Archive | Virginia

Welcome, Amos Elliott // Our NICU Story

First photo as a family of SIX!

All right, the story continues! When I left off, Elliott, our new baby, and I had just moved to the postpartum unit around 7pm, and our baby was doing pretty well. Elliott had gotten my dinner order and left to pick up a celebratory meal of sushi and sparkling wine.

The night nurse took over, and around 8:30 while Elliott was gone she came in to check on our baby. She spent a while watching his oxygen saturation and his respirations, which unfortunately had picked back up to 90 breaths/minute. To my dismay, she then called the NICU team to come observe him again.

The NICU team came in, and the NICU fellow saw our baby for the first time then. Crushingly, she made the call that he should be transferred to the NICU. She felt like he needed extra breathing treatment and antibiotics, as well as closer observation by the medical team. The tentative diagnosis at this point was TTN — transient tachypnea of the newborn — and she wanted to address his slightly labored, rapid breathing and find its underlying cause.

I texted Elliott to give him the update, knowing there was nothing I could really do (with a clean conscience, anyway), but panicking slightly because I knew things were slipping out of the range of “normal” and we were headed for a whole new world with our baby.

I took this photo as I followed our baby to the NICU with the two NICU nurses. He was calm on the way over and as they hooked him up. Elliott found me there, both of us feeling bewildered and like we had lost a lot of control as parents. The nurses said they would be putting in an IV now and starting CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure, a form of breathing treatment to open up his lungs), and did we want to take a little break to eat our dinner? I couldn’t nurse him or do anything to help, and our baby seemed calm and at peace. We left, feeling helpless.

Amos in the NICU

When we returned after our “celebratory” meal, we found our baby screaming in his NICU bed with 4 holes in his arms and feet from failed IV sticks and also two little plastic tubes stuck into his nostrils blasting air into his lungs. I started crying just looking at him–I’m about to cry again just thinking about it. I cannot imagine how parents go through agressive medical treatment with their children on a regular basis!

Elliott was upset because he wasn’t convinced that any of the treatment was necessary, and, even days later, I am still not sure if it was. The medical team decided to stop the CPAP early because our baby was just not tolerating it, and holding him in my arms and nursing him and seeing his peace and comfort after that was one of the sweetest reliefs I’ve ever known. The medical team also started antibiotics at that point, which they hoped would clear out any infection in his lungs due to the fluid they had seen on a chest x-ray.

Father’s Day in the NICU… not anyone’s first choice!

Elliott and I stayed for another couple of hours, with me nursing as much as I could. Our fear was that being away from our baby (me on the postpartum unit on the 8th floor, him in the NICU on the 7th floor) would mean my milk would not come in like it should. The nurses talked about pumping to increase production, but I wanted to just try to nurse as much as I could and go from there. I had no idea what I would do if our baby had to stay longer in the hospital than I did… but I would cross that bridge when I came to it.

Eventually, around midnight, our nurse encouraged/sent Elliott and me up to our postpartum room to sleep for a few hours. Our baby was calm and fed. The nurse agreed to text me from her hospital phone as soon as our baby woke up hungry.

Sure enough, at 4am she texted, and I slipped on shoes and hurried through the hospital in the middle of the night in my gown and robe to nurse my little one. I was able to lay him down after that, slipped upstairs to sleep again, and then returned again at 6am.

And thus began our hazy, harried two days of postpartum and NICU life. I spent almost all my time at our baby’s bedside, and Elliott was with me almost every minute, too. We took turns holding him, and I nursed him whenever he seemed hungry. Every few hours I would slip back upstairs to clean up — since I was still bleeding a great deal after having delivered a baby only hours before — and shovel food into my mouth from whatever meal tray was waiting for me in my big, sunny, gorgeous, very empty postpartum hospital room. Elliott would hold our baby while I was gone, and almost always I was away only for 15-20 minutes before he was texting me to come back and nurse.

Whenever I was on the postpartum unit to eat, the nurses and techs would hurry after me into my room to offer me pain medication (thankfully I really wasn’t in any pain), take my blood pressure and temperature, and make sure I was feeling ok. Then I would be gone again for hours.

