Photo Fails

On our recent trip to the Netherlands, my husband and I had a funny little moment. We were driving around the tulip fields trying to find nice places to take some photos. We stumbled upon this beautiful field of yellow and red tulips. They were just stunning. We pulled over to get some pictures. I am the photographer in the family but there was one problem. I was trapped in the middle seat in the back of the van between 2 sleeping kiddos. There was no escape for me to get out of the car to take photos so I asked Gavin to go snap a couple photos of the fields. As he was getting out of the car I also shouted: “Don’t forget the purple field next to it!”

He gets out, walks down to the field, snaps some pictures and returns. We drive off and I start looking at the pictures he took. Here they are:

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Ummmm…. Really!! The 2nd picture is aimed at the road and the sign that says do not walk in this field. Ha! Luckily we were looping back on our route so I asked if we could stop at that same stop on the way back. Gavin agreed but said: “What my pictures weren’t good enough?”

Here are some of mine.

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That night we were looking at the photos taken for the day and we couldn’t help but laugh when comparing his photos to mine. We still joke about it.

This photo fail made me think about all the other photo fails we have had. Of course none of these photos make it onto Facebook or the blog. Until today!

The really terrible ones always get deleted right away (which I am going to try to stop doing) but here are some of the photo fails that survived. Some of them have actually become some of my favorite pictures.

Photo posted:

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Real life:

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That is Gavin’s “It is too early in the morning to be taking pictures” face. Don’t worry I asked him if it was ok to post this one. Haha!

This picture was posted on our Tulip blog:

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The picture before it was this:

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Nice photo Roxy. The picture directly after our “nice photo”

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A swarm of bugs had snuck up on them. Haha!

E obviously has been a focus of a lot of my pictures. Here is one of the pictures that made it online:

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Here are a couple that didn’t:

Yep she is falling over in one and has become intensely focused on her drool in the other. The drool one is actually one of my favorites. It is just real life. O was not a big drooler but E is and this photo will remind me of that even after they grow up.

Easter photos. This is the one that made it online:

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Here is another version:

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I have absolutely no idea what she is doing but it makes me laugh so it has been spared from the delete button.

Now you may have noticed there are no photo fails of me. The truth of the matter is that there are almost no photos of me period. This is an issue I think all moms face. We are always the face behind the camera and are rarely in front of it. I am going to make more of an effort this year to hand over the camera and get in front of it. I want my kiddos to remember me being in these moments with them. I want them to have pictures when I can no longer share the story with them.

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Looking back on all these photos makes me laugh and makes me think. The photo “fails” are sometimes the best picture because they really tell the story of what was going on. They tell of real life and funny moments. I am going to keep more of these photo fails and hit that delete button a little less. (Even for those really bad ones)

E Arrives

Baby #2 has arrived! Ok most of you know this because it has been over a month but hey time flies when you are having fun. Some of you are probably wondering how giving birth went….German style!

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My first birth experience was a little traumatic. This time around, I was looking forward to having everything a little more organized and hopefully a lot more calm. We had a set date and we knew it was going to be another c-section so that takes out some of the guessing. However, giving birth in Germany is a bit different compared to the US so lets dive in.

First, I talked about this before but we had to pay everything BEFORE the birth due to our private insurance. We had to pay the hospital’s chief physician (even though he wasn’t going to be doing the procedure), the hospital itself and the anesthesiologist. Here is where it gets shady. I had to pay the anesthesiologist in CASH the day before the scheduled surgery. On the positive side, you get to meet the doctor the day before and discuss everything. This gave me the opportunity to explain the complications I had last time so that we could hopefully avoid those issues with this birth. During this meeting I also found out that blood is apparently VERY expensive (this is probably true everywhere but no one tells the patient). The doctor made a point to explain to me that they would give me blood if I needed it but it would be an absolute final option due to the price. That makes you feel good right before a big surgery. Ha!

