Friday, March 31, 2006

And so passes a fan...

Notice: Only Marginally Related to Gracie

Sad news from the Shipley house today. After 20 years of faithful service, the long-suffering Lasko pedestal fan has been decomissioned and disassembled.

Purchased from Lowe's (I think) sometime around 1986, the fan entered service in our family home at Kelley Gap, where it lulled us to sleep, cooled us off and generally kept us happy. From there, it was moved to the new home in Limestone.

A few years later, it followed me to my first home in Gray, then on to Kingsport after Barbara and I were wed in 2000. By this time, it had lost its front grill, had developed what sounded like a death rattle and needed a harmonic counterbalance (i.e., a towel) on the back to keep it from shaking itself to pieces.

In 2003, it came with us to Virginia, where it's condition worsened. After taking on a sound much like a helicopter in late 2005, a late-night rebuild took off its oscillation function in favor of stability.

Finally, last week, it passed the point of no return, shaking and rattling when balanced by even the most stable of counterweights.

On Friday, I put a new 16" Lasko fan in the bedroom. While this $17 investment should hold us until 2026, I can't help but feel sad. It's a nice fan, but it's just not the same. The old one will be missed.

Feel free to post your own memorials below.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My First Book

I wrote my first book today. My first love has always been writing, and I knew someday I would write a book that would be read, well read by at least more than me. My first "book" was one I co-wrote with a friend of mine in 6th grade, then there was the family history book I wrote and distributed to family members in college. Okay, so this is my third book, but I think I am the most proud of this one.

I decided to write Gracie a book about letting go of binki. I took many pictures throughout the day to emphasis my point, and I used the pictures as illustrations. It came out rather well. I printed it out and I will do some craft work to it to make it look more like a book tomorrow so we can read it together tomorrow at bedtime.

Well I am very proud. It's not the same without the pictures that go along with it...but here's the story.

Gracie and Binki
A Story About Letting Go
By: Barbara Miller Shipley
Once upon a time there was a wonderfully happy and bright toddler named Gracie who was loved very much by her mommy and daddy.

Gracie had lots of friends to play with in her room, like Lamby and Bunny. But, the friend that Gracie loved the most was her binki.

Gracie and binki had been together ever since the day Gracie was born. The binki had changed colors over the past two years, but he was still comforting and Gracie loved him very much.
One day, Gracie’s mommy who loved her very much, told Gracie that binki was tired and that binki would need to rest more during the day.

Mommy told Gracie she could still have binki at naptime and bedtime.

Gracie was very sad that she couldn’t have binki anytime she wanted anymore, but she knew that her mommy loved her and that her mommy knew what was best for her.
It wasn’t always easy for Gracie to be without binki. Sometimes she would shout out for binki and cry.

Gracie’s mommy knew it would be hard for Gracie to let go of binki, and so she gave Gracie lots of extra hugs.

And, sometimes Gracie would really want binki and it was very hard to stop thinking about binki. So, Gracie’s mommy would find things to help Gracie forget that she was missing her binki.
One afternoon, Gracie wanted her binki, and she started to look for it.

She looked in her room, on her bookshelf, and in her closet—but binki was no where to be found!

“Where is my binki!” Gracie shouted. She really missed her friend.

She started to think about the places she had been that day and where she may have left binki. “What if he is lost?” Gracie moaned.
Gracie thought very hard. She didn’t remember having binki this morning when Mommy dressed her.
And, binki wasn’t there when she ate her lunch.
Binki wasn’t there this morning at the park when she and mommy had lots of fun climbing and swinging and sliding.

And, she didn’t remember seeing binki in the car on the ride home.
Binki wasn’t there during fun at the water table when she splashed and poured the water and had so much fun.

Binki wasn’t there while she played in the sandbox with all the cups and spoons.

“Where did binki go?” Gracie wondered.
Gracie was starting to feel very sad, so her mommy gave her a big hug and played tea party with Gracie.

Then Gracie found some fun books she wanted to read, and then she and mommy took a walk.

Gracie had forgotten all about binki, and her quest to find him.
Gracie ate her dinner and daddy gave her a nice warm bath before bedtime.

Then, Gracie remembered binki. She had looked for him earlier and couldn’t remember where she had left him. Gracie began to cry again, she missed binki very much.

After Gracie got her pajamas on and cuddled up to daddy for a bedtime story, Mommy brought binki to Gracie. Mommy said that binki had gotten plenty of rest, and that he had missed her too!
Gracie didn’t really need binki that day. She had lots of fun playing at the playground, splashing at the water table, and playing tea party with mommy.

And, the next time Gracie thinks about binki and misses him, she will remember that she will get to see binki when it is time for bed.

