Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lily's Birth Story - Part 2

Yesterday I started telling you about the day that lead up to a wonderful little girl coming into our lives. Today, I would like to write about day 1 of what would be the hardest two and a half days of my life...

Thursday, January 31, 2008:

After some mild back pain the night before, I slept peacefully until I woke up around 1:30 am with what felt like a contraction. Braxton-Hicks? It couldn't be the real deal!! It cannot, it MUST not! I still have about 2 weeks of school left until my 10-day break, and next Tuesday was the Mardi Gras party I had organized for our office as customer appreciation event, and I had promised my boss that I would be there! I went to the kitchen, drank a sip of water, went back to bed, and fell asleep. About 3:30 am I woke up from another contraction, but fell back to sleep.

When the alarm went off at 7:30 I got up. The contractions felt like moderate menstrual cramps by now, coming on and off at irregular intervals. I took a shower, dressed, and went to work. The tough girl in me (who wasn't always the smartest at that point I admit) insisted that things wouldn't change by being a baby and stay home. So I taught the student intern a valuable lesson on what to expect if he ever got his girlfriend pregnant by pacing around the conference table on and off. My boss was out in Kansas City, but the other girls in the office were taking bets if this was the real deal or just some Braxton-Hicks. When I went home for lunch, Richard tried to convince me to stay home and relax. At this point I was pretty sure the contractions wouldn't stop any more. The stubborn girl made an appearance insisting that under no circumstances would I birth a January baby, so baby would have to change his/her mind and wait a few more days or weeks (I use neutral references since at this point we didn't know whether we would have a boy or girl.

Stubborn girl also had me go back to work and finish the day. At home, Richard, who was home on pregnant wife watch while the rest of the band was on tour down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and back, had made a good dinner, but I couldn't eat much because of the pain. I tried to relax the rest of the evening, crammed in some school work and tried to go to bed but couldn't. So while Richard got some sleep not knowing when he would have to rush me to the hospital, I camped out on the couch trying to read a book but couldn't concentrate. I then tried to watch TV, which offered some distraction until the prime time shows were over and night time TV started.

And so stubborn girl won and I made it into February still pregnant...

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Challenge 2013: Book 1: The Secret of NIMH

Yes, people, I am totally serious! I know, it's a children's book, but I am determined to read books that are part of an American childhood (e.g. Richard's) before the kids are old enough to read them together with them. So, here are:

The hard facts:

Title: The Secret of NIMH (hardcover title: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH)
Autor: Robert C. O'Brien
249 pages
(C) 1971 by Robert C. O'Brien
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
ISBN 0-590-41708-8

Find it on Amazon

The story:

The mouse widow Mrs. Frisby needs her winter home moved since she cannot move to the summer home yet due to her youngest son's illness. A family friend, Mr. Ages, refers her to the wise owl for advice, who, in turn, sends her to the rats for help. First, the guard at the entrance of the rats' burrow is sending her away until once again her name opens the doors for her. There, she encounters many wondrous things and meets the rats Justin and Nicodemus, who tell her the story of their rat community, which also includes the story of her late husband, Jonathan. The rats were subject to experiments to a lab called "NIMH", which left them extremely intelligent and extended their life span considerably. But their new awareness also showed them that they don't want to live like rats any longer, stealing from everyone around them, but they wanted to live autonomously depending on the skills and knowledge they have acquire. At the end, Mrs. Frisby's home is moved in a perilous campaign and the rats leave for their new home in the valley.

My opinion:

Folks, I am in love! I really, really LOVED this book! It is written sensible and in a way both young and young-at-heart readers can enjoy it. As an adult, I figured out very early on what "NIMH" would be, but for younger kids, this may add another pinch of suspense. The book teaches the importance of self-reliance, curiosity, and independence. I can't wait to read it with the girls!!

Disclaimer: This review reflects my own opinion only. I found the book in the remains of Richard's library and was not compensated by, Scholastic, Inc., the author, or any other party. I would gladly review books sent to me. If you are interested in having me write a review for you, please refer to my Sponsorship/Disclosure-section for information.

