Sledding promotes good health. You get it all – you work out your heart by climbing up the hill, you work out your mind by trying to figure out where best to place your sled, and you work out your abs by laughing your butt off as you fly down the hill on your sled.

However, as much fun as it ends up being, it is a pain in the butt to get ready to sled. You have to throw on three layers of clothes (when it’s 5 degrees like it was for us), you can barely move around, and it’s impossible to pull on your boots without being able to bend at your waist. Then, there is pulling the sled out of the garage and hauling it to the car in the freezing cold. But the pay-off is huge.

Look at the smiles.

We haven’t gotten good sled riding in for a few years. We hardly got any snow last year, and the year before that the little bit of snow that we got came when both kids were out of town. I was scared half to death the first time we went down. I sat on a tiny circular plastic sled with Maria who is not shy about taking up almost all the space on it. My butt was barely in it when we took off. I just kept praying that we would not hit any rocks or ramps because I knew that my tailbone would hurt for days. The things you think about when you’re an adult. I would’ve been looking for that ramp when I was 10 years old.

We laughed so hard together as each one of us took some crazy fall or turn on the hill. I love all of us being together like that – being outdoors, being active, it’s my ideal day. And the one good thing about it being freezing cold all weekend was that the snow did not melt from the hill. Therefore, we were able to go sledding with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jack through the weekend.

Elena had no fear going down the hill as long as somebody went with her. Sarah went on a little sled with Maria. She screamed as loud as I did when I went down with her.

Sarah and I even took a sledding trip together – both on a tiny little plastic sled. Thank God Sarah has no booty. Jack was a good sport as well. He went down with Maria a couple of times and watched each time the kids yelled “Uncle Jack, watch me!” They also had to impress their Uncle Jack by going down the abandoned hill that has all of the trees interspersed on either side. It scared me half to death but, live and learn, right!?

After sledding, I got cocky that we could build a snowman as well. The snow did not pack well at all for such a task but the kids still humored me and came outside. They shook their heads as I tried to pack down the airy snow. But they saw my strong desire, and decided they would help as much as they could. In the end it looked more like a snowman jabba the hut but it was something. How boring is a normal snowman anyway?

zoom zoom

Go, go, go, go. 

This is my default mantra. I have invested in many a self-help book to help me stay, stay, stay, stay but they have not worked. I’m hoping this year may at least bring one “stay”. Plantar fasciitis and a hamstring sprain will likely assist with this goal. 

And I wonder why Ri can’t sit still for too long … except to play barbies. She fidgets when she reads a book, which she really despises doing at this age. She chows down her food and is ready to move away from the table within ten minutes of the start of dinner. And Mario is even worse. He can’t wait until the commercials so he can wrestle with me until the show resumes.  And if we can get three bites of food in him before he pops up out of his chair to run around, it’s a miracle. 

“You did too much with them when they were little. It’s no wonder they always want to move.” I hear this from numerous friends and family. And I ponder “hmmm, should I have stayed home and read more to them on the weekends? Should I have not trekked over to Pittsburgh with them and showed them all over the city in a 48 hour period? Should I have made them have an obligatory hour rest period in their rooms? Should I have not walked down to the river with them every Sunday and trucked rocks home for us to paint all day? Should I have made them sit in the grocery store cart rather than let them roam the aisles and explore?

Ri and Mario headed to Boy Scout camp last weekend. My neighbor graciously took them on Friday night and I met up with them on Saturday. When I arrived in the morning, Ri was playing with two other girls and Mario was playing ping pong with a gang of boys. My friend approached me as I trekked through the door; she couldn’t stop raving about M&M. 

“They are so polite and listen to me more than my own kids! And they had a blast with all the other kids – they didn’t cry or get sad about you not being here at all!” 

She proceeded to tell me how they had no fear; they both hopped on their sleds and zoomed down the hills; helped prep for dinner; took on challenges in ping pong; and engaged with everyone. As we were talking, Mario jumped in front of me and gave me a hug. Then he was off for more ping pong. I didn’t see Ri until I took my bags into the girls dorm room. She was jumping back and forth on the bunk beds giggling with her friends. She was the ring leader. 

