Monday, May 31, 2010

Teething Chew Toys

I'm like any mom. I don't want my baby hurting, and if I can't keep her from hurting, I'd at least like her to be distracted. At 7 months, Gwennan is teething on and off just like all of her friends. We have frozen washcloths and rubber chew toys and, when all else fails, fingers to help ease in the new teeth.

Today I tried a Gerber teething biscuit. Well, I didn't try it; she did. A friend had one leftover from her toddler, so she passed them on to us. Gwennan was fussing, and the biscuit was just lying on the counter, so I figured, what the heck?!

Gerber should print a warning on the package - wrap your child in plastic before feeding. G made the second biggest mess of her life with that teething biscuit (I'll give first place to the vomit from last week). It dissolved as she drooled, covering her in what smelled like dried cake batter (however, I was simultaneously baking a cake). Somehow, while I was watering flowers, she got cement-like biscuit spit from her eyebrows to the cracks between her toes and everywhere in between. More so, she was screaming when I returned because the dog gobbled up the biscuit while I was not watching (she obviously overcame her swing phobia).

Not to knock Gerber or anyone who feeds Gerber baby food, but I think Gerber might be trying to take over the world. It's convenient; not particularly expensive and now provides "total" nutrition for you child up to kindergarten. How soon will it take them to control the elementary market as well? At that point, adults might start eating the same stuff. I've been told that several movie stars eat a jar of baby food 2 meals a day to control their figure. We could be buying all of our food in individually portioned jars marked by stages. When you get older, you just start working back to a puree. Who knows, it could work.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Video Camera Debate

The Ellis house is at an impasse. Technically, the dilemma is over a camcorder. This should be fun. We're finally thinking about buying something we've wanted for a while, but it's not fun. Not at all.

Tim wants an "indestructible" camera that he can carry in his pocket to shoot things on the fly, uploading them straight to YouTube. I want a camera with a few more bells and whistles - like low light shooting and image stabilization that I envision taking to Gwennan's dance recitals (I know she can't crawl yet - I'm a forward thinker).

Here's the thing... I feel like the disagreement isn't really over a camcorder at all. It's really over where we see life heading. Tim sees big adventures - snowboarding, kayaking, backpacking - things that break cameras. I see little joyous occasions - walks, playgrounds, dance recitals, soccer games - lots of images of kiddos playing.

And here's my question... how far to you tailor your life and interests to fit your children verse how far you bring your kids on or leave your kids home while you pursue the things you loved before they came along?

My parents, for better or worse, made us their central activity, not in a pushy sort of way. They found their adventures in watching the three of us grow. I love that about my parents. They spent their Saturdays at swim meets and horse shows, enjoying watching their little girls be little girls. I always thought I'd grow up to do the same. If a minivan suits my family best, then I drive a minivan, shamelessly.

Maybe I'm too quick to let go of the things I loved before G came along, or maybe I always saw them as temporary pursuits. I think I bought my snowboard thinking, "one day I'll trade this in for a couple thermoses of hot soup and a good book in the ski lodge waiting for my kids to slide down the bunny slope." I don't think that's what Tim had in mind when he picked out his snowboard. :)

We'll get this camera thing figured out - one of us always caves (and no, it's not always the same person). I'm not sue how long the larger issue will take.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lessons in Parenting

Being sick is exhausting. Baby being sick might be more exhausting. She was able to sleep between tiny doses of pedialyte.

Last night, Tim walked into the living room carrying a disgusting mess of formula, barley, sweet potatoes and Gwennan. She looked like an infant who had just emerged from the birth canal wearing a diaper. She was all curled up in Tim's hands (he wasn't holding her too close to his chest) with the biggest grin - we had finally rescued her. Silly girl never cried.

I remember Tim's mom warning me that I would be a nervous wreck the first time my kid was really sick. I handled fevers calmly, so as usual, I assumed I was the one of a kind parent who was born knowing what to do in every situation and could remain clear-headed at all times.

God is trying to break my pride. Between the fall from the bed, the afternoon spent in a locked car and the vomit last night, Gwennan is showing my true parental colors - I'm a mess, like every other new parent.

When Tim and I got engaged, I remember believing that we were going to rock the marriage thing. How hard could it be? I was a good roommate - cleaned up after myself and others, paid my bills on time, generally got along with whomever I lived with. So naive!

