International Harvester

So a memory I will have until the day I take my last breath on this Earth is of Ri in the front seat with Jon belting out the lyrics to the song “International Harvester.” Jon is on a country song kick, which means the whole family needs to get on the kick or be miserable as we drive around in his truck. We aren’t ones to be miserable so we all embraced the music. But Ri did with a vengeance. She now plays the tune every opportunity she gets. 

Jon was away the other week and Ri asked me to video her singing it so that she could text it to him to make him smile. It did. 

The song has some great lyrics, I must admit. 

“I got two boys in the county 4-H, I’m a life long member of the FAA… Been married ten years to the farmer’s daughter….” 

Who would have thought this song would bond us together every time it is played? Ri belts out the words while bopping her head, Jon joins in the singing during his favorite parts, and Mario smiles taking it all in. I simply soak it up. 
Here’s a clip of Ri going to town in Jon’s cowboy hat on the way to Cincy this weekend: 

With this entertainment, I can’t help but be a country music fan.

Mario’s performance

Mario had his first kindergarten performance last night. He had one line in it, and he was nervous. It was a musical performance led by one of his favorite teachers, Mr. Pettit. Two classes joined together on stage and each kid got to walk to the microphone and say a line about an instrument. The past couple of nights he has told me he’s nervous about his line but he’d been reciting it well to me. He did keep forgetting one word but it was a word that wasn’t really needed so I told him not to stress himself out if he forgot it. But he’d look at me like I was insane when I said that (probably because his teacher told him the opposite). Patty, my savior this week, got him dressed and brought him and Ri to Panera to meet for dinner. Stress makes him hungry because he devoured his sandwich and three go-gurts and was still hungry. Ri brought me clothes to change into – a pair of jeans, a silky top, a see-through sweater and a pair of wedge heels. She was ecstatic that I wore it (and told everyone we stood in line with about her selection).
As soon as we got into the school, Mario and his buddies wrestled around and hit one another. They are truly from another planet. We left him with Mrs. Page (what a saint she is) and got our seats. Mario had asked Bethany to come and she did. So sweet of her.
They walked into the gym in a single file. Kids waved at parents. Mario walked in searching us out. As soon as he spotted us, he gave us a sly smile and kept walking. He was in the front row. He was nervous at first, crossing his arms over his chest and biting his lip. But then he loosened up after a couple of songs. Bethany noticed how happy he looked compared to the other boys who looked bored or irritated!

He nailed his line – even remembering the one dreaded word. And after he got out his line, it was as if a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. He smiled wide as he looked into the audience. He started to engage in his silly antics by cupping his hands in the shape of a heart while they sang “we love music” and flexing his arm muscles when a loud drum was played. He had a good time and that’s all I cared about. I’m kinda ga-ga over this boy….





Playing his sax


A picture taken by my brother-in-law of my little brother playing the sax at my folks’ farm on New Year’s Eve.

I love everything about this picture. It makes me want to get M and M into music lessons. I wish I would have stuck with piano when I was younger but sports beat it out. Why can’t we create a button that allows you to see into your future when you’re a teenager and realize what a gift it would be to play a musical instrument?

Maria took lessons with Uncle Jack for a bit but Jack got too busy and she wasn’t that into it. My girlfriend recently told me that she requires her kids to practice one musical instrument and play one sport. I like the idea….

Little do Ri and Mario know what they are in for based on this one captivating, magical picture!

Playing the Steps

Ri found this video on my Facebook as she perused through all of my friends’ posts. She called Mario and I in the room to watch it with her and we all thought about putting that on our steps. As Ri pointed out, there’s just one problem: when I sneak out at 6:30 am to run, Mario will hear me for sure as I tip-toe down the steps.

Not a bad way to wake up though!

Alpine Ghost fever


Jon and I got an evening to ourselves thanks to Meg and dad. We ate incredibly royal food at Hyde Park (au gratin potatoes are ridiculously good) and then I felt a little crazy and decided to make a night of it by going out to a campus bar to watch my extremely talented little brother play in his band Alpine Ghost. His musical talent floors me. How did he get so much and me so little?! I should have stuck with piano at age 9….

