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?

Old Man Winter

These days grow longer and longer. It is flippin’ freezing outside; you know it’s been a rough ride when you see the temperature will be 16 degrees and you are excited.  I can’t drag the kids outside with me in the evening to walk Rocco because I would be accused of child endangerment.  I can barely head out there with Rocco for more than fifteen minutes.  My poor toes have steadily remained purple through the days.  All I can say is that sweet Spring cannot get here soon enough.  I will embrace it and not let go.  I will not complain when we have 90 degree, humid weather this Summer.  Just get me out of this frozen tundra.

There have been some highlights to the last few weeks – thank goodness for these kids and their activities; they force us to get out when we would be hibernating.

On February 11, Maria had her first play.  She played Susan B. Anthony and had IMG_0601a whoppin’ three lines.  But she rocked it – she was one of the few kids who you could hear (thanks, Heile family).  She got on line and found a colonial costume to wear for the show and a hilarious white wig.  Grandma Ionno, Grandma Lolo and Aunt Sarah, Jorge and Elena showed up to see her in action.  She did not seem nervous as she waited for the IMG_0606play to begin; rather, she ran around with her friends and laughed.  She was annoyed with me and Grandma trying to get pictures of her.  She was nervous about one thing – that Elena would start wailing during the performance.  Elena tried to do that but Sarah swopped her out the back doors before she could get a good one out.  We cheered hard IMG_0617 IMG_0615 IMG_0623for her after the performance; she shot us a quick glance but focused all her energy on Luka (Bethany brought him to see the show).  Afterwards, we took the actress to Barley’s for her much loved ribs and beans.

On February 13, the kids celebrated Valentine’s Day at their schools.  Ri took in tattoos and Mario took in Sponge Bob.  I had bought them mustaches on a stick that said “I mustahce you as a Valentine.”  They were adorable.  Both Maria and Mario were appalled at the the thought of giving IMG_0647 IMG_0651them to the respective opposite sex.  “That would be so embarrassing mom!”  So back to Target we went for the tattoos and SpongeBob cards.  Boring.  Ri got ice cream sundaes at her party; she did not care that I did not come.  On the other hand, Mario begged me to attend his, which I happily did.  You can’t walk away from those parties with a sour attitude.  The kids are too dang cute and so excited about making heart-shaped towers and paper flowers.

On February 14, Ri had a pool party for her friend Janira at Westerville pool.  IMG_0669 IMG_0677 IMG_0683They stayed there from 12:30 until 5.  She got pizza and ice cream and cake and non-stop pool action.  When I came to get them at 4 pm, they begged to stay for another hour.  They all tried to jump in an inner tube together without tipping over, which failed every time.  But they had a blast and it was great to be in a heated pool area and see bathing suits!

On February 17, Ri had her skate party with 10 friends.  Mario got to attend, also IMG_0713 IMG_0716 IMG_0719 IMG_0730 IMG_0732(Ri let him use one of her friend passes for one of his friends).  The moms may have had more fun than the kids….  I was happy to see many of the moms head out on the rink with me.  The girls all did a great job skating and falling.  No broken bones.  Ri greeted all of the girls as they trickled in at different times – she is a good host.  Mario tried to help Rohan skate but it was not easy.  So the two of them ended up playing games the entire time.  Mario was not disappointed about that.

On February 19 and 20, the kids got off school due to the extremely cold temperatures.  Bums.  They were so psyched up.  On Thursday, Bethany took them to Galaxy Games and Golf from 3 pm until 9 pm.  They played tag and hide-n-seek and Mario won 1000 tickets.  He was so pumped up.  On Friday, Mario feigned illness to stay home with Jon and Bethany and Ri went to COSI.  Not bad for two days off of school.

On February 21, we got seven inches of snow!  The world turned white and Rocco couldn’t get enough of it.  I am surprised his nose did not freeze off as much as he dug into the snow with it.  Ri and I took him on a walk up to IMG_0747Grandview Grind and he leapt with joy, literally, throughout the entire walk. We visited Ri’s friend and their new pup and Rocco found a playmate.  They played great together.  Ri ended up staying at Anna’s house while I walked Rocco home.  The neighbors were making a giant snowman in the front yard.  I walked in the door and told Mario we had to go sledding.  There is a small hill by his school that I knew was open.  He shook his head no and told me he didn’t feel like it.  I kept prodding him until he finally got on his jeans and sweatshirt.  He had to wear his Cabella’s overalls and coat since we don’t have any snow pants that fit him.  He was all stressed out about how he would look.

