Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Uwe sings to Astrid over the phone

When Uwe called tonight (he's away on a business trip), I put him on the phone with Astrid so she could hear his voice and vice versa. Astrid was more interested in looking at the phone than putting it up to her ear to listen, so in jest Uwe said he should sing "This Old Man" to get her attention.

"This Old Man" is Astrid's favorite song & book that she always wants us to sing to her. She gets really happy when we sing the song and she will even dance to it. She never seems to tire from hearing the song repeated over and over again. Most days Astrid isn't satisfied with just one go around and keeps bringing the book back to us with a "Play it again Sam!" expression and vocalization, so we usually feel like "Oh no...not "This Old Man" again," but are resigned to sing it once more to please our daughter.

But today I was quick to seize the moment and said "She'd love that! Here she is." and put Astrid back on the phone with her dad. Uwe was surrounded by other people and didn't have any privacy, but I heard him sing, "This old man, he played one. He played knick-knack on my thumb. With a knick-nack paddy-whack, give the dog a bone. This old man came rolling home."

Uwe had Astrid's undivided attention and as she was listening to her Papa sing to her over the phone, she was smiling from ear to ear. She LOVES that song and it was so great for Uwe to be able to connect with her even though he's far from home. (And it's also a big accomplishment for Uwe who once proclaimed he'd never sing in public..i.e., Karaoke...but here he was tonight singing in front of strangers...but to his daughter of course.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Astrid's first German word

Uwe and I have been trying to get Astrid to say her first German word for awhile now. I was telling a friend of ours that she still hasn't spoken a German word and then went down a list of words she does say. Our friend pointed out that "Papa" is a German word. Duh! Of course! Astrid doesn't say "dada". It's always been Papa. Probably because both Uwe and I use "Papa" and so she associates that word with Uwe. So technically her second word (Papa) was in fact German.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Astrid's 1st wedding

We were guests at John and Lisa's wedding today. It was a great time and we wish them much happiness.

It was Astrid's first wedding. She wore her first hard soled shoes (pink of course) and pretty floral pink dress.

More pics to come, but here are a couple in the meantime.

Walking down the aisle after the wedding. (Wouldn't she make the perfect flower girl?)The bride and groom in the background look like the perfect wedding cake toppers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Toddlers gymnastics class at the YMCA

Astrid starting taking toddler gymnastics classes at the YMCA recently. Her class is for walking toddlers from ages 1 to 2 years old. Astrid is the youngest one in her class at almost 16 months. The next youngest is 17 months, and the other students are all around 2 years of age. Since she started taking the classes she's been much more adventurous and wants to climb anything and everything (now she climbs up the stairs, any steps, walks up ramps on her own, and can even slide down off the couch all by herself).

Here are some photos from today's gymnastics class.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Astrid conquers the stairs

When I got home this evening our nanny Lorie said, "I don't know if you ever saw this or not, but Astrid can go up the stairs now." As soon as she finished saying that Astrid was on her way back up the stairs. I was behind her worried that she'd fall, but since she basically crawls up the stairs by hoisting her leg up and over, and then grabbing the next stair with her hands, going up is pretty safe.

It's the going down part however that is going to give me a heart attack. I'm trying to show her how to go down backwards on her tummy, but she wants to walk back down like an adult would.

This is the first she's ever been interested in the stairs. Uwe and I were wondering when she'd start to climb them, but until now she never tried. I'm wondering if the toddler gymnastics classes she just started taking have anything to do with it.

So I guess it's time to finally get those baby gates since we have a real need now.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Understanding

I'm amazed by how much Astrid's understanding has improved, even from just 3 months ago.

When she was 12 months old, she'd pick up her brush and start brushing her hair, and when I'd tell her "go read your book," she'd pick out a book and sit down and flip through it. Even earlier than 12 months she knew what her toothbrush was for, and would start brushing her teeth with it.

But now at 15 months her understanding of things has improved in other areas. For example:

There's this "Foot" book with opposites by Dr. Seuss book that I read to Astrid. Her favorite page is the "small feet" (which I say in with a small, quiet voice), and "big feet" (which I say with a loud, booming voice). Astrid thinks this page is hilarious.