I always overestimate my abilities. Maybe it's what allows me to move forward - get married, have a baby, have two babies for that matter. Hmm...

As you might suspect, Gwennan is fine. One shot deal. She's back to lying in her crib, babbling away to Pooh Bear. He's a great listener - something else I'm good at. Well, maybe not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Long Weekends

Have you ever read "Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?" I feel his pain. I'm glad to see this weekend finish. It amounted to a three day migraine. Nothing's done. I'm crazy behind. I had a whole day to myself on Saturday to dive into any project I wanted to, and I spent the whole day in bed. (I'm now caught up on Design Star and wishing I could paint walls and sew window treatments).

I learned an important lesson: Gwennan can indeed crawl off the queen size bed, quickly. In the time it took me to walk to the kitchen, she was off the bed and on the floor screaming, a little purplish pump showing on her forehead. I almost cried with her.

Not sure why I feel obligated to reveal my big parenting mishaps on this blog. Maybe it's because the successes are kind of boring - Hey guys, I kept Gwennan alive, fed and occupied today! Even if I did stumble upon great wisdom in parenting, I'm dealing with an N=1. I think I need to prove my methods with a few more children; they might even need to grow up loving Jesus before I can solicit parenting advice or publicly pat myself on the back.

I feel a little hung over, but certainly better than I have the last couple of days. Hopefully, my head will calm down as the pregnancy gets a little farther along.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tye Dye Onesies

In the midst of baking 3 lasagnas, cooking yoghurt and washing dirty clothes, I decided to tye dye some hand-me-down, formula stained onesies. Hardly the most unique project I've done, yes, I know. The dye transformed these otherwise boring, very dingy onesies into stand alone pieces. I felt like I was recycling.

Sometimes, I get frustrated with baby clothes. The color spectrum is very limited. I want to see my girl in some fine bright colors. Instead, the clothes line is a heavy with pastels. When I pulled these onesies out of the 6 month bin, I decided it was time to spice things up a little.

With wool, I use food color as dye. Working with the food coloring is pretty easy because it's totally safe, so I can use any vessel in the kitchen to mix colors they way I want them. Not so with dye for plant fibers. They require a separate dye pot and dye utensils. When I first read that, I thought I'd use "natural" dyes. Turns out the mordant used with "natural" dyes is as toxic as the fabric dyes. Oh well.

Now that I've gotten my feet wet, I'm ready to try some more difficult colors and techniques, I think. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miss Independence

My girl's asserting her independence, and I love it.

After weeks of either screaming or clinging to me every waking minute, this new independence is so freeing. I feel like I have my life back.

Her motor skill development jumped again, enabling her to manipulate toys more easily and retrieve them when they fall. Plus, everything interests her: Tic Tac boxes, clothing, balls of yarn, paper, her own feet. She is fascinated by everything she can get her mouth on. She sits in her playpen or scoots in her crib, kicking her feet around and talking to herself for 30 - 40 minutes at a time. I just eavesdrop on her one way conversation and grin.

Playing with Daddy is still her favorite activity, as it should be. He's a fun guy, but constant attention from an adult at all times is replaced (at least temporarily) with some time on her own. I love this phase!!!

P.S. - She put on a pound in the last 2 weeks (good job, formula). At this rate, she should hit the percentiles again in 2 - 4 weeks.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tim loves a good chocolate chip cookie. In fact, he asked for groom's cookies instead of a groom's cake. I just have to indulge him with some homemade goodness occasionally, especially during rainy weather. I know everyone has a chocolate chip cookie recipe. But here's mine.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1 c butter, softened
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar

Cream together and add:
1 t vanilla
2 eggs

Mix thoroughly then add:
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 T instant coffee granules
1/4 c cocoa powder

Mix and add:
2 c chocolate chips

Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Cool in baking rack.

My Favorite Days

I love rainy days, especially rainy Mondays, especially if it's a solid rain that echoes off the roof. Yesterday was one of those wonderful rainy Mondays.

The thing about rainy days is that I feel justified to do anything or nothing (although, let's be real - I'm a mom; a nothing day is still a busy day). There's no pressure to go out or take advantage of the sunshine, not that I don't enjoy that; sometimes it's just nice to have a break.

