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Snapshots of our lives

October 10, 2012

The Booby Trap

Disclaimer: This is a post about female breasts – mine to be precise – and there won’t be any photos. This is a vent about my love-hate relationship with breastfeeding.

I breastfed Milo for 6 months and thought about quitting every single day. In the end a dehydrating attack of food poising made the decision for me. I am hoping for something similar to happen with Felix again. Not the food poisoning (most liquid evacuation of my body ever!!!), but something that gets me off the drug at a reasonable point of time.

Yes, breastfeeding is a drug. Once you start it, it is really hard to say no to the rush of Oxytocin from it – that blissful hormone that balances out at least a little bit of all the other stress. Why did I start breastfeeding? Because it’s the natural thing to do, it’s best for baby, and it’s free. Also it is kind of convenient not having to remember to pack any more stuff in the diaper bag (bottles, formula). And not having to clean bottles. I also can’t deny that I really dig my temporary boob enlargement. Finally some normally sized breasts that fill out bras.

It will be a sad day when they disappear forever. But also a liberating day. Breastfeeding is a very exhausting one-person job. A job that is entirely on me – day and night. If you know me, you know how independence is the essence of my being and being pinned down like that is causing slight symptoms of depression. Not only because of breastfeeding, but in combination with total exhaustion I secretly cry a little bit every day.

I hate breastfeeding with a passion. When baby just wants to use me as a pacifier for hours, when I have to be sitting down in a quiet spot at an event instead of being able to join in on the fun. When the boobs get too full and you have to abort any activity or outing after 3 hours just to get back home to being sucked empty again. Also, breastfeeding is very messy. Milk. sprays. everywhere. I go through at least three burp cloths a day just to catch half of the leaking milk and will still find milk spots on all our couches. For something that’s so natural, breastfeeding is not as easy as it should be. I think I don’t know any mom who hasn’t had issues with undersupply, oversupply, baby not latching right, food sensitivities via breast milk, etc.

My boob’s problem is a forceful let-down. Meaning that the milk shoots out very fast and strong. Causing baby to pull off and it spraying everywhere. Alternatively causing him to gulp, swallow lots of air, and become very gassy and miserable. I could pose the question if this really best for me and my baby, but it doesn’t matter because I know I will keep going anyway.

September 14, 2012

Night And Day

With the first child you kind of have no clue what’s gonna happen. What is he gonna look like? How is labor gonna work out? Which day will he born? Will he be a good sleeper?

With the second one you think you know and expect everything to be the same as with the first one. I couldn’t imagine Felix to look any different from Milo, I thought labor is gonna feel exactly the same and be a slow process again and I thought he was gonna be born a few days before his due date. Guess who was wrong.

Felix’s labor and delivery was very different from Milo’s birth experience. Since I never told Milo’s story, let’s rewind real quick. The whole process was pretty straight forward with Milo. I had some slight crampiness the two nights before everything started and didn’t get much sleep. Regular but painless contractions started at 6 AM on the 11th of August 2010. Linc and I went to Target to get some last supplies and had lunch at Cosi. At that point the contractions were 5 minutes apart and I could not stand to sit on my butt during contractions. Imagine that big pregnant lady at the restaurant standing up from her chair every 5 minutes.

Around dinner time the contractions became really painful and I couldn’t talk through them any more. They mostly were a huge pain in the butt. Literally. Milo’s head must have been pushing on a nerve down there and all I felt was (beware, major TMI) a knife up my butt with every contraction. Around midnight we went to the hospital. I was 4 cm dilated and the contractions became further than 5 minutes apart again. My whole body was just tired from standing up for 12 hours straight. So after 12 hours of trying to natural I decided to get some relief through an epidural and could not thank the anesthesiologist enough for putting it in quickly. It was another 11 hours before I could push Milo out for 1.5 hours. For a total of 18 hours of active labor the result was a totally exhausted mom.


And then came Felix. Or so I thought. I started to have regular but painless contractions on Thursday evening, August 9. Getting all excited that we will have a baby that night, we finished some last minute house cleaning and bag packing. Then I decided to lay down for a bit to preserve energy for when things get painful. Well, I woke up the next morning and the contractions were gone, no baby here. What a disappointment!

