January 12, 2015

Germany: Six Months

The beginning of January marked our six month anniversary of being in Germany. Whoa! It's hard to believe that we have been here that long, but at that the same time it feels like we have been here forever. Or forever-ish.

I have a feeling I will say this often, but I am so happy to be here. We have done so many amazing things in such a short amount of time, and have learned so much just from being here. Our kids are growing up in such a wonderful environment, and I cannot wait for what's to come our time here. We have been so lucky to have seen as much as have! 

I will admit, though, it doesn't quite feel like home yet. We are still in shambles in spots of our home (old dresser for a TV stand, anyone? A few lingering boxes hanging out in the laundry room?) but as time goes on, we are making an effort to make this space more "ours." New bookshelves for books and photo frames. Family photos up on the wall. Plants that I haven't managed to kill just yet (don 't worry. Give it time.) All the little things that add up. But we are getting there, and will continue to make momentum, AND, just as we are leaving we will say "this place finally feels like home." Ha!

We haven't been without our fair share of small (and I mean teeny-tiny) hurdles to overcome. Services here are lacking just a tad. Daycare for Lucas? A nightmare. Even getting him into a preschool on the German economy has been difficult. We make do, though, and I am grateful for the amazing babysitter we have. Also? Stairwell living? NOT for the faint of heart. We have been lucky in that most of our neighbors are awesome, but there is always one, ya know, who makes life difficult.

I will admit, though, that even with it still very much feeling like a vacation at times, there are very few things I miss about being back in the states. Don't get me wrong, I definitely miss some things -- a garbage disposal, having our own house/yard, easy access to my BFF that doesn't require a nine hour time difference, football at normal hours of the day, drive through (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, STARBUCKS) -- but overall this experience has been wonderful. CHALLENGING. But wonderful. It's simply amazing to me all the opportunity that has been provided to us since we have been here. We have been to France twice. Spent five days in Paris. We have seen Prague, Salzburg (Austria) and Luxembourg. The husband has traveled to a couple of places on his own for work, and we get to have discussions about places like Israel and Spain in the near future. Not to mention that the Stuttgart area is simply gorgeous with so much to offer that we didn't have available back in North Carolina. The introvert in me has been slowly but surely making some new friends, and the kids are having this amazing opportunity to grow up in a culture that is so different than it would be back home in the states. Our views and beliefs mesh so well with the culture of Germany, and Europe in general, and we love having this amazing opportunity. And the food? Oh man. The food alone is worth being here! (And maybe the beer. And the wine.)

We miss our friends & family like crazy, and I would at times like to hear some music on the radio that *isn't* Top 40. Ahem. But, you know, sacrifices. I am looking forward to 2015 in so many ways. We live in an amazingly beautiful area of this country, and we cannot wait to explore more in the coming months! The cold, wet weather doesn't keep us from getting out too much, but I am definitely looking forward to Spring & Summer just a tad!


January 8, 2015

Happy New Year!

I know we are a good week into the new year, and I know I haven't exactly put much down in the last two month (eeek!) but ... new year, new goals, right? Big priority? More writing.

The reason for the radio silence is just plain exhaustion mixed with a busy schedule! Oh, and the holidays always throw a giant wrench into any sort of stability, am I right? Then, there is also the giant writers block that has been looming over my head. I have had plenty of ideas and topics that I have been wanting to get down, but they either seem to extensive to finish, or not appropriate for this space. This is something I am working on. But regardless, it's been a great two months. I have so many posts to catch up on, including our travel adventures (Prague! Austria! PARIS!) and I am looking forward to actually getting some words on paper. Or, you know -- this space here!

But -- Happy New Year! I cannot believe that 2015 is already upon us. 2014 was a long, difficult year for us, for many reasons, so I know for certain that we are looking forward to a new beginning and a fresh start. I stopped making tangible resolutions sometime ago, but as in years past, I do want to continue to work on being a better, more positive and uplifting person as this year carries on, and to be more compassionate overall to those around me & in my life. I've taken a step back from some of my social media interactions, for the simple fact that it's sad to see so much animosity and downright hatred towards perfect strangers on so many different forums. Our society hides behind the walls of our computer screens, and as a result, we are so quick to attack others for things we don't agree with, or simply don't like. Compassion seems to be a thing of the past, and a true skill that I don't see many people in this world possessing anymore.

