Easter 2014

I love that M&M still want to color Easter eggs. I love that they see magic in a dull white egg popping with color after being lifted from a cup. I love that Mario couldn’t wait to get my attention every twenty seconds in order to show me the newest color he produced on his egg. I love that Ri experiments by placing her egg in every color until it forms a dull brown and instead of getting mad, she just tries again and then lays down and places two dull ones on her eyes like some new age hippy.

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I love these moments together simply absorbing the joys of creating a magnificent yellow egg and a glittering purple one. No worries about finishing homework or responding to email – simply appreciating the beauty of bright pastels. I am going to miss these moments when the kids grow up and no longer have any desire to color eggs with their mom. Instead, they will be out with friends and waking up at noon. But alas, I need to stay in the moment so back to Easter weekend.
We woke Saturday morning to head down Grandview hill to the Easter Egg hunt. There were little, sweet babes dressed up in pastels standing in awe of the live Easter Bunny. I remember Ri and Mario at age 3 and 1 pointing at the Bunny and pulling me over to see him. I remember how excited they were to find eggs and cookies (yes, Grandview puts out sleeves of Oreos) scattered around the park. They still have the excitement in finding eggs – not so much in the Bunny. But I still made them take a picture…
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They have their friends there now and they “hang” with them pre-hunt over pictures with mom.
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It’s a different joy I feel at this age seeing them wrestle and giggle with friends. I’m glad they are establishing friendships and experiencing all the emotions that come with them.
They are both loyal and caring to their friends; they even distributed their Oreos to them (that’s the ultimate sign of friendship at this age).
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We spent an hour at the park after the hunt watching the kids play around and talk to friends. When we finally hit the road, it was the usual combination. Ri and Sophie scootered home with me and Mario drove home with Rick and the boys. Sophie and Ri scootered home with Zach who Ri has known since kindergarten. It’s hilarious to see the boy/girl dynamic at play. Little flirting here, little jabbing there. A lot different then kindergarten.
After we had eaten a majority of the Easter candy at the hunt, we decided it would be best to top it off with some Jeni’s ice cream. Mistake.
Jeni’s is so rich – two dips of that combined with Reese’s and chocolate bunnies led to serious stomach aches. We sat on the bench for a while before walking home.

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We burned off some of the chocolate playing ultimate frisbee. Ri is really good at it. She’s always picked up on the adventure, off-the-beaten path sports. Mario is good, too but Ri has the hand flick down pat.
We woke Sunday morning to two kids at the end of the bed urging us to get up.
“Let’s see if the Easter Bunny came!” As I stated earlier, I do love this age but sometimes it’s annoying at 6:45 am…. Jon and I got up and headed down with them. I had hid the eggs in the house since the kids are too old for Jon to be able to hold them at bay while I go down in the morning to hide them outside. This year, I put $5 and a few $1 bills in the eggs because Mario is much more into money than candy. They hunted the eggs down within four minutes and then sat on the couch looking through their baskets.
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Rocco even scored a rawhide from the Bunny.
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You’d think we would have learned from our mistake at Jeni’s but we didn’t. Ri and I made chocolate chip waffles for breakfast to add to our chocolate feast. Then we got our fine Easter clothes on (shorts and t-shirts) and headed to Laura’s house, which used to be Grandma Heile’s house, which used to be where I hunted eggs when I was a girl. However, I never had the chance at a $5 egg like Ri and Mario and Grace and Dakota have now. It’s a big rivalry every year – who will get the $5 egg. Grace held the honors last year so we were ready to take over this year. We didn’t disappoint – Mario got it. And was very excited.
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Ri rocked out an Aunt Laura tank top and wig for the hunt. She’s always up for a twist. And it wouldn’t be a Heile Easter without some volleyball. It used to be softball but a few years back it switched over to volleyball and there are some good players in our family. Of course, Robert and Cy have the height advantage but we all hold our own. Even Ri and Mario like to get in the game. Ri just likes to talk smack but Mario wants the ball to come to him so he can hit it.
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I always leave these Heile parties without a voice and exhausted, and that’s not a bad thing. I love this crew to the moon and back: my aunts and uncles helped raise me and I helped raise all these cousins of mine who are now 20 something’s and full of Heile energy.
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On the drive home, I felt full of joy…and chocolate Easter eggs.

