Friday, December 30, 2005

Home Bound

Home today nursing a sick baby. Gracie woke up with a 100 degree fever this morning around 7am. Obviously I miss calculated the teeth effect. My friend Jessica says the flu is going around. But the good news is that it is gone in 48 hours. She's down for a nap, but is quite miserable. She doesn't have a runny nose or cough or anything, but she just kind of wallows around and wants to be held.

I'll write more when she is better.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Grocery Store Helper

I had to tell you all about tonight's trip to Wal Mart to get groceries. Gracie has been clingy today and was fussy before we left. I felt her head and she was warm, turned out she had a 99.8 fever. I gave her some Tylenol before we left. Now, I am fairly certain that the fever and crankiness are teeth related. I couldn't get her to eat today, she only wanted cold juice, so I felt safe taking her out to get groceries with us.

Anyway, she wanted mommy to hold her rather than sit in the grocery cart. So, after some snuggling I let her down to walk (she is REALLY heavy!) You should have seen her, she held my hand and pointed to different items naming them all. Then, she got a little more adventurous and I let her put things that we needed in the cart. The smile on her face was so huge! When we got to the produce I let her pick out the tomatoes and put them in the produce baggies. She was so happy that she was getting to help mommy.

While we were in the store and she was walking down the isles, I noticed I could see her belly between her shirt and pants. I kept tugging at the shirt, and soon realized that it was not bunched up--it was too small! I asked Garren if he noticed it this morning when he dressed her, and he said it was fine then, and she had to have grown during the day. Well, another size down the drain. Socks were already on the grocery list because the old ones were leaving tight rings around her ankles--so, we threw in a couple 4T shirts and pants we found on clearance for $2. This child is really growing. Please keep in mind she still has three months until she is 2!! So, now Gracie is in size 4T clothes, size 8 shoes and size 6 diapers. It looks like I will have to make another shopping run. I shouldn't complain, she is a happy healthy toddler and we love her so much. Plus, when she is 10 she will probably be taller than me and she can reach the top shelves.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gracie "Helps" Mommy Make The Bed

Back In The Swing Of Things

Our little family seems to be back to life as usual...with the exception of Garren's migraine. This morning I headed to the gym for the first time in 2 weeks, and it felt good. Garren went to work and I got 3 loads of laundry done, the house cleaned, dishes done, dinner cooked and cleaned up, started Gracie a bath, played & read with Gracie, etc...I even baked cookies. And it was kind of nice to have my day back to normal again. Gracie too found herself more comfortable at home as she decided to use the potty for the first time in 2 weeks! We are very proud, and she received another sticker on the calendar.

I am not sure how this potty training things is supposed to go. It seems like she is sporadic with it. We don't want to push her, I mean she isn't even 2 yet! But, then again, we want her to keep trying. We tried the Dora pull-ups. She loved them, but her sensitive skin did not!! We have had problems with diapers before (Gracie can only use Pampers Cruisers because of the velcro tape, she's allergic to the sticky kind), and this time was no exception. She developed a bad diaper rash that didn't go away for a week! These trainers had a wetness liner in them so your child can feel that she is wet. The liner also had blue colored raindrops on it. We think the combination of the dye and the piddles on her skin created the problem. So, that leaves us in a bind. Because Gracie is so big, she is already in the biggest size diapers Cruisers make--so, she has to be potty trained before she out grows them. But that's a problem for down the road. Although my little weed continues to grow. I noticed the other day she will need new socks since the ones she is wearing are leaving band marks around her ankles.

In addition to the potty success today, Gracie learned about shadows. We were sitting in front of the window with the afternoon sun facing the wall, and Gracie saw her hand shadow on the wall. She thought it was very neat and continued to wave her hands and fingers around while giggling.

Oh, those of you who know me well will get a kick out of this: last night when we took Gracie to Toys R Us to spend her gift card, there was a huge sign outside that said "winter clearance." I told Gracie: "Always look at the clearance rack first Gracie." She repeated "Aways ook at de clearance rack furst momma." It was so cute. And those of you who know me have probably heard me say the same phrase to you!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hair Experiment

It was last week that I realized that Gracie's hair has remained the same style since she was born; long in the back and bangs parted to the left. I have never had her hair cut and it is really starting to get long in the front is well. And it was time for a new "do." After all, she is a very cute little girl, and I have been longing to dress her up!

Besides experimenting with the hair (which came out just adorable don't you think), Gracie and I took advantage of the warm day to get new books from the library. We hadn't been home long before Daddy came in with a card from Aunt Heather. She was so generous to send Gracie a gift card to Toys R US. We decided to let Gracie go shopping this evening. There were so many things to choose from, but she finally decided on 2 puzzles, a JoJo's Circus doll and Baby Shakespeare (a baby Einstein video). We all thank Aunt Heather very much.

Since we are out we decided to grab something. We settled on CiCi's. I don't have to explain any further. Anyone of you who have ever been can imagine the zoo-like atmosphere.

Meanwhile here at the house; I have decided to keep the Christmas decorations up awhile longer. Keeping it festive in here is helping me I think, and Gracie is having a good time talking to all of the birds and other decorations around the house. Her favorite is a plastic angel with a red dress. She puts her new pretend jewelry around her neck and has conversations and tea parties with her. I like the trend: playing with angels. Gracie is so blessed to have so many earthly and heavenly angels watching over her...I couldn't feel more safe and warm watching her play and grow knowing that they are real.

Happy Birthday Papaw Charles

Happy Birthday Papaw Charles!
I wish I could have been there to celebrate with you.
Miss you and Love you lots,

***The picture is from June 2004. Gracie has seen papaw Charles several times since, but this was the best picture I had of the two of them***

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

Hmmm, to sum up the day: rainy, messy, hyper toddler plus tons of new toys, Styrofoam, pajamas.

Christmas Day here in Strasburg was much like it has been for the past 27 years in my home: dad in the chair watching non-Christmas TV, child tearing apart packaging and running from toy to toy, mom frantically trying to find the floor and put dinner on the table. Needless to say it was hectic. We never got out of our pajamas. We had ham and macaroni& cheese on beautiful Christmas plates and Gracie tore up Styrofoam in to tiny pieces throughout the day and pooped during dinner.

We ended our day by lighting the last advent candle, playing in Gracie's room and calling to wish Grandma & Grandpa a Merry Christmas.

I might not ever have the Martha Stewart Christmas I long to have, with beautiful decorations and the perfect dress and plenty of friends and family who come over to dine on simply elegant china while Christmas carols play in the back ground. But, I can say with out a doubt that the last two Christmases with Garren and Gracie have been truly wonderful despite the somewhat dullness of our surroundings. Christmas is in the heart, and we have plenty to share.

Christmas Fun:
Gracie learned to sing: "Jingle Bells," "O Christmas Tree," and "Frosty the Snowman."
We read: from Gracie's children's Bible, "Max's Christmas," and Clifford's Christmas" on Christmas Eve.
Gracie got her traditional taste of Gingerale. We made Neman Marcus cookies again this year. Gracie had her Holly Hobbie stocking that I made last year to use again this year.
We attended Christmas Eve services for the first time as a family. We made and lit our first family Advent Wreath.

Christmas Morning

Gracie hopes Santa was as good to you all as he was to her. Santa left her a thank you note for the orange and the milk, and plenty of goodies under the tree.

Gracie was a little overwhelmed at first. Although, the first word's out of her mouth when she saw all of the presents were "Wow! Look at this!" Daddy and I had to slow down a bit, because it was too much all at once. But, after about an hour each of the gifts have been opened.

Her favorite this morning seems to be the "Sing & Learn Chair." Once she figured out how it works, she hasn't left the chair for more than 2 minutes with the exception of breakfast. The play food that Candice & Elliott sent is a close second. She loves to pretend to eat the ice cream cone.

We send special thank you's to family who sent so many special gifts. Santa gave Gracie the chair, a Dora doll, Barney, Baby Bop & BJ stuffies, new placemats, a stuffed elephant, more chalk for her chalkboard, pretend jewelry, puzzles, Thomas the Tank Engine toy, many books, Baby Einstein Dragon puppet, and a bug tunes xylophone. Mamaw and Papaw sent 2 sets of pajamas, a huge alphabet puzzle and "Dick & Jane" books. Aunt Sharon sent an adorable teddy bear and a book. Candice and Elliott were heroes with the play food. Mommy & Daddy gave Gracie Baby McDonald (a Baby Einstein video), "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on The Bed" book, and a Stanley Leap Frog Book.

Gracie is having a good time this morning playing. I will put pictures on Snapfish during naptime and leave a link here.

