Taking care

I have been taking Ri to the homeless shelter for years. It is one of the few places where you can take kids and allow them to interact and help others in need. Ri and I would go and make crafts with the kids. She did such a great job with them; she especially loved the toddlers because she could help them use scissors and help them draw. 

Now that Mario is eight, I figured it was time to get him involved, also. I had taken him with Ri and me a couple of years ago but he didn’t remember it. I also asked his football friends’ moms if they’d be interested. A lot of them were and between all of us we had a boatload of supplies and snacks for the kids.

I was a tad concerned that the boys would use this time as play time rather than help the kids. It’s hard being eight and a boy and coming to a place that has room to play tag or wrestle. Temptation creeps up.

But they all did superb. They invited the kids to sit down at their tables. They said hello and talked to them. They made crafts and instructed the kids how to make them. They were patient with the younger kids. They also created a new craft (we had given them two to work on with the kids). They created paper airplanes and made designs on them. Then they all moved to the play area and flew them together.  

At one point, Mario approached me and asked if he could read his new book to some of the kids. One of the moms at the shelter was sitting next to me. 

“Yes, you bring that book on over here, son.” One of her sons looked at her and complained that he didn’t like books. She scolded him “boy, you need to like books to be smart!”

And with that, Mario began to read. The younger boy, around five, listened intently. Mario used the same inflections I use when reading to him. My heart be still.  

Thanksgiving 2014

And so another Thanksgiving holiday has passed. We hosted the Heile clan this year so it was a raucous good time with Aunt Julie and I taking turns lifting each other off the ground in wild embraces and the cousins ribbin’ each other over any sort of thing.
Ri was wonderful helping me with the centerpiece and place holders. We spent two days making turkeys for each guest. Maria designed them after the one I tried to design looked like a buckeye nut glued on a circle. I cut out the body and head and beak and gizzard and feathers, and Ri wrote on each body: “We are grateful for NAME because…”. She wrote each family member’s name creatively and then wrote two adjectives on each of the feathers of the turkey to describe the person. She even got her thesaurus out to come up with unique words. Precious girl.

Poor Mario sat in the family room watching tv the entire time because he was sick as a dog. He sported a nasty virus that reared it’s ugly head through a non-stop cough for nearly seven days. He was up all night coughing and I swore in my sleep-deprived state that he had to have pneumonia. But two Urgent Care trips later, it was confirmed to simply be a virus. I was so glad to see some life in him on Wednesday morning. He was able to crank out five games of Crazy Eights with me and win everyone.
We woke early on Thanksgiving Day – Jon to prep the turkey and me to take Rocco on a long run to tire him out. When I got home, the kids and I played some more Crazy Eights and they drew cards for the Markles telling them how grateful they were for them in their lives. But the thought of getting out of their pjs to deliver their cards was too much for them so we saved the cards for a post-Thanksgiving present. Mario played on his iPad while Ri waited anxiously for the guests to arrive. Finally, Grandma Lolo arrived. She and I tried to figure out how to make the stuffing and gravy (I get more rudimentary cooking skills honestly; but she gave me so many other talents). Ri quizzed Papa Rod on geography. Then others began to arrive. Ri became the official greeter and coat taker thanks to Laura designating her. These cousins of mine have quite the influence on Maria Grace. She listens to their every word and watches their every move. She grew up with these gals and surely gets all of her sassiness from them.
I loved the hustle and bustle in the house; the laughter; the poking; the frivolity. I grew up with this craziness and I’m glad to see that none of us have settled down. Heck, look at us former Perkins’ waitresses posing for the camera – we still got it.

While Jon was outside grilling a mean turkey, Julie, my mom and I were trying to brew up some equally mean gravy. You would think mixing broth, flour and water would not be so scary, but again, you are talking to three women that have never made it. But ta-da! We killed it!

