Summer of sports

Isn’t summer supposed to bring rest and relaxation? If not for parents who are working year round, at least for kids? I feel like Jon and I and the kids have been running around like chickens with our heads cut off more so in the last few weeks since school has been let out then throughout the entire school year. 

Mario shot straight into basketball camp a week after school was out. He went there from 9 AM until noon every day, came home and ate lunch, and headed to the pool for a few hours with his buddies. Then, he would return home to eat a sandwich and head off to the baseball field for a game. The entire family has been living on hot dogs, KitKats and Gatorade through the month of June. 

Mario is pitching this year; all last year, he could not wait to move out of coach pitch and into player pitch. He had Jon and I out back with him every night catching his pitches. He’s got a nice throw on him. His first game he struck out quite a few batters. He ran into the dugout after he pitched with a serious, intense look on his face not showing any emotion relating to his performance. He was super cool. Although, Jon and I both knew his heart was thumping and he was pumped. 


He’s been getting his bat around, too. He had a beauty of a hit to right field one game but the only player that can catch from the other team was playing right that night. He loves baseball; Jon and I agree that may be his long-term sport. 


He’s off to football camp this week from 9 am to noon again. This week is a scorcher with temps in the 90s. I made him wear sunscreen this morning and he was less than happy. 

“Nobody wears the stuff, mom. That is how I have my bronzed look.”

This comment was made after he gelled his hair into a perfect wave on his head. 


Meanwhile, our other child barely manages to gather her thick, tussled hair in a ponytail for her practices. Maria decided to do swim team this summer. I still don’t know the real reason why. I have begged her to join swim team for the last four years and she always declined. And when I say “declined”, I mean she was adamant that she had no desire to join swim team. But her friend Evelyn seemed to convince her this winter while they were playing basketball (another sport she always refused to play until recently) that she should come out to swim team. She talked about how much fun it was with the other girls and how they all just played around and had a great time together. Something that Ev said resonated with Maria and she informed me in late winter that she wanted to sign up. I didn’t hesitate; I went to the Gators website and signed her up. I thought it would be good for her to get up early in the summer and start her day. I think she romanticized about how nice it would be to do the same. As of late last week, I think she was second guessing her decision. When I went to wake her up at 6:50 AM, she kicked the covers off of her nearly kickinh me in the thigh and huffed and puffed around her room as she looked for her bathing suit.  

There is a whole other blog post waiting to be written about how proud I am of Maria going out for swim team. Most tweens, I believe, would never try out for a team where they have never practiced in that sport before and knew that they would be far behind other kids. But that did not deter Maria, who is in it for the comraderie and for the laughs. However, Maria is not superhuman and she did suffer a bit of anxiety and nerves prior to her first meet. She was unable to dive off the diving board because she was concerned about hitting her head in the water. The concussion she got in soccer last spring still messes with her at times. She also was concerned about not being fast at all and losing to a bunch of third-graders. Luckily, my girlfriend was at one of our softball games and talked with her about how these meets were all about beating your personal time and not worrying about whether you beat the person in the next lane. I also reiterated that Jon and I did not expect her to win at any meet – swim team was more of a conditioning to get her ready for soccer and to make her a better swimmer. I was up all night wondering whether I should give her an out and let her get off the team, wondering if I had put too much on her this Summer. I decided to have her do the one meet and see how it went. 

When I arrived at the pool for the meet, she had “eat my bubbles” written on her back and came running up to me with a couple of her friends smiling. I was relieved. She made it across the pool and back for each of her swims, and I was proud as heck of her. She has now gotten to the point of wanting to beat her time from the last meet – she does have her mom’s competitive spirit in her! 


Maria is also playing softball. She is in the same boat as Mario – coming home from swim, doing homework, playing with a friend, making slime, choking down some pasta, and then warming up with me prior to heading to her game. 

