We're Back!

I can't believe I've neglected my blog for so long... Oh well, what can you do but just hop right back in and start up again. I won't even attempt to try to retrace my steps over the last 5 months b/c that would take forever. So, I'll just briefly recap it all.

Since my last post, we had Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Ella turned 4, I was laid off, I landed a new job, my parents were both laid off, and Northern Michigan experienced one of the mildest winters it's ever had.

Ella went to Chicago with Jeff to visit his family over the Thanksgiving break so Rusty and I headed to the Wildman Ranch to getaway for a few days. To say we lounged would be putting it mildly. We did get outside a bit for some hiking despite the cool temperatures. I took lots of pictures, and we even got to play with one of the ATV's for a day. It was nice to get some much needed R&R and hang out just the two of us.

Uncle B came home for Christmas, as he always does but was able to spend a lot more time this year which was fun. He & Ella Bella had a blast together and as always, we ate til we couldn't eat anymore. Rusty spent Christmas with us too and we had our traditional Fondue dinner for Christmas Eve and listened as Ya-Ya read the Christmas story to Ella. We spent Christmas morning opening presents and Ella got her pretty pink big girl kitchen this year. On the menu for dinner was the most amazing deep-fried turkey any of us has ever had...we may have to make that a new tradition also...my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

This year really made me realize what a challenge it's going to be having Ella's birthday fall just 4 short days after New Year's and 2 weeks after Christmas. We made the most of it though, complete with cake, ice cream, and presents...just what any 4-year-old wants. Right?! I can't believe my baby girl is already 4!!! We are having so much fun together though. Her happiness, care free attitude, and wit is infectious and contagious. Love you Ella Rae...you make my life complete.

Shortly into the new year, I was laid off at RTV. This wasn't a total surprise since the company's sales had taken a drastic fall in the month of December, but I will say the shock was less than desirable. Since around November-ish I had been house-hunting for Ella & I and the day I was going to be making an offer on a townhome was the very day I got my "pink slip". Needless to say, that halted all plans of home-buying. I made a conscious decision though to not let it get me down, which took a lot for me b/c what I really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself for a long time. Instead, I went to work...to find a new job. And, that's just what I did. I was hired 2 weeks later at Insight Optometry in Suttons Bay, just 20 minutes north of TC. I've been there for 2 months now, still in training, but I enjoy my job, make a little bit more money, and I have Mondays off! Woo hoo!

So, now the house hunting continues and my schedule is as busy as ever. I hope to try to be a little more faithful to my blogging but I must say it's not because I haven't wanted to it's just been a crazy few months and I have a feeling it's about to get even crazier. But, FUN crazy...I hope!!! More to come...


Halloween 2009

It was the first Halloween that Ella expressed any sort of interest in choosing her Halloween costume, and she insisted on being Snow White. We skipped the downtown Trick-or-Treat walk this year, as it was raining and I had to work. But, Halloween day ended up to be clear and chilly, which isn't too terrible for TC. We invited the Kron's to come along with us on our neighborhood to trick-or-treat. Ryan & the boys came down while Christine & Rylen stayed home, where it was warm. Kaiden experienced a bout of shyness during trick-or-treating and opted to head back to my house early. So I took Ella & Cameron, and off we went hand-in-hand to trick or treating all together. It was really adorable how exciting and amazing this whole night was for them. They took it all in, watching the hundreds of dressed up kids out walking around, and all the houses that were decorated to the max. We saved the "haunted house" for last and stopped for a picture by the giant blowup black cat. Ella and Cameron are 3 months apart in age, and we all agreed they were both smitten. Ryan called me later on after they left to tell me that Cameron was chatting his ear off about Ella Bella all the way home. Too funny. This could be trouble...

Rylen Renea Kron & Ella

Pyramid Point

I've posted quite a few times about the Sleeping Bear Dunes that are about a half hour from Traverse City, and here's another one. I had heard of Pyramid Point for years, and it used to be a popular spot to go to back when I was in high school. But, while I've been to the dunes numerous times, I have never actually been to this particular site. So it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I threw Ella and Rusty in the car and we drove out there. The hike to the point is about 1/4 mile, which Ella walked all by herself. This was a big step for her, so it was a proud moment. Once we got to the lookout, it was breathtaking. The beauty of the dunes never gets old to me, even if it is practically in my backyard. We are lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

Ella found a hairy caterpillar that we named Fred. He was the highlight of her trip.

At one point, Rusty climbed up two sturdy branches that jutted out in one spot overlooking a cliff on the dune, sat on it for a minute, and pondered. It prompted one of the best ideas (in my mind at least) that Rusty has ever had..."This would be a great spot for a hammock." The very next day, I believe, Rusty was a proud owner of a double hammock. "Hammocking" has now become a staple in our every day vocabulary. We've even convinced Ella. I believe the exact words that came out of her mouth when she got in the hammock for the first time were, "Rusty, I love this hammock. It's awesome." Hahahahahaha :-) Stay tuned for hammock posts...

Nice Little Saturday

Not sure if I've written in my blog about this yet, but my bestest friends Ryan and Christine Kron & family moved back to TC not too long ago. It's the first time since high school that Ry and I have lived in the same city as one another. And, well, if you know Ryan and I at all, you know that we tend to become a bit inseparable, and spontaneous. See I've known Ryan since I was about 12 hours old, and we've always been the best of friends...through good times and bad. Haha! So, you can imagine my excitement when I found out the Kron family was moving back to TC from Florida. On a warm August day, Ella and I met up with them and went on a little hike down to a garden full of sunflowers at the old State Hospital grounds and then hiked back up through the woods. Christine was about 38 weeks pregnant this day and had that new mom glow. I couldn't help but take a picture of her when Ryan put a flower behind her ear. I think she looks beautiful. The kids were just starting to get to know each other, and by the end of the day we could all tell they w good buds. Naturally. ;)


The funniest thing about this picture to me, her mother, is the fact that she was NOT wearing these socks when I put her to bed. Hmmmmm...



