Lent Letter #26

Dear Me,

Happy Birthday! Yes, today is your birthday. 34 wonderful years. As I’ve been doing this writing experiment for Lent (and, just between you and me, it kind of sucks that our birthday is always in Lent) I’ve realized a few things about myself. Possibly the best thing about me (you? us? let’s go with we) is my openness. I love that we’re so willing to try new things, to take risks, to dare, to change, to learn.

This is an amazing trait that so few people have. We like discovering new things. We like change. We experiment. It doesn’t mean we’re not happy with things, we are. We’re good at living in the moment and enjoying the life we have, but that doesn’t mean we don’t like change.

We accept new ideas. We’re willing to listen to something that we might initially disagree with. We allow the beliefs and knowledge and wisdom of others to seep into our life. This changes us, molds us, makes us different people. Everyone we meet, everyone we love, is a part of making us who we are. They come and they go. Sometimes they stay. It doesn’t matter, because they all leave an indelible mark on this life we are living. It’s not always for the best. Sometimes the change is difficult or hurtful or worse. But those things help us grow and become a better person. So, it is all for the best.

Hardship is just that, hard. It doesn’t mean it is bad or evil or wrong. It’s not even something to be avoided. We learn best when we are challenged. We are open to the truths that the world can bring and that is what makes us extraordinary. We are at our best when we are learning and changing and growing.

Remember that. Hold it tight within our heart and keep it close. When it’s especially hard, pull it out and remember that it’s helping us become better. Never forget that our gift to the world is exactly who we are.

I am a gift because of who I am. When I get better, so does the world around me.

Thank you for being you,

You

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Two Girls in Hats

The day of Arionna and Camden’s pictures was a pretty long day. I was in full-on fun Auntie mode, doing my best to keep the three-year-old entertained. We were wandering through Sears when we came upon a row of hats.

She immediately zeroed in on a pink, sequined hat. I handed it to her and she put it on. I said, “can I take a picture of you and then show you how cute you look in that hat?”

She agreed. She doesn’t always. Not a huge fan of getting her picture taken.

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Really? Why are little kids so cute in hats?

Then, she said to me, “you try it on Auntie Livi and I’ll take a picture of you and you can see.”

It’s pretty hard to refuse an offer like that.

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And that is the first photo she took of me that worked out. Clearly the pink hat is too small for me, but I don’t even care. I’m loving these matching photos of me and my best girl.

My Birthday

Well, it’s almost hard to know where to begin, so many awesome things happened on my birthday. For those who are waiting breathlessly for information on the bash, that is not this post. This post deals directly with my actual birthday, March 15.

Let’s start with waking up. I set my alarm to wake me up to the note “Happy Birthday!” which is a terrific way to start the day.

Next up, my special “surprise”. I was leaving for work and I opened my garage. The first thing I saw was a balloon in the bush between my house and my neighbor’s. I wondered how Donna knew it was my birthday. Then I stepped outside.
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Isn’t that adorable? Balloons everywhere, and this is the close up of the front door.
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Who doesn’t love a present on their doorstep?

This was done by Kelly and her children. She had called me early that morning, while I was in the shower, so I assumed she’d been there to decorate. I knew right away who it was from. Later, when I talked to her, she said she had done it at 7pm the night before! I didn’t notice until the next morning.
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When I got to work, students were yelling “Happy Birthday” while I was still in the parking lot. I’d had a sign up all week, so it was no surprise that people knew it was my day.
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I was surprised to show up and the first thing I saw on my desk was this:

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Next to that awesome sign, is a full cake. No kidding. A whole cake! A student made it for me.

I also got this from a coworker:
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And this from several coworkers:
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Clearly, I’m a spoiled girl. The edible fruit was delicious! Everything was just ripe enough and full of flavor. The coworkers who gave it to me also sang to me in the library.

By this point, between the tiara, the sign, the balloon and the cake on my desk, I was getting wishes upon wishes. Being the anal retentive person I can be, I grabbed a post it note and started keeping track.  I know, but I was curious. Who doesn’t wonder about that stuff? No one? Really? Just me then. Fine.

