Thursday, August 31, 2006

Back To School Tea Party

This afternoon Gracie and I hosted one of our monthly "tea parties" for the other girls and their moms in the apartment. I decided since the older two would start school on Tuesday, what a great time to get together. We had snacks of goldfish crackers, and cool aid and other sweet treats including a cheesecake desert I made.

What made this "tea party' different was that I had crafts for the girls to do. Mom had given me some left over Bible School craft supplies and I let the girls decorate a wooden sign for their rooms. All three had a great time and had plenty of things to choose from: paint, markers, foam stickers, beads, construction paper, etc. Gracie especially loved the paint, but it was the scissors I had put out for the older girls that fascinated her. You'll see by the picture above that I helped Gracie use the scissors for the first time. She had a blast. I put my fingers through the holes and she pushed them together, apart, get the idea. You could tell she was very proud.

We are looking forward to next month's get together. I have decided on a Teddy Bear Tea Party!

**My neighbor Colette was nice enough to snap this picture of me helping Gracie cut her paper. It is a good one me, so I am ecstatic!**

Whither Ernesto?


Here at la fortaleza norteƱa de Shipley, we're preparing for a visitor from the Carolinas, namely Tropical Storm Ernesto.

The current forecast calls for rain totals that would make for a pretty good snowstorm in Tennessee. See the map on the right? Look where the black track line crosses from Virginia into West Virginia and Maryland.

Follow it back into Virginia just a touch. That's where we live. But the purpose of this post is not to scare anyone, rather to let y'all know we've done this before, and it's not a big deal, despite what you see on CNN.

Living in this part of the world means you have to deal with tropical stuff. That's one reason we live on the third floor of our buliding. And if we get flooded out of the third floor, well, there wasn't much hope for anyone. Plus, we've got underground utilities, which have gone out exactly once since we've lived here, for about an hour.

We've done this before, and we'll do it again. I'll post a storm report once things are over, but if it's anything like Isabell, it's just lots of warm rain with a weird, hot wind. But we're stocking up on towels, just in case.


The track has moved. Not sure what this means, but there's no longer a big black line over the house.

Gracie Loves Calypso

Gracie simply loves calypso music. In particular, she loves Harry Belafonte's "Angelina." She loves to dance. We've got pictures I'll try to post later.

Unfortunately, daddy's back doesn't love calypso, particularly when carrying a 50 lb. child and showing her how to dip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pictures Are Back

I picked up Gracie's Wal-Mart pictures on the way back from Lynchburg. Having them taken earlier this month was quite the experience! She cried and screamed from the moment we arrived. I had a feeling they wouldn't come out well, and I was just hoping for a good one. Take my advice: if you ever have your child's picture done (fussy or not), take someone with you! It is much easier to order and look at the screen with a clear mind. They aren't that bad, but I just wanted to share some advice. It has always been easier when my mother would accompany to me to photo sessions. I speak from experience. Anyway, the one I am blogging is of course not the one that is the package. I bought the proofs so I could get this one and one or two other good ones. To see all the poses click here and scroll to the bottom.

Whew! I Have A Lot To Update!

All updates have been added for our week in Lynchburg, if you checked the blog prior to 8pm, you may want to look again!

Yes, we are back. Gracie and I didn't fall off of the face of the planet; we were instead enjoying an extended stay with Grandma and Grandpa in Lynchburg. I won't bore you with all of the details, instead I will be sure to sum up and include the best pictures and videos. Read below and enjoy.

While we had an awesome time, Garren is definitely glad we are back (I think he may have nearly starved to death! :) Leaving Lynchburg wasn't easy, since Gracie informed me when I told her were going home; "no mama, I stay here." I could tell she didn't want to leave, but when we finally got to Strasburg, Gracie was happy to see daddy and all of her long lost toys. Not that she should have missed anything since half of grandma's house came back with us in the trunk.

Once you browse the entries, you may want to check out more pictures. I appologize for the pictures on the blog, but Garren hasn't put on my editing software on the new computer--so, they are not as I like. Oh, well. Click here for more pictures.

**One of the best pictures I took (even though it is blurry!), Gracie was having a good time ringing Grandma's doorbell and making me open the door.**

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Muddy Good Time

Gracie had a wonderful evening as she made a complete mess of herself, and watered Grandma's lawn all at the same time.

We pulled out the Pooh sprinkler, a favorite from her last visit, and she had fun filling up plastic cups and watering flowers, and especially jumping in the mud puddles that the sprinkler created.

