Friday, November 25, 2011

Anticipation Part II Month of November: Blog 4: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

This week, we are visiting the happiest place on earth… DISNEY WORLD and we are having so much fun.  We have been here all week and still have two more days to play and explore. So because we have a lot to fit in, your Mimi and I wrote up this blog ahead of time.  How about we tell you all about this trip next week when we are home and have time to reflect, reminisce, and wish we were back in Florida!  So what is this week’s blog then?  Your Mimi and I chatted on the phone last week to get excited about our upcoming vacation.  And what a better way to anticipate our trip then to recount your first Disney experience (that’s right… this is your 2nd visit to Orlando!) November 2010.  Your Mimi’s words are in italics and mine are in regular font.

Oh Ellie, it was such an amazing experience to see the look on your face the first time you saw the characters, the rides, and the atmosphere!  You were very advanced for your age and so perceptive to what was going on around you!   I have to tell you my favorite part of the trip last year… taking you on the Mad Tea Party Ride... we spun and spun around in teacups and you laughed and laughed (I always knew you would be my tea party partner!).   
Your Poppy loved taking you on the Winnie the Pooh ride, I think you enjoyed Pooh’s garden while we were in line more than the actual ride.

My favorite part of the trip was meeting Cinderella’s step-mother and sisters.  We had gone to the Magic Kingdom really early one morning.  The park was just about empty and there weren’t any lines for the characters.  But the mean mom and sisters were hilarious- they never broke character, Ellie (they scolded me for not being a good mom when you were squirming)!   
Or maybe my favorite part was watching your Mimi and Poppy share their love for Disney with you!   
You see Ellie, Disney has a special place in their hearts as it holds a lot of history for them (their honeymoon was here over thirty years ago).  Your Poppy, always the morning person, has everyone up, dressed, and fed by park opening so we can be the first in line.  However, with you Ellie, he was very flexible with your sleep and feeding schedule.  I have never seen Poppy so relaxed and happy before!

Your Mommy hasn’t mentioned yet the really cool family part in our trip… we made it into a family reunion of sorts.  The Ginn-Russell Family reunion boasted about forty people (all who stayed at Bay Lake Towers or the Contemporary).  We rented a banquet room on Thanksgiving night and had a catered turkey dinner.   
But really, we were celebrating, appreciating, and enjoying family!

Having so much family there made the trip very unique.  I know Uncle Ryan, Poppy, and your Dad loved the cabanas and the pontoon boat that Jimmy rented so they could go tubing.   
I loved the private restaurant up at the top of Bay Lake Towers where we would meet in the evenings to watch the fireworks and have a snack.  It was very cool because the family could break apart but always had a place to meet up.   

And remember that awesome dinner that Aunt Sammy made one night?   
That is one of the best reasons to have a condo- the kitchen made meals so easy.  Your Uncle Ryan and Daddy loved the late night snacks we bought them.

But we sure did have our share of eating out.  Remember that yummy steakhouse that was at the Dolphin and Swan hotel and we ended up walking quite a bit to get there (I think because we didn’t get the right transportation)?   
Ellie, you were such a good girl and very patient (riding on your Dad's shoulders was very fun)!  And once we got there, the food and company was amazing so the walk was totally worth it!

Kim, how about telling Ellie about the Osborne Family Light Show at Hollywood Studios?

Ohmygosh, that was the coolest experience… you see Ellie, there were millions of colored Christmas lights lining the back of the park and they were choreographed to Christmas music!  Talk about getting us in the mood for the holidays!  And even more fun, were trying to find the 43 hidden Mickeys embedded in the lights (and I read later one hidden Minnie so we will have to be on the look-out next time).

I got into the holiday mood when we went to see the giant Gingerbread house (that was real) at the Grand Floridian!

Oh that smelled so delicious but how amusing did we make things after?  It was a girls’ afternoon for some reason and we ended up having a relaxing drink out by the pool.

How could we forget that?  Ellie Girl, you made this fancy place turn into a zoo when we had to change and feed you!

