All dried up

Ahh, the problems with living in a dry climate… All my life I have been lucky to have lived in places with plenty of water. Michigan with the great lakes, and Germany with it’s seemingly year-round rain. I know that many places are not so lucky.

Yesterday we ran out of water. Or better said, the city cut off our area from water. Apparently it is very common, and they rotate so that different parts of the city have water on different days. We still have some left in our cistern, but we have to be very careful not to waste it so that we still have enough to do the dishes and flush the toilets. The water department is saying will won’t have water again until Friday.

In the meantime, we are washing our clothes and taking showers at an aunt’s house who lives in another part of the city. It certainly makes me appreciate how important and precious water is!

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Our Cistern (on the roof).

Breastfeeding is Awesome

I don’t think I’ve really talked much about this topic, but I really do feel quite strongly about it, so I want to get it out there… Breastfeeding is amazing! It’s practical, healthy, and beautiful. I wouldn’t go back on my decision to breastfeed my daughter for anything in the world. Of course, I know I am lucky to have a year parental leave so that I didn’t have to worry about working and daycares, etc. and also, it doesn’t come as naturally as one might think it would… It was quite a bit of work to get everything right in the beginning, but it is so worth it.

First of all, breastfeeding is super practical. If the baby is hungry, you just need to find a place to sit down. No warming things up or mixing powders. You don’t have to remember to carry stuff with you, except a cover, and even that is optional. (Most women in Germany don’t use covers; the only ones I’ve ever seen were foreigners)

Secondly, breastfeeding is super healthy, both for mom and baby. It gives the baby a life-long boost in their immune system, and it also helps the mother with her immune system. We have spent the last 6 weeks in Mexico, and I haven’t been sick even once! Olivia had the sniffles for a few days, but it was very mild. Normally when I come to Mexico I get the infamous stomach illness (usually salmonella) pretty badly no matter how careful I am. This time not at all, and I have been eating everything, even lettuce! Unfortunately my husband was not so lucky… He has been sick three times so far, each time being stuck in bed for several days. Poor guy doesn’t get any of the immune system boosts from breastfeeding.

Lastly a word on nutrition. I know there are a lot of myths floating around out there about how the nutrition in breast milk is not sufficient after the baby has reached 6 months. I did a little research on this and couldn’t find any evidence to support that. It seems people are mostly worried about iron, since there is very little iron in breast milk, and the iron stored in the baby’s body from birth supposedly depletes by 6 months. But breast milk is tailored to the human body, and the small amount of iron it contains is actually absorbed very efficiently by the baby, (50-70% as opposed to iron-fortified cereals or formula which is only absorbed at a rate of around 10%. ) You can read more about it here if you are interested.

Other people say that there simply isn’t enough milk after six months and that the baby will be hungry if you don’t feed them something additional. This isn’t true, either. The way the body works is that the more a baby eats, the more milk is produced. There is a delay of a couple of days, so that when the baby hits a growth spurt he will be eating a lot more often because he is hungry. A few days later, the mom’s body catches up and there is more milk. As you start to wean, the milk production goes down accordingly, since the baby is eating less often. But if you continue breastfeeding, there will continue to be milk.

I breastfed my daughter exclusively until she was 7 months old, and then continued to feed her about 90% breastmilk until 11.5 months. (She has suddenly decided that she likes to eat more solids). She has been at the very top of the weight charts since just a few days after she was born, even though her birth weight was exactly average. She has always been very healthy, and people are constantly asking me if that is really all from breast milk. The answer is “yes”! I know that not every breastfed baby is super healthy or super big like mine, and they don’t have to be, either. But if you are looking for proof that exclusive breast milk is enough for a baby to thrive on, my little girl is a great example.

20130208-004433.jpg (here is my little chunk, talking to daddy on Skype)

Of course, as with all things, there are always exceptions… Every woman is different; every baby is different. Some women really don’t have enough milk or can’t breastfeed, and obviously that is ok, too! But if you have been breastfeeding successfully and your baby doesn’t want to eat solids when they turn six months old, don’t worry about it! They are getting everything they need from you.
We moms have enough to worry about already without people telling us that our babies are undernourished. What a way to sabotage the beauty of the female body.

Daily Exercises

Like all of us, babies need exercise too. Today Olivia got her morning dose by crawling up and down a step for 20 minutes while I hung up the laundry.

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Down the step

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Pick up the block

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And… Stretch!

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Again!

First Words

Ok, so she hasn’t actually said anything clearly yet except for “Mama”. Even so, I can tell that Olivia is really making major progress on her language development since she is starting to copy some words, and obviously understands quite a few more.