“No one else will be wearing this, mom.  I will look stupid!”

IMG_0774This boy is more concerned about his looks than I ever have been.  Jon and I reassured him that he would be fine.  If someone laughed, he should ignore them.  Each person is unique.  I don’t think he so much agreed with us than he just wanted to shut us up so he threw on his boots and headed to the car.  It was IMG_0779 IMG_0775 IMG_0767funny because Ri showed up with her friend, Anna to sled an hour after we arrived and she had on a huge pair of brown bib overalls that did not fit her at all but she could have cared less. They all had a blast going down the hill, engaging in a massive snow ball fight, and making a ramp to jump over.

It was so beautiful today because although we had seven inches of snow it was 33 degrees so you could go outside without your face freezing off.  Tomorrow the high is 23 degrees and I think it starts to plummet even worse Monday on.  I keep telling the kiddos to have dreams about Spring flowers and birds chirping and open windows with a warm breeze wafting in, and maybe that will help move old Man Winter along.

But we’d be amiss if we did not thank Old Man Winter for giving us the snow to play in today.






Winter activity

What to do on a Winter evening when it’s too cold to play outside? The default activity is play on the computer or watch tv. However, mama was home alone with them last night and changed the mood from passive to active. That’s right.
First mode of business: complete two math worksheets. Get the brain engaged.

Mission accomplished.
Second: help make dinner. And then get out the hot sauce to alert the taste buds. The second task was actually Mario’s idea. Ever since he tried hot sauce on an oyster cracker at Skyline, he’s been fascinated with the condiment and wants to put it on everything.


Mission accomplished.
Third: create a game that requires the kids to burn some energy. This one was all Ri. She came up with the Repeat game where you had to repeat the exact slide that someone performed in their socks across the kitchen floor. When that went down in flames due to a conflict as to whether Ri performed a full 360 degree turn like Mario did, she made up another game. It was pretty simple. I hold a dining room chair and they run towards it. First one to the chair wins.

Mission accomplished.

Surviving Winter

This Winter is absolutely killin’ me. I think they said we’ve had over 29 inches of snow and a ridiculous number of days at 15 degrees or below. I can’t stand not being able to get up in the morning and take a run. I actually drove to the gym this morning, which already irritates me because I can’t stand having to drive to a gym (when I got home and Ri saw that I drove she gasped “Mary Menkedick Ionno DROVE to the gym?!”). Once there, I can’t stand to run on a treadmill so I hit the weights. I will look like the Hulk by springtime.
At least the kiddos have gotten out here and there to play. It’s great having Rocco around because he’s always in a playful spirit. The kids immediately latch onto it and join right in with him.


Last weekend, Grandma Ionno came down to stay with us. Alana and Gio came over, too. It was a whoopin’ good time. We took the kids to Galaxy Games and Golf on Saturday afternoon. They climbed up and down the gym set for 45 minutes. I joined them for 20 minutes and was exhausted when I went to sit down. All of them were actually sweating when they came out. Love it.

It wouldn’t be such a hit in the pocket if we left after the gym. But the kids are addicted to the video games, or moreover, the tickets generated from playing the video games. It floors me how a kid can spend over $20 to get 100 tickets and then have a choice of a plastic alien, a bag of sweet-tarts, or a balloon. But, I’m the idiot that keeps buying tokens….




It’s worth it to see the smiles on their faces. Patty hung right in there with me amidst the insanity of people running all over the place (kids and adults). She can hang really well. No wonder she can still take all four grand kids for days on end. She is the energizer bunny.

