Sunday, December 30, 2012

Looks Like We Made It: Year End Making

I’ve been stockpiling ideas lately: things I want to make, things I want to write about. I’m saving them up for the New Year when it’s fresh and holiday time restores to everyday time. This last post of 2012, my seventieth, incidentally, takes care of a little house keeping. There’s a few projects I completed in the last months that need documentation before the year is out. No year end recap to be found here, but rather a hurried show-and-tell of last minute crafting before we’re pushed into 2013.

You may remember that I was commissioned to make a special hush-hush birthday crown for a friend here in Berlin. Her husband turned forty-five in November and she threw him a Moustache themed birthday party (sound familiar?) I had heaps of fun making this crown. I collected a few bits of inspiration that I shared with my friend before the build to make sure I was on the right track. She assured me I was.

It also gave me a chance to use my new HP DeskJet 1000 color inkjet printer and printable cotton fabric. I’ve often seen printable fabric used in quilting and fabric book making to transfer photos onto fabric and have coveted the technology. Once I realized how inexpensive these printers actually were—they get you on the toner cartridges—I splurged. Since we have a laser printer for documents, the color printer would only be used infrequently for crafting. I’m seriously hooked, though, and keep trying to find things to print out on fabric. My latest obsession: labels for everything. The photo below is of the keepsake label I printed for the outfit Lennon wore to his first birthday party. The printer is a stop-gap measure until I can afford an embroidery machine—an expense that can't truly be justified when I currently sew on a borrowed machine.

Just before I was finished with the crown, I looked over my friend’s original email request which explained that the color theme for the party was Tiffany blue and black and asked that I incorporate these somehow. Oops! The black was taken care of but I had to get creative in bringing in the blue, which, in the end, added a surprising twist to the color story.

Onto my Christmas making! I made stockings for all four members of my family. Though one of them won’t join us until summer, we’ve already chosen his name and it has been printed on fabric and attached to his stocking. All four hung in our living room but L.I.B.’s (Little Inside Baby) stocking included a piece of paper covering the name. The stockings are made from white burlap, natural linen, and white cotton rick-rack. I lined them with market stall unbleached cotton.

Each year I make an ornament for our tree. Last year, I allowed Paloma’s Nest to do so as it was Lennon’s first Christmas and required something extra special. Next year, L.I.B. will also receive a Paloma’s Nest ornament. This year, there seemed no better way to mark these Holidays than with a picture of what is to come in 2013. I scanned L.I.B.’s photo from the amazing 3-D ultrasound we received when he was eleven weeks in gestation and printed it out in color on the printable cotton. From there, I made a simple pillow with blue rick-rack trim. I love how chunky it is on the tree, just as the previous year’s ornaments are. I can’t wait for our tree to be overwhelmed by big, homemade ornaments from so many happy Christmases.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gender Reveal: A Pictorial

Next summer, 
we will be welcoming a new baby boy 
into our family! 
We feel incredibly blessed.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guess What?

I needed a wee rest after my epically lengthy 40th birthday and blogging marathon! I’m back now and ready to talk about the “project for next year” you might remember me mentioning: the above was taken on October 3rd, twelve days into the “40 Days of Birthday” celebration. Fortunately for me, I was spared the knowledge of pregnancy on my actual birthday, allowing me champagne. I’m aware that some mamas choose not to indulge anywhere near even the possibility of conception, but I prefer to plead unawares.

The truth is, I was aware very early this time. Not enough to be extra cautious on my birthday, but later that week I started to experience strange symptoms, the kind I’d only experienced much later in pregnancy with Lennon. On the way home from the Lady Castle, after carrying a heavy-ish bag, my fingers tingled ala Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, which I suffered from last time only during my third trimester. I also had strange gum tenderness on the day we first tried to go to the TV Tower. I realize these could be related to any number of things besides pregnancy, but my uncanny intuition told me otherwise. Right around this time the nausea also started in, something that didn’t occur until a good six weeks into my last pregnancy. I decided to take a pregnancy test the day before my missed period (sorry, Gents, if talk of such things causes you the same queasiness I’m experiencing) because I just “felt” so pregnant.