Lily's Birth Story - Part 1

I have started writing this blog in early 2010. We were pregnant with a surprise baby, and after much contemplating where our family would head as a 4-some, we decided to move to Germany. The blog was some sort of outlet for my fears, my excitements, my hopes, and dreams for our future.

Back in April 2010 I shared Violet's birth story; a few months ago, however, I noticed, that I have never wrote about the days back in the end of January and early February of 2008 that have finally turned a couple into a family, the days of Lily's birth. A couple of days ago I realized, that Lily's 5th birthday would not only be on her actual birth day (Saturday), but also the Saturday of Superbowl weekend, just like it was back in 2008.

I would like to start the story remembering Wednesday, January 30, 2008. At this point, I was working a 40plus-hour job, was on the fast track to earning my bachelor's degree in only 15 months and happened to be 39w 3d pregnant. I had an appointment with a midwife at Irvin Army Community Hospital (IACH) at Ft. Riley. Since Richard was in the Army at that point and I was covered under TriCare Prime, I took the 25-minute trip to my appointment on post as usual during my lunch break. My pregnancy was considered "high risk" due to hypothyroidism that was discovered during the time I became pregnant (let me quote the doctor who confirmed both diagnoses: "How can you be pregnant with THESE thyroid levels???"), therefore I was usually seen by the head of the OB/GYN, but at that day I had gotten an appointment with a midwife. I agreed to be checked for progress and learned that I was only slightly effaced and not dilated at all. I accepted that since I was sure that I would go over the time by quite a bit; at about 36 weeks, my OB confirmed this feeling with a late-term ultrasound claiming that I would have either a very, very small baby (speak: 30th percentile AT BEST) or go at least 10 to 14 days past my EDD.

Despite the check results, the midwife sent me on my way with a "I give you two tonight; afterward, I don't guarantee for anything!"  I didn't believe in her words, having been convinced that the baby would not show up until the 10th at the earliest. Still, Richard and I went out for a date that night having dinner at Chili's, holding hands at the little two-some booth.

That night, as I did some more homework, I noticed some mild pulling pain in my back for the first time during this pregnancy; I never had Braxton-Hicks or any pain from my joints loosening at all, so I thought that it was about time something went on around here.

Little did I know what happened just hours later...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lily's Take on Science

Only a week away from her 5th birthday, our little girl once again amazed me today. Thinking back when I was small, I never can think of me being so inquisitive about things like reading, math, or science as Lily is, which I love so much about her!

After dinner, Lily walked up to me asking what Earth's neighbors were, since Earth was a planet. We talked about the neighboring planets, about the habitable zone, and all the other planets in the solar system. We looked up a couple of videos on planetary size comparison and the universe in general on Youtube (Lily confided that she wants to build a rocket to visit the nebula and other galaxies).

After shower, Lily came up and asked if the sun was a planet, too. In the short pause it took me to think of a good way to explain to her the difference between planets and stars (planning to talk about planets orbiting their stars), Lily suddenly said: Mama, I think the sun is not a planet. All the planets are cold, and the sun is the one who warms them.

I am speechless!

PS: The next question was, on which planet the zombies live. Yes, she's definitely our little girl!!!

Modern Cooking: Everyone's Favorite Cookie

I love this cookie recipe; I truly believe, that it would be everyone's favorite; it's easy, yields tons and tons of cookies, the ingredients are simple, and it's extremely versatile. I received this recipe years ago from a fellow ex-Army wife, whose husband was stationed with Richard at the Big Red One Band in Ft. Riley, Kansas. Just the other day I made a batch with the girls and yet again thought that this recipe must be shared!

Here it is:

Cream together
- 2c of unsalted butter (margarine for my vegan friends)
- 2c of white sugar
- 2c of brown sugar

- 4 eggs (or egg-substitute)
- 2t vanilla

Set aside.

