Sunday, August 30, 2009

Calling All Angels

Gillian seems to be fascinated with all light fixtures, chandeliers, fans---basically any and everything that hangs from the ceiling. Having just learned to smile in the past few days, often Gillian can be spotted gazing upward and sporting a toothless grin. Perhaps it's the rhythmic movement of the fan blades or the soft glow of the lighting fixtures that catches her eye; but we like to say that she sees her friends up there waving and smiling back. Who are her friends, you may be wondering? With her little eyes we think Gillian spies the angels she met and befriended during her time in Heaven before she was born. Maybe it's not the most practical explanation out there, but you have to admit it's a nice sentiment, nonetheless. And, I think we can all agree that there are definitely angels among us.

Music Playlist at

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hey, Mr. Postman!

With the economy in a downturn and various institutions teetering between major scale backs and becoming utterly obsolete, we are single handedly attempting to revive the flailing industry known as the Postal Service. With Gammie assuming the duties of Gillian's care, I was finally able to find enough time to take care of some much overdue written correspondences. Having had the best intentions to complete the arduous task of thank you notes for weeks now, I felt quite accomplished after placing the stamp on the final envelope. Although the effort to keep up with the gifts flooding into our home in the weeks preceding and following Gillian's birth was commendable, that doesn't mean that someone wasn't overlooked. Gillian, Bret, and I truly appreciate everyone's kindness during this special time. We were flattered and surprised by the outpouring of generosity from everyone, especially those that merely knew us through other family and friends.

In addition to conquering our thank yous, we finished Gillian's birth announcements. Despite a mailing list that included one hundred reciepients, completing this task was not nearly as impressive. With the announcements arriving on August 18th, all that was left for us to do was to get the envelopes loaded, addressed, stamped, and sealed. Bret actually took care of these tasks one evening as I fed Gillian. As always, he was there to help out whenever and however he could---a real keeper that one! I absolutely adore Gillian's announcements, as they include one of my favorite early pictures of her. I will post the announcement sometime this upcoming week, but I want everyone to have a chance to see it in person before posting it on the blog.

Check your mailbox in the days to come, chances are you'll be hearing from us!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Little Miss Hollywood

Hat and all, Gillian is ready for a stroll through Springhill.

Gillian is practicing her Gene Simmons (lead singer of Kiss) impersonation.

It just doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


As promised---

Dad's Pasta


  • One large onion
  • One large red or green pepper (red pepper makes it sweeter)
  • One clove garlic, sliced
  • One pound Italian sausage, formed into small balls
  • One pound mushrooms, sliced
  • Two 15.5 ounce cans Italian stewed tomatoes
  • One small can tomato paste (for thicker sauce, add more tomato paste)
  • Salt
  • Fennel seeds
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Pasta of choice (ziti, shells, or twists)


Slice and dice onion and pepper. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil to large pan and cook pepper on medium heat until it starts to soften. Add onion and continue cooking pepper and onion until onion starts to look transparent. Remove onion and pepper from pan and place in bowl.

Add more olive oil, then add sliced garlic to oil and then add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms shrink and become soft. Remove and add to bowl with onion and pepper.

Form sausage into small balls (if using link sausage, remove skin and then form into balls) and cook at medium heat until done. Cut stewed tomatoes into smaller pieces using a fork or pastry cutter. Then add stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, peppers, and mushrooms to sausage and simmer on low heat, stirring often. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 to 3 pinches fennel, 3 to 5 pinches each basil and oregano, and pinch of cayenne pepper (adjust spices to taste). Cook for at least 30 minutes (longer is better) and then taste again. Add seasonings as desired.

Cook box of desired pasta per directions on box.


Serve with green salad, garlic bread, and a good red wine. Serves four adults.


Something extra---

Due to requests from friends and family, I wanted to include one more recipe. For years I've searched high and low for a traditional macaroni and cheese recipe. It seems everyone from Julia Child to Emeril Lagasse has their own take on how macaroni should be prepared. Wanting only to playcate my anything but refined palate and to prepare a delicious side dish for a weekend BBQ, I attempted once more to find the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe. After searching the Internet, I stumbled across this recipe. It's Frannie Farmer's classic recipe and it makes the best macaroni and cheese I've ever tasted. In my opinion, it's mac and cheese at it's finest---cheesy, textured gooeyness, with a golden top layer formed by its final minutes in the oven's broiler.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think.