After a few rounds of s’mores late into the evening, I laid myself down in my bottom bunk bed. I stared up at Ri sleeping caddy corner from me. Her head was inches from the edge of the bed and there were no guard rails. I leapt out of bed and scooched her body all the way over to the wall. I laid back down and chuckled. Here I am worried half to death about her falling from the top bunk yet I allow her to run free at the grocery store and barrel down the steep neighborhood hill on her scooter. 

The next morning, the kids continued their sledding fun. As we ate breakfast, they asked what’s on the agenda for the rest of the day. “Nothing at all,” I report to them. I see their pupils float up towards their eyelids, deep in thought. 



Fun at the farm and quiet in the city

Ri and Mario went to Peepaw’s and Mama Meg’s house on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend with them. As a result, Jon and I had the entire weekend to ourselves, which always feels like we are in an alternate universe. We went out to Polaris Mall this morning to fix my phone at the Apple store (and left right after the Apple store – we couldn’t get out of the mall quick enough). On the way home, we picked up Jersey Mike’s for lunch and as we left the store, we both thought of the times pre-M&M when we’d have nothing to do on the weekends but this: head out on errands, grab lunch, go to the coffee shop…. It’s nice to live that life again for a couple of days but we miss those pumpkins and want them home… tomorrow.

Meanwhile, they are living the farm life with their grandparents – shoveling horse poop, loading hay, and making abstract snow figures.


It is supposed to be a horse. They also got some sledding in on inner tubes and plastic sleds. Peepaw showed them how it was done first. Mario nearly got a concussion from going down one of the hills Sarah and Jorge made over New Years but they loved it.


Ri reported to me this morning that she read an entire Magic Treehouse book last night. Not sure what Meg and dad needed to do to make that happen but that’s one great thing about the farm – no 500 channel cable tv and lots of books!

That brought on another New Year’s resolution – unplug the tv before bed and get out a book. Yes, Jon, that means you too!

All in a day’s work

We got our Ri back today and it was so marvelous to have her running around the house. Our first activity was sled riding on Wyman Woods hill. It was quite a taxing event for Ri and me. We didn’t have any traction on our boots ( we wore rain boots) and the hill was icy in more places than not. We literally had to crawl up to the top of the hill from mid-way up because of the ice. People were laughing really hard at our expense. Meanwhile, Mario just cranked it up the hill without us and sped down on an old-school wooden sled that his friend brought to the park. Maria and I broke his red plastic slide within five minutes of arriving at the park when we tried to go down on it together. It cracked in 10 pieces and my bottom was soaked from Ri using me as her sled the rest of the way down the hill.

Ri was not as big of a fan of the sled-riding as Mario. She was nervous heading down the hill and tried to stop herself by putting out her hands and legs and then flipping over on her stomach and jumping off her slide half way down the hill. When she did go down properly, she liked it by the end of the slide but she had no desire to do it more than twice. She was much more happier making snow angels.


Mario finally joined us after his friend left and proceeded to bombard us with snowballs. He even managed to get one down my pants, the bum.



The kids played around in the snow a bit and then it hit them that they were freezing. They whined all the way to the car. Once home, they tore off their clothes and got in warm ones and we took down the tree. Yes, I am Scrooge as Jon says. Ri helped me take it down while Mario dropped pieces of an ornament that slipped out of my grasp to see how many more pieces he could see shatter. I did make him watch out not to step on the broken pieces….

They eventually got bored with that activity and decided to massage each other on our cushion in the front room. Maria belted out orders to Mario: “Massage my back, go higher, get my arm, now my head….” Mario smartly decided to charge her $20 and then she decided to leave the massage joint.

We got outside before the evening set in and built a snowman. Ri and I actually built it while Mario threw snowballs with Jon. Quite impressive snowman compared to our past attempts.


After freezing ourselves again, we headed in for warmth. I decided to pull out Maria’s homework with the hopes I could get her excited about it. Somehow, by the grace of a higher being, she didn’t complain and even turned the page after doing the first set of problems. I wanted to set off fireworks.

We got stuck on one question involving a trapezoid and three triangles. It asked what traditional shape the four shapes could make. Jon and I thought about it and drew some things but couldn’t get anything. We were thinking triangle or square…. So Ri and I called in reinforcements – Peepaw and Mama Meg . We gave the scenario to Peepaw and he immediately thought that the shape would be a parallelogram. At the same time he told Ri that, I had drawn a parallelogram. Us Menkedicks are always on the same wave length. We texted the shapes to Peepaw and Mama Meg to see if they thought we were right, and Meg also came up with a hexagon. We are set!




Talk about a full day – sledding, snowman building, breaking down the Christmas tree and ornaments, and solving math problems. I think it’s pjs and movie day tomorrow.

Mario and me time

mariocardsMario Joseph got stuck with his mama and papa the last three days while Maria partied with Alana and Grandma Ionno in Marion.  But he managed to have a decent time with us, I think.  We spent Wednesday night eating Cheese-Its and chocolates while playing Three Little Pigs.  Three Little Pigs is a card game like crazy eights but with the characters from the Three Little Pigs story.  They were my grandma’s playing cards, and when she died last March, I begged to keep them.  Now every time I deal them out to Ri and Mario, I think of her playing the game with me at their age.  I don’t ever remember her telling me that she wouldn’t play with me.  She was always ready for a hand.

Mario places his cards on the chair next to him because he can’t hold them all in his hand.  He loves to win, imagine that, and usually does with me.  He rubs it in for a few minutes and then says “that’s ok, mom, I will play you again and see if you can win the next time.”

Wednesday morning and afternoon were rough because it was snowing like crazy outside and we were stuck in the house.  We watched some tv, played on the iPad, played Wii, read some books, and Mario amused me with his imaginary play.  We even got in a nap in the middle of the day, or I should say that I got in a nap while Mario watched SpongeBob for an hour. Mario kept saying “it’s ok, mom, you need your sleep, you can keep sleeping.”

mariosledThursday was much better. The snow laid thick in our yard and the sun shined bright.  It was cold enough to keep the snow from melting but sunny enough to not feel frozen when you walked outside.  We walked to the library to find a Wii game and then walked to the park with our plastic sled.  The park was awesome.  There was only one other person on the hill with his two kids and we got to sled down non-stop for an hour.  Mario wanted me to go with him the first two times, and I must admit that I was a tad hesitant to go on our tiny red plastic slide.  Last time I went with Ri, I broke it.  But the sled held up sledwell, and we laughed hysterically as we sled down the hill.  Mario decided he wanted to go by himself the remainder of the time.  I sat at the bottom of the hill (or the top depending on whether Mario wanted me to walk up with him) and smiled incessantly as I watched Mario speed down the hill.  I think sled riding is an activity that you can’t help but feel good watching.  Everyone has huge smiles on their faces and thrill in their hearts as they descend the hill.  It lifted my spirits and when we left, I felt a bit lighter in my step.

We returned later in the afternoon for more fun and the hill was packed with people. The snow had all but disintegrated and the green grass poked through.  But people were still flying down on their sleds so Mario and I jumped in the fray.  Mario took all of the sledders by storm and whisked past them landing ten feet farther than all of them.  He was mighty proud of that achievement.

mariosnowJon picked us up and we headed home to shovel the sidewalk and build a snowman.  Mario and I made a sad little snowman that looked like someone had flattened it with a large griddle.  We used carrots for its eyes and nose and a “v” shaped stick for its mouth.  Mario was happy with it so that is all that mattered. We came inside for the night, ate macaroni and cheese and fell asleep at 7:30 on the recliner chair.  Jon nudged me, and I walked Mario up to our bed at 8:15.  I had big plans of heading back down to hang with Jon but Mario woke up when I put him in bed and begged me to lay with him.  I was back out in five minutes and woke up again at 11:30 pm with Mario snuggled up in my chest, his forehead laying perfectly on the bottom of my neck.  Pure heaven.

Makin’ Do with What we Got

Took a kick-butt yoga class this morning at Harbor Yoga in Dublin.  I have been looking for a good class since the one instructor that kicked my butt only teaches at lunchtime during the week (I would go back to work looking like a wet rat).  The instructor this morning kept the pace fast except she still did five breaths in between each vinyasa.  I jump up and back a few times to keep my heart rate going so it’s not a big deal but I have the whole class looking at me like I am a freak. 

