To walk

In the summer, Maria started taking a two mile run/walk with me in the woods. She dreaded it but usually felt better once it was over and we were in the AC back home. Then, she got a treadmill, and she never wanted to hit the “nasty outdoors” again. She cannot stand the sun or heat. Yes, I am not kidding. I keep telling her that she should move to Seattle when she turns 18 so that she can live in the spitting rain and gray skies. 

Nevertheless, she would not put up a major fight (sometimes it would be a whine and other times an exasperated sigh) when I asked her to only take a one mile walk in the woods with me. She conditioned her agreement to go on us taking Rocco so we could watch him gnaw on sticks and play with pups in the woods. It’s been a bit easier to get her to go with me lately because I will allow her to go on and on and on about getting her temps. This has been a dream of hers for at least a year. For the last three months, she has talked about how she cannot wait until October 31 so that she can get her temps and drive around town. Jon can’t stomach to talk about it anymore so when I walk with her, she is permitted to talk about what the test will be like, how awesome it will be when she gets her temps, where she will want to drive, what questions she think will be on the test, where she will drive me around town…you name it.

I have also made her walk to school in the morning. She was appalled at the thought of it at the beginning of the school year but now she has gotten more used to it. Don’t get me wrong, she constantly talks about how she cannot wait to drive to school, but she doesn’t beg for Jon to take her every morning like she used to in year’s past.

The other night, I was doing some work on the computer, and she came up from the basement to tell me that she had an essay she wanted to read to me. We went upstairs and sat on my bed. It started out with a definition of “to walk.” She then detailed how our simple walks bring her some unexpected joy during this Covid time. She notices more on her walks and feels more prepared her for school day.  What?!

These are the little nuggets that I need to hear throughout my weeks to help me witness the positive marks I leave on my children. So often I beat myself up for snapping at the kids or not doing enough reading with the kids or falling short in some other arena…but then I hear my kid finding joy in something I brought them, and I realize I’m also doing some good in this world. 

Now, do I think she will forgo driving the car to school once she is able? Probably not. But she may take a few more minutes to think about it, and end up taking a tiny stroll after school, at least, to the woods with me.



Taking the risk

My girl lost the student council president election. I received a phone call at 7:40 AM as I was taking my morning run. The phone call came up from my husband. I answered assuming it was him. Instead, I heard a sobbing daughter and the following words:

“I lost, mom.”

I should have been ready. I knew she would find out today. I also had an inkling that she may not win. She was up against a girl in her class who made a good speech about being responsible and a strong leader. She also has an older brother who graduated last year and was well known by students in the school.
But I wasn’t ready because deep down inside, I just kept hoping that Ri would win and that we would not be having this conversation. I remember learning about this “wait and hope” mentality when I was learning to be a facilitator at Ohio State. It is a default thought process I go to often. Let’s not delve into what could be painful or difficult conversations now with the hope that the difficult conversation won’t have to happen. Well, inevitably, the situation arises.

So here I was abruptly stopping my gait and trying to resurrect words of consolation to Ri as cars zoomed past me. My heart ached for her because I knew how much she wanted to be president and how sad she was about losing. I did not want to discount that sadness by saying something like “it’s not a big deal – who cares about being president” or “people are stupid – they should have voted for you” – although those were all responses that were coming into my head most immediately. But I took a breath and went in a different direction. I affirmed what she was feeling and simply stated that it had to feel crappy to get this news. But after listening to her for a few minutes, I told her this:

“You should be proud and hold your head high that you went for it. You ran for president when many people would be too scared to do so knowing that they could very well lose the election. You took the risk. That is where you won.”

I really believe that, too. I know even as an adult I have avoided certain challenges because I was scared of making a fool of myself or scared of not coming out on top. It takes a lot to dive into the waters and put yourself out there. She should embrace the strength she had to even take on the challenge.