We hope you all had wonderful Christmas mornings like ours.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Our Family's Second Christmas Eve

If you were looking forward to a Norman Rockwell, picture perfect Christmas Eve with beautiful music, and a silent night...I am glad you weren't at our house tonight!

Gracie, Garren and I all returned home from Lynchburg late last night. Garren had gotten a tree while we were gone and had put up the lights, but that was the extent of our holiday decoration.

Yesterday, I loaded several boxes of ornaments and decorations from my Aunt Lou's house. That was what I was supposed to do Monday when I went to see her--so, I couldn't leave Lynchburg without fulfilling the last promise I made her. I unwrapped nearly a hundred tiny pieces that had been in storage for years. She had decided several years ago that it was no longer worth the hassle to put up so much Christmas decor. When I was a child I used to be in awe of her home at Christmas, it was like the White House I expect. Wreaths and garlands and beautiful decorations everywhere.

Here at the house, I pulled out the ornaments I remember helping her hang as a child. But, instead of being sad, I seemed to find some peace as if she were watching me remember her and all the wonderful Christmas' we had together. I put red birds all over the house. She loved birds and I found box after box full of tiny crafted birds on wires. This house has never looked so festive.

But, there is where the warm fuzzy moments end. Gracie has been a disaster on wheels today. We had to go grocery shopping since we didn't last week. She was not happy to sit in the cart. But, any one who decided to wake up at 8am after heading to bed around 10pm is likely to get cranky with the holiday crowds. When we got home she refused to take a nap, threw a temper-tantrum, and got into just about everything she knew she shouldn't.

We did attend Christmas Eve services this evening. However, our little princess was not on her best church behavior as usual. Besides talking loudly, demanding froot loops and juice, singing Jingle Bells during communion she decided to ask "Did you poopie?" during a prayer. The church was packed tonight and she was forced to sit on one of our laps, and she was a little gased. We were a lot embarrassed. Although, I guess we only have ourselves to blame, we usually ask her that same question when she has gas.

Anyway, I was able to get a family picture. We ate dinner, eventually, and Gracie "wrote" a note to Santa and left him an orange and a glass of milk. Garren made cookies this evening, but we didn't want her to have any more, so we left an orange.

So, another temper-tantrum later, several time outs and a near tree falling--Gracie is in bed, and we hope that Santa will overlook Gracie's behavior over the past few months.

Gracie's Letter To Santa

Happy Holidays

From family email 12/24/05:

Merry Christmas
from our family to yours

May you find true peace and happiness on this blessed day. Love to you all, and to your families. Celebrate each day...and another year with each other.

Love, Barbara, Garren & Gracie Shipley

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Saying Goodbye

It certainly isn't easy to let go of someone who means so much to you. Thank you to the many friends and family who called and emailed with their condolences.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Birthday Mariah

Happy Eighth birthday to our favorite niece Mariah!
Happy Birthday, we love you!
Aunt Barbara, Uncle Garren & Gracie

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Gracie and I are still in Lynchburg, and will likely be for the remainder of the week.

Garren returned to Strasburg Sunday night, Gracie and I decided to stay another day so we could visit with my dearest Aunt Lou. It seems like whenever I visit Lynchburg, I never have enough time to visit with her. I told her so Sunday afternoon when I drove her home from church. I also told her that I wanted to see her Monday so we could catch up. Unfortunately I was too late. I stood outside her home for an hour as I prayed that she would soon hear me and open the door. The doctors said she had passed away about two hours before I got there.

Though I am greiving, I take solice that she passed while napping on the couch, and waiting for me to come and see her.

I am her baby. She has called me that for as long as I can remember. She has no children of her own, but I might as well be one. I spent most of my childhood in her home and in her life. We went to church together nearly every Sunday after a weekend at her house. We baked together, and played and shopped. She is primarily responsible for the woman I am today, and I certainly hope she knew that. She taught me how to be caring to others, to be a lady, to sew and bake, and to me a mother. She gave me the foundation for my faith in God, and in myself. When no one else was listening, I knew she was. She understood me, the same way I understood her.

I guess you could equate her to a Grandma, but she was more than that. It was more than the recipes and the scraps of material to make a baby doll dress. It was the lessons and beliefs that she handed down. The same ones I will pass on to Gracie.

She never missed a birthday or Christmas with me. She was there when I was confirmed, when I graduated high school and college, when I got married, and when I gave birth to Gracie. She sent me notes and cards out of the blue, just to tell me she was thinking of me and what she had done that day. I am not sure how to live without her in my life.

I have my memories, and I am very thankful that God let me, and the rest of us have her for as long as he did. I am thankful that Gracie got to know and love her, and that she will continue to know her through pictures and movies and stories.

I know that the pain will lessen as time goes on, but it is very hard right now to remember that. There are so many others in this house right now dealing with her absence, and I feel compelled to keep my grief hidden. And that is making it harder I know.

I went to her home today. I remembered all the things I used to do with her. I found my secret hiding spots, and I watched my daughter play as I did with one of the doll houses...and my heart broke. I saw her clothes over the bed, the kissing angels on the mantel we found together at a yard sale for 50 cents, and I heard Gracie run down the hallway just like I did...and I wanted to cry. I smelled her house and I ran my fingers over her neatly tucked bedspread...and the pain was overwhelming.

I don't think anyone will ever know how much she ment to me. I was just a child, and I am only her neice. No one knows my pain. I am the one she called "baby."

Wait, there is one person who knows my pain...when no one else understood me or wanted to listen--she did. And she is likely in heaven now listening to me weep and praying for me as she has for the past 27 years.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Missing You

Lula Bryant Nash
***Picture taken Fall 2003**

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Shopping And Other Fun Stuff

The weather was decent here today and Garren was ready for a break, so during Gracie's nap we headed out to a nice lunch at Olive Garden and to finish up Christmas shopping for Gracie.

I had noticed the insane crowds this week as mom and I were out and about, and had the brilliant idea of shopping at 11-midnight at the Lynchburg Wal Mart. Apparently everyone else had that idea last night as well. In addition to the crowds and insanely long lines...we also only found half of the things we were looking for. So, today after a wonderful lunch, we again braved the mad throngs of people looking to finish up their yuletide purchases.

We got lucky at Target and were able to get all but a few things that can be picked up during next weeks grocery store visit.

Tonight, we had some of our extended family over for a little dinner and get together. Gracie was a definate show off, and she and Mariah looked beautiful in there holiday dresses. I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I had hoped, but I got a few good ones.

Despite eating a ton of junk food, Gracie spent much of the day playing with her new train set and with cousin Mariah. I think the two girls are really enjoying being together this weekend.

Tomorrow we will go to church to see more of the family.

**The picture above is of Gracie playing with her new Leap Frog toy and her great, great, great uncle Junior***

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gracie Meets Santa

As it usually is when we visit Grandma—the day was very busy! Since Mariah didn’t have school today, she came over around 9:30 this morning, to a very excited Gracie. We decided to head to the mall early since neither of the girls had seen Santa this season. Gracie was very excited to see the train, but not as thrilled to come face to face with a chubby man in red with plenty of facial hair.

Mom rode with the girls on the train, and then let Mariah and Gracie ride by themselves when I wasn’t looking!! But Gracie was a good girl and held Mariah’s hand the whole time as they say in the engine car with a friendly “engineer.” (Mall employee)

When it came time to visit Santa, Gracie was more interested in the toys that they were using as props. The friendly photographers let Gracie have a toy and sit next to Santa in a little rocking chair instead of on his lap while Mariah told Santa her wish list.

After having lunch in the car, (the mall was too packed and we couldn’t find a place to sit!!!), we headed home for a nap.

Tonight, the girls got to open gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. Gracie got a Geo Tracks train set, a pink engineers hat, a leapfrog word toy and plenty of cute outfits. Mariah got a sand art kit, and knitting loom, and a computer game as well as some clothes.

Tomorrow, the schedule begins again! We will have a family get together around 6pm, and we are looking forward to having the family together again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hello From Lynchburg

Gracie and mommy spent much of Wednesday afternoon on the road to Grandma and Grandpa's, and are we ever glad that we left then-- instead of today as we had planned. The roads here in Lynchburg are covered in snow, ice and slush...and Garren tells me the roads in Strasburg are about the same. The wintery stuff began late last night, and it hasn't stopped yet.

Poor Gracie spent much of the day looking out of the many windows here in the house wanting to go out and play. But, since it was raining ice, it was much to unsafe for her to go out. She was having a hard time with that concept since she is allowed to come and go as she pleases at Grandma's usually. We are lucky that they have a deck and a back and front yard for Gracie to play in, and she looks forward to swinging and running around outside, unlike at she can do at home. Maybe tomorrow we can let her out in it a little bit. Good thing I packed her boots.

