Monday, December 31, 2007


Do you ever feel like your kids ruin everything?!!!

Okay that is a little dramatic, but Gracie has found yet another holiday to poo-poo on. You have to admit this is a pretty cool house to live in--if you are 3 anyway. Mommy has the best ideas, we are always doing a craft or a fun activity. So like the super-mom that I am, I had plenty of fun things planned for today. But of course, Gracie didn't take a nap. Well, its more than that. She hasn't gotten much sleep in days and is unlivable, so without a nap today--there goes this evenings planned fun.

I had two schools of thought, let Gracie's bad attitude and my frustration ruin another holiday, or post pone New Year's fun until tomorrow. I have decided to put things on hold.

Now, before you start clucking at me-- think back. I am sure there was a special day or a holiday you had great visions for, only to have your day "rained on" by a cranky toddler or child with a whole other idea for the day.

And for those of you who think my life is way too cutesy and perfect, chuckle at your leisure. And, I am not to big to admit this is not the first day she has soured for me. There are many other holidays that I had great expectations for. But, then again maybe that is the problem. We have the best of intentions and we want to make days memorable for our children and families and while we stress we forget the memories in all the hustle and bustle.

I guess I learned two lessons today...okay three. 1. Life is what you make it--slow down and remember what's really important. 2. It's just another day to your child and they would be happy if you spent it jumping on the bed. 3. Great expectations can bite you in the butt, especially when you are a mother.

I will be sure to share pictures and other fun stuff from tomorrow's New Year's celebration--if I don't lock her up until she's 10!!!!!

Friday, December 28, 2007


Welcome to the family Twinkle Shipley!
You have a little girl who loves you very much!

Busy Day

Christmas pictures taken (no tears!!!), new school shoes (two pair), ride on the train (in the mall), made a new friend, and got to pick out something from Toys R Us.

Today was a very busy day for Gracie and Mommy, but we had a wonderful time. I made an appointment to have her pictures done today at Penny's around 2:30. On the down side there wasn't enough time for a nap, on the plus side she gave great smiles and didn't even whimper! Usually, I get several different poses, but this time since it was Christmas pictures, and Christmas is over--I just got the package. And with my coupon skills, I got it for $4.16.

(I picked the bottom row center, click on picture to make it bigger)

Next stop was new shoes. Gracie has been needing new shoes since about Thanksgiving, but with this crazy schedule, today was the first real down time we had to go and get them. I was able to get her a new pair of "every day" shoes (tennis shoes) at Wal Mart for $10. The other two pair of school shoes we grabbed at Payless. She has the exact same styles (Mary Jane's & Saddle), just a size bigger. She is now in size 11's!!!!

I called Daddy to meet us at the mall so he could be there for her big surprise, but he was stuck in traffic, so we headed back across the mall and she got to ride on the Christmas train. I have no idea how much longer they will leave it up, but she enjoyed it and the lady let her go around at least 10 times.

Daddy found us and we took Gracie to Teddy B. Stuffed. We told her this was her Christmas present on Christmas morning (I even made a little certificate), but she was too thrilled with actual toys to care or remember.

When we walked in her eyes bugged out. She was so excited...maybe a little too excited. There are so many friend to choose from. After what seemed like hours, she finally decided on a gray kitty. The next part was a little creepy for me, but she walked over and picked out the color eyes she wanted for kitty--purple. I noticed that she was getting very shy, and before I knew it she was stuck to my leg like glue. The owner, and very nice gentleman was trying to talk her through the steps, but she just wanted her friend. Mommy pushed the petal to "stuff" the kitty since she wouldn't have any part if it. She did pick out a cloth "wish' in the shape of a pink butterfly, but she freaked when she was supposed to turn around and make a wish. Eventually the wish was "implanted," and she had her friend. We told her she could pick out one outfit. At this point her spirits return and she runs over to the wall and finds the ballet outfit. Surprise, surprise. We dress kitty and she gets her own little home and birth certificate (Gracie couldn't pick a name yet). Kitty has gotten lots of hugs and Gracie is one thrilled little girl.

Daddy headed back to work after Gracie thanked us. It was so cute, she hugged each of us and said "Thank you mommy for my friend. Merry Christmas!" It was one of those moments when your heart melts.

We grabbed a snack and then left the mall and stopped by Toys R US. She had used up all the coloring sheets in her My Little Pony activity set, so we got a new one. This time she chose Care Bears.

Poor Gracie had such a busy day, and she knew it was family movie night. I knew she needed sleep, and luckily I was able to snuggle Gracie and Twinkle (this is the name she choose for her new friend) down for an hour and half nap. Whew! I guess it was a very busy day for mommy as well.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Addition

Look at the monstrosity that is now in our house.

This would be Garren's Christmas present to himself. He picked up this over-priced beauty yesterday, and seems very happy with his purchase despite my scowls.

Do you know how many dresses I could get from the thrift store for $630!!! What could you buy for $630?


Oh, but don't you love Gracie's little jammies? I found these at mom's a few months ago and hoped she could fit them. They are a little snug, but she loves them--she doesn't want to take them off. I got her 2 more pair yesterday at Wal-Mart. When she has them on she actually looks her age!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Gracie's Ponies, All 50 Of Them!

