Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ten on Tuesday - US Adventure 2009 Napa Valley Edition

1.  We stayed at the Comfort Suites hotel on Sunday night near the Baltimore airport because our flight was at 6:50am!  I booked the flight for 9:something originally, but United changed the time.  I think I am going to complain.  One of the reasons I picked the flight I did was because of the time and then I had to get my baby up at like 4:45 to make a flight - crappy.

2.  Blaise did well on the flight from Baltimore to San Francisco.  He took two naps, which he really needed - see #1.

3.  The flight coast to coast was 5 1/2 hours!  We did see some mountains from the air though, which was cool.

4.  We arrived in SF around 10am local time - another 3 hour time difference, making a total of 9 from Germany!

5.  After getting in to SF, we headed north to Napa.  We are staying at a little house close to downtown Napa - about 30 walking distance which is nice if you are hitting the tasting rooms.  We booked houses or condos for our trip since we figured that will be more comfortable for us all.  It is great to be able to put Blaise to bed and then have the rest of the living space to hang out in.  I never really cared about how nice our accomodations were in the past, but since we are now traveling different with the baby, this was a good deal.  All places also have either a backyard or a patio or some kind of outdoor seating area where we can chill in the evening.  The place we are renting now is the Devita Bungalow.  It is very quaint and quite relaxing.  If any of you plan a trip to Napa in the future I would recommend staying here.

6.  When we arrived we put Blaise down for a nap and my parents and Jan went shopping for provisions.  The kitchen was pretty stocked with things for our use though, which was a nice start.

7.  Once Blaise woke up we loaded up and went to a few wineries to get our feet wet.  We visited Andretti Winery and Clos du Val - both really nice and it was a good start to our trip.

8.  Monday night for dinner Jan grilled steak :)  yum!  We sat outside at the picnic table and enjoyed our food, wine and company.

9.  Tuesday morning we had an appointment at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars at 10:30.  Unfortunately they didn't have record of our reservation and I didn't have any email proof with me.  What is also confusing is that there is a Stag's Leap Winery up the road from them, so they figured we had an appointment there.  We weren't sure ourselves at that point, so we went to check it out and of course didn't have an appointment there either.  The drive back to their winery was beautiful though.  The reason Jan wanted to visit Stag's Leap Wine Cellars was because of their place in history surrounding the Paris Tasting of 1976.  We recently watched an independent film about the Paris Tasting, but it centered around the white tasting and Stag's Leap won the red.  The move is called Bottle Shock and I really recommend checking it out.  It is a feel good movie with some great scenery.  We were able to get a tour appointment for tomorrow morning at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, so we're hoping for some compensation for the mix-up.

10.  At first Jan was pretty disappointed at how our morning was starting out, but we ended up at Frog's Leap and had a great time!  I would very much recommend visiting this winery if you are out in Napa.  I think all wineries charge a tasting fee, for the "normal" wines between $10-$15 for about 5 wines.  At Frog's Leap we paid $15 a person for 4 wines and received some snacks and later a bonus sweet wine.  The setting was amazing!  Instead of just being inside at a tasting room, we sat outside on their large porch on couches where we were able to feed Blaise too.  Our server(?) was really sweet and personable and then we walked around the grounds a bit.  They have free range chickens that we checked out with Blaise and an organic garden.  We also lucked out to watch them bringing in the grapes from their morning harvest and putting them through some machine that picked them off their bunch and smashed them (think I Love Lucy but 2009 style).


11.  We stopped for lunch at a Mexican Market at the recommendation of the people at Frog's Leap.  La Luna was just what we were looking for to bring home lunch while Blaise took a nap.  I think we are going to go back tomorrow and get some Mexican Coke, because I've heard so much about it.  They were waiting on a shipment today - it is supposed to be better because it is made with real can sugar and not a syrup.  I'll let you know.