Tomorrow we will get to see Mariah. I know Gracie will have a ball!! The snow and ice has cancelled school for Mariah tomorrow and she was already scheduled to stay the weekend here at mom and dads. I have no doubt that those two girls will have a great time romping and playing and just being silly together as usual.

We had planned a family Christmas get-together on Saturday with more of the family, and I certainly hope that the bad weather won't get in the way. Garren will make his way to Lynchburg tomorrow after he finishes up some reporting in Richmond.

We put up the tree here at grandma and grandpa's and Gracie enjoyed seeing a lit tree inside the house. Unfortunately we were unable to get a tree for our apartment in Strasburg before we left, as Food Lion was sold out Tuesday night when we went. I am sure we will find some poor lonesome tree at the Winchester Lowe's or something like that when we get back, so don't worry that Gracie won't have her own tree for Christmas.

I will try to update through out the weekend and add more pictures. We plan to see Santa and ride the train in the mall sometime this weekend, so I will let you know how that goes.

Please have a safe weekend and don't travel if you don't have too! Stay inside where it is nice and warm, and share hot chocolate and buttered popcorn with you family.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Language Explosion"

This is the phrase Garren has decided to use for the phase our little Gracie is going through. In past entries I have talked about how Gracie's vocabulary has improved and she repeats what we say...that was nothing compared to our current level of gab!

Gracie's vocabulary is already enormous, but over the past few weeks, she has repeated phrases that her father and I say all day long. I hope that she is understanding what we are saying and what she is repeating. We sure are learning to watch what we say, and how we phrase it. In our house, we don't want to use negative words like: stupid, crazy, dumb, hate, now, no etc. Instead we use words like: silly, no thank you, please and thank you.

It is truly amazing to listen to her talk, she can practically have a conversation with you. I continue to be astonished at her capabilities. She is a wonderfully talented and educated child. When she repeats a word or a phrase I try to point to what we have said like "shirt," and then I try to find another way to describe it like "purple shirt." "You are wearing a purple shirt to bed tonight." I really hope this helps. You can tell she really wants to learn. I get excited when she holds on to the lessons I teach her, but I admit in the evenings after she has gone to sleep I may peek a picture of her at 3 months old and smile and become wistful.

The phrases she learned/repeated today: "Silly Daddy!" "Football!!!!!" (I think you can figure out who taught her this one!)

Others phrases she has been using for a while: "Wash your hands." Brush your teeth." "Bless You Momma!" (when I sneeze) "What you want?" "What you doing?" "There you go!" "Its okay." "Love you mama." There are many more, but these are the ones used most often.

Garren and I are so proud of our little one. Of course if her conversations continue to soar like they are--I guess her daddy will be right: "you're just like your momma, yak, yak, yak!"

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ready For Christmas

It was a long weekend here in the Shipley home as the Princess Grace gave us a run for our parenting money! The boo had had little sleep and is very onry!

On Saturday, I brought up the Christmas decorations and put the manger scene up and a few other things to make the house nice and warm and in the holiday spirit. We haven't gotten a tree, but I picked out the ornaments less likely for Gracie to damage and they are ready for Tuesday, when Garren says he will get the tree. I think Gracie will really enjoy the tree. She is at a very curious age!

Last night we made homemade peanut butter cookies. We found a really simple recipe: 1C peanut butter, 1 egg, 1C sugar. Mix and teaspoon on to a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. But, a word of advice, they took closer to 10-11 minutes. But anyway, Gracie thoroughly enjoyed them.

This morning our friends Jessica and Steven and baby Sierra went to church with us and had lunch at our apartment. It snowed a little, but not enough to do much of anything. Not that it need to, this weeks snow has turned in to snow-looking ice, and there is still plenty of it!!

We didn't do much this afternoon, just visited with our friends and relaxed. Tonight we lit the third candle on our Advent wreath, the candle of peace. Gracie got a bath, and is in her crib now continuing to fight sleep. For the past 2 days she has fought taking a nap for several hours, has laid in her crib awake until 10:30pm, and gotten up at 9am! She is quite sleep deprived. We noticed today that her crankiness seemed to be accentuated by a need to chew on things. It looks like sore teeth are back and are likely to blame for her sleep deficit and her moodiness.

We are looking forward to visiting family this coming weekend in Lynchburg, and Garren is preparing to head to Richmond twice this week. We have a very busy schedule and I am hoping to have Gracie's pictures done, and the tee decorated too!!

The holiday's are upon us, and I think that this season will be a wonderful memory for our family...oh, and I have to mail out the Christmas cards!

Friday, December 09, 2005

More Snow

We got more snow last night, and then ice on top of that. I think it was about 3 inches, maybe 4. This morning I got down the laundry basket and we wrapped up the Boo and she and Daddy took a couple of laps around the parking lot.

We didn't stay outside long because the wind was fierce and was blowing the snow so hard it stung. But, as you can see she enjoyed herself.

I am not sure if this is the end of the snow for this week--but I know we will probably have plenty more opportunities to pull out the homemade sled!

See more December pictures

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Gracie Reads

I wanted to tell you all that Gracie read her first book today. It was a board book entitled "Babies." The pictures take up most of the pages, but underneath it says things like "babies need hugs," "Babies need kisses," etc. It goes on this way for 10 or so pages. Anyway, today I was chowing down on some Froot Loops left over from Gracie's breakfast and she brought the book in to the living room and I watched as she opened the book and said word for word what the text said, and turned the page and kept reading!!! I was terribly excited. She was reading to herself, so of course when I asked her to read it to me and do it again, she walked away!

Yes, to all of you killjoys out there, she probably did memorize the book from where we have read it to her so many times...but still it was very neat. At the very least she could tell from the pictures what the babies needed. The best part was when she got to the last page she read "Most of all Babies need love." She is precious! And of course we end every book with "de en" (the end). I was very proud.

Today, we went to the library and did a little shopping with my friend Jessica. Gracie was so excited to see Jessica. She gave her hugs and wanted her to hold her--I think that she was excited because Jessica was there to see her and she hadn't brought that noisy baby. Gracie is very smart. She loved Jessica (she still does), but she was very jealous when Jessica brought over her newborn baby. She didn't want to share her mommy or Jess-ka (that's what she calls her).

But, we had a good day, and now Daddy is waiting for the snow. I think we are supposed to get 4-6 inches, but I am not holding my breath! If we do, we will likely let Gracie play in it again and I will post some more pictures.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Playing Dress Up

I was thinking back today about how my photo sessions with Gracie had tapered off. I love photography, and even though this camera of mine is falling apart--I want to capture precious moments. Don't get me wrong--I still take quite a few, but not as many as I used to.

So, today I decided to have fun with Gracie and let her play dress up. You'll find one of my favorite poses posted here. I am not sure who had more fun, me, or Gracie. She got so excited trying on mommy's jewelry and shoes and later daddy's tie and hat. She thought it was a very fun game.

Now, I can allow Gracie to play with the things because I do not have any sort of nice jewelry--and the stuff I have, I wear once in a blue moon. I would not recommend letting your toddler play with your Grandma's pearls or that exciting emerald necklace you got for Valentine's Day.

Gracie is napping now. Being a covergirl is exhausting. And mommy is happy, because she has ignited her passion for photography and fun with her daughter all at the same time.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Fun In The Snow

...before it melted!

I don't think we got the amount of snow we were predicted to get, but none the less we got enough to cover the ground last night. It snowed here from about 1:00 yesterday afternoon until about 1am this morning. The sun was bright when we woke up, so I gave Gracie a hot breakfast of oatmeal and got us both dressed for the outdoors so she could get to play in it before it melted.

When we got outside the parking lot was completely cleared, but there was some snow on the bank beside the building. I put Gracie's new boots on her that her Aunt Debra got her, and we let her walk around in it and touch it.

She was pretty amazed with the snow. It was cold on her nose, but she was fascinated as she patted it with her mittens. And, then we she saw that it had stuck to her mittens, she looked like a confused puppy. After playing for a few minutes, Daddy held her up and let her get some off the car.

We didn't stay out long, it was sunny, but freezing. I think she had a great time. We are supposed to get more this weekend. Maybe then we can pull out the trust laundry basket!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Our Snow Family

Another Fun Family Day

Today ended up being another nice day for the family. The ice that fell last night was gone by morning and it was absolutely beautiful outside. The sun was warm and bright, and it wasn't terribly cold. We still had to wear coats to church, but not our heavy ones.