Oh Ellie, you really did make this trip the best (until this year of course!).  You changed so much over the course of that week.  Your first two teeth popped through and you were crawling by the end of the vacation! 

I can’t wait to see how much you learn and grow on this upcoming trip, especially watching and playing with your older cousin Colin.

Oh Ellie, Disney with Steve, Jackie, Amber, Brett, Colin, Craig, and Taylor (and with our core family too of course) is going to be awesome!  I can’t wait to tell you about it in our next blog.  So Kim, I have to get packing.  Ellie, I will see you in a few days.

Love you ladies!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anticipation Part II Month of November- Blog 3: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Minnie-Ellie (get it- play on words as you are so teeny and we are headed to Disney TOMORROW!),

This week, we have turned anticipation into sheer excitement!!!  Your Mimi and I decided to share our best Disney memories with you but we agreed not to share last year (even though those memories with you would go in our Hall of Fame) because we are going to recount our 2010 trip next week to give you a play-by-play of your 1st trip in Disney.

So because Disney is more of an experience than a vacation, I have multiple memories spanning from multiple trips.  When I was 7, we took our first Disney trip as a family and even though I don’t remember much from that, I have two distinct memories… the first, wearing Paul Bunyan hats from Frontier Land with my brother (that I don’t think they sell anymore!) but coming from inner-city Philadelphia and not seeing much wildlife, we thought they were the coolest!  

And, I remember my Pop riding Space Mountain with me for the first time and thinking this is the best and fastest roller-coaster ever (and I still think that although it does have some competition with Splash Mountain and Aerosmith’s Rock-n-Roller Coaster)!  I remember the many trips to Disney that we took because Poppy’s company held their yearly conferences there.  

Your Daddy had never been to Disney when we started dating so of course it was an experience I had to share with him!  So the two of us went for his 21st birthday and actually had a romantic time!  
We even had dinner at the Eiffel Tower in Epcot’s France overlooking the fireworks display.

And then Ellie, we went to Disney when I was about 20 weeks pregnant with you.  And even though I couldn’t go on many rides, I had the best time… you see, Poppy bought so many baby Disney clothes and toys, your wardrobe was set for a year (we weren’t a hundred percent sure you were a girl so most of the clothes were neutral reds and greens except for the Princess dress and tiara your Mimi bought for you!).  

The funniest night of that trip was when Poppy was picked to go onstage in front of the huge audience at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue as a ballerina!!!  

Your Poppy and Mimi truly love Disney and they have such a history with Disney as they went there on their honeymoon!  Yes, that’s how much your grandparents adore that place!  Obviously, they’ve passed that feeling down to me and hopefully to you too Ellie! 

My favorite Walt Disney quote (and I bet your Poppy would agree) is definitely one to live by Ellie, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

And I do have tell you about a really fun event that happened this week too- we celebrated my friend Shiloh and the soon-to-be arrival of her baby boy with a shower… he’s due in January and will be another good friend of yours Ellie so I hope you will be nice to him and show him the ropes ;)

I love you Ellie Mouse!  It’s time to get excited!!!


And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie!

I couldn’t agree with your mom more!  First, I love her play on words calling you “Minnie” as you truly are!  And secondly, the anticipation of our upcoming Disney trip is just about to “peek!”   Today I have officially started singing “M – I – C, – see you real soon… K – E – Y, - why?  Because we love you! M – O – U – S – E!!!!” at every opportunity!  I have been singing this simple little verse over and over in my head, as I don’t carry a tune out loud very well!  Well actually it is also because Poppy says that what I think I know to believe are the words to a song, he says I actually “don’t” and make up my own words, as I don’t have a clue to what the real song words are!  Humph!  I think Poppy thinks he is the Alex Trebek of Jeopardy when it comes to “Correct Lyrics” for $500!

