Friday, April 29, 2011

Home Schooling

My sub stepped in for me this afternoon :)

**Actually she saw the flash cards that I use to help Thomas with his language and I was surprised that he sat down and did this with her. Surprised--and I LOVED it!! **

Letters From Lambie

had so much fun playing hide and seek with my friend Grama. Can you find me? :)

Big First Grader

Look at my girl this morning. She wanted pig tails, and I think it takes several years off her appearance. She actually looks like she might belong in first grade, instead of oh, fourth!! I may put her hair in pig tails everyday!!

We are so proud of our girl. She is excelling academically, she has friends at school, and loves her teacher.

And, now she is being honored for good citizenship! We have been invited to the assembly next week to see out First Grader get the Forest Of Virtues Award for Citizenship. I can't wait!

And, the First Grade play is this month too. So much to be excited about!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Letters From Lambie

Grama and I had fun in the sandbox too. I love you!


Letters From Lambie

Don't get scared - the tree house was really fun!


Letters From Lambie

I have am having so much fun with Grama. Here we are playing my favorite game of "hide and seek".


Letters From Lambie

Gracie got an email today from her long lost best-est friend.
"Grama" is the stuffed dog that belongs to Grandma (long story).

Thank you for letting me spend time at Grandma's. I am having so much fun with my friend Grama. We love to swing.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal Excitment

Garren and I were chatting about one of his co-workers who will be leaving to live in London in a few months, and I remarked that she would miss the royal wedding. Gracie's ears perked up...way up.

Gracie: " There's a royal wedding?!!!"

Mommy: "Yes, Gracie, the Prince is marrying a girl, and she will be a princess."

Gracie: (bouncing in her chair) "can we go daddy, please, please, please?!!!!!!"

**Daddy couldn't seem to swing a royal invitation--she was rather disappointed :) ***

Bring On The Rain

It was hot out today, so I told the kids they could play outside in the sprinkler and with water toys.

The little boy up the street invited himself to play as well.

About 20 minutes later a HUGE rain cloud opened up and poured all over the kids. I figured, they are already wet--might as well let them keep playing :)


Okay, it has been a busy week, and I meant to take these pictures Saturday. But, Lowes was giving out free trees (thanks Heather for telling us :) and Gracie and I went to get one.

Well, we got two. One for her and one for Thomas.

Besides being free, they have to live in a pot for at least a year. I would love to watch these trees grow as our kids grow! So, when our lease is up in a year and if we decide to move, we can take them with us.

Hopefully we can have our own home in time to plant them in the backyard.

Oh, and I hope to take a picture each year with the kids in front of them. I have a picture somewhere of Gracie in front of a tree Elliott planted in their yard. I vowed that we would take a picture of her in front of it every time we visited. Now, we just have to visit again! This was far too long ago!!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mommy's Little Chef

Besides getting in to TONS of mischief--my toddler LOVES to play kitchen. He loves to pretend to mix and stir and taste. And, I am all about encouraging that activity! I will take a little Emeril over a "bug catcher" and all of those other gross boy things any day!

So, this afternoon, I thought I would give him a fun treat. I set out all his little pretend bowls and cups and spoons and pots on the kitchen table, and ransacked the pantry for dry foods. I gave him dry macaroni, dry rice, and since I seemed to be out of dry beans--I gave him some marshmallows.

He only ate 2--and had a great time creating in his pretend kitchen!

And, yes, I had to put the apron and hat on him--he looked so cute!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lost Lambie

Okay, she isn't lost--we know where she is--at Grandma's house.

It is the FIRST time in 7 years that we have accidentally left Gracie's best-est friend behind.

I am the one who packed the car, and I honestly didn't see her. It wasn't until I was trying to get the kids in bed that it hit me. "I don't remember packing Lambie!"

Well, I was expecting much more of a meltdown, but I summoned my mommy super power, and we called Grandma and she found her and she was being consoled and snuggled by Grandpa while Gracie listened on the phone.

I think it was the exhaustion, and she was indeed upset--but we made it through bedtime and she chose another friend to sleep with her.

