Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Day in The Life With Baby Grace

Its not terribly interesting here in Strasburg this week. Its kind of cloudy and we are expecting rain and winds from Katrina this afternoon. Gracie is a doll today, well, so far. She's played nicely with her toys, watched 2 episodes of Barney and is quietly talking to her stuffed Clifford in her crib, desperately trying to keep from taking a nap. She had pasta and juice for lunch, and this afternoon we'll probably take a walk to the mailbox, get a loaf of bread from the store and color.

I guess when you are around her 24/7 its hard to see all the interesting things that happen everyday--but she is learning and growing whether or not I can see it minute by minute. She is getting better at her ABC song, and we count everything we can find. Her vocabulary continues to expand...its amazing what she picks up.

She and her daddy watched football for a little while last night and split a bag of popcorn. She was in hog heaven. Maybe we'll take her to the fair tomorrow or to the pool this weekend if its nice.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Meal Time

I complain often about how life seems to whiz by at frightening speeds, leaving little time for people and their families to enjoy and savor life's little moments. Many might think its easy for me to say these things as I have become a "stay at home mom." For those of you who are not "stay at home moms," I challenge you to take on my day--you might find it interesting and not at all what you thought (I don't even have any BonBons!) But, since life has given me a chance to be at home with my precious 17 month old, it has become clearer to me the importance of family and taking time for each other.

Dinner time is one of my favorite times of the day--usually. I love that we come together and talk and eat, even though it can get a little hectic and messy. I hope that we continue to share family meals together as Gracie grows up and she recognizes how important family time is. Who knows maybe we'll adopt one of those hokey family rituals you hear about, like, each member has to share 3 positive things about their day and 3 negative things.

Studies prove that spending at least 4 days a week around the family dinner table lessens the likelihood that your children will get involved in drugs or alcohol. It makes sense, talking things out and sharing are a great way to reinforce your family's bond, making it harder for outside forces to seep in.

I want to take it one step further in this house though. I would like to see us eat together at least 2 meals a day 6 times a week. Sometimes things get crazy around here, and it is easy to eat our dinner or breakfast in front of the TV. Not anymore, our time together is important, and I don't want to sacrifice anymore of it to the electronic "idiot box."

I urge you to take time for your family too. Nick-at-Nite and TVLand currently have a campaign going to get families to pledge to turn off the TV and share a family meal together on "family day," September 26th. I took the pledge for our family and I encourage you to do the same. You will find the link below. And remember: it's not what you fix, or how nicely the table is set, it's that you communicate with each other.

Family Day, September 26th, take the pledge

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Life's Big Battles

For my dear friend:

Everyday begins a new set of battles in the Shipley household: getting Garren to remember to take out the trash, Gracie's naptime, balancing the household budget, putting Gracie's shoes on, finding binki, getting Gracie to eat her dinner instead of throwing it on the floor...you get the idea. I guess having a family is like living everyday on the battlefield--you win some and you lose some, but all in all your family is still together and you smile and kiss each other good night.

I guess I don't really think of these things as a war. My mother cautions me to "choose my battles" with Gracie, and I try: like no touching the dishwasher (while it's open), no typing on the keyboard, and overlooking her atrocious table manners. But these things are what go on everyday in households across the world.

This past week I have been reminded that there are things worth fighting for. I believe that family is the foundation on which our society was built. Without the love of husband and wife, sons and daughters there wouldn't be much left to fight for. So, when it comes down to the wire, how can we not fight the biggest fight of all: to keep our family together? Arguments come and go and I know that in this day and age there are so many things bigger than who pays the bills or who takes out the trash--but isn't your marriage/family more important? I know very little about marriage or family counseling and I don't claim to know how to heal all wounds, I merely want to serve as a reminder that some of life's biggest battles are worth fighting.

Some times its pride that gets in the way, sometimes its fear of the unknown...but in a healthy marriage there are two loving people who have to communicate, swallow there pride at times, compromise, pray, and never stop fighting for their love to win out in the end. I, in no way condone a partnership or marriage where there is abuse; verbal or physical. But, barring such an abusive relationship, I urge every couple to step back and decide if what they are battling over, is enough to stop fighting for each other.

