Christmas 2014

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.  IMG_2526

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). IMG_2554 IMG_2555 IMG_2557

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.IMG_2568 IMG_2570

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).IMG_2590

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.IMG_2601 IMG_2595

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.IMG_2615 IMG_2625 IMG_2633


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.  IMG_2640Pure 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.IMG_2639


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.20140207-142722.jpg

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.IMG_0011 IMG_0019 IMG_0032

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.




Halloween 2014: don’t stop til you drop!

Two Halloween costumes – $65
Accessories for costumes – $24
Candy to pass out for Halloween – $20
Trick-or-Treating with my babes –
Ri’s school party was Thursday and Mario’s on Friday. What a blessing – I could hit them both. It was strange going to Ri’s 4th grade party. She kinda wanted me there and kinda didn’t. She asked me to come – I did not just show up like some parents (whose kids were oh, so embarrassed!)). I helped her with her outfit and took pictures with her friends but as soon as we walked out the door for the parade, she was on her own.
“Do you want me to walk with you?”
“No, mom, stay with the parents! ”
And so I chatted with the other moms and watched the 4th and 5th graders walk by laughing and smiling together. We got a few class shots when they returned and they were off to their class party.
In grade school, I would have been sitting at Ri’s desk helping her with the game or craft on tap. She would have dragged me all over the room with her. In 4th grade, all the parents stood at the back of the room and watched as the 4th graders awkwardly stood around eating and waiting for the games. I left a bit melancholy knowing this would likely be the last year Ri asked me to come to school.





But it was also nice to see Ri so independent – not crying her eyes out when I left her classroom. I want her to feel comfortable being on her own and she’s certainly moving in that direction.
Mario’s party was what I am used to. Lots of frantic kids running all over the place, throwing things, and giggling. His parade was indoors because it rained on Friday. He paraded through the gym: his eyes grew large and his mouth opened to a smile when he spotted me. Makes me glow every time. I stayed for his entire party – watched him try and eat a donut off a hanging string without using his hands (hilarious game); draw a picture of his teacher in a Halloween costume (he chose a clown); and devour mini M&Ms.




He certainly seems to be the class clown.
Halloween night was a blast. The most fun one I’ve had with the kids. I got home at 5 pm – Halloween started at 6. We ran around and got dressed; Bethany helped with Ri’s pirate make-up while I tried ten shirts on with Mario to wear under his costume. That boy is picky!
We were finally ready at 5:45 and I couldn’t wait any longer. Yea, that’s right. Me. Not the kids. Well, they couldn’t wait either but I was the major proponent.
I love Halloween. It has always been one of my favorite days. And it’s solely because of the CANDY! Yea, I like the cute costumes and seeing friends out but I LOVE the candy. My sweet tooth is alive and well just like it was at age 7. All week long I’d been teasing the kids they better not even think about coming home until 8 pm, when trick-or-treat ends because I won’t let them in the house without a pillowcase full of candy.
We left ten minutes early knowing our neighbors would take care of us even if it wasn’t officially start time. Ri came running down the 1st driveway mouthing “I got three candy bars!” Mario did the same and added “and I got a Reese cup for you!” They know how to please their mama. We had to make a stop at Stephanie’s house to get pictures with the kiddos. But we made Steph rush with the pictures because we had a charge before us – get candy!
We were serious.




Mario was a trooper. He usually peters out after 45 minutes or so but we met up with Rowan and Henley around 6:45 and he cranked it out until 7:25. >


At 7:25, Henley, Rowan and Mario wanted to go home. They were cold and tired. I turned to Ri and asked if she wanted to go, too.
“Nope, let’s keep going, mom.”
“”Are you sure?”
So we trucked on after Jon came to pick up everyone else. We hit the funeral home on 1st and then crossed over to a few houses. It was about 7:50 by this time and Ri started limping.
“Are you hurt?”
“My foot has been hurting a bit but I didn’t want to tell you.”
“Because I wanted to make it until 8 since I know it means a lot to you.”
I didn’t know whether to feel like a heel for driving my daughter to pain -all for a KitKat – or to be overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness. I gave her a hug and told her we were done…except for the one other house up ahead!
And so she went up to one last house and then we visited her friend, Kathryn who lived three houses down. She soothed her painful leg by eating a s’more and we called Jon to pick us up.
Ten minutes later we were sitting at the kitchen table salivating over Mario’s pile of candy and Ri’s pile.

