Sunday, April 30, 2006

What A Week!

The Shipley family is back in Strasburg after a week long hiatus in Tennessee. We had an action packed week where we had plenty of fun and caught up with long lost relatives.

Here's a wrap up of the week.

Sunday. We arrived very late at Mamaw's & Papaw's house after a 6 hour drive. Garren and Papaw put together the big girl bed that Aunt Sharon had given to Gracie, and she spent her first night in a toddler bed. It was a success! We decided to try the bed after a successful week at Grandma & Grandpa's where Gracie slept by herself at night on the futon in the "girl's room."

Monday. We went to visit Papaw Charles and got to spend some quality time with him and Uncle Joe, Aunt Gail and Aunt Sharon. Gracie loved running through their very large and very green yards (Joe and Charles live next door to each other). She also enjoyed the two cabins that each had built in their respective back yards.

Tuesday. We had an afternoon play date with my friend Stacey and her nearly two year old son Luke. Stacey and I had a great time catching up, although the two kids weren't exactly thrilled to be playing together. We took the tots to Fun Adventure in Johnson City, a very large indoor playground with lots of toys, and games that give tickets. Little Luke was all boy, and Gracie had put on her feminine face for the afternoon--so, they didn't exactly hit it off--but we mom's just laughed! Kids!

Wednesday. We took Gracie to Johnson City's Hands On Museum, where she had a blast! Her favorite things to do were: play pretend in the bank, splash in the water that was meant to be a demonstration of locks and channels, and play in the bubble fountain. I think we all enjoyed the trip through the museum.

Thursday. We visited Candice and Elliott at their home. They grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for us, but the best part came when Elliott got the 4-wheeler out! They drove the three of us around their huge yard in a wagon hooked to the back. Later we un-hooked the wagon and Candice took Gracie and I for a ride. Garren got in on the action too--but he got to drive it! Gracie had a blast, and instantly warmed up to Lucie, Candice and Elliott's playful dog that she hadn't seen in nearly a year.

Friday. Gracie and I took a day off as Garren went to Knoxville to pick up Uncle Luke from college for the weekend. Gracie spent quality time in the swing that Garren hung from a tree branch in the yard earlier in the week.

Saturday. In the evening we built a fire in Mamaw & Papaw's side yard and roasted hot dogs and Gracie got to taste her first s'more!

We had a wonderful week and really enjoyed our visits with family and friends, even though there wasn't enough time to see everyone. I am not sure when our next trip will be, but we look forward to returning.

I took tons and tons of pictures so, be patient as I edit them over the next few days. To see the ones I have finished, click here!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Easter Wrap Up

from family email April 22, 2006:

Dear family & friends:

It's been a long week--but Gracie and I are back from a week at Grandma's...just in time to re-pack and head for a week long trip to TN, tomorrow!

Garren, Gracie and I spent a wonderful Easter weekend with mom and dad. The Easter bunny was very good to Gracie and gave her a basket with a Baby Bop (Barney) plush, a Max & Ruby video, a new baseball hat (Strawberry Shortcake), and various other things like Dora miniatures, puzzles, books, candy, etc.

We took Gracie to see the Easter bunny at the mall, but for the second year in a row she freaked out--we didn't even get a picture of her with the bunny this time. But, there were other fun things to do. The mall had a large mural on the wall in black & white for the kids to color on. She had a blast coloring. Plus, the train was set up. She and Grandma took several rides around the track.

We dyed eggs as a family Easter eve, and Gracie particularly enjoyed saying "splash" as the eggs went in to the dye!

On Easter Sunday, Gracie wore a beautiful purple gingham smocked dress that Lou had started and mom finished just in time for the holiday. She had a white bonnet that I trimmed with scraps from the dress--that made her look adorable!

Gracie and I decided to spend the week afterward with Grandma and Grandpa and we had a wonderful time. It was warm and sunny most of the week so Gracie got plenty of opportunities to play outside. She loved the swing the best, and was heartbroken when she had to leave it behind.

I am attaching some pictures to this email, and if you want to see more click here. We had a wonderful time in Lynchburg and now it is off to Tennessee! For my faithful blog readers I will be back in another week with a TN update and more on life with Gracie.