Combine in a large bowl
- 4c flour
- 5c oatmeal
- 1t salt
- 2t baking soda
- 2t baking powder

Combine both wet and dry ingredients and add
- 24oz of your favorite ingredient
 *chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, chopped, dried fruit, butterscotch chips, mini-M&Ms, ...*  (you see, the options are endless!)

We use it a lot to get rid of all the chocolate Santas and bunnies after holidays  :-)

Drop by the spoonful on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper; bake at 375°F / 180°C for ca. 10 to 15 minutes.

Here are a few pictures of our last baking session:

Lily showing all the ingredients

Combining all the dry ingredients

Stirring in the favorite ingredients: crushed chocolate Santas (Violet) and raisins (Lily)

Enjoying a favorite cookie  :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Day Mami Became Vulnerable

Just the other day I read this absolutely beautiful post on the seemingly invincible parents by my blog twin Chantel at Life Unexpectedly. And yesterday, while cutting open the Christmas presents that have finally made their way through the German customs blockade, the knife I used (yes, I know, who does that?) slipped and caught my finger. The bleeding was quite strong, so I wrapped the finger up in a paper towel and looked for a band-aid. Such mended I continued open the boxes (with scissors this time) and started to sort them in piles, when suddenly, my blood pressure dropped, and so did I. When I got up again, blood was seeping through the band-aid. I can’t tell you how happy I was about the fact that the girls were sorting their Lego in Violet’s room and didn’t witness the scene in the living room… Once I was semi-stable back on my feet, I went back to the kitchen to change the band-aid. When I removed the bloody one, the wound in my finger gaped wide open. Almost shocked I put on another band-aid, which was soaked in a matter of seconds. At this point I called the girls and went downstairs to ask our neighbors for help. While the girls stayed there with H., A. took me to the hospital. At that point, I was stable enough to joke that I hoped that they would not just put on another band-aid and send me home again. Luckily, the ER was pretty quiet, so I was taken into the exam room  immediately. Not an hour later I walked out with the wound having been glued and taped with butterfly stitches, and my left middle finger put in a splint to prevent the wound to tear open again. By the time I returned home, the girls were in bed already. They did comment on the dressing the next day, and obviously, Lily told kids in kindergarten that I had to go to the hospital, but besides that, they didn’t really seem to have perceived any danger from the situation.
I can’t tell you how glad I am that everything worked out the way it did. That they played in Violet’s room while I passed out. That they considered their stay at our neighbors’ more a treat than an emergency. That they went to bed easy when their Daddy picked them up. And last but not least that they consider my enormous middle finger more as something funny than something scary. I do get lots and lots of healing kisses on the finger, to make the finger get better soon, but all in all, the evening will not be carved in their memories as the evening when Mami became vulnerable.

Monday, January 21, 2013

When The World Goes Silent...

Folks, we finally have snow again! Indeed, I am one of these people who, even as adults, are still excited about snow. Since mid-December we've been waiting for some more white, and last week, we finally woke up to the finest layer of crackling, sparkly frost covering the ground. I tell you, I was happy as a small child walking to my bus stop and everything glittering around me like star dust! Later that day, it started to snow.Whenever I was looking outside while I was at work, I saw those fluffy, white flakes fall.

Besides the obvious joys this powdery goodness provides to children, big and little, I love the silence that arises when the white blanket covers the landscape. Everything seems to stop for a moment, traffic seems to slow, and the world goes peaceful and quiet.