Garren and I are blessed to have such a warm and loving marriage, though we have had our share of "wars" before. However, should we find ourselves "battling" over one of life's big issues, I feel confident that we would stop and fight harder to keep our family together and make a shared decision.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Trip to Tennessee

Our August trip to the Volunteer state was a busy and wonderful one. It was great to see family and friends, and I know Gracie had a wonderful time getting doted on by everyone!

It was good to see mamaw doing much better than when we left her 3 months ago, following her accident. And, she was able to hold Gracie again, despite her fears that she would never be able to again (although she can not pick her up or hold her on on her left side).

To our hosts for part of the trip: Candice and Elliott (and Lucy), we are much obliged for your hospitality. I hope we didn't destroy your home too much.

We also got a chance to see Garren's sister Heather and her husband Kenny and their boys DJ, Ryan & Casey. It was amazing how Gracie took to the boys. She loved them, and hugged all over them as if they had known each other there whole lives (its been a year since she has seen them, and she was 6 months old!)

Luke, Garren's brother got moved in to his UT dorm room and mamaw & papaw were still pouting a little as their last little bird flew from the nest, but last I heard they are doing much better. And, we are sure that Luke will do well at UT.

We are so glad that we all got to meet up with family again this summer...too often too much time goes by without hugs and kisses and "I love you"'s.

TN Pictures on Snapfish

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Happy Birthday Luke

Happy 18th birthday to my brother-in-law Luke. Congratulations on officially entering the world of adulthood and starting your freshman year at UT all in the same weekend!! Garren, Gracie and I are very proud of you, and we know that you will do well with all life has to offer. Enjoy your eighteenth year, it comes and goes very quickly.

All our love to you.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Happy Anniversarry Mom & Dad

Happy 28th anniversarry Mom & Dad (Grandma & Grandpa). We hope that you enjoyed your special day, (though I doubt you did anything fun--you're way too old!!!) Ha!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thanks Again

Thank you Candice, Elliott and Lucy for your gracious hospitality last week as we "bunked" at your beautiful home in Tennessee. Garren, Gracie and I had a wonderful time, and as usual it was great to visit with you again.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Happy Birthday Jaxon!


Happy Birthday to a very adorable 2 year old.
Sara and Marty you have a very special little boy, enjoy him.
Oh, And Gracie sends hugs and kisses.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Headed To Tennessee

Garren, Gracie and I are all headed to Tennessee tomorrow (Thursday) to spend an extended weekend with Gracie's Mamaw, Papaw, Uncle Luke, Aunt Heather, Uncle Kenny, DJ, Ryan & Casey (Garren's parents, brother, sister and brother in law and their 3 boys).

We hope to see all the family and friends we can while we are there. We miss them, terribly since we are 6 hours away and find it hard to make the trip more than a couple of times a year.

I will not be updating my blog until I return, although my trusty camera will be with me, and I plan to snap pictures until my fingers fall off!!

Have a wonderful weekend. I leave you with a cute Gracie picture.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Friends For Life

You know what the cool thing about friends you made in high school is? You can see them after 1, 2, maybe 3 years and pick up a conversation like it was a long lunch break senior year. Friends that you meet in high school can be placed in at least two groups. One, the people that you might recognize at your ten year reunion and then spend 15-20 minutes frantically trying to remember their names. And two, the ones you stay in touch with, invite to your weddings, and with whom you share the important and exciting times of you life.

My high school friends and I are many hours and states apart, but we still come back together every once in awhile to celebrate a wedding or baby or a holiday where we are all in town together. And I have noticed at these gatherings we have the unique ability to re-unite and re-live precious memories like they were yesterday. We're all so different. We were different in high school, but the same as well. We were all pretty smart, we played in the band together, ate lunch together and had the same social "problems" like all teens at the time. But, now we have graduated from different colleges, chosen new lives and families and have spread out across the globe. Yet, we all smile and celebrate each other just like we always did.

