Wednesday, August 28, 2013

All Aboard!

There are fewer things in this world that can make your heart feel like it is going to burst than to watch your child enjoy something. Completely.

Early Friday morning, we packed up the car and told Ella we were heading off on adventure. Period. No other hints. She was a tad disoriented because it was her usual Grandma/Papa day. We were missing work for this adventure??!

It was worth the two hour drive.

"Look at those pistons, Mama!!!"

Yep. We had fun and there were plenty of times where you'd find her wide-eyed and quiet trying to take it all in.

The park had some other non-Thomas fun as well. Who knew there was such a thing as a Venetian swing?

And for the girl who is shy about nearly everything, she hopped on this train ride without skipping a beat, with a bunch of children she didn't know. Take note where she sat - and what she's looking at...

She would look up occasionally but was perfectly content to watch those wheels go round and round on the track.

We even found this funny mirror for a family portrait. See the little girl behind us? She refused to leave so that I could take the photo so we went with it! (Confession: I did kinda want to push her out of the way.)

Our evening ended beautifully with a gathering in the neighborhood with our moms' group families. We didn't see much of Ella that evening because the hosts had a motorized Cadi. She took charge and opened the hood to make sure everything was running properly. Then she boldly asked the older boys if she could drive. The only girl in the bunch.

Josh and Ella.
When the ride ran out of steam, we found her doing this!

She did take a break from hanging with the boys to help Claire on the group painting project. The hosts put out an old bench and asked the kids to paint it however they wanted.

I'd like to thank Mr. Sunshine for the excellent lighting on this one.

What a unique little soul she is. School will be starting in just about two weeks. This is the last hoorah before Kindergarten. I can't wait to see what we learn about her in the next few months. I wonder if Thomas will still be so popular a year from now?


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Something to smile about.

We needed a reason to smile on Tuesday. After months and months of deliberation, we felt our girl was finally ready to try the big screen. Thanks to some awesome advice (thanks, D and A) we waited until the previews were completely done before Ella went in. Previews are much louder. It worked like a charm.

She was nervous and spent most of the time with her hands on her ears while waiting with me for previews to be over. Larry (lover of the previews, secured seats and gave me the green light text when they were done.)

The movie was all about planes. She was thrilled, gave big belly laughs with eyes as big as saucers. We needed it. It felt good to get lost in a movie with kids giggling all around us.

Apparently we needed to giggle more. On Thursday, Ella and I scooped up Roz from the hair salon after her quick cut so that Katie could enjoy two hours of bliss without a child. I enjoyed two hours of bliss with the four year olds, and then let them photograph me.

I regained control of the smart phone when the swimsuits came out!


Roz's swimming abilities have skyrocketed since this spring. She is fearless. Ella, on the other hand thinks swimming means sitting on the edge of the pool.

 But she did blow bubbles for me without any coaxing. Baby steps...

We had a huge Friday. HUGE!!! More on that later.

Today was another picture-perfect day. Apparently it was good cat napping weather as well.

Our freshly bathed and barely dressed Ella gazing out at the sunset tonight.

Ella has been in bed for an hour and is still singing and talking. Off to drop the hammer on the party she's having up there!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Master Bentley

Baby Bentley.

There's no easy way to write this or lay it out there or make it pretty. My boyfriend Bentley died on Monday, 17 months to the day after his brother Blake.

He won't be there to greet me at my parents' house. And he did. The minute he heard my voice his ears perked and he came. These last months his hearing was completely gone and it would take my walking into the room for him to perk up. My parents will even admit that he was partial to me: I his mistress, he my master.

Since my parents moved down the street at Christmas, Ella and I have enjoyed staying at their house with him from time-to-time so that he didn't have to be at the kennel. Did I mention how much I hated for him (and his brother) to be boarded? I did. I would spring them early more often than not and live out of two homes just so that they would be comfortable. I was a freak that way and it became a joke, really. Thank God Larry and Ella were always so understanding about my relationship with these boyfriends.

