Moving to Germany

Look at that cheesy grin. I think he likes it here!IMG_7615This has been a long time coming, seeing as we’ve lived in Germany for two months already. Apologies! We were quite busy the first month traveling to Marburg for Fulbright orientation, Munich for Oktoberfest and Paris for a conference. The second month we got our routine down and completed some important bureaucratic business.

Can you see the nervous energy? We were giving it!

IMG_7258Our parents giving us a joyous sendoff.

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Since we flew from Minnesota, our trip here was a long 10 hours of airtime plus many hours of airport and transport time. I was dreading the flight because I had no idea how we were going to get James to sleep or keep him asleep. And if he isn’t sleeping I assumed he would most likely be screaming. They didn’t end up turning off the cabin lights until around 11pm. Before that time he was so distracted by all the people and activities happening around him he didn’t even fuss. He fell asleep in my arms around 11:30pm and I was able to lay him on me or in the seat next to me for the rest of the journey. We were seated around a handful of other babies and toddlers so if one of them woke up, they all did. Luckily it wasn’t nearly as hard as I was imagining (although I didn’t sleep).

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After 14+ hours of travel we arrived to the Halle/Leipzig Airport where we soon learned that our luggage was lost. Five bags, a travel crib, and a stroller – all our belongings for the entire year. I think we were both so tired we didn’t even really react. We just gave them our address and took a (fast!!) taxi on the autobahn to our new home. Luckily, our university housing had a crib — it just needed to be assembled. I will never be as impressed with my husband as when he put together that crib as fast as he did, after traveling all night without sleep, reading the instructions in German and with a crying baby waiting. He’s a keeper, that one.

We live in Eastern Germany, in a town called Halle, on the Saale River. Here’s the wikipedia entry if you are interested. We live in the Georg Forster Haus, international university housing, in a modern two bedroom apartment. We have a shared kitchen down the hall from our apartment but they were nice enough to assign us to one of the smaller ones and gave us all the food storage so no one else really uses it. We are very comfortable in our new home and make the best of the little challenges. Most of the other visiting researchers in our buliding are single and often not staying for longer than a couple months. There is one other family, from Brazil, with a four-year old girl who James likes quite a bit. He loves to sing her name, “Luna”, at random times throughout the day. I think he’s missing his friends back home.

IMG_7517Our bedroom window overlooking the University printing press. 

DSC01200 The side yard even has a little playground!

DSC01320There isn’t a tub so we just plug the drain in the shower every night and reuse glass jars for everything.

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DSC01325Our kitchen overlooking the library.

DSC01327The oven was also, weirdly, a challenge. There are so many options for baking! Thanks to google, I think we’re about 60% sure we know what were doing.

IMG_8796Our locked refrigerator doors.

DSC01328The “music” room/play room.

DSC01323They wash our towels and sheets for us and clean the kitchen. It feels very luxurious.

We are loving our new life. A normal day involves breakfast together as a family, then Mark goes off to work while James and I leave the house for usually some combination of errands and playground time. Then we return for lunch, usually with Mark, then James naps and I get some alone time. Lately its been close to dark when James wakes up so we usually walk to get food and play in our apartment until dinner. Mark has German class from 6-8pm two days a week so we eat late and James doesn’t go to sleep until after 9pm.

The elevator in our building is a favorite play place. I can’t decide if he thinks the James in the mirror is another kid or he just thinks its super fun to make faces at himself. Either way, its easy entertainment.

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German playgrounds are AMAZING. They all have themes, don’t have as many safety precautions (this is a good thing) and are usually way more creative than their American counterparts. I mean, look at this fairytale!

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DSC01421 2The biergartens with playgrounds are even better.

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DSC00160Sometimes they even have puppet shows.

IMG_8531Halle also has a handful of kindercafes which are just what they sound like — cafe’s with play areas for children that serve food and drinks. Solea is our favorite because it has multiple levels and the best toys.

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DSC01348And cafe’s with dedicated baby/parent time for community building and play.

