Ten Reasons to be Grateful For Today…

1. Gorgeous powder blue sky with cotton ball clouds and 70 degree temperature = perfect biking to work weather.

2. Lunch with Mom at Mario’s school – free Panera with a big chocolate chip cookie!  Running around the playground with Mario, spinning in plastic seats and playing tag in the muscle room.  Mario made me a gorgeous beaded necklace so “I can remember him every time I wear it.”

3. Playing soccer with Maggie and Mario in the back yard (except when Maggie stole the ball from me and scored)!

4. Figuring out which drapes to get for the living room window and hall window.  So exciting to branch out and take a walk on the wild side!  I am not matching the color of the drapes with the furniture – crazy!

5. Seeing Jon on a scooter that his friend wants him to buy.  He looked like a ten-year old who just got the present he begged his parents for all year.

6. Taking Maria to school and listening to Jack’s CD in the car.  Maria asked if Jack wrote one of the songs after he broke up with Chelsea.  I told her I was not sure and that we should ask him since we have the good fortune of being related to the singer of the band!  She stopped me in my tracks and told me that we should not ask Jack such a question because it may make him sad and she doesn’t want to see her uncle sad.  Also, loved seeing her in the cowboy boots that Grandma Meg got her for her b-day! 

7. Going for a bike ride with Mario; he still fits in the baby seat on my bike!  We biked all over Grandview; hit the park for some slide tag and Giant Eagle for a flower to plant outside. 

8. Watching a yellow finch land on the branch of a japanese maple tree.

9. Talking to my mom about her new pup, Lou, and how everyone at the doggie day care thinks he is the best dog ever (so funny to see her as such a proud doggy mama!).

10. Eating Orange Leaf’s brownie batter and birthday cake yogurt with oreo and graham cracker topping.  Mario got his pineapple, as always. And sitting outside together talking about desert animals.

Girls and Slumber Parties

Only 5 out of 7 girls showed up.  The gods treated me well last night.  

Maria and the girls dancing to Justin B!

Why did I decide to agree to host a slumber party for Maria and six of her kindergarten friends?  Because I am a sucka!  I remember back to the thrill of my b-day parties as a kid and I want Maria to have those same opportunities.  THen again, I think I fantasize about the b-day parties of my childhood.  I believe I had one party in 6th grade where we danced to Barry Manilow and ate cake and I am fairly certain got into a number of spats about who would sit next to who at the table and who would dance with who on the floor.  I remember another at my friend’s house at age 13 when I got teased the entire time about being on my period.  Maybe I have such fond memories of slumber parties because they should be the ultimate girl-bonding experiences.  A flock of young girls together in a room talking about our stories, boys, teachers, parents.  Maybe it is like childbirth where it hurts when you go through it (aka, talk about my period) but then long after the event, you are glad you experienced it.  Who knows.  The bottom line is that I agreed to host this soiree by my lonesome because Jon was smart enough to hit the road with Mario.  

At the craft table

Most moms I spoke to about the event nodded their head side-to-side and sighed invariably thinking “thank god it is not me.”  Amazingly enough, it was fun – a lot of work and refereeing – but fun.  The girls arrived at 5 pm with their mini-sleeping bags and princess covered pillows.  They sported huge smiles but hesitant moves as they stepped into our house for a full night away from their folks.  I had a craft table set up with glue and stickers and puff balls and paper and tiaras for them to create works of art for themselves and their moms since mother’s day was the next day.  A very smart move I learned a half of an hour later when they remained enmeshed in decorating their tiaras and making pictures for their moms.  I looked at my watch and thought “Sweet – a whole half of an hour gone already just with working on crafts!”

Preparing their dance moves.

Maria was the first to get antsy and ran into the living room shouting “Let’s put out our sleeping bags!”  Megan, Maria’s babysitter stopped by at that time and ended up staying for a while (thank god).  She must have had that babysitter antennae pop up and sense I needed assistance.  Sure, I could have handled it on my own but it was a godsend to have another adult body in the house to referee disputes, help with music, prepare barbies’ outfits.  Megan stayed long enough to watch the dance contest (Justin Bieber dancers versus Big Time Rush dancers) and allow me to start some pasta and garlic bread for dinner.

After the dance contest and some intense Barbie playing, the girls came down for dinner.  Everyone ate up the pasta (only one girl complained about the pasta and she got a PB&J sandwich).  I forgot about the garlic bread in the midst of the chaos of trying to referee who got to tell the next Knock Knock joke and woke up this morning to nine pieces of toast hardened in the oven.  The Knock Knock jokes always contained a reference to “boobs” or “butt” or “penis” or “poop” or “fart.”  I thought these words were only used in the boy purview….  They had each other cracking up throughout dinner, and were ready to head outdoors after they finished. 

Heading to get yogurt

The rain had slowed down so we got out the umbrellas and headed to the new yogurt shop, Orange Leaf.  I was hesitant to go there because I knew all of the girls would want to fill the humongous paper cups up to the rim and then put 2 tons of toppings on their creations.  I tried my hardest to police the yogurt and topping output but it was a lost cause.  I have been there before – my eyes used to perk open at the dessert bar at Ponderosa so I couldn’t deny them the experience of loading on gummy worms, skittles, brownies, fruit loops and oreos.  Maria, of course, had been talking all week about getting a mile high yogurt since it was her b-day but she went fairly easy on me.  Some of the other girls, not so much.  I walked out with a $30 bill for seven yogurts and with a pound of yogurt left over.  After about five to ten bites, each girl looked at me and pronounced “I am finished, Mary.”  Of course, what does the Grandma Menkedick in me do?  I put all of the yogurts together in two bowls and took them home to eat as leftovers.  I got one out after the girls began watching their movie, and about threw up with the foul combination of fruity pebbles, cherry brownie, mint chips, and skittles mixed in with pineapple yogurt.  What was a I thinking? 