12.  We visited the tasting room of Gustavo Thrace  this afternoon because he is also a character in the movie Bottle Shock.  They have a very small operation and only buy their grapes from other wineries.  We tasted 3 wines (for free) and they were the best ones I've had since we got here.  Very good - we drank the sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and petit syrah.  We bought a bottle of the petit syrah which we are going to have to drink at some point before Thursday morning when we leave.  If you are looking for something new to try, give Gustavo Thrace a shot - let me know if you like it (or if you don't)!

PS:  If you missed the pictures from yesterday, go back and check them out, I added them later.

Congratulations Carrie and Ian!

My first attempt at blogging somehow got erased, so bear with me while I try to remember all the fun things we did over our first weekend here.

First of all, the flight over was great! We were so lucky to have an extra seat next to us on the plane, which Blaise took full advantage of and gave us some extra leg room for STUFF and for Blaise to sleep. I was very concerned about him sleeping on the plane, since he isn't the best sleeper (as I've mentioned). We were rewarded, for what I don't know, but he fell asleep in his seat holding on to his snack for his first nap. Later we had to work a bit harder, but he was really tired and a 9 hour flight surely didn't help. We had what can only called a duffel bag from the airline for him to sleep in, but Jan rigged it to be comfortable. We flew United and I found the flight attendants were mostly blah, but there was one who was really sweet and helped us out. All the passengers around us loved Blaise and commented how good he was, and he really was good - he didn't really fuss only when he was tired. He liked flirting with the lady in the seat behind us and the pretty lady from South Africa next to me. I was nervous about him perhaps wanting to get down and move around on the floor, but he was content to hang out with us and it really helped that he had his own seat so he could do his own thing.

We arrived Thursday evening at Maria's B&B on Kent Island, Maryland, just over the Bay from Annapolis, and put Blaise directly to bed. He thankfully slept a bit in the car once it got dark around 7, because we got caught in traffic and it took us longer to get to the B&B than we thought. The wedding festivities were planned at Maria's and it was a beautiful location right on the Chesapeake Bay! The ceremony was planned to take place on the Bay and the reception under a tent back up at the house. 

Blaise and I were the only ones staying at Maria's on Thursday night, which I was glad for since I didn't know how well he was going to sleep. He did a great job once he got to sleep though! He was up at 4:30am, but that was 10:30am in Germany so that was understandable. He took a nap pretty soon after that and slept for 2hr 40min, which he surely needed! After that he was pretty much adjusted to the time difference.

Friday we hung out during the day and explored the grounds. I was able to eat my breakfast while Blaise was sleeping and after such a long travel day the day before it was quite luxurious! Maria made awesome homemade granola and she made me an omelet with potatoes and ham. Everyone started arriving in the afternoon for the rehearsal and it was getting exciting with the house beginning to fill. We went to dinner at a crab house down the road, because Maryland is known for their crab! It was delicious! Blaise had taken a late nap that afternoon, so we took him with us and he was a trooper holding out until 9pm. I think he was glad to get back home to his bed though :)

Saturday was the big day! For those of you who don't know Carrie, she and I grew up together - we were friends before we could talk. We got up and had a wonderful breakfast in the sun, but we were a little concerned about the weather and kept checking throughout the day. Unfortunately, but 4pm the clouds had rolled in, so we moved the ceremony from the Bay to the portico, but it was still beautiful!

Here is where the ceremony was scheduled to take place (out at the water where the people are standing)

Ceremony under the portico

Blaise with Grandpa

With Carrie's family

I cried like a baby during my toast

Sunday morning we had breakfast again at Maria's and then started making our good-byes after a wonderful weekend. Carrie and Ian were off to Hawaii on Monday and since will our time will overlap in Kauai, we might get together for lunch before they leave.

Congratulations, you guys!  It was beautiful!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Oh man.  Here we go!!!

Wish us luck!!

We fly this afternoon at 12:20, Andrea is taking us to the airport and then we're off!  Blaise got up at 5:00 to nurse and we considered letting him stay up in order to have enough time to get a morning nap in before leaving.  BUT, he's been so weird lately with sleeping that we thought it better not to take the risk that he won't got back to bed.  So, he's still asleep and it's 6:26, hopefully he'll sleep until at least 7.  Pray for us that he takes a nap on the plane!