I will talk with her in due time about what she can learn from this matter. Was there something more that she could have done to prepare? Could she have thought about her speech more and went in a different direction? Are there things she could ask her friends about what they liked about her friend’s speech over hers? This can take some courage because you are going to hear constructive feedback, but it is absolutely necessary in order to grow. You will need the ability to hear such feedback as you get older. Again, something I continue to struggle with – knowing the feedback is constructive and not a slap in the face. It is the only way to excel.

But for this morning, I will simply give her hugs and reaffirm my pride in her simply going for it. Girlfriend needs to feel that power, that strength, in putting herself out there. She needs to understand that is a trait that will be so important for her in years to come.

Vinegar!

A Facebook memory popped into my feed a few weeks ago. It was a video of Maria and Mario, probably ages six and four, sitting on our kitchen floor with a variety of objects in order to perform a science experiment. I remember purchasing the boxed experiment – it looked like something we could handle. All you needed was some baking soda, vinegar and food dye to create an erupting volcano. Those were the days when I would search Target and Giant Eagle for any craft, experiment or toy to add to our weekend days.

We probably had taken a run in the double BOB stroller that morning to Giant Eagle to purchase the volcano fun. I could usually get in at least a couple of miles prior to hitting Giant Eagle if I promised the kids a donut from the donut case. I sometimes made them bring a hard cover chapter book to read to me while I ran with them. Again, the promise of a donut can work wonders….

I faintly recall helping them with the volcano that day. However, it may be more of a re-creation of my mind after watching the video over and over. It is hard to remember back to those days when they were that young. I can recall feeling like those days lasted forever – waking up at 6 am and going all day until 9 pm. Stroller ride, walks, park, lunch, games, reading, paint, snacks, Dora….

I remember getting a small break to go to Stauf’s and read a few pages of a book while eating a darkly toasted bagel. It was heaven to escape the long days with the kids. I also remember telling myself that I will miss those long days when they get older, but I had no idea of how exactly it would feel because I was so engrossed in the everyday with the kids. What would it be like to wake up and not have Mario plead for me to stay home with him rather than go on a quick run? What would it be like to be swimming with Maria and not have her constantly ask to play an underwater game? What would it be like to go to the park and not have both kids pull on me to tackle the obstacle course and slide down the slide with them 10 times over? How absolutely exhausted I was at the end of those days, so how can I yearn for them so much now?

Crazy ass universe. What I would do to cradle those small feet and toes right now. What I would do to have that tiny sweet hand grab mine as we walk down the street. But, if I am honest, I have no desire to go back to the days of getting up at 6 AM and having to give my full attention to those humans all day long. It was exhausting and it was for a time that I could handle it. That time period is not right now. So I need to embrace where we are today. Two grown kids at over 5 feet tall, both with gargantuan feet, both with their own viewpoints, both happy and comfortable in their skin. When I look back to that video again, I see traits in the kids that remain with them today. Mario with his goofiness and desire to make people laugh, and Maria with her pedagogical style and desire to be in control.

Ten years ago I could never have imagined where we are today. Today, I can’t imagine having two kids in their 20s. So, what is the lesson? To totally absorb these times that I have in front of me right now because I will soon look back at the videos I am currently making and lament at how the time flew by.

https://www.facebook.com/mary.m.ionno/videos/10151705524597508/?extid=XKT9l8mb7l49ppcs&d=n

Mama’s day 2020

Is this good, mom?”

Maria knelt on the soft dirt and pushed the mulch between the irises. She was trying to use the fresh mulch sparingly so as to not waste it. She is her mother’s daughter when it comes to trying to save money. On the other side of the driveway, Mario poured out bags of mulch and left it 2 inches high to spare himself having to kneel down and spread it. He is his father’s son when it comes to penny pinching.