We really enjoyed the Advent service at the Strasburg Methodist Church this morning. Attending services has always been on our "to do" list, but we always seemed to have some reason not to go. Raising Gracie in a church is a very important thing for both of us, and we thoroughly enjoy Sunday mornings in Lynchburg. So, after receiving an invitation from a church member last night during the parade, we decided we had waited long enough. So, after three years here--we got up, got dressed and headed in to their 11am service. The church was small, but every pew was crowded. We met some of the nicest people ever, which is a big deal since it is hard to find a warm soul in this northern "iceland". Everyone is either in a hurry, or very rude. We found a little bit of southern hospitality this morning at church, and it warmed out hearts.

This afternoon, after a VERY late nap (the princess was too good to take one until around 4pm!!), we made a craft. My friend Candice was nice enough to send me directions on how to make sock snowmen, something she is doing with her fourth grade students. We sat at the table with all of the fun accessories like cotton balls and fabric and beads and some jungle bells we added for fun. We all got into it, even Garren, and we made a snowman family; mommy, daddy and baby. They now adorn our mantle.

After ordering out for pizza, Gracie got a bath and we tried to settle her down with a Baby Einstein video.

Tonight, we are just waiting for the snow. We have a winter weather advisory and snow could start around noon tomorrow. I know Garren is excited--he loves the snow, and he can't wait to take Gracie out in it.

Despite my feeling low and missing friendships that I once had...this weekend turned out pretty nicely. When telling Garren how lonely I am and how I feel left out, he told me "Where God closes a door, He opens a window." I know he is right, and maybe this morning he opened a window to a new set of potential friendships.

***Picture of Gracie helping make the baby snowman***

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Cold Saturday

It's icing outside as I write this blog entry tonight. It was very cold most of the day today, but we decided to go and watch the Strasburg Christmas parade this evening anyway.

This afternoon we filled our time with a trip to the mall as well as Wal Mart to pick up some more rice for Gracie's "sandbox," and some supplies to make a real Advent wreath. During Gracie's rather late nap, I constructed the Advent wreath out of a glass plate I had (I couldn't find candle holders so I melted the bottom of the candles to the plate), and some fake plastic greenery. Gracie slept so long we were worried we wouldn't make it to the 5:30 parade! But, we woke her up a few minutes after 5 and bundled her up for the chilly spectacle.

She was pretty still during the parade. She seemed interested in the kids and the band that were in the parade, but she didn't giggle or smile--I think she was too cold! But, she did enjoy collecting candy from the parade participants. Following the parade, was the lighting of the town Christmas tree. By this time it is really getting cold, but we stuck it out. The tree was pretty with the lights and I think Gracie enjoyed it. We decided to skip the hot chocolate and Santa at the fire hall and get Gracie home and warmed up. Instead we picked up some Tostidos and salsa for an evening snack. I toasted the corn chips and we three had a picnic in our livingroom floor while watching Christmas specials on the Family Channel.

All in all it was a very cold, but wonderful family day. It is kind of sad that we have lived in this small town for going on three years now, and we have never participated in much of anything. This is the first year we witnessed the parade and tree lighting ceremony, and it was pretty neat--cold--but neat. I certainly hope that we will do it again next year.

As for tomorrow, we had planned on going to church, going to the library, and making some crafts that Candice sent me the directions for--but the ice and possible snow tonight may keep us from leaving the house! Regardless, I am sure we can find some fun family activities.

A Story

Sometimes the best way to deal with your emotions, is to put it in to a story, so let me tell you one...

Once apon a time there was a young woman. She was a plump woman, but she loved to smile and laugh. She had a beautiful flower garden. She was happiest talking to her flowers and caring for them. She watered them and sang to them and gave them plenty of love.

Years went by and the young woman continued to care and tend to her loving flowers, but she noticed that the flowers didn't respond as well to her care any longer. The woman continued to sing and water and carefully tend the flowers despite the fact their beautiful blooms had begun to droop.

More years flew by and the woman continued to tend her favorite flowers. It was one afternoon when she went to water the plants that she noticed the petals were nearly gone, and the roots were beginning to show. The woman hurried in to a frenzy and desperately tried to cover the roots. She sang the sweetest songs she could and she talked to the plants hoping that they would hear her voice and begin to bloom again. After nearly half a year of this dedicated care, the woman saw that the beautiful flowers she loved so much were gone.

The woman wept in her hands. She had lost her beautiful flowers that she cared for for all those years. She couldn't understand why her love and tendering care wasn't enough. Between sobs the woman looked up and saw beyond the gate of her garden. There were the beautiful hues of her favorite flowers. While the plants were dying in her garden, the wind had blown their seeds to the east, west, north and south. There the flowers were growing and thriving and had found wildflowers and roses to mingle with. The woman dried her tears. She was still sad, but she knew the flowers were happy now.

As the woman pulled the dead stalks of her favorite flowers from her garden, she raked over the soil praying that God would send her new seeds and make new flowers grow so that the loneliness in her heart would heal.

Happy Birthday Aunt Heather!

Happy Birthday to my favorite Aunt!
Have a wonderful day and celebrate with your family--
Love, Barbara, Garren & Gracie

Friday, December 02, 2005

In The Holiday Spirit

We hadn't planned to, but tonight turned in to a pre-Christmas celebration.

Since it was so cold and windy out tonight, we decided to snuggle up together as a family. I remembered that the Family Channel had already started showing their Christmas specials, so we turned it on, and watched "Nester the Christmas Donkey," while the snowman cookies were baking. Gracie got to place the dough on the cookie tray, which is something she really enjoys(second only to eating them).

We ate the cookies and had some hot chocolate before heading in to mommy & daddy's room for books. Garren and I were in a Christmas mood after watching the Rankin/Bass 1970 something special, so we read the Christmas Story from Gracie's children's Bible, "Away in A Manger," "Christmas Is Coming," "Baby's First Christmas," and "January is For Snow."

I went to the basement this afternoon and brought up the Christmas wreath for the front door. The autumn one looked out of place. Gracie and I also made a homemade Advent wreath for the table too. I had her make the wreath out of her green fingerpainted handprints. I added some red dots of paint for holly berry's, and I cut out and colored five Advent candles from paper. I cut out paper "flames" and we will paste them to the candles, one each Sunday of this month. Garren mentioned tonight that he would like to make a real Advent wreath with candles and such. Maybe we will get the supplies tomorrow.

We are looking forward to doing holiday activities this month. We will have to find out dates for Christmas parades around the area, and there is a light display at the park in Winchester. Of course we will also see the man in red and ride the train in Lynchburg. Gracie is at a wonderful age this year for Christmas. I will be excited to see how she interprets all of it. We will likely hold off on the tree though. But, maybe she will be patient enough to help hang the ornaments. I plan to pull out only the wooden one for her safety (and ours!).

** The picture is from December 2004 (Gracie's first Christmas), and now you see why we are waiting to put up the tree!!! It's a blurry picture because I snapped it quickly, catching her in the act of pulling the lights off the tree!!****

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Send Rice

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

Please send rice--mommy's a genius!


Okay, I am not a genius, but I am pretty proud of my latest idea. I saw how much fun Gracie had at mom and dads in the sandbox, and I hated that we didn't have one at home, nor could we get one. With just a small deck on the second floor and no yard, we are limited to outdoor toys. This past summer I had a storage box full of water and toys on the deck, but I had to cover the deck with plastic so the neighbors below us wouldn't get dripped on.

So, I thought: we can't have sand, too messy...why not dry rice? Last night at the grocery store Garren and I bough a huge bag of industrial cheap rice. This morning I put the rice in another rectangular rubbermaid storage container along with some spoons and cups and a dump truck. Gracie had a blast! I tried putting the box on plastic--but she wasn't much for sitting on the plastic, so I have a sheet under it now, and any rice that falls out can be poured back in. The large bag of rice only filled the box up about half an inch all the way around, so we will have to get more.

Now, if you can't handle messes, I do not recommend this indoor sand box solution. But, for me its all worth it since Gracie getting to do something fun and different. The rice is dry and it will vacuum up. Besides, the vacuum might like sucking up something besides Froot Loops!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Congratulations Shannon & GW!

You have a beautiful baby boy. I know you have been waiting a long time to meet him, and he will no doubt be a wonderful source of joy for the both of you!

Luke Aidan McCarthy
November 29, 2005
9:08 PM
7lb 4oz and 20 inches

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Plugging Your Ears To Well Intentioned Advice

There was an article in this month's Baby Talk magazine that I got a few days ago that was nice to see. It was about not listening to everybody's two-cents worth when it comes to your pregnancy, birth and your baby.