You can see from the picture that a bath wasn't necessary tonight since she is absolutely drenched!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Helping Grandma Water The Plants

Gracie was very proud of her job. Grandma had given her a very important job to do, and she took it very seriously. We loaded up the basket behind her tricycle with case of bottled water and had her drive it down to Grandma's flowers out front. Grandma opened the bottles and Gracie watered the plants...well, she tried anyway.

Gracie adored what she thought was a very fun game. The extremely hot weather hadn't been good for the plants, and mom wanted to pour out the less than tasty "Sam's Club' water so she could refill the perfect sized bottles with her 3x filtered water. Regardless, Gracie was very intent on doing a good job. She even peddled the empty bottled back up the deck to be refilled!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mexican Lunch

I had to share this picture of Grandma and the girls that I took as we enjoyed lunch at La Carretta this afternoon.

We had been out shopping that morning and it was getting late. We had to pick something to eat, and although I adore Mexican food, I had no idea that Mariah would want to try it. Now, Gracie loves the hot stuff as much as I do, so that left Grandma out voted.

Mariah was very willing to try things, and I ordered an array of food, so we could all have a taste of each others. Mariah ended up loving everything and ate more than I had ever seen her (she eats like a bird!) Gracie of course devoured her lunch, but more so the chips and salsa.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the fun lunch and watching Mariah's face when I told her she had just eaten refried beans!

Monday, August 21, 2006

What A Week!

I am pretty sure this is the only day this week Gracie took any extra time to rest! While I was able to get her down for a nap everyday, they were often 45 minutes or less. But, today, she slept for 3 hours at naptime, and was apparently still sleepy when she got up. Apparently so was Grandpa!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Fun Day With Mariah

This was the second day that the girls were able to get together and play, and there was no lack of energy for either of them, especially since they didn't have much time when we arrived on Wednesday.

Since Mariah was out of school, and the two girls were together at the same time, mom and I took advantage and drove the girls to Wal-Mart to get their pictures taken together. They came out pretty cute, even though Gracie was less than thrilled to go through the portrait experience again.

Following the girls "photo-op," we took them to the Weenie Stand; a very old hot dog restaurant equipped with revolving barstools and made to order cooks. I think Gracie's favorite part was sitting at the counter and swiveling in the chairs. She and Mariah made a game out of it. I figured that Gracie would take a few bites and I would wrap the left overs up and take them home; but her enormous appetite nixed those plans. I ordered all four of us the "special;" a foot long hotdog, order of fries and a drink. Now, the fries are those old fashioned kind, and you get enough to feed a family of four! Gracie ate 3/4 of the foot long (with bun!), and half of her fries and managed to polish off the lemonade I ordered her. I waited for her to explode, but instead she giggled and continued to twirls around and around in the chair. That's my baby!

The girls played the rest of the afternoon and got in to the pool again. It had been hot all week, so the water was very refreshing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mommy's Little Fish

We are finally here! We left Strasburg this morning and we are able to pull into Grandma and Grandpa's by early afternoon. Since Mariah was visiting, I knew that a nap was likely out of the question...but I still had my fingers crossed!

As soon as we pulled in the driveway, mom and Mariah got in the car and we headed out to lunch. I could tell Gracie was past sleepy, and I was able to get my wish when we returned from lunch and Gracie was out in a matter of minutes after putting her down for a nap.

While Gracie napped, Grandma and Mariah lounged around in the pool. Gracie was very excited to join them after she woke up. I thought Gracie may just cling to me while we were in the water like she had the last time we took her swimming. We haven't been in the water as much as we would have like to this summer, so I was grateful for the chance to let Gracie splash around in the pool this week.

I squeezed Gracie into her yellow swim trainer. I am convinced she has grown a great deal in the past 3 days (no kidding!) Anyway, the suit was on and we were in the water and it was if Gracie had transformed in to a fish. She took off by herself, used her little legs to propel her and giggled at splashing water. I was astounded to watch this little toddler who had been very clingy the past few pool trips. Maybe it was Grandma's pool, or maybe because Mariah was in the water. Whatever the reason she was really enjoying herself, and she was getting herself around that pool with out any help. Of course I was always within arms reach, just in case she needed me.

She had such a fun time she was not happy when it was time to get out, but that changed quickly since she was always ready to do whatever Mariah did.