The neighbor’s yard displays beds of bright red tulips and manicured bushes sitting in pristine mulched beds. Maria and I have been lamenting about our yard’s aesthetic value for days, which continues to decrease each time our neighbors are out working in their yard. So, when Jon agreed to run to the store and buy mulch, I thought I should take advantage of the kids’ agreement to do whatever I wanted them to do on Mother’s Day. They had already been forced to take a 2 mile walk on the bike trail with me so they were undoubtedly hoping that their deeds were done. Ha, never.

Maria was the first one to come out and help. This is the typical case in situations where I need assistance. Maria is always the first one out to help unload the groceries. Mario takes his time so that all of the trips have been taken before he has to carry just one last bag inside.

Maria hopped in the back of the pick-up and heaved bags of mulch my way. She was hysterical to watch as she attempted to lift the bags with every ounce of muscle in her body. We dragged two bags over to our ivy-soaked oak tree and dumped the black mulch onto the ground. We worked together on opposite sides of the tree evenly spreading the mulch.  Neighbors passed by and commented about how good the mulch looked. Mario finally came out; Jon directed him to work on the patch of sticks and dirt by the driveway. Jon nudged me a few minutes later and told me to look over at him. He had his camo bucket hat on his head and was pulling weeds from the dirt. Ri was busy leaning over the stone wall to smooth a clump of mulch.

Peace. Appreciation. Love.

I could have been struck dead at that moment and left this earth in a good place. The sensation starts in my chest. It’s a lightness, as if all the blood has been drained and my chest is floating up in the air like a balloon. My mind ceases producing all of the bullshit chatter it is used to spitting out, and absorbs the delicacy of the moment. My babies working next to me, accumulating dirt stains on their forearms and shins.

Prior to mulching, they begrudgingly took a few walks with me throughout the day. One of the walks took us to our old stomping grounds along the river. We walked past the rocky bank where I used to pull the double stroller over, and carefully lead the kids down the jagged rocks to the river. They took joy in throwing stones as far as they could hurl them into the water. Mario would call out “watch mom” incessantly as he threw a bigger rock into the river to try to make an even greater splash. He is still that little boy calling out my name today as he picks up random rocks and hurls them into the calm river. Maria was never as interested in hurling the rocks; she would throw a few in camaraderie with her little brother but then she would choose to take off her shoes and socks and dip her feet in the water. She liked to feel the sensation of the water on her feet and fingertips. Mario wanted nothing to do with feeling water on him – he would freak out every time Maria splashed him. He just wanted to hurl rocks and jump from boulder to boulder. 

These babes have spent their lifetime with me. How weird is that? They have never known of life without me. They have come to understand this world, in part based on what I have taught them or how they have seen me engage with the people and things. Shit.

That is concerning.

The times I have not been working I have spent with them.  I did not go out for drinks on Friday nights with girlfriends because I wanted to spend the time with the kids. I did not attend work events because I would rather be at my kids’ soccer game or recital. I put myself in ridiculous looking swimsuits and hit the pool to dive off the boards with the kids because they loved to watch how scared I would be going off the high dive. 

I gave them and continue to give them all of the love that I could possibly muster. It is easy to do, after all, because they are my babies. It comes naturally. I can’t imagine not loving them with every ounce of my being.

However, I often still find myself wondering what more I can be doing in this life – helping out at the local shelter, participating in a food drive, teaching homeless kids…. I beat myself up about not doing more…I should take the kids to the shelter more often, I should start a non-profit, I should register for the latest 5k to stop Alzheimer’s…

Then I read this from Glennon Doyle:

“Were you afraid that you’d been so busy loving your people that you forgot to do something important?

Because what I’ve learned from you is that there isn’t a damn thing more important than loving your people.

Do you wish you’d written a book? A book? Mama, your love has written the entire world of our family into existence. The characters in your story are bold and brave because your love made them that way. Our plot line is love and courage and hope and steadfastness. Our family is a beautiful story, Mama—and the hero of our story is you. You are the hero. You are the one. You created this family and you watch over it and tend to it and delight in it and you are the closest I’ve ever come to seeing God, Mama.

