My New Year’s Resolution

Our last sunrise of 2012

Our last sunrise of 2012

It’s been a CRAZY month. Jon’s company has a major project they are shipping this week, so he’s been putting in a lot of time at work getting everything ready. Jon spent the first part of December traveling for work in Ireland and Turkey. While he was away I went down to visit with my extended family (and get some much-needed help with the boys). He got back the weekend before Christmas jet-lagged and sleep-deprived. He got Christmas day off, which was wonderful. We spent the day with family opening presents, eating, and truly enjoying each others’ company. Then, the very next morning, he was back to working like a mad man trying to get this project out the door. Cypress had him working around the clock (quite literally. On Saturday he went into work at 8 AM, then got to come home for a 3 hour nap from 3:30-6:30 AM Sunday, then he was back in the office by 7). I am happy to say, though, that after nearly a month of not seeing each other the end is in sight!

Jon’s reward for the manic work schedule this month was a surprise week (mostly) off work this week. My reward was a run. Since Jon was home this morning, I decided to seize the opportunity and go out for a run. All. By. Myself. I’d nearly forgotten how much I enjoy running when I’m not pushing an 80 pound stroller full of two screaming children.

One of my favorite parts about running is that I’m truly all alone. In my life that is constantly interrupted by the needs of others, I relish the times that I experience solitude. I purposefully leave my iPod at home when I run because it’s just about the only time I have to be alone with my thoughts. I usually find my thoughts wandering over to prayers, and that’s exactly what happened today.

As I was running, I was just reflecting on this year and all that it has brought. We’ve had so many wonderful things happen and, yet, I still find myself complaining. Complaining about how things are or how I wish they would be. And, so, as I was running along my favorite trail (the one with the bumps and the stairs that I can’t bring the stroller on) I had a great conversation with God. I just gave him all of my complaints, and he showed me the praise in each of them. It went something like this:

Complaint: We still don’t know when we’re moving to Ireland. Or even IF we’re moving to Ireland. Cypress is really dragging their feet on this one. Can we get some answers here already? I need to plan my LIFE! I mean, should I buy the Costco pack of toilet paper or just get a 4-pack?
Praise: I am not the one in charge of my future. No matter what happens, I just need to live today for today and know that God is in charge of all of my tomorrows. He always has the best plans, and I just need to be patient in waiting for them to unfold. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Complaint: I never get time to be alone. Someone always wants my time, my attention, my physical body (a familiar scenario finds me simultaneously rolling out play-doh and nursing a baby while dinner cooks on the stove).
Praise: I have an incredible husband and two amazing children. I get to care for them, teach them, help them, and love them every single day. God has given me the opportunity to be home full-time raising my children and serving my husband. There truly is nothing else in the world that I’d rather be doing right now.

Complaint: I’m lonely
Praise: I know it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron to say that I never get to be alone and yet I’m lonely, but there is something very isolating about being the only adult present for hours on end each day. However, I have great friends who are also moms. We can relate and we get together regularly to let our kids play while we confirm with each other that it’s normal to not feel normal as a mother. Another benefit to my loneliness? Since I have nobody else to talk to, I gab at the kids all day. I talk to them incessantly. You’d think they’d be annoyed, but I think they actually enjoy it. And David is becoming quite the chatterbox himself now! He will have the vocabulary of an Oxford theologian by the time he enters kindergarten.

Complaint: My house is always dirty, there’s too much laundry, the yard needs to be mowed, yadda, yadda, yadda…
Praise: My dirty house and never-ending piles of laundry mean that little people are living in my house, exploring their surroundings, and learning the life-skill of cleaning up after yourself. And I have a house.  7 years after buying our house “for 2 years so we could sell it tax-free”, we have a home that still meets our needs and provides a safe place to raise our family.

..and on and on and on. So, here is my resolution on this eve of 2013. To find the praise in every complaint. When I am tempted to fall into worry, doubt, or distress to turn it around and find the good in every situation.

May your glass always be half-full. Happy New Year!

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Allison’s Exhaustive Guide To All Things Baby

If you are not pregnant, don’t plan on becoming pregnant any time soon, or are a dude: Please disregard this post.

A friend of mine who is pregnant with her first child recently asked me for my recommendations on all things baby. And, to be honest, I’ve just been WAITING for someone to ask me about this. Having just been through the new-baby thing twice in the last two years, I have developed some pretty strong opinions on baby products. Since I have a lot of friends who have recently entered (or are about to enter) parenthood, I thought I’d write out a comprehensive list for y’all on what you REALLY need for a new baby. A little disclaimer: This list is written according to my preferences, so you may find that some of these things work well for you and others don’t. Now, like I said, I have a lot of opinions and I’m not short-winded, so bear with me. I’ve started each review with two categories:

Desirability:
Must have- This is a product you can not live without. Buy it now.
High priority- Get it if you can!
Nice to have- A good product, but not necessary for your baby’s overall health or well-being

Acquisition:
New- This is a good investment, so buy it new at the store.
Used- Find it on Craigslist or at a garage sale to save a few bucks. I also love the seasonal kids’ consignment sales (My favorites are Jack and Jill and Just Between Friends)
Borrow- Just beg, borrow, or steal from your friend/sister/neighbor/co-worker who just had a baby and is no longer using it
Repurpose- Re-use something you already own

Anything marked with a double asterisk (**) is one of my personal favorite products

Also, if it’s not on my list then I don’t feel it’s something totally necessary to have. You could go to Babies-R-Us and go bananas buying every baby product under the sun. Really, though, there are a lot of useless products out there that are just a waste of space, time, and money.