Ri counted out 26 Twix bars – her new favorite candy bar.
“I got three of these when you and I continued on, mom.”
That made me feel a bit better…. In turn, I massaged her aching leg as she and Mario laid in Ri’s bed thinking through what candy they’d eat in the morning.>

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.




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…

They have their friends there now and they “hang” with them pre-hunt over pictures with mom.


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).

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.

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.





Rocco even scored a rawhide from the Bunny.

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.




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.


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.


On the drive home, I felt full of joy…and chocolate Easter eggs.


The hilarity of life

I woke up Sunday and went for my run. As I was lifting weights at the gym, I thought about something I had overlooked at work. And I thought about it again. And again. My stomach tightened; I felt sick. I had to head home. I started to cry.

When I walked in the door, Jon walked up to me. I started telling him how stressed I was about work. He touched my shoulder and told me the ten reasons why I shouldn’t be stressed. Why is it that he is always thinking the way I should be thinking when it comes to holding my own at work? I think of something I missed and I automatically start damning myself for not being perfect. How could I miss that? What was I thinking? Jon goes straight to “look at the pressure you had on you; you had a ridiculously short time frame to seal the deal; things will be missed and this thing is nothing compared to the big picture.” He does what I have seen other leaders do – stand up for themselves; diminish the matter; look at the big picture. It is so hard for my perfectionist self to do but it’s absolutely necessary to not go insane in my job. Thank god I have a hubby that grounds me.

Thank god I also have two kids that make me laugh about it all. When they saw me upset, they both reacted. Maria said “Mom, in the big scheme of things, does this really matter?” Yeah, there is my philosopher girl who has picked up my stock response when the kids start crying about trivial things. Mario chimed in making goofy faces and saying “Mom, just do this and you will feel better!” They bring me perspective. As I was walking towards the stairs, I kiddingly told them that I was going to take a shower and cry. Maria’s response “don’t cry in the shower, pee instead!” (An inside joke that made me chuckle during my entire shower). If kids are good for anything, it’s making you see that life can’t be taken seriously; it’s pure chaos and you just got to see the hilarity in it.

Jon left that afternoon for business so I let the kids have a sleepover with Sophie and Quinn. We took a stroller/scooter ride to the Chocolate store which always makes me feel better. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation between Mario and Quinn in the stroller:
Mario: “Dude, did you see that?”
Mario:”Ha, nothing. Got ya, dude!”
And so it went over and over. Maria and Sophie were far ahead on their scooters talking about who knows what.

The Chocolatier did not disappoint. Gelato for the kids and dark chocolate nutter butters for moi. Pure heaven. The boys went shirtless into the store and I got a smack down from the owner who told me next time they would not be served. Seriously, at age 5?! I would say its more likely we won’t get served based on these kids being downright nuts!



When we got home, the kids watched Paranorman while I wrote my sis a letter and they were all fast asleep when I peaked in the room at 10:30. I carried each one to bed upstairs.

The next morning I made pancakes with chocolate chips, eggs, and bacon for the crew. Ri and Sophie helped me make the pancakes. They graciously allowed Mario to help stir after he had a meltdown when they told him he couldn’t assist. Quinn was fine watching tv and being waited on.


After breakfast, they didn’t want to go outside and I didn’t want them watching another show so we compromised. We got out paper and magazines and they cut out their favorite pictures from the magazines to glue on their paper. Ri and Sophie cut out horses and puppies and kittens; Quinn cut out an expensive watch and dog; Mario cut out a polar bear and half-dressed women. Yea, that is right. He cut out a woman in a bikini from my Self magazine and a woman with long, luxurious hair from a shampoo ad.

“These girls are sexy, Mom!”
“Mario, girls are not objects and you should not call them sexy. That girl works out hard to get strong and she plays sports.”
“Yeah, yeah, mom, they are still sexy.”

Seriously, at age 5? The only thing that gives me hope is that Ri got all into boys when she was 4 and she totally grew out of it by 7. However, Jon and I thinks Mario may not take that path. It’s like it’s innate in him. Scary.




