Is it really only 10:30 am?

The kids and I went to Cincinnati last night for a family wedding.  Grandma Meg and Peepaw joined us for the festivities along with Meg’s sisters and their kids.  Meg’s sister, Mindy and her husband Danny hosted the gala for their daughter Amy.  Amy is a down-to-earth, sporty, happy gal who seems utterly smitten with her new husband, Todd.  Todd seems like a carbon copy of Amy (minus the “gal” and add “guy!”).  They smiled throughout the wedding ceremony and had a blast at the reception (Todd did a dirty dance in front of Amy before taking off the garter and Mario and Maria were completely entranced). 

The family partying it upMario played around with four or five boys who all knew each other from Todd’s side of the family.  They did not invite him in but Mr. Mario asked his Aunt Kathy if she would introduce him to the boys, which she did, and it was over from there.  He fit right in when he wanted to play with them (the only bit of crying came when he collided with an 80 pound kid and got knocked into the side of the door).  Maria was perfectly happy not conversing with any kids, but rather, hanging out with the adults.  She sat with Meg’s cousin, Suzanne and her husband.  She enjoyed ribbing Suzanne’s husband about anything she could, and sitting close to Suzanne to talk about video games.  After Suzanne, she moved onto Kathy’s stepson, Miles and his fiancée, dragging Miles on the dance floor and out to the pond.  They were all wonderful with her, and very patient. 

After the wedding, we headed to my mom’s house to spend the night.  We petted Lou for a while since we had never been with him in his house.  He loved the kids.  We woke up at the break of dawn (6:45 am) and played with Lou and his tennis ball for an hour before getting ready to hit the road.  We had to go to Target first since Mario’s flip flops rubbed his feet wrong.  Next came McDonald’s for some quick breakfast.  Then, French Park. 

My old childhood park that I used to frequent with my best friend, Beth.  I love walking through that park.  My mom was quite impressed with it, too (as was Lou).  The trails are magnificent – patches of shade with huge fairy tale trees covering you, patches of bright sunlight with wildflowers, and patches of dark with troll bridges and ferns everywhere.  We walked the creek for a long time, too.  It had just enough walks to jump from to not get soaked but high enough standing water for the kids to get good splashes.  At the end of the trail, Maria took a good fall trying to climb onto a boulder and got a good chunk of skin off of her elbow and knee.  Nonetheless, as I always report, she is a machine and once the initial shock and cry hit, she was a trooper heading back to the car and into Grandma’s bathtub. 

On the way home, neither mom nor I was coherent.  We were exhausted from what felt like a “long day.” So how was it only 10:30 am?  Ridiculous.  There should be some rule that when kids get up so early and your day starts while most people are in REM sleep, you get to fast forward the clock 4 hours.  When we got home, the kids took and bath and played around.  Then we had to head up to Marx Bagels for some bagels and cream cheese (my favorite!). 

After bagels, we hung outside with Lou while the kids “spied” on us.  Julie got home in the meantime, and the kids begged to stay to see Baby Gracie.  She arrived a bit later and walked in the door exclaiming “Mary!”  How could I leave before hearing that punker-wunker call my name!?  The kids played downstairs while I cleaned and talked to Liz and Julie and helped Julie move coffee tables and tvs all around.  We left CIncy around 3:30 and within ten minutes, both Maria and Mario were sawing logs.  Out cold.  So I debated stopping at Pottery Barn outlet at Washington Courthouse but I could not resist.  When I stopped the car, and wiggled their legs to get up, they both bellowed “No!”  They cried and hit the seats with their feet.  They were pissed (now they get a taste of their medicine when they wake me up everyday at 6:30 am)! We finally made it into Pottery Barn (Mario on my right hip and Maria dragging beside me) only to find no good selection of rugs.  Ugh!

