Sunday, December 31, 2006

Early Celebration

Our New Year's Eve celebration wrapped up a little earlier than most people's tonight. Around 8 pm, we knew there was no way Gracie would be able to stay up that late. We decided she could stay up and hour past bedtime, so around 9 pm Daddy put on her pajamas while I got the "celebration" ready.

She really liked the party today as well as tonight's celebration, although she wanted to break more eggs! Gracie is asleep in bed and the Hee Haw marathon is still running. Garren and I will try to make it to midnight, but it has been such a long week--I make no promises!

You'll find even more pictures have been added to the New Year's picture folder--enjoy!

Countdown To 2007

Gracie, Garren and I are watching the HeeHaw marathon on CMT, the two of them are sharing a bowl of peanuts, and we are anxiously awaiting the new year; if for no other reason than sleep!

Last night I decided that we should have a party for New Year's Eve. I found a few craft ideas and got some ideas from Candice for what to fix. Since the neighbors are living up their New Year's Eve at the beach, it was just the 3 of us--but we had fun anyway.

Garren wanted some of his Grandmother's punch, and after trying to find the right recipe, we settled for a frozen mix which I prepared with Ginger Ale tonight. We also had "pigs in a blanket," orange slices, peanuts, and pizza slices. I have also made cupcakes, but I am saving those for later.

This evening we all decorated "shakers" that I made out of empty medicine bottles, dry beans and rice. That was fun especially since daddy and I decorated one too. I even made us all hats for the occasion! But, the real fun will come tonight when we break open the confetti eggs I made. I had heard of this neat idea where you blow out the insides of an egg then fill with confetti and paint the outside. Then you break the egg and the confetti comes out. I am looking forward to doing that tonight.

As for Gracie staying up, the jury is still out, but at this point I don't see it happening!

I have posted some New Year's Eve pictures and I finished up the December 2006 folder. If you haven't checked in a while you may want to see all that has been included.

I will post later to update you on the Shipley Family Countdown To 2007!

Gracie's Important Phone Call

This had me laughing so hard! I had to share, and I hope it brings a smile to your face too. Gracie is making a pretend phone call to her Happy Feet penguin "Mumble." Wonder where she got those phone manners from?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Mighty View Master

Gracie and her View Master are practically inseparable these days, which is funny because she cried and said "no, I don't want to" when we tried to show her how to use it Christmas morning!

Sometime Christmas evening Gracie found the wonder that is the View Master on her own. After that she was hooked! Gracie had gotten 2 sets of reels from Santa, but this new loved toy needed some new accessories. Thanks to Aunt Heather's generous Christmas gift card we were able to add on to the View Master collection. Garren has also found a case to hold all of her reels, and he got 2 more reels at Toys R US. Apparently this toys was a hot item this year since there aren't many reels and Garren got one of the only 2 cases we found.

How I wish I had saved those reels that I had when I was a kid. It would be neat to see the old ones. Gracie doesn't play with the toy alone, oh no, mommy has to have her turns too! I think I have seen every image she has at least 100 times now!

So, when someone asks what Gracie's favorite toy from Santa is, I think it is only fair to say her Mighty View Master!

The ones we have:
*Go Deigo Go
*Care Bears
*Miss Spider
*Happy Feet
*Maggie & The Ferocious Beast
*Pooh's Hefalump Movie
*National Wildlife Federation (one with giraffe on package, we saw 3 or 4 different ones at Walmart)

The ones we would like to have:
*Jo Jo's Circus
*National Wild Life Federation-Marine Life
*Lazy Town
*Curious George
*Koala Brothers
*Strawberry Shortcake

Anybody have their old ones, or have older kids who don't use theirs anymore? We would love to see them!

**Above; Gracie helps Mumble see the pictures on her View Master reel from his movie "Happy Feet."

Friday, December 29, 2006


There have been a lot of tears in this house lately, evenly divided between Gracie's own personal issues, and the issues of others.

Gracie has been quite the upset little lady for the last week or so. She has been extra cranky, clingy and is brought to tears by the slightest little thing. I am pretty sure this behavior is typical 2 year old, or she may be, as my mom suggests: going through another growth spurt (you wouldn't believe what she is eating again!)

It's more of the tears for others that I wanted to focus on.

It seems our little girl has become quite empathetic to the sorrows of others. While her father and I are quite sensitive ourselves, Gracie seems to really feel their pain. It all started earlier this week while she was half-way watching Dragon Tales. A baby dragon in the episode lost his toy. While she was watching, Gracie kept telling me over and over "oh, no mommy he lost his toy." I noticed that she looked as if she could break in to tears. I reassured her by telling her that we would have to help the other dragons look for the missing toy. That seemed to placate her. That is until hours later when she started crying and was very upset while trying to get out "where is his toy? He lost his toy." These weren't fake tears either--she was very upset. I cuddled her up and reminded her that Ord had found the baby dragon's toy and that he was okay. She wasn't convinced, in fact she cried for several more minutes. This incident is just one of many we have endured this week.

I had noticed about a month ago that Gracie would point out anytime she heard a child crying, whether in a store or the library or on TV. "He's crying momma!" This concern seems to have escalated and I try to comfort her. We talk about what may be making the baby cry and that his or her mommy is probably near by and that the baby will get hugs. This works for the most part, until we find one of those kids who won't stop crying!

I am not concerned by this behavior. I am sure plenty of kids go through this. In fact Mariah (Gracie's cousin) couldn't even watch a Pooh video because Pooh falls and she would become so distraught.

This actually might be a good sign. Maybe Garren and I are teaching her to love others and have concern for someone else. I have no problem raising an empathetic child--but, I do plan to make sure that this doesn't hurt her so much. I think we should all have love and concern for other people, we should pray for them and help when we can, but worrying over them or hurting ourselves will not help anyone.

