Dis expectations and embrace appreciation

I listened to just the right podcast this weekend. I was sitting at the skate park watching Mario and his friend do tricks on their scooters. Meanwhile, there were some serious skate dudes performing incredible flips and tricks. Mario and his friend looked precious as they scootered down a small ramp and looked over at me excited about their feat.

After watching them scores of times, my mind started to drift to Thanksgiving day. We are hosting Jon‘s family this year, which takes the burden off a bit because there are not as many people for dinner. In addition, they tend to be a rather quiet crew so I do not need to worry about anything getting broken, fights ensuing, or hurt feelings at the end of the night. But I do want to have a lively, entertaining day with them; so, I started thinking of ways that we could create such an atmosphere. 

I heard about an app that allows you to record people‘s stories, and thought that we could use it to record stories of Jon’s mom and his brothers. Maria could craft five questions for each of them and post them during Thanksgiving meal. I then played my sweet husband’s reaction when I told him that that was our plan.

“Mar, you have got to be kidding. People Just want to eat dinner and relax with one another. You don’t always have to have activities happening all the time.”

So my mind moved on to something that was not so intrusive. Maybe we would have paper and pencil laid out so people could write gratitude notes to one another. We did something similar with my side of the family a few years back, and it was a lot of fun. At least for me. On further thought, I realized that only one of Jon’s family members – his mom – would really enjoy writing such notes. Scratch that idea, also.

I tend to do this to myself. Exaggerate how awesome the day is going to be and all of the things that I hope to get out of it – be it gratitude notes, interviews with family where they detail a magnificent hidden secret that we would have never known about but for the interview, incessant laughter while playing an awesome board game. Then the day comes and goes, and I am disappointed. I am disappointed because people didn’t laugh as much as I thought they would, I didn’t get to interview anybody, no one expressed gratitude to one another…..

The perfectionist mind comes into play again. But not this year, baby. 

I have set no expectations. 

None. 

Rather, I have focused on appreciation. I learned that from one of Oprah’s SuperSoul Podcasts. Yes, I never thought that I would be an Oprah podcast listener but she has some good ones on there. And you can’t help but love how she finds such joy in wanting to better understand humanity, meaning, and spirituality on a deeper level. Her guest talked about how a death knell is having expectations of anything. He said that expectations will automatically destroy you. Rather, he recommends fostering appreciation; appreciation takes it off you and puts it on others. You change your mindset from wanting to giving. I no longer want things to happen the way I expect; rather, I give appreciation to those around me and for all that I have in my life. 

And guess what? It worked! I even caught myself at the dinner table starting down that path of expectations. I hoped someone would bring up a topic that would burst into a magnificent conversation. As soon as my mind started going down that path, I took a deep breath and shoved in a pile of potatoes. I looked around the table at my hubby, who had drank a few wines and was making me laugh all day long; my kids, who were on their phones making videos of one another; and my family, who are all very different from one another but who love each other and feel comfortable enough together to simply sit at the dining room table and eat.


Putting up the tree

I can’t believe we got our Christmas tree up the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That is a record for us procrastinating folks.

Sundays have been deemed “mom-not-allowed-to-run” days by the kids. Sunday morning, Mario hopped on our bed with a huge smile on his face and announced “mom, no running today!” Maria jolted into our room 30 seconds later and we all laid together (thank god for a king size bed). These moments are some of the best. Inevitably, Mario will say something that makes us laugh hysterically and Ri will follow up with some witty response. Then there’s lots of hugging and squeezing … and wrestling. It all makes me so pleased.

After Jon had enough of Mario’s jackknifes into his side, he got up to get his coffee. The kids and I decided to head to Stauf’s for breakfast (actually I begged and they gave in). I made them both walk with me rather than scooter or bike. Lots of whining at first but then they realized that it wasn’t so bad, especially when you play 20 questions. The kids picked a bar table and chairs for us to sit at Stauf’s. We got our bagels and cream cheese (all three of us got the same Black Russian bagel but three different cream cheeses) and started in on Go Fish. Mario whooped on us. Usually it’s Ri. We moved on to War and when Mario started killing us in that, we had to shut it down (Ms. Maria gets a bit competitive nowadays). 