I decided to coach one more year since Maria will be on the middle school team next year. I think overall Maria enjoys me being her coach although there are many a times when we get on each other’s last nerve. She refuses to allow me to root for her when she is up to bat. She is doing great with her pitching – thank god – because she is one of only two pitcher for our team this year. I think she embraces that responsibility and has taken it on herself to be a leader for the girls, which means she yells at them to cheer and talk in the field! She is a mini-me in that way. 

So there we have it; evidence as to why there have been a lack of posts in June – busy, busy, busy!

 Thanks giving 

I love celebrating Thanksgiving. The gratitude and appreciation expressed for one another makes me beam. Everyone lets down whatever guard they may have erected and opens their arms to hugs. I must admit I was a bit concerned this year that my idyllic view of Thanksgiving may be shot to hell due to the recent election of Trump. But alas, it was not. All were polite. It was definitely more quiet than usual for a Heile get together … but Jon appreciated that peace. 

Maria slaved over the favors for the family with me. We thought about what would be best for days before the event and finally landed on mason jars filled with a holiday mix.  We drove to Giant Eagle to try to find mason jars. I told Maria that I did not want to spend a bunch of money on the jars. She was determined to find a deal. We walked down an aisle and Ri exclaimed “here are 12 for $8.99!” I shook my head with approval and we grabbed two cases. As we turned towards the checkout, a woman approached us. She held two coupons for mason jars, and asked if we wanted them.  I was taken aback, as was Maria. What are the chances that somebody with a coupon for mason jars would be walking by us right when we are heading to the checkout? Life is crazy strange and full of surprises. And heck, we saved six dollars because of that woman; Ri and I were charged! A reminder to pay forward.

 We arrived home to find Mario listening to music on the computer. We made him turn it off and help us decorate the mason jars, much to his dismay. But once he got started, he realized it wasn’t horrible. Maria enjoyed gathering all of the different foods we bought and mixing them together (while she taste-tested each one separately). She also decorated the mason jars and took her time trying to determine what decoration would look best for each person. I love how she put thought into each jar that she decorated; Mario, on the other hand, placed random stars and hearts on all his jars. 


On thanksgiving morning, we drove down to the YMCA to serve the homeless man at the shelter. We have been doing this for about three years, and the kids thoroughly enjoy it. It helps that one of my long-time buddies runs the program and is really great with the kids. The men are also great with the kids – talking to them, thanking them for their service, and teasing them. The kids actively engage with them, especially Maria who sits down with them at their table and asks about their lives. One man approached me and told me how impressed he was with Maria in the way that she could talk to him and make eye contact. It made him feel special.


We got back home in time to shower and greet our guests from Cincinnati. They arrived with much good food and wine and treats. It was an easy year for us on the turkey front. Jon bought two of them from Ray Ray’s hog pit so we had nothing to cook. There is something to be said for going the easy route some years… (especially when Patrick isn’t around to help!). 

Everyone mingled and got caught up on the latest news … and cooed over Elena before dinner. The potatoes actually took the longest this year because my mom had so many in the pot. It was starting to be a stressful situation but they finally came to a boil and we were able to mash them and get them on the table to be served. We chowed on our carbs and went into our annual daze. Folks on the couch watching football and folks in the kitchen cleaning up. 


We went for our annual walk around the block after the dishes, which pleased Rocco greatly. Shortly thereafter, most of the crew left. But the diehard liberals stuck around to talk about their displeasure with the election … and Aunt Ann’s new beau.


We capped the evening off by meeting up with Sarah, Elena, and Jorge at their hotel. We brought some snacks with us and enjoyed jumping on the bed and playing farm with Elena before she went to bed – definitely the highlight of the day for Maria. 

There was no getting up at 4 AM to shop on Friday morning – we slept in letting the carbs run through our bodies. 

Weekend busy

Ri and Mario spent the entire weekend in sleepovers with their friends. Friday night, Ri and Mario headed up to the football game tailgate with Jon. They arrive an hour early to party it up with the rest of the parents parked in the lot by the field. Ri chatted it up with Jon’s friends and ate the unending line of dips while Mario threw the football with his buddies. 


