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.