I engaged in the annual hmmming and hawing over what to get the kids this year. I torture myself by overthinking what they may want, what they do want, what they should get in order not to spoil them, what they should get to spoil them….

I long for the days they were babies and toddlers. It was so simple! I could get ten $1 toys, wrap them, and we’d be set Christmas morning. This year was especially strange because they really didn’t “want” for anything.  Realistically, they should never “want” for anything since they have all of life’s necessities at their disposal and much more; but alas, they are kids bombarded by advertisements friends with cool gadgets.  Maria had been begging for an iPhone 7 for her birthday but she cooled her heels about one for Christmas.  I think I assisted her in this change of heart by talking about how I believed experiences were more special than “things.”  I asked her what she remembered more – her new iphone she received two holidays ago or her trip to Oaxaca.  Oaxaca without a doubt.  

Mario was even perplexed about what he wanted – at first it was an Apple computer, then any type of computer, then a pug puppy, then any type of puppy.  At one point, Maria talked with him about the experiences bit and almost had him convinced to just wish for them and not ask for any “things.” But Mario couldn’t quite get there at age 9; he still wanted to open gifts on Christmas.

And there lies the dilemma  – as a parent, do you put your foot down and re-purpose Christmas to the holiday it should be: a holiday about giving to others and appreciating family, and sacrifices made, and peace, and love, and goodwill?  Or do you give “things” that the kids can madly unwrap on Christmas morning? Tradition gets the best of me and I inevitably err on the side of “things”.  However, this year I did not go as overboard as years’ past and tried to mix the things with some experiences.  Oaxaca will be a destination for us in 2017 as well as DC.  I also want to take some good camping trips.

We asked Santa to stick with a room décor theme for Ri this year.  She got a new desk and hutch, dresser and nightstand as well as some pictures and framed quotes.  Mario got a new Dell computer in order to vlog and listen to his jams.  He also got some Cowboys attire since that is his new favorite team thanks to Ezekiel Elliott).  I ended up getting him a dresser, too, since I found one for cheap on line, and he has never had one before. Yeah, not kidding.  He has just used the three tiny drawers in his steps going up to his bed. Of course, I ordered all the kids’ furniture on line so Jon and I get to assemble it ourselves.  We worked on the dresser the day after Christmas and 3 hours later, we were still slaving over it.  I was ready to ship the assembly off to a contractor but was not ready to pay $150 so we kept working. We finally finished 2 hours later, and now we can walk in Mario’s room and admire our work….

Maria’s desk and hutch was a bit easier to assemble, thank god.  I actually assembled the hutch all by myself; I screwed all the parts in backwards and had to dis-assemble it all and start over, but I finally got it.  It does feel good to know that you built something from scratch (especially when you are typically inept at such creations).  And I now know what a cam screw is!


We enjoyed Susie’s house for Christmas Eve.  Patty drove down with us this year and we first stopped at my mom’s to exchange gifts.  Patty got to admire her new home, and my mom got to ask Patty about her potential new home in Marietta.  My mom enjoys the company.  The kids loved on Lou and took a few trips down the stairs in their comforters before begging to open presents.  They got spoiled beyond belief: Mario got a desk chair and Ri got new boots.  Rocco got a new hedgehog playmate (which he did not destroy within the first ten minutes of playing with it – miracle).


The kids loved playing with Cy and Robert at Susie’s house.  They ran around and around with them playing with nerf guns and wrestling.  The fun had to cease when Cy turned to run away from Mario and rammed his head on the dip in the ceiling.  He got a nice gash.  Jane and Olivia rushed him to Urgent Care and a few staples later he was good as new.  It’s not a Heile party until someone starts bleeding.  The kids also love participating in the White Elephant game.  Mario got a puzzle and was less than impressed.  He had his eyes on a bag that had a Polo watch and a pair of “USA” socks in it because he thought they would be the perfect gifts for his dad.  He was finally able to steal the bag after Aunt Julie helped him out and took his puzzle. Ri scored a Starbucks card.