The same thing happened the three following days. Sunday it was Milo’s birthday. We went to the park and had a nice family day together. I was having the same fake contractions the whole time, but had kind of given up hope that they would ever turn into real labor. I swore that I would probably have the baby at home because I wouldn’t believe it when the real thing would finally happen.

Sunday night I did some baby shifting exercises because I figured that all these practice runs were meant to bring the baby into the right position. He had been facing backward the whole pregnancy and babies that lay that way have a harder time coming out. Little did I know that this was exactly the help my little man needed. I lifted my belly during a few contractions, then laid down to sleep, when all of a sudden I felt a big shift inside of me, almost like a pop, and contractions became 3 minutes apart and painful immediately after. This was at 1 AM. We waited another 2 hours at home to make sure it was the real deal and then checked into the hospital at 3 AM. At that point I was well into active labor, but still managed to breathe through the contractions. The pain wasn’t nearly as bad as with Milo and most important – it wasn’t in my butt. These were real manageable contractions. I was so happy to experience some normal non-crazy labor.

Over the next few hours my cervix kept dialating 1 cm an hour, but my contractions started to grow further apart to every 6-7 minutes. Therefore the midwives suggested to break my water to speed things up again. At this point I was still able to manage the contractions without pain meds, but the thought of having them every 2 minutes instead of every 6 made me decide to get an epidural before breaking the water. Everything was going so calmly that I did not want this peaceful labor experience ruined by a crazy finale. I will never find out if I could have done it completely without pain meds, but I do know that I had the nicest and peaceful labor experience I could wish for.

After breaking the water at 8 AM and 8 cm dilation, contractions came back to back and got me fully dilated in less than two hours. I started to feel a lot of pressure in the upper belly and asked the nurse if I could up the dosage of the epidural. Turns out that pressure was the baby ready to come out. I was fully dilated and ready to push. Unfortunately the midwife was helping somebody else at that time and it took her seemingly forever to get to me. By the time she got there, Felix almost slipped out by himself. It took only 2 pushes and he made his entrance to the world. Best. Moment. Ever! Meeting my two babies have been the overwhelmingly happiest moments in my life and make the whole 9 months and labor so worth it. I love giving birth and would to it again every year, if it didn’t involve ending up with more and more children.

We are pretty sure that our family is complete now. Milo has a buddy, our bedrooms are all occupied, and we are ready to move on with our lives – getting back to do fun things like bike rides, camping, rolling down hills, and such. While newborns are certainly cute and I love my new son, they certainly put a hold on your life for a good few months. I couldn’t imagine being restricted by pregnancy and a newborn sleep schedule for a good part of my active life. Now just a few more months and we’ll be back in business!




August 16, 2012

Felix Is Here!

On August 13th, 2012, our second little boy Felix Julian Tran was born. He entered the world with a strong cry at 10:13 AM, weighing 8lbs 2oz and measuring 20 inches long. We are all doing well adjusting to the life of a family of four. Here are some first pictures. The full birth story is coming soon.


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July 31, 2012

Man Cave

Who would have thought that my man is so susceptible to advertising? When I picked up a paint swatch for our basement accent wall that was called “Man Cave”, he was all of a sudden so set on using that color even though it was way darker and brownish than what we were looking for. He also bought dog snacks for his parent’s dogs just because they are called “Milo’s Kitchen”. Just name things something that are meaningful to him, and he will buy them.

But side notes aside – this post is about the preliminary finished status of our big basement makeover. Here is a quick reminder of what it used to look like and the plans we had for it:

And here is the for-now-final result:

This project was really more Lincoln’s than mine, since I was getting too pregnant to help with any laborious work, he spends way more time down there anyway, and wanted it to become his very own man cave. A space where he can make the manlier design choices and that is totally technically geared up. So all I had to do was motivating him to get things done before baby arrives, help to strip down some wall paper, and moderate his design just a little bit.



