Monday, July 22, 2013

Pregnancy Update

When I last really wrote about my pregnancy with our little jelly bean, I outlined why I've been feeling like shit and that I felt guilty for how much work I've missed, while at the same time hoping that the entire experience was helping me get better at respecting my physical boundaries.
A number of people reached out to me with love and support. Thank you. Many of you asked for an update. Here it is:
I'm now in the third trimester - 29 weeks!! - and I feel good. As in, I feel better now than I have in my entire pregnancy.
How did that happen? Well, first, I got over the guilt of not working as soon as I heard the words 'danger of early labor' and 'need to see a specialist' (translated from German). I'll tell ya, when the life of my unborn child is at risk suddenly work concerns fly right on out of every window within a 50 mile radius. Almost instantly the guilt was replaced by thankfulness that I live in a culture that honors people as people and not just as workers, one in which I cannot get fired for facing a crisis of health or be dropped by my health insurance. In fact, I continue receiving my income AND complete health insurance through the government systems.
Additionally - and more importantly - deep gratitude that all signs of early labor have stabilized and our little jelly bean, while small, is healthy and growing.
And, second, I finally got sick. PJ brought home some sort of "kissing disease" virus that gave him all sorts of sores in his mouth. It was miserable; he survived on cuddles and ice cream. And although the doctor insisted that it wasn't something that I could get ... you guessed it: I got it too. Not as bad as PJ but I had one heck of a sore in my mouth. My body rallied and kicked the virus' ass and suddenly I felt all over better. I'm supposing my body needed a good kick to really go after whatever was making me feel like crap and raising the infection levels in my blood. Whatever. I feel so much better.
We have around 80 days until the due date, hoping that jelly bean chooses to bake for that long. And if she chooses to come as late as her brother, I hope I can remember the fear that sat in my heart for a few weeks while the words 'danger of early labor' waltzed around my soul.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

PJ'sS 2nd Birthday Party

Due to PJ and I being a bit sick on his actual birthday, we rescheduled his party. It finally took place and thankfully a handful of kids could come and the entire experience was what a kid's birthday party should be: relaxed, loud, and fun.

We started with the second cake I've ever made from scratch. This time I also made the icing from scratch. Talk about make-your-teeth-ache-sweet!

The whole Steinbach clan blowing out the candles.

PJ wasn't that impressed with the candles.

He took them out as soon as possible to get to the cake.

PJ with his cake, ready to chow down.

After the cake - and props to the Germans that managed to eat a full (small) piece of that American sweetness - more friends arrived and one of them brought water balloons! PJ only needed to be shown once what to do with them and then he was OFF.

PJ aiming for his daddy.

Zoom in and check out PJ's face: this was serious business.
Sadly, but as can be expected with three men and four boys, the balloons were gone far too quickly. But PJ learned a lesson for life....that he keeps trying to repeat.

I have no idea why this is funny but the Mr. wanted a picture.

After the balloon fight, the boys took off. I'm telling you: the more kids, the less work. They took off, climbing on things, jumping off of said things, chasing each other, and only coming around the adults for food and drink.

Boys climbing.

Boys jumping (in the background).

This is why older friends are important:
they teach you things.
Far too quickly the sun began to sink and little boys started to yawn and get a little tired-grumpy. But it was a lovely afternoon full of noise and people who like and enjoy. Win-win-win.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013


The tides of the North Sea are extreme. The water level difference between high and low tide can be over three meters or darn near ten feet. During the low tide, kilometers (miles) of mud are exposed as far as the eye can see. In some places that mud is thick enough to cross during low tide in something called a "wattwanderung."

But, since the tide returns along difficult to see or track channels that can quickly and very unexpectantly trap people far out from the actual land on "earth" that will soon be ten feet below water (in other words, "you gonna drown, fool"), it is highly recommended to attempt a wattwanderung only in good health and only with an experience guide.

Yet, a wattwanderung remains a "must do" while visiting the North Sea. Sure, its deadly and all that but...well, people are strange.

The Mr. was really excited about going on a wattwanderung; I was open to it. We talked about all sorts of possibilites for how we could make it work so that all three of us could go and landed on the idea that he would carry PJ in a backpack.

But as we learned more about the challenges of a wattwanderung, how long this one was going to be (4 hours minimum), the weather turned chilly, and my nausea and body pain continued...we decided that the Mr. would join the excursion and PJ and I would hang out back on the farm.