My girlfriend, Amy picked us up in her big ol’ van when we were finished because the rain had moved from a shower to a downpour.  The thought of trying to get the girls home without someone ruining their shoes or getting a cold from the weather led me to agree to just throw them in a van and get ’em home.  Amy brought her son Zach who is in Maria’s class.  He is a fireball of energy and the house felt like I tornado was running through it as soon as all of the kids entered the door.  Poor Amy was ready to lose it.  I amazed her with my calm and my humor in it all.  I told her it comes with the territory when your family is as loud and rambunctious as my family was growing up in Cincy. 

Amy and I with the kiddies

Amy si an artist and she saved me by bringing tile and paint over to the house for the kids to make pictures for their moms.  Of course, they were all pumped up on sugar from the Orange Leaf so what was supposed to be a gentle process of dipping thumbs and fingers into paint to rub on the tiles became whole hands and feet thrown into the paint and smashed onto the tile.  Sans sugar, I think we may have had a less insane process and a more intelligible piece of art for the moms but hey…

After the wash-up, Zach got attacked by the girls for the tenth time but he took it in good spirits; in fact, I think he rather enjoyed it by his begging Amy not to leave.  Maria impressed me with her compromising skills when it came time for the movie.  She had really wanted to watch Barbie or Eloise but none of the girls took to those movies.  A majority of them wanted the Secret Garden – the one movie that I made Maria get from the library against her will.  Maria graciously allowed for that movie to be viewed after I spoke with her about being a host of a party.  She makes her mama proud. 

What a life!

We started the movie at 9:40, popcorn was ready by 9:50 and the girls were snug in their sleeping bags with their kernels of corn by 10 pm.  I wiped my hands clean and thought “Ahh, now to rest.”  Ha! My sweet Maria and her friend Anna were asleep by 10:20 but the remaining gals took advantage of no parents, lots of sweets, and an easy-going chaperone.  They ran around the house, they made more crafts, they ate more food.  11 pm came and went and they begged me to stay up until midnight.  I agreed thinking they would have to be exhausted by then. Midnight came and went.  I decided to clean up the downstairs (why do this with the morning bringing renewed chaos?) and let them stay up longer figuring they did not have much more gas left.  Finally, at 1:15, I made them go to Maria’s bed and close their eyes.  I literally had to stand next to their side to make them not speak to each other.  Finally, at 2 am, they were all asleep.  A miracle.  I slept downstairs on the couch because I was worried about one of them getting up in the night and escaping through the front door.  Can we say neurotic? 

After a restless night of sleep, I was awoken by Maria Grace who sauntered down the steps at 7:15 am.  Alana came

next and then Anna.  The other night owls slept in until 9 am.   We ate donuts and cinnamon rolls for breakfast and watched Barbie Diamond Castle until the moms showed up at 9:30 or so. Overall, I would have to say it was a success.  Maria had a great time with her new girlfriends, her girlfriends enjoyed going somewhere new and playing together, and some moms got to take the night off and relax. 

Amazingly, I didn’t feel too bad the next day.  A little groggy at first but nothing that donuts couldn’t fix.  However, the next slumber party will have a Barry Manilow dance-off.

Seriously, non-fat??

Chowing on yogurt

Grandview got a new addition to the neighborhood – a frozen yogurt shoppe called Orange Leaf.  The sign had been placed in the store window for months before it opened and Maria and I continuously eyeballed it every time we walked past to go to Giant Eagle.  After months or anticipation, the shoppe opened without much fanfare on a weekday night.  The walls are a bright lime and the seats and tables are white and orange.  They have a pinball machine that is free.  Mario’s favorite.  They have over ten different flavors to choose from but why anyone would get anything other than Brownie Batter and Peanut Butter is beyond me.  I am still appalled that my own daughter gets vanilla out of all the flavors to choose from!  And, all of the yogurt is either non-fat or low-fat. 

Marios yogurt dish

What else can that remind you of but the Seinfeld episode from back in the early 90’s where Elaine and Jerry fall in love with frozen non-fat yogurt until they notice that they are gaining weight.  They test the content of the yogurt after Elaine’s boyfriend notices that she is gaining weight, and discover that it has loads of fat in it.  This has got to be the case with the yogurt at Orange Leaf – it is just too good.  Or maybe the fat enters the picture when you dump a pound of Butterfinger and crushed Snickers into your yogurt dish.  Just maybe….  

Our favorites: Maria gets vanilla wafers and graham crackers on her vanilla yogurt; I get M&M’s, butterfinger, oreos and/or snickers; and Mario gets plain chocolate yogurt with no toppings.  All I can say is that this Orange Leaf shoppe is going to be very dangerous this Summer.  It is only a few blocks from our house.  The only deterrent is that it can be costly.  Maria inevitably puts a load of yogurt in her cup (the other down side is they only have one 16 ounce size which is huge for a five-year old kid), and, I can’t help but load mine up because I always seem to go there after a hectic day (which is more or less everyday!). 

The gals being silly

It has already become the “after school” place for kids to go.  When we visited yesterday with Alana (I picked the girls up from school and left work early), there were 20 middle school kids in the shoppe spending their parents’ moolah on gummy bears, coconut yogurt, sprinkles and skittles.  The owner had a big ol’ grin on his face thinking about this profitable trend.  I can just picture Maria in that shoppe after middle school making her yogurt sundaewith her girlfriends talking about her teachers, boys, and oh, who I am kidding, more boys…!  Mario, on the other hand, may hit the place after the last of his three ball games.

Mario ready for the season