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.


September 29, 2014

Sleepless Nights, Part 2

Last week or so, I wrote about the sleep issues that we were having with our toddler, Lucas. I briefly mentioned that we were also having issues with Max, and while we are making headway with him, too, I'm saving his explanation for another blog post. I am happy to report that things with Lucas are getting better, although slowly. BUT ... better.

My husband was out of town for about three weeks, and I was left alone with two children that basically hated sleep. Which was truly unfortunate because I LOVE SLEEP. Like, a lot. I selfishly miss the days of being able to go to bed whenever I want, wake up whenever I want, nap whenever I want ... etc. You get the idea. But, you know, parenting.

As I mentioned, Lucas has been improving, with some pretty major leaps & bounds. We no longer stay with him in his bed, or even in his room, until he falls asleep, something we had done for weeks on end. We are also back to a scheduled 8pm bedtime. He generally doesn't like it when we leave the room, but we have compromised with leaving the door open for him and our bedroom light on (which seeps into his room just enough). He will fuss for a minute, and may call out after a little while, but we don't even go to him, tell him he's fine, and tell him to just close his eyes. More often than not, I have used the "you don't have to go to sleep, but you need to lay here" line, which fools him just enough to think that he doesn't actually have to go to bed.

I battled the two hour scream fest for the first couple of weeks my husband was gone (something that had been going on for a month up until that point), until I remember that I had bought some Zarbee's night time cough syrup when we first got here, because Lucas was so sick, and was not sleeping well due to waking himself up at night. It had the smallest amount of melatonin in it, and we reluctantly gave it to him. Neither my husband or I are fans of melatonin, for the simple fact that it's a hormone, and there hasn't been a lot of research on it in children. People also mistake it for a sleep aid, which it is not. It simply helps to reset your clock, and helps your body say "oh hey, it's pitch black, I should sleep now." I have no issue with other people using it, and if you do, I promise I'm not getting all judgy on you. To each their own, ESPECIALLY when it comes to your kids! But in the past it wasn't for us.

Until I was averaging about three hours of sleep a night while solo parenting.

If you're not familiar with Zarbee's, it's awesome. It's a totally natural, honey-based cough syrup. There are no drugs in it, just all natural ingredients, so overdosing is impossible. So I broke down, out of pure desperation, and gave it to him. And for the first time in MONTHS, my kid was out cold by 8pm. And he slept the entire night.

It was a damn miracle.

I did this for a week, to help get him back on a normal, routine bedtime. It also helped keep him calm leading up to 8pm, so we were able to do our normal routine. Bath. Books. Snuggles. Lights out. I stopped using it about a week ago, and he is back to his normal schedule, all on his own. The hyperactivity is still there, although when he gets good sleep at night, it's not nearly as bad the next day. The amount of energy that this kid has is seriously high, so keeping him active has also been equally important, although doesn't always work. We have zero TV after the morning, unless it's raining out and we may watch a movie. But by dinner time it's off for good, we play and start the calming down process because it seriously takes THAT LONG to get him to a point where he's ready for bed. We use a sound machine (always have) and have dark curtains. I think, more than anything, he is becoming more comfortable with his bed and his surroundings, to realize that it really is his space.

We still deal with wake ups in the middle of the night. It's a 50/50 situation as to whether or not he will sleep all night, but with M home now, he has been tackling the toddler wakeups. Which, for me is a huge, huge help. It gives me a chance to focus on Max (my next blog post) and getting HIM on a normal sleep schedule that doesn't involve me waking up three or four times a night.

The past few nights have been good. I am not nearly as exhausted as I was last week (or previous weeks) and overall his attitude and behavior has been SO MUCH better than I mentioned in my previous post, confirming for us at least, that everything was sleep related. Hewe  still naps during the day, although I do try to get him down as early as possible (closer to 12:30 or 1pm) to maximize the afternoon and give us plenty of time to be active. Some days napping doesn't happen, but on those days I make him play in his room by himself, and we make sure we are not at all sedentary, because come 4pm, if he sits down, he will pass out. As long as his behavior is good, we keep going and he gets a much earlier bedtime to make up for it.

All in all, huge, massive improvements. Which makes mommy very, very happy.

September 19, 2014

Hohenzollern Castle

Photo credit: Wikipedia
I'm a bit behind on writing about our adventures, and I apologize for that! We have still been doing so much, but with moving in to our permanent place, getting settled and the craziness that is my children's sleep schedules, there hasn't been much time for writing!

But I didn't want to miss out on this one.

This is Hohenzollern Castle (Burg Hohenzollern). We visited this castle a couple of months ago when we were still living in the hotel. About an hour south from us, it was an easy drive, one that I am looking forward to doing again. The Hohenzollern castle was the home of the future Emperors of Germany of the same name, as well as the future King of Prussia (who built the third castle, seen above).

This was our first castle visit here in Germany, and I'm not going to lie, it was pretty majestic. The castle can be seen well before you reach it, as it sits atop a pretty high hill. The views from the top are amazing, and every direction you look there is another spectacular view. Very little of the inside of the castle can be seen on the tour (we were only able to see a handful of rooms) but the outside grounds themselves are worth the visit.


Germany has more castles than we can count, but they are a common interest for both me & M. There is something so surreal about seeing how people like this lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Our history in the United States is so small, but being able to visit landmarks like this is pretty amazing.

If you are ever in the Stuttgart area, the Hohenzollern castle is definitely a must see. The hike to the top is long & steep, but if you don't feel like make the walk (we didn't) or have small kids (like us) then the shuttle is worth the few Euro. There is a restaurant at the top, within the castle, as well as a beer garden in the courtyard (of course). There are plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the scenery as well.

We can't wait to go back!


September 18, 2014

Sleepless Nights

Two.

Do I need to say more? Because it's kicking my ass. Hard. In a way that I was neither prepared for or really able to navigate through. My sweet, loveable blue-eyed baby boy has turned into some sort of possessed monster. And good lord, I'm not sure how to deal with this.

The main culprit has been sleep in our household. Because of our move, Max never really got on a good schedule, and right when sleep associations were setting in, we were all over the place. This has caused some issues that we are working on dealing with (another post in the works for this one) and hopefully, within the next month, we can be on a good path.

