he made it back to the homestead. 

And with each day, all ended up being just fine. 

Swim party = no mom

And so it begins….
The Grandview pool held a swim party on Friday night for incoming 4-6 graders. I was hoping Maria would want to go. I knew as soon as she found out Sophie was going that would deal the deal.
She and Sophie went to Mario’s tee ball game on Friday night. They ended at 7:30 and she was urging me to go so they could head to the pool. I told her it didn’t start until 8 pm but she didn’t care.
“We need to get our stuff and be the first ones down there!”
Eventually we got Mario to stop tackling his buddies and head home. Ri got on her swimsuit and packed her duffel with Sophie’s clothes and her clothes, sunscreen, and gum.

Then she asked for money. “For what,” I asked her.
“For snacks, mom. Swimming makes us hungry.”
I gave her $6 for snacks. Then Jon called her into the family room and reached over for his wallet to give her more. She held up her arm:
“No, dad, mom gave me money. We don’t need more.”
It was precious. If it was Mario in that situation, he would have closed his mouth and grabbed that money and ran.
We drove down to the pool and Ri asked me for the $10 to get into the event. I told her that I would pay.
“But I don’t want you to come in with us!”
Oh, I guess I have officially hit the “not cool” mark. I told her I would just go to the desk in the front and pay and then leave. She sighed but allowed it. We got there at 8:05 and there was a line 20 people deep. I knew I’d hear about it.
“Mom, I told you we had to leave earlier!”
But then she dropped it and talked to friends while we waited in line. Once I paid, they zoomed inside. I followed just to say goodbye…and make sure no one attacked her….
She stood in line with Sophie to take a lap swim test to show she could go off the diving board. I wanted to stay and root her on but she brushed me away. Sure enough, this was the start of independence and it at once made me happy about her confidence and sad that she wanted me to depart.
When I picked her up at 10:30, she was jumping off the high dive and having a blast with Sophie and her friend, Nina. She did not want to go. She had a great time. She was in one piece. No one had attacked her. All was good.


Heading out on the town

Mario has been dreaming to go out on his own the past few nights.  This has been an ongoing desire over the last few months that has manifested itself with admonishments from him to me whenever I get too close to him.  At the library, he went up to the second floor by himself to look at Wii games.  I followed him stealthily so that he would not see me.  I watched him look at the Wii games and then head over to the counter to ask the librarian whether they had the Rise of the Guardians Wii game.  She was having trouble understanding him so I butted in to clarify.  Mistake.  Mario became irate and embarrassed.  “Mom, I told you I would do it myself.  You are so embarrassing! Go away!”

pixLast night, we were drawing pictures, and Mario asked Maria how to spell “I’m Going Somewhere.” He then walked over to me and gave me the picture.  I couldn’t read it at first and then I got it.  I asked “you are going somewhere? Where?”  Mario’s response: “Don’t know yet but I will figure it out. I will wait until tomorrow.”

mariojeanstattooTonight, he asked Maria to go upstairs with him.  Ri ran back downstairs and breezed past me. I asked her what she was doing and she quickly replied “Getting some cool shoes for Mario.” They both came back down ten minutes later and Mario looked too cool for school with his double layered oxford shirts, new jeans and sweet man-watch on his wrist.  Maria grabbed the body crayons and drew tattoos on his arms.

“I’m heading out tonight, mom.”

“Where you going?”

“I may got to the bank and then I may just take a walk.”


“Yeah, I am not going to any girls’ houses but I may not be home until tomorrow.”

doorJon told him that he was free to go (the mom in me could not let him leave even though I knew Jon would sneak out and watch over him).  Mario put on his coat and hat and gloves and he said goodbye to Ri.  Ri bawled and begged him not to go because he could be stolen by someone in the night.  He told her he’d be fine.

He walked out the door and stood on the porch in the 15 degree cold.  He looked back at me.  He walked back to the door.

“Mom, will the police stop me if they see me?”

“Yeah, they won’t let you walk by yourself until you are fifteen.”

He walked back out on the porch. He stood on the step for a minute.  I stepped back so he would not see me.

He walked back to the door and peeked inside.


“Did you decide to come back to your mama and sis?!”

“Yes, I will come back just because the police are out. I will go out later when the police get off work.”

I agreed knowing that Jon would explain to him that the police never get off of work.  I am sure he will think of some other way to get out of the house in the next few days.  Probably use a disguise or something.  He is jonesin’ to get out on his own at age 5.  Ri, on the other hand, is perfectly content with me following her everywhere and has no desire to leave the roost.  I imagine that will change when she hits her pre-teen years especially with her brother’s influence.