Sunday, November 24, 2013

Our Little Piece of Heaven

We spent a long weekend up in the North Georgia mountains with Ian's grandparents. Their house and property are, what we consider, our very own little piece of heaven.

We've visited them up here as often as possible since we've been married. We've been able to see all the different seasons and get to enjoy Pop and Mimi's company. Since we've been in the States we have passed through their area three times, but this weekend was the longest of our visits.

We spent lazy afternoons tromping through misty grasses and exploring all the nooks and crannies of Mimi's extensive gardens (there are approximately 7 swings and a dozen rockers around the property. And, of course, Grace had to try each and every one out!)

We got to wear warm coats and boots and pretend that this was "normal" for us for a moment. We explained mountains, deers, trees, and boulders to Grace and Sophia.

On our first full afternoon we took the girls to the nearby Cabbage Patch Kids Baby Hospital to explore the dolls and to pick out a doll for each girl, a gift from their great grandparents.

There were hundreds of dolls in that place, and you could plop one in a baby stroller and run around and play! It was a definite collector's paradise. I'm more of an American Girl Doll person myself, so I was a little mystified by the grown women sitting on the floor, gushing over a doll, but to each their own, right?

We returned the next afternoon to check out a Christmas festival and to see the "live delivery," of a cabbage patch baby. It was cute/creepy all at the same time. Grace liked it though and talked about how she got to see a baby "come out," all day!

I'm just hoping we didn't scar her for life!

Our favorite part of Ian's grandparents mountain home is the guest apartment that is attached to the house. We have these amazing views from our bed and it is just the most relaxing place! We always feel so rested after some time here. I just wish we had come when it was slightly warmer so that we could have gotten some hiking in!

Our original purpose for going up there, besides to see Pop and Mimi, was for Ian and his Dad to be able to go to a University of Georgia (UGA,) football game in Athens, GA. It was one of the items on our 30 before 30 list and Ian was so excited to have landed some sweet seats. They had a blast at the game and won!

We were able to snap a four generation picture on Sunday, before church. Grace, Ian's dad, Ian's Pop, Sophia, and Ian, made up a four generation picture of Galloways! Such a special moment!

And we snuck in one more picture with Mimi and Pop. Poor Mimi had just had a knee replacement surgery two weeks before hand so she was, obviously, not feeling the best. She was a trooper though! She loved on the girls and entertained them when they came running into her room.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Accent Vlog

Since I am doing my best to fall even more helplessly behind on what is going on in our day to day lives, including Sophia's other 1st birthday party, first (and subsequent) trips to Disney, Grace's first haircut, and a weekend getaway to North Georgia, I decided now was the best time to pull out the stall tactics.

Enter, the accent vlog.

A couple of months ago, when I did my first vlog, I had several people comment on my "accent."

I have never, EVER considered myself to have an accent.

In fact, I've kind of prided myself on that fact.

So you can imagine my surprise, nay, dismay, when at least a dozen people said "I love your accent!"


I'm from Florida, which is about as far North as you can get while still being in the South (mostly.) Neither of my parents have southern accents and none of my friends did either.

Of course I knew of people who had accents, but it was not me!

My mom and her side of the family are actually from up North, so, if anything, I would say I have a few habits in that direction, rather than the other. In fact, when I was little I had to go to a speech therapist (for an "R" issue,) and was told that I had a Boston accent!

So, I slipped outside during naptime, set my camera precariously on the porch railing, and pretended you were sitting in the rocking chair next to me.

Please ignore the angry eyebrows, swatting of flies, and flipping of my hair.
I considered redoing it, but this seems more real, doesn't it?

MVI 6001 from IGalloway on Vimeo.

And, in case you need clarification or want to join in, here are the instructions:

Say these words:
Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

And answer these questions:
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you use to change the TV channel?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Trick-Or-Treat and Deck The Halls

It's that time of year again! September begins and people slowly trickle into fall decorations, pumpkin spice lattes, and apple orchards. October rolls around and people get to experience a change in weather (usually,) and the leaves change. Nice and slow and steady. The end of October brings Halloween, candy, costumes, and carving pumpkins.

Then, you wake up and BAM. It's Christmas time.

I went into a store on November 1st and there were decorations up and music playing.

Christmas creep is for real, people!

And in the spirit of, well, the holiday spirit, I thought I would join in by combining our Halloween and our decorating post into one post!

Aren't you so excited?

No? Enraged that I would dare combine the two? Or maybe just very confused why we have already decorated?

All in due time, my friends. All in due time.

After the girls afternoon nap, we headed over to Ian's parents' house for the afternoon and evening.

We carved a pumpkin for the first time with the girls. Grace wouldn't even touch it. And all Sophia wanted was a bottle. Still, Grace was pretty pleased with the results, a mickey shaped jack o lantern.

 We fed the girls a snack and then got them into their costumes. Precious, right?
 Obviously, Grace was Cinderella and Sophia was Minnie Mouse. Grace loves Cinderella so we thought that it was appropriate this year, ad we had been given Sophia's outfit, so free costume it was!

We headed out about 5:30, which was much sooner than other people, but I knew the girls weren't going to last long. At the first house we stopped at a spider fell from the ceiling and made some creepy noises but Grace just shrugged it off and focused on the task at hand- gathering as much candy as possible!

As soon as the door was open she would say "Trick or Treat!" and in the very instant that she was handed candy she would turn her head back to me and ask "More?" Sophia mainly stayed in the stroller and Grace would get a piece of candy for her and put it in her bucket above her head. Grace lasted until well after seven pm! We ended the night seeing some good family friends of ours and then headed back to the house for a late dinner from the grill.

 Grace topped the evening off by chowing down on some of her candy and gave out candy to the people who came to the door. We put the girls down and then we adults watched Monsters University! It was a great Halloween and I am so grateful that the girls got to have such a good experience!
It's pretty hard to believe that just one year ago our Halloween included this very busy bee and a one month old newborn!
Then, this weekend, we celebrated the start of the Christmas season with my in laws! We leave this week to head up to Tennessee to see my family for a couple of weeks and won't be back to Florida until mid December, so if we wanted to decorate together it was now or never!

So now it was!

I honestly didn't take many pictures. It was a crazy, beautiful kind of day. It was raining outside and Ian and his Dad hung up the outside Christmas lights. Grace "helped" assemble a snow man lawn ornament while my Mom in law and I put together the Christmas tree. Ian's brother and his wife arrived and they helped us wrangle the girls and string the lights on the tree. Then, once everyone came inside and were cleaned up and fed we put on a Christmas pandora station and put the ornaments on the tree. It only took ten minutes but it was so fun to see the girls' excitement!

I can't wait to do it all again with my family after Thanksgiving!  We get to do double the holidays this year!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Grace and ISR

I love the water. I grew up in Florida, surrounded by pools and lakes, the ocean and some springs. I swam competitively from the time I was eleven all the way through high school.

So, naturally, I'd love for my children to love the water too! I want them to be comfortable in the water but also to be safe.

I once trained and was certified as a lifeguard though. I know the risks. I have seen the horrors of infant and child drownings. Those are images you can never shake and something I will fight against with all that I can.

So, last spring, when I saw a link to a video on facebook about an infant who knew how to flip over on his back and float until someone could help him out of the pool, I was sold on the idea of early childhood swimming.

And by swimming, I don't even mean the lessons that get taught in most public swimming pools. I, after all, taught those very same lessons and I didn't believe in them enough to put my own child in them.

I wanted more than my child learning to blow bubbles and using "monkey arms" to navigate around the edge of the pool.

And I knew better than to rely on the false security that floatation devices can give. Even though we own a puddle jumper, I wanted my child to have the skills needed, not to have to rely on a floatie or water wings in order to survive.

Enter, ISR, or Infant Swimming Resource. I can't do it justice by trying to fully explain it, but I can summarize by saying this:

ISR gives infants and young children the ability to buy themselves precious minutes when an accidental (and usually preventable,) fall into the pool occurs. Toddlers learn to open their eyes under water, to search out the nearest exit point, to move forward in the water towards said exit point, and how to flip over on their back to breathe and rest before their body becomes too tired.

Enter, Grace.

When we got to America in July I searched out a local teacher right away. Our lessons started in early August. We went every day, Monday through Friday, for ten minutes a day. The lessons are highly structured with well trained teachers who are well aware about the science behind learning to swim. There are some dietary restrictions to help reduce excess gas in their bellies and some very specific procedures to follow.