Day of the surgery, we showed up early and walked up to labor and delivery. The operating room is actually on the unit and is set up just for c-section procedures. Everything started on time and went well. Well…better than last time. I was able to be awake for E’s birth and she got to do some skin to skin with me right after birth. That was a win for me and was all I wanted. There were some complications and they did end up putting me under (more anesthesia) to complete the procedure but I wasn’t intubated or anything so again I think that is a win.

After some time in the recovery room, they then moved us to our room on the mother baby unit. It was about noon and I was starving since I didn’t eat since dinner the night before. They finally bring in lunch and it was this:

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Yeah that is boiled potatoes and eggs. I am not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs so potatoes it was for lunch. Luckily I was warned about the food and had brought some snacks.

Speaking of food, it was interesting to adapt to the traditional German food during a time when you just want comfort food. For breakfast and dinner, it is common to have bread, deli meats and cheese. There is usually fruit and yogurt available in the morning and in the evening there is something similar to potato salad. Everything is cold. Lunch is the warm meal of the day and you were able to order what you would like. Breakfast and dinner was available buffet style and your lunch was left on a tray with your name on it down the hallway in a “dining room”. The nurses strongly pushed for everyone to be up and walking as much as possible after birth and I think this food set up was used to force people to get moving. On the day of surgery, the nurses did bring me all of my meals. I was up and walking that night so the next day no one brought me my breakfast. Nothing was said to me it was just assumed that since I had been up and walking in my room that I would then walk to the dining room. Don’t you worry I figured it out quick. No one can keep me from food!

I am up, walking, and finding my food all within 24hrs of having major abdominal surgery, which means PAIN! Our cultural training coach had warned me about pain control in Germany with regards to childbirth. Her exact words were “you must be in pain to be a good mother”. This is the straight truth. The hospital only offered Ibuprofen (seriously Advil) for pain control. In the US after my first surgery, I had an on-Q pump (pain pump that offers local anesthetic to the surgical site) for 48 hours, which basically made the area numb. I also had Tylenol with codeine and stronger Ibuprofen (stronger than regular dose). Back to Germany, Ibuprofen only and they gave me a stronger dose of Ibuprofen for only the first 2 days. Then they only offered the regular dose (you know how the bottle of Advil says take 2 pills every few hours). Not cool Germany. Not cool!

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(Worth the pain!)

Oh and they give you all of your pills for the day at once (at least at this hospital). I got a little pill box that was labeled breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening. They would fill it up at night for the next day and you were in charge of remembering to take everything. I would typically see a nurse 2 times a day (at shift change) when they were doing their rounds. The rest of the time I was cared for by certified midwives who would check on the baby and I throughout the day and answer the call bell. They would take the vitals and do the everyday stuff.

I also had a special guest come and visit me during my stay: a physical therapist! The day after my surgery a nice physical therapist came to provide me instruction on how to get in and out of bed after abdominal surgery and to help me walk around. I was already up and sitting in a chair when he arrived and I had been walking around (to scavenge for food) so I got discharged pretty quickly. Apparently, every person who has a c-section is provided physical therapy. You know I loved that!

Popular topic: How long did you stay in the hospital? With our first kiddo, we were discharged from the hospital at the 72 hour mark which is how long you are required to stay by law (and how long your insurance will pay for it unless there are special circumstances). Here in Germany, we gave birth on Thursday morning and discharged Monday afternoon by my request. The nurses wanted me to stay until Thursday because most women who have c-sections stay 7-10 days. In Germany, the birth is billed as a single procedure. So it doesn’t matter if you stay 3 days or 10 days the bill is the same to your insurance and there is no pressure to get the patient out the door. This allows mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, who need more time to recover, or just need more support before they take on the mom role full time to stay in the hospital longer. Mom is happy and baby is happy. This was actually really nice. There is no pressure to get out of the hospital and everything seems less stressful. Everyone gets to follow the timeline that works for them.