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Boys will be … Nutty

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Maria begged me to take her to lunch this week. I asked her if she wanted a friend to come along. On Sunday night, she was adamant that it should just be me and her and Mario. By Monday night, she had decided that she wanted a friend to go and no Mario. Mario had already heard that I was planning a lunch outing, however, so he rightfully demanded to be able to go too and bring a friend. It’s such a lesson in girl and boy behavior to take these kids out to lunch. Maria and her friend giggle and talk quietly. They order their lunch (which by the way is $29 at fricken’ Panera between two bowls of soup, two smoothies and two desserts – outrageous!) and sit at the outside table politely.
Then there are the boys. They throw things at the girls during the car ride to Panera. They tackle each other on the grass as we walk from the car to Panera. They refuse to tell me anything they will eat at Panera besides chocolate cookies. And they try to embarrass the girls. My god. I thankfully managed one good photo of the girls before the boys photo bombed with bunny ears above Ri’s head.
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I took the boys to Stauf’s and all they wanted to do was play fight. I tried to get them to eat a bagel but after a bite they would go back to chasing each other. Now, I could have put on my disciplinarian hat and forced the boys to sit and eat…ha. That’ll be the day. I don’t have it in me. So I tried to interest them with questions.
“If you could be a super hero who would you be?”
“Superman so I could punch someone in the face!”
Hysterical laughter.
Not exactly the thinking I wanted to generate.
“If you were an animal, what would you be?”
“A tiger so I could scratch you.”
Belly laughter.
I stopped the questions and went back to letting them wrestle.
I heard a “mom” shout up the street and saw two of my own gender walking down the street sipping on smoothies.
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Ahhh, kids I understand. As I snapped their picture, Mario and his friend blew past me calling each other “Dumb” and “Stupid” and poking one another. My girlfriend with all daughters tells me I should love the fact that my son is not at all into the drama of who likes who and petty name calling and spats, which is all she deals with in her three girls.
I’m not convinced.
But at least he counterbalances his rowdiness with kisses and snuggling in the evening. Yet, that’s when Ri starts to get her ‘tude going on. Ahh, sweet parenthood.>

SPRING!

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THANK YOU SPRING FOR FINALLY COMING!
Now will you stay? We were all going a little nutty the last month, especially Mom who wanted the kids outdoors but couldn’t throw them out in rainy 40 degree weather or snowstorms. But today, oh gorgeous sun and blue skies and mild weather. We couldn’t handle more than ten minutes indoors. Bike rides, the woods, yard work, trampoline – anything to soak up the rays.
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Even Rocco seemed in a better mood.
But alas, the school and work week must come and night must fall. We gathered in the babes to finish homework. I was busy helping Mario with his timeline when I called into Ri to see if she wanted corn or peas for dinner. No answer. I peaked in the family room and saw this:
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Ahh, Spring, another aspect I love about you. Kids asleep from exhaustion at 6:45 pm. >

Cake Walk 2014

Cake Walk 2014 kicked my butt. I don’t know if it was the opening and closing of the festivities or the loud band music and even louder kids, or the chocolate cake we devoured once home.
Maria went with her friend, Kathryn since she had a play date with her after school. This year she continued to step one foot closer to teenage-hood. She came to see Mario and me only a few times and it was only to ask for money and water. She hung out with one group of girls for a minute and then others the next. I likes seeing that.