Our family hopes your families had a blessed Easter holiday and the you are enjoying the springtime. We look forward to many outdoor activities together.

Our love to you all!!
Barbara, Garren & Gracie

More Easter Pictures

Friday, April 21, 2006

We're still here...

Just so you know, the northern branch of the Shipley clan is still here... we're just really, really busy. Barbara and Gracie are still in Lynchburg, preparing to come back tonight or tomorrow. I'm cleaning house tonight just in case.

I have been to Vegas on the James (Richmond) and back, but work has kept me hopping all week. I didn't close up the iBook of Mild Peril until well after midnight (work related, I assure you) for the past two nights.

Next week promises to be an outstanding one politically, but I'm sitting it out. Pending a few more loose ends, we'll be in the Volunteer State all week. Richmond can look after itself for a little while, or at least deal with some hands off supervision.

Now I just have to make it through the rest of this work day...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Happy Anniversarry

Happy Anniversarry Mamaw & Papaw!
Love you both soooo much!
Hugs & Kisses:
(And Barbara & Garren too)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Pics

**Various Easter Weekend photos: On the train at River Ridge Mall, hamming it up after climbing down the steps in front of Chesnut Hill UMC, attempting a split between Daddy and Grandma while listening to a giant talking rabbit at the mall, leaving church with Daddy and Grandpa and hamming it up with Mommy, after discovering that eggs don't bounce, but are fun anyway.

Words of Wisdom

From Dr. James Dobson. I'm not a huge fan of the guy, but even a broken clock is right twice a day...

"Simply put, the stability of marriage is a byproduct of an iron-willed determination to make it. If you choose to marry, enter into that covenant with the resolve to remain committed to each other for life. Don't allow yourself to consider even the possibility of divorce."
Worth repeating. Worth repeating often.

Civility ... or how not to get shot in Virginia.

I've griped about living in the Old Dominion enough for people to know it's got problems. The taxes are higher than back home, you can't go two weeks without putting a new sticker on your car, and the roads make Rock Batter look like I-40 in Seveir County.

But there's one thing I do love about living in Virginia.


There's still an air of the gentility from the past. Manners still matter. After we moved here, I often wondered why my Southern mannerisms just seemed to fall on deaf ears here, whereas in Tennessee they were greeted with surprise and a smile.

It turns out the reason was simple: it's expected here. For most parts of this state, the difference between a gentleman and someone lesser is not his bank account, his appearance, his car or his clothes. It is how he treats other in polite society.

"Thank you, ma'am," is expected at the drive thru. If you don't, then you're probably just a Yankee. Treat those at the drive-thru the same as you treat a member of the House of Delegates, and you'll go far here. Looks a lot like the Golden Rule, don't it?

Since I've been here, I've had a lot of time to reflect on just what it means to be a member of polite society. I've come to one overriding conclusion — words matter. What we say to people, how we say it and the spirit in which we say it can have a huge impact on people. A thoughtless word can have an impact that we'd never imagine, just as one loud shout in the mountains might start an avalanche that could bury someone else.

I am more convinced than ever that every one of us has a duty to think about what we say, and how we say it. If I can impart anything to Gracie about how to care for those she loves, it will be to always be judicious in what she says to them.

No need to bring a cannon when a fly swatter will do. And when you do need a cannon, get a small one, and be discreet about it.

If you don't, then you're probably just being a Yankee.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter!

We hope that you all have a wonderful and special Easter Sunday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with each of you on this blessed day!
I will post Gracie's Easter pictures as soon as possible!
Our Love to you all!
Barbara, Garren & Gracie

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Vicki

Have a Happy Birthday Vicki!
Full of lots of hugs and kisses, and plenty of birthday cake!
Barbara, Garren & Gracie

**Picture of Gracie and Vicki sharing chocolate cake from Grandma's birthday March 2005**

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

An Up And Down Day

What a day! It was like living with two Gracie's today as she showed the very best and very worst sides of herself.

The day started off with a "whimper," and then a temper tantrum and then a time out. Gracie has had time outs before, but they were few and far between and they usually involved sitting in her daddy's lap with the TV off--the punishment being having to sit still with out anything to look at.