And here is the moral of your story: You taught us that what matters is love, and that love is relentlessly showing up for your people.

Because of you, we will always remember that the most world-changing work we can do is this: We can live in a way so that our children will be able to say, Not one moment of my life did I wonder if I was adored. Never, ever did I feel alone. And they will pass it on.

(Full post https://momastery.com/blog/2020/05/09/to-my-mama-who-taught-me-the-most-important-thing/)

How beautiful is that? What a wonderful way to think about all the energy we put into our children and the lack of energy we often have to put into other areas. We are raising humans who will be able to love other humans, who will feel comfortable in their skin, who will know how awesome it is to be loved and adored. I will have succeeded if Ri and Mario grow up and think “not one moment of my life did I wonder if I was adored. Never, ever did I feel alone.”

Nuggets!

So I am learning day by day to try to appreciate certain moments experienced during the long, shelter-in-place days. It can be hard to do, especially when you wake up in the morning and realize you are still in the midst of this pandemic and that you have a full day ahead in the house or walking around the block.

But then there are those moments – that wake you up from your Groundhog Day slumber – and provide a renewed look on life. Mario came downstairs for dinner one night this week and told us he wants to make Chick-fil-A nuggets for dinner. He had seen a TikTok video where a guy made the nuggets from scratch. We kind of brushed him off, after all, who is going to listen to a TikTok video for a recipe?But the next morning he asked if I had gotten chicken strips for him to make the nuggets. I so happened to have bought chicken strips to make for me and Maria’s lunch that day. We had all of the other ingredients needed for the TikTok recipe so we decided to allow Mario to make us dinner for the evening.

Now, you have to understand, Mario doesn’t make dinner. Sweet Maria has been cooking since she was around four years old and has made us scores of amazing dinners through the years. Mario has sat back and enjoyed them. So I was a little doubtful that he would actually come through and make these nuggets himself.

But sure enough, as 5:30 rolled around, he placed his phone on the counter and began to watch his video. He proceeded to crack some eggs in a bowl and add milk. He measured out flour and powdered sugar into another bowl. He asked if I would put an inch of oil in our big cooking pot and cut up 1 inch cubes of chicken. He tasked Maria with making the sauce for the nuggets – she chose to make Cane’s sauce because she believes it’s much better than Chick-fil-A sauce. Mario monitored the amount of ketchup and mayonnaise she was adding into the mix and asked to taste test it with each new ingredient she included. When the oil started to bubble, he directed me to be prepared to stir the coated nuggets after he cast them into the oil. He was like a five star chef dictating what needed to be done in the kitchen. 

He took two pieces of chicken and rolled them in the egg mixture. Then he dipped them in the flour and powdered sugar and rolled them over and over until they were heavily coated. Finally, he tossed them into the boiling oil in order to avoid getting splashed. I was in charge of turning them over and over while they fried in the oil to ensure that they got toasted on every side. At first, we were a bit concerned because they were not getting too brown. But then magically, after three or four minutes, they started to brown and look just like the Chick-fil-A nuggets from the restaurant. Woo-hoo!

We used tongs to lift them out of the oil and place them in a bowl. Jon acted as taste tester and nodded with approval. Mario had succeeded! He allowed me to help dip the remaining nuggets in order for us to be able to move the assembly line a bit quicker and get to our dinner. Nothing like some fried foods to comfort you in a pandemic – Chick-fil-A nuggets and french fries.

 The time spent in the kitchen with Mario so intent on getting the chicken perfectly coated and Maria trying hard for the perfect combo of mayo and ketchup made my day – literally, made my day. I try to remember that the days are long and often monotonous with work calls, lunch, walk around the woods, work calls… But damn if these moments together, if only constituting 1/25th of my day, keep me hopeful and instill much appreciated bits of joy.