How much energy does it take to spew all that hatred in the form of words, when it would be easier to just ignore, walk away, block or unfollow? All that negativity -- it brings me down, man. (For the record, this isn't about anybody in particular. Just a trend I have been seeing. I mean, have you read the comments section of ANY news article lately? Stay. Away. From the comments. Always!) This is my mantra for 2015. You cannot have a positive life, living with a negative frame of mind. So whose with me?? Change your attitude, and I promise you will see a change to your life.

Aside from this, I have big plans for this year. More time for myself. Less guilt for doing so. A mission to be more creative on a more regular basis. Taking my business to the top. Being a better wife, a better mother, a better friend to those who have been good to me. Surrounding myself with more good than I know what to do with. Travel, travel, travel! Overall -- making this year simply amazing. What are your goals? Your plans? Are you a resolution maker? Or do you just try to live a certain frame of mind?

November 2, 2014

Halloween

Our first Halloween in Germany is officially in the books! I can't tell you enough how much fun we had this year, our little family of four.

Because we live on post, and therefore live in stairwell apartments, ever set up tables outside there stairwell entrance and hands out candy. We met up with a few other families and did things pot-luck style, while we took turns taking the kids trick-or-treating. This was Lucas's first real Halloween, and we really had a blast!

I have to say, Lucas won't wear a costume. He has a few minor sensory issues that we are positive he will eventually outgrow, and the kid is the cleanest in the world when it comes to doing crafts because he doesn't like his hands to get dirty. A costume was completely out of the question but we so badly wanted to take him trick-or-treating, knowing he would understand things a little better, so, we sort of had to work with what we had and get a little creative this year!

I introduce to you, Albert Einstein!


I seriously am dead from the cuteness of his costume this year. DEAD! It was such a hit! I honestly didn't think it would work out as well as it did, but when we realized an actual costume was out of the question, we tried to come up with some other plans. And I mean, that hair!! What else were we going to do? It was a little brilliant, and everybody got a good chuckle out of it. Plus, he rocked it!

We spent about an hour and a half walking around the buildings near our house, and while Lucas was a little hesitant at first, he eventually got the hang of it, especially once he realized that when he said "trick or treat!" it resulted in candy in his bag! He loved hitting all the candy stations & tables, and we loved walking around with him. It was so sweet, and everybody was so nice. Our neighborhood in North Carolina was a DUD for Halloween, so it was truly fun to see so many kids running around in great costumes, to see other parents having fun, PLUS we got to eat some really great food with some pretty great company!

Don't worry, Max was there, too!


He didn't care about the costume, and was more than happy to just observe all the craziness & people watch. He hung out in his stroller, at some mac & cheese for dinner and generally enjoyed all the shenanigans. He was the cutest pumpkin ever!

We really did have such a wonderful evening, even post trick-or-treating, spending the evening with our upstairs neighbors. The kids had a blast, and we had a great time with friends. We have vowed that next year we will deck out our stairwell and man our own table, but it was nice to spend some time with friendly faces. A very successful Halloween as a family of four!

October 30, 2014

Life with RSV

When Max was two weeks old, he was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). Lucas had gotten a bad case of croup Max's first week, which resulted in a night in the emergency room for him. It wasn't long after that Max had a cold, despite our best efforts to keep the two away from each other. When things got worse, we took him to the pediatrician, and he tested positive for the virus.

He was immediately admitted to the hospital. A few days prior, my father-in-law had passed away, and M was in Portland taking care of his family business. My mom had flown in from Germany for a week to help me out with new baby and crazy toddler, and the timing could not have been any better. A very, very sweet & good friend took Lucas for us, and my mom & I tag-teamed a two day hospital visit. To this day, I am still forever grateful for those two, because I don't know what I would have done with M gone, and me being completely alone with both kids. It was bad timing, all of it, but my amazing mom & amazing friend made it all a little easier to manage.