I just had to document this time in her life, and ask for your prayers as my little toddler goes through a very tumultuous time in her life; it seems nothing is okay, from other kids to things that happen through out her day.

**The crying incodent above was not of empathy, it was over a nap. While a nap may be more understandable since my toddler doesn't want to stop playing...this day she had cried over me asking her to eat her dinner, help me pick up her toys, and when she would "fake" an injury by saying ouch and running to me crying!(This happens several times a day, I always check the obviously fake owie and hug her for a few moments before sending her on her way)**

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Same Old Thing!

I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems like our family is in a "food rut." We eat the same old dinners over and over. I know I shouldn't complain about something so silly, and I am not, especially since one of the family (guess which one ;) is extremely picky! But, I thought that maybe I could get some help.

There are so many families like our out there and I thought maybe some of you could share your family's favorites. We are always on a budget, but I am always willing to experiment! So, how do you feed your family? Share your family favorites in the comments section--PLEASE! My taste buds are desperate.

To be fair I will share two of our family's favorites:

Chicken Casserole

4 chicken breasts (skinless)
1 stick butter
1 Pkg Pepperidge Farm Stuffing (blue bag, Herb)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 can Cream of Celery Soup

Boil your chicken and cut in to small bite size pieces. Save 2 cups of your chicken water and dump the rest out. I use the same pot to lessen the amount of dishes...but, simmer chicken water, cream of chicken, cream of celery together until smooth. In a bowl pour stuffing and add 1 stick of butter (melted), mix well and fluff with a fork.

In a casserole dish (rectangle), spread 1/3 of the stuffing. Then Add 1/2 of the cut chicken on top. Pour 1/2 of the soup mixture over the chicken (I use a ladle to get the most coverage, you want to make sure all of the chicken gets covered). Then add 1/2 of the remaining stuffing on top, followed by the rest of the chicken and then the rest of the soup. That leaves the remainder of the stuffing to cover the top. Basically you have created layers; stuffing, chicken, soup, stuffing, chicken, soup, stuffing. Then bake at 350 for 45 minutes. It's yummy!

Teriyaki Chicken

4 chicken breasts
1 bottle Kikoman Teriyaki Baste & Glaze
Green Pepper

I put my chicken in an electric skillet. I add water so it boils more instead of frying to make it healthier. Toss in sliced onion and sliced green pepper (I use a 3/4 c, about, of onion and 1c of green peppers, more or less. When chicken is nearly done (very slightly pink), pour out any standing water in your skillet and pour over the Teriyaki (I use 3/4 of the bottle). I let this simmer for about 8 minutes until the chicken is coated in the sauce and it browns a little.

Serve over white rice.

We probably make this easy dinner more times than anything else.

**Picture above from Labor Day weekend dinner. I guess the nieghbors enjoy my cooking, they have come back several times since the for seconds!**

Monday, December 25, 2006

Family Picture

Well we didn't get to attend the Christmas Eve service, but I was bound and determined to get a family Christmas picture.

After several minutes of complaining and whining, I got Garren to get dressed; and dressed up Gracie and myself. We gathered around the tree and set the timer. Viola! A family picture. It's not the greatest, but it was the best of 4 we took. And I'm not complaining; we won't always look like this (for better or worse) and it is important to take a snapshot of this chapter in our lives.

PS: More pictures added to the Christmas folder.

Merry Christmas (email)

From email send 12-25-06

Family & Friends:

We hope all of you are having a very Merry Christmas day! It may be raining and miserable outside, but in our living room the wonderful sounds of a happy toddler at play is making the magic of Christmas come alive. I am not sure if it was more fun to be a parent or a child at this time of year. Watching your child get excited about the prospect of Santa and the joy-filled eyes when she sees the bounty under the tree.

It has been an interesting and fun morning here in the Shipley house, and we hope the same was at your homes. If you would like to share in some of the excitement you can check out our blog, look at pictures (look for Christmas 2006) or videos (video 1, video 2, video 3, video 4). (You no longer have to sign in to see pictures, so feel free to click on that link, and the videos have always been register-free!)

We send our love to you all and best wishes for a wonderful rest of the holiday season!

Barbara, Garren & Gracie

Christmas Morning Fun

Gracie, Garren and I got a late start to Christmas morning thanks to an anxious and stuffy toddler (read below), but Santa's surprise still went off without a hitch.

Gracie woke up in bed with us chipper and raring to go. I got the camera and headed in to the living room. Though she was excited last night, she had forgotten all about Santa coming this morning.

As I predicted she headed straight for the Happy Feet stuffed Mumble. She gave him lots of hugs and kisses before moving on to the other surprises under the tree. Santa brought a Little People train, tons of Playdough, puzzles, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse CD, lots of books, a Dora backpack full of Games, Dora ABC Game, Little People game, Backyardigans pirate ship for the tub, a View Master and slides for it, plus a drum full of musical instruments! Gracie had so much fun opening and playing with the gifts. At this hour her favorite things are the Little People Grocery store that Mamaw & Papaw sent, the drum, Mumble and of course the Playdough.

As I type she is moving from one toy the next while watching videos Grandma and Grandpa sent for Christmas. I took tons of pictures and videos that I want to share. To see the pictures click here and look in the Christmas 2006 folder, the videos are below.

