First thing that morning, we went up to my grandmother's place to spend some time visiting with her. She isn't well enough to come over for dinner anymore, but we were glad to be able to spend that time with her. She got a big kick out of Ellie and we all enjoyed watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade together.
Ellie hanging out with her Great-Grandma
Watching the parade
We went from Grandma's to Eric's grandmother's for dinner, then back to my dad's house so Ellie could take a (short) nap. Then my sister Heather came over, we all dined on leftovers from dinner (plus shrimp, cheese, crackers, soup and wine, of course) and trimmed our Christmas trees. Ellie was awake and eager to help with the "family" tree - the one made up of fun lights, garland and all of our ornaments from childhood.
Inspecting the ornaments
Let's do this!
That Miss Piggy ornament has become a running gag/tradition - she is always front and center on the tree. Now, she's entertaining a new generation!
Looking so festive
Trimming the tree
Ellie and Eric
After the first tree was trimmed, we took a break to admire our handiwork, read some books (to Ellie) and watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special.
Ellie reading with Auntie Heather
Still checking out the tree
After Ellie was in bed, the grown-ups tackled the crystal tree in the front window of the house. It's a lovely tree, but not suitable for "helping" toddler hands!
Eric and Heather discussing artistic ornament placement
My dad and Heather hard at work
It was a lovely evening!
The next day, Eric, Ellie and I met up with my mom in Tampa for lunch, followed by an afternoon of fun at Busch Gardens. The main highlight of the day was Ellie's Elmo encounter. We happened to catch both Big Bird and Elmo at the photo booth in the Sesame Street area, and we just had to give Elmo the chance to meet his biggest fan. I wasn't sure how Ellie would react, and half expected to have to carry her up to him because she would be shy and/or scared. But, no. How wrong I was! She ran right up to him, just as delighted as could be. She stopped a foot or two short of him and sat right down in front of him. Without missing a beat, Elmo joined her on the ground, which prompted her to climb right up into his lap. The joy on the face of that one! She could have stayed there all afternoon.
Best buds, sharing a sit
She is so happy.
Of course, because this was just about the cutest thing ever, we couldn't help but purchase the official photos (thanks, Mom!):
The whole gang
The highlight of Ellie's year
So, Ellie finally had a celebrity encounter she actually cared about! (Remember when she met VP Joe Biden? Yeah, Biden's got nothing on Elmo.)
After meeting Elmo, we stuck around to see his show at the theater there, which Ellie loved. Oh, the awkward-yet-painfully-precious toddler dancing that followed!
We also did a little playing in the Sesame Street area: Eric took Ellie on the tree house climbing thing ("no walk!"), and my mom and I took Ellie on the carousel. She liked the "roar" (lion) we rode on at first, but very quickly was requesting "all done wheeeee." So, the rides and attractions weren't a huge hit. We'll have to save Sheikra for our next visit, I suppose.
Eric and Ellie up in the sky
We also caught the Christmas show at the Desert Grill, which Ellie enjoyed very much. (She's super obsessed with Santa right now, so if you combine Santa and music/dancing, she's sold.) By that time we were all pretty beat, so we wrapped up our afternoon and headed home.
Christmas at Busch Gardens!
And that really concluded our time in St. Pete! We returned to Jacksonville first thing the next morning (though the trip was a lengthy one thanks to traffic issues on I-4), and then had our own celebrations back at our place. I'll share more about that tomorrow.
Thanks to all of our family members for making this Thanksgiving such a memorable one for us, and for Ellie in particular!