This continued connection wouldn't likely be as strong without technology. Email is an amazing thing: it takes five friends and makes them able to connect to the people they shared their most intimate secrets with for the past 9 years. In this rushed crazy world that we live in where each second counts and everyone is concentrating on their own lives, it is pretty special to be able to take a few moments and share and encourage and comfort those who you've known "your whole life." I know that I celebrate and cry and pray for these friends as they tell me about their lives hundreds of miles away, and look forward to the story they will tell of life's next exciting journey.

I plan to go to my 10 year high school reunion and I hope that I can remember the names of all of those people who I shared time with...but I know four others who will be there that I recognize, rush up to, hug and ask "How's the family?"


Monday, August 08, 2005

And The Princess Sleeps...

Today has ended a four day battle in the Shipley house--I am still not sure who has won, but in my sleepless daze I have decided to try it "her way." For several days in a row our beautiful and charming baby Gracie went to bed without a fuss, slept until 6-7am, got in the bed with us, and returned to sleep. On these days which shall be henceforth known as the "glory days," beautiful baby Gracie also took a 2 hour nap.

Now, we all know that babies need plenty of sleep. The rule of thumb for Gracie's age is 13-14 hours a day. 12 at night and a 1-2 hour nap.

In the early days of the sleep war (Thursday), baby Gracie went to bed a night, but she began to cry at 3-4 am, and then wake up again at 6-7am and not go back to sleep. She also did not take a nap. Now I admit that I am a rookie when it comes to parenting, but it seemed logical to me that she wasn't getting enough sleep and it was up to me to see that she did. For days I fought with her, cuddling her in the bed, begging her to go to sleep. As you can imagine I spent most of the day and night trying to force my willful child to sleep. In fact, I spent so much time doing this, we all ended up aggravated and sleep deprived.

Today I decided to try something else. After all, we had been fighting and grouchy too long for my taste, and our "make her sleep" tactic was failing miserably. Now you may not see the problem, but let me dig deeper. Garren is a night owl. He stays up until 1-2 am. Gracie goes to bed at 8pm. And, I am stuck in the middle. I want to sleep badly, but I find myself not wanting to waste the time I have with my husband, and it seems I have a hard time falling asleep without everyone in bed (this is a terrible post-child thing that my mother never warned me about, and laughs at now).

The princess Grace awoke at 7am this morning after crying her way in to our bed around 3am (I feel asleep as usual before I could return her to her crib). After trying 2 times to get her back to sleep (she didn't go to sleep until 9:30 last night, even though she was in her crib by 8:15), I decided to admit defeat and get up. Gracie, Garren and I all started our day at 7:15am. While this doesn't seem unusual to you, it is very unusual to us. We ate breakfast at the table, we brushed our teeth together--it was really cute, we had fun playing, and no one had to rush. I am hoping that now that she has been awake for 5 hours, a nap will be easy and so will bedtime tonight.

So often we force her to conform to our schedules. She eats when we eat, she gets dressed when we decide to dress her, she goes places when we want to go. It is easy to get into the pattern where you are the parents and what you says goes, and we forget to listen to our child. I am not sure exactly what she is trying to say, but I feel sure she is trying to send us a message about the current schedule and how difficult it is for her. I feel like a terrible mommy, not because I tried to force her to sleep--but that I was so caught up in my sleeplessness that I wasn't really listening to her needs. I certainly hope our sleep schedules work themselves out, but in the meantime I plan to pay extra careful attention to Gracie.

PS: The plan seems to be working. Gracie was asleep in 5 minutes after I laid down with her for nap today. (see picture above)

Tea Party For Two

Friday, August 05, 2005

From Little Baby to Little Princess

"How's the tea?" I asked her. She stirred her cup and made a clicking sound with her tongue to signal that she was pretending to taste it. She decided it was satisfactory as she let out a loud "mmmmmm." She continued to stir her tea cup and pretended to eat a cookie, and then shared the imaginary tea and cookie with her stuffed dog "Smokey." Smokey was clearly enjoying the treat. I could tell because she made a rather long series of clicking sounds with her tongue as he ate and drank. Smokey finished his snack and she went on to arrange more spoons and plates in a very unusual, but precise, manner. I left the room and she went on playing tea party by herself for nearly 15 minutes before she returned to where I was and offered me more. She was just in time, I was quite thirsty again. Pretend tea tends to leave one parched.