The fancy Clear Blue Easy Digital test I took—the same I used to test with Lennon, incidentally—not only literally spells out pregnant (in German) it tells you how many weeks into your pregnancy you are. The day before my missed period, the test read “2-3" weeks. This is where the confusing math comes in: the test instructions state that 2-3 weeks will translate to 5-6 weeks at your doctor’s office: Doctors will count from the first day of your last period and the test counts from two weeks after the point, when you are likely ovulating. Of course this is all mute if you know the exact date of conception. We did not. We knew what the successful course of action was when trying to get pregnant and chose not to hedge our bets. We were sure to make everyday in the month of September a possible day of conception.

With such a strong presence of hormone the day before my missed period and such early symptoms, I was pretty certain this was some powerful pregnancy. I even suspected for one frightening moment that it might be twins, throwing a wrench in our “family of four” plan. I’ve since had it confirmed several times that it is only one, very hormonal baby.

By the way, for those keeping score at home, if at any point on or after October 3rd you witnessed me on my blog with what appears to be an alcohol beverage, let me assure you it is the alcohol-free variety. Lucky for me, Germany makes delicious alcohol-free beer! I practically lived on the stuff when I was nursing. It was fun to enjoy them in those first few weeks during this pregnancy as well, but once my nausea peaked, I couldn’t look at anything resembling beer—or squash, or tomato sauce, or bread, or nuts of any kind, just to name a few provocative aversions. Fruit and Asian noodles have been my go-tos this time around.

Lennon’s sibling should be arriving around June-ish. I’m not going to talk about specific dates since, in my experience, they mean nothing anyway. If I haven’t made it clear already, we’re very excited. Truly, I can hardly believe how incredibly blessed I am.

Post Script—Forty blogs entries for forty weeks of pregnancy? I’m already a little behind, but I’ll try to keep you informed in case of anything juicy. Also, "Gender Reveal" coming soon!

Friday, November 2, 2012

40 Days of Birthday: Day Forty {End of Days}

My 40th Birth-Day came and went and instead of writing about it, I took a day off. I hope the suspense hasn’t been too great. The day began with taking my son to Kita. The day before, I had asked if there would be any sort of Halloween festivities, but beyond having a Jack-o-Lantern in the lobby, the answer was no. It’s still catching on here, as you may have read. When we arrived, however, there was one child who’d come in a half-baked Darth Vader costume. I say half-baked because he was missing his mask, the ultimate accessory for any Vader. Nonetheless, this made me wish I had put Lennon in his Beagle costume for the day. Discussing it with Nicholas later, it was determined that we did the right thing by bringing him sans costume: The Beagle costume is still a little big on Lennon and it might have been annoying for all parties to have him tripping on it all day. In addition, it had already gotten some good play this costume season. I reminded myself that there is always Fasching in February—his bigger fitting Beagle costume should still be in working order then as well.

I received a couple of last minute birthday gifts on my final Birth-Day: Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep the night before from Lennon, and in my mailbox when I came home from Kita drop off, a lovely bracelet from my sister-in-law, Kim.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a large package from my sister, Erin, stuffed with fun bath toys for Lennon and a birthday gift for me: Artisan wool felted cuffs handmade in Northern California. I wanted to wait until my last Birth-Day to show them off—giving them their proper due. So pretty.

I did some gifting myself, this being a holiday beyond just Birth-Day Forty. I made some extra banana sweetened “acorn” muffins for our upstairs neighbors, the family that includes Lennon’s buddy Otis. I reckoned since the boys are too young to go out for Trick-or-Treating—or eating candy—they could enjoy a healthy “treat” at home. Lennon would have his “acorn” muffins with cream cheese for breakfast the rest of the week. Incidentally, the muffin recipe is the same one I used for his birthday cake. No sugar but lots of love.

When I retrieved Lennon from Kita, his teachers informed me that Lennon had walked from the playroom to the bathroom all by himself. When we got home, I tried to recreate what had happened at Kita: he walks! He walked all the way down our hallway. Then he walked across the living room. I tried to film, but realized this was a two person job so waited until Nicholas got home. It was literally overnight that he went from taking just a few steps beyond our arms to truly walking on his own!