But I know that by the end of the day, I was wished “Happy Birthday” by 107 different people and 25 2nd graders sang me the birthday song over the phone. That is very special.

After I had lunch, I decided to cut into that cake.

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Those are kit-kats lining the edge and M&Ms all over it. Inside was a two layer chocolate cake, with chocolate butter cream frosting with fudge chips between the layers. The outer frosting was chocolate cream cheese frosting. So delicious, but almost too chocolatey, even for me! (I did say almost…) I could have used a glass of milk with it, but there was none to be had. And I gave a piece to everyone who came into the library. Students now LOVE my birthday!

My cousin Sara sent me a video of her children singing “Happy Birthday” to me, she also did this last year. I wouldn’t have thought it could get much cuter than last year’s video, but I was wrong. They are so adorable and at the end they run up and kiss the camera. I’d actually post it for you, but I don’t know how Sara would feel about it, so I’ll let her decide.

At the end of my day, I went to my mom and dad’s for the rest of the celebration. I got to meet the newest baby at daycare, Hayden, who is only three months. It’s been a long time since I’ve held a baby! My grandma was there and was her usual cheerful self. Em and Chad came for dinner, with Arionna. And Elena joined us as well. It was Ario’s first time meeting Elena and she eventually warmed up to her and started calling her Leena, which was darling.

My mom made a version of chicken kiev for dinner, which was very good, but the chicken was HUGE! It was so much food. She also did a rice pilaf (sorry, mom, not my favorite–) and tasty asparagus.

She made me a birthday cake–my own special bunny cake, but, of course, the picture is on my actual camera, not my phone, so I can’t post it until tomorrow (when I upload it). The cake was delicious and perhaps the most moist cake I’ve ever had.

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My niece was in a bit of a mood all evening and wouldn’t take pictures, she just wanted to be held and cuddled.

This was the best picture we got together on my birthday:

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After dinner, she asked me to take her outside and we stood on the deck and looked at the stars. I forced her to take another picture. She just wasn’t in the mood.

I stood us under the porch light to get that, you can see she’s ready for bed…and she will not smile. However, as I carried her out to the car, I pulled her Nuk out of her mouth and said, “I love you” and she gave me a kiss and said “I love you” and then, I asked her to say the thing she’d been practicing ALL DAY and wouldn’t say to me all night and she finally said, “Happy birfday!” in her little voice and it was about the cutest thing ever.

Then, after everyone left, my parents, Lainie, and I went out to the garage to play trivia and open presents. Lane bought me a bottle of Crown, which I love. She bought me one last year as well, but that one didn’t survive the night. This one didn’t get opened, so I still have some! She also bought me new rings. I don’t have a pic of the purple one, but I happen to be wearing the blue one today, and I wore it on party night and I think everyone at the party commented on it. Want to see it? Of course you do.

(and yes, I made the face expressly for the photo, I get tired of just smiling all the time) Also, yes, it really is that big, it is not a trick or an illusion.

My mom made me a new scarf in the most gorgeous purple you’ve ever seen. Know what’s funny? I own about a dozen scarves and this is the ONLY purple one I have! Kelly’s kids got me a ceramic heart keepsake box, an awesome red pen with a pinwheel on top, which I love and is now at work with me, I’ve been using it all day. It makes me happy. What’s that? You want to SEE it? Well, of course I’ll take a picture.
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hee hee.
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They also gave me this “hat” but it didn’t fit me, it was too small, so I made Elena wear it.

Then we played trivia until 1am and I had to go home because I had to work in the morning, but not before Zack came home and entertained us with his humor and personality. I also have a birthday photo of Zack and I, but it’s on my camera. I guess I wasn’t as prepared as I thought to write this blog. Ah well, it will just be that much more enjoyable when I update it tomorrow.
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(Isn’t that nice? I think he and I always take nice photos together, it’s not my favorite–that was from my 31st, or maybe my 30th..I only get photos with Zack on my birthday.)

It was a wonderful birthday, and I was so happy to spend it with the people I love most in the world! Thank you all for making my birthday so special!

Happy Birthday Mom!