Lucas, on the other hand, has been a mystery. Prior to moving to Germany, Lucas was, while not a PERFECT sleeper, had gotten into a good routine. Bedtime was breeze; every night at 8pm he went down without a fuss or a peep. Even after transitioning to his toddler bed, we rarely had issue with him getting out of bed prior to falling asleep, and never had issue with him getting up in the middle of the night. He would often sleep until around 7, and in my book, eleven hours of sleep was a success (he was/is also still napping 2-3 hours during the afternoon).

Cue the move. Late nights in a hotel room. Falling asleep whenever he could because of lack of routine (despite best efforts to get him on one) and a HUGE, massive change in time difference. We started off well -- having two rooms in a hotel made a big difference, because we could put him in "his" room while we were still able to stay up. But three hotels and a new home in less than two months has to be confusing for the kid, and as soon we got to our permanent living arrangements, all hell sort of broke loose. Epic battles at bed time. Massive tears. A sudden separation anxiety that still means we are sitting next to his bed at bedtime, because it's the only way he will fall asleep (an improvement from us being in bed WITH him).


Around the same time as the sleep issues surfaced, we started seeing some behavioral issues. The behavioral problems mostly stemmed from an extreme case of hyperactivity, followed by all that comes with it -- an inability to focus on one task for very long, not listening, more energy late at night than is normal for anybody. The initial thought was that maybe he had an early case of ADHD. He fit the bill, mostly, and while I know that toddlers are a handful, the things that he was doing were (and still are) above and beyond the norm for "the terrible twos." I made an appointment for his pediatrician to talk about it, but unfortunately we can't get in for a couple of weeks.

But then I did some research, and I found this article. I also talked with a friend on twitter who is dealing with some behavioral issues of her own with her son. And then it all made sense. OF COURSE his sleep issues would cause behavioral issues. That makes sense, doesn't it? When you don't get consistent GOOD sleep, you start to act a little crazy, don't you? I would imagine (and have witnessed) that it would be multiplied in a toddler.

To give you an idea of what we have been dealing with, Lucas will fight sleep until about 10 or 11 pm at night. Going to sleep on his own is no longer a thing, and he is up just about every single night in the middle of the  night. We resorted to the use of small amounts of melatonin last week, and even then, it might be a couple of hours before he finally falls asleep (and it doesn't keep him from getting up in the middle of the night). He's regularly up around 5am -- sometimes early -- and two nights ago was up at ONE AM and had no intention of going back to sleep. When he does sleep, he tosses and turns, so even when he is asleep, it's not QUALITY sleep. Some nights he only sleeps seven or eight hours, which for you & I is a good nights sleep, but for a two year old, not so much.

So our next step is -- I don't know. The pediatrician, definitely, and I'm hoping that we can get him in before October, because let me tell you -- a toddler that doesn't sleep paired with a baby that doesn't sleep, paired with a husband who is gone makes for some very, very, LONG nights in my house these days. I'm hoping that there is a simple fix to all of this, that doesn't require medicating my toddler for very long. We never wanted an ADHD diagnosis, and while I wait for the doctor appointment, i'm researching other options and ways to deal. Wearing this kid out doesn't work. I could run him ragged all day long (and I often do) and it doesn't make him sleep any better.

Any of you deal with anything like this? What were your results? Ways you coped or handled the situation? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

August 27, 2014

Transitioning

Internet, we have a home.

An actual place to call ours for the foreseeable future & our time here in Germany.

We moved in about three weeks ago, and it's been a whirlwind ever since. We received our unaccompanied baggage (a small shipment of stuff that was the first to arrive) the day we accepted the unit, complete with items that were supposed to be in our household goods shipment and missing crib parts (nooooooo!) My car finally arrived after being missing for quite some time, but only after phone calls, complaints, and a lot of fuss, and not without it's fair share of damage. Our household goods arrived last Thursday and MOSTLY went well, until the very end when we realized my husbands two game consoles (including his brand new XBox), a bunch of blu-ray DVD's and pretty much every electronic cable we owned were the only things missing. Since our crates were sealed at our house when everything was packed up, and those were the only two boxes missing, it was easy to put two and two together and we realized the packers had essentially boxed it up and walked it to their vehicles. Asshats. But we have waded our way through; after a lot of searching and navigating German hardware stores we found parts that work for the crib well enough. The damage to my car is hardly noticeable, and probably not noticeable to those who don't see it every day, but we will file a claim & get it fixed regardless. And the HHG, well, it could have been a lot worse. We are grateful for that.

Our living situation was not our ideal situation that we were hoping for, but in true Williams' family tradition, we are making the best of it with no complaints. Living off-post was not an option for us, due to availability within a certain time frame after we arrived, but we were able to wait a bit and get a place that we really liked. We have a nice, newly renovated and spacious three bedroom stairwell apartment, with a good combination of American and German amenities. We live about 30 minutes away from the main post where my husband works, but it's quiet and residential only, which means we don't have the hustle and bustle of Army life. Did I mention the views of gorgeous vineyards out our back windows? It's quiet, and so far drama free, which I'm happy with, and we have had a warm welcome from some of our neighbors. We have gone into sort of a redecorating mode, and have bought a ton of new furniture, but are still in need of some things. Once I get everything in place, I will be happy to share photos for those that are interested.

We are all, for the most part, adjusting. Max could care less, as long as someone is paying attention to him, and he seems to be sleeping better now that he is in a crib. Can we get an AMEN for that one? It's still brutal at times, and he's still not a good sleeper, but every night seems to be a little better than the one before. I look forward to the day when he sleeps longer than five hours at a time. Part of the problem is that there was never an opportunity to start getting him on a schedule. Just when he hit the age where a routine would set it, we packed up and moved. Now that we are where we will be staying for the next couple of years, I have been diligent about working towards a normal routine with him. Some days it's a wash, others he does really well. Bedtime is now consistently at 8pm and we work on getting 2-3 solid naps a day. He didn't fall into a schedule as easy as Lucas did, but come hell or high water, we will get him there. My copy of "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" is eagerly awaiting a chance for me to have more than five minutes of reading time.