So, I treated them to McDonald’s Playland.  The Washington CH Playland just got renovated and it is actually quite nice.  Mario, again, made friends immediately with two other boys who were brothers.  Maria decided to stay by her mom because her side hurt from her fall.  After letting Mario play for a half hour we took off for Columbus.  Maria begged me from the back seat to let her give Mario the horn I bought him.  I bought it for him a week ago and told him if was good all week, he would get it.  Maria convinced me he had been good since he did not scream in the middle of the wedding, and he said “thank you” when Grandma Lolo gave him food.  Pretty high standards, heh?!

As soon as we stepped in the door, Maria grabbed the horn and gave it to Mario.  The whole neighborhood knew about the present because he honked it incessantly for ten minutes straight.  We hooked it on his bike (with training wheels) and took a two-mile bike ride to our old house and back.  When we got home, the kids rested to a tv show while I mowed the grass (which looked like the grasslands).  When I finished the lawn, Maria and I played baseball.  Mario watched his last Ben Ten.  We wrapped the night up with mac-n-cheese and chicken and two books about telling the truth and a pig going to camp.  Does it get any better than that? 

When I headed outside to take out the lawn clippings, my neighbor commented about how she couldn’t believe that I could mow the grass and water the lawn in such a speedy time.  I told her about our entire day and she laughed hysterically.  “Do you ever stop,” I believe she asked, but I was already at the top of the driveway grabbing the last lawn bag to put out front.

Don’t leave us, Autumn

We are getting down to the last few weekends where you can still go outside in a sweatshirt and shorts (or jeans for those cold-blooded folks), view a few remaining leaves on the trees, and feel the warmth of the sun on your face.  I can’t stand to be inside on these weekends because I know in a very short period of time, I will be relegated to the house staring out the windows at the bleak, frigid, bare-treed world. 

The cousins ready for a train ride

We woke up on Sunday to a balmy 59 degrees (most mornings nowadays are in the high 30s) and I over-bundled the troops for our morning stroller ride.  We hit Giant Eagle for something different and its close proximity to CVS where I needed to develop pictures.  Jon and I bought a picture frame collage when we bought our new furniture for the house a few months ago and the frame has a bunch of different sized frames that look really cool in the spur of the moment.  However, once you get home and are forced to fill 2.5 x 3.5 and 4×4 and 3x 3.5 it is a different story.  I think I have spent  over 4 hours at CVS trying to correctly develop pictures to fit in the frames.  It is driving me batty.  And yet I won’t give up (although I did feel like throwing the collage frame out the second story window one night at 1 am).  But I digress…

Mario got a chocolate muffin and Maria got a chocolate sprinkle donut at Giant Eagle (Mario said “Why do you get chocolate donuts when you don’t like chocolate?!” Maria’s response “I like chocolate donuts – who wouldn’t?!).  After Giant Eagle and CVS, we headed home reading Berenstein Bears Moving Day.  Yes, I stroll them and read them a book held by Maria who does a great job turning the pages and holding it just right so I can read the words.  As we approached home and the sun peered through the few remaining leaves of the big oak trees, I decided that I would brave it and see if my niece and nephew wanted to head to the zoo with us.  My sister-in-law agreed to let them go and Maria and Mario screamed with excitement. 

Having fun on a statute

We got home and packed pretzels, raisins, and fruit roll ups for the trip.  We grabbed the library movies we had rented earlier in the week, and we were off to Hilliard to pick up M&M’s cousins.  We packed everyone in the truck, fastened seat belts, and headed north to zoo land.  I thank the heavens that I only have two kids but if I had four, I would be able to crank it out.  I packed those kids in the car in less than a minute and that’s with buckling seat belts, too.  I have become a pro. 

We arrived at a quiet zoo with parking close to the entrance.  When we entered, everyone grabbed a map and began to review as if they knew what they were reviewing.  We decided to head to the Petting Zoo first.  Of course, it was closed.  The barn was open so you could see the goats but it’s not the same as being in the pen with them.  We decided to head to the North American region and come back to the Petting Zoo. 