Everyone brought lots of sides – broccoli casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole, rolls, fruit salad, and mashed potatoes. The cousins got caught up on the latest in their lives while Ri and Mario sabotaged the boy cousins. Sweet Konnor and Stewart let the kids wrestle them and show them every room in the house. Cy played football with Mario in the freezing cold. Mag and Liz and Tiff and Laura grilled Ri about school. The uncles watched some football and the aunts chatted around the kitchen. Kinda traditional setting for T-Day but I’d have it no other way. This crazy bunch has been with me since I was a little pea pod and being able to give them thanks and break bread with them on this day made me giddy happy.





Laura gave a lovely prayer before our meal and we were off to the races. Jon’s turkey was to die for – moist and honey-basted. The sides were yummy. The wine was rich. The company superb. And dinner was over in 25 minutes!
All the aunts got to washing the dishes within seconds of the end of the first person finishing their plate – true Grandma Heile style! We broke open the Frisch’s pecan and pumpkin pies and Rice Krispy treats and dove in without hesitation. In sticking with Columbus Thanksgiving tradition, I announced a walk after we gorged ourselves. A few brave souls decided to come with me, including Ms. Grace and Ri. Grace got the delight of climbing a tree!

When we arrived home, I got a few more minutes with my Heile clan before they started to hit the road. But Susie and I did manage to wrangle the clan for a family photo before departures began. We started with the normal sweet photo…

But then I got my goofy pose one.

And then they were gone leaving behind two dozen deviled eggs (we forgot to put them out at dinner much to Jon’s glee), a pecan pie and another year of wonderful memories.
But before we knew it, we had more visitors. Grandma Meg and Peepaw arrived from their Thanksgiving in Cincy. Grandma Meg dropped off Peepaw for a sleepover since he left for Oaxaca on Friday morning to take an intense Spanish course and see Elena. Lucky dog.

We ended the night with a long game of Quirkle (Ri beat us all as usual) and a few leftovers (including two pieces of sheetcake, yes sheetcake, a new Thanksgiving tradition started by Aunt Julie in honor of my sweet tooth).
I went to bed completely whooped but so grateful for having such an amazing clan to call family.

I could handle five

There are times when I wish Jon and I would have kept making children. After all, our kids are quite gorgeous…!

And wouldn’t it be great to have five kids running around the house, and huge holiday celebrations, and a security net when Jon and I got older – if two or three of them refuse to take care of us at least the other two or three will….
But then reality hits as it did Wednesday night. I agreed to have the neighbors’ three kids over for dinner. So there’s my five kid wish. Within 40 minutes, I was thanking Jon for his adamant refusal to have more children. Just feeding them was a task. I’d need two jobs to pay for the food. I made macaroni-n-cheese in a giant pot and felt like I was a cook in the army, or back in college after a night of partying.

But then there they all sat – so sweet – like little toy soldiers eating their meals and laughing at Mario’s silly faces. Ok, I could handle five.

But it wasn’t two minutes after the macaroni dinner that I heard crashing in the family room, and then wails of pain. Someone was hurt. Yelling ensued. While I cleaned up the hurt kid, the others continued to scream at one another. My kids always stand up for one another and the neighbors’ kids stand up for one another so it’s like the Hatfields and McCoys. Then Rocco entered the mix barking like a mad dog because of the commotion and I was ready to head to the attic and jump off the roof.
I needed a plan. What would calm them down? Drawing. No, too boring. Playing a game? No, to much potential for a fight.
How about acorn crafts?
We’ve had a bowl of acorns for a month thinking we’d color them and put glue inside to watch them turn into “gems” but we still hadn’t done it. Well, that did it. The girls and Pax engaged in the activity while Mario and Quinn played Wii. Then Mario and Quinn and Pax did it while the girls played Wii.
Quiet and art in the house.
I could handle five. Easily.


Here come the O-O-Overbecks


Two out of the four Overbeck kids arrived at our house on Sunday morning at 2 am. Laura and Cy tip-toed up the stairs to Mario’s room and fell asleep. Mario and Gio wanted to wake them up so badly at 7:30 am but I kept them away by promising them donuts and sprints at the track (sounds just like a Big Mac and a diet coke).