We hope all of you are having a very Merry Christmas, and we thank all of you who sent Gracie such wonderful gifts! Candice and Elliott (who had already spoiled her at Thanksgiving) sent her books and a reindeer purse, Mamaw & Papaw sent the Little People set and 2 new shirts, Aunt Sharon sent the cutest corduroy dress and our neighbors gave Gracie a purse and a Strawberry Shortcake lava night light. Aunt Heather sent a gift card which we got Saturday, so we will take Gracie to pick something out sometime this week. She is such a blessed and loved baby and we are all so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Christmas Morning--Drums & Puzzle
Christmas Morning--Playdough
Christmas Morning--Little People
Christmas Morning--Videos from Grandma

Twas The Night Before Christmas...

...and all through the house Gracie was getting ready for bed
louder than a jingle-belled mouse.

The cookies were baked, and the milk was poured,
Time to brush teeth and get ready for Santa , oh Lord!

To bed she went with kisses and snuggled up tight,
If only we knew she would be up half the night!

Around 10 pm we heard giggling and decided to check in,
We found her covered with books and puzzles from her toy bin.

We kissed her again, and firmly said goodnight again,
Closed the door and hoped that the sound of snoring would soon begin.

By 11 we found ourselves sorely disappointed,
As our toddler was still restless and awaiting Santa's appointment.

At 11:30 in our bed she was placed by her father,
Mommy heard her stomach and served soup and cracker.

By midnight the Benadryl was starting to kick in,
And back to her big girl bed we put our little munchkin..

Santa Claus came and left his bounty, then out the door,
That must have been what woke little Gracie again 4 !

More cold medicine we gave our little sniffler,
A cuddle, clean diaper and daddy did lift her.

Back to her bed to sleep just four more hours,
Before she awoke at 8 and climbed in to ours.

2 and half more hours of kicking and snoring,
And Gracie was up and ready to face her Christmas morning!

What a long Christmas Eve night for parents and baby,
Tonight will be easier now that Santa has is gone... maybe?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cookies For Santa

Santa will get an assortment of delicious treats tonight as he visits good little boys and girls all across the world, and our house will be no exception.

Garren and Gracie made Neman Marcus cookies this afternoon in preparation for Santa's big night. Garren is actually the head of this tradition , since he has been making these cookies for longer than we have been together. This year Gracie really got to help out. She was excited to mix the ingredients and help cut the butter. She even got a chance to use the mixer. The cookies came out delicious, and are ready for Santa to sample.

Tonight, following the great cookie-bake-- we ate dinner, watched the Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Suess' version) and read the Christmas story from the Bible. We topped off the evening by leaving a letter, plate of cookies and glass of milk for Santa. But, Gracie didn't go to bed without first finding out where Santa was. Garren found a site on NORAD that tracks the jolly elf, so they had to take a peek (he was in Peru if you are wondering).

Gracie is off to bed, and hopefully asleep tonight. Garren is watching Christmas in St. Olaf, and I am starting to get more excited about the morning ahead. I am still sorry that we missed an entire holiday season at church, but this beautiful music is starting to do the trick for my Christmas spiritlessness.

Garren, Gracie and I wish all of you lots of love and joy for the remainder of the season.

I have put Christmas pictures on Picasa (click here and look for Christmas 2006), and below is a cute video of Gracie and Daddy mixing the batter. Hope you enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Missing Something

I would like to blog today about all of the wonderfully Christmasy things our family has done today, but I might come up blank. We do plan to light our Advent wreath and make cookies for Santa, but is still doesn't seem like Christmas.

It may be the unseasonably warm weather and very bright sun, but to me it just hasn't seemed much like Christmas. Garren, Gracie and I have done tons of holiday things and very much enjoyed them. We decorated the tree, I sent out Christmas cards, we decorated, did crafts, and much more.

I think what is missing is church. We haven't been to a single service this month. I guess that's what I needed: to listen to the kids' pageants, watch the Advent candles being lit, sing Christmas carols from the Hymnal, and just be surrounded by the true joy that is Christmas.

We missed out on a lot this month. The first Sunday Garren was so sick, the second it was me, last Sunday we were in Lynchburg and mom felt to bad, and today our Gracie is so miserable we know she couldn't possibly last through a service. Even though the candlelight Christmas Eve services are one of my favorite parts of Christmas, my child and the older people who attend our church are far more important.

I know many may not understand how colds could keep us from attending services, but it can be devistating for an elderly person to catch a simple cold as their immune systems can't fight them off as easily. And poor Gracie, this is the second of three Christmases she has been sick. It isn't anything serious, and she is a real trooper. She woke up with a runny nose on Thursday, and seemed okay, but now you can tell she is pretty miserable.

On the positive side, we are getting ready to bake cookies for Santa and I plan to make everyone put on nice clothes so I can take a family picture in front of the tree, plus I am making chicken casserole for dinner (everyone's favorite). I do hope that the Christmas joy will find it's way to me tonight, after all I have so many things to be thankful for; I have a beautiful family, we have a warm home and food to prepare, not to mention I have a young child that I get to watch live the magic of Christmas morning.

Despite my somewhat lackluster Christmas joy, I do wish all of you and your families a very merry holiday full of love!

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours...have a blessed Christmas day. Share the spirit of the season, by sharing the holidays with the ones you love.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Forgot

Tonight I suddenly remembered why it was that Garren and I don't go out to dinner at a some-what nice restaurant, and I have Gracie to thank for that.

Now, in our childless days Garren and I loved a good meal. We would eat out at all sorts of restaurants. We would wait in line, order appetizers and enjoy each others company for hours as we ate steak dinners.

Since Gracie came in to the picture, we went from two incomes to one, so that's why we rarely eat out any place that doesn't have a drive thru window. But from the last time to our latest urge to taste well seasoned food, I must get amnesia and completely forget what a horrible idea it is for the 3 of us to go out to dinner.

