Summer Vacation 2015

I grew up with lakes and hiking trails and gorgeous rocks. Michigan country. I remember despising the thought of leaving home for one whole week and having to stay in a cabin with my family. Now, I long for it. Funny how that works.

But this summer vacation was not in Michigan. Rather, it was in Florida. Hiking was replaced with pool swimming and the lake was replaced with the ocean. 60 degree nights were replaced with 85 degree nights. I am a cold-weather fan; the heat kicks my butt. But with two young kids and a hubby who crazily wants to spend vacation chilling out rather than hiking twenty miles, Florida was the right speed. 

The kids have gotten completely spoiled by Jon and his frequent flyer miles – upgraded to first class each time we fly. They have no clue what it’s like in the back of the plane – they will have a rude awakening when their knees are to their chests and their elbows pressed tightly to their sides … and no one immediately offers them Sprite and chips. 


Mario was also excited because Jon bought him a rolling suitcase. He still had his Spider-Man one from years ago and he made it clear that “there was no way he was taking that one.”

We arrived in Sarasota in the early afternoon. The kids were so excited to see the condo; Maria was naming every store we drove by like she always does on vacations. It didn’t take long to find our place and it took no time for the kids to run through the condo announcing everything they found. 

“We have a tv in our room!”

“Look at your bathroom!”

“Come see this room off the house!”

They immediately loved it. So did Jon and I. It is so much more relaxing and comfortable to have your own rooms, a kitchen where you can cook, a table where you can play cards and eat. We are addicted now. No more hotels for us. And boy did we use that table at the condo to play – except it wasn’t cards – it was Quirkle. Jon has been brushing us off for weeks whenever we ask him to play but he finally gave in on this trip. And he became quickly addicted but only because Ri would demolish him every game (and the rest of us). It was ridiculous; she’d win by 20+ points. He was determined to beat her (which never happened on our trip; it finally did back home).

Mario was a good sport about being crushed every game, which surprised me. Now if it was football, it would have been a different story….

This vacation was one of the most relaxing ones ever as a family. We woke up and had some breakfast, watched a little of the Today Show, and put on our suits for the pool. We’d go and swim a bit, play ball in the water, and then play some air hockey or ping pong. 


Maria learned to dive during this trip! Mario and I spent one of the mornings showing her different tricks to try to learn how to dive head first and then finally – BAM – she got it! I was so proud of her since she kept swearing she couldn’t learn it. 

   Meanwhile, Mario mastered the back flip. I swear he’s got more elasticity than a rubber band. His body contorts all sorts of ways!

After we tired of the pool scene, we went back to the condo to rest, and maybe have a sandwich, watch some tv, or play a game. Then we’d head down to the beach (in the heat of the afternoon) and swim in the ocean. Jon and I worried about Mario getting in the ocean because he swore up and down before the trip that he would not get in the water. Probably a mistake on our part to let him watch Jaws and Jaws II prior to the trip! But he follows his dad and wants to be just like him so when Jon put on his goggles and swam out under the waves, Mario trailed after him. And after a bit, he forgot all about the sharks. We all dove under the water to try to find cool shells and acted scared when Mario would pinch our ankles trying to act like he was a shark. 

Ri was our adventurer, as always, swimming out to a buoy located a few hundred feet from shore. None of us had braved it – surely thinking about sharks swimming way out yonder. But not Ri. She didn’t think twice about it. However, after conquering that feat, she had enough of the ocean. Way too hot for her even in the water. Mario, too, tended to like the pool better. But not Jon – he could have waded in that ocean all day. I liked the ocean, too, but am not a big fan of just sitting on the beach in the pounding sun all day (my A.D.D. does not help). Maria did try to stay on the beach while Jon swam by asking to be buried in sand (my worst nightmare). Mario and I covered her up and she was perfectly fine chillin’ while we worked on sand castles.

She finally erected out of her sand grave and we decided to build an OSU castle in honor of our hometown. We got lazy being in the sun though so we just did a block “O”. But a most impressive one.



 We went out to eat in the evenings. I chose the restaurant the first night – it got good ratings and it had a huge menu. Jon was hesitant but I convinced him. We pulled up after a 20 minute drive to hardly any cars in the lot. I remarked “it looks like no wait – great!”

