Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Picture Adventures

Last night, I attempted the task of dragging Ella to Target to capture some holiday cheer on film. I braved this adventure alone as Mike was driving to Wellsville to look at a dresser we found on Craig's list.

I was barely prepared as I had in my head the pictures weren't suppose to take place for another week. I made the appointment a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving and hadn't official written it on any calendar, so in my universe it didn't really exist. The phone call from the studio on Monday night caught me slightly off-guard. Luckily, I had found a dress on Black Friday, but I had even settled on that. Maybe I was being picky, but none of the holiday dresses I saw throughout my search really stole my heart. So, I selected a traditional red velour dress. Of course after I found the dress, I couldn't find anything for Ella's hair. So, on Monday night after the piano was delivered and Ella was tucked into bed, I ventured to Target to look for hair bows, only to discover that their holiday hair display rack was completely empty and I a bit baffled. Rather than get too frustrated, I reminded myself that Target is a big store and I am a creative individual. Surely, I could find something to substitute as a hair decor piece. I cruised through the accessories section, the beauty aisles, the Christmas home decor section, and settled on some ribbon and a Christmas stretchy bracelet. As I handed the clerk my discoveries, I proudly thought to myself I will make my own holiday hair bows for these pictures.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. I leave work early to get Ella, so we will have ample time to get ready. I feel prepared and am optimistic that we can remain on schedule and on task. The first clue the night wasn't going to go as I had hoped was Ella wasn't in her classroom, but rather the playground. I make it down there to find a girl with chaffed checks and a runny nose. I encouraged her to quickly walk up the stairs or let mommy carry her, and she reminded me that she sets the pace not me. One lesson that I've learned is it's easier to match her slower pace then try to force her into my pace because eventually it will cause a major meltdown and then we are no further ahead and both of us are even more frustrated. Miss Independent also wouldn't let me help her in the car. She wanted to shimmy into the back seat and plop herself in the car seat. We finally pulled off the postal dock a 1/2 hour later from when I first arrived. Luckily, the traffic gods were shining down on me and I used our quick drive home to prepare Ella for the night and wearing her pretty dress.

We arrived home at 5 pm, giving us 40 minutes to get her ready. I let her bang on the piano as I gathered the tights, hair bands, shoes and dress. Without too much of a battle, I was able to get her dressed. Her hair was another story. She refused to sit still. I finally bribed her with a snack. I worked fast and the end result was perfect. I told myself to quickly throw her in the car seat and get to Target because somehow it was 5:35. I turned to grab my bag only to turn around and discover Ella attempting a somersault. In my head I'm screaming NO!!! in slow motion. I quickly composed myself before uttering any words and just encouraged Ella to go downstairs, so we could get in the car. I dug out the lint brush because even though I had vacuumed the night before, Ella's dress managed to attract a healthy quantity of Yoshi's hair. We make it down the steps when she spots her stocking cap on the rocker by the door. She says to me, "I wear it." I encourage her to let her baby doll wear it, which she insisted we bring along. She grudgingly obliges me, but then says, "It don't fit" as we walk into the garage.

I open the car door and throw my bag on the passenger seat. I turn around to find that Ella has pulled on her cap, so that it completely is covering her eyes. The same cap the girl refuses to wear any other day. I can't help but laugh and realize that I have lost the battle and her hair, while for a moment was perfect, it just wasn't meant to be. I also realize I never completed the improvised hair bows, so much for my good intentions.

We arrived at Target and shockingly they were ready for us at our scheduled time. The lady graciously gave me a few seconds to roll the lint brush over her dress and adjust her hair. I couldn't recreate my earlier masterpiece, so I settled for slightly lopsided pigtails with stray hairs falling out. For all that had transpired, Ella was in fairly good spirits, which all changed once the photographer attempted to position her. She tried props, including fake ceramic cookies that Ella attempted to eat and and a gift box with over sized ornaments inside. Ella was frustrated that the prop cookies were fake, so again as a bribe to encourage her participation in the pictures, I told Ella that she could have a cookie after her session. The lady was continually snapping pictures, but I knew Ella was positioned awkwardly and the photographer was playing nice to appease me. In fleeting moments, Ella would flash her beaming smile, but for the most part she wore a stoic look.

