Distance really does make the heart grow fonder

Maria Grace stayed with Jon’s mom this entire week.  We went up for Memorial Day on Monday and she just returned today.  I swear she looks two years older.  She got four inches cut off of her hair during her stay with Grandma.  She greeted me with a huge hug and smile but when I asked her how her time was with Grandma and Alana, she responded “it was fine but I don’t want to talk about it.”  Huh?! I asked her if something went wrong and she looked at me puzzled.  “No, mom, I just don’t feel like talking about it.” 

Ok.  I am not ready for this response when just two weeks ago she would have went on and on about her time with Alana and her adventures with Grandma.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit – she has never been that talkative about her days; but she used to at least summarize them for me!  I let it go in order to just enjoy the moment with her – soak up her smile and her laugh.  Mario yelled “Ria” when he saw her and gave her a huge hug that lasted 30 seconds.  He had been asking when she’d be home for the last three days. 

One of the first tasks that Maria set out to do when she walked in the house was write a letter to Ann Curry.  Yes, the Today Show’s Ann Curry.  Jon and I default to NBC News in the morning, and Maria enjoys watching it, too.  She loves Ann Curry; she thinks she’s smart and stylish.  Her letter told her as much and she also added a sentence stating that Ann Curry helps her learn more about the world.  Precious.  I had Maria write Ann Curry’s name and address on the front of the envelope with the hopes that it does not get pitched since it is clearly from a kid.  We will keep our fingers crossed…! 

Meanwhile, Mario and I wrestled.  He made me grab his leg each time he started to turn the DVD dial and then after I grabbed it, he shocked me with the electric waves coming out of his fingers.  I had to play dead for five seconds and then come back alive to do it all over again.  He could have played that game with me for two hours but I could only handle about 15 minutes.  I had to play a game of HeadBandz in order to get him off the wrestling kick, and then find his Spiderman costume for him to wear.

I got a massage in the mid-afternoon, which was a piece of heaven for an hour.  Is there anything better than a scalp massage at 3 pm?  And I could hire someone to rub my feet all day long and think it was money well spent.  I lifted myself off the massage table afterwards, and had deep creases along my face and legs – a sign of a good massage.  Jon decided to cook lemon chicken for dinner so we spent an hour preparing the chicken and the sides while the kids played on the computer and drew.  It was a very strange yet wonderful experience for us.  Strange to smell sweet aromas throughout the kitchen and wonderful to cook our own meal (the joke is that we have only used our pots and pans a handful of times since we were married in 2002). 

The kids even liked it!  And Maggie, hung over and all, enjoyed it, too.  After dinner, we rode our bikes up to the mailbox to deliver Ann Curry’s letter (and a b-day card to Grandma Lolo) and chow on some Orange Leaf.  Mario gave up on his bike at Stauf’s so I carried him the rest of the way (I am a sucker!).  Jon played on his new scooter for a bit; Maggie texted her friends and engaged in time trials with the kids; and I cleaned up.  A good ending to a long day.  I am excited to have Maria back with us even if she doesn’t want to divulge her week to me.  As long as I still get those hugs, I am ok.

The life of a pinball

Mario and I met up with Maria and her friend and friend’s mom at 9:30 am at Stauf’s.  The rest of the day is a blur.  Thank god for iced coffees.

We walked down to the parade on First Avenue – the same place we go every year – nearly parallel to our old house but two streets over.  We sat with Amy and Gracie and Joe and made a sign saying “Go Mets” in honor of Zach.  Zach is on the Mets baseball team this year; Amy was so excited to see him in the baseball truck with the other soon-to-be second graders.  All I could do was think of Mario in that truck three years from now, and the only visions of him were ones of him pelting people with tootsie rolls.  There is always one or two little squirts that engage in such activity each year; last year, Mario got pelted in the eye by someone.  So hopefully that horrific experience forever scarred him and he won’t engage in such behavior.

The parade was fun this year because we knew so many kids in it (and they limited the politicians)!  After an hour parade, we gathered our two hefty bags of candy and walked a mile back home.  Maria walked the entire way with me holding Mario.  She is a machine (she did it in sandals; even I would have complained).  We made a pit stop at the library to take a computer break.  Maria played Go Girls Games and Mario played Ben Ten.  I got a little reading time in, which was just the break I needed.  Middle-school kids were signing up younger kids for the reading program.  Maria asked to sign up.  I was excited about her initiative.  She asked to do it last year, too, but she could not read on her own and she wasn’t that into it.  I am hoping that her ability to read better will lead to her reading more this Summer.  She picked out a Junie B. Jones book and a couple more random ones.  Let’s cross our fingers….

We plodded our way home from the library in the 88 degree heat.  We immediately threw on our bathing suits, grabbed our goggles and towels, and jumped in the car.  We had to drop the stroller off at the bike store because Mario and I bust a tire on our stroller ride earlier that morning (there was a loud firecracker-like bang and Mario yelled “Cool!”).  Once at the bike store, Mario spotted a sweet red and black bike with training wheels.  He jumped on it and flew around the store.  I looked at the tag and it was expensive.  How can a kid’s bike be over $100?  Really?  But I have had such bad luck with used bikes for him – none of them are steady or ride well – and it has caused him to get scared about riding.  I do not want that with as much as Maria likes riding.  So, I decided to bite the bullet and get it reasoning that he will have it for the next few years. 

We left the store for the pool, which was absolutely packed since it was opening day.  Mario and Ri went off the low dive and high dive, respectively.  Mario tried the high dive but second guessed it after getting on top (I don’t blame him).  He will jump off by the end of the Summer, I am sure.  We only lasted at the pool for about 45 minutes; I was exhausted and luckily, the kids probably were, too.   