***Notice the huge smile on Gracie's face. She definitely loves the water, and I hope that enthusiasm stays with her!***

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gracie's Big Ol' Goose Egg

She knew I wanted to have her picture taken, that's exactly what it was. Anytime I mention having a professional picture taken she decides that it is time to bruise herself. Perhaps she secretly loathes having her adorable cheeks frozen in time, maybe she is worried that she is having a "fat" day, or perhaps she just thinks its funny to make mommy find away to cover it up. Whatever it is, she is on a mission...a mission to never see the flash of a photographers camera again! She is quick, she is tricky, you don't even see it coming. It can come hours after you make the appointment or a day before you even think about snapping the shot--that's when it happens; the tumble that will paint her head a different color!!!!

Perhaps it is my fault, I did name her Grace after all...well that and she did get her clumsy genes from me (I am a walking disaster area!) And, I did tell mom that we should plan to take Mariah and Gracie to have a picture done on Friday.

Gracie and I are leaving for Lynchburg this week as Gracie is having some serious Grandma and Grandpa withdrawals. I am actually not kidding. For the last 2 weeks Gracie keeps telling us "time to go home." It breaks my heart, after all, this is her home. She wants to put her shoes on and everything. After watching more signs, we are pretty sure she wants to go to Grandma & Grandpa's or Candice & Elliott's. It is really hard sometimes living so far from family. Gracie clearly loves them all and wants to spend time with them--making our heartache that much more. While Candice would be happy to have us again, she saw them last and it has been two months since we visited Grandma & Grandpa and Mariah. So to Lynchburg we will head, hopefully tomorrow. Thus, the huge goose egg incident.

PS: Gracie is fine, and I kept a very close watch on her this afternoon. This picture was from tonight when she was getting ready for bed, 3 hours after the plunge she made in to the headboard on our bed. Apparently her daddy taught her how much fun it is to throw herself on the bed! He feels plenty guilty ;)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Wow! Watch This!

Watch baby Gracie grow up right before your eyes! I found this awesome slide show to add to my blog. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page to watch. Neat huh! If you want to do it too, it was very easy and didn't take long at all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Helping Daddy

Had to share this adorable picture of Gracie "helping" daddy wash the car at the car wash. She is already soaked from where they tried to wash it outside our apartment to no avail (apparently it was too bad!). Thanks to Gracie's efforts Mommy's car was "all nice and clean" in the end.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Our First DC Trip

What a fun, and action packed Saturday we had! For the past 3 years we have lived within an hour of Washington, DC; and yet we have never taken the trip--until today.

Now, I have been to DC plenty of times on grade school trips over the years, but this was the first trip for Garren and Gracie.

We got up this morning and drove to Vienna, VA where we caught the Metro (a train). None of us had ever ridden the Metro, and I was little worried about Gracie freaking out in the small dark space--but she seemed to enjoy it. She made "choo-choo" sounds as we made the 30 minute trip to our destination.

We had decided ahead of time to take her to the Air & Space museum. I knew that Garren would love it, and she would enjoy seeing the planes and space ships. We were also meeting up with my high school friends Heather and Becky, and Becky's husband Mike. [Thanks to them our trip was went much more smoothly, and I was much more stress free!] We met the trio at the L'enfant station and headed for the museum which was only a couple of blocks away.

Gracie had alrady had her thrills for the day. Within 45 minutes she had gotten to ride on a train and watch a pidgeon! She was very excited about both the train and the bird, so I wasn't too upset when about an hour in to the museums exhibits, we realized that Gracie wasn't having much fun. She seemed to be nervous around the crowds and all the commotion. So, we decided to take a lunch break. After lunch, Becky & Heather told us we should probably try the Museum of Natural History, since it may have more things Gracie would be interested in, and it wasn't far from where we were.

The hike to the next museum was beautiful, and we passed through the National Mall where we saw the Capitol building on our right and the Washington Monument on our left. Pretty cool.

The museum of Natural History did have a lot more to offer Gracie, but she was just too tired to really enjoy it. We looked at the elephant exhibit, the mammals, the dinosaurs, the Hope Diamond and even finished up our visit with a trip to the souvenir shop (where she got an overpriced, but adorable baby panda cub). We stopped for a few more pictures before heading back to the Metro with a very sleepy baby.

What a wonderful day! It was great to catch up with old friends and take a new adventure with my family.

You can take a look at the pictures we took by clicking here. My space-enthusiast husband is responsible for all the airplane/space craft pics! Oh, and a side note--the musuems we visited today were free, and the train rides were less than $10 total! So, with lunch we had a very reasonably priced outing.

