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In: Life

September 23, 2013

The Reason Why

I have been absent for over two months – just the usual craziness. Plus some extra on top. You know, working a full time job (I might not have updated my job status in a while, but at the beginning of this year I became responsible for building up a whole new business line for greeNEWit, which means tons of work to be completed only on my own and not being able to take much of a break), and being a full time mom with mostly sick kids. Seriously, every two weeks another type of sickness strikes. On top of working over time in two jobs, I also had to prepare for our trip to Germany, plan a bachelorette weekend and some wedding surprises for my friend Johanna. And then in August, greeNEWit suddenly had to move out of our old home office and find a new office space. Well, guess who gladly volunteered to take full charge of all interior design related tasks for the new office space and couldn’t bear to deliver a nothing but perfect space, therefore adding about another 20 hours per week to my work load for the past 5 weeks? Yep, that’s me.

 

But now, we are in vacation mode. As much vacation as is possible with two little kids, one of them called Felix the Destructor. But there are some additional helping hands here, more sleep, and almost no work to do. So, I’m gonna try to catch up on all blogging now. Now or never. Up first, the office space reveal – my biggest pride.

June 10, 2013

A Day In Our Lives

Some days I feel completely overwhelmed by the workload of a full time job, taking care of kids, and running a household. Other days I am full of energy and everything feels like a piece of cake. One day I will look at back at this post and wonder how we managed to make a living, have a homemade meal on the table every day, and keep the kids entertained. The truth is, we can’t always fulfill all needs and wants. But we are doing our best. This is what a typical day in our life in April 2013 looks like:

5 AM: Felix wakes up, but I just give him a bottle, change his diapers, and turn the lights off again. He better learn early on that I am not to be disturbed before a certain time and he can tend to himself if he really needs to be up before the birds. Usually he just chills in his bed or falls back asleep for another hour or two.

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6 AM: Felix wakes up for real now, if he wasn’t already awake at 5. Time for his milk, diaper change, and getting him into some clothes. This is his and my hour before everybody Milo wakes up. I might take a shower while Felix watches the water drip down. Then I make lunch for Milo and Felix and I play for a little bit.

photo 4

7 AM: Milo wakes up. Like clock work. Because of his Gro Clock. Still the best kids related purchase ever. I can’t wait for Felix to be old enough to follow it. Sometimes I hear Milo up before 7, but he just goes potty by himself and then goes back to bed until the sun shows. “Mami, Sonne is da!” is my cue to bring him his milk. It usually takes him about half an hour to really want to get up and get going, so Felix and Milo and me hang out in his room together an chat about the upcoming day.

7:30 AM: Milo is ready to climb my back and ride downstairs. All kids and me have breakfast together. Sometimes I have to actively feed all three people, because Milo is too distracted or unmotivated to eat.

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8 AM: Milo plays by himself, while I pack up my stuff, clean up the kitchen, and finish packing his school bag.

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8:30 AM: Felix is either ready for a nap or I hand him over to Lincoln. Either way it’s time for Daddy to wake up. Milo and I leave for the day.

photo 5

9 AM: Milo’s preschool starts, Mama goes to work, Daddy and Felix stay at home. Felix usually takes one nap in the morning and (unless he is sick) is pretty happy chewing on something or jumping in his bouncer, so that Lincoln can get about two hours worth of work done.

photo 5

12:30 PM: Lincoln packs up Felix and they pick up Milo from school, which ends at 1PM. They all go to Lincoln’s parents house, where Milo takes a long nap and Felix is being cared for by the grandparents or auntie Rosie. Usually he takes another nap. Then the kids play for the rest of the afternoon.

5 PM: I get home and seize my golden hour before the rest of the family gets home. Now is the time to prepare a quick dinner, pick up stuff around the house or finish some home decor projects. Ideally, dinner was prepared the night before and is already cooking in the crockpot, but that only happens about once a week. Usually I try to make quick stuff like stews, pasta, or burgers and we make enough for two days so that less cooking is required. This is the most productive hour of my day.

photo 2

6 PM: Lincoln and the kids come home. Felix is usually tired enough to go to bed right away, so I give him his bottle, change into PJs, and put him to bed. If he had a late nap, he might stay up for dinner with us. We all try to eat together, although Milo sometimes already comes home fully fed.

photo 4

6:30 PM: Play time. This is really the one hour of the day where I try not to worry about getting stuff done and Lincoln and I play with Milo. Usually lots of wrestling, playing some sort of ball sport, or running around is involved.

