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.


October 16, 2014

Germany: Three Months

This morning I woke up, looked at the date and realized that our family had been here for three months already. How did that happen? It's hard to believe that we have hit that mark already, and it feels like we have been here for a much shorter time, but also forever.

It's been a whirlwind couple of months as we have spent most of our time trying to get settled. We left a lot of furniture behind when we moved, pieces that were old or hand me downs from military friends of past who have left, so we are slowly but surely building back up our belongings. It makes things left to do -- a few lingering boxes, photos that still need to be hung, books waiting to be put on non-existent shelves, piles of paperwork clutter because there isn't yet a desk to do the sorting -- feel like this isn't quite "home" yet. Slowly but surely we are getting there, and I look forward to the day when I feel like things are "complete" around here. IKEA has become our friend, and most of our new furniture has come from there, and I have a feeling more will be on the way! Seriously -- Ikea is great, although it was a TAD overwhelming the first time we went through. But now? I feel like an old pro. Ha!



Then there has been the whole adjustment to being in a new country. Obviously. I think we are doing well, for the most part. My husband is fearless, which often means that he has no worries when trying new things, visiting new places or trying to talk to somebody. I get very anxious about being somewhere new on my own, for the first time. It's almost crippling, but I'm working on that. I swear.

We definitely have not had a shortage of activities, and while I have not been as prompt in putting them on the blog, we are constantly doing things. It's a nice change from living in North Carolina, where while there were some amazing places to visit in the area, everything was HOURS away. Stuttgart is so full of life, and there is never a shortage of things to do or places to see. And while we have made visits to Luxembourg, France and the Czech Republic so far in the past three months, we have some great trips to Austria, France (again. Paris, people!), Belgium and Amsterdam planned all before the end of the year. It's such a surreal feeling, knowing that this is our life. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that we are beyond grateful for, and we continue to plan to make the most of it while we are here. I have a feeling our travels will slow down a bit in the new year, and we will focus on some bigger, longer trips but it's SO hard to not take advantage of all of this as much as we possibly can. M's job takes him TDY a lot (read: never here) so I am working on some easy day trips with the kids.There is never a shortage of castles, villages, and with the holidays coming up, Christmas Markets, within a very short drive. Christmas markets galore!



I think one of the hardest adjustments for us, though, has been our living situation. Having owned our own home for almost eight years back in North Carolina, stairwell living has been an adjustment. It has provided us some interesting interactions with our very close-to-us neighbors that are less than ideal, but it has also provided some great budding relationships with that we have met as a couple or I have met on my own (hi friends!) so we focus on the positive and power through. But not without a bit of eye rolling in the process.

However, if that's the biggest struggle we have, then it's all worth it. This place continues to surprise us and amaze us with all that it has to offer. I wake up daily thinking, I'm in Germany. How did this happen? It's hard, and has so many challenges, but the more we get settled, the more we overcome those. Of course, the biggest thing has been having my mom so close, especially with M being gone as often as he is. The extra set of hands has been more than I could have ever asked for, and the time she gets to spend with the kids is beyond priceless.

I can't wait for the holidays! Christmas in Germany -- I have heard it's quite beautiful. :)

October 14, 2014

Max: Nine Months

Nine months is, hands down, my most favorite age with my babies, and Max is no exception to this. I can hardly believe that we are here already, that in three very short months I will have a one year old. It is so unbelievably crazy to think that nine months have already passed since that crazy whirlwind of a night. But here we are.

I love this age for so many reasons. Max is completely coming into his own, and his personality is shining through in a very big way. Much like Lucas at this age, he is incredibly laid back and so, so happy. He loves life, loves his parents, loves his brother (even if that love isn't returned from Lucas!), love his Grandma and almost always has a smile on his face. It is such a joy watching his bloom and figure out life!



Max started crawling around six and a half months and has been non-stop ever since. He is QUICK, and smart. Often as soon as I turn my back, he is off and gone before I even realize where he went -- although usually it's straight to his brothers room. He puts everything in his mouth, and no matter how hard I try to keep the floors clean, he manages to find something. He makes this hilarious grunting sound when he is happy and laughing, and is finally starting to string some noises together, almost sounding like "dada" and "mama." He has two teeth on the bottom still, and one side tooth that popped through, with three others slooowwwllly making their way down.

All in all, he is truly a joy. We struggle with sleep, still, and we have readjusted our schedules more times than I can count to find something that works. Things have gotten better, but we are still pretty unsuccessful on that front. Another post for another day.

He LOVES food. As you can tell by the miles of rolls on his little body. We didn't last very long on puree's, and have gone the way of baby-led weaning (something we also did with Lucas). There has been zero rush with food, and we didn't start with solids until well after six months when he started showing more of an interest. We are still doing mostly one meal a day (dinner) and sometimes two (breakfast) with some snacks in between. This month we will focus on a more steady schedule of two meals a day, and next month start introducing a third. Appointments are hard to get around here, so we haven't had his nine month check up, but I have no doubt that he is growing steadily and continues to be a healthy baby boy.


I love the way he snuggles and nuzzles into my arm when he is sleepy, and the way he props his foot up on my shoulder when eating (Lucas did the same thing. Weird boys). His laugh is completely infectious and you absolutely cannot help but smile and laugh with him when he gets going. He still completely adores his older brother and already so badly wants to follow in his footsteps. I hope that one day they are the best of friends, event though all Lucas wants to do right now is beat up on the poor little guy (although he won't be smaller for long. Max will definitely be the bigger of the two boys). He is incredibly ticklish, loves to shake his little booty when we are listening to music and has so much courage to try new things, with zero fear following along.

There is some sadness knowing that these are the last three months of having an infant in our home, but Max is such a wonderful, joyous baby. He makes our days brighter and I cannot wait to see the changes that come between now and January.