The wall paper removal and painting was the more tedious and painful part, but we had a pretty good system down (learned from the guest room makeover) and managed to finish it within two weeks (working on it almost every evening). For the walls we chose a light grey that was supposed to be color-matched to the guest bedroom walls, but turned out a little darker and blueish. Oh well, close enough for now. Therefore the darker accent wall also had to have a blueish grey undertone. We chose “Iron Frame” from Valspar and had it successfully color matched to Olympic No-VOC.

Before painting however, we had to add some more outlets to the room. There had been only three accessible outlets so far and they were both overloaded by numerous computer and TV components. This required Lincoln to take down the bottom half of one basement wall board, but the good news was that this extra step enabled us to inspect insulation levels and we were also relieved to find no mold or other moistures issues in the basement even though both our neighbors’ basement had been flooded recently.

Lincoln also added wiring for the future surround sound movie theater setup he has envisioned and laid the cables for that behind the baseboards around the room.


Furniture and Features

We bought all new furniture (except for the desk) from IKEA and the couch was a sale item from a local furniture store.

  • This couch was a total score and is super comfy with memory foam, dual recliners, and all.


  • We also concealed our messy storage shelf for all office and hobby related items. Considering the limited time and energy we had for this project we did not create a real built in closet as originally planned, but hung up a simple curtain solution from IKEA to make the mess disappear when needed.


  • Lincoln bought himself this long-wanted dart board cabinet. I am still trying to convince Lincoln to paint this thing the same blue-grey color as the accent wall to make it look less country.


  • This vintage red Vinyl chair was a find at Goodwill. It even has a storage compartment in the seat – just to my liking. You can never have enough storage space.


  • One of the long IKEA Expedit book cases with boxes to house Milo’s toys. They are now organized by similarity and the labels I cut out of sticky felt indicate even to illiterate little toddlers which toys to find in which box and in which one they need to be put back in. Eventually I might add some cushions on top of it for additional seating.


  • A smaller play table. Yes, that’s right, I finally sold that big hunk of ugly orange laminate train table. This little one provides enough space for drawing, building block houses, and driving cars on it while fitting in much nicer. Whenever I get to it I will add some table toppings for different activities. Maybe a thin chalk board, a lego base plate, a traffic pattern, or other ideas as seen on this pin board. The trains are now being set up on the floor whenever needed and we can create much larger configurations.


  • Also, check out these cool baskets made out of woven recycled newspaper ads from China. They are nicely speckled and colorful to bring in some pop. And they fit perfectly into our side tables to hold magazines, remotes, etc. And yes, it totally bothers the color perfectionist in me how the purplish blue of the toy bins does not match anymore with how the grey-blue paint of the wall turned out. But I will not spend any more money right now, so suck it up, Nicola.


  • Lincoln’s desk remained as the only old piece of furniture, but was upgraded with a self-made hutch and a giant contraption to hold his two monitors, before it moved to a more suitable location on the short wall by the laundry room.

For now the furniture arrangement is still focused on the TV, but it will change a little bit once the home theatre including projector and big screen will be implemented. The sofa will then move to the large light grey wall in the back, and the screen will go up above the toy bench.



The color scheme for the basement is quite different from our upstairs. Much brighter, colorful, and saturated. And there is even some red involved – my so not favorite color. But what can I say … the basement is a whole different zone. A man cave. And it is manly enough to be able to handle some red.

After deciding on a blueish grey backdrop of the walls, some more color was definitely called for and we found inspiration in these pictures painted by Milo:

The red, orange, and yellow, make for a nice contrast to the cool blue. I also used one of Milo’s paintings for this first official piece of man cave art:

Just use a kids painting (ideally let them use only three colors, otherwise everything will turn brown eventually), put it in the printer, print some outlines on it, cut them out, and glue on a wood board from the IKEA As-Is section. This board cost me only $1 and the fish were free. See, I couldn’t have painted such a completely random pattern on the fish even if I tried.

We will definitely need lots and lots more of some cool art for the huge amount of walls down there.

Maybe arranged like this photoshopped vision:

With some cool art from this website.


Future Plans

Still missing and on the definite list to be done:

  • Improve the lighting situation. The current ceiling fixtures are still too dim and in impossible locations.
  • Get some lamps for the side tables for moody lighting when no complete illumination is needed.