Coloring (a few) eggs

Between the coronavirus and the kids being at an age that they barely want to eat dinner with us, I debated on whether to get an egg coloring kit or not this year. But my sentimental self could not resist the purchase. After all, I had spent an hour earlier in the day looking at the little nuggets with wide, excited eyes dipping their eggs into the neon colored vinegar and water mix. They got such a thrill over transforming a dull white egg into a burst of oval color.

Tradition – another reason why I decided that we would do it this year. Maria loves keeping with tradition. She was devastated when I told her that we would not be having Christmas Eve at Aunt Susie’s this past year. Susie thought it would be easier for everybody to come in on the weekend before Christmas Eve since all of the cousins have other families they need to see during that time as well. Maria must’ve said 20 times over how ridiculous the change was and how she liked having things the way they always had been. I knew she would be all in for coloring eggs.  Onthe other hand, Mario could have cared less. He wanted to stay sheltered in his gaming room and not be interrupted with tradition. Heck, he was starting his own tradition – playing eight hours straight of NBA 2K during coronavirus. Tradition somitition. Who cares.

I watch the family across the street with two kids under the age of four. They are constantly walking up and down their driveway, drawing with chalk, helping feed baby dolls. I remember Maria and Mario at those ages – how many times Jon and I would say to ourselves “one day, they will do their own thing and we will not have to watch them every waking minute. ” Life is so strange – that when the moment comes when you get exactly what you wished for so many days on end, you want a piece of the past back. You want them to be by your side asking you to play baby dolls or telling you to watch them do a crazy jump off the bed. Now, I open the door to Mario’s gaming room and see him with his headset on talking trash with his buddies like a complete teenager. I watch Maria talking into her computer with her teacher explaining why she thinks certain questions are relevant to a book they are reading. She sounds like she is in college (and looks it, as well). Where have these babies of mine gone?

Yet, every once in a while, they do make a reappearance. Maria jumps into bed with me and Jon as we are watching TV snuggling up with the both of us. Mario grabs my arm as we walk through the woods and stands as close to me as he did as a toddler. The connection is still strong but in a new way.

We squeezed in 15 minutes to color the eggs yesterday. Mario colored around three of them before he was done. He strategically asked to color the eggs while we were prepping for dinner so that as soon as he started coloring them, he had to go back to start cutting the chicken. Maria did the same amount and lost interest in favor of setting the dinner table (however, she did come back to them later on in the evening).

I had to be happy with 15 minutes. I got a few pictures; albeit, not nearly as cute as the ones from years past where they were standing side-by-side and entrenched in the coloring. But we were all present and in the moment talking about how Mario got such a vibrant green egg and how Maria was able to get a peach one for grandma.



Bring on the commercial

I usually don’t mind when Jon heads to his cousin’s house on Sunday. However, when the Sunday happens to be Super Bowl Sunday, and we have watched the commercials as a family for the past few years, I mind. I don’t mind enough to argue they shouldn’t go (after all, it was his cousin’s birthday and there was going to be a smorgasbord of Italian foods) but I just got sad. I have to fight to find time where the four of us are together anymore between sports, robotics, work, friends, homework….

So, I struggled with whether to go with them or not. It was going to be a gorgeous day and I could use the time to sit outside and get work accomplished. I could also get a much-needed massage and clean up the house. But then I thought about all my self-help books and how they advised to forget about the dirty house and just experience life. This back-and-forth in my head was processed further in a conversation with my mom. It is comical getting her and I together. We are two of the most indecisive people on this planet so we just play off each other with “well, take this into account; oh, but what about this….”

I still hasn’t decided whether to go or not (although I was pulling in favor of going so I could be with my clan even if it would be driving for four hours in a crammed car) when my hubby got a text from his cousin informing him the matriarch was sick so they likely wouldn’t have Sunday dinner.

Decision made – not by me – by an outside force – but made.