For our purposes, this “guide” is only for baby’s first year. After that, you’re on your own.
With no further ado, here are my favorite must-have baby items:

Transportation

Carseat (Must Have, New)
So, here’s the thing with carseats. You have to have a carseat or they won’t let you leave the hospital with your new baby. There are about 5,000 models to choose from and a price range of anywhere from about $50-$400. In the end, though, if you buy your car seat in the USA, they all have to pass the same safety standards and, really, they all work about the same. The main thing you want to keep in mind is the type of carseat you want (I recommend an infant seat for at least the first 9 months) and the brand (find one that works with the stroller system you decide to buy: see below).  Always buy your carseat new because you never know what could have  happened to a used carseat.  If the carseat was ever dropped or involved in a car accident, it can have hairline fractures that you can’t see but that compromise the safety of the seat.  Bottom line: Don’t spend a fortune on the car seat, just buy a new one that you like. (For the record, we have a Graco Snugride and it suits us quite well).
P.S. You can also buy additional bases for your car seat. We have a second base for Jon’s car, but I really don’t think it’s that necessary because we just don’t transport the kids in his car that often. However, if you go between vehicles often (especially if you share drop-off/ pick-up duties for child care) you’ll definitely want a second car seat base. This is something you could easily buy used or borrow rather than buying additional bases at full-retail.

Stroller (Must Have, New or Used)
Alright, I have a confession to make. I don’t have a stroller. I have 5 strollers. And I love them all. Do I NEED 5 strollers? No. But does a woman NEED more than 1 pair of shoes? You see, they all serve different purposes. I have the cheap umbrella stroller that I got for 8.99 at Target (because it fits in the tiny trunk of Jon’s car). I have a snap-and-go stroller that I can use to transport Jacob while he’s sleeping in his car seat. I had a **BoB single- jogging stroller and I loved it so much that now I have a BoB double-jogging stroller (which I have nicknamed “The Beast”. It’s massive). And I have the swiss-army-knife of all strollers, the Phil and Ted’s with Doubles kit.  Another versatile stroller that comes highly recommended to me is the Baby Jogger City Select. So, what is my recommendation? Get what you need (or, in my case, just buy them all). I jog and take the boys with me to a stroller exercise class several days a week, so the jogging stroller is essential. I have put hundreds of miles on that thing. But it’s HUGE and takes up the whole back section of my car and doesn’t fit between aisles at the store. So, I have a skinny double decker stroller for taking on trips or to the mall. And I have the wee little strollers for when I just have Jacob or when we’re going somewhere in Jon’s wee little car. The important thing is that you need a stroller that works for you and what you’ll be using it for. For the love, don’t drop $400 on a jogging stroller if you don’t plan on ever taking it jogging! Also, just about every stroller on the market today has some way you can use it with an infant car seat (which you’ll want to be able to do–nobody wants to wake a baby who just fell asleep in the car,  just to transport them to a stroller, just to have them fall asleep again in the stroller, and then have to wake them back up again to put back in the car at the end of your walk). That being said, find a stroller that works with the car seat you like…or find a car seat that works with the stroller you like 🙂

Infant carrier (High Priority, New)
I have an **Ergo and I love, love, love it! I use it just about every day to hold Jacob while I’m doing some other task–chores, playing with David, going to the bathroom (did I mention that once you have a child you’ll never get to pee alone again?). The thing I like about the Ergo is that it’s comfortable to wear, it holds the baby in a healthy position (some baby carriers are actually bad for baby’s back), it is relatively easy to stuff in a bag or under a seat while traveling, it’s good quality (like I said, daily use with 2 kids and it’s still in excellent condition), it retains it’s value well (this is why I suggest buying it new: if you can find an Ergo on Craigslist, it will be selling for about the same price as a new one–so why not just get a new one and have something special!), and you can use it for a long time (David was about 16 months old before he got too big for me to carry him comfortably on my back).  There are many other options in this category. Several of my friends rave about the Beco Gemini and the Moby Wrap.  If you can, find a few different carriers to borrow from friends for a  “test drive”  before you choose one (some of the specialty baby stores also have several models you can try on in-store). Carriers all fit a bit differently and you will probably find some to be more comfortable (and, thus, more useful) than others.

Stroller and Carseat Accessories (Nice to have, new or used)
There are lots of accessories you can buy for your stroller and car seat. While none of them are totally necessary, they do make life easier. Some of my personal favorites are  a stroller cup holder, diaper bag clips (to hold the diaper bag when you run out of storage underneath the stroller), a stroller weather shield (necessary for keeping baby dry outside on 90% of our Seattle walks), a bundle me (necessary for keeping baby dry during 90% of our Seattle walks), and a carseat canopy. You can usually get a promo code for a free carseat canopy from the advertisement section in the back of Parents Magazine to use on http://www.carseatcanopy.com/ You just have to pay shipping ($8.99) making this a pretty decent deal.