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Then she found our next door neighbor who is Grandview’s baton twirler and stood with her to try to learn how to twirl. She must have stood up there for 30 minutes.
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Meanwhile, I should have left at 8:30 to head up to the event with Mario because he would have never known what time it started. I gotta take advantage of his youth while I am able. And all he wanted to do was play the kids games and all I wanted to do was try to win a cake. Guess who won?
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He played the golf game again and again. Then he moved onto the football game where the volunteer was absent. All the kindergarten boys were loving the freedom of that. Soon a volunteer showed up so we moved to the lollipop game. Such anxiety each time he pulled a sucker out to see if it had a blue tip or not. He moved to the treasure chest and scored these dandies.
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Then we hit the baseball pitch. He was allowed to stand on the line closest to the catcher but refused. He wanted to stand where the older kids had to stand. And don’t you know he got a strike on his first pitch.
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Ri kept trying to win a cake but to no avail. I finally got Mario to head down with me and try to win. After three more hole-in-one attempts, he finally followed.
There was Ri standing in line with Kathryn and Evie. She smiled when she saw me and waved (at least I still get that). Mario and I went to another line and danced to the music as the band played. The music stopped, we sat in our chairs and hoped. Unfortunately, our numbers weren’t called. Mario got livid last year when this happened but this year he brushed it off. We stayed for the band’s last tune and although we didn’t win a cake, we bought a sweet blue one in the form if a mustache that Kathryn and her mom had made. And we dug in at 10 pm when we finally got home.
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Hamsters, pups, oh my…

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I could offer Maria and Mario a round trip vacation to the Bahamas, a trip to Disney, or a new bike, and they’d still pick a trip to Petland over all of them. They have loved that store since they were toddlers. They find so much joy when they walk in the door between the dwarf hamsters (Mario’s favorite), the pups (Ri’s favorite), kittens, bunnies, and gerbils. We made a trip up there on Sunday morning because we had to buy party supplies for Sarah’s shower at Party City, which is right next door. Ri has a future in party planning, for sure. She worked on invites at the house and when we got to Party City she immediately moved to the decorations aisle to coordinate themes. We would have spent $500 on decor if she had her way. She couldn’t stop herself: “this is adorable; we need these steamers; these games are a must….” Meanwhile, Mario found himself some killer gold glasses. He wanted gold glitter to spray in his hair but I refused.
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A piece of bubble gum made up for the glitter. We delivered our bundle of party goods to the car and headed into Petland. Ri darted for the pups and Mario rushed to the dwarf hamsters. He yelled for me to come over to him “mom, there are six of them and they are sooo cute!” He could stand there all day and pick them up, put them in their wheel, pick them up again, put them in their wheel again….I was tempted to buy one but realized I was reliving my childhood and my love for hamsters (supposedly I was allergic and therefore had to give away my hamster after days of nurturing it, and yes, there were years of counseling over that). But now that I’m the one that would have to clean the cage, I don’t have as much of a desire for one. I told Mario he already had fish to love. His response: “As soon as my fish die, I want this hamster.”
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Those fish of his need to watch out. Ri found herself a little chow puppy and loved on it. However, when I commented on how cute it was, she promptly replied “not half as cute as our Rocco.” She is loyal to the bone.
She and Mario had a blast with the pups. One little sprite fella wouldn’t stop biting Mario’s shoelaces and jeans. Mario loved it and purposely darted all over the space to play with it. He was belly laughing so hard I thought he’d hyper-ventilate.
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It’s great to know that we can find so much happiness in such a tangible trip. And one day, when fish have traveled to another place, we may have a hamster in the house.>