Now what to do? I am afraid for mom to put her in the mail. The world would end if we lost her for good--but we won't visit Lynchburg for another month!

**Update: well, Gracie really misses Lambie 4 days later. I think we are going to have to pop for some sort of secured shipping. You just can't live without, or replace best friends!**

Happy Easter From The Shipleys

We hope all of you had a very blessed Easter Sunday.

The kids were super spoiled by the bunny, they looked too adorable in their clothes, and we tried out the "big" church here in Mechanicsville for Sunday services.

As far as the church is concerned: it wasn't bad. It was HUGE on the outside, but there wasn't a massive sanctuary. In fact, I was shocked at how normal sized it was. And, on the way out the minister called me "crafty" so it gets bonus points for that. (Garren told him I made Thomas' bow tie when the preacher told him he liked it, and then he noticed the hand made lily broach I made with the kids hand prints from felt.)

Thomas was a terror for the service, and an even bigger terror for after the service (because I wanted to take his picture with his sister!). But, it was a good day. A VERY HOT day, but a good one. And, the kids got candy, doted on, and got to play in the sprinkler. So, it was good.

Sending you warm Easter wishes from our family to yours!

**And hey, this is the best I've got for an Easter picture. You can laugh--it's okay--I will someday.***

Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Fluffy Attempt

Nope! Not happening at the Bass Pro shop either. Good thing it was free.

Their Shot:

Daddy's Shot:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nice Try!

Gracie thought if she hid in this box while I was loading the car that she wouldn't be found and thus wouldn't have to go home.

Nice try kiddo--and thanks for making this so much easier (insert sarcasm here)! Like it isn't hard enough to get you two in the car after days at Grandmas!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thomas' First Boo-Boo's

And I hardly doubt his last.

I think it is historically proven that boys end up with 10-20x more "owies" than girls. I am sure I will find out.

Thomas scraped his knees pretty badly this morning at Grandma's house when he tripped (over his own two feet) and skidded along the paved driveway.

Mommy cleaned him up, but didn't apply band-aids. I knew he would just rip them off.

Being a true Shipley child he has pulled his "drama king' card and has been pointing to them all day saying "ow!" Of course, it might not hurt as bad if he would quite smacking the places and poking them (hard!) with his finger.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tiny Reminder

My child wouldn't take a picture with the Easter Bunny,so once again I paid $20 for the privilege of a stress-filled 5 minutes attempting to coax a toddler to sit on a giant bunny lap, and in the end getting yet another holiday photo with just one child.

After the bunny melt down, I had to deal with another melt down and 2 tantrums before we left the mall.

So, feeling very much unhappy with my toddler, and not so thrilled with my "I want" 7 year old, Grandma insisted that I go out and do some thrift shopping today while she had them. I fought a headache and found little.

That was until I went back out to drop things off at the Goodwill (that I forgot to do earlier) and I decided to go inside and walk around.

After a few moments I found two perfect pairs of tiny shoes.

They reminded me of something out of the Elves And The Shoemaker.

They were silver and small and perfect. One set of baby boy shoes, the other very neatly buckled Mary Janes.

They were a reminder of my daughter and my son. How small their feet are now, and how short this time is that I have with them at this age and size.

You've got to love it when God sends you a message on your worst days and at a time when you are so stressed and overwhelmed that you throw aside what you already knew to begin with.

I will always treasure these tiny little shoes--just like I will always treasure these fleeting moments of childhood, no matter how hard, or how busy, or how overwhelming they are.

Somethings Missing

Can you tell what it is?

Let me give you some clues:

*it is small
*it has blond hair
*it shrieks at the idea of taking a picture with a bunny!!

There goes another solo holiday picture. I swear he is going to think we didn't love him enough when he is older and looks at the lack of professional & holiday pictures with him included!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday At Home

Trying to figure out how to balance everything and go "home" for Easter Sunday was too much, so I decided on the second best Sunday for an Easter visit.

The kids and I loaded in the car early this morning and set out for the Shenandoah Valley for Palm Sunday.

I hadn't said anything to Aunt Ruth & Uncle George, because I was wavering back and forth on which Sunday to visit.

