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Archive for April, 2009

My mom arrived last week.  After her flight from Cleveland was cancelled due to mechanical failures, she was rerouted through Chicago instead of DC.  That meant her Frankfurt to Muenster flight was delayed.  Which meant we would meet her later in the day.  We didn’t know this due  to well, to put it incredibly politely (you can thank me later sis), a miscommunication.

Since arriving, she’s been the extra set of hands we needed to find a piece of sanity.  Bubba Joe has taken to her as has Little Girl.  Of course, Little Girl gets held lots, so she’s more than content.

I’ve missed my mama’s cooking.  And her innovativeness at using up leftovers in a way that was different from the first.  She insists these things are simple – I do believe her, honest I do – but I just don’t have that much energy to spare on thinking! (I’d rather spend that brain power on shaving – which in spite of living inGermany, I still do!  and as a matter of fact, am about to do after I finish this blog post.)

One of the MANY things she brought us was good bouillon.  As Bubba Joe  was sick on Saturday (and is still fighting a cold … we’re back on breathing treatments, but this time with the added bonus of a nasal spray, eye drops and allergy medicine – his ped thinks Bubba Joe is not only fighting a bacterial infection but perhaps also allergies) I made soup using this bouillon.  I love it.

But we hadn’t used it up. 

Until today.

Mom insisted that we could make a great soup from the leftovers (which BTW almost no one ate the first time around – turns out my mom doesn’t like soup and BJD wasn’t in the mood for soup at the time.  Side note: BJD is sick.  Just got back from his doc with antibiotics for a throat infection. Another plus for Germany – he has a written excuse and cannot work for the rest of this week.  And he took off most of next week to spend time with mom.)

So here’s what mom made:

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

She used up the soup from Saturday’s lunch, the grilled chicken breast from Saturday dinner, flour tortillas from yesterday’s dinner, added a bit of tumeric and topped it all off with some chopped scallions.

It was delish.

I love having her here.

Oh yeah – here’s the bouillon.  She says she’ll send some with my sis when she visits this summer.  (In case you were not aware, there is no ready-made broth available in Germany.  The only thing you can find are bouillon cubes – very salty and just, well, gross.)

Better Than Bouillon

Better Than Bouillon

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I am absolutely thrilled for my online friend at the healthy birth of their daughter.  She is a fellow preeclampsia survivor who sadly lost her firstborn to this horrible disease.  She supported me throughout my pregnancy with Little Girl and I am so proud of her for all she’s been through.

Prayers for you and Alison, my friend, that you both heal quickly and that she comes home soon!

Congratulations again!!!

On another note, my mom is currently en route for her visit.  This is a HUGE deal.  When my father was still alive, he absolutely wanted to go to Germany with us – in fact, we had planned that he would be flying with BJD and I the following year (before his stroke).  Sadly, he died.

Although it may not have been originally planned as such, my mom is seeing to fruition his dream.   

She booked this flight back at the end of December, when I was in the hospital being diagnosed with severe preeclampsia/possible HELLP.  She needed to be by my side.  It was a tough decision, but BJD and I decided to ask her to wait until we knew for certain what was happening.  She understood and cancelled her flight, patiently waiting (as patiently as a sicilian mama can) for us to tell her when a good time was. 

Now is a good time!  And in less than 7 hours she’ll be here, arriving in Muenster.  We’re hoping Bubba Joe will go with BJD to pick her up!  (What a nice surprise that’ll be!)

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It’s not how I planned.  But then again, what is?

Bubba Joe is officially weaned from breastfeeding.  He has been since LG was born.  (LG = little girl)  But again, it is not how I planned.

You see, I nursed him through my pregnancy.  Again, not exactly what I intended, to get pregnant and nurse.  But getting pregnant with Bubba Joe took some time.  I expected it to take more time with LG.  (But thanks to the baby vibes at my sis’s house – and maybe her hot tub to help us relax … you get the picture.)

So when I found out I was pregnant, I purchased the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing produced by the Le Leche League International.  It helped debunk some of the ideas out there about nursing while pregnant and gave ideas on what to do when baby comes, including nursing both children and even weaning.  I found the book very supportive and as always, went along with BJD and my approach of letting Bubba Joe guide us in when he hits certain milestones.