He asked if I’d tape his girl pictures above his bed for him so he could see them when he goes to sleep. See why we’re concerned?! Maria schooled him on how “inappropriate” he was being, and she and Sophie cornered him in the living room to tell him that “girls rule and boys drool.”

Needless to say, they kept my mind off work all weekend, and I love ’em for that.

Easter 2013

Maria was more excited about Easter this year than Christmas. For the last three days before Easter she kept wondering what the Bunny might bring her. I never thought she cared much about the baskets that I create for them each year but I was wrong. As we sat at the table writing letters to the Easter Bunny, she said “I want to say something to her (I love that she treats the Easter Bunny as a girl – my progressive-minded girl) but I don’t want to sound greedy.”

“What are you asking her?”

“I’m asking her to please bring a basket for me and Mario again this year.”

“We’ll, I don’t think that is unreasonable to ask. Just ask it politely.”

So she wrote “P.S. Would you consider bringing a basket to me and Mario?”

I love that girl. She really is a thoughtful little soul. When Mario acted up later in the evening, I told him the Bunny was watching. He could have cared less. So I got more firm with him. Ri started sniffling. I asked what was the matter and she muffled her words “I don’t want my brother to not get a basket.” She watches over that boy.

She left out a cup of milk and cheese for the Bunny. She couldn’t find carrots. Then she went promptly up to her room so the Bunny would come. Mario stayed downstairs. I kept swearing that one day the Bunny would not come because he didn’t go to bed on time. All I can say is he knows he’s got a sucker for a mom and I would never let that happen.

And sure enough, even though he didn’t go upstairs until 10 with Jon, the Easter Bunny somehow managed to fix up two awesome baskets with bug catchers, a Katy Perry CD, Skylanders, clothes, sunglasses, and chocolate bunnies, of course.

The Bunny gave me written instructions to hide the eggs since he couldn’t hide them outside with the rain. The kids tore through the downstairs and the hunt ended in two minutes. They wanted those baskets.







I had to give $5 in an egg to each of them because we missed the Heile Easter egg hunt where there is always the possibility of finding the $5 egg (Grace was the sole participant this year so she got lucky). They were high on candy within 10 minutes (how fast can Mario down peanut butter cups? Three in a minute).

I still don’t know what to think about Ri and her belief in the Easter Bunny. With as old as she acts, I can’t believe she still believes. But then she gets so excited about Easter and writes a letter to her and leaves out food that I think she must believe. But then again, on Easter morning when Mario pulled out a Skylander and I said stupidly “I thought you’d like that one” she quickly interjected”you mean the Easter Bunny, don’t you, mom?” with a coy smile on her face. She keeps me guessing. Mario doesn’t give it much thought as long as there are gifts and money in his basket.

After finding eggs, we headed to Marion for Easter brunch. Nothing like filling yourself up with bacon, ham, creamy macaroni and hash browns before diving into brownies and chocolate peeps. Why aren’t elastic sweatpants allowed at brunch?

Carrie and Gio had to stay home because Gio was sick but we got Alana for the day. Mario enjoys playing with her as much as Gio. Grandma Ionno had eggs ready to be hunted and the kids got treated to more candy and another $5 egg. I’ve never made $10 bucks that easy.




The kids visited the mama and papa geese near Patty’s bridge. The papa squawked at us to stay away from his woman and babies and Mario had to tell us the story of him and Grandma getting chased by the papa two weeks ago. Then the kids rapped on the rocks (much to Uncle Patrick’s dismay – I told him we’d sing hard rock next time).


Mario crashed on the ride home but woke up when we got close to home begging to see Quinn. I told him they weren’t home from their aunt’s house yet and he got so mad. “You promised we could see them, mom!” He is all about keeping promises lately. I explained to him that I said we could see them if they were home. He surprisingly understood and sat quiet. I need to be very careful with my promises from now on because as long as I don’t promise something I know may not happen, he seems ok.

He ended up having a good night with his family. We took a scooter walk and played football. And ate a ton more chocolate Easter bunnies.

Tampon and Chocolate Delivery = Genius

Why did I not think up this enterprise?! I can see many a man buying this gift for their significant other in order to avoid the midnight runs to the local Kroger for sanitary products that he hides in the basket under a bunch of miscellaneous “manly” food items, chips, beer, slabs of meat.  Jon’s had many a funny story about purchasing my necessities.  I think it’s good for him though – strengthens character.

