Music on the lawn and laughter in the air

The soul is healed by being with children.~English Proverb

I walked in the back door last night and M&M darted through the kitchen to see me. A day full of irritations and squabbles at work evaporated into the evening air as I rolled around on the living room floor tickling them. Just hearing their loud, raucous laughter made the entire day worthwhile.

Jon cooked for the third day in a row! We were treated like royalty eating seasoned grilled pork, corn on the cob and beans. I am loving Jon’s cooking revival – both for the delicious food and for the family time together at the table.

Our after dinner treat landed us at Music on the Lawn at the library. Latin creole music and cupcakes and a cool breeze… it doesn’t get any better. Mario gathered up his change Jon has given him this weekend and placed it tightly in his pocket. He had more than enough to get two cupcakes. When we told him this, he approached Maria, tapped her side, and announced “Ria, I am going to treat you to a cupcake!” Maria turned to him and squeezed her arms around him: “thank you little buddy!” He smiled with pride. Sure enough, as soon as we pulled up to the library, Mario ran to the cupcake table and ordered two of them. He beamed as he took out his change and handed it to the boy scout.


After eating the cupcakes in five seconds flat, Maria went to the parking lot across the street and rode her bike with her girlfriends. Mario and I went to dance to the music. I sat on the lawn while Mario stood amongst the other kids jumping around the lawn and waving his arms. I love the complete lack of concern and inhibition in him. He just moves to his own beat. He decided the band was so good that he needed to tip them. After the lead singer came down to sing to the kids, Mario tapped his back side and put a dime in his hand. The singer chuckled and thanked him kindly. Mario beamed again.


We headed over to Maria’s friend’s house and sat with them for a bit after the show. The kids ate popcorn and played on our phones while we chatted about work and exercise and the gardening. On the way home, Maria slowed down her bike so Mario and I could catch up in the stroller.

“Hi, little buddy!” she remarked to Mario.
“Hi Ri!” he replied.
They both smiled at each other and then Maria biked ahead toward the house while Mario and I searched for squirrels in the yards.

The life of a pinball

Mario and I met up with Maria and her friend and friend’s mom at 9:30 am at Stauf’s.  The rest of the day is a blur.  Thank god for iced coffees.

We walked down to the parade on First Avenue – the same place we go every year – nearly parallel to our old house but two streets over.  We sat with Amy and Gracie and Joe and made a sign saying “Go Mets” in honor of Zach.  Zach is on the Mets baseball team this year; Amy was so excited to see him in the baseball truck with the other soon-to-be second graders.  All I could do was think of Mario in that truck three years from now, and the only visions of him were ones of him pelting people with tootsie rolls.  There is always one or two little squirts that engage in such activity each year; last year, Mario got pelted in the eye by someone.  So hopefully that horrific experience forever scarred him and he won’t engage in such behavior.

The parade was fun this year because we knew so many kids in it (and they limited the politicians)!  After an hour parade, we gathered our two hefty bags of candy and walked a mile back home.  Maria walked the entire way with me holding Mario.  She is a machine (she did it in sandals; even I would have complained).  We made a pit stop at the library to take a computer break.  Maria played Go Girls Games and Mario played Ben Ten.  I got a little reading time in, which was just the break I needed.  Middle-school kids were signing up younger kids for the reading program.  Maria asked to sign up.  I was excited about her initiative.  She asked to do it last year, too, but she could not read on her own and she wasn’t that into it.  I am hoping that her ability to read better will lead to her reading more this Summer.  She picked out a Junie B. Jones book and a couple more random ones.  Let’s cross our fingers….

We plodded our way home from the library in the 88 degree heat.  We immediately threw on our bathing suits, grabbed our goggles and towels, and jumped in the car.  We had to drop the stroller off at the bike store because Mario and I bust a tire on our stroller ride earlier that morning (there was a loud firecracker-like bang and Mario yelled “Cool!”).  Once at the bike store, Mario spotted a sweet red and black bike with training wheels.  He jumped on it and flew around the store.  I looked at the tag and it was expensive.  How can a kid’s bike be over $100?  Really?  But I have had such bad luck with used bikes for him – none of them are steady or ride well – and it has caused him to get scared about riding.  I do not want that with as much as Maria likes riding.  So, I decided to bite the bullet and get it reasoning that he will have it for the next few years. 