Gracie isn’t ready to give binki up yet, but for now she is learning that she doesn’t need binki all the time, and bedtime is enough for now.
The End

Happy Birthday Uncle Kenny

Happy Birthday Kenny !
We hope that you have had a wonderful day
with Heather and the boys and the rest of your family in Illinois.
We hope there was lots of cake too!
Our love to you all!
Barbara, Garren & Gracie

Legislation... or how I learned to read without moving my eyes

Warning: Low Gracie Content

Everybody knows I'm a reporter, and that I troll the General Assembly of Virginia to make a living. The thought hit me today while I was sitting at my desk — does anyone really know what I do?

Probably not. So as I'm pouring over 85 pages of legislation, you can take a look and see what it is that occupies my days. Click here. Wow. See that? For better or worse, I understand that. And I've got 1,000 words to explain what it means to someone with a 6th grade education. By 6 p.m.

For some real fun, click on the full text link. Ready... type! I actually crashed the iBook of Mild Peril (a smaller repalcement for the iBook of Doom) by having too many files open at once today.

There are days when this job is a lot of fun. There are days when I'd rather be changing diapers. ... this is a diaper day.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Help! I have to Go!

This entry will likely invoke a lot of laughs from those mom's out there who have likely experienced this same dilemma. Then, again, most moms probably faced this when their baby was a newborn!

Blame it on luck, or staying at home to much, but I have never been alone with Gracie in public and had to go to the bathroom. Now, I remind you that I can't stand public restrooms and when Gracie was a baby (and still today), if we are out I will change her in her stroller or in the car. Public restrooms have way too many germs! So, if you know me at all you know that I will wait to tinkle until I get home.

But today, here I was in the mall, 30 minutes from home, and I really have to go. I had put Gracie in her big stroller and I had no choice but to make a potty stop. I wheeled her in to the women's restroom with the plan that I would lock her in the handicapped stall with me while still safely in her stroller. Good plan huh? Unfortunately another mom had already taken the chosen stall, and it was clear that she was going to be a while as she coaxed her daughter to go. Now what!

I couldn't wait. I reached in the diaper bag and grabbed out a toy to keep Gracie's hands occupied and away from any germ-ridden surfaces. Gracie was already crying because we were in this tiny hot I had to be quick. I pushed her stroller up against the stall as close as possible and closed the door. I held her feet from under the stall door and went as quickly as I could, watching her every painstaking second through the crack in the door. Gracie screamed as I was cut off from her view.

I don't think I have ever made a "pit stop" that fast! I practically ran to the sink pulling Gracie with me to wash up while Gracie sat sobbing, and the other mom in the restroom chuckled at the panicked look on my face. I don't ever want to have to do that again! Yes, I realize that the world didn't end, but either I drink less water, or Garren quits his job and goes everywhere with us! :)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mommy's Big Girl

Today Gracie and Mommy spent a warm afternoon at the park, and I found that my shy little ladybug had turned into a brave butterfly.

I knew it was bound to happen. Surely, she wouldn't cling to me forever.

Garren and I started to notice a change in her when we took her to the mall this weekend and let her play in the kids playroom. She was climbing steps by herself and sitting down and going down the slide by herself. No longer did I have to pick her up and place her at the top of the slide and hold her hand as she went down. I was excited for her as I tried hard not to follow her around the indoor playground. Garren says I hover.

Anyway, back to this afternoon. My big girl ran all over that playground, and she didn't wait for me to help at all! Our playground here is one of those that has twisting and turning steps and a bridge and much more. It didn't take her long to climb several wooden steps and slide down the medium slide without help. 15 minutes later she was going down the really, really big slide. I asked her "are you sure you don't want me to go with you?!!" She said "Sure momma... go!" And down she went, and laughed when she got to the bottom.

As if that wasn't exciting enough, Gracie decided to be even more adventurous. She climbed up more steps that led to a swinging bridge that she has always been afraid of. I watched her giggle as she crossed the bridge and looked down through the slats at me waiting for her on the ground which was at least 6 feet down.

I couldn't get over the change that has taken place in my toddler. She is more independent and brave than ever before. I guess I really haven't stunted her emotional growth after all! Good thing I still get tons of kisses, or I wouldn't be able to make it through this "look at me momma!" phase at all!

**The picture above is of her at the bottom of the medium slide.**

Finally Ready

Guess what! I am finally ready to be a stay at home mom.

I hit a wonderful point in my life today as I realized that I can do it. It may not be perfect, but I can do it!

Garren left early this morning for Richmond, so I was alone with Gracie, which isn't that unusual but its important that you know I couldn't just call and ask him to come home today.