We are a tri-lingual family, speaking English, Spanish and German. (I am American, my husband is Mexican, and we live in Germany). So Olivia is growing up with all three languages, and I am SO incredibly excited to watch how her language develops!

Olivia will be one year old tomorrow, and so far she has had a lot of exposure to English (through me, obviously) and over the past month she has basically had Intensive Spanish immersion, since we have been visiting family in Mexico. My husband does speak Spanish with her at home, too, but since he is at work most of the day, her exposure to Spanish had been pretty limited until he got to go on paternity leave.

As for German, well, I admit that it has been very meager so far… She does hear it when I visit German friends and neighbors, but again it really isn’t a whole lot. I don’t think she understands anything in German yet, but I’m sure that will come more once we are back home in March.

So what exactly does she understand?

In English:
————–
Olivia (her name;))
Bye-Bye
Kitty
Look
Water
No
Here (I think…)
Doggy (I think…)
Daddy
Mommy

In Spanish:
—————
Adios (goodbye)
Hola (hello)
Mira (look)
No
Si (yes)
Bravo
Gato (cat)
Agua (water)
Mamá
Papá

There are probably a lot more words she can understand, but it’s difficult to tell since she can’t demonstrate it. These are only the words I know for sure that she understands.

She is also starting to say a few words – she says “kitty” (sounds kind of like “kee kee”). And she also very rarely says “bye bye” (sounds like “buh buh”). I think she is trying to say “daddy”, too (sounds like “duh da dee da duh dee”)

I know that multilingual children often take a little bit longer to speak, but Olivia seems very verbal, babbling all the time, so I guess we’ll see. Even if she is later than most I don’t really mind at all, since having three languages right from birth is a gift worth having!! It takes us adults years of effort to learn a foreign language, so It is totally worth it if it takes her a few extra months.

How to drop stuff

Did you know that dropping things is a skill that has to be learned? Just a few days ago I accidentally taught Olivia how to drop stuff…. I was playing with her and decided to make a game out of crumpling up newspaper and throwing it in the air. Naturally, she thought it was just hilarious, and starting trying to copy me. She would take a piece of paper and rumple it twice in her tiny hands and then open her hands to let it fall 5 inches to the floor. Then she would look up at me with the biggest, cutest smile in the world, and clap her hands!

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Ever since then, she has been purposely dropping everything she can get her hands on. Before, she often dropped stuff, but only if she was opening her hand to get something more interesting. It had always slightly surprised her that the old item she had been holding fell with a “clunk” to the floor. Now she does it as a game; and although sometimes it is annoying (like when she drops her food) mostly it is just cute.

Now it’s time to work on setting things down carefully!

The Solids Saga – giving up on baby-led-weaning

If you have followed my previous posts about baby food, you know that we were trying to do “Baby Led Weaning” with our daughter, instead of the traditional pureed baby mush. In theory, it seemed like a great idea, and made perfect sense to me. I just adjusted my cooking a little bit and eliminated salt and sugar from our diet, and offered Olivia whatever we were eating. The idea was that she could eat as much or as little as she wanted, and then get the rest of her nutrition from breast milk (so I continued to feed her on demand). Apparently some babies dive right in and love it, but a few babies really hang on to breastfeeding for a long, long time, and it seems that Olivia is one of those babies. She simply was never very interested in food.

I tried everything I could think of, and some days were better than others. Somtimes she would eat a lot of somthing and I would think that I’d figured it out, but then we would end up right back where we were before, with her only eating a few bites here and there, and some days not eating anything at all. At eleven and a half months she was still getting about 90% of her nutrition from breast milk.

Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of breastfeeding, and I’m not in any rush to wean her. She seems healthy enough, and her growth has continued to be off the charts. Nutrition is the last thing I’m worried about. But at the same time, I am getting tired of feeding her every two hours, and of being tied down. I’d like to be able to leave her with relatives for more than two hours. And I want her to try all of those exciting foods out there!

We have tried purees several times in the past, but Olivia hated them. She only wanted to grab the spoon from me, and if I tried to put anything in her mouth she would arch her back and scream. A lot of people told me I had to “teach” her how to eat by holding her down and forcing the spoon into her mouth. I’m sorry, but that just felt wrong to me, and the times I tried it, it didn’t work anyways; it only made her madder.

I was starting to accept my fate that maybe Olivia wasn’t going to start eating until she was 18.

But then, little by little, I started finding things she would eat reliably. One was Cheerios, and the other were those pouches of pureed fruits meant for toddlers. She loved them so much that she would devour a whole one in one sitting if I let her!