Our meatball poet

Maria and her third grade class hosted a poetry cafe on Tuesday this week. She kept enticing Jon and I with how much we’d enjoy her poem. I asked her a few nights before if she was nervous. She replied “a little but some kids stood up and cried or shook the entire time they spoke so I’m doing better than them.” God love her.
I arrived home Tuesday to find her already made up in her new Target dress, hair flowing, lip gloss on, and a dab of light pink eye shadow rubbed perfectly on her eyelids.
“What do ya think?” She knew exactly what I’d say.
“I think you are beautiful inside and out and I think you are gonna rock out the poetry cafe tonight.” She smiled wide and twirled around the driveway.
We ate some Mac-n-cheese and headed down to school with three boxes of Girl Scout cookies (I forgot I volunteered to bring a snack – I knew the 15 boxes we ordered would come through in a pinch).
As we were walking towards the school door, Maria looked back at me to tell me to hurry up. She stared at me from my head to my toes and cried “that’s what you’re wearing to the cafe?!” I thought I had done pretty good – I had on a new t-shirt, nice jeans and a pair of sporty gym shoes. I curtly replied “you gotta dress hip for these caf├ęs.” She kept walking. When she looked back at me, I pouted. She gave a tiny smile and said “sorry mom, I’m just nervous.” Oh, sweet baby. I hugged her and she was off to her classroom. Mario and I were off, too, towards the baked goods table.
Grandma Meg surprised Ri and Jon made it on time, too (dad waited to go to Michigan until after the cafe, which landed him up north at 1 am – true love for his baby girl).
Ri gave an impeccable performance. She wrote about a Swedish meatball hosting a party for international friends. It was smart and funny (and of course, the best from her mama’s eyes!).

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They had paper and chalk on the tables so families could write poems to the kids. I looked down after Ri finished and Mario had written “you did a gud job Ri”. Break my heart.

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Afterwards, the kids rushed to the sweets table and ran around together giggling.

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Mario took the stage to sing – he can’t resist not being in the spotlight.

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As we left the school, Ri turned around and moved close to me.
“This may sound a little weird, mom but … I’m really proud of myself.”
The night bursted into color and the sky sang “Alleluia”. I was so excited to hear her say those words to me. I think she’s starting to believe more in herself and recognize all of the amazing qualities she possesses. There is nothing more gratifying to a mom that’s seen those qualities all along.

Legos and Baggie books

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I refused to allow the kids on the computer Saturday morning so they roped me into playing Legos with them. Quite an experience.
Mario created flying men who could wield a giant axe mid-air to cut off peoples’ heads. Lovely.
Maria created a trailer to carry horses and several townspeople to Texas. (Non-sarcastic) lovely.
Maria and I were finally able to get Mario to calm his violent men down and hop on the trailer. Then she surprised him and made the trailer fly! Mario was impressed.
He follows her lead more than he will ever admit. For example, she created a “blender” on her trailer for the people to make smoothies. Within two minutes, he was building a similar blender and explaining how people can make smoothies. Ri looked at me and smiled. She knows her influence.
After an hour or so, they begged to play Minecraft for a few minutes. I agreed only if Mario read a Baggie book to us.
Mario whined a bit but then gave in to the pressure and sat next to Ri and read. He is doing so well with sounding out his words. He does really good looking at the pictures to figure out the words, too. Sweet story about that: in one of Mario’s books, there was a picture of a dog running with his owner everywhere. A boy asks “can I take your dog on a walk?” A girl responds “No, take the dog for a run!” She looks angry in the picture even though it’s clear that is not the intent. When Mario read that last sentence, he read it angrily. I asked him why he used that tone. He responded “look how angry that girl looks – that is how she would talk.” Very analytical thinking out of that boy.
He was close to finishing his baggy book when he hit a hard word: “skipping”. He tried a few attempts when Ri stepped in and gave a hint.
“How does “sk” sound?”
Mario couldn’t quite get it.
“What do you do with rocks at the river?”
“Skip!”
“Good job buddy! Now what does “ing” sound like?”
“Oh, skipping!”
God, I love seeing those exchanges! How darling. Makes my heart flip-flip.

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Pinch me

Pinch me.

My life is ridiculously good.

Sweet, generous, loving kids.

Hilarious, caring hubby.

Warm, ever-present family.

True friends.

Great colleagues.

I am very lucky. Most days I stop myself ten times over and process this fact. Is it my culture transformation work I did at the university? Is it that I’m getting older and with that gaining a fuller picture of what it means to be happy? Is it that all the self-help books I read in my 30’s have finally hit home?