We left the store for the pool, which was absolutely packed since it was opening day.  Mario and Ri went off the low dive and high dive, respectively.  Mario tried the high dive but second guessed it after getting on top (I don’t blame him).  He will jump off by the end of the Summer, I am sure.  We only lasted at the pool for about 45 minutes; I was exhausted and luckily, the kids probably were, too.   

Once home, we made bowls of cereal and rested in front of a Ben Ten on tv.  Within ten minutes, Maria was snoozing on the couch.  I tried to move her but she was solid dead weight – there was nothing waking her up.  Mario, meanwhile, was wide awake and insane, jumping all around the room and acting like random aliens.  I let him play on my computer while I went out and mowed the grass and watered the flowers.  Then I came in and cleaned out the Study a bit in order to move our new desk in it.  I was in cleaning mode.  You’d think that it may have been wise to put my feet up and nap a bit with Ri, but that would have been too easy.  Gotta keep the momentum going – once I sit down, I am useless for the rest of the day.

Maria finally woke up – two hours later –  and she was a piece of work.  Pissed off at the world.  She stomped across the kitchen moping and pouting and crying.  I left her alone and she finally buried her head in my chest and rested for a few minutes.  Then she finally morphed into the Maria we know and love ready to ride her bike and play.  We got Mario off the computer (not an easy task) and headed off on his new bike.  He rocked it out on his bike almost keeping up with Maria.  We had hoped that the Art Hop would offer a bouncey house or kids’ music but it only offered a couple of vendors selling necklaces.  We dealt with our disappointment by going to the church park.  I played tag with Mario and Maria climbed up the top of the slides (her favorite thing to do at the park).  Amy and Joe met us up at the park with the kids and they all played for a bit.  We all looked like zombies.  It was comical.  The day felt like three days.  We finished the night off with Orange Leaf and a bike ride back home. 

When we pulled in the driveway, there was a spectacular slice of moon looking down at us.  We all stopped and gave reverence.  Then, Maria shouted “Mario’s old bike is still at the library!”  So, what else to do but jump in the truck and head to the library to pick up his bike.  We finally got into the house at 10 pm.  Maria wanted to read Junie B. Jones, and Mario was listening to music on my phone so I didn’t fight it.  I just let them be and relaxed over a bag of Cheez-Its, and Maria later joined me. 

What a whirlwind of a holiday Saturday.  I swear to myself as I sit here tonight that tomorrow will be low-key day but I know myself better than that.  We will be off and running – but not until 7:30 am.

Dogs and Hamsters and a Super Bowl, Oh My

This past weekend was one of those weekends where you wake up Monday morning feeling you totally took advantage of the weekend’s purpose – to relax, be silly, watch football, and eat chips while vegging in your pjs.

On Friday, Jon and I took Mario to the hockey game. Maria had to make the executive decision on whether to go to Kids Night Out at school or to the game with us. It was a brutal decision because she had her girlfriend asking if she was coming to Kids Night Out but she had her dad going to the hockey game. She LOVES hanging with her dad lately, especially when it’s dad and mom and Mario (she is the pack dog). But, ultimately a brief description of the hockey game (watching boys skate on ice and try to hit a puck in a goal) led her to choose Kids Night Out with popcorn, grape juice, friends and a movie. The pack dog strays when there is food and entertainment….

Mario loved the hockey game. He ate his favorite food – a hot dog – and watched the players skate along the ice and hit each other up against the wall.  Jon and I thought he might enjoy that activity more than he did since he is all into fighting.  Rather, he enjoyed hanging on the railing and talking to the older boys behind us in the box.  He also enjoyed the cheerleaders…. We left the game during the third quarter and picked up Maria.  It seems that every time I see her at school, she is even older and more independent.  She reminds me of me when I was in fourth and fifth grade (probably like when I was in first grade, too, but I can’t remember that time at all!) hanging out with my girl posse.  When I picked her up, she was laughing with her three girlfriends and they were falling all over each other.  Too cute. 