We arrive in Washington at 3:06pm - we aren't flying to Baltimore because there isn't a direct flight and flying into Washington Dulles is only a 45min driving difference.

I'll be coming to you next Stateside.

Since I'm cheesy (and directly related to my mom), this tidbit to enjoy:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1.  I/we have been cooking for Blaise instead of buying consumer baby food.  Mostly, I figured it would be fresher and therefore better, and since I was home anyway, I had the time to do it.  Now that we are getting ready for our trip, I bought some baby food to try so that we'd be set for the plane and the first few days after landing.  Before doing this, I did some research in our similar-to-consumer-reports eco-magazine and was surprised to find the only two brands with a rating of "good" (best is "very good") to be house brands from a drugstore (DM, for you German readers) and a discount supermarket (Penny).  This once again proves that although a product is more expensive, it isn't necessarily better.  I have found this to be true with sunscreen and laundry detergent!  The problem with the consumer baby food isn't that the manufacturers are putting yucky stuff in them, but the heating process to seal them somehow creates benzol and some other icky stuff.  We will use the food as needed on our trip, but will give Blaise as much "real" food as possible.  Since we'll be staying mostly in houses/condos this should be easy.  Yesterday Blaise had steamed chicken and broccoli with olive oil and fresh garlic :)

2.  My parents are bringing their laptop, so I think we'll be wireless pretty much everywhere we go.  This means I'm hoping to continue blogging from the road, not to make you all jealous, but more as a travel diary for ourselves :)  Stay tuned for USA Adventures 2009 :)

3.  I am very much looking forward to seeing my IU Girlfriends in November!  We got together last year in Michigan and my friend Tara's family cottage and this year we are getting together at Pokagon State Park in Angola, IN.  Can't wait to see you guys!

4.  It is Hokkaido season!  It's called "pumpkin" in German, but I think we probably call it a squash.  I love them!  We (read: Jan) makes great pumpkin soup and Blaise has also enjoyed his pureed pumpkin.

5.  We are leaving our cloth diapers home for the trip :(  We took two weekend trips where we took them with us and it was super easy!  We have so much to carry with us, that the thought of taking them too was a little overwhelming.  I did consider it though since we'll have laundry facilities everywhere we're going, but I was also out-numbered in my decision, oh well, at least it will be once less thing to do on vacation.  :( :(

6.  I love going to pick up Blaise when he wakes up from his naps.  He sleeps on his belly now and one cheek is therefore always really warm and soft.  Oh is it cuddly!!!  He is also cuddly after waking up - you have about 120 seconds before he wants to start doing his own thing, so you have to act quick!

7.  Instead of using disposable cloth wipes, I bought little squares of flannel and use just a little water that I keep in a water bottle next to the change table.  I can't remember who I bought them from, but if you search either hyenacart or esty you will find a ton!  I am actually considering taking a few with me for our trip, because I think they are maybe less irritating for his skin.  To be fair though,  I do have a package of disposable wipes in my diaper bag.

8.  I really love blueberries - I think they are my favorite berry.  It took me awhile to get into them this season, but when I finally did I ate them almost every morning with quark (like yogurt) and honey...yum!!

9.  After Tara's steak and artichoke post, I was craving artichokes, too!  I saw some big yummy looking ones at the market last week and couldn't resist.  I steamed it and dipped it in a olive oil, garlic salt and thyme dip.  Yum!  :)

10.  Today is the first day of fall!!!  WooHoo!!!

and as a bonus today:

11.  I have officially decided to take another year off work.  It was a scary decision, but I think the right one.  Jan is going to be home with Blaise for January and February, and I'll work as much as possible in this time and then teach some evening courses after that to earn some vacation money :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

For the Love of Vinegar

I have been meaning to post about this for awhile now, glad I finally remembered.