Fannie Farmer's Classic Macaroni and Cheese

35 min | 15 min prep


  • 1 (8 ounce) package macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups good quality shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttered breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Cook and drain macaroni according to package directions; set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan melt butter.
  4. Add flour mixed with salt and pepper, using a whisk to stir until well blended.
  5. Pour milk and cream in gradually; stirring constantly.
  6. Bring to boiling point and boil 2 minutes (stirring constantly).
  7. Reduce heat and cook (stirring constantly) 10 minutes.
  8. Add shredded cheddar little by little and simmer an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  9. Turn off flame.
  10. Add macaroni to the saucepan and toss to coat with the cheese sauce.
  11. Transfer macaroni to a buttered baking dish.
  12. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  13. Bake 20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
  14. (You can also freeze this recipe in zip-lock bags for later use - once you have mixed the macaroni along with the cheese sauce allow to cool to room temperature before adding to your freezer - I generally pull it out the night before and allow macaroni and cheese to reach room temperature; I then add the macaroni and cheese to a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with bread crumbs and then bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown on top and bubbling.

On the Road Again

We packed Gillian up this past Saturday morning and headed to Pensacola to celebrate my and my father's birthdays. Although this was not our first visit to Pensacola with Gillian, this was to be our first overnight trip with her. Packing for various trips, whether short or extended, has always given me fits. I tend to over-pack in an attempt to anticipate every possible wardrobe scenario. Most of the time I return home with clothes wrinkled from my bag instead of from wear.

I figured that packing for an infant wouldn't be nearly as time consuming---after all, they don't require much, right? No doubt my absurd thinking has made many of you smile, as you know better. Infants need SO MUCH! Bad habits die hard and I found myself unable to just grab three or four outfits for Gillian and instead took close to ten (remember we were only going overnight). We had to take her Moses basket so she'd be comfortable when napping and for overnight, despite my parents' investment in a Pack n' Play that is kept for this specific reason and is already in Pensacola. We had to take all the feeding paraphernalia---the pump and its tubes and gadgets, bottles, nipples for the bottles, ice packs for the already pumped milk, bottle warmer since the milk would be cold, formula, bibs, burp cloths---you get the idea. We packed up her bath gear---shampoos, lotions, towels. Then there was her stroller. Thank goodness we have a large SUV! The back was packed to the max, which is par for the course when we travel. We even found ourselves discussing the pros of Suburban ownership as we traveled down the road. We were so loaded down with stuff that Bret joked that we only needed something strapped to the roof to look like the Clampetts. If there is a bright side to packing for an infant, it's that I finally came to my senses and only packed the absolute necessities for myself. I'm still nowhere as efficient as Bret, the one bag wonder, but I have a feeling that as our traveling increases, the amount I pack for myself will continue to decrease!

Mom and Dad have tried to make it as easy on us as possible by purchasing many of the items we packed for this trip and keeping them at home for our future visits. Mom even purchased us a new bathtub for Gillian and one for us to take home (Yeah, I know, we're totally spoiled!). It's well known that Gillian loves her baths. Well thanks to Gammie, Gillian now bathes in style.

Mom and Dad watched Gillian Saturday afternoon, enabling Bret and me to run a few errands sans baby. And, as though Gammie doesn't do enough for us already, she willingly gave up a full night's sleep and kept Gillian in her bedroom Saturday night allowing us the luxury of sleeping through the night. This was quite a treat and was the first time I'd slept through the night in months. Gillian did well with Gammie, only waking twice for feedings.

Thanks, Gammie and Grandad for a great weekend. I told Bret that our visit home was a like a vacation. He corrected me and said, "Shannon, this IS a vacation!" Enjoying the extra help and company so much, we put off returning home until after dinner and Gillian's bath Sunday night. Mom waved goodbye as she and Dad reminded us that we're welcome anytime. Let's just say we'll definitely put their invitation to the test as we have plans to return home as soon and often as possible!

Gillian's Travels

Last Monday, we headed out for Gillian's first trip to Gammie and Grandad's. Since I had a dentist appointment, we thought it'd be fun to make a day out of it. Gillian seemed to enjoy the more than one hour car ride, sleeping most of the way. Aunt Helen and Uncle James stopped by to see Gillian and, after accepting an invitation from Dad, ended up joining us for supper. Dad prepared one of my favorites, a meal appropriately named, Dad's Pasta. Recipe to follow, but trust me--- it's a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Birthdays have always been a BIG deal in our family. Ever since I was little I remember looking forward to birthdays. It's not only my own birthday that I look forward to but any and everyone's birthdays. To me, birthdays are a chance to surprise and delight the important people in our lives. There has always been much buildup surrounding the weeks and days before birthdays. And, despite the immense anticipation, I've never once been left disappointed.

Ice cream, cake, balloons, presents, and family...what more could anyone ask for?! Dad and I almost got to celebrate our birthdays on the same day. But, after nearly 13 hours of labor, Mom just couldn't hold out any longer and I was born just hours shy of midnight on August 22. Way to go, Mom---only kidding! Since my birthday falls just one day before Dad's we've always celebrated our two big days at the same time. This year is no different, as we packed Gillian up (and that is a whole other entry in itself) and headed to Pensacola.

Today, my Dad is 61 years young! My Dad is my biggest cheerleader, an analogy of which he may not be too fond. We like to joke and say everyone knows where they stand with Dad. He does not sugar coat and will tell you exactly what he's thinking---only when asked of course! He's reserved and observant, preferring to absorb his surroundings rather than fill the room with idle chatter. He claims to be thrifty, but those closest to him know that he's anything but miserly. In fact, family knows him as a generous man willing to give freely without expectations or attached strings. As vices go my Dad doesn't have many, except perhaps the occasional brewskie or slice of mom's chocolate cake. Having accomplished much in his life, Dad is perhaps most proud of his family. Family is his top priority, a reality I've known all of my life.

Later we'll celebrate with a good meal, cake, and presents and honor the man that's given us so much. Happy Birthday, Dad! Your future is so bright, you've got to wear shades.

Here's to many more...We love you!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thank Goodness for Gammie

Thank goodness for Gammie! Since Bret returned to work this week, Gammie came over on Tuesday to see Gillian and keep me company---Who am I kidding? She really came to see Gillian. Gammie goes through Gillian withdrawl if she has to go more than a few days without seeing her one and only granddaughter. We call Gammie the baby whipserer because she has such a way with Gillian. Gillian can be fussy and the second she hears or goes to Gammie, she begins to calm down.

Gammie is not only a treat for Gillian, but for me and Bret as well. When Gammie is around, I am able to tend to things around the house, catch a quick nap, or just relax; and Bret is able to rest assured that all his girls are in good hands. Bret and I begged Gammie to make as many weekly visits as her schedule allows. Not sure how much arm twisting we had to do, but we think we've got her talked into at least two visits each week. If we had it our way, we'd love for my parents to move to Mobile so we could see them even more than we already do. However, we know that's asking an awful lot and for now must be content (and grateful) to live as close as we do.

Tomorrow Gammie will make the short drive for another visit. Yippee!
This weekend Grandad will join Gammie and return Saturday for Gillian's first backyard barbecue. Yum! Yum!

Move Over Webster

Bret and I have a new word that is destined for Webster's dictionary, 2010.

Snuzzle-(verb) to snuggle and nuzzle

Bret first coined this new word one evening while sharing some father-daughter bonding time with Gillian Grace after a feeding.

Snuzzling is one of our favorite times of day. Have you snuzzled with your little one today?

She Sucks!

No, it's not what you think...Gillian has finally learned to suck on a pacifier! Yes I know, a pacifier---or binky as we call it, can be a blessing and a curse. But we'll deal with the hard part (trying to break her of it) later.

Trying to appease Gillian after putting her in the car seat Monday as we headed out the door bound for the pediatrician's office, I grabbed her binky in a last ditch effort effort to comfort her. Much to our surprise, the binky didn't just plop right out of her mouth as it had on numerous other occassions. She actually took to it and began to suck. She was sucking so hard she actually wore herself out and at one point and began to doze while periodically remembering to suck. Once when the binky began to slip from her lips, she used her hands to hold it in place. Although I'm quite sure she didn't realize what she was doing, it was still cute and provided me yet another opportunity to snap a picture!

A First

Last week we visited Gillian's original pediatrician for what was supposed to be her two week check up. In reality the two week check up consisted of nothing more than a weight check and a visit from a nurse that let's just say could've used a refresher course in bedside manner. Unhappy with the visit, Bret and I consulted our neighborhood guru, Miss Kim, and asked for her opinion on pediatricians. Having four boys of her own, we trust Kim implicitly when it comes to recommendations that involve her children and/or childcare.On Monday, Bret and I took Gillian for her first real pediatrician visit. From the second we entered the pediatrician's office at Springhill Medical Center we felt that we had made the right choice. The waiting room was separated, with a sick and well waiting area. The nurses in the reception area were knowledgeable and welcoming. The nurse that took us back was congenial and made us feel and, as much as she could, Gillian feel comfortable. At this two week check up, Gillian was weighed. She'd gained over six ounces since being weighed the several days ago at the bad place---the other pediatrician's office. The nurse also measured her length and she's grown half an inch and now measures 21 inches long.

Dr. Shearer, our new pediatrician, is wonderful! He talked to Gillian and kept us well informed as he gave her a thorough check up. After losing what was left of her umbilical cord last week, her belly button was seeping a tad so he cauterized it with silver nitrate to help it close and heal more quickly. He also asked us about the second PKU screening that infants were to have during their second week check up. Umm...PKU screening? Let's just say that our suspicions about the bad place pediatrician were correct! Now they didn't just seem bad but also incompetent.

Nurse Jackie came in as Dr. Shearer concluded his exam to conduct the PKU screening. My heart just broke for Gillian as she tried her best to be tough for the nurse. The tiny prick on the heel didn't illicit much of anything from Gillian but it was the persistent squeezing of the heel that sent her into orbit. It seemed like Nurse Jackie would never finish as Gillian squealed to let us know that she wasn't too happy about all that was happening.

All in all, our first visit was a success! Dr. Shearer even mentioned how strong she was as she repeatedly donkey kicked and stiff armed him as he tried to look inside her ears.

We go back August 24th for our one month check up. That'll be hard to month. Time sure does fly!

Nurse Rochelle weighing Gillian.

Dr. Shearer listening to Gillian's healthy heartbeat.

Gillian is being brave for mom, dad, and Nurse Jackie during the PKU test.

The South Comes North

Bret's parents, sister, and nieces came from Fort Myers, Florida for a visit this past weekend. They made the 10 hour trek North to our home here in Mobile to see the newest member of the family, Gillian. As expected, everyone was enamored with her---especially the girls, Abbey and Madison. Our youngest niece Madison, an aspiring photographer, snapped a million pictures. Abbey, the dancer in the family, pirouetted through the living room when she wasn't asking to hold Gillian or begging Madison for an opportunity to take a few pictures of her own. Elizabeth, Bret's sister, joked that she was going to take Gillian back to Fort Myers with her(I can see why she'd want to, Gillian's just too precious), while Bret's Mom and Dad (Nana and Poppy) both took turns holding their newest granddaughter.

Madison was the first of the girls to hold Gillian.

Poppy holds Gillian for the first time.

Abbey takes her turn.

Elizabeth her girls and Gillian pose for a picture.

Nana's turn to hold Gillian.

Changes Abound

It's been nearly three weeks since we were discharged from the hospital and life has changed drastically! There isn't a class, a book, television show, or any amount of advice out there that can adequately prepare you for the life changes that accompany bringing your little one home.

Monday was a big day for us, as Bret returned to work after taking some time off work to help us get settled. It was my first time at home with Gillian for a prolonged period of time. Although quite nervous about how the day would unfold, Gillian and I made it through the day surprisingly unscathed and learned a little more about each other along the way.

All of my preconceived ideas and knowledge regarding all things baby---feedings, sleep, general childcare, and my own postpartum health have gone by the wayside and have since been replaced with reality...

Babies don't follow schedules.

In the beginning we tried to do everything according to the "sage" advice I received from the "experts" at the hospital. Note that I used the terms sage and expert loosely. The nursery nurses advised that we feed Gillian every two to three hours, which included waking her at night for regular feedings. They also explained that it would be best not to supplement with formula unless absolutely necessary. The lactation consultant advised feeding any where between fifteen and thirty minutes---each side. Breastfeeding may be the best thing for the baby and for many moms may be a wonderful experience but for me it was nearly impossible in the beginning. Typically a mother will begin producing milk anywhere between 5-7 days after delivery. For c-section moms like myself, this process can be and was delayed. Unable to produce milk until the end of week two, Gillian struggled to latch on and I battled my own concerns about whether or not I was producing enough to sustain her. My worries only increased when, after purchasing a baby scale, we learned that she was not gaining weight and after two weeks wasn't quite up to her birth weight.

Since then we've been supplementing feedings with formula and Gillian has steadily increased her weight and has now surpassed her birth weight of 8lbs. 5 oz. At some feedings Gillian my down an extra 4 oz. of formula in addition to the breastmilk and at others she may only get down an extra 15 mL of formula. I've stopped guessing what she needs and now allow Gillian to tell me what she needs. She'll make suckling noises and motions with her lips if she's still hungry or she'll use her hands to push away the bottle or pull her head back if she's full. In addition to supplementing with formula, I've also began to use my Medela pump in the mornings so that I am able to use the stored milk during the late night feeding sessions.

Sleep, what sleep?!
Sleepless nights pack a wallop like a donkey kick! For nearly two weeks we were waking Gillian out of a sound sleep at night to conduct feedings. This was absolute torture for both of us (not to mention my mom and Bret who were often awakened to help). During the night feedings, I battled to keep myself alert while simultaneously fighting to keep her awake. Barely sleeping at night made the days almost unbearable as I fought the grogginess, refusing to give in and nap in the beginning. I'd do a load or two of laundry or just visit with Bret (the idea of napping made me feel guilty).

Now we no longer set alarms to wake us up for feedings during the night. Instead I listen for Gillian to stir and wake herself up. When she wakes in the night I've learned to first check her diaper, try to comfort her, check for signs of hunger, and then feed. The nights have gotten easier and easier. Some nights are better than others. Just last night Gillian went down at 9:30 and didn't wake until 2:45. After a diaper change and a feeding she went back down at 3:30 and slept until nearly 7:00 this morning! She's even napping as I type--- thank Heaven for the little things!

Learning the ropes of childcare
Baths, diaper changes, dressing an infant---All harder than it looks!

As many of you have seen on our blog video, Gillian actually seems to enjoy bathtime. She appears to respond to the sound of running water and likes the warm water on her body. She also likes to look out the window as she listens to Baby Einstein's Lullabies as she bathes. Keep her from pooping or peeing during bathtime...not so easy! Perhaps it's the warmth of the water or her relaxed state but like clockwork, Gillian almost always chooses to relieve herself in some capacity during her bath. Of course this almost always occurs toward the end of the bath which necessaitates that we start all over with the entire cleaning process. It's actually funny, we like to sing the theme from Top Gun when we reach her nether regions---The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity, highway to the Danger Zone, gonna take you right into the Danger Zone! That song never sounded so appropriate! We try to have bathtime after our morning feeding, which can be anytime between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. At first I was adament about having her bathed and dressed by 8. Now, as long as she has at least one bath a day I'm one happy camper!

Diaper changes are one thing that I actually overcompensated for in my mind. I just knew I'd be gagging as I forced myself to change one dirty diaper after the another. After all, how can something so small and cute produce somethings so vile? Come to discover, diaper changes don't bother me in the slightest. I've even come to view them as a challenge as I attempt to better my time with each changing. I'm kinda like the Pit Crew at NASCAR...she zooms in for a change, I jack her up, wipe her down, lube her up, and outfit her with a new bottom and off she goes! We've learned after washing many changing pads that as soon as one diaper comes off---another goes on IMMEDIATELY!

Dressing my little girl is something I look forward to each morning after bathtime. After all, she has so many cute clothes to choose from. Her closet is better outfitted than mine and I suppose that's just a sign of things to come! Although Gillian enjoys bathtime and for the most part, tolerates diaper changes, one thing she doesn't care for is getting dressed. She does not like having anything put over her head. She will squeal and squirm making it nearly impossible to get her dressed. Dressing Gillian is a bit like putting a straightjacket on an octopus! The madder she gets, the more impossible dressing becomes! We've learned that getting her dressed on a full stomach is helpful. Her full belly induces a milk like coma that temporarily puts her out of comission allowing us to pull her onesies over her head without much of a fight.

Baby Blues
I did experience the so-called Baby Blues once returning home from the hospital. Luckily for me, they were short lived and most likely brought on by the onslaught of hormones more than anything else. One morning while showering, I just found myself crying uncontrollably. My pitiful condition worried poor Bret as he tried his best to comfort me despite my inability to actually articulate the cause of my postpartum breakdown. I cried because I missed being pregnant; I cried because I felt like a bad mother for crying; I cried because I was worried Gillian would grow up too quickly; I cried because I loved her so much; I cried thinking of all the outpouring of love and support that I'd received since Gillian's birth; I cried because I didn't know if I could do it on my own; I cried because I wasn't going back to work; I cried because Bret was going back to work...You name it, I probably cried because of it! My mom was there to comfort me as well and before I knew it, all the sadness and anxiety that I had been feeling was replaced with utter contentment and amazement at the miracle that had just befallen my entire family.

Bottom line---I've learned to trust my instincts, accept help from any and everyone, let sleeping babies lie, rest whenever possible, take one day at a time, and most importantly never forget how blessed I am!

As cliche as the previous may sound, I know it all to be true. And, I have Gillian to thank for teaching me perhaps the most important lessons in my life so far.

Another Birthday Wish

Bret's dad, Ross, is celebrating his birthday today!

Happy Birthday, Ross! Here's wishing for a day filled with smooth waters and gentle breezes!

Lots of love!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Catching Up

It's been almost a month since my last post. Luckily, Bret stepped in and made several posts in my absence. I've enjoyed reading his entries and have heard that many of you, too, have enjoyed reading updates from another perspective! With things so busy around the house and with no sign of a reprieve in sight, I'm quite sure that Bret and I will continue sharing the blogging responsibilities.

Since it's been so long since my last post, I wanted to catch up on on some important events that have occurred over the past few weeks and send a few friends and family belated well-wishes!

Happy Belated Birthday, Jennifer! My friend, Jennifer( and fellow So You Think You Can Dance follower) , celebrated her birthday on July 20th--- the same day as our Little Miss Gillian Grace. And yes, that is Danny Bonaduce with Jennifer and her boyfriend, Nick.

Happy Belated Birthday, Kim! Kim our good friend, neighbor, and former colleague of mine from St. Paul's celebrated her birthday on July 21st. Here's hoping you enjoyed a nice BIG margarita!

Happy Belated Birthday, Alex! My cousin, Alex, (or A-Tee as I used to call him when we were growing up) celebrated his birthday on August 1st.

Happy Belated Birthday, Bobbie! My favorite Aunt celebrated her birthday on August 4th! Love you!

Congratulations, Tracey and Mike! On August 8th my friend, Tracey married her best friend of many years, Mike Reese in Orlando, Florida. Although Bret and I couldn't attend their magical Disney wedding, we thought about them often this past weekend. We couldn't be happier for the newlyweds and send best wishes for a lifetime of happiness! Yea, for Baby Jack too---we heard he's just cut his first two teeth! Way to go Little Man!