Being the good sport I am, I offered to sit with Ella for few pictures hoping that would increase her comfort level. Ella only wanted to sit in my lap and after a few minutes just laid her head down on me. I thanked the lady for her understanding and knew it was best to just call it a night. I think the photographer sensed my disappointment and defeat and said to give her 15 minutes and we would go over what she captured. When I told her the ordeal was over, Ella reminded me I had promised her a cookie, so we were off in search of another treat for the night.

I called Mike to inform him of the debacle. He reassured me that we probably had one good one in the whole batch. I wasn't feeling as optimistic. We ventured back to the studio after Ella settled on a miniature cupcake as her reward. I was shown the slide show and was a bit taken back. They were not jaw dropping good, but from what I had anticipated, I was surprisingly pleased. Of course, the best ones were ones that they enhanced by either cropping or dumping on specialty paper, which meant they were more expensive that the standard sheet. How my night had gone, should I have expected anything less. While she wasn't posed just right or her dress was gathered oddly, they actually captured Ella's sweet smile and her glowing personality. How could I not purchase them? After spending a lot more than I had planned, Ella and I ventured for home not before I picked up some Mickey D's for dinner. Proper nutrition was definitely not achieved last night, but I didn't have the energy to do much more than pull through a drive-thru.

The pictures won't be in for a few weeks. I hope they don't disappoint. Regardless if they do, I am just happy that she and I survived another adventure together, and now I realize why we neglected to have any professional pictures taken since last Christmas.

Monday, November 26, 2007

An old friend returns

Pearly whites
Originally uploaded by mbowling
Allow me to wax nostalgic for a moment. This piano has resided in my Grandma Davis' house for nearly as long as I can remember being able to see. Its served many a purpose for all those many years in her home, be it a piano, an extra place to sit, a make-shift buffet table, a time waster, a good way to annoy the parents, etc. But, time took its toll on its tuning and Grandma decided that it was time to purchase a newer one. So this ole girl went to storage for a while.

But after some help from Aunt Suzanne and some hard work by some tuners, its back into good shape, and thankfully, its now in our home in Shawnee. It really means a lot to me to have something as special as this from my Grandma's house now to be in our home.

I look forward to the day when I can see Ella and Amanda sitting together on it playing and sharing some special time with music. Maybe dad can even help on guitar!

Thanks Grandma and Aunt Suzanne for thinking of us!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Indoor Water Fun

I am sitting in a darkened hotel room with my snoring child on the floor next to my bed. My husband, after my urging, is cozied up to a bar watching the KU/MU game. It's been a good day. Mike, Ella, grandma, grandpa and I met up with a small group of the McManigal clan to enjoy CoCo Key Water Resort in Omaha. The McManigal's used to gather every Saturday after Thanksgiving at my aunt's house in Omaha, but she went and moved to California, so we were stuck without a home. While I wished we would have had greater participation from the family, we have certainly enjoyed our day.

I didn't dare mention the word "swimming" to Ella until we had safely arrived at at the hotel. Really, rather than tell her, we walked into the water park after we checked in. She had slept the entire trip to Omaha, so she was still in a groggy state. Although, it didn't take long for her to soak in her location. Before long, she was asking to put on her swim suit. The girl literally swam all day, and much like time spent at our neighborhood outdoor pool, she preferred the big kid area to the kiddie pool. She made multiple laps with dad around the lazy river. They were quite the pair. Every time, she floated past me, she would yell, "I swimming, mommy." The girl beamed nothing but pride and excitement. She also raced daddy on the side-by-side slides.

My only complaint about the experience was how cold the air and water was around the kiddie pool. Even though, we weren't there for any real significant amount of time, it wasn't very comfortable when we were there. Ella's lips turned a shade of blue that I have never seen before. We frequently had to pull her away from the fun to warm her up.