I think we surprised them ;)

My two darlings looked super cute in their matchy-matchy outfits, and we had a wonderful time visiting and seeing the many people we love and miss so much.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nervous Wiggler

While there were Tornado warnings and watches in your area what was your child doing?

Well, mine was becoming increasingly worried. She pulled out Lambie, her pillow pet and her Tinkerbell lantern and sat vigil by the laundry room (where we said we would go if we had to).

**A side note, Mommy doesn't see the sense in telling our already nervous daughter any more than she needs to know at any given time, but her father has never been able to control the constant flow of information that comes out of his mouth. i.e she wouldn't have known there was a Tornado warning, and she wouldn't have been told we would need to crouch in the laundry room should the time come!!!***

Anyway, in her nervousness , she was apparently wiggling that lose tooth like crazy and the next thing I hear from daddy is "we have a tooth on the floor."

Well, the excitement of a lost tooth helped ease her anxiety for the time and we cleaned her mouth up and her tooth up in preparation for tonight's tooth fairy visit.

Today's nervous exit marks tooth #7 down and out!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thomas Eats Dirt

We started a garden.

Daddy dug.

Mommy planted.

Gracie helped.

....Thomas ate dirt!

First Grade Field Day

Okay, it was more like "First Grade Carnival Day" to me! When I was in school we raced with eggs on a spoon and got little stickers if we won on a card pinned to us.

In Kindergarten they went to different stations of PE like activities as a class.

Well, in First Grade they got snow cones and jumped in inflatables and had a hot air balloon!

Besides the lack of resemblance to a field day--it was so chaotic!

When I arrived the entire school was sitting in the parking lot listening to leaders talk to them, and then they saw the principal go up in the hot air balloon, and then grades 3-5 went back inside and left k-2 outside for their hours at field day.

I found Gracie's class and then we moved to a bouncy house. The next thing I hear is "okay grab your partner and go."


Gracie, her best friend Lilly, and Hannah grab me and we are off.

Um, apparently all the kids from k-2 can go anywhere they want for the next 3 hours!!

I am trying to wrap my brain about what is going on while these three girls are shouting where they want to go. I felt like I suddenly had 3 kids at an amusement park!

Things settled down after the first 4 games, and I just was along for the ride, and to act as a mediator and camera man, and stuff holder.

I did my job rather well.

I am not sure how much physical endurance they actually achieved, with the exception of the inflatable bounce houses, but hey, I am just a mom.

Those 3 hours seemed like they dragged on forever, but after the second snow cone those in charge started rounding kids up and telling them to fins their teachers. The teachers by the way were manning the games/stations while all of this was going on!

I looked like a sick puppy I am sure as I walked Gracie back to her classroom. All of the kids were jacked up on sugar and excitement.

I had brought Gracie Subway for lunch, but couldn't stay to eat with her since Garren was waiting to go to work.

She was upset since the teacher announced that they would take their lunches out for a picnic.

After the picnic they would watch the movie "The Trumpet of the Swan" which is the book all of the kids and their parents had been reading over the past 2 months.

I gave her a hot kiss goodbye, and told her I would see her after school.

I have decided that if I am this tired from these two days, I can only imagine how Miss. Anderson must be feeling.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

First Grade Easter Egg Hunt

What a busy week we've have had--and are still having! Whew!

Well, Gracie has two exciting days back to back in First Grade. Today is the egg hunt and party, tomorrow is her field day.

I figured that Garren wouls have an easier time working from home tomorrow morning for field day, so I chose to take Thomas with me today for her egg hunt and party.

Well, I am not sure who had more fun: Gracie or Thomas!

We arrived with our treats and Gracie's special lunch (from Chick-Fil-A) early, and the sign on the door said they were at recess.

I figured by the time we walked to the playground they would be lining up to come back inside, so we wandered slowly to find sister bear. Well, when the class saw Thomas they all got excited. They took turns holding his hands and helping him on the playground equipment. The took turns yelling at other big kids to look out for the "baby." And then they argued about who got to push him down the slide.