Tonight we treated ourselves for Christmas and went to the newly opened Applebee's. (Yes folks, this is exciting for us, sad, I know) Anyway, being 2 days before Christmas we expected a wait. It was 45 minutes to be exact. Gracie did fairly well for the first...uh...10 minutes. I occupied her with snacks from the diaper bag and crayons and coloring pages. Finally, it was our turn to eat. We ordered, and waited while Gracie became unbearably restless.

I won't bore you with all the details, but I will say that Garren and I ate in shifts, Gracie didn't eat what she ordered, and we definitely didn't enjoy each other's company. Don't get me wrong, we adore Gracie, but I guess you just lose some privileges when you become parents. Eating out is more of a necessity of hunger and time than it is of conversation and quality time.

So, I guess until Gracie is 15 and no longer wants to eat out with us, we will refrain from wasting money on food we can barely taste as we try to hurry and get a toddler out of said restaurant...that is until we forget all about this time when we see those Outback commercials.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Story Time

Mallory and mom Colette came over for lunch today to try and eat some of the many leftovers we had from our "dinner party" last night.

We had the Mozingo's over and I fixed a ham and hashbrown casserole and green beans and bread. I was so excited to use the Christmas dishes Lou had given me as a gift last Christmas. I also had some pretty napkins and paper table cloths from her home as well, so I really pulled out all the stops decorating. It was a fun time, and Gracie enjoyed having Mallory play with her.

Anyway, I captured this picture this afternoon as Mallory read to Gracie in her room. It was such a good one I had to post!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Mariah!

Happy Birthday Mariah, today you turn the big "9"!

We hope you have a wonderful day and that you get all the love that we are sending your way. Make big wishes, because this year is going to be special!

We love you!
Aunt Barbara, Uncle Garren & Gracie

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

High Tech Christmas

I came across a comic strip in our local paper the other day. It was a little boy and he was sitting on Santa's lap, presumably at the mall. The jolly old man asked the little boy "what do you want for Christmas little fellow?" To this the boy replied angrily "what you didn't get my text message?!"

My how the times have changed. When I was a kid we looked forward to writing Santa Claus a letter every December. I still remember Brian and I asking mom how to spell certain toys. Our letters were always very sweet and only listed 2-3 things we really wanted. When the lettering was perfect we sealed them up and gave them to Santa when we visited the mall. It was such a special feeling knowing that Santa would be reading our letters. It created a special and magical bond.

Tonight I watched as Gracie sat on her father's lap, and just as I had done told just what she wanted for Christmas...

...Daddy then typed Gracie's wish list on the computer and emailed her "letter' to the North Pole.

My how times have changed.

This site was very cute and I encourage any parent to help email their child's letter to Santa, especially since Santa sends a response right back. But, it definitely isn't the Christmas preparation I remember.

I hope that all of this new technology isn't making us less personal. Don't get me wrong email is an awesome invention, as are the web, blogging, and all the other instant communication technologies out there. But with all of this high speed "linking," do any of us put value on what we are saying? It is so easy to just "whip" up an email or send a text message (often with abbreviations and one word responses). Emailing Santa is so much easier than actually writing a letter, instant messages are much quicker than a phone call, passing on a forward is more fun than finding out how someone is doing.

As for me I still send cards and letters, not as often as I would like, but there is joy in sending the personal touch. I enjoy email, but it is much more satisfying to call up a best friend and chat about what's really going on in their lives. I hope that our children, who are exposed to a world of innovative new technology don't lose that personal touch. I hope that my daughter will talk to me instead of sending an instant message. That she and her friends will find away to use all of these new ways to communicate and still sit down and write a letter. That her father and I will do more to keep up with her life than tracking her whereabouts by her cell phone.

I guess I got on my soap box to say this; emailing Santa is a great way to have fun at Christmas, but don't short change the man in red, he still wants to know you care enough to write him once a year.

Gracie's Wish List

Now that I finished all that rambling, I do want to re-iterate that emailing Santa was fun. I was taking some pictures (your know me!) and I happened to video her requests for Santa. Although I am pretty sure she still doesn't get the whole Santa/Christmas thing--it's pretty cute.

Here was Gracie's email to Santa:

Dear Santa Claus, My name is Gracie. I am a girl and I am already 2 years old!! I live in the great city of Strasburg. Of course, that's in Virginia, United States, but I'll bet you knew that!!

year I've been so good that I should be the angel on top of the tree!Santa Claus, some things I might like for Christmas this year are: Play Dough; Little People play set; and a snowman.

Santa Claus, I almost forgot to say... Thank you for being so nice and sharing presents with
me. I will leave milk and cookies for you and the reindeer.
Love, Gracie

Santa's reply:

Merrrryyyy Christmas Gracie!! Thank you for sending me your email all the way from Strasburg! The Net sure is wonderful because now I never feel lonely all the way up at the North Pole. I can get those wonderful Christmas emails any time of the year now, but it's always special when I get one from you, Gracie.

Well bless my whiskers, Gracie! I still remember bringing you your very first
Christmas present and here you are 2 years old already! I hope you are getting excited about Christmas because I am really looking forward to visiting your home! Rudolph said he's really excited about visiting your home too! I also hear you've been a REALLY REALLY good girl. (Of course, you won't mind if I do a little checking, will you? HO!! Ho!! ho!!).

I'm glad you mentioned the reindeer
because they're all outside playing reindeer games right now. Did you know you can even vote for which reindeer will guide my sleigh this Christmas?

Let's see what you put in your letter for Christmas wishes: 1. play dough; 2. little people play
set and; 3. snowman. HO!! Ho!! ho!! Can I tell you a secret? I thought it might be fun to get Mrs. Claus something just like that for Christmas too! Let's hope the elves can make enough of them for everyone!