I recorded this video –

– for Mario to watch tomorrow because he loves screaming the lyrics like his Uncle Jack!

Stand By Me

My sis forwarded this video to me like a little angel from above.  Seriously, she sent it to me on a day where I had woken up with a splitting headache, endured kids’ whining about having to stay home with the sitter, and received an email from a client complaining about the status of a matter.  And it was only 7:30 am at that time.  By 2 pm, I was ready to pack it up and hitchhike off to a remote town in Alaska.

And then I got an email from her containing this video.  I immediately smiled.  It brought me back to sanity.  I felt a renewed sense of goodness in this world.  I looked at the kids’ pictures and did not want to wring their necks.  I met my client and felt compassion.  I called Jon and told him I loved him. 

Amazing what one little video can do for your day.   Here’s to humanity and the amazing spirit dwelling in all of us.

Life is Good

Can we have a more insane, crazed night than tonight?

I walked in the door at 5:45 pm after a nutty day at work full of little fires and big personalities.  As soon as I step in the hall, Maria gets in my face crying that she needs a grass skirt and coconut boobs for tomorrow’s Hawaiian day at horse camp.  Seriously, can’t the horse camp owners just make it a colorful t-shirt day?  Everyone has a colorful t-shirt in their drawer – no-one has a grass skirt and coconut boobs.  I text a few friends who are no help.  I know that I am going to give in to her and run her to the store eventually.  But first, I want to mow the lawn before Jon leaves for the airport.  I change, slip on my grassy shoes, and head out.  Our mower sounds like death.  I have hit one too many rocks with it (in no part due to my inability to take my time) and it is ready to call it a day.  I finish the back yard and when I go to start it in the front, it refuses.  I knew not to mess with it any longer – its little mower life was up – but not before it gave me one last cut in the backyard.  I will miss it.  Luckily, we had Jon’s brother’s mower in the garage.  I used it in the front only to find three-fourths of the way through that I had lost a screw on the left side of the mower so the handle would not stay up.  I had to finish the lawn holding the left side up while I tried to push the mower with my right arm and hip.  Ain’t it great?

I cleaned up, threw on a new shirt, and we headed out to the Dollar Store for Hawaiian goodies.  We lucked out and scored a skirt, leis, and flower clips.  Hopefully, Mario’s daycare has some left over boobs from their party that Ri can get tomorrow. Mario scored a set of handcuffs and knife – perfect for a wild four-year old.  We ran out of the store and into the car to head home for a hot pocket and sandwich.  After we heated the hot pocket, Maria jumped on her bike and Mario hopped in the stroller and we were off to Music on the Lawn for some music by Conspiracy.  People packed the lawn taking in the funk.  Mario engaged in a robot dance that had the entire left side of the lawn cracking up and Maria get treated to a bag of popcorn by her friend Zach.  When he offered it to her, she blushed the loudest red I have seen.  God help us.

Mario had a bathroom attack while dancing so we ran into the library.  Of course, since we were in there, he needed to get a handful of movies.  We met Maria outside for a few more songs and then called it a night at 8:45 pm.  When we arrived home, I grabbed the scissors and began pruning the roses.  They have been driving me nuts for weeks, and I promised myself I’d get them done last night or tonight.  After working on those for twenty minutes while Maria and Mario played with the handcuffs and knife, I came inside to read a book to them.  We read a couple, headed upstairs to get changed into pj’s and brush teeth, and headed back down for one episode of Scooby Doo.  

My god.  My eyelids kept falling over my eyes like broken shades.  But I persevered through finishing up emails and memos for tomorrow and chanting all the while “life is good; life is good.”  And alas, as crazy as it is, life is good.

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.