Watching the polar bear

One of the coolest sites of the day was the polar bear exhibit where you can go underground and watch the polar bears dive into the water to play or catch fish.  Two polar bears jumped in while we stood underground, and the kids got to witness them playing and swimming around in the water.  They were darling.  We tried to hit a playground after the polar bears but it was closed, too.  The kids were upset and began with the whiny complaints (“This zoo is awful…”).  I explained to them how lucky they were to be able to come to the zoo and how a lot of kids don’t even get that opportunity.  Maria understood it immediately but the rest of them failed to comprehend at all.  Nonetheless, we continued on to the bobcats, pumas, and moose and their minds were promptly diverted to how cool those animals looked. 

The metal statutes were a big hit for the kids.  They loved to climb on them and swing from them.  We hit one of those at almost every new geographical location.  The bird sanctuary was a bigger hit than I thought it would be.  They searched for birds throughout the sanctuary and when they found one they made a mad dash to the chart to see what kind of bird it was.  After the bird sanctuary, we hit another playground and it was closed, too.  This even pissed me off. I get that they close the playground areas at a specified time each year but really, on a day that is 60 degrees?  More disappointment on their faces when I told them it was closed.  I think it was disappointment and exhaustion from walking for two and a half hours.  Tension began to rise in the two groups of siblings, also.  Giovanni had found a feather and Mario wanted to touch it.  Gio refused.  Mario begged.  He still refused.  At that point, Maria walked up to him and pointed her finger scolding him about how selfish he was being and how he needed to learn to share.  Alana hurried up to defend her brother and tell Maria to leave him alone.  Maria proceeded to tell Alana that Mario would not share his toys with Gio if Gio continued to act selfish.  Alana said that Gio didn’t care.  And yes it kept going just like that for another minute or two before I interjected.  What would spark up 4 and 6 year olds after an exhausting day at the zoo?  McDonald’s Playland!  Let’s go kids!  

Tunnel Fun

My kids are used to the Playland because of our trips to and from Cincy where the McDonald’s Playland acts as a rest stop half way in between Columbus and Cincy.  Their cousins are not used to McDonald’s Playland because their parents do not frequent such establishments.  Aunt Mary is a lot different from Aunt Carrie.  I could care less about the dangers of such playlands – germs are good for kids in order to build up tolerance.  Heck, I never worried about germs as a kid and I turned out healthy.  But Aunt Carrie is polar opposite.  I am sure it sickens her to think about playing at McDonald’s.  I respect her for that – I sometimes I wish I had a little more of her style in me – but if the kids are with me, we will head to these types of places because they are cheap and the kids like them.  Heck, they spent a half hour running around and exhausting themselves so that when 9 pm came that night, they should have been out cold (Maria was knocked out; Mario was just getting a second wind). 

Finally, we ended up at Joann Fabrics to look for vases and flowers for the house.  I could not believe how good the kids were at that place.  They had every opportunity to run all around the store when I was looking at flowers, but they stayed by my side or within earshot of me.  I was very impressed, and because I was so impressed, I let them each buy a little something.  They helped me select flowers for the dining room and tried to find me some artwork for the room.  Nothing would do the trick so I made an impulse last-minute buy of two flower pictures.  I got them home and decided against them immediately.  Oh well.  I do like the flowers we bought. 

We got home at 6 pm and helped Jon with the remainder of the garage cleaning.  He had worked on clearing out the garage while we went to the zoo – no small task since we threw every piece of junk and unnecessary item in the garage when we moved into the house.  To my surprise, after we were done, he asked if we wanted to go to Bob Evans.  Heaven.  I had been craving their pancakes for weeks.  We loaded up and headed down to Bob’s for pancakes and dinner rolls with butter and mashed potatoes.  Thanks, Mother Nature for giving us such a beautiful Autumn day.

Tearing up Kings Island!

