Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What It Means To Be A Woman

What does it mean to be a woman?  Well, in most cases, having a double-x chromosome will make you a woman (not excluding women who may be born with an xy-chromosome combination, or any other combination of the two).  So yes, being a women is compelex, even at the chromosomal level.

Being a woman can be both beautiful and awful. I love being a woman in a time and a part of this world where I have so many chances and opportunities. Where I can be who I am without having to fear retributions. Where I can study, work, drive a car, and wear what I want (to a degree); where I can stay single or get married, and if the marriage doesn't work out, can get a divorce. Where I could remarry after a divorce or after being widowed. A world where I can chose to have children or remain childless. Where I can persue a career inside and outside the home.

As this month the world remembers the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a place or horrors  for which no real words exist, I also remember that Germany was not always a place for women to be free.

During the Nazi-regime, the women's place was at home, as a homemaker and mother. Women with seven or more children received medals of honor; work outside the home was only acceptable if the husband was unable to provide for the family due to injury, desease, disability, or death. From a very early age on, girls were trained and brainwashed to fulfill their only duty to the Reich: to birth new soldiers for the Fuehrer. Female students at universities were berated for wasting their youth and beauty buried in books while they should be getting married and become mothers. In a speech at the Munich university, the Gauleiter (regional leader) went as far as to offer his adjutants as mates to the uglier students, should they have issues finding a husband.

We have come a long way from this time of terror, but in other parts of this world, women still suffer oppression, humiliation, and restriction. But there are strong and brave women everywhere, fighting for their natural right of equality, from Mahlala, who was attacked and nearly killed because of fighting for girls' right to education to the unknown women who get on the driver's seat of a car and hit the road in Saudi Arabia. And because of these women, who never give up, one day the world will be a place of equality for everyone!

This post was written as part of the Strong & Influencial Sisterhood project

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (84)

Ten Things of Thankful

First of all, I'm going to apologize for probably not commenting much this week. In between hubby's concert schedule, having to meet due dates, baking extravaganza, running around to buy stuff for the girls' dance performances, getting the costumes for the carnival party assembled, and or course organizing Lily's birthday party, I was planning not even to participate in the TToT, but this link-up has become such a staple in my week, focusing on all the good things that have happened in our lives in the last week, big and small, that I just needed to find a few minutes to review this week anyways.

My ten most thankfuls this week:

1. Sleep. Calvin has obviously give up (or at least interrupted) his study on the effects of sleep deprivation on us and let me tell you, only waking up twice a night and then getting up with a farting baby early in the morning has been heavenly!

2. Grown-up toys (nooooo, not THOSE!!). I got a window vacuum a couple of months ago and have tried it out today. It works so awesome, the windows were streak-free and dry within seconds!

3. Lily doing so well in school. She has brought home a few test so far, and she has done so well in each of them. I couldn't be prouder of Lily and her excitement for school, learning, and most of all reading!

4. Violet being the sweet, big sister she is and donating her favorite MLP blankie to her little brother, who considered it the perfect blanket for him to stay warm - but not too warm - all night.

5. Exchanging little gifts with hubby. When he came home from his marathon-rehearsal, he brought me a couple of books he had picked up on the way home. and I found some interesting teas for him while out shopping with the girls.

6. Our kids being wonderful, wonderful beings, no matter how bad we may be banging heads (figuratively speaking) on occasion. Let me explain: there's this former teacher of mine, whose home is more like a war-zone than anything else. Her daughter barricades herself in her room while the 2-year old twin boys terrorize the house and the parents duck out of the way. Those boys were hitting another adult who was visiting, hitting each other, tried to hit Calvin, attempted to push each other down a flight of stairs, climbed all over bar stools and kitchen counters/islands while screaming non-stop, and ended our visit by hitting Violet over the head with a pair of boots. Without the least bit of schadenfreude, should I ever have doubts about my qualities as a parent again, I'll think about this visit!  (and I know from accounts that this was not just a "bad day", that was normal life!!)

7. Reading while nursing.

8. Still sleep-deprived brain auto-correcting Lizzi's Scrabble-letters (SDEIQJI) plus the double "B" in the Word "Scrabble" next to it into "Sideboob". Totally random, but too funny!

9. Finally getting a post typed out that has been cooking in my brain for a while. I know it's a controversial topic, but so, so important to get the information out!

10. Mid-morning naps with Calvin. When he fell asleep on my arm around 9:30 after getting me out of bed at 6am, I accepted this as a sign to head back to bed with him, to watch him sleep peacefully for a minute or so, and then fall asleep myself.