Lucas -- poor sweet Lucas. He has had a much harder time than anybody. His routine was rocked to hell and back when we moved, and for a child that was a ROUTINE baby from day one, this has been exceptionally hard for him. For six weeks, while we were living in three different hotels, it was "keep him up until he passes out because getting him to go to sleep at 8pm while we are all still here in the room" was really our only option. On top of that, he was sleeping with either me, my husband, or my mom when she was here visiting, something he got used to very quickly. Then we moved again, into our permanent place, but still without any of our things. Bedtime and nap time has been a challenge, with some nights resulting in over two hours of screaming and crying while we try to get him down, and almost always ending with him coming into our room in the wee hours of the  night. He does not want to be alone. At all. Ever. Not even for five minutes, which is hard to watch from my notoriously "happy to play alone" child. But the kicker is that even when we are around other kids, he wants nothing to do with them, when normally he would be all over the chance to be with other little people. It's rough, and I know it's just a phase; slowly but surely we are making progress (I was able to get him to sleep last night by sitting in the hallway with the door open so he could see me as opposed to actually being IN bed with him, and when he woke up at 3am I got him back to sleep in his own bed vs ours) but I know we still have a long road ahead of us. Two is hard enough without everything he has been through in a short amount of time.

Other than that, it feels like we have been here forever now. I am struggling to meet people, which is completely my own fault (damn you, social anxiety) and having two kids who nap on completely different schedules aids in this, which means we are in the house for a good part of the day. But -- we will get there, and the loneliness will eventually give way to hopefully some great friendships.

So there we have it. A not so quick update as to how things are going. Labor day is this weekend, and we are still trying to decide where we want to go and what we want to do, but you know it will be fabulous and I can't wait to share!

Cheers!

August 4, 2014

Strasbourg, France

First off, I am so behind in blogging. I have about three posts from other places we have visited, but I just haven't had a chance to write about them yet. We are getting out and seeing so much, and I am so excited to to share it all with you. I have created a separate page where I will be listing links to all of our travels. If you are curious, you can see it on the left. Obviously, it's a little bare right now, but I cannot wait to fill it up!

Secondly, I HAVE PHOTOSHOP again! I broke down and got the newest version for this new laptop. So hopefully I can present you all with some much better (aka prettier) photos of our journeys.

Ok. Strasbourg. As in, FRANCE YOU GUYS. France! My mom came down for the weekend, and we all desperately needed to get out of the hotel. We are only an hour and a half from the Germany/France border, and Strasbourg is not much farther, so we got up early and headed out. It turned out to be a gorgeous day, with so many surprises. It's a nice combination of French & German influence. There is a gorgeous little river that runs around the town center, which led us to some beautiful scenery and a great little restaurant where we grabbed lunch. There was shopping. There was wine. There even champagne, and later there was ice cream. It was a great and a great introduction to France.

The highlight of the trip to Strasbourg is the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg. An unbelievably spectacular Cathedral whose construction began almost 1,000 years ago, and took over 400 years to complete, it it obviously the highlight of any trip to Strasbourg. The detail is immaculate and the overall experience is incredibly breathtaking. Just outside the Cathedral was a small area where kids were playing in the small water fountains. It took no time for my kids to be stripped down, running through the water spray, and all I could think about when I was looking at our scenery was how are we here? How is this just another Saturday for us?



Can we just talk about how breathtaking that is? Those are my kids, at the base of that Cathedral. Like it's no big deal. This has probably been one of the coolest things we have done yet since being here, and we could have easily explored more of the city before we headed back. I truly was in love; the French culture speaks to my soul more than any other. And let's be honest -- the language is just a tad easier than German (thank you, high school French classes for not making me feel like a total goob!) and overall, a little prettier to listen to (no hard feelings for my German-speaking friends!) But overall, I can't wait to go back, and it's giving me the craving to go explore as much as France as possible while we are here.

Next to the Cathedral was the Palace Rohan, an equally gorgeous (although not quite as elaborate) landmark in the city. We weren't able to walk through (not that we tried) but it made for a nice backdrop as well. The homes along the river were adorable and full of history, and we were all itching to get inside ANY of them to check them out, while dreaming of what it would have been like to live there. It wasn't the most kid-friendly experience, but both boys did wonderful while also managing to nap in the stroller (heaven!) and the water play was definitely a great end to a dreamy day. I can't wait to go back and explore the area more! And eat more food. And drink more champagne ...




July 26, 2014

Hotel Living


In just a few short days, we will be hitting five weeks since we moved out of our quaint little house in North Carolina and moved into a hotel. As I type this, I am sitting in the third hotel during that time frame -- one in NC and our second one here in Germany. You guys, I'm done.

The good new is that we were finally offered housing. We will go check out the two units today and make our decision, and then it's just a matter of getting IN to the unit as well as getting rental furniture from housing until our stuff arrives at the end of August. The hotel we are in now is significantly better, since I now have a small kitchen and have been able to prepare meals. Prior to that, we were in a hotel out on the economy (versus being on-post like we are now) due to no availability at the on-post hotel, and we were crammed into two small normal hotel rooms that opened up into each other. I am incredibly grateful that my mom brought a toaster and a crockpot when she met us there, as it allowed some flexibility in making food in the room. I had to get creative at time, but I will let you know you CAN make a cheese quesadilla for your toddler with nothing but a hair dryer. Just saying.

This has been particularly challenging for the boys as well. Although we are getting closer and closer to Lucas's normal schedule, it was a bit hairy there in the beginning, with bedtime often being "whenever he passes the hell out." Having a bedroom that we can actually shut the door to helps, and he is adjusting a little more back to normal every day. I make an effort to be back from errands or being out and about exploring by naptime, which also helps in the transition.

Max, on the other hand, is a whole different story. He refuses -- REFUSES -- the pack & play, which leaves only one other option for us -- bed sharing. These beds are small, so unfortunately M & I have split parental sleeping duties. I'm with Max on the pull-out couch & he's in with Lucas in the normal bed. Bed sharing makes us both incredibly nervous, especially with two of us in there (my husband is a HEAVY sleeper, too) so it's easier with just one. But I will admit -- our unaccompanied goods show up early next week, and the crib is in there. I CANNOT WAIT to get him adjusted to sleeping there. It's so long over due for our family, but we have done what we can to make the best of the situation. Everyone is at least sleeping, even if it's not the most ideal of locations for us.