Now that she is growing, it is time for big girl "time outs." The morning was rough, but the time out happened around noon when Gracie was mad because she couldn't get the lid off her magnet container and threw some books off the shelf in the kitchen. I asked Gracie to help pick up the books (she is too little to understand "you made the mess, you clean it up). When she refused, I walked her back over to the pile of books on the floor and asked her again to help me. When she smacked my hand, I warned her that we don't hit in this house and that she needed to help me clean up. This time she kicked the books, she got a second warning (I think she is too little for just one warning, so I give her one more so she really understands) and was asked to help me pick up the books, again. This time she shoved me. That was it. I turned the rocking chair in our living room around to face the wall. She wailed and wailed. This time though, my honry little tyke decided she would see how far she could push me. She got out of the chair and smirked at me. I stayed calm, put her back in the chair and told her she had 2 minutes left in time out. She got out of the chair 3 more times before she knew I meant business. I remained calm during the time out and then turned the chair around to face me while she was still sitting, and told her why she was being punished. I gave her a hug and wiped her nose and we went on with the day.

Now, you would think that was the end of that...but, no. 30 minutes later I asked her if she wanted to color, she did. I got out the crayons. We colored for a few minutes and then she started to throw crayons. I warned her twice and then took the crayons away. She threw a temper-tantrum. Since she was sitting and fussing, and I had already punished her by taking the crayons away, I didn't think another time out was warranted. It took about 3 minutes, but she calmed down and ate the lunch I fixed her. Believe it or not, besides a few whining incidents later in the day, Gracie was an angel. I think she really got the message that mommy may be the "easier parent," but I am no fool!

Not long after the coloring incident, I decided to see if she would try to potty. She sat and we read and wouldn't you know it--but she pottied. It has been months since the last time she went piddle in the potty, but she remembered she was supposed to get a potty sticker. We celebrated the accomplishment and then settled in for a nap. Mommy's reward was a baby fast asleep in about 15 minutes!

We spent a good rest of the day coloring with chalk on the deck, playing "egg hunt," (she had so much fun yesterday finding the eggs, that I hid them again while she was down for nap and we searched all over the house for them again, she loved it--but was disappointed a little that there wasn't anything inside the eggs) and reading books.

All in in all it was a up and down day. The picture of Gracie in the rocking chair was from her "time out" today, don't worry she didn't see me take it.

Why is the sun over there?

One good thing about road trips is the, how shall I say this?, the utter peace and quiet you get in a hotel room by yourself. Note that this is posted before 9 a.m. I assure you, that doesn't happen when I'm in the Shipley house.

I was disturbed, though, to note the sun so low on the eastern horizon when I picked up my substandard breakfast a few minutes ago. I'm told it's something called "sunrise" and is entirely normal for this time of year.

I love my daughter, but uninterrupted sleep is nice too. :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Greetings from Richmond

Yes, as Barbara mentioned below, I am in Richmond, stalking the elusive state budget agreement. Crikie! They're rare little buggas!

In keeping with my policy, no job blogging here, other than to say today was utter, utter chaos. Those who know me know I'm not a triathlete. So imagine me after several flights of steps and a number of two-block sprints in a jacket and tie. Rest assured, I have showered.

But, a few things about Richmond that bear blogging:

• Broad Street, despite its name, is not that broad.
• Nothing, and I mean nothing, ever happens until I'm in the bathroom.
• Empty city streets are spooky, even at 3 p.m.

Tomorrow, the Senate rolls into town, and short of a miracle, we all roll back out again around 4 p.m. Hopefully, Gracie hasn't found all the eggs yet.

Gracie's First Egg Hunt

Gracie and I invited the mothers and daughters from our apartment over today for an Easter party and egg hunt.

Since Garren was in Richmond; the decorations, treats, and clean up duty were all on me--well okay, these tasks are usually mine, but the difficulty level was a code orange as Gracie spent her day being an absolute terror!

I was able to get the place picked up and the cupcakes frosted, and the many construction paper decorations put up--but I was nearly out of time and I still had 4 cups in the sink, an un-vacuumed living room floor...oh, and I hadn't hidden the eggs!