It was such a beautiful day I didn't want to waste it. So, after "brunch" I dressed Gracie and we headed to the park. You can read more about the exciting time Gracie had in the above entry. But, this trip to the park proved that Gracie wasn't the only person in this family learning to be stronger.

When Gracie decided to go down the HUGE slide by herself I knew I had to get down quickly as well. Gracie started to run off to something more exciting, and I didn't want to take the time to climb down all those steps since she was running and I wanted to keep an eye on her. Now, I have gone down this slide a hundred times with Gracie on my lap...but this time, I tried to sit down too quickly and my foot fell out from underneath me and I fell onto the slide from a nearly standing position and then slid down. The pain didn't hit until after the extreme dizziness and immediate nausea. I was fighting just to stand up and not throw up, and trying to find Gracie. I somehow made it to a large post and I wrapped my arms around it to steady myself. Meanwhile, Gracie is climbing and climbing. I stood there praying over and over again for me not to pass out, I had to keep an eye on Gracie. I found my way to a bench and sat still for 10 minutes as Gracie, still oblivious, had a good time. I knew I couldn't drive us home until I could stand up with out falling over, and Garren was in Richmond (3 hours away). So, 15 minutes later I grabbed a very upset Gracie and headed to the car. She was furious that I wouldn't let her stay and play. She kept taking her hand away and running, and since I couldn't pick her up, I grabbed an overall strap and held her close to my body until we got to the car. Somehow I got us home and got her upstairs and got her hands washed, but it was 3 hours until the nausea and dizziness completely went away. I had overcome just one of the obstacles life had thrown at me that day.

I received more challenges after dinner. Gracie wanted mac and cheese and I didn't argue. Then, she wanted grapes, no problem. But, half way through the grapes Gracie begins to smell. I don't want to gross readers out, but it was very bad and the Pamper she had on didn't contain it. I laid her down and started to change her, half way through, Gracie flips over and throws up every thing she has eaten! Now I am covered in poop and puke and all I could think about was calming a shaking Gracie down and getting it away from her nose and mouth.

I slipped right in to "mommy mode." I stripped Gracie down and headed straight for the tub. I got Gracie cleaned up and soothed her, and she was just fine! After her bath, I turned on Baby Einstein and cleaned up the very messy living room.

Now, the point of these stories is not to complain. Ordinarily after a day like this I would be banging my fingers on the keys and going on and on in a blog or email about the disastrous day. But, not today. I feel like I earned my wings. Not because of all the trials, but because I handled them all, and handled them well! You see, I am very proud of everything I found out I could do today! I didn't panic, I kept my head at all times, and when another challenge reared its head I remained calm and in control!

So, now I guess I am finally ready to be a stay at home mom!

By the way my tailbone is soooo bruised, as is my rear-end and my right hip. I am still in pain but I will survive. And, I don't think Gracie threw up as much as choked on a grape. She had dumped the cup of grapes I had given her when I told her she needed to be changed. I thought I had picked them all up, but I think she may have had one in her mouth that I didn't see. I think she choked and then threw up. I am not sure, but she was just fine when I put her to bed--although, I plan to watch her a lot more carefully when she eats grapes!!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Family Outing

Gracie's First Bowling Trip

Garren and I took Gracie on her very first bowling outing. We had intended just to take her and let her watch others play and see how she liked it. As you can imagine, it didn't take long before she was trying to run on to the lanes and throw her own ball!

We took her to a family recreation facility here in Strasburg, where smoking is banned. She couldn't wait until the ball hit the pins, and then she would yell "crash!!!!" We were a little disapointed that the balls were too heavy for her to carry and drop a few feet, but she had fun anyway counting down so mommy and dadd could throw the balls. She would get to excited and count "one, three, go!!!" I think we embarassed her a little. If I missed the "spare" as they call it, and didn't hit any pins, Gracie would look at me with this disapointed face. When the pins did go "crash!!!" though, she would jump and clap as if she had won the lottery.

She was too cute though at the bowling alley. I got several pictures and I am adding this video for those of you who can view it. Our family had a great time!

More bowling pictures are in the March Snapfish folder.

Happy Birthday Grandma

Happy 27th Birthday Grandma
(wink, wink!)
Love you soooooo much!
Come and play with me again real soon, I miss you!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Life's Not Fair!

Gracie's view of the day.

This morning mommy went to the gym, but it seemed like she was gone forever! I screamed, and screamed for 15 minutes, but she didn't come back when I wanted her to.

I didn't want to take a nap today, but mommy made me anyway. I fussed and kicked, but she still made me lay still. She didn't win, my eyes just fell shut.

After nap, mommy put my binki up. I wanted my binki sooo bad, and I screamed for 5 minutes and pulled on the refrigerator, but mommy wouldn't give me my binki back. I went in to my room to pout, and I wanted to stay angry, but my blocks made me play.