So, I crocheted; I baked; I cleaned the kitchen; I stripped diapers - all things I was looking forward to doing on a rainy day. There's something about grey days that call for cookies.  I don't ever remember coming inside from playing in the yard to the smell of cookies. I only running upstairs from an extra long, rainy day TV special (a.k.a. Sesame Street, Mr Rogers and Reading Rainbow) to find my mom baking cookies. I think something about being home inside begs for a little chocolate.

Today was also bread day. Tim demolished the last batch of rolls I made, so it was time for a double batch. Maybe these will last a little longer, but I should probably have butter in the butter keeper just in case.

Oh yeah, my random diaper stripping - after a while, diaper covers start leaking. They're fine; they're just begging for a good stripping. That is rinsing them several times in hot water to remove all of the detergent build-up. Then they're good again for a couple months.

That's another thing about rainy days. I grew up on a farm with a well. When it rained, you could use all the water you wanted. During a drought, we took navy showers and thought twice before washing horse blankets. I still think that way - like water is cheaper when it's raining and more expensive when it's dry. So, washing diapers several times made sense to me on a really wet day.

All in all, I spent a lovely afternoon in the kitchen with Gwennan swinging away, and Paka (our bunny) hopping around under the kitchen table. It bring a smile to my face, lowers my blood pressure and slows my heart rate. When my mom calls and Tim comes home, my day will be complete.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Adventures in Dyeing

Last week I spent several days in bed with a migraine. To make matters less interesting, the computer was dead (as I mentioned earlier - power cord is no more). So I started a really easy knitting project to pass the time between feeding G and taking more medicine. Fortunately, Gwennan was a doll. I couldn't have asked for an easier, quieter roomie (unless, of course, she could have brought me food on a platter - we're working on it).

Since switching to formula, we pick Gwennan up most mornings to find her soaked, so I'm back to experimenting with diaper soakers and wool diaper covers - my knitting project. I used this pattern (it shows an adult content message, but there's no adult content). Ravelry has many, many more patterns to dig through and try out, including crochet patterns.
note - I used fisherman's wool and knitted two strands at once - not necessary, just made the pattern go faster because I could use bigger needles and still get a tight stitch.

In case you're wondering why I made a wool diaper cover, wool has such great absorptive qualities that it can actually be used as the outermost layer to keep baby's skin and clothes dry. It also stays warm when wet making it ideal for backpacking. Tim and I are very protective of our 100% wool items.

My diaper cover was an ugly brown and white (Fisherman's Wool only comes in "natural" colors), so I set about to dyeing it!!!

I love to dye fibres. My previous projects include play silks and two other wool diaper soakers. When I first visited the Craft Center where my sister attends, the fibre majors reminded me of librarians. I decided that if I attended the Craft Center, I would pick a cooler major like ceramics or glass blowing. Now that I've spent more time with fibres, I would absolutely major in fibres - weaving, knitting, dyeing, felting, silk painting, batiques, sewing - so many cool things to be done with fabrics and the materials that make up fabrics.

I dyed the diaper cover first in a deep indigo, leaving the lower portion in the dye vat longer so that the color would show a gradient. Here it is drying in the sun:

I'm excited about the results, but I'm waiting for it to felt to the correct size. By "felt," I mean that raw wool shrinks when exposed to heat then quickly cooled (you might have accidentally felted a pair of dress pants before - I have). When you felt wool, it gives it a neat texture, or in my case, it shrinks to the size you need it. My girl's tiny behind needs a tiny diaper cover.

I had extra yarn and dye left over. Rather than let it go to waste, I continued to play:

The method for dyeing protein fibres (wool, silk) is very similar to dyeing easter eggs. You need dye, warm water and an acid to make the color stay fast. I use white vinegar and food coloring. You can also use kool-aid which allows for pre-made colors. With food coloring, you have to mix your own colors.

An interesting point on mixing your own colors - the red dye was absorbed faster than the blue, so that the diaper cover came out a deep violet/indigo color whereas the skein of yarn is blue with no discernible red.

If you are interested in trying your hand at dyeing, start with some inexpensive material and go for it! Dharma Trading is my favorite site for materials. Also, you can pick up 100% wool yarn at any crafting store. Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool is probably your best bet. Much better quality yarn can be found at specialty shops and online.