When I returned home from that venture, the kids were on the Ipad and the phone playing games.  Jon had taken them through Wii and a Call of the Wildman show and they finally wore him down to get to the electronics.  Jon and I tag teamed it again today just like yesterday.  I keep the kids for a few hours and then he does the same.  It keeps us both sane and then when nighttime hits, we both feel like we have had our alone time and are able to concentrate fully on family time.  I rounded the kids up, tore them away from their electronics and bundled ’em up for a walk outside.  We went to the woods a few blocks behind our house.  I asked them to notice something that no one else notices.  Maria found a nest in the barren trees and a squirrel high up on a branch.  Mario found “turkey” tracks in the snow.  He thought they may be hiding in the woods.  The woods looked pristine.  No one had walked through them, and the snow laid perfectly on the broken branches laying throughout the trail.  We walked back to the railroad tracks and I had to tell Maria my story of Peepaw jumping the trains when he was young.  She loves that story and always begs for us to do it.  I tell her Peepaw will need to show us how to do it. 

After walking on the tracks, we headed home to do some grocery shopping.  Mario has been craving some watermelon and honeydew popsicles and I have been craving some Gatorade.  Of course, we go in with two items in mind and walk out with 10 bags of food.  We are going to cook at home all week – I swear!  After Kroger’s, we came home and made ourselves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on soft wheat bread, cheese its and grapes.  The kids sat in the oversized recliner and I asked them Brainquest questions.  It was quite enjoyable until Maria complained about her wheat bread “I hate Wheat, mom. I only want white bread!”  She sounds just like Jon.  She got over it – her stomach won out and took down the sandwich – and her and Mario enjoyed the thrill of answering Brainquest questions. 

After resting a bit, it was time to head outside again.  I wanted to shovel some of the sidewalk off.  Everyone grabbed a shovel, and we went to town.  Mario could do it all day – he is a madman.  Maria gets sidetracked easily, and within ten minutes came to me in the back of the house with a list of 10 other things we could do – bake cookies, have a party, dust furniture…. 

My sledding babes

Then, she came up with an awesome idea.  Sled riding on the front lawn!  Mario had been begging to sled ride all day yesterday but the hill near our house was void of snow.  But, as we stood in our front yard, I realized that our driveway had a bit of a down slope to it – enough to provide a bit of a thrill to the kids on their plastic slides.  We got them out of the car, and lined ’em up.  Maria went first on the blue circle slide.  WIth a big enough push, she went 20 feet down the drive and landed at the edge of the sidewalk and street.  Mario went next and pushing him is like pushing a balloon – he just flies away.  He went 20 feet down the drive and into the middle of the street (I did make sure no cars were coming).  They loved it.  Nothin’ like making do with what you got and creating joy from sliding down a driveway on a piece of plastic.  Especially when it produces such huge smiles on babes’ faces.

One extreme to the other


Snow party!

This Winter has been way too cold.  December usually brings a few days of below freezing weather but last month I don’t remember a day where I couldn’t have seen penguins sliding around on the ice outside of our door.  I thought maybe we could look forward to a surprisingly warm January but this month is more of the same.  However, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to be less negative and see that glass as half full versus half empty.  So, here I go.  Although it was freezing outside, we at least got some snow.  Of course, not enough that we could build a snowman (stop the negative!) but enough that we could make a go at sledding down our local hill. 

 In doing so, wegot the chance to use the plastic sleds we received from cousin Laura for Christmas.  They are the cutest little sleds with a curvy hourglass seat and a handle in the front to steer.  Of course, the seat is made for a three-year old’s butt – when I sat on it at the house, more than half of each cheek laid on the cold snow – not a plastic sled.  We bundled up in two pairs of pants, two shirts, two pairs of socks, jumpsuits, gloves, hats, coats, and snowshoes and booked down to the hill in hopes of beating everyone else.  We only found four others sledding on it – yeah! 


Getting ready for the hill!