Overall, we were pleased with our experience. The skill and knowledge of the staff in Germany was on par with their counterparts in the US. The system here is set up to be more supportive of mother and baby and allow more time for recovery. I am glad, however, that this was not our first child or our first c-section experience. The cultural differences and the communication issues would have been more overwhelming/upsetting if we had no idea what we were doing (like we were with the first kiddo). We came home with a happy and healthy baby girl and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Flying with a Toddler- Carry on Bag

Before we start let me make something very clear, I am NO EXPERT on flying with a toddler. We have taken some pretty big trips with our little one and have somehow survived so I am simply sharing some ideas that worked for us. You know your little one best so go with your gut. I am hoping to simply throw out some ideas to inspire you on how to survive being trapped in a metal tube with a small ball of energy. Good luck!

The Bag

Whenever we fly I give up on the traditional diaper bag. Instead, I change it out for this Under Armour duffel bag.

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The reason is that with the duffel bag you can easily slide this under the seat in front of you and during the flight it has a much wider opening to try to get things out. This particular duffel bag also has a side pocket that can be used to stick your smelly/dirty shoes. We use this (in combination with the Arm & Hammer diaper bags) to keep used diapers in until we can find a trash can without stinking up the whole plane.

The Essentials

Of course, you need to pack the diapers, wipes, and changing pad. I also add some cleaning items. The most important to me are the Wet Ones wipes for cleaning hands after being through the dirty airport, some Kleenex and I have recently added travel Clorox wipes. I used to be the person that thought people were crazy when they got on the plane and wiped down their entire seat, the arm rests, the window and the tray table. However, earlier this year Hubby brought home some terrible plague virus that he picked up at the airport on a business trip. It was horrible! We could not get rid of it. Ever since then I have sworn to clean the arm rests and tray tables and we haven’t picked up another cold (at least not yet). The Clorox wipes are totally up to you but are for sure in our bag. You will also notice in the picture below the Arm & Hammer diaper bags that were mentioned earlier. They come with a handy dispenser thing but we just carry them around in the roll.

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You will notice in the duffel bag picture some gallon size Ziploc bags. These are always stuffed into our carry on bag. These are for the blow outs (either end), soaking spills or whatever thing my child comes up with to destroy his clothes (or ours) and make them stink terribly. It is just a quick solution to pack away wet smelly things until you escape the metal tube (remember that air is just re-circulated around the plane and no one wants to smell that). I also stash these in our diaper bag at home for the same reasons.

That reminds me. Always pack a spare pair of clothes for the kiddo and for you. You don’t want to sit in a spit up soaked shirt for 2 hrs (or more) and neither does the kiddo.

Food

Ok you have the bag, diapers, clothes and cleaning essentials to get you through the flight now what are you going to do with the kiddo to keep them occupied and satisfied. Food! You are not going to force feed your kiddo but hell has no fury like a hungry toddler. So stock up. I love the small snack size Ziploc bags. It allows me to pack a bunch of options without taking up a ton of space. My usual go-to’s are Goldfish Crackers (aka toddler crack), pretzels, Chex Mix, carrots, granola bars and food packets. I also pick up other fruit in the airport once we get through security. Is this the best food options? No. But this isn’t about maintaining the perfect diet for your toddler. This is about surviving! You can go back to the all-natural organic food once you land.

Lets talk food packets. I am referring to the little packets of blended foods that you can pick up at most stores. There are a million different brands so just go with what your toddler likes. These packets are considered liquids.   In order to get through security you must follow the liquids rules which means each passenger is allowed 1 quart size bag with liquids inside with each container inside this bag must be less than 3.5 ounces. So when you are buying your food packet for travel pay attention to the size. The picture below shows a “big food packet” and then the 2 packets to the right are allowable sizes for the airport.

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I can typically get 6 packets into one quart size bag.

We also take a snack cup with a lid and a small sippy cup with a lid to prevent spillage during the flight. We also take along a reusable water bottle (we like the Camelback ones with a straw) and fill that up once on the other side of security.

Entertainment

Well it has been 20 minutes into the flight, you have already had a diaper change and the kiddo is done eating. What do you do next? Time to pull out some games/toys.