I made it up in the second half (after letting go of the week’s work and taking my pup for a walk in the woods). When I arrived, Ri and Evelyn were already asking for a sleepover. Mario and Zach had already gotten approval from their dads for one at Zach’s house. I agreed and we decided to leave the game to head to Choclate Cafe for a late night snack. As I cleaned up the kitchen, the girls primped up for the Cafe. I had no clue that’s what they were doing and when they came down, I was caught by surprise. They really need to not dress up because they look like high schoolers and it makes me cringe! 


We enjoyed caramel truffles and milkshakes at 10 pm. Meanwhile, the boys played some serious x box at Zach’s house. 

On Saturday, the girls humored me and walked to Stauf’s for breakfast. We sat outside with Rocco and played cards while eating our yummy muffins. Then we hit Target for dress shopping – the girls’ favorite activity. The boys went, too, in order to sucker me into buying them face masks for their Nerf battles. Mario brought up his previous two eye scratches and that’s all it took. I bought them. Ri found a dress after trying on three of them. Ev wanted her to get one with polka dots but RI’s style is much more subdued – plain black. 


After Target, I took Ri to get her hair conditioned. A week ago, she mixed coconut oil and baking powder in her hair and it felt like hay. It looked awful and you couldn’t get a brush through it. She didn’t seem to care but it drove me nuts. It took two washes to get it clean but it finally looked normal again.

The girls had a b-day party on Saturday afternoon, and the boys wanted to hang out our house since we’ve got all the “bad food.” I agreed to take them for the night and our friends would take the girls. The boys begged me to take them to Get Air like I took the girls one evening a while back. But Zach is still recovering from a concussion so we couldn’t do trampolines. They decided on Galaxy Games and Golf for a round of putt-putt and some gym play. Little did they know that I am quite the putt-putter. I amazed them with my hole-in-one. Actually, I heard Mario whisper to Zach “my mom is really good.” Precious. 


We walked inside after their crushing defeat and right in front of us was a claw machine – Mario’s addiction! He begged for coins to play. Again, sucker mom. It doesn’t help that I love those dang claw machines, too. Mario, of course, immediately won a stuffed animal and a ball. It took Zach a few more tries but he nabbed an animal and a ball, too. In trying to get an animal, he nearly got a stuffed animal chicken. Mario was set on winning it because I was dumb enough to whisper “oh, I would have loved that chicken!” He’s gonna spend all his money on his dates trying to win them stuffed animals. He kept trying and trying but the chicken kept winning. I finally stepped in and asked if I could try it. I clawed the chicken and a random teddy bear – won two in one try! Can you sense my excitement still?! The boys were amazed again….


I had to put a stop on the claw games much to their dismay. They would have spent a fortune there if they could. We moved on to the gym, which was full of kids. I read my book and ate my snacks while looking up at Mario here and there when he shouted at me. 

We stopped at McDonald’s on the way home for some delicious dinner and then turned on the Buckeyes game when we got home. They made their way to the reclining sofa and commented on every play of the game. Jon got home shortly after us and we all watched the game together. Mario fell asleep around 10 but Zach hung in with us until the end. 

The next morning the boys and I walked to Stauf’s (two days in a row!). We ate bagels while playing cards and watching the marathoners. Heaven. Then we topped off the sleepover by heading to the woods for a Nerf gun battle. Rocco refused to leave Mario’s side. Alana and Patty were at the house when we returned. 

Alana and Ri loved working the concession stand at Mario’s football game. They each made some cash from it. 


Meanwhile, Mario and his teammates suffered their first loss of the season. They played hard with two of their stars out with injuries. I’ve never seen so many crying boys after the game. But they have next week to recover. 


So there you have it – another non-stop weekend with friends and parties galore. It’s a new kind of busy from the days of toddler-hood but I love it all the same.

I love to watch you play … But I also like to see you play well…!