I’ve got birthday on the brain today, probably because it is the first of March, my favorite month of the year. My birthday (for those of you playing the home game) is exactly two weeks from today. The plans are set, the details are finalized, the new outfit has been bought (thanks Lanie!) and I am raring to go.

But, before we cruise toward my favorite day of the year, we need to pause for a moment and look back. Let’s talk about the fabulous birthday of my mother, February 25.

This could be a very long story, but I will try to tone it down. In order to honor mom on her day, my sister and I came up with a plan to cook dinner for the family at mom’s house. Relaxed, at home, no work for mom.

I decided to go get Simon and bring him along. THAT did not go as planned. He was overtired and out of sorts and did not want to go anywhere with me. After a fierce battle that left him frustrated and me upset, we were on our way. We were an hour behind schedule. We did not get to stop and do the surprises I had planned. (Not telling, I will save them for next year). We arrived at my mother’s house and he calmed down. I couldn’t sit and visit, I had to cook. I wasn’t there when one of her surprises came in. I had arranged for the band, Train, whom she likes, to call and sing her Happy Birthday. I’m sad I wasn’t there to witness it.

But then, things started to improve. We got the dinner underway. I made an Herb Rubbed Pork Loin and Parmesan Garlic Roasted potatoes. My sister did the veg, asparagus (my whole family loves it) and bought many desserts. Seriously, we had birthday cupcakes, M&M cookies, Birthday cake Oreos, and a cheesecake sampler. I was nervous about the food, because I had the main dishes and I had never made either of these recipes.  Plus, I rarely cook for other people. However, they were both outstanding! The pork was juicy, tender, and incredibly flavorful. The website (my favorite cooking website) said, “Okay, if you haven’t quite honed your kitchen skills yet but you still need a recipe to impress, this is the recipe for you! This recipe is super easy and pretty much fool proof.” as its opening lines introducing the food.  It was easy and it was fool proof. The only real prep is chopping up the spices, which was so easy I let Simon do it, so he helped cook, too! Arionna helped by hollering at me from the living room because she wanted me to come and play.  The potatoes were chosen because my mom is a parmesan nut. She’ll buy shredded parmesan and eat it out of the container with a spoon. They were awesome, great flavor.

The dinner was a rousing success. We had exactly enough (because I’m not good at judging portions) which is nice, no leftovers to put away.

My only screwup? Foil lining the pans I used to roast the potatoes. They got all stuck to it. Whoops.

After dinner, we played and hung out and talked. We had birthday cupcakes. Simon ate all the frosting off the top of his then took his sad, crumpled, soggy cake and reached over and placed it on Uncle Chad’s plate, “that’s for you” he said. How sweet.

It’s possible Arionna enjoyed the cupcakes more than anyone. That little girl has a sweet tooth!
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Grandma wanted one single picture of her with her grandkids. I tried. This was the best I got.
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Admittedly, it is pretty good, but Arionna is about 2 seconds from crying, I guess it was in the nick of time.
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Opening my gift (a gift certificate for a pedicure – for us to go together).
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Simon was down with helping. He thinks grandma unwraps too slow.

He and Arionna got her:
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finger paint for the bathtub. She opened and said, “I’m sure I’ll use this all the time…”
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In my favorite picture of the night. She is opening her cards. Her friend, Kathy, sent her a card–something about jiggly underarms and she cracked up. Laughing until tears. I love it when she laughs.

At this point, Simon borrowed the camera. He sure does love to take pictures. He captured this one of Arionna and me laughing.
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He somehow manages to capture my favorite pictures of us. Even though she’s not looking, look how hard she’s laughing. It’s delightful.

He also grabbed a little self portrait:
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Weirdo.

He also caught this cute photo of Grandma and her girl.
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It’s a shade blurry, but oh-so-cute.

Of course, whatever Simon is doing, Arionna wants to be doing. “I want the camera” became her mantra. I tried to let her, but she had her fingers all over the lens in about 2 seconds. Grandma finally went and got her old camera, which has become the children’s camera.

I don’t know if it is the crossed legs or what, but somebody looks very grown up here:
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She’s taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her. Hers did not turn out.