As a family, we capped off the evening by enjoying a potluck feast. Everyone piled into one hotel room to enjoy some tasty food. Ella relished the role of family entertainer. Even though, she hasn't seen most of this family since last Thanksgiving, it didn't take long for her to warm up to everyone there. It was a quick day, and tomorrow we venture home. I hate saying goodbye, but I am ready to be home and back in our standard routine. Ella has been extremely difficult at bedtime during this trip. With tonight as the exception, each night at grandma's house was a battle and took at least 2 1/2 hours every time. It has been exhausting, all the more reason I am so thankful and relieved that she is currently asleep. I guess I should join her in dreamland.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Working Slave

My poor husband is still at work. Yes, it's 10:45 pm and he has been there since 8 am for a staff meeting. The project has him frustrated, mad and exhausted. The reason is because he loves me. Well that, and he has a gob of work to do that he needs to have finished, hopefully enabling us to hit the road early tomorrow. So my wonderful husband is busting his rear because he knows how much this holiday means to me and how I don't want anything including his work and the weather to interfere with my plans. I can't say it enough -- he is such a good husband.

If all goes well, we will be on the road tomorrow before any bad weather hits and we will arrive at a respectable time at my mom's house. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I am really excited about our plans this year. We will be celebrating the day with my family and all my brothers and their spouses/significant others. I am not sure the last time my brothers and I were all around the same table at the same time for a meal. A Normal Rockwell picture it won't be, but it will be full of energy, debates and loving insults. I can't wait.

I imagine after we've stuffed ourselves with my mom's tasty cooking that we will plot our tactical approach for Black Friday -- another highlight of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is the only day I relish in the craziness of the shopping season. After we spend Friday afternoon and evening recovering, we'll awake Saturday and head to Omaha for an extended McManigal gathering. Can I just say I love this holiday and I didn't even mention the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Think Healthy, Not Colors

Most of our family and friends know that Mike and I are adding to our family. Baby #2 is expected to make an entrance by April 1st if not sooner. Mike and I are excited, but a little unsure how we'll go from a family of three to a family of four. I guess I should stop singing "three's a magic number" to Ella. This might interfere with her willingness to accept the new baby!

While the pregnancy has been different from Ella (love my crazy blood, which is another post for another day), the overwhelming speculation is we're having another girl -- high heart rate, how I'm carrying, our gut instinct, etc.

One misconception that I need to address is Mike and I are not pulling for a boy. We're not pulling for a girl. We truly don't care what we are blessed with. I have been a bit taken back by the assumption that because we have a girl that we automatically want a boy. Again, we don't. I realize others are pulling for one sex over another, but as Mike said to me, "Hey you'll get what we get and you'll like it!!"

Mike is not a king (yes, he's my personal prince but that's losing sight of my argument) and I am not a vessel to provide him an heir. If I am never the mother of a boy, my life will not go unfulfilled. I am excited that I have the opportunity to be a mom to another precious child. Parenting this second one will be completely different regardless of sex because even if it is a girl, it's not like she will be a duplication of Ella. She will have her own personality. She will have her own likes and desires. She will have parents who hopefully are a bit more relaxed, and she will have a big sister. Her environment naturally will be different from the world that Ella was welcomed into.

One other thing, if this baby is a girl, don't make the assumption that we'll have three kids. Mike and I have never said we will have x number of kids in x years and before we are both x age, and we want them to be a particular sex. We only decided we wanted kids. Never did we set a target goal. We told each other that we would start with one and evaluate any decision to have another once we had reassessed our current journey through life. I will admit as of today I am at peace with only having two.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Leaves, leaves and even more leaves along with a visit from P and a sweet request

All smiles in the leaves
Originally uploaded by mbowling
It was a long day, but Mikey survived. He is sporting a war wound, a massive blister in the crook of his hand. Ella and I helped when we could or I helped when Ella would let me. It seemed promising at first as Ella was interested in filling the lawn bags, but that lasted only a few microseconds before she realized it was much more fun to run through piles or toss leaves. Even then the old standby's of chalk, buggy rides and cars quickly won out over the excitement of dead leaves, so we left Mikey to have all the fun. I did manage to take care of the front yard while Ella napped, a small perk for Mike who slaved away in the backyard for the entire day or at least from sun up to sun down.