I hope you all have a wonderful week!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why We Didn't Circumcise Lily

No, I did not go completely nuts. I am absolutely aware that female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in the US, Europe, and many other parts of this world. But still it was our first pregnancy, which we decided to spend as "team green" and eventually resulting in us meeting our beautiful daughter, that we had to discuss a practice that is still very common throughout the United States: Infant Boy Circumcision.

While routine circumcision is not practiced in my native Germany, I was aware that it was "what you do" in the U.S. I talked to my colleagues, who, with my mom being a continent away, were the women I primarily turned to with my questions and concerns about pregnancy. They all had boys, and they all had them circumcised. I learned that a circumcised boy is easier to clean, will have a lower risk for a number of diseases, and since his nerve endings are not quite developed yet he will not feel anything. After all, can the majority of families of newborn boys be wrong (as of 2010, a good 58% of newborn baby boys were circumcised according to the CDC)?

Before discussing circumcision for our son I may be carrying with hubby, I was slightly pro-circumcision, assuming to do the right thing adapting to he culture I was now a part of.  The discussion with hubby was, however, quite short and admittedly also a bit surprising for me. Asking him whether he would prefer circumcision for a son, he plain and simply answered: "No, why? It's an unnecessary procedure."  With him having such a clear stance against circumcision, we had made our decision for our potential son.

However, after watching an episode of the TLC-show "Bringing Home Baby", where a little boy suffered from pain and bleeding after being circumcised at the hospital to the point where even the father, who was a doctor, could not do much to relief his boy's agony, I felt compelled to do more research on the issue. What I found was horrible. After the episode of "Bringing Home Baby", all I needed to see to be personally absolutely against circumcision is the so-called "circumstraint", the board where the babies are tied to before the procedure:

I knew that no-one will ever be allowed to tie a son of ours to one of these contraption. Why would they need to tie the little ones down like that if it didn't hurt?

Furthermore, there is a long list of potential complications of circumcision, including, among others:

- removal of not enough or too much skin
- adhesions and skin-bridges
- urinary retention
- sexual dysfunction
- urinary tract infections
- hemorrhage (excessive bleeding)
- death

What about the commonly perceived benefits of circumcision?

- it's easier to clean.
I wouldn't know how cleaning a raw, bleeding penis is easier than wiping an intact penis. From experience I can say, cleaning an intact penis is as easy as cleaning a finger.

- circumcision decreases the risk for diseases.
There are indeed studies that suggest that circumcision lowers the risk of certain STDs and even HIV/AIDS - by a very small percentage than more traditional prevention methods like condoms. In order to be save, just practice safe sex as an adult, don't cut babies!

- baby won't feel the pain, as the nerve endings aren't fully developed yet.
En contraire! Circumcision is extremely painful for babies; why else would they scream in pain and sometimes develop attachement issues, nursing issues, or even symptoms of PTSD after circumcision? Furthermore, a piece of skin with an extremely high number of nerves is being removed, which certainly will affect the sex life later (I know, nothing we as parents want to think about now, but it's still their bodies!!)

If you are expecting a boy, or plan on starting a family, I ask you to please do your research - for your sons' sake. Not only girls deserve protection from FMG, also boys must be protected from random cosmetic surgery on their private parts. Genital Mutilation affects the lives of both genders, but while people are appalled by the rituals around FGM, male genital mutilation (MGM) is widely accepted and even paid by many insurances. Check out resource pages like Saving Our Sons, and if you seriously consider having your son circumcised, do yourself (and HIM) a favor and watch a clip of a circumcision on YouTube. We all are watching birthing videos at the birth preparation class, but how many women really know what happens to their sons when they are taken by the medical personnel to be circumcised.

Obviously, Lily is not circumcised, and neither is any other of our children. Should any of them prefer any body modifications later, they are welcome to do them. But it's their bodies, and therefore their decision alone.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Strong And Influencial Sisterhood

I am excited to announce that during this year, I am part of a wonderful project, initiated by the wonderful Mrs. K: the Strong & Influencial Sisterhood.  The idea behind the blog and the project is that while one woman can change a lot, the potential of a group of women is nearly without a limit. The members are women from different countries, in different stages in life, with different religions, different experiences, and different views on life. Every month will be under a different motto that the ladies of the Sisterhood are meditating on, musing over, and share about.

Please follow the project at the Strong & Influencial Sisterhood blog and be part of the experience!  Look out for the post with the Strong & Influencial Sisterhood button or check out the blog's resource page for the other sisters' thoughts.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (83)

Ten Things of Thankful

Poor Calvin is teething - big time. On Tuesday, the laddie was not only drooling like a leaking Hoover Dam but also crying in pain. There's nothing worse than my baby being in pain and not being able to help him.  Luckily, he's doing better now, sometimes figuring out new ways to keep me up at night.

