Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Baptism Traditions

It was a day rich with tradition of many generations, yet it was also a day of firsts, as we celebrated the baptism of our daughter, Charlotte, earlier this month.

The baptism of Charlotte Grace Herschelman
I sat in the church pew holding Charlotte, who was wearing the delicate white dress that was made for my baptism 37 years ago by my godmother, Helen Cox. Trimmed in beautiful, white lace, the dress was also worn by Charlotte's sister, Grace, when she was baptized five years ago. 

Pastor Mike baptized Charlotte
She didn't seem to mind too much
 Each of us also wore a darling pair of white lace shoes, purchased by my grandmother, Nancy Galer. I would have to say that at each of the three baptisms, the shoes spent more time in pockets and on the floor than they did on any of our feet. But they sure were cute!

Okay, well - she may have been a little unhappy.
Our family also has another special tradition for baptisms, the use of a honey dish, which is a small, decorative bowl.  Not only was it used for both Grace and Charlotte's baptisms, but at least four generations of baptisms on the Galer side, including me, my dad and my Grandma Nancy. Now, I just have to get it back to Aunt Anne before something happens to it at our house.

Charlotte and her two great-grandmas
Although I was much too young to remember my own baptism, I know it's extremely special for my mom, because it was her dad, the Rev. Charles Hutson, who baptized me at his church in St. Elmo in 1980.

Herschlman Familiy
Herschelman grandchildren
 He passed away when I was in junior high, but I know he would have been honored to baptize my girls if he was still here.  And I know he was smiling down on the day too, as one of his favorite songs, "Sweet, Sweet Spirit," was included in the service. That's a song that my mom and her sisters recorded in their youth, and has long-been a family favorite of the Hutsons. It was included in Grace's baptism as well as on our wedding day.

Galer Family
But the biggest tradition we shared as we sat in our church that day was family. Not everyone could be with us, as my brother and his wife live several states away. But we were so fortunate to have so much of Kyle's family there to celebrate with us that very special day.

I set out this year to write my column about the firsts we've experienced with a new little one, but I felt drawn to write about tradition this month. And the more I thought about all of our family traditions, the more I realized that all traditions have to have a first time at some point, even if they were "firsts" long before I was born.

Our sweet family photo
As I carefully dressed Charlotte in the 37-year-old lace dress that morning, I couldn't help but miss all my grandparents, who were there to share in the day I was baptized. But I also couldn't help but smile, knowing the traditions they started were part of our family's special day. And I hope someday, Charlotte will be just as honored to carry them on too.


Monday, May 22, 2017

A Preschool Graduate

It's official! We have a preschool graduate in the house!

Our beautiful preschool graduate
After spending three years in our church's preschool program, Grace will officially move into kindergarten this fall. And as she moves into the next stage of her schooling, we feel very blessed for the experiences she had in preschool.

The graduate led the processional of her classmates.
Grace really enjoyed the music in the program.
Just before her third birthday, Grace had her very first day of preschool at our church. Although we met with the school district's pre-kindergarten program, we felt like the church's program three mornings a week would be a better fit for Grace. That way we could still take her to physical therapy in Springfield on Fridays.

Our little preschool graduate was all smiles.
All of Grace's classmates in the morning and afternoon classes signed a graduation puppy for her.
Grace had two different aides (Carla Bolton and Alex Carter) during her three years at the church, and we are so grateful to both of them for working hard include Grace in as many activities as possible. They helped her to create masterpiece paintings and art projects, read stories to her and just generally loved on her the entire time she was there.

Grace and all her preschool friends.
Grace and her proud preschool teachers.
One of the biggest highlights over the past three years has been the other students. It seemed like every morning we arrived late to school, but some of her friends were always waiting to greet her, genuinely excited she was there to share in their day.  During free play time, they held puppet shows for her, played house with her and just really looked out for her. Mark my words, those kids are going to be the real heroes of the world someday for their kindness and compassion.

Mommy and her favorite preschool graduate.
Grace and her proud grandparents.
All of our adventures came to a culmination this week at Grace's Movin' Up program. When I dropped Grace off at school that morning, her teachers told me they had some surprises in store, and I told them I would probably cry. 

Grace looked just beautiful in her Easter dress, with a necklace and bracelet as accessories.  We dropped her off in her classroom and made our way to the sanctuary to find our seats.  Both sets of our parents were already there, so we joined them.  

