Thursday, April 27, 2017

Baby Shower in a Box!

The week before Finn's arrival, we FINALLY received our baby shower in a box! I say finally because that box took quite the trip around the world. My friend Anna, also known as hostess with the mostest, came up with this idea, organized the shower and mailed off the box in mid-FEBRUARY.  I know we live in Germany, but it normally takes about ten days to two weeks for things from the East Coast to arrive. Instead, this box went to Amman, Jordan, Baghdad and then back to the United States before arriving in Berlin two months after it left Pensacola.  Quite the traveler!

Anyways, we had a blast at our shower, even though everyone was around the world.  I didn't know much about the contents of the box, but kept hearing bits and pieces about it from various friends and family members, all of whom were having a blast completing their tasks at hand. Anna literally thought of a way to bring every part of a normal baby shower to us, even if our friends and family weren't there.

Around Christmas, I sent Anna a list of guests that I would like to invite and their addresses and around the new year, she sent out a package of activities to each guest.  Each package included
  • an invitation to the shower
  • a wooden shape for decorating
  • a paper onesie with well wishes for the baby on it
  • a card where they could guess the birth date, baby's weight, and height
  • two newborn diapers where guests wrote messages for us to read during late night feedings
  • instructions on how to participate in the shower
Guests were given a deadline to complete their activities and mail it back to Anna.  Then, once Anna received all of the packages, she packaged them all up with a few extra things for me, including decorations for our apartment and instructions on what to do. 

Then, when the package arrived, it was shower time! Anna had created a Facebook event and I invited all of the guests to join the group.  Since we hadn't told anyone the name, I had asked for name guesses earlier in the week.  Reading them was hilarious because some were so outrageous, but others might be added to our list if we have another baby boy.  Anyways, we also set a date and time for the event and then when the time came, I logged on to Facebook Live and started the shower. 

Mike joined me and was a big help! I don't think he was too interested in it at first, but got into it as we started reading people's responses.   It was so amusing reading everyone's responses.  The late night diaper messages were hilarious, the well wishes were endearing and Mike had fun filling in a calendar for people's due date, height and weight guesses.  There were lots of inside jokes and pop culture references, as well as many loving and thoughtful wishes, all of which made us smile and laugh.  I had already opened the gifts that people sent us since our due date was quickly approaching, so I gave our viewers a little tour of our house with all of the various baby items scattered about.

Once we come out of the newborn fog and I'm not nursing around the clock, we are going to hang up his alphabet over our nursing station. 

I'm going to use some ribbon to tie these all together as a little keepsake for Finn to read once he gets older.

We ended with many thanks to all of our friends and family for helping shower our little guy with so much love! While we would have loved to celebrate in person with everyone, the combination of us living abroad and our friends and family living all over the world, that was nearly impossible.  This was the perfect solution!!

Luckily for you, Anna has an Etsy shop where she sells her Baby Shower in Box kits, as well as kits for bridal showers and birthday parties.  I know I'm a little biased, but this is such a great idea for military friends, family who lives far away, and anyone who has friends or family far and wide!  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tips for Moving and Living Abroad

As we come out of the newborn fog (if that's possible), I've got a few posts scheduled to post about random things.  Then, once we've found a routine, hopefully I'll be able to work in blogging as well. 

We got official orders to Groton, CT the other day for Mike's department head school, which means in between naps and feeding, there's been lots of logistical talk about moving back to the United States.  It made me think about our move(s) abroad and what I wish I would have known beforehand.  I've talked to a few people who are moving abroad about what to expect and how to prepare as they move abroad from the United States and figured it would make a good blog post. Moving abroad comes with a mix of emotions, both good and bad.  On top of that, trying to navigate the logistics of moving to a new country can be daunting.  It's well worth the emotional and logistic setbacks, though! We love it so much, though that we decided to have our first baby here!  Here are some things that have worked well for us. 

1. We still shop at the commissary and have our visitors bring us stuff from home.  Ha! Moving abroad is tough and it's worth having food that you know how to cook to help ease that transition.  I would imagine this to be especially true with kids. Some things we always buy at the commissary are shredded cheese (especially cheddar and mexican flavored cheese), Italian sausage, black beans, peanut butter and ethnic food (like soy sauce and taco seasoning). That being said, we do our weekly shopping at the grocery store and really enjoy shopping at the local markets here and in Turkey.  We've only done two commissary runs since being here and will probably only do one more before we leave. It's not essential, but like I said, food is such a comfort (especially when you're pregnant!) that it definitely helps ease the transition.

2. Germany is huge on paying in cash.  It's strange.  Lots of local places won't take cash for smaller bills, so make sure to always have cash on hand. Even if they do take credit cards, a lot of them will only take a German credit card. Turkey was the complete opposite! Every restaurant and cafe had a card reader.  Because almost all of their cards are chip and pin, they always bring the card reader to the table.  It's strange and unnerving for the wait staff to take your card away from the table. 