On Saturday, we headed to Hamilton Parker to find tile for our bathroom.  The kids ran around checking out the showroom showers and the kids’ room while Jon and I talked to the sales guy.  Maria explained where everything was in the showroom since she had come to the store with me back in September.  “Buddy, the kids’ room is over here and it has a tv.”  Mario’s response: “Will the tv have Godzilla?”  Maria’s reply: “We’ll see buddy and if it doesn’t, we”ll find something else for you.”  The way she calls him “buddy” makes our hearts melt.  After Hamilton Parker, we headed to BW-3’s for some wings and nachos.  Nothin’ like a healthy lunch.  We waddled out to the front of the restaurant and the kids begged to play a game.  They put a dollar in a chicken and egg machine and each of them got a plastic egg.  Maria scored a tattoo and Mario scored a little orange plastic cone that had the words “Back away slowly.”  I read it to Mario and he laughed “I know, mom and dad, I am going to put this in my room and when you walk in, you will have to walk back slowly.” 

We headed to the pet store in the late afternoon to torture ourselves by holding sweet little precious pups that needed a home.  Maria always picks the most docile puppies that love to be held.  She sits in the little room with them caressing and talking to them.  Mario hangs out at the hamster bin trying to put the hamsters on the exercise wheel or in the tire.  They run from him like he is death.  Mario does not have quite the touch with the pups like Maria does.  He likes to put them on the ground and watch them run around and play.  If they don’t move much, he picks another.  I can usually handle about 45 minutes in that store because it is such a madhouse of people but I made it an hour on Saturday.  When we left, Maria begged to go on Sunday. 

On Sunday, I skipped yoga because Maria and Mario begged me to stay home.  We ate cereal and read books.  Maria and I went on a stroller ride to the store to get pencils for her class project – a timeline of her life – all 6 years.  We headed out to Dirty Franks for lunch (yeah, two for two on the healthy lunch front for the weekend!).  When we returned, the kids and I took a bike ride to the library to grab some movies and new books.  Maria and I watched Mario ahead of us – his little legs pushing the clunky wheels of his tricycle.  He wants so badly to lead the group but usually Maria cannot help but bolt ahead because she is on a two-wheeler bike and can’t easily slow down without falling off.  But I held onto her on this bike ride so Mario could take the lead and he was one proud puppy.  When an older lady passed him, he stopped and said hello to her.  When we stopped at the library, he said “Mom, an old lady said hi to me and I said hi to her back.  I stopped my bike and everything. Are you proud of me?”

We headed to Kroger’s before the Super Bowl and Maria and I stocked up on chips and dip.  Maria was grabbing all sorts of dips and chips for our party arguing that “it is the Super Bowl – we had to have a real party!”  When we got home, we turned on the Super Bowl and watched all of the commercials.  We all sat on the couch together – Mario on Jon’s arm playing Leapster, Maria in between Jon and me.  She loved it.  She kept saying “I love cuddling with my mom and dad and brother.”  We have got to start up family movie nights.  Maria fell asleep with 30 seconds left of the Super Bowl.  Mario remained wide awake playing his Leapster Ben Ten game.  I dragged him upstairs with me to hit the sack, and we were both out cold in three minutes flat.

Half Day Fridays

Standing tall at school

Maria had a half day of school today due to teacher/parent conferences.  What a pain.  I guess I should be glad that the teacher did not require one for Maria, which means she has “no issues” to discuss with us.  I am quite sure we won’t be so lucky with Mario. 

I had to take the day off of work because of Maria’s 11:25 early dismissal.  By the time I took her to school and Mario to daycare, I would have only had an hour at work.  Monday morning will not be fun.  I had told Maria that she could go to a friend’s house after school but she begged to be with me.  I told her that I had a YMCA Board meeting at noon and she would have to go.  She was all for it because she remembers the food buffet at the last meeting! When I picked her up, she hopped in the car and asked if we could get Mario.  I had not considered it because having Maria and Mario at the Board meeting would be a recipe for disaster.  But Maria pleaded on behalf of her brother, and I caved.  When we walked into Mario’s room at 11:40, his eyes widened and he asked coyly “Do I get to go home with you?”  When Maria yelled “Yeah” Mario gave her a big ol’ hug. 