Phew, our biggest project yet. So glad to be done for now.

July 25, 2012

At Terms

Baby and me, we are finally at terms. Full term that is. I have been carrying him for 37 weeks now and hope that he has baked enough to enter the world. Things could go down any day any time now and we are as ready as can be to meet the new little guy. Let’s check real quick:

  • All major home renovations finished or not planned until next year 
  • Mama not sleeping well anymore
  • Baby room set up
  • Newborn diapers bought
  • Two final name choices on hand
  • Have one last date night for the next half year
  • Hospital bag packed
  • Functional washing machine delivered
  • Find camera charger

Yep, I think we are pretty ready. Stay tuned for baby news within the next three weeks.

July 16, 2012

I Heart Organizing

After over 31 years of life I thought that I knew myself pretty well. Until I recently surprised myself once again. Here is what I found out: I love organizing.

I swear, this must be a relatively new obsession of mine because I have not seen myself go crazy of the interior of closets and cabinets like this before. Admittedly, since we bought this lovely house of ours I have been pretty keen on keeping the floors and surfaces clear to be able to actually see this nice home. But so far whatever was out of sight was just fine the way it was. Until I went on a basement reorganizing craze the other day and now I can’t help but organize every single closet and drawer of this house. It all started with one of Lincoln’s many bikes to be in the way of reaching the storage shelf in the basement. And while trying to find a better spot for it I started to wonder why we store kids clothes in the utility room, table cloths in the bathroom, and paper towels in the dining room.

All that stuff did not make sense where it was and did not really fit into the spaces either. So I started some major shuffling around, purging, sorting, and organizing. The utility room now only houses household supplies and outdoor stuff. The storage shelf is for regularly used hobby and office items, the storage room under the stairs for building materials and other rarely used (seasonal) items. See here a sneak preview of our basement improvements featuring the newly hidden storage shelf:

All kids clothing and suitcases will live in our master bedroom on this ledge that I will convert to a hidden storage space as soon as the post-baby recovery is achieved. This is how unsightly that ledge looks right now:

And here is a really bad photoshopped preview of what it will look like afterwards with white sliding doors and the red wall gone:

The pantry and other kitchen cabinets got cleared of expired items and food was grouped into clusters that are somewhat coherent so that you know more intuitively where to look for honey or baking soda. I got some $1 clear bins from Target to hold smaller and opened items together. Now they only need to be labeled.

For the junk drawer and cooking utensils we got cheapo drawer organizers (from the IKEA as-is section). Now you can actually find what you are looking for.

I guess you could call this nesting, but I think I’m gonna keep this habit going. There is something extremely comforting and peaceful to having organized cabinets where you can see at one glance what you are looking for and everything is in a place so you don’t have to haul stuff up two flights of stairs.

Check out this blog for many cool organization tips and tricks. I must not be the only one finding peace in cleaning up. How about you?


July 12, 2012


This is Milo’s idea of a modern and somewhat functional art installation. Whenever he helps me put clothes away in our closet he asks for a good amount of hangers and makes sure to hang them all the same way on our dresser. Hopefully this is a sign of his sense for organization.

Now that Milo has sufficient words to tell us stories all day long, but not quite enough language to always be coherent or precise, there is some pretty funny stuff coming out of his mouth sometimes. It kind of gives you an idea what an almost two-year old’s logic looks like. I will collect those random outbursts of genius and share them here with you.

#1: These Milo says “this” or “this one” to anything that he does not know the word for. So, the other day at the park we ran into some friends that we don’t see too often. Their kid is called Alex and Milo played with him for about an hour. Apparently that was not enough time for Milo to learn the kid’s name, so when we left Milo waved at Alex and said to him: “Bye, this one!”

#2: When in Germany Milo started digging the typical Marmeladenbrot or Butterbrot – a slice of bread with butter and or jam spread on it. After we got back home, I was talking to Milo about his brother and asked him what we should name his brother. Milo said “Brot” (=bread). Apparently Bruder / brother sounded similar enough to Butter / butter, so that he immediately connected it with Brot / bread.