Elliott in our postpartum room, where we slept for two nights.

Our hours at our baby’s bedside were slow and uncertain. I never knew you could spend so much time staring at a tiny baby, gazing deeply into his face, both of you locked in on him, praying endlessly for and about so many things, wondering what was going on inside him, what tomorrow would hold, how we had gotten here… and what we would name him! We felt unmoored, being away from our other children and so tied to this brand new, unknown, completely beloved little newborn son.

Lena, Gil, Forest, and my parents-in-law came to meet our baby after church on Sunday. He was almost 24 hours old then, and thankfully doing pretty well. The children were all able to hold him, and we were so grateful to see them all together, but also emotional with the unknowns and lack of sleep.

Lena and “Marmee,” Elliott’s mom, meeting Amos for the first time.

We also finally decided on a name that afternoon. We had gone around and around with a few final options. Naming children is so hard! At long last, we chose Amos Elliott for our little boy. “Amos” is for the Old Testament prophet who followed God’s call to prophesy in Israel despite his everyday vocation of shepherd and gardener, and who spoke a message of covenant faithfulness and justice. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) I have loved that name for a long time, and it grew on Elliott over the hospital stay as we discussed it, until we both sincerely loved it more than any other choice. We chose “Elliott” for his daddy and also for the heritage of the Elliott family (Amos’s grandmother’s family) and their faithfulness to God as pastors, fathers, and people of God throughout their whole lives.

And so: welcome to the world, Amos Elliott Garber!

How we spent the hours!

That second night of NICU life was similar to the night before, but then around midnight the medical team ordered another chest x-ray and blood draws. I was alone with Amos and growing increasingly exhausted, and Amos’s nurse could see it. She finally suggested I go sleep and she would text me as soon as he woke to feed.

When I came back around 3am, Amos had been moved to the “step down” side of the NICU for healthier babies who were getting ready to go home. Such good news! I fed him twice that night, and then Elliott and I stayed with him that whole day, waiting for an update from the medical team.

We were thrilled to hear that the plan was to send Amos home that evening if all went well — which would also the same time that I would be discharged. Amos had finished his course of antibiotics, and his breathing rate and oxygenation continued to stay within normal range now. Whenever anyone asked me how I thought he was doing, I could say with a clear conscience that he was behaving just like my other newborns. He was nursing well, I could feel my milk coming in, and he didn’t seem distressed at all with breathing, eating, or sleeping. I couldn’t wait to get him home!

One last burp before getting in his car seat. Amos’ monitor is empty behind him for the first time because he has been discharged!

Finally, around 6pm, we were ready to go! His nurse took his IV out of his tiny little hand, checked my ID and his arm bands before cutting them off, and gave us a folder of paperwork. Then we buckled our little Amos into his brand new car seat — and left for home!

As soon as we pulled up, all three of our older kids raced off the porch where they’d been waiting. My heart swelled with joy to see them all dashing down the steps — Forest pausing to turn around and carefully go down backwards — and standing by the gate until the car door opened and they could hop into the van beside him. Those first few minutes of bringing a new baby home are always so surreal and precious, especially after a more eventful hospital stay.

That night Elliott and I slept beside Amos somewhat nervously, unsure how his first night at home would go, but he did so well and slept just like a newborn — even deciding he was ready to get up for the day around 4am! Welcome to real life at home, right? Since then Amos has continued to behave like a normal newborn, complete with plenty of blown-out diapers, 5am wake-ups, and sour milk running down our arms and over our shoulders — and lots of darling newborn grunts, squeaks, and snuggles, too. His breathing also seems normal, both to his pediatrician and a home health nurse that came to visit us, and to all of us watching him at home, too.

While we’ll never know completely what was affecting Amos’ breathing — an infection in his lungs? his lungs taking a longer time to transition out of the womb than normal? extra fluid? all three? — we’re grateful now that he seems unaffected by his rougher start to life. Thanks be to God for health!

Amos after his first night in the NICU. So thankful he is home safe and sound!

6 :: in Amos, family, motherhood, Virginia

Our House in Charlottesville // The Finished Product… Or Not!