Yum! Smells like Mrs. Claus just pulled another batch of cookies out of the oven. HO!! Ho!! ho!! I'll bet she needs help eating them! Take care Gracie and don't forget to come back and visit me here at on Christmas Eve!! And remember... only 5 more sleeps until Christmas!!

All My Love,


PS Gracie also played her first game of Candyland tonight with Garren and I. She actually picked up on the concept about half way through the game. She had a lot of fun, and she actually won. I, of course, took pictures. Check them out in the December folder.

All Wrapped Up And No Where To Go

My Grandma Anna (Gracie's great-grandma Anna) came by to pay us a little visit this afternoon. This marks only the second time, I believe, that the two have seen one another face to face.

Gracie was in typical shy mode, but she warmed up in no time--especially when the presents came out. Grandma Anna got Gracie the prettiest scarf, hat & gloves set. Gracie insisted on trying it on and you can see how pleased she is.

Gracie also got an adorable baby doll. I just had to share this picture because I get so few of her really smiling.

Grandma Anna stayed for a short time, but has promised to visit again. She lives just 25 minutes away in Wardensville, WV.

I put more pictures from today and this week in the December folder. Click here to get to the Picasa page.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Air Mail!

Gracie has some fun in the box that arrived at our apartment this afternoon from Tennessee. The gifts Mamaw & Papaw sent will have to wait until Christmas, but in the meantime Gracie has found a fun way to amuse herself!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Is It Really December?

I am not sure what is with the spring weather out there, but I for one, am not complaining!!

It has been wonderfully warm here for a week or more. It was so warm this weekend in Lynchburg we had to turn on the air conditioner in the house because it was so hot, and Gracie played outside for hours with her Grandpa without even a jacket. We even unloaded the car last night around 9pm and it was warm then too!

Today is no exception. It is kind of windy, but it is a warm wind and the temperatures are nearing 70! It was too pretty to stay inside, so Gracie and I stopped at Subway and headed to the park for a picnic plenty of outdoor fun.

Apparently many other parents had the same idea since the playground was quite busy. But, that didn't stop us. We ate and swang and climbed for nearly two hours. The wind was starting to really pick up and it was blowing sand and dirt in our faces, so we packed it up. I wasn't ready to go home yet so we decided to make a stop at the thrift store. Gracie ended up with a dinosaur piano, 2 Franklin books and I got a pink smocked dress for her.

Gracie is down for a nap now, and I have a feeling we will go back out. I am all for unseasonable temperatures! I say it stays this way until May!! ;) For those of you who are also experiencing the high temps--go out and enjoy it, I doubt it will last!

Check out some more pictures from today and this weekend here (look in the December folder & the Christmas in Lynchburg Folder).

Thank You Papaw Charles

Dear Papaw Charles:

Thank you for sending me Christmas money. I found a neat fish tank lamp when I was shopping with mommy today, so I got to get it. I love to watch the fishes swim in it and to turn the light on and off.
I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and that Santa brings you something fun to play with too. I love you very much and miss you lots. I can't wait to see you again soon!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Thank You

Dear Grandma & Grandpa:

Thank you so much for the fun gifts you gave me for Christmas. I love Little People and I can't wait to play with them tomorrow at my house. I like my food set too and I really like to pretend to cut the veggitables. And, Angelina and I are going to have so much fun dancing together.
I miss you already and I can't wait to see you again soon. I hope you have a Merry Christmas too and that Santa and Grandpa have fun playing Slinky!


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas At Grandma & Grandpa's

Garren, Gracie and I are in Lynchburg this weekend as we celebrate an early Christmas with grandma, grandpa, Uncle Brian and of course Mariah.

We arrived early yesterday afternoon after Garren covered the Governor in Richmond. Gracie and Mariah had a great time catching up and playing together. And they got more time than usual since Mariah spent the night and the two best buddies got to have a somewhat "pajama party," and shared a bedroom.

Today was no different in the fun department. Mariah had wanted to go to La Carretta, and mom wanted pictures taken so we took both girls out for what turned in to a very interesting day.

We had to wait a while before lunch since the restaurant didn't open until noon, so we did what we girls do best--we went shopping. There is a Big Lots in the same shopping center as the restaurant, so we went in. I had no idea how many neat things they have in there! I found several gifts Garren and I had picked out for Gracie, much cheaper than Wal-Mart. Plus we found the same piano Candice has and that Gracie fell in love with at her house. It is the cutest little Christmas decoration. The piano plays and 2 snowmen dance on top! Needless to say she got the piano and while she wasn't looking I went ahead and piled the cart high for Christmas!

After lunch we headed over to Walmart where we had an appointment for pictures. Our appointment was at 1:30. At 3:30 we left the store! So now I have a toddler who hasn't taken a nap, and huge headache.

The nap and the headache didn't stop us though. We went back to the house and the girls played until time to open gifts. Now, this is the part where Grandma & Grandpa went overboard! Gracie got so many gifts. Many of them were Little People sets and she had the best time. Gracie also racked up the cutest wooden food sets, a shopping basket full of pretend food and Angelina Ballerina. Gracie also got a Toys R US gift card from Uncle Brian which she used to get a Dora Playdough set and a plush Alice (Angelina's best friend).

Gracie was spoiled plenty and really enjoyed her time with the grandparents. Plus, the weather was beautiful and warm. I think we all had a very relaxing time.

**The picture above is of Mariah and Gracie getting a much needed ride after they finally got their pictures taken. Gracie has her gi-gi because the pictures were quite tramatic and she was so tired. ***

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Toys Before Christmas?!