Ella had the pleasure of enjoying Payton's company last night for an overnight. The rule that the sum is greater than its parts is so true when those two wacky and crazy girls get together. They are so rambunctious. While their energy can be draining at times, I love listening to the laughter and squeals of happiness as they chase each other around the house. Ella was a bit lethargic this morning since a cough woke her up around 6 am. Once Payton popped her head in our room at 7 am, Ella was a bright, happy girl, no indication of a restless night battling a cough.

Ella stole my heart last night with a request. I was finishing up our last bedtime story, when Mike came in to give Ella a goodnight kiss and hug, which she happily accepted. Before I lay her in the crib each evening, Ella gives me a final hug and a kiss. Mike was still in the room as Ella and I stood next to the crib. She gave us each another hug and kiss on request, and then mumbled something. I wasn't sure what she said, and Mike said, "Family hug. She wants a family hug." It was the sweetest embrace. I swear my heart literally sang. The girl knows how to get to me. What a sweet, sweet moment.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It was a suite night

Mike and I had quite the Friday night. T2 was given a suite to one of the nine Garth Brooks concerts at the new Sprint Center. They had done quite a bit of work for the arena. Since the concert didn't generate enough interest from T2 employees (not a huge country or mainstream crowd), an invite was extended to some of the spouses.

I am not nor have I ever been a huge Garth fan, although I do know quite a few of his songs. I had heard he was a genuine entertainer and puts on a great show. Who wouldn't enjoy seeing a musical legend performing from the comforts of a suite stocked with food and beverages?

I had a great time. What impressed me about his was his shear energy level. He gave the crowd everything he had and he left nothing behind. He performed for more than 2 hours and hit all the fan favorites. He seemed so humbled by the crowd's love and appreciation. Mike really should be posting about the concert. He was so cute and giddy with excitement. He actually had seen Garth perform at Kemper the last night time he rolled through town, and was definitely one of the bigger fans in the suite. It definitely was a good date night, and a night we couldn't have enjoyed if Larry & Glenda wouldn't have been able to babysit on such short notice. i didn't know I had a ticket until late Wednesday afternoon. A big thanks to them, and to Mike's boss for offering me a ticket.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

They are waiting....

Oh lordy. Here it comes. The day I absolutely dread. Do you know what is hiding under all that?

Our backyard.

365 days a year. The ONE day stands out for the most unpleasant experience of gathering up all of these leaves and either bagging them up, or trekking them all the way down to the bank of the small river that is just off in the distance. The last few years have each been something different:

2003 I loaded them all up on to a big tarp and pulled them to the river bank.
2004 I bagged them all up. Final tally: 35 bags of leaves. And one very sore body. 2005 Amanda's Mom gave me a leaf blower/vacuum which worked pretty well, but it was a lot of stop and go throughout the day. It did cut the bags down to about 18 bags, so that part was nice.
2006, Well, lets just say that I was bad. I let them hang out through out the entire winter and by the time the wind and snow all it its way with the leaves, there was only about a couple of bags to take care of in the late winter/early spring. But I did feel bad because the leaves were all in my backyard neighbors fence, so this year, its back to picking them up in November.

2007, well, I think I'm going old school and just piling them all up on the tarp and hauling them down to the river. Seems to work pretty well, nobody has any problem with it, and the leaves decompose nicely during the winter and don't cause any hazard. I think the neighbors don't complain because they feel sorry for me. :)

Hopefully this year Ella will be able to help me and make for some fun family time and pictures. I'm sure she's going to want to jump in a few piles!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Jacket No Longer Ella's Friend

At one point, I expressed concern that Ella was using her jacket as a security blanket. Oh, those days are so behind us. Now, she despises her coat. She refuses to put it on. It's a battle each and every time. Tonight when I was picking her up, I grabbed her coat from her cubbie as I walked over to her, and instantly she tried to push it out of my hands and just cried out, "Momma no." Her cry of "Momma no" wasn't a defiant no, but more that she truly hated the coat and a plea not to force her into it. My heart was breaking.