I showed you the “before” photos of our house here, the “in between” photos during our renovation here, and then… I never came back with the final product! Because, to be honest, there is no “final” version of our house, especially when:

  • You have lived in it for less than a year, so it’s still very much a work in progress.
  • Your beautiful dog has 8 puppies in March (?!) and so the configuration of your home and yard changes for 8 weeks as you raise them.
  • You have a baby on the way (ONE MONTH TO GO), and so you’re going to be doing some necessary room changing and redecorating before he arrives (or at least you hope it will be done before he arrives).

All of this has prevented me from saying, “Yes, here is the perfect chance to take photos of our finished, completed house!” But I know a few of my friends have been waiting eagerly for these photos, and our house as it is right now captures a stage of life that will be here and gone.

So… here goes nothing!

ENTRANCE

Here is the entrance to our house today:

You can see what it looked like when we moved in right here. We worked hard to make this a useful, brighter space by adding the mirror and all the matching gray furniture. The padded bench includes storage for gloves, hats, mittens, sunscreen, sunhats, the Ergo, our picnic blanket… the list goes on and on!

I’m planning to move that plant (should I?), and I’m also planning to spray paint the white mirror a deep gold. Buuuut that’s a project I’ve been talking about for months. (I don’t really paint furniture. Never have. Maybe one day will. So intimidated by it!)

Shoe cabinet (this thing is amazing) and the entrance to the master bedroom (and Apartment B, as explained in this post). The open front door and the entrance to the living room/Apartment A.

ATTIC PLAYROOM

Now let’s walk up the stairs to the attic playroom… Before I finished decorating this corner of the playroom…
… and after! That lamp needed a shade. But, to be honest, I move things around all the time up here. The only thing I can’t move is the bookshelves, which Elliott strapped to the wall. Great peace of mind!

I’ve read a lot of books over the years about Montessori-style learning, and many of those principles are incorporated into the playroom: toys easily accessible at the kids’ height, objects and games made from natural materials and most without batteries, and a place for everything (and everything in its place… most of the time!). This book is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the Montessori method. My all-time favorite book about simple play spaces (and much more) is Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne (<– and that’s a blog post I wrote about it in 2011!).

Looooooots of dress ups in that chest! The kids and their neighbor friends spend hours putting on plays for the parents with those clothes.

Remember when this space was completely unfinished, with no electricity or light fixtures, old broken windows, and the floor was damaged wood? It’s one of the most rewarding transformations of all!

The playroom is so much fun right now, but it’s about to get even better, I think. The big kids will be moving up here in a couple of weeks before the baby arrives. Elliott and I just need to hang blackout curtains first… and get the AC fixed so it’s cool enough to sleep at night! Their little white beds will go under each eave. I am excited to show you photos after the move! I think it’ll be so cute and even more functional than it is right now.

LIVING ROOM

Those first two photos were of our living room at Christmastime. After the holidays, Elliott and I moved some furniture around and finished hanging artwork, and now it looks like this:
And here is a panoramic photo of the whole room:

Our goal in this room was to provide plenty of seating for guests so that we could host friends and family, and we certainly did that at Christmas when Elliott’s entire family (11 adults and 4 kids) spent most of three days in this room! The white couch also folds down to be a single bed, and we’ve used that a lot lately. We also can blow up an air mattress in the attic playroom if we host a couple. Neither option is ideal, but both work for now until we have a designated guest room in the future.

For the curious, almost all the furniture in our living room is from World Market. I did find the rustic industrial coffee table on Amazon, and the bookshelf is an antique find from our newlywed days on Capitol Hill. The blue chair is from IKEA, and it’s so comfortable and has held up very well!

DINING ROOM & BATHROOM


We love this room! We spend a LOT of time in here with meals and snacks and schoolwork and craft projects, and it is a pretty, cheerful space. The dining table expands to fit up to 6 adults comfortably, but we’ve packed a dozen people around it at Christmas and done ok. ;)

For the curious, the light fixture is from Pottery Barn, the dining table and kids table are from IKEA, the midcentury modern dining chairs are from Amazon, the kids’ chairs are from Stokke, and most of the shelf organizational pieces are also from IKEA. The rug is from Rugs USA, and I love it — highly recommend!