I remember everybody had advice or anticdotes to share with me while I was pregnant, some worried me, some were to weird to listen to and others I recognized as old wives tales. When a woman is pregnant her hormones are elevated, and telling said pregnant woman all the horrible things that can go wrong or went wrong for you, especially when they didn't ask, are not necessarily a good thing.

I remember crying for weeks because I was convinced that the hospital wouldn't feed my baby. I knew that I didn't want to breast feed, and that seemed to be a huge taboo these days. So, I figured that the nurses, knowing that I had made the wrong decision, wouldn't feed my baby. Much to my dismay, when voicing this concern through tears at our hospital tour/registration, the nurse replied "no, we won't feed your baby," and after a long silence " will." That was not what I needed to hear, I was horrified. The abrupt nurse slowly filled me in on how the hospital likes new mothers to bond and care for their infants from the start, so the baby sleeps in the room and is feed and changed by the parents. She did ask me if I had considered breast feeding, and I told her yes, but that it wasn't a good choice for me, and she dropped the subject. I guess I was so worried about it because it seemed in every literature that came in the mail or was given to me at the doctor's office--breast milk was the only way your child would survive and it's IQ would be negative 10 if you didn't. Take my advice. Decide for yourself. If you are like me and uncomfortable with yourself, breast feeding is perhaps not the way to go--and there is nothing wrong with choosing formula...oh, and they will give you bottles to feed your baby!

"Don't hold her so much!" If I had a dime for every person that told me I held Gracie to much, I could pay for her college education. Babies need to be held and cuddled and know that they are loved. That's my job, and if the worse thing I did was hold her too much, then I am set. A family member even told me that I was spoiling her because I rocked her to sleep, and that she would never sleep on her own. Other well intentioned family members told Garren and I that letting Gracie get into the bed with us would ruin her and she would never sleep on her own. Well, for the record, Gracie has slept in her crib most of the night for over a year. The cuddle time she gets early in the mornings is as much for her as it is for us. She sleeps fine and I am pretty sure she is not scared for life. Of course I can only imagine what these people would say if I told them that I still cuddle her until she falls asleep for her nap!

I am the one who cared for Gracie every day of her life, but you would not believe how many people told me that she should be on a routine. When you are a new mom you want the best for your child, and you are dumb enough to listen to almost everything people tell you. I confronted the pediatrician about scheduling, after he chuckled, he told me that the baby would make up its own schedule and that I shouldn't even try until she was 6 months old or so. Oh, did I mention I got the scheduling advice starting from Gracie's first week? The doctor was right, Gracie had no concept of time, or of day and night, or of when mommy needed a shower. Every second was about her needs-and that was they was it was supposed to be.

I still get dirty looks from complete strangers when they see Gracie with a pacifier. I know that baby's can get addicted to them, and Gracie is pretty attatched to hers. But, its not hurting her. She is not yet three, the cutoff that pediatricans recommend, actually she's not even two yet! Random people often tell me the stories of how they just weren't going to let their children have them, as if they were straws filled with cocaine. Another woman told me she got so annoyed that her daughter dropped hers so often, that she just threw them all in the trash when she was a year old. I do worry at times about the pacifier, but I think its because so many people have to tell me how horrible it is that my child uses one. It is very hard to tune out advice, but if you don't you will worry all the time needlessly. The only people you really need to listen to are yourself, your husband, your child and your pediatrician.

The above were issues that really hurt me. I know no one would have wanted to make me worry or upset me, but they did. Most of the time the person just didn't think before blurting out their disapproval. If you can help it, try to drain the advice you receive and only do what you think is right. If you are in doubt, ask the pediatrician that's what they are there for.

Here are some other misinformation/advice I received that was debunked by the doctor or was not a blanket statement....

*Heartburn means your child will have a head of hair ---old wives tale
*Don't put weight on your babies legs or they will get rickets --pediatrician said that this was true on the 20's and 30's before we made such strides in calcium and other nutrients for babies.
*Keep your baby awake so they will sleep at night--not only did this not work for us, but it made for a very cranky baby. The baby knows when it needs to sleep.

***Picture of Gracie at 3 weeks***

Monday, November 28, 2005

For Posterity

As much as this blog is way for family and friends to keep up with how my little angel is doing, this is also a way for me to keep a record of my child's physical, mental and emotional growth--not to mention a great way to store memories. I hope that you will all keep this in mind as you read the blog. It may seem like a glorified shrine to Gracie, and that I brag about her constantly. Of course I do, I am very proud. But, by writing her accomplishments and our daily trials and rewards, we as a family get to share Gracie to the world, and remember those moments for ourselves all at the same time.

That being said, I want to record here Gracie's skills.

*Gracie can identify the following colors: orange, yellow, green, pink, brown, purple. She has difficulty with red, black and blue, but gets them correct 80% of the time.

*She knows the numbers one thru 10, and we are close to knowing 11 thru 20. She can not identify the number when you write it, (except the number 8) but she can count various objects from cups to toes to fingers.

*She can identify parts of the body including: ears, eyes, mouth, teeth, fingers, hand, feet, toes, hair, belly and nose.

*She knows her alphabet song and can identify all 26 letters in any order.

*She knows the following shapes, and can identify them in other things like windows, blocks, cookies, etc: heart, star, diamond, square, rectangle, triangle, circle, and oval.

*She can tell you that G-R-A-C-I-E is "Gracie," and M-O-M-M-Y is "Mommy."

*She speaks very well and has a vocabulary of over 200 words (I am estimating). She puts words together to make phrases.

*She already has manners, she uses the words "bless you" when someone sneezes, she says "thank you," when you hand her something or help her, she says "welcome" when you thank her.

*She knows over 20 animals and their sounds and can identify the animals by name and picture.

*She can sing the following songs in their entirety: "Twinkle Twinkle," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Old Mac Donald," and "I Love You (Barney Song)."

*Physically she can kick, throw and most of the time catch a ball.

Well Wishes To Family

from family email 11/28/05:

Family & Friends:

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and you no doubt had plenty to celebrate and be thankful for. Our dinner here went well. All eight of us found plenty to eat, and even enough air, which I was worried about in this small apartment of ours. Garren's parents and brother and my parents all made the trip to Strasburg, and we were glad they decided to celebrate with us.

Gracie enjoyed the mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese and rolls. She wouldn't try the turkey, she has been going through this anti-meat thing for several months now. Of course she looked adorable. I made Garren and I and Gracie all dress to coordinate in navy. Yes, I am aware I am nuts! My mom got such a good picture of us though, that Garren has been spared the trip to Penney's to have the family portrait done. We have yet to have a professional family picture taken, but still we have plenty of the three of us that have turned out well (Garren hates to have his picture taken!).

Thank you to all of you who submitted your thankful lists by email and on the blog, we really appreciate this. If you didn't submit one, and you would still like to you can email them to me and I will include them. I think that these lists will help Gracie understand as she gets older what being Thankful means. I read the lists to her and she recognized some of the things and would smile. Thank you all again.

I guess its now on to Christmas. Things seem to move so fast these days. But, I think I will wait to decorate, and we will probably wait to get the tree until about a week before. Those of you who have toddlers know what a nightmare ornaments and lights are with tiny, curious hands!

Gracie continues to grow and learn. Just today I noted all the things she can do on the blog. She knows all of her ABC's and can identify them in any order, she knows most of her colors and all of the simple shapes (circle, triangle, square, rectangle, diamond, heart, oval). She amazes me everyday, I am so lucky to have her.

We will have to start searching for yet another pair of shoes. The Barney shoes we bought her two months ago are too tight, and she will be wearing a size 7 1/2 or 8!!! And she's not even 2! She fits comfortably in 3T clothes and continues to progress with the potty. She has been going in the potty sporadically over the past 2 months and we are very proud. And, its a good thing, since she is in the largest size diapers they make!! Cruisers size 6!

I will sum up by hoping that all of you have a wonderful week. We would love to hear from you.

**Picture from Thanksgiving day, included in email***

Happy One Month Birthday

Yeah Sierra you are one month old today!
I am sure your parents will celebrate every milestone with you,
after all they have every reason too.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

No Imagination Left

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I guess its time for Christmas. Garren is listening to his Charlie Brown Christmas CD, neighbors have Christmas trees and decorations up, and the commercials for holiday shopping have been extra obnoxious this weekend.

You might think I am a scrooge; I am not, I guess I just long for the days when you had a time to rest between the holidays. These days the stores are selling Christmas items a week before Halloween. But I digress.

