Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ellie's 10th Birthday Visit

Once again I kept my promise to Ellie and flew out to see her for her 10th birthday.  It of course was a little rougher this year as I had just lost my job and my relationship with her mother and family had deteriorated after Ellie's visit to Oregon over the summer.  We were in the middle of a heated debate over how much support I should be sending home and it was a well known fact that I am completely against her being brought up to judge all those who aren't Christian and share her ideals, not to mention her being taught that the Earth was created in just 7 days.  Grrrr.... despite all this I love her immensely and always want to be a positive influence on her life so I make the trip to see her when I can. 

This weekend was actually the week before her birthday with her mom's birthday on Sunday.  This meant that I needed to fly in on the Wednesday before and have Thursday, Friday and Saturday with her before flying home late Saturday night to let her spend her mom's birthday with her.  When I bought the tickets I was still at Cardno and it was the only weekend that would have worked as Ellie was going to the Great Wolf Lodge with her mom on her actual birthday weekend.  

After landing at the Ft. Wayne Airport I grabbed the rental car and headed to Ellie's Grandma's place where they have been living for over a year, hopefully saving up my large child support payments for a down payment on a house.  She was stoked to see me and had a full agenda laid out for us, much like I had for her when she came to visit.  Like father, like daughter!  But before we started to tick off all the places on her list we decided to go for a nice bike ride to the playground we visited the year before.  She was super proud to show me how much better she was on her bike!  

The first place we visited was Science Central.  Ellie swore that I had been there with her before but for the life of me I couldn't remember it.  We explored all the science games and even went around the scary weighted bike loop on the 2nd floor which feels like you are biking along the edge of a cliff!  We watched a science presentation and then when the tube slide opened up we both put on fuzzy socks and a science smock to slide down them.  She had a blast and I was super excited to see her so interested in all the science.  It gave me hope which I badly needed after learning of her Creationist upbringing.  

From there we headed to Crazy Pins which is a bowling alley, arcade and bumper car place.  I bought us tickets for the bumper cars and also $20 each for the arcade and tickets for her to go into the kids maze.  We both enjoyed playing skeeball as well as some fun interactive arcade games before hitting up the bumper cars.  For a Thursday night it was pretty dead and we were the only ones in the very slow moving bumper cars.  Ellie seemed to have a good time but I'll need to someday show her some real tougher ones.  These were kind of lame.  She then took my new phone into the kids maze and was running around with it capturing video to show me later of all the tubes and ladders she went through.  It was adorable.  

That night we stopped at Panda Express for dinner then checked into our hotel and watched a cute kids film called Zootopia which I hadn't seen yet in the hotel I had got for us.  This was a different hotel than the year before as it was cheaper but it lacked a pool and was right next to the highway.  Kind of a dump.  Nicolette was completely paranoid about bed bugs and she wasn't allowed to leave her bag of clothes on the bed but was allowed to sleep in the bed... seemed a bit odd to me and no, there were no bed bugs.  

On Friday we at breakfast at the nearby Pancake house and then started the day off at SkyZone which is a huge trampoline complex for kids and adults.  I had never been to one before and it had been years since I had really done anything on trampolines so I was looking forward to it.  They had experienced a fire the night before but thankfully were open for business despite having their food services down.  

It was a ton of fun.  Ellie and I enjoyed bouncing all around on the various color-coded trampolines and I gave her tips on how to do a front flip which she was nervous about.  She banged herself up a couple times and was on the verge of crying but toughed it out for dad.  The most fun she had was us jumping into the foam pit and urging other kids to look on as her dad threw 360 flips into it.  There was a basketball dunk area as well as a big area for dodgeball which Ellie played a round of.  We had paid for an hour which was clearly all that my knees could handle.  Little did I know at the time but my knees would be sore for days afterwards.  

When our time was up we headed back to her grandma's to hang out for the afternoon waiting for Roller Dome to open up around 5pm.  I suggested we head down to the lake and take one of the kayaks out for a spin.  Nicolette thought I was nuts getting in the open shell kayak with my jeans on and Ellie in front of me between my legs but I assured her it was fine and we headed out with a paddle that Ellie was eager to try as well.  There were a few times where she shifted to get comfortable that were a little nervous but we didn't take on any water and had a fun time exploring the shore of the lake and chasing a gaggle of Canadian Geese around.  

We then played on the hammock and on her swing set waiting for her neighbor Zane to be done playing football with his older brothers.  It was pretty clear the way Ellie really wanted him to meet me that she liked the boy which was soo cute to see at her young age.  We all jumped up on Zane's trampoline and flipped around a bit but I got off rather quickly as my knees were then officially totally shot!  Zane's mother eventually called him in and we headed into the house ourselves to get ready to go to Roller Dome.