After Galaxy, we headed home to chill for a while. The kids played the rest of the day and evening (they got a sleepover!). It is a beautiful thing to have a niece and nephew practically the same age as my kids. And to have them at an age where they get along well and get excited at the prospect of a sleepover is all the better. Weekend trips to hang with my aunts (who were only a couple years older than me) make me appreciate the importance of routine cousin get-togethers.
On Sunday morning, the kids begged to head to DK Diner for breakfast. Ri and Mario had been filling Alana’s and Gio’s heads with stories of their incredible, gargantuan donuts. We made it before the big rush and promptly segregated ourselves to a girl table and boy table. Mario had to sit at the bar where he and Jon sit every Saturday morning (and Ri when she goes). Mario interacts with a cook named Mario. The cook Mario hooks little Mario up with some serious scrambled eggs. Then Mario adds a big chocolate long john to the mix. Gio copied Mario’s order, and they both sat staring at SpongeBob on the tv.

Meanwhile, us ladies sat at a table and talked about fractions and our favorite music and our crushes. Alana got a cinnamon roll the size of her head and Ri switched it up with a chocolate croissant. They both decided on Mickey Mouse pancakes and devoured them.

I wish Patty and I could have taken a walk but the cold and snow kept us inside. The kids loved having us all together though (all the kids slept with Patty on the floor in the family room Saturday night). Alana and Gio had to leave us on Sunday evening to get ready for school but Patty stayed to watch the first half of the Super Bowl. We made chili and got chips and dip. The kids wrestled with me and jumped all around with glee in having Grandma around. Mario wanted us all to root for Denver but Grandma was adamant that she wanted Seattle. She must have had that grandma intuition…!



Burning up

We are now into the second week of above 90 degree temperatures, and I am seriously contemplating a move to Alaska. I am tired of walking outside and immediately dripping in sweat. And heaven help me if I need to walk a few blocks – I look like I just emerged from a swimming pool. I arrived at a meeting three blocks away from my office last week and blotted sweat from my face for a half hour before I found some relief. The worst part is that I start to get cold when I walk into air conditioning because of the cold air mixing with the massive amounts of water on my skin. So, I look even more attractive with sweat pouring off me and goosebumps covering me.

The kids are over it, too. Maria wants nothing to do with the outside unless it involves lots of shade or water. Mario can hang a little better than any of us but he’s even given up lately. So, when I took off a half day on Friday afternoon, the question was what to do in 100 degree heat?  We decided to pick up our cousin, Alana for an afternoon play date. We hit the store for a slip-n-slide first. But when we came home and set it up, it had a huge tear in it. Never fails. So we set off for the pool where I wrestled with all three of them for an hour (when will the day come when I can just chill with a book and they play by themselves?! But then I will miss them…). 

We hit Wendy’s for dinner – I sat by myself as directed by Maria.  She likes to sit with Alana by herself.  I made her take Mario, too, which she begrudgingly did but then tried to boss him around the entire time.  He just flirts with Alana the entire time asking her to give him a kiss and telling her he will marry her.  He is a little Casanova  even with his cousin.  After dinner, I needed an evening stroll to wake up after all the french fries we devoured.  We decided to walk to a few blocks to a shady park.  Maria rode her bike, I strolled Mario and Alana walked with me.  As much as I hate the heat, I hate even worse to be in a car. Our park trip got cut short because of an urgent text message from Alana’s dad that she needed to get home. The kids started to walk with me (we had to leave Maria’s bike because her legs hurt – my girl) but they all soon became tired and I ended up strollering Maria and Mario and putting Alana on my back. Nope, not kidding. I looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame pushing a double-wide stroller.

I know when winter rolls around I am going to wish it was warmer and forget all about these sweltering abysmal days. That’s how the mind works – it’s why I am able to think about having another baby without drugs. But for now, I will continue to wish for icicles and mittens and sled-rides.

The joys of snow

Old man winter decided to shower us with snow today. Finally.

Snowflakes danced on my nose and eyelashes as I ran through the neighborhood this morning. My IPod died on me ten minutes into my run. Irritation and anger raced through me for not charging it the night before. However, as I continued to run and pout, I heard vibrations of snow on the trees and a trio of birds still chirping away in the 15 degree weather. I changed my thinking: rather than be irritated for 60 minutes, I became grateful for the glorious morning and the snowflakes and the weekend and the opportunity to be by myself for an hour. The results were much better, indeed; I had a most enjoyable run.