Gracie and I wanted out of this house today! We had been cooped up for far too long because of this nasty cold (of which Gracie never got and I still have the cough). Anyway, we nixed the library idea; after all we are just now getting better, lets not add more germs in to the mix! So, Gracie and I went, where else, but our favorite second hand stores.

Per our usual agreement, she is patient while I look at books, and then she gets to look through the toys. Sometimes I will find a clean puzzle and get it for her, but today while I was watching her pick up various toys and start playing, I found the mother-load! Well, okay I was excited. The first thing I spotted was the Fisher Price farm. We have the farm, in fact I bought it from another thrift store. But, we don't have the animals, and you can't find them anywhere. Plus, now all of those Little People animals have fur and hair. What were they thinking! Germ-a-polooza!! Anyway this farm had several of the original animals, a farmer, and an attatched garden...all for $4! So I didn't have to think twice about that deal. When I turned around to let a lady through the very tight isles, I saw the Calliou tree house sitting behind me. This set had Calliou and his sister Rosie and it looked like it had never been played with. When I showed Gracie she was ready to check it out. The tree house was only $5, another HUGE steal.

It was a long ride home this afternoon as Gracie wanted desperately to play with her new tree house. When we got home I cleaned off the dust (I clean everything I get from thrift stores with baby wipes!) and Gracie had hours of fun sending Calliou down the slide and reeling him up the rope swing.

These were two awesome toys that I couldn't pass up. A smart mommy would have put the tree house away for Christmas, but like I said it was a long ride home as Gracie couldn't wait to play. So, I guess Santa visited our house a little early this year ;)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gracie's Happy Feet

We just can't get enough of "Happy Feet" in this house!

Gracie's toes start tapping at the very mention of dancing penguins, so you can imagine just how much more energy is found when mommy finds Happy Feet videos online.

I have played these online movie trailers for her before and it always makes her dance, but this time I just had to get it on camera. She just can't help herself. In the video below she is watching the trailer for the 40th time on the computer and dancing along.

For those of you who don't remember, we took Gracie to see Happy Feet at the theater in November. It was her very first movie and she loved it! She even danced with those adorable penguins in the isle. If you have a little one I definitely encourage you to take them--its a real kid pleaser; it also left Garren and I rolling in the isles!! We can't wait to get it for her on video, and I have an idea Santa will bring her some Happy Feet souvenirs this year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Second Sunday Of Advent

Tonight we also lit our second candle of Advent. (Actually, we lit the first and second since we were so sick last Sunday and hadn't gotten candles, but I digress)

I am not sure that Gracie remembers doing this from last year, or that she even understood it's significance, but I think it is important for our family remember the reason for the season.

I held Gracie while Daddy lit the candles, and I read a prayer for each week. I was lucky to find some kid friendly ones online.

Tonight was a very special night of Christmas preparation for our family. I am very cup runeth over!

The Second Week of Advent
The Candle Of Preparation

O Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace,
come and save your people.
Joy of every heart,
Strength of those who are poor,
come quickly to help us.

Prince of Peace,
teach the lion and the little lamb,
teach the cat and the mouse,
the the hawk and the tiny bird,
teach everyone who doesn't get along
to live in peace.

**As Always you can find pictures on Picasa, click here and bookmark this page. I add folders often!**

Trimming The Tree

The Christmas tree is up and it smells great! It had all night to fill out, Garren has trimmed it and we are all very excited to start decorating the tree!

We invited out neighbors over to "help" trim the tree and share a meal and some treats all while watching Christmas specials. Unfortunately Tom had to work, but Colette and Mallory seemed to have a great time as we shared the evening.

After dinner we got the lights on, which if you have ever done this, you know is the hardest and sometimes comical part. I decided to use Lou's ornaments again this year for two reasons. One, because they make me feel closer to her and like we are still sharing Christmas, and two because her ornaments are child-proof.

Colette and Mallory helped us hang up the treasures which Gracie then moved about a hundred times. I guess she was looking for the perfect spot for each "toy." I took plenty of pictures and it was just a very special night. I baked some chocolate chip cookies and we watched Frosty and Rudolph as we decked the halls.

I really think that this Christmas will be a very special one. We hope all of you are find time to share Christmas activities with your families. It is so important to share these moments and continue (or start) new traditions. Christmas is such a special time of year, we should all enjoy it instead of letting it get the best of us and stress us out trying to do things we think we should. Trimming your tree with your family is far more important than trying to be sure you spend the right amount or stressing about getting something for everybody. Try to take time and enjoy the season before it is gone!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Find The Perfect Tree

Garren, Gracie and I set out on out quest this afternoon: to find the perfect Christmas tree of 2006. And by perfect I mean one that will fit in our small apartment, one we can squeeze into the trunk of a Civic and the price, of course, has to be...well reasonable.

I stick the price part in there because you wouldn't believe how much trees are going for these days! We started our journey in Winchester. There Gracie was more interested in the 12 foot inflatable Santa than she was with the trees. Daddy talked to the owner and some buyers (did I mention this was for a story as well?) while his photographer snapped some shots and Gracie ran around touching all of the branches. It was pretty cold out there, so we hopped back in the car while Daddy finished his interview.

Next stop was in Stephen's City. This was the lot that was being managed by the local Boy Scouts. They had some very pretty trees. I pulled my camera out this time, so you will see a few pictures of Gracie trying to decide which on she liked the best. This tree lot also housed an inflatable Santa as well as a fire in a barrel and a machine that shook the tree to get the loose needles off. That was pretty neat to watch. I had picked out the tree we wanted while Garren did some more interviews, but he wanted to get the tree stand and bring it with us, and Gracie needed a nap.