When we returned full of yeast and sugar and lactic acid, Laura was awake and watching football with Jon. Cy was still snoozing (17 year old boy for ya). When Cy finally woke up, Mario and Gio descended on him like flies on fruit. They jumped on him and wrestled him and dragged him to the basement to play Lego’s. He obeyed their every command and helped erect some sweet Lego structures.


We had to feed the 6’7″ cuz eventually so we headed to Skyline for some Cincy chili. Maria told Laura scary stories she heard at her party in Marion and Laura diligently listened to all of them. Mario told Cy about his football games (“we always win except one time we tied and the whole team was sad”). We chowed down at Skyline eating coney dogs and three-ways and mounds of oyster crackers. And we all could have went home and slept for four hours – that is, the adults could have. M&M were pumped to have their cousins around and clung to them like koalas to eucalyptus.

Laura took Maria to Target and Loews to buy cork board and supplies for a necklace holder. Cy stayed back with us and played hours of basketball with Mario. Only a high school basketball player could endure shooting hundreds of times with a five-year old. Mario loved having Cy watch his every move, and Cy treated him like a little brother. It was very sweet.

Laura and Ri brought both supplies and another Overbeck, Robert back to the house (the last Overbeck kid, Emily, is in Colorado and couldn’t fly back for the fun!). Mario got Cy and Robert to pal around with? What a day for the little man!

Maria got her Laura time – spray painting her cork board pink and preparing to liven up her room. Thank god for Laura and her crafting skill because I have none of it (check out her blog!). An hour later, Ri led me, eyes closed, to her room to check out the new necklace holder. What a kick-butt, bright pink, functional wall decoration. Laura rocks it out again.



After all that madness, the Skyline finally set in. Everyone got in relaxed mode (even M&M!) and settled down while Jon and I cooked dinner (yes, miracles do happen). Jon and I cracked up when we glanced into the living room only to see these high school macho boys watching the “Bodyguard” movie with Whitney Houston. They were all into it.


And just when our stomachs finally felt at peace, we were ready to eat again! Jon made soup with meat, spinach, onions and beans (we still need a name for it) and I made corn bread and scalloped potatoes. Jon kept pushing me to try the soup and when I finally did, he asked “do you like the meat?” I knew this was a different kind of meat at that point and just hoped it wasn’t squirrel.

But no, it was elk and it tasted good. Listen, my man doesn’t go to the grocery to buy meat; he goes out and hunts it down! Jon shot this elk last year in Colorado and we are still trying to eat up all the meat.

Maria did not have the same reaction. She put down her spoon after Jon’s declaration and stuck with the potatoes and bread (and lots of it!). Mario tried the elk and ate two pieces (a lot for him). He also battled the boys while they teased him about eating his food (any thing to try to get that boy to eat).

After dinner, we engaged in some pick up basketball. The boys laughed hysterically at the PIG game that Jon and I played. It was a pathetic sight, especially to two b-ball players. Laura couldn’t help but feel sorry for us.

The fun had to eventually end with school and work in the horizon, and so it did at 6:30 when the Overbecks plopped in their car and drove off. “That was fun, mom,” Maria said as she jumped in my arms. Yes, it was. Those Overbecks know how to bring it!

No snow but lotsa ice cream!

We woke up this morning dejected.  The supposed 4 inches of snow that should have blanketed our lawn turned out to be a dusting of white powder atop our green grass.  The kids looked out the window and sighed.  But although Old Man Winter failed to appear through snow, he did appear through frigid temperatures. 

-1 degrees with wind chill. 

No run for me this morning.  Instead, I hit the 8 am yoga class downtown with the hopes that everyone else slept in under their covers.  Not so lucky.  It was packed with women in their yoga attire and freshly painted toenails and perky little ponytails.  How awful and judgmental am I?  Jon always gets on me when I start describing people like this.  And he’s right.  The reason why they annoy me so much is because I secretly want a pair of yoga pants instead of my ten-year old adidas capris, and I secretly want bright candy red nail polish on my nasty, beat-down toes.  So, I’m jealous – I admit it.  Class was ok – I got spoiled with my very first instructor who whooped me up and made me feel like I had run a marathon after her class.  Everyone else pales in comparison (as Jon says to me “they teach like normal people, Mary!”).