I look at her these days, playing with her Little Tykes pink vanity, shopping with her cute yellow Little Tykes shopping cart filled with plastic food and a baby doll in the child seat at the front, and arranging her plastic tea set complete with spoons and a little tea pot. It seems like only yesterday her main form of entertainment was "peak a boo." My little baby is turning into a little princess. I don't know if she'll be prissy or a tom boy as she gets older. She still likes trucks and has no idea that the things she is playing with are "girl's toys." But the point is she is playing alone. She is taking more and more time to play by herself, and not missing me much at all (at least for a few minutes anyway). And while I enjoy the extra time to pick up or clean up or wash the dishes...It is still difficult watch your baby grow up.

She seems a lot like I was when I was a little girl. I could play for hours in my own little world. I loved to pretend and play dolls and house and read books. Its clear that Gracie already has an amazing imagination. She has been pretending for months. It started out as the clicking noise as she shared her juice with Barney--now she has intimate conversations with dolls, and occasionally at least one of the Barneys is invited to join (she has 5!).

My how she has grown and become a wonderful little person. So caring. We have noticed in the past month how sweet she is getting. She gives hugs and kisses for no reason, she kisses the babies on TV, and hugs every stuffed animal in her room at least once a day.

As much as I miss her baby clothes and her baby toys, I know that Garren and I have done a great job raising her. She is very smart and beautiful inside and out. Garren reminds me that we had her so she can have a strong and wonderful life--not so she could be a baby for the rest of her life. I usually agree and smile. What a wonderful lady she is going to make.

I have to go now, Gracie says I have a pretend phone call to answer. It sounds very important, maybe we will invite who ever it is over for tea this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

There's Nothing Wrong With Second Hand

I recently stopped at a thrift shop in Winchester that had a sign outside that read "Children's Clothes 50 cents." I love thrift shops and often spend an hour or so combing through adorable, yet used, girl clothes. That day I racked up! I bought $10 worth of cute outfits, overalls and this absolutely precious sailor suit that didn't have stain one (pictured above).

Baby clothes are not cheap! In fact they can really get expensive. I wouldn't mind that so much if the babies didn't out grow them in a month or two. Since before Gracie was born I have looked in dozens of thrift stores. I hunt for old fashioned clothes, as you probably have noticed through the pictures I have sent since Gracie was old enough to pose. I love smocked dresses and simple colors and prints. Gracie looks really good in them too.

I have always been a frugal person, I get that from my Aunt Lou who taught me at an early age that there is nothing wrong with second hand. How I loved to go to yard sales with her on Saturday mornings. It was usually a poorly stuffed animal or a baby doll missing an arm or leg that caught my attention. How pitiful that this doll has no one to care for it. To this day I have boxes of bears missing eyes, dolls without hair or legs and other creatures who are falling apart. I never could bare to get rid of them, after all, I was all they had. Surely no one else could love them, despite their broken bodies.

I hope that I can teach Gracie that you don't have to have the best and most expensive things to be happy. Clothes aren't what makes the man, its the man inside that can make the world a happier place. Garren and I shop at Wal Mart, for sales, and we have been given to very generously by family and friends. All of Gracie's clothes are cared for and she is happy. I still love to hunt for the adorable dresses and outfits, although it gets harder and harder to find these things as Gracie's size increases. Its like manufacturers stop making cute clothes after 12 months. But every once in awhile I will find a great one like the sailor suit, and only pay 50 cents to boot! After all, there are far more fun things to do with the money we have--like trips to grandma's or going to the park pool or riding the Clifford ride at the mall. All of these things are much better than an outfit that costs to much and won't fit in 2 months.

So, if any one out there knows of anyone who would like to part with their daughter's baby/toddler clothes let me know, I would be glad to take them off of their hands.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Baby Envy

Several months ago a high school friend of mine announced that she was going to have a baby. Instead of being overjoyed that my friend was going to be a mom and could share the wonders of a precious new life, the news hit me like a brick wall. Why on earth couldn't I celebrate for this woman? It took me several days to finally admit the reason was envy. She was pregnant and I wasn't. Seems silly, I guess. After all, I already have a wonderful daughter that lights up my world. But she was pregnant and I wasn't. I have a happy family and my life is full. But she was pregnant and I wasn't.
My husband and I have frequently talked about having another baby. In fact, we were so full of love after baby Gracie, that we talked about the "children" we would have over the years. But it was all talk, for now anyway. We both know that this apartment is too small. Our hearts have plenty of room, but babies need space and all sorts of expensive things. Things we can't afford right now.