*Aurora Mist
*Bashful Bonnet
*Butter Pop (grandma)
*Cherry Blossom

*Chilly Breezes
*Chocolate Chipper
*Comet Tail
*Cute Curtsy
*Dance Around (grandma)
*Dance Slippers (grandma)
*Desert Rose
*Dibble Dabble
*Dream Blue (Uncle Brian)
*Fancy Free
*Fun Fairy (grandma)
*Jade Garden
*Jolly Lolly (Santa)
*Lily Lightly
*Lovely Ladybug (grandma)
*Midnight Dream
*Mittens (Candice)
*Paradise Island (Grandma)
*Party Cake (Santa)
*Peach Blossom
*Pinkie Pie
*Precious Gem
*Pretty Pop (grandma)
*Rainbow Dash
*Rainbow Swirl (Grandma)
*Royal Bouquet
*Royal Twist
*Secret Wish
*Silver Rain
*Soda Float
*Starbeam (Santa)
*Star Catcher (Santa)
*Star Flower
*Star Surprise
*Strawberry Surprise
*Strawberry Swirl
*Sunny Daze (grandma)
*Sweet Sparkle
*Tangerine Twinkle
*Tira Mi Su
*Triple Treat
*Tropical Surprise
*Twinkle Twirl (grandma)

*Inherited From Mariah *Got this Christmas

Merry Christmas Morning

Gracie was thoroughly spoiled by Santa this Christmas. She was so thrilled to see so many things she wanted under the tree. That is after she remembered that Santa came last night (see video). Santa was very generous to the My Little Pony empire. Gracie got Star Catcher, Starbeam, Jolly Lolly, and Party Cake ponies. She also got a MLP toothbrush, game rug, book, musical tea set and coloring pages. In the non-pony categories, she received princess glitter play dough, princess miniatures, books, Hungry Hungry Hippo game, view master reels, and much much more.

It didn't take her long to go through each and every toy. Santa left most of the gifts unwrapped, but she had plenty of paper to tear off! Grandma (even though she gave Gracie far too much on Saturday!) sent back 2 more gifts for Gracie to open. She got Pretty Pop pony, and Rainbow Swirl pony that came with a very large ice cream truck. Leave it to Grandma to upstage Santa. This is clearly her favorite toy and she played with it all day long. Each of the ponies have gotten a turn to either drive the truck or sit in the back.

Mamaw and Papaw sent Gracie some gifts too. She got a dress and a very large box of fruties. Daddy and I gave Gracie a gift certificate to take her to Teddy B. Stuffed in the mall and make her very first friend. She wasn't thrilled because it wasn't a "real" gift I think. But, she is going to have a blast when we take her!!

Gracie has been so blessed this Christmas. She has gotten so much and we thank all of our friends and family who have been so generous to our little elf.

And, Garren and I are very blessed as well. There was one gift under the tree this morning for us from Gracie. Her preschool teachers helped her make a very special ornament with her picture inside. Definitely the best present we could have ever gotten!

I hope that the scene was much the same in each of your homes this morning. Merry Christmas!

See all of the Christmas pictures here!

She Forgot All About Santa



Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

My favorite part of the whole Christmas season! I hope that all of our friends and family are enjoying this evening together!

We had a lovely day. We made cookies for Santa, went to the Christmas Eve service at church, sang outside with candles, left Santa his cookies and milk, and even had time to take a family picture.

Garren and Gracie have been watching Santa as he makes his way around the world on Google Earth tonight. Gracie even emailed him, since we are sure that he has a laptop, so he would remember she was on the "nice" list.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Silent Night

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Gracie Visits Santa

Pretty picture huh?! She looks very happy, but I assure you this captured mearly 30 seconds of the actual Santa visit experience. Most of the time (outside of waiting in line) looked more like this...

Despite her hesitation, she did sit up there with Mariah. She buried her head in Grandma after she got down off of his lap, and grandma interpreted her list so Santa would know what to bring her.

Look What I Got!!

I am so excited! This was the coolest gift ever! My mom got all of these for me and I can't wait to decorate my next cake! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thank You Mrs. Patsy

After school today we ran a few errands. One of those errands was taking a small gift and Christmas card to Mrs. Patsy the receptionist at Daddy's Winchester office. She was so happy to see Gracie since it has been many, many months since we have been in on a week day.

She spoiled Gracie by giving her some money to pick out a gift. Not sure of when I could take Gracie to pick something out before Christmas--we stopped at the K Mart on the way out of town where she picked out this Play Dough set. We have been playing with it for most of the evening and she loves it. It makes flowers with play dough. We looked at ponies (of course) but she had all the ones that were there, or they have been purchased or will be taken care of by Santa. Luckily mommy found the play dough section.

Thank You Mrs. Patsy
Merry Christmas!

Preschool Christmas Party

What a day Gracie had! Today is the last day of preschool for the 2007 year, and the little tykes had a Christmas party to celebrate. I took in microwaved popcorn and 19 candy cane reindeer that I made for each kid. I also sent some small gifts for the teachers.

In addition to her party, Gracie had special visitors at school today. Daddy and Rich showed up to snap a few pictures for an article he is writing to the Governor's Pre-K proposal. Garren said that it was a mad house in there, but he feels like Rich got plenty of good pictures. The story and picture will be in the paper Saturday.

Ms. Stephanie told me when I picked Gracie up that things went well. She went on to tell me she ate her whole plate of treats. My little hungry munchkin does not leave crumbs.

Gracie told me they did the pledge twice (this is what Garren wanted the picture to be of), they sang Christmas songs and she colored. She told me she played with Joanna today.

I left my camera at the school today and showed Ms. Christine how to use it. She took a few pictures, most are blurry, but I will put in her Picasa folder (scroll to the bottom, Gracie helped me with names). I am hoping now I can put a face with the names that she tells me about.

She came home with a paper bag full of candy treats and a back pack full of crafts....and 2 presents! Two mothers bought gifts for the whole class. Each were about $3 per kid. I was shocked. Thankfully, not every parent did this. I didn't even think about it. I mean, I made the candy cane reindeer, but gifts for each kid. These parents spent $3 x 19 kids!

Gracie had a great time today, and I look forward to seeing the picture in the paper. I decided not to stick around for the party today. Last time (Halloween party), I felt like I was in the way and "the mother who couldn't let go." So, I cut the strings today and waited at home. But, leaving the camera was a nice way to still get a sneak peek. I may do it more often!

**Top Picture by Ms. Christine, I am not sure what she is playing with, but I noticed she was playing alone. Right, the dress she wore to school today, I got so many comments all day long. can you guess where I got it ;) Bottom: this it the one child I can pick out--this is Joanna, Ms. Christine took this picture too.***

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas From The Shipleys

An early Christmas present from all of us to all of you!! We hope you enjoy this calendar. Click on the link to download. You will find the link in the bottom right corner after you click below. Then save as a Microsoft Word document (as that is what I used to create it). There are 2 versions, a master list of all of our friends and family, and a blank calendar suitable for printing at home and adding your own dates.