The bathroom right off the dining room doesn’t look like much, but I try to keep it neat and tidy all the time. Everything has a very strict place (extra bath mat hung as soon as baths are over, white shower curtain always closed, two towels folded in thirds so they fit on the towel rack, etc.), and these standards keep this heavily-used bathroom pretty tolerable!

KITCHEN

Oh, this kitchen! It’s is tiny, and there is no dishwasher, and all the appliances came with the apartment when we bought the whole house, but… I love it despite all its flaws.

I’ve trimmed down every excess kitchen item I can think of so that I keep the essentials at my fingertips, and everything in this kitchen works hard (especially me, haha). I spend a lot of time washing dishes at this sink!

Those photos were all from around Christmas. I recently added a walnut magnetic knife strip to get rid of my knife block and save counterspace. I also bought a white magnetic paper towel holder, and now my paper towels are on the side of my fridge instead of my counter, which really helps, too.

Even though it’s small, we make many wonderful things in this little kitchen! Lena is posing with a chicken pot pie about to go into the oven, and below the kids are helping me make naan to go with our dinner of chicken tikka masala.

If/when we renovate this house, the kitchen will probably be the biggest and most wonderful change. In every single house we’ve lived in since we got married, I have been blessed by getting a brand new or top-of-the-line kitchen (Capitol Hill, Sicily, San Diego), so this little kitchen is a good place for me to get creative and keep things simple.

Elliott has offered multiple times to get me a portable dishwasher or even get one installed, but honestly I just can’t justify it. A portable dishwasher would be huge in this space, and an installation would involve demolition and the purchase of a machine in a kitchen that will probably only be like this for another year or so. I might change my mind when I’m exhausted with a new baby, but for now I don’t mind the calm of washing dishes in a quiet kitchen. Dish washing is “boring” so I generally get left alone while I’m cleaning up! ;)

Whenever I get frustrated (or the egg carton slips off the crowded countertop and I break six eggs again), I remember that this kitchen was intended for ONE person living in a small one-bedroom apartment, and yet we are a family of almost six living in two combined apartments… but still with just one tiny kitchen. I’m looking forward to larger appliances and more counterspace one day, but in the meantime, I’ll keep it simple and make it work!

MASTER BEDROOM 

As a child, I remember thinking that my parents’ bedroom was the one room that always got forgotten. We moved every few years for my dad’s job, and my mom transformed every dusty shell of a house into a gorgeous, comfortable home. My parents’ bedroom, though, had the most basic furniture and the same bedspread throughout my childhood, and there were generally books and papers and odds and ends piled everywhere. I thought, “I’ll try not to do that as an adult…”

… but the truth is, that is often how our bedroom is! Elliott works from home, and our bedroom is right next to the entrance to our house, so a lot of our mail, packages, and “to do” items end up in this room. We also keep our printer, shredder, filing cabinet, and family’s laundry basket in here; there just isn’t a better place for any of these things. If we ever renovate, Elliott will have an office!

My way of keeping the mess under control is to (a) make the bed neatly every single day and (b) keep our clothes out of sight in drawers or the laundry basket. With a baby joining us soon, Elliott and I are going to have to get rid of some of the things that have piled up in there, but in the meantime… you get one picture of the neatest part of this room, and that’s the only photo I have!

As for furniture sources, you’re probably sensing a theme here. ;-) Our bed, bedside tables, and bookshelf are all from IKEA, and you can’t see our Hemnes dresser and Brimnes wardrobe on the other side of the room, too. The jute rug is from Rugs USA.

BIG KIDS’ BEDROOM AND BATHROOM

After months of procrastinating, I finally organized the huge and beautiful bookshelf in the kids’ bedroom. There is still a lot going on in this space, but it feels much better organized now. Here are some photos taken at Christmastime (with glimpses of the bookshelf before I tidied it up):

If you’re curious, the kids’ beds are from IKEA and will expand to full-length twin beds as they grow. Their dresser is also from IKEA, and the glider and ottoman are by Dutailier. The rug is also from Rugs USA.

