Back to the 80’s

I can’t remember how we got on the 80’s while eating dinner this week but it led to much laughter and some crazy outfits.
Jon told the kids that it would be 2014 outside the house but inside the house we were reverting back to the 1980’s. There would be no iPads and no cell phones. Our phone would be attached to a wall and you could only walk five feet away from it (Maria did think it would be cool to have a wall phone (Aunt Julie has one!) but she was not enamored with the thought of no iPad or Google. Mario was fascinated with the entire concept of going back to the 80’s (he clearly didn’t process the “no technology” idea). Jon described the outfits we wore in the 80’s: girls wore neon and fishnet and their hair in a ponytail on the side of their heads. Boys were penny loafers and their collars up and white pants and suspenders. Mario asked what suspenders were and Maria responded “they are like belts that clip on your pants and go over your shoulders.” Love it. Jon showed them images of clothes from the 80’s and Ri was appalled. She made it clear she did not want to go back time. Jon kept ribbing her and she finally blurted out “you wanna see 80’s? Mario and I will show you 80’s!” They went in the house for ten minutes and these two 80’s babes walked out.

Jon and I laughed so hard. Ri asked what the sayings were in the 80’s and we named a few: “grody to the max”, “totally”, “dude”. They started saying them to each other.

They were fascinated that we had to “dial up” to get any internet and then it would take 15 minutes to connect. They could not fathom telephone booths. They had no idea what the Dewey Decimal System was and why you’d ever use a card catalog to look up a book. They cracked up at the thought of a show called “The Love Boat.”
They were absolutely flabbergasted as to how we survived, much less liked the 80’s. Little do they know how much they would have fit into the 80’s era – Ri with her love for partying and music and Mario with his dance moves and fashion sense. They are clearly just jealous.

Bittersweet Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013 ended up being a very rough one. Jon’s dad got sick on the 14th and couldn’t get out of bed. He had just traveled to a funeral on Friday in Canton and spoken with family members. But by the time we arrived on Sunday, he was still in bed and not saying much. I was able to sit with him and watch the football game. I didn’t say much out of deference to him – he always liked calm and quiet and I wanted to provide that to him in what we knew were his final days. Jon got to be near him and tell him he loved him on Sunday, also. What a blessing that was because he started to decline quickly on Monday. All of his children were able to get to the house before he passed on Friday. Patty was able to read him the Bible in the comforts of their home and comfort him with her smile. That is one memory I will never forget: watching her bend down to Joe and whisper “I love you” and seeing his mouth widen into a smile and say “I love you” in return. Fifty years together and committed more than ever.

The next week was painful for all the family to experience, especially Patty and the five sons. Jon stayed in Marion most nights and the kids and I went up a couple of times to say goodbye. On Wednesday night, many of the grand kids were there – Dagmawit, Maria and Mario, Alana and Gio, Emmi and Eli (great grand kids). They played downstairs and we could hear their laughter from Joe’s room. Kevin and Chris and Jon and Patrick and Patty reminisced about times with Joe while we stood in his room. The next day, the hospice nurse told us we may want to keep it quiet for Joe. We agreed. But I do believe that Joe enjoyed hearing his grand kids downstairs one final time since he spent so much time with them over the last few years. For 90 years old, it was amazing how much he could tolerate. And how he always was ready for an embrace.



He passed away with Patty, Jon and Chris by his side. We all went to the house that evening and celebrated him. We held his wake on Sunday and the mass on Monday. Then we came home to prepare for Christmas Eve. Needless to say, we were all spent, emotionally and physically.
We took Patty to Cincy with us on Christmas Eve. She fit right in with the rowdy Heiles (actually, after we left we realized that it’s really just me that creates the rowdiness anymore…and I do it well!). We went to Grandma Lolo’s first where Maria and Mario were quite pleased. Ri got a “real” baby doll with five sets of clothes and Mario got Skylander Swap. Of course, Mario said thanks but then immediately asked “where’s more presents?” Jon and I both had a talk with him about being grateful and it sunk in … until the next gift opening. Maria was the same way at age 5 and grew out of it; but Mario may be tougher. Needless to say, we will be practicing gratitude all year long in 2014. My mom loved getting Maria a baby doll. The two of us refuse to let her grow up and slurped up the fact that she still wanted a baby doll for Christmas.