When I was reading copious websites while pregnant about cloth diapering, I noticed a lot of people recommended using vinegar in the wash to help balance the pH.  I saved that piece of knowledge for future use should I need it.

Because Blaise was born in the winter and my parents were still here, we were using the dryer 100% of the time.  Once the weather started getting warmer, I wanted to hang dry most of our things.  Towels and baby clothes went directly on the drying rack and our clothes went through the dryer for a fluff-only to help get out wrinkles. Since the baby clothes weren't being washed with fabric softener (too many yucky chemicals) and now were not going to be dryer-dried, I started looking for an alternative to make sure they weren't rough.  Ta-da:  Vinegar!  I started using (distilled) vinegar as a replacement for the softener and it worked great!  I had been using eco-softener on our clothes, but since the vinegar was so great I now use it for everything!

I know it sounds crazy, but I promise the laundry doesn't come out smelling vinegar-y, your clothes are soft(er), not static-y and the best part is you aren't putting chemicals that can't break down into the water!  My mom was sceptical at first when she was here visiting in June, but she became a believer, too!  (Have you ditched the Downy yet, Mom?)

Another tip I've heard is to use wool dryer balls in the dryer, they supposedly help with wrinkles and static, though I haven't tried it out.

Here is an interesting article with some good trips about alternatives to fabric softener.

Another benefit:  it's cheaper!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1. Jan had a great time in Dresden at the conference. It turned out to be a mini-holiday which was well deserved. His speech went well and he very much enjoyed the cultural events - city tour, great food and river cruise on the Elbe.

2. While Jan was gone, I ate cereal, salmon and chocolate for dinner. oops.

3. Tonight we ate lamb bratwurst and chanterelle mushrooms. YUM!

4. Many people have recommended having snacks available for Blaise on the airplane. Since he didn't eat any snacks, I have been on the search for some! We tried some spelt bread sticks and he liked them, although he could bite too much off at a time and it made me nervous. We tried rice cakes and he wasn't such a fan. Then we tried zweiback - it was a big hit! He loves it! It is so cute how he munches - pictures to come! :)

5. We have been enjoying Zotter chocolate since we discovered it a while back. It is hand made, organic and super yummy. There are some wacky flavors too, like 'Peanuts and Ketchup'! We had 'Walnuts and Marzipan' this evening. If you can find it, give it a try!

6. We've had a good run of naps, but yesterday Blaise didn't sleep in the afternoon again. He was up for 11 hours and slept for 50 minutes in the morning. He is crazy! (which made me crazy was slightly better, he at least slept even if it was too late)

7. I have made contact with two English speaking women with babies (each 9 months) who live in Mainz. I am looking forward to meeting them and having playdates with English speaking babies!

8. It's gotten a lot colder here, it was in the 50s this morning! It is supposed to warm up a bit tomorrow, but it had Jan and I looking at snowsuits for Blaise yesterday.

9. I thought I had a lot more interesting things to tell you all...I guess not...

10. ...except for, Blaise seems to be "crawling" check it out:

Intercultural Week

Every year in September Mainz celebrates its many faces in the form of "Intercultural Week." It was kicked off this past weekend and we took part in the (yummy) festivities. In the morning we went to an intercultural Mass at the Mainz Cathedral. I love this Mass! It is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual celebration! Parishes from the whole dicese come and participate. Represented were the Portugese, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Croatian communities (as well as some small other parishes, unfortunately the English-speaking community isn't quite large enough to be represented, though there is a (small) english Mass once a week).

The (main) celebrant gave an interesting homily (sermon) about how there are no "foreigners" within the church, it is one community and the catherdal was there for all. I would like to see this extend beyond the Catholic Church, but it had the right idea.

In front of the cathedral on the square was a stage where dance groups could perform their traditional dances (think: Michelle K in polish school in her "costume"). There was a group doing (dancing?) square dance as well - it's a german club (group?) and they were pretty good. At least the caller (I learned that word yesterday) was good, I didn't really watch much of the dancing.