Merry Christmas from us to you, thanks for reading!

2008 Calendar with everyone's dates
2008 Calendar Blank

If you still can't get it to work and you want a copy email me and I will email it to you! And, a special thanks to all who replied to my calendar request for dates!!

Exciting Preschool Day

Gracie had plenty of fun today in preschool, so much fun in fact she couldn't wait to tell me all about it.

They had cheese balls for snack. Whenever this is the snack of the day, it is the first thing she tells me. They sang Frosty The Snowman, I'm A Little Tea Pot, and Itsy Bitsy Snowflake today.

The highlight of the day was playing with peppermint play dough. I will have to look this up online and see if we can make it. The room smelt so yummy.

Gracie told me about playing "Pass The Present." She passed the present to Reagan. They got to peek inside the present. She said it had Christmas erasers.

She played Lincoln Logs with Jackie and colored two pictures. I think that was about it. I think the reason she was so excited when I picked her up was because I asked Ms. Stephanie if Garren could have a picture taken of the kids for a preschool story on Thursday. She said it was fine and told all of the kids Gracie's daddy would be here on Thursday to take a picture of their class for the paper. Thursday is also their Christmas party, so I will be sure to let you know how it goes!

On the less exciting side of her day, we got another one of those exposure papers. This time it's pink eye. According the sheet a child should show symptoms within 24 hours of being exposed. Apparently which ever child had it, had it on Thursday, and since this is 5 days later--I would say we are in the clear.

**Don't you love the dress! Someone made it and I bought it for $2.50 at the kids second hand store here in town! I forgot my camera when I went to pick her up from school, so I snapped this one when we got back**

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Quote Of The Week

I believe it was Wednesday and my angry toddler shouted this at me....

"My name is Gracie Shipley and I know everything!!!"

Life At My House This Christmas

Third Week Of Avent

O Jesus Christ,
Key of David,
come and set your people free.
Open the gates of heaven for us;
come, deliver us from evil.
King David was a mighty king
who built a city long ago.
He left a key
that Jesus found in the manger hay.
Key of David, Jesus Christ,
open heaven's gates for us.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Program

Well, no one got to see my cake, but they got to eat it, and Gracie was especially happy with that part.

When we came up stairs to the fellowship hall after the adorable program, the ladies had sliced the cake up and it was on plates. But, oh well, I snapped pictures, and I really wanted the practice.

Despite the threat for ice later, Gracie and I decided to go on and go to the program. It was cold, but there was no rain or ice or snow. She got fidgety during the nearly 2 hour program, but enjoyed it thoroughly. We have a singing group in our Church called the Ambassadors of Joy. There are 4 of them and they put on a 30 or so minute concert before the kids went on. Gracie enjoyed the music so much she got to clapping during one of the more spirited songs. This lead to everyone looking at us and smiling, and then they joined in. I guess Gracie's cuteness is contagious!

The kids went on next, and they were simply precious. You couldn't hear their lines very well, but most of the performance was singing, and they belted it out and danced and everything. I look forward to the days when Gracie is old enough to be in the church performance, or even on stage through school. Tonight's audience was packed with proud parents and grandparents.

After the show, we went up for treats. I limited Gracie to one slice of cake. Apparently who ever signed up to be Santa didn't show, but each kid that was there got more sugar in the form of a treat bag. Between the kids in the performance and kids in attendance, I would say there were around 30 all together. We have a small church, but with extended families and maybe neighbors and friends and such, there was a large crowd there. Plus, I have never been to the 8am service, so I am not sure how many people are in the pews at that awful hour of the morning.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent Cake

Well, what do you think? It took several hours, but I am quite pleased with it. I signed up to bring a dessert for tomorrow's Christmas program at church, and I wanted another chance to practice my skills.

Yes, I did notice after I lit the candles that wax went every where. Wax can't hurt anything, but it isn't very pretty, so I pulled off the wax after it hardened with a knife, and fixed the areas as good as new.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Beaming With Pride

I was one proud momma this morning after picking up Gracie from Preschool. Her teacher, Ms. Stephanie, made it a point to pull me aside and tell me what an improvement Gracie has made. I stood there stunned as she told me how much she had blossomed.

Apparently, for the first few weeks or even months, Gracie sat alone and played or colored by herself. Ms. Stephanie told me that she is now interacting with the other kids and she and Kendall played and played today.

I was so happy to hear that. I told her that we had noticed a very big improvement with her at home, and that I relieved. I had been wanting to call and ask for a progress report on Gracie, but never found the time. I did ask about her behavior. I told her I wasn't really worried about it because she was a good girl at home, and she almost laughed at me. Apparently she is a very good girl at school. She also told me that Gracie gets very excited. This is very true. She gets super excited about even the smallest thing. Apparently the teachers love to watch her get bouncy when they announce a new thing.

When I got inside I found her waiting to show me her smiley thumb. She is such a good girl, and I am so very lucky to have her. School has made such a huge difference in her life and I think it has really opened new opportunities for her. I am glad, for once, I was right. Getting her in to preschool was the best thing I could have done!

As for her day: she had cheese balls for snack. They read a Clifford Puppy Days Book: Best Snowman Ever. They made something with paint today that is a surprise. This was so cute as she told me it was a Santa surprise. (They made gifts for parents today) She brought home her "football" picture and a few other coloring sheets. She played blocks with Kendall. They sang Itsy Bitsy Snowflake, and I'm A Little Tea Pot.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Frustrating Tumble Tot

Gracie found herself very frustrated this afternoon as the tumble tot instructors found a new stretching idea. I have to say the idea was very cute. They got the kids to use pool noodles to stretch and balance.