Maria teaching Mario early

I came home to a trashed house – the remnant of a crazy week juggling colds, homework, work, and kids’ addiction to electronics. As I began to clean, I sat Mario down with a phonics workbook. He is having trouble with his ABC’s and we are trying to think of ways to help him learn them. When Maria was his age, she had numbers and letters down pat. Mario’s teachers tend to put less emphasis on rote memorization and more emphasis on creativity. I like that style of teaching but I still want Mario to learn the basics! Then again, he isn’t hitting Kindergarten for another year and a half so I should probably just chill.

All Maria needs to hear is that Mario needs to learn something and she transforms herself into “teacher-mode.” She set up a desk and asked Mario to sit with her. She quizzed him on letters and when he got them wrong she gently told him “that is not right, buddy; let’s try it again.”  He surprisingly hangs in there with her, even letting her lead in the ABC song. He gets to “LMNOP” and he mumbles something incoherent and continues on with Q and then straight to Y. I have no doubt that Maria will straighten him out and get him reciting his ABC’s in no time.  She is a born teacher – even giving Mario a report card based on his ABC’s (“You did ok but keep practicing.”).

After an hour and a half of cleaning, Jon and Patrick and Mario left for Marion to see Jon’s mom and dad, and I stayed home with Maria and Alana (Mario ended up staying with Grandma and Grandpa Ionno after just pleading to them one time to spend the night – he is spoiled). The girls stayed in Maria’s room for a while playing a game that scares me. One of them is the mom and the other the teenage daughter. The daughter screams at her mom and tells her she hates her and drives off in the family car. It seems to always start this way. A snapshot of the future? Let’s hope not….

Maria has inherited my ADHD so after a short time of playing that game, she was ready for something new. She threw on her coat and went outside to play in the half-inch of snow. Alana followed. I continued to clean the counters. Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang. I answered and saw the girls giggling around the house. I went back to cleaning. They rang again. I opened the door and they both lobbed tiny snowballs at me. I stood in the house with snow falling off me. Should I get mad about the snow in my house or the snow on my shirt? Should I get mad that they interrupted my cleaning.  No.  Instead I got even!

I threw my coat and shoes on and chased them around the yard until I got ’em both with snowballs. Since we were covered in snow, we decided to try to build a snowman. The snow was light and fluffy and sparse, which prompted both girls to tell me there was no way to build one.  But I always remember my dad’s actions on a summer day at the farm months ago. He had bought Mario a kite and Mario wanted to fly it but there was absolutely no wind. Everyone told Mario he could not fly it; that is, except my dad. He took him outside to give it a try. With a hill and a will, my dad ran down the hill with that kite flying high in the sky behind him. Mario jumped up and down with sheer joy on his face and we all stood in awe.

The girls with Alycia Snowy

And, following my dad’s footsteps, Maria, Alana and I made ourselves a sweet, little snowman. It took lots of work – the girls shoveled their hearts out – but we did it. Alycia Snowy Ionno is her name and she is a beauty.

Family Ritual

The Adventure Team with the addition of M&M!

Last night, I read a book that included a section about the importance of family rites and rituals.  The author asked the question “why do we need rites and rituals?” and answered it with the following: “Because we fall into forgetfulness.  The speed Demon captures our souls. We are too busy…. The demands of modern life are so many that we easily become distracted and neglect to pause and consider what is really important.” 

When I read this passage last night, I immediately thought about some of the past rituals that I share with my family.  My dad, stepmom, brother and sister and I used to take summer vacations to areas where we could hike, find rocks, swim and camp.  It was an outdoor adventure and not surprisingly, we dubbed ourselves “The Adventure Team.”  I look back on those trips with such fond memories (even though for a few of my teenage years, I remember dreading the thought of leaving my friends and the city to go to the lonesome woods!) and an appreciation for Dad and Meg’s persistence in making such vacations happen.  A high appreciation now that I have kids and know the effort and time necessary to prepare for such events and the lack of “leisure” that can often occur on such vacations!  

Mario enjoying his donuts!

