Birthday madness

The 8 year-old birthday festivities have concluded. They lasted four days and made me a zombie by the end.

Ri did not want a big bash at an inflatable gym or a sleepover with 10 girls this year. She wanted her best girlfriend and her cousin to come out to the farm for the weekend. And she wanted me to do a “surprise” at her school. Piece of cake, heh? Not for the mom who has to think of fifty different ways to create the best surprise.

It started at the beginning of the week with traveling to four different bike shops to look for bikes for Ri. Then debating over and over whether to get her a used bike of a new one. Then whether to get a new Target bike or a new Trek bike. In the end, we opted for the Trek because Ri loves to bike so much. She also just reached the height to be on a 24 inch bike so she’ll use this one for a while. I took her to the Trek store in the guise of getting a bike for Jon’s birthday so I could see which one she gravitated towards. Surprisingly, she went for the black one with pink writing and not the pink one. Good girl.

I also ran around shoe stores and Target to buy her some sandals and shorts. She loves these new athletic shorts at Target and she needs them – her running shorts from last year barely cover her tush (not a look Jon likes).

On Thursday, I went to her school at 1:30 and set up decorations at the shelter across the street. I had cupcakes, balloons, poster board for the kids to sign, water bottles for all the kids to take home, and treats. I had ordered pizzas because I had planned on going at 11 am but when we woke up that morning and I told Ri I’d surprise her at 11, she flipped out. “Today I get to go to computer lab with Ms. Palmer. I can’t do it any other day but today!” So, my plans changed. Thanks to Ms. Palmer for rolling with the punches.

The kids were hyper when they arrived for the party. They bolted over to me wanting to dive in the cupcakes and run around the field. They all sang happy birthday to Ri and signed her poster and flung themselves into the cupcakes. We played trivia – the first person to give the correct answer got a water bottle. Everyone knew Ri’s favorite band – Big Time Rush. The boys scattered to one area of the park and the girls to another and the party continued until school was out. One little boy came up to me afterwards and told me it was the best day he’s had in school. What a compliment!





Afterwards, I took two of Ri’s friends to the park and back to the house to play. We couldn’t find Janira’s mom when we headed to dinner so she got to come with us. Mario made them watch Ghostbusters in the back seat while we drove to Olive Garden. Ri chose it because Alana told her they had all you can eat breadsticks. My little Italian gal. Patty and Joe met us there.


The food was pretty bland but the breadsticks and salad weren’t bad. And they brought a nice size cake for Ri which is all we truly cared about.


We headed home to open presents. We gave Ri her shoes (too big) and her clothes (perfect). Then she looked at us quizzically wondering if there was any more. I left and brought in the black bike and her eyes opened so wide. She loved it. She went directly outside and rode it. Now every night she wants to practice using the gears.

I spent Friday buying treats for the girls’ gift bags at the farm. I wanted little magnifying glasses and journals to record their findings but I could not find them anywhere. So they got Nerds (not a smart candy to eat in the car) and bubbles and notebooks and pens and stuffed animals. Saturday arrived and I packed up the Volvo (freshly detailed) with sleeping bags, pillows, clothes, boots and giggling kids. Mario got to sleep over at Gio’s house and Jon went hunting.

We stopped at Giant Eagle for Ri’s horsey cake and then Walgreens for some Red Box movies. Alana begged to listen to Shake It Up on the way out. Poor Sophie is not too into that music so after the fifth song, I told Alana we had to turn it off (Alana knows every word to every song). They played with Furby (Grandma Ionno’s gift to Ri) and laughed. Then we played a game the rest of the way out where I gave them a letter and they had to draw a picture of a word that began with that letter. They loved it. Then they had to make up a sentence with the words they made up. Yeah, a little creative thinking to add to the ride.

We stopped at McDonalds Playland in Zanesville for some lunch and some play. There were a ton of local kids screaming and running throughout the area, however, so it was a quick trip (thank god).



We arrived at Red Hawk farm at 3 pm to a pen of barking, excited pups. Little did they know what they were in for over the next 24 hours. The girls immediately begged to get them out and run with them. The once tranquil farm exploded with yelling and laughter and the “chuck-it” winging a tennis ball across the lawn for Stella. Ahh, the energy kids bring to a place.