As we are getting ready for a trip, I always start looking at the dollar areas at the store. They always have some cheap toys that can be entertaining for a short period of time (of course be careful that these toys are age appropriate). You also won’t feel guilty if the dollar toy gets lost or left behind on the plane. That is where I picked up the Slinky and travel size Mr. Potato Head.

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A co-worker of mine suggested the idea of wrapping up these little toys in tissue paper. We have tried this for several trips and it is Genius!! Having the kiddo unwrap the toys gets you a couple extra minutes of entertainment and every minute counts. Don’t go too crazy on these. I just get a few toys and I reuse them a lot of times for future travel. I keep travel toys stored in a box at home so they only come out during travel time. It keeps them new and exciting for the kiddo.

I also bring some usual toys from home. My son loves the dragon puppet so it comes with us most of the time (plus super easy to pack) and he is also into flash cards right now. So those have been added to the mix.

A standard go-to is always the coloring books and crayons. However, I have a best kept secret…. Triangular crayons!! These are amazing! I have seen these sold at Target but I just bought ours online on Amazon. I have only seen ones made by Crayola. Triangular crayons were created to actually help kids learn how to hold a crayon properly as they are transitioning to learning to write letters. That is great but you know what makes them even better… they don’t roll! I’m not saying they are never going to fall off the tray table but I am saying these crayons will reduce your number of reps of bending down to pick up crayons off the floor. I love them! Everyone should own them. Go out and buy them now. You need them in your life!

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I have started getting crafty (not like Martha Stewart but I own a glue gun now). I made this fun little toy out of a puff snack container and some pom-poms (more than is shown in the picture). Quick and easy to make and our kiddo loved this on the flight to Hawaii. He was about 18 months then and has since outgrown it but since it cost about $1 to make I am not too worried about it being tossed out. You can also do a smaller slit and use coins or poker chips (depending on your kiddos age).

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Quiet books made of felt are also a great item. Google or look on Pinterest and you will find a million ideas of small felt quiet book pages to make. We have a quiet book but to be honest I bought it off of Etsy. I said I own a glue gun. I didn’t say it wasn’t collecting dust.

Ok final item and probably the most controversial, the iPad. When my kiddo was really small we didn’t bring this along but as he has gotten older it is an absolute must for us. We have some great educational apps but we have also downloaded some cartoons and movies to keep him occupied. There is no shame when you are trapped in a plane. Remember this and repeat this to yourself over and over if needed.

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We also bought these Kidz Gear headphones to use with iPad. You might be numb to the sound of Paw Patrol in the background but those sitting around you might be annoyed so go ahead and get a pair. They are nice in that they are super adjustable so they fit our little guys head but they also fit my head if needed. They have a noise control so even if your kiddo cranks up the sound on the iPad he won’t blow out his eardrums. We also bought a splitter so that his headphones can attach and so can ours if we are watching a show together. A little warning with headphones, they take practice. Before our first flight when we planned to use these, we had the kiddo practice putting them on and wearing them at the house. He was kind of freaked out originally by having headphones on his head but once he realized he had to wear them to hear the sound then he was fine and would wear them a little longer each time.

That’s all for now. If you need any more ideas shoot me a message. I have a couple other tricks up my sleeve but this blog is already too long. Hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget… I am no expert so no guarantees that this will work with your kiddo. I am sure that I have also angered the travel gods so look for a blog on dealing with meltdowns on a plane in the future. Happy Travels!

1st Check Up

Two weeks after arriving in Germany, we had our first check up with our German OB-GYN. I was very lucky in that hubby had a co-worker here in Germany who just had their first child last year. They had already done all the legwork to tell me about the best doctors and hospitals in town and were more than happy to share their info. The doctor they recommended is actually an American who studied in the US and then transitioned to Germany 15 years ago with her husband. She obviously is fluent in English and because of that she is very popular with expats and American military here in Wiesbaden (the base does not have its own OB-GYN so all military use the community services). It was very comforting to have someone who knows the US and the German systems and ideals very well and is able to communicate effectively with us and help guide us through the system.