I do enjoy the awakening of spring, the buzz of summer, and the crispness of autumn, but nothing compares to the silence of winter!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Modern Cooking - Salmon in Salt Mantle

I have to admit, this recipe does not really fit the concept of modern cooking, which is versatile, quick meals that can easily adapt to different diets (at some point, we had to cater to three diets in our family: omnivores, pescetarian, and lactose-free). However, once I had this delicious dish at a company dinner, I knew I had to try it at home, since we all love fish. A couple of weeks ago I finally remembered to buy all the salt I needed and here's the goodness I had after packing a Bellingham salmon in salt and had it cook in the oven for an hour:

Here's the recipe:

1 whole salmon
about 3lbs (3kgs) of salt (yes, that much! I used 4 lbs/2kg and the crust turned out just a tad bit too thick, so less next time)
2 egg whites, beaten
1/2 cup of water
pepper and/or herbs to taste if desired

Cover a baking dish with aluminum foil. Mix salt, beaten egg whites, and water to a paste. Put down half of the salt mix on the aluminum foil. Wash the salmon under running water inside and outside. Do not under any circumstances remove the skin!! Season the meat with pepper or herbs if desired (we like the plain taste of the salmon, so we didn't season at all). Lay on the salt and cover the entire fish with the remaining salt mix. Bake for 45 - 60 minutes at 350°F / 180°C. Let the fish rest of about 10 minutes. Carefully crack the crust (it will be hard!!) and pull back. The skin will probably cling to the crust and should peel easily.

Enjoy with scalloped potatoes and a salad.

Some pictures of the procedure:

The salt mix (4 1-lb packs)

The salmon in its bed...

... and with its salty blanket

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

When Mommy Brain Hits...

The following conversation with my hubby occurred upon me finding yet another wall drawing by Miss Violet van Gogh:

I *slightly desperate (and annoyed)*: Oh dear goodness, did you see the drawing Violet left us on the wall AGAIN???

Hubby: Yes... I told you about it the day before yesterday...

I *surprised*: This did not just happen right now???

Hubby: No, I even TOLD you about it..

I *increasingly confused*: You did???

Hubby: Yes.. And YOU said it's no big deal...

I *REALLY confused*: Did I????

Hubby: You need more sleep!!!

Ps: I have to agree...


Linking back to Moms Who Write and Blog

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Mommy Post - MiBaby

Thanks to my Facebook sidebar (yes, I am one of those people who occasionally actually clicks on one of the ads there), I have come across a quite awesome upstarting new website for parents to learn about products, write reviews, and discuss about everything baby-/kids-/family-related. MiBaby was founded by two young men, who wanted to create not a shopping website but a place for personal advice and exchange of experience, according to their personal statements. In my opinion, the succeeded!

What I really like about this page is that the reviews are written by people who actually own and have used the product, not professionals paid by a company. The website is easy to navigate and clearly divided between a personal section, the review site and a forum for discussion. An added goody on this page is their team of experts consisting of a pediatrician, a midwife, and an early childhood development specialist, who answer questions and provide advise. The "magazine" page offers interesting links to external articles all around pregnancy and young family, including official test reports, pregnancy calendars and information on the "baby blues" and PPD.

Unfortunately, the page is only available in German as of now, but if you speak German, go ahead and visit the page at

Update: I have learned that MiBaby is set to be released in English in early 2014, potentially including translations by me  :-)

PS: I received no financial or other compensation for this post. All information I researched on the page of received from members of the MiBaby team.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Challenge 2013: 12 Books in 12 Months

I have decided that 2013 will be the year I will start to focus back on the important things. As soon as I was able to, I started reading almost everything I could lay my hands on. I remember my mom coming home from a parent-teacher meeting, where my teacher told her that she  had went to the principal to ask for advice on what to do with me since I was reading library books in class instead of listening. Since my grades were good, the principal told her just to let me go; that was in 3rd grade. And my love for books hasn’t stopped there. Through middle school I did library service during my breaks just to be able to spend as much time as possible there. In the last few years, I have read considerably less. Usually, by the time the kids went to bed, I rather sat in front of the TV instead of reading, even though I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I do reading a book. It’s just “easier” most of the time. And, to be honest, finding good books to read has become considerably more difficult. Well, for this year I decided that this has to change. I will now pledge to read at least one book a month. New ones, old favorites that I haven’t read in a while, books that I am looking forward to reading to our girls in a couple of years, books that I should have read in high school but didn’t (I was never a fan of the mandatory reading list), classics that I never got around to read. I have already started and I am looking forward to the challenge!
Do you know of any books that are worth reading? Let me know and it might show up on my 2013 reading list!
Do you have a personal challenge for this coming year?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Running In Circles

I really hate the situation I find myself right now, with my daughter hurting and me not being able to help her. Richard and I have the agreement not to lie to the girls (ok, maybe Santa and the Easter Bunny don't count) but to raise them to be aware of the world around them and reality.