Ri and Mario loved holding baby Harper. Mario thoroughly enjoyed it for about three minutes and then was ready to move on. Ri would have held her all night.


We all sang Christmas carols with Aunt Susie towards the end of the night – one of the highlights of the evening.  Susie plays the piano while we try our best to keep a tune.


Mario was the first to get up on Christmas morning at 7 am.  We made him wait until 7:30 to wake Maria up.  We laid in bed trying to prepare for the day ahead. At 7:29, Mario woke up Ri and they both walked into our room commanding us to awaken and head downstairs.  Patty had been up since 6 am, and was showered and ready to head out to church.  Ri distributed the gifts to everyone, and the opening began. Big smiles planted on their faces.  It took about 45 minutes to get through gifts this year, which was pleasantly longer than last year.  I swear we were done opening presents in 10 minutes last year.

The kids were more mature this year in both the approach to opening presents and in the actual opening of the presents.  In years’ past, they would have been up at 6 am and jumping on our bed incessantly until we arose and trekked down the steps with them.  They would have been shaking each present and thinking heavily about which one to open first.    They would have torn through them in seconds unable to soak in appreciation for each gift one at a time.  But this year, they wokr at a reasonable hour. They waited patiently as we got on our sweatshirts and brushed our teeth.  

They still showed enthusiasm, when passing out the gifts under the tree but it was a more measured, calm enthusiasm.  They carefully tore the wrapping paper off their gifts and took their time scanning each present.  And they showed appreciation for each gift (even if it wasn’t something they particularly wanted (i.e., hats and gloves).


So here we are, setting up a computer and a desk  rather than a train set or a Barbie house.  The day was bound to arrive at our doorstep.  But I am going to work hard to celebrate it rather than bemoan it.  True, my babies are growing up and no longer require constant attention, and I miss that greatly. But my babies are growing up and no longer require constant attention, and I must appreciate that as well. 

I just wish we could go back to ten $1 gifts….

Proud mama

There are those moments as a parent that your heart sinks into the heels of your feet and you wish you could reverse time and start again. Such a moment happened yesterday at the Pinewood Derby with Mario. He was so excited about his first Pinewood Derby race. Peepaw and he built his race car the weekend before the race and he swore that it would win, at least in his Den (he thought he may come in second or third overall). Jon and I were equally excited for him but kept telling him that no matter what happened it would be a fun time.  However, those words typically fall on deaf ears with Mario. As many times as he shakes his head ok, we know he is thinking about victory. 

Mario sat at the end of the race track with his buddies. He was laughing and having a good time. His car was in the first heat. He pointed out his car to his friends. The race started. His car trailed immediately. It came in last. He sunk into his chair. His eyes watered. He would not look over at me or Jon. We stood to the side watching him. He kept watching the next races. His car was in a few more and came in last or close to last each time. He continued to sit in his chair, at times on the verge of tears and at other times just quiet. He didn’t push his chair to the side and run off. He wasn’t rude to his friends winning beside him. 

That would likely have been his response a year ago. He stood up about 20 minutes later and walked over to us.

“Can we go home?” His eyes were watery.

I walked out to the hall with him and talked to him about rooting his buddies on for the remainder of the race. I told him how proud I was that he was not getting angry or running away. I could sense that he appreciated the recognition from me and Jon and he decided to stay (buying him a Mountain Dew helped out, too). He sat down again with his friends and, within 20 minutes, was laughing with them. He ended up having a great time despite the fact he lost. 



As a mom, these moments lift me high into the heavens and reinforce Jon and I are doing something right. It is awesome to see your kid mature and be able to process his emotions. And I was glad to witness the entire event unfold and watch each step Mario took of that process.

Ri also impressed me yesterday. 

Ri just started soccer this year. Several of her friends play on a higher skilled team because they’ve been playing for a while. But a few friends played on Kiwanis with her this past Fall, which is the only reason she joined. Those friends, she learned on Saturday morning, we’re heading to the more skilled league. Of course, she overheard these friends talking about it right before her game and she started bawling. She told me she did not want to play anymore. She felt left out. She couldn’t go on the field. And so on. I took her aside and explained this was her first year playing. She just needed to try her best and keep practicing and eventually she would move up. I wiped her tears and sent her onto the field. She ran over to where her team was standing.