I remember crying that night after reading my friends email. Wanting so much what she had. That exciting feeling as you get ready for a baby. Waiting anxiously for the heartbeat and first ultrasound. When I was pregnant, I was a complete wreck. We had waited, and waited hoping that this month would be the one where we finally got pregnant. But somehow my hormones kicked into over-drive and I was the most depressed pregnant lady! I laugh about it now. But, I miss being pregnant. Many women who have children will likely tell you the same thing. When they are inside you, you can keep them safe and warm and they need you for everything. There is nothing like being needed.

I still have baby envy issues. My neighbor is pregnant as well, and there are times I puddle up as she talks about her sonogram or decorating the nursery or buying clothes. However, I am so happy for both of these women, my heart overflows with the thought of what wonderful mothers they will be. I only hope that they both will someday understand what I am going through. When you have a child and it blesses your home and life so much--you want to fill that same home and heart with a hundred more.

I am working hard to concentrate on my life now, not how I want it to be, or how it should be--but how wonderful it is now. I miss the calls and emails and showering of praise over my daughter after she was born. But it time for others to be showered over, and I will help the praise rain forth. I celebrate the pregnancies of my two friends and will cry for joy as each gives birth and will patiently wait until it is my turn and we can all celebrate again.

Banana Bread

What do you do with 4 pounds of bananas that have maybe 24 hours left before they have to be thrown away? I wasn’t sure, but I had to do something.
With our family being a single-income household I have become very cost-conscious. After all, it is my job to take a small grocery budget and turn it into 14 lunches and 14 dinners. I like my role as a devoted housewife, but as time passes on I realize -- I love it. I called my mother last night to ask about a banana bread recipe, because I wasn’t about to let $2 go down the drain. Gracie loves bananas and that’s why I got so many of them while they were on sale, but she couldn’t have eaten that many, that fast. Note to self, never by more than 1 bunch of bananas at a time.
My mom had a simple recipe, so I gathered all the ingredients after I put the baby to bed, put on my favorite 1950’s apron that mom had made me 2 years ago from a retro simplicity pattern, and got to work.. It was 9 in the evening, but I soon found myself in my own world. I was sifting and mixing and stirring and I felt very contented. I often note to my husband how little time I seem to have in a day, but the truth is making food for my family has become more than just a daily task. I am responsible for their sustenance, their nutrition. They come to the table together to eat, and talk, and share…and despite the fact that I barely get a bite before having to find the salt, or helping Gracie get her dinner in her mouth or look for extra napkins or the juice that fell of the high chair…dinner has become one of my very favorite parts of the day. There is something to be said for being the mother, the wife, and the chef. I love to the cheers when I made fresh bread, or we’re having their favorites for dinner. It’s just like being in a symphony; the rush you get when you go out on stage and play the best you can and everyone cheers for you because they know you are doing something you love. I do love my job, I never imagined my life this way…and now I can’t imagine my life without it.
So now I have several baby loaves of banana nut bread and I have cleaned up the mess and the long hours of my day are starting to settle in. My husband decides to taste it. His loving compliments are more than enough to send me to a welcomed night sleep. My day is complete: I have played with, cleaned up after, and fed my family.

Banana Bread:
1/3C Shortening 1/2C Sugar 2 Eggs 1 ¾ All Purpose Flour 1t Baking Powder 1/2t Baking Soda 1/2t Salt 1/2C chopped Walnuts 1C Mashed Bananas

Cream shortening and sugar, add eggs, beat well. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to cream mixture, alternating with bananas. Blend well. Stir in nuts. Pour into well greased 9 ½ x 5 x 3 loaf pans (fill ¾ way full). Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Remove from pans cool on wire rack.

