My cousin Maggie summed it up the best with a video of my Uncle Ken running around his pool with “the Olympic torch” as we all cheered him on: “Just a typical Sunday with the Heile family. Olympics style.”
I give my Heile clan kudos for letting go of any stress, work issues, family problems, and just having a good ol’ time on the weekend. Jon and I and the kids traveled down to Cincy on Sunday afternoon after the kids pestered us all morning about having to wait so long to leave. They were so excited about heading to Aunt Susie’s and Uncle Kenny’s pool. They have the best of all worlds with me and Jon in the water with them all afternoon, cousins throwing them everywhere, and aunts and uncles acting silly. When we arrived, Susie was busy getting the “torches” lit and putting up the “Welcome to the Heile Olympics” signs. She and Lia planned this Olympics party and came up with a great list of pool and field games. Lia had to go at the last-minute so Susie directed them through the day, and was a stellar emcee. It was H2 versus H3 (the second generation Heile clan versus the third generation). I am always a go-between since I grew up with the H2 clan but I am technically a H3 baby.
We started with the pool games. “Biggest Splash” was the first event. Maria and Mario gave it a try but Jon and Uncle Joe took them by storm. Joe ended up with the win but it was contested by Jon! We moved onto “Chicken.” Maggie got on my shoulders. Maria got on Cy’s shoulders. Konnor got on Joe’s shoulders. Maggie and I were out for the count within a minute. Maria held tight and battled with Konnor. Her little butt clenched up like crazy trying to stay on top of Cy. She is a fighter! And they won! They were so cute together – Cy threw her into the air and they hugged. Her face was lit up like she had won a date with Big Time Rush.
The last event was the volleyball game. God love my aunts and uncles. They range in age from a few years older than me to 60 and they played like they were 23 years old. We whooped on the H3 clan – they couldn’t handle Joe’s spikes and Ken’s slaps and Christina’s, Susie’s and Jane’s strategic moves. Julie and I may have been the weakest link along with Jon who in the beginning of the game belted out a game plan and asked “Who is the weak link of our group?” As a result, Julie and I kept giving him grief each time he missed the ball (but to his credit, he ended up making some killer shots). We took two out of three games and headed to the dinner table for some chicken and brats. Maria “surfed” while we ate; she used a plastic kick board to stand on and try to balance herself. She was pretty good. Mario played cornhole with Papa Rod and baseball with Uncle Kenny. Later, he taught Gracie how to throw a beanbag for cornhole. Watching the two of them out in the yard together was about the sweetest thing ever. He coddles her like a baby (he learned from his sis) and she looks up to him.
While we were taking goofy pictures with my iPad, someone yelled “Is she ok?” We looked over and Gracie was in the pool with water up to her nose. Mario was standing next to her and trying to hold her up as high as he could. Maggie jumped in and rescued Gracie. Mario stood in the water dumbfounded. Someone yelled “Mario, you are a hero!” He looked at me and smiled. And that was it. All night he proclaimed how he “saved Gracie.” When he woke up this morning, he called me in his room and said “Mom, can I skip school today since I saved Gracie yesterday?” He is gonna use that as long as he is able!
After dinner, we moved to the field games. “Best Cartwheel” was first. I got robbed, and lost to Konnor. He had a nice touch but I think mine was a tad more precise. I didn’t put up a fight, though. Trying to teach the kids how to be good losers. Mario got upset when he didn’t win every game; he handled it better than he has in the past but he definitely made each activity a full-blown competition. Susie used stick horses for the equestrian competition and had the competitors run around obstacles “on their horse.” It was hilarious. I tried to keep Mario busy when they announced the winner so that he wouldn’t get upset that he didn’t win.
The last game was “Flip Cup.” I had no interest in the game because it was a drinking game, and I figured I may need to help Jon with the drive home. But the cousins begged me to play since the H2 team was down a person. I agreed. I stood on one side of the table with my aunts Julie and Christina and Susie and my uncle Joe. All of these wonderful people who took care of me when I was little and here I was on their team cheering for them to guzzle beer and flip a cup with enough precision to land it upside down. Gotta love it. We got slammed by the younger generation (who probably plays it every other weekend), and we were not happy about it. We were especially not happy about it after chugging a few beers in a ten minute period of time. In the second round, we were down again, and I was the only one left standing of my team (the youngsters voted everyone else off the island (some type of survivor game they incorporated into the Flip Cup game as well)). Some how, the competitive spirit in me arose (Mario was standing next to me now that I think about it). I chugged all five beers and flipped over all five cups in world record time and got to vote one of the youngsters off the island. I did it the next time, too. And the next. By the time it was just down to Maggie and Laura against me, I was two sheets to the wind. I hurt bad. I haven’t drank that fast in a long time, and not Natural Light. But my boy was staring up at me and telling me I could do it – my inspiration – so I did it! I whooped those girls up and down and won for the H2 generation!
Maggie and Liz grabbed me up after my celebratory dance and told me we were going to do a victory lap around the pool. If I had my senses I would have realized that they were my competition so it would not have made sense for them to do a victory lap but that is if I would have had my senses. I ran with them and within four seconds, I felt a hand shove me into the pool. I was spent. Maria jumped into the pool to rescue me. She carried me over to the steps and pushed back my hair from my eyes. Mario ran over to Maggie and Laura and shouted at them for pushing his mom into the pool. Jon began to throw Laura into the pool on my behalf. My immediate family sure takes care of their mama bear.
I can’t imagine life without this crazy crew. We all have different interests, tastes, political affiliations, styles, hobbies but we all let it go when we get together. We rely on our history together: our memories of times at grandma’s and grandpa’s house playing in their backyard and our times at weddings watching all of the Heile women and girls do the chicken dance and our times at holiday gatherings joking with one another and sharing stories. I am so grateful that Maria and Mario get to experience this crew just like I did as a child. And they love it all as much as I loved it. Who wouldn’t?!