She played hard. She ran more than ever. She dribbled and kicked better than ever. After the game, she ran up to me and shouted that her coach wanted to see me. Her coach asked her to join the team. Ri was elated. We talked the entire way home about how working hard and sticking with something – no matter how upset you may be- is worth it. We also talked about commitment. I told her this new team would require more effort on her part. Coaches would be more intense. Her team would expect her to know plays. She kept repeating “I know, mom.” She told me she’d give it her all. 

Proud mama.



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Go, go, go, go. 

This is my default mantra. I have invested in many a self-help book to help me stay, stay, stay, stay but they have not worked. I’m hoping this year may at least bring one “stay”. Plantar fasciitis and a hamstring sprain will likely assist with this goal. 

And I wonder why Ri can’t sit still for too long … except to play barbies. She fidgets when she reads a book, which she really despises doing at this age. She chows down her food and is ready to move away from the table within ten minutes of the start of dinner. And Mario is even worse. He can’t wait until the commercials so he can wrestle with me until the show resumes.  And if we can get three bites of food in him before he pops up out of his chair to run around, it’s a miracle. 

“You did too much with them when they were little. It’s no wonder they always want to move.” I hear this from numerous friends and family. And I ponder “hmmm, should I have stayed home and read more to them on the weekends? Should I have not trekked over to Pittsburgh with them and showed them all over the city in a 48 hour period? Should I have made them have an obligatory hour rest period in their rooms? Should I have not walked down to the river with them every Sunday and trucked rocks home for us to paint all day? Should I have made them sit in the grocery store cart rather than let them roam the aisles and explore?

Ri and Mario headed to Boy Scout camp last weekend. My neighbor graciously took them on Friday night and I met up with them on Saturday. When I arrived in the morning, Ri was playing with two other girls and Mario was playing ping pong with a gang of boys. My friend approached me as I trekked through the door; she couldn’t stop raving about M&M. 

“They are so polite and listen to me more than my own kids! And they had a blast with all the other kids – they didn’t cry or get sad about you not being here at all!” 

She proceeded to tell me how they had no fear; they both hopped on their sleds and zoomed down the hills; helped prep for dinner; took on challenges in ping pong; and engaged with everyone. As we were talking, Mario jumped in front of me and gave me a hug. Then he was off for more ping pong. I didn’t see Ri until I took my bags into the girls dorm room. She was jumping back and forth on the bunk beds giggling with her friends. She was the ring leader. 

After a few rounds of s’mores late into the evening, I laid myself down in my bottom bunk bed. I stared up at Ri sleeping caddy corner from me. Her head was inches from the edge of the bed and there were no guard rails. I leapt out of bed and scooched her body all the way over to the wall. I laid back down and chuckled. Here I am worried half to death about her falling from the top bunk yet I allow her to run free at the grocery store and barrel down the steep neighborhood hill on her scooter. 

The next morning, the kids continued their sledding fun. As we ate breakfast, they asked what’s on the agenda for the rest of the day. “Nothing at all,” I report to them. I see their pupils float up towards their eyelids, deep in thought. 





I

 