I didn't think anything of it until the other day when she went and got the book on her own and flipped through it until she found that particular page and laughed out loud to herself and then brought it over to me to do my voices.

There's another page in that book with "slow feet" vs. "quick feet." One day I decided to act it out and show her the difference between "slow" and "quick". As she watched me and heard me do the voices that I use when I read the book to her, she went and got the book and found the exact page that I was reenacting.

Another example is when Uwe started singing, "This Old Man" and Astrid went and got the book and brought it to him.

Another time Astrid had her socks in her hand and she walked up to Uwe who was lying on the floor, and tried to put her socks on Uwe's feet.

For awhile now she's also been putting her books and toys away when asked. And recently Astrid throws trash away in the trash can, and puts her dirty laundry (like a used bib) in her laundry hamper on her own without being asked.

It also tickles me that she always wants to feed her food to me, Lorie (our nanny) and Uwe.

Here's a quote by Uwe (which he said to Astrid one evening) that really sums up how much Astrid has developed: "You're no longer just a blob anymore...you're a person now."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Teeth update & Astrid wearing a bowl on her head

Astrid now has a total of 16 teeth (8 on the top and 8 on the bottom). I'm doing a combined post here because you can see her teeth in the photo below. (And I've been slacking on posting pics as my camera charger wasn't working and I just got a new one.)In the photo above Astrid finished her grapes and decided to use the empty bowl as a hat. It stayed in place balanced perfectly on her chubby cheek. Normally I don't like it when kids play with their food and such, but this just cracked me up (and the bowl was clean).

Monday, August 07, 2006

One way to get out of a traffic ticket

Uwe was pulled over for a traffic violation the other day. As he was searching his glove compartment for his registration and proof of insurance, Astrid was crying in the back seat, and she had just pooped in her diaper. As Uwe continued searching Astrid's crying got even louder and the smell of the poopy diaper was filling up the SUV. So the policeman said, "Ok...you know what you did wrong right?" He made Uwe repeat it and then let him go with a warning.

Just an added side benefit of having a kid. =)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Just the 2 of us (Travel Town/Pony)

This morning Astrid and I went to Toasted Bun in Glendale and got some breakfast. It was comical walking in holding Astrid and being asked, "Just two?" It's always been "Two and a baby?" This morning Astrid even got her own menu, but she got the standard fresh fruit plate. No surprise there. She sits in her high chair, reads her books and eats her organic raisins until her fruit is brought to the table. She loves looking around and people watching. I don't see many babies out at restaurants, let alone just with their moms.

When we got home she walked up and down the hill for 30 minutes and made an effort to step on every manhole cover and touch the blooming flowers.

For the second day in a row I pushed her nap back until 11 AM and she had just one nap. Again she took a 3 hour nap and when she woke up she was in a great mood.

After lunch we went to Travel Town in Griffith Park, and rode the miniature train. (I wish I had photos of it, but my camera charger is kaput at the moment.) Astrid's admission was free, and my ticket was just $2. The miniature train comes with it's own conductor dressed the part and really gets into it. He rings a bell and sounds the whistle and waves to all the kids. And he personally thanks every single person who rode the train.

The bell is pretty loud. The conductor warned us that it was loud, but it still caught me off guard the first time. If you have small children, you should be forewarned. Astrid who was sitting on lap in one of the box cars was startled by it. The second time she started to cry, but after I reassured her that everything was okay and the train started going and she felt the wind on her face, she started smiling and pointing to different things she saw, like the horses.

Afterwards we went to the Pinwheel Palace and I bought Astrid her first pinwheel. She would smile and laugh out loud watching it spin around in the wind. When passing the pony rides, I stopped to pay $5 to have this Polaroid taken of Astrid sitting on a live pony. I know Uwe is going through withdrawals not seeing his little girl in 2 days, so I went to Kinko's afterwards and had the photo scanned so I could post it.

This was the tamest pony I've ever seen. At first I thought it was stuffed because it wasn't moving. Astrid was cautious at first but after she touched the pony, she broke out into a big grin and the pony nuzzled Astrid. After that she was all over it. She pet it, touched its nose, it's ear, and kept trying to touch its eye.