IMG_8808Stay at home parents are rare so during the day the playgrounds are often empty and the cafes can be too. Usually if the parents are at home it’s because they had a baby and are on their [extremely long] maternity or paternity leave. I have met some very lovely English-speaking people here already (American, German, Canadian) and they have been so generous with their invitations and willingness to help with any questions I’ve had. Like, where do I buy fabric to make a Halloween costume, what detergent gets out toddler stains and how do I know which pediatrician to pick? You know, the basics :)

If we’re not playing, we’re most likely shopping, since our refrigerator is so small and we came with little. Things like English children’s books (cherished but hard to find outside Amazon), clothes for the continually growing boy and food are usually highest on the list. We walk or take the tram everywhere — which we LOVE. My dream. Grocery shopping, on the other hand, is a nightmare and makes me want to cry every time I go. The first time I did cry big actual tears. Its rough. I’m learning. There is so much missing and I’m continually wondering what the German’s eat. Where is the cheddar cheese, vanilla extract, leafy greens, gallons of milk, ricotta, ground turkey, chicken/vegetable stock? I could go on. They don’t give bags (unless you want to pay), they don’t bag for you and going through the line feels a little like a relay handoff. They pile your stuff on top of other peoples stuff. Using a credit card is like a step back in time. When they hand you the receipt to sign they point at the amount, say the amount, then point at the line to sign, then watch you sign and actually check (very carefully) for a matching signature. I have had to redo my signature twice because it wasn’t a close enough match. Everyone here seems to pay in cash, even for big things. Usually the cashiers don’t speak English and I am slowly learning German, so you can see how this would be a little rocky at times. Sometimes James is crying too, because if something is stressful our babies always know how to help — amiright?

As expected, some great, some not-so-great aspect of living abroad. Of course, the days are numbered and we are enjoying every aspect that we can while were here. The good highly outweighs the bad! Next I’ll show you the town and talk a little bit more about culture shock (oye).

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The Baby Registry

Note: More pictures of our new home and travel adventures coming soon. I’m trying out some new software to help organize all my photos and am running into some problems with storage space. Don’t worry mom, I’ll get the pictures up as soon as I can! 

FullSizeRender (1)photo by Kristy Powell Photography

My adorable sister is pregnant and due at Christmas with their first little one! I’m so excited and also so sad we won’t meet him until we return to the states next August. With his arrival always getting closer, she and I have been talking about all the things – especially all the actual things that made Mark and I’s lives easier with a new baby at home. Before we had a baby I always believed that you don’t need as much as people tell you. Which is true but — life with a little one is definitely a bit easier with certain products. I think the goal should always be to strive for a balance between the two.
I know I appreciated reading every baby registry of every person I trusted and read every review throughly before adding a product to the list. We wanted our home full of things that were high quality, practical and as neutral in style as possible and still fit within our lifestyle. We wanted these things we could use for all our children over the years and that were as eco-friendly and organic as possible. Since having our own baby, we have learned what works and have heard of some new things that we didn’t own but wished we did. This is the loves and the additions.

I leave this here for my sister, my newly pregnant friends and for anyone else looking for similar qualities in their baby gear. I hope this helps someone else who might be looking just like I was!

Books:
I sometimes wonder if I would have been better off never reading a single thing about how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep before James was born. Because….no. Nope. I won’t even mention those. Actually, on his first birthday he slept through the night for the first time after we loosely followed the tips for night weaning in this book. Don’t ask me anything. I know nothing.

But— I did find books that were empowering and full of beautiful birth stories a welcome and helpful way to start imagining and preparing for our birth. As a labor & delivery nurse I have a unique outlook on this aspect of things – so maybe I actually needed the stories more than most!

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – The ‘bible’. A must read, even if you aren’t planning a ‘natural’ birth. She has others so if you like this you will like the others too.

Birthing from Within – A ‘natural birth’ slant. Pick and choose what you read, as some points are a little distracting (eg weird) but overall another book to give you some mental tools in the throes of labor.

The Birth Partner – Specifically for your partner. Very helpful if you want your partner to be an active participant in the labor process.

Active Birth – I used it in pregnancy to move my body in new ways and ‘practice’ labor positions. In reality it might have just been a nice way to get some easy activity in and I liked it for its detailed information on body changes in pregnancy.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – My mom gave me this book. She read it when she had her babies! A must read.

Feeding:
This is what worked for me as a mom who breastfed for three months, breastfed and pumped for three months and exclusively pumped for another nine.IMG_5300My Breast Friend Breastfeeding Pillow – I had many personal recommendations for this and found it very useful, especially for the first few weeks.