The only problem I have with the gift package is that it needs to come in a much bigger box with a lot more space for chocolate.  Four little chocolates will not do the trick when I am experiencing my monthly cycle.  I need a box big enough to fit King Size candy bars and mega bags of M&Ms. Oh, and make the surprise gift be a gift card to Dairy Queen….

Walleye and chocolate

Mario was born to be outdoors. He proved to us that he could be the Wildman’s partner the way that he caught Pikachu over the weekend (with all the pomp and circumstance that Ernie the Wildman exhibits when catching a river turtle)! The past two days he visited the farm and caught fish, including a walleye. My dad informs me that he could sit on his fishing boat for hours waiting for the big catch. He’s been talking about hunting and fishing with Jon since age 3 – I think he’s ready to go full throttle now that he’s five.


Meanwhile, Maria got to stay home with Jon and me. She wasn’t too upset since I told her we’d enjoy some mother-daughter time. She loves when we get to hang out without those pesky boys. We let dad join us for dinner but then we took a bike ride through Grandview.

We picked up her friend, Lucia, and biked to Pure Imagination Chocolatier. The store just opened down the street. Can you pack on 20 pounds to my belly now and get it over with?! It is a piece of heaven in there with gelato, chocolate Oreos, chocolate coconut, chocolate turtles….I got four pieces and ate them all within 10 minutes. So much for savoring the taste!


Ri and I biked home. She talked to me about her friends and I talked to her about how I used to handle difficult friends. The conversation made me happy – I’m glad she feels comfortable opening up to me. She begged me to lay with her for the second night in a row and rub her back while she fell asleep.


Continuing the Madness…

Easter morning

We stuffed ourselves on Saturday.  Absolutely stuffed between the corn casserole, the brownies, the potato salad.  So, what else is there to do but continue the gluttony on Easter Sunday?  The kids woke up in a bit of a stupor from our long day on Saturday but within about eight minutes, the day hit them. 

“Is it Easter?  Did the Easter Bunny come here? Are there eggs downstairs?”

It had rained all night so the back yard was soaked.  Jon kept the kids in bed while I ran downstairs to hide the eggs and put out their baskets.  I had done the baskets Friday night knowing that I would be exhausted Saturday night.  As I was placing the last few eggs on the bookcase and piano, the kids started shuffling downstairs asking if they could begin the hunt.  They found their baskets in the corner of the dining room – Maria screamed when she saw Justin Bieber stickers and Mario jumped around the room when he discovered mini transformers.  Maria moved onto the “hidden” eggs (not so hidden when you are talking about three rooms downstairs with very little furniture) and found all of her eggs within two minutes.  Mario took his time on the eggs front because those new transformers were way too enticing.  

After the hunt came the best part – opening each egg to eat up the contents.  I had packed Maria’s eggs full of skittles, gumballs and NERDS (she enjoys those sweet candies like her Aunt Sarah).  I packed Mario all chocolate – M&M’s, snickers, and reese’s (he is his mother’s child).  Everytime Mario looked away, I snatched another chocolate.   

Jon’s parents and brothers came over at 11 am and we headed to brunch at Bravo’s restaurant.  The kids hung on their  cousin Peter, the entire time.  They were fascinated with him (age 16) just like they are with their Heile boy cousins(age 16 and 17).  Luckily, Peter is about as low-key as the Heile boys so he allowed them to climb on him, lead him through our house, and show him their toys.  When we returned home, Mario begged to play Peter in a game of b-ball on Wii.  While they played, the gals (Maria, Patty, Debbie and me) walked to Giant Eagle to grab a bag of ice.  We talked about Jon’s dad, about moving to Columbus, about kids.  It was nice to break away and have that alone time together.  Maria did a good job walking with us and listening to us talk – she is getting more mature in that arena lately.  She used to butt in every two seconds in the past but now she enjoys listening and adding in her two cents when she sees fit. 