Never grow up

I got to stay home with the kids until 11 am yesterday because they got another day off of school due to the frigid cold. We made our typical Sunday morning breakfast on a Thursday morning – awesome! Mario really wanted to make his own egg since he’s seen Ri making them for the last few weeks. He decided that he wanted to make one for Ri. He made it sunny side up, which is the easiest way to make a cooked egg, thank goodness, because I know Mario would have been so pissed if the egg didn’t turn out right.
He placed the egg on a plate when he finished cooking it and handed it to Ri.
“Taste it, Ri.”
She took a bite and swooned over him.
“You are the best cook ever! This egg is awesome. I want you to cook for me always!”
Leave it to Ri to gush over him – she does this so well. And Mario soaks it up like a sponge. He has to hear praise after he does something for someone or else he becomes extremely disappointed (something we need to continue to work on with him so that he’s not relying on that feedback anytime he does anything!).
Next I let him make pancakes for all of us. He was in heaven. He loves doing things by himself. After he made his first batch, he brought one to Ri. She was busy making a smoothie video, and he kept poking her to eat his pancake. She finally turned to him as he pled to her to eat. She grabbed the pancake and squeezed his cheek and chirped “don’t you ever grow up little man. You are so cute!” She is a hoot.
He made another ten pancakes (please, just one more batch mom?), waited to hear me swoon over my pancake, and then closed up shop.
We cleaned up the kitchen and then Ri read her MLK book while Mario drew comics. Can I just say that’s pure heaven? Having both kids off the computer, and actually enjoying a book and drawing?! It lasted a total of 15 minutes but hey, I’ll take it.
These two are my most favorite little people ever and – taking off what Ri said to Mario yesterday morning – I wish they’d never grow up….

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Pumpkin patches

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I am in disbelief over my babies at age three and now at ages 8 and 6 at the pumpkin patch. What will it feel like when they are 15 and 13? The thought of it makes my heart drop like a boulder into my stomach. There are certainly those days when I ask myself “when will they be 18 and able to take care of themselves?” But those days seem to happen a lot less than they did when they were 5 months old and I was up for the tenth time in the wee hours of the night. Now they can make cereal on their own, sleep through the night, play games together. It’s the perfect time where they are somewhat self-sufficient but also completely in love with me. I get hugs with no provocation. I get pleas for good-night kisses. I get random “I love yous” through the day.
Fellow moms tell me that it gets even better as they continue to grow up and develop their sense of selves, their independence. And I can see that as I watch those moms beam as their child scores a soccer goal or makes the Dean’s List.

But I will miss that constant affection and connection that I have with my babes right now. The thrill that runs through me when I step in the door and get knocked over on the ground with hugs. The warmth of two kids’ bodies curled against me as I read them a book. And the immense joy they exhibit by simply being dropped off from a hayride into a patch of pumpkins.

Can and can’t

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We have decided this is it.
You can’t go any farther than third grade.
You can’t get any taller or lose any more teeth.
You can’t need a bra.
You can’t keep getting bigger feet.
You can’t grow out of stuffed animals.
You can’t giggle about cute boys.
You can’t put on deodorant.
You can’t want to walk home by yourself.
You can’t want me to stop at your classroom door.

Ok, we know all of those are impossible but can you at least fulfill some of the “can’s” below…

You can stay our baby.
You can keep hugging us.
You can kiss us a thousand times a day.
You can snuggle with us.
You can laugh so hard with us and Mario that you fall off your chair.
You can draw us pictures.
You can ask us to rub your back.
You can sit on our laps.
You can talk to us about anything.

We know you are gonna have an incredible third grade year, Ri Grace, and we love you so very much! Always stay curious and open to new possibilities!

Love, Mom and Dad

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Growing up Mario

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Yep, that’s slick boy handing out donuts to his classmates on Friday. Jon reported that he walked into the classroom, held up the box of donuts, and pronounced “Who wants donuts?” He beamed in delight as everyone yelled “Mario has donuts! Mario’s here!” I think he rather enjoys his ego stroked….

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But oh, is he versatile. He goes from city slicker to country hunter in a flash of a second. He wasted no time getting his camo on and heading out to Big Mario’s woods to hunt turkey with Jon. He was dejected when they heard a few but Jon had unloaded his gun already. I am fearful for those turkeys when he gets old enough to shoot.

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And if that’s not impressive, he has yet another persona – sweet, playful, curious Mario. We went to the river this morning to find cool rocks and I almost cried when he picked one up and admired it. “Isn’t this one beautiful, mom?”

My body could have melted at his feet. I told Jon when we got home that I am going to miss that innocent, precious five-year old boy who holds my hand and giggles as we throw rocks in the water together.

Jon mustered up five little words in response as he stared out the window: “I know what you mean.”