After filming the boy and his new amazing feat (or is it amazing “feet?”), I put him into the tiger costume that I had worn on Halloween when I was his age. I talk more about it here. As always, our photo shoot did not go as planned. Our independent little boy isn’t interested is posing—certainly not when there is walking to be done. Miraculously, we captured some shots of him that mirrored the ones of me wearing the costume—completely by accident. Finally, Lennon was happy to be freed from the acrylic confines of the 1970s baby romper and into his own cotton pajamas.

The main activity for my Halloween Birth-Day was to do a Native American-esque smudging ceremony of our apartment. Truth be told, I had meant to do this directly after we moved in, but there was still so much commotion, it just never seemed the right time. On this last Birth-Day, as I put my transition into this new decade behind me, it felt right to cleanse. I had purchased the sage smudge stick in Half Moon Bay, California this past summer. I love that it wrapped wrapped in a pretty orange, cotton twine. After the smudge was lit, I started clockwise from our front door and visited every room, letting the smoke waft throughout. Many people had lived here temporarily in the months leading up to our moving in and the place needed a clearing out. In addition, whatever stress or fears we brought with us regarding the move or the financial jump we’d made to the larger apartment could stand a cleansing as well. With all my esoteric good intentions, the first change I noticed after I smudged was that my cold-turned-sinus-infection seemed much worse. Even the gentle, aromatic smoke from the smudge was irritating. Small price to pay, I suppose, for clean house.

Later that evening, unexpectedly, a small group of Trick-or-Treaters rang our bell. We hadn’t purchased any candy, not having had any visitors on Halloween for a couple of years. We buzzed them in thinking they’d go to someone else's door in the building. When they knocked on ours, Nicholas was standing, frozen, by the knob, signaling to me not to make a sound. One Halloween, before I moved to Germany, Trick-or-Treaters knocked on Nicholas’s door and he was mortified to not have anything for them. I assured him it would be all right and grabbed my bowl of acorn muffins—at least we could offer those. At the door was a group of four twelve year olds dressed in classic witch and goblin attire. Nicholas explained, rather defeated, that we did not have any candy but asked would they like a homemade muffin, baked fresh today. Three of the kids took a muffin. The other, perhaps, had been warned by her parents not to take any homemade treats. In general, that’s probably a good rule.

Nicholas then ran out to a convenience store to grab a bag of candy. I put the contents in a bowl by the door, proper Halloween style. Luckily, we did get one more small group of Trick-or-Treaters who were thrilled by our selection: Haribo Maoam.

Side Note: On the way home from the store with the candy, Nicholas informed me that one of my muffins had been found half eaten on a window ledge in our building and another was perched on the pumpkin outside our door. I really can’t blame those twelve year olds. How can banana possible stand up to all that delicious sugar?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

40 Days of Birthday: Day Thirty-Nine

Just one day till the end of days—Birth-Days, that is! I’ve been given a reprieve from being inventive lately as pre-scheduled events, meetings, and holidays provide me with my extraordinary activities. Today is no exception. It is the day before Halloween and our pumpkins were carved.

Lennon isn’t so skilled with a knife yet, so all the actual carving was left to my husband and I. Lennon is also not fond of gooey stuff—he got very upset at Kita when, on the first day, they tried to have him create a print by dipping his hand in paint. He stood as an observer today as we cleaned and cut.

 We began carving in the late afternoon, when my husband got home from work. We borrowed a day old newspaper from our neighbors to use as a surface for the messy pumpkin massacre and were happy to see that is was printed with pigment-based inks, the kind that come off on everything they touch. All of the big papers in the U.S. no longer use this type of ink. Though we had smudge marks on our table, we were happy to know that we could grab a German paper and a spray bottle of vinegar any old time for spotlessly clean, streak-free windows.

