Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sadie Legwarmers

I recently made a little pair of legwarmers for Sadie. They are based on this pattern from Ravelry. They are a bit big right now, but she'll obviously grow into them eventually.  Here is what they look like on:

So, as you can see, they are a little loose.

Every time I knit something, I try to incorporate a new technique. These are basically just a circular tube, which is pretty easy, but I used this knitting in elastic for the first time on the ribbing. I think the idea was to make it so they would stay on better, but I'm not really sure how much good it did, or if I was even using it correctly. I'm entirely self-taught (or maybe book and Internet taught would be a better way of saying it) so I'm never totally sure I'm doing things right. Plus the only bind-off I know how to do is not stretchy at all. I put that part on the bottom, so they would be less likely to come off of her feet, but she moves around so much that they slid off eventually anyway.

She is still pretty small, so I think when she's bigger they might work a little better. I have also heard you can make these from adult knee socks, so I may try that next, and I also have some cool self striping yarn that I plan to use to make some legwarmers for her of my own design.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Early Christmas Celebration

We are visiting my grandparents in Montana after Christmas this year, but they didn't want to load us down with things to take back, so they sent our presents here early with instructions to "open now." Instead of just sitting down and unceremoniously open some presents, we decided to make a day of it (evening, really).

We started out by going to the "Weihnachtsmarkt." This is a Christmas market that is very popular in many European cities. They have booths that sell Christmas articles and also foods and drinks. It's crowded, but pretty fun. These are pictures I took of the market on a different day, when it was lighter out:

The building in the background is the Aachen Cathedral

We got some "backfisch," fish that has been battered and fried. Very tasty! We also got some hot drinks. There are a variety of tasty libations at the Weihnachtsmarkt. Hunter's drink of choice is gluhwein, basically mulled wine. I think it's ok, but I've liked a few of the other drinks I tried better. Eierpunsch is what I've gotten the last few times, but I've also enjoyed the Jagertee, tea with rum. The drinks are generally served in these little decorated boots:

You pay a deposit for the boot which you can get back, but we've kept several as souvenirs and might find a place in the apartment to display them. There are several different colors and designs, depending on which booth you go to. There are a few other specialty foods and drinks that we didn't have time to get, because by the time we ate our fish, Sadie seemed ready to get home.

Sadie doesn't have even remotely the motor skills to grab onto a present, so we just opened them for her. It was still a lot of fun!

She can't really play in the paper, but I thought it would be cute to pose her.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Best Books I Read This Year

If you know me, you know I'm big into reading. This year, my goal was to read 100 books, and I've completed 92 so far, not including picture books. I'm pretty much on track to complete my goal, although since the last week of the year will be spent with family in America, we'll see how it goes. I do have that international flight, though, which should be good for at least a book or two. This list includes books I read this year, not necessarily published this year. With each book I have included a link to my Goodreads review, in addition to whatever brief annotations I have included here. I don't have any kind of Amazon affiliate account, so if you see something perfect for a gift, just buy it from your e-tailer or retailer of choice.

I had originally planned to either choose some arbitrary number, or do categories like "best children's," "best mystery," or whatever but I changed my mind. Instead I'm just looking through the list of what I read this year and picking the ones that were really, really amazing. As of the moment I'm typing this, I don't know how many there will be, although my ballpark would be between 8-12. These are books that I think are well-written, interesting, and/or stuck with me in some way. I read many books I enjoyed, but these are the very very best.

And now, the list!

Night Film by Marisha Pessl.
There is a set of people I've encountered who are under the delusion that the only books published these days are crap. I wouldn't hand this book to every one of those people, but I certainly think it provides good evidence to the contrary.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Stephen King gets a bad rap because his books are popular and he's written a lot of them. Not all of them are amazing, but this one is what I would give to someone who dismisses him as "just" a pop author.