PJ and I joined the group to send them off. To grasp just how cold it had gotten in the picture below I have on two shirts, a jacket, a scarf, jeans, thick socks, and wellingtons. And I was cold. The charming young lady next to me has on shorts and is barefoot. Turns out her outfit was sensible.

PJ and I joined the group for a few feet before we both lost interest and turned back. See how everyone has on shorts and are barefoot? In just six hours or so where they are standing will be underneath between four and ten feet of water. All of it.

PJ and I were less than impressed. It was cold, windy, and muddy. So we went home...

...and took a three hour nap together. God, I love sleep.

Meanwhile, the Mr., our host (pictured below), and the entire wattwanderung group sunk thigh-deep into mud (check out her pants for how far she sunk in...shorts would have been better), cut their feet on shells hidden beneath the mud, got rained on, froze everywhere except for where the mud had created a warm protective layer around their legs and feet...and supposedly had an awesome time together.

People are strange.

A few weeks later the Mr. and I exchanged our thoughts about our totally different days. Can you believe it? He actually thinks he got the better deal with his wattwanderung. Please, PJ and I slept for three hours.

Three. Hours.

If that isn't the perfect vacation day, I really don't know what is.


Sunday, July 14, 2013


While we were up in Northern Germany, staying with a wonderful former colleague on her awesome farm, she encouraged us to visit a smaller, less-popular-than-Sylt island called Föhr for a day trip. We had to ride a ferry to get there (did I mention that I was nauseous every day without a ferry ride thrown in?) but it was worth it.

On the ferry.
Overall, the island was somehow slower, calmer, more friendly. The beaches were scattered with the traditional beach chairs that can be rented for a small fee. We found an empty one at a beach bar and got to enjoy that special North Sea experience without the fee. That was nice because with a toddler, no one stays anywhere long enough for a fee to make sense.

Since I wasn't feeling all that great, I stayed in the beach chair above while the two boys ran across the wet sand and into the sea.
But mostly we just wandered about for a few hours, enjoying the sun and taking fun pictures. PJ, of course, spent most of his time charming everyone around him. 

And then it was already time to go back to the farm.
All in all, while I enjoyed visiting Sylt once, I think I'd rather go back to Föhr. More my speed.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Bring on the Invasion!

With little fanfare our little jelly bean and I tumbled into our third trimester. I've been remiss in sharing bump pictures with this pregnancy as well but, in case I'm not the only one keeping track, my belly is bigger, earlier this time. That's to be expected, I hear tell. And while this pregnancy has been rough, good news is starting to roll in. For example, we finally learned that we are welcoming a little girl into the clan!

Bring on the pink invasion!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday!

I am now the mother of a two-year-old. Two years; never have two years gone by so quickly. Unfortunately, PJ has been a bit sick and out respect for the other children we invited (and their parents!), we rescheduled his birthday party by a week.

But that doesn't mean WE can't celebrate! And the party started early and in the back yard.

PJ's face as he first sees our back yard.

PJ running towards his birthday surprise.

What made PJ so excited: a wadding pool with lid, a slide (that we quickly
discovered fits into the wadding pool), and a little house.
The slide was good fun, but got even better when it was the entry point
into the cold water.

PJ took ownership of his little house quickly and with easy, extreme joy. He then spent the entire day in this little house. He ate and drank there; he parked his little car there; he goofed around running in and out the doors...

...and even invited mommy around for a morning coffee. Such a smart, smart kiddo.
Mine is real coffee; his is "kinderkaffee", also known as hot chocolate.

We wrapped up the morning with homemade cake for breakfast. This marks the first time I have ever made a cake from scratch and then decorated myself. Lets just was sweet but I didn't miss my calling as a baker.

P.S. we are now in the 3rd trimester!
After the Mr. had to head to work, a friend popped around with a bowel of ice cream for the birthday boy and a little toy police car. Then PJ and I opened a gift from the US: four really nice books about animals. When I realized that two of the books are pop-up books, I got a little nervous but PJ is all over them, carefully, and enjoyed them for quite a while.

Then PJ and I got out of the house for a short errand and then came home to take a much needed nap - PJ even feel asleep on the couch!
Being two is exhausting.

Almost as soon as we woke up, we skyped in Granny and Grandpa in Ohio while PJ played in his own little playground, including cold water in his wadding pool.