The hill had already lost most of its snow but with a plastic sled, no problem (see that positive spirit shining through!).  We climbed up to the top and loaded Maria on her red sled.  I gave her a push and much to our dismay, she gently coasted down the hill having to push herself one or two times.  Ok, my reaction affects her reaction so when she looked up the hill at me, I yelled “that was awesome, Ri!”  You could tell that she had expected to go faster but hesitated in saying so because of my reaction.  All of a sudden, a smile formed on her face and she yelled “can I go again?”  Nothin’ like spreading that positive thinking!  

Mario got on his blue sled, and I would have sworn it was custom-built for him.  His butt sat in it perfectly, and with a slight push he whizzed down the hill.  After watching Mario, Maria gave it another try and had high hopes.  Unfortunately, half way down the hill we heard a snap.  When she got to the bottom, she stood up and realized that her sled had broken in two (she has her momma’s bottom).  There was an immediate breakdown – crying like she had been told that she would ever eat meatballs again.  I raced down the hill to calm her down.  “Hey, we still have Mario’s sled” I told her.  

She finally calmed down.  We approached Mario at the top of the hill and told him of Maria’s dilemma.  

 “This is MY sled – no one can use it besides me!”
Pretty much what I had expected from Mario who is not into sharing at all (he won’t even share a piece of food that he does not like) so I was ready with my response.  
“Mario, your sister lets you share everything with her.  You will share your sled with her or we are leaving and no one sleds.”  
“Ok, let’s go home.”

Broken sleds

Yeah, again, pretty much the response I expected from him.  Stubborn as heck.  He will give up any type of fun if it means he does not have to share.  I explained to him that he was going to sled with his sister or let his sister go by herself.  He chose the former.   I loaded him and Maria onto the sled and they slid slowly down the hill.  Surprisingly, they both looked up from the bottom of the hill and were smiling!  Alright, score!  When they got up the hill, they asked me to go with them.  In the excitement of it all, I hopped on and stacked them on me.  The sled broke within two seconds of push-off.  Next meltdown but Mario this time.  I explained that we would get some new sleds and come back to the hill.  Hs finally calmed down, cheeks frozen with tears. 

Maria ready for the pool!

The next day, knowing that the hill would have no more snow on it, I offered the next best activity to sledding – swimming!  We went to a new indoor pool in Dublin.  Swimming is quite the chore for me because Maria is not swimming on her own yet and Mario wants me to watch his every move.  As soon as I go near Mario, Maria wants me and vice versa.  Finally, I got Maria to put on her goggles and swim to me while I sat near Mario and watched him jump up in the water and land on his stomach.  There was a lazy river that provided much fun as we acted like superheroes while we swam around it.  Unfortunately, they have 15 minute breaks every hour.  Poor Mario cannot handle the cold once he has to get out of the pool.  His lips turn purple, he shakes, and he begs to go home.  Maria, on the other hand, doesn’t even use her towel when she gets out – our little polar bear girl.  I knew that a bag of Cheetos and a big hug from me would calm Mario down and I was right.  We lasted through the 15 minute break and hopped back in at the whistle’s call.  Maria got better at playing by herself and Mario got better at not demanding every second of my attention.  We swam another 45 minutes and then hopped into the showers.  Mario refused to get out.  He showered for 18 minutes with hot water before he finally asked me to get him (this is the same kid who adores hot tubs).  We got dressed, got some chips for Ri and played I Spy while we sat in the Dublin Rec Center lobby.  
We got home in time for dinner, and decided on pasta and meatballs and garlic bread.  Good post-swimming meal.  As they sat at their table, Maria spoke to Mario about the importance of saying thank you even if you don’t like a gift that you get (we had discussed this with the kids when we were making Christmas rounds).  Mario sat intently listening to her.  She moved onto discussing the idea of sharing and asked him for a chip.  He promptly responded with a “no.” She took one anyway.  He complained.  She gave it back and told him that if someone takes your food, you should tell them that you do not appreciate it but you should not yell at them.  This coming from the girl who nearly burst a vein screaming at Cy when he ate her garlic bread.  However, that was months ago – how she has grown since that time.  

Mario waiting with goggles on!