Garren and I have been looking through the sales papers, talking about things that Gracie might enjoy for Christmas, and I have noticed a scary trend. Look through your sales papers and count how many toys there are that require batteries. No, I am not complaining about how much money it takes to keep these toys going, I am talking about how kids are using less and less of their imaginations. When I was a kid, toys were toys. You played with them, you had pretend tea parties and Barbie weddings. I remember getting lost for hours in adventures with my dolls or bears. I was a school teacher, a nurse, a wedding consultant (and often the bride), a rock star, and many more. Now that I am 27 I have an amazing imagination. And, I would like to think because of that imagination I have become an creative writer, and an entertaining mom.

I worry about Gracie's generation, and what will happen without that healthy creativity that kids design on their own. Already the world longs for the newest gadget that will do everything for them from planning their day, to recording a tv show they don't have time for. And, now you find more and more toys that talk or sing or bounce. The Tumble Tigger is adorable--but that's all he does. He has a hard body that you can't cuddle and he says a certain number of phrases and does cartwheel after cartwheel. I would rather Gracie have a stuffed Tigger (or any other animal) that she can hug or read to, or dress up for a tea party or take pretend shopping.

How are our children supposed to develop imaginations if the toy companies do it for them? In Gracie's room, you'll find blocks, books, stuffed animals, a tea set, an oven, and Little People playsets. I love to look in on her playing, and listen to her as the dolls or figurines have conversations with each other. She will pour and stir your tea for you. She can build high towers with her blocks. She doesn't need the Dora talking kitchen, or Rusty the talking dump truck to do it for her. She gets a better sense of accomplishment doing it herself.

I want the sky to be the limit when she pretends and plays. I want to cultivate her imagination and her dreams. Children need to be children, they need to play and develop a sense of self. What will Tumble Tigger do for her, or Chicken Dance Elmo, or Go Go My Walking Pup? They will make playtime shorter. After all, the toys only say so many things, and why make up conversations for the toy, or read to the toy--it can already do that.

With so many toys and gadgets plaguing our homes, where will the creativity go? And for that matter where will the time to play go? After all, any time left in the day is spent on replaying the Desperate Housewives episode you missed last week.

Now, I don't want to be a hypocrite, Gracie has three talking toys; 2 Barney's (one I paid .45 for, the other was free), and a Blue doll that says something like 75 phrases. And as much as she likes these characters, she tends to play with the things that she can decide what they say.

Thanksgiving Weekend

We still have a ton of leftovers, and I don't want to see turkey again for the next 12 months!!

Thanksgiving and the remainder of the weekend went well here in Strasburg. Mamaw, Papaw and Luke left early this morning and have returned safely to TN to wash Luke's clothes before he returns to Knoxville tomorrow.

Gracie got some quality spoil-time with both sets of grandparents and Luke and Garren got plenty of time to visit. All this despite the fact that the princess Gracie did very little sleeping for the past three days. That goes for her parents too!

I would like to say we did exciting things while our guests were here, but Gracie was pretty much the extent of their entertainment. We took a trip to the library on Friday, and Garren showed his family some of the sites during Gracie's nap--but that was about it. I hope they had fun anyway.

Anybody want some leftover pie? How about turkey?

*Above, Gracie gets spoiled by Papaw, who gives her chips for dinner!***

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family. We hope that you have a blessed day. Remember to tell each other how thankful you are for their friendship and love.

It snowed here last night. We just got a dusting, but Gracie was in bed before she could see it. Since Gracie woke up at 5:45am this morning and wouldn't go back to sleep, she is now down for a nap at 10am. She watched a little bit of the parade and an episode or two of the "Jo Jo's Circus" marathon on Disney today. I have picked out a cute Thanksgiving dress for her, and we think all of the grandparents will arrive around noon. I put the turkey in at 7am this morning, and the bread is rising. It looks like it will be a wonderful time for all. Hopefully I will get some good picture through out the day and I will post them tonight or this weekend.

Grandma, Grandpa, Mamaw, Papaw and Luke all arrived by noon today. we got the food finished an hour earlier than anticipated. The turkey was delicious, Garren did a good job. We ate and had desert and then the grandparents took turns playing with Gracie. Gracie was adorable today, she went round and round the rooms hugging each person saying "Hi Mommy" (hug), "Hi Gramma" (hug), etc. We took a few pictures and I used mom's camera to capture some videos. Mom and Dad are on their way back home, I think the snow has stopped now, or at least slowed--although the wind has not. It flurried for much of the afternoon, but I don't think any of it will stay past morning.

We hope that all of you had a good time visiting family and friends and had a wonderful turkey dinner!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tomorrow Is Turkey Day!

Another Mixed Up Day

Gracie and I affixed the last feather to our homemade "countdown to Thanksgiving" turkey, leaving just 24 hours to get the bird ready, keep the house clean, vacuum up the fruit loops and cracker crumbs another 6 times, and make several gallons of tea.

Last minute preparations would have been a little easier, if the Princess Grace had decided to sleep last night. Gracie woke up around 4 am and stayed that way until 6am. I would hug her and put her back down in her crib. After three times of that game I gave up and put her in the bed with us. Around 7am, daddy had had enough and he shipped her back in to her crib, where she slept until 9am and woke up crying. She moved back in our bed and slept until 11am. I decided a nap was not likely to happen today.

We hadn't seen Jessica or baby Sierra in a week and a half, so we paid them a visit. Gracie had fun running around Jessica's house and playing with the dogs, and getting a brownie. That is until the baby woke up, and mommy decided to feed it. Gracie wanted hugs and to be held all while I was feeding Sierra. But, she calmed down a little. Meanwhile, I really impressed myself by putting Gracie on my lap while feeding Sierra at the same time, and later by burping Sierra and getting Gracie's shoes on her, one handed. I don't want to say a toddler and an infant is a snap, but I was excited that I could handle both of them at once.

Gracie went to bed early tonight, though she wouldn't eat anything. Her teeth have really been giving her problems over the past few days. Garren and I are taking a break before tackling the dishes and turkey and my 3rd load of laundry today.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Ups And Downs Of My Day

The day started off with yet another potty-time success. I was on my way out the door to the gym, when Gracie ran into the bathroom. Garren sat and read to her, and when I came back he told me she piddled in the potty. Gracie got her second sticker, two days in a row. Of course Garren is ready to run out an by her big girl underwear. Me, I am just hoping to make it 3 days out of the week.

I guess her potty success and the parental "joy dance" must have gone to her head, because the princess Grace decided she was too good for a nap. I fought with her for a hour and a half. She is currently sleeping...although I am not sure for how long.

There are two days left until Thanksgiving. I know this because Gracie and I taped on the #2 feather on to our homemade turkey. Grandma and Grandpa and Mamaw, Papaw and Uncle Luke will all becoming to see us Thursday. I have a ton of deep cleaning to do before then. When you have a small apartment every speck of dust shows!!!

8:07pm--The day got a little better. Gracie slept for an hour and a half, and pooped in the potty again. For which she got another sticker. But, since she didn't want mommy to feel to good about herself, she decided not to eat dinner and whine and cry until we put her to bed. On the bright side: she's in the crib, and so far no crying!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Potty Success

***Warning, if you can't handle poop do not read on***

Gracie had potty success today after a month off the pot. I am hoping that we can once again start a routine now that we are back on a regular schedule. This afternoon I could tell Gracie was "trying." So, I asked her if she needed to poop and she ran to the bathroom. I was able to get her diaper off in the nick of time. She pooped and I read. That's her favorite part of potting--mommy reading her books. I made a big fuss over the incident and she got a sticker on the calendar. Garren plans to pick up cookie dough as he comes home so we can celebrate further.

Yeah Gracie! We knew you could do it!

November Pictures

I have added November pictures to my snapfish account and they are ready to view. There aren't as many this time. I know November isn't over yet, but it seems each month that goes by I take fewer and fewer pictures. In a way that's a good thing, because I am enjoying more moments instead of trying to capture them--but I enjoy photography, and I don't want to lose out on special every day moments. That's what's neat about pictures--they don't have to be saved for special events or holidays, you can share everyday moments that can mean just as much. I included in this blog one of those "it just happened" moments. I was in the living room after swiffering the kitchen, and I guess Gracie just decided to help out. I grabbed the camera while she wasn't looking and snapped the photo. It is a precious smile she has on her face. You can tell she is proud that she was helping mommy clean up.

Other pictures include Gracie playing in the "barn" I made her. Mom was going to get rid of this little play house that had a plastic Hello Kitty design that fit over the frame, but since Gracie had such a good time playing with it at their house, I decided to take it home. However, Hello Kitty does not match the barnyard theme I have crafted for Gracie's room over the past year. So, silly me decided to sew a barn together!!! Four hours and 12 gray hairs later I was finished. I have no idea how it turned out so well. I had no pattern and I was just guessing at it. There wasn't quite enough material to get the top triangles on either side, but that worked out well...because now it is also a puppet theatre!