When we got home from the store, Mario had moved the men to the outside to play “live” basketball. He showed us his dunks while Maria came out and showed us her new sandals.  I had taken her there to get me a pair of gym shoes.  When we walked in, however, Maria immediately dragged me over to the high heels section.  She selected about three different heels that were over an inch high and that I have only seen in the movies on prostitutes.  She loved them.  To her despair, I moved directly to the gym shoe area.  I led her to the girls’ shoes and soon she returned with a pair of black heels on her feet.  They almost fit her perfectly, and she begged to purchase them (I am so hoping that this a phase that ends by the time she is 7).  She chose about 4 other shoes before she came out with the turquoise sandals, which we finally agreed upon. 

After chowing down on Patty’s awesome chocolate chip cookies and turtles, we hit the road for the Heile soiree, aka the Madhouse.  Poor Jon is still not used to the ruckus that inevitably occurs when us Heile women get together but he continues to hang in there be the good sport that he is (typically sitting off in the corner with my uncle to talk about hunting).  My darlin’ girl cousins love on Maria and Mario picking them up, squeezing them, kissing them and giving them raspberries all over those round bellies – just like the treatment I received from my aunts when I was little.  Maria relishes in the time that she gets with her second cousins (who we call aunts just because second cousins seems way too distant).  They include her in anything they do which included this holiday sitting on the back of my uncle’s truck listening to music and chatting about boys, clothes, friends, and shoes – right up Maria’s alley.  Mario has made the conscious choice to turn his attention to the boy cousins because they spend their time playing basketball.  He hangs in there with ’em trying to make a shot even if the net is ten times his size.  One day he will show them all up. 

We chowed down on more ham, more potato salad, more deviled eggs, and a new twist – baked beans (a Heile tradition)!  Dairy Queen ice cream cake for dessert, too.  Pure heaven.  We had our traditional easter egg hunt that used to be at least 9 kids strong but that was before all of the cousins grew up and turned into 20 somethings.  Now we only have four kids participating – Maria and Mario, Baby Grace, and Konner.  Everyone wants to get the $5.o0 egg each year, and although all the kids get the same amount of eggs each year, it is still a race to get your number the quickest.  Maria got all nine of hers and Mario only had 8.  Konner had 7 and Grace was finished.  Everyone was helping Konner and Mario find the remaining eggs.  One of the cousins found one and called for Mario to race over.  Konner started heading that way, and Maria tackled him to the ground in order to help her baby brother (the reason she gives at least).  When it comes to eggs, they go to no lengths to help each other.  Baby Grace ended up with the $5.00 egg for a second year in a row much to Maria’s disappointment.  Maria had a major breakdown last year when Grace got the egg; this year we had a talk about how to act if Grace won (be graceful and grateful that she won because she is a baby and needs diapers!) and indeed, she took the $5.00 “loss” like a champ. 

The rain started to grow heavy after the hunt, and the party moved indoors except for Mario and the boys who continued to shoot in the steady downpour.  Mario walked in the house fifteen minutes later sopping wet and completely uncomfortable.  “Mom, take off my shoes and my clothes.  I am all wet and need to be dry.”  He could not stand being wet, and refused to put his shoes back on throughout the night.  He did enjoy running around the living room in only his undies.  Maria again used her tackling skills to get him under control and move him back into the bedroom to get dressed. 

We left the Heile house with cousin Maggie in the car (hitchhiking a ride back to Columbus) and Madagascar on the movie screen.  Maria lasted about 30 minutes before crashing.  Mario and Maggie hung in throughout the trip home.  We unloaded all of the easter treats in the house and I spent 20 minutes picking through easter candies to eat promising myself that the candy remaining on Monday morning would be given away at work.  Of course, I sit here tonight eating a reese cup and a chocolate bunny swearing that I will get rid of the candy tomorrow.  Yeah….

Family, Ham and Chocolate

Mario’s game face
M & M getting ready for the hunt!

I love Easter.  It is my favorite holiday for two reasons: (1) I adore chocolate and there is a ton of it between the easter egg hunts, the grandparents, and me splurging on it “for the kids’ baskets;” and (2) people seem to be more relaxed on Easter – less frantic about presents, meals, attire.  Easter comes right at the time of a new season – winter cold is gone and grass is turning green.  People are excited about being outside again. 

