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I’ve gathered up some solicited Momma advice over the past few months.  I’ve been asking my friends and family about labor, gear, maternity leave, and lots of other baby-related topics.  I wanted to gather it all into one place, and this seemed like the place to do it.  So, here’s the advice I’ve received about gear.  Some of the gear decisions didn’t have to/aren’t going to have to make since we have such a generous group of family and friends that want to give us their stuff.  We can’t thank them enough!  Its a relief both financially and to my brain.

I’ve literally copied and pasted advice that has been emailed to me, so its a bit all over the place.  And some advice is conflicting.  (Obviously, we’re not going to get 5 different stroller combos.)


Strollers: (I’m so overwhelmed on this one.  I’ve told Gregg to pick one out for us.) Graco carseat and stroller combo, Graco carseat with “snap n go,” City Mini GT, BOBs are amazing – often can find one on Craig’s List a little cheaper.  For non-jogging/lightweight: Combi umbrella stroller.

Carriers: “Boba (check out the website!) and love it. It’s recommended for “petite” mommas…under 5’4,” Ergo, Moby wrap, Dolcina woven wrap, “I would recommend something that goes over both shoulders as opposed to a one-shoulder sling.  Those really start to hurt after a while.”  I’ve also been told the Ring Sling and the Fabric sling carrier(which are both one-shoulder) are awesome.

Bottles: Tommee Tippee, Medela bottles, not Avent, “Best advice I got though was to not open any in advance because you don’t know what your baby will like.”

Miscellaneous: Swaddleme velcro blankets, activity mat, Bumbo seat, Ingelsina Fast Baby Chair as a high chair, swing, Aden & Anais blankets.

And one momma of six, my cousin Kendra, dedicated an entire blog post to the topic.  She has a lot to say about what you don’t need which I also appreciate.


I splurged.  I bought this woven Dolcino wrap to carry our baby.  Its was 30% off, okay?  Don’t judge!


Dolcino baby wrap

Why I’m excited:

  • Its really pretty.
  • Our cat Tootie liked being carried around in it.
  • It feels like a good idea to carry a baby around close to you like this/to “wear” the baby.(a lot of my mothering ideas are coming from this…a feeling.  Is it an instinct?  Not sure.  I guess I’ll find out eventually if these feelings are pointing us in the right direction.)
  • I would like to be carried around like this.
  • It came with a How-to/Why Baby-wearing is so great booklet.
  • I have a new friend that is really into Baby-wearing and wraps and even wants to become an educator on the whole thing.  She got me into it.
  • It makes our baby seem more real.
  • I think Gregg is going to like it, even those he’s rolling his eyes/laughing at my excitement over it right now.
  • Along with being good for the baby (bonding, attachment, nursing, etc. (I’m trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but I don’t)), it seems and looks cool.  This is a good reason to make a purchase, right?
  • If we like it, we can use it forever.

Why I’m not sure if it was worth the expense:

  • Our baby won’t like it.
  • Gregg and I won’t like wearing it.
  • It will be too confusing to figure out how to wear it.
  • I’m going to worry about the baby falling out or not being able to breathe.
  • I could make one out of more inexpensive fabric that would work just as well.

Looks like the reasons for excitement have won over when placed up against the “not sure if its worth it.”





I just finished another Anne Lamott book.  Its her new one Help Thanks Wow.  (This has been the year of Anne Lamott for me.)  I got home last night after work and was Chatty Cathy with Gregg, rambling about what I had learned over my lunch break when I read her Thanks chapter.   I thought I would relate more to her Help chapter, since I recently sent an email to my girlfriends asking for post-baby help.  But it was Thanks that got me.

Thanks was different than I anticipated.  She actually wrote a lot about looking out for the good when circumstances are not.  She doesn’t write about being thankful for the hard or tragic circumstances, but about trusting God in the middle of them and searching for what you can be thankful for afterwards: what you learned, who was brought close to you, etc.