Over the weekend, we started preparing ourselves and Ella of the inevitable. It helped me to talk it out with her. I was honest and tried to explain that a body being tired and being older doesn't necessarily mean death...but that in his case it did.

"How does God get Bentley to heaven, mama?" "Is God here now to do it?" She asks excellent questions, that girl.

"He will be with Simba and Blake and Jack and Una now." She is also listening and holding onto our earlier conversations.

I'm amazed at how the death of a pet can bring a strong, practical person to his or her knees. It defies all explanations. But if you've been fortunate enough to have a four-legged being in your life, you get it. You really, really get it.

I took these last photos of him a few days ago, because I knew. He knew. I hope he felt that last ear rub I gave him as he drifted off. He loved that the most.


Monday, August 19, 2013

A weekend in review.

What a glorious weekend of weather and fun. More than once, I thought of how much it reminded me of our time in Kunming - perfect temperatures, full sun and no humidity.

We enjoyed chocolate ice cream.

Ella, Grandma and Papa enjoyed their Friday at the zoo. Here she is engaging in quite the stare-down.

We enjoyed a kid-free night on Friday while she spent the night with them. We started our Saturday morning out perfectly with breakfast and art in the garden.

We met KatieRoz at the Festival of India. Although Ella was not hip to trying any new foods (Roz sure did!!), Larry and I are still thinking about the feast we had.

Her preferred way to travel.

There were BIG cat naps that afternoon. I know I should have been outside enjoying the weather and working in the yard but I had these two on me. I could not deny them. Thomas is more likely to curl up as close to my face as he can get. Mavis is more content to find a patch of sunshine and stretch out on the floor. They are doing really well adjusting to their new forever lives with us. We are too :)

We spent Saturday evening with our Number one guy - Thomas! He is three now and it is so sweet to see the girls 'mothering' (translation: bossing) him as more of an equal rather than Baby Thomas. It was a beautiful evening and were thankful to be included in the celebration.

After Ah-men, we headed to a coffee shop to take in some tunes provided by Larry and band. Ella and I brought our electronics. I worked on (yet) more photo edits from my friend's wedding; she surfed YouTube for panda and fish videos. We even danced a bit to her favorite song. Live music is so much a part of her life that I found her singing the lyrics WITH them during one song. Of course I made too big of a deal about it and she got all bashful on me. Way to ruin the moment, Mama.

And this morning glory greeted me at our back door this morning. Wow.

It went downhill from there, people. Ella had a check up at the dentist at 9am. It was 'kid day' which I thought would only serve to help her anxieties. It. Did. Not.

She screamed and cried and hyperventilated in the exam chair. She kept Panda pressed firmly against her mouth when she wasn't freaking out. We left without having her check up done. Next step might be going to a local pediatric dentist who specializes in these fears. Now if I could just talk Larry into being the one to take her next time!


Friday, August 16, 2013


Or is it catch up? I don't know. But I'm behind. I feel bad.

Here we are mid way through August. If I had to sum it up it would be the summer of kittens, and love, and nurturing...and stinky cat litter. What started out as a hair-brained idea from this crazy mama turned into a perfect learning/teaching experience for Ella, and us.

Ella and I get to visit with Una (Darling) as she lives just a few blocks away from us. And through a fantastic twist of fate, KatieRoz were at the Humane Society at the exact moment Simba (now Gypsy) was being adopted. Just this week, I spoke with her new Forever Mama and she is doing amazingly well. Her best friend is a German Shepherd who she sleeps with at night.

Although we know that all of our second litter was adopted up very quickly (just like our first litter!), we don't have any connections with their forever families. Looking back on each of these faces, I'm rather surprised how much I miss each of them for his or her quirks.

Drum Roll please, Larry....