I used a host of websites when I first started dabbling with dyeing. I still have a lot to learn, so I'm going to let more experienced crafters tell you what to do:

Dyeing Yarn Using Food Coloring
Dyed in the Wool
Hand Painting Yarn - hand painting is more involved than merely dyeing in a pot like I did
Dyeing with Herbs - really neat site although I still have to grow some of the herbs to try this. I do have a large collection of onion skins ready whenever I figure out something I want to use them on.
Natural Dyes from Plants - another site with natural products for dyeing

And for those of you who want to try your hand with play silks:
Making Play Silks

I made some for Gwennan. I still need to practice consistency, but they were incredibly rewarding!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Diaper Cover

I'm knitting a wool diaper cover for Gwennan. I want to dye it when I'm finished knitting. So far, I'm in a bit of a quandary over what color to dye it. Part of the cover is dark brown. What color do you guys think would go best with the dark brown? I'd like to use this again for future children, so maybe something not pink. Thanks!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ribbon Pacifier Holders

As you might imagine, I like cutesy, crafty baby stuff. Recently, I've been admiring the super cute pacifier holders that are made with ribbon. Just looking at them, you can tell that they're not complicated. So, I set about making one the other day. This is a wonderful "no sew" sewing project.

Supply List:

1/2 - 1" width Ribbon - whatever floats your boat, but they will look better if the ribbon is double-sided
Needle/Thread or Permanent Fabric Glue or Hot Glue
Suspender or Mitten Clips or diaper pins (I happened to have extra diaper pins, but I like the clips better)

1. Cut a 4 - 6" piece of ribbon.
2. Fold over a 1/4 - 1/2" tab and glue or hand sew. 
3. Lay diaper pin or mitten clip on the ribbon, then fold the ribbon again forming a 1/2" tab that covers the pin or clip. Sew or glue.
4. Fold a 1/4 - 1/2" tab on the other end of the ribbon and sew or glue.
5. Cut a piece of velcro the width of the the ribbon and 1/2" tall. 
6. Sew or glue one side of velcro over the tab on the ribbon. Sew or glue the other side of velcro 1/2" from the first piece. You can then attach a pacifier on the ribbon between the two pieces of velcro.

The finished product:

This turned out to be a life saver on the plane the other week. No more scrambling under chairs to find G's passie when she decides she's sick of it. Also, she enjoyed chewing on the ribbon as much as the actual passie. If you don't have any babies, these make very cute present toppers for baby showers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

8 sides to every issue

My mom and dad cleaned out their bookshelf recently (I guess to make room for grandbaby books). Tim and I received a large, exciting shipment of new books to peruse. Among them was a book on the women of India that immediately grabbed my attention. I'm a sucker for books that get me worked up over other people's living conditions. A Thousand Splendid Suns had me going for several months (amazing book - I highly recommend it!!)

Anyway, May You Be The Mother of a Hundred Sons explores women's issues in India. I'm only half way, but she's already talked about daily life for women in India, bride burnings over dowries and female infanticide. Hardly a light read. 

Most of the time, I'm very quick to judge people, their actions, beliefs, moral integrity, logic/reason. I'm wrong. Maybe I'm right to believe that infanticide is wrong, but I'm wrong when I judge without even hearing the whole story. The whole story might not change my opinion that sin is sin, but I might learn why these parents thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I might understand that they are hurt by their decision; that they didn't selfishly hate the baby for being female; that as impoverished women, these mothers believed they were protecting their daughters from the life they live. Maybe the whole story is more involved than I see on the surface.

I know this is a dark topic for a Tuesday, but it's what's on my heart right now. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big News

I haven't fallen from the Earth. I wasn't even intentionally taking a break. The power cord for our macbook died, so my computer sat idle until Tim remembered to bring a cord from church. Thanks for your patience.

Big news at the Ellis household:

We're having Baby #2!!!

It's been all I could do not to blab to you earlier, but I really wanted to see the doctor first and make sure everything was cooking along like it should.

I'm due December 3, but since the doctor insists on another c-section, I'm hoping to get him/her here before November 29. Then every 7 years (or so), we will have family birthdays on Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For the Ellis Baby FAQ:

Q: Don't you know how this happens yet?
A: Obviously!

Q: Was this a surprise?
A: No. We wanted babies in pairs, so we were both planning and prepped for another baby right away.

Q: Boy or girl?
A: Can't tell yet. When we know, you'll know. And yes, we like finding out at 20 weeks. I'm a fan of gendered clothing.

Q: Names?
A: The name is a huge debate for me and Tim. It took 8 months to decide on Gwennan Louise. We like to keep it quiet until we're absolutely certain.

Since she's not to be forgotten in all the excitement, Gwennan also went to the doctor when I did. As most of you know, she's tiny. The doctor told me to start supplementing with formula. Turns out, my body was done nursing and being pregnant. So full time formula it is.

Honestly, I was sad to wean her. I felt rather obsolete. My head knows that she still needs me, but my heart feels like anyone could take her now. Probably silly, but it's how I felt.

At the doctor's office, Gwennan found the roll of protective paper for the table and began waving it around like a banner.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Looking back

In preparation for an overnight trip to K'town, fruit is ripening on the counter for baby food - plums, pears. All sorts of good stuff. Of course, they're hard to find ripe in the store this time of year.

The coolest part about this picture is actually the bowl. It is hand carved, belonging to Tim's great great grandmother. That bowl traveled on a covered wagon. The base is scored with years of cleaning and scraping. I love what it symbolizes - Tim's heritage.

This weekend is Mother's Day. My family will have 4 generations together: 2 great grandmothers, a grandmother, a mom and a little girl - all the oldest (or only) daughters. So neat. God has been very good to our family to allow us this celebration.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Pot Garden

Made ya look! It's really a terra cotta pot garden (I hope we sell our house in Tennessee and move before the next big frost!).

My weekend project - herbs and veggies! (Can you tell that I'm excited - I'm using exclamation points everywhere. Sorry for the written yelling)

I love herb gardens. At UT, they have a beautiful section in the trial gardens devoted to herbs. I spent many lunch breaks walking through the herb garden, rubbing different leaves between my fingers to appreciate their fragrance.

Now, I have my own mini garden in which I planted:


Red Bell Peppers
Banana Peppers
Yellow Squash

Do I expect them all to do well? Of course! I'm eternally optimistic with my gardening. I even insisted on trying herbs every year in my full shade yard in Tennessee. They never really grew, but they took a while to die.

This year will be wonderful. I soaked my terra cotta pots ahead of time and bought good potting soil. The back porch provides hours of sunlight every day. Now I just have to keep the bunnies away.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Bad Habit Faced

Confession... I'm a lousy reader... now. Why? Hulu. Is it really their fault? Of course not. They provide the material at my mouse click with limited commercials 24 hours a day. But I'm the lazy bum who frequents the site.

I used to read for the joy of it. When I was little, the library offered a reward system in which you received a free personal pan pizza after 20 or 25 books. I think I earned them every other week. I had a laundry basket to hold all my library books. I remember getting so caught up in whatever I was reading that I would pray for the characters at night.

Then, library fines caught up to me, really to Tim. I think he might have a most wanted poster in the Knoxville Library System for borrowing over a dozen books and keeping them for more than 6 months. We actually received a notice that it would start affecting his credit if we did not return the books. Yikes!

I was afraid to reenter the library at that point. But that did not stop me from going to McKay's - the best used bookstore maybe on the planet (probably not, though). I got lost in McKay's, wandering up and down aisles of great classic works and modern Oprah Book Club picks and Children's books - Oh, how I love children's literature! If I could make a career out of loving children's literature, I would! I want to be the lady who dresses up and reads amazing tales to small children every Thursday at 11.

So what's happened to me? I can't blame it on being burned out from school. If anything, grad school trained me to read longer and smarter.

In fact, I still love to read, once I actually open the book. But 90% of the time, when I get a free moment, instead of opening a book, I crack open the computer. Before I know it, a TV show is playing. Keep in mind, I would never miss the shows if I didn't turn them on. I don't spend all week thinking, "I wonder what happened on Flash Forward or Fringe?" I don't care.

Theoretically I'd rather be reading. And my mind (probably my writing, too) would benefit. So I'm starting an experiment. I am breaking from Hulu (couple time with Tim excluded) and spending my resting time reading - reading paper pages, not just webpages.

First on my list, catch up on my "read through the Bible" plan, then finish the really interesting book in the women of India that I started a month back. Wish me luck!


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