Let’s talk about the first appointment. Don’t worry there will be no gross details in here. I am simply going to compare my US experience with the German experience. Everyone can safely read on.

We arrive at our first appointment and had to fill out some paperwork. We have private insurance, which is very uncommon in Germany. Almost everyone here has some form of the German universal health care plan. So for private insurance holders the plan is simple. The doctor’s office and the hospital simply bill you directly. You are in charge of paying the bill and then the insurance company reimburses you. The hospital and the doctor’s office do not get involved with attempting to get money from your insurance. Now initially this kind of seems like a bad deal. I don’t want to have to pay and then wait for the insurance company to pay me back and true it is not the most convenient. On the other hand with my experience working in the health care field, this plan is actually brilliant. Our hospitals and doctors offices in the US employ a whole division of workers whose sole job is to attempt to bill and collect money from insurance companies. They have to call these companies frequently and haggle for pricing and approval. They spend hours filing and refilling paperwork in order to get very minimal payment back from insurance providers. Here in Germany they have to employ very few people in their billing department. Someone has to send out the bill to the German Health Plan but the German Health plan always pays the hospital and there is no arguing over what is what. They don’t bill private insurance companies so this saves an enormous amount of time, energy and money. In turn, this keeps the bills low for all parties so medical services are much cheaper here and of the same quality.

Ok paperwork done. We get called back into the Doctor’s office and we walk into this big L shaped room. In the front part of the room is the doctor’s desk where she has us sit and we talk so she can get to know us. Yep we sat down and chatted with the doctor with no rush to get to the point and out the door. After we got to know each other, it was time to get an ultrasound done. The doctor had us just walk around the corner of the room and there was an exam table with an ultrasound machine. The doctor had me hop up and then SHE PERFORMED the ultrasound. In the US, we had to make a special appointment if we were due for an ultrasound and an ultrasound technician or other professional would perform the ultrasound and then the doctor would just read the results. Here the doctor just performed it all and all in one room. Boom! Done! I was also informed that here in Germany and most of Europe they do ultrasounds at almost every appointment. They see no harm in the ultrasound waves and feel seeing and examining the child at each appointment is important.

The next thing she had us do was what she called a “stress test” but it was more of a heart monitor for the baby. They strap it around your belly and then have you sit for 15-20 minutes while they monitor the baby’s movements and heart rate. I had a similar device placed on me while I was in labor in the US with our first child but it was never used before being in active labor. This device can also detect if your starting to have any Braxton Hicks Contractions (practice contractions) or if it seems your body is preparing for labor which is why they do this at every visit during your final trimester here in Germany. Everything looked good! This little girl is a mover. She never sits still in there. I hope that isn’t a warning for our future!

Ok then at the end, the doctor wanted to get some blood work done. Yikes! I was not worried about getting poked with a needle but worried about finding some outpatient lab to go get my lab work done. In the US, I would have to make an additional trip over to the hospital to the outpatient clinic and wait for what seemed like an eternity to get my blood work done. Have no fears! The assistant who checked me in and checked my weight, blood pressure, etc. she is also the lab tech! They drew my blood right there in the clinic and I didn’t have to travel anywhere else. It was amazing!

In the end, my first appointment was about 45-60 minutes. Everything was completed in the office. It was a great experience.

Quick Update: I wrote this blog a bit ago but never got around to posting it. We have been to several appointments now all with the same routine as mentioned above. We have had an ultrasound at every appointment though we do not get a 3D ultrasound but that’s a fair trade. We received our first bill in the mail it was 89 euros (just about $100) per visit. That is the total cost with lab, ultrasound, etc. at a “no insurance” rate since we have private insurance (so our insurance will be reimbursing us of course). In comparison, I just paid my final bills from my last doctor’s appointment in the US. The fiscal year had just restarted so I had to pay toward my deductible, which meant I had to pay $110 for lab fees and $140 for the ultrasound. The actual bill was much higher that was just my portion. Final point: Medical care in the United States is ridiculously expensive for no apparent reason.