After a quick snooze, we bundled Gracie back up and got the tree stand and a blanket. Gracie and the tree would have to share the back seat in Daddy's car, so the blanket was to keep her from getting sticky. We made a stop at the Walmart to get some new lights and then we decided to see what Home Depot had in the way of trees. And, that is where we found the "perfect" tree. It was under 6 feet, they netted it for us, and it was $20 cheaper than what the other lots wanted. So we squeezed our purchase and our toddler in to the car and we headed home, happy with our holiday addition.

Don't you just love Christmas! ;)

**Above: Gracie enjoys helping pick out the tree. You'll find more pictures from today in the December 2006 folder. Click here**

Fun Store!

In addition to searching for a Christmas tree today (read more above), we made a stop into one of Winchester's newest stores.

I wasn't exactly thrilled to take a look around Gander Mountain, but it ended up being neat.

The first thing we saw were ATV's in every size and color. Gracie of course had to sit on each one. There was even one small enough for her to get on with out any help! Each time she would sit down she would start in on the "vroom, vroom!" She remembered the 4-wheeler and Elliott taking her for a ride.

This store had tons of outdoors-y things and Elliott would have spent hours in there I know! (Maybe he and Candice and come visit us soon and we can take him!) If you have one of these stores where you are you know what I am talking about. There were so many canoes and kayaks, they had them bolted to the walls, there were more fishing poles than I have ever seen in one place; including a Barbie one!

We walked around for awhile, and they had some nice warm clothes, but I was ready to go when Garren took Gracie in to the gun section. I only rolled my eyes a few hundred times and muttered "over my dead body will she ever touch one," about 50 times. That is until Garren found a toddler sized pink gun. I was out of there! Garren followed behind laughing at me.

I just had to share our store experience. If for no other reason than because Garren caught some pictures with his camera phone of Gracie on the ATV. The one above she was able to climb on and off herself!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christmas Tea Party

I think that this afternoon's tea party was the most fun of all the ones we have had so far!

The girls (and their mom's) seemed to have the best time decorating their very own gingerbread creations.

I had decided weeks ago that this would be a fun project. We would use graham crackers and icing to make the structures and then decorate with the 2 tons of left over Halloween candy we had. It sounded fun, but by Monday I was starting to worry about how hard it might be to make the actual gingerbread houses. So, I set out to make one and see. An hour later I was up to my elbows in icing and muttering under my breath. Needless to say, I though that making the houses would prove to be too frustrating for my 2 year old as well as for Leelou who is 7. Since I was already a mess, I worked an additional 2 hours and made all the structures. Once I figured out how to make the basic house it was easy. But, then the creative side of me kicked in! I added on to the houses and made one into a church, one in to a school house and then I found some graham cracker sticks and made an adorable log cabin complete with fireplace! I let the structures dry all week, and I am really glad that I went ahead and did the hard part.

The girls were delighted at decorating these gingerbread homes. Leelou picked the log cabin and made trees out of green lollipops and even created a snowman for the "front yard" with marshmallows. Mallory wanted the house and she didn't hold back when it came to the trimmings complete with chocolate shaped doors and windows! I had made the church for Gracie, so I was glad we got to decorate that one. We picked Smarties for the shingles, and I used lollipops for our stained glass windows. We all had so much fun making these homes and you can really see that in the pictures.

If you have an older child I really recommend this craft, even if you buy one of those kits. It was so much fun and everyone's creativity shown through!

**Gracie really got into this one and she did a lot of the work. Her favorite parts were spreading on the icing, and sneaking candy when I wasn't looking! :) **

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Teacher Appreciation Day!

My best wishes and heartfelt thanks to all the teachers out there who have chosen such a noble profession. How rewarding and challenging a job it must be to mold young minds. All of us parents out there who have young minds that need "molding" thank you for your effort and diligence.

And, a special appreciation for one of the best teachers out there, my best friend Candice who teaches 4th grade at Nolichuckey Elementary School in Greene County, TN!

Other awesome teachers out there:
*Connie Meeks, Louisa County H.S
*Elliott GeFellers, Greene Co, TN
*Helen Tyree, Lynchburg, VA
*RuthAnn McCarthy, Heritage High School (thanks for all your support!)
*Colette Mozingo, Strasburg, VA it is so awesome that you home school Mallory!!
*Deanna Morgan, Nolichuckey Elem. Greene Co., VA

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"I Do It Myself!"

Gracie has been quite the independent spirit for a while now, but these past few days have been a test for Mommy who is constantly being told "No! I do it myself!."

Now, I recognize that this is a good thing, but it can be bittersweet to stand back and watch task after task.

Her new thing is putting her socks on. She is so proud that she has mastered it; that it seems she constantly takes them off just to put them back on.

Last night Garren and I were promptly shoo-ed out of the bathroom because Gracie wanted to brush her teeth herself. Also on the list of mastered tasks: putting shoes on and taking them off, putting on/taking off her jacket, getting things out of the pantry or refrigerator, the list goes on and on.

I was doing fine with all of these things, and was sharing in the applause when she finished a task, until yesterday when I went to read her a nap time story, and she snatched it from my hands and said "no momma, I do it myself!" Okay, I can handle standing there trying not cringe as it takes 2 minutes for her to brush her teeth, or to hear her go through the steps out loud to take off ones shoes---but, you have to leave me something!!!

I really am proud of my independent toddler, maybe this will mean she will want to go to potty by herself? ;) Here's hoping.

She is such a fast learner, and I still have plenty of duties as a mommy. For every "momma I do it myself," there comes at least 2 "momma he-p!" So, I can hang on for a little longer, I am clearly still needed. As for those stories though, she will just have to learn to share, I still need to read the story every once in a while.