There are some more pictures from our Halloween trip to mom and dads, and some cute ones of Gracie's fall wardrobe. I hope you all enjoy my photos as much as I do.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Post Partum...Well sort of

Last night I was watching Nick-at-Nite and it was that Cosby episode where Cliff dreams he is pregnant along with Elvin, Theo and Martin. Its a very funny episode, it makes fun of how women and men react to pregnancy. But, it also reminded me of my labor and delivery and how I didn't get to experience what most mothers do.

Now, I know that many women are probably yelling about how lucky I am at this point. But, the hardest part is, that I will never experience those things. Because of complications with my labor, I can no longer have a "natural birth," I will always have to schedule C-sections. Having Gracie was the most wonderful thing to happen to me...but the operation was planned, the induction was planned...there was nothing natural about it, and it has left a small hole in my life.

You may think its silly, but Garren and I didn't get to coach each other through labor pains, and load up and head frantically to the hospital. We missed out on that anxious/excited feeling you get when you know "it's time!" Garren didn't get to catch the baby or cut the cord. They didn't put Gracie on my chest. I didn't get to complete labor and feel that euphoria after working so hard for something and reaping the reward.

Don't get me wrong. There was plenty of anticipation, but it spanned over 3 days as I waited, and waited, and waited for the medicine to force me to go into labor. And it increased for the four hours I tried with all my might to push. And then, anxiety became fear when the doctor said they would have to take her out by operation. Of course at the time I was so drugged up, that my fear was mixed with swirling lights and sounds.

I guess there was just something missing. I read about a year after Gracie's birth, that it is very common for mothers who have their babies by C-Section to feel a sense of loss. That there was something incomplete about the whole process. Gracie was a year old, and so I don't remember the advice they gave to overcome it--but I recommend any one who has to undergo a C-Section to find out. These days many, many more obstetricians are recommending normal births following C-Sections. Unfortunately while pushing, I tore my cervix and uterus and other sensitive parts making it dangerous for me to try again.

These feelings are some that are at the back of my mind, but they swell up when I see something that reminds me of what I didn't get to experience. But, writing it here seems to have helped. Having a C-Section is not a bad thing, and it may not leave you with the same feelings I did. For many having a baby this way is a great relief--no pain, and everything is over in about an hour or two. But, I recommend talking about your feelings afterwards, and discussing the possibility of having a natural birth with your doctor the next time you conceive.

***Picture is from OR, when I got to see Gracie for the first time, she was already cleaned up and wrapped up, and yes she is sticking her tongue out!!! This is my first memory of her!!!***

Friday, November 18, 2005

Where Did Fall Go

It didn't stick around here long that's for sure.

Yesterday, Garren came home from work early after a very bad day and told us to get ready that we were going out. He told me to put Gracie in her new winter coat. I scoffed at him, but after walking out the door, I was very glad I took his advice. It was frigid! The wind made it worse. And, it doesn't look like it will warm up anytime soon. Oh, the sun is out today, but it is just mocking Gracie and I as we find things to do inside with the heat on!

Last night was fun though. We went to dinner and then to Books A Million. Gracie had a wonderful time playing with a wooden Thomas The Tank Engine train setup they had there. We split a hot chocolate, but left after a few sips because the patrons there were giving us the evil eye for bringing a toddler into such a literary place. We finished the hot chocolate in the car and then took her to Toys R US to make her list for Santa. I looked at the Thomas sets, but we just don't have enough room. And, you really need one of those train tables to put the set on for her really to enjoy it. Maybe when we get a house.

We rounded of our frosty evening at Wal Mart. Gracie got a winter tobogan. We are still looking for mittens. The kind they had there were too tight to get on Gracie's hand. We'll have to check some other places. For the time being her extra long sleeves are keeping her fingers warm. We picked out her winter coat last month. We had to get a 4T!! She's not even 2 yet. But, it was the best fit. I just hope she can stay in it until March or April when winter goes.

I guess mommy and baby will just have to find fun things to do inside for the next 3 to 4 months. Any ideas?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Happy Birthday Katie

Happy Birthday to my dear friend Katie.
I hope that you had a wonderful day and plenty of ice cream.
We are sorry we couldn't be in Knoxville to celebrate with you!
***The picture is from June 2004 when Katie & husband Matt met Gracie for the first time***

Being Thankful

I would like to teach Gracie what others are Thankful for. As a favor to Gracie and I, would you email or write in the comment section of this blog entry what you are thankful for. I would like to read them to her and help her understand over the next year why we give thanks.

Thank You so much,
Barbara & Garren & Gracie


From Email 11/17/05

Dear friends and family:

I know Gracie is young, but I am trying to instill values as early as possible. Over the past two days we have been getting ready for Thanksgiving. She made turkey hand prints and we have been talking about what we are thankful for. I want to teach her why we should be thankful. If you find the time today or this week, if you could email us or post a comment on our blog about what you are thankful for. I plan to read her the list and over the next year talk about why those things might be important to us or to someone else. I think that talking about being thankful and why Thanksgiving is more than just turkey, is a good thing to do even at this early age. You'll find Gracie's and mommy's thankful lists on our blog:

Thank you in advance for your help!
Barbara & Gracie

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Giving Thanks

Gracie and I talked today about being Thankful. We went through family members and thought about all the ways we were thankful for them. I know she is very young, but I would like to see her catch on to concepts like thankfulness and love for others.

I know my child very well, and I think that if she could communicate, her Thanksgiving list would go something like this: I am thankful for: Mommy & Daddy, Barney, Clifford, Po, Ice Cream, shoes, books, fruities, Grandma, Grandpa, Mariah, Mamaw, Papaw, Uncle Luke and Uncle Brian, Aunt Heather & Uncle Kenny, DJ, Ryan & Casey, Jessica & Sierra. Kids so often thank God for the things in their lives that they most cherish, and though many of the things on their lists are materialistic, I think that those "things" give them true enjoyment and they are truly thankful for them.

After thinking about it for several minutes here's mommy's list:
I am thankful most to God for giving me life and making me a wife and mother, I am thankful to Gracie for giving my life meaning, to Garren for loving me and putting up with me these past 6 years for better and worse, richer and poorer and poorer still, and sickness and health. I am thankful for Fisher-Price and Leap Frog and Baby Einstein and PBS for making parenting a little easier. I am thankful for Wal-Mart allowing me to be a stay-at-home mom by making families like ours be able to live well on a budget. I am thankful for friends, even though we don't talk much and aren't as close as we once were, they still seem to be there when you need them the most. I am thankful for Garren's job, and the fact that we have all the necessities we need and a paycheck every two weeks. I am thankful for family, and upbringing I received from them. I am also thankful for rainy days and the seasons and chocolate chip cookies. And for the women at Curves who help me every week with the courage to keep trying and to work harder to make a better and healthier me. I am thankful for my health and that I can get up every morning and sleep (almost) every night. I am thankful that I am an American and my daughter is an American and can live with many less fears than women and children around the world. I am thankful for my digital camera and the technology to share my thoughts and adventures with family and the world. And, I am thankful for the gift of another day with all my memories.

Our home is a happy and warm place to be, and I make it my job to remember every now and then, all the things that make it that way. We are truly thankful to be a family.

***Picture above is what I am most thankful for. Taken March 2003**

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Perfect Day

Today was an absolutely beautiful day here in Strasburg. The sun was warm and it was about 70 degrees outside. After Gracie's nap, I decided that we could not waste this perfect day. I gathered up the diaper bag and Gracie and we headed to the park. A few minutes after we arrived, every other mom in Strasburg got the same idea. There were about 20 or so little kids, most of them boys, in shorts and t-shirts running around trying to savor what was left of fall.

Gracie had a great time. She's much more independent now that she is more sure of herself, and she ran around the park and climbed on things- occasionally asking for help. She especially enjoyed the swing.

After an hour or so at the park, I wasn't ready to go home yet, so we stopped by my favorite second hand store and looked through the books. Gracie got 5 books and a puzzle for $2.32. (I am good aren't I!) Then we stopped by to see Daddy at work. His co-workers "ohhh-"ed and "ahhh"-ed over her and she showed Daddy her finds from the store. Still not wanting to go back inside, I took Gracie to Food Lion to get a few things that probably could have waited--but it was such a nice day!

There weren't enough warm sunny days this fall, well here anyway. It seemed like it rained too much or it was too cold to take Gracie out. I am glad that mother nature gave Gracie and I one more day in the sun before we have to cower back in our little apartment for the winter.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Gracie Meets Sierra

Garren and I got our first glimpse into what it might be like if Gracie had a sibling. Our friends Jessica and Steven came over for dinner Saturday night with their 2 week old baby Sierra. Gracie thought the baby was first. She would hug Sierra's foot and point to her and say "baby!"