Vehicle (High Priority, new or used)
We had a Jetta sedan when David was born. We outgrew it in about 2 seconds. Yes, babies are small, but they always need a whole lot of STUFF. And the dang car seats are so big you can hardly fit another full-size person in the car once they’re installed. When we started talking about having a second baby, we knew our little Jetta wasn’t going to cut it any more. We upgraded to a Honda Pilot 2 weeks before I found out I was pregnant with Jacob and we LOOOOOOOOOOOVE it! You don’t need a huge car or an over-sized SUV with a baby, but be warned: whatever vehicle you are comfortable in now is about to become cramped and very UNcomfortable once baby joins you!


Sleeping

Crib (Must Have, new or used)
Your baby has to sleep somewhere, so you’ve got to buy a crib. Again, this is an area where you could spend a LOT of money, but it’s not necessary. The main thing to keep in mind with a crib is safety. The space between the crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8″ (about the width of a pop can) and it should not have a drop-side. If you have a chance to see the crib assembled in person, give it a good shake to see how sturdy it feels. Your newborn will sleep peacefully in a little ball wherever you place it, but soon that infant will grow to be a toddler who is standing up and shaking that crib like a caged monkey. As long as you can find a crib that meets basic safety specs, go ahead and get a used one or an inexpensive new crib (I don’t recommend borrowing a crib because it seems like everyone I know who has ever done that ended up having to give it back to the original owners for THEIR new baby before they were ready to relinquish the borrowed crib).

Portable Crib (Pac-N-Play) (High Priority, new or used)
We use our Pac-n-Play quite often. It’s where our new babies sleep next to my bed before we move them into the nursery and it’s what we use whenever we travel. I know a lot of people who use their pac-n-play as a napping space downstairs when the baby’s room is upstairs. We don’t use it every day, but it is sure handy to have one when you need it. Costco actually sells a nice basic model Pac-n-Play for about $50, which is about the same price as a clean used one sells for on Craigslist.

Swaddling Blankets and Sleepers (Must have, new)
New babies need to be swaddled when they’re sleeping. In my sleep-deprived middle of the night fumblings, I could never figure out how to properly swaddle a flailing baby, so I relied on the SwaddleMe for the first few months with each boy. If you want to go for a real blanket, though, don’t buy a standard receiving blanket or swaddling blanket from the baby store–they’re never big enough or stretchy enough to work properly.  Though I don’t have one, I love the over-size muslin swaddling blankets made by Aden and Anais. After the first 3 months or so, baby doesn’t need to be swaddled, but you still shouldn’t cover your baby with a blanket (it’s a SIDs risk). We use Halo Sleep Sacks, and having about 3 per size seems to be sufficient.

Baby Monitor (High Priority, new or used)
This is yet another category where you could spend a LOT of money. You can buy fancy video monitors with iPhone apps so you can watch your baby sleeping from half-way around the world. While this sounds neat, it’s not necessary. In fact, we have a friend with one of those fancy video monitors that allows you to watch baby sleeping from half-way around the world. Our friend’s mom watches the monitor feed like it’s cable television programming. Grandma will call her in the middle of the night to inform her that her baby is awake (“Yes, Mom, I know. I’m walking up the stairs now.”). We had a very cheap monitor that we ended up hating because we were picking up signals from our neighbor’s house and could hear inside their baby’s room (which makes me think they could hear inside MY baby’s room. Creepy). We have a new monitor now that was inexpensive and works well (and, best of all, it’s a closed circuit so we’re the only ones who can hear what’s happening on the monitor!). The monitor we have now is made by ** Samsung and it’s great. In all truth, though, I only use the monitor about 20% of the time now, because I just don’t want to hear all of the little sounds Jacob is making. If he’s really crying I can hear him just fine without the monitor, so I really wouldn’t spend a lot of money here.

Feeding

Breast Pump (Must Have, new)
Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby, so if you’re at all skeptical about it, just give it a try. Even though I don’t work out of the home, it’s useful to have a breast pump for those nights when baby actually sleeps through the night and you don’t want to wake him to have him empty your engorged boobs. It’s also useful if you ever want to have a date alone with your husband and baby needs to eat while you’re away. I have a simple Medela manual breast pump and it works perfectly for my usage. If you spend more time away from your baby, though (like if you work outside the home), you’ll want a nicer electric breast pump (which you can also rent from a hospital, but my understanding is that it ends up costing about the same to just buy your own). Always buy your breast pump new because there’s something about cross-contamination of breast milk that can be harmful to your baby.

Extra Bottles and/or Breast Milk Storage Bags(High priority, new)
It’s a good idea to have extra storage space for your breast milk. Breast milk can be frozen for up to 6 months and you can even make baby food with breast milk, so it’s nice to have a little supply on hand in your freezer.

High Chair (Must have, new or repurpose)
Unless you want to hold a squirmy toddler on your lap at every meal, you need to have a high chair. We just have a space-saver chair that sits on top of our dining chair at the table. It was about $30 and it’s worked fine for the last 2 years. We also have a ** portable booster seat that I got at a consignment sale for about $10.  We use it any time we eat over at a friend’s house or travel out of town. Now that Jacob is about to start eating solids, we’ll use the portable booster seat as David’s chair at our table at home and let Jacob sit in the high chair.