**As I was writing this post, I heard Gracie get her stool we keep in the bathroom, I look over to find her standing on her stool and turning her bedroom light on and off. I snapped this picture that she was only too proud to pose for. I guess there is something else she can do by herself!!! I am so happy for her!***

On the sick front, I can't breathe well, Gracie was up most of the night. Her fever seems to be gone, and no more puking--so that's good. In the meantime we are eating chicken noodle soup, coloring a lot and trying not to get on each others nerves!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Best Of Intentions

I am sure my mother is chuckling as I write this post, as she always seems to find these sort of things funny now that she is a grandma. Anyway, the schedule I made Monday will have to wait...probably until next week.

Yesterday afternoon, Gracie awoke from her nap with a 103 degree fever. An hour later she brought back up the Tylenol I gave her. So, I guess Gracie and I weren't lucky enough to bypass Garren's "hordible" (as Gracie would say) illness.

Gracie was much better after the "incident," in fact she ate like a pig. But, we are still trying to manage that fever. Anyway, I have a feeling that my beautifully created schedule will have to be put on hold for awhile, especially since I too am not feeling well.

I guess the road of parenthood really is paved with the best of intentions.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Something New

It's about time this family got on a schedule...I just hope we can keep it up!

This afternoon, I got the idea to get Gracie started on a daily schedule. I think Gracie is more than ready for a routine, and while we have a sketchy one now, I think we are ready for something more concrete.

So here it goes. We will start bright and early tomorrow morning. There is plenty of play time and more restricted TV time. Gracie will get active time, art time, pretend time, as well as the educational time she needs; all in one day. Maybe I should add a music time too, hmmm. I'll be sure to keep you updated on how it goes.

**If you click on the picture you will get a bigger version and you can read the schedule if you want.**

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Deck The Halls

I guess the Yuletide spirit has hit our home, that or I really needed to organize our storage area and thought "hey, why not bring up the Christmas stuff while I am at it?" Despite the reasoning, the Christmas decorations are upstairs and are mostly up for the viewing.

I am exhausted, but the place looks pretty good, even though we don't have a tree yet. I am even feeling Christmasy (yes, I made up that word). Gracie is getting in to the spirit as well. She had a lot of fun "helping" mommy decorate and she even had a few ideas herself, which she demonstrated by moving pieces I had already arranged, to a different spot.

For those of you cursing me for my early decorating, don't worry I still have plenty of procrastinating left. I still haven't bought any gifts, I need to dig out Christmas cards, and I haven't even begun to bake, not to mention I haven't even made an appointment for Gracie's Christmas pictures! So, I still have plenty to do--but December is starting to feel a little merrier now that the manger set is out as well as the advent wreath. This year I added a few new ideas like making Gracie a wreath for her door out of last year's advent wreath (Colette gave us a beautiful ceramic one to use this year), putting lights in the fake Ficus tree, and adding a lot of ribbon.

This Christmas will prove to be the second hardest of all; last year being the worst. So, some decorations, holiday fun, friends and family will really help to make this season full of light instead of so many tears.

Want to see more? I clicked a few shots so you can get the feel of the newly decorated place. Click here.

Happy Birthday Aunt Heather!

Wishing a very Happy Birthday to you Aunt Heather!

We hope that you have a wonderful day filled with lots of love and precious memories. Our love to you and your beautiful family!
Barbara, Garren & Gracie

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Town Christmas Parade & Tree Lighting

The nice weather decided to hang around for another day, but so did Garren's cold.

Gracie and I went with neighbors Colette & Mallory to Strasburg's annual parade and left a sick daddy at home to mend. The sun was about and was beautiful, but it was mainly for show. It was quite cold! A bundled up Gracie enjoyed the parade as it marched past her spot on King Street. Her favorites were any of the people handing out candy. Besides the "sugar elves," Gracie really enjoyed the fire trucks and many horses that were in the parade this year. She also perked up when Santa Claus came down the main street on the back of an antique fire truck.

The parade lasted about 35 minutes, and then we had some time to spare before they light the town tree. Tom had joined us by then and bought several souvineers in the Dollar General while we waited and shivered. He got Gracie an adorable headband of antlers with jingle bells on them, Garren got a boxing reindeer ink pen...what will they think of next?!

We didn't have to wait too much longer before the Vice Mayor found his spot in front of the giant tree. After a few awards, it was time for the lighting countdown. Gracie let Tom hold her on his shoulders for a better view. It took a few seconds for the tree to light up, but Gracie couldn't stop talking about it all the way to the car.

It was a chilly, but very fun afternoon topped off with hot chocolate at the house. I am so glad that we went, we all had a really good time.

I had the brilliant idea to video the tree lighting, and Gracie has now watched it at least 20 times now. I thought you all might enjoy it too! :) Oh, and check out the pictures on Picasa, click here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Wind Advisory

While Aunt Heather, Uncle Kenny & the boys spent the day playing in the snow; all we got was warm wind, and plenty of it.

It has been unseasonably warm here for the past 3 days. We have had temperatures in the 70's and it felt like the end of summer was back. It was really weird. Anyway, today we got plenty of wind to go along with our weird weather--so much so that there was a wind advisory. We got a little rain too.

Now, I am not a person who wishes for warm weather during December. But, I am hoping that it sticks around for tomorrow. We hope to take Gracie to see the Strasburg Christmas Parade, and watch them light the town tree, and they are even doing hay rides this year!! Cross your fingers that the rain holds off.

For those of you who got snow--we hope you are having fun! In the meantime, we will wait patiently for our winter weather--but hopefully it won't start until Sunday! :)

**Above: the wind was really blowing out there today, it knocked over our deck furniture. I took Gracie out on the deck to feel the wind, it blew her hair everywhere--she giggled, and then went back in side.**