We walked into the Board meeting after ground rules were laid out to the kids (Maria knows them already but Mario, not so much).  I had the IPad, the IPhone, coloring books and crayons.  I knew if I had the IPad for Mario then we would be ok.  An hour playing with that device is like a piece of heaven to him.  When we walked in the door, we smelled the chili and cornbread.  Maria yanked at my shirt and whispered “Look, Mom, they have chili and bread!”  Mario just kept begging for the IPad.  We situated ourselves at the back table.  Maria brought us all waters and napkins.  Our little waitress. 

The kids did a great job throughout the meeting.  Mario played with the IPad the entire time as I knew he would.  Maria drew me a picture but then went for my phone.  When Mario had to go to the bathroom, she took him back to the bathroom for me remembering exactly how to get there.  The meeting was inspirational – I love these types of meetings where we talk about the Y’s mission, how we help the community, what the Y means to people in need.  It’s nice to talk with other board members for a bit rather than fly in and out of the meeting every month.  Everyone got a kick out of M&M playing away on their electronics; they all remember their kids drawing or reading a paper book.  Ahh, those were the good ol’ days. 

M&M did a nice job saying goodbye to folks and giving the Executive Director a hug and a thank you for letting them attend.  After the Y, we headed to Pier Imports.  I could tell the sales ladies were a little worried when Mario walked in since he was flailing everywhere. I cannot believe that we made it out of there with nothing broken!  Between Mario picking up vases the size of him and Maria trying to carry glass pigs over to me, it is a miracle.  I was in such a deep shopping trance, that we almost forgot to pick up Alana from school.  We pulled up just in time and we all headed home for popcorn and Ben 10. 

After Ben 10, Mario played some Wii while the girls ran upstairs to play by themselves.  The boy is a Wii fanatic.  After he played a couple of games, he asked me to come into the room.  He came over to me and said “Mom, thank you for picking me up before nap today.”  Those are the moments I know I have done something right.  Warms my heart.  A while later, I got so excited when the kids approached me and asked if we could walk to the park.  Is my love for walking and the outdoors finally hitting them!  It does seem that when Alana is over they tend to ask that more.  She is a good influence.  We walked to the park and to the library.  Maria and Alana want to walk by themselves.  A group of ten-year old boys were walking across the street and I could hear them behind me giggling.  We are in trouble. 

We ended the night with dinner at Wendy’s and a little Justin Bieber.  Can life get any better?!

Books, books, books!

One of my favorite activities with the kids in the evening is reading books, especially when they are good.  Sounds logical but I can’t believe how many library books I bring home that are sub par.  I treasure the nights when we are all in our pj’s, cuddled together on the bed: Maria laying down with her head near one leg and Mario snug as a bug against  both legs.  They interact with me as I read the book and I see their minds expanding right before my eyes. 

I ran to the library tonight to return some past due books (why is it so hard to return library books on time?!) and to give me a reason to head a few blocks further north to get a double dip UDF ice cream cone.  I didn’t have much time so I just grabbed a handful of books that looked like they may be worthwhile to read.  I got some known favorites – Dr. Seuss and Fancy Nancy but then got a few random, unknown ones.    The kids got to choose two each when I got home.  Maria picked two Fancy Nancy books.  Mario picked Dr. Seuss and a brand new one: Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long. 

A breath of fresh air. A gem.  How couldn’t you fall immediately in love with sweet Otis, the tractor with a huge heart and immense courage? And how couldn’t you feel heavy-hearted for the giant bull “shaking in fear?”  I finished the book and breathed deeply.  The kids yawned in a state of wonder.  When I looked up Loren Long later in the evening, I found out he is from Cincinnati – my hometown.  No wonder the book is so good….