   

 On our walk home, we played Pac Man on the brick enclosure in front of the real estate office. It was all fun and games until Mario tripped into the middle of the flower bed and fell on a Thanksgiving wire ornament. Ri and Mario died laughing while I reoriented the ornament. 

About two blocks from home, Ri announced “we should put up the Christmas tree!” Mario agreed. We’d never put up the tree this early but we had nothing planned for the day so I thought we better crank it out. We use the tree my Grandma Menkedick gave us when Ri was  a baby. She used it for years before handing it down to us. It is about eight feet tall and looks kinda real…. The kids love putting the branches on and could not fathom a “real” tree. 

Mario lost interest as we started on the ornaments. Ri tried to entice him by putting on Christmas music. It helped for a bit. He just wanted to find the pickle ornament. He loves to hide that ornament every year and dare people to find it. Ri got out some old, precious ornaments that I had bought my grandma in the 1970s. We found some of Jon’s when he was little, too. The kids loved to hear stories of our childhood.  

I see all these pictures of friends’ trees – they are so organized with matching gold ornaments and icicles sprinkled throughout the fir. Our tree is a hodge podge of randomness. An old 1970s ornament alongside a handmade paper ornament along side a plastic M&M guy alongside a plastic dog. But I wouldn’t change it at all. 

It was Ri’s turn to place the “blue star” on the tree. It is more like a North Star compass- every year we talk about getting new tree topper and every year we fail to do so. Mario begged to put it on instead of Ri but for once Ri didn’t give in to him.    

He didn’t get upset though (he really is getting so much better at letting things go)  and we all posed for a picture by dad. Rocco even joined us (after his tail knocked over two ornaments – a warning Jon had given us three seconds prior to it happening).

 After Jon took the picture, we begged him to get in one with us. It took the kids’ longing eyes to convince him (he has no problem saying no to me!). Of course, none of them turned out Christmas card worthy but at least he’s in one. I keep telling him he will appreciate that I made him get in these pictures when he’s old and can’t remember these times – these pictures will help him out….

  

So here’s to Christmas 2015 and a holiday filled with family and laughter and gratitude for those who have left us – Grandma would have just adored our little tree.

Happy rescue

I think if Mario had to choose between me and Jon’s mom, Patty, to live with for the next ten years, I’d be pushed to the side. The boy loves him some Grandma time. And thank goodness she loves her some Mario time because she rescued us yet again when we were juggling teacher-in-service days and work. 

Patty got home from Florida on Wednesday evening and barely had time to get her bags before she headed 30 minutes up north with me to Lazer Craze. The kids were there for an evening of laser tag and pizza and games. Patty rescued us from pulling our hair out on Thursday – trying to juggle Jon out of town, Sarah in town, and me having to attend a mandatory meeting.  She sat up at Lazer Craze with me for an hour watching the kids play and listening to the loud music. I am sure she was exhausted from her trip but she did not complain one time. She let Ri and Mario drag her from game to game to watch them play. 

   
 It really is amazing that this woman in her mid-70’s can go as hard and as strong as women in their 30’s. She is always up for a wrestling session with Mario and water volleyball with Ri. Jon and I woke up on Thursday morning to a text from Patty – it contained two pictures of Mario in his pjs fishing at her pond. 7am and they are outside fishing. That ranks in and of itself in the “way too cool” annals for grandparents.

 
She watched his crazy you tube videos with him, let him play restaurant and serve her at her bar table, took him to Lazer Craze again to play, and made him cinnamon rolls every morning. Seriously?!

No wonder when he has to come home, he pouts! I can’t recall a day when I asked Mario if he wanted to go to Grandma Ionno’s house and he replied “no.” It is always an ecstatic “yes”! That says a ton right there. And when Patty spends the night at our house, both kids beg to sleep downstairs with her. And although we say no, somehow Mario inevitably ends up cuddled by her side in the morning.❤️

Week in review

We have been busy the last couple of weeks so I thought I’d wrap it up in one concise post! Here we go:

1. Ms. Elena visits! I guess I should mention Satah and Jorge came, too, but all we cared about was Elena. Actually, not true. Mario loved shooting hoops in his bedroom and out back with Jorge and Ri loved talking about anything with Sarah. I loved eating Elena’s cheeks. 