Nursing Pillow (Nice to have, new or used)
It’s nice to have somewhere to lay baby while you’re feeding him and I find that I’m more comfortable having the boost of a pillow. Regular pillows that you have at home work fine, but I like having a nursing pillow during feedings. Nursing pillows also make great places for baby to rest during tummy time. I had a Boppy and a Brest Friend, and I prefer the Brest Friend. It snaps on so you can move around while “wearing” it. It’s also nice and firm so baby doesn’t get lost in the pillow.

Baby Bullet  (Nice to have; new, used or borrow)
I make all of my own baby food. Here’s my reasoning. It’s cheap (I can make 20 servings of rice cereal for about 50 cents), it’s really not that difficult, it’s healthy (100% fresh with no preservatives) and it exposes my baby to the exact same foods that I’m eating so he’ll start developing a taste for my wonderful cooking early on 🙂 I’m not opposed to pre-made baby food–I still use pouches and puffs from the store for snacks–but I use that stuff as a supplement to the homemade stuff. I use the Baby Bullet to puree all of my baby food, but you could really use any standard blender or a food mill just as well. If you’re not sure you want to commit to making all of your baby’s food, just try using a blender you already have and see how you like it.

Bibs and Burp Cloths (Must have, new)
While baby is still on milk, you’ll want to have some good absorbent burp cloths on hand. My babies aren’t big spitter-uppers, so we only need about 5. If your baby likes to up-chuck after every meal, though, you’ll want a supply of at least a dozen. Your burp cloths don’t have to be cute, just make sure they can soak up a lot of liquid without making a big mess. We also lay down a clean burp cloth over our changing table so when we change a blow-out diaper (which happens at least once a day in our house) it doesn’t get the whole changing pad dirty. We can just toss the dirty cloth into the laundry and lay down another clean one for the next change.
Once your baby starts eating solids, you’ll need somewhere to catch all of their messes. And if your kids are anything like mine, there are LOTS of messes (in fact, some meals I think more food ends up on the bib than in my kid’s mouth). Far and away my favorite bib is the **Bjorn soft bib.  It’s spendy for a bib (about $10 per bib) but we use them multiple times every day and they work like a trough to catch everything from chewed up chicken to spilled milk. You can also toss them in the dishwasher. They’re fantastic, and I think every baby should have at least one.

Feeding Utensils (Must have, new or used)
You’ll want about 5 of each of the following: plastic plates, plastic bowls, plastic spoons, plastic forks. You’ll also need a range of sippy cups–I find that you just have to buy a bunch of different cups and see what works for your kid at each stage of their drinking capability.  David destroys any cup that is not enirely made of hard plastic, so that’s what we have now. We also have some small plastic cups (not sippy cups) that we try to use any time we’re at home and can adequately deal with spills. It’s also handy to have a nice pair of kitchen shears. We use them to cut up all of our toddler food into small pieces. The shears make quick work of cutting everything from chicken to spaghetti noodles.

Clothing
I’ll do this section a bit differently. For each section I’ll just say how many I think you need in each size. I do laundry 4-5 times a week now (yes, it’s ridiculous) so adjust these numbers if you don’t do your laundry as often and need to have more clothing in stock. I have borrowed, bought used, or received as gifts just about every article of clothing that my children wear. While it’s fun to go shopping for baby clothes, it’s really not worth spending much money on them because they usually grow out of them within a few weeks of starting to wear them.

Jammies- 4-5 pairs per size; I like the foot-less sleep gowns for newborns (makes middle of the night diaper changes oh-so-easy) and footie jammies with a ZIPPER from 3 months on (snaps annoy me to no end).

Onesies- 10-20 per size; I usually go through 3-4 onesies per day (everything gets very dirty when you have a pooping, spitting, flailing baby). Get some that are short-sleeved and some that are long-sleeved. I usually have my babies wear them alone, but they also make great layering pieces if you have cute shrits, vests, jackets, etc. that you want your baby to wear.

Pants- 5 pairs per size. Make sure they’re comfy for baby and easy to get on and off (read: elastic waist bands). If they have animal faces on the feet or tushie, that’s also a plus.

Foot Coverings- 5-10 pairs of socks per size. Once baby starts crawling and pulling up to standing I like having Robeez leather baby booties (although, I still try to have my babies go barefoot or sock-foot as much as possible because it’s best for their foot development). Once baby starts walking, I like Stride Rite shoes (they’re made to support baby’s foot development).

Other– You’ll need some seasonal accessories: a warm hat, coat, and mittens for the winter and a sun hat for the summer. If you plan on going swimming with your baby you’ll need a swimsuit and swim diapers.

Diapering

Changing Table (Must Have, used or repurposed)
It’s handy to have somewhere to change those thousands of diapers. We got a used changing table from a friend with older children. We also put a changing pad on the top of David’s dresser to use as a second changing table.