We tore up Kings Island yesterday!  On Wednesday, I watched the weather report for the rest of the week.  They called for beautiful weather on Thursday and Friday and storms all weekend.  Maria starts school this coming week and I had been wanting to do something special with her for the last week.  I pulled up Kings Island’s website and took a look at the rides.  I debated back and forth on whether to take the dive.  I finally called my girlfriend who has a Season’s Pass and asked her what she thought about taking M&M to the park.  She sealed the deal when she told me she had coupons for $20 a person to get into the park (normally $59 and $39).  Now was the time to brave it.

We woke up on Friday morning and gathered up our suits and shoes and movies and workbooks.  A couple of granola bars, waters and movies later (Maria found the headphones for the video player in the car so she gets to watch hers and Mario watches his (not spoiled at all)), we were already at the park.  The kids stood in awe of the gigantic roller coaster 100 feet away, and listened to the screams of the riders.  Mario exclaimed “Mom, you and dad could not ride that because you would be so scared!”  I asked him if he would ride it and to my surprise he said “No way!”  He is normally my daredevil.  Maria said she would though – she is my daredevil lately. 

Looking down below

We charged in the gates with our bag of cheese pretzels, raisins, waters, and cheese and crackers.  Jill pointed us to Kiddie Land.  The first ride we saw was the Boo Monster ride.  The line was just slightly out the door and the clock indicated that it would be a 30 minute wait.  Maria and Mario begged to go on it.  I was hopeful that they put the little hands on 30 minutes with the thought that you would probably get in within 15 minutes but if you didn’t, you would not get so irritated.  My hopes were shattered when we moved into the cave and there was a line twirling around 6 lanes.  I did not think that Maria and Mario would do too well in that line but they surprised their mama.  They barely whined at all as we crawled through the lanes and got to the ride.  Mario hung on the bars and danced to the music and Maria stood in her own little world thinking about what 6-year-old girls think (?!).  The ride was pretty lame by my standards, and I think Maria felt the same way.  Mario, on the other hand, loved it because it involved using a plastic gun to try to shoot ghosts and goblins that popped up while on the ride.  Any ride that involves guns and violence will win my boy over.

We moved over to a couple of “kiddie” rides (helicopters, cars, etc.) and then we made our way to the log floom.  My favorite when I was a kid.  My girlfriend, Beth and I would stand in line for an hour or longer just to get on this ride and get soaked by the water as we plunged down the hill.  I told stories about Beth and me while we waited.  Luckily, we were there early enough to only have to wait about a half hour before getting on the ride.  Mario had already taken off his shirt and shoes before we got in the boat.  Unfortunately, the workers made him put on his shoes.  This really bothered my little man.  He did not want to get his gym shoes wet.  Maria wore her suit, too and had begged to wear her flip-flops so she was in a good state.  When the boat took off, Mario wanted the front.  By the time we had moved 100 feet, water had splashed in the boat and gotten his shoes wet.  “I don’t like this ride, mom!”  I calmed him down until we got ot the top of the hill and got ready to take the plunge.  maria was so excited.  And then, swoosh!  We flew down the hill and Mario and I got a decent soaking (not as good as my teenage days)!  Maria was in the back so she didn’t get as much (and she is the one that wanted it!).  Mario stepped out of the boat pissed as can be.  “Mom, I never want to go on that again – my shoes are so wet and my hair is messed up!”  Yeah, I kid you not. 