We were very lucky in that our visit was only two days long. If you aren't familiar with RSV, it is an infection of the lungs, which causes breathing problems in both infants and adults. As an adult, when you catch it, it may seem like just the common cold. You might get a runny nose, sore throat, fever, and just generally feeling blah. But in an infant, small air ways that are constricted and blocked can cause serious problems. When a baby has to struggle to breath, eventually they may just ... stop. Because they get tired, they may or may not decide to START breathing again. During our hospital stay, Max was given respiratory treatments every 3-4 hours, around the clock, until we were discharged.



The next six months were rough, to put it mildly. Our treatment continued at home with a nebulizer and every week until he was two months old we were back in the pediatrician's office. Every single time we took him in because of reoccurring breathing issues, I dreaded the test results, and the news that the RSV was back again. Luckily for us that day never came again, and when we made it from two months to three months without a visit, we considered it a success, but in between, and ever since coming home from the hospital, it was long days and nights. Every time Max got sick, it was breathing treatments every four hours, around the clock, for two or three days. Then a pediatrician visit to test for RSV, followed by a couple more days of 24-hour treatments. Every time any of us had even a small cough, or runny nose, it turned into a full blown respiratory issue for Max. Lucas was in preschool, and is, you know, a toddler. Which meant germs. We did our best to keep them at bay (lots and LOTS of hand-sanitizer) by going to high levels of caution, but we weren't always successful.

I hated taking him anywhere. I stayed home and avoided unnecessary trips. Anywhere we went in public, I worried about what kind of germs were flying around. I wouldn't let my friends' older kids hold him, and short of making them take a shower and put on a hazmat suit, I let very few of our adult friends hold him, either. It was stressful, because it never took much. We would get him healthy and within a couple of days, he would be sick again. If we went a whole week without using the nebulizer, it was a damn miracle. Eventually we moved to two different steroid treatments, which helped prolong the "healthy" periods. They didn't make things perfect, or CURE him by any means, but they helped.


Did I mention that through all of this, I was exclusively pumping? I was exhausted. All the time. It was an incredibly trying time. We continued to struggle with the RSV backlash up until we were leaving for Germany. And let me tell you ... an eight hour overseas flight, with hundreds of people breathing the same nasty air? We all got sick immediately upon arrival into the country. Including Max. Because of the voltage difference, I blew out our nebulizer (this is where my husband would say "I told you so!") but luckily, even being only two or three days in-country, our new clinic was able to get us a 220v version. The treatments continued our first week here, and we weathered through another round of illness & breathing issues.

And then ... things got better. We were always told that because Max caught RSV at such a YOUNG age, one of two things would happen. He would either outgrow it, OR, this was something that he would have problems with into childhood, with a likely diagnosis of asthma down the road. Since being here, we have been very lucky, and just recently hit the three month mark of NO nebulizer use. He has been healthy, ALWAYS happy (even at the worst), and growing the way that he should. It's amazing and something we celebrate, the fact that he has gone so long without any real issues. But winter is coming, and I will admit that I am a little nervous.

We have had sick people in this house since moving here. M travels, and so therefore picks up random colds. I am currently battling a not-so-nice sinus infection. Every time a new cold pops up I wonder, what will happen? But so far we have been lucky, and Max has remained healthy. There is a huge part of me, though, that wants to hole up and not take him anywhere until April, for fear of a repeat. We visited our new pediatrician today for Max's nine-month checkup (tipping the scales at 25.8 lbs and 29.5'') and he was very, very happy with how clear and wonderful his lungs sounded! It was great to hear that things look and sound completely normal. But we were reminded (not that I needed it) that he is still capable of becoming very sick, very fast. He was impressed with the measures we have taken, the supplies we currently have, and the plan of attack if anything should go wrong, but it was an eye opener to the fact that even though things seem clear, it's still too early to give the 100%.

So, we tread cautiously. For now. We continue to celebrate the healthy days, and prepare for the not-so healthy ones. At some point, he is going to get sick again. That is inevitable because he's a baby, with an older, germy brother. We play with other kids. M brings home random colds. But hopefully, next time, it will just be normal. We are looking forward to normal.