She didn't like the photographer who strapped her in and immediately started crying, but stopped by the time this photo was taken.

The photographer asked me if I wanted to remove Astrid's hat. I'm glad I left it on. She looks cute wearing her wide brimmed sun hat, sitting on top of that pony on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

My decision to go back to work

I've been meaning to write about my decision to go back to work for sometime now, but it always felt premature to write about it when I didn't know what to expect and it was completely new territory for me. It's kind of like when someone asks you, "So how's it feel to be a new parent?" The only honest answer would be "I don't know. I'm still feeling my way around. Ask me in a year and I'll have a better understanding of it." But most people just give a canned answer like, "Oh it's great."

The first month of going back to work was different from the 2nd month and so on. I wanted to give it enough time so that I could give a true assessment of the situation, and my feelings about it. But since Jeannie asked, and some of my friends are struggling with this tough decision as well; I will try my best to elaborate on my decision to return to work and how it's been going since I've been back to work full time for 5 months now.

First off I have to say that I never in a million years thought I would be a stay at home mom. I never took a home economics class, never envisioned myself as a Hausfrau (a Betty Crocker I am not), and have always worked since I was 7 years old, holding 2 jobs all through college. It was unfathomable NOT working.

My plan all along was to go back to work after my maternity leave was over. However, when my maternity leave was coming to an end, I felt I still needed more time to bond with the baby. Uwe and I discussed it and agreed that I would stay home with the baby for 2-3 years until she was in preschool, unless I found a really great job opportunity.

In the end I stayed home for 10 months to care for the baby. We bonded and I loved being able to see all her firsts, to be the one to comfort her when she cried (I was always the hero coming to her rescue), to feed her all her meals, implement her nap schedule, and overall became more confident in my ability to care for her by myself. There were however many days where I would be washing the dishes, and bouncy my fussy baby in her bouncy seat with my foot and trying my best to keep my sanity.

A job opening popped up on my radar which sounded like a great opportunity and it was only 10 minutes from my house. The company was featured in Forbes magazine two years in a row as one of the top 200 companies to work for (for it's size). I applied in December and by January had completely forgotten about it when I was contacted by the Director of Operations. After doing an initial phone interview she asked me if I would be interested in coming in to interview for the position. At that point I had nothing to lose and I thought if nothing came out of it, at least it would help me polish my rusty interviewing skills. By February I had a job offer.

Major dilemma. To go back to work, or not go back to work. Uwe and I spent several evenings discussing it. Uwe thought I should stay home, but the final decision was mine to make. I was very close to turning the position down. I thought long and hard about it and decided in the long term it would be the best for me and my family if I accepted the position.

My decision was determined in part by the following:

1) My compensation will help our family.
Living in Los Angeles, we will have to pay for private schooling for Astrid which is very expensive. We are looking into Waldorf schools because we want to give her the best education possible. We will also be able to setup Astrid's college education fund to pay for her studies. We will be able to go on family vacations and when Astrid is older we will be able to send her abroad to travel during summer vacation.

2) The longer I stay out of the work force the more detrimental my future prospects will be.
I work in an industry that is constantly changing with new guidelines and legislation. I already took a year off to teach, and the longer I stayed home, the more outdated my skills and experience would become. Re-entering the workforce at the same level, after 3 years would be difficult if not near impossible. Also, by staying home I would not be able to save for our retirement. By going back to work full time I would be able to contribute to my 401(k) plan on a tax deferred basis with a company match.

3) Better benefits.
Health insurance through Uwe's firm is very expensive. By going back to work full time I could cover my family under my company's benefit plan for a much reduced cost.

Fortunately I made the right decision. I love where I work and I look forward to going to work each day. Not only do I enjoy the people I work with and the work that I do, but it's a great company and I have a bright future ahead of me.

Jeannie asked me how I do it all. The answer is - I don't. I have help. Help from Uwe who is a devoted/involved father and my biggest cheerleader. Also help from our nanny Lorie who loves and cares for Astrid as if she were her own child. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe that's true.