We are also limited on places to play, although it's a much better situation here than it was at the previous location. There is a small playground here at the hotel, and as always, plenty of walking to do. I am looking forward to getting into our new home and meeting some other individuals, preferably ones with kids Lucas's age. He thrives when he has play buddies, and I know he is missing having friends around. We are all taking hits being in the hotel, but I worry that he is taking the biggest one.

Regardless, though, there is an end in sight. I can't wait to get settled, and to have this feel a little more like HOME and a little less like a totally chaotic vacation.

July 23, 2014

Freinsheim, Germany

Last Thursday, my mom & I decided to meet up for the day so that we could hang out and she could see the grandbabies. Since she is about three hours away from where we are now, we decided that meeting in the middle was best, since we were just seeing each other for the day. We consulted the list of places to visit, picked a spot, and headed out on our way.

We had decided on Freinsheim, Germany, because it was exactly in the middle of the both of us. It's a small city, but the appeal is that is has the original Roman wall still surrounding the inner part of the city.


Within the city itself are beautiful homes, hidden walkways and an overall gorgeous landscape. From what I read, they have a wine festival once a year, although we did not make it for that. I would imagine that it would have been much busier & more places been open had there been something going on, but alas it was just us and a tour bus full of elderly women who were in town visiting for the day.

We didn't spend a ton of time there, as the town itself is only 5,000 people, but we did manage to order lunch (although not very well). In Stuttgart, quite a few Germans speak very good English, but because we were farther out and more in the "middle of nowhere" we had some language barrier issues, despite Google Translate helping me out the best the little app could. Also? HUGE GLASSES OF WINE. Like, half a bottle each. I like their way of thinking.


Upon our walk, we found a beautiful garden that was gated off. An older gentleman saw us peeking over & taking photos, so he invited us in. Turns out he was the owner. My mom & Lucas took a nice stroll through the garden while I stayed behind with the stroller & Max. I have noticed in my short time here that a lot of Germans take a good deal amount of pride in their gardens & landscaping. It is some of the most beautiful gardens (both flower & vegetable!) that I have ever seen. Having an older, historic home helps a great deal, I am sure, in creating such a beautiful landscape, but I am constantly in awe at how much work goes into keeping gardens looking as amazing as they do.

It was a hot day, so my mom managed to find some ice cream for Lucas, and the older woman ooh'ed and ahh'ed over the boys (seriously. German's love my kids. I can't understand what they are saying, but we are constantly getting stopped so people can look and smile at the boys. It's hilarious.) but they definitely get a great deal of attention. On the way out, we found another little restaurant where we got MORE ice cream (grandma's are the best!) and then we parted ways. It was a sweet little trip, and I'm glad to have spent the day with my mom, while also getting out of town and out of the hotel for a little while. It was a gorgeous little place, and we will have to plan better to hit that wine festival next time, right mom??!


July 21, 2014

Max -- Six Month Update

With all the crazy the past couple of months, poor Max got left behind on his updates. I think the last I did was three months -- I had every intention of doing one at four, and then again at five, but here we are, creeping in at six months.

It's hard to believe that this kid is six months old already.

Max is the happiest baby I have ever seen, but at the same time knows what he wants, and when he wants it. He will go zero to sixty in no time at all, which is a huge change from his big brother. There's no waiting around to make a bottle in the middle of the night - when he's up, and he's hungry, you better be ready..

He is also completely different from his brother in the sleeping department as well. Max basically hates sleep. He is a champion cat-napper, and his naps during the day typically last around 30 minutes. It's maddening. Finding a spot that he is comfortable in is key to his napping success, and being in a hotel room the past two weeks has made this difficult. Our only options are the pack & play, which we purposely kept him in while we were still in NC, knowing this would be his sleep option once we got here, and our bed. Guess which won?

Not the pack & play.

We have taken to bed-sharing which, with Lucas, I was admittedly against. While it works for some (and I am not knocking it at all. Do what works for you!) it was not something that we wanted to do. And honestly didn't HAVE to do. Lucas didn't sleep through the night until 13 months, but he was still a good sleeper. I could put him down still awake and he would fall asleep on his own. He took routine naps, at the same time every days, for 2-3 hours each. At night, while he was still waking up to eat, he would essentially dream eat through the entire thing & go back down with zero problem. He set his own schedule essentially from the day he was born, and we have never gone back.



Cue the complete opposite with Max. He will not fall asleep unless you are holding him. He hates the pack & play which means he sleeps with us in the bed (and in reality, means he sleeps with me while my poor, sweet husband curls up with our toddler in the other bed). When he wakes up at night, he is AWAKE, which means he cries -- loudly -- and getting him back to sleep even after being fed is a challenge. Even at six months old, he will not sleep longer than three -- MAYBE FOUR -- hours at night, which means we are still up 2-3 times.

During the day, we also struggle. While Lucas was (and still is) a very independent baby, Max doesn't seem to be following suit. The poor kid hates being put down, and will cry after about five minutes of being anywhere but in somebody's arms (usually mine). In order to get things done, I have to put him down, which means I spend a good part of the day listening to him whine & cry. It's frustrating for all of us. His mommy attachment is at epic levels, meaning he won't even let M hold him unless I am present. Which means leaving the room, let alone the house (or the hotel in our case right now) without him leads to the kid acting like you are hurting him. I have never heard a baby scream the way he does. It makes me feel awful for my husband, who gets frustrated because despite his best efforts, their solo relationship doesn't seem to be getting any better UNLESS I am around. This means I haven't had more than a couple minutes alone in about, oh, six weeks. I'm not quite sure where my level of sanity is these days, but it's low. It amazing how two babies can be so completely different, but Max is hands down the harder & more difficult one of the two. I was always so grateful that Lucas was as incredibly easy as he was -- but of course we would have the complete opposite with number two.