We ate some chocolate covered cherries (Mario was not a fan) and headed to Laura’s house (formerly Grandma Heile’s home). All my baby cousins are grown up – it is just not right. They all sit properly in their chairs and drink their wine and talk about their jobs! Maria and Mario sit all over them and rough house with the boys. They love it.



We left Laura’s house and headed back north to wait for Santa to arrive. Ri fell quickly to sleep because “Santa would come more quickly.” Mario stayed wide awake watching Epic with Patty and then played Legos with her in the basement until 11 pm. She is a machine.
Christmas morning arrived and Ri was the first up. She laid patiently with Jon and me until Mario woke up and jumped on our bed screaming “let’s open presents!” And we were off to the races!




I bought them a bunch of clothes and small gifts, which they opened with vigor. At the end, they both looked up and smiled but wondered if anything else was coming (Mario had begged for an iPad all season; Ri had wanted one too but was conflicted because she also wanted a sewing kit and American Girl doll clothes, and she didn’t want to be greedy). I left the room and returned with two packages and a note. Maria read the note from Santa.

The note detailed all of the dos and don’ts of having an iPad mini. Mario could hardly hold still as Ri read. Santa told them that they have to play educational games and get off of it when their parents say so, and they have to continue to be good and giving to others. I think Ri processed it; Mario is gonna take some time!


The next 24 hours was a whirl wind. Meg, my dad, Jack, Sarah and Jorge arrived around 10 am. We ate yummy casserole and biscuits and then took two hours to open presents. We are notorious for being slow present openers. We have to ohhhh and ahhhh. Ri and Mario found out about their Disney trip. Ri flipped out with excitement; Mario was in a state of awe. He was both excited and nervous about going without Jon or me. He still loves hanging with Jon and me, but we know he will have a blast.




After we opened presents, my Menkedick crew took off and our Ionno crew came over. Patty and I broke out her whipped cream vodka ( yikes!) and the kids played together all day long without any fighting.




The girls went to the park with me and Rocco and climbed all over downed trees. Times are a changing: Ri is turning into the outdoors girl while Mario is wanting to stay in all the time.

The next morning we drove to Marietta for Joe’s burial. The cemetery sat on a steep hill amidst a throng of trees that must look magnificent in Autumn. A group of Patty’s family members showed up to the cemetery and afterwards we went over to West Virginia for Italian food (now there is an oxymoron for ya). It was comforting to sit with Jon and his family and my parents during lunch.
I took in our conversation with vigor.

Education, defined


I went to fire up my iPad and pictures of Maria smooching Big Time Rush singers popped up everywhere. Ri had told me she was working on educational sites. Yeah…. When I asked her about this, she responded with an incredulous tone:

“Mom, I learned how to work the camera and adjust my face so it was right by Carlos’ face. That’s education, if I’ve ever seen it!”

Movies in the stroller – what a life!


We made a late-night run (literally) to Jeni’s for ice cream. Mario brought the iPad and got on YouTube to watch the Pink Panther. Maria soon became intrigued. And I was left acting as chauffeur to the two munchos.
We passed an older couple along the way and they gawked in amazement at the sight of M&M watching tv in the stroller.

“You wouldn’t have seen that five years ago” they chuckled.

It got me thinking back to when Maria was born just 7 years ago. An iPad would not have been an option. She had to stare into space and take in the sights around her when I took her for a stroller ride. How cruel!

But Mario has known nothing but this way of life. Technology is always at your fingertips. You can watch that show you like anytime. You can play an app game anytime. But you can also educate yourself and look up facts anytime (like when we googled how clouds were formed last week).