Lily is just about to turn 5, and very much aware of the things going on around her. Tonight, while we cuddled after her good-night story, she turned to me with a very sad face, telling me she thinks that her grandmas don't love her because they don't care about her. Here I am, baffled... What am I to tell her? I tried my best to comfort her, telling her that her grandmas live a distance away and are very busy, but that they still love her.

I am not sure if she believed me; I even did not believe myself... The situation is, safe to say, difficult. We live a continent away from one set of grandparents and about one hour by car from the other, and both sets of grandparents have their priorities, which is the welfare of their other grandchildren. Even when we still lived in the U.S., the American grandparents never cared much for the girls, because they are girls, because they are mine, because they are half-foreigners, I don't know. I could never wrap my head around how someone could reject such a perfectly sweet little girl as Lily is. She never got the presents, she never got the attention, she never got the love as her cousins did. We moved to Germany and hoped to receive more support from my parents, but nothing has changed. Lily and Violet are still second fiddle, if that. It hurts me so much I want to scream. These little girls are my everything, and it is my duty to protect them. but how to protect them if it is not within my power to change anything? I always try to help them focus on all the people who love them so very much, even though we are not blood-related to them. But still, Lily starts to feel the resentment from the people she's related to, and before much longer, Violet will notice it, too.

What to do? I cannot just cut ties, even though it hurts me so much to see how my family is treated. Can you believe that a mother tells her son, who's calling for New Year "well, I cannot talk to you, we're about to head out and buy a birthday cake for our grandson"? At the same time they send him a birthday card that more than bluntly hinted that he should call his parents more often? 

I've been running in circles over this issues for years, and I am honestly quite tired of it, but still no solution in sight...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Happy New Year everyone! I have been off the blogosphere for a couple of weeks due to visitors from the U.S. and the general sickness in our family afterward. I am still not 100% recovered but getting there in due time I'm sure.

Today, we have started in a new year together with good friends, food, and conversation. The firework was awesome and the girls couldn't have been better behaved, we really had a great evening; this morning we started with a family breakfast after what is considered sleeping in for the girls, followed by Toy Story 2 and playing Mr. Potato Head afterward. I feel very lucky and grateful having such a wonderful and supportive family.

On the other hand, we are starting this new year with the realization, that things will not be the way we expected when we decided to move to Germany 3 years ago. Don't understand me wrong, we are very happy with the life we have built for ourselves. I am thankful for the job I have, the benefits we receive, our home, the new friendships we built, etc. But one of the big things I was looking forward to was, that the girls would grow up with an extended family as I did: caring grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This was the ideal for me, and I was excited that the girls would be able to share this experience. Well, today I stand once again corrected. I had to learn again that blood family cannot be relied upon. There were two decisive events in the past three weeks that proofed that more than anything. I have made excuses and tried to understand for too long, but that will stop now. I am finally at the point where I know that the fight for acceptance and acknowledgment is futile and that I will no longer waste any energy towards it. We four only need each other, and the family we have built over time. And even though it is sad that the girls are obviously loved more by their "adopted" grandparents than their blood ones, we are thankful that we have all those wonderful people in our lives who love those girls as if they were their own blood. And it is comforting for us to know that no physical distance will ever change the lasting bond we have formed. We love you all and consider ourselves happy to have you in our lives!

Our plans for 2013: Build a house and move; find a way to visit with our family in WA and NM; spend more quality time with the girls; spend more time outside; be happy.