By 3:35 I had the eggs hidden and Gracie dressed, but I had to let the guests in with out vacuuming or hand washing the few dishes. I don't think anyone seemed to mind! :)

The girls, all three of them, were very excited to get to the "hunt." Once Gracie figured out she was supposed to find the eggs and put them in her basket, she had a wonderful time! She absolutely loved the game. She giggled and smiled so much you wouldn't have known that she spent the past six hours whining, crying and avoiding a nap.

The girls brought their bounty upstairs to sort and trade. Gracie wasn't much interested in which eggs she got, she just wanted to shake them and eat all the candy that had fallen out from some of the eggs. ( The mothers and I got together last night and filled the eggs with candy, stickers, toys, nickels, etc.) My little sweet tooth couldn't get enough of the chocolate, and was very disappointed when I wouldn't let her have any more. Well, she had to save room for the cupcakes and cool aid we were having! (Needless to say she had a very healthy dinner!)

I think all of the girls had a great time, and they each left with plenty of goodies, a Dora certificate ( is awesome!!), and coloring sheets. I am including a link to more pictures. They really came out cute!

We are looking forward to this weekend as we head to Lynchburg for the holiday and to see the Easter Bunny, and ride the train at the mall, and color get the idea. Gracie and I will also spend the week with Grandma and Grandpa as poor Garren continues to wait out the General Assembly.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Palm Sunday Dilemma

As a rule, I don't blog about work. I keep work stuff on the work site, and even then you won't find personal opinions on it.

But this week work and home collided on the front page, and I think it's a story worth telling.

Toward the end of the week, we were surprised to find the pastor of our church on the front page of my paper, having been accused of committing a rather odd act of larceney at an antique mall north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Barbara and I both love our pastor. He's a great guy. I like going to church when he's behind the pulpit because he challenges me. When we leave at noon each Sunday, Barbara is often on the receiving end of "Wow. Have you ever thought about it like that?" I have no doubt that our pastor loves the church and serves it to the best of his ability.

All involved with the incident agree that it's the result of an illness. Still, Barbara and I were in a tough spot this Palm Sunday. The story wasn't unfair, but it didn't pull any punches. As I work for the paper (even though most people at church don't know it), there was a chance that things could get uncomfortable quickly, in a variety of ways.

In the end, we decided to go, if for no other reason than to teach Gracie (someday) that you don't slink out of things just because they're uncomfortable. As someone wise once told me, a man stands up. And things went very well. It was an open expression of love, support and forgiveness by a community of believers. It was the kind of thing needed to restore badly-bruised faith from time to time.

It would have been a lot easier if the story hadn't been printed, but that's not the way life works. The media can't pull punches, even when it makes some of our number squirm in their pews. We have to be fair, but with no favor.

God is a god of second chances. If he weren't, none of us would have any hope. As Jesus showed us on the first Palm Sunday, we can't back down from the uncomfortable things required of us. Jesus rode into Jerusalem, knowing full well what was coming. He could have taken the easy route and tried to rally those shouting "Hosanna!" to rebel against Rome, and physically re-establish the throne of David.

But he didn't.

He did what he knew he had to do, because love demanded it. I know that's a lesson I could certainly stand to embody more often. When our pastor comes back, I'll shake his hand, hug him, and tell him in all honesty that we're praying for him. And nothing more will be said about it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Spoonful Of Sugar

Several decades ago you needed a spoonful to help the medicine go down...but these days the flavor or children's medicines is so appealing they actually ask for more!

Since Gracie got her first dose of Tylenol after her booster shots, she has LOVED the grape flavor. Maybe because it was far better tasting than formula, or maybe it really does taste good (it smells like really good grape bubble gum), but Gracie has never fought to take medicine. She even requests it if we should leave the bottle out from the night before! (Don't worry it's child proof!) Boy do I wish that medicine was that good when I was a kid.

I start this entry lighthearted, but the truth is, that at only 2 years old Gracie already needs a daily dose of medicine.

For the past few weeks we have noticed that Gracie had been particularly grumpy. She lay around on the floor instead of playing, rubbed her eyes, had trouble sleeping, practically rubbed her nose off, and coughed and sneezed a lot more than usual.