Mommy gave me a bath this afternoon, and I wanted to stay in the tub. It had only been 20 minutes and I wasn't that pruny! I kicked and screamed while she got me dressed, but she didn't put me back in the water. I was going to stay mad longer but mommy cheated and rubbed lotion on my tickle spot under my chin! I wanted to stay mad!

Tonight we got to go shopping for groceries, I wanted to run around the neat store, but Daddy wouldn't let me. I had to sit in the cart, and when Daddy let me down while Mommy put the groceries on the moving table, I got in trouble for running on the shiny floor. I whimpered and fussed when Daddy put me in the cart again, because he wouldn't let me run. I wanted to hear my shoes as they flop on the floor!

At dinner, mommy and daddy tricked me and said broccoli was little trees. So I tried it and liked it, but I know that I am probably not supposed to like it. Then, mommy took a picture. She said she would show me the picture when I am 6 to prove that I did try it and like it!

During books and milk, I wanted juice--not milk! I screamed "JUICY! JUICY!" Mommy brought me the juice, but told me I wasn't aloud to scream for things I wanted. But, I like to scream!

Tonight, I didn't want to go to bed, but I decided that it wasn't worth fussing over. All the fussing I did today wore me out, and so I just laid down and rested. And, that's not fair, I wanted to stay up real late!

Gracie's Pictures Are Back!

Yea, I got an email from JC Penney's today. They have put Gracie's pictures on line. These are low resolution pictures, but you can see just how cute they are! Instead of confusing everyone by giving the link and code I just put them on snapfish so all can enjoy. So view the rest of the pics here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Fun Day With Daddy

Since Garren was off today (comp day), we thought that it would be fun to get Gracie out of the house and have a family fun day. We had a difficult weekend with a cranky Gracie, and we were in the mood for some fun.

With few choices of things to do "out" in this area, and since we went to the library Saturday, further reducing our choices...we opted for a trip to Winchester. Garren wanted to check out the new "Borders," and since it was so cold, I thought a hearty walk around the mall would do Gracie some good.

We let her window shop, and she got to try the lotions at Bath and Body Works, and she and Garren had fun in the arcade. But, her favorite stop was at the playground they have for kids in the mall. I say playground, really its a room full of those plastic houses and slides you can buy from Toys R US, the big ones people put in their backyards. Anyway, since Gracie isn't around other kids, I was curious to see how she would react in a room full of them.

I didn't need to be worried. We were only there for a few minutes before she hugged this little boy who wanted to play in the same "house" as she did. They hadn't even played together or even talked...she just went up and hugged him.

Gracie had a wonderful time, and we found that she was very brave and tried all sorts of things that we didn't know she could do. She climbed on things and went down slides without help. Her daddy and I were very impressed! After thoroughly wiping her hands, we headed home for a nap.

All in all it was a good family day.

**Picture above from the play room at the mall. Gracie had an especially good time playing peak-a-boo with the shutters on this adorable play house!***

Sunday, March 19, 2006

We Now Have Videos

How exciting! I have figured out how to include videos of Gracie on my blog. While, this may not excite you per se, the grandparents are just as thrilled as I am. Two are now on the front page of this blog. The first is of Gracie's parade through the living room last week, the other is at the bottom of the page, and is of Gracie's birthday (cake).

If you have dial up this page shouldn't take any longer to load, but the videos may take a minute to load and play.

I really hope that you enjoy these, but if you don't---don't kill my buzz!! :)

Want to watch more?

Gracie's Snow Day 1
Gracie's Snow Day 2
Gracie Reads to Daddy

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy Green Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!
We hope that you had a great "green day," and if it was warm enough where you were, we hope you spent the day in the green...grass that is.

Gracie and I had a little Green Day celebration by inviting the "girls" from the apartment up for some snacks and fun. Gracie wore a green smocked dress. For snacks I fished out 15-20 green Care Bear fruities (it took 20 packages at least to find that many! The rest are in a ziplock bag), I made green cool-aid, and we had some chips. The neighbors brought a green cake and green rice crispy treats. I decorated a little, but not as much as usual, I just had some construction paper shamrocks and I found a piece of scrap material that had shamrocks on it for the table. But, I think everyone had a good time. The littler girls played in Gracie's sandbox and had a good time watching Gracie run around full of sugar! It was a good day for all.

**Picture above of Gracie and LeLu having a good time and enjoying the cake!**

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Our Parade

Oh what fun a pie pan makes. And, what a neat sound it makes too! Gracie and I had a mini parade around the living room this afternoon. Did you know that the cymbals can be played on your head? Gracie was so proud of her music. Now, we just need to work on our band uniforms.