It’s hard to tell here, but the smaller tiles on the floor are actually a deep Mediterranean blue. I tried to make the bathroom feel clean and crisp with bright blue towels and rugs and a simple white shower curtain. Keeping it clean and clutter-free helps too!

FOREST’S ROOM & LAUNDRY ROOM

Remember when this room was the kitchen for Apartment B (more photos in this post)? Our contractor ripped out the sink and cabinets, and a plumber installed a washer/dryer hookup and a utility sink to turn this into a laundry room. On the other half of the room, our contractor removed the stove and oven, and we put Forest’s crib and shelf there.

I planned to have artwork hung over his bed before I shared this post, but… clearly didn’t happen! My plan is to get a few prints of baby woodland creatures from Etsy to hang on the bare walls. We’ll see if I actually ever get it done! His crib is the Bloom Alma Max, and his shelf is from IKEA.

I thought we’d be able to do laundry while Forest was sleeping (white noise!), but it’s just too disruptive.  Oh well! I have gotten very good at starting a load of laundry first thing and getting it washed and dried before he goes down for his nap around 12pm. Not so great at folding it before 9pm, though…

THE GARDEN

Elliott gets all the credit for our garden, both in the front yard and the back. He spent hours and hours in the winter planting hundreds of flower bulbs, but unfortunately they all came up around the time our puppies were playing in the front yard each day, and they totally destroyed each flower just as it was blooming. So sad!

I took these photos earlier today!

Now the puppies have been in their new homes for one week, and Elliott didn’t waste any time. He’s been working so hard this week planting vegetables and sunflowers, repotting rosemary and foxgloves, hanging flowering planters, and even installing new mailboxes for us and our tenants. He also built a structure with trellises and chicken wire in the backyard for passion fruit vines to grow over so that the kids will have a cool green cave to play in later this summer!

Elliott and I also spent a while last night choosing patio furniture now that the weather is nicer (cough… already hot… cough) and the puppies won’t be chewing on our new lounge chair legs. I’m excited to sit on the porch on pretty days with our new baby so soon!

Anyway, as can be seen by the big bags of potting soil and the random pots in the garden, there is still a lot of work to be done. As always! The joys and trials of home ownership — the projects are never finished. The rewards are so great, though.

And there you have it. Our home in Charlottesville, a work in progress, but a very dear place to all of us already in the nine short months we’ve lived here. I hope it looks like a welcoming, loving space with lots of room to learn, grow, and rest, both for our family and for visitors. That is what we aspire to, after all, according to the name of this blog! “Making room for a simple, hospitable life.” May it always be so.

20 :: in home renovation, home sweet home, Virginia

Sweet Summertime in Virginia

IMG_0009 So we took this trip to Virginia in early July, meaning I am only about a month behind! We flew home to surprise my mom on July 7, then spent an extra week there visiting family and savoring that awfully muggy green gorgeousness of a Virginia summer.

With my mom, we visited a local farm with a carousel, jumped through sprinklers, bravely pulled off band-aids, and rode the neighbor kid’s bicycles:

becca-garber-virginia-summer-1.jpg IMG_0119 becca-garber-virginia-summer-2 We also met Lena and Gil’s first and only cousin for the very first time! Eden, Elliott’s older sister, got married two years ago to Charlie, and their son was born in April. We were thrilled to meet him and spend as much time with him as possible!

IMG_0078 On Saturday morning I took the kids into D.C. to have breakfast at Jimmy T’s Diner with my sister, Emily. She lives a few blocks from where Elliott and I lived when we first got married!

IMG_0396 Later we all met up with our mom and her friend Berta to visit the Kenilworth Gardens in D.C. for the Lotus & Water Lily Festival. I had never seen a lotus in person, and they are so intricate and beautiful. I had also never seen an aunt who got her face painted right along with her niece and nephew… what a sport!

IMG_0211 becca-garber-virginia-summer-6 becca-garber-virginia-summer-3 IMG_0407 Another night, all the Garber siblings (and my sister) met at Jon and Erika‘s new apartment on Capitol Hill for a sibling picnic. Such a magical evening!