7:30 PM: Time to get ready for bed. On bath nights we go upstairs closer to 7:15. While I wash Milo, brush his teeth, and read a book with him, Lincoln takes a nap on the couch.

8 PM: Kids free time begins! For Lincoln that usually means getting back to the computer to work, but depending on how much he got done during the day he might also tend to computer games, watch hockey, or work out in the basement. My idea of a good time is working on home decor projects or working on home decor projects. Once or twice a week we hang out together and watch ER or do what couples do. Somehow however, around 4 out of 7 evenings end up being used for errands. The list of things to do is endless: do laundry, pay bills, do financial planning, write blog posts, prepare my lunches for the week, go grocery shopping, stay in touch with people, research kids activities, etc.

10 PM: Is my average bed time. Sometimes it’s half an hour earlier, sometimes later, but you bet that I regret that the next day. Lincoln keeps working / enjoying quiet time much later.

2 AM: Lincoln goes to bed. All lights go out. The house sleeps.

 

We haven’t done any product reviews on here for a while, but this one I really wanted to share with you. Even though I am not sure if our recent toddler sleep success is directly related to using this sleep trainer (it might just be a coincidence or a phase like so many others), I definitely think that it is a great product and could help some desperate parents with early bird kids.

Here is our sleep story: Milo has always been an early riser. Just like his mom he gets tired when the sun goes down and is wide awake at sunrise. As opposed to me his inner clock is stronger than any blackout curtain or blind. In the first 20 months of his life he has probably slept longer than until 7 AM only a handful of times. His usual wake up time used to be anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30 AM and he would announce it with a loud yell for MAMAAAA! So no sleeping in for me either.

When we got back from our trip to Germany in May I feared for the worst jet lag considering that his inner clock would be set even earlier. So, while we were in Germany I ordered this sleep trainer. At that point it seemed to be the best product on the market and after using it I can confirm that it has some major advantages over other similar products.

Here’s the big idea: You set the desired wake-up time. For the beginning of the training set the time to the current wake-up time and then move gradually later each time after the kid has adjusted. At wake-up time the display will change from a blue star to a yellow sun. Explain to your child that it is time to get up only when the sun is up. In the evening you can activate night time mode at any time – the sun will set and turn into a blue star. Explain to your kid that the star is now asleep and he has to sleep as well until the sun rises again. Little stars go out one by one and show the progress of the night.

Pros:

  • Big display with big and easy to understand symbols
  • Works as a night light with 10 different settings of brightness
  • Works as a digital clock during the day
  • Also has a separate timer for a day time nap
  • Can be used as an alarm as well
  • Has a key lock that prevents kid from turning on day-time mode himself
  • Comes with a story book that explains how it works to the kid

Cons:

  • Currently not available in the US. Therefore higher shipping costs, longer delivery, and has to be used with a plug converter.
  • Key lock only available for locking night time mode, but not to lock in day-time mode

Other things to consider: I think this clock works best for kids that are old enough to understand consequences and connections like “if … , then …”. I also communicated to Milo that not only does he have to stay in bed until the sun comes up, but he also has to be quiet so that he won’t wake up the star. I ordered the clock from Langtoninfo and had no problems with shipping and everything arrived in good order within the time frame that was promised.

Recently Milo has been staying in his bed/room quietly until I go get him. I set his wake-up time to 7 and that is usually when I go in. Most of the times he is already awake, but overall there are way more days now that he sleeps closer to 7 than to 6:30 AM. On some days I accidentally slept in until 8 and still didn’t hear a word. Only his diaper was overflowing by that time. So, he doesn’t even wake me up anymore once the sun is up and he is allowed to. Therefore I am not sure if it is really the clock’s contribution that makes him stay quiet in the morning or he just enjoys his alone time in his room. Either way I think that this sleep timer can really help getting into the right sleep mood. Ask me any questions you might have.