Typical Gracie couldn't get it the first time and fell in to a lump on the floor, arms crossed. I don't know where she gets her "defeatest" attitude from! I try to instill a sense of accomplishment and self worth in her everyday. But, she is like that. She gives up if she can't do it right the first time.

We talked about how people have to practice and not give up, but as the warm ups went on and on, she cried and pouted and pouted some more. I took a deep breath and tried not to get angry. I kept picking her up and telling her to keep trying. Thankfully, we went on to stations. But, unfortunately her bad attitude went with her.

Somehow we made it through.

We are going to take a break from Tumble Tots for the winter. Today was the last week of this session. We aren't stopping because of her temper, but because the next session goes through Christmas, and I found out that they don't make up weeks lost and we are expected to get a HUGE snowstorm this weekend. I decided I could use less stress during the holidays, so we will pick back up mid-January when the next session begins.

**Above: the kids try the elephant walk. You can see that Gracie will not do it right and she didn't make it very far before her short fuse ran out and she dropped the other kids.**

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Want More?

The Jingle Bell fun couldn't end at school today! Gracie and I had our very own singing this afternoon in the living room. She on her bells, and I accompanied on the drum. We switched later, but you can barely hear her over her drumming talent.

Watch closely as the cool aid kicks in and Gracie is moved by the spirit of sugar.

I added the reindeer ears for a final touch. If you don't get any carolers this year you can watch again and again. Think of us as global Christmas cheer bringers! :)

Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells to all!

Jingle Bell Good Day

Gracie had a fun day at school today as they focused on her new favorite song Jingle Bells!

Besides singing Jingle Bells today, they sung Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and painted pictures. She said they painted with bows. I have no idea. The calendar said they would be pop painting--but I don't know what that is either. When I asked her what she painted, she told me "a football." They used red and gold paint.

Snack today was goldfish and red cool aid. I figured the drink by the red mustache she had when I picked her up.

They red a Little Critter story today, and she played with Cameron and Jackie since Joanna wasn't there today. She said they played with the blocks. She also found time to do a coloring page of a Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Decorating The Tree

Our tree is lit up tonight, and filled with tiny festive wooden ornaments. Why wooden you ask? Well, one because they are my favorite, and two because we learned that Gracie is till too rough to get out our cherished ornaments that have been safely stored since she was born.

Gracie had a wonderful time putting each little creature and angel on the tree. Having your own family at Christmas is such a special thing, I can't even describe. I hope all of you who have kids of your own still at home take the time to enjoy this season. And, if yours are grown, take time to remember what it was like when little hands were there to help.

We wish all of you a wonderful season, not just a Merry Christmas. Christmas is more than just one day, it is a season full of memories and wonderful opportunities to be a loving family.

What has your family done together this holiday season? I would love to hear about it. Fill up the comment section!

Advent, Week 2

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.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Little Lanterns

This craft came out super cute, but it is very noisy and way too hard for a 3 year old!!

I found the craft idea in a crafts book for parents (I got for $.10 at a thrift store!). You take soup cans (or any other cans you have), strip off the labels and wash them well after you have taken the contents out and removed the lid. Then on a safe surface (I used a cutting board), take a hammer and nail and create a design of holes on the side of the can.

I made a snowflake, a heart, and a house on mine and they looked really pretty. After you have your design put a candle inside and light it. They look very pretty outside where you can see them from a window.

This is a great craft for older kids, and they really add some cheap holiday cheer to your decorations.

**Above are mine on the deck**

Tea With Mrs. Claus

Our county's Parks and Rec department came up with the cutest idea for this holiday season: Tea With Mrs. Claus.

I could hardly wait until this afternoon to take Gracie to see Mrs. Claus. I dressed her in a super cute smocked green dress I found at a Goodwill. After several passes with the iron and the fixing of 3 buttons, she looked pretty as a picture!

The event was held in the Senior's Center of Edinburg School (same place we go for Tumble Tots-except its in the gym). There were about 5 kids to start out with, all about Gracie's age. As the hour long event went on more kids came in, and in the end there were about 10 maybe. This was the perfect amount for the 3 senior elves and Mrs. Claus to handle.

Mrs. Claus came a little late as Santa had asked her to feed the reindeer before she left. When she got settled she went around to each child and picked them up. I couldn't believe that Gracie let her. She gave her a super big hug and posed for the picture. This lady was super sweet and kind to the kids, so really I shouldn't have been shocked.

After hugs Mrs. Claus let each child pick a musical instrument and we sang and marched to Christmas songs. She also read stories and talked to the kids about Christmas. These little ones had a very small attention spans, but she handled it well.

Then it was time for snacks. The kids got cookies and cool aid, and a candy cane on the way out. Gracie had a great time and talked non stop about everything she had done on the ride home. Another wonderful Gracie Christmas memory made!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Winter Fun At School

Schools were on a two hour delay this morning, so we got to sleep in a little. I was actually glad of the delay, not just for the extra sleep, but I because it was better than canceling class all together. I just hated the thought of Gracie missing a day of school.

Gracie wore her snowman dress made by Grandma (first for Mariah), and looked super cute. We braved the icy sidewalks and got to school at 10.

Gracie played with Kendall today. Joanna was out today. She said they played with trucks. The craft today was making presents as a classroom decoration. She also did a coloring page. The story was about snow angels, and they sang 2 songs. One song was about winter, the other about getting dressed for the cold.

Snack was cheese balls--apparently her favorite. She was very excited and talkative when I picked her up from school, so I am thinking they had a great day.

Oh, and I snapped a picture of the window display on my way in to pick her up. They had put up the stars they made on Tuesday. Hers is in the bottom right corner window pane--the one in the middle.

Love This One!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow Day

Gracie woke up to a great surprise this morning--a blanket of snow! We weren't expecting the snow until tonight, but that is the way the weather happens in our part of the world.

The kids were out of school today, despite that it was maybe 2 inches of snow on the ground. But, better safe than sorry.

Around noon I bundled up Gracie and took her out to "play" for a while. There wasn't much snow to play with since it was melting as soon as it hit the pavement. But, we found some small clumps here and there, enough to make a very small snowman, and a snow dog.

The flurries continued to fall as we played outside. Gracie even tried to catch some on her tongue. We took a chilly walk around the parking lot to sneak a peek at the animals behind our building. We watched the cows eat, and we wandered around some more. After several super splashes in the slushy mush our fingers started to freeze, so we went inside to warm up.

I think Gracie liked the warming up part the best, as we shared hot chocolate. I think she is beginning to like "snow days."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Send Us A Christmas Card

Gracie and I have another simple family Christmas project. We will be collecting Christmas cards that friends and family send, and then finding them on the map. Gracie of course loves to get mail, and this year we will be talking about who the cards came from, how those people are important to us, and where they live. So, if you think about it--send us a Christmas card. If you don't have our address, email me at I of course will not be putting our address on line. We are still in Strasburg, so you probably already have our address.

Thanks in advance. We will put a copy of the map on the blog from time to time, so you can see where in the world are friends and family are too!

Oooh, and I just figured out how to do this with Google Maps!

View Larger Map

Thank You!

Thank you Papaw Charles!!
I picked a My Little Pony Tea Set.

Super Cold!

It is super cold here, and it continues to spit snow. The wind is really bad, and I am surprised our apartment is still upright.

I dressed Gracie in a warm jumper, long sleeve shirt, and thick knee socks...but I was still worried about her staying warm on the short walk from the car to the church. She had on her dress coat when I dropped her off, but I was afraid it was too thin, so I took her new winter coat with me when I picked her up.

Today, Gracie told me she made a star. She said it is for the tree, but the calendar says it is a window decoration. It apparently involved glue since they were placed around the room drying. Snack today was Pooh crackers and juice. They sang the goodbye song and she got a smiley thumb.

She told me she played with Joanna again today. I did see her walk over to the doll house when I left her, instead of the coloring table. But, she brought home a coloring sheet, so I am guessing she did both.

She seemed to have a fun day.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christmas Carols

We found out a church this morning that there would be a community carol sing tonight in the sanctuary. I couldn't get Garren to come, but Gracie and I had a great time.

Gracie has always loved music, and it is uncanny how she can hear a tune and by the second verse be humming it or singing it (wrong words, right melody!). I listened amazed at how she "sang" along with us. And these weren't all traditional songs.

The choir director, Ruth, had everyone sit up front (there weren't but about 30 people, and Gracie was the only child), and we picked songs from random from the hymnal. More than half that we sang I had never heard before.

When it was about time to wrap it up, Ruth asked what Gracie wanted to sing. I told her I had promised her Jingle Bells, as it is the only song she knew. Ruth smiled and fished around for some sheet music and we sang. Gracie belted the loudest. All of the people there got a huge kick out of her the entire night. After Jingle Bells, Ruth told everyone 2 more songs and then we would get hot chocolate. Of course Gracie starts giggling and shouts, hot chocolate! She barely made it the next two songs.

We had a few cookies and hot chocolate with whipped cream, and then we told them all good night. All of those people are so sweet to us, and they just ate up my little Christmas belle.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Town Parade And Tree Lighting

I wouldn't exactly say we were disappointed by the parade, but it was a little bit of a let down.

We know this parade is quite small compared to the Mayfest one, but it was even smaller than usual. Being small towns we usually share parade entries with Edinburg and Toms Brook, but this year Woodstock had their parade on the same day as we did. I think that was why it was so short.

But, despite a short parade line up, Gracie enjoyed it all. We saw the horses, the marching band (all 40 of them), Leelou and the other girl scouts, and a few "floats." (People on the back of big rigs).

After the parade, we went over to Town Hall where the Town tree is. The mayor said a shorter speech this year (it was freezing!!), and we counted down to the lights.

It may sound goofy, but I just love our little town. To try and put it in perspective, it's like Tusculum (in TN), or Bedford (in VA). We are up to about 4,300 people in the whole town. This Shipley family is really starting to settle in nicely here. It's about time...we will start our 5th year here in April!

Happy Birthday Grinch!

He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more! And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day. And then the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two.

Our wonderful library put on a party for the now 50 year old green mischief maker, and Gracie and I had a wonderful time celebrating.

There were so many kids there, I lost count after 50 or so! They read the story of course, and then there were plenty of activities. Gracie decorated a Christmas tree cut out. She colored some ornaments and did a maze worksheet and a count by number worksheet too. Then we took a break and saw the 1966 version on DVD and had Who Pudding. Gracie loved this part! They gave each kid a small bowl of vanilla pudding and let them put sprinkles on top and eat it with a red twizzler. As you can imagine, she keeps asking if we can do it at our house.

After the video She stood in line and got a balloon puppy, but wouldn't sit and pose with the Grinch so I could snap a picture. Someone was dressed up as the Grinch, and most of the kids ran in terror. Gracie didn't exactly run, but she wouldn't go anywhere near him.

The days birthday activities were super cute, and I am so glad Gracie and I went!

Make your own Grinch fun:

Christmas/Winter Book List

(* checked out from Library)

Winter/Snow (41)

Clifford's First Snow Day--Read 12/6/07
Clifford: Winter Ice Is Nice--Read 12/18/07
Clifford: The Snow Dog--Read
Clifford: The Snow Champion--Read 12/5/07
Clifford: Skating With Friends--Read 12/5/07
Clifford: The Ice Race--Read
The Nutcracker Ballet--Read 12/12/07
Slip, Slide, Skate--Read 12/19/07
The Biggest Snowman Ever--Read
The Big Red Sled--Read 12/3/07
Here Comes The Snow--Read
The Little Penguin--Read
The Snow Bear--Read 12/19/07
I Love Snow!--Read 12/3/07
Follow The Polar Bears--Read
Geraldine's Big Snow--Read 12/19/07
January Brings The Snow--Read 12/3/07
Emily And The Snowflake
Katy And The Big Snow
Animals In Winter--Read 12/19/07
The Mitten--Read 12/18/07
Over The River And Through The Woods--Read
The Wild Toboggan Ride--Read 12/18/07
Winter Rabbit
Winter Wonderland
Frosty's New Friends--Read 12/10/07
Frosty The Snowman--Read 12/11/07
Winter Fun
The Biggest, Best Snowman--Read 12/16/07
Five Little Penguins Slipping On The Ice--Read 12/16/07
A Silly Snowy Day--Read 12/16/07
Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel
Grumpy Bunny's Snow Day
First Snow--Read 12/16/07
*Oliver's Red Toboggan--Read 12/5/07
*Six Snowy Sheep--Read 12/13/07
*Is That You Winter?--Read 12/17/07
*Omar On Ice--Read 12/16/07
*Curious George In The Snow--Read 12/16/07az

Christmas (Religious) (19)
An Angel came To Nazareth--Read 12/17/07
The Christmas Pageant--Read 12/13/07
The Story Of Christmas For Children
Ordinary Baby, Extraordinary Gift--Read 12/10/07
Away In A Manger--Read 12/11/07
Christmas In The Barn--Read 12/6/07
The Animals' Christmas Eve--Read
Christmas In The Manger--Read 12/10/07
The Best Thing About Christmas--Read 12/11/07
The First Christmas--Read
My Father's Angels--Read 12/17/07
The Story Of Christmas--Read 12/3/07
The Very First Christmas--Read
The First Night--Read 12/11/07
The Christmas Story--Read 12/19/07
The Crippled Lamb--Read 12/17/07
Precious Moments Christmas--Read 12/16/07
10 Minutes To Showtime--Read 12/21/07

Christmas (Secular) (65)
Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear--Read 12/16/07
Get Along Gang and The Christmas Thief--Read 12/13/07
Clifford's First Christmas--Read 12/6/07
Clifford's Christmas--Read 12/4/07
Clifford Helps Santa--Read 12/7/07
Clifford: Christmas Wishes--Read 12/7/07
Clifford: Deck The Halls--Read12/1/07
Clifford: Glow In The Dark Christmas--Read 12/6/07
The Littles Have A Merry Christmas--Read 12/13/07
Home For The Holidays--Read 12/5/07
Merry Christmas Mom And Dad (Little Critter)--Read 12/1/07
Ariel's Christmas Under The Sea--Read 12/12/07
Franklin's Christmas Gift--Read 12/8/07/
If You Take A Mouse To The Movies-_Read 12/8/07
Arthur's Perfect Christmas--Read 12/2/07
Arthur's Christmas--Read
What Santa Can't Do--Read 12/2/07
Froggy's Best Christmas--Read 12/12/07
Auntie Claus--Read 12/12/07
Mrs. Santa Claus--Read 12/7/07
Pooh: A Christmas Wish--Read 12/3/07
Christmas Is Coming--Read 12/17/07
Biscuit's Christmas--Read 12/1/07
Christmas Mice--Read 12/7/07
Christmas Stories And Poems--Read 12/17/07
Rose Blossom's First Christmas--Read 12/4/07
The Christmas Cub--Read 12/1/07
The Christmas Penguin--Read 12/1/07

Winnie The Pooh's Christmas--Read 12/16/07
Babar And Father Christmas--Read 12/16/07
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer--Read 12/10/07
The Twelve Days Of Christmas--Read 12/10/07
A Christmas Carol--Read 12/16/07
Dick & Jane: A Christmas Story--Read 12/8/07
Diane Goode's American Christmas--Read
Little Critter: The Night Before Christmas Eve--Read 12/9/07
Jingle Bells--Read 12/9/07
Christmas Cats--Read 12/9/07
Dora's Christmas Parade--Read 12/9/07
I've Seen Santa--Read 12/907
Merry Christmas From Biscuit--Read 12/9/07
Little Miss Spider, Christmas Wish--Read 12/9/07
The Littlest Christmas Tree--Read 12/9/07
The Wild Christmas Reindeer--Read 12/19/07
The Nutcracker Ballet--Read
Baby's Christmas--Read 12/11/07
Barney's Christmas Surprise--Read 12/10/07
Arthur Decks The Hall--Read 12/11/07
The Christmas Walk--Read 12/10/07
Merry Christmas Grumpy Bunny--Read 12/11/07
Barney's The Night Before Christmas--Read 12/10/07
Marla's Toyshop Adventure--Read 12/10/07
The Penguin Who Wanted To Be Different--Read 12/18/07
Merry Christmas Grumpy Bunny--Read 12/11/07
*The Christmas Cricket--Read 12/11/07
*Marvin's Best Christmas Present Ever--Read 12/16/07
*Nutcracker Noel--Read 12/15/07
*Happy Christmas Honey--Read 12/21/07
*The Berenstain Bears' Christmas Tree--Read 12/21/07
*Arthur's Christmas Cookies--Read 12/21/07
*Elliott's Christmas Surprise--Read 12/20/07
*You Can Do It Sam--Read 12/20/07
*Olivia Helps With Christmas--12/20/07
*On A Wintry Morning--Read 12/20/07
Dora's Starry Night

Christmas Specials We Have Watched Together

*Frosty's Winter Wonderland--11/30/07
*Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey Saves Santa--12/1/07
*Grinch Who Stole Christmas--12/2/07
*Emmit Otter's Jug Band Christmas--12/2/07
*Rudolph's New Year--12/3/07
*Year Without Santa--12/3/07
*Night Before Christmas--12/5/07
*Grinch (again)--12/6/07
*Santa Claus Is Coming To Town--12/7/07
*Max & Ruby Christmas--12/11/07
*Jack Frost-12/11/07
*Pooh's Christmas--12/11/07
*Franklin's Magic Christmas--12/77/07
*Wonder Pets Save The Reindeer--12/18/07
*Merry Christmas Little Bill--12/21/07
*Blue's First Holiday--12/21/07
*Franklin's Christmas Gift--12/24/07
*Max & Ruby: Grandma's Gift--12/24/07
*Max & Ruby's Christmas Tree--12/24/07

Friday, November 30, 2007

End Of Another Season

Fall has come and gone. If you took a hard look at the weather around these parts, fall never really stayed long. Summer extended her stay well into October, and then old man winter got to the party very early and blew in very cold temperatures by the beginning of November.