At Roller Dome we laced up our 4-wheeled skates and hit the pine.  I've always been good at rollerblading but being back on 4 wheels was a total trip.  Ellie did her best but after several loops struggling she decided that the wheeled walker bar for balance was easier for her.  We went round and round and when she was brave enough I took the balancer away and she did just fine.  With a bit more practice she could be zooming around the rink in no time!  While I caught my breath on the side and gave my sore knees a rest she scooted back out to the rink just in time to nose into a limbo competition which she won a prize for!  We had tried to play hot corners but were both eliminated the first round!

The best part of the whole skating experience wasn't actually the skating!  It was when I agreed to buy $5 worth of coins for the arcade games with the promise that she would pay me back from the horde of money she had acquired over the years.  We played skeeball a little bit but we didn't get many tickets from it.  Ellie spotted a game where you drop a coin into the slot where it gets conveyor belted into a spinning wheel with slots of varying widths and corresponding tickets wins.  The narrow slot in the wheel would provide 50 tickets if hit and to my shock she nailed it on the first try.  Then two tries later hit it again.. then again.. and AGAIN!  Honestly, it was the craziest thing to see this 10 year old girl completing OWNING this game which was puking out tickets into a massive pile on the floor for her!  

She picked out some cute prizes including some Nickolodean back type stuff and a pricy hand buzzer to shock people with which turned out to be crap.  On hindsight I should have brought it back to the counter and argued for a better prize for her than that piece of crap but I think sheer exhaustion from the day had done me in.  

For dinner we headed to Granite City Brewing for a delicious meal and big cookie desert which Ellie really loved.  On the way to the restaurant she tried to trick me into listening to Christina Radio which I didn't fall for.  Heading across the parking lot I asked her if she had ever heard other music from other countries such as African or Indian music or ... Islam/Muslim music.  Her response was, "Muslims are coming to this country to kill Christians".  My jaw dropped.  Who had thought my innocent 10 year old this nonsense?  

After explaining how wrong that was calmly to her we enjoyed our meal but it annoyed me later on when her mom laughed it off when I told her about it saying she must have heard that from her Grandpa... the same grandpa that was walking around the house when I was there with a very visible concealed-carry gun.  I had never seen that before and kind of think he was doing it to make a point to me or something.. I'm not sure but it made me uncomfortable knowing Ellie was in such close proximity to a gun.  Anyway.... once again we returned to the hotel room for a late night movie and then bed but this time she broke out the violin to show me her new skills!

On Saturday after again eating at the Pancake House we headed to Grandmas to pick up her soccer gear and then head to her double header at the fields of the Concordia Theological Seminary.  I always love watching Ellie play soccer and she has certainly gotten better and braver about attacking the ball over the years.  In between the games she convinced me to buy her some shaved ice and I watched in shock how much sugary syrup she poured on hers!  Oh boy... funny because she seemed to have a bit more energy the 2nd game... hehe.  Her uncle Dave showed up as I guess he always does to her soccer game and we had a pleasant conversation while watching her play.  I'm not sure where or how but I'm pretty sure this was where she lost her nice fuzzy North Face jacket.  She nearly lost my hoodie as well by leaving it in the grass after kicking a ball around with some other kids!  

From there we had just enough time to run back to the house and put on her pageant Halloween costume to head over to the Children's Zoo for their Halloween activities.  As soon as we walked in I think Ellie felt a little embarrassed as it seemed to be mostly really little kids several years younger than Ellie.  I noticed and instead of standing in the long line of people to move around I encouraged her to follow me as we cruised past the long lines to the cooler stuff to see.  We snuck into lines when we needed to score some candy and basically just went where we wanted.  We spotted a hay maze which Ellie said looked easy for little kids but I totally caught her going the wrong way and then having to jump over the hay to find her way out!  Busted!  :)

We had a good time seeing the animals that were still out in their enclosures for the winter and Ellie was super excited to show me how to feed the peacocks and ducks as well as the enormous fish in the coy pond.  Once we were through all the loops of the zoo with candy giveaways we headed out towards a local Dairy Queen where we got some quick ice cream to eat on the way back to her grandma's.  

Unfortunately, this is where I had to say goodbye to Ellie as I was pushing the limits of making my flight home.  As usual it was a really sad goodbye with her tearing up as I left.  Later that night she went to the usual barn party at her mom's friends place that I had also gone to the year before,  With hay rides, a big bonfire and live music Ellie's sadness of watching me leave would soon be erased.  She even got up on stage and played her violin live for the crowd.   Pretty awesome Ellie!  Can't wait to see you again!

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