There’s a lot of sad going on right now.  Even though its Christmas and its the season for joy and family and friends, but, along with the school shooting which the entire nation is mourning together, there have been a handful of tragedies closer to home.  To be thankful for the tragedies doesn’t seem right.  But, maybe her point is to recognize God in the middle of them and to know that good will come.

She also writes about thanks in action.  The whole “to whom much has been given, much is required” thing.  She says that this does not just apply to the Kennedys and the Romneys.  I like that.  Its us, we should give, even the smallest kinds of giving can mean a lot to the recipient.

Example.  My grandmother is one of the most generous people that I know.  This year for Christmas, she gave each of us grandkids a gift that was even bigger than her usual.  To say thanks and Merry Christmas, I sent her some sweets and a scarf that I had knit (she’s a knitter, too).  My mom said that she was overjoyed with the package, especially the scarf.  She said she’s knit for other people her whole life (she’s 92), but no one’s ever knit anything for her.  It was not a big deal for me to knit her a scarf with some white, lacey yarn that I had had around for awhile.  It was almost silly to me that she was so excited, since, compared to her gifts to her 5 grandchildren (she also has 3 children and 8 great-grandchildren,) the scarf and candies were beyond miniscule.  But, as small as it was, my thanks made a difference to her.

P.S.  I’m getting really annoyed by the use of the phrase “a lot.”  I’m open to substitutes if you have any suggestions.

Last Christmas I got really into decorating our house.  Lights and those shiny balls (so cheap, but pretty hanging from the ceiling or mounted in bowls), holly and burlap are among my Christmas decorating staples.  I really did let myself get stressed by the season.  With decorating, baking goodies, buying gifts, planning a trip (Gregg’s present last year was a quick trip to New York City), I missed the reason for the season.  (The perfect overused phrase for what happened–and it rhymes.)  I didn’t realize it until Christmas was over, so this year I’m taking a slightly different approach.

This season, I decorated, but I did it pretty quickly so as not to get consumed by it.  We aren’t getting gifts for as many family members this year as we did last year (this cuts down on stress).  The gifts I have purchased are ones that I’m excited about giving, and I haven’t spent too much money on everyone.  But, I’m also preparing.

I’m preparing for Christmas itself even though I’m really not sure how to do this.  Reading baby Jesus scripture, gazing at an Advent wreath…I’m not sure, those don’t feel quite right to me.  But, I’ve found a way to tie in preparing for a baby with preparing for Christmas.  This just occurred to me this morning.  The common denominator between the two (Christmas and pregnancy) is grace.  Grace.

Even though I’m not sure how to prepare for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot of preparing for a baby coming our way.  When I ask moms for advice, (and I have been asking.  I’m usually not a fan of advice, but I’ve had little shame in asking about maternity clothes, baby gear, labor, reusable diapers, pumping, a side ways swinging swing versus a normal swinging swing, and motherhood in general.  The questions are endless.  I can’t get enough of this advice to be honest.  And, I know I’m not going to get all of the answers until, um, I guess never.)

One piece of advice that I’ve been holding onto is to give yourself grace. (Two examples are E’s posts  and Ashley’s post, another example being my good friend Anne Lamott.)  This is not my best attribute.  But these women are saying over and over, give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack, trust its all going to be okay.  Grace.  Grace.  Grace.  They are talking about those immediate post-baby months and forever after that, too.   So, I figure, I should go ahead and practice now.  Christmastime seems like a good time to start.

Now, how do I do that?  Again, not really sure.  Its a total change in thinking.  A different way of thinking about myself and looking at myself.  Lowering the standard for myself of what I should  do.  Should=my Arch enemy.  As I’m preparing for labor and preparing to be a parent, learning things like how to keep a baby from crying not-stop, etc., I’m also preparing to practice grace.  Anne Lamott talks about looking at yourself from the outside with absolute tenderness.  She describes how helpful this is.  This is how God looks at me/us, right?  So why shouldn’t I/we do the same for myself/ourselves?