The best part of the whole day was the food! The international communities in Mainz put up stands and sell food native to their country. The best is when you see the tupperware, then you know it was homemade! We enjoyed Kurdish, Indian, Indonesian and Cameroonian dishes. The best is always the African stands, but unfortunately there was only one from Cameroon and they were only selling a dessert (but, it was gooood!). I think we liked the Indonesian one the best, but it's hard to beat satay with peanut butter sauce! The Croatians were grilling some yummy smelling stuff, but it didn't seem exotic enough to "waste" our stomach space on, and although the Turkish stands were numerous and surely delicious we have access to their food on a daily basis (it's a "normal" place to eat, comparative to eating Mexican or Italian in the US).

This is always a fun festival and I enjoy seeing the flags from other countries on the square. I still find it moving to see the Israeli flag flying along side its neighbors. We are a microcosm of different nationalities, religions and languages and we are living along side each other in peace. It is worth pointing out that this happens all over the world, but we only hear about the unrest in our evening news. We don't have World Peace, and we'll probably never experience it, but I rest easier knowing that Peace does exist and right here in my community.

Belling Dancing on the Square

African music

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Morning Faces

I don't think this series of pictures needs much commentary. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yummy Yummy Peas

This video is from a while ago, but it is so funny how he sticks his tongue out for the peas :)

You're So Funny

Blaise was "reading" Jan's magazine one day last week (read: ripping pages out) and I told him he was "so funny," which he thought was funny and started laughing! It was so cute, so I kept saying it and he was laughing about how funny he was. It was so adorable, I had to capture it on film. Right. As soon as I got the camera out he was much more interested in it than laughting. I did get some giggles out of him though.

Also notice Blaise isn't actually ON the blanket. Every time I put him back on the blanket (in the middle of course) he scoots his way off. Oh well. I'm learning to pick my battles.

Sleep Snuggler

The sleep saga continues...

A few weeks ago I went to a La Leche (breastfeeding) meeting and they were aghast at the fact that I nurse sitting up at night. I tried nursing lying down when Blaise was just home from the hospital, but I could never get it to work comfortably for both of us. At night when he wakes up, I pick him up and go into the next room and sit on the couch. In the early months, I needed around 60 minutes to get him nursed on both sides, burped and changed. Now I need approximately 10 minutes, so it isn't such an ordeal. Anyway, I was willing to try nursing lying down again, thinking this would make my night more restful. They were proponents of co-sleeping, which I am not actually opposed to, but I don't want Blaise to get into the habit of sleeping in our bed and then NOT sleeping in his. But, I did try it for one of the feedings at night and it seemed to work well and then the next time he was hungry, I just rolled him over. Here's the breakdown:

Our routine looks something like this:

Go to Sleep: Somewhere between 6 and 7 in crib

Wake up for first feeding: Somewhere between 9:30-10:20, back to crib

Wake up for second feeding: Somewhere between 1-2:something
After this feeding Blaise is SUPER cuddly! I put him back into bed and he reaches up for me. Yes, I am a major sucker. I pick him up and cuddle. We even started lying in bed after nursing or on the couch and cuddling until the next feeding. I know this is a bad habit, but I LOVE IT! He is so sweet, he plays with my hair and gives me hugs! Major Mommy Joy! I blame the La Leche people for suggesting co-sleeping :)

Wake for third feeding sometime after 5am and go back to sleep in crib until 6-6:30.

Okay, so after a few nights of the sleep snuggling, I decided as much as I was loving the cuddles, both of us weren't getting the best sleep. I also didn't want him to become accustomed to always having me there in the middle of the night. We're back to only sleeping in crib, but after nursing lying down. I miss the snuggles, but I'm enjoying the better sleep!

It is also worth mentioning that Blaise had an almost 6 hour stretch last night - from 9:40ish to 3:20! I went to bed at 10, so I really capitalized on that one! I don't really feel much different though, not that I feel bad, I think my body has actually adjusted quite well.