We had a full day of sports yesterday. Ri had a double header softball game at 10 am, Mario had a two hour football game at 12:30, and Ri finished out the day with a soccer game at 3:30. I know, I know. All my friends with older kids remind me of how much I will miss these packed days when my kiddos are grown. And I know I will because I actually don’t mind watching them for hours straight on a weekend (as long as I can get my teeny workout in and I may wish they played a bit closer to Grandview but that’s about it). 

However, when I watch them play, I do expect them to give it their all. If I’m putting in the time to watch, they should put in the time to play hard. I was complaining to my girlfriend a few weeks ago about Ri not running up to the ball hard enough. I told her I felt bad because after Ri’s game I coached Ri and told her that she’s gotta concentrate on the ball ahead of her more. Ri responded flippantly “how about saying nice game, Ri?”  My girlfriend counseled me that I need to simply say after her game “I love to watch you play.”

After thinking about it more, I resolved to take my friend’s advise but add to it. I’m gonna tell my kids “I love to watch you play, and I also love to give you feedback on things I thought you did well and things to look out for next game.” That’s fair, right? Heck, that’s what I do with school work so why can’t I do it for sports? 

And so I did just that yesterday without too much negative feedback from either child. They were too high on their performances to give me any negative feedback: they both did amazing jobs in their games. Ri cranked out two strikeouts and a play at home. I got a bit of it on video for once. 

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Mario had two great runs in his football game and I scored big for getting them on video. He loved watching himself last night….


And then Ri finished the day with a shot in the goal form the right wing position. Her face was priceless after the shot went into the goal. I was too busy jumping up and down to capture it! But I did capture some smiling faces after the game.


So maybe my feedback after the “I love to watch you play” comment is working…or getting them so irritated that they take out their aggression on the field. Either way, I will take it.

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Chili contest 

Last Friday, one of my colleagues announced that we needed more people to enter the chili cook-off the following Monday. I have never participated in the cook-off. Why? Real simple. I don’t cook.

As Maria and Mario attest “dad is a good cook with the grill and mom is a good cook with the microwave.”

I agreed that I’d submit a chili because I figured I could make extra to feed the family for a couple of days. On Sunday, I dropped Ri off at basketball. Mario and I hopped in the car to head to Kroger’s to purchase a gift card for Mario’s friend’s birthday. 

“I volunteered to make chili for a cook-off at work, Mario. We need to get some ingredients when we are at Kroger’s.”

“What’s a cook off, mom?”

I explained to him that three OSU football players come in and taste all the chilis and choose a winner. The winner gets a football (I embellished the story a bit – it’s two former players and an athletics outreach director and the football stays in the office, but hey, I had to capture his attention). 

“Mom, we have to win!”

He asked for my phone and typed in “world’s greatest chili recipe ever.” He handed me my phone with the first recipe that came up. I made him help me get all the ingredients, which he merrily did. 

“We are gonna win, mom.”

I made the chili later in the evening while Mario was at his party. He came home and saw the skillet and smelled the goodness. I gave him a bite and he smiled. “That’s gonna win.”

And sure enough, Stan Jefferson and the two young men he brought with him chose our chili as the winner. I squealed when they called out my chili as the winner like I had won a trip to the Bahamas. I was so excited to tell Mario (it had to be the salsa addition to the chili mix). 

  
I walked in the door with the football in my book bag. Mario was looking at his iPad. I whipped out the football and broke the news. Mario jumped up and fist bumped me. I knew we’d win, mom!”

It helped that I used two pounds of ground beef – double the amount called for – knowing my audience would appreciate that call. But I believe it was Mario’s optimism that ultimately pushed us to victory. He tasted victory all along.