3. That being said, we got the Chase Sapphire Reward credit card when we moved abroad because it has no international fees and has 5x points on things like restaurants and hotels.  It's great for traveling abroad.  In fact, last spring, we had planned to book my entire flight home and back to Europe on points we'd accrued from this card.  Mike is definitely more into the points and rewards thing, but it's definitely benefited us to have it and use it abroad. They just released a new Chase card, the Sapphire Reserve, which has more perks, so I recommend getting that if you can. 

4. The stereotype of Germans always being so rude and mean isn't actually true.  It definitely took some getting used to their personality, which is definitely not as warm and welcoming as Americans, but they are actually really friendly, in their own German way.  I was really off-put by it at first, but now have realized they're just more blunt and "get to the point" than Americans who like small talk! 

5.There is German Amazon ( and it is a lifesaver! We use it all the time because we are never sure where to get random things.  They don't have stores like Target, so all of the random things you would normally run to Target for (like pillows or a coat hanger), we end up ordering on Amazon.   Plus, a year of Amazon Prime is 49 euros, plus you can get a lot of American shows on their Prime that you can't get on regular Prime.  We pay for both American Prime and German Prime so that we get free shipping to our house, as well as our DPO box (a lifesaver!) and it's totally worth it.  Did that make sense? All you need to know is the there is Amazon here and it's a lifesaver.

6. This only applies to military, but I think it's maybe the most important thing when planning your move abroad.  When you move outside of the continental US, you get an "express shipment." I think they say it takes about 45 days to get to you, so it's not super fast, but we moved out of our DC apartment a month before we were set to move, so it got to us not that long after we moved overseas. For us (one active duty member + one dependent), we got 1000 lbs in our express shipment. We made the mistake of only packing the bare essentials! Pack 1000 lbs worth of stuff.  It's totally worth it. I would recommend basically sending all of your kitchen stuff first, plus a few extra things like an air mattress to sleep on and towels and sheets. I wish I had sent more of my kitchen because then I could have cooked when we moved in to our apartment instead of always having to eat out until the rest of our stuff came.  You also get to check four bags per ticket on the airline for free, so use that to your advantage. When we move back to the states, we're planning to use one of our checked bags for the pack n play so our little guy will have somewhere to sleep right when we get there. You can also gate check strollers, so don't use that as one of your checked bags. That's essentially free! I've never done it before, so all I know is what I've read online, but I've already started thinking about it because it's overwhelming. 

8. You can still communicate with friends/family back home. One thing that was really important to me when we moved abroad was that I would still be able to text and call home. At the time, I had an iPhone and so did she, which was great because we could still FaceTime and text via iMessage. I ended up losing my phone and the replacement was an Android, so that no longer worked.  I got Project Fi, which gave me a US number and allows me to call and text back to the United States without additional charges. I now also use an app called WhatsApp which allows us to video chat and text back and forth with anyone who has the app.  Both people have to have the app, so that's kind of a pain, but it's free.  It's so popular over here that most people use it to text their friends, even if they are in Germany.  It's been great for staying in touch with other Olmsted Scholars and Mike's sister who all live abroad.  Mike and I also have Skype Premium, which gives us an American phone number, which is nice for calling things like our bank or our health insurance back in the States.

Moving abroad is tough, both emotionally and logistically.  There is so much you don't think about before you move and then it's a million times more difficult to figure out in a new country.  The more prepared you are logistically, the easier emotionally it will be.  Every move and every country is different, but hopefully these tips and tricks will help anyone moving abroad get settled a little faster.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Family Resemblance

We've been wondering who Finn would look like throughout the whole pregnancy.  Most people say he looks like Mike (as an adult), which I agree with, but there are a couple of pictures and moments where I can see some Russo in him.  Also, if you look at my brother Andrew's baby picture, they look pretty similar!
Baby Mike

Baby Sarah
All grown up

Baby Finnegan

Who do you think he looks like?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hi! I'm New Here!

Finnegan Michael Hogan 

was born at 8:15am on Friday April 14th, 2017 weighing 7.05 lbs and 20.87 inches

Mike and I couldn't be happier to welcome a new member to our family.  
He's truly our biggest adventure yet!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Favorite Podcasts

While we've been hanging around the house and spending lots of time commuting back and forth to the doctor, I've had a lot of time to spend listening to podcasts.  I don't think I've gone into a complete nesting phase, or at least not as crazy as some of the stories I heard, but I have been trying to clean our house in preparation for the little guy.  Podcasts are great when I can't/don't want to just sit and watch tv, but still want a little entertainment in the background.  I've been scouring the interwebs for new ones over the past month or so and have found a few great ones that I thought I'd share.

I've been listening to The Moth for years and it remains one of my favorites.  It's a storytelling podcast, almost always recorded live.  Random people tell stories of their life and I am almost always amazed at their ability to tell such an engaging and nail biting stories. I would love to go see a Moth Live event one day when we're back in the States!  I've always wondered what story from my life I would tell if I had the opportunity to present.  Probably something from my City Year days because they brought LOTS of stories. 

Image result for the moth podcast

Another great story telling podcast! I like these episodes because they tend to be a little bit shorter, but still lots of fun.  They also seem to have a theme surrounding the multiple stories told on one podcast.  One of my favorite episodes was four stories about people getting into mischief as a kid and how that followed them into adulthood.  I think the next one I'll listen to is four stories from inside and outside of the baseball park. 