Grace on her very last day of preschool.
Kyle and I both had a little trouble before the program started. For me, it's hard not to wonder what type of personality Grace would have if INAD hadn't stolen so much from her.  Would she be the kid singing loudly and dancing around the front of the church? Or would she be the quieter one, more reserved, even though she knew all the words by heart? It's a little bittersweet, not ever having heard Grace sing Jesus Loves Me with all her friends.

Charlotte and I joined Grace on her last day of preschool.
So as the program got ready to start, I felt my eyes fill with tears of sadness for all the things I felt like i had missed out on over the years. But as the kids began to file in, our friend, Mindy, carried Grace up the aisle in her graduation cap, and I beamed with pride for how far Grace has come.

Grace's friend Lauren blew bubbles for her.
Throughout the program, I kept my eyes focused on Grace.  Even though she got hot and sweaty in the church, you could tell she enjoyed being a part of the program.  She smiled during some of her favorite songs, and even though I still wish she could sing the songs, I also know she's a very big part of the program in her own way.

Charlotte helped lead the final songs at circle time.
When it came time to recognize the kids, they presented Grace with her preschool graduation certificate and a graduation puppy that all the kids and teachers had signed. I think her teachers were just about as emotional as we were.  I'm so grateful for the love and support they have shown to Grace over the past three years. 

Grace has always loved music time!
After the program was over, Grandma Susie gave Grace and her cousin, Isabel, flowers and a balloon for doing so great. We also had lots of time for photos before leaving one last time.  

Later that night, Grace's aide texted me and asked if Charlotte and I wanted to spend the last day of preschool with Grace, and we happily agreed. It was a beautiful day, and the teachers had set up stations outside.  Grace loved the wind in her face, and her friend, Lauren, even blew bubbles for her. Then Grace and I shared some ice cream on her very last day.

Grace's friend Dahlia came to visit on her last day of preschool.
There were lots of hugs, and maybe a few tears as we packed up to leave, but we will always have the memories (and lots of photos) from Grace's preschool experience.  It means so much to us that neither the teachers nor the students treated Grace any differently than they would any of the other students.

Final family photo at preschool.
Before the week ended, we had a meeting with Grace's new school, and she got to meet her kindergarten teacher. I was a little nervous as this was a much different setting than the preschool. But it didn't take long to realize how excited everyone there was to see Grace. We got stopped in the hall by everyone we met. They all stopped to talk to Grace and tell her how excited they were she was coming in the fall.  It's a pretty neat feeling to be the mom of the coolest kid in the school.  And I know the staff at Beckemeyer will take just as good care of Grace as at her preschool. I can't wait to walk her to school on the first day!

It may be the end of Grace's preschool days, but we will cherish the memories. From the zoo field trips to the Thanksgiving program with thankful soup, we have enjoyed every minute celebrating Grace's successes with her friends. And for that, we will always be grateful.

After finishing preschool, Grace got to meet her new kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Paden!
Next stop . . . kindergarten!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Just Keep Putting

Fore! I'm not much of a golfer, but I do know that those golfing around me should probably keep their heads up for their own safety.  

For the third year in a row, Grace was asked to be the honorary starter at the Indian Springs Invitational golf outing, a very competitive tournament in our area. Although the tournament starts very early in the morning, organizer Jim Odle is gracious enough to let Grace come and start the second half of the tournament after lunch. No one in our house is really an early morning person, so that works out great.

The golfers held a 50/50 drawing to raise money for INAD research.
The first year, Kyle helped Grace to sink her putt on the practice green, but he was sick last year, so I was the stand in.  Fortunately for me (and Grace), they let us putt pretty close to the hole.  And I got to help Grace once again this year.

Hanging out with Jim before Grace's big shot.
We met mom and dad at the golf course for lunch, cooked up by club owners Wade and Natalie Fuller.  Lunch was delicious, and we enjoyed visiting with some of the golfers as they made their way in for lunch.  After everyone gathered back in the clubhouse, Jim asked Kyle to say a few words about our journey and invited golfers to participate in a 50/50 raffle for INAD research or simply to donate.  One golfer even gave Kyle $50 to take me out to eat, and the Fullers gave us 10% of the proceeds from the tourney.  We are so truly blessed.

Grace and I attempting to sink our putt.
Everywhere we go, we are so grateful to share our story and help raise more awareness for INAD.  The golf tournament alone has raised more than $2,500 in the last three years.

