Cincy weekend

We finally made it down to Cincy two weekends ago over the MLK holiday (we talked about MLK on the trip down and what an impact he had on the civil rights movement; Maria explained to Mario how unfairly black people were treated and how MLK helped change the world so people would be nicer to each other). Sarah and Jorge ended up in town, too, because Sarah was interviewing Grandma Menkedick’s friends for a school project.

It was the normal tornado of a trip. Mom and I made big plans to take the kids and Gracie to Union Terminal for the kids museum. Maria had begged to head to the train museum and funhouse but I told her I wanted to go downtown. We got to the Terminal, spent $6 on parking, walked inside, and found a line that snaked nearly the entire one side of the Terminal. An hour and a half wait. I wanted to cry … or hot someone. Although Union Terminal is only 30 minutes from my mom’s house, it feels like hours when you have to drive down I-75. We trudged back to the car and headed back up I-75 to the train museum. The kids were not disappointed at all. Mom and I did pretty good keeping our frustration inside if us. Mario made us laugh after I said I had to pee; he pointed out an “outhouse” on the side of the road for me to use (it was a port a potty for construction workers).

The train museum provides about a half hour of train viewing (it takes all our might to get the kids to stand still to read the plaques) and a half hour of play in the jungle gym area. I think Ri and Mario are getting too old for it. But they lived vicariously through Gracie.


The area that they really wanted to go to was the Fun House. It had the obligatory cardboard cut-out that the kids could put their faces in. Grandma Lolo situated their faces just right in the hole so they really looked like tiger trainers.




I had been through the Fun House once before when Laura introduced us to the museum last year. It scared me too death, especially the House of Mirrors. I felt claustrophobic and trapped. It was Maria’s favorite. I warned mom about it and she was equally fearful. But the kids were full-on ready to go.

We hit the “easy” areas first. The Clown room only made you feel sick with the slanted rooms. Next we hit the curtain room, which I forgot was just as bad as the mirror house. Mom and I were hyperventilating by the time we found our way out (thanks to Ri and Mario). Then we went to the Hall of Mirrors and continued to be horrified. Way too much for us to handle. The kids laughed hysterically at mom and me running into mirrors. Finally, we agreed to the Cosmos House which was kinda cool but at the end it had two huge black cushions squeezed together mimicking a Black Hole. You had to push through them to get out. Ri was the only brave one. The rest of us went out the Exit door. Mario finally got the guts to do it if I held his hand and once he did it, he wouldn’t stop.



Before we left, Mom braved the Hall of Mirrors one more time with Mario (quite a feat!) and I went through the Black Hole cushions. Yea, we’re tougher than we think. As a reward, we got ice cream and chips at the concession stand.


Mom and I felt like we had been out since 6 am when we returned home. She went for margaritas with Sarah and Jorge and I went to Julie’s to hang out with Liz and Grace and M&M. We got LaRosas – I’d take LaRosas over margaritas any day. The kids play great together at these ages; Grace still let’s Maria baby her to some extent and Grace laughs her head off at Mario which he soaks up. We topped the night off with UDF ice cream and cozying up with Sar and Jorge in mom’s basement.


The next morning we got to see Maggie and eat pecan pancakes and goetta thanks to Julie. Goetta is pure heaven and a treat not known by many people in Columbus. I grew up with it in Cincy – pork and oats all fried up . Yum! After filling our tummies, we went back to Grandma Lolo’s and she got out random small boxes and soaps for Ri to smell. This has been a tradition since Ri was born. Smelling soaps. They sit on the upstairs floor and lay them all out. Meanwhile, Mario was in search of cash. He found coins in Grandma’s jewelry case and asked her if he could have them. She said he could have a couple. He responded with “how about two handfuls?” She agreed to one handful. His right hand was spilling over with money.

She then showed him a dollar coin. He wanted it. She said she’d give him a dollar bill. His response: “could you give me ten dollar bills? She replied “how about two?” He said he’d take three. She walked downstairs chuckling and commented “your son is quite the negotiator.” As we packed up our things, Mario held tight to his money and even kissed it at one point. The 2013 Gordon Gecko.


My mom was getting on her coat and gloves to take Lou for a walk in the park so we decided to head out with her and leave from there. We needed some crisp Winter air before our two hour drive. The park looked like a scene in a fairy tale. Bright white snow balancing on the tree branches and blanketing the water in the pond. No one but us running through the woods and climbing up the ladders to the slides.



We kissed Grandma and Lou goodbye and headed back to our Columbus home. Dad was waiting for us in order to take M&M to gymnastics. I got the duty of heading to the grocery store to pick up dinner. Man, I wish Columbus had LaRosas.

Tornado hits Cincy

I planned a trip to Cincinnati with the kids for the entire weekend because Jon was heading to England Saturday morning. However, his trip got delayed so he informed me he’d be home all weekend. Lucky dog, I thought. But he really wanted me and the kids to stick around so I compromised and took the kids to Cincy after Mario’s game on Saturday and decided we’d come back Saturday night.