My (tired) Ten Thankfuls for this week:

1. Coffee!!!  (actually, this week this one should count for at least 1 - 7!!)

2. A combination of homeopathic remedies and motrin to help Calvin get comfortable again and get some sleep (along with ready access to a pharmacy and medication in general).

3. Hubby being a gem and taking Violet to kindergarten after an especially rough night, making me fresh coffee and buying breakfast on the way back from kindergarten. Yup, he's mine!!!!

4. Breakfast with a friend.

5. Hubby surprising me with a game of Scrabble and tea one night. When we were newly-weds we'd spend parts of our Sunday afternoon at a cafĂ© playing Scrabble, but he's been refusing to play with me for quite a while, because my locking up the board with well-placed 3-letter words was just too frustrating after a while.  I'm doing better now!

6. Back-rubs from my Lily. She's such a sweet girl!

7. Violet doing well in her speech therapy. Well enough actually that her therapist suggested a break until April to see how she develops on her own. I see another afternoon opening up  :-)

8. Meeting up with a friend and her children. Her baby is only 20 days younger than Calvin and it was so funny seeing the boys interact with each other.

9. Home-made brownies. Yum.

10. Long, long, long afternoon naps with a cuddly baby. I know, this one is a regular on here right now, but last week, those afternoon naps were certainly life-savers!

What are you thankful for this week??

Cleaning House

As part of my journey to more happiness in our lives, I've decided to clean house, choosing quality over quantity. On many levels.

Today, I've started with maybe the easiest part: my Facebook account.

I've noticed in the past weeks that there was a particular person on my friends list, who kept posting offensive material. Material that attacked immigrants in Germany - even though I'm sure that the author did not intend to attack immigrants like my husband and daughters. Not the white, middle-class, non-Muslim sort of immigrants. However, whenever immigrants are attacked, whether it is intended to include immigrants like my husband and daughters or not, it hurts. Especially if the slurs and rants are directed at immigrants like the refugees from Syria and Iraq, who would much rather be back in their villages, in their own homes and businesses than in the refugee facilities here in Germany.

So far, I have tried to reason with her, and eventually thinking about simply hiding her posts, being afraid that she'd think me to be narrow-minded and intolerant. But then I realized that I actually do not care what she thinks of me. And I unfriended her. As I was scrolling through my list of friends, I realized that my list of "close friends I share my life with" has ballooned to include acquaintances, colleagues that I don't even like, and people I have grown apart from. And the cleaning-out started.  I also started to categorize my "friends" sharing my life only with those that I still consider close friends/family.  And I feel better. I feel comfortable to share all the things I want to share instead of censoring myself, worrying to offend anyone, etc.

Cleaning House - Facebook  (check)

Keep looking for more cleaning house posts!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Word Of 2015

Around New Year's, they have been popping up everywhere: the words that were to be the motto of the author for the coming year. I actually did not plan on hopping on the band waggon until one night I was meditating on what makes a good childhood.

Blame it on Pinterest or my inherent perfectionism, probably both, but I found myself wound up in trying to create a "perfect childhood" for our children (and for the records: failing miserably!!) that I forgot that it's not a perfect childhood that will define them later as adults, but a HAPPY childhood.

When I remember my childhood, I think of my mom spending the days before the holidays cleaning. I remember one instance where I asked if she would play a game with us, but she responded that she had to clean the house and we should just play with each other (it needs to be added that our home was always spotless and the "deep cleaning" before the holidays was by no means needed).

But then, I also remember birthdays that were by no means Pinterest-worthy. There were no theme, no perfectly-decorated princess cakes, no hand-crafted give-away bags, no hired clown or organized trasure hunt, but all my cousins, aunts uncles, and a couple of friends having good old-fashioned fun.

This made me think about how kids actually need and want their childhood to be. How they want their parents and their homes to be. If it's necessary to maintain a spotless home at all times or if it is more important to THEM to turn a planned cleaning session into an afternoon of playing games with them.  If it's really important how perfect (or not) their cake looks before they eat it, or if it's more important with whom they share their cake.

Therefore, I have picked one word that I want to define this coming year for our family:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (82)

Ten Things of Thankful

Unfortunately, I don't remember much about last week. Sleep deprivation sucks big time, and someone should tell the little terrorist in my bed that depriving a person of sleep is actually a form of torture.

Still, the ten things I'm incredibly thankful for this week:

1. Having the little terrorist who keeps me awake!

2. My parents for happily taking in their oldest daughter plus offspring for two nights while hubby was at the orchestra retreat.

3. Hubby for having the opportunity to escape the daily routine for a few days every year to spend with his orchestra buddy and rehearse until his mouth hurts. We miss him, but I'm happy for him taking this time for himself.

4. Living in a country where - while my rights are limited and oppressed by the government to a point - I can live freely as an Atheist. I can speak freely and our kids sleep in peace. The attacks on free speech in Paris made me the more thankful for this right.