As time wore on and I held the baby, and Garren held the baby; Gracie became less and less sure about this little wriggly thing. While Garren and I were taking turns getting our "baby fix," Gracie showed off all her tricks. She tossed the ball, she pulled out many, many toys, she sang her ABC's- all in an effort to divert the attention her way. Her (Gracie's) cuteness wore off, and her efforts turned in to temper tantrums. Gracie refused to eat even though I made her favorite; lasagne. She cried and insisted on being held. When it came time to put her to bed she wouldn't drink her milk or sit still for the stories, and she screamed when we removed binki to brush her teeth. She did go down okay, but she insisted on keeping her milk cup. I let her have it, but only because I knew she wasn't going to drink it, she just wanted to clutch it. I was right, I checked on her an hour later and she was sound asleep and the milk hadn't been touched.

Garren and I love our baby very much, but we don't want to keep her from other babies or children for fear she might get jealous. Jealousy is a healthy part of life, and it will take time for Gracie. After all, she has been the center of our world for nearly two years now. But, Gracie is a also a sweet and caring child, and I don't think it will be long before she starts asking when Sierra will come over to visit again. Besides, Gracie has two parents whose job it is to make her feel wonderfully special--and we take our job very seriously!

As for Sierra, she is a beautiful baby with a wild set of lungs and a hollow leg! I have never seen a baby eat that much. She drank 4 or 5 ounces in one setting, and I feed her 4 ounces earlier in the day! We were so happy to have all three of them over for the evening and hope they will come back soon.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

October 2005

Check out October 2005 family pictures from Halloween, Pumpkin Patch and more on snapfish.

On To The Next Holiday

From family email:

Hello family and friends:

I hope that you are all enjoying the fall, because winter is almost here. I am not sure if I am ready for the holidays....but I guess I don't have a choice!
We're back from Lynchburg and Gracie and I are working to get over a cold. We went to mom and dad's for Halloween and Gracie and I stayed for the week after. Gracie was an adorable elephant, and she and cousin Mariah racked up the candy while Garren, Grandpa and I froze! Luckily the rest of the week was warm and sunny and Gracie got ample time to play outside.
We are slowly getting ready for Thanksgiving. It looks like mom and dad and Garren's parents and brother are all coming to Strasburg for Thanksgiving. It will be nice to have everyone together, although I doubt any of them are coming to see us, they just want to see Gracie!
Gracie is now 20 months and can do a number of things including singing her A,B,C's, naming her colors and shapes, and counting one to ten. She can also tell you the parts of her face, hands, and feet. And, she is very good at singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" "Old Mac Donald," and "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and she enjoys pretending.
She is a wonderful handful and incredibly smart. Garren and I are so proud. She is also a giant (she gets that from her daddy), she is in 2T to 3T clothes and her size 7 Barney shoes that we just bought are snug!!! If you saw her, you would never know she wasn't even 2 yet.
I have updated my blog for the week we were gone and there are several pictures from Halloween for those of you who are interested. For those of you haven't seen it yet, you might enjoy it, I update it several times a week and there are tons of pictures on there.
Let us know how you are all doing, we would love to hear from you. Have a wonderful rest of the week and weekend!

Germs Strike Again

We are all safely back in Strasburg after a wonderful week in Lynchburg with Grandma, Grandpa and Mariah...but cold germs have struck the Shipley home yet again. Gracie woke up with a cold Monday morning, and by Wednesday I was feeling like death! I still have a stuffy head today, but Gracie is doing well.

Election Day for Garren seemed to go well. Election Day is kind of like Christmas for him. He's such a political junkie, plus this was his first election as the political reporter. He stayed at the office until midnight that night and smoked his twice annual cigar on the ride home. I am proud to say that Garren stayed on top of the election and the candidates through out the political season, and had really made a name for himself. Oh, and if you didn't vote Tuesday, don't tell Garren!! He would be terribly disappointed in you :)

We are starting preparations for Thanksgiving already. It looks like his parents, his brother and my parents will all be joining us here in Strasburg this year. It should be fun, and Gracie will enjoy being doted on by two sets of grandparents and an uncle!

Other than that not much going on here. We have gotten the apartment ready for winter and I am slowly accepting that Christmas is almost here. I guess we will have to dig the decorations and Christmas cards out soon--but not until after Thanksgiving!! One holiday at a time.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Sand Box Fun

At Grandma's and Grandpa's

Gracie had a wonderful time in Lynchburg this past week. Since mom and I were working so much on trying to get things together for a church yard sale Saturday, we didn't leave the house much. That left plenty of time for Gracie to play outside. We had beautiful weather all week. It was very warm and sunny, and I enjoyed watching Gracie run around the yard. Gracie's favorite though, was playing in the sand box. This is the first time she had ever gotten to experience a sandbox, and she kept herself busy for hours with buckets and shovels and her own two hands.

Its really wonderful when Gracie gets to play outside. Sometimes it so hard to live in an apartment where going outside is going to the parking lot. But, at Grandma and Grandpa's I make it appoint to let Gracie spend as much time outside as possible. And of course mom and dad let her rule the roost, and they leave the back door open to the deck so she can come in and out as she pleases (the door is full of windows so we can keep an eye on her, and there is a locked gate that keeps the stairs of limits).

Gracie, as usual had the best time visiting with Mariah. This week we rode to pick Mariah up from school, we saw her in her Karate class, the two went trick or treating and they spent hours giggling and playing.

As is a custom with these week long visits to Lynchburg, there never seems to be enough time to see everyone. I am sorry that we didn't get to visit more people, but we'll be back soon enough.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Trick Or Treating

Gracie's Second Halloween

Baby Gracie had a wonderful Halloween...but then, she was warm inside an extra large elephant costume and was being pushed around a neighborhood full of hills, in a stroller!

I wasn't prepared for how cold Halloween night was, but I was very glad that I had picked out the elephant costume for Gracie. It was too big, but the extra length in the arms and legs kept her hands and feet warm.

Gracie was an adorable elephant, and she liked going door to door, but her favorite part were the glow sticks that she got to hold. We had given Mariah and Gracie those sticks that glow when you snap them and shake. Gracie thought those were the neatest things and by evenings end had a handful of them.

Cousin Mariah, Grandpa, Gracie, Garren and I all braved the cold weather to take the girls trick-or-treating. Mariah was a wizard. We were out for about an hour or so and the two had huge bags of candy, which I guess was really good for Garren. Gracie is too little for candy and Mariah doesn't really like candy, she just likes to go trick-or-treating, so "Uncle Garren" got most of the bounty.

Gracie got a card from Grandma and Grandpa and "little something" to get herself a treat. She got a wooden puzzle and several books and a card from Mommy & Daddy.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Church Halloween Party

I am post dating these blog entries as we were in Lynchburg for Halloween and the week after, and we were so busy having fun, we didn't have a chance to blog :)

Gracie's second Halloween got off to a rocky start as we attended the church's Halloween party Sunday evening. We were worried that Gracie would be scared of all the holiday festivities since she has been so frightened of things lately like large stuffed animals, animal sounds on the computer, etc.

Gracie wasn't much for the church's party. They had the lights off and a fog machine running, and baby Gracie clinched tight to her daddy and I. Garren and I had decided not to shy away from the party or take her home early, we want her to feel safe, but we want her to know that there isn't anything to be scared of. My concern is that if we leave things without exploring them she will grow up to be scared of everything.

Gracie was held for about 45 minutes or so, and then she began to see what fun the other kids were having. She played with the pumpkin game (after everyone had left), she chased the other kids, and then she had the best time of all picking up the candy off the floor after the kids broke the pinata. Garren had taken Gracie up for her turn to swat at the pinata, but our little piglet replied with her usual "no-kay."

When they turned the lights on in the church fellowship hall, our shy baby turned into a giggling ball of energy! She liked getting the attention from the bigger kids, and she really liked the food! I can only imagine how much sugar Gracie consumed that night...but I wasn't surprised when it took so long to get her to go to sleep that night!

When we left Gracie got a treat bag, and she won a prize, and some how the fake worms she and her daddy had been grossing me out with all night ended up in our bag! All in all we had a delicious family fun night.

Picture is of Grandpa and Gracie dressed as "Piglet."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Our Little Soccor Player

Gracie showed us the Saturday we arrived in Lynchburg what she can do if we give her a few feet of grass. I always knew that she would be a soccor star, after all she kicked many a scoring goal in my belly those last few months.

Congratulations Gracie, you can kick a ball!!