Mario is doing better and better with football. I think the key is to have Jon present; he likes impressing his dad and routinely looks over to Jon after a play and gives a “thumbs up” to him. He’s been running after the other players more and even dodged another player while running with the ball for his team. I must agree with one parent who mentioned to me “he will be really good next year with this practice.”

After the game, we headed down south with our popcorn, cheese pretzels, and powerades. Oh, and with National Geographic’s Wild Kratts show. Mario has been waiting patiently for it to arrive from another library and it was worth the wait. It had the Alaskan bears that Mario asked about every time a new show came on tv. Very cool.

Our trip to Cincy was like most other day trips down there. My mom and her husband describe it as a tornado coming through the house. Pretty accurate. My Aunt Julie, who lives across the driveway in the condo complex would likely describe it the same. The kids jump out of the cars, surprise mom and Rod, play with Lou and run over to Julie’s to say hi to her and Gracie and Liz and Maggie. It’s a cousin-fest! We break out the chips and candies and play with toys and make lots of noise. We tickle Gracie and pounce on Liz and Mag and act crazy. After that gets old, we head outside and show off our bike riding and toss the bouncey ball. Within a few minutes, we are ready for the park. Gracie gets in the stroller, Maria and Mario get on their bikes and we head north to the park where cousin Laura meets up with us. She swings Maria and Grace while I play with Mario and mom walks Lou. The kids put on a show for us that I want to kick myself for not recording. Of course, Maria emcees it and Mario and Grace do funny dances and songs.

After the play, we moved onto the main playground where Maria decided to take an eight foot fall off the slide. I knew she was hurt when I picked her up and she cried incessantly. She brushes off most falls but this one hurt. We carried her to the “ambulance” (Laura’s car) and transported her back to my mom’s. The only thing that would help calm Ri’s pain was Larosa’s spaghetti and meatballs so we ordered from there. I devoured a veggie pizza, and the kids ate garlic bread, pizza and spaghetti. We had worked up an appetite.

After Larosa’s, we hit the outdoors again for some cheer leading lessons from Ri who may be the world’s strictest coach ever. She showed me a cheer and then I tried it. She looked at me with sheer disgust. “Oh, Mary, that was not good….” So much for a gentle touch! Meanwhile, Mario and Laura threw the ball up on the carport roof and watched it bounce down. Mario thought it was the coolest activity ever but he could not get it up to the roof like Laura. It would bounce under the carport and over the small fence behind the cars and we’d spend ten minutes looking for it acting like it was lost treasure when we found it! Mario finally bounced it up to the roof and his smile was as wide as it was long when he turned to me. “I did it,Mom!”


Laura took off for Oktoberfest and we headed inside for baths. The water looked like the Olentangy when the bath ended. The kids both wore goggles and laid parallel to one another to see who could hold their breath the longest. What a sight to behold. Two white round butts in the air attached to two tanned still bodies trying to beat each other in under water breath holding. Mom and I stood over them in awe and joy. They’d come a long way since the nights of bottles and binkies and crying at 2 am.

We ended the night with ice cream and the Dog Whisperer. Maria sat mesmerized by the show while Mario concentrated on making letters with marbles. We looked down and he had spelled “Rex.” He is a Ben Ten fanatic.
We dragged ourselves out to the car, got situated with a movie, and started our journey back home to Jon.

The tornado struck Cincy again but the destruction was well worth it, as always.

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.

A Sunday

Highlights of our Sunday:

Wrestling with dad.

Eating bagels and cream cheese with Grandma Lolo at the counter of the Marx’s Bagel Shop and meeting the Bagelman in person!

Visiting Grandma Menkedick at her nursing home; reciting the ABC’s and telling a story to her (Mario); playing the Partly Cloudy movie for her and talking about school (Maria); just being near her and listening (me). 

Playing dress up at Grandma Lolo’s complete with a bright red pair of shoes and red sash (Maria).

Flexing chest muscles in Grandma Lolo’s kid friendly mirror and play fighting with himself (Mario). 

Seeing sweet Gracie-poo’s face beam when Maria and Mario walked in Aunt Julie’s front door and hearing her baby voice ask “Maria, do you want to play with me in the basement?”

Listening to Maria, Mario and Grace play mom, sister and brother, and watching Maria help Gracie go potty (she is getting to be such a big girl!).

Laughing with Liz and Aunt Julie and reminiscing about Grandma Heile.

Seeing Laura and listening to her explain to Maria that she must remember the names of nail polish colors on the nail polish bottle if she chooses to wear polish.  Maria did not know the name of the polish she was wearing; Laura told her that she was wearing Black on Black on her nails.  Laura explained that nail polish colors always had fun names.  Maria asked her what the name would be of the color of Laura’s scarf if it were polish.  Laura asked Maria what she would name it.  “Blueberry,” she responded.  Then Maria asked for Laura’s response.  “Blue lagoon” I believe she said.  Maria was intrigued.  The magic in those moments.

Eating Larosa’s pizza.

Driving home under the deep black sky and looking back to see my two precious, inspiring babes deep in sleep, heads limp, mouths open, breathing heavy.