Friday, March 29, 2013


I'm in quite a slump lately. I'm going to confess to you that I'm pretty sure it's mainly because of my size. I feel so big and so bloated and so uncomfortable in my own skin. I don't like to admit this at all: because I don't want to admit how affected I am by the social pressure to weigh less and be thinner. But I AM affected by it. And it's messing with my psyche.

The other day, my friend patted my belly and told me how big it's getting. It is. SIGH. And then she told me how healthy I look - healthily pregnant. I determined to take it as the the perfect thing to say. I AM healthily pregnant. Of course, when I say that I'm healthily pregnant, I'm thinking about my actual physical health, and not my generous weight gain; this pregnancy has been my healthiest when it comes to viruses and colds and such. I'm thankful for that, (but it doesn't mean I'm not ready for it to be over).

A few of my (nonpregnant) friends have gone on weight loss programs lately, and they ARE losing weight. They are looking different. But to be honest, I don't really know what to say about it. If the weight loss equates to feeling better (in all it's variations), then I am happy for them. On the other hand,  if I say things like, "Wow! You're looking good!" I'm somehow implying that they weren't looking good before. And I don't want to say that. Their weight loss doesn't change how I feel about them as friends or people, but it might change how they feel about themselves, you know? And if they feel better, that should be acknowledged, right? Or NOT, because acknowledging it is reinforcing that they should conform to social pressure to be thin and that we should all have psychological stress if we're not thin??? I don't know! What's the best thing to say? And how does what we say reinforce how we feel?

How many years of being told I look "good" when I am at my thinnest have contributed to my own slump right now?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


This is typical. They push their chairs next to each other and begin a game of who can be sillier. Lately, Mattias is always the goofiest. Perhaps Mattias is less inhibited about doing something rude, like, say, letting his chewed cracker crumbs fall out of his mouth, if only to make his older brother laugh harder.

I'm glad they like each other so much; I'm glad they get along together as well as they do. Their birthdays fall within days of each other. When I asked if they would like a joint birthday party at a venue this year (because I'm pregnant! I'm tired! I can't do two parties!), they jumped up and down at the prospect.

They are three years apart and together they act their average age of 4 and a half years. Sometimes it's easy to forget how old Noah is.

This week Noah spent 2 days home from school with strep. One of the mornings was Mattias's morning program. So it was Noah and I - just the two of us - for a few rare hours of togetherness. Noah's becoming so organized and so self-sufficient! He performs all sorts of independent tasks that I don't even notice when I'm out and about with both boys. For example, Noah opens the car door, closes the car door, and buckles his seat belt ALL BY HIMSELF. It's like running errands with a friend instead of a child! Amazing! I'm so busy helping Mattias (normally) that I don't even notice these things. Or last night, Fritz asked Noah to clean up and he did. He just cleaned up. No reminders, no encouragement, no oversight. When did this grown up child emerge?!?

But then, let's not get too excited about being self-sufficient and organized: there's still the average age and the game at the table. The cracker crumbs falling everywhere just because it's SOOO funny to let them fall out of your mouth. Which brother will giggle harder? Which one will careen out his chair first from spasms of laughter? And for us: which parent will be the first to remind them where the boundaries are? We exchange glances, because neither of us wants to be the bad guy and neither of us really wants the laughter to stop. It's not surprising that Mattias is developing into a mischievous sort; we the parents are culpable.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mischief, Dresser, Mystery Plant

The last two or three weeks, Mattias has entered a new phase. He's become MISCHIEVOUS. Really, really mischievous. The good news is that prior to this phase, everything seemed so calm and manageable and harmonious for the first time in years that I kept dreading the addition of baby-induced chaos. However baby-induced chaos on top of existing mischief feels less jolting.

Yes, fine, let's have this baby. Life is crazy anyway, let's make it a little more crazy. No big deal.

[image removed]

Fritz is of the complete opposite mind on this: he would prefer everything to be working tidily when Trixie is born. So, that's sort of interesting: I'm now less stressed about Trixie's arrival, but Fritz is more stressed. Maybe there's some happy medium whereby Mattias loses the mischievous streak before the birth, making Fritz feel better, while I stay accepting of the coming change.