But then, my pregnancy was complicated.  I was hospitalized.  BJD brought in Bubba Joe every few days to nurse – at that point we were fearful of having a preemie.  The first hospital stay I was 27 weeks pregnant.  Not even in my 3rd trimester.  Because of the preemie fear, I wanted to ensure my milk supply.  Weaning was not an option.  No!  Instead, I wanted to make sure I had more than enough milk.

But then came the struggles – do I have Bubba Joe nurse more often? That meant his dad would have to bring him into the hospital more.  That meant Bubba Joe would be exposed to lots more germs.  Which could mean he would get sick.  Which of course, meant that if we had a preemie, we’d be struggling with a little one in the NICU and a sick one at home.

We didn’t have a preemie.

But when LG was born, BJ was sick.  Ugh.  Bronchitis.  Again. 

He had it for at least 1 week before I was hospitalized and it lasted an additional 3.  I was in the hospital for 1 week after LG’s birth.  That meant we were home with him sick for 2 full weeks. 

Coming home was a struggle.  His ped had told us he was highly contagious for the first 10 days of being sick  and if LG caught what he had, she would surely have breathing difficulties. 

BJD and I went back and forth and back and forth.  We did the math.  It was over 10 days from his initial signs.  We had “planned” on him bringing his sister home with us from the hospital.  But like most of our plans …

Bubba Joe hadn’t nursed for my entire last hospital stay – 10 days total.  Prior to that, he nursed mostly at nap time or bed time.  Some days, he wanted “milk” more often.  Other days he wasn’t interested.

And today, he’s weaned. 

He asks for “milk” more often recently.  But BJD and I both agree that he’s done with nursing and sine the weaning happened more or less, well, naturally, we didn’t want to risk creating a monster.  Bubba Joe understands that mama’s milk is for LG.  And he’s surprisingly okay with that.

I’m so proud of my little man.

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R.e.f.l.u.x.

I’ve known this for a few weeks now.  Even took little girl to the ER a few weeks ago because she was so miserable after eating and her ped was on vacation and it was a Saturday.

Followed up with the on-call doc that Monday (he was a true jerk of a ped in Luedinghausen).

And then with our ped this past Monday.

At which point our ped told me that I should try switching to formula thickened up.  And give up breastfeeding.

Thankfully, I questioned him.  Not there mind you.  But once we got home, BJD called the pharmacy to see if they had the special hypoallergenic formula our ped recommended, along with the thickener and a double-pump.

Then BJD called our midwife, then the kinderklinik in Datteln, then the Uni-Klinik in Muenster.  All three of them wholeheartedly disagreed with our ped about switching to formula. 

The Uni-Klinik got us in – today, Friday – to see what was going on with little girl. 

As I’ve known, she has r.e.f.l.u.x.

Bubba Joe had it.

W’e’re doing all we can – feeding her upright, keeping her bed elevated, burping often and on and on and on …

The doc today thinks little girl is overeating.  I reminded her that breastfeeding is not like bottle feeding in that it is not only for food but also for comfort.  When her throat burns from spitting (and it does, trust me, her screams have communicated that loud and clear!), the milk soothes.

I consider myself blessed.  She’s gaining. 

But unless she’s not gaining, they won’t do anything here in Germany.

No meds.  Nothing.

Unless, of course, she’s not gaining.  Then they’d do surgery.  But still, no meds.

Dear reader, please do not give me advice on how to feed my child.  I do consider myself an expert on how to live with a colicky/refluxy baby.  Bubba Joe’s first year was absolute hell.  It was bad enough that I seriously considered being done.  It wasn’t until he got into that really cute 2 year old stage that we seriously started TTC #2. 

However, if you’d like to come over and hold baby girl to give BJD and I a break, let me know!  The more hands the merrier! 

Seriously.

I can setup a calendar.  Ya’ll can fight it out.

She’s really a cute kid.  But she can’t sleep.  She’s uncomfortable.  She hurts.

And I cry.

And to me, as a mom, the worst part is because she’s hurting, it hurts all of us … baby girl, BJD, myself and this is what makes me feel horrible – Bubba Joe.  All he hears from me is no, or don’t do that.  I’m so ridiculously tired (physically and emotionally). 

He’s spent lots of time this week with Oma and Opa.  And he’s happy as a clam.  (He even spent the night.  Twice.  He’s never spent the night!)

He’s happy as a clam.  And I feel horrible.

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Eggs

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Reflections on Expat Life

I’ve been contemplating this for a while.  And while I will  try my best to not complain, let me start off by saying BJD and I made the decision over 2 years ago to pack up our Ohio life and move to Germany.