Anyway, your mommy and I thought this would be a fun week to share a memory from a past Disney Trip!  For me this is a bit difficult as I have dozens of stories from over the years, as Disney World is one of my favorite places to vacation!  But the one I keep going back to Ellie is my very first time… Mickey meets Mickey!  

I think it was April of 1977… Aunt Phyllis’ Toy Company held their sales convention at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and she was so wonderful to invite me along with her family to attend.  I have been hooked ever since!  Since the Magic Kingdom was only a stone’s throw from the hotel, we spent quite a bit of time there!  Space Mountain was probably the coolest and fastest roller-coaster ride of that time… (However now I am thinking it is more like Aerosmith’s Rock-n-Roller Coaster!)  My cousins Joey, Linda, Missy, Johnny and I would go off on our own and explore the variety of attractions at the park as it was (and still is) an amazingly friendly, clean and safe place!  I remember one ride called Twenty Leagues Under The Sea that is no longer there.  At the time I thought it was an awesome ride because you had to climb into a submarine that was partially submerged in water.  I remember it gave you the feeling that you were deep underneath the sea as it circled the tank while you focused on the fake fish outside the sub’s windows.  Now looking back, it was kind of a corny ride Ellie… Fun, but corny!  When we were hanging out at the hotel, we spent a lot of time at the pool and also driving the little motorboats around the lagoon!  There was always something to entertain us!  In fact, Aunt Phyllis’ company sponsored a private party character breakfast for everyone.  All the Disney characters made an appearance and one in particular took a liking to me Ellie.  

I am not sure if I was more embarrassed or more mortified, but I can tell you one thing for sure… my cheeks were definitely beet red from the attention!  This trip to Disney was absolutely one of my favorite experiences! 

Another one would be Poppy’s and my honeymoon trip.  Yes… we chose to honeymoon in Disney World!  And yes, we also stayed at the Contemporary Resort!  Poppy loves Disney as much as I do Ellie if not more!  I remember back then that when we walked to the Magic Kingdom from the hotel, we would pass Topiary trees in the shapes of Disney Characters!   One that strongly stands out in my mind was a 12-foot tree shaped to look like Mary Poppins holding an umbrella!  They are long gone now, but not their memories!  Poppy and I also loved the Haunted House, especially at the end of the ride when a “ghost” joined us in our carriage!  How Walt Disney created these elaborate, detailed and complex attractions is mind-boggling.  In my eyes, he was a genius!  Our honeymoon stay also had a romantic side to it too.  One-night Poppy reserved dinner reservations for us at a restaurant called “Top of the World” which was exactly that.  It sat on the very top floor of the Contemporary Hotel overlooking the beautiful grounds of Disney.  Every seat in the restaurant could enjoy a romantic sunset as well as the fireworks displayed over the castle in the Magic Kingdom!  I remember that night I wore a turquoise evening gown and your Poppy wore a dark suit.  He was so handsome that he took my breath away that night Ellie, just like he still does today!  I remember too that the evening’s dinner entertainment was Bobbie Darin crooning his love songs to us.  That night couldn’t have been more perfect!  Today they have changed the restaurant dramatically and now call it the California Grill.  Don’t get me wrong; the atmosphere, the décor, the food and views of the fireworks display are still the best, but for me it is lacking that “step back in time nostalgia!”  And guess what?... 25 years later, Poppy surprised me and took me back to Disney World as an anniversary present!  