I struggle as do most parents with how much computer and tv and iPhone they should have in a day. It tends to go back to what they are doing on the computer or phone, also. There are some apps that have done wonders for Mario’s and Ri’s math skills (Math Zombies) but others that are probably killing brain cells exponentially (Zombieville (yes, M&M have a strange fascination with zombies)).

As with everything in life, moderation is key, I suppose. Ri and Mario still get on their bikes and run around the neighborhood through the day. The day they sit inside all afternoon on a technological device is the day that we start enforcing hard and fast rules. But, knock on wood, we have some pretty happy, active, diverse kids who like to mix it up between outdoor play and games and education. Think it will stay that way five years from now when they both have iPhones?!



Partyin’ til the Cows Come Home

Party Girl

Maria slept over at her friend’s house last night.  Her friend turned seven and had Maria and two other girls over for a birthday party/sleepover.  She wrapped her friend’s presents (two barbies) in Christmas paper (I never buy wrapping paper besides Christmas time); signed her card, and found a big party bag to place all of the goodies.  These are the times that I think she could make it by herself in her own apartment better than most 20 year olds.  When I told her she could call me or dad if she got scared, she looked at me with an exhausted look.  “Mom, pleease!”  And sure enough, Jon and I never heard a peep from her until we picked her up.  She had gotten a manicure, perfume, and made up with her girlfriends. 

Meanwhile, Jon and I had chilled with little Mario all night.  He wanted to play on my iPhone or ipad all night long.  He is completely and totally addicted to all things electronic.  He could sit on the floor, legs crossed, head cocked downward to see the screen, and tap on the iPad all day long.  He is mesmerized by whatever he is playing.  You could call his name ten times and he still doesn’t hear you.  Scary stuff.  Was I like that when I played PacMan on Atari?  He gets away with murder when Maria is gone because Jon and I let him stay up while we watch a show or read.  He plays the iPad the entire time.  I figure he is in school all week with no electronics so why not let him live it up on the weekends. 

Mario and his iPad

In any case, after we make him turn off the electronics, I read to him for at least 20 minutes.  He enjoys that time with me, which is good. At least he is not crying for more electronics or covering his ears yelling “I’m not listening!”, which is how he reacts anymore when he gets mad at you (learned behavior from his sister, I believe). And he understands the books we read – he can tell me the main idea of the story every time.  So, his fixation with electronics doesn’t concern me… yet.  

We picked up Maria from her friend’s house this afternoon and visited our old neighbors, Doris and Kim.  We had not visited them since we moved in our new house (we are so bad that way).  They always welcome us into their house, and the kids love them.  They hung out with Kim outside while we talked to Doris.  Kim does anything they want; today she let Maria act like she was driving her car and let Mario toss a ball to Gunther (their dachshund). 

As soon as we left and walked in our door, Maria asked “when am I going to Alana’s house”  My brother-in-law invited her to spend the night tonight through Monday since they are going to watch Maria on Monday while Jon and I work.  Jon and I are chopped liver anymore.  The girl likes to get her party on.  We packed her up and Jon took her over.  She’s gone until Monday. 

Mario, meanwhile, loves having his sister gone for a day or two (any longer and he misses her like crazy).  He gets Jon and me all to himself.  I play baseball with him (he has got an arm on him and can hit pretty good, too).  I take him for a bike ride and he is in the lead the entire time (when Maria goes with us, she always gets in the lead).  We go to the library and he gets all my attention while he plays his computer games (usually I read to Maria while he plays).  We play Wii  table tennis and he kicks my butt!  We play Hi Ho Cherry-O, and he refuses to stop playing until he wins a game.  No, he’s not competitive at all…. 

Jon and Mario  play hunting games on the iPad.  Mario yells “Dad, I shot the bear right in the heart!”  Jon gives him the rock and then takes a turn.  Mario watches in awe.  They are hilarious together.  I think Mario will be supplying the meat for the family in no time.  Meanwhile, Maria will be busy having sleepovers and partying it up til the cows come home.