Lets just say he was having a grand ole time! Well,m until playtime was over. I had to carry him fighting me off the playground, but then he grabbed GRacie's hand and walked back to the classroom. Each time the teacher would stop to make sure everyone was in line, he would find a differnt child's hand closer to the beginning of the line.

When we got to the room the kids ate. And then they took turns feeding Thomas. Well, he had Chick-Fil-A, but Hannah had chips--and he LOVES chips. So, he traded her a fry for a chip. Well, this was fun and now all of the kids are shoving their lunch items in his face to see if he would take them. (It was like he was the class dog!)

Anyway, he gets tired of this game and goes over and sits in Hannah's lap (she has the chips!). I pull the camera out and she squeals "cheese" Well, now here is another fun game. The kids start crowding in to see who can get in a picture with Thomas.

As you can imagine--Thomas is lo9ving First Grade.

Finally it is time for the egg hunt. He lines up, and I am not sure whose hand he has at this point, but the kids start running for the hill and he follows them.

He has a good time until he realizes there are eggs non the group. Ooops!

Well, after several conversations of "those eggs are for the big kids" he gets kind of bored and half way chases the kbig kids for a while.

Now, these intllegent 7 year old were having the hardest time with this egg hunt. Each child needed to find 17 eggs with their individual number on it (Gracie is #16, and there were 17 eggs with #16 written in black sharpie)

Sounds easy right?

Nah! I lost track of how long we were out there. We parents started calling out numbers as we saw the eggs, and when that didn't work we started picking them up and making large piles and the kids would follow the piles and try to find their numbered eggs inside.

I was glad when we found all we could and came back in.

Thomas was very exhausted and very hot by this time. It was well after his nap time, and I hated to leave before the treats, but he kept trying to escape the classroom saying"go!"

So, we said our apologies and kissed Gracie goodbye and headed home for nap time.

It was a long and very egg-citing couple of hours for big sister, little brother, and mommy too!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bye Bye Junie B.

Gracie and I started reading the Junie B. Jones series the summer between Kindergarten and First Grade. I wish now that I had read the kindergarten series of Junie to her while she was actually in Kindergarten, but oh well.

How we loved to laugh at all of the misadventures of this very rambunctious little girl. Being the complete opposite of my Gracie, it was much easier to laugh and giggle at her antics.

Our goal was to have Junie start First Grade the same time Gracie started her First Grade year--and after a summer of reading we made it.

I would usually break the book into two nights of reading., and we could have easily finished the First Grade Junie years in a few months--but we spaced them out, trying to read them at the time of year that matched the theme of the book (i.e the Christmas book at Christmas, Columbus Day in October--you get the idea).

Well, the last Junie B. Jones book ever is called "Dumb Bunny" and with Easter just around the corner, we finished the book this weekend.

It was as delightful as all of the rest.

But, I am sad to say goodbye to Junie. I am not sure if it is because my Gracie will soon say goodbye to her First Grade years, or just the idea of losing those giggle times snuggled in my big bed together listening to the adventures together.

I strongly recommend reading the Junie B. series to you kindergarten or First grade girl. The series was not just created for girls--but she is a girl and I know you will love hearing it too.

I don't plan to let the nighttime reading and snuggles in the mommy bed end any time soon--but we shall miss Junie and all of the ways she made us laugh and giggle...and think.

A New Church Experience

True to my list, I actively sought to get my family dressed and ready, and into church doors this morning.

Now, if daddy had gone with us, we would have probably tried the mega church--because he is right and I need to give it a chance.

You see, Daddy and I have two different desires for a church home. Besides just wanting to go to Strasburg UMC every Sunday--I want a smaller church home with warm friendly people who will welcome us all.

Daddy wants to go to a big huge church and sit in the back and not have anyone know if we are there or not. I think he thinks if no one knows he is there, no one will notice he isn't there and won't "judge" him for missing church.

But, there is one thing we agree on. I call it wanting "an old person's church," but however you look at it--we want super traditional. I am not a fan of praise bands and overhead projector things with the words to hymns on the wall. I find 3-4 services and 5-6 ministers discouraging.