Meanwhile, Simon had lost interest and went out in the garage with Pa and Uncle Zack. I went out with Arionna to check on them only to find:
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He had given Simon a handsaw and a carboard box. He drew a line on the box and let him sit there and cut it. With a sharp tool. Okay….

But Simon loved it.

Later, after they were both jammied up, they turned to their very favorite pastime, jumping on grandma’s couch. Why she allows this I will never know, but they do it all the time.
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I love that I caught them both in motion!
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And a cute one!

Once they were off to bed, sleeping together in the same room (yeah, nearly two hours for them both to fall asleep) for the first time in their lives. Actually, the first time in either life that they’ve slept with another person in their room. The adults headed out to the garage for some gaming.

We played Taboo, which was fun for most of us. Emmy didn’t enjoy it–she said, but it seemed like she was into it:
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I love candids. Mom’s turn, Em’s on the buzzer and Zack is just watching for the hell of it.

But the one thing I wanted, and managed, was to get a family photo. Mom said, “why did you wait for the kids to be asleep?” Well, because, the kids are not the center of the family, we’ve got tons of pictures of them. Plus, kids make pictures harder. Well, kids and my dad.

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Could ya smile, just once? (I’m ignoring Zack who said, “I was smiling” even though that is NOT a smile–smirk at best).

But I do love this little family snapshot. We do not do that often enough.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful mother! You kickoff birthday season and I’m happy that it is here.

If you want to read my past tributes to my mom (I think she is the only person I’ve consistently blogged every birthday)

2008

2009

2010

2011

Mother’s day (that is my favorite post of her, ever, so I wanted to repost it here if you haven’t read it.)

Also, tomorrow is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, another wonderful one to celebrate!

Welcome, birthday season!

GCOP

Have you seen blogs posted GCCP? GCBP? Gratuitous Cute _____ Photos? (Couple, Baby, etc.)

Well, today is Gratuitous Cute Olivia Photos!

I know, it’s weird to post pictures of yourself. Still, I have a somewhat rational reason. On Monday, it was beyond gorgeous outside. 49° in February! I went out in the middle of the day just to wander around and soak up all the vitamin D goodness I could get.

When I was out there, I didn’t know what to do with myself, just walking around, I was trying to avoid thinking about work, because I was on a break, so I decided to take a picture. First, my thought was just to capture the gorgeous day, but the expanse of endless blue sky, with nary a cloud in sight, needed something to break it up. Enter Olivia.
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Yep, that is one blue sky! And you can see my skin soaking up all that vitamin D goodness.

Then, I kind of got in the spirit.
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How about a backlit photo, showing those beautiful rays of sunshine?
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This one made me laugh because that one ray of sunshine is slanting across my mouth, giving me that oh-so-classy gold tooth look.

I managed to track down what remains of our illustrious snowfall this season…
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Impressive, right?
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Full on sunshine, and a great shot of my shadow taking a picture of me. What I like about this is…how happy do I look in that photo?

But then, but then… I thought…shadow!
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And wouldn’t it be weird if my legs were really that long? But kind of cool. I’d be a WNBA star for sure! (Okay, maybe not, having long legs and being tall do not guarantee exemplary hand/eye coordination–and in that department, I am soundly lacking).

Then I saw this bare tree. It seemed odd that trees should be that bare when it felt like spring (even though it is still resoundingly winter) so I posed.
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And I thought that was particularly cute.

After my wonderful walk, laughing like a loon at myself for taking all these pictures of myself, I headed back to reality and indoors to finish my work. When I stepped inside, I passed a coworker and she said, “oh, your cheeks are so rosy”, and so, natch, I had to take a photo of myself (after she’d left, of course) to capture the rosiness that was my cheeks.
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It’s a little hard to tell, because the lighting was wonky…in the stairwell…but I definitely look all shiny, happy, healthy in that picture.

