Gymboree’s adorable newborn collection

The World Just Got a Little Sweeter at Gymboree

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One of my favorite things to do is shopping for newborn clothes. They are so small and precious. Our babies grow so quickly, glands so my philosophy is to adorn them in the cutest clothes possible before they get an opinion of their own and only want to wear pajamas all day long. (My six year old would live in her pj’s if I’d let her.)

Gymboree has great baby clothes. From the colorful Alphabet Onesie to the blue and white striped Bear Beanie, you will fall in love with these adorable newborn essentials from Gymboree.

Gymboree
Gymboree’s new Tiny Panda outfits will make you feel all the warm and fuzzy feelings inside.

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And if you think things couldn’t get any cuter, just wait until you see their Little Pals collection. The Bundled Pups Bodysuit and Kitten Booties are sure to be a hit.

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And don’t even get me started on the precious new “Fun at Heart” collection:

Gymboree newborn collection
So don’t delay. Get these baby clothes before they are gone! They are great for shower gifts too.
Shop Gymboree’s Baby Girl Collection
Shop Gymboree’s Baby Boy Collection
Shop Gymboree’s Unisex Baby Collection

Adoption Day!

After waiting for what seemed forever, nurse Anthony and I adopted Baby Girl last week! It was a glorious day surrounded by friends and family. Our older girls, Kennedy, Madison and Maya were all smiles too. adoption2Judge Warren is the same judge that did Maya’s adoption back in 2010, so it was really special that she was our judge this time too.

So without further ado, World, meet Quinn Aria Valley… IMG_1058Special thanks go to my mom and dad, Gran Gran, Kristen and Carol for coming to be a part of our big day. adoption1adoption4It’s hard to explain how I feel now that the adoption is final. Relief mainly — no chance that Quinn will be taken away from us. She has been a part of our family since her beginning. Even before she was born, we loved her. I was in the delivery room when she entered the world — I even got to cut the cord! helloShe has been smiling and laughing and bringing us joy since her days in the NICU. I mean really — look at those lips!

I can’t wait to watch her grow up and to see her personality blossom and her talents emerge. She is already trying to stand up unassisted, so I think walking is in the near future. She loves music and is very curious and busy. She’s a sensitive soul and can get her feelings hurt easily, but she easy going and happy most of the time. Honestly, she is just perfect, and I’m so proud to be her mom. Quinn8.2.15

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Starting Her Love of Shoes Early

I received a complementary pair of Lili Collection shoes for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

My 8 month old baby girl already has about a dozen pairs of shoes thanks to a sweet friend, prescription Jodi, who gave us her girls’ hand-me-downs. So I was super excited when Lili Collection approached me to review their handmade baby and toddler shoes.

Megan Linke, the founder of Lili Collection, was inspired to start the company in 2013 after the birth of her son, Liam. She made him a pair of moccasins that quickly became a hit with the hip babies across Manhattan, and Lili Collection was born.

My baby girl will be sporting a pair of the Blush Animoccs. Animal faces + Moccs = Animoccs. Megan’s friend came up with the name “Animoccs” which are becoming one of the hottest crazes in the baby shoe market. IMG_9681These are a size 6-12 months and still a bit large for Baby Girl. I’ll update this post in a few months when they fit her better, so you can see how cute they are on.

You can follow Lili Collection on social media:
Facebook
Instagram
Twitter

I’m sure these won’t be our last pair of Lili Collection shoes!

Better Beginnings: How to Choose Child Care

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am compensated as a Brand Ambassador for Arkansas Better Beginnings. As a Brand Ambassador I do receive payment for being part of their program, page but most of all, approved I receive the information I need as a “new again mother” to give our little angel the best chance to get her on her way to being all she was created to be.