We celebrated Easter today out at the farm.  The forecast called for rain all weekend with strong thunderstorms at times.  When we woke up this morning, the sky was grey and dreary but had promise to it.  Patches of yellow and blue broke through in the sky, and I had a feeling during my morning run that we would be spared.  I was right.  The Grandview Easter Egg Hunt began at 10 am with soggy grass underfoot but no rain showers.  Maria’s nightmare came true when she heard that 5-7 year olds were grouped together (“I will never get as many eggs as 7 years olds).  However, she perked back up when she met up with her friend Anna and her grandma.  I stood with Mario in the 2-4 year old group coaching him about how to engage in the hunt (“pick up the eggs first – not the bags of oreos and cookies”).  He put his game face on after my speech, and anxiously awaited for the announcer to yell “GO!”  What comes over me and other parents at these easter egg hunts?  We are so competitive following our kids around the area pointing frantically at eggs that we see.  When the kid is looking in the opposite direction, we yell “Mario, look!  Mario!  Mario, over here!  Mario!!!”  Mario ended up with more eggs than Maria, which led to Maria frowning and complaining that she did not get “any” eggs even though she had three in her basket.  Her friend gave her two of her eggs, which led to 180 degree change in Maria who smiled from ear to ear.  the kids sat down to open their eggs, and Mario promptly gave me the first chocolate candy piece he opened.  What a doll.  I had told him how much I loved easter chocolate and he had told me that he would share his with me.  However, I was not going to believe it until I saw it.  And there it was.  He does love his mama!  Maria, on the other hand, gave me a stern look when I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from her basket.  “Mom, this is my food.”  She is so generous when it comes to other things but not her food!

We rushed home after the hunt and hopped in the car to the farm.  Within five minutes of walking in the door, Maria and Mario and their cousins found the baby chicks.  Tiny and precious and so delicate.  Just what three and five-year olds need to handle.  But Grandma Meg managed to let all of the kids hold them without incident.  Mario chanted “Calm, calm” to the chick while he held it.  Maria acted like she was a vet while she held one asking me what was wrong with my baby chick.  They were infatuated at first sight.  Maria and Anneliese, her 8 year old cousin, played beautifully together.  Surprisingly, Mario and his three-year old cousin, Ben, also played together for the first time ever.  In the past, they were into their own things (and still at that young age where you don’t play much with other kids) but this time they were by each others’ sides for most of the day.  Ben would yell for Mario and Mario would run to him.  Mario would ask Ben to get something for him and Ben would get it.  They threw stones in the stream for 30 minutes and talked about being in the army while they rode the rocking horses.  They used croquet clubs as hammers and swords.  Boys.  Maria and Anneliese held the chicks a lot and walked Rosie and played in the stream.  Tomgirls – yeah! 

We ate yummy ham and potato salad and deviled eggs and corn casserole and butter rolls.  Patty’s potato salad won everyone over with people going up for thirds!  I swear I am going to enter her p. salad into a contest – it will undoubtedly take first place.  Desserts made my stomach larger just looking at them – brownies, cookies, shortcake, chocolate cake, lemon bars in addition to all of the Easter candy!  Oh, how I love this holiday! But, oh, how I wish I had some sort of will power.  I get on Maria about eating too much but then I stand around the table eating 3 brownies, cake, candy and cookies.  I blame those Menkedick genes that cannot resist chocolate (unless you are supernatural like my father).  My 91 year-old grandmother devoured the desserts just like me so I think I am doomed.  

The kids got to ride the horses towards the end of the day and then got treated to a stellar easter egg hunt.  There is part of me that still wants to participate in those hunts – I see an egg hiding in the fence post and I get so excited.  I was a damn good egg finder back in my day….  We finished up the afternoon holding the chicks some more and chatting with family that we don’t see as often as we would like.  Maria would love to have Anneliese closer and Mario and Ben would have a blast together now that they are the ripe old age of three.  Grandma M. is strong as ever, carrying on conversation and watching the kids play.  I wish I lived closer to her so we could see her more often even though she even states that having M&M over any more often would seriously wear her out.  She has got to be kidding – my kids are little angels…! 

In sum, a great start to a holiday weekend.  The farm is a gem, and Meg did an awesome job hosting us all.  Dad did an awesome job entertaining the kids (even though he allowed Mario to fall in the stream!).  And the rest of us just soaked in the beauty of a wet Spring day.