I listened to a podcast yesterday morning and the speaker was talking about pulling up in his driveway and seeing his three kids playing in the yard with a big beachball. He described how he watched them giggle and toss the ball, and how joyful it made him feel. He further described it as a happiness that was so magnificent it seemed undeserved, or as he saw it, grace.

I have been blessed with those moments  on quite a few occasions; mostly when I’m surrounded by family. And it is just as he describes: a happiness that is so full and rich and grounding that it feels it should not be deserved.

It happened last week when I took the kids to an audition for a local play, A Christmas Carole. Neither kid has ever wanted to act before but in the last month or so, Mario became interested, and then Maria followed him. I had no idea what to expect since I’ve never been in theater. I got some tips from my colleague who acted in community theater when she was younger, and I asked a mom in town what she experienced when her daughter tried out a year ago (I have a sneaking suspicion that Mario decided to take up acting because of her daughter…). She told me that the kids would just get up and sing a little bit of a song and recite a few lines. So that is what I told Maria and Mario to expect. 

The kids were so excited when I got home from work. Maria was decked out in a black dress with pearls and Mario was dressed in a button-down shirt and khakis.

We walked into the community center and they had already started auditions. As soon as we walked in a boy stood in the front of the room with a tweed jacket on and asked if he should sing the song in the soprano or the tenor voice. Maria’s and Mario’s jaws dropped to the ground, as did mine. Then a woman followed up after the boy singing a beautiful tune. Maria looked petrified and shook her head sideways.

“I am not doing this, mom. No way.”

Mario just stood in awe.

There were quite a few folks waiting to be called so I hoped that some of them were winging auditions like us and were amateurs. I got my wish a few kids later. One sang “happy birthday” and another sang “jingle bells.” The kids felt somewhat relieved. Mario’s friend Addy showed up with her mom soon thereafter and went before Maria and Mario so they could continue to get comfortable in the surroundings. She sang “happy birthday to you” and Mario felt much better. He walked up next and sang his jingle bells song. He kept his chin up and sang at a respectable decibel level. I know he was a bit nervous compared to when he was practicing with Maria and me. After he was finished, Maria decided that she would go ahead and do it, too. She sang “row row row your boat” and even used voice inflexion. She has a really pretty voice. After she finished, Mario walked up to her and gave her a hug.  I wanted to weep at his warmth towards his sis. I was just so relieved and glad the both of them at least gave it a try and did not let fear hold them back.

After singing in front of the theater director, they had no problems reciting lines with other actors. Maria was incredible with her word tone and her movements. I was very surprised at how well she did. Mario did well, also, but I think he was assuming there would be movie lights and Hollywood actors at the audition. I think his big goal is simply to be on a movie screen as a cinema hunk.

​As I stood in the back of the room, my heart swelled over the bravery these two kids exhibited by showing up at a blind audition where they knew nothing about what would happen. They overcame their fear and anxiety and performed. I couldn’t have been prouder. 

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.


I asked Mario to sing me a quick song for Valentine’s Day last week after I sang one to him on our drive home. The only way he’d agree to sing me a song is if I’d stop singing to him (neither child appreciates my voice).

And this is why I will never refuse a request from the kids to jump in bed and snuggle.


When we picked up Maria, I did the same thing – sang her a Valentine’s ballad. She, too, agreed to sing me a song if I stopped crooning. We went from sweet, innocent Mario to sultry, Lady Gaga Maria.

This video doesn’t exist

Jammin’ with the Harmony Project

I took the kids to Harmony Project last night at the Southern Theatre (Maria was so excited to get dressed up and to “help” me get dressed up, also!).  In one word: amazing.  I had not heard of this non-profit group until a colleague invited me to the event a month ago.  The Harmony Project works to bring individuals from diverse backgrounds together to sing and get to know one another with the hope that the more we understand one another, the more tolerant and inclusive society we will become.  The Project succeeded in its mission last night bringing together individuals from all walks of life and bringing them to their feet clapping and bellowing out tunes. 

Count Mario as one of them.

He rocked it out for the entire time we sat in our balcony seats.  They showed a documentary in the beginning of the program to educate the audience on what the Harmony project is, and I was impressed that it held Maria’s and Mario’s attention.  They both started to get antsy towards the end but they didn’t throw fits or beg to leave.  Very impressive.  Once the documentary ended, a group of mostly older teens walked out on the stage, each wearing a black t-shirt with the word “Beautiful” on it, and sang the song “Beautiful.” They mesmerized Maria who stood up in her seat and stared at the singers intently.  I caught her mouthing the words “you are beautiful” at one point.  Sweet  girl.

Mario listened to the song but did not become engaged until the next song that was much more lively.  The singers smiled strongly while clapping their hands and tapping their feet.  Mario stood up from his seat and immediately moved to the beat, waving his hands and acting like his fist was a microphone.  The people around us were cracking up.  Mario leaned into me after the song and whispered “Could you sign me up for singing lessons, mom?”  Maria laid back in her seat for most of the songs, intently watching the musicians and their gestures.  She is much more reserved than Mr. Mario when it comes to these types of events.  She takes it in while he throws it out.

Mario acting like a monkey and Maria showing off the brochure

As we waited for Jon to pick us up, I asked how they liked the show.  They both gave me nods of approval and Mario asked “did I sing good, ma?”  I confirmed that he did and he smiled broadly.  The boy loves his praise.  As much as I did not want to get dressed up and head out at 7:30 pm, I am glad that we went to the event because I know that  it has a positive influence on M&M as they grow into themselves and this world.  I think they are off to a harmonious start.