But when it comes down to it, he is still such a sweet, sweet baby. He has the greatest smile, and the sweetest laugh. He give large, slobbery open mouth kisses (and gets quite excited about doing so!), snuggles better than any baby, and makes us all laugh on a daily basis. He is OBSESSED with his big brother, and if Lucas is in the room, nobody else matters. I love seeing their relationship blossom the way it has been in the past month or so, and I cannot wait until they are older and great friends. Nobody can make Max laugh the way Lucas can. It's sweet & endearing. He also still remains quite a large, chunky baby. He has been in 9 month clothing for quite some time now, and we are dipping into the 12 month clothes on occasion. While I haven't taken him in for his six-month checkup yet, I do know that he is tipping the scale around 22 pounds, and that he teeters between the 98th percentile and off the charts completely. I love every single one of his not-so-little rolls. We just began solids within the last couple of days, and it looks like we are going the baby-led-weaning route with him again. We have tried both puree's -- which he wasn't a fan of -- and whole food -- which he went to town on -- so we will continue to experiment with what works best for him.

I do hope that things improve in the coming months, specifically in the sleep department. I make it through the days as it, but I can't imagine what a full night sleep will feel like. But all in all, he is a sweet, adorable baby boy. This is such a fun age, and I cannot wait to see what comes!

July 8, 2014

Germany -- One Week

It's hard to believe that we have been here for one week already. Time really is going quick, but at the same time, feels like it is moving so slow (thank you, hotel living). M started inprocessing today, which means that work will start soon, and we can start getting on a more normal schedule. The time change has messed with everyone, the kids taking it pretty hard and Max taking it the hardest. Being in a hotel makes adjusting especially difficult, since having any sort of schedule is rough. Lucas, especially, thrives on a schedule, so not having one has been a bit of a rough go for the poor kid. On top of that, both caught some wicked colds, so we are dealing with the pitifulness that comes with that, as well as everything else. But aside from it all, we are making the best of it and getting through the day. I have done more walking in the past week than I have done in some time, and I foresee Germany being very good for my waistline (my FitBit thanks me!) We have also drank more beer and wine in the past week (my husband more than myself!) than we have in quite a while. Counter-productive, I'm sure!

I have to tell you, first off, that Germany is a very beautiful country. It hasn't even been a full week yet and I am in love with the greenery, the quaint little villages and towns, the vineyards that line the hills and red roofs from homes that dot everything in between. The villages are small, and in most cases that we have seen, the Church Steeple is the tallest point in all of them. It's a simplicity that you don't see back in the states, and a much more casual way of living. Mixed in with the simplicity and history, you were reminded of modern times -- I am in LOVE with how Germany embraces alternate fuel sources -- wind mills & solar panel fields everywhere. It was amazing!


I have to admit that I am starting to get a little overwhelmed with all of it. Not with being here, necessarily -- we WANT to be here and wouldn't trade it for anything -- but the language barrier is a tad frustrating, and embarrassing. I have picked up a couple phrases and words here or there, and most people in our area speak English, but I hate to admit I hate asking them to so that I can understand. I will admit, there have been a couple dicey menu choices. I personally am on a mission to learn as much as I can. I feel that it will make my personal experience here that much better. We truly want the full experience in living here, which means learning the language as well. This is a large priority for me (and hopefully my husband) and I am grateful that we bought some "learning to speak German" discs before we left AND BROUGHT THEM in our suitcases! But all in all, people have been so kind to us. I think, overall. Germany has a reputation of not being very friendly. I have found that people don't smile at you when you are walking down the street, and they would rather barrel into you on the sidewalk if you don't get out of THEIR way instead of moving themselves. If you say hi, they won't say hi back when out in public. But one-on-one? Incredibly kind and helpful. At least what we have seen so far.

We are still figuring out the housing situation. Things are so up in the air, and from what we were told today, it looks like we will have no choice but to live on post. This is not our ideal situation -- again, we want the FULL experience in being here, which for us means living off-post -- but we are complete "make the best of any situation" type of people. I will drive off post every day with the kids if it means shopping on the economy, exploring, finding new parks and small cafe's to hang out in. I really cannot express how excited we are to take it all in. We want to leave here with zero regrets -- this means living as un-American as possible.

Over the weekend, we loaded up the family and headed to Trier, which is the city my Mom lives in. It was nice to get out of the hotel for a couple of days and enjoy a little more space, as well as see the area my mom has called home for the past year. Trier itself was beautiful. It was nice to see my mom's place while also getting to see another setting for a couple of days. Driving into the city, the hills are filled with vineyards for as far as you can see. The Mosell River winds through the city, which happens to be the oldest in Germany. The Dom, a Roman Catholic church that dates back to Roman times, is home to the Holy Tunic, a garment with a recorded history back to the 12th century, in Catholic tradition said to be the robe Jesus was wearing when he died. There is a huge Roman history within the city, including one of the most well-preserved Roman city gates (the Porta Nigra). Just a few blocks from my moms home, there are exposed ruins that were found during the excavation for a new building. It's an amazing city with some amazing history, and we barely scratched the surface during our time. I cannot wait to get back and visit again, and see all that we can before my mom moves to the Rammstein area at the end of the year.






July 4, 2014

Germany -- the First Few Days

Well ... we made it! We are officially in Germany.

We are just starting our third day here, and it seems a little surreal that all of this is happening. Our flight here was long. Approximately nine hours. But both boys did amazing. I mean truly better than I think either of us could have hoped. We had very little sleep, but I'll take good behavior over everything else.

We were greeted by three guys from the new unit, who helped us get out of the airport with all of our luggage and set us on the right path. We immediately went to start the inprocessing, followed by a quick stop at the (very small) commissary to grab a couple essentials, then to the hotel to check in. M was then whisked back to post to sign into his new unit, and we all came back and took extremely long naps. My mom greeted us at the hotel, and has been staying with us while we get our feet on the ground. The kids are loving grandma time, and we are loving having family here with us!

Things are a little overwhelming right now, but we are loving every minute of it. I need to seriously start learning some German, because while everybody here also speaks English, I feel like a jerk for not knowing more. We are without a vehicle, but the new unit has been MORE than helpful in picking us up, getting us to where we need to be, offering assistance, checking in and essentially, just being amazing. We really could not have asked for a more welcoming group of people, and with the demands that will be coming with M's new job, it's clear that the rest of us will be well taken care of -- family is important to this unit, a nice change from our previous assignment.

After a day of rest and trying to force ourselves onto a new scheduled, we headed into downtown Stuttgart our first full day here. Since we have no vehicle for the time being, the train is our only mode of transportation (aside from our feet!) so we braved the system, managed to NOT get lost, and headed into town. We spent a good part of the afternoon just walking around, exploring, finding some amazing places, getting sun, drinking beer (BEER GARDENS EVERYWHERE), eating amazing food and in general, soaking in our new environment. I have to give my mom & my husband credit, because they are not afraid to explore and are more than willing to take some chances. It's nice having them a long because I tend to be a little more reserved, but immersing ourselves fully into this culture is the only way we will get the most out of it, so from day one we decided that is what we are going to do. Lucas already knows his first German word and I have a feeling that kid will pick up the language quicker than the rest of us will!

All in all, while overwhelming and exhausting, this has been a great adventure so far. We are so excited to see and do new things, and are eager to get out and explore as much as possible. Having a vehicle here will make things that much easier, but it's the train system for us for now until we can do more outside the city. I cannot wait to share things with y'all. Also, please ignore the glaring (hopefully not a crack) dirt on my camera. Obviously I need to get my lens cleaned. Should be interesting finding a place.

Until then!










June 30, 2014

Tomorrow

Well, my friends. That's a wrap.

At least for our time here in the United States.

I don't know how this time came upon us so quickly. And this week, as a whole, was just such a massive whirlwind. It's 11:30 pm, and I should be sleeping (I am EXHAUSTED) but I just can't get there yet.

The bags are packed and ready to go. We jacked a cart from the hotel for the night so we could load everything up and have it ready to take down tomorrow morning. Our flight doesn't leave here until 2pm which means breakfast with our friends in the morning and then a few hours of anticipation for what's to come.

It's scary and exciting all at once.

I don't know when I will get a chance to blog again, but hopefully soon. I cannot wait to share our new adventure and oh man, the photography that I will be able to take!

I have SO MANY THINGS to write about, particularly about these last couple of weeks here, and so many things to say about so many people, but I just can't do it tonight.

Until then ... see you on the flip side! Germany or bust!


June 23, 2014

Boxing It All Up

Something happened.

Once again, time slipped away from me.

I am currently sitting on our sheet-less mattress set, surrounded by boxes. The last glass of wine in the house rests on a shroud of beige packing paper that encases my nightstand. The toddler sits next to me, watching Despicable Me 2 on the iPad for the 100th time, and the baby tosses & turns in the pack and play.

I don't know how we got here.

Not that I'm complaining. At all. I've written about our upcoming move to Germany before, and I truly cannot express how excited we are for what is to come. But somewhere along the line, a bit of fear was interjected into our lives. The reality set in that this won't be "some vacation" but instead this will be our new livelihoods. We knew this, of course, but the closer we got, the more we realized that we wouldn't just be guests in a new country (although we still are, if you want to look at it that way) but instead actual residents. I cannot wait to immerse ourselves in the culture, but at the same time, I'm a bit nostalgic in leaving our  home for the past seven years.

Marriage. Loss -- human and fur. Two babies. A first Christmas together. Many, many ups & downs. This house, while not the fanciest, or the biggest, or the nicest, holds so many memories of our relationship. It's weird to be leaving.

These past few weeks have been a giant whirlwind. As always, I had so many intentions to write, but the time just never presented itself. I'm only writing now because both babies are occupied and husband is off running errands. It's starting to set in how insane our lives are about to become,and while I couldn't be more excited, I also couldn't be more terrified. The packers came today, and 90% of our stuff is in boxes, aside from one bedroom that is a giant cluster of stuff that we will be taking with us. Tomorrow it all goes on the truck. The rest of the week is packed with storage pickups, preschool drop offs, rental cars, hotel stays, new carpet and new paint, goodbye's and just a general rush of trying to get it all done. In one week -- ONE WEEK -- we hop on a plane and head to our new destination.

Insane. Purely.

Starting tomorrow, we will be in a hotel. I'm leaving most of the household stuff to the husband while I deal with the kiddos. So maybe I will have more time to share what these last few months have been like. But all I can say is wow. I really have no idea how the time went by so quick.

June 3, 2014

North Carolina: Saying Goodbye

In less than a month, we will be in Germany. EEK! Life is definitely chaotic these days, but amidst the crazy, I can't help but think about, and get a little emotional about leaving North Carolina. Which, if you know me, you know how crazy this sounds.

But hear me out.

Eight years ago last month, I hopped in my little black Jetta, and in three days drove from Seattle to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to be with the guy I had only known (and was already engaged to) for about seven months. I quickly entered a world that I knew nothing about. Growing up in the Seattle-metro area, military life wasn't something that was a familiar aspect to me, or really anybody else I knew. Then there was the ginormous culture shock that came with moving to the South. Having lived in Washington and Colorado, moving to North Carolina was a massive, massive change. Holy cow, the humidity. And why on earth do people call shopping carts buggy's? The accents. The slow paced way of life. Did I mention the humidity? I instantly hated it.

Essentially, I have spent close to a quarter of my life here. That's a good chunk of time! But despite all of it, North Carolina has been an influential part of my life, and dare I say it grew on me (just a little). I moved here for a boy that I KNEW, the moment I met him, that I was going to marry. People thought we were crazy. CRAZY. I'm sure they still do! We moved in together after nine months of long distance relationship, we were engaged after only four months of knowing each other. I can count on one hand the number of times we spent in each others presence before we decided that YES, we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Moving here, as hard as it was to give up my life in the Pacific Northwest, my dream of moving back to Colorado, and to leave friends and family behind, has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. Moving here changed me. It changed my whole world! My now-husband deployed very shortly after I made the move out here, and despite my families wishes to head back to Seattle, I graciously declined & decided that this was my life now, so I might as well get used to it. And wow, you guys. What an eight years it has been.

 
Over time, I got used to the way of life around here. The mountains are some of the most beautiful, and the coast line has the whitest sand. Fayetteville has never been our most favorite place in the world, but being in North Carolina gave us the opportunity to see & do so many wonderful things. New York City. Charleston. Williamsburg. Asheville. Savannah. Charlottesville. Countless trips Florida. Visits to D.C. More tours on buses & carriages than we can count, where we experienced some of this countries finest history. Whether our vacations were healing a broken heart from a lost pregnancy, celebrating the return of a fifteen month deployment or gearing up for another one, or simply taking a weekend to get away, we saw some pretty amazing places. All because of our time here.  

Shortly before our second deployment, I started what was probably my tenth attempt at a blog over the years. I called it my My Life as an Army Wife and for the the first time, I found a purpose in writing. I shared my experiences as I navigated through the end of our first deployment, the transition of coming home & adjusting to life, our second deployment, a miscarriage and life as a very, very liberal military spouse in a very, very conservative community. Through the online community, I met some amazing like-minded military spouses, some of who have become some the best, most amazing friends I could have ever asked for. Through them I learned what it meant to be a MilSpouse, and found that I was not completely alone as I adjusted to this new community. It also introduced me to so many amazing opportunities -- interviews with BBC about presidential candidates, online debates with the Communications Director of a very well known military school in NY & their then-recent suicide rates of students, and a community that accepted me for who I was & what I believed, despite not always necessarily getting that support in real life (at the time). My online presence was a huge blessing, gracing me with the knowledge & guidance from others like me to navigate my time married to the military, and knowing that I always had other fabulous women I could lean on, whether they were here or not.

While I was meeting people online (hahaha, that always sounds so weird), I was also meeting amazing people in real life. Through my husbands unit, my jobs, and through random social interactions on my end, I have met some truly wonderful people. People that, over the years, have become our own family. Friends who understood this crazy life because they were going through it as well. They never told me, during any of our deployments, "I don't know how you do it because I never could" because more often than not, they were doing it themselves. We saw marriages & divorces. We battled infertility together, cried together when treatments didn't work out the way they were supposed to, & celebrated when babies were finally welcomed into the world. We supported each other through tough times, in marriage & in life, and we never judged. We hugged & supported through family deaths, and when family was too far away to celebrate the holidays we celebrated together with too much food & often too much wine. And lastly, we cried together when we lost friends who were gone too soon, a too often harsh reality to our little bubble of military life.

Eight years we have been here. I moved here for a man I BARELY knew. We started our lives here and have built a truly wonderful one at that. Our first home. The birth of our two boys. A rocky, rocky road at times, but a road that has made us & our marriage stronger -- and in return of all of this, some of the most amazing people we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We are leaving here better than we were when we moved here & for that, I am grateful.

The ironic thing is that so many people in our lives have already gone their own way. But the best part about being in the military community is that it's never truly goodbye. Nobody knows how to keep up long distance friendships like those in the military, and while friends in my life have come and gone over the years, it's my military family that has stayed true. We have made lasting memories here -- good & bad, but mostly amazing. We could not be MORE excited about our new adventure, but we leave behind a truly wonderful experience despite all the ups & downs that have come along the way.

So to those of you who are reading this, whether we have met in person or not (and you know who you are), thank you. Thank you for eight wonderful years. Thank you for the support & love, and most importantly, the friendship. I know, speaking for myself, that I never could have made it these last eight years without all of you. Our family is who it is because of you. I have enjoyed watching ALL of us grow & change in the best possible ways. It's been an honor, and we cannot wait to see you all again. We leave here with a little bit of southern twang on our tongues & a lot of love in our hearts. 

And please. Come to Germany. Our doors are ALWAYS open. xoxo


May 30, 2014

Here ... Barely

Oy, people.

I am here, I promise. But life is a little nuts right now, and blogging, no matter how badly I want to do it, is the last thing on my priority list right now (sad face).

We are knee deep in getting ready to move. The countdown is on -- packers will be here in a little over three weeks, so we are in panic mode to get everything done & ready. Hotels have been booked. Car rentals have been taken care of. Painters, carpet picked out and workers scheduled. Passports have all arrived. Luggage is slowly being accumulated. Household items sorted. Repairs made.

The list is long. LONG. Three pages long. But we are getting there. As a result, we are busy, constantly.

I will return when I get just a few minutes to breath & give proper updates. Hope you all are doing well.

xoxo,
B.

May 7, 2014

Philadelphia Fertility Project: Survey

I get a lot of spam email, and most of it is just that -- spam. But, yesterday I received an email about an infertility study that was being conducted, and with today being Advocacy Day, I figured it was fitting & I agreed to share it. While our journey has ended, and I don't play a large role in the infertility community anymore, I am happy to pass this information along:

Dear Brittany,

My name is Hannah Sterling. I am writing to introduce myself with regards to a project that I am currently working on as a Masters student in the Psychology Department at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. The Women’s Health Psychology lab is particularly interested in why certain women pursue treatment for problems with fertility, how this process affects them, and how this process may be different for minority women, as they experience infertility at a higher rate, but use treatment much less.

I would be extremely grateful if you could share on your website the brief description of the study below and the link to participate, which I hope will advance our understanding of how women are affected by problems with fertility. The Project is called the Philadelphia Fertility Project. Here is a brief description:

Philadelphia Fertility Project

The purpose of this survey is to learn about the social, mental, and emotional experiences of women with fertility problems. It will take about 10 minutes to complete. Your participation is completely anonymous. Women who are between the ages of 18-45, not currently pregnant, and have difficulty conceiving naturally through unprotected intercourse and/or carrying a pregnancy to term are invited to participate in this study.

In appreciation of your participation, two $100 donations have been made to the American Fertility Association and Resolve: The National Infertility Association by the research team to thank you for sharing your experiences and to benefit others who struggle with fertility problems. If you have any questions about this study, you may contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Pamela Geller, Ph.D., or the research coordinator, Mona Elgohail, at 215-553-7121

Click on this anonymous survey link to participate:
http://tinyurl.com/PhillyFertility

May 6, 2014

Updates

Holy cow I have been wanting to blog forever now. FOREVER. It's frustrating, honestly, to not have the time that I want to have, but alas, it is what it is.

Life is bananas.

Two kids is hard. I'm not going to lie about that. Maybe hard is the wrong word? Challenging? Time consuming? Exhausting? I love my kiddos and the moments we have are truly amazing, but good lord. I'm almost four months into the whole "two kid" thing and still feel like I am treading water most days. I still feel like I'm screwing it up most days as well. And the move -- good lord, the move -- shit is getting real, really fast. We have less than two months before we are on the plane, and an even shorter amount of time before the packers and the movers arrive to do their thing.

We have also had visitors GALORE in this house. It's been wonderful & we have enjoyed every minute of it these past few months! But it definitely adds to the "busy" factor.

I took everything down off the walls today. Our house goes up on the rental websites next week. Our passports have all arrived. Things are being purged. Sorted. Donated. And I have two insanely awesome kids who keep me on my toes every minute of every day. And for the next three weeks, I'm rockin' it solo as my husband is off learning about his new job.

Send coffee. And wine. I'll check back in when I can.

April 24, 2014

Max: Three Months

It's hard to believe that my smallest (ok, not so small but you know what I mean) has hit the three month mark already. I will never get used to this time flying thing. But here we are! The three month mark as of the 14th, and while I feel like it has been so long since he came into the world, it also feels like just yesterday at the same time.

First off, the stats. We happened to have to go to the pediatrician right around his three month birthday, and I have a whopper, guys. He weighed in at 17 lbs, 7 oz. At THREE MONTHS. He's also hovering right around 26" long. All in all, he's a big baby, but a proportionate one. He's grown about six inches since birth and gained almost 10 pounds during that time. We are easily in six month clothing and quickly staring at 9 month clothing. It's bananas.


We continue to have side effects to the RSV that he caught when he was two weeks old, and it's the reason why we were at the pediatrician last week. If you're not familiar with RSV, essentially it's a giant pain in the ass. While we have had no re-occurrence of it since infancy, it is making our life difficult, especially with a toddler around. While it make take Lucas and I a day or two to get over a cold, it has taken Max up near a month at times to recover from the same virus. And because the RSV damaged his lungs a bit, breathing is sometimes an issue (although not near fatal or to the point where hospitalization is necessary) it does pose a problem when he is in the height of his colds. We visit the pediatrician frequently, because essentially any time a cold strikes and his breathing becomes labored, his lungs need to be checked to make sure everything is ok, and a re-test for RSV is conducted (an easy swab in the nose). It has ALWAYS come back just a basic cold virus since the initial diagnoses, which is huge, but at the same time, it's been hard on him, essentially being sick his entire life.

We were told that it would be a tough first year, and even without a cold, Max has experienced some breathing issues & wheezing. We've become good friends with our nebulizer, and this relationship will likely continue in the coming months. With the end of cold and flu season however, and the onset of the warmer weather, we are hoping that we are through the worst and can venture out more often as a family, doing things aside from running errands. We have been overly cautious about where we take him due to the risk of getting colds, but things are starting to look up, which means our self-imposed caution is nearing the end until next winter, where we will likely take it easy again, just to be safe.

Aside from all of that, Max has been, and continues to be, one of the HAPPIEST babies I have ever met. He smiles and talks more than his big brother did at that age, and has the quirkiest little laugh. He loves to be touched, swaddled, man-handled and rolled around; doing so is the quickest way to bring a smile to his face. He has never once cried during bath time and babbles away when he is naked. Max is strong, but lazy at the same time. He is getting better at standing when assisted by us, but lays there and puts zero effort into tummy time (despite having EXCELLENT head control otherwise!) I have a feeling that he will be just like his big brother, and will do things on his own terms, when he's ready to do so. He isn't the greatest day sleeper, taking maybe one solid three-hour nap a day with a few cat naps here and there, but he regularly sleeps in 10-hour stretches at night. He eats like a champ (30-35 oz a day) and is truly a complete joy. He LOVES his brother, so much, and lights up every time Lucas comes in close. Adjusting to life with two has been a challenge, but Max makes it easier than it could be.


April 1, 2014

Lucas Turns Two

My oh my. How times flies.

It feels like just yesterday that we were celebrating Lucas's very first birthday. I feel like this second year of his life has gone by so much quicker than his first; we had so many life changes in his second year that most likely added to it, but quick it went, nonetheless!

We celebrated his birthday with a few close friends in the area. We didn't quite do the blowout that we did last year, but still had a really nice time with those closest to us. We cooked out on the grill, had some cupcakes & friends came & went at their leisure. All in all, it was a great afternoon spent with some lovely people. Lucas had a great time & is still loving every gift that was given to him. Books have been read numerous times and trucks have gotten plenty dirty, not to mention all the cars (his favorite) that were received. We even got to facetime with Momo (grandma!) earlier in the day! 



We started the day off with a trip to the Botanical Gardens with some friends. It was a beautiful day, and a great way to spend a couple of hours. Lucas ran around with Marshall while I snapped some family photos for our friends in between. Anywhere that Lucas can have free reign of his surroundings is a wonderful experience for him, because he is definitely the kid that will take off running when you aren't looking. He LOVES the outdoors, much like his daddy, so was in total bliss while we were there. Afterwards, we grabbed some lunch downtown and then headed home for nap time & party preparation. Once guests started to arrive, it was a bit of a whirlwind, but everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. Marshall grilled out back while the kids ran around and played in the dirt, while the mama's hung out inside & tended to the babies present. All in all, it was a truly wonderful afternoon.



It's so hard to believe that my little baby really isn't a little baby anymore. He has grown into such a wonderful little boy, who changes every single day. He is unbelievably smart, and Marshall & I are amazed at the things he picks up on a daily basis. He is rough & tumble when he wants to play, but isn't afraid of his more sensitive moments when he just wants to sit on the couch and snuggle. He is passionate about the things that he likes, loves fiercely and even at two years old, is completely fearless of life around him. As a mom, this both terrifies me & makes me insanely proud, knowing that I already have a little boy who will try just about anything. He gets this trait from his father (most definitely not from me) and I couldn't be happier about it. It makes me hover a little often from time to time, and we have had more than our fair share of bumps, bruises, scrapes & tears. But in a instant, he is back up and running, terrifying me of whatever will happen next. He is insanely funny, cracking us up on a daily basis. At times, he reminds me of my brother, and I wonder if a little of him snuck into Lucas in the process. It has been an absolute joy watching him grow so much this past year, seeing what kind of little person he is turning into.

He definitely is not without his moments though. He is the pickiest eater, a mostly horrible sleeper & we are working through some normal toddler issues (I cannot tell you how many times a day I say the words "do not hit!")  But every day I look at him and think, where did my baby go. They grow too fast, these kids of ours. But while I miss the moments of him being small & tiny, I absolutely love & am very much looking forward to the future with him.