Since Garren has what I consider debilitating allergies, it was no surprise when a dose of 24-hour children's Claritin changed our grumpy miserable baby back in to the energetic toddler we better know. It was like day and night after a few days on the Claritin. She is much happier, she sleeps better and has a ton more energy. Clearly her allergies were the cause of her down mood, and I am forever grateful that we have found a "cure."

I can't help but be a little sad though. While the miracles of modern science have made it easier for Gracie to accept medicine, and the convenience of once a day dosing--she is only 2, and it breaks my heart that she will have to take medicine everyday. Her body is so young and I have watched so carefully what she puts in to it, and now to add ingredients that I can't even pronounce.

The truth of the matter is, I would rather her be able to breathe and play-- and it could be worse. If the worse thing that ever happens to her is severe allergies, I will owe a great debt of gratitude. But, I am the mommy, and this is my blog so I can complain to anyone who will listen.

In the meantime I will focus on the positive, we caught it early. She could have suffered for many years before we found out that she had this problem, and we definitely deserve parenting stars for fixing the problem. Now, if we can only find a medicine that makes a child want to use the potty and give up her binki forever!!

***Picture above from last weekend at the park. Now, Daddy and Gracie share more than their cute faces--now they share allergies!***

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Embarrassed? Surely not.

I am pleased to report that I have, for the first time, embarrassed my daughter. I'm sure it is the first of many.

Gracie has adopted a stuffed "Dora the Explorer" doll lately to be her boon companion. It goes everywhere she goes, eats dinner, brushes her teeth and more. So when Gracie was brushing her teeth last night, "Dora" decided to give her some encouragement, courtesy of Dad.

"Brush your teeth, Gracie. Muy Bueno! Boots loves to brush his teeth! Swish, swish, swash!"

She stopped dead, cringed, and said "Daaaaaaaaddddddiiiieeee!" This morning we got the same result. Dora decided to comment on Gracie playing hide and seek under the covers, and blushing was quick and intense.

I know someday she's going to be smoking a cigarette in the back of a Corvette and say "My dad is such an idiot!" But in the meantime, I think we're going to have some fun talking to Dora... :)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Cute Outfit

Not much to write about today, but I had to post this picture of Gracie's adorable outfit.

Its nice and warm here, so this afternoon I took her to the park. Luckily we bought Gracie several new short sleeve tops over the past week--it feels like spring!

Have a great Monday everyone!

Oh, and I started a Snapfish folder for April. Check back over the month to find new pictures, I update it often and the link stays the same, but you may have to hit the refresh button if your computer saves the page.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Bottomless Pit

I continue to stand amazed at my daughter's daily appetite. I am not sure if her hunger is controlled by the moon or boredom, or just how much food we have in the house at any given time; but the best I can do is just shrug and smile.

Gracie's appetite is very peculiar. She will go for days and eat hardly anything at all, and then there are days she will eat like she is storing up for winter!

The past two days have been of the "storing" variety.

First, let me tell you what she normally eats. I call this normal, but the fact is she eats very little most of the time. At breakfast 2 waffles and syrup, a package of fruites for snack, if I am lucky I get her to eat some yogurt or applesauce, and then she has fruit of some kind (can of washed fruit cocktail, or grapes, or an apple). That's it. Most nights she takes a bite of dinner, and no more until her sugar-free chocolate milk at bedtime.

Now, let me tell you what she ate today! Scrambled eggs, about 15 HUGE grapes, 3/4 a bag of popcorn, a handful of potato chips, an apple, fruities, pasta for lunch, for dinner a large bowl of applesauce, two helpings of butter noodles, a few green beans, and a couple bites of chicken, another package of fruities, and her SF chocolate milk tonight!

All this eating means one thing...she is growing again! Time to head back to the stores. Gracie is now in a size 9 shoe. We bought her new shoes a week ago, at this rate we will have to get new ones next week!

By the way; all March pictures are now on Snapfish. See them here.

**The picture above is from yesterday when we took Gracie to IHOP for her favorite thing in the world: pancakes. She ate and ate at the restaurant and then most of the day afterward! (Yes, she practically cleaned her plate, except the bacon--daddy ate that, but she ate half of his eggs!) I gave birth to the Jolly Green Giant!***