No More Medical Professionals Please!

“Mom, when do we get to go home?  I want to go now, mom, please.”

Maria enjoying the dentist

Mario bellowed those words over and over this morning.  I subjected the poor boy to a double dose of fun – the dentist and the doctor – and I am quite sure he will mention the indelible trauma it caused him 30 years from now.  Maria has never minded the dentist or the doctor.  She did not want to leave on her first dentist trip; she kept asking questions to the dentist, and was pumped when she got to take a sticker out of a big plastic tooth.  Today was no different.  She burst into tears at 6 am this morning when I told her we may not go to the dentist because Mario was spiking a fever. 

“Mom, please, take me to the dentist.  You can just hold Mario and give him your phone to play with.  Please, mom.”

How could I deny her after that pleading?  I don’t want her to blame me for a traumatic event, too.  She walked right into the back room when the dental assistant called her name. When I stood to ask her if she wanted me to go back, she stopped me.   “I am fine, mom.”  Yet another leap away from needing her mama.  Proud…but kinda sad.  

Mario not enjoying the dentist

Mario sat in the waiting room playing on my I-Pad and asking to download every ninja, hunting, or fighting game he found.  When they called him back, he dutifully walked back trying to continue his play on the IPad while walking (he’s my son).  The dental assistant sat him in the chair and explained that she was going to clean his teeth.  He chose grape flavor and all was good… until she attempted to put her hands in his mouth to clean his teeth.  He clenched.  He cried.  He did not want her near him.  I tried to explain to him that she was not going to hurt him in any way but he wanted nothing to do with her.  He pleaded to go home.  He begged me to take him out of the chair.  Horrible.  Sweet Maria looked around the room trying to find items he might enjoy (a picture of a “hot” girl brushing her teeth, a balloon, and my IPad) but nothing worked.  She told him to hold her hand and that she loved him but that didn’t work either.  It was ridiculous!  My tough-man is not so tough at the dentist. 

So, if I had not tortured him enough at the dentist, I took him to the doctor right after we dropped off Maria at school.  He usually does not mind the doctor, especially when his sister joins us.  But today, I knew it would be different because he had to get a throat swab to check for strep throat.  My stoic Maria even cringes at the thought of the swab check.  But her worse reaction to it was to cry for three minutes and then open up and get it over.  Mario beat her by far.  When the nurse came towards him with the swab, he innately knew something was up.  She had her one chance to get him but she was too slow and when she stuck it in his mouth as he opened up for her, she must have hit the roof of his mouth and he closed up immediately.  She didn’t get the swab, and there was no way she was going to get it.  He was beyond pissed off at every  medical professional now.  He sobbed, he hyperventilated, he begged to leave or at least “wait until later.”  It lasted an entire fifteen minutes until the nurse left and even then, he laid like a wet noodle in my arms.  Eventually he got back into the IPad but then the doctor came in the room.  Luckily, she was good with him and asked him all the questions that would engage him (who is your favorite superhero, what did you get for Christmas, what is your favorite IPad game). 

Nevertheless, when she took another swab out of the jar, he freaked.  There is nothing worse than having your son beg you to help him through what he believes to be a horrid situation and the only thing you can do is put him in a hold-down and be complicit in the horrid act.  But again, this doctor came through and tricked Mario and me.  She asked him to open his mouth just so she could shine a light on his throat (what she did earlier) and then she quickly and precisely jabbed the swab in his throat.  When she took it out, he realized what had happened and looked at me in disbelief.  I praised him like he had just won the Olympics.  When we walked out, he looked up at me and asked “Are you proud of me, mom?”  My sweet babe.  We took a long walk in the stroller and he fell asleep due to all of the trauma of the day.  I stopped and stared at him for a long time.  My doll baby.   

All I know is that I am scheduling the next appointment for Mairo on a day when Jon is in town!