The kids get two weeks off for Christmas break every year. Every year I find myself frantically calling my dad and stepmom or Jon’s mom or our sitter to see if they can take the kids certain days. You’d think I would learn with each year and plan a bit in advance but it is a lesson I will never learn. Probably because I get away with it every year – finding family and friends to watch the kids on the days Jon and I have to work. The year it doesn’t work out and I can’t attend the boss’s meeting is the year that will make me change my ways.
The kids counted down the days prior to their two-week break with increasing joy until finally on the Friday of the last day of school, Mario exclaimed “no more school after today!” I guess two weeks feels like a lifetime to a kid. We had our usual holiday trek to Cincinnati on Christmas Eve. We hit mom’s house first and madly opened presents. The kids always want to dig in as soon as we open the door and mom obliges.
Susie hosted Christmas Eve at her house for the first time since I was little, and it was really enjoyable. She had gingerbread houses for the kids to decorate (Mario was way too cool to decorate his for more than a minute), and a movie for them to watch (never got to that but good thought).
I wondered if I’d feel at all saddened by having it at Susie’s since I had spent my life going to Grandma Heile’s house for Christmas Eve. But I didn’t because all that mattered was that I had my Heile posse with me for the evening. Ri joined right in the crowd as she always has since she was little. She fits right in with her 20 something cousins.
Mario, on the other hand, is a bit more intolerant of the noise and chaos and constant hugging! Emily came up to hug him and he pushed her away. I took him upstairs to tell him that was rude, and he looked me in the eye and cried “doesn’t she know that I don’t like to be hugged?” Spoken just like his father. I calmed him down and we went back downstairs only to have Cy accidentally hit him in the tongue and mouth with his head as they were playing horsey. Back upstairs he stomped – angry and hurt. Then, he suffered a third incident 30 minutes later when Robert picked him up by his feet and dropped him on his head. Lovely. Poor kid couldn’t catch a break. But then he scored a Nerf gun from Aunt Jane and all was good.
Ri helped me play the white elephant game this year. We took home the horrible clown that everyone hates to get each year. Actually, we didn’t even win it – Cy’s girlfriend did – but she was so scared of it that Maria took it from her to be nice. Ri could play those games all night long with her cousins; she loves it.
We left Susie’s around 7:30, which was nice. We arrived home at a reasonable hour versus the 10:30 or 11 pm times in years’ past. The kids knocked off soon after we left (Ri first as always and then Mario shortly thereafter).
We did not arrive home to luminaries up and down the street, which was a bit disappointing. Our street has always had about a 90% turnout rate on luminaries and it is magical to turn the corner and see the soft glow of lights lining the entire street. But it was raining softly when we arrived home, and the lights would have gotten burnt out upon lighting. Patty had wrapped some of the kids’ gifts for me while we were gone, which was such a blessing. I came home to nothing to do (in years’ past, I ran around frantically wrapping and getting things under the tree). Jon and I went straight to bed knowing the two goofs would be up at the crack of dawn.
They woke up at 6:30 am and we heard them outside of our door whispering and excited. They lasted until about 6:50 am (we had asked for 7 am) before busting open the door and yelling “Come on! Let’s open presents!” Jon and I rose from the bed, hair in every direction, and got pulled down the stairs by each kid. It took approximately two minutes for the kids to open all 7 of their presents. Seriously. Next year we are going to have to take more time. It was 7:05 am and Christmas was over. But they were both happy campers. Ri got her phone she wanted and Mario got his Nintendo. They immediately unwrapped those items and started playing with them. Jon and I got each other comforters without having any idea we were both getting each other one. Two peas in a pod.
Meg, Dad, Sarah, Jorge and Elena arrived around 9 am for our second round of fun. Ms. Elena’s first Christmas! We ate yummy quiche made by Meg-pie and cinnamon rolls and then skyped with Uncle Jack and Sofia. It was great seeing the dude-man on Christmas day; he never ceases to make me belly laugh. He seems to be enjoying the Nordic life sporting a sweet wool sweater during our talk. Elena let Ri and I hold her while we opened presents. She loved the mega-blinged out baby walker we bought her with all sorts of sounds and lights on it. As we sat around together watching Elena, I was reminded of all the years that Jon and I would head to Meg and Dad’s house for Christmas morning. Jack and Sarah were in grade school and high school, and just as excited as Ri and Mario about present opening. We’d get a call at the apartment at 7 am telling us to head over.
We hung out until around 12:30 and then they left to head back to the farm.
Bring in round three!
Patty and Patrick and crew and Chris and Connie and Frances came over around 1:00 to spend the rest of the day with us. The kids loved hanging out together all day long. Chris told his jokes like he used to when Jon and I were dating. Patrick and Jon talked about all the things they got into when Patty took them to work with her. It was a good reminiscing session; their stories never cease to impress me. Boys. We opened gifts after dinner. Patrick and Carrie gave me the best gift I have ever gotten. A shirt box full of chocolates. There were probably 100 of the chocolate squares overfilling the box. Pure heaven!
We missed Joe’s presence. Patty teared up a few times thinking about him. Mario also talked about how much he missed him. And Ri cried at school before break because she was working on a tribute to Joe and sadness overcame her. There is no doubt he felt the love soaring up to him this holiday.
The girls went home with Patty on Christmas night like they have in past years. They look so forward to that time with her. She took them to play volleyball at the Y the next morning and all of her friends enjoyed their humor. Mario and Gio spent the night at Gio’s house one night and our house the next. They played video games and laughed about farts and butts and all things that make boys chuckle. I am so happy that they still enjoy one another and get to spend time together. Patty is a machine with them. She takes them to the Y, to the arcade, to the movies, to McDonald’s. She plays with them at the condo. Her energy really needs to be bottled up and sold; we’d make millions.
We ended the holidays with a visit from Bill and Jean and Kerry and Kevin and kids. Meg and Dad and Sarah joined in the afternoon fun. We made it easy and ordered City Barbecue and Bill made his awesome chocolate desserts. Maria and Mario do not get to see Ben and Annaliese that often but they still find ways to connect. Ben and Mario connect over the iPad; Maria and Annaliese connect over her American Girl doll and barbies. I remember when Kerry and I were young and both possessing much different interests but we’d get together two times a year and catch up. There was a connection between us even with the months apart and our different pursuits. I am a strong believer in staying close to your roots. I am quite sure that Grandma Menkedick was smiling down on us all day.
After that crew left on the Sunday before New Year’s, we had the house to ourselves. What to do without the commotion, present-opening, running around, and chaos?
Put on the pj’s, eat some of Bill’s chocolate cake, and read Vela.