Image result for story corps

This is usually the most downloaded podcast of the week nationally and there's a reason why.   This podcast also usually tells a story, but from a journalistic perspective and there is usually some sort of twist.  For example, I just downloaded an episode about two babies switched at birth.  How fascinating does that sound? The first episode I ever listened to was about a high school prom...that got interrupted by a tornado.  
Image result for this american life podcast

Produced by the makers of This American Life, S-Town is the younger sibling to probably my all-time favorite podcast, Serial.  If you haven't listened to the first season of Serial, that should be your number one priority after things like eating, showering, and going to work. It's incredible.  Once you're finished, let me know and we'll discuss.  Sara Koenig does an incredible job describing the crime and providing the facts surrounding Adnan's conviction.  

S-Town is hosted by Brian Reed and is about a man named John who hates his hometown and asks Brian to investigate a guy who has been bragging about murdering another guy in their town.   I'm only three episodes in and I'm hooked!

Image result for serial podcast
  Image result for s-town podcast

Our friends Melissa and Ryan introduced us to this one and both Mike and I enjoy it.  Author Malcom Gladwell goes back in history and investigates something from the past.  We listened to his three part series on education, which I really enjoyed and got us talking.  He has one episode about Wilt Chamberlain's, a basketball player, career and why smart people do dumb things. Both Mike and I have enjoyed listening to this podcast for different reasons and we both wish there were more than ten episodes.

Image result for revisionist history podcast gladwell

This is the podcast for all of my fellow bleeding heart liberals.   The hosts are former Obama speechwriters and they dissect the latest news from a (very) liberal perspective.  That being said, they know their stuff and the rules and regulations that make our government work, so they aren't just spewing opinions without anything to back it up.  Plus, they're funny.  I try not to listen/read to too many biased political reports and such, but this one is my guilty pleasure.  That being said, I'd LOVE to find a conservative counterpart to this podcast so that I can listen to both perspectives.  If you know of one, send it my way!

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The Popcast with Knox and Jamie

This one.  It might be my all-time favorite.  I rarely listen to an episode without laughing.  The hosts, Knox and Jamie, look at anything and everything pop culture, but Jamie's sassy southern personality keeps it real and Knox is usually there to reign her back in.  I listened to their Celebrity and Career Changes podcast first where they discussed celebrities who had made major career changes (for the better or worse) and also gave their thoughts on some celebrities that probably should consider a career change.  Hilarious.  This week's episode is all about the No's of Easter.  I'm sure it'll be entertaining to say the least.  They also do a red light and green light each week, where they give their opinions on things like books or TV shows that they are enjoying or not enjoying.  I'm a big fan!

Image result for the popcast with knox and jamie

Hearsay with Cathy Lewis

I remember my parents listening and talking about Cathy Lewis' radio show when I was younger and, while it makes me feel kind of old, I'm not afraid to admit that I listen to it as well. Cathy Lewis does a great job highlighting issues in the Hampton Roads area, which I appreciate.  It helps me stay connected to my hometown.  She also has a few reoccurring features such as monthly episode with a local vet where people can call in with their pet issues or food and wine writer who discusses all sorts of things such as tipping or cooking techniques.  If you aren't from Hampton Roads, I encourage you to listen to something similar for your hometown or where you live currently because it's a great way to stay connected and hear the locals' perspectives on issues that are affecting them.  Also, fun fact, Cathy Lewis is married to the priest who married Mike and I and their daughter went to daycare with my brother and I!

Image result for hearsay with cathy lewis

Alright, that's all I've got for right now.  What podcasts do you listen to? What do you recommend for me? 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fast and the Furious 8 World Premiere

When we lived in Arlington, the seventh Fast and the Furious movie came out and, in preparation, Mike and his friends spent a Saturday watching all of the Fast and the Furious movies before going to see the new one. I think they all agreed that it wasn't going to win any Academy Awards, but their love for the series never wavered.

About a month ago, Mike found out that the Fast and the Furious 8 World Premiere would be taking place here in Berlin. You can imagine his excitement when we found out it would be open to the public via tickets and that Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron would be coming to walk the red carpet! Since we will probably never live in LA or New York where these premieres take place in the United States, this was our only chance to partake in a movie premiere and it didn't disappoint. Plus, we'd get to see the movie two weeks early, so it was a win/win.

We really had no idea what to expect.  We weren't even sure of what to wear. Do we dress up? What time do we get there? Is it going to be crowded?  We decided not to dress up, which was good because no one else was besides the celebrities and to get downtown around five to grab a quick dinner beforehand.  The doors opened at 6:30, but we were shocked to see a line already formed when we got off the metro at 5:00.  Add in the fact that it was pretty disorganized and our dinner at Vapiano's took and we were far back in line.

We did end up getting in and getting a pretty good spot along the red carpet (after scoping out some of the cars they had on display), but it was a few rows behind people.  We aren't the tallest people, so this was a bummer, but we pushed our way as close as we could and ended up being able to see a few spots if we craned our necks. We were definitely taken aback by how many people were there!  I would say several hundred!