Jim congratulated Grace after finishing her two-putt.
After we finished greeting the golfers, we headed out to the putting green, where Jim gave her one of his personalized golf balls. He said he will give her one every year she comes out.  Kyle is hoping to paint the putter Jim gave her last year purple before next year's event as well.

Posing with the golf star!
Kyle grabbed the camera, and I sat Grace on my knee.  Even though Jim put her ball very close to the hole, it still took us two putts to make it. But it just goes to show that even if it doesn't happen on the first try, you should never give up.  Grace teaches me that lesson over and over again all the time.  Her strength and perseverance in physical therapy every week remind me that we should always keep trying.

We were so glad that Grandma and Grandpa Galer could come too!
So we do. There are many dark days on this Grace-filled journey, but friends like Jim Odle and the golfers at Indian Springs certainly make for some bright times. And remember to keep trying, even if you miss the putt.


Friday, May 5, 2017

A Day To Celebrate

Today started out like any other day. Except that we didn't have to set our alarm clark, and there wasn't any place that we had to go.

Those days are rare for us. Between Grace's preschool and therapy appointments throughout the week, as well as a hectic work schedule, there are very few days that come around where we don't have any of those things planned. But today was different.

Dr. Omurtag was very excited to meet Charlotte.
A few weeks ago, Grace's physical therapist in Springfield told us she would be gone this Friday for continuing education, and that Grace wouldn't have therapy today.  Kyle has been talking all spring about getting to a Maryville University game, where his brother, Shane, is the pitching coach. 

Family photo with Dr. Omurtag before we left.
Many of the games are on Sunday, which is paper day for us, so when the last home weekend of the season fell on this Friday, so we asked Kyle's sister if she and our nephew could join us.  It was actually one of the most relaxing days we've had in a long time.

Since we were going to be in St. Louis, I called our doctor's office at Washington University where we went through the process of in vitro fertilization and asked if we could bring Charlotte by to meet Dr. Kenan Omurtag and the rest of the staff, who had all been so good to us.  As luck would have it, that worked out as well.

Kyle and Charlotte being silly when we got to the game.
Per usual, we were running about ten minutes late getting into St. Louis, but we were surprised to run into one of Grace's former physical therapists in the elevator of the building. Grace had a big smile for Jen, and we hope she will stop by again sometime when she's back in Hillsboro.  

When we made our way to the doctors' office, the receptionist asked if we had an alumni of the program with us, and I just smiled.  At first, I wasn't sure we should bring Charlotte to the office. Every time we were there during the process, the waiting room was always full of people, and I wasn't sure about bringing a baby there. But Kyle talked about the possibility of bringing hope to some of those couples that the process does work.  

Game-time selfie.
Family selfie at the game.
And once we got there, all of the office staff as so excited to see Charlotte.  We thought we were going to miss seeing Dr. Omurtag, who was in surgery, but we managed to run into him on our way out of the building. He was so excited to hold her and asked if we wanted to take photos, which of course we did. His secretary told us that many times, they never know what happens for couples after they are released, and they were so glad to meet Charlotte.  It was such a special chance for us to say thanks for all their help in adding to our family.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed back on the road to Maryville, where Shane's team was already most of the way through the first game.  Kyle's sister, Mikaela, and our nephew, Quincy, were already there. We found a spot in the stands to sit so I could feed Grace lunch, while Mikaela picked up some Charlotte snuggles, and Quincy walked up and down the stairs about a million times.  It was fun to catch up, and such a beautiful day for baseball.

Charlotte hung out with Uncle Shane between games.
When I finished feeding Grace, we all found a nice spot on the grassy lawn to watch the game where Quincy could play and Grace could enjoy the sunshine. Quincy had brought a little baseball with him, and I started playing with Grace, letting it roll down her side.  Quincy thought it was funny, so he started doing it and playing with Grace.  It was so cute to see them together.  And Charlotte did great, so long as she got to eat when she was hungry!

Just hanging out at the game.
Just being silly.
After the games were over, we waited for Shane to get done, and then we all went out to eat.  Since it's Cinco De Mayo, we picked Global Quesadilla, which is not really Mexican, but it was still fun.  The food was great, and it was cute to watch Quincy dip his chips into Shane's ranch dressing.  We enjoyed more visiting, and just being together.