Once home, we made bowls of cereal and rested in front of a Ben Ten on tv.  Within ten minutes, Maria was snoozing on the couch.  I tried to move her but she was solid dead weight – there was nothing waking her up.  Mario, meanwhile, was wide awake and insane, jumping all around the room and acting like random aliens.  I let him play on my computer while I went out and mowed the grass and watered the flowers.  Then I came in and cleaned out the Study a bit in order to move our new desk in it.  I was in cleaning mode.  You’d think that it may have been wise to put my feet up and nap a bit with Ri, but that would have been too easy.  Gotta keep the momentum going – once I sit down, I am useless for the rest of the day.

Maria finally woke up – two hours later –  and she was a piece of work.  Pissed off at the world.  She stomped across the kitchen moping and pouting and crying.  I left her alone and she finally buried her head in my chest and rested for a few minutes.  Then she finally morphed into the Maria we know and love ready to ride her bike and play.  We got Mario off the computer (not an easy task) and headed off on his new bike.  He rocked it out on his bike almost keeping up with Maria.  We had hoped that the Art Hop would offer a bouncey house or kids’ music but it only offered a couple of vendors selling necklaces.  We dealt with our disappointment by going to the church park.  I played tag with Mario and Maria climbed up the top of the slides (her favorite thing to do at the park).  Amy and Joe met us up at the park with the kids and they all played for a bit.  We all looked like zombies.  It was comical.  The day felt like three days.  We finished the night off with Orange Leaf and a bike ride back home. 

When we pulled in the driveway, there was a spectacular slice of moon looking down at us.  We all stopped and gave reverence.  Then, Maria shouted “Mario’s old bike is still at the library!”  So, what else to do but jump in the truck and head to the library to pick up his bike.  We finally got into the house at 10 pm.  Maria wanted to read Junie B. Jones, and Mario was listening to music on my phone so I didn’t fight it.  I just let them be and relaxed over a bag of Cheez-Its, and Maria later joined me. 

What a whirlwind of a holiday Saturday.  I swear to myself as I sit here tonight that tomorrow will be low-key day but I know myself better than that.  We will be off and running – but not until 7:30 am.

TGIF

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.

Pretty Nails and Full Tummies

Maria and I engaged in a total girls-fest tonight while Mario got pampered by Grandma and Grandpa Ionno in Marion. 

Maria and her purple nailsWe strolled to the park for a some double sliding action on the twisty, plastic slide.  We went to the nail salon for a manicure and pedicure in order to prepare for our Florida trip.  Maria got killer purple fingernails and yellow sparkly toe nail polish.  I stuck with “boring” white on my nails and orange toes (one of them is so bruised from running that even a bright orange would not cover the purple bruise – lovely!).  

After our salon experience, we hit Orange Leaf for some frozen yogurt with lots of yummy toppings (chocolate espresso topping, thin mints, lucky charms).  

We ended the night with a stroll home underneath the foggy moon.  I sang “I see the moon and the moon sees me…”  as Maria laid her head down and fell asleep within five minutes from home.

Tornadoes and Yogurt

I had our sitter bring the kids to my workplace tonight.  Luckily, most of my colleagues had hit the road when M&M arrived.  They whirled through the lobby like mini-tornadoes ready to ride the elevator and see my office.  Maria avoided a Mario meltdown by letting him push the elevator button to floor 5. Isn’t it strange how obsessed kids get over pushing an elevator button?  I used to think it was because they liked to see the button light up but even when the button doesn’t light, they still go nuts.  And take the buttons off the elevator and put them on a square toy, the buttons are completely boring to them.  Elevator magic.

The tornadoes ripped through my hallway door and into the break room to find snacks.  They know where the goodies are at my work.  After the break room, they corkscrewed themselves into my office to find more candies.  They also enjoyed sitting in my chair and acting like the “boss.”  On our way down the elevator (Maria again conceded the button pushing to Mario – such a good sis), they both commented about how cool my office was and how they wish they could work there.  Little darlins’ – at least they think so. 

They had the college kids cracking up outside.  Mario jumped on the stone resting areas and performed dance moves for all the world to see.  Maria followed suit until she noticed a college kid staring at her – she quickly jumped down.  Mario, however, basked in it.  It took bribing him with my phone to get him to walk to the car.  But before the car, we had to go to the fifth level of the parking garage.  Again, the fascination with parking garages? They got to the fifth floor and found the vacant lot awe-inspiring.  Maybe they will be architects or… valets.

We hit Orange Leaf with our cousin Maggie soon after leaving my work.  They were out of my favorite combination, chocolate and peanut butter.  Maria got her usual array of flavors: gingerbread, wedding cake, red velvet cake, and vanilla.  I monitored the toppings so she only landed one brownie, fruity pebbles, broken cone, oreos, and vanilla and butterscotch topping (I feel someone calling Child’s Services on me but really, it was only a speck of all of those toppings!).  Mario, on the other hand, opted for one flavor – pineapple – and no toppings at all.  Strange little being, he is. 

After Orange Leaf, we came home to a quiet house with no tv on, no washer churning and no pets roaming.  All of us noticed how calm it was.  You could hear a pin drop.  And then Mario screamed – just for the sheer fun of it – and Maria joined in a second later.  I turned around ready to cuss them out but when I looked over, I saw their ornery, angelic faces wide with laughter.  I decided to add a scream to the mix myself, and we all fell forward in a hard, belly laugh.

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