[image removed]

We found a used dresser. Wood drawer bottoms, wood rails, drawers open and close smoothly, ETC. I'm happy with it! Except for the part where I'm going to strip the darker stain, clear coat it and replace the handles. (Ha ha!) I think those are the same handles MY childhood dresser had.

The mystery houseplant is an aralia. A ming aralia, we think. I got a whole bunch of advice and help from my aunts this weekend to save it: most of which involved getting it out of the terra cotta/clay pot, putting it in a smaller pot, and replacing the dry soil with something that holds moisture better. So far, so good. I'll keep you posted, because of course you'll want to know if it can transform itself into a proper version.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Labor / Delivery Rooms

In the Denver area, delivery room options are pretty limited. I say that having no idea what the options are like in the rest of the USA. In Germany, the labor/delivery room options were quite different than they are here in Denver. I find myself missing the German options lately.

There are probably many different reasons for the wider variety of options in Germany. I think the largest contributing factor may be that prenatal and birth healthcare standards in Germany are arranged in such a way that women tend to do more 'shopping' for their birth location. OBGyns who offer prenatal care are (usually) not the same OBGyns who deliver at the hospitals. By severing the prenatal physician from the birth and labor physician, clients are less restrained in their birthing choice. As a result, hospitals and clinics spend more time competing for the business of birth, and that contributes to an environment of more and better birthing location options.

If the choice were mine alone to make on this my third pregnancy, I would seek out the one mythical midwife in the whole state of Colorado who does home births and I would have a home birth. But Fritz is staunchly opposed to this, and three births in, I know he will never change his mind, so to the hospital it is. 

If I want to keep my OBGyn for the birth, then I'm limited to the two hospitals at which she works. As far as I can tell, there's almost no difference between these hospitals. They are both filled with labor rooms that are essentially a bed with stirrups surrounded by cabinets with laminated with fake wood. The windows stare out onto the ugly facade of an adjacent building. The halls are more or less anonymous neon lights and endlessly institutional (even when they are full of baby photos by area photographers - does the hospital corridor have to be another outlet for commercialism?). Very few soft surfaces, no trees outside, no real plants, no direct sunlight, and NO, you are not leaving the labor ward because there are Security Measures In Place.* The fake wood cabinets house a tremendous amount of medical equipment for the use of the medical personal. They have a couch for the partner to sit on (I suppose). They have jacuzzis that are mostly the size of the bathtubs in my house.

That last part, the jacuzzi, motivated me to take a tour of my OBGyn's second hospital last week. Three years ago, with Mattias, I just picked the closer of the two hospitals at which she was registered, and went there. 

(I've had two really similar births, even though one was in the US and one was in Germany. The quick versions: (2x) 12 hour labors, 1 or 3 days past due date, (2x) unmedicated, (2x) arrived at hospital 7 cm, (2x) gave birth about 3 hours later.) 

With Mattias, here in Denver, the hospital was fine, my doctor was fine. But neither one was anything extraordinary. But then, does it need to be extraordinary? No, Fritz would argue: we want uncomplicated and safe. And that's what it was. So that's good! But the one thing I still find myself grumbling about was the size of the so-called jacuzzi at the hospital I went to with Mattias. It was too small - and let me tell you, hanging out in the water would have been great - if only there'd been more space in that jacuzzi. I don't necessarily want a water birth. But I'd rather have those contractions in the water than anywhere else.

The second hospital - my other birthing option if I stick with this doctor - had jacuzzis that were about 6  inches wider. Well, now, I suppose that might make some difference. But it clearly wasn't a night and day difference. The more I talked to Fritz about it, the more obvious it became that my change to a new hospital was threatening to him. 

It's taken me a while to realize this, but he really, really doesn't like change. He likes stability. He wants to know what to expect. He gets all flustered and nervous when you switch things around. He supposed I could go to a different hospital...but he was awash in the idea of CHANGE. After some consideration, I decided that maybe 6 more inches of width in the jacuzzi wasn't so important after all. I'd rather have a calmer birthing partner.