Today, Maria, Mario, Jon, and I woke up to a balmy 32 degrees outside and the sight of a cardinal and robin perched in a bare magnolia tree in the back yard.  We looked out the back door at the two birds debating which one was a male and female; the babies they may have in the Spring; and the magnificent color of red the cardinal wore against the ashen tree.  After the birds flew away, we headed back into the living room, and decided that it was warm enough to take a stroller ride to the donut shop.  It has been a while since we did this on a Sunday morning.  The kids bundled up with their nighties under their clothes, and we jumped in the stroller for a wintry, snowy ride to Tim Horton’s.  

During the ride, Maria noticed how beautiful the morning was with the sun shining (the first time in days!) and the snow glistening.  Mario noticed the huge nests that were still present in the bare trees. Ahh, it is these mornings that I breathe in my children and my life and everything beams around me….

Maria and her sultry pose at the donut shoppe.

Once at Tim Horton’s, we claimed our regular seats near the window and ate our donuts and bagel.  We talked about Mama Ionno’s house and what they would play there when they went for dinner.  We talked about Daisies and how many cookies Maria has sold to family.  We talked about summer and how great it will be to stroll to the donut shop in a t-shirt and shorts!  After the donuts, Maria begged to go to the river to find rocks.  I was not sure Mario would agree because he gets so cold even wrapped up in three layers but he ended up being game.  It was an adventure getting there since the bike path was still covered in snow.  I got my arm workout in for the week!   

Maria found her stash of cool rocks, as always.  The girl has an eye for unique rocks.  She found one with fossils and another shiny onyx one.  Mario threw small, medium and large rocks into the water listening for the different sounds they produced upon impact.  We found an “iceberg” jutting off the edge of the bank and took turns throwing rocks on it and watching the ice break off and float down the river.  I told them that if anyone ever told them that they were not strong, they could tell them that they destroyed an iceberg!  They liked that. 

Maria and Mario at the river

We headed back to the house about a half hour later.  I trudged back through the snow along the path and took a deep sigh upon seeing the road.  We headed up Grandview Avenue taking in the immense sunlight and “warm” temperatures.  While I pushed the kids up the hill, I thought about family rituals and it dawned on me that going to the river is our family ritual.  Spending the morning at the river engaging in the simple acts of gathering rocks and making huge splashes in the water.  It is strange to think about creating new rituals for my children; my focus in the past has always been on retaining the rituals from my childhood – Christmas dinners at Grandmas’ houses; Easter egg hunts at Grandma’s house; birthday parties with big sheet cakes.  

But now I found myself creating a new ritual with Maria and Mario that, although right in line with the activites of my childhood summer vacations. was different and special to us.  And best of all, the trips allowed all of us to “pause and consider what is really important.”

Fat Mama Robin

Enjoying Spring

We all love the sight.  We stop cold in our tire tracks to watch the fat mama robin bird skip along the sidewalk, over to the fallen branch, and up into the skeletal tree.  We are quiet.  We gawk.  We breathe in that end-of-winter-spring-is-near air.  We start pedaling again only to be stopped 30 feet ahead to stare at another plump robin. 

After twenty minutes of pedaling, we make it to the “church park” (we are blessed with five parks within a mile from our house).  Maria and Mario park their bikes at the corner of the grass and asphalt, and sprint to the jungle gym.  I was so excited because they played on the jungle gym for a whole 45 minutes going up and down the ladder rings and sliding down the tube slide on their bellies. 

Mario the daredevilThe famous Italian Model, Maria

Maria is not one to want to move much so this was great for her.  Of course, she wanted me to participate in the slide action so I had to contort what felt like my mammoth over-sized body into a kiddie tube slide.  Don’t ask me why they enjoyed it because we stopped about ten times due to my elbow getting caught or my knee hitting the wall, but they did. 

I felt alive again.  The past few months have been brutal to me.  I cannot stand not being outdoors.  I can handle about an hour in the house before I crave fresh air.  With the 20 degree weather almost all Winter, there was a real lack of fresh air.  So, to have it back after all this time is a pure gift.  I was telling a girlfriend that Winter must have come on so strong for a reason – to remind me to appreciate Spring. 

I have high hopes for this Spring – a first family camp out.  My little sister began her camping adventures at age 4 so I figure Maria can handle it.  Mario will not allow her and I to go alone so he will have to handle it by default.  I figure I will have them setting up camp by the end of the Summer as well as fishing, hiking, and making insanely scrumptious s’mores.