Diaper Bag (Must Have; new, used or repurposed)
You can get any diaper bag you want. Some features that I have found to be most useful: A top that zippers shut or velcro-closes completely, large pockets on the side (big enough to hold my water bottle), a small zippered pocket to hold your keys and cell phone, ample storage space inside the bag itself, pouches to hold diapers and wipes, backpack straps for carrying the bag. And, above all else, it needs to be durable. After all, you’re going to cart that thing around with you everywhere you go for the next 2+ years.  I also use my diaper bag as my purse anytime I have the kids with me (which is basically all the time), so I like it to have space for my wallet and other purse essentials. I had a standard diaper bag from Babies R Us with David, and it broke after about a year (all the zippers came off, it got holes in it, the fabric was fading). So, I splurged and bought a Petunia Pickle Bottom bag. It was ridiculously expensive, but it’s cute and durable and I love it. And the resale value is excellent if I ever reach the day when I have no more children in diapers. You could also just use any old bag or backpack you have lying around your house. Do what works for you!

Diapers and Wipes (Must Have, new)
Cloth or disposable, that is the question. Moms seem to get very passionate about their diapering choice. I say, if you want to use disposables, use disposables. If you want to use cloth, use cloth. Done. I can’t fathom doing one more load of laundry than I already have to do in the week so, for me, it’s disposables all the way. Whatever your choice, just make sure you always have about a week’s supply of diapers and wipes on hand. You don’t want to run out in the middle of the night and have to wake up your husband for a midnight run to the drugstore to buy more.

Diaper Pail (High Priority, new or used)
You can use a trash can for dirty diapers, but they do get rather stinky if you don’t take them out after each change. We had a Diaper Genie with David, but the refill “bags” were insanely expensive for a plastic sleeve that holds poop. Now we have a **Baby Trend Diaper Champ that uses standard trash bags instead of expensive refills. It works great for Jacob’s diapers, but David’s more rancid diapers still get stinky in it. Still, though, I can take empty the diaper pail every couple of days and it’s no big deal.

Bathing/Grooming/Health

Baby Bathtub (High Priority, used or borrow)
You can wash a baby in your kitchen sink (I’ve done it), but those little buggers get pretty slippery when you lather them up with soap. I like having a baby bathtub with an infant sling for when they’re super-tiny. As soon as the baby can sit up independently, he can sit in the regular bathtub. We also take our babies in the showers with us pretty frequently and they love splashing in the “rain”. You really don’t use a baby tub for very long, though, and they take up a lot of storage space after you’re done using them. For this reason, borrow a tub from a friend or buy one used.

Baby Shampoo (Must have, new)
Buy an all-in-ne baby shampooo (soap and shampoo) that is tear-free. Burt’s Bees and Johnson’s (the purple one) smell really nice.

Towels  (Must have, new or used)
Get 2 baby towels that are nice and soft. And a couple of wash cloths are handy, too.

Nail Clippers (Must have, new)
Newborns usually have long fingernails when they’re born. They need to be trimmed because babies always seem to be clawing at their faces, but clippers don’t work at first (the nails are too soft). I just use my teeth to chew away at the nails for the first few weeks (a bit gross, but it works well and you don’t accidentally cut your new baby, which is terrifying). Once the nails are a bit more solid, you can use small nail clippers to do the job.

Medicine (Must have, new)
It’s a good idea to have some infant Tylenol with a syringe dispenser on hand in case you ever need it. Also, if you have a baby boy that you know you’ll be circumcising, have a tube or 2 of Bacitracin on hand to help with the healing.

Thermometer (Must have, new)
Babies can’t tell you how they’re feeling, so there are times you have to analyze their vitals for clues. A rectal thermometer is the most accurate. I don’t like sticking probes up my baby’s bum, however, so I usually start with an infrared forehead thermometer. If I get questionable results off that, I’ll move on to the more-accurate rectal for the official read that I can relay to the doctor.

Nasal Aspirator (Must have, new)
I have a **Nose Frida (a “snot sucker”) that works amazingly well. You just put one end on the baby’s nose, and suck through a tube to dislodge all the gunk in baby’s nose. There’s a filter in the Nose Frida so nothing goes anywhere near your mouth while you’re sucking, but it does make a gross sound as you suck out the snot. When baby is sick or stuffed up, this thing is a miracle worker!

Toothbrush (Must have, new)
To be honest, I never even thought about getting a toothbrush for a baby. They don’t have any teeth. But then a friend of ours who is a dental hygenist gave us a cute little toothbrush set for David’s baby shower. Turns out, even babies without teeth need their gums “brushed”. And once those pesky little teeth start poking through baby’s gums, you’ll need to brush those every day, too. We like this set by Nuk.

Toys/Entertainment

Infant Swing (High priority, used or borrow)
Every baby has different preferences, so some may love the swing and others may hate it.David loved his infant swing and, in fact, it was the only place he would consistently sleep for the first 3 months of his life. Jacob actually got upset every time we put him in the swing. You won’t use the swing for very long and they take up a lot of space to store, so if at all possible find one to borrow (this is what we did with each of our babies). If you use a swing, find one that plugs in to a wall for power and that has different speeds you can select. I also prefer the papasan-style for baby swings.

Jumperoo/ExerSaucer (High priority, used or borrow)
I’ve never met a baby who didn’t like their jumperoo. And I’ve never met a parent who didn’t like having a place to set their baby down where they would be safe and perfectly content for hours on end. As with the swing, though, there’s a relatively short time that baby actually uses the jumper or exersaucer and they’re quite large to store. Borrow from a friend if you can. We like the **Fisher Price Rainforest Jumperoo–it’s good-quality, highly entertaining for baby, and folds up easily for moving or storage.