IMG_0100 IMG_0408 becca-garber-virginia-summer-4 In between visits to D.C., life at my parents’ house looked like this: wagon rides around the neighborhood and playing with toys on the living room rug. The stuff of childhood that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

becca-garber-virginia-summer-5 And then home again to San Diego and to Elliott, who we missed very much! Lena and Gil waited so patiently until they were buckled in their seats before they could open their backpacks and find the treat (gummy bears, I think) that I had stashed there for them.

IMG_0285 And finally, two great little travelers. I love them so!

IMG_0289 Some of you know that we’ve already made another trip back to the East Coast in the past month, so there is more updating to be done! Plus I’m excited to share my July book reviews, which hopefully will be coming soon with some good end-of-summer reads for you.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

xoxo

22 :: in DC, family, home sweet home, life lately, travel, Virginia

a post-wedding getaway to Chincoteague

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Elliott’s family has been visiting Chincoteague for about 20 years, long before I was ever in the picture.  Somehow we have missed these family vacations since we got married, and so this was my first time to see this beautiful corner of the world.  What a peaceful place!  The quiet water rising and falling with the tide, the herons and egrets dipping and diving for fish, the sunrises and sunsets that turn the marsh grasses golden and haloed with light.  After the joy and excitement of Eden and Charlie’s wedding, this was a sweet way for all of us to settle gently back to earth before going on with our regular lives.

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Morning on the dock.

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Kayaking with David… which we chose to do at low tide.  Whoopsies!

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The brave kayakers, tired but victorious after shoving ourselves through mud and battling the wind.

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Gil and his Grampa

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Peekaboo!  Auntie Jess found the perfect place to hang her hammock.

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Giggles with “Unca Davy”

  becca-garber-chincoteague-22 Thank you, Seth and Tracy, for the awesome outfit Gil is wearing.  Lena also enjoyed it back in the day!

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Ready to go for a bike ride!

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Erika and Jonathan (happy anniversary, you two!!!) pose by the map together…

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… and then Jess poses with her future husband.

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For Harry Potter fans, this has something to do with Harry Potter.

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The whole gang.  Photo taken while biking one-handed behind them and making them all look over their shoulders… thankfully none of us crashed!

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Sunset.

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Daddy and his girl.

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A Chincoteague pony!  Looks kinda like Misty.

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Cutie patooties.

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All the siblings played two games of Settlers in less than 24 hours. Elliott somehow won both of them.

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Last but not least, we watched a rocket go off from the NASA station!  Can you see the glow in the sky that is reflected in the water?  It was headed for the space station.  I didn’t even know we had a space station.  Did you?

7 :: in family, Virginia

Lena’s first haircut!

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As it’s now been over a year and a half (!) since Lena last had an at-home trim, I thought it might be a good idea to get her hair cut while we were still here in Virginia.  (This is what she looked like after her last hair trim.)  I wanted to get it cut to her shoulders, but Elliott vetoed that!  Anyone else have a husband and/or dad who loves long hair on his girl(s)?

Anyway, I took Lena to a little shop that just opened near my parents’ house.  I didn’t tell Lena too much about it beforehand, and I was worried that she’d freak out when someone else cut off her hair or would act out to the brushing/combing.  She hates it when I brush her hair!  (Mom tip: brush and fix your daughter’s hair while she’s eating breakfast.  She’ll be sitting still for at least three minutes.)

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Thankfully, she did really well, and mostly sat in awed silence.  I was so glad for that.  I don’t know how I would have handled a meltdown in the middle of the beauty parlor.  Everything must have been so new and amazing, and the haircut probably felt relatively relaxing.  She particularly enjoyed the finale…

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… and now is totally into hair dryers!

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The hairdresser took me very seriously and only cut off about an inch.  I thought “an inch” would be “oops, two inches!”  But it wasn’t, which I guess says good things about Great Clips, but means Lena’s hair is still long.  Oh well, I guess winter is coming.

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She looked so purty.  Off to get a frozen yogurt treat with her Grampa Garber!

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11 :: in Lena, Virginia

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