And yes we stayed at the Contempory Resort! (I think you could say that that hotel is our favorite!)  When we got there, he mentioned to the reservationist at the front desk that it was a special anniversary, and to our surprise they accommodated us with an upgraded room on an upper floor in the main tower with a direct view of the Magic Kingdom!  It was awesome Ellie to relax on our balcony, watch the spectacular fireworks burst in an array of vibrant colors and “be in the moment” of Walt Disney’s ‘dream’!  And one more thing… One of your Poppy’s and my all time favorite spots in Disney is Main Street located in the Magic Kingdom!  I remember 33 years ago Main Street had a Houdini Magic Shop that sold every kind of magic trick imaginable!  Poppy and I were always fascinated and frequented this shop quite a bit!  Main Street also had a movie theater that showed very old movies (I think from the 1930’s) all day long.  That was a pretty cool place to walk into also!   But those shops no longer exist … they have since been replaced with more up-to-date shopping stores. (The kind Poppy loves to buy from!)  (The kind You Little Princess make out in spades with gifts!)  Oh Ellie I could go on and on and on, but then this would no longer be a blog but rather an “unofficial” and quite lengthy Disney Guide Book of informative as well as nonsensical information seen through the eyes of The Russell’s!  With us Ellie Disney is NEVER dull!  Prayerfully you will learn this fact many times through the coming years!

OK… it is now officially the Disney Countdown.  7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1!  Sing with me El! 
“Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?
M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!
Hey there, Hi there, Ho there, you’re as welcome as can be.
M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!
Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck), Mickey Mouse (Donald Duck)!
Forever let us hold his banner high, high, HIGH, HIGH!
Come along and sing the song and join the jamboree!
M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!

Love you CinderEllie!
See you soon!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Anticipation Part II Month of November- Blog 2: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Hello Packer-ette Ellie!

So this is the anticipation week… FOOTBALL!  That’s right, our beloved Packers are 8-0 and PSU is 8-1 (although this is shocking as I would consider our college team not very good… possibly the worst 8-1 team around but I will take that record!).  And along with our most recent triumph, I was going to congratulate Penn State’s coach, Joe Paterno on his newest milestone- 409 wins (it’s the most victories of any Division I coach)… sadly though, this was overshadowed this week by some very serious allegations of abuse and a cover-up within the university.  I am disappointed in Mr. Paterno (and anyone involved in the scandal or hiding the scandal), that the high moral standard he always held his team to, he didn’t hold for himself or his staff.  Being the best means standing up for the defenseless and speaking up for those without a voice (sometimes this means doing things that we don’t like or that are hard to do).  I think to maintain Penn State's reputation and tradition; it's time to start fresh.  We love Penn State but we need to uphold the values that are the university's foundation.

You see Ellie, in our house (and in mine growing up), we believe that football is synonymous with fall.   

Your Poppy even sent you Packer fleece pajamas and they are your favorite!!!  You are such the cheerleader (and yes, you support your Dad’s Steelers team as long as they aren’t playing the Packers!).  

We need to ask Mimi to share one of her Packerette cheerleading stories with us… did you know that the Packers’ playing field used to be at her high school?  Green Bay is a really special city and I want Mimi to share with you what that was like.  It’s a small town with a lot of heart!  

With her spunk and energy, Ellie would make a good cheerleader and player for the Packers (her favorite player is the same as mine... #12- Aaron Rodgers).

So for this month, our recipes are our signature chili recipes!  Chili is delicious to bring to a tailgate (and growing up and attending Penn State, tailgating is not something we take lightly… we are proud of our cow fields that become home to the pregame parties filled with food and fun games like Corn Hole, Ladder Ball, and Washers)!  But it’s also fun to have a chili cook-off with friends!!!

And after the recipe, I want you to read words of wisdom from a beloved football coach who was very wise, passionate, and inspirational!

Healthy Chili                       

1 lb lean ground turkey
2 tbsp chili spice
¾ cup water
1 can baked beans
2 can diced, peeled tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can marinara sauce

Sauté meat in pan until brown.  Drain excess juice.  Add water and chili spice; simmer 5-10 minutes.  Mix remaining ingredients in separate saucepan; add sautéed meat and simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

I also love that Mr. Lombardi references troops in battle within this speech… perfect timing to say HAPPY VETERANS’ DAY and thank you to those courageous men and women who put their lives on the line for our country!  Our armed forces live and breathe honor, strenth, and courage.  These are qualities to live by.  They ranscend jobs, time, and place (and should be taught and followed even on the football field).  