That was going to be it, the sum total of this blog (lots of brain food here), but when I left work that night and it was still 40° outside, the moon was just rising in a twilight sky and it was so beautiful I stopped to capture it. I figured it would make a nice ending to this beautiful day.
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Sigh. Of course, that was the highlight of the week. Right now, it is currently 19° headed for a high of 30°, which is still fairly warm, but nothing like Monday. And Friday we are headed for a high of a whopping 14°. I might have to dig out my coat for that one.

Happy February!

Elves and Holidazzle

For like the 382nd year in a row, Macy’s holiday display is “A Day in the Life of an Elf”. I wish it didn’t suck so much, though there were new bits on display this year.

We took Simon through, just my mom and I. It was fun to watch him. I think 4 might be the perfect age for this display. He might have liked it even more if it weren’t so crowded in there. Me too. Definitely not going on a Saturday again.
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I love this because it looks like he’s IN the display or a part of it.
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Stopping at a new section of the display, the reindeer stable. Very cute, but if they’re going to spend money, I wish they’d change the display.

I wanted just one good picture of him, and asked him to stop by the only part I like, the singing Christmas trees. This is what I got.
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Yeah, he’s a dork, but he’s our dork!

I finally took this picture. I’ve been through this display probably a dozen times. Every single time I’ve been through I’ve thought, “why do they make the mailman so scary?” All the other elves are cute, but this guy:
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Weird, right?

Then, I wanted to get one cute pic of him and Grandma before it was over. Simon was resistant. He didn’t want to do pictures. So I told him, “how about one silly one first?”
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How cute are they?

Then I took the “real” one.
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Which is also very cute, my mom’s happiness leaps out of the photo. But I almost like the silly one more, it captures their personalities just perfectly.

After Simon declined to meet Santa, again, (and thank goodness this time, that line was atrocious) we headed out to do some shopping.

Then we hiked through downtown to a food court for dinner. Simon got McDonalds and my mom and I got screwed. The place we wanted sold all their food before we ordered and refused to make more because it was 30 minutes to closing. So I went to a taco place and paid too much money for crappy food.

Next up was the Holidazzle parade. Simon was overjoyed at this. He loves parades. We told him it was time and he was bounding out of his skin. We all bundled up. It was about 35° but downtown you are subject to the Venturi effect. For those who didn’t read the link the last time, this means that wind speeds up when going through narrow passages. So, in a downtown, the sections between buildings seem windier than average. As it was actually windy outside, unless you were blocked by a building, freezing arctic wind nearly blew you over. Unfortunately, we had to stand in a spot that was NOT protected by the buildings. We were chilled and frozen, through and through.

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Think he looks cold and miserable? Plus, we were out there early to save space for Em, Chad, Arionna, and Chad’s parents.

He was ready to pack it in before we even began.
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Grandma and Arionna, who was the most bundled of us all, but would not wear her mittens. Her little hands were frozen.
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I kept checking, but he was so cold he never looked like he was having any fun.
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An idea of why we’re crazy enough to do this. The parade floats are cool, and all lit up. The people who walk in the parade are also lighted from head to toe.
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Mommy and Daughter-sicles.

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This was one of the cutest floats. A zoo train. The animals inside are small children in costume, all lit up. Darling.

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Our frozen little group.
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A blurry family photo to commemorate her first Holidazzle. I think my hands were shaking from the cold.
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The Wizard of Oz float.
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Em and Arionna watching the Aladdin float pass by.

We made it until 6:45 (the parade starts at 6:30). By then, Simon was freezing. We went inside to warm up. We could not see from inside. Once he was warm, he wanted to go back out and see the rest. Unfortunately, we didn’t know it was only a half hour long! By the time we came back out it was 7pm and it was over. He was really disappointed.

Actually, when we got back to the car, he was so overtired that I asked him what he thought and he said, “I hated it. I hate all parades.” And then fell asleep like 30 seconds later.

The next day, though, he told his mom all about it and how much he liked it. But, next time I’d aim for a night that isn’t so cold or else be there early enough to get a spot protected by the buildings. Or inside.

Still, it was a fun adventure and I haven’t been to a Holidazzle parade since 1998, when I worked at Dayton’s downtown and my family came down and met me. We snagged a great spot on a skyway to see the parade.Next time…