Infant Seats (Nice to have, used or borrow)
It’s nice having a place for baby to sit before he can sit, stand, or move on his own. We like having a Bumbo and an **infant bouncer (find one that’s easy to bounce with one hand or foot. If it folds flat for storage, that’s a great feature to have.).

Toys (High Priority; new, used or borrowed)
Babies will play with anything. A plastic cup with a straw can be endlessly entertaining to a 6-month old. Find some simple, durable toys for your baby that don’t make obnoxious noises (balls, shakers, soft toys that crinkle). David’s absolute favorite toy of all time is his “lovey” Mimi, a stuffed monkey made by **Jellycat. I love the Jellcat toys so much that I just bought Jacob their stuffed giraffe for Christmas.  It’s also nice to have a soft toy that attaches to baby’s car seat or stroller to keep him entertained while you’re out and about. Lamaze makes some that both David and Jacob enjoy. Really, though, everyone else will buy your baby toys so you probably don’t need to run out and buy out the toy store just yet!

Books (Must have; new, used, or borrowed)
As a former first grade teacher, I feel it’s my duty to inform you that it’s never too early to start learning or start reading! One of the single best things you can do for your child’s future success in school is to read. Read to them, read with them, read by yourself and just let them watch you making it a priority. Really, just read! Soft books and board books are good for babies because they can throw them, chew them, mash them with a hammer and they’ll survive the abuse. I also love borrowing books from the library. You can check out board books by the bag-full at your local library to keep things new and interesting for your budding reader.
Another thing I’ve bee doing lately is making my own books. There are so many places that make photo books now, and with coupons I can usually get a custom book shipped to my door for about $10. I’ve made a book with photos of David doing our daily routine called “David’s Busy Day” and another one with all of our family members and text that tells about them. For a younger baby, you could also print out photos, glue them onto paper and write one word or sentence about the photo on each page. Then take your pages to an office store like Staples or Office Max to have the pages laminated and binded in-store.

For The New Mom
Here are a few items you should have on hand for yourself before you bring home that new bundle of joy.

Food
You likely won’t be cooking for a couple of weeks, so make arrangements for meals ahead of time. Cook and freeze meals, find friends to bring you food, train your husband to cook, or set aside the phone numbers for your favorite delivery restaurants.

Maxi Pads
Get at least one large package of overnight (super-absorbent) maxi pads for your postpartum blood flow. No tampons, just the pads.

Nursing Pads
You can get reusable or disposable nursing pads to wear in your bra to avoid milk leakage. I like the Johnson’s disposable nursing pads.

Nipple Cream
For the first couple of weeks you’re breastfeeding. I like Lansinoh Lanolin.

Comfort Items for Late Night Feedings
You’ll be spending about 8-12 hours a day breastfeeding during the first couple of weeks, so it’s nice to have some comfort items ready for all of those feedings. Make sure you always have a full water bottle handy (nursing makes you THIRSTY!). My favorite is the **Camelbak water bottle with bite valve–it’s easy to use one-handed and never spills. I have one of those bad boys planted in every room of my house so my water is never out of reach!
I also like having an iPod or my iPhone handy during feedings so I can read, respond to e-mails, watch a movie, browse the internet, etc.

Nursing Wear
Find what’s comfortable for you. I actually don’t like nursing bras, so I always just wear a normal bra that I can pull down easily or a nursing tank. I like the nursing tanks best because they cover my mid-section when I lift up my shirt to nurse. Also have some nice, comfy shirts that are easy to either lift up or pull down for access to the milk-makers. And, even though it’s not technically nursing wear, make sure you have some nice comfy pants. When you come home from the hospital you still have a belly the same size as your 6-months-pregnant self. So invest in some elastic waistbands for yourself, and maybe a pair or 2 of jeans that are a couple sizes bigger than you wore pre-pregnancy (because you’ll be SICK of your maternity clothes by the time you have the baby, but you won’t fit into your pre-baby clothes. For awhile. Maybe a very long while. It’s sad, but true. Call it your miracle belly if it makes you feel better!)

Things To Do With Your New Baby
Here are a few activities that I enjoyed doing with my baby during the first year. It’s good for baby to get out there and socialize. And, perhaps more importantly, it’s good for YOU to get out there and connect with other moms! It’s so reassuring to have other people who are in the same boat as you who you can share this journey of new-motherhood with!

Play Groups
Look for formal or informal play groups that meet in your community. This could just be you and some of your friends who get together each week for a walk with your babies (this is what I do!) or you can search for a group on http://www.meetup.com that meets in your neighborhood.

**Story Time
I took David to story time at our local library every week from the time he was 3 months old until Jacob was born. It’s a great free program that involves reading, singing and playing. Just about every library I’ve ever seen has some sort of baby or toddler story time program. I loved going each week for fun and making new friends. They also have story time at most book stores, they just aren’t as elaborate (however, I do enjoy the story time at University Bookstore because they give out free Top Pot donuts to the little guys).