We made it inside!

 The premiere hosts made their debut around seven and then the celebrities followed shortly.  Luckily, they had a big screen TV that we could watch the interviews on, but we were also able to see almost everyone from a varying distance.  I really wanted Charlize Theron to rub my belly, but she didn't make it all the way around the carpet to our spot unfortunately.  Vin Diesel did though!! He walked right by us, shaved head, muscle t-shirt and all!

You see the blonde haired woman with the bare back? That's Charlize Theron!

The guy in the plaid suit is the director

And that bald head? Vin Diesel of course!

Oh hey Vin Diesel!

Shortly after the celebrities walked the red carpet, we headed inside to watch the movie.  It was originally scheduled for eight, but by the time everyone made their way inside, it was closer to nine. So much for German punctuality (Mike doesn't actually believe it's a thing.  I'm skeptical at best). 

Two hours, one submarine and lots of laughs later, we left happy and satisfied with our choice to attend the premiere.  We went in with extremely low expectations for the actual movie (have you seen the other seven?), but the movie was fun, the acting was....decent and there was a submarine doing completely unrealistic things, so what more could you ask for?  When we got home, I think we were both on a high from the whole experience because we just kept saying "that was SO cool!" There are definitely a few things we would change (getting there earlier being one) and I was beyond exhausted after standing for two hours, but it was totally worth it!  

Friday, April 7, 2017

37 Weeks

Alright, little guy, you can come whenever you want. After a weekend of walking around, sitting in uncomfortable chairs, and getting out and enjoying the beautiful weather, I'm officially exhausted and uncomfortable. Mike's sister, Kelly, was here this past weekend and the weather has been GORGEOUS (we're talking sunny and 70s....all the praise hands!), so we've been out and about trying to embrace such a nice weekend. While this has been absolutely wonderful and so much fun, I'm exhausted and ready to have my body back.  The rest of the week was chilly and overcast and since Kelly left, it's been a good excuse to hang around the house, get some last minute things done, and just recover from a busy weekend.  Luckily, a few days of rest and relaxation had me feeling much better, but it was a good example of how my stamina has changed (drastically).


I was telling my mom that walking is exhausting and standing or sitting is uncomfortable, so that leaves lying down, but even that isn't great for more than a few minutes. So, we just have to keep moving, which is exhausting.  My fingers aren't swollen, but I think my ankles are a little bit because my socks are feeling a little bit tighter.  I also notice that when I'm lying on my right side, my hip really hurts, which is probably due to the fact that Maximus is so low and head down.  Hip flexor stretches always feel really great, but haven't provided much long term comfort.  One great thing I've noticed is that my skin is looking and feeling great.  Sometimes in the winter, it feels pretty dry, but all of those hormones have definitely led to extra soft skin.  I guess it's that pregnancy glow!

Emotionally, the physical discomfort is making me impatient and ready to meet our little man! I haven't had any extreme nesting tendencies, but I feel like all I want to do is be at home hanging out with Mike and enjoying these last few days as a family of two. I also notice that my emotions are a little more extreme, so my normal happy and laid back demeanor has been met with a few moments of emotional meltdown when I haven't felt great or have felt overwhelmed.  I found myself crying for no reason and then laughing at myself for not being able to stop cry the other night.  I'm pretty sure Mike thought I had lost my mind.

Looking Forward to

Obviously meeting our little guy, but that should be assumed :)  Other than that, I'm looking forward to having my body back.  I really haven't had any complaints about my growing size, but after this weekend and not being able to sit on a bar stool and just being uncomfortable, I'm looking forward to being able to return to basic activities that are now just uncomfortable.  I know it won't be immediate, but it's something I will be happy to have return. I'm also looking forward to watching Mike as a dad.  We've been talking a lot about what we imagine life will be like once Maximus gets here and it's always fun to hear what Mike wants to do.  Currently, he's planning a Bro-ad trip once he's bigger.  No girls allowed (ie me).  I feel like I'm always talking and dreaming about our life with a baby and it's so much fun when Mike chimes in.


No food aversions and only the normal cravings of peanut butter and sweets.  We included dried dates, flax seeds and raspberry leaf tea in our weekly grocery order because they're supposed to help or induce labor. Can you tell we're ready for our guy to come?

Baby Purchases

No purchases, but I put the swing together and Mike put the car seat in the car! We are all ready to go!

Doctor Update

I'm going to the doctor weekly now. The doctor said everything looked great and baby boy was healthy, but there were no signs that he would be making his appearance any time soon. He's going on vacation with his family for the next two weeks (his children have spring break) and has another doctor coming to cover while he's gone, so he said he hoped he didn't see me until my post-partum appointment six weeks out, but that if I was still pregnant when he got back, I would see him for my weekly appointment.  We both laughed and said I'll see you in six weeks when I left.  Inshallah.

Weight Gain

25 pounds

Maximus' (estimated) weight

3.1 kg which is about 6.8 pounds.  I was hoping he was going to be on the smaller side, but it's looking like he might be a little bit of a chunkier newborn.  If he doesn't make his appearance soon, Mike will get his wish and get to tell everyone that our baby is YUUUUUUUGE (said in the Donald Trump voice). Let's all hope for my sake that's not true.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Last Pre-Baby Visitor

Mike's sister, Kelly, lives in London and it's been so fun having her an easy plane ride away the past two years because we've gotten to meet up with her and her husband a few times over the course of our Olmsted experience.   She started talking about coming to visit sometime this spring and we were on board, as long as it wasn't too close to Baby Maximus' due date.   I knew that this weekend might be cutting it a little close, but I also knew Kelly's visit would be a nice distraction if we were still waiting for the big debut.  Luckily, our little guy is nice and cozy and doesn't seem to want to make his appearance any time soon, so we got to enjoy a nice, long weekend with Kelly, although I'm sure she would have loved to have met her nephew!

One of the great things about Kelly's visit was that this was her third time in Berlin.  She had already done most of the touristy stuff, so we got to show her the local side of Berlin and what our daily life is like.   We love showing people around and always try to do new-to-us stuff when they visit, but it was a lot of fun just hanging out.  I realized as I was thinking about her visit that most of our ventures involved food or beer, but I guess that's pretty representative of our life right now.  I eat all the food.  Mike drinks all the beer.  Needless to say, I think he was happy to have a drinking buddy and I was happy to continue to eat all the food.

We went to the local food market for dinner on Thursday and then to a local bar, Hopfenreich that's nearby.  The food market is incredible because all of the street vendors and food trucks come together every Thursday and set up stands in a local warehouse.  We love getting a few different things to try and this time was no different.  We got dumplings, edamame and Mike got some koshery, all of which were delicious.

Friday night, we introduced Kelly to our favorite neighborhood bar, Muted Horn and our favorite card game, Phase 10.   The weather was so nice that we were able to walk to the bar and sit outside for a while before it go too dark, which was so nice.  Mike and I have been talking about how excited we are just to be able to walk places and sit outside and our dream finally came true.  Sitting outside playing Phase 10 was a dream.  Plus, by the end of the first round, Kelly was hooked!

The next day, we were up and out of the house by mid-morning for Das Brunch.  Das Brunch is a popup brunch event that takes place every couple of months at different locations around Berlin.  Mike and I went last fall and enjoyed the menu and the ambiance, so we were anxious to show Kelly how fun it was.  This month, the event was at an old moratorium, which sounds morbid which was actually beautiful...once you got over the cemetery in the backyard! We were excited and hungry.  Unfortunately, we arrived to extreme disorganization and didn't get seated for almost an hour.  It took another hour for us to get our food.  By the time we finished, we all agreed that it was a cool event in theory, but not worth the two hour wait.  Our food was savory and delicious though, so we can't complain TOO much!

We spent the rest of Saturday walking around, hanging out at BrewDog and grilling on our balcony for the first time this season!! Oh and of course, Phase 10. It was the perfect way to end the day! I see lots of weekend nights spent this way and I don't hate it!

Sunday morning, we took it easy.  I made pancakes and bacon and we all hung out for a while.  I wasn't feeling great and the thought of spending another entire day on my feet was daunting.  We did eventually make it out to Mauer Park, which has this HUGE flee market, so we walked around for a while scoping things out.  Berlin is huge on flee markets, but a lot of times, Mike and I feel like people are just cleaning out their closets. This market actually had good stuff that didn't look like was from someone's house. We didn't end up buying anything, but I would definitely go back and was a great place to spend the afternoon.  

Kelly had said that she wanted to try this restaurant Salt 'n Bone, which Mike and I had been to before and enjoyed, so we had reservations for Sunday night there and it didn't disappoint. Kelly and I both had the pulled pork slider while Mike got the fish and chips special.  The cool thing about Salt 'n Bone is that their menu tells you what beer to drink with each item.  I think Mike and Kelly enjoyed the beer, but the biggest hit was the mac 'n cheese.  Or maybe the french fries.  Both were devoured quickly and we walked away content. 

Monday came and went without anything exciting to report.  Kelly worked from home while Mike and I ran errands and went to the doctor.  We were sad to see her leave on Tuesday morning, but were thankful for her visit!  We're definitely going to miss being able to spend long weekends with her (and Sean!) when we head back to the States, but can't wait for one last celebration this summer at her wedding!!

PS I didn't take a lot of pictures this past weekend, but you can tell where my priorities lie by the few that I did take.  All the food pictures. All the time. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Third Trimester

I can't believe I've entered the home stretch! In some ways, I feel like this pregnancy has flown by, mostly due to the fact that I've felt great.  In other ways, I feel like we've been planning and talking about Baby Maximus FOR-EV-ER.  I just want to meet the little guy.    We're so thankful to have made it until now with no major issues.  Since there is no telling when our newest addition is going to make his debut, I figured I'd do a blogpost about my third trimester through 36 weeks and then do weekly posts from there.  So, here it goes!

Week Twenty Seven: Feeling good! It's been an easy week at home, but we did get to see our little guy when we went to the doctor.  Everything is going as they should and he looks happy and healthy.  The doctor said he's weighing in at 1 kg 150 ounces, so about 2.5 pounds. The doctor also said he was "head down" which is good because that means he's getting ready to make his appearance. Ever since then, I can feel him when I'm walking, which is kind of uncomfortable.  It's nothing major, but definitely noticeable. It almost feels like I have to go to the bathroom, but not really.  It's just like an extra presence (obviously) down there.

Week Twenty Eight: We spent the week traveling in Spain and it became apparent that my stamina is not what it used to be.  Thank goodness for the Spanish siesta!  I also struggled with sleep since I have a Snoogle body pillow at home that literally is a lifesaver and is the only way I can get comfortable sleeping anymore.  I managed, but the exhaustion was real.  I can still feel Baby Maximus moving all around, which he always seemed to do right around the same time as the siesta.  I also tried to treat myself to a glass of Sangria while in Spain and it did not sit well.  Oh well. Let's just hope this isn't a permanent thing.

Week Twenty Nine: I'm feeling very pregnant.  I know I've gotten past the point where people wonder if I'm pregnant or overweight because people keep telling me congratulations or pointing and saying "baby?" It's kind of nice, but I think my days of a cute baby bump are coming to an end and the days of the bump that can knock over something in a store are near.  I also had a day of heartburn, which is no fun. Hopefully that's short lived! Our little guy has been moving and shaking and I can see my stomach move in all sorts of crazy ways.  He just likes to make himself known, I guess!

Week Thirty: It's pretty funny to ride the metro now. It's so cold that I'm so bundled up so you can't really tell I'm pregnant until I unzip my jacket. The other day, I got on the crowded metro and unzipped my jacket and three different people stood up all at once. It's like parting the Red Sea.  Considering my balance isn't great, I gladly accepted a seat.  Baby Maximus has been moving and shaking.  We went bowling this past weekend and the hardest part about the whole experience was putting my shoes on and off.  Doing things like putting my shoes on, shaving my legs, and bending over have definitely gotten more difficult!  I went to the doctor and he said the baby is weighing 1.9kg (~4 lbs!) which sounds like a lot and has my mom and I wondering if we should be buying bigger clothes!

Week Thirty One:  I hung out at home in Berlin all week while Mike was skiing in Kyrgyzstan.  I had another doctor's appointment and my doctor said "If everyone had a pregnancy like you, I wouldn't have a job!"  I'm just so thankful that I've made it this long and still feel great.  I was having some lower back pain early in the week, but after moving around and spending A LOT of time in Child's Pose on the floor, I'm feeling back to normal.  I do notice that simple things like walking to the metro are a lot more effort, so while it feels good to keep moving, it's at a very slow pace and usually involves sitting afterwards.  Speaking of the metro, I had my coat zipped up and someone offered me a seat, so I must be showing, even throughout all of the layers! Hopefully there are only a few more weeks of really cold weather because I'm not sure how much longer my coat will zip up!

Week Thirty Two: Moving around is definitely more of a struggle, so I spent 20 minutes walking around with my shoe untied because bending over to tie it was just too much work and there wasn't a bench around. I was still able to work out, which was great, but after a work out and walking around the town of Innsbruck for an hour or so, it was time for a nap. Other than that, I've been feeling good and everyone tells me I'm looking great, which I appreciate and am thankful for.

Week Thirty Three: We are back at home; me indefinitely and Mike for a few days before one last pre-baby trip.  Lots of kicking and moving going on inside and lots of eating going on outside.  I was saying it's nice to be able to eat so much, but it's exhausting.  I feel like I can't go more than an hour or two without being ready for another hearty snack.  I haven't stepped on the scale this week, but I'm sure I've gained more than the normal pound a week.

Week Thirty Four: I spent the week showing Rachel around Berlin and am pretty impressed with how well I fared.  I was beyond exhausted at the end of the day, but Rachel (and myself) was impressed at how much I was able to do, especially when it came to walking.  That being said, I could definitely tell a difference in how much of a toll it all took on my body.  I woke up in the mornings feeling tired and by the end of the week, I needed to take a day just doing a lot of nothing.  Rachel kept asking if I was okay and telling me I didn't have to go all of these places with her and, even though it was exhausting, it felt great to move around.  I get so stiff and uncomfortable when I sit or just lounge around all day, so moving is good.

Week Thirty Five: I can't believe we only have five (or maybe six) weeks left.  Regardless, I feel like we went from having months left to now only a few weeks.  We took our prenatal class this week, which was so helpful and we both walked away glad we did it.  I'm starting to feel a little less like myself physically.  I was typing this up mid-week and I wrote that I wasn't feeling uncomfortable, but I wasn't quite comfortable.  Well, that's a lie.  By the end of the week, my back is pretty sore and the past few nights of sleep have been ROUGH.  I seem to have random week s of bad sleep, so I'm hoping this is one of them, but the sore back has me a little concerned this might be longer term situation.  I really can't complain though because there are a lot of women who have a lot bigger issues during pregnancy, so if I have a few weeks of a sore back towards the end, I'll take it!

Week Thirty Six: I reached my limit yesterday afternoon with a sore back, but luckily, a warm bath helped immensely, at least temporarily.  I've been having some indigestion all weekend, but when I think about what I ate, I'm not really surprised, so I'm not blaming our little guy...entirely. I went to the doctor for my now weekly checkups and he said everything looked good and that it didn't look like Baby Maximus would be making his appearance anytime soon. Mike and I were both kind of disappointed to hear that, although we know that the more time cooking in the oven, the better. Our little guy was sleeping when they were doing the heart rate monitoring, so the nurse had to push around on my stomach to try and wake him up, but other than that, everything looked good.  I'm sleeping better this week, which is a true blessing.  I'm somewhat uncomfortable all of the time, but I definitely feel better when I don't stay in the same position for a long time.  I think my ankles are a little swollen because my socks and pants feel tighter, but my rings still fit on my fingers so no swelling there! All the praise hands!

Weight Gain: 24 lbs! Right on target! As much as I hate working out these days, I'm pretty proud of this number. All of those squats have been paying off....

Food Cravings/Aversions: I started drinking smoothies in the morning after I randomly started craving them around the new year.  I feel like it's a great way to get lots of fruits (and some spinach!) and it usually fills me up for at least a couple of hours. I've continued with my spoonfuls of peanut butter craving, but they're not nearly as bad.  Overall, I'm just hungry all of the time. The amount I eat is actually impressive.  No food aversions really.  I let myself have a glass of champagne on New Years and a glass of Sangria when we were in Spain (judge away! I know you aren't supposed to drink alcohol when you're pregnant, but a glass here and there is not going to do anything.) and both times felt pretty dizzy and had some major hot flashes afterwards, so even a small glass of alcohol seems to really take a toll, so alcohol is out (not that it was ever really in).  I am ready for a nice glass of wine and some non-vegetarian sushi though!

Baby related purchases:  We had our baby shower and so many people were so generous that we didn't even have to make a ton of purchases.  We did buy the pack n play when we saw it go on sale on Amazon and made a few purchases of small things (changing pads, some more bottles, etc) we still needed after the shower, but you guys really took care of our little guy. Thank you so much!!

I can't believe we're in the home stretch!! Here's to hoping we make it another week!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Our Prenatal Class

I always knew that we would take some sort of prenatal class.  I wasn't sure how, but I knew we would do it.  I was looking for a class that would offer different breathing techniques, birthing positions, and just a general overview of the labor process, as well as what the first few hours and days with baby might look like. There are so many expats in Berlin and so much English is spoken that I figured it wouldn't be hard to find a class taught in English and I was right! I posted in an expat moms group on Facebook asking for recommendations and had a ton of suggestions.

The one we settled on, at Hebammerie, was taught in English (obviously a requirement for us!) and was from 10-5 one Saturday and Sunday.  They offer classes in German, as well, which are taught for a few hours once a week over the course of eight weeks.  It actually worked out better for us to have it all on one weekend because we didn't have to work around Mike's class schedule or our travel schedule.

We arrived on Saturday with no idea of what to expect.  I knew it was a group class, but didn't know how big, who the other participants were or really what would be taught in the class besides the basics.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge room with mats, birthing balls and a kitchen where the teacher was making tea and coffee.  I also wasn't sure if everyone would bring their spouse, but they did.  I'm sure Mike was glad to not be the only guy as we talked about cervixes, crowning, and post-partum recovery!

The class was led by a midwife who was probably in her 40s. The first day, we talked about the natural stages of labor, the different positions to try during labor and breathing techniques.  The second day focused more on pain management like epidurals, as well as what happens during a c-section. We also talked about the role other people (like the spouse) can play in delivery.

I thought it was extremely informative weekend and I think Mike agreed.  Knowing what to expect made us both feel much more prepared for the big day.  I was a little worried that it would be a little too "hippie" and pro-natural birth, but the midwife did a great job of presenting the pros and cons of both sides. Our only regret was that there wasn't a section on baby care, such as how to change a diaper or how to wrap a swaddle.  I'm sure that the hospital or the midwife can show us, but I think it would have been an easy addition to the class that would have made it even better. Overall, though, we have no regrets and are so glad we found this class.

And because I couldn't take a picture in the class, here's a picture of me as of Monday.  Feeling rather large and ready for this little guy to make his appearance!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Buying a Chicco Stroller and Car Seat Abroad

We are in the home stretch! With less than a month until Baby Maximus' due date, we are assembling all sorts of baby things, washing ALL the baby clothes and anxiously waiting for our little guy to make his appearance.  Shortly after we broke the news to my parents about their upgrade to grandparent status, they graciously offered to buy us our stroller and car seat combination (aka travel system).

We began researching our different options for travel systems, as well as car seat requirements in both Germany and the United States. I knew that our car seat would have to meet American standards since the majority of our driving would be done in the United States.  The last thing I wanted was to get pulled over shortly after our return to the States and get a ticket for a car seat that didn't comply with American requirements.  That would be quite the welcome back!  We decided to go with the Chicco Bravo Travel System.

Because of this, we had to order our car seat, and therefore the entire travel system from the United States. I didn't really think this would be an issue since we have a DPO box and have things shipped to it whenever we need something from the United States without any issues.  What I didn't think about was the size of the box the travel system would come in.   There is a limit of a combined 108 inches in length, width and height on any package shipped to an APO/FPO/DPO address.

Whenever I tried to put the travel system in my online shopping cart on Amazon or Babies R Us, it quickly notified me that the travel system couldn't be shipped to our mailbox.   Buy Buy Baby would let me place the order, but I got an email the next day saying that my order had been cancelled because it couldn't be shipped to my address. My mom called Buy Buy Baby and spoke to someone who assured her that it could be shipped and placed the order, only to have it cancelled the next day.

She called back and after lots of troubleshooting, my mom and the representative decided the best way to have them shipped was to order a car seat and a stroller separately.  I guess when you order the travel system, both items are shipped in the same box, which exceeds the shipping dimensions.  If you order them separately, they are shipped in two smaller (although still pretty big) boxes.   Two weeks later, they arrived at our DPO box and we are now the proud owners of a car seat and stroller!

Thanks to my mom for spending lots of time figuring this all out and to both of my parents for their generous gift!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Five Pregnancy Favorites

We don't have a ton planned for this week besides Mike working on a paper, so I figured I'd update you on all of the pregnancy things we've been doing around here to get ready for our little guy.  

We found out that one of Mike's high school friends and his wife are expecting (YAY Reidels!) and I was talking to the mom-to-be about pregnancy.  It got me thinking about things that have made this pregnancy easier physically and otherwise.  I figured it'd make a good blogpost for those who may be pregnant and for those of you who know someone who is pregnant (all of these would be great gifts!).

Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter, 6.5 Ounces
I ordered this at the end of my first trimester out of fear of stretch marks.  TBD if it actually prevents stretch marks, but let me tell you, it feels so good on my stomach.  The few times I've failed to apply it after a shower, I've found that my stomach is kind of itchy, even if I've used other lotions.  An added benefit is that it isn't greasy like other lotions.  It literally feels like butter. 

2.  Snoogle

Go ahead and laugh at the name of this body pillow, but this thing has been a lifesaver the second half of my pregnancy.  My aunt sent this to me in December and I started using this as soon as my stomach started growing and I haven't gone a night at home without it.  I'm a die hard stomach sleeper when I'm not pregnant and this helped transition me to a side sleeper.  Now when I'm much larger, it has saved my hips, my sleep and my sanity.  When we were travelling, I was constantly requesting more pillows from the front desk to replace it, but I was always happy to get home to my Snoogle.

3. LuLaRoe Clothes

LuLaRoe leggings and Irma top

Anna brought me a few pairs of leggings and a few LuLaRoe shirts when she came to visit and I fell in love.  They aren't maternity clothes, but I am 35 weeks pregnant and still wearing them comfortably. The leggings are fun, the shirts loose and everything fits wonderfully.  I did move from their One Size leggings to their Tall and Curvy leggings around week 30 for a little more room in the waist (do I still have one of those?), but I'm still able to fit in the OS leggings.   I've pretty much given up on maternity pants at this point, so leggings and dresses have become crucial.  There is a reason that you are seeing LuLaRoe pop up all over Facebook.  Their clothes are so comfortable and I know I'll be enjoying them even after Baby Maximus comes. 

Image result for bump to birthday pregnancy & first year journal

This was another gift from Anna and has been such a fun way to document the pregnancy.  It has a section for each week where you can put pictures and document what you did and how you were feeling, as well as any notes about the baby.  It also has pages for important doctor's appointments, how we told people, and lots of baby milestones for after the baby's arrival. I've had so much fun filling out each week of the pregnancy and I can't wait until I can document all of Baby Maximus' milestones.

Normally, I just sleep in tshirts and gym shorts and don't bother with fancy pajamas, but as my stomach grew and there was less room for my belly in my tshirts, I wanted something a little more comfortable.  Plus, I knew once Baby Maximus was here and I was breast feeding, it would be nice to have a shirt that buttoned down the front for middle of the night feedings.  I ordered this set, as well as another brand of button down pajamas and this set wins the prize.  It's stretchy and soft, plus it's airy enough that I don't get hot. They're in my hospital bag right now, so I'll have to go a month without wearing them, but I know they'll be perfect for the hospital and afterwards.   I'll probably be purchasing another pair once my body has returned to (somewhat) normal because I think this pair might be a little too big, but they're so comfortable I will definitely keep wearing them. 

Honorable Mention

Ingrid and Isabel BeBand

My mom sent me this after I mentioned that my regular pants didn't fit anymore, but I actually didn't start using it until this week. After my regular pants stopped fitting, I started wearing maternity pants or leggings without any major issues, but within the past few weeks, even my maternity pants are struggling to stay up.  This band just slides over the elastic part of my maternity pants and adds a little extra support since it's a little bit tighter.  I also think it will be great post-partum to help transition me back into my old pants and shorts (hopefully!).