***By the way, Gracie did get dressed today, and then she got back into her pajamas after getting herself soaking wet at the "water table." ****

Gracie Cavity

No Gracie doesn't have one, but I am afraid that my blog readers might.

I read a blog by another mother the other day, one that I know, but not real well (we went to H.S together, but she is younger)...anyway, she wrote something to the effect that she had distanced herself from other mothers who talked positively about their kids. She said she didn't need the stress in her life that women who brag about their kids bring. It got me to thinking.

Now, I shouldn't have to explain myself or apologize for my blog or what I write, after all they are my thoughts and feelings. But, after two years, I have slowly gotten fewer emails from friends (especially those that have kids), my blog hits have significantly decreased...etc. And I think that all of my gushing over Gracie may have contributed. Let me set a few things straight.

1. Just because I am a stay at home mom doesn't mean I am better than you. It also doesn't mean I have no other skills or that I sit around and eat bon-bons. It means that it was a choice I wanted to make to spend the first few years with my child. I wanted to take responsibility for her early education and upbringing. I do not think working mom's are terrible mothers, or that they have it easier. In fact, I think that working mom's are the real super-mom's. They can do it all. I envy their stamina. And for the record, I have a college degree and was an established television news producer before trading in my 12 hour days at the office for 24 hour days at home.

2. I have every right to be proud of and gush over my adorable toddler. She is a wonderful person and by far the greatest thing I have ever done. Just think, what a wonderful life each child could have if their parents trumpeted their accomplishments every chance they got.

3. Life in this house is NOT perfect. While I may focus on the positive when it comes to my blog...any one who has ever read more than 5 entries would know that my life is sometimes crazy, always hectic, and never boring. In fact I am now dealing with a toddler who hasn't had a nap, and got soaking wet while I playing at the "water table." I certainly don't think that I give the illusion that Gracie is the perfect child, but if I do--let me clear it up! She is not a perfect child. I love her more than anything, but she is a real handful!

4. The blog was created, first, because we are 2 and a half hours from the nearest relative. We have family and close friends that span from Chicago to Lynchburg to the Tri Cities to Knoxville and Nashville, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia. The blog was created to let them see how Gracie was growing. This technology wasn't even a dream when I was a kid, or maybe my grandparents could have kept up with how I was doing a little better. Secondly, I keep this blog as a journal. Gracie won't always be a baby, and someday I may not be around to tell her how much I loved her. What a wonderful way to show your child how much they meant to you by writing down their accomplishments and sharing pictures of their firsts. Even without the blog, Gracie will always know she is loved, but now their is a permanent record for all those times she may forget.

This concludes my tirade. Just because I do things differently doesn't mean they are wrong. Mothers have to stop this battle they have with each other over who's child is better, smarter, etc. Its pointless, your child will never be able to compare to another's, and they shouldn't have to. Stop distancing yourself from other mom's or other women just because they are proud of their child or children, aren't you proud of yours? And, lastly, don't judge me for staying at home, or telling friends and family what Gracie is doing now, or sharing some little bit of experience I have acquired. I am a good mom, I am a good person, and I can be a great friend.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Gracie's Bilingual!

Gracie exceeded all expectations yesterday as she spoke her first Spanish word. You didn't know she was so smart now did you?!

Okay, really she repeated her first Spanish word thanks to Dora the Explorer. I was playing one of those online games from Nick Jr. with her where you catch stars. The Dora character would say "estraya." (Okay, I am going to have to look up how you actually spell that...but that was how it sounded) Anyway, after several star catchings, Gracie pointed to a star on the screen for me to catch and said "estraya!" I was proud. The good part is that Gracie knows that they are stars. Actually, "star" was one of her first words.

In other news: I took Gracie to have her pictures done at Penney's today. They came out so well. Gracie was so adorable, in fact, that the photographer asked me if she could order some for the studio to display. They really were the best pictures I have seen.

I really like the pictures to show more than just how Gracie is physically growing. I like to focus on things that she is doing at that time in her life. Like for her first birthday pictures she was standing and walking, so I had them take her picture holding on to a chair. At 18 months she was really into books, so I took her favorites along and they were included in the pictures of her "reading." When she was younger I took her favorite stuffies to be included. So this time, since she is really into pretend, I got the brilliant idea to take a few pieces of her tea set. The photographer set up a make shift table and we got the cutest shots of Gracie having her own tea party! I can't wait to share them with all of you. When we left, Gracie hugged the photographer, and she actually asked me to bring her back for Easter pictures. It was a great day!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Frustrating Weekend

She looks cute doesn't she? That adorable little smile, the way she holds her precious!