Mario still contemplating the telescope

In order to make it up to him, I took them to the “Eiffel Tower.”  We rode up on the glass elevator and my stomach sunk with each additional foot we rose.  I cannot hang with heights any more.  When we stepped off, the kids darted straight to the edge to look down.  It took me two minutes to gain my composure and head their way.  Mario yelled “Mom, come here, you can see Africa and North Carolina!”  Maria wondered where Grandma Lolo and Grandma Menkedick lived.  They loved it.  I was happy when they wanted to head down ten minutes later.  Next, we went to the games area.  Why?  I still have that competitive kid in me that wants to win a stuffed animal.  When Beth and I went to the park, we spent hours at the games trying to win animals (how did we have that money?!).  I loved the bowling game (probably because it only cost 25 cents).  You have to push the bowling bowl over one hill and make it stay in the valley and not come back over the hill again.  It is hard as heck but when I was young, I had some knack for it.  I won many a stuffed bear and monkey playing that game.  As an adult, not so  lucky.  Maria and Mario and I tried numerous times and only left frustrated.  We moved to the slingshot game and the plinko but no wins.  Our only hope was the Guess your Weight or Birthdate game.  Maria walked up and asked the girl to guess her weight.  She got on the scale and topped 63 pounds.  The girl had guessed 59 and could only be off by three.  She won!  Mario was next and I knew should guess his weight so we did birth month.  She guessed May and she had to be within 2 months so Mario won!  Maria took two seconds to pick out her bear.  Mario took 20 minutes.  He could not choose between a telescope (that would have cost a $1 at the dollar store) and a whale stuffed animal.   He begged for both of them.  He finally chose the darling whale.  When we walked over to watch another game he told me he wanted the telescope.  We went to exchange it and he begged me again to let him have both.  After ten minutes, he decided to keep the whale but kept mouthing to me “And the telescope.”  He never stops.  As we left, he tried to bargain to come back to KI on Saturday to get the telescope.  He knows how to keep the pressure on.

Maria enjoying the lazy river

After the games, we were all starting to break down a bit.  The kids were leaning back in the stroller holding their animals and I was moving a lot slower.  But no rest for the weary!  We decided to trek it over to the waterpark for some water fun!  I asked where is was located and a worker told me where to catch the tram.  I asked if I could walk, and he laughed.  “Sure, but most people take the tram.”  When we got to the tram pick-up, I saw a path to the park.  I decided to walk with the kids.  The waterpark could not have been 1000 feet from the tram pick-up.  It would have taken more time to load up the stroller than to walk.  People need to move more.  ALl sorts of different folks packed the waterpark.  We hit the shallow pool and then moved onto the slides and squirters.  I got rather freaked at that station because I could not keep a good eye on Maria.  Mario was so cold that he clung to me but when Maria went up the stairs and through all of the jungle gym squirty stuff, I lost her.  I watched the slides hoping to see her.  Nothing.  I ran to the other side.  Nothing.  I ran back and climbed the steps. Nothing.  Finally, I looked down and saw her going down the slide.  “Maria!” SHe looked at me and it was love at first sight.  One of life’s greatest feelings – to find your kid when you think they are missing.  I warned her that she had to stay close.  Some of these parents just let their kids go on their own throughout the area but I am so not one of them.  I know I am going to be bad when she gets to the age that she can go off by herself – I get anxious already about the day.  We rode the lazy river next.  Mario and I got in an inner tube for about 3 minutes and then we were ready to walk and end the trip.  Maria, on the other hand, laid back in her inner tube, head propped on the headrest and eyes closed.  She enjoyed every minute of it.  

Family pose waiting for a ride (with Mr. Comedian)

After the water park, we headed back to the rides for some bumper cars (Mario loved hitting other kids’ cars but was mad he did not hit enough) and the “mini” roller coaster (cars go around in a circle and speed up around the corner).  We also hit a little bigger roller coaster that actually had a hill to it (albeit small) and Maria sat in the front and held up her arms.  Mario leaned into my chest to hide.  You get the picture of the daredevil in the family, heh? 

I finally persuaded them to leave the park 6 1/2 hours later by telling them we would go to McDonald’s play land up the street.  Yeah, I am not kidding.  I was craving a hamburger anyway.  I just needed out of the park, too.  The kids played in the Playland; we saw Grandma Lolo; and I loaded up on Diet Coke and fries to steer us back to Columbus.  On the way home, Maria and Mario held their animals tight as they watched the rest of their movies.  When we got home, Maria begged me to sleep with her.  I said no at first but then the thought of lying horizontal sounded too good.  I tapped her shoulder as she laid in her bed, and she came running into my room.  We laid together talking about KI and school and how much we would miss our house when we moved.

Ronald McDonald visited us!