Also, I have gotten the question more than once about letting him fuss at night before I go get him. I do let him fuss, but only to a certain extent. Once he starts crying (he makes this "Mommy, come get me now" sound after awhile), I go get him. I mentioned before that he scratches a lot and he does this while nursing and at night. So, I don't really want to leave him there to scratch his eyes out. I have some pictures, he really did a number on his ear about a week ago and his forehead also hasn't made it through unscathed either. I mentioned it to the doctor and he wasn't concerned. I think it's something like a tick - I've read about babies pulling their hair out while nursing - at least it isn't that bad.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ten on Tuesday

1. I should have mentioned this yesterday, but Blaise has begun waving! He doesn't do it 100% of the time when coming or leaving, but he's gotten pretty good at it :)

2. Jen is now home with her beautiful Jonah - if all goes well today I get to see them this afternoon!

3. I thought I was going to start packing last week for the Big Trip, but I think I'm so overwhelmed by it that I'm stalling. Another problem is that I really don't know what equipment to take. I am considering taking the pack-n-play, car seat and stroller. All three of those things seems excessive, so I'm thinking about ditching the pack-n-play and just winging it. Thoughts?

4. This past weekend was the "Weinmarkt" ("Wine Market" - but really it's a wine fair) and it is my favorite festival in Mainz! The Christmas Market takes a very close second, but the Weinmarkt is held up in the park where I took the pictures yesterday and it is beautifully lit in the evenings. We've enjoyed many a Sekt (sparkling wine) there under the turning-fallish sky. Love it!

5. Jan is going to a conference this week - Wednesday to Friday. The person he was going with was scheduled to give a talk about blahblahblah (I don't know what Jan's talking about), but last minute he had to cancel. Guess who is giving the talk in front of 100-200 people now? :)

6. Blaise has eaten: avocado, sweet potato, parsnips (thanks to Parthena for this idea! He loves them!), peas, pumpkin, zucchini and bananas. He tried some green beans in a glass and was less than thrilled (in all fairness, they were pretty gross). I wanted to give them to him again to get a picture of his face, but Jan wouldn't let me. Needless to say, he didn't eat them. The doctor has given us the clearance to try anything - even schnitzel and hambugers as he said :) We're taking it slow to make sure we can identify an allergy should one arise, but after 9 months, I think we'll just let it roll :)

7. Jan's sister, Andrea, celebrated her birthday yesterday. We had a nice brunch with them on Sunday to celebrate.

8. Sunday was a pretty packed day. We met up with the Lischewski's (pictures to come) and had a nice time catching up with them. They recently spent 2 weeks in Spain and are old pros at international travel with children (they have 3!), so we got some good tips.

9. If you are interested in editing your pictures (even if it is to get the red-eye out) then I recommend using Picasa or Both are free and a good start to an editing program. I am hoping to upgrade at some point, but for now these free programs are a big help.

10. Blaise has been sleeping for 1hr and 20min - he better wake up soon so I can go work out! (I'm never satisfied, eh?)

(Explanation: I've seen a few people do the "Ten on Tuesday" in their blogs and always thought it was a cute idea. It's also a good way to get some random thoughts down before they never get blogged about. I hope to keep it up, so come back next Tuesday for more randomness!)

PS: my spell check doesn't seem to be working anymore - anyone else having this problem in blogger?

Monday, September 7, 2009

8 Month Photo Shoot

Blaise and I had some fun in the park this afternoon. After his morning nap I packed up our stuff and headed out for a photo shoot :) The weather was great today, sunny and warm - but not too warm - perfect for lying around in the grass! He is 8 months old today (can you believe it?) and I have been inspired, so I wanted to try my hand at it. Let me know what you think.