5. School and kindergarten being back on and the girls back in their routine.

6. Welcoming the muddiest little princess you can imagine at our doorstep this Thursday, smiling her biggest princess smile. I didn't even have to ask if she had fun  :-)

7. Lily doing so well in school, and having fun going.

8. Getting to talk a little bit to the mom of the new girl in Violet's kindergarten class today. She happens to live really close to us, and is new to this town, so I'm probably having her over for a cup of coffee or tea soon!

9. Coffee to get me started in the morning and tea to help me quiet down at night. Both shared with the hubby.

10. Having reclaimed our living room, kicked out the tree, put away the holiday deco for another season. Each year I'm excited to get everything out, but almost equally excited to pack everything away to reclaim our "normal" life.

What are you thankful for this week?

Calvin's Fourth Month

I will not allow our little guy to turn 5 months (which will happen SUNDAY!!!!!) without posting all about "The Baby" in his fourth month!!!

Height: As of November 21 (well-baby appointment) he's just over 25in tall, even though I feel he's closer to 25.5 or 26in.
Weight: As of above appointment, he's 14.75lbs, lodged firmly at the 75th percentile for both height and weight. Our baby is growing up too quickly!!!
Clothes size: 6-months
Number of teeth: He's been teething since he's been 2 months old, but no teeth yet, just pints and pints of drool!
Biggest Milestone: Rolling from his tummy to his back as of November 16. Stop growing up so quickly, bubby!!!

Favorite food: mommy's milk
Favorite toy: The croaking frog-toy, and of course his activity gym. He now reaches for the little toys hanging off the arches.
Favorite book: The little fabric book he can teeth on, drool on, and abuse in any way he seems fit. Love me some hand-me-downs from big sisters  :-)
Favorite outfit / piece of clothing: He, of course, doesn't care, as long as I don't change him too much. I love him wearing an outfit my parents got him, or the funny frog sweater a friend of mine got for him.

Likes: playing, wriggling, cuddling, nursing, screaming at Daddy, being adored by his sisters, his grandparents, aunts, and everyone else, jumping on Mami's or Daddy's lap.
Dislikes: his sisters being scolded, not seeing Mami.

(I've noticed that this month, there will be no "growing Calvin" picture because we had to delete a corrupted folder off our camera's SD-card and they got lost; in exchange, I'll share a funny Calvin-in-a-Cup picture)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (81)

Ten Things of Thankful

I can't believe that it's 2015. Where did 2014 go?  The whole year just flew by, with all the excitements and changes it brought in our lives. Even though the changes were clearly positive, I am hoping for a more quiet 2015!

Here are the ten things I'm most thankful for in this past week:

1. Good old family board game afternoons.

2. Naps that just sneaked up on my while cuddling on the couch with Calvin.

3. A fun outing with the kids and my best friend to the planetarium.

4. Having my best friend. We are a lot alike and know each other so well it leads to funny situations like getting each other the same little present for the holidays.

5. Mornings of Lily reading to her little siblings.

6. A wonderful family doctor / PCP. He takes a holistic approach to health, using alternative options before prescribing the chemical club. I went to see him this week for my back pain, and besides the obvious tense muscles, I oviously have a spinal deformity. Instead of simply giving me pain meds, he's referred me to a physical therapist to work on the issues in a long-term scope.

7. Home-made cinnamon rolls. I walked by IKEA the other day and smelled their cinnamon rolls there. I couldn't get the smell out of my head and therefore used the cube of yeast I had in the fridge to make my own. Simply delicious!

8. Having another close friend move closer to us into her own home. Hubby helped moving today, and I'm thankful that the weather held just long enough for him to return safe and sound. Can't wait to visit my friend at her new home!

9. The extra 30 minutes of sleep I requested after a pretty restless night with Calvin and Violet in my bed turning into 1.5 hours. I felt so, so refreshed afterwards!

10. A great New Year's celebration with friends. Tons of delicious food, fun company, and a baby who's looking up to the sky in amazement watching the firework, ignoring the noise as if it wasn't there!

10-1/2. A package from Alaska arriving  :-)

What are you thankful for during this first week of 2015???

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Starting 2015

First of all, I would love to wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year 2015. May all your hopes and wishes for this year come true!

2014 has passed, and I can proudly announce that I've been quite successful with my New Year's resolution. I'm sure there were less than 10 days in 2014 where I did not shave my legs, I call this a success.

This year, my New Year's resolution will be: getting fitter and healthier, meaning eating better, and excercising more.The only reason why this holiday wasn't a huge weight-gaining disaster for me was nursing our very hungry boy!

As to start out right, hubby joined me in the very popular 30Day Plank Challenge (wish me luck!!):