Lennon did have a snack at the beginning of the carving and his dinner toward the end, but still was excited to nibble on the cut-out top of his miniature pumpkin. His little pumpkin had been in his room for a few weeks now. When Nicholas put Lennon to bed, they said goodnight to pumpkin. Today, Lennon got to see what we do with pumpkins around these parts.

Nicholas did most of the pumpkin cleaning and sorting of the seeds for roasting. I was in charge of the carving. This is definitely not my medium. I experimented with one of the pumpkins, trying to create the San Francisco Giants logo, but miscalculated my lines and ended needing assist from a toothpick. To my eye, it turned out far better than I imagined but is still sad looking. Lennon’s little pumpkin and our bigger pumpkin faired better with classic Halloween faces.

It was our intent to watch the 1966 classic, “It’s the GreatPumpkin, Charlie Brown” while we carved but the iTunes store let us know that it would be thirteen hours before the movie would be fully downloaded. Luckily, our internet troubles are being dealt with tomorrow, but for today, Lennon friendly music would accompany our festivities.

We lit the pumpkins, turned off the lights, and all gazed at what we’d made. It was time for Lennon to go to bed and for the first time when I went to pick him up, he pulled away, not ready to say goodnight. I did this the same thing all the time as a child. So did Nicholas. We just wanted to stay up and have fun—not miss anything. It seems that neither does our little boy.

40 Days of Birthday: Day Thirty-Eight

I had a very exciting meeting today about a project for next year here in Berlin. This meeting has been on the books for a few weeks and I was hoping to share more about it since it is my official Birth-Day activity for today—but I can’t. There are just too many details that need to be sorted before I can spill the beans, and before I can truly call it officially in the works. I’m looking forward to telling you more about it in the coming months.

Something unexpected happened today, before my exciting secret meeting. Lennon has a small plush fox that he carries with him nearly everywhere. Fox is an inexpensive toy that we bought at IKEA in the late spring. Lennon became attached to fox for a couple of reasons. When we travelled to the U.S. this past summer, we took a collection of toys with us that were small enough to be portable and inexpensive enough to not make us sad should they get damaged or lost in travel. His little fox was included. At the time of our vacation, Lennon wasn’t particularly attached to any one toy so we could make these kinds of decisions, but having spent a month with these toys only, they became mainstays. Additionally, Lennon loves toys with tails or dangly parts that he can hold in his hand and flip around. This is a habit we discovered on vacation, perhaps because fox was there with his perfect, toddler hand-sized tail.

When he started Kita this fall, we thought fox would be a perfect companion as they asked we bring our child’s favorite “Kuscheltier” with him every day. Though Lennon doesn’t get upset when fox is not around and is happy to play with other toys or even swing other plush animals by the tail, fox had been a consistent companion throughout the summer and, again, wouldn’t be such a financial loss should something happen to him.

As we came from Kita today, I handed Lennon fox whom he grabbed tightly by the tail. On the way home, I always glance down to make sure fox is still with him in the stroller. Luckily, he always is. We stopped into a few stores before heading home. As I was lifting Lennon out of the stroller, I noticed fox was missing. I checked everywhere on my person and in our bags but fox had been…dropped. I really couldn’t remember the last time I glanced down to make sure fox was there. Was it before we got on the train? After the store? Fox could be anywhere. Fox was lost. I did the first thing I always do in any crisis: call my husband. We both decided that it probably wasn’t advantageous for us to retrace all of our steps, having no idea where he could be. Luckily, IKEA still sold the exact same fox and Nicholas would make a run tonight to get another one.

We’d always said that if fox got lost, we’d move on and not replace him. Our adaptable Lennon would find another toy to be his companion. Actually faced with the real life scenario, however, we needed a new fox. He’d become such a celebrity amongst our friends and at Kita: Lennon and his fox. As I waited for Nicholas to come home, I became sad about losing that particular fox. Yes, he could be replaced, but I imagined mending fox when he ripped a seam and letting him take on that wonderful child-loved patina. That fox had been washed so many times its fur was a little matted and dingy. The new fox would be all different and that made me melancholy.