Finally Tante S (formerly known as S-squared) arrived. With another gift: this time a table and chairs for the back yard.

PJ was all over them, claiming his immediately and then assigning a chair to...
...daddy and Tante S.
After a relaxed dinner, PJ opened his final gift (of the day): a book from mommy and daddy. Our little man is a heck of a snail hunter, especially in our back yard. So we got him a beautifully crafted book about a friendship between a snail and a whale.

Opening the gift with mommy.

Hunting for snails with daddy.
All in all, it was a super busy and very enjoyable day. The Mr. and I were in bed right after PJ and getting up wasn't the easiest this morning for us all, except our little jelly bean who was dancing and tumbling at 5:45.

PJ is two. I'm in the 3rd trimester. Wowzers.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Adventures on Sylt

More than a few weeks ago we went for our last vacation before the jelly bean arrives in October. Considering we had to drive nine hours, we split the driving into two days both up and back, stopping at some friends' homes outside of Hannover. They were excellent hosts but sadly I failed to get a single picture of our time together.

On the way up, and after our stop in Hannover, we went to a German island in the North Sea called Sylt. The two car-friendly ways to get onto the island are with a ferry from Denmark or a train for cars from Germany. We chose the train option and it was remarkable. Although its only eight hours away from where we live in the south part of Germany, it felt like a different world. The air smells different, the air feels different, the world looks different: flat, moist, sandy with straight lines as far as the eye can see.

Our view from within our car while on the car train. That there is the sea in low tide.

PJ with his baby while on the train.

Once we arrived in Sylt we discovered we had rented a one-bedroom hotel room with a kitchen. That was a really nice surprise. It is so much easier and relaxed when little man can enjoy his morning cereal while his parents are still in their pajamas, sipping their coffees. Am I right, other parents?

Almost as soon as we arrived, we went out for a long walk around the hotel's area and then for dinner at a great kid-friendly camping place with direct access to the wild side of the sea.

Check out that natural sand dune sorta thing in the back.

The boardwalk up the sand dunes and to the sea.

The top of the boardwalk.
PJ seeing the ocean for the second time (first time was in Hilton Head).

 I wanted to put a video of PJ running to the sea over and over again, while his papa rushed after him over and over again, but Blogger is being a serious P.I.A. You'll have to imagine it I guess. Booooooo.

We finally managed to catch PJ just long enough to snap a quick picture.

The next day we went to both the south and the north tips of the island. While the rest of Germany was soaked in rain that led to major flooding, we were on a sunny, hot island. This side of the sea was calm but still freezing cold water. That didn't bug PJ at all: within half an hour, we had stripped him down to his onsie and he was happily rushing towards the water to splash around.

Right before we stripped him down, rushing into the freezing cold water.
Notice: PJ is the ONLY person headed towards the water.

When he was finally too cold to play anymore, we bundled him back up and cuddled him warm. Then we  played on the beach playground and ate some yummy ice cream.

Afterwards, we were more than tired and all crashed out for a massive nap. Our jelly bean decided to dance me awake, so I got this adorable picture of my boys napping.

That afternoon we went to the northern tip of the island which was so beautiful and stunningly raw that we forgot to take a single picture. Whoops. Guess you'll enjoy a vacation there soon? ;)

The next day, our last on the island, we explored the largest town of the island called Westerland. We spent the majority of the time on the massive, stone boardwalk that runs along the seashore. Along the way there was a walkway under active repair with massive machines and the whole deal. Of course we had to stop so that PJ could watch the machines...but I'd like to point out all the other men of all ages that were watching the action as well.

Men. So easily distracted.

Typical of an island, the weather turned from the warm, sunny of the day before into a chilly, rainy day within just a few hours. As mainlanders, we got caught in a hefty downpour. But as lucky mainlanders, we managed to duck into a simple, PJ-friendly beachfront restaurant that offered reasonably priced and super yummy fish platters.

PJ and papa right before the rain started.

PJ and mommy during the start of the rain.
Those skies! Those sand dunes!

All in all, I'm happy that we took the chance to visit the island Sylt. Its a rather posh island - one way to describe it: there are certainly more Porsches than there are VW, let alone Toyotas or Fords - but it also offers activities that are family-friendly. It is a special place, especially since so much space is set aside to allow the island to be and remain 'natural' but for us, I think once is most likely enough.

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