**Stroller Strides
This is a new one for me. Stroller Strides is a fitness class for moms that you bring your baby to in his stroller. It’s really a great workout and they make the whole class fun for the babies. It’s very social and the other moms are friendly and health-focused. There are hundreds of Stroller Stride classes that meet all over the country every day of the week. Stroller Strides requires a membership and monthly dues, but I think health and sanity are worth spending a bit of money on!

Parks and Rec Classes
The Parks and Rec department in your city will offer a number of classes geared toward babies and toddlers. These classes may include music, dance, art, and even foreign languages. I’ve never actually done one of these classes, but they always look like so much fun in the brochures!

Swimming Lessons
We took David to his first swimming lessons when he was 6 months old. He loved splashing around in the water and we loved that our baby was getting exposed to water in a positive way so he’ll (hopefully) be comfortable being around water and swimming alone in water when he’s old enough. We did our swimming lessons at the YMCA and they were very reasonably priced.

Alright, folks, I think that’s it. Overwhelmed yet? In the end, a baby really doesn’t need that much. Get the basics, don’t stress about it, and know that grandma and grandpa will always fill in the gaps 🙂 Of course, the most important thing you can give your baby is your love–and that doesn’t cost a penny or require a minute of your time to research.

I’d love to hear what your favorite products and activities are. Feel free to leave a comment if you have something to add to this list!

Merry Christmas!

We’re just a few days away from Christmas, so I wanted to wish all of you a very merry Christmas. During this busy, beautiful time of the year I like to reflect on the grace God has shown in our lives. 2012 has been incredible in so many ways. We have definitely grown and changed as a family and as individuals,but one thing always remains a constant. We are saved by Jesus’ grace! I take great comfort in knowing that no matter what ups and downs life throws at us, that will never change. May you experience the joy and peace of Christ this season and in the new year!

And, in case you missed it, here is our annual Christmas letter:

 

The Petersons :: Christmas 2012

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As I sit down to write this year’s edition of “Keeping Up With The Peterson’s” I am humbled and amazed by all that God has blessed us with this year. This year we’ve experienced new life, grown up a bit, and had exciting adventures.

Perhaps the most significant event of this year was the birth of our second son. Jacob Daniel was born on July 26th in Seattle. We had a somewhat difficult delivery, but in the end Jacob was born healthy and happy. I call him my dream baby because that’s exactly what he is–dreamy! He’s adorable, cuddly, and sweet all the time. He’s been sleeping through the night since he was 8 weeks old (the best gift this mama could get!) and he’s growing like crazy. We love our little Be-Ba (the nickname David gave to Jacob when I was pregnant) and feel incredibly blessed to have him in our family. Even though he’s only been with us for 4 ½ months, it’s hard to remember what life was like before he arrived and we can’t imagine our lives without him.

David turned two in October, and he’s amazing. He is a wonderful big brother to Jacob, so gentle and loving. I guarantee you have never met a boy like David. He’s smart as a whip and OBSESSED with balls. “Oh, my boy loved balls when he was little, too!” you’re saying. Not like David. I promise. He practices dribbling, throwing, kicking, catching, bouncing and spinning balls all day long. All. Day. Long. And when he’s not playing with a ball, he’s pumping them up, counting them, singing about them or talking about them (we know David’s awake in the morning when we hear him chanting the names of balls from his bedroom). God has a real sense of humor giving this little jock to me and Jon who literally could not name a single player on a single team of any sport in the country. Guess it’s time for us to learn to love watching football and cheering for basketball teams!

I (Allison) stay home with the boys as a full-time mom/wife/house-keeper/chef/teacher/secretary. I love my job and there’s literally nothing in the world that I’d rather be doing right now! In order to give my life some structure and some other adults to talk with during the day I have a number of activities that I’m involved in during the week. I attend Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), Stroller Strides (a fitness group for moms), and have several friends that I regularly meet with for “play dates” with our kids. I also try to fit in running when I can (I ran in a few half-marathons this year, including one in Southern California last February with my sister and parents). Life is good!

Jon is busy, busy, busy! He continues to work as a Systems Architect at Cypress Semiconductor. A recent promotion has meant long hours and interesting problems to solve, and we are so grateful that he has a good job that allows me to not have to work outside the home. Jon is also a Community Group leader at our church and has been involved with our mobile church’s set-up crew on Sunday mornings. This year has been a busy travel year for Jon with several trips to Europe for work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update from Arizona

This has nothing to do with our move to Ireland, but I thought I’d do a quick post from Arizona. I flew down this weekend for a quick visit with Jacob to see my Mom’s side of the family. It has been wonderful seeing my grandparents, aunts, unles and cousins–and I think they’re all a bit enamored with the baby! I’m so grateful I could make this trip happen before we move for a couple if years and it becomes REALLY hard to get fown here for a visit. Here are some photos from our time in the desert:

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Housing Update

Jon has had a very successful house-hunt in Ireland. He is going to be continuing on to Turkey on Saturday morning, so his time in Ireland is just about over. He has found a number of houses that look like they will work well for our family. We are not going to sign a lease just yet, however. Jon’s company has been slow in getting us the information that we need to complete our move (like a specific moving date and means to pay a deposit on a place) so we aren’t ready to move forward with signing a lease quite yet. This trip has still been worthwhile because Jon has found the specific area that we want to live in and knows exactly what to look for in a house. He also has some contacts at the local leasing agencies so he’ll be able to keep in touch with them as we find out more information about our move.