Nachos and quesadillas for dinner!
All tuckered out after a busy and fun day.
For a very rare time, we didn't have a schedule. We didn't have to be anywhere at any certain time (except for the doctor's office, which we were late to).  It was so much fun to relax and just enjoy a day together, a day without appointments or assignments. And while it may be awhile before we have another day like today, we are already looking forward to it!


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Getting Ready For The Big Dance

I can still remember the first and only sonogram we had when we were pregnant with Grace.  We had already decided that we wanted to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl, and Kyle was quite certain it was a boy.

Kyle and his beautiful dates for the father-daughter dance.
Imagine his surprise, when our friend, Kris, immediately told us it was a girl.  Kyle said the first thing he thought of was how expensive it would be to buy Prom dresses someday. I have to say he's probably right since he thinks it's expensive to pay more than $10 for pants or shoes. But I also knew the moment she arrived, he would be wrapped around her finger, and she would get whatever dress her heart desired.

Kyle and Grace pose with the scholarship committee.
We know now that Grace may not ever have the chance to go to Prom someday. It's hard to think about that, but there are also kind people who have given us another chance to make some memories with Grace along the way.

Two years ago, some of our friends in Litchfield hosted a father-daughter dance at the Moose, and Kyle decided he wanted to take Grace.  Even though moms weren't technically allowed, I got to come along in case Kyle needed help with Grace. Much to our surprise, Grace was crowned the queen of the dance, and we were so honored.

Kyle and Grace shared some "carnival" food.
The twinkies were decorated to look like corndogs.
Then, last year, our friends at Lincolnwood started a scholarship in Grace's name for someone going into the medical field. To raise money for the scholarship, they also hosted a father-daughter dance, and Kyle and Grace had a great time together.
Mommy and daddy being silly at the carnival.
This April 22 marked the second father-daughter dance to raise money for the Grace Herschelman Scholarship, and Kyle had two beautiful dates this year.  The girls even had almost matching dresses due to the fact that Charlotte's Easter dress failed to arrive before Easter.
Charlotte looked awfully pretty in her dress too!
Grace had such a great time at the dance, and she looked beautiful!
For me, it's a fun chance to get Grace dressed up.  I may not have the chance to help her get ready for Prom someday, so I'm taking every chance I get now!  I did matching bright purple manicures and pedicures for me and Grace.  I can't say that me painting her nails is one of her favorite things, but she seems to indulge me. This time, I even braved painting Charlotte's tiny nails to match.  Hair is another story all together.  I've never been very good at styling hair, and it doesn't help that Grace can't really hold her head up.  But we work together so it looks nice, and then dress it up with a bow.  Charlotte had a sweet headband, but she managed to wriggle out of it before we got there.
The girls hanging out with some of their favorite cousins!
Cousin Katelyn won a crown for Grace at the carnival games.
This year's theme was a carnival, and Kyle and Grace walked around the carnival games when we got there while I fed Charlotte. They had several carnival-type games set up, as well as a photo booth, face painting, cotton candy and balloon animals. Inside the gym, a DJ played music for dancing.  Much like high school dances, it was mostly girls dancing on the floor, while the dads kind of stood off to the side.  The dads did join in every now and again, and I liked watching Kyle dance with Grace in her stroller.  

John and Leandra Schaff donated the money they raised selling cotton candy to INAD research.
Our friend, Audrey, sold brownies at her family's yard sale to raise money for INAD research.
We even received just over $150 for INAD research. The Schaffs were selling cotton candy and donated the proceeds to research, and one young dancer had sold brownies at her family's yard sale and wanted to donate the money to INAD research.

Kyle and Grace doing a little bit of dancing.
Toward the end of the evening, they invited the dads and daughters out for one last dance.  Kyle picked Grace up out of her stroller and swayed with her as the DJ played "Beauty and the Beast." Tears sprung to my eyes. It reminded me of the time my dad taught me to slow dance in our living room before my very first Prom. It broke my heart that Kyle may not have that chance with Grace. As I caught his eye, I noticed a few tears as well, even though they were probably for a different reason.

These two shared a special dance before the end of the night.
Each and every day, we try our best to give Grace a normal life. We take her out and about to do things with us as a family, as if she didn't have INAD.  It's not always easy, and we definitely don't have the same experiences as other families. But we keep trying. We keep making memories and taking her on adventures so that we can give her as much as life has to offer. After all, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in those years.