This is proving to be a great age. Blaise is very interactive and it's so amazing to see him understanding what we are saying. He has begun babbling quite a bit - a lot of "da-da" (though not to address Daddy - yet) and "blah blah". It is so cute to listen to! He is a very happy baby and smiles at almost everyone. People stop to talk to him and smile with him and it has become easier to strike up conversations with others. He makes friends easily :)

He is quite the curious little creature and is quick to whip around when he hears something. If we are home in the afternoon when Jan comes home from work, he quickly perks up when he hears the door. Blaise also loves going outside - when you pick him up and head to the door he lets out a squeal of excitement! Being outside satisfies his curiosity I guess. :)

Jan and I sit around in the evening after he goes to bed and talk about what a sweet baby he is, how lucky we are to have him, all the while looking at pictures of him!

What an amazing 8 months it has been! We love you more every day, Blaise!

A train! A train!

I wonder if I can eat this...

Here you can check out all of the pictures I took:
8 Months Old

No Rice

I think I at least proved my point (to myself).

We stopped stuffing the rice cereal flakes into B's nighttime bottle. I don't know where the 6 hours came from, but it didn't last. We're back to 3, 3.5 or (sometimes) 4 hour stretches. We stopped the rice thing. We gave it three nights I think, let me know if you think we stopped too prematurely, but I never really thought he was waking up due to hunger anyway. We have keep working on him putting himself to sleep - that is going to be the key to longer nights.

Not much more to report in the sleep department. Some days are good, some are not so good. When you have somewhere to go in the afternoon, your (read: my) 1.5 hour sleeper turns into an almost 2.5 hour sleeper, when you are exhausted yourself he turns into a .5 hour sleeper. Oh man...

He definitely has the cute thing going for him though :)

Just to prove the "cute" point... :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

"America the Beautiful," Diary of an Ex-Patriot

Former students of mine spent two years in St. Joseph, Missouri, on a foreign assignment. They have since returned and we've met up a few times to hear about their adventures and listen in awe to how well their children speak English now (I taught them as well). We're actually getting together on Sunday, so stay tuned for some pictures.

I wanted to share this book that Axel put together of pictures he took while traveling around the United States. He is an amazing photographer!! We saw the book in "real life" and it really should be published, it is that good.

Check it out! They are also available to purchase through the blurb site.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hold Your Family Close

I hate to be a downer, but I wanted to share this message: Hold you loved ones close to you.

A friend of mine from high school will be buried tomorrow. He passed away at 31 years old, only months after getting married. I am unsure of the cause of death, but it was sudden and his family was surely not prepared. I imagine you can never be fully prepared to deal with something this horrid, but it was a reminder to me not to take the days I have been gifted for granted. It is such a gift for Jan and I to watch Blaise learn and grow.

I am grateful for every day. Even the sleepless ones.

Please keep the Alspach family in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Pigbear Fascination (oh, and a new camera)

We got a new camera a few months ago and I thought I'd tell you about the craziness that has hence ensued.

If we really want to be honest, it is all Kristy's "fault". :) Jan had been talking about getting a new camera for awhile and was even looking at them at the store, but when I saw what the cost, I ignored everything else he said about it. We had a reliable Canon "point and shoot" (I'm getting into the lingo now, I mentioned the craziness, right?) that I was satisfied with. I always admired Kristy's pictures of her (oh-so-cute) kids, but never really thought much about the camera behind it...until she posted about her Mother's Day gift this year. I emailed her, got some info, stalked her website (and her sister's!) and was hooked - they have some great pictures of their kiddos! Jan couldn't even believe his good fortune when he realized I was researching buying a DSLR camera!

We decided on the Sony because it has the stablization stuff (so much for the lingo) in the body of the camera which (supposedly) makes buying new lenses cheaper and it's "live view" is supposed to be the fastest on the market.

I found one used (open box) through the marketplace, had it sent to my to-remain-nameless-lest-she-get-in-trouble cousin and the craziness began. (just so you don't think we paid that sticker price on, um, no...)

We still have A LOT to learn, but we're learning by doing and by online tutorials and I have to admit I have high hopes that we'll be award winning photographers one day. Well, at least we'll have some amazing pictures of Blaise.

If you are in the market for a DSLR (and I can really recommend it) I'd recommend not buying the lens that comes with the kit. We might not have actually "outgrown" the kit lens yet, but we think we have, anyway. I am now lusting over a 50mm lens (like what Kristy's got for Mother's Day) and Jan has his heart set on a super zoom lens. I think we've "compromised" on the 50mm, because it's more of a "let's take pictures of our baby" lens instead of "I need to get a picture of that eagle in tree across the lake" lens. :)

Kristy's sister (hope it's okay, I'm linking her all over the place here, let me know if not, Kristy) put up some of her favorite photography websites and I am seriously addicted to The PigBear - check it out for amazing pictures (as well as some great tips).

Here on some pictures I took yesterday morning (though all pictures posted since June have been with the new camera) - again, we're still learning and playing with light, exposure, shutter speed, etc...

Mainz Cathedral (Dom)

See, this one is overexposed, but I liked it anyway

I promised a new hat picture, you like?

PS: If anyone has some tips on how to do a hyperlink without having to add the html code everytime, that would be great...there must be a shortcut??

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2 for 2

A second nap, people!!

This just goes to show that well rested babies do sleep better!

Don't worry, I won't let all this successful napping go to my head...tomorrow is another day.

(keep your fingers crossed)

6 hours

You didn't see this coming, did you?

Blaise had a 6 hour slept stretch last night. This has only happened once or twice and I can't even tell you when it was - but it was A LONG time ago - like February or something.

Here's what we did:

We have been giving him a bottle at night after I nurse him for about 2 weeks or so now. I have been struggling to make sure I have enough milk supply, but late in the day is always pretty weak, plus we'd had some pretty hot days and I wanted to make sure he was getting enough fluids. In Germany (I say this because I don't know how it works in the States), there are three types of formula: PRE, 1 and 2 ("follow-up" formula (Folgemilch). You give a newborn baby the "PRE", a baby between newborn and 6 months "1" and six months + get the "2" (a "follow-up" to nursing). I made a big project of deciding which formula to choose. I chose the brand based on an eco-consumer reports type magazine. I then chose the "PRE" formula, because it was the closest to breastmilk and didn't have added starch.

Last night I caved. We did what I avoided when he was younger, but decided he was old enough now. I actually wouldn't recommend this, because I think if you have a good sleeper it isn't necessary (or if you have more patience than me to try and train your less-than-good sleeper). We doctored his bottle and added all natural rice flake powder. Maybe you are wondering why I was against this? Well, when he was under 6 months, he was exclusively breastfed so it wasn't an option anyway. I guess I just wanted him to learn to sleep without having to stuff him like a turkey. What changed my mind (this is important for my ego to point out) wasn't the sleep I was missing out on, but the sleep he was missing out on.

Having said this, I should also mention that he woke up about 90-120 minutes after putting him down and was CRAZY! We really thought something was wrong. We finally got him to bed after about an hour and another nursing. We think maybe he had some poopsies (gas) that was bothering him, but who knows. Then he slept for 6 hours. Also, this was only the first night, so anything could happen tonight.

We have also continued working on the putting him down drowsy, which I think is also contributing to Blaise sleeping a bit better. (I say "a bit" because we've still been having the unexpected napping issues, more on that in a minute). I have to admit that Jan is better with this than I am. He is much more patient in general and I think that makes him more successful. I've had a few successes, but more frustration.

Which brings me to our napping issues. As I mentioned before Blaise used to nap twice a day. Recently he wasn't taking his morning nap anymore, and sometimes only sleeping 40 minutes (like yesterday!!!). I am blogging to you now from a Blaise nap zone!!!! I got him to take a nap, 2.5 hours after waking, and he fell asleep on his own!!! How do you like that for a success? :) :)

One day at a time.

Thanks to Jen and Kelly for their sleeping tips - those new mommies out there might want to check out what they said in this post.