(read: if you aren't a rule follower, this would not be the route for you to take!)

Within the first two days Grace had learned how to swim several feet to her "barb" (bar,) and within a week could swim 5 feet or so, underwater with her eyes open, towards her teachers hand.

All of this was with a smile!

I was ecstatic.

Then, week, three hit. It was time for Grace to learn how to float on her back. And she wanted nothing to do with it.

I wasn't surprised though. She wouldn't even dip her head backwards in the bathtub! Our teacher was amazingly patient with Grace though and kept on encouraging us, telling us that it would come. Thrashing and crying throughout the lesson then hugs and goodbyes afterwards. Such a girl!

She could do it, she just didn't want to! All the while, our teacher would look at me and say "Look, I'm not even holding her up!" Grace would be throwing a fit but floating on her back completely by herself.

Finally, two weeks later, in week five, it finally clicked for Grace. She started relaxing on her back. She would swim 4-5 feet, flip over on to her back for a rest, then flip back over and swim all the way to the wall!

In our last three days, we were able to do Grace's clothes test. She wore jeans, a t shirt, a sweater, and socks and shoes. She was really excited before she got in and a little confused once I handed her into her teacher. She wasn't crazy about how heavy everything was but was a trooper through the test, even was able to right herself and swim when she was flipped into the water! She also figured out how to pull the sweater off of her face when it covered her face while floating on her back.

On the last day of lessons I got in with Grace and her teacher taught me how to continue working with Grace. I will be honest, there was a lot to remember! The skills are very specific and it is easy to teach them bad habits (cause and effect are big conditioners, even picking up the child when they have done something incorrectly can send signals that they should continue doing that incorrect thing in order to be picked up!)

At the end of the time, I was very pleased with the results. A child who never would leave the step or even put their face in the water was yelling "More, please!" and loved swimming independently after a hand. I have full confidence that, God forbid, Grace would ever accidentally fall into a pool, that she has the skills to survive until help arrives, or she gets herself out of the pool.

All of that to say, lessons don't take the place of water safety! Please make sure full enclosures are around your pools or ponds and that toys and chairs are removed from the pool deck!

(I have great clips of her swimming, but as I am unsure if I am allowed to share them or not, I am keeping that to myself.)

And as a final note, I know this might be a bit controversial. There are people out there that think it is a terrible thing to do anything that makes your child cry or feel unsafe. Though Grace was clearly out of her comfort zone and was mad that she was not in control, I always knew that she was in safe hands and I observed every second of her lessons from just feet away. I also think that parenting means making some tough decisions that won't make the child happy at all times in order for something important to be learned. That's all...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Different Kind of Vacation

We are at a convention for a couple of days.

Two days of mind numbingly boring shifts, sitting at a table, and answering a few questions.

Two days of getting up early and rushing out the door.

Two days of having to put my introverted self aside and be "on," all day long.

But, those two days are without kids!

And we get to stay in a hotel (hotel stays are my love language. Like, times ten. Seriously, if you want to gift us with a hotel stay, that would be amazing. Or a beach house. Either way.)

And I don't have to cook dinner!

Or breakfast! Or lunch!

So this, to us, is that anniversary getaway that we didn't get to have earlier this year.

I jokingly said to Ian "Well, we may not have been able to squeeze in that marriage retreat during our time in the States but at least we got to go on vacation together!"

So we laugh until we cry when we get so bored sitting at the table at the conference, we sit for hours in the silence of our hotel room, watched movies on our laptops, and got to hold hands while walking around (because we aren't holding babies, diaper bags, or pushing a stroller.)

So, though most would deem this a business trip, we say it's a romantic getaway for two!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Coffeehouse Chat

You know those days when life feels like it is moving full speed ahead and you and just running after it yelling "Wait for me! I'm supposed to be driving this thing?"

Yeah, it's been an entire month like that. Since the day we packed up our Tennessee home, hit the road for my cousin's wedding, went to a conference, vacationed at my sister's place, then moved down to our house in Orlando, nothing has been calm and still.

Friends, I wish I could meet you for coffee. I wish we could sit still and lean over warm, steaming mugs of deliciousness while sharing what is going on.

And if I am already listing what I wish for, I'd add to that list that I wish for time to stand still for a week or so and for a box of donuts to appear magically before me.