This is really quite a shame since Fall is my favorite season of all. But, the Shipley family did get to do some wonderful things together. Gracie and I accomplished most of our fall wish list, and I am proud to say there were only a few things we didn't get done!

I have had this fall list on the left hand side of the blog since September, but for those who didn't notice, I thought I would share our accomplishments.

30 Things To Do With Gracie This Fall

Its time to start on a new list, this one for Christmas. It may seem very...uh...uptight, to make lists, but it is fun to have goals. And, if you notice our lists are fun things to do--not chores. Look on the left hand side of this blog to see the season's new fun ideas!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beary Fun Day

Gracie learned all about bears today in preschool. She was more talkative after school today than I ever remember her being.

She told me that bears eat fish and honey and they live in holes and they sleep during the winter. I was very proud. You can see her worksheet about bear and their food below.

Snack today was graham crackers. They did the tea pot song and played Mother May I. Her story today was also about a bear: Lucky Bear.

She played with Joanna as usual, along with the wooden blocks. I did notice when I dropped her off, she headed for the coloring table, but instead made a bee line for the other kids playing on the floor. She choose a Little People toy and seemed quite content.

Oh, and apparently Mason (the handful) is not sick, he is going to a different school now. The teacher must have told the kids, because Gracie announced this information to me.

By the way she looked super cute (and appropriate) in her brown bear dress. Grandma made the dress for Mariah when she was in Kindergarten for brown day. Yes, I said Kindergarten, Gracie is a giant! Gracie was super proud to wear this dress since Mariah had gotten to wear it too. I contributed a matching bow. I was so excited when I looked on her calendar and saw today's theme. I had been looking for a chance for her to wear the super cute dress!

We also got the window and classroom decorations from November, plus a calendar for December. They are working on winter and the holidays. And, they will be having a Christmas party on the last day of school: December 20th. More fun to look forward to!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Show Off

Gracie shows off her "moves' before tumble tots gets underway this afternoon. The class was very small today, which is very nice since 20 very loud preschoolers in a cavernous gym can give anyone and instant headache. Plus, they have to wait so long for their turn.

A new twist today; warm-ups with balloons. Gracie loved this. The batted the balloon while stretching arms, and later kicking the balloon with stretched legs. All of the kids had a ball!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Child's Cry From The Bathroom

(amongst tears since we told her no books in the bathroom tonight because we knew she was stalling for bedtime by saying she had to poop.)

"I can't poopie without books!"

Shipley Budget Tips

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked for budgeting ideas, and I am ashamed to say that I never did get time to email her a few. I was thinking that there may be a few more families out there that might be more than a little curious on how we make it through with a growing child and only one income.

Here's how we do it....

1. Don't be a snob, shop at Walmart. Regardless of your opinions about the corporation, many families like ours wouldn't be able to make it without Walmart. You will save large amounts of money on groceries and other products. If you are anti-Walmart, sign up for your grocer's savings card. Yes, you have to give info, but you get their savings. And, stock up when something you want is on sale, and freeze what you can.

2. Buy the off-brands. This is not always the tastiest choice, but for the most part, the Walmart or other off-brands taste the same as the more expensive brands. For example; flour, sugar, and most baking needs are perfect replicas. However: ketchup, macaroni and cheese and a few others are a HUGE disappointment. (See list below for more) Try less expensive items in off- brand. You may not like it, but at least you will know, and if you do like it- you will save anywhere from .50 to a $1.00 every time you buy that product. If you are wondering about a certain item ask us, I am sure we have tried the off-brand and we can give you an idea of taste and quality.

3. Coupons are only good if you use them. I clip them, but most of the time I get so caught up in trying to check out I forget to hand them over. Or if I do remember, I pull them out to find they have expired. My advise: if you have the time, clip them and keep them in your purse. You never know when you might use them. And, on big items like a new Swiffer, or a DVD or something, look online and print off the coupon-- and remember to use it. Most of the time you will save several dollars!

4. Shop for at least a week at a time. We shop for 2 weeks at a time, but I am sure that isn't practical for everyone. Make it a goal to get everything you need without having to make small runs to the store. Make out a menu for 7 days. Include dinners, lunches and breakfast. Then break down each meal to ingredients that will be needed. Be sure to include everything down to syrup for the pancakes. Add to the list household items like laundry detergent, dishwasher tabs, deodorant, etc. Check your list twice and take a look around your pantry for low spices and cleaners.

5. Take advantage of buy one get ones, especially on things you use frequently. For example, you can get Oscar Mayer hotdogs BOGO several times a year. Put one set in the fridge and freeze the others. This is great for unexpected company, or if you just need an extra lunch.

6. This also works buying in bulk. Well, not exactly bulk. You can buy 5 or 6 pounds of hamburger at a time usually for several cents to a dollar cheaper. You put a pound each in a freezer bag and you have handy meals for the rest of the week or month. Just remember to freeze extra beef and thaw it in time! Another tip: it isn't as attractive, but buy the larger tubs of butter instead of those cute little tubs. If you like the size of the little ones, save one of the containers and then fill it up from the big one for something that looks nicer on the table. As for brands, we get one of the cheapest: Blue Bonnet, and it bakes and spreads, and of course tastes just like the pricer brands.

7. Warehouse items and bulk items that you don't use a lot of, don't always save you money. We love going to Costco, but I have found we actually spend more money. We do eat better, as far as more tasty and different entrees, but we actually added about $75 to our grocery budget every 2 weeks. If you don't already have a warehouse membership, I don't recommend one unless you have a very large family. It doesn't hurt to look around though. Most places will let you look around the store before getting a membership. But, remember to look at prices and see if you will really save money on the products you would buy. Also keep in mind that you will be paying around $50 a year to shop there.