OsoCozy Prefolds Unbleached Cloth Diapers – These came highly recommended as burp clothes by many parent friends. They are large and sop up a lot of liquid. Ugly but very functional.

Natursutten Pacifier – James never would take a pacifier but we tried(and we tried a lot of other too) and will try again with future littles. These were our pick due to their natural rubber material and simple design.

Cake Seamless Nursing Bras – I’ve heard great reviews of these but have not yet tried them myself. I had these nursing sleep bras from Target and I think they would have been fine if I had waited until I had a better handle on my size. Unfortunately, I bought them too small. Either get three sizes bigger or wait until your milk regulates before buying! For pumping I wish I would have sprung for the Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra. Most of my friends had this and couldn’t believe I never used one all that time I was pumping.

Meleda Pump in Style – You should know that a breast pump is free through your health insurance and you should try to order it as soon as they’ll let you because it can take a while. As an exclusive pumper I found this pump to work well and was easy to carry around. I know a lot of other moms have this and love it as well. I also had this plug adaptor for pumping in the car.

Up & Up Milk Storage Bags – These Target brand bags were sturdier and easier for us to pour out of than the Lansinoh brand.

The First Years Breastflow Milk Storage Organizer – The top can also be used as an organizer. We ended up buying two more.

OXO Tot On-the-Go Travel Drying Rack with Bottle Brush – This was the perfect thing to help with cleaning pump parts and bottles at work. We used it for cleaning his bottles while traveling too.

Munchkin Dishwasher Basket – For all the pump and bottle parts.

Comotomo Baby Bottle – Silicone is the best BPA-free & plastic-free option available (besides glass). These are easy to clean, easy to hold and won’t break if dropped.

Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchair – A beautiful wooden chair that adjusts with baby as he grows. A worthwhile investment.

Stokke Tripp Trapp Babyset– The attachment piece that forms the babyseat for the highchair.

Stokke Tray – We did not have this and I wish we would have sprung for it. There were many times that I wanted to bring the highchair into the kitchen so I could feed him and do something else at the same time but there wasn’t a place to put the food.

OXO Tot Silicone Roll Up Bib – We actually had the similar style Baby Bjorn Bib but I wish we would have had these instead. These have great reviews and fold up easily. The Baby Bjorn bibs were a harder material and we didn’t like the way they fit. We did purchase the BabyBjorn Eat & Play Smock a couple of weeks ago and it looks like it would be perfect for our messy eater of a toddler (if he’d wear it). Sigh.

Wean Green Glass Baby Food Containers – We had similar ones that were slightly smaller. I like this size and the glass material.

Diapering:
We cloth diapered, so this could look very different for us than for someone who isn’t going that route. This was a BIG area of research for me. In the end we knew our limits and spent a little more for the convenience of all-in-ones with a well-known brand. Cloth diapering is really not that bad once you get the hang of the wash routine. Really!

BumGenius Elemental All-in-One Cloth Diaper – We had friends who had used these with great success and we liked that these are organic cotton and were all-in-one, so no extra stuffing or folding needed. The absorbent layers of cotton are connected to the sides of the diaper on both ends but are not sewed down in the middle.

BumGenius Freetime All-in-One Cloth Diaper – We bought some of these to round out our supply. They are slightly cheaper and not organic. They have polyester fabric sewed onto each side separately which fold over one another when attached to the baby. We actually felt like these were slightly more absorbent than the Elementals but more of a hassle to clean poop off of once he started eating solids (before solids there is no need to rinse the diapers before laundering).

Bumkins Reusable Flannel Wipes – If you’re going to the hassle of using cloth diapers, you might as well use cloth wipes too. These came highly recommended. We used both California Baby Diaper Area WashLusa Organic Baby Wipe Juice. Both worked well and lasted a long time.

BumGenius Diaper Sprayer – Installed on the side of your toilet for rinsing cloth diapers.

Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail – As simple and clean-looking as a diaper pail can get and most importantly it kept the smell out! We rotated two of these Planet Wise Diaper Pail Liner’s and just threw them in when washing the diapers. They did the job well.

Herschel Supply Co. Little America Backpack – We actually have the mid-volume size of this same style. We love it as a diaper bag but its too small for Mark to wear comfortably. This one is the same bag but bigger. We use the Planet Wise Wet Bags for our dirty cloth diapers and clothes while on the go.IMG_8665

aden + anais Changing Pad Cover – Made of cotton muslin. Used with this changing pad. I’ve never tried it but apparently a lot of parents think the Keekaroo is pretty great too. You don’t have to use a cover, its antibacterial and wipes clean.

Burts Bees Baby Diaper Ointment – You cannot use diaper ointment with cloth diapers! Use coconut oil for the cloth. But — we used disposables at the beginning when he was too small for the cloth and this diaper cream was so fantastic for any rash and smells so good. Smelling it now brings me back to those early lovey-dovey days.

Sleep:

HALO Swivel Sleeper Bassinet – This was not yet out when we had James but I sure wish it was. There were other bassinets that were similar but were much bulkier and less flexible. I love that this swivels, adjusts in height and has a drop down side with pressure applied so you don’t have to move anything in the middle of the night. There is another Halo model that has a lot more gadgets but I don’t think its worth the extra cost.

Colgate Eco Classica Crib Mattress – Eco-friendly, safe for baby and dual sided for infant and toddler.

American Baby Company Organic Waterproof Mattress Pad – We had numerous times when this thing was completely soaked on top but the mattress was still dry. It did the job and we love that it wasn’t full of chemicals. The corresponding crib sheet is here.

Marsona Travel Sound Conditioner – We used a fan in James’ room to lower SIDS risk and as white noise when he was little but were gifted this sound machine this summer and use it everyday now that he’s older.

aden + anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets – EVERYONE who has these loves them and I wholeheartedly agree. They are perfect for swaddling a bitty newborn and so so soft. We used them to shade him from the sun, as a blanket, as a burp cloth…there are so many uses.

Halo Sleep Sac Cotton Swaddle – Swaddles are supposed to replicate the tight hug of the womb and prevent the baby from accidentally waking themselves awake with a jerking limb. Once they can roll you need to put them in a sleep sac with their arms out instead of in the swaddle. You can use the Halo as a sleep sac for a while but when they grow out of it they will need some sort of wearable blanket. We LOVE the Baby Deedee Sleep Nest and still use the bigger size now. They come in summer and winter weights. Apparently the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit is amazing for transitioning out of the swaddle. I wish we would have known about it!

Clothing:

We love Baby Gap and shopped there for most of James’ clothes because they are good quality, cute but not cutsie and they often have sales. These are just a few of our other early infant favorites.IMG_8077Polarn O Pyret Overall – These are great quality and have cuffs that can be folded down as baby grows. I think we used one of these for over three months just by unrolling the cuffs– which is amazingly long in baby-land.

Burts Bee’s Baby – Their entire clothing line is good quality and so soft. Also sold at Target!

Nature’s Nursery Convertible Baggie – This also lasted a long time because once their legs grow out you can just snap it together and add socks.

Minnetonka Genuine Bootie – These are made in Minnesota (!), so warm and so cute.

Baby Pilot Hat – These are cute and much more likely to actually stay on because of the ties. They are super popular here in Germany too!

Gap Favorite Footed One-Piece Pajamas – Pretty much everything at Baby Gap is great but these were our absolute favorites. So amazingly soft and simple. We bought new ones every time he grew out of them. We also loved their bodysuits, socks, and adorable winter gearIMG_5360

Gear/Travel:
BabyBjorn Travel Crib – We still bring this anytime we travel (which is A LOT). It is easy to set up, lightweight and easy to carry.

The Gro Company Travel Shade – We take this everywhere when we travel. A must for babies who wake with the sunrise! You can slip it inside the travel crib so you don’t even have to think about it taking up extra space in your bag.

Ergobaby 360 Carrier – This is a new upgrade to the already fabulous classic Ergobaby carrier. We still use our Ergo all the time but this one would be a great step up because you can front carry too.ergoLinen SakuraBloom Ring Sling – I wore James in this a lot the first three months. It was so helpful if I wanted to get things done during the day and during his fussy times in the evening. He took many naps in this beautiful linen sling!

Bath/Health/Safety:

Primo EuroBath – One side is for infants, the other is for bigger babies.

Puj Spout Cover – Prevented many head bonks.

Green Spouts Silicone Baby Toothbrush – Silicone!

Nose Frieda –  You will think this is disgusting and won’t understand why you need it until you have a sick baby that won’t sleep. Then you will NEED it! You’re welcome 😉

Nail Clippers – I tried the scissors that a lot of people recommended but found them difficult to use but these worked perfectly for me.