HA! That's what you think! :) The beautiful weather this weekend was marred by a cranky toddler on a mission to ruin it for the rest of us. Friday through today (even as we speak), Gracie has been practically unbearable. She has thrown multiple temper tantrums, fought and fought us over naps, won't eat....the list goes on.

The worst part is, you get so mad at her you practically can't stand it, and just when you can't take any more--she's fine. I believe this is some sort of parental test. Kind of like those standardized tests kids have to take at the end of each school year. Now that gracie is two, we are being tested to see if we have retained everything we learned.

Because of Gracie's difficulty and inability to take a nap, I still haven't gotten to take her to JC Penney's and have birthday pictures done, and she still hasn't gotten to go to Toys R Us (where they do a little birthday thing for the kids, like a balloon and announce their names).

So, this is how the weekend has gone. The picture above was from one of the peaceful moments before we headed out to church. Clearly the service didn't phase her, because she is throwing a temper tantrum for her Daddy, who is again trying to get her to take a nap.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dinner Picnic

Since Gracie and I had such a wonderful afternoon outside, and Garren wasn't going to be home for dinner--I thought "what about a picnic?" So, after playing some more ball after nap, and another visit to see the goats, I took Gracie to Subway. We got sandwiches and dined al fresco. (In French that means "on the tiny apartment deck.")

What a neat experience. Gracie thought it was great as she scarfed down 1/3 of my foot long sub, and only picked the cheese off of hers :) She had so much fun, that she convinced me to leave the deck door open, and she is currently running in and out and talking to the ceramic bunnies that are on the deck (they used to be on Lou's porch).

Anyway, I learned several interesting things during our dinner conversation. 1. Gracie loves Fruit Roll Ups. She got her first taste of one tonight, as it came in the Subway Kid's Pack. 2. We have an ocean in the back yard. I am not sure where it is, but she kept saying "Look momma, trees....Look momma ocean."

We are getting quite a bargain on our rent. Can you imagine how much ocean front property goes for these days!

Surely, The Lord Answers Prayers

Gracie and I just spent the last hour outside playing, and it was truly wonderful. After last night's blog entry I was really down about the apartment and feeling like I was squashing Gracie's curiosity. But, today the Lord answered my prayers for an early spring.

Even if it only lasted a day, surely this break will be enough to get through until the warm stays for good. It is about 65 degrees I would guess, even though it is overcast.

I took the huge ball that Grandma and Grandpa got her while they were down, outside with us. We played ball, and then we went to check the mail (not here yet), then we went to say hi to the goats that live behind us. They didn't feel like playing today, but we talked to them anyway as they sat and chewed their lunch on the hill. Then we came back for more ball, and a parade. Gracie was excited when I reassured her that she could march. The picture above sums up perfectly her mood while we were outside. We have come in for a break and a nap. She is currently playing in the water, and I will get a book and get the room ready for nap after I post.

It is a new day, and I am feeling better!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bad Day For Neighbors

My back is killing me, there is soapy water still in the tub, and soggy bath toys littered all over the floor. There are mounds of trash that need to be taken to the dumpster, I still haven't cleaned up from dinner, and my living room is covered with an elaborate Geo Tracks set up. But, none of those things were the hardest part of my day.

Many times today I had to tell Gracie "no." Not to the things most mothers might say no to, but to innocent things that you can't do if you have neighbors that live underneath you.

Gracie is a wonderful toddler full of energy, and I continue to have to curb that amazing spirit. Several times Gracie beat on the floor with various items. Not, in a rage, but just to hear the noise it made. Many more times, she was practicing "marching" as she sang some sort of marching song. And, in the tub she wanted to listen to her hands smack the water on the walls to hear the neat sound it made. (She also wanted to march in the tub, but that was dangerous, so I didn't feel as bad when I told her no.) I even had to hide the new basketball she got with her birthday money becuase she wanted to bounce it, and I had to restrict her use of the gigantic ball Grandma and Grandpa gave her to the day.

Now, I am sure that many of you would offer the same answer: "find a house." That isn't as simple as it sounds. We live in NOVA and it is extremely expensive to live and/or rent a home. Picking up and moving, as much as Garren and I both want too, is easier said than done.

I guess I won't feel as bad when spring gets here and I can take her outside. But, I can't help but feel like I am suppressing that curious innocence that Gracie has. I am sure most of you have lived in an apartment at one time or another, so you know the difference between "apartment manners," and getting do anything you want in your own home.

On the brighter side, the people who live under us are at work all day. But, then that brings me to a quandary: how can I let her make noise and stomp during the day, and tell her "no" in the evenings. That is way to confusing.