Maggie came over at 11 am to watch the kids while Jon and I hit the Container Store to order a custom designed closet.  Whoo-hoo!  I would post a picture of our closet to let you see the disaster it is but it would be way too embarrassing (and that is from someone who is rarely embarrassed).  The store personnel were great – very friendly and efficient.  Our designer worked a layout for us and within 45 minutes, we had purchased the materials and installation for our bedroom closet.  Awesome.  When we got home, Ms. Maggie had bathed out children – a feat we had not accomplished in two days.  She even got Mario to wash his hair (a feat I have not accomplished in a week) and Maria to let her brush her hair.  Maria’s hair looks gorgeous when you actually brush it (imagine that).  We have Maggie sitting for us this Summer and we cannot wait – she is going to have these kids whooped into shape so quickly that Jon and I are going to be put to shame.  We have no problem with shame. 

Maria’s friend Gwen came over at 2 pm.  I was skeptical as to whether we should keep Alana over when Gwen came but these are 6-year-old girls – there couldn’t be too much drama, heh?!  Actually, they played well together without any drama; a few spats here and there but no drama.  They trashed the basement by having a “paper party” (consisting of throwing paper all over the place); demolished Maria’s room by spreading barbies and clothes all over; and trashed the kitchen by making crafts.  I had gotten them interested in Wii Just Dance but I noticed Gwen sitting on the chair looking bored and a little sad.  I asked her if she liked to dance and she shook her head “no.”  So, we moved onto a different activity – crafts.  

Maria with her TP doll

Gwen told me she loved to draw and so it was an easy choice.  Maria and Alana went with it, too.  We made toilet paper dolls (I did not make that craft up – I found the idea on the internet!).  The girls also tried to one up each other by drawing on themselves with magic marker.  Alana drew on her hand, Gwen on her finger, Maria … on her neck.  Yes, a giant butterfly with different colors across her neck.  She cried when I told her that dad would be so upset and told me with big tears rolling down her face: “I was just trying to be funny.”  That is her thing – she likes to make people laugh by going to the very edge – or over sometimes.  I love her for that trait but also worry about it.  We need to temper it a bit.  We got most of the butterfly off and Maria moved onto stickers. 

After crafts, we had to get out of the house for a bit.  Not so much for the kids but for me.  I know I have ADD – the folks should have diagnosed me years ago but then I would have been on drugs for way too long so I am glad they didn’t.  And it could be worse – I could sit on the couch all day watching Ellen.  We headed to Graeter’s playland for some running around and some ice cream (a tad hypocritical).  If I could eat Graeter’s for every meal, I would be one happy camper.  I love their chocolate chocolate chip.  I love their peanut butter chip.  I guess I simply love anything chip.  The girls loved the see-saw until some other kids moved in and bothered them.  They moved on to the slide and the tree house.  Some boys began teasing Mario on the slide, and Maria took care of them.  She protected that boy like a vicious guard dog making sure that they stayed away from him.  I was even scared.  After playing, we enjoyed some yummy ice cream.  Alana got strawberry (ugh!), Mario got 2 dips of chocolate chip (and left some for me god love him) and Maria and Gwen split a chocolate banana split.  They went to town on that thing.  I think Gwen has Maria’s appetite so the two of them together ate that split in record time.  Alana hadn’t even made a dent in her cone.  On the way home, the girls looked out the back window and talked to drivers behind us saying things like “Come on slow poke, catch up!” or “That woman looks old and look at that man…”  They giggled the entire way home.  It reminded me of me and my girlfriend, Beth when we would take road trips as young girls.  The innocence and slapstick and giddiness.

We ended the night with pjs and toothbrushing and helicoptering (until Alana bumped her head on the bed headboard).  Oh, and some ice cream sandwiches just to make sure we got our fill of milk and sugar for the day.