Clearly this is the way all churches are headed since they have to add on so many bells and whistles to get the "young folks" in the pews. So, finding a strictly traditional church is going to be hard. And finding a traditional church that packs in so many people no one will notice my husband didn't attend that morning, will be even more difficult.

But, back to today.

I really didn't want to go to that mega church (that's my description for it, not theirs), especially not by myself with 2 small kids. So, I googled again, and what do you know there is a third option for Mechanicsville.

The kids and I drove quite a ways, but with 10 minutes to spare we found Enon United Methodist Church. And it was small, and it was full of older people, and it was warm and friendly.

The pews were packed and I thought how wonderful for them to be so small (and I mean really small, two very short sections on pew rows) and yet to be full. Well, as it turns out they were dedicating their first stain glass window (told you it was small) and so there were lots of visitors.

There was a choir, and a special singing sextet from the choir that all sang. The lady who did the children's message was sweet and reminded you of a kindergarten teacher. There were plenty of kids for such a small congregation, and besides being hot--I enjoyed the worship service. Thomas was somewhat well behaved, and Gracie kept her self busy with her church activities bag.

I left feeling good about the experience, but knew I would never get Garren to try it out.

But, it was a good Sunday morning with my kids beside me in the pew--and it felt good--and it lasted all day.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Gracie On Display

My Gracie had not one, but two of her best talents on display today at Atlee High School.

Today was the Arts & Sciences festival for Hanover County, and Gracie's art teacher and first grade teacher both submitted her work.

We decided to let Thomas get a good nap before we went to the school for our second event of the day. And even though we arrived in the last hour of display, the school was packed with students and parents and projects. Gracie even saw her best friend Lily there who also had something on display.

Garren and I couldn't have been more proud as we found our little scholars map project and her art work hanging on the wall. And, we both agreed that this county has some very seriously talented young people. Wow!

So, please feel free to gush over our favorite 7 year old who is already has her artwork hanging. :)

Easter Egg Hunt Outfits

Well, I didn't get a good picture this morning, but I got a somewhat decent one this afternoon.

Aren't they cute?!

I know I know, I only get a few more years of doing such things as this, and I plan to enjoy every moment of it!

PS: Thanks mom for the fabric you brought when you visited a few weeks ago. This was in that stack that I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

First Egg Hunt Of The Season

I say "first" since Gracie has one at her school, and Thomas loved the hunting part so much I may just toss more out in the yard and let him have at it!

First, please allow me to show off my "mommy sticker" for getting out there and doing something I have never done in the community that I am attempting to tolerate.

Now that we got that out of the way...

It was way chillier than I was expecting this morning. Not that it was super cold, but it was too cold for the kids to show off their matching Easter Egg Hunting Outfits.

Yep, I stayed up last night making a dress for Gracie and a vest and bow tie for Thomas, all from the same fabric.

And let me tell you they looked super cute. Well, they did before we had to zip them up in jackets.

As for the hunt, it was too long for the toddler to wait. But, he managed to amuse himself. They had several activities on hand like the Chick-Fil-A cow (which he hugged!!!!) and games and candy sand art and coloring and the Easter Bunny.

Thomas won a small stuffed Chick-Fil-A cow at the game both, Gracie won a free brownie coupon from the restaurant. They both made the candy sand art, but after that we just attempted to wait patently. I would have had the take a picture with the Easter Bunny, but the line was super duper long and they actually had to make people walk away so the bunny could come out for the hunt.

The bunny and the cow led the kids in some dances, and then volunteers thew out tons of eggs all over the roped in field.

I was so thankful that they divided up the egg hunt in to ages (Gracie wasn't since she had to wait until the end to go). The first "heat" was for the 2 and under and Thomas had to get some coaxing from daddy to go under the rope and start picking up eggs. But, once he was out there he was running and picking them up and loving it. He loved it so much in fact that when all the eggs were gone and the kids and parents were headed back out of the roped area, Thomas tossed his in the grass so he could do it again!

Gracie "helped" Thomas open his eggs and laid claim to all of the rings he got. He really didn't care about what was inside, and while I appreciated that volunteers filled these eggs with treats for a FREE egg hunt--I am thinking they didn't have a mom with a young child on the treat committee. There were a few larger items, but things like the rings were very much a choking hazard. But, as I said, he didn't care and he was ready to go home. So, daddy took him to the playground while Gracie and I waited for her age group.

You would have thought it was a year long wait, but finally the 3 & 4 year olds had their hunt, more eggs were tossed out, the 5&6 year old had their hunt, more eggs were tossed out, and they counted down for Gracie's age group.

She may have had to go last, but there were significantly fewer 7 & 8 year old so she racked up. And, as you can imagine their hunt was the shortest time wise since those bigger kids were far more agile--and greedy ;)

Gracie came away with fun erasers and candy in her eggs--and explicit instructions to keep them away from brother bears mouth.

The whole even couldn't have been more than 1 hour and we piled in the car to defrost. On the way home we stopped for some hot fries as a nice treat.

It was a fun family morning egg hunting--even if no one saw my kids in their festive outfits.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Another Great Report From School

Not that you should be surprised.

I think I will let the report card to the talking for me. It will be simpler, faster, and keep you from ending up with a cavity after I gush and gush about my girl!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wanting Something Better

For the past 8 months the only thing that has been at the forefront of my mind is: "I want go home!"

The words aren't as loud these days, and they are a little more wistful and not so bludgeoning... but they are still there. And, still inside my head. I can't say them out loud because it upsets my mom that I call Strasburg home, and it upsets Garren that I am so homesick because it was his job that took me away, and putting those words out there just causes a big chip on everyone's shoulder.

Of course they don't stay away from my lips all the time. Usually I blurt them out when I get lost for the millionth time in the car, or when everything that can go wrong seems to, or when I whine to Ruth--who no doubt is getting awfully sick of hearing it.

So, I keep it to myself.

But, I can't go "home." This place is my home now. My home is with my husband and my children and while I am not sitting in a corner crying demanding he take me back, I am not being very grown up, or very responsible about the whole thing. I know that some miracle isn't going to blow through the door and pack our boxes and head the car back to the Shenandoah Valley, and I just have to suck it up and go on.

But, in this ninth month of missing the people I love most (outside of my kids and Garren of course), I am realizing that I actually want something better. I want more than for the pain to go away (which I am guessing will eventually go away). I want a better life. I want more for me. I want more for my kids. I want more for my marriage.

This isn't day 1 of this revelation, I have been thinking about this for a while now. And, as He usually does, God finds away to "speak" to me through others.

I LOVE crafting, and you would be amazed at how many other stay at home, and even working moms, love to craft too. And they not only do it way better than me--but they blog about it. They show you how to make this and that all while juggling multiple children and housework and dinners and teething...(you get the idea).

I thought about cutting off my subscriptions to these blogs. While I found great craft ideas, reading them made me feel even more insecure (like that was a possibility). Here these women not only handled it "all" but crafted and sold their hand made items and looked ridiculously beautiful and skinny and perfect.

Now, we all know the grass isn't always greener, but when you are a homesick woman with VERY low self esteem and too much time in a house that you refuse to leave--you tend to decide that it is (greener that is.)

Besides being beautiful, and fit, and somehow balancing more than two kids (some of these ladies have 4+!!), they all had one other very important thing in common. They were very religious. 90 percent of the blogs I loved the most are written by Mormon moms. Now, my favorite mom friend in the world just happens to be a Mormon, so I already thought they were awesome.

But, over the past 2 days they have showed me even more of their awesomeness. They showed that they are real just like me. Like some sort of Divine message, 5+ of these blogging moms (who don't have any connection that I know of) shared how they are trying to improve their lives. They found parts in themselves that they just had to focus on, and even shared. I am not doing a good job of explaining this, but these creative minds were somehow on the same journey as I am.

Now, I know we are all on a journey, and many people want to improve themselves and their lives--but for the first time I want more than a solitary goal. I want more than losing weight, or finding time to breathe--I have a greater focus in mind.

I want help. Here I am Garren, I am telling you out loud, I want help and I need help. I don't ask for it, and thus I shouldn't expect it, but I need it. It is a humbling realization for me, and after 10 years of marriage I am sure you can understand why. And I am not just talking about the trash, and dishes and diapers. Somewhere along the way it became my job to tend to the house and the kids and your job to go to work and make money, and we just shared a place to argue about who hogged the bed at night.

We deserve more. Our kids deserve more. Our family deserves more. We need to be a family. We eat together, we pray together, we do things together. And, above all we parent together. We share the responsibility and the joy.

I want to raise our family in Christ. My kids haven't been to church in 7 months. I can't change that. Telling me to find a church won't change that, telling my kids to tell me that I should be taking them to church (is low) and won't change that.

My husband and I have to throw out all of the excuses of homesickness and discomfort with new people and new religious experiences and go and worship with our kids. When Gracie was less than a year old I made the proclamation to Garren that our children would be raised in a church. It took a long and painful road, but by the age of 3 our Gracie was in church nearly every Sunday. She sang in the choir, she did Bible School. Not that these are markers of a good Christian, but they are a good foundation.

And, church isn't the end of that Christian road. We have to set examples for our children, and each other. I would like to think that we are good role models, but we could do so much better. I find as the kids get older and more difficult my patience slips more and more, and things I didn't mean to say or do are falling out all over the place. My compassion not only for the kids, but for others is severely lacking these days. I am so angry with my situation, that it is poisoning other parts of my daily life.

I have to ask for forgiveness, and I have to forgive myself. Garren and I have to work together to not only teach our children love for God and for others, but to show it through our actions and our words.

I want a simpler life. Now, this one might be the hardest goal. If it were completely up to me (in this empowering "I want to change my life" mode) I would call Comcast and have them cut off the cable, and the internet access.

And, that would be just plain silly...and would in fact end my marriage.

Garren needs the internet for work, and I enjoy blogging and finding fun ideas. But, I know we both use it way too much. It sucks me in for a completely different reason. I find comfort in it, like binge eating or something. I live vicariously through the mom bloggers I mentioned earlier, and through Facebook friends. But mostly I stay glued constantly refreshing my email box and Facebook page hoping someone will remember me.

Yep, that is super sad.

I don't spend all of my time on it, and it isn't the only distraction. Sprout is on almost 24/7. When Gracie was young I had PBS on low for background noise. We would play and read and do all sorts of things, but I found that it was too creepy quiet in that small apartment without some background noise. She's not little any more, and there is no lack of noise in this house.

My children do not need to have the TV on all the time. It is only recently that I noticed that they are sitting and being sucked in to it's programming. The TV used to be on as they ran around, now neither of them listen or hear me, they are too in-tuned to whatever show is currently on.

Now, I am super obsessive about what they watch, but even all day PBS isn't healthy. And so much obsession over my only source of adult interaction isn't healthy either, and though he will hate me for this, neither is a 18 hour constant stream of information.

We have to break away from the technology. I am not saying adopt an Amish lifestyle, but we have to spend more time away from the TV and the computer. Now, I do a lot of hands on things with the kids, but there needs to be more. I did so much with Gracie, and I am seriously not doing enough with Thomas.

We should be reading together, making or doing or walking or playing or something--together. Not with background noise, and with phone and computers off. There has to be away to turn these things off without allowing any kind of work commitments to suffer.

I want a better marriage. No, we don't have a bad marriage, or dysfunctional one. I just think it could be better. We hardly talk about anything that isn't work. He talks politics that I don't understand while I attempt to hide my boredom, I talk only about the kids while he types away on his laptop.

Now, we have broached this subject before and his solution is a babysitter. We don't have a babysitter and I can not leave my babies with a stranger. I just can't. So, getting to know people who I could eventually trust (slightly enough) to watch our children for occasional date nights is on the "to-do" list, but so is talking and listening about things other than "work."

I want to be healthier. Now, it isn't some big shock that I am fat, and I would love to lose weight, but weight loss and depression (serious depression) go hand in hand for me, so there is no sense in trying to make some unrealistic goal for that. I want to be healthier in general. Since the move I have been having what I am sure are panic attacks, although they seem like the start of a heart attack (I decide in my panic) and then I panic more. I have gained too many pounds to count over the months of my homesickness, and I just plain feel exhausted and cruddy all the time.

Goal one: listen to my husband and make a doctor's appointment. I have successfully put this off for almost a year.

I want us all to get healthy. Gracie is no longer the healthy eater she once was, and we have too much junk in this house. Now, I am going to avoid another mistake and not declare that all sugar and fat be thrown away. That wouldn't work anyway. We just need to make better choices TOGETHER, and show our children how to make better choices. And that means a significant cut in eating out. I am too embarrassed (seriously) to tell you how often we have been eating out since I had Thomas. Heck, since we moved here. At least in Strasburg you had to drive a ways to get to take out.

So, there it is. It looks all neat typed out and explained. Finding a healthy balance with family and food and time and God will not be that easy to hammer out. But, it has become my most important goal. A goal that I will fight harder for than any other. I have made the decision that I don't want to just "live." I want my life to be full and happy and good, and I want to raise my children and show them all that life can be for them. I don't want them to see how hard life is and how miserable it is, and how everyone will let you down and you can't count on anything and any one.

I want to live life to the fullest and I want them to live that way too.

So, wish us luck...or better yet say an extra prayer.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thomas' Garden

And here's Thomas'...

(which you can't really see since he couldn't hold his, so here's a good picture of them both. Yes, mommy got out the paint markers and got creative on the sides)

Gracie's Garden

We planted the plants in the planter (he he :) that the kids made this Saturday--despite the ridiculous winds! Whew! Gracie is super proud of hers. Can you tell she picked out the flowers herself? ;)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

He Will Drink Anything

...but his favorite beverage? Coffee!

Does mommy let him have it? "NO!!!"

Does Grandpa let him have it? "Of course!"

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Thomas' First "Build"

Gracie built one too. In fact, that is why we were there in the first place. Grandma was just supposed to push Thomas around the Home Depot store while she and I did her project. We had already left him once today (for the race) and I knew he would be upset at being left behind again. Of course, Grandma decided that he should wield a hammer and make one too!

Believe it or not, I don't have any bruises or abrasions to speak of, but be sure I was plenty worried that I would lose the use of a finger.

But, you have to admit he looks pretty darn cute in that Home Depot apron.

But--his will be his FIRST and LAST Home Depot project for awhile. Sorry buddy, you are too young and not too sturdy with that hammer. Plus, it is something that Gracie can do (for now) without baby brother smack in the middle of things. Mommy will re-think her no-hammer policy maybe around age 3.

Gracie's First Race!

She did it! She was freezing--but she did it!! Our Gracie completed her first ever race!

Mommy and Daddy kept our runner as warm as we could on this VERY cold morning in Richmond. Of course, I think her nervousness was adding to the chill in the air.

It seemed like forever, but finally the kids race time arrived and I left Daddy and Gracie at the start line.

Garren had originally planned to run the big 10K race, but waited to long to sign up, and all 40,000 spots filled up!

So, he ran with Gracie.

Mommy made a bee line for the finish line where every other parent was! And, there was no way to see my baby.

Well, that wasn't going to do.

I noticed that the other side of the finish line was pretty bare as far as spectators. I over heard another parent say "how do you get over there?" Someone replied, "you have to walk to the other end of the park and back again."

So, I started pumping my short, fat, slow legs and this mama made it to the other side to see my runner cross over.

I had to wait a while, even after that long hike. The kids race was divided into a staggered start with Gracie's group (5-7 year olds) being the last to go.

With freezing hands I waited, camera poised, in the best spot to capture her finish line moment.

We are so proud of our girl!
Way to go Gracie!!!

Friday, April 01, 2011

No Joke, Another Ear Infection

I thought today was only for jokes?!

The 1am wake up call from Gracie was no laughing matter. And neither was the ear pain she was experiencing.

Thankfully we got her in to the doctor's office pretty early and we were able to start medication.

I just can NOT keep her healthy. I thought kindergarten was bad--I think she has been more sick this year in First Grade. It is so frustrating. When will the germs stop?!!!!