In the meantime, I guess I will just pray for spring.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gracie's Birthday Dress

I wanted to show off Gracie's birthday dress that she got this year from Aunt Lou and Grandma. Lou had started smocking several dresses for Gracie, but since her hands weren't as steady as they had been, she asked mom to actually sew the dress together. This was the first one mom finished, and just in time for Gracie's birthday. How wonderful it was to have Lou still be apart of Gracie's special days.

Mom also brought a small crocheted yellow afghan that Lou made for Gracie when she was born. But, since she had already given me several other quilts, she was holding on to this one for a later date. What a precious gift for us both.

Grandma did an excellent job getting the dress finished, and I love it! I can't wait to take Gracie to Penney's to get her birthday photos done.

Oh, No! No Max & Ruby!!

Many of you other parents out there have probably already gone through this with your little ones, but I am still dealing with the loss of prized shows.

We continue to deal with PBS' "Beg-for-Money-Weeks," when they abbreviate Gracie's favorite shows and put them on 15-30 minutes earlier than scheduled to have enough time to ask for more funding. But, at least it is over in a week. We are even dealing with how the networks cater to the big kids (who will ask mom and dad to buy the products on the commercials) on holidays and summers by stopping the toddler programs several hours earlier than usual. But, now we have completely lost another of Gracie's favorite shows all together.

Several months ago, PBS re-did their scheduling and mixed everything up. We got used to Clifford coming on in the afternoons, but Gracie was very upset that Teletubbies had been completely removed. Now, Nick Jr. has sacrificed "Max & Ruby," one of the cutest shows ever and Gracie's new favorite!

Gracie doesn't watch that much TV. I have really tried to cut back. But, I can't deprive her of her favorites: Barney, Clifford and Max & Ruby.

I guess its a good thing that last weekend we noticed that there are "Max & Ruby" VHS videos at Wal Mart for $6.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Teary Goodbye

I knew there would come a day when Gracie would start to form bonds with other members of the family besides Garren and I. It is easy when they are infants to pass them around like footballs to family and watch their faces light up and not know the difference when you load up and go home. While I am still not sure Gracie understands the concept of time (I am pretty sure she is still in the "out of sight, out of mind phase" except when it comes to me), she has started to figure out that we can't see people anytime we want.

I noticed last trip to mom and dad's, that Gracie was leary of saying goodbye to them, and she would get upset when Mariah would leave. But, this weekend was an eye opener.

On Sunday afternoon, I told Gracie that grandma and grandpa would have to leave soon. It took about 2 minutes to sink in, and then when grandpa put her on his lap she broke out into tears. I could tell by the look on her face she understood that it would be a while before she would see them again, and she didn't want them to leave. She had a wonderful time while they were here. They played and did all sorts of things together, including buying and playing with a huge ball from Walmart that mommy and daddy wouldn't let her have.

She ran to me still crying. After a few minutes she got down and went in her room to hide. I think in her mind, if she doesn't tell you goodbye, you can't leave. We coaxed her back out and told her she needed to give grandma and grandpa goodbye hugs and kisses, and the tears re-surfaced. She finally hugged grandma, but wouldn't hug grandpa. We told her she would see them again very soon, and dad picked her up. She hugged and held him so tight and wouldn't let him put her down. Grandpa got lots of hugs and kisses before he begrudgently gave her up.

It broke Garren's and my heart to watch her say goodbye. It has been hard living so far from family, but we weren't ready for the impact that it would have on Gracie some day. She seems fine today, but she wouldn't take a nap yesterday after they left, and she was quite difficult until bedtime.

We knew her little heart was hurting. And, that's why it is so important to us that we visit as often as we can. Mom and Dad make such an effort to stay connected to Gracie. They call and email, send her cards and kisses, they visit us and we visit them. I am so thankful for everything they do for Gracie, and for us--besides laundry quarters!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Gracie Turns Two

From Family Email March 5, 2006:

Dear Friends & Family:

Gracie had a wonderful second birthday, or so it seems. Garren says it was more like a "birthday weekend extravaganza." But, I say there is nothing wrong with celebrating your only daughter's birth. On Thursday we had a little party with two mom's and daughters here in our apartment. I made a ton of homemade decorations from a pack of construction paper, including paper hats! I made cookies and cool aid and made little gift baggies for the guests to take home. This year's birthday theme was barnyard, and Gracie seemed to really enjoy it. On Saturday, mom and dad came down and completely spoiled her! We had birthday cake and Gracie was adorable in her jean dress and red cowboy hat. Mostly she got pieces to go with the Geo Tracks train set she got for Christmas, but she also got some other fun goodies and clothes. She had a great time with Daddy and Grandpa as they played with the trains. There are now two trains, so Daddy and Gracie can each have one to operate (I am not sure who enjoys the toy more! :) Grandma and Grandpa also took her to dinner at the Ponderosa Steak House.