Simple pleasures

I took the kids to the Gateway Theatre across from my office because they had a morning movie fest.  We missed the activities before the movies last time we went so we made sure to get there earlier this time.  Maria was quite disappointed due to the overwhelming “baby” activities that they had set up.  I couldn’t argue with her.  But, they did have a baby alligator and a lizard for kids to see.  Mario stared at them both and pounded questions at the caretaker.  They also had a tarantula that Mario almost rubbed faces with when the caretaker took it out.  All I could picture was that spider’s fangs digging into Mario and I finally grabbed him away.  My smart Maria kept her distance. 

We got our popcorn and cookie and took our seats at the very top of the theatre.  They play a movie short and then a fun local band, Shazbott’s, plays music before the next movie.  Mario loves to go to the front of the theatre and dance.  Maria is starting to get self-conscious about it all and stayed in her seat the first round.  She only came down the next time because I begged her.  She stood by me and watched Mario dance.  Mario stood by a blond girl who I believe was part of the band.  Later he asked for my phone and I saw him taking a ton of pictures of her.  Freaky little guy.

While Maria and I watched Mario dance with the other little kids, I noticed a bald guy holding a little black-haired girl dancing around to the music.  He looked like someone I knew – I couldn’t think of who so I found myself glancing over at him off and on to try to remember.  He continued to dance with the little girl and then a woman came up from behind him and started to use sign language.  He spoke back to her in sign.  Another lady approached them and the two women began talking.  After a few seconds, they started to sign for the guy.  They all laughed. 

I began to tear up.  How ridiculous I kept thinking to myself.  Hold it together.  You are breaking down over seeing a manspeak in sign with his wife and friend? 

Well, that little talk to myself did not work.  I continued to be emotional.  But there was something so raw about the sight.  The beauty of this man unable to hear the music like we hear it but still dancing with his daughter.  Laughing with his family.  

The audacity of love.  The joy of life.  It hit me like a truck rolling right over me; embrace this time.  Enjoy Mario’s dancing.  Appreciate Maria’s laugh.  Treasure their kinship. 

I am grateful for these moments in life where some gesture or some person wakes you up and allows you to take a deeper look at where you are and what you have and all that is good in life.  We walked out of the theatre and over to my work so Maria and Mario could push the elevator buttons and grab a couple of chocolate bars out of my colleague’s candy dish.  Simple pleasures.

I love you like a Love Song Baby

Watching Maria mouth the words of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream takes me back to my pre-pubescent years listening to Phil Collins and Air Supply on my 45s.  Or better yet, waiting to hear the love songs on Casey Kasem’s Top 40 so I could tape them onto a cassette to play over and over on the weekend. 

It is only in the last month that Maria has shown more of an interest in music.  First, Big Time Rush; then Justin Bieber; now Katy Perry and Selena Gomez.  She struggles to understand the words and produce a dance move while she sings but she certainly tries.  And it is doggone cute to observe her attempt it.  She does what I used to do a lot; sing a word that is not the actual word of the song.  She belts out “I love you like the Love Sun Baby.”  Meanwhile, her little brother stands in the background pretending to strum a guitar and mouth the words to the song – perfectly content not to have a clue what he is singing.  He just enjoys moving his body. 

I caught Maria the other day on my mom’s treadmill jamming it out to Ms. Gomez.  I had allowed her to start the treadmill and keep it at a low-level.  She had grabbed my mom’s CD player and headphones and inserted her Teenage Bop CD in it.  I saw the teenage Maria at that moment as she belted out a word here or there while walking on the treadmill and dreamily staring out the window in front of her.  I wish I could get into that brain of hers in those moments to listen to what she is thinking in that dreamy world of hers.  I am quite sure it is not how much she loves her mama….

My mother-in-law forwarded an announcement about Big Time Rush coming to Nationwide Arena in July. I can’t wait to take her to her first concert – I still remember heading to Prince with my mom in Cincinnati.  What a concert in which to begin my concert experience!  I think Big Time Rush will be a tad bit more subdued than Prince….