I wonder when I’ll have to change the title of my blog: “This Circle of Quiet.”  I assumed that country living/rural life was quiet, and it is compared to living in the city.  But, we have 5 pets and a baby on the way.  Its already not very quiet at our house, and I suppose its only going to get louder.  The animals have been more of a handful lately.  Pooping inside, for example.  And, integrating our huge white, polar bear dog with our two medium-sized herding dogs has been an event.  There’s been lots of growling and snarling.  Max got body-slammed by Aspen at one point for getting in her face (I don’t know how else to explain these fights besides making them sound like 13 year old girls in the lunch room.  I went to a ghetto middle school, ok?).

But, I’ve been loving them.  Even when I’m cleaning up their poop (I never realized how amazing Resolve was!), I’m thankful for them.  I’ve been comparing them to kids a lot.  Like, “Okay, its time for everyone to go outside, so I can get some stuff done around the house,” and “I need to give ____ some attention because I haven’t in awhile.”

Aspen is starved for love and attention.  She’s still a working dog.  She’s protecting our sheep and our chickens.  But she won’t stay in the fenced-in area where the sheep are.  She also won’t leave our property (unless she sees us leave), so I think she’s still doing her job pretty well.  She reminds me so much of Max.  We got Max from a shelter and Aspen from a rescue group.  They both have separation anxiety (or some other psychological diagnosis that our human feelings have projected on them), so they need a lot of love.  Even our cats, that were found on the side of the road, are extra affectionate.  I don’t think I would love them all so much if they weren’t so loveable.  Roo, who was the pick of the litter, knows that she’s loved.  She thinks that she’s hot stuff, and she can be sweet and affectionate at times, but she’s also a snob.

As I’m writing, Aspen literally just threw up on the couch that we are cuddling on together.  Its like she knew what I was writing thinking about.  Okay, apologies to all the weak-stomached out there.  I’ll try to limit my bodily fluids talk in the future.

We survived Hurricane Sandy pretty much without a hitch.  On Thursday, when they were describing the Perfect Storm headed our way, Gregg was ready to race off to TN (his mom offered us a place to stay) with me, two dogs, two cats, and a partridge in a pear tree.  “Really?” I was thinking.  “Is it going to be that bad?”  Well, the answer: yes and no.  I have lived on the coast before, but in San Francisco, everyone is much more worried about earthquakes than hurricanes. We weren’t sure quite how to handle this type of weather.  Leave?  Stay?  Board up the windows?  Gregg and I started to text and call friends that also live on the Shore. There was a wide variety of panic and non-panic.  One guy that’s lived on the Shore for a lifetime responded to Gregg’s text of  “Leaving or staying?” with a nonchalant “Staying.”

The wind was blowing so fast that I got out of a couple days of work.  I didn’t want to take my chances being blown off the bridge and into the bay.

We couldn’t have had a better storm experience to be honest: knitting, reading, cuddling with animals, and watching lots of tv and weather reporting.  We didn’t lose power.  No trees fell into the yard or onto our house.  And, it being a rental property, the stress of something happening to my house just wasn’t there.  So often, I love the lack of responsibility that comes with renting.

To show our hurricane inexperience/non expertise just a bit more…Last night after the storm had blown over Gregg says, “Maybe I should put down/put up (however you say it) the storm windows.”  Nice


We’ve got sheep.  Three of them.  We don’t actually have them yet, but they have been purchased and wrangled from their former homestead.  Currently, they are living with our friends’ sheep.  We’re hoping that our sheep will mate with our friends’ ram before the weather gets too cold.  Surely they can still mate in the cold, but, for some season, now’s the time for mating.


We also still have some chickens.  They aren’t living with us right now either, since they would get eaten.  There’s no protection in the openness of the farm.  So, for protection, Gregg might actually get a Great Pyrenees.  These dogs have been bred to (get this) protect sheep and chickens.  As much as I don’t want another dog, I don’t want Gregg’s sheep and chickens to be another wild animals’ prey.