The Secret Life of Pronouns by James W. Pennebaker
This one probably has a pretty narrow audience, but if you love words and linguistics this book is fascinating and easy to understand.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
This is a kid's book, but if you are an adult who loves children's books you would probably enjoy it. Perfect for the kid who loves books.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
This is the first in a trilogy, and it is by far the best one. Very action-packed, can't-put-it-down. Great gift for a pre-teen or teen boy.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
John Green is one of my favorite authors ever. This is probably the only book on the list I would recommend to every person I know.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Another from one of my favorite authors. I take back what I said about TFiOS; I would also recommend this one to everybody I know.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
My current answer to the question, "What is your favorite book of all time?" I read this doorstopper for the third time this year and plan to read it again next year.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I'd been hearing about this book for so long and was not at all disappointed. This might be the most "literary" of the books on this list and is probably the oldest. For fans of dark, academic intrigue.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russel
This was another re-read; we read it for my church's book club. It's a very powerful book blending sci-fi and religion.

Honorable Mention for WORST BOOK
Thank God for Evolution by Michael Dowd
I can't even go into all of the things that were wrong with this book. If you don't want to read my full review, I'll sum it up by saying the only "pastor" the author's atheist wife could get into was Joel Osteen. WHAT.

Well, I ended up with a round ten books. If you want to see ALL of the books I read this year, you can click here. And if you want to see all of the books I have read and reviewed in the past few years, plus all of the books I want to read, you can click here.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hunter's Hat

When it started getting cold here, Hunter told me he wanted a hat, so I set out to make him one. The pattern I used is this one from Ravelry. Here are some pictures of how it turned out:

If you compare the hat I made to the one in the picture I linked to, you will notice that mine has sort of a "brim" at the bottom. I have basically no idea how that happened, because I was pretty sure I was following the pattern exactly but somehow I reversed something because it's basically "inside-out" there. But we still liked how it looked, so no biggie.

There is another minor flaw that I don't think you can see in either of these pictures. If you are a knitter, you know that if a pattern is worked in the round, the instructions will say something like, "join to work in the round, being careful not to twist." Well, I twisted. So there is a small indentation around the edge where I twisted it back to where it was supposed to be. That isn't what caused the problem with the brim, though, because it looked like that both before and after the twist.

Anyway, this hat knit up pretty quickly but is still an interesting pattern and really easy. All you need to know how to do is knit, purl, and knit in the round.

Also, here are some pictures of Sadie.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My Surgery

Well, I'm home from surgery! This was the first time I'd ever had an operation, so I have no idea how things go in the US. Here's how they go in Germany.

When I got to the hospital, they showed us to our room. After having separation anxiety from Hunter when I was in the hospital when Sadie was born, I had asked if we could have a family room this time, so that Sadie and Hunter could both stay with me. It's I think 45 Euros per night, and you definitely couldn't get a comparable hotel room for that price. We had a balcony and a fridge, which both went mostly unused. They also brought in a changing table and crib from the nursery, so we were all set. I had to put on anti-thrombosis stockings, which was the first part of a trend of them making absolutely sure I didn't get thrombosis.

Eventually, the nurses came and wheeled me down to the surgery area. They put in the IV, and the doctor said that it would feel like I had just drank a really large beer, which was pretty accurate. Then the next thing I know, he was waking me up and telling me the surgery was over. I was in a little room for a few minutes, I guess just to kind of wake up and get my bearings back, and then they took me back up to my room with Hunter and Sadie.

I was really hungry at this point. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon I think, and I hadn't eaten anything since midnight the night before. Eventually they let me eat. The meals were essentially the same as when I was in the hospital before, except instead of being a buffet you had to choose what you wanted beforehand. I guess this might be a good time to comment on one difference I've noticed in the way the medical system works. In America, the nurses do most of the actual care it seems like, whereas in Germany the doctors do ultrasounds, draw blood, all of that. The nurses are at least partially like waitresses. They would bring me the food and check on me every so often, maybe take my blood pressure but I think the system is a bit different from how it is in America.

Really my stay in the hospital was pretty uneventful. I found out the day after my surgery that they had removed the cyst and were able to leave the ovary intact. I got to see a picture they took when the camera was inside me, which was pretty cool. Obviously the food in the hospital was not so good, but I knew that going in. On Thursday, I was still pretty sore and didn't think I'd be able to keep getting up and down to take care of Sadie. So one of our friends was able to watch her for the day. He usually is a nanny for another child, but that child was out of town this week. Hunter and I were so grateful that Sadie could stay in the apartment and he didn't have to take her on the bus or train to work. Friday, I felt well enough for Sadie to stay with me, plus I had missed her so much on Thursday! I hadn't been away from her for that long yet.