The second part of Jeannie's question was "Do you feel guilty?" Let me just say that although no one can ever replace mama and papa, our nanny has our daughter's best interests at heart. She also loves her job and it allows her to raise her 12 year old son as a single mother. It really has been a win/win situation. She told me the other day that when she's alone with the baby sometimes she smells fresh flowers. She never thought anything of it until the other day when the smell was really strong and she kept smelling Astrid to see where it was coming from (but it wasn't Astrid). Our nanny Lorie lost her mother to cancer some years ago, and her mother loved fresh flowers. The smell of fresh flowers reminded Lorie of her mother. She told this to her brother one day and almost started crying because she thought it was her mother telling her she was proud of her and she was doing a good thing by taking care of a baby.

I leave everyday knowing that Astrid is in good hands. As I mentioned in a prior post, Lorie feels like a part of the family now, like an aunt. I am not threatened by her relationship with Astrid, as another person loving my child cannot be a bad thing.

Lorie takes Astrid to the park and reads to her everyday. At least once a week Lorie also takes her to the LA Zoo, swimming at the Rose Bowl pool, and to the library. After work either Uwe or I will take Astrid out to various parks for some one on one time. We also make sure that one of us is home in the evenings to bathe Astrid, feed her, and put her to bed. We feel it's important that Astrid feels loved and cherished by her parents and that we're always there in the evenings for her. I'm usually home by 5 PM. And weekends are designated family time.

By staying home I found out a lot about myself and in some ways I have changed. For instance I never realized how much I missed interacting with coworkers and the water cooler conversations. This blog was a godsend to stay connected with the outside world, but I still felt very isolated staying home everyday and not having that adult interaction on a daily basis. I've also become more ambitious and driven than I ever have been in my life. Now it's all about my family and doing what's best for them and our future. I'm constantly thinking about the future and long term goals. I even joined a gym to improve my health so I can continue to support my family and enjoy a long life with them.

There are cons to being a working mom too of course. When Astrid was sick it pained me to go to work. Although I've gotten used to Astrid crying when I leave to go to work, it still affects me. I have to manage my time wisely at work because I don't have the luxury of staying late whenever I need to, because I have to be home by 5 for Astrid. That was tricky when I was taking licensing courses out in Encino for a week. I would constantly be checking my watch and then class would end around 4 and I would run to my car in the parking lot because traffic is always heinous out that way and if I was 5 minutes late I would feel like a complete failure. I have many more balls in the air to juggle and I know there will be days when I'll be a complete wreck, but right now I'm managing as best I can and everyone seems to have adapted well to me going back to work.

In summary, it feels good to be back at work, to flex those unused muscles. (I practiced saying "Ho, Ho, Ho" in a deep voice everyday in the beginning so I wouldn't slip into baby-talking to my coworkers and clients.) I have a new found enthusiasm about work and a sense of accomplishment that feeds my soul. Astrid is well taken care of and the time we spend together now is quality time. I'm just as invested, if not more so in her care and her future. I know there's no such thing as Supermom and not everyday is going to be perfect. But I'm striving to keep a balanced life between work and family, and its a work in progress.

Going from 2 naps a day to 1

Astrid's daily nap routine has been: Nap #1 at 9 AM and Nap #2 at 1:30-2:00, for two hours each (4 hours total each day). Just like clockwork, around those times she starts rubbing her eyes showing how sleepy she is and ready for her nap. However lately her afternoon nap has been getting shorter in length (from 2 hours to sometimes only 1/2 an hour), and yesterday our nanny said Astrid refused to take a 2nd nap. She would just sit in the crib and cry every time our nanny closed her bedroom door.

Yesterday my company had an afternoon bbq party for our interns, as it was the last day of the 2006 summer internship program. I was looking forward to it all week since: a) it was in the afternoon which meant I could go with the baby (and not have to try and find a babysitter), b) it was only a few minutes from work, c) it's fun to socialize with coworkers outside of the office, and d) this is the best company I've ever worked for and I really like the people I work with.

But without a second nap, it was a great big unknown how long I'd be able to stay at the party with Astrid. She fell asleep in the car on the drive over there, but didn't seem to mind when I woke her up and took her out of her car seat.

Overall she did surprisingly well. There were some tears because of all the people, and she would hide behind my skirt and peek at the stranger who was trying to play with her. But there were many other young children there and they all seemed to gravitate towards her and tried to play with her. She enjoyed running around on the grass and playing with the outdoor toys.