We do have a small autumnal (like that word?) garden with some leafy greens growing in it.  Each year, I’m hoping we produce more and more food from our own (rented) land.  With a bigger garden next year, we’ll have more to eat in the summer and maybe even be able to can/freeze some goodies for the fall and winter.  I’ve been happy (and jealous) to see Instagram photos of friends doing the same thing with the produce from their own gardens.  We’ve learning that produce grows quicker than meat is produced.  Duh.  It’ll be nice to produce something on our land, since we won’t be eating lamb for at least a year from now.  Even the chickens won’t really be good egg-layers until next year.


Our friends with the sheep (okay, their names and Robert and Jen) got wind of a free Holstein (super good dairy cow) that a family in the area is looking to get rid of.  A cow, for free.  Gregg really wants fresh milk (so do I), but he doesn’t want the responsibility of milking it twice a day (I don’t either).  Lazy…but understandable for two suburban kids.  I’m not sure what the latest is on the cow, Gregg mentioned it to me early this week.  I’m not sure if we would keep it at our place or if our friends would keep it at theirs.  Don’t know.  My non-reliable google search tells that such cows will produce anywhere from 5 to 20(!) gallons per day.  We would need to share the wealth.


A friend asked me how Gregg’s farming was going.  Slow.  I guess that’s why they call the organic/local movement the Slow Food Movement.  Like I mentioned, we might have lamb to eat next Fall, if everything goes as planned, which it may not.  Farming is the slowest of learning processes, because sometimes you don’t know if you’ve made a mistake until months after the initial bad decision was made.  But we’re still learning.  Slowly.

I hope its all worth for us.  For Gregg to do what he loves (and actually love it, not just the idea of it).  I’m definitely guilty of liking the idea more than the reality.  For us to eat what we grow and raise.  For us to know exactly where our food is coming from and what went into growing it/raising it.  I think that will be worth it.

I want to write about this process and talk about it, but we don’t have a lot to really show for ourselves yet.  No meat.  No eggs.  A small amount of produce.  We’re getting there though.  Gregg’s getting there, I’m trying my hardest to be his cheerleader.  Its just the slowest cheer I’ve ever done.

Knoxville still feels like home to us.  After living in a handful of different cities and states, coming back to Knoxville feels like home.  Our families and friends are there.  Our church is there.  Friends that we’ve had for years, and other friends that, even if we haven’t known them for very long, they are forever friends.

Making friends in a new place is like starting from scratch.  There are no connections, no common ground, no friends in common.

Last week we took a road trip that ended in Knoxville.  Our friend and matchmaker, Joe, got married to a lovely girl that I’ve known since middle school.  I love that connectivity. We stopped in the Outer Banks for me to frolic on the beach, in Boone to hug Ruby (and Meg and Tim), and in the mountains for Gregg to frolic in the Smokies.  (Picturing Gregg frolicking is really funny to me.)

We went home to Knoxville, and came back home, to the Eastern Shore.  Not really sure where home is.  Maybe its good to have more than one?

A the end of our trip, we were unloading our car after our 10 hour road trip across Virginia when we noticed a cute letter neatly tied to our door.  It was from our neighbor inviting us over for drinks.  Also, this week I have my first book club gathering, and Gregg is meeting with a friend to talk sheep, cows, and milk-shares.  Several nice little gifts awaited us upon our return to the Shore.

The Happy Couple

I cried when he told me that he was going to boot camp, I really cried when he told me that he was going to be deployed, and I cried when he came home.  He’s home!

He’s always wanted to be a soldier, ever since he was a little boy.  I think every little boy goes through that obsession with guns and camo.  That makes it hard for us, the softer, feminine gender.  We don’t get it.

If the not getting it is hard.  The not knowing is even harder.  As in, what are you doing over there?  Are you safe?

He sacrificed, as they say.  Time away from family and friends and comforts.  But so did his wife (big time) and so did my mom and the rest of my family.  9 months, he was gone.   But, he’s back.  Woo Hoo!  And just in time for the Olympics.

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