And made in my favor. My Sunday rocked. I’m not sure if it was because I spent the 48 hours coming up to it thinking about how nice it would be to just have family time and lamenting the thought of having to sit in a car for four of the hours or whether the universe just bestowed a much needed family day on me, but whatever it was, I’m grateful.

I took a walk with Rocco when I woke up. Ri walked a loop with me on her way home from her friend’s house, which made me smile. Any time I get a walk in with my teenage, you tube, phone-addicted daughter, I’m happy. I made pancakes for Mario when I got home, and played Monopoly with both kids (although it ended poorly with Maria quitting based on Mario’s insensitive comments to her about not looking like she could wear Air Force Ones – it got better when Mario apologized and told her he’d buy her a pair).

Mario, Jon and I spent the afternoon working on Mario’s basketball hoop – we had started it weeks ago and then realized they gave us the wrong parts. It is always hysterical to work on a project together. Lots of laughs and lots of cursing. I took a break to get Maria out on a walk/run with me and Rocco in Tarpy. She did not want to go but was a good sport about it once we left the house. She talked about school and how excited she was for Florida. At one point in the walk, as we lunged up the steps towards the old Tarpy home, I felt a wave of gratitude. The sun poking through the massive oaks, the robins perched on empty branches, and my daughter by my side chatting away about life – it really doesn’t get any better. I halted her in her steps and made her take notice of it all. We breathed together. I photographed the moment into my brain.

When we got home, I took Mario to get his haircut. He got spoiled with a shampoo and head massage at Aveda. He thinks these pampered cuts will continue but he is sorely misunderstood….

We came home to the start of the Super Bowl. Maria came upstairs to watch with us. I had my wish – we were all together in the same room for two straight hours watching the game and the commercials. Mario ate pretzels and dip, Jon ate chicken and potatoes, Ri ate a chocolate chip cannoli, and I ate Hershey bars. To each his own….

Even if Mario expressed his frustration with me massaging Ri’s feet or Jon barked at Mario to stop flopping around – it was all good because we were all together while we barked and sighed. And the being together grounded me. This was my clan – my tribe – and we were all safe in our nest.

I woke up with a positive, ready-to-go attitude on Monday morning. This has not happened in a while:) I attributed it to the time together on Sunday. Funny how Jon and I used to dream of the day when the kids did their own things and we had the freedom to do whatever we desired. We would sit in the living room of our old house as they showed off their dance moves or sang a new song. It would be 9:30 am and we would have been up for three hours already. We were exhausted and it wasn’t even noon. It’s a reminder to absorb those moments – even when they feel everlasting and you just want one more hour of rest – because they fade away and you find yourself excited about getting to watch a commercial because your babes will be next to you.

Peace sign, sure…

Last Sunday morning, I had ornate plans in my head involving Maria and Mario. I would wake up Sunday morning and take the dog for a run. When I came home, Maria and Mario would be waiting by the door with jackets on ready to take a walk up to Stauf’s. We would eat bagels and play cards and then walk up the street to the old playground we used to go to on Sunday mornings. We would all bunch up together and slide down the slide, laughing and playfully kissing one another until we got to the bottom. We would swing each other on the swings….

OK, now maybe I was going a tad too far with my imagination, but I did have a plan to at least spend some time with the kids in the morning.

I went downstairs to let Rocco outside and Maria was already on the couch playing on her phone. It was 7:30 AM. I glanced over at her and smiled.

“Awesome, you are up! I thought me and you and Mario would go to Stauf’s in a bit.”

She sighed and gave me a frown.

“What? I just thought we could stay home this morning and chill.”

I chose to ignore her comment and walked upstairs to check in on Mario. I figured if I could get Mario to go, Maria would follow. She likes hanging out with her little brother. When I got up the stairs, I heard the video game. Mario had already gotten on the Xbox.

“Hey dude, how about we head to Stauf’s with your sister?”

“Do we have to? Can’t we just hang here and chill?”