I showed her that I was wearing my jacket, so she needed to do the same. That didn't work. I told her it was cold outside and the coat keeps her warm. That didn't work. I said if she wanted to leave that the coat had to go on. That didn't work. During all of this, all she would beg and plead with me not to wear it. Her teacher told her if Ella wouldn't wear it, then she would. Tanya stuffed one arm in the jacket and Ella cautiously laughed. I tried to be patient, but she was standing her ground and was blatantly refusing to cooperate. I thought about cutting my losses, grabbing her and letting her walk without wearing her coat. The weather was cool not cold this afternoon, so it wasn't like I would be exposing my kid to extreme elements. I also realized that if I gave in this time then I was setting a poor precedent because I knew Mike had fought the same battle this morning and Ella left the house with the jacket securely on.

I crouched down knowing my daughter would have an extreme dislike of me, at least for the short term. I quickly threw an arm in each sleeve all while Ella was sobbing. I didn't bother to zip the jacket. I grabbed Ella and headed for the car. I was no more than three steps out of her classroom when she spotted the drinking fountain and asked to have a drink. The tears stopped and Ella and I took turns at the fountain. I then spotted the bathroom and quickly remembered my bladder was full. Ella and I ducked quickly into the bathroom, only for Ella to rip the jacket from her body the instance I was indisposed. So I had the great fortune to replay the entire jacket saga once more.

I was thrilled once we were actually making our way to the car. Ella was still upset but the tears had slowed to a trickle. I was ready to just head home. One problem, Ella refused to be strapped in the car seat, much less even sit in it. I felt so defeated and tired, but summoned enough energy to quickly win that round. My reward was listening to my kid whine and cry the entire drive home. She stopped long enough to point out an ultralight in the sky. Of course, she called it a helicopter, but it did give me a break from the tears for a few moments and once it disappeared into the night, the crying resumed. I was so thankful to pull into the driveway, so I could free that kid from cage.

I guess this behavior is what people mean as the "terrible twos." As trying as tonight was, I must say part of me enjoys watching the little miss "I do it" develop her independence.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Not So Happy Ella

My sweet little girl is sick. She threw up 3x yesterday, including overnight. It was not a pretty site when I went it to get her out of bed at 9 am. I thought it was a bit strange that she was still asleep that late, but it had been a busy week and she had gone to bed later than normal for most of the week. I thought she was just catching up.

When I opened her door, the horrible smell was my first indication that all was not well with Ella. I'll spare you the gritty details, but I had no idea vomit could get so matted in hair. It was everywhere in the crib, on Lola (sorry S&T -- I'm not sure if she can be saved), even on the floor. Mike quickly disposed of the soiled pjs and bedding, and Ella just stayed in my arms. She had no interest in anything but snuggling with mom, which I loved. I only wish she wasn't feeling so icky. I tried to convince her to get in the tub, but she wasn't ready. She wanted to stay on the couch. She asked for some milk and water, which we willingly gave her. The problem was it resurfaced about 10 minutes later. Another round of cleaning and moving locations. We finally got Ella completely cleaned up, including the hair, and dressed. We relocated to the downstairs couch and turned on a little bear, and again before long what liquids she had drank reappeared. The poor thing was just miserable. She alternated most of the morning between mom and dad.

After her nap, her spirits seemed better. She never ran a fever, but she was not interested in eating or drinking. She would take a few swigs now and then. She finally ate some crackers late afternoon and luckily those stayed down. Ella did end up crashing for good at 7:30, which is so early for her, and I can report she's still asleep, which considering the time change is the longest stretch ever for this girl. Mike and I have gone in periodically to check on her. Luckily, the sheets are clean. I am worried about her, but I figure sleep is what she needs right now.