The chickens also had it in for the weekend. The girls moved to them next. They “herded” them like sheep and surprisingly did a good job at it. They also discovered six eggs in the henhouse which was quite exciting for them (and tasted delicious the next morning).

They then moved onto the creek to bathe in the mud-filled water. They loved the freedom to get as wet and dirty as they wanted. Alana about died when I told her she could get her shorts wet. And Ri beamed when I told her she could dunk her head under water. One of the simple joys of the farm – splashing in cold water on a sunny day.



The next stop was the horses. Sweet Taz allowed all three girls to ride him without any issue (he was quite ornery with Ri the weekend before but she handled it well due to her Grandma Meg training). I wish we could snap our fingers and have Ri at the farm for riding lessons and then back home an hour later for shower and bed.



It was back to the creek with Sarah and Jorge joining us later. Stella took a liking to Sophie following her down the creek bed. Maria discovered the wonders of slimy, soft algae and caressed it with her hands. Alana held on to Rosie tightly since Peepaw had warned that she would get lost if you let go of her leash. At one point, Stella grabbed the leash with her teeth and swung Rosie, and Alana, around in a circle. Alana somehow held on until Sarah got Stella but she was shaken up. All it took was us affirming what a strong girl she was and she stood up, shook it off and said “Maria’s grandpa will be proud of me!”

Sarah spotted trillium flowers on the bank of the creek. Beautiful and purple. Luckily, we had our renowned photographer with us.



I was ready for some food after all of the activities. So were the girls. We chowed on homemade Boboli pizzas while sitting on the screened in porch – a slight breeze hitting our skin and the sounds of evening surrounding us. Presents came next. Ri scored some cowboy boots and horse galoshes from Meg and dad, American girl clothes from Alana, a game from Sarah and Jorge, and a watch from Sophie. She hugged everyone with her monster hug squeeze and we were ready for cake.



I got a picture of a horse for her this year; I guess she’s graduated from the party theme cakes at Giant Eagle. She loved it. We broke out the game Sarah bought her, Quizzle, after cake. It was a blast. I think adults enjoy it more than kids. We played a mean game with Jorge winning due to his superior visual acumen. Dad set up the tent while we played and the girls took their board games in the tent and played. The adults called it a night at 9:30 but the girls stayed strong. At least two of them did. Ri fell asleep on the couch watching a movie with them at 10 pm. Sophie got scared shortly thereafter because the movie was spooky. Alana has no fear from all her Goosebumps movies. I put them in the tent at 10:30 and laid on the couch looking out the large window at the sparkling stars in the sky. It’s beautiful to view the night with no artificial light surrounding it. Alana came in five minutes later complaining that Ri was kicking her. She laid with me all night.

The morning brought dazed, punch-drink looks from both kids and adults. The kids played with the chickens and dogs some more and devoured Peepaw’s blueberry and walnut pancakes (easy to do). We took a creek walk again but this time from the road all the way back to the pasture. I told my dad that he needed to host a Warrior Race out at the farm between the mud and water and branches and thorns we needed to traverse as we walked the creek. Forget barbed wire fences and hoses for water – we have it au natural at Red Hawk. The girls were unstoppable and in heaven.




Dad and I got to take a walk together on his new trail through the woods. I got some insight on flowers and trees as well as the latest news on fracking and the plea of oil companies to lease his land. He, as always, is thinking through every option available and being practical yet principled about the ordeal. I just adore my pops.

We ended our time there with another chicken round-up, discovering a few more eggs, and spoiling the pups in their pen. We weren’t on the road twenty minutes before Ri was conked out.


I should have seen this coming between her lounging in the hammock with Meg and her dazed and confused look with me!



By the time we got home in Sunday, I was beyond exhausted. Poor Jon sat on the back deck waiting for us to arrive. Oh shoot! It was his birthday. I barely could muster happy birthday to him but he understood. “You do too much, babe” he told me gently as I whined about being tired. “I love you too death and you’re a magnificent mom but you do too much.” He had a point. I probably didn’t need to stop at Meijer’s on the way home and let the girls get a little toy.or unload the entire car as soon as we got home.

“Baby steps” I told him and he nodded his head and grinned. We sat on the deck and talked while M&M ran around with the neighbor kids.