8. At Walmart, or other grocery stores: don't buy large containers of foods that you will waste. For example: I noticed that we were throwing out over a half a gallon of milk when the expiration date arrived, so now we only buy half gallons and we don't waste hardly any. Another example: I am bad about buying the larger container of sour cream and then wasting it because I don't have enough meals that call for it. Get smaller containers of things that you will waste. You may save more per ounce or pound for the larger versions, but if you are throwing it out you will waste money! The exception to this rule would be things that wouldn't go bad. I am talking about things that expire like dairy and fruit and vegetables...etc.

9. Around the house. Off brand cleaners or low cost products work just as well...for the most part. We use Joy detergent to wash random dishes and its great...but because we have a crappy dishwasher we buy Electrosol with gel balls or something like that. Off brand laundry detergent will leave you frustrated--trust me! We get by just fine with ALL. You don't really need Tide unless you have super stains. I use a stain stick to help with dirtier laundry and my cheaper detergent works just fine. Off brand furniture polish, glass cleaner, sponges, and paper towels work great.

10. Baby care. This is a sensitive subject, since I was like many moms who didn't want to settle when it came to my precious bundle. I bought Pampers and special wipes, but then as Gracie turned 1 I started to realize that I was pampering my baby what ever I used. Back in the day (when Gracie was in diapers), Walmart brands seriously lacked! Their diapers were like tissue paper and you had to wring out there wipes. This is no longer the case. Kathy used Walmart brand (Parent Choice) diapers and wipes for Emma, and I noticed the HUGE improvement. thus, we went to PC for Gracie's night time diapers. We have always used Parents Choice baby soap, lotion, and now we use the wipes. These products are just as good as Johnson and Johnson, and they have the several varieties like the much needed "bedtime bath" scents. When you look at it, there is such a huge price difference (up to $10 in diapers, $4 for wipes, $2-$3 for lotions and soaps), and in reality it is literally going down the drain. After you use up your baby shower gifts, give it a try. You may really be pleased with the savings and quality. And if you have issues with other people seeing what you use, get the travel packs of Pampers or Huggies wipes, and those travel bottles of JJ shampoo and soap, plus keep a few of the name brand diapers in your diaper bag for outings. Although, I bet you would be surprised to learn just how many moms are using Parents Choice! Now, after much deliberation (and crying) I did switch Gracie from Enfamil to Parents Choice formula. At the time it was a $10 difference per can, and we checked ingredient for ingredient and it matched exactly, with the exception of palm oil versus some other kind of oil. We checked with our pediatrician, and made the switch with out any problems. Parents Choice has a formula that matches Enfamil's DHA/ARA.

I won't get into clothing, because this is another place many people don't want to skimp. We buy Gracie's clothes at thrift stores for style reasons and because she grows so fast. We also buy clothes at Walmart and she gets many from Grandma. As for Garren and I, we have no problems wearing Walmart clothes. We wear New Balance shoes, which are just as comfortable as Nike's.

Now there are few things this family doesn't skimp on. Toilet paper for example. Garren would be just fine to use a roll of .89 Scott, but I need something more than tissue paper! I indulge in Cottonelle. But, I use coupons and buy the larger packages so I can buy once a month.

A few other tips:

*We don't have left overs in this house, but if there are only 2 of you, when fixing a meal like a casserole, divide it in two. Freeze half, and bake the other half. Now you have 2 meals for the price of one!

*Looking for a quick meal that you won't have to cook--forget the expensive take out, pick up a rotissary chicken! These are super yummy, and you can pick up some potato salad or mac salad to go with it in the deli. Plus, any left overs make a yummy chicken salad for lunch the next day.

*Don't order a large pizza and waste! Get a medium and enjoy the savings and the fact that there isn't any for the trash. The next time you order out see how much you waste, and cut back next time.

*On that topic, we don't eat out but once every two weeks. This maybe hard on you, try making a steady eat-out night like a Saturday. Resist temptation to order out during the week saving you money. Plus, you will look forward to your night without cooking. Our eat out night is grocery night (Wednesdays), only because it is so late by the time we get home and unpack we need to eat without hassle.

I hope this helps my friend, and any others of you who also looking for ways to cut costs. I would love to hear your ideas. You never know, it may help someone else. Please fill up the comment section with your budget busters!!!

Off brands List (Walmart)

Thumbs Up!
Contact Solution
Pain Relievers (adult & child)
Baby Wipes
Baby Lotions, soaps...etc
Baking Soda
Flour, Salt, Sugar, spices
Frozen chicken
Instant Rice
Shredded cheese
Sour Cream
Paper Towels
Aluminum foil, wraps, sandwich/freezer baggies
Taco& chili Seasonings
Dish detergent
Loaf Bread/buns
Cooking Spray & Oils
Canned fruit and veggies
Canned soup--but only for cooking. Not so tasty for eating plain!
Juices, water, cool aid
Jello mix, pudding mix, marshmallows
Malt-O-Meal cereals
Ricotta, Cottage cheeses

Thumbs Down!
Feminine needs
Diaper cream
Cake mix & icing
Mac & Cheese
Spaghetti sauce
Parmesian cheese
american singles
pop tarts
salad dressing

Back To School

Gracie returned to school today after a week off, and was very excited. Apparently so were all the other kids. After the holiday these kids were full of energy. They were jumping and barely staying near their seats, much less in them when I came to pick Gracie up.

Gracie made a bird feeder today. It is 8 or so Froot Loops on an orange piece of yarn. We will have to find a nearby tree to hang it on. She also brought her collage home.

Snack today was pretzels, and apparently Froot Loops. I didn't get much more info. She said she and Joanna played today. I saw the book "Where Did That Baby Come From," was out, and she said that it was read for story time. She colored a Bob The Builder coloring page after I dropped her off. And, they decided today's weather was "cold." That's about it!

When I picked her up she had a smiley face thumb and a sticker on her dress that said "Welcome back Gracie, we missed you!" Those teachers are so sweet!!!

Collage is from November 15th.