 

December 27, 2011

Goal Keeping

When I was in high school I had this thing going with a few friends when we would each write down our goals for the next year and at the end of the year sit together and see how far we got to accomplish them. Then for some reason I abandoned that tradition for a few years. Then I picked it up again for a few years in university just doing it for myself. Then I sort of forgot about it again. Until my boss came up with the same idea in summer this year and made all employees fill out a goal sheet for themselves (that we then shared with each other, cause we’re friends like that).

Surprisingly some of my most productive years were those when no official goal review was taking place, but it is still nice to have it all written down and official – makes you feel so much more accomplished when you can actually check things off a list. You know, like checking chores off a chore list instead of just randomly vacuuming and not receive the slightest reward (other than clean floors). And it’s also interesting to see how much of the goals actually became true or which ones got kicked off the priority list throughout the year and got replaced by others. Sometimes you find yourself not looking at the list all year and in December you realized that you have actually worked towards them all year. Sometimes you might want to pull out the list when you need to orient yourself or need another kick in the butt. I guess this kind of goal review is the same thing that some people call New Year’s Resolutions, but those have the connotation of being unrealistic and abandoned somewhere mid March. So let’s stick with goals and get them done.

The categories on our company provided goal sheet were: Career, financial, family, health, spiritual, personal development, big rocks. But really, any categorization or just a random unorganized list will work. These categories just help you think of all the areas where you might want to set goals. So let’s take a quick look at this year’s result for Nicola Tran. I don’t want to bore you with all the details, so here is just a quick summary:

Physical / Health goals:

Epic fail! I did not do 100 sit-ups every day, go to exercise once per week, take a dance class in fall, nor sleep 8 hours every night. Of course I have great excuses for all of those items and some are not completely in my hand. Admittedly this category was not one of my biggest priorities this year, especially since I am generally pretty healthy anyway. But for it to stay this way, I should really gear up and get my butt moving. The biggest problem is that I have not found a class that really excites me or where there are cool people I can connect with. I have never been a sport fanatic that works out just to work out. For me it is about socializing and having fun. Finding a sport that really motivates me is gonna be one of the big goals for 2012.

All other areas

of life have been going really well this year. We found an awesome house that we are slowly but surely making a home for our family memories. It also brought back some creativity into my life and decorating it gave me a hobby that I spend all my free time on. Now if only it was a hobby that I could enjoy together with others that would be awesome. But at least it gave me a good reason to revive our blog and practice my writing skills.Another great side effect that came with the house was moving into a real nice community with great neighbors and lots of kids. This is what I have always wanted and am so grateful that Milo has the opportunity to grow up here.

At work it has been going really well this year too. First off, this was the first year I have worked completely full time with no maternity break, only nine vacation days taken, and I still enjoy working. We landed a new contract with a local utility company that allows to install energy saving items in homes at no charge to the customers. It’s a really nice program that benefits the residents, property owners, the environment, and of course our company. Somehow I became the manager of this program and it’s a really diverse and fun job. We are growing rapidly these days and are adding more and more cool people to the team. My coworkers/bosses are some of my best friends and always there for me. Which is probably why they gave me an incredible raise at the end of this year that exceeds all my financial goals and will make our next year way more comfortable financially. Buying a house had a big impact on our finances, but we managed to scrambled through this year and I am excited looking at next year’s monthly budget with so many more possibilities.

Said raise will also enable me to fulfill my big rock on the goal list. This category is for something big that you always wanted and does not necessarily fit in any of the other categories. Since we moved into this big house my big rock has become to hire a house cleaner. I just spend so much time keeping this house clean that takes away from the few free / family hours we have. Freeing that time up and still having a clean house has become my number one dream this year and will be fulfilled beginning next year. Yay!

Happy new year everyone!

 

October 28, 2011

Done with Being Sick!

Do you remember the first time you got sick after moving out from home? How much it sucked not to have mama around anymore who could bring you tea to the bed, rub your back, cook some soup? Just when you don’t feel like doing anything at all, you have to lift your own butt out of bed and take care of your miserable sick self. Now this kind of misery gets taken to a whole other level when you add a young toddler to the equation. When not only you have to take care of yourself, but also make sure that kid’s diapers still get changed, he is fed, and somewhat entertained.