Help For The Expecting Family

A child is a wonderful gift, and any family is truly blessed when it welcomes a new bundle of joy! We have several friends who are expecting…and I thought I would share our “baby knowledge” in the chance that it might help. Anyone and everyone by now has likely given them all advice. I remember when I was pregnant EVERYONE put their 2 cents in—I got so bad I worried needlessly about their advice/omens/wives tales. I won’t offer any child rearing advice…just a few hints that I wished I had known like: what you need and what you don’t.

Things we couldn’t have lived without:
*Baby swing. Those are wonderful!!! It relaxes them and stops the fussing. I definitely suggest one. Ours was battery operated so we didn’t have to disturb her by re-cranking it.
*Baby Einstein videos. They are wonderful. Babies & Toddlers are mesmerized by them and they really help their cognitive development. We have: Baby Neptune, Baby Mozart (Gracie’s Favorite) & Baby Noah if you want to know more about them. And, Gracie still loves to watch them, not to mention they help calm her down before bedtime when she is really wound up.
*Bouncer. Gracie was always happiest in her bouncer (3months and up). And I could put her on the table/counter while I did dishes, fixed dinner –and I could keep a constant eye on her.
*Huggies/Johnson & Johnson bath wipes. These people are geniuses. It is a little more expensive than buying bath wash and shampoo, but for those first few baths when you are so nervous and they are crying because they don’t want to be wet: getting done faster and easier is worth a million bucks. The boxes of them have 10 or more. You just get it wet and lather—you can use it to wash their hair too.
*Fingernail clippers. You have no idea how fast little fingernails grow and how much they hurt when the scratch you!! I have Safety First clippers and they have a better grip. When babies get older (Like Gracie) they hate to have it done and they squirm, you want to have as much control as possible. I read somewhere that it easier to do it while they are asleep (I wish I had thought of that!)
*Stain Stick. It will become your best friend. And, unlike other spray removers you can treat the stain and then drop it in the hamper and worry about washing it later.
*Cloth Diapers. Not for diapering, but for “spit rags.” We ended up with 2 bags (total:24) of these and they are the best!!!! They absorb spit up/puke/etc. We still use them at dinner time for Gracie’s “napkin.” They clean easy—and I always keep 4-5 in the diaper bag. You will use them for everything.
*3-in-one stroller. I definitely suggest getting one. You have the baby carrier, a car seat and a stroller all in one. And, it probably costs less that getting them separate.

Stuff we didn’t have (or need)/stuff we wasted money on:
*Bottle Warmer, there went $40 down the drain. With formula these days, you add water and nuke it (without the nipple) for 30 seconds and shake. It takes twice as long to use that warmer.
*Wipes warmer. We didn’t get one, but I don’t recommend it. Just ball up the wipe in your hand for a few seconds to warm it, that is if a cold wipe makes your baby tinkle. Others have suggested heating pads…but for me that was too much time I didn’t have!
*When it comes to bottles, think simple. I registered for these Playtex Vent Air bottles where you had to assemble this extra layer on the bottom….it was a mess that took forever to clean and prepare. I didn’t go for the baggies for the bottles. We found the easiest thing to do was to put the dry formula in several (6+) bottles and put the lids on to keep it fresh, and keep them on the counter, add water and microwave as the day goes on. They take 6+ bottles a day!!!
*Dreft. Babies need their stuff washed in baby detergent, but Dreft is insanely expensive. We get “Baby Care All” for a fraction of the price with the same outcome. Gracie has sensitive skin too, and she does fine with it.
*Hooded Towels. These are a cute idea but are so thin. You end up wet, the baby is still wet and you have to go and get another bath towel to absorb water. I had tons of these and after the first 2 baths I packed them away. I was easier to use our big thick family bath towels.

These are just a few things-- I hope it helped. Feel free to ask Garren or I any questions if you want. Maybe our lists will save your some money & time. We have also tried several different kinds of diapers and wipes (name brand and off brand) if you want to know our thoughts on any of them. For the record Gracie uses Pampers Cruisers diapers (mostly because she is allergic to the tape on other diapers and needs the Velcro tabs) and Huggies or Food Lion brand wipes.

*****The picture above is of Gracie's first home bath****