This is what finally led to our breakthrough… One day at the supermarket near my brother-in-law’s house, I ran across a bin of small plastic cups with chunky straws in them, meant for older kids. Since Olivia loves straws, I decided to get one and put purees inside it, like a milkshake. Believe it or not, it worked perfectly! I let her watch me mix the puree and fill it into the cup, and then I took a sip from it acting as if it were the BEST thing in the world. She instantly wanted it, and she ate an entire cup-full of baby food in just five minutes!

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Now that the world of purees has finally been opened to me, I have been having lots of fun cooking various concoctions for her. Her favorite is banana-spinach milkshake, but she also likes turkey with veggies and rice. Unfortunately it is hard for me to cook a lot for her since we aren’t at our own house right now, but once we get back I’m sure my fridge will be chock full of experimental baby food…

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On the road from Morelia to Puebla

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This post is pretty old, but back in early January (I believe January 3rd…?) we drove from Oscar’s mother’s house in Morelia, to his brother’s house in Puebla. This drive used to be at least 6 hours or more, since you had to drive through Mexico City, which, with a population of more than 33 million is no fun task. And by through, I don’t mean on a highway going around the city as we normally would say in the US; that would be bad enough with lots of traffic. No, I mean THROUGH, as in through the middle. Down chaotic, 2-lane city streets full of traffic lights and speed bumps, people with carts and salesmen. People trying to park and blocking an entire lane, or just flat out parking right on the lane. With a general disregard for any rules, the traffic in Mexico city is more like one of those sliding-tile-puzzles than actual traffic. It used to be a nightmare of epic proportions.

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But fortunately in 2010, the government built a new highway which completely circumvents Mexico city! It cut the journey from six to only four hours. It’s like a dream come true! On top of that, the route is full of great scenery since this is the mountainous interior of Mexico we are going through.

Olivia slept almost the entire way, except for one pit stop. I may have slept as well…

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Laundry in Mexico

Doing the laundry has been a bit different since we have been traveling in Mexico. And since we are still using cloth diapers we end up with tons of laundry and I basically have to wash every two days.

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One of the things I like the most about doing laundry here is that you get to hang it up on the roof to dry! I really enjoy going on the roof, and since it’s sunny and warm in the afternoons, everything dries really quickly. It is a HUGE difference from Germany, where it’s usually cold and rainy, and where even indoors it takes days for laundry to dry.

I like hanging out the laundry so much that I’m even willing to brave the stairs of death to get up to the roof to do it.

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The laundry basket doesn’t really fit while you’re walking up the stairs, making it even more difficult. But hey, I admit that that’s part of what I like about it.

We have a washing machine, but we also have something else which makes my life a million times easier:

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This is not just your ordinary wash basin, as you might think. It is tilted at a slight angle so that water runs down over the ridges, similar to the old fashioned washboards people used before washing machines. You are supposed to rub the clothes over the ridges, and since some of the water stays in the ridges, it makes washing by hand super easy. I use this every day to get out the dirt stains on Olivia’s pants, since she loves to crawl all day and by the end of the day the knees of her pants are almost black. It’s also great for diaper stains, which are a huge pain in the butt even if they are pretty rare for us (since we practice EC). This simple washbasin may not seem like much, but believe me it is a million times better than the bathroom sink, which is what I have to use at home. Every Mexican home has one, even if they have a washing machine.

A few days ago it actually rained (during the dry season, heaven forbid!) and we ran around grabbing all the laundry down from the roof so it wouldn’t get wet. Since the volcanic ash always “drops” more after a rain, it would have not only gotten wet but also covered in a fine layer of black dust, which would have meant washing it again. Obviously, we’d rather not have to do that, so we took it all in the house.

The only problem is, since this is Mexico, there is no where to hang laundry inside the house. (They normally don’t have to worry about the rain.). So instead we took the laundry to a laundromat to be dried. They charged 9 pesos per Kilo, (so about 2 Euros for the whole load) and when we picked it up, it wasn’t just dried, but FOLDED as well! It’s crazy what you can get for your money here.

Nevertheless, I will stick to hanging my laundry on the roof just because it’s more fun.

Diaper Free – Month 10& 11

After my last post about EC which was a bit depressing, I am happy to report that EC has been going incredibly well for us for the past month! Considering that we have been using diapers full time and haven’t done any diaper free time at all in ages,I really thought that Olivia would eventually stop caring about going to the potty. But that hasn’t been the case at all – in fact she has been gaining more and more bladder control and still waits for me to take her to the bathroom most of the time. Even with all of the travel we have been doing, she still expects to be taken to the potty at regular intervals and lets me know by “yapping” when she needs to go. (Sounds kind of like a high pitchecd “eh eh eh”)

We have gotten into a good routine of going potty after every meal and every nap, and that is working very well. We still have a lot of wet diapers, but poo almost always ends up in the toilet unless I am not paying attention. Interestingly, on the day of our flight from Germany to the US, I woke her up extra early (at 4am) to take the taxi, then train and finally the plane, and with all of the rushing I didn’t get the chance to take her potty until four hours later. Would you believe it that when I finally got into that tiny airplane bathroom, her diaper was still DRY???? She did the biggest pee I had ever seen, and then we went happily back to our seats. From that point on we continued to have dry diapers about 70% of the time for the entire trip.