I could feel my irritation growing stronger. I told him I really wanted to take a walk because it was so beautiful out and we don’t get much time together – the three of us. He shrugged his shoulders, and kept playing his game. Grrrrr. I took my frustration out the way I know best – telling him he’s not gonna be on x-box all day and he’s got chores. He replied exasperated and a bit snotty “I know, mom.”

We proceeded to continue this banter with me getting more and more angry at him for not just excitedly agreeing to a walk. After my last quip, he pushed his chair back into the blinds. With the sound of the blinds hitting against the window, I went off. I shot him the middle finger for a quick second. I immediately hoped he had not caught it but he was staring right at me.

I left the scene and darted into my bedroom. I passed Jon along the way – he had heard the commotion and was coming in to check up on us.

”What’s going on”, he asked Mario.

“Mom just gave me the finger, that is what is going on.”

Jon told Mario to clean his room, and then came into our room to chastise me. “Seriously, babe?!”

“I was trying not to cuss him out so I thought I would do a finger gesture instead. I was hoping he wouldn’t catch it..”

I was fully aware I had overreacted, and let my anger get the best of me. My brood has some quick tempers so I get it honestly. We never get violent, but we can cuss with the best of them! Lovely. I could already picture Mario in the therapist chair with a box of tissues detailing that morning his mom flipped him off.

I knocked on his door and gently opened it. He turned around from cleaning his dresser to look at me. I sat on his bed and patted the area beside me motioning him to sit. He walked over and sat down. I placed my hand on his shoulder, and began to cry as I apologized. I told him how hard it is to see him grow up, and not be interested in all of the routine activities we did when he was younger – like going to the coffee shop and throwing the ball and playing board games. When I looked up at him, his eyes were as wide as if he had just seen a ghost. I think he was completely taken aback – first his mom is enraged and now she is crying her eyes out. Actually, he was probably just thinking “what a freak!”

He leaned over and gave me a hug. My boy has empathy even when he’s freaked out. His gesture made me cry harder. I eventually got my act together, and told him the memory I had of when he was a little boy. He would hear me walking down the stairs and would cry out my name. He would beg me not to run. I would have to rub his back and tell him that I would be back in less than an hour to play. I’d stand up and he’d say “can you rub my back for a few more minutes?” He didn’t want me to leave his side.

He smiled. I then told him how there were days when I’d leave the house and think to myself “I can’t wait until he gets up and doesn’t care if I leave.” It hurt to hear him cry my name every morning and beg for me to stay. I then told him that those days are here and now I miss the days he was a little boy.

Life is crazy.

I reiterated how normal it is for parents to have these moments of temporary insanity and how much he should know I never mean to cuss at him or give him an explicit gesture. They don’t mean for one minute I don’t love him with every piece of my being and think he’s the epitome of cool. He’s more and more self-reliant, as he should be. Dad and I have done something right since he’s not crying out my name when I leave.

I called my mom later that evening and told her about the incident. I relayed how bad I felt but how quickly I went in to apologize to Mario with the hopes that he would see that people can mess up, but can also admit to their errs and seek forgiveness. My mom, always ready to find a way to make me feel better, asked if I really meant to give Mario the Peace sign but instead my index finger simply didn’t raise up with my middle finger?

Yes! Yes, that is what happened.

I hung up the phone with my mom and walked into the family room. Mario was watching TV. I sat down next to him and said “hey, you know that incident earlier, I was actually trying to give you the peace sign but you didn’t see my index finger.” He cocked his head to one side and gave me an unbelievable stare.

He laughed, but didn’t call bullshit.



Outdoors? No thanks.

I hate the outdoors.

These words routinely shoot out of Maria’s mouthwhen I get on her about not wanting to take a walk with me. I get frustrated with her, and think “how could you not wanna be outside in this beautiful weather?!” It is 65°, cloudy with breaks of sunlight, and the smell of fall in the air. But then I have to take a step back. I remember when I was her age and my parents would take me on family trips to Michigan. I would whine and complain about how I wanted to get back to the city and how awful it was to hike in the dunes…. and so on and so on. Yep, it all comes back to you when you have kids.