**Top: family picture at the Air & Space Musuem. Bottom: Gracie first ride on a train (ours too!)**

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gracie Dances

Last night's trip to the Wal-Mart wasn't a total loss. Gracie got her first pink dance leotard. No she isn't enrolled in the ballet academy---they were on clearance for a dollar! They had two so I got them both, one 6x, one 9/10.

I have always wanted to be a dancer. [This is the part where I go into my guilt-filled spill about how I never got ballet shoes.] You see (sad music starts here), every Christmas I would ask Santa Claus for a pair of ballet slippers, but year after year was filled with disappointment. I read about dancers, I watched them on TV, I was in love with the idea of dancing. But, alas my feet were apparently too big and "Santa Claus" had a hard time finding my size in the middle of December, or so I have been told. And, not many families in my day could afford dance class, and even if we could the costumes and fees and carpooling and practices would have been completely impractical.

Meanwhile here in reality-land, I love watching Gracie's face light up when she watches an Angelina Ballerina episode or dancers on TV. Its a "girl thing" I am sure. But, while I always desired to be a dancer, I won't force that on Gracie. She can be anything she wants--and we will not pressure her in to things she doesn't want to do. But, that doesn't keep me from playing "dress up!"

This afternoon, I put Gracie's white tights on her, and the new pink leotard, and her almost too small ballet slippers (that mom and dad bought last summer, to be "smart.") She thought dressing up was fun, but when I made her a ribbon to dance with-- she transformed us both to the stage at Carnegie Hall. We turned the TV to a classic music channel and danced and twirled and leaped with all of our might. Good thing the neighbors under us weren't home yet!

We had such a good time I couldn't help but take tons of pictures and this precious video. I can't live vicariously through my child--but we can both day dream can't we?! ;)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Humbling Day

Twice today I found myself a humbled woman...well twice I noticed anyway.

Some days we walk around in the world thinking we have it all together, and then there are days when someone reminds us that we don't. Today was one of those days.

I took Gracie to the library this afternoon, and while she sat and worked puzzles and I searched the racks for cute new books to read, a woman and three other children walked over to Gracie's table. The kids of course wanted to share in the puzzles, and the woman was very nice and heard me call out to Gracie to share. One of the little girls with her was named "Gracie" as well. The woman asked me how old my Gracie was. When I replied" two and a half" I got the usual bewildered look and comment of how tall she was for her age. I smiled and perked up a little, proud as any mother would be of her advanced daughter. The woman pointed out that her Gracie was 2 as well, and would turn 3 next month. The other Gracie seemed very excited that she shared a name and age with my pumpkin. The little girl looked right at the woman and said loudly and clearly "mommy, she has the same name as me, and she is the same age." Inside my jaw dropped, I smiled at the little girl but inside I had been knocked down a peg. My Gracie who is only 5 months younger than the other beautiful toddler can bearly be understood or make a complete sentence. Compared to my Gracie, this toddler should be enrolled in the School For The Dramatic Arts!

Yeah, yeah Garren has already told me to stop comparing our child. The point is I was humbled. I am still extremely proud of my Gracie, but today perhaps I learned a lesson in being a little too proud, even if it was on the inside.

My second humbling experience was much harder to handle. This evening as we were finishing up our grocery shopping, apparently our over-filled cart, or not-so-new clothes, or young appearance, or a combination of several of those things; made a woman fear we might rob her. She was standing on the other side of the isle as she attempted to pick out fresh peaches. I had Garren steer our two weeks worth of groceries and talkative baby between her and the produce. I politely said "excuse us," and smiled. Before we could pass her completely the 50ish year old woman sneered at us and grabbed her purse from her shopping cart before making the 2 steps to pick out her peaches after we passed.

This woman, who didn't even know us, treated us like poor white trash, who would obviously steal from her to buy our purchases. I won't lie; it took my breath away. I know that we would be considered "lower middle income" or whatever by the people who make up the rules and categories, but it had never been so obvious to me before. Taking a HUGE paycut and raising Gracie at home has always felt right, even if I don't have nice clothes, or Gracie wears second hand or we have to buy all of our groceries from Wal Mart two weeks at a time.

I have seen the raised eyebrows and listened to the "I could never..." conversations before when I mention I am a stay at home mom--and, I have worried about not giving Gracie the things other kids have like toys and videos and vacations and college funds, etc. But, Garren and I always come back and say Gracie is getting something worth much more than all of that. I keep those warm thoughts close at hand for my next battle with another mom that will likely come my way, but tonight an older woman couldn't have cared less about my sacrifice, or what my family does to make sure Gracie has a loving Christian home, she just cared that we looked poor. And I found myself deeply humbled.