One thing I thought was weird was that every night I was in the hospital, the nurses gave me these anti-thrombosis injections. I mean I guess I was mostly lying in bed, but I still thought it was kind of overkill. I do like how here, they put a lot of emphasis on prevention. For example, the ultrasound that revealed the cyst. I had never had an internal ultrasound like that in America, and here it just seems to be a part of the routine examination. I can't imagine how big it would have been if I had to wait until I started feeling discomfort. I also noticed this at one of Sadie's appointments last week. We had to see an... orthopaedie... is this orthopedist in English? I'm not sure. Anyway, he had to do this hip ultrasound, to test for dysplasia. All of our relatives in America thought this was really weird and were afraid something was wrong. But the doctor explained to me that it is something that in America is only done if the child is at risk; here they test everyone. He said that it affects three percent of people, and it's much better to treat it if it is detected early. The test was an ultrasound that took probably five minutes; it just seems stupid not to do it. Of course in America it's probably very expensive; here the insurance completely covers it.

Anyway, the hospital wasn't that scary and I go in to my doctor on Wednesday to have the stitches removed. The camera went in through my belly-button and there is still a huge gauze and plaster over it, so I kinda wonder if it will look weird when they take it off? But really I'm just glad the surgery was successful and I'm back at home with my awesome baby and my new mattress!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What I'm Looking Forward To

From basically the minute Sadie was born, I knew it was going to be hard for me to see her grow up. Actually I knew that even before she was born, but it was harder once I saw how much I loved her as a baby. If you know me at all, you know I am not a "baby person." I don't like, go up and fawn over every baby I see and I'm really more scared of them than anything else. But I really love Sadie as a baby, so I guess everyone was right that it would be different with my own.
She wants to punch someone

As much as I like all of the things I can do with her as a baby, though, there are some things that you just have to be older to do. So here is a list of things in Sadie's future that I'm excited about.

1. Teaching her how to sew/knit/embroider. Maybe she won't be crafty; that's ok, but if she is I think it would be so fun to like, watch movies and knit together.

2. Making clothes for her. When my sister and I were young, our mom made us all these amazing dresses. I'm not that great at sewing yet, but I'm hoping I can hone my skills enough to make her some really cute things.

3. Getting books from the library. When I was a teacher, I loved going to the library and picking out the picture books we would read that week. There are some amazing books for kids out there. I can't wait to show Sadie the magic that is a library. I really hope she's a reader!

4. Joining Girl Scouts. I know for some of you this will be controversial but whatever. I was in Girl Scouts for 12 or 13 years and it was awesome. You learn lots of great skills (including how to get along with people who don't like you) and I have lots of fun memories from that time.

5. Reading the Bible. I was raised Catholic, and the stereotype is true--I barely knew anything about the Bible until I started teaching it to kids. I'm happy that Sadie will get to read it from an early age.

6. Having Sadie in church with me. I guess one of the benefits of growing up Catholic is that "children's church" is basically a foreign concept to me. I have already brought Sadie to church with me a few times, and we will continue to sit together as a family. Ideally we will find a church that thinks it's important for families, and the church family, to all worship together and not split up.

7. Exploring Sadie's interests. I know Sadie isn't just going to be a little mini-me. After all, my mom was a cheerleader and in a sorority! So whatever Sadie is interested in that I'm not, I want to learn about and experience with her.

You can't really see it in this picture, but Sadie's shirt says "Life is a Yourney." (There is a surprising amount of mangled English here). I'm really looking forward to ours!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Most Recent Doctor's Visit

NB: in this post I'm going to talk about medical things so if that is something you don't want to read about, I suggest you skip this post or just scroll down to see the pictures.

Yesterday I went to the doctor for the first time since Sadie was born. I think in the US, this is called the 6-week visit, although it was closer to 8 weeks for me. Apparently one of the standard things they do at exams here is an ultrasound. So the doctor was doing the ultrasound and looking at the screen and says, "uh-oh." I repeat: the doctor said, "uh-oh." That definitely did not make me feel good.  So anyway, she pointed at something on the screen that I couldn't really see and told me she didn't know what it was. She also like, poked around at me asking if it hurt, which it didn't. It ended up with her telling me I should go to the hospital right away so they could look at it.

This had me pretty freaked out, so I called Hunter, who was on the bus on the way to work but immediately got off and got on a bus coming back. I went up to the hospital and before too long was talking to a doctor. He looked at the picture from the ultrasound the doctor had sent with me and seemed to immediately realize why she had sent me there. He said he thought it was a cyst and was going to do another ultrasound.

So he did the ultrasound and it became clear why I didn't know what my original doctor was pointing at. Basically the thing on the screen was so big that I thought it was just a thing that was supposed to be there. He showed me the cyst, which is 8 or 9 cm across and then for comparison showed me the other ovary, which is like 1-2 cm across. So, pretty big difference there. He said I was going to have to schedule surgery to remove it.

The type of surgery they do is laparoscopic, which Hunter tells me is the kind that playing video games makes you good at. Probably also being trained in this form of surgery makes you good at it, but anyway I guess it's "minimally invasive," so they don't actually cut you open to do it. The doctor said there is a possibility I will lose the ovary; they won't really know until they go in and see, but either way I have another one, so thank goodness for all the redundancy in the human body I guess.

Anyway from what I understand, this isn't all that unusual. I've never had surgery before and I'm going to have to stay in the hospital for three days, ugh. I think in the US the stay would be shorter, but here they seem to like to keep you there. So we'll have to figure out what to do with Sadie during that time and everything. During this whole visit to the hospital, Sadie was such a trooper! She was just lying in her carrier, occasionally opening her eyes or smiling but not whining or crying or anything, even though she was probably hungry and needed a diaper. I guess she just knew I needed her to be a little champ for me.

My surgery is scheduled for Nov. 27, in about two weeks. Obviously I would appreciate any prayers or stories from anyone who has had this kind of surgery before.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Owl Bib

I recently finished making something else for Sadie--a bib! She takes after her dad and is able to get food all over the place, despite not even eating actual food yet...

Anyway, for a more detailed description of how I did this, it's basically the same techniques I described in this post, so if you are curious about how I did it, you can look there. Anyway, here it is:

There are a few differences between this and the previous project. For this one, I didn't print out an image to use; I just drew one because I couldn't find any owls that I liked, that would be easy to trace. I'm not that artistic, so I Googled "how to draw an owl" and found a tutorial that way.

Also, you may or may not be able to tell from the picture, but this is stitched on terry cloth. I don't know if I should have used a higher heat setting or if terry cloth just doesn't accept transfers very well, but the lines ended up very light. When I was doing the little pupils, I could barely see where I was supposed to stitch and had to eyeball it (har har), which is why they are kinda different sizes. If this were something to sell or give as a gift, I would have gone back and fixed it, but seeing as how this is just going to get stuff spilled on it, I'm not worried about it being perfect.

I also got to experiment with some different stitches. The yellow flowers are lazy daisies and the green dots are French knots. I have two more of these bibs so I may make a few more, but my next project is a hat for Hunter, which I'll post once it's finished.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Green Hair

About a week ago, I finally dyed my hair green. I had actually bought the dye several months ago, but my hair was so long and I always have trouble dying it myself because of how thick it is. So I waited until after I had gotten my shorter haircut and I had some time where Hunter could watch Sadie so I could do it. I actually lightened my hair about a week before dying it green. The idea was to lighten it to a white-ish blond, which I know is possible with how light my natural hair is; after my hair was cut there was very little of the dyed part left. However I guess even with short hair, I'm just not too great at dyeing it myself because this is the "before" picture:
As you can see, it's not super light. I decided to just go with it since I wanted a dark-ish green. Which brings me to my next point: how I decided which green to use. The color I was picturing was a very true, grass-like green. I looked at a lot of different brands of dyes, and none of them seemed to make the exact color I was picturing. They would either be too light, like a more lime green, or too blue, more like a pine green. So I mixed two colors together: Directions Apple Green and Directions Spring Green.

And here are some pics of the results, in several different lightings:

The last picture is after two washes. As you can see, it is coming out in the parts that weren't bleached as much, where my hair was darker before. However since my hair is so short, I have plenty of dye left to re-touch a bit and may even use only the darker green on the darker parts of my hair--I was using the two in a 50/50 mix before. I am really happy with the shade of green I got. It's pretty much exactly my favorite color of green.

I guess one more sort of observation. It's been pointed out to me that when I have crazy-color hair, I walk around like there's nothing weird about it. I think the reason for this is that usually I forget! It isn't until I notice someone maybe looking at me slightly weird that I remember I don't look entirely normal. But I think it is largely a confidence thing; it's just that the reason I'm confident about it is because I forget that I shouldn't be, kind of. You see a few people with different hair colors in Aachen. Certainly more than in Tuscaloosa, but probably not as many as in, say, Berlin.

And, since I don't want to deprive anyone of Sadie pics, here is one:
One of my favorite cloth diapers! I'll be doing a post about those coming soon...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sadie's Passport, More About Doctors, and Sadie as a Pumpkin!

Since I haven't posted in awhile, I'm gonna give quick updates on a couple of things. First of all, Sadie's passport came! It only took about a week and a day to get here, so we were able to book our tickets to America! We will be there from Dec. 23 until Jan 9, making a sort of whirlwind tour. We are also going to get Sadie baptised while we are there, which I'll post more details about once things are a bit more firmly planned.

Yesterday, I learned a few more ways in which going to the doctor here is different from in America. I needed to get another prescription. I had told the doctor I had enough for three months, but I miscounted/didn't do math right and really only had enough for like, one month. She has these open office hours on Mondays, so I went to go and ask for another prescription. For some reason, I didn't bring my Nook--the only explanation I can think of is that I didn't think it would take that long and I wanted to go to the store afterwards and didn't want to carry as much. Also my phone was dying. So, for the two hours that I sat there waiting, I had basically nothing to do. There was a TV with mostly like, ads for medicine or like "do you have this problem?" type features (and a weird children's cartoon about animals picking their noses...) but anyway, it was not the most fun wait I've ever had. So then when I got in there and explained what I needed, she said, "Oh you just need a prescription? You don't need to wait to see me, you can just ask for it at reception." WHAT?!

I was trying to figure out if there were some way I could have known this. I asked Hunter, and we both agreed that we didn't really know of a circumstance in America where you could acquire a new prescription without actually talking to a doctor. As I think I mentioned before, the prescriptions aren't hand-written here; they are typed out. So I guess the front desk just has a record of your prescription that you can go get. She did say that I had to see her every three months, like, I couldn't just indefinitely get prescriptions without ever talking to her again. But still. It was frustrating but ultimately I was just glad I was able to get the medicine.

Another super weird thing that happens at the doctor here is in the waiting room. In the office I was in, there were at least 15 people waiting at any given time. Whenever someone new walked in, he would say, "Morgen," and like everyone in the waiting room would say it back. Then when someone left, he'd say, "Aufwiedersehen," and there would be a chorus of "Aufwiedersehens" from the room. These people did not know each other. It's apparently just acceptable here to greet people you don't know in a doctor's office. I feel like in America, that kind of place is just a bit personal for random greetings, especially since it's like a mental health place. I think I'd feel weird about saying hi or bye but I guess it's just what they do here.

So on Halloween we went to meet up with some other English-speaking Aachen parents. My hope was to put Sadie in her pumpkin costume, but we put it on her and it was just way too big. But we did manage to take a picture:

The picture doesn't quite convey how huge this is on her. I had to sort of prop the hat back to make her face visible. So we ended up taking her in a different Halloween-y outfit.

Actually she was just wearing a white shirt with the skirt thing, and she wasn't wearing the socks because they were so big they just fell off her feet. But I'm not sure I have pictures from that day so this is close enough. The next one is a picture of Sadie doing something we hope she never does in public, at least in Germany:

And here's one more just for fun:
That's it for now!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Trip to Frankfurt

So, if you follow me on Facebook/Twitter, you probably were aware that we had to go to Frankfurt to do some things for Sadie. We had to do the "report of birth abroad," as well as apply for her passport and Social Security Card. Planning the trip was kind of a nightmare, but luckily the planning was the worst part.

The first thing we had to do was make an appointment. The passport office will only see you by appointment, and they are open from I think 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The government shutdown was over by the time we went, but it wasn't affected by that anyway. Also their phone hours are from 2-4. Why can't they just have separate people doing each job and have both open all day? No one knows! Anyway, we took the next appointment available, which was October 22 (Sadie's 1 mo. birthday!) at 10:15 a.m. Frankfurt is about 3 hours by train, depending which train you take, so we planned to spend the night before in Frankfurt.

Spending the night, obviously, meant getting a hotel. Frankfurt is a pretty big city, and I knew hotels would be expensive. What I didn't know is that apparently they have a lot of trade fair type things there (at least this is what Tripadvisor or something tells me) so even on a Monday night, hotel rooms in the main city area were 250-300 Euros per night. That's like $400-$500. And, the consulate isn't really even very close to any of those hotels. So, I found one that was kind of on the outskirts, but about the same distance to the consulate as the central area. I was like, OK, we'll just take a cab. Until Hunter reminded me that babies need car seats.

So, I'd already booked a hotel that seemed inaccessible, or at least difficult-accessible, by bus. So, we had to buy a car seat. We don't own a car and pretty much never ride in cars, so I thought we wouldn't need one of these. Although on the plus side, Sadie really likes just hanging out in the seat, so at home if I need to get something done I can set her down there, as she really doesn't take well to being placed pretty much anywhere else. We also had to buy train tickets, but that wasn't so bad because a friend of mine had a discount code that made the tickets super cheap. We got to take the train that was about 2.5 hours instead of the one that's 3.5 hours. Of course, now that the travel was planned, we had to deal with the paperwork.

In addition to the application forms, there are a bunch of documents you have to bring in. Marriage certificate, our passports and birth certificates, Sadie's birth certificate, any documents that can establish the length of your residency in the U.S... I'm probably even forgetting a few things. Plus the passport photo for a baby. If you go to the Department of State's website, they have pretty stringent guidelines for passport photos, although it's basically up to the person accepting the application, and I think they are a little lax on babies. I think the one I took of Sadie (see last post) ended up really good though. Her head is a bit tilted, maybe, but I think that just makes it cuter! Anyway, Hunter and I being, well, us, we filled out the application forms at like midnight the night before we left. They were pretty trivial except for where it wants you to list everywhere you have lived, and what time periods. We haven't moved around a ton, but it was still a lot to try and remember. I also had a minor panic about the birth certificate. The website that lists what you need is very specific about which birth certificate you must bring, and I started fearing that we didn't have the right one. I think the website is a bit confusing on this point, because it refers to the short-form (ie, non-useful in this circumstance) birth certificate as "Geburtsurkunde," which is what it said on my (valid, official) document. However, the paper we had said the names of the parents, which I think is the really important thing. So we got all the documents together and the diaper bag packed. My plan was to go to one of those photo printers at the drugstore the next day to print out one of the photos we took.

Of course, that wasn't really trivial either. The first place I went I couldn't figure out the machines, so I decided to just go buy some photo paper and do it at home. Then that place had a machine so I decided to try and use it. However, as far as I could tell, the machine did not have an option to just choose a picture and a size and print it. If I chose ID photo, it would give the right size, but it would make me crop it to the German proportions, where the head takes up a lot more space than in the American ones. So I ended up just buying the photo paper.

After taking a few more pictures because I thought the ones I had might be too dark, I printed out a selection of the best ones. I had read that there actually is a passport photo booth at the consulate (which is true as of October 2013) but I didn't want to risk it being broken or something, which is why I took the pictures myself. Anyway, we made it to Frankfurt, had some tasty Ethiopian food and a few expensive cab rides later, Sadie had applied for her passport! I found the employees at the consulate to be really nice. One of them even had a Saints lanyard and a New Orleans accent to match! I'm sure there are circumstances that would make the whole process  more annoying, but it took us less than an hour to get everything done and there weren't any complications. Now we just have to hope her passport comes in time to make Christmas travel plans!