We walked in and were the youngest people by 30 years. It was like MCL Cafeteria. Not that there is anything wrong with that – I love that place – but for vacation, it doesn’t really hit the mark. Jon did a good job at not poking at me the entire dinner but we did laugh hysterically when an old man complained to the waitress that he got to the restaurant by 5:30 so he should get the early bird rate. To add fuel to the ambience fire, the food was subpar. But the kids liked it so chalk the night up to them!

The next couple of nights we decided to take it easy and eat in – pizza and pasta. It was pretty awesome to go between play and rest all day and then head down to watch the sunset on the beach. It surely puts life in perspective: worry less about the small sh– and laugh more. 






We did nab some good seafood at a local spot three minutes away from the condo. Susie had recommended it when we were on our way to the wanna be MCL restaurant. The kids scored frisbees to take home; their food was served on them.

After dinner that night, we walked along the Siesta Key “downtown” strip. Ri finally got the frozen yogurt she’d been craving and Mario got a shark tooth. 

But the best part of the trip was the 6 hour boat ride we took. Jon got up early and rented it for us. We had the most wonderful time together. Mario got to fish, Jon got to drive and act like he was in Miami Vice, Ri got to relax up front while dad cruised, and I got to find shells on a little island. 


We were bumming on Tuesday night wishing we had rented the condo for the entire week. And although I’d trade the Florida sun and beach for the lake and dunes, I loved the quiet and peaceful flow of our Florida days. However, poor Ri was bumming on Tuesday night because her ear hurt. She had been complaining that evening at dinner and it seemed to be getting worse. Sure enough, I was up all night with her as she cried in pain. It hurt her for me to even touch it. At 4 am, I started the internet search. Not sure if this is a valuable tool or a nightmare. I read all sorts of stories about kids whose ears had ruptured while on a plane because they had an infection beforehand. By 7 am, I woke Jon up and told him I was nervous to take Ri on our afternoon flight. We called the doc and he thought it was low risk. Jon and I were debating whether to keep the rental and drive home or try the plane when all of a sudden we heard a cry from Maria. She had yawned and her ear popped. She was miserable. That is all we needed to see to make our decision. 

And so there we were packing up the rental car and heading to Wal Mart to buy a portable DVD and a handful of cheap movies. I had to accept the fact that the kids’ brain cells would die for a few days. We drove nearly nine hours that first leg of the trip stopping several times to get our gas station snacks and trinkets. Mario had to continue to pee every hour so Jon just decided to pull off the side of the highway. Mario loved that action. He stood next to the car door and made a fountain of urine. Then he started asking Jon to pull over every 20 minutes. 


We stopped at a Best Western at 10 pm and loaded Ri up with Ibuprofen. She only woke up once during the evening which was a gift as we had eight hours left to drive home on Thursday. We got up at 6:45 am and set off for round two. We lucked out with little to no traffic along the way. And the kids were really good for being in the car that long. We went through hangman and the license plate game and the “a my name is” game before they went back to DVD world. But I must admit I was ready for them to stick their nose in a screen because I was tired. I cannot stand being in a car that long. Jon, on the other hand, didn’t mind it a bit. In fact, he rather enjoys it. I feel rest assured that if he ever needed another job, truck driver would be a possibility. 

We arrived home around in the afternoon on Thursday and got Ri to a doctor. She got meds and was on the mend in a couple of days. We look back on the trip home and laugh now that it’s a distant memory. Funny how the mind forgets the bad and only remembers the good – the funny remarks the kids made, Jon getting Mario’s hangman word right away and leaving Ri and I in the dust, Ri writing down the states we found on license plates, me getting excited at seeing the Cincy skyline. It’s all about experiences and we sure have a bundle for Summer Vacation 2015.


Cancun 2014

I never thought I’d complain about the heat after the Winter we have had this year. But I returned from my morning run in Cancun sweating and feeling nauseous because of the sun beaming down on me. I think my body was in shock after running in 5 degree weather the last two months. But that was the only hot weather complaint I had while on our annual Cancun vacation with Jon’s work folks.
We left on Wednesday morning at 4:30 am (I braved 10 degree weather in shorts with the excitement of landing in 80 degree weather). We arrived at the hotel at 11 am, did our Chevy Chase Vacation head bobbing on the balcony of our room while taking in the ocean, and headed down to swim. We had a blast playing in the waves. Meanwhile, Ri called us four times in a row to tell us how much she missed us. Mario was perfectly content with Grandma Ionno but Ri missed having us around her. We better take that in while we can because I have a feeling that may not continue in a couple of years.
We hung out a good deal with Jon’s friend Craig and his wife Julie. Julie and I tease Jon and Craig about their bromance but it is quite darling. They told Julie and me that they take care of one another – when one is having a bad day, the other lifts him up. And when Craig heard Jon ordering a coke at McDonald’s one morning, he counseled him on making better choices. Precious. Julie talked to me about Pure Barre and how much she loved it. I think that will be my new adventure in exercise…. They are a sweet couple and we all laughed a lot when we were together.

Jon and I engaged in our normal routine: I get up and workout, we meet for the killer breakfast buffet (Ri would adore it), we jump in the ocean and swim, we get massages, we jump back in the ocean, we eat dinner, we crash. Not a bad life. I even swam with a shark this year! I didn’t mean to by any means…. I was looking for shells a ways down the beach and stood up to find a three foot shark swimming by me. I froze and let him continue to circle me and when he moved away a third time, I darted onto the beach. I couldn’t wait to tell Jon and Mario! And Jon experienced a first at the beach, too. He got a pedicure! His feet were baby soft and he had to admit he loved it. I imagine he will be sneaking away at lunch to get one every three weeks. He did have to endure his guy friends giving him grief about his robe though. The front desk lady gave him a super short one to wear even after he asked for another. When he walked into the waiting area, his buddy Phil shook his head and said “Jon, you just made my day.” His other friend told him that the robe looked like it would fit his twelve year old daughter. Nothin’ like guy friends to calm your anxiety. When we got up to the room, there was a present laying there for Jon – a toddler-size robe compliments of “The Guys”. We laughed for ten minutes straight.
Jon’s boss, Jim tried to teach us to body surf to no avail. The man is like balsa wood the way he rides a wave nearly into shore. Jon and I made it about five feet from where the wave crested.
We missed hanging with Dave and Jen and Joe and Lydia – our Michigan buddies. Our schedules never lined up except when Jen and I got to dance to our Violent Femmes song in the pool Friday night. We are gonna need some time on Dave’s boat this Summer….


Patty cranked out four straight days with the kiddos, god love her! Maria got strept throat on Thursday. She called us up barely able to speak but mustering up the words to tell us that “this is the time when she most needs her parents near her.” Talk about knowing how to give a guilt trip…! When we arrived home on Saturday night (a day early between Ri’s strept and the snowmageddon predicted for Sunday), these posters were hanging:

I love how this one has our ages.

And this one poses questions to us (answers: I’d rather eat with Michael Jackson and Jon would rather eat a snail).
We got the most warm and welcoming hugs from the munchos when we stepped in the door (we need to leave more often).
And Rocco was in heaven with his doggy pals at the farm. As Jorge commented “Rocco likes Winter.”

All is back to normal again: kids, Rocco, 48 year old dad and 42 year old mom are back at home together waiting for Spring to come.

Cancun or Bust

Last Tuesday spun by like a wooden top.  Jon worked on the house all day with Jason while also trying to take calls for work.  I sat on a dozen conference calls and cranked out emails in an attempt to avoid having my colleague overwhelmed while I was out.  When I got home, we madly packed our clothes realizing that shorts didn’t have buttons (and of course neither of us can sew) and dresses were torn.  Too bad we didn’t look earlier.  Oh well, we realized we’d be in our bathing suits most of the time.  I packed the kids’ clothes and boots for Grandma Meg’s and Peepaw’s house, and tried to gather some games and toys that both the kids and the grandparents would enjoy.   We put the kids to bed at 9 pm, and as I left Maria’s room, I heard her sniffling.  When I went back to give her a hug, a full-out bawling session occurred.  She begged us not to leave for Cancun.  It was awful.  We did not expect that type of reaction from her.  I rubbed her back and laid with her until her eyes shut.  I walked out of her room softly hoping not to wake Mario.  When I peered in Mario’s room to ensure he was asleep, I was taken aback when I saw him sitting straight up in his bed wide-eyed staring out at me. 

“What’s the matter, pumpkin?”

“I don’t want you to leave me.”

Jon walked in the room and both of us let out a collective sigh. This unexpected emotion from the kids took us both by surprise and we stood there holding Mario between us and rubbing his back.  They actually do love us….  We let Mario lay with us and we are sure that we were both out before he fell asleep.   When we woke at 4:30 am, Maria got up, too.  She cried again for us to stay and it was only when Maggie laid with Maria in our bed that she calmed down.  What a way to leave!

We arrived in Cancun at noon to a beaming sun and breaking waves.  Heaven.  This is our third trip to Cancun – Jon’s company sponsors the trip.  We stay in the same hotel each year, and play in the same part of the ocean.  We eat at a lot of the same restaurants, and hang out with the same group of friends. As much as that may seem monotonous, it is actually very soothing.  We have no concerns about how the hotel will be, whether the beach will be nice, how the food will taste.  We know it is always close to perfect.  The first couple of years I felt a little overwhelmed with Jon’s friends and their wives.  A lot of them know each other well from going to Cancun every year or because they live in the same city.  I am a lone goose.  But this year, I let go of any concern about not fitting in and just enjoyed myself.  And it was the best trip we had in the three years.  Jon and I ate incredible food, played like kids in the ocean, snorkeled, drove a speed boat (Jon felt like Crockett in Miami Vice!), sat together on the balcony listening to the waves, and talked uninterrupted!  I loved diving in the ocean for sea shells; Jon would stand on the beach with the water hitting his legs waiting for me to bring shells to him.  It was a precious gesture on his part. We laughed hard at Jon’s friends’ antics.  They are all hilarious in their own right.  Phil is from the UK and has a quirky little accent.  He is so cool that he could afford to wear white beach shoes and still look good.  Dave is from Michigan and he is your down-to-earth, good-natured guy who always has a funny story to tell about his kids or his wife or their adventures.  Joe is a slick, suave Michigan guy who is always considerate and making sure that people are having a good time.  Their wives definitely make them the men that they are – they are the backbones of their families.  Strong, funny, and intelligent, they always welcome me into their group and make me feel at home.  Those are the three guys and their wives that we hang out with the most in Cancun but there are others who provide us with much entertainment, also.  It’s a good group and the camaraderie and brotherhood amongst the male colleagues is enviable – I wish I had as much fun with my work colleagues as these guys have together. 

The resort

I got a killer head and foot massage on our last day at the beach.  It was the “Organic Massage” and consisted of a scalp massage, hot towels, face massage, foot massage and hand massage.  It ended with a back massage and hot towels on your back and legs.  I thought I had died and entered heaven.  She poured citrus oils on my hair and spread them on my skin during the massage.  I smelled like a lemon when I left.  Jon went jet skiing while I got my massage.  He didn’t realize that there were 10 foot waves to conquer out in the ocean.  He was a hurting puppy when he came back to shore. 

We flew home on Sunday and rested for an hour before we headed out East to pick up the kids from Meg and dad.  They had a great time on the farm, as always.  They rode the horses and played outside.  Maria reported to us that Peepaw cut down two trees and “almost killed himself!”  She loved telling the story.  Mario reported that he almost fell off their horse, Taz but Peepaw caught him.  Maria is learning how to ride Taz better and even steered him herself.  She wants to take horseback riding lessons so badly, which I have been struggling with since I know nothing about horses.  Jon loves the idea because he loves horses. 

M&M with their Mexican flutes

I always dreamt that my daughter would play soccer and softball and all of the other sports I loved to play as a girl.  I have slowly gotten over my preoccupation with what I think Maria should be and realize I need to let her be who she wants to be.  So, horse riding lessons are in her future (of course she picks the most expensive hobby!).  When they rode up to meet us, Maria and Mario had huge smiles on their faces.  They jumped out of the car and gave us gigantic hugs for minutes long.  It was an awesome few minutes.  The ride home was just as awesome with them describing their week to us and listening to us about our adventures in Cancun.  The evening continued to be great with wrestling and airplane and reading books.  We fell asleep with smiles on our faces. 

Then Monday morning arrived.  Back to the grind.  Running around the house trying to get dressed and packed and papers filled out for school.  But I took a deep breath as I loaded Maria’s lunchbox in her book bag.  I stepped back from the table and stared at M&M and Jon in the hallway putting on their coats.  Can I love them anymore?  One thing that getting away does for me is reinforce how lucky I am to have such a warm husband and adoring kids.  Even if we are at each other’s throats at 8 am on Monday morning.