Organic Cotton Baby Towel – Large and super absorbent. We were also gifted this cute towel from Pottery Barn Kids. Its much smaller which is nice for the little bitty stage and has a cute hood which is nice because it’s on your even cuter kid.IMG_7854California Baby Calming Shampoo – Our favorite for the safe ingredients and the lovely smell. We are missing it here in Germany!

LED Nighlight – Subtle nightlight, perfect for midnight nursing and diaper changes.

Summer Infant Video Monitor w/ Wifi to Phone – I loved peeking in on the boys from work those hard nights I was away. This is not close to the most high-tech but did the job nicely. There could be something with better picture out there for the price but this worked just fine for us.

Crane Cool Mist Humidifier – We did not get this until later when James was sick with his first cold. I’m not sure it helped but everyone recommends it so here it is!

Braun Thermoscan Infant Ear Thermometer – As a nurse I told myself we didn’t need a fancy thermometer…until our kid was sick and then the last thing I wanted to do was take his rectal temperature for 3 minutes. My dad saved the day by quickly running out to buy this. It just takes a second to read and James doesn’t mind it in his ear.

Swings & Entertainment:

As you know, books are the best!! Get all and every because you will get sick of them so quickly. Trust me on this. Our favorites for the early days were the ugly but interesting (to baby) crinkle booksArt for Baby, the Baby Lit series and anything from the Bear series (along with all the classics, of course).books4Moms MamaRoo Bouncer – We have a couple of friends who have this and their babies absolutely love it. Basically a high-tech robot swing. Love the nice design and realistic swing settings.

BabyBjorn Bouncer – We had this simple bouncer/chair and used it a lot. He fell asleep many times in this thing in the early weeks. Once he got a little older, we attached the toy bar.

Plan Toys Activity Baby Gym – A little far away from baby when tiny — but you can adjust the hangers with the velcro and even add other things to hang down farther within reach. It actually slides well on hardwood floor and James loved to push it around in the early walking stages too. It is so much nicer looking than the plastic ones and you can add your own playthings. Love it!

Sophie Giraffe Teether – Every baby has one and every baby loves one.

Car & Stroller:

IMG_8268Diono Seat Protector – This was recommended to us to keep the car upholstery in good condition under the car seat. We recently sold our car and the leather was perfect when we moved the carseat. Not such an expensive thing for a large benefit!

KinderPro Car Mirror – We found a backseat mirror so helpful. When your baby is screaming and you’re in the middle of the highway unable to stop, its nice to be able to see what’s going on in the back.

Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Car Seat – We loved this infant car seat. Super light and easy to install.

Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat – Top rated for safety and comfort. We love ours.

Mr. Bene Car Shade

Phil & Teds Navigator Stroller – This thing has traveled the world with us and is still holding up quite nicely. We love the quick-stop release and the capability to add a second seat underneath. You can change the height of the handle which is nice for us tall people. The Maxi-Cosi Mico AP Infant Seat is compatible and clips right in with the attachment piece. If not P&T, this Cybex Priam looks super rad. You can replace the front tires with skis people!! People also love the Citi Mini GT and, of course, the BOB.

JJ Cole Car Seat Cover – Having your baby in the winter means you’re going to need one of these. This brand is the gold standard.

JJ Cole Polar BundleMe Bunting Bag – This is to keep baby nice and toasty in the stroller during winter. It has an expandable bottom for when baby –> toddler. We love ours and use it all the time!IMG_9033

Toddler Additions:

Brica Travel Booster – We use this daily now that we packed up our highchair for the year and bring it everywhere when we travel.

Thermos Straw Bottle – We love our bottle and use it all-day, everyday. Another must! Apparently research shows that sippy cups are not good for their teeth and straw cups are are better. This bottle is aluminum and has a silicone straw which we like.

Num-Num Dips – These are “spoons” that baby can use without having to hold it or scoop a certain way. So great to help with learning to self-feed.

 

I tried to think of everything since I know a comprehensive list is so helpful but I’m sure I missed something. Please let us know in the comments if you have a helpful suggestion!

 

*I tried to old find pictures so you can see them in action (that was important to me). Sorry for the poor quality!

**The only thing I know for certain as a parent is that nothing lasts forever and no two kids are alike. With that, know this is what worked for us but it may not work for you!