Our current plan is to move to Ireland at the end of January or early February. When we get there we will stay in a long term rental for about a month. During that month we can go and look at houses together and sign a lease. This will actually work out really well because then I can look at the houses with Jon in person. Since it will take about a month for all of our belongings to be shipped over there anyway, this will give us time to get adjusted to Ireland before we have to move into our house.

I am getting ready to head down to Phoenix tomorrow to go visit my mom’s side of the family. I’m excited to introduce Jacob to my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins! Until next time…

First Photos From Ireland

Jon has had a successful first day of house-hunting in Cork. Yesterday he went in to the Cypress office where he’ll be working and the admin helped him sort through our list of houses that we’d started during our internet research. She went through each listing with him and gave some insight about good neighborhoods, bad neighborhoods, family friendly areas, etc. With her help, we cut our initial list of 20 houses down to 10–a much more manageable number for Jon to actually see in person during the few days that he’ll be there.

The houses he looked at today were all in a suburb of Cork called Douglas. It’s about 5 minutes outside of the city center but it’s more family-friendly and you can get more spacious homes than in the city center. He got to see 3 houses, 1 of which he loved, 1 that was a decent back-up contender, and a third that he’s not even considering any more. Here are a couple of photos from the first house that he liked the best:

Here's the front of the house

Here’s the front of the house

The view from the front yard (that's Cork Harbor in the distance)

The view from the front yard (that’s Cork Harbor in the distance)

Kitchen

Kitchen

Small back yard (with no lawn to mow!)

Small back yard (with no lawn to mow!)

This is a 3 bed, 3 bath home in a new development. They allow pets here, which is awesome! All 3 of the places Jon looked at today allowed dogs, so it’s looking promising that Bota will get to move with us. There were 2 other families looking at this house today, so it’s possible that it won’t even be on the market by the end of the week when we’re ready to make our decision. He still has a few other houses to look at that we’re really interested in so we’re not going to sign a lease on this place right away. Tomorrow he’ll be going to a few more houses that were high on our list, so we’ll see how that goes.

My next post will probably be later this week with some photos of our new house!

House-Hunting Trip

As I write this, Jon is spending his first night in Ireland exploring our soon-to-be city of Cork. He’s there for a week-long house-hunting trip before he continues on to Turkey for business.  For months now this Ireland thing has seemed more like a dream, but having him there–actually physically THERE–is finally making this real for me.

Jon had a bit of an adventure getting to Cork yesterday. He left our house at about 4:00 AM to drive down to the airport. When he got to his friend Abe’s house to drop off his car, however, he realized that he’d forgotten his work laptop at home on the charging dock. Since he’ll be spending a full week in Turkey working at the end of this trip, it was crucial that he have that laptop. So, at 5:00 I got a panicked phone call from Jon to rush the laptop to the airport ASAP. I got the boys out of bed, loaded them into their carseats with lots of blankets, and drove south. Jon was already driving north to meet me, and our paths crossed in Northgate. I handed off the laptop, got a quick kiss, and he was off again. I’m happy to report that he made it to his plane with 20 minutes to spare!

His travel yesterday took him from Seattle to Atlanta, where he was able to grab a quick bite to eat before he boarded his next plane to Dublin. There is an airport in Cork, but because of the time constraints Jon had for his travel this time around, he had to choose an airport with more frequent flights. Once he got to Dublin, he then picked up his rental car (a snazzy little rig with a card and a push-button ignition instead of a key) and began to navigate his way to Cork–driving in a country he’s never been to, on the “wrong” side of the road, and sleep-deprived. He got to his hotel in Cork at about 4:00 AM our time this morning. His room wasn’t ready yet, so he sat in the lobby and almost fell asleep waiting to check in. Eventually he got to his room, though, and was able to get in a quick nap before heading out for dinner (Cork is 8 hours ahead of us, so our 9:00 AM is their 6:00 PM–dinner time!).

His first impressions of the country are encouraging. He said that it’s beautiful–once you’re a few miles out of the city you’re in beautiful green countryside. Complete with sheep. Bota will love it! His hotel in Cork is in the city center and there are beautiful promenades along the river lined with shops, pubs, and restaurants. He said the driving isn’t too difficult, but you just have to pay attention to what you’re doing and not drift into auto-pilot mode (or you’ll end up drifting into wrong-side-of-the-street-head-on-collision mode).

Jon was able to get a new SIM card for his iPhone already, so we can talk, e-mail and Face Time (which we already did this morning! Isn’t technology amazing?!). There’s a leasing agency across the street from his hotel, so first thing tomorrow he’s going to go over there and set up some viewing appointments. Ireland has a great housing website that we’ve been using to research houses from here. We already have a spreadsheet with 20 potential houses that meet our criteria, so he’s going to visit as many of them as he can while he’s there this week.

We’d appreciate prayers this week. Please pray for Jon to find the perfect house for our family–that it will meet whatever known or unknown needs that we have and that it will be in the perfect location for us to be a “light” in that neighborhood. Also pray that we’ll be able to find a place where our dog Bota can live with us–none of the listings have said if they allow pets. I’m just picturing Bota running through those pastures chasing fluffy little Irish sheep. I can’t wait 🙂