My weekends with the kids rarely disappoint. They are at ages now where they are able to play on their own or with each other but they also still want to hang with me and go to the park or take a bike ride. It’s perfect: I can get fully caffeinated, brush up on world events by reading my Times, and then later engage in a full-blown pillow fight.
And I love how their minds are developing; it leads to really awesome questions ranging from the benign – how are sidewalk made – to the sublime – why do we go to war. Mario points out things he sees in books we read together that I would never notice. Ri continues to practice the art of compassion by never judging others – the other day I about cussed out a young guy who cut in front of me in line at Kroger’s and she pulled me aside and whispered “mom, he may have somewhere really important to be.”

Yesterday was another day where I stopped myself over and over amazed at how wonderful I had it. The day brought wonderful near-Spring weather. The girls took a bike ride while I walked Rocco. We got a picture on the same rock we took a picture on when Rocco was a pup. Ri was very excited about that!

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Mario met us at the park and the kids decided it was time for Rocco to adventure down a slide. Their eyes about popped out of their heads when he did it.

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I love this picture of the kids running with Rocco. It’s a perfect depiction of the joy of warm weather.

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And this is the perfect depiction of Ri laughing hysterically as she tries to catch up with Rocco!

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Love love love these beginning days of Spring.
Next up, a trip to the river where Ri and Mario and I used to go on Sundays to collect rocks. It was closed for a year to create a bike path and I was anxious to see what the trail looked like. We piled in Stephanie’s van with the pup sitting next to Ri and the boys carrying their weapons (in case we encountered zombies) and headed down the street. We parked at the gas station and unloaded. What a sight.

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The bank where we used to collect and throw rocks was still ready for us. But it was rather insane trying to make sure the kids didn’t fall (there were huge boulders lined up where there used to be gravel). Rocco added to the insanity by trying to jump in the river; Mario screamed like a maniac for me to hold his leash because “he didn’t want his dog to die!” So, I held him as he pulled me all over the rocks while I held Paxton to ensure he didn’t fall. Good workout.
The kids found great hide-outs made of sticks and leaves (I didn’t inform them that homeless folks probably used these “shelters” because I didn’t quite know how Steph would react but I did feel compelled to talk to M&M later that evening to help them appreciate the struggle all people face at times). The boys played capture and the girls played dorm room (whatever that is).

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The kids found a big rock pile on our way out and I asked them to pose as savages. All complied except Mario who continued to laugh like a hyena!

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In order to get them to leave, I had to promise them a snack at the gas station. They booked it after that promise. The boys got chocolate donuts (they slipped me one in thanks) and the girls got ice cream cones. They were happy as heck driving home.
We ended the night watching my girlfriend’s kids. A six week old and two year old who I had never met… Huh. I was a bit worried. But it ended up being absolutely joyous. Ri was excited all day to hold the six week old, Emerson Lois. She kept asking “when will it be 5:30?!” Mario kept telling me he didn’t want to babysit. But when they dropped off Miles, Mario took to him like sugar. He threw the ball with him and led him around his room to play. It was precious. And Miles couldn’t be more chill of a kid. He just followed Mario and played with whatever Mario gave him. He never cried once (kudos go all to Mario!).

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He taught him how to crawl up the stairs so he wouldn’t fall down and how to beg for (and receive) a cookie. He was so compassionate and sweet with him. Warmed my heart.

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And Ri was, as I knew she would be, a doll with Emerson. She laid with her and held her and couldn’t wait to change her diaper. Emerson is a real life baby doll!

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Emerson pitched a little fit at one point and I had to put her in her seat while I got Miles’ dinner. The next thing I knew, Ri had her quiet by rocking her back and forth. She also had picked up the mom talent of multi-tasking as she rocked the baby and read a magazine – love it!

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I sat at the kitchen table when my girlfriend left with her kids and my kids and Jon had gone to sleep and felt engulfed with gratitude. Another day full of laughter and sunshine and good kids and nature and a tired pup and chocolate donuts. Really, it doesn’t get any better.