Knowing that it's the natural progression to go from 2 naps, down to 1 eventually; today I tried to hold out on the 1st nap for as long as possible. We got up this morning, and Astrid ate her breakfast. We got a nice morning phone call from Uwe who is in Las Vegas for a friend's bachelor party. Then we got dressed and went to a local restaurant so I could get some breakfast for myself. I was craving a Denver omelet. I let her walk the block from the parking lot to the restaurant and back. She loved it. While I was eating my breakfast I fed Astrid some cut up pieces of fresh fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, melon, bananas). Again, she loved it. Around this time it was past 9:30 (half an hour past her morning nap time). I could see her starting to rub her eyes but she wasn't getting cranky so I decided to make a stop at Costco for some diapers and such. On the drive back home she fell asleep in the car, and I put her to bed at 11:15 (2 hours and 15 minutes past her nap time).

The change from 2 naps to 1 will take some time to adapt to. But on the other hand, it will allow her to do more activities during the day (like music and swim classes) without a nap interfering with the scheduling. And when we travel through Europe next month, we definitely won't have the luxury of going back to the room for 2 naps a day (but she can always nap in her stroller).

For those of you who already went through this, what time does your child go down for a nap?

(Update: Astrid took a 3 hour nap today.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Astrid's 1st company bbq

Here are some photos of Astrid, taken by coworkers, at the summer bbq party.

Astrid crying for the nanny

This morning our nanny Lorie told me Astrid cried for the first time yesterday when Lorie left. I had errands to run last night, so Uwe came home to get Astrid and I came home later in the evening. Lorie said she felt bad that the baby was crying, but at the same time it made her happy. (Picture my nanny saying this while having her hand over her heart.) It's only natural that they've bonded, since Lorie spends all day with her 5 days a week, and it's been 5 months. She feels like part of the family, like an aunt, and I'm happy that Astrid and our nanny have a close relationship.

When I asked Uwe about it he said Astrid wasn't in full on crying mode, but it was just a little whimpering to convey, "Hey, where are you going?" According to Uwe, "That'll change when we go on vacation." (We're going on vacation next month and we'll have lots of family time with the baby, with no nanny. It'll just be us 3 traveling in Europe together.)

Prior to having a baby we had heard stories about a friend's baby who was more closely bonded to its nanny than to its own mother, and there would be hours of crying when the mother came home from work and the nanny went home. What a nightmare for the parents. I can only imagine how heartbreaking that must have been. In the end, our friend decided to give up her job and become a stay at home mom.

Luckily in our case I was able to stay at home with Astrid for 10 months and she was able to bond with me before a nanny came into the picture. Looking back I really cherish that time we spent together because it allowed me the time to really get to know her. She's also used to the way I do things and is comforted by my touch and smell. In the pecking order I'm #1, Uwe's #2 and Lorie is #3.

Today when I came home and our nanny was leaving, I was holding Astrid in my arms and asked her, "Are you going to cry now that Lorie's leaving?" She just looked at me like, "Whatcha talkin' bout?" Our nanny Lorie laughed and said, "No, not when you're home. You're mommy."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Refusing to say mama

Today was the first time in over a week, since my homecoming (I was away for 1 week attending a conference in Ohio) that Astrid has said "Mama" to me.

When I returned home everything was "Papa" which was fine. Spending a week alone with her dad allowed her to bond more closely with him.

But then I noticed that every time I tried to get her to say "mama", she wouldn't do it. I'd point to my photo and ask, "Who's that?'" She'd look at me and respond, "Papa." I'd hold her up to the mirror where she could see both our reflections and point to myself and say, "Mama." Her response continued to be "Papa." Then I'd give her a photo ID, she normally ALWAYS recognizes me and says "Mama" but without fail she kept saying "Papa". It was the strangest thing.

Both Uwe and our nanny told me Astrid would say "Mama" when I was away, and since I'd been back she would say it when I wasn't around. But anytime I was with Astrid, she'd refuse to say "Mama."

So today, FINALLY she said "Mama" to me again. HURRAY!

I don't know what that was all about. Our nanny says Astrid was just playing with me. It was the most bizarre thing.