Nicholas walked through the door and asked if I’d received his message. He was on his way home and wanted to know what side of the street we’d walked on, just in case he’d happen to spot fox. Disappointed that I’d not gotten his message, I apologized. Just then, out of his pocket he pulled fox---the original, lost-now-found fox! Nicholas had seen fox on one of the outside tables at Rogaki, just down the street. Some kind soul likely found him on the street and placed him there, clearly seeing how beloved he was. Happy day! Lennon saw fox sitting on his Tripp Trapp chair where Nicholas had placed him, smiled, and went to him. Then fox made a straight line for the washing machine. He’d be clean and dry in time for Kita in the morning. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

40 Days of Birthday: Day Thirty-Seven

We’ve had today’s activity on our calendar for months: The Botanic Garden Halloween Fun Fest! We attempted to go to this same event last year. It was one of the first times Lennon used his baby buggy. He was so displeased with it, however, we put him in the baby carrier half way enroute. With an empty carriage and a baby on my chest, Nicholas, Lennon, and I waited in line for an hour to enter the festival. We had no idea Halloween would have such interest in Berlin. We did arrive late in the day and when our friends called to woo us to dinner we aborted our mission.

Before we got going today, my husband and I went through our weekend trade-off schedule: I get up with Lennon early, around 6am, while Nicholas sleeps. At around 8pm, I get to go back to bed for an hour or so. When I awoke this morning from my sleep-in time, Lennon and Nicholas had made me breakfast in bed for Birth-Day Thirty-Seven! So very lovely.

 We came to realize late that it was day light savings time, so even though we had a leisurely morning, that extra hour still allowed us to arrive early to the Fest—minutes after opening. There was no line and we sauntered right in. The admission cost was the regular Botanical Gardens entrance fee, and of course I received my student discount. It was brisk today so perhaps that’s what kept people away. Or maybe coming early was key. In any case, it remained uncrowded.

The opening of the festival coincided with Lennon’s naptime. Lennon was cozy bundled in his “Fuß Sack” inside his stroller and, as he knows to do at 11:30, went right to sleep. Sleepy Lennon had a jack-o-lantern balloon tied to his stroller upon arrival. We first made our way to the pumpkin carving station. We reckoned most of the activities were for older kids but we thought maybe we’d get a good photo-op in for Lennon—he wore his “Jenks the Beagle” costume out today! The pumpkins were 5 euro and you paid an additional 5 euro deposit on the carving kit. We’d be carving the pumpkin we bought at the Hofladen Falkensee the night before Halloween, but it was sweet to see what the future would hold when Lennon is a bit older.

After picking up a 1 euro candied apple that, despite my husband’s reservations, was completely delicious, we headed indoors. A ghostly puppet show was to be performed in one hall but our timing was off so we headed to the “Neues Glashaus” where more of the program was taking place. It was lovely and warm inside. Nicholas and sleeping Lennon stayed on the stroller friendly first level where chairs and tables were set while I ventured upstairs to snap some photos. On the next level up, there was a “Halloween Café” selling snack bar food. Next to it, a child’s birthday party was underway with a long table and decorations. I’m not certain how they pulled this one off, but it was such a brilliant coup: have your child’s birthday party at a festival with face painting, crafts, and costumes! It made me wonder why more people didn’t think of this. How did they secure that lovely spot next to the café? Can anyone book this for a birthday? It was all too mind-boggling.

On the upper level, there were several booths selling Halloween items. Nothing extraordinary, at least not by U.S. Halloween standards, but these items were fairly exotic here. It was all typical drug store merchandise: Halloween paper plates and cups, plastic witch hats and prefab costumes. Most children came in costume to the festival today but didn’t stray from the classics: witches, ghosts, and goblins. There weren’t even any fairy princesses. Halloween is new enough to Germany that all the original rules still seem to apply.

Beyond the Halloween items, a face-painting table was teeming with children and several craft tables were set with materials. Kids were painting ceramic birds. I wasn’t sure what this activity had to do with Halloween, but none of the children seemed to object.

We continued to walk the grounds when Lennon woke up hungry and thirsty. After a quick snack we headed home, all before the clock struck 1pm and we turned into pumpkins.