National Pancake Day

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And we celebrated National Pancake Day in style on Tuesday night with giant pancakes full of chocolate chips. Mario just tries to eat out the chocolate chips from the pancake so I’ve decided to throw chips everywhere into the pancake so he will eat it all.
We made 18 pancakes and by the end of the night, there were only two left. We got our full of gluten for the week.
When I was rubbing the kids’ backs later in the evening before bed, Mario looked over at Ri and me.
“I hope it’s National Long John Day tomorrow!”
Ri and I smiled at him and Ri reached over and tussled his blond locks.
You’re silly, bud,” I responded (but I secretly hoped the same).

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Cancun 2014

I never thought I’d complain about the heat after the Winter we have had this year. But I returned from my morning run in Cancun sweating and feeling nauseous because of the sun beaming down on me. I think my body was in shock after running in 5 degree weather the last two months. But that was the only hot weather complaint I had while on our annual Cancun vacation with Jon’s work folks.
We left on Wednesday morning at 4:30 am (I braved 10 degree weather in shorts with the excitement of landing in 80 degree weather). We arrived at the hotel at 11 am, did our Chevy Chase Vacation head bobbing on the balcony of our room while taking in the ocean, and headed down to swim. We had a blast playing in the waves. Meanwhile, Ri called us four times in a row to tell us how much she missed us. Mario was perfectly content with Grandma Ionno but Ri missed having us around her. We better take that in while we can because I have a feeling that may not continue in a couple of years.
We hung out a good deal with Jon’s friend Craig and his wife Julie. Julie and I tease Jon and Craig about their bromance but it is quite darling. They told Julie and me that they take care of one another – when one is having a bad day, the other lifts him up. And when Craig heard Jon ordering a coke at McDonald’s one morning, he counseled him on making better choices. Precious. Julie talked to me about Pure Barre and how much she loved it. I think that will be my new adventure in exercise…. They are a sweet couple and we all laughed a lot when we were together.

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Jon and I engaged in our normal routine: I get up and workout, we meet for the killer breakfast buffet (Ri would adore it), we jump in the ocean and swim, we get massages, we jump back in the ocean, we eat dinner, we crash. Not a bad life. I even swam with a shark this year! I didn’t mean to by any means…. I was looking for shells a ways down the beach and stood up to find a three foot shark swimming by me. I froze and let him continue to circle me and when he moved away a third time, I darted onto the beach. I couldn’t wait to tell Jon and Mario! And Jon experienced a first at the beach, too. He got a pedicure! His feet were baby soft and he had to admit he loved it. I imagine he will be sneaking away at lunch to get one every three weeks. He did have to endure his guy friends giving him grief about his robe though. The front desk lady gave him a super short one to wear even after he asked for another. When he walked into the waiting area, his buddy Phil shook his head and said “Jon, you just made my day.” His other friend told him that the robe looked like it would fit his twelve year old daughter. Nothin’ like guy friends to calm your anxiety. When we got up to the room, there was a present laying there for Jon – a toddler-size robe compliments of “The Guys”. We laughed for ten minutes straight.
Jon’s boss, Jim tried to teach us to body surf to no avail. The man is like balsa wood the way he rides a wave nearly into shore. Jon and I made it about five feet from where the wave crested.
We missed hanging with Dave and Jen and Joe and Lydia – our Michigan buddies. Our schedules never lined up except when Jen and I got to dance to our Violent Femmes song in the pool Friday night. We are gonna need some time on Dave’s boat this Summer….

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Patty cranked out four straight days with the kiddos, god love her! Maria got strept throat on Thursday. She called us up barely able to speak but mustering up the words to tell us that “this is the time when she most needs her parents near her.” Talk about knowing how to give a guilt trip…! When we arrived home on Saturday night (a day early between Ri’s strept and the snowmageddon predicted for Sunday), these posters were hanging:

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I love how this one has our ages.

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And this one poses questions to us (answers: I’d rather eat with Michael Jackson and Jon would rather eat a snail).
We got the most warm and welcoming hugs from the munchos when we stepped in the door (we need to leave more often).
And Rocco was in heaven with his doggy pals at the farm. As Jorge commented “Rocco likes Winter.”

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All is back to normal again: kids, Rocco, 48 year old dad and 42 year old mom are back at home together waiting for Spring to come.