After a minor scare when Milo couldn’t breathe well through his swollen throat last Friday, had his highest fever so far, and had to be taken to the urgent care clinic at night (diagnosed with strep throat and croup and a cold), he recovered really quickly and left it to his parents to fight the virus for the rest of the week. Pretty much as soon as his temperature went down to normal two days later, the kid was up and about and happily chatting with his hoarse voice. Believe me, it was a big relief to see him happy and getting better again. But then my throat started to feel like sandpaper, my sinuses were swollen shut, and that overall body ache made me feel like more like crap than a functional human being.

At first I was still trying to go to work and at least make money with half of the brain function that I had left, but after two days I had to give up that idea as well. And I also had to give up the idea of being a fully functional mom for a few days. Usually I like to read books to my son, take him for walks, explain the world, sing songs, come up with games played with household items just to make sure that he learns as much as he possibly can. Only when my voice almost completely left me, I finally gave up that ideal for a day. Milo watched as much TV in a day as he could stand. He had to come up with games himself, find things to play with, while I was just passively watching him. He ate the same chicken noodle soup for lunch and dinner two days in a row. And guess what, he was fine with it.

One thing we are all looking forward to is getting out of the house again. I never knew how isolating it is to have a sick child / friends with children who you don’t want to get sick as well. We miss our friends, play dates, and the fresh air outside. Thanks to everyone who sent us well wishes.

Oh, and since Milo’s nose-blowing-rate went down to once per hour and mine down to every 30 minutes, I think that we can declare this virus to be defeated now! Weekend, here we come!

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October 18, 2011

Boy=Noise+Dirt

Who knew that parenthood could be so much fun? Just when you thought that your baby smiling, laughing, crawling, babbling is sooo awesome, it gets even better. It’s just so much fun seeing this little guy growing up that I still can’t get over it and catch myself frequently staring at him in awe or laughing out loud over one of the funny things that he does.

As we all know, Milo is not so much of a sit-n-looker, but a hyperactive doer. He still barely ever sits still. Now that he is walking probably less than ever. He just started walking at 11 months and now he is already running and chasing us through the house. He climbs up and down the couch, dances, jumps without lifting the feet, and would walk/fall down the stairs forward if we let him.

If I had to take a wild guess at what Milo could do as a job later, I would probably say something handy. His fine motor skills are super precise. The morning cereal gets scooped up with the spoon and into the mouth almost without spills. The screws in the play work bench get unscrewed with the play screw driver like no big deal. And have I mentioned before that my 14 month old boy knows how to use the iPhone to a point where it gets dangerously close to sending emails to work contacts?

And he learns processes so quickly. These days you can’t do anything without fearing that Milo will copy it immediately. Yes, fearing. Like don’t let him see how to turn on the gas stove. Or how to push buttons on the dishwasher. But yes, let him see how we swipe the floor and how to wipe the table with a rag. The broom is his best friend right now. The other day we went to the animal farm where I put a quarter in the food machine, got some grains out on the bottom, and held them up in my hand for the sheep to eat. After watching this whole process just once, guess what Milo was doing for the next half hour: Feeding imaginary food to the sheep.

With all this alertness going on I shouldn’t be surprised that Milo is already using a bunch of “words” consistently and understands a lot of what we say. I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Considering that he has to process 3 languages on a daily basis. My brain has a 2 language maximum at any given time.

Milo understands the words for daily activities like eat, brush teeth, change diaper, put on shoes, turn off light, etc. in both english and german. And sometimes he will even follow those requests. The language coming out of his mouth is still mostly gibberish except for a few words that he uses consistently in the correct context in one or the other language. His first word was “Hi!” and he still uses it very frequently. Another favorite is “Ja” – German for yes. He will answer it to almost any question you ask him that he is okay with. If he doesn’t want he will not give any answer. If he doesn’t want something at all, he will say “no, no, no”! He also says “maaa” which means more/mehr and works in both languages. His latest word is short, but very useful for Mister Engineer: “A!” – short for “an” (means on) which he uses whenever he wants something that makes sounds, lights, etc. turned on.

See for yourself: