Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ellie's 6th Birthday Visit

I just got back to Oregon from a wonderful 3 day weekend with my daughter in Fort Wayne, IN.  Nicolette and her moved a year ago and I haven’t seen her in over a year so it was definitely time to visit my awesome daughter.  She had no idea that I was coming and the last time I talked to her she was really sad that she hadn’t seen me in a long time.  It was pretty tough not telling her then that I was nearly on my way! 

After an easy red eye flight from PDX through Atlanta to Fort Wayne (easy because I took 4 sleeping pills) Nicolette picked me up at the airport with Ellie who was shaking with excitement when she saw me.  She latched onto me in a big hug and demanded that I sit in the back seat with her where she continued to lean over while buckled to hold me tight.  It was a pretty amazing feeling.  We grabbed some quick food at Wendy’s before heading over to Nicolette’s office for her to show Ellie off and show me her new working digs.  

Ellie and I left her at work for the remainder of the day and headed back to the apartment to let their cute King Charles Terrier out for a poo.  After some surprising coaxing I convinced Ellie to go to Toys R Us where she could pick out 5 items and I would choose one as a gift for her which she insisted upon as she wanted it to be a surprise.  While we went up and down the isles in the store she made me an impressive pot holder.  As we went along she picked out about 6-7 items including one that she really wanted for her birthday, a unicorn pillow pet that lit up the ceiling with stars.  She even “warned” me that it was the present she really wanted while still insisting that it be a “surprise”.  After a quick text to Nicolette to find out her grandma had already bought it for her I said ok and put it in the cart, only to take it out while she wasn’t looking at the checkout.  With her eyes closed and coat over her head I bought the rest of the toys anyway... including a Lite Brite which I remembered from childhood.

It was an effort to hide the big bag from her but I continued to insist I had only gotten her one surprise present.  I did get her a “LOVE” wooden sign for her to paint and send to me that she knew about.  She was ok with that not being a surprise.  Throughout the afternoon she was just filled with hilarious things to say to me.  At one point she said, “Dad, you are a pleasure to be around.” followed by, “Dad, what does pleasure mean?”.... adorable.  She is clearly a very bright little girl and while later reading books showed an effort to really understand the spelling and meaning of each word on the pages.  She is also into the counting stage of childhood, counting off numbers in nearly every thing she did.  

After Toys R Us we picked up Nicolette and headed to Granite City to have dinner with her mother Lucile and Stepfather John.  I really enjoyed the dinner and hopefully I did my best to impress them and reassure them that I care deeply about my daughter.  I also picked up the check as a small gesture of appreciation for all they do for her in my physical absence.  It was a great meal and Nicolette was shocked that I finished all my chicken asparagus pasta.  Thankfully, Lucile had brought an early present for Ellie, the pillow pet she had warned me about buying... This of course was the present Ellie really wanted and she first said, “uh oh... now I have two”, assuming I had also bought it for her.  I assured her that I had already known and she would only get one with my gift still a surprise to her...

When we got back to the apartment I was pretty tired and passed out around 8pm with Ellie in Nicolette’s bed which she gave us for the three nights I was there.  It was a wonderful feeling to fall asleep with my daughter’s arm wrapped over my chest.  She really does love her dad!  Charlie was left down in his crate but would join us the following night at my feet on the bed.  

Saturday was a big day for Ellie both in the amount of sugar she consumed as well as the number of presents she received.  After a quick breakfast of Lucky Charms and coffee we headed to her soccer game.  She was on an undefeated team called Philedelphia with gold colored jerseys and was the only girl.  The coach sat her on the sideline for most of the game but I got to see her play a bit.  Apparently, she really likes her coach.  She got a few kicks of the ball in but mostly it seemed she just chased the group of boys up and down the field following the ball from a distance.  It was freezing out so when the game ended and I had gotten over a hundred photos I was happy to leave and head back to the house to get her changed for her birthday party.  

Nicolette gave me a laundry list of things to do and I knew getting a 6 year old changed and putting ear rings in her ears (never done that before) would be a challenge, but back at the apartment I invented a game of picking her up off the couch and dropping her onto it that she loved.  In exchange for a new piece of her birthday outfit I would raise her higher until she was fully clothed and her head was touching the ceiling.  I’ve found with Ellie that deals work best to get her to do things without throwing a fit.  That was an easy deal.  I was also surprised at how trusting she was of me to put her rainbow ear rings in!  Hooray!  

We made it to Franke Park for her party just 5 minutes after 3 pm when the party started.  All her friends with there and most of her relatives.  Lucile and John came up to say hello and I was introduced to all of her aunts, uncles and cousins.  Nicolette had a magician at the party who amazed the children with magic for about 45 minutes despite his broken foot and cast which made him hop around during the performance.  The funniest part of the performance was watching this 30 yr old guy who worked with Nicolette be completely blown away with each trip.  He actually looked distressed that he couldn’t figure out how the magician was doing it.  I figured out the tricks he did on most of them but there were a couple that still baffled me as well.  The children were all thoroughly amazed.  

It was a pretty frigid day with lots of wind blowing through the campground so I busied myself by weighing everything down including bracing the enormous rainbow cake that Danell had made for Ellie which was 5 layers of colored cake and took 2 days to make!  The children played pin the cloud on a cardboard rainbow and then took turns pulling strings on a a Sponge Bob piñata.  Unfortunately, none of the strings opened the trap door as they should have and we adults had to rip it open ourselves.  Maybe next year we’ll just let them use a bat...

People were starting to leave because of the cold wind and temps so we hurried Ellie over to the table to open the myriad presents brought for her.  She was amazed and so excited that I had bought her all the gifts we had put into our shopping cart.  Her friends seemed a bit jealous of her 6 presents as well.  After she got through ripping through all of her gifts we hurriedly picked up and left for home with Ellie clutching her pillow pet she named “Twinkle” the whole way.  The whole party had lasted about 2 hours and Nicolette and I were both pretty tired from it.

Back at the apartment we had a relaxing night of ordering pizza and watching “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” which was a really cute animated film about a scientist who could make food rain from the sky and had the voice of Mr. T in it which was hilarious to me.  Nicolette and her friend Bob ended up going out for drinks around 9pm, leaving Ellie and I to hang out together.  I let her stay up pretty late and after watching a few shows of Sponge Bob together on the iPad we both fell asleep with Charlie cuddling up with us on the bed.  I woke up around 11:30 and asked for Nicolette to turn down the heat in the place when she got home which never happened because at 1am I got a text from her saying she was sleeping on Bob’s couch.

In the morning on Sunday Ellie woke up early and I convinced her to let me sleep in till 8:30am while she watched more Sponge Bob.  We then got up and got breakfast and played with her Lite Brite and some other toys until Nicolette got home around 10am.  After some coffee and Ellie getting dressed for the day we headed to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo next to Franke Park to meet up with Danell, her husband Mark and their 4 children.  The zoo was open for the weekend for Halloween.  Most of the animals were in for the winter but a few were still in their enclosures for us to see.

We quickly made it around the zoo stopping to get Ellie’s card punched by various costumed characters who would also hand her candy in a bag.  It was only $16 total for the three of us to get in and we easily got half that back in candy for Ellie.  Danell and Mark pulled their 4 kids in a 3 seat wagon that Nicolette even jumped into at one point.  Managing one 6yr old was exhausting to me, but watching them manage 4 at the same time just seemed like chaotic insanity.  I don’t know how they did it.... I was a little disappointed that nobody besides me seemed interested in viewing any of the wildlife but I just continued on with the group holding Ellie’s hand along the way.  At one point we came to a bunch of geese and I took the time to put a few quarters in for corn to hand feed them.  Ellie put her hand out with me as well but got a bit nervous when they came close to eat out of mine.  

I hope that as she gets older she will be interested in and learn to respect and cherish all life, not just people.  When she is rough with Charlie she replies, “It’s ok daddy, he’s just a dog” which worries me as I want her to be more gentle and I want her to be safe from other dogs that may rip her face off if she treats them in the same manner.  I told her the story of Russ’ daughter Elise and how a dog nearly ripped her face off for being to rough with it.  I know she loves Charlie, I just hope that she learns to respect him and is more gentle with him.

After the zoo we headed over to Chuck E Cheese which I hadn’t been to in over 25 years.  Nearly instantly I got a headache in the place from all the noise and screaming children.  Ellie had a great time playing skeeball and climbing through the tubes hanging from the ceiling.  She won over 100 tickets while there.  I was hungry so got the salad bar as the pizza and other food was far overpriced and looked terrible.  Ellie took her time picking out the silly plastic prizes that took us probably $10 in tokens to get and we left with about 20 tokens for her to possibly use later in the week on her true birthday when Clay would be there.  

Back at the apartment we again played with her new toys and hung out until it was time for bed.  Ellie and I shared a big piece of the birthday cake Mike the magician had made for her and each had a glass of wine with it (hers very small).  She busied herself making a dog fort for Charlie upstairs and painting me a big rainbow as a surprise gift I was not open until I got back to Oregon.  Then, after Ellie took a bath we both crashed for the night with her again curling up next to me and Charlie spending the night with mom.  

On Monday we took Ellie over to Danell’s who took her to school while Nicolette drove me to the airport.  On the way we dropped off poor Charlie to get snipped overnight at the vet (horrible way for the dog to remember me by).  It was an uneventful flight home through Detroit and Minneapolis and I barely made my final flight to Portland where I returned to rain again.  It was a great trip and I definitely hope to make it back to Fort Wayne for each of her birthdays in the future.  Hopefully, as she gets older she will be able to visit me more often too.

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