Maria has different interests than I do. She has no desire to go on a 3 mile run or head to the gym. I am getting more and more used to that reality. She has her own personality, which in the end, I would much rather see than her imitating everything I love. That being said, I still do enjoy a walk with her even if she hates the outdoors. And, to her credit, she understands this and concedes to a walk with me most times I ask (in credit to us both, I ask less so I won’t be disappointed and she says yes more in order not to disappoint).

There is no amazing, heartfelt, deep talks going on during these walks. Instead, she is usually telling me about the latest learnings in school, the latest tests, updates on Grey’s Anatomy…. but that is OK. We continue to have dialogue, which I have read over and over again, is what should be a staple in a mother-daughter relationship. When I was Maria’s age, I was struggling to have any connection with my mom. It just so happened that I was a raging teen and my mom was finding her own footsteps with a soon-to-be new husband. I felt lost. I do not want Maria to ever feel that way.

I had grand visions of she and I walking in the woods together and talking about deep-seated emotions, troubles with friends, dreams of the future. But I have learned to be content with simple dialogue. The simple, ordinary talks and walks need to be, and I’m learning are, just fine. I know she knows that I am here for her no matter what, and that is what matters.

Walks with her after a long day at work rejuvenate me. I know they don’t have the same effect on her but that’s love for ya. In return, I allow her to get a ride to school three days a week (which kills me)!

It is worth it

Nothing more tender than having your son cuddle up against your side, place his head on your shoulder, and flip the pages of the book as you finish reading them.

Never mind that the book is “It” by Stephen King….

That’s right. My 12-year-old son is enamored with horror films and now, it seems, horror books. He doesn’t necessarily love the gore and slashing in them; rather, he seems to enjoy the storyline. At least that is what he seemed to focus on with It. I still remember having to turn on all of the lights when he came home at 10 PM from seeing the movie with a few friends. He asked if he could tell me about the movie; we sat down in our living room. I was preparing to hear about all the blood and the screaming and the disgusting scenes of death. But instead, he described every detail relating to the characters in the movie. He talked about choices they made and why they made them based on their past experiences. He described the characters’ personalities. He described scenes so precisely you felt you were there. I was amazed.

Mario cannot wait until the movie comes out on Netflix so we can watch it together. I have zero desire but cannot resist his pleas when he flashes that grin.

His teacher mandated last week that he read a fiction book. He has been reading nonfiction with me. Last night, I told him that I would run to the library and pick out some good ones. He immediately requested for me to get It. When I asked the juvenile librarian where the horror section was, she looked at me quizzically.

How old is your child?

I hesitantly replied 13. I was hoping that maybe adding a year to his age would get me in better graces with her.

Well, she grimaced, I think you may like these books.

She handed me a book with two young kids on the front cover. They were each wielding a sword with a horse behind one of them. I could tell from the picture that there was no way Mario would be interested. The other two books were part of a series that had a fanged creature on the cover. They, too, weren’t gonna do the trick.

I start to doubt my mothering skills when my son is not interested in books that most kids his age and even older are reading every day. Right or wrong, we have allowed Mario to watch and discuss mature films and issues, and there is no going back. I snuck upstairs after I checked out the books the librarian recommended so I could find It. Turns out, It is the size of a small child. Over 1000 pages.

When I arrived home, I called Mario down to review the book selection. As I surmised, he was not at all drawn to the three books provided by the librarian. Rather, he was fascinated with It. He acknowledged, nonetheless, there would be no way he could read the entire book in three weeks. He calculated out the number of pages he would need to read per day and he was not willing to do it. But that didn’t stop him from asking to read a few pages with me that evening. And although I hate horror films and books, I was happy to sit with my boy and have that time together. Even if we were about to dive into blood and gore.