But little did I realize how difficult life would be here.  Or how good life would be for that matter.

Let’s start with the bad and end with the good.

The bad … Germans are notoriously horrible at making new friends.  They’re not even good at maintaining an acquanitance type relationship.  BJD showed me an article once that stated Germans are some of the best travelers – they truly embrace a culture when they visit.  That might be true when visiting other countries (my experience in the States would support that – we had qute a few Germans coming over as either students doing their internships, who had transferred for a few years internally or visiting for board meetings in my company.  But let me tell you, when you actually invade their personal space, that openness fades quickly.

I’ve been here in Duelmen for almost 2 years.  Prior to that, BJD and I visited here at least 2x a year (up until the year Bubba Joe was born).  I enjoyed every visit, and found the people here well, normal small town folks. 

But moving here … I have no friends.  Well, with exception to other american expats – and they all live some distance away.

I realize this on occasion – and this week was one of those occasions.  Perhaps it’s the absolute sleep deprivation, perhaps it’s having a child with stomach problems (little girl is having problems  … and her ped is out on vacation until next week), or perhaps it’s simply the weather here has been so spectacular I feel almost like I’m home.

A side note: I never realized how crappy German weather is.  Seriously, it’s terrible.  I come from NE Ohio, where we actually have all four season.  A rainy spring (although I hear they’ve gotten snow in April – he he he), a hot summer, warm, colorful falls and cold, snowy winters.

Let me describe to you the weather here in Duelmen: spring is cool and rainy, summer is slightly warmer (high of mid-70s tops – and that’s only in the sun) with rain, fall is cooler with rain and winter is cold and rain.  Do you see a pattern here?  Rain.  And not even nice rain.  It’s dreary.  It’s cold.  It’s depressing.  I’ve even seen rain with a blue sky here.  No kidding.

Now back to my original point – I’m lonely.  I’m depressed.  Not that postpartum depression I know from my first birth experience.  No, this is from life as an expat.  You see, just this week I was telling BJD that I needed a break … and he suggested I get away, go out or something. 

Where to, I asked.  Where can I go, when my language isn’t that great, I have no friends and well, the only place I can go is grocery shopping.  Well, I do enjoy  shopping of any kind, but please a girl can only enjoy grocery shopping as her highlight for so long.

I find it difficult to fit in.  And while my hospital stay truly was a crash course in the German language, it’s the culture that I’m now finding hard to embrace.

I could go on about the bad.  Perhaps I will in another post.

But now onto the good.

We pay a buttload in taxes.  But we also receive a lot in return.

For example, medical care.  While we still pay a montly premium for our government health insurance, we’re covered.  100%.  We pay only for prescriptions for BJD and I.  Our children, until the age of 18, are covered by our insurance.  Prescriptions, doctor’s visits, test, etc.  All covered 100% for Bubba Joe and his lil sis.  Considering what we spent for Bubba Joe in his first 14 months between doctor’s visits, prescriptions, ER visits, much less his NICU stay, that’s huge.

And me. I am a SAHM.  I stay at home to raise our children.  It’s not that I couldn’t work here – no, I’m quite certain I could.  I have my MBA and am fluent (enough) in German.  Besides, I worked for a german-based company and feel confident I could work IF I wanted.

But I don’t want to.  And why should I?  I receive a monthly stipend for having our little girl.  Yup.  For a full 12 months. 

Oh yeah – I also receive money for my retirement account from the government (I can’t really explain this one because it was a total surprise to BJD and I).

And then there’s the Kindergeld.  We receive money from the government for our children.  And a 75Euro extra amount until Bubba Joe turns 3 – that’s an extra 75Euro for having two children under the age of 3.

And life overall, is much much slower.  Customer service here is non-existent, but Germans seem okay with that.  Seriously.  Sundays are quiet days – no working allowed.  No lawn mowing, no noisy stuff … and then there are laws (yes, LAWS) mandating quiet hours during the day.

That’s all I can write right now.  The children are calling – rather climbing and demanding my attention.

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Lying here, late at night, I listen to you breathe.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

It’s a normal breath.

Without raspiness.

Without struggles.

You breathe so peacefully.

Sleep so soundly.

Sometimes I forget how hard it is for you to breathe.

That you struggle.

That you have retractions.

And then, there are nights, many many nights (thank you God for these countless nights) in which your breathe is natural, uninhibited.

I love listening to you breathe.

Just as I enjoy watching you breathe.

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