What It Takes to Be Number One by Vince Lombardi (one of the best and most legendary coaches ever, leading the Packers to win two Super Bowl victories)

Winning is not a sometimes thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that's first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don't ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.
Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he's got to play from the ground up - from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That's O.K. you've got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you're lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he's never going to come off the field second.
Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization - an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win - to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don't think it is.
It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That's why they are there - to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules - but to win.
And in truth, I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.
I don't say these things because I believe in the "brute" nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour - his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear - is that moment when he has to work his heart out in a good cause and he's exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.

And I will close on a favorite quote of mine from Penn State’s coach Joe Paterno (and in light of the ongoing investigation, I don’t think that Mr. Paterno followed his own advice), Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence or worth is a tragedy.”

So Miss Ellie, always try your best but never forget who are and what you stand for.  And as for Penn State, it is a very dark hour but we hope changes will be made because WE ARE…

Love you,

And now from your Mimi…
Skyping with your Mimi in your Packer outfits!!! 

Hi Ellie,

Like your mommy said… this is the anticipated week of FOOTBALL!”  And I am writing this blog not with a cup of hot tea by my side but rather a cup of hot chicken broth, as I seem to have caught a head cold over the weekend. It certainly isn’t as delicious, but I do find it comforting.   You see Ellie I traveled solo down to Philly for my cousin’s house-warming party and also to take out your cousin Michelle for a scrumptious Italian dinner.  The best part of traveling solo is having that long stretch of time on the highway to meditate and pray.  It is a wonderful and quite peaceful time Ellie to think things out loud.  I did a lot of praying for Gigi’s health, using mental imaging as a healing tool.  I also prayed that it would be a good weekend for my extended Philly family and that the party would be a happy success.  I prayed for Poppy, and that he would be able to bring his mom smiles during his stay in Florida during this difficult time.  I also prayed for our cousin Jordan, who is a senior in high school and an awesome football player.  I prayed that his football team would have another win under their belt with no injuries to bring them one game closer to a State Championship.  And since Penn State Football was having a by-week, I shelved my prayers for them for a few days.  But my beloved Packers were playing Sunday afternoon, so I needed to pray that they continued to play with passion, finesse and as a team that would bring them another win!  I should have included in my prayers to not catch a cold…. but that did not cross my mind as it was such a beautiful weekend.  (Too late now!)  Your Great Gram Mundy used to say a cold is: 3 days coming, 3 days staying and 3 days going, and drinking hot tea with honey is a good way to soothe your throat during those 9 days.  That may not sound like a bad idea Ellie, but for me that won’t ever happen as I see honey as bee poop.  Yuck.  But let’s get back to football.  On a high note I do have to tell you that the Packer’s did win against the Chargers bringing them to an 8 – 0 record!  Yeah!!!!!!  And up until this week we were excited and looking forward to Penn State playing Nebraska hoping to sweeten our record to 8 -1.  But like your mommy stated above, serious allegations of abuse within our university and a possible cover-up have been brought to the attention of our city, our country, our world Ellie.  Too many high-ranking officials at our university forgot to follow basic moral standards, and because of their grave mistake, many innocent victims have been hurt.  It is a very upsetting and sad story, one your mommy and I wanted to acknowledge but not write about in our blog to you.  Instead, I shall say many prayers for all who need them.  Back to a more uplifting note, I do need to share with you some stories of football weekends in Green Bay while I was growing up but I think I will save them for later… possibly if my Packer’s make it to another Super Bowl!  Right now I want to share my chili recipe with you!  I am not trying to “toot” my own horn, but I have to admit it is darn good!  Here it is:

Mickey’s Chili
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion chopped
3 lbs ground turkey (or beef for beef lover’s)
2 tsp minced garlic
3 packets hot chili powder
1 small Habanera Hot Pepper finely chopped
2 tbsp Spicy Brown mustard
1 tbsp sea salt
2 tbsp black pepper
2 (28 oz) cans plum tomatoes… cut in large chunks
1 (28 oz) can chunky crushed basil, garlic and oregano tomatoes
½ cup merlot wine or Shiraz works well too
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
3 tbsp fresh oregano (chopped)
¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
2 cans dark red kidney beans
2 cans northern white beans
**Optional** 1 cup diced green and red bell peppers mixed
Heat the olive oil in a very large pot.  Add the onions and cook over low heat stirring until soft… about 12 to 15 minutes.   Add ground turkey, stir to brown.  Stir in garlic, hot pepper, mustard, sea salt and pepper.  Add the tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, basil, oregano, parsley and beans.  Stir well and simmer uncovered for about 15 to 20 minutes.  If you need to adjust any of the seasonings… feel free to add whatever!
Eat hearty!

Ellie, I also wanted to share a poem with you.  I enjoyed this one for its young at heart humor, its sports viewing truths, and its adult like consequences!  Enjoy!

Our Teacher’s A Football Fanatic
By: Kenn Nesbit

Our teacher’s a football fanatic.  It’s all that he has on his mind.  He listens to games on his headphones, and frets when his team is behind.

He jumps up and down when they’re winning.  He screams when they fumble a pass.  We know we’re supposed to be reading, but watching him is simply a gas.

Our principal walked in on Friday.  And he was too angry to speak.  Our substitute started on Monday.  Our teacher’s been benched for a week!

So Ellie, I shall wrap this up with a possible lesson to be learned here.  It can be found in a quote from Vince Lombardi.  He said, “Football is like life, it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."   I think his words speak beautifully Ellie.  They are words of wisdom and experience.  They are words of sound morals.  Always stand strong for what you believe in, and always stand proud.  You are our future!

OK.  Since our Disney trip is around the corner and we will be anticipating some new and exciting adventures, how about in our next blog we share with Ellie some favorite Disney World stories from vacations of long ago Kim?  After all it is a wonderful place where memories are made!

Till then CinderEllie!
Love Mimi

Friday, November 4, 2011

Anticipation Part II Month of November- Blog 1: Letters from Mom & Mimi

And Happy Halloween Ellie-roo!

So I’ve realized that I for sure am not going to win any Mom-of-the-Year awards anytime soon… Specifically, when the doorbell rings at any time of day or night, you scream “Yay, Pizza!”  I guess I need to cook a few more dinners in the kitchen.  And when you get frustrated, drop something, or spill anything, you yell, “Oh crap.”  I suppose the words could be worse but they sure could be better!  I am not the model parent on most days… but this week we did have a lot of fun as a family.  We made Halloween special (with the help from your Mimi and Poppy of course too).  They sent you three (that’s right, you read that correctly… 3!) costumes.  And we practiced dressing up in all of them throughout the week.  You loved the kangaroo because it came with a baby stuffed animal for the pouch.  And you really liked the Elmo costume (well really only the hat because I think you thought the body suit was Elmo eating you).  And the giraffe was adorable and so perfect for going out (even though we had to duct tape the giraffe head to your monkey hat, which is the only hat you will wear.  But within the hour, you figured out my trick and ripped the giraffe head off so you quickly became a giraffe-monkey mix… very odd but so cute!).

Despite getting over a head cold (man- this season’s germs are hitting you hard, Ellie Girl), we made it to Boo at the Zoo a few days ago.  

You liked the animals as always but the new construction really caught your eye this month.  You were amazed at the bulldozer you could see from a small opening and you were so curious!  
You wanted to climb into every animal cage or you kept saying, “Open It!” to the biggest gates with the elephants inside.  You were quite angry that the penguins and their water enclosure were not accessible to us.  
I let you out of the stroller a lot but not when we got close to the peacocks as I was afraid that they would bite you since you wanted so badly to pet them and be their friend!   

We had to leave after we went to the snack shop and you remembered they had ice cream in the summer and asked very politely for some.  However, the ice cream stand is closed this time of year and you had a bit of a meltdown.  Once we got in the car, you fell asleep… I think you were wiped out!  Overall, as I am writing this piece about the zoo, I am realizing that this day was probably so frustrating for you!  All you wanted to do was play with the animals and you weren’t allowed to touch, pet, or swim with any of them…    

Your Dad and I took you to a Fall Festival/Pumpkin Patch on a gorgeous, clear day last weekend.   

You ran around like you owned the place.   

They had a swing set, petting zoo (again, you wished you could get inside especially with that small pony- are you seeing a pattern yet?!), and a corn maze (which was so much fun because we’ve never done one of those before!  You led the way saying, “this way Daddy!” with a stalk of corn as your walking stick… 20 minutes later, we found the exit!).

And yes, I took you trick-or-treating around the neighborhood while your Dad stayed back and handed out candy (your Dad dressed up as a rock star, played scary music, and set up the fog machine… when we came back, you were very scared and didn’t recognize him!).  But while we walked around collecting candy, you had me laughing out loud.  At first, you were more interested in chasing rabbits around the yard.  

But as soon as we got you moving and someone handed you that first bag of M&M’s, you were sold on Halloween!  You were hilarious and although you didn’t like talking to strangers, you did like getting candy (remember that sweet tooth, I’ve told you about?!).  You would say, “trick-or-treat” before we got to the door!  Oh Ellie- you made this one of my greatest Halloweens yet! 

Alright Mimi, so tell us about your Halloween… did you get many trick-or-treaters?  Ellie, if we ever go home for Halloween, Mimi and Poppy’s house is the one to hit as they have the big-size candy bars!!!  

So in sticking to the anticipation theme for another month, how about we get excited about our two awesome football teams next week?!  What do you think Mimi?

Love you Ellie-Elmo/Kangaroo/Giraffe Girl!

And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie!

You are not going to believe this but it is snowing here!  Yup…. It is 2 days before Halloween and it looks like a winter wonderland outside!  

The weatherman is anticipating 5 to 8 inches!  And I am anticipating staying indoors today!  I do have to tell you that instead of drinking a cup of tea while I am writing, I opted for a cup of hot chocolate instead!  It seems like the perfect way to start the day!  My goal today Ellie is to start organizing the dozens upon dozens of picture albums I have stored under the basement steps and also the bins upon bins of loose pictures too!  I pulled them all out the other day and placed them on the floor in the middle of the family room.  And just to give you a picture idea of just how many pictures there actually are…. Let’s just say that anyone entering the basement wouldn’t know we even had a family room because it is hidden around a mountain of photos!  Every time I walk down there I feel like hyperventilating so I find an excuse to go back upstairs again!  Oh Ellie, I wish you and your mommy were here to help me sort through the piles.  It could be fun walking down memory lane!

The reason why I started this crazy idea is because of Halloween.  Since you love Elmo of Sesame Street so much, Poppy and I thought it would be neat to buy you an Elmo costume to wear for Trick-or-Treating.  And then I remembered that 30 years ago we had your mommy wear a Cookie Monster outfit; which is another character from Sesame Street!  How cool is that?  Like mommy, like daughter!  

Another Halloween memory I have Ellie is of your mommy and your Uncle Ryan when they were about 5 and 3 years of age.  Instead of buying store bought costumes that year, I came up with a very creative homemade idea!  I dressed them up as Christmas presents using cardboard boxes.  

There was one slight problem though… your Uncle Ryan’s arms were a little too short and the cardboard armholes that I cut out of the box dug into his arms causing him to whine a little bit.  Thankfully we lived in a row house meaning that all the houses we would be visiting were connected to each other, so trick-or-treating and filling their pumpkins with lots of candy did not take long at all!  Your mommy was the better trooper that year, but I think that is because she loved being the center of attention!  I have to admit Ellie; they were the cutest Christmas presents ever!  Now Poppy and I stay home each year to give out candy to the neighborhood children… and just so you know, Poppy makes sure I only buy the GOOD candy-bars and they have to be the BIG ones too!  Like everything else, Poppy is very generous!  I think he must have seen in his trick-or-treating younger years one candy too many which fell under the category of: not chocolate, very miniature, yucky tasting, and the no one ever eats kind of candy in his bag! 

Another fun memory from years back Ellie is how we used to decorate our pumpkins.  Every year we made sure to get 4 pumpkins from the pumpkin patch (or sometimes from the grocery store) where everyone got to pick their own size pumpkin.  Then we would bring them home for the decorating and displaying.  Well, I have to be honest with you here.  There were only a few times that we actually carved out the pumpkins insides.  

I don’t know why, but I always found that to be creep-crawly yucky!  Scooping out and possibly touching all those slimy pumpkin seeds skived me out a bit!  So I would try my hardest to convince your mommy and Uncle Ryan that drawing faces with magic markers on the pumpkins was a much better way to show their artistic creativity and better yet, their pumpkins would not rot as fast!  It worked for a few years.  And once they were old enough to be on their own… I drove right to Michael’s Craft Store and bought the everlasting kind of pumpkins!  Yep.  Fake ones!  Ellie, they are the best as they do not lose their perfect shape, their perfect color and never rot!  They also store nicely in the attic so I am saving money year after year.  Poppy calls this ‘cheap’ but I don’t listen!!

Ellie, I do have a present day funny story to tell you that relates to Halloween.    It is a bit lengthy but I will try and make it as short as I can.  As you know, I work in a first grade class and children at that age rarely hold back what they are thinking…with that being said let me start at the beginning.  Just this past week, I had to have some minor surgery done on my face.  I had a small cancer spot (not to worry, it wasn’t the deadly kind) that needed to be removed from my temple.  I was surprised that it required 20 stitches though!  Since it did not hurt I chose to return to school and back to work the next day.  What I didn’t realize was that the trauma to this area would cause my eye to swell and turn black and blue.  Ellie, I looked like I was in the ring with the boxer Rocky Balboa and made it a couple of rounds before I was TKO’d!  Well, the children of course were in ‘awe’ of my new look and had to get up close to really check it out.  After studying it thoroughly, one little boy said to me that I should go to the store and buy a patch for my eye because I would make a really good pirate for Halloween!  I so love their age as they only see the good in everything!  Those first couple of days I was worried when I Skyped with you and your mommy Ellie.   I anticipated that you would be afraid when you saw my face, so the first and second time I Skyped with you I covered my eye with my hand.  The third time I did not and realized I was wrong.   You too looked at me long and hard and then just like that, I was still your “Mimi”!  I love you for that Ellie!

Before I close Ellie, I have to tell you that your mommy just called to tell us how your trick-or-treating evening went.  It sounds like you had lots and lots of fun!  Do you know that dressing up and playing let's pretend will give you hours of enjoyment for years to come?!  Right now though I do not know if I should call you GirEllie or EllieRoo as you looked adorable in both your giraffe costume and your kangaroo costume!  Honestly, I can’t wait to Skype with you again!  Your antics always make me laugh!

So now I think it is time to close with this thought.  People wear masks for many reasons Ellie.  Halloween for one.  Work related issues for another.  Hiding behind one because of personal issues is another.  But no matter, I think the lesson to be learned here is to just be you.  Be honest, be confident, and be sincere.  For there is nothing more wonderful than viewing present or past photo’s of yourself ‘taken in the moment’ and knowing that is the real you!  May happiness always be yours Ellie!

I love the idea of November being the perfect “football” month, and next week blogging about our favorite football teams Kimberly.  Ohhhhhhh…. And how about we each share our favorite chili recipes too?  I know you have an awesome recipe that Justin loves and I have one that will put your taste buds to the numbing test!

Till then little Elmo/Giraffe/Kangaroo-bean!
Love Mimi

P.S. Ellie, as this blog goes to print, we just found out that Gigi is really sick and we hope that our blog followers will send their prayers. As you know, your Mimi and I are strong believers in the power of prayer.  We love Gigi!