   

   

2. Meg and dad visit! They came in to take the kids to the Franklin Park Conservatory to see the butterfly exhibit. They loved it and Meg and Dad got some great photos (but I’m still waiting on them to send them my way…). Then we met up at the park for some ultimate frisbee – that was ultimately pretty pathetic – but fun. I know where my active genes come from: I love that we have an hour to spare and we run around like mad. 

   

  

3. Tether ball tournament. Ri mentioned that her school had tether ball and Jon made a pit stop on our way home. The man has some mean tether ball skills. He whooped on all of us. Ri and I escaped without injury but poor Mario got a ball in the face, which had to sting since Jon has quite the swift hand. He eventually forgave Jon and wanted another shot on him. But no one can beat the king. 

 

  

 

4. Playground gymnastics. Mario and Ri and I showed off our flips and splits; I hung in for a while but then they showed me up.

 

  

  

  

 

5. China night at Mario’s school. Mario had been talking about this night for a few weeks. He talked about the dragons he was making and the play he was going to put on with his class. He did not disappoint. We had to get there 15 minutes early because Mario “had to meet Blake” before the show began. All the two of them did was wrestle around the school yard. When we finally went inside, it was adorable. They had a panda picture stand and a passport for the kids to fill out at each room they went to in the school. Grandmq even got a picture with the Panda!

   

  

 

Mario taught us Chinese art, that dragons are good luck, and that red and orange are lucky colors in China. He also put on a heckuva performance waving a flag and singing and drumming a Chinese melody. It was hilarious to see all these boys hyper as heck all night and then get on stage and be somber and calm as they waved their drumsticks slowly and chanted Chinese lyrics. 

 

  

  

 

I love these school events. Mario was charged his Grandma came to be with him, too. We picked up Ri from soccer and let Mario pick the restaurant for dinner. We thought Chinese would be appropriate but he opted for Bob Evans. I couldn’t blame him – pancakes sounded really good after fried rice and tea. 

6. We saw an owl! I’ve been trying to spot an owl for weeks – ever since a friend posted a picture of one on Facebook. She said she found it two blocks from our house. After three weeks, I finally spotted one a street over in an evergreen. I can’t believe I spotted him – he was a tiny little guy. I ran home and told Jon. We made the kids shorten their shower and get in their nighties and we all drove over to see the owl. I couldn’t get a good picture of it and was getting frustrated. Maria took my arm and consoled me. “Mom, we will have the memory and that’s better than a picture.” 

  

7. Ri and her Girl Scout troop went to the YWCA to make crafts with the kids staying there. The girls did great with the kids. There was a girl making crafts who was in their same grade and afterwards we talked about how easy it is to find yourself in a situation where you need help. I think the girls really got it and talked about going again and helping out. Afterwards, we treated them to DQ. I had Kathryn, Ri, Lucia, and Gwen in the car on the way home and they sang top-40 songs and yelled hi to random folks walking down the street. Ahh, to be young and carefree!

   

 

8. An Ionno family visit at Rooster’s! We ate fried mac-n-cheese. Yes, it sounds wrong but oh, it is so right! Maria knows what to order!

 

Patty and Uncle Chris and Patrick and Carrie and Connie were there watching the Ohio State game. Tony was in town, too. when we walked in, he announced that he had just won $100 playing Keno, which is some gambling game you can play at the restaurant. Mario’s eyes lit up. He was hooked the rest of the time we were there. Meanwhile, Ri and Alana did up Tony’s hair. 

   

 

9. And finally, Ri got braces! She was a rock star through it – never crying once. I can’t believe how wide that tiny mouth of hers opened!

  

She chose red and orange rubber bands. She wanted a before and after shot of her teeth so she could send it to her grandmas.

   

 

Darling girl!

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

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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.

 

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Remember your roots

Remember your roots.

Michael Keaton’s speech reminded us of that phrase as he talked about his dad working two jobs and his mom raising seven kids in a farmhouse.

His speech naturally made me think of my grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa Heile raising eight kids and loads of grandkids in that Hunt Road house. Grandma outside mowing the lawn; Grandpa working in the factory. Grandma Menkedick raising two sons all by herself after her husband died shortly after my dad was born. They ate lots of veggies from my Grandma’s aunt’s garden since she got them for free. I still remember my Grandma taking the strawberry jelly packets from Perkins after we went out to breakfast. She stored them at her house so she didn’t have to buy jelly at the store. Jon just shakes his head every time we go to breakfast because I follow right in her footsteps (we have a pantry full of grape and strawberry jellies).

My aunts worked at Perkins Pancake house in order to earn money to pay for college, cars, apartments. Little was handed to them. I followed in their footsteps as well beginning my Perkins career as a senior in high school and staying with it through college.

My dad worked hard as a manager of a grocery store after I was born. Both he and my mom had me earlier than they may have been ready for but they did what they needed to provide for me. My mom took care of me and finished school. My stepmom worked and cared for my sister and brother. They all made it work even if their careers or situations weren’t exactly as they had imagined. I see now, as a 43 year old wife and mother of two, what a struggle it can be. But I never saw that as a 7 year old and my kids hopefully don’t see it either.

My roots, my kin molded me into a self-reliant, bold and gracious individual. There are few days that pass me by where I’m not reflecting on one or more of the family members who shaped me, and singing their praises for lifting me into the wonderful life I live today.

I willingly wrap my arms around those roots of mine, and wrap them around me tight.

Football and cake = an August weekend

We made it out to the farm on Saturday with enough time to eat lunch, eat cake and play one badminton game. But Ri got to soak it up a bit longer out there with her friend Henley. Jon, Mario and I had to head back to Columbus for his Meet the Team night in the Grandview Stadium.
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Ri and Henley had a good time holding Elena and riding the horses and playing yoga kickball with Peepaw and Jorge. Poor Henley took a hike with me and Ri and fell on her back as she tried to swing on a vine. Then she got stung by a bee. I’m not sure a trip back to the farm will be happening soon for her…!
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I always forget how self sufficient Ri is on the farm. She’s completely able to traverse the farm without any issues, and when she falls she just picks herself up and keeps truckin’. A true farm gal. But we gave kudos to Henley for not giving up and trying that vine again. She succeeded at swinging on it the second time.
Meanwhile, Mario, Jon and I went to Meet the Team night. Mario was in his element with his guys. He soaks up that testosterone and jumps right into all the boy antics.

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The high school boys came out last and all the younger boys get to form a line on each side of them to cheer them on. We watched Mario smile as he slapped the high school boys’ hands. The high school boys got to introduce themselves and name their favorite breakfast food. Mario will fit right into this football group based on the answers we were hearing. I believe 80% of the boys answered that their favorite breakfast food was donuts or pancakes.
After the stadium event, the Touchdown Club held a gathering at the Italian Club down the street. We weren’t going to attend but after sitting around the house for an hour, we decided to head down. Mario was again in his element. He partied it up with his football buddies tossing the football and running around the place. He even jumped on stage without hesitation when Gangum Style came out of the speakers.
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We had to drag him out of the building at 9:30 to head home.
While Ri and Henley were trying to read to Elena Sunday morning, Mario was chowing on eggs and waffles preparing for his first football game.
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Jon headed up to the field with Mario at 11 am. He had to get weighed in and practice before the noon game. I gasped when I saw him – big ol’ shoulder pads and jersey with his name on it. He looked like a miniature pro football player.
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He was ready to play. He has no desire to throw or catch the ball; he just loves to tackle. He’s not scared of the big boys either. I thought I’d be scared half to death watching him but I wasn’t. I saw him hold his own play after play and felt surprisingly calm. Now, I’m sure the day will come where I will exhibit nerves and fear (especially if he is catching the ball and getting tackled) but I’ll enjoy watching him play for now. He’s also quite the nut of the team.
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They ended up tying the game. Mario looked like me after a long run – completely drenched in sweat. He got a celebratory hot dog and walked out with the love of his life, Grandma Ionno.
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Of course, he had to take off his shirt and strut it out back to the car. I used to not be able to picture my little guy as a teenager but as I snapped this picture, all I could see was Mario at age 16.
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Hence why I agreed to read Dracula to him for a half hour last night at bedtime – I’ve got to get the snuggle time in with him while I am able.
And Ms. Maria is heading right up that path, too. I go to say goodnight to her and find her in her pjs, wet hair combed from a shower, looking up iPhones on her iPad. But just when I was about to leave her room, she noticed me and sang “mom, can you scratch my back and bring me water.” There’s my baby girl.
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