Since today was her technical birthday, we spent the day playing and then we took her to La Carretta for a birthday dinner. She loves Mexican almost as much as her mommy! She filled up on salsa and chips, but saved some room for her quesadilla and Spanish rice. Grandma and Grandpa left about 3 today to a much teary-eyed Gracie.

All in all Gracie had a marvelous time. She has grown so much in the past year. She is now 37 inches tall! She remains in the 99th percentile for height. My big girl. And, she is doing so many neat things. She is trying so hard to jump, but just can't quite get both feet off the ground. She is very witty, and makes us laugh with the things she says like: "Aww, com'on momma--please!" Or like the other day when Garren changed her she said "fresh as a daisy!" She is such a doll.

Thank you to those of you who sent cards and gifts, we love that you remembered her on her special day. I have included a few pictures, but here is a link to more. You can find out more about what Gracie is doing these days, along with more pictures on her blog.

Our love to you all! Let us know how you are doing!

Barbara, Garren & Gracie

Happy Birthday Gracie

Happy 2nd Birthday Gracie!
What a wonderful and exciting day for all of us.
You have been a special joy in all our lives and we love you so much.
We can't wait to see what new and exciting things you will learn and do this year.
You are very special girl, and lots of people are sending you birthday wishes today.
Mommy & Daddy
See all the pictures from Gracie's birthday parties here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Celebrating With Family

Grandma & Grandpa arrived today to celebrate Gracie's second birthday. Since the family was in, we decided to sing and do birthday cake this afternoon. I made a yellow cake with chocolate icing and decorated the top with green sugar sprinkles to simulate grass, and then added some animals to make a barnyard themed birthday cake. I kept up the decorations from Thursday's tea party, and Grandma and Grandpa brought a red cowboy hat to finish off the theme. Gracie had a great time.

Learning from our mistakes last year, we all helped open gifts so that Gracie wouldn't get overwhelmed like she did at her last birthday and Christmas. Grandma and Grandpa gave her some clothes and pieces for her Geo Tracks train. Our friend Sara sent her the cutest wooden animals set (now Grandma wants one :); friends the Collins' sent Gracie a Fisher Price Ice Cream game that she adored, Dora slippers, a Little People book, and some ABC flash cards that I am excited to get to use. Mamaw, Papaw, and Uncle Luke couldn't make it this year, so they decided to let Gracie pick out her own gifts. We will likely take her shopping on Tuesday. Mommy and Daddy gave Gracie a Geo Tracks airport, a Little Touch Leap Frog and book to go with it, along with several books to read and a puzzle.

We thank you all for the wonderful gifts that you sent! You are all so sweet to remember Gracie.

Watch The Video!

Gracie's Birthday Cake

Gracie's barnyard birthday cake. I think I did rather well don't you?!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gracie's 24 Months

Gracie will be 2 on Sunday, and what a wonderful two years it has been! It's exciting and sad at the same time to watch her grow.

We have so many kind friends and family who share this blog, I thought that maybe you would enjoy walking with me down memory lane. Watch Gracie grow up "in pictures." Help me remember more moments by putting your "Gracie Memories" here in the comment section.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gracie's Birthday Tea

Gracie was an adorable birthday princess this afternoon, as we hosted another "tea party" for our apartment friends. Gracie's birthday theme this year is "barnyard," so I decked the place out with plenty of farm animal cutouts and playsets. Our guests seemed to have a good time as the other girls played in Gracie's room while the mothers talked. We served fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, popcorn, animal crackers, and m&m's.

I have posted a picture with the construction paper crown I made for her. We all had a splendid time, and are looking forward to more birthday fun this weekend when Grandma and Grandpa come in.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Water Fun Time

Gracie and I watched an episode of "Blue's Clue's" today where Periwinkle goes to his first day at school. There were all sorts of fun activities, including a water table. Gracie loves the water so much, and I have seen those water and sand tables at WalMart. I would love for her to have one, but there just isn't enough room in this small apartment. And, it is still to cool for outdoor water play.

So, being the genius and benevolent mother that I am, I decided to fill the bathroom sink with warm water and pick out a few fun toys for her to play with. You should have seen the huge smile that came across her face when I let her climb on her stool and play in the water. She had the best time. I had to remind her 2-3 times not to splash. The last time I reminded her she said "oh mom, come on, please!" It was too cute! I have no idea where she learned that phrase, but it was precious.

Unfortunately, Gracie had too good of a time. She cried and cried when I told her we had to clean up and and get ready for a nap. But, since she was such a good girl and loved it so much, I am sure we can have more "water table" fun in the future.

PS: Note to self (and daddy) we need to find some little boats for the "water table." She enjoyed the cups the most, but I think she would love some little boats to sail!

More Pictures from today's water fun