Tonight, I left Walmart knowing that I would feed my family for another two weeks, I would tuck my happy toddler in a warm bed after spending quality family time reading and getting ready to end the day. Tomorrow I will wake up to two peeping eyes staring at me from the side of the bed, and I will know it is time to start a new day. I will dress my child and probably fix her hair in pig-tails. I will sing and do the "Angelina dance" in our small but loving home, I will fix her a wholesome lunch and have deep conversations. I will guide her hand as we work on letters, I will color pages and make up songs. I will know that God has given me a wonderful life, and I will ask His forgiveness for allowing two women to take away my security for a few brief moments...or maybe I will thank Him.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pretty As A Picture

Boy did I have fun with the camera this morning!

I saw this dress hanging in Gracie's room that Aunt Gail had given to her in April, I thought how horrible it would be to have to pack away something else too precious that Gracie has never worn. This dress is much too fancy for everyday, and I haven't had an occasion to put her in it--so I decided to dress her up just for the fun of it. The dress is a 4T and is a little snug, but I was able to button it up okay.

Now, a dress like this deserves to be accessorized correctly, so I pulled out Gracie's black dress shoes, dress socks and the perfect bows for her hair (that matched of course!). I told Gracie she was too cute, and we had to go outside and take pictures. I took a towel for her to sit on, and found the perfect spot in front of wildflowers that are growing next to our building. It was incredibly hot out there, so we didn't stay long, but I snapped so many pictures my finger began to ache!

When she came up the stairs I realized that Garren was right and she did look like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, so I borrowed a small basket and stuffed puppy from Colette next door (she saw Gracie as we were coming inside and offered her props), and I took even more pictures inside.

Yeah, I know I am a nut--but she just looked too cute! If you are even mildly interested in how the pictures came out, you can click here to see where I have posted them on Snapfish. Let me know what you think!

**Thank you Aunt Gail for giving this dress to Gracie, and thank you Christian for sharing it with her after you out grew it--it was perfect, and Gracie really enjoyed dancing around the livingroom with it on to watch the skirt swirl and swirl!***

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pool Fun

Did you know we are only half way through the summer? Me neither, but apparently we are.

Believe it or not Strasburg got a break from the insane heat this weekend, so we decided to go the pool. We were actually happy with the 91 degree overcast weather. It was a nice break from the 101's and 102's we have endured for weeks, and that doesn't include the heat index!

We really did have a nice time though. Gracie enjoyed getting back in the water and splashing around. There were tons of kids there this afternoon, but Gracie was actually more interested in a bug that was lounging by the side of the pool. We kept having to go and see it. It was taking a nap, if you get my drift, so she had to keep reminding me "shhh, he's sleeping."

We stayed for a few hours before our toddler was water logged! Hopefully we will find time to return to the pool before they close it up after Labor Day weekend.

See what else we have been up to this summer:
August Pictures
July Pictures
Trip To TN, July
June Pictures
Fourth of July

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Surprise Visit

Gracie and I were pleasantly surprised today as Jessica and Sierra came over for a visit this afternoon.

Gracie was still sleeping when they arrived, and after an hour I decided to check on her. I carried Sierra in and found Gracie reading books. When she saw the baby, her eyes lit up and Sierra wiggled out of my arms to get to Gracie. It was precious, it was like they were old friends!

The two had a good time playing together for about an hour this afternoon. I even pulled out the fingerpaints, which Sierra had never experienced. I think she loved it! The girls giggled at each other and made a huge mess, but Jessica at least got a hand print out of the ordeal.

The two would have stayed longer, but Jessica got called into work. Maybe next time they can visit longer. We are so glad they decided to come by all the same!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wow, Where Has The Time Gone?

The end of July marks a year long journey with my blog. I wanted to thank all of you who continue to read and keep up with Gracie. What a wonderful way to share our lives with yours from several hundred miles away. I know how hard being away from family and friends can be, and with this somewhat simple and amazing technology you can watch and read all about the ins and outs of my daily life with Gracie, and watch her grow in to a wonderful little person.

One year, 4,600 hits, and 358...well 359 entries later--I am glad you are still listening.

Thank you!

***Left to Right: July 2004, July 2005, July 2006**