Our little vacation took a toll on the new car. So, I put Ella to work and we got that baby nice and spiffy.


Ella & I packed up the car and headed to Chicago for Labor Day weekend. It's hard to believe that an entire year had passed since we last saw Aunt Nat! Crazy how time flies. Only a few weeks earlier, Nick & Nat became first-time home buyers of a brand new, beautiful condo in the Uki Village, situated just a few blocks from their previous residence. Words can't describe the amazingness of their guest bathroom's shower, it's a steam shower boasting not 1, not 2, not 3, but 5 shower heads! I felt like that guy in the Kohler commercial that installs the new shower and takes it upon himself to try it out. Best shower ever!

On Saturday, Nat & I took Ella to the park in the morning, napped, and then headed to the Lincoln Park zoo, picnic in tow. We plopped down in the grass and chowed down on chips, dips, and spreads. It was delicious. Then, of course, we walked around to see all the animals. Later that night, we joined some friends' of the Tay's who live directly behind their condo for a little rooftop wine, music, and bags. I met a girl there that I share many mutual friends with from college...such a small world.

Sunday morning we headed to Wicker Park so Ella could play and then took a walk through my old 'hood. I couldn't go to Chicago without stopping at two of my favorite stores...Urban Outfitters & Psychobaby, among others. Later on, Nat & I headed up to the 'burbs so that Ella could spend some time with Papa & JuJu, and on our way back to the city, stopped at Nordstrom, another one of my favorites. Ella scored pretty good during that trip...just ask her about her new shoes. ;)

That night there was one mission. SUSHI. And, sushi we did. We went to Coast, a BYOB restaurant, which was fantastic. My mouth is watering just thinking about the White Dragon Roll. Delish!! We stopped by Cans for a cocktail and people watched on the patio. Later, we headed to The Boundary for a night cap. The next morning I slept in a bit and we ordered breakfast sandwiches from Milk & Honey. I sure miss that place. With my belly full, off I went to pick up Ella and make the 5 1/2 hour drive home.

What an awesome little getaway! Thanks Tay's for your awesome hospitality, as always!! I sure wish we still lived 5 minutes from each other! XOXO


Are ya ready, kids? Aye Aye Captain!!

Normally, my brother comes to Traverse City for a week in the summertime, but not this year. With a new job and limited time, he just couldn't make it up. So, my mom took it upon herself to plan a Neumann Family Vaca, something that hasn't happened in many years. Being the avid Fox News Channel viewer that she is, Mom heard about these "Freedom Concerts", a nationwide concert tour headed up by Sean Hannity. She found out that one of these concerts was going to be held in Cincinnati (exactly halfway between BJ's house in Atlanta and our house in TC...yes, my Dad has mapped it. Shocker.) at King's Island, an amusement park similar to Six Flags. The concert ticket came with a free day pass to the park. Well, Mom did a little more research and found out that King's Island's theme is Nickelodeon, which could only mean one thing...Dora the Explorer!...And Spongebob Squarepants!!! Perfect, right? Agreed.

I began mentally preparing Ella a week in advance for the Spongebob meeting. She couldn't stop talking about it, and insisted every day that she wanted to "GO NOW" to see him. We picked up Uncle Beej from the airport on Thursday night and headed to the park Friday morning. Barely inside the entrance, there they stood. Dora on the right, Spongebob on the left. In all their glory, just waiting to greet us. Ella's eyes almost popped out of her head, she was in shock. Speechless actually. It was adorable. After the meeting/greeting excitement, we headed to the Nickelodeon kids' rides. Ella rode every ride she was tall enough for and then we breaked for lunch.

Ella was exhausted so my parents took her off for a walk, and sent my bro and I off to ride the rollercoasters. We were seriously like teenagers again. Hilarious. Rode the Diamondback (with some ridiculous 250 foot drop) that nearly scared the bejeezies out of both of us. Naturally, we rode it again. Phenomenal. Two other rollercoaster's that we were waiting in line for actually broke down while we were waiting. Lame. But, the Diamondback made up for it. Awesomeness.

It was 7pm, concert time, and Ella had just passed out in her stroller, after a VERY long day. So, everyone took their seats while I walked around the park with the sleepy little girl. She woke up still tired, cranky, and hungry. And so began the Biggest Meltdown EVER. It was intense. I must say I handled it like a champ, as I was already mentally prepared for an angry, exhausted child. But, this was, like, devil child. I hadn't really seen this side of her before. But, she was tired and, well, my kid needs a nap. It's just a fact of life. But, this did make for a long concert, which I was somewhat able to enjoy. I was also battling some stomach issues (that's another post) myself. The concert was good, I enjoyed the music. I've always been a big fan of Michael W. Smith, who sang, and Sean Hannity performed "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", which was pretty entertaining. Jon Voight spoke and Ollie North was there also. It was pretty cool. I got a mug. Ella got a flag.

The next day YaYa and Uncle B took Ella swimming at the hotel pool, as the weather stunk and blew our plans to go to the water park. This was no issue with Mom, BJ, and I as we headed to the Premium Outlets to do a little damage. And, damage we did. More awesomeness. That night we headed to the Montgomery Inn and had some world famous ribs. Mmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. I must say though, as amazing as they were, Nick Taylor (Nat's hubby) makes the best ribs I've ever had in my life. :) After ribs, we took Ella to an indoor "Krazy City" that had go-carts, rides, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, arcade games, you name it. A nice cap to our mini vacation.

Thanks YaYa and Gray for an awesome time!