Choosing a child care facility for your new baby can be difficult. I toddler child care centerremember touring several places with my last child and thinking “NO WAY” on a few of them. Finally, we found a facility that we loved and got on the waiting list. Apparently, everyone else in Central Arkansas loved that place too! But eventually, a spot opened up for my baby girl and she stayed there until she started Pre-K. Little did I know that first go-round that the State of Arkansas Better Beginnings program has a quality ranking system for child care facilities. Three stars is the best. And the place we loved — guess what — it’s a 3-star facility! No wonder it’s so amazing!!! (For a description of what it means to be a 3-star facility, click here.)

According to the Arkansas Better Beginnings website, high quality child care and early childhood education sets the stage for how well our children learn, how they think of themselves and how they interact with their world. We as parents, along with early childhood educators and the community, have a responsibility to make sure all of our children have the very best experiences they can.

Research shows that a child’s early care and education play a critical role in a child’s brain development. BAB_062The developing brain is affected by every experience and interaction, both positive and negative. Positive learning environments for children produce tremendous brain development and positive, nurturing relationships at these early ages are essential for healthy social-emotional development.

One of my favorite things on the Better Beginnings website is the Choosing Child Care Checklist.” You can print it out or use the app — it guides you through your tour of possible child care facilities with questions to ask. SUPER HANDY!

Now that our foster baby is almost two months old, I called that same child care facility that we used last time just hoping for an opening — and SUCCESS! They had an opening, and baby girl started today. I know that she is being taken care of and that her learning and development is being supported by a trained staff. It’s a huge relief for a busy, tired momma.

Sleep when baby sleeps… and other fairy tales

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am compensated as a Brand Ambassador for Arkansas Better Beginnings. As a Brand Ambassador I do receive payment for being part of their program, what is ed but most of all, I receive the information I need as a “new again mother” to give our little angel the best chance to get her on her way to being all she was created to be.

We are fostering a newborn in our house now. It’s exciting and rewarding and totallphoto 1(48)y exhausting. Complete strangers now feel the need to share their words of baby wisdom with me in the middle of Kroger. This weekend, a lady told me that pure vanilla extract can be used in place of Orajel. She stated that she has a slew of grandchildren, so according to her, she is an expert.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

That’s a popular piece of advice, and it sounds very logical. But I’ve got stuff to do! I’ve got laundry and dishes and a high-maintenance five-year-old to contend with. I’d love to napping right now (Baby is asleep in my arms as I type this), but Momma’s gotta make a living! Luckily, I have some really good health supplements and a supportive husband, so I’m surviving.

Baby experts are EVERYWHERE. I appreciate their interest, really, but I prefer to get my advice from a trusted, evidence-based source like Arkansas Better Beginnings website.

betterbeginningsTheir website has valuable information for parents such as “Your Child at Birth”, “Your Child at 2 Months”, “Your Child at 2 Years”, etc. that highlight what’s happening at each stage of your child’s development. Each downloadable sheet outlines what to expect at the well-child visit for that age, as well as information about age-appropriate nutrition, sleep, behavior and safety. And information is provided in English and Spanish.

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I was relieved to read on the “Your Child at Birth” sheet, “For the first 6 weeks, your baby will not know day from night. So her sleep will not have a schedule.” So Babywise moms, back off! Let me just enjoy this cuddle time and maybe I’ll sneak in a quick nap later.

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High quality child care and early childhood education sets the stage for how well our children learn, how they think of themselves and how they interact with their world. We as parents, child care providers, educators and citizens have a responsibility to make sure all of our children have the very best experiences they can. Better Beginnings, Arkansas’s Quality Rating Improvement System, has been developed to do just that. – See more at: http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com

Better Beginnings: Reading to Infants

The FTC requires me to tell you that I am compensated as a Brand Ambassador for Arkansas Better Beginnings. As a Brand Ambassador I do receive payment for being part of their program, visit this but most of all, I receive the information I need as a “new again mother” to give our little angel the best chance to get her on her way to being all she was created to be.

Our hophoto 2(43)me was recently opened up as an approved foster home. We are preparing for a newborn, and I’ve been in full nesting mode this past week — even trying to teach myself how to sew. (I succeeded in making curtains, as well as a pair of pajama pants for my five year old, Maya.) One of my most treasured items that I put in the nursery is a little Peanuts art piece that was mine as a child. Snoopy was (and still is) my favorite cartoon character.

As I was sorting through baby things, I came across some of Maya’s baby items: a newborn onesie, a doll, and books that I remember reading to her over and over. photo 2(44)Two of my favorites were Whose Toes Are Those? and Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim. I read them to her so often that I had them memorized. The books were a gift from a dear friend, Treopia. Since I was a single white woman raising an African-American daughter by myself at the time (this was before I met my husband), Treopia wanted to ensure I had books for Maya that illustrated people that look like her. That started a wonderful library of children’s books full of diversity for my daughter.

photo 1(45)
photo 3(34)One thing I have learned from Arkansas Better Beginnings is that reading to your baby (even a newborn) aids in the child’s language development. Babies whose parents frequently talk to them know 300 more words by age two than babies whose parents rarely speak to them.

Some of the tips that I picked up from the Better Beginnings website include:
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1. Talk about what’s going on. Whether I’m changing a diaper, bathing my baby, or taking a walk, I should use words that describe the actions and the things around my baby. This will help her develop vocabulary before she can even talk.

2. Sing songs and nursery rhymes over and over. My baby will find the sound of my voice calming and enjoy the playful rhythms of the music (even if it’s off key).

3. Babies babble. It’s how they learn to make sounds with their own voices. I can repeat these sounds and turn them into real words. This will help my baby recognize which sounds form language.

4. Read to baby. I can make storytime a part of my baby’s routine, such as before naps and at bedtime. Even just talking about some of the pictures is enjoyable for young babies.

Soon I will have a newborn at home and reading Whose Toes Are Those? to her just like I did with Maya. It’s reassuring to know that as I’m reading to her, she will be learning and developing a love for books and words too.

For more tips to boost your baby’s language development and other helpful tools for parents, visit the Resource Library at the Arkansas Better Beginnings website. Don’t miss the checklist to help you choose a quality child care facility for your child. Save it for later, pass it on to a friend, or both. You will be glad you did.

http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com/

 

Better Beginnings: Preparing for Motherhood (again)

The FTC requires me to tell you that Better Beginnings has compensated me as a Brand Ambassador. As a Brand Ambassador I do receive payment for being part of their program, gastritis but most of all, pills I receive the information I need as a “new again mother” to give our little angel the best chance to get her on her way to being all she was created to be.

It’s been over five years since I had a newborn placed in my arms on a rainy February night. And now as I prepare to welcome another baby into our home through the foster care system, psychotherapist I suddenly feel ill equipped. The crib is set up. The little blue plastic bathtub and the Ikea high chair that I loved so much last time are waiting patiently in the garage. I have a closet full of 0-3 month little onsies and pink outfits (sure hope it’s a girl!). But yet, I’m nervous. What if I’ve forgotten everything about being a mom to a tiny little human — one who is helpless and totally dependent on me for all her needs.babyfeetLuckily I was recently introduced to a program by the Arkansas Department of Human Services called Better Beginnings. Better Beginnings is a quality rating improvement system for Arkansas child care providers. But they also offer a huge array of resources for parents too including:
* how to choose child care
* information on child development by age
* keeping my child healthy
* and a resource library with helpful downloads

Here’s a video that Better Beginnings created to explain the program:

So needless to say, their website is going to be a huge help in refreshing me on Baby 101.

They are offering a free breastfeeding class on August 23rd in the morning at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock. Participants do need to register by going to www.surveymonkey.com/s/breastfeed2014 or calling (501) 661-2990.ar breastfeeding slide
mindinthemakingLast week, I got to attend an early childhood conference at the invitation of Better Beginnings. One of my favorite sessions was on a book called Mind in the Making. It’s about looking at your child’s development in new ways. I’ve got the book coming and will tell you more about it in the coming months.

I hope you will follow me on this journey into new, old motherhood. Baby is due in 4 weeks. Eek!!!

 

Help for a new, old momma.

© Jacob Slaton Photography

© Jacob Slaton Photography

© Jacob Slaton Photography

Photos by Jacob Slaton Photography.


002-IMG_2741On June 13, sickness
Anthony and I left Little Rock for the UK. Anthony’s brother Elijah lives in Mildenhall, about 80 miles north of London. We stayed with Elijah and his wife Gloria for two days. During that time, Elijah led us on a whirlwind tour of Cambridge and London. If you want/need to see all the major sites of London in just four hours, call Elijah. (My legs ached so bad that first night.) Here are the highlights.

010-IMG_2772Anthony and me in Cambridge, UK

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022-IMG_2797 Ring, Ring — The Queen is on the line.

031-IMG_2806Our super-charged tour guide, Elijah Valley

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043-IMG_2833Big Ben (not so big according to Anthony)

RootBizzle Tie Club

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I LOVE BRUGES! It’s beautiful. It’s walkable. And it’s full of chocolate shops. What more could one want?

Anthony and I stayed in a lovely B&B called Guesthouse Abiente. Our room was simply decorated and very relaxing. One peaceful moment was lying in bed with the windows open listening to church bells ring. Our hostess make us feel so welcome and prepared a breakfast feast for us in the morning.
091-IMG_2892I had a bucket list of things to do and (mostly) eat in Bruges:

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* Eat chocolate. Now I got into this assignment. And it was easy to do with chocolate shops every few feet. And the chocolate did not disappoint.129-IMG_2973105-IMG_2935
073-IMG_2860* Eat a waffle. I had several — some where light and delicious; others were heavy and gross. But check. 063-IMG_2862

Women travel clothes
085-IMG_2881* Take Anthony to the concert hall for their interactive museum. He really enjoyed himself. And the view from the top of the concert hall was spectacular. 089-IMG_2951
110-IMG_2934* Eat mussels. I had to do this one alone since Anthony doesn’t eat seafood. They were very good, buy
but not something I want to eat often. I’m good for a year or so.
* Drink Belgium beer. I’m not a beer drinker, but I heard that the beer there was really good, so I had to try one. (I’m still not a beer fan.)
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* Eat street fries. Frites, as they call them, are served hot with a big dollop of mayonnaise. OMG. They are so amazing. I could eat them every meal. But then I’d weigh 300 lbs before year’s end. 119-IMG_2955120-IMG_2978
135-IMG_2997One thing that I didn’t expect was a World Cup game between Belgium and Algeria taking place while we were there. The city of Bruges set up a giant movie screen in one of the town squares to broadcast the game. People came out in droves dressed in Belgium colors to watch the game. And Belgium won! So then a dance party broke out with a DJ spinning tunes (including a lot of 80’s American pop). Anthony and I joined in the festivities.

Another delightful surprise was a moonlit walk after a light rain. The city sparkled like diamonds and the sky was an intense blue.

074-IMG_2890So yes, we loved Bruges and will definitely try to return one day.

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Shop on Zazzle for Personalized Gifts
Mostly water bottles from my recent trip to the UK, look
Bruges, search
Paris and Kenya:

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photo(41)I’m 46. I should have kids going away to college – not preparing the house for a newborn. But alas, patient
my husband and I are expecting a new addition to the family in about a month through adoption. It’s quite exciting and completely terrifying at the same time. And I’ve totally forgotten everything I learned the first time around about what a baby needs. Except my favorite high chair from Ikea…

antilop-highchair-with-safety-belt__0168178_PE322027_S4But besides that, search
I’m lost as to what to buy to get the house ready for the new baby – bottles, stomatology
diapers, bouncy seats, etc. So I’m reaching out to you, my village, for suggestions. What is your favorite baby item? What’s your favorite brand of bottles? Diapers? Wipes? Butt cream? Etc.

Thank you, Momma Warriors!

Listen To Your Mother

At this very moment, cystitis the Valley girls are asking Siri how to bake cookies.

What could possibly go wrong?

photo 2(35)Anthony and I are trying to stay out of it and let them figure it out for themselves, but we had to intervene on a few questions we overheard coming from the kitchen:

“What is baking soda?”

“Is butter really necessary?”

“Do you think I could get away with 1/4 of the butter it calls for?”

photo 1(36)“The oven beeped. But I’m not ready!”

I hope my kitchen isn’t totally destroyed when they’re done. Or worse.
Lord, hear our prayer…

photo 1(37)Today a dream of mine was fulfilled. I performed on The Rep stage as part of the nationwide series Listen To Your Mother. I am completely humbled and honored that my story of motherhood was among the 15 stories shared today in Little Rock. There was some serious talent on that stage!

photo 3(25)Longing Fulfilled by Stacey Valley

I think I always wanted to be a mom. Even when I was young and careless, viagra dosage
I thought (foolishly) that I wouldn’t mind if I got pregnant. But I never did. I wasn’t like my friends with a steady boyfriend and marriage plans right after college graduation. So I dove full force into my career and the years flew by.

Fast forward to age 32. There he was sitting across from me at Cock of the Walk. Cute, blonde and gorgeous blue eyes. I was smitten. And a few months later, we were married. I’ll spare you the shitty details since this piece is about motherhood, but it ended two years later – the same month as my unexpected hysterectomy. My fertility slipped away along with my marriage.

But I had my career!

When I turned 40, I couldn’t take it any longer. The urge to be a momma overshadowed everything else. I left my job in DC, and moved back to Arkansas. Within three months, I completed foster parent training, got my home study done, fingerprints, yada, yada, yada… I set up the spare room with a twin bed and a borrowed crib and changing table. I decorated “the baby’s room” in gender-neutral colors. I just knew I would get a baby placed with me. I dreamed of a beautiful, little, dark-skinned, baby girl that would one day call me momma.

Friends and acquaintances, well-meaning of course, would tell me not to get my hopes up. Healthy babies are rarely placed in foster care and if so, the chances I’d get to adopt one, well…don’t hold your breath. I just smiled at them, thanked them for their advice, and moved on.

A month or so passed after I’d been approved by DHS to be a foster parent, and not one single placement. But then one rainy night in February, I got a call around 6 p.m. – Hello? Could I take in a black baby girl about 9 days old? Of course, I said. When? We’re on our way! (Deep breath.) Okay – see you soon.

I called my momma (who lived just a few blocks away) – GET OVER HERE NOW – WE’RE GETTING A BABY! I think I may have hung up on her in my excitement. Mom quickly came over, and we waited with such anticipation. We were like two little kids waiting to open Christmas presents!

Then the two social workers arrived carrying a car seat covered by a blanket to protect the child from the pouring rain. I answered the door and let them in. Paperwork, and more paperwork, and a few instructions, then they handed me the most beautiful little six pound brown bundle of pure joy. I held back the tears. I was in love instantly. I asked her name. The social worker said Hope. Mom and I exchanged a quick knowing glance. (Hope was my ex’s new wife’s name, so that certainly wouldn’t work.) I whispered to mom, we’ll call her Marley.

The next 10 months were a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Nights of interrupted sleep and me still having to work full time. Parental visits with birth mom. Court hearings. Comments from strangers – like the little girl in the Wal-Mart check-out line, “How’d she get a baby that look like that?” (shrug) Conflicting messages: “Looks like you’ll get to adopt her;” “we’re now working toward reunification;” “Wait, birth mom failed her drug test again.” Up and down it went. Besides falling more and more in love with this child, the only other real positive was that I was losing weight. Seriously, I lost about 30 pounds that year from the stress of it all.

But then parental rights were terminated. At court that day, the birth mom hugged my neck and thanked me for taking such good care of her baby girl. She asked for a final photo with the baby. I thanked her for being brave, and I promised her that I would continue to love this child as my own.

Two months later the adoption was finalized. NOW I REALLY was a MOTHER. Forever and always. I held back my tears at the adoption hearing, but totally lost it at the Office of Vital Records when my baby girls’ new birth certificate was handed to me. Next to mother it read Stacey Reid McBryde. That’s me.