  

Missing the chaos

Bike home. Take the pup for a walk. Take off work clothes and put on shorts and t-shirt. Bike to Mario’s practice. Say hi to moms and watch Mario make tackles. Leave practice to head to Maria’s practice. Say hi to moms and watch Ri kick the soccer ball. Gather up Ri and her girlfriends and bike them home. Eat random foods for dinner: cmhslice of ham, noodles, cereal, Klondike bar, peas. Make the kids brush teeth. Wrestle with them. Scold them to settle down. Tell them a funny story from when I was little. Rub their backs. Turn off lights. Let the pup out. Kennel him. Eat some chocolate chips. Wash face. Brush teeth. Go to bed.

Just like I thought my evenings would be twenty-five years ago when I daydreamed about life after college.

This weekend marks the end of practices and games (at least for another month when basketball starts). Ri has four soccer tournament games – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. The first one on Saturday starts at 8 am and it’s 35 minutes away. Ugh. 

But as hectic as life has been, I find myself melancholy at the thought of it all ending. It’s a blast watching Mario in his football pads blocking Hilliard kids from tackling the receiver. It’s thrilling watching Ri get the ball and kick it to her team mate. It’s much more fun than watching them do homework or play Minecraft on the computer. And it gets our family up and moving. Jon assisted coaching Mario’s team and went to nearly every practice and every game. The boys all looked up to him and Mario loved having him around. Maria loved heading to practice to see her friends and her coaches. I loved being able to walk the pup without Mario whining that I “always have to walk the dog” (even though he stares into the computer screen the entire time he whines). 

But it does get tiring doing it every night. Mario on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Ri on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and/or Sunday. 

It will feel strange to walk in the door from work and have no plans. Be able to look over homework. Talk about our days. Make dinner. Sit together. 

Ha, who am I kidding? It’s Fall: we will be riding our bikes to the park and heading to La Tavola for an ice cream dinner. Or Ri will head to the basement with her frozen dinner to watch Say Yes to the Dress. Or Mario will go down to Quinn’s and snack. Maybe we will sit down together in Winter. Wait, there’s sled riding and playing in the snow….

   
    
    
 

Sunday sports

We started our Sunday off early – up at 7:30 am to head to Ri’s double-header softball games. Ri is a trooper: she was up all night coughing her head off and I thought for sure she’d wake up begging not to go to softball. But instead she woke up and went downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal. Now, I’m not saying she was jumping up and down to get to her game – in fact, when I asked her if she could go to the game she shrugged her head mimicking “I don’t know.” But when I told her that if she skipped softball there would be no afternoon play dates, she put on her cleats and was ready to go. 

She cranked out a hit and walked three times.

 
  
Our softball girl! She also got a play at third base but still has no clue how it happened! The ball was hit to left field and she moved to third base like her coach told her to do whenever she heard the ball hit the bat. But she was not aware of the girl heading to third or that she could make an out. She was standing there ready to get the ball to the pitcher. The left fielder threw it to Ri and she happened to turn towards the girl running to third and tag her right before her foot touched the bag! The ump called an out and Ri looked baffled until she realized she made the out. Gotta love her. Actually, what I love more is that she readily admits it! I asked her after the game if she knew what she was doing and she laughed “ugh, no, I had no idea! I was ready to throw it to the pitcher!” And yet another reason I love her so. She is completely comfortable with herself to the point that she doesn’t need to make up a story to look better. 

Now, Mario, on the other hand, would have crafted a story to make it seem he knew exactly what he was doing! And he would have convinced us all he did know what he was doing even if that wasn’t the case. He enjoys the limelight and looking cool. I think it’s partly being an eight year old boy but also partly his personality. Whereas Ri can laugh at her foibles, Mario does not want to draw attention to them. 

Mario cranked out a tough football game in the afternoon. He played both offense and defense and ran the ball a few times. He didn’t get too far because defenders swarmed him but it was enjoyable as heck to watch.   

  He will undoubtedly come home tonight and show me all his moves he did on the field. He will talk about how they got robbed of a win. And he will jump on XBox and play some more football. 

I’m so glad that I have two kids that love the outdoors and have taken to Fall sports – both very different in their approach but I love watching them both all the same.