Seeing as none of that is realistic, I'd settle for an afternoon of catching up on blogs and exchanging texts and phone calls with my in real life people.

But, for a moment, let's pretend we are sitting in the moody atmosphere of your local Starbucks. I'd be drinking a Grande Caramel Macchiato and you would be drinking, well, only you know that answer.

I'd sigh and take a swig of my warm comfort before telling you that my time in the States is over two thirds done. That we have November and December left and then that is it! Back on the plane to the place we call home in Abu Dhabi.

I'd say that I can't wait to go but I am dreading leaving, all in one emotion. I wish there was a word for that.

I might even lay my head down on the table and cry, telling you about how Ian's job hunt is in full swing and everything (and I mean everything!) is resting on him getting a job that will start around February 1st. The stress of that alone is doing a good job of shaking us to our cores.

I'd sit up right and tell you about our medical woes. About how although we are healthy(Praise God!), we still have to jump through ridiculous medical hoops to have clearance to move back overseas. Perhaps I'd perk up and tell you that Sophia is solidly sleeping through the night and is completely weaned from formula and her reflux medicine. And I'd sheepishly tell you that the bottle and Grace's pacifier are still around.

And then I'd say, "That's it! Not much. What about you?" Because isn't that what we always say after baring our hearts to the ones we love?

Here is my pain and my frustration, but this too shall pass.
Thanks for the listening ear!
Your turn!

And what would you say? Would you lean in, with wide eyes to tell big news? Would you fidget mindlessly as you thought of anything interesting?

Well, whatever it is, I do hope one day we can share that coffee.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Flashback: Weekend in Atlanta

Please allow me to jump back two months or so. Somehow, in the mess of road tripping and getting settled into Orlando, I completly missed our weekend getaway to Atlanta, Georgia! Back in the spring, my parents asked me for an outing that I really wanted to do while we were in the States. My answer? An Atlanta Braves baseball game, of course!

So, the last weekend of August, we caravaned to Atlanta with a pitstop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, first, to see the aquarium.

Then, after a quick lunch, we finished our trip and made it just in time to see the Atlanta Braves game! My parents got Grace her very own tomahawk, which she loved, and she quickly perfected the art of the chop!

I'm pretty sure my mom got up to get Grace a snack or take her to the bathroom every single inning, but we lasted ten (Yes, TEN,) innings and got Sophia to take a nap in our Boba. We finally left because the extra innings were never ending and I could feel a meltdown approaching (by the girls, or by me, you will never know.)

The next morning we got up, checked out, headed to breakfast, and ran some errands while Sophia napped. We met up with Ian's extended family in North Georgia for Sunday lunch and loved having the rare opportunity to see so many of his Aunts, Uncles, and cousins all in one place. Grace loved the cupcakes of the birthdays we were celebrating!

That night, we headed up to Ian's Aunt and Uncle's place- Woodlands Camp up in the mountains of Northern Georgia. It was neat to see all of the changes that have taken place and to hear the stories of so many changed lives.
We met up with Ian's grandparents for a quick lunch and then hit the road to get back to Nashville. It was a fun, packed weekend that came and went all too quickly!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sophia's First Birthday Party (Take One!)

While we were on our family vacation, visiting my sister in DC, we were able to celebrate Sophia's first birthday all together!

My sister created some decorations and made a cute cake and smash cake for the day and my brother in law grilled out. My uncle and his new bride were able to come too!

Grace was enthralled with all things birthday related and she had been singing Happy Birthday for about a week. She didn't quite grasp that the cake and presents weren't for her but she went with the flow and helped her sister out when she was allowed!

Sophia dove right into her smash cake and ate it at a pretty steady rate. Afterwards, we took her upstairs and gave her a bath and outfit change before coming downstairs for present time. She got clothes, books, a baby doll, stuffed animals, a puzzle, and some bath toys. She sat patiently in my lap as I opened each thing (or as Grace did,) but didn't have much of an interest in opening it herself.

It was fun and simple- much different from the labor intensive first birthday party I threw for Grace, but with being on the road for so long and not having a real home for six months, I thought that letting my family being a part would be fun for them and less stressful for me! And Sophia didn't know the difference! I'll do a big birthday party for her second when we are back in Abu Dhabi next year!