This seems pretty representative of a supposedly nice delivery room here in Denver.
Although, I borrowed this image from here, so maybe it's not even American.

So anyway, it will be off to the boring, ugly delivery room for me in April. But because it's hard for me to let go of these things and because I thought maybe you'd like to see some different options from Germany, I hereby present: 

Labor Rooms from Germany:

Family Labor Room in Asklepios Klinik Sankt Augustin. Image from here.
I don't really need to say anything about the size of that birthing tub, do I? (Awesome.) And how about those windows streaming in all the beautiful light? I like the warmth and energy of this room! (You might already know how biased I am towards red....) No fake wood cabinets. 

See the pieces of fabric hanging from the ceiling? They're probably Didymos slings. Six years ago, when I was doing hospital delivery room tours in Munich, the midwives showed us how women like to hang their arms through them to support their upper bodies during delivery. Apparently the swinging and rocking is also quite nice. I didn't end up using one, but the slings were omnipresent in almost every delivery room in Germany I visited. I still find myself looking for them in US delivery rooms. Never seen one here in Colorado.

Labor Room at a midwife practice in the Heidekreis-Klinikum in Walsrode
Look! This delivery room comes complete with a medicine ball, birthing stool, and plant. Also, the omnipresent sling in pink and yellow.

Labor Room at Klinikum F├╝rth. Image from here.
Look at that birthing tub in the lower right hand corner! Complete with rubber duckies. (I don't know, sometimes this stuff is kind of silly, right?) The sling, the medicine ball. The new addition in this photo is the coral, crescent shaped pillow on the bed - that's most likely this popular pillow in Germany (from the UK) which is a cross between a Boppy and a body pillow filled with "micro pearls." It's similar to a beanbag chair in density, but not so lumpy. I have one from my pregnancy in Germany with Noah, and I'm still using it this pregnancy. Love it. I've tried to find them here in the States, and I can't. It's a really great pillow because you can use it both pre- and post- natal, both mama and baby.

Hopefully, this wasn't too negative about comparing. (My mother always feels personally offended when I start comparing the US to Germany.) Sometimes, I think it's good to see how they do things other places, if for no other reason than it might help raise the standards and make everything a little better if we know what we're missing!

*Being an architect, I do recognize that building regulations have a significant impact on hospital and healthcare design. Unfortunately, I think that economic efficiency has an even bigger impact on design - and that's something that could be changed if we voiced our preferences.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Houseplant Tour

I've had this personal challenge for the last 3 years or so: how can I incorporate more plants into the interior of the house? How can I use plants beyond decoration? Where do I put them? How do I balance my ideas with the plant's health needs (ie sunlight, watering)? These are surprisingly complicated questions. It takes more than setting a plant in a spot and forgetting about it. You have to watch a plant over months, make sure it's thriving, perhaps reconsider its location when the holidays come and the Christmas tree takes its place, and then there's the fact that they do GROW. Will you trim it? Leave it alone? Repot it? How does that effect your houseplant strategy?

Sometimes I look carefully at published photos of plants in a room, only to discover that they are either completely staged or fake. I feel disappointed. There is NO WAY that particular plant could actually live and grow and thrive in that particular location. Somebody just put that particular plant in a location for a 30 minute photo shoot. Judging by the DIY-home-blogs out there, my houseplant challenge is not a very popular pursuit for my generation; I'm at a loss to find good advice online. And I'm certainly a novice in this endeavor.