Our rate has gone back down since then (she almost always does somthing in the toilet when I take her, but she usually has a wet diaper too) but that’s only because we have a lot going on and I don’t take her as often as I should. Nevertheless, I am still really happy with the way things are going – it feels like second nature now to the point where I have a hard time NOT offering her the potty after changing her diaper. Even if we are in a parking lot or in the middle of a touristy park and there is no potty available, I will put the dirty diaper on the ground and hold her up over it to do her business. I know she expects the chance to relieve herself, and I simply couldn’t live with myself putting her into the carseat when I know she has to go to the bathroom.

Even though we aren’t doing “all out” diaper free, I am really happy with EC and how it’s working for us. I used to be worried that I wasn’t doing “enough”, or that it wouldn’t “work” as well if I put less effort into, but now I’m seeing that it really doesn’t matter all that much. Sure, we could probably be completely out of diapers by now if I put in the effort to take her once an hour. In fact, if I got rid of the diaper she would probably start to hold it longer than an hour, since I know she has the capacity to do it. But I’m happy with how things are going, and I know that anything I do is better than nothing, and Olivia seems to be fine with it too.

Atlixco

We have been “traveling” for more than a month already, and yet I am sad to say that we have hardly done anything touristy at all! Mostly we have been visiting family and taking care of various “work” that has to be done every time we visit our home countries. (Renewing driver’s licenses, paperwork, etc). I have to admit that I have been getting pretty bored being at the house with Olivia all day and hardly going out. But finally last week we got the chance to take an afternoon off and we went to the neighboring city of Atlixco.

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Atlixco Zocalo

Atlixco is on the other side of some mountains and has a nicer climate than Puebla, so it is famous for it’s farms and plants. Most of the flowers sold in Puebla are grown in Atlixco. It also has a beautiful Zocalo (town square) filled with palm trees and small vendors selling balloons and plants. But we wanted to get a little more exercise and see some nice views, so we decided to climb the mountain to the chapel of San Miguel.

There were no signs, so we asked several people for the best route to get to the top, since there were a lot of stairs going through winding neighborhoods. As always, everyone had a different opinion. This way will be longer but has better views, that way is easier to climb but “uglier”, the other way is difficult to climb (aka steps falling apart and lots of holes) but is shorter. We asked one person weather there were bathrooms at the top, and he said yes, but they are probably bad, so he actually offered to let me use the bathroom in his house! “Just close your eyes” he said. (Since he had dirty laundry everywhere) Even after marrying a Mexican and spending tons of time in Mexico, the hospitality of this country continues to amaze me.

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Outside of the Ex-Convent

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Inside the Ex-Convent

Halfway up the mountain there is an ex-convent, which we took the time to explore. Even though it is falling apart it has a certain mystical beauty about it, at least on the outside. The inside was beautiful too, but it had a lot of very graphic and gruesome statues and relics. The first thing to greet you when you walk in is this statue of Jesus carrying the cross.

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. There was also a life size statue of a saint lying in a coffin complete with very realistic looking hair. But if you can get past those things without feeling sick, the church is really very beautiful, especially the ceiling.

20130120-131641.jpgFrom here we continued up the winding pathways until we reached what appears to be government owned land, complete with signs telling us about the native plants on animals. The views from the mountain side are fantastic, and from here you can really see the volcano Popocatépetl. We made a pit stop near the top of the mountain to give Olivia some food (potato-vegitable patties and cereal). 20130120-131518.jpg

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The Volcano Popocatepatel

The chapel at the top is very cute and well kept.

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I also really liked the tree full of prayer flags.
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We decided to take a different route down the mountain, which we thought would be shorter. Everything went fine until we turned a corner and were suddenly met with this “staircase” of crumbling rocks and 50% incline:

20130120-132247.jpgBeing the adventurous people we are, we decided to pick our way down in, baby and all! On the way down we also had a nice view of the city as the sun was beginning to set.

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We had a great dinner at a restaurant in town – I had a Pueblan specialty called Pollo Huitlacoche which is chicken breast filled with the fungus which grows on ears of corn. It sounds strange but was soooo good, I highly recommend it. Even Olivia ate some!


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