As of yesterday at 2pm, Thomas and Mavis have found his and her forever family. That family is us!! On Tuesday, we took them in for their 'weigh in' appointment. After four long weeks, we nursed them to health and weight so that they were able to get spayed and neutered and micro-chipped. Of the 10 kittens we fostered, they were by far the smallest. We knew this would be our last foster situation of the summer. It. Is. Work. With school starting, mornings would be too much for us. It is chaotic enough on school days. Adding in baby kittens running everywhere and, well, you get the idea.

Within the first week of their stay, Larry and I danced around the idea of adopting Mavis (a sweeter kitten I have never known). We kept it quiet. We spoke in code. Ella was clueless. Within the second week, the idea of adopting sister and brother eeked its way into conversations. Again, Ella was oblivious to our discussions.

By week three, Ella was petitioning HARD to adopt them. She came to me first; then we ganged up on Larry. It didn't take much.

I will forever be on my soap box about how gratifying this experience was for our family. Just because we are done fostering doesn't mean our work at the Humane Society is done. Ella and I will be making monthly visits with donations and to shower love on the animals waiting for adoption. We've made some great connections with the staff. They are so sweet with Ella.

OK. So when we weren't knee deep in kittens we DID do other stuff too.

We enjoyed a great evening picnic at one of our parks. There was more swinging than eating.

We welcomed our great nephew into the family. Trent and Kim are the proud parents of Abbott, weighing in at 9 pounds. She gave birth to a toddler! We are over the moon for them and can't wait to travel to meet him in a few weeks.

We gathered the troops on a beautiful Thursday and hit the bricks at our zoo.

Roz was still out of town on vacation when we went. Almost hourly I was asked, "How many days til Roz gets home?" She missed her girl so, so much.

In the last month or so, Ella's sense of humor has spiked again (so has her growing, by the way). She is a regular jokester. When she is with Larry she ramps up the screwball factor as well. They play A LOT differently than she and I play, for sure. And although she may be taller than ever, she can still 'climb' up and perch on his shoulders like a circus star.

This summer has also brought about some extra stuff for Larry and me as individuals. Thank God we have each other supporting these aspects of 'us'. It helps us be better but it adds to our busy schedules. Larry's band is playing here, there and everywhere. It has been fun as so many of the gigs Ella can attend and enjoy. My camera is getting the work-out of a lifetime. Wedding photo edits have taken up most of my evening free-time. (Reason #1 I'm not reading as much as I'd like to be!) In a few weeks, I'll be photographing my niece Haley for her senior pictures and working in a little newborn love with Abbott.

I finally got through the Washington Island vacation photos (including JT and Allison's wedding) in all of this chaos. Get ready, set, go!

Our blissful friends. What an amazing union. I still get chills looking at these. The reception was at a former dairy factory. It has been restored beautifully.

Some of the youngest and prettiest wedding guests.

Did I mention lavender? Oh, yes. There is a lavender store on the lower level. The aroma was amazing. The sun setting on the fields even more so.

The Island sunset - always this pretty. And I've got no problem admitting that I look exhausted!! It was a long day of shutterbugging at this point.

We made some great memories on School House Beach with our friends. Between these three children, the beauty is hard to grasp.

I managed to capture some beautiful moments on this vacation but this might take the cake. Ami and Ettan enjoying a great cuddle moment.

A girl. A sundress. Her trains.

The porch at our bed and breakfast, oh man, I'm still thinking about that porch. It makes me want to run out and buy an old farmhouse, stat.

We drove past this abandoned tractor at least a dozen times on the Island. Larry had the idea we needed to get Ella ON the tractor for a photo. Nice idea, really. Getting to it offered up a few challenges but they did. Once there, the spiders had taken over. Ella freaked. Larry almost freaked. The result was this photo. Ha!

The vacation ended with an amazing evening of music and swings and horrific mosquito bites. Ella hit a record of staying up until 1:00am.

The E Girls ~ Eleanor and Ella.

Jeremy and the girls. That's a whole lot of hair there...
Music. Sweet Music.

You get the idea now, don't you? If we haven't been 'doing' I've been working on the photos documenting what we were doing. No more ketchup - fingers crossed!

Happy weekend, Ella-Land! ~H