I write this post, not because I really have any great wisdom about what I'm doing yet, but because maybe you can help me. What are your experiences? Any insights? Maybe you have houseplants that you want to blog about?? We can start a new trend! Okay? Okay: Here's what I've learned and what I've been doing:


Leave (These) Plants Alone:
Above is a fern that lives in our guest bathroom. I thought I could use it as a screen between the bathtub and the toilet, which is behind the knee wall. I think this fern is remarkable because it is gigantic and it is thriving in DRY Colorado! Since ferns like humidity, I don't know why it is doing so well. This is bathroom rarely used, so it's not any more humid than the rest of the house. The fern gets no direct sunlight. Aside from leaving it sitting in water when I do water it (I forget a lot), I mostly leave it alone. I think it likes being left alone. (Baths in the guest room are a special treat reserved for when Mommy needs the children to provide scale reference for her photos.)

Pitcher plant, fern in background mirror reflection

This pitcher plant above is also in the guest bathroom. I bought it about 2 years ago to catch flies. They like similar conditions to orchids (low light, humidity); its blooms are shaped like little pitchers (which in nature are) full of water that trap flies.  If you follow that link above you can see what the blooms/pitchers look like. Well, in our house, it never caught any flies and it never bloomed again. But it grew and it looks more impressive and vine-y than it did before. It also seems to like being left alone, I think.

Living Room plants
BUT... Pay Attention to What the Plants Want:
I must have taken the above photo sometime last summer. My goodness, the screaming child and rearranged furniture (aka "boat" with "oars") is a little counterproductive here; try to look at the plants. Somehow I ended up with a lot of plants against the back wall of the living room and it seemed, well, striking. And the plants seemed to like their location (not always so easy). So I left them there, without much planning.

Okay, well that's a little more representative of the overall plant effect, but a lot less representative of what everyday life in our house is like....


Stem Supports:
Ah, yes. A plant. This dracaena is a pretty typical houseplant. It branches and spreads in a rather Seussical way, if you let it. Do you see the stem support? Stem supports are more often marketed for outdoor plants, but my aunt taught me that they work just fine on indoor plants as well. A closer look at a stem support:

Stem support on dracaena

Below are more stem supports being used on a Christmas cactus; do you see them? I'm pretty sure this is NOT how Christmas cacti are suppose to look. The branches are awfully long, floppy and strangle-y. That's why the plant pot is also sitting on a spool of ribbon. Spotting the stem supports is a game! (There are three.) Do you see them?

Christmas cactus

I probably would not have messed with stem supports had my aunt not pointed how plants can look more sculptural (and less sad) with a bit of mechanical intervention.

Another standard houseplant: the rubber plant in the corner.
A spider plant barely visible to the right of the chair.
The little plants in the window above are an aloe plant
(doesn't every home with kids need one of those?)
and some other succulent that I forget the name of.

The Size of Houseplants and Furniture (can be frustrating):
One of my general frustrations with my houseplants is size. I think really big plants generally would look better and would fit the living room better. But big plants are expensive to buy. They take a long time to grow. Some of the most chatter I've seen on the internet regarding houseplants lately is related to fiddle leaf figs. They are beautiful, especially when they are huge and gigantic; but there's nothing simple about this size of plant. Think of how many conditions must be correctly maintained for how long to achieve a plant that looks like that!

None of my plants above are even big enough to sit on the floor yet, so they are all sitting on tables or window sills or hutches. It feels like I need a lot of furniture for my plants. I don't really like that. I would like to have less furniture for the plants. I even feel lukewarm about the prospect of having plant stands.

(Although I really like these Modernica planters/stands as a possible solution. They are a little spendy for me; I find myself plotting my own version.)

More Listening to the Plants:
Above is the current status of my Spoon Bouquet. The succulent behind it may be the only plant that I'm satisfied with sitting-on-the-furniture. It grew into the bouquet by itself. I find the whole assembly together quite fascinating. How crazy and random! I'm not sure I could purchase or intentionally create anything so bizarrely decorative if I wanted to. I've got a fair number of succulents because they tolerate  my random watering patterns.

Plants/flowers in the top windows are silk or dried.
In the bottom windows are a calla lily, orchid, several amaryllis,
and the succulent that later grew into the spoon bouquet.
Far right is papyrus.
Plant Collages...or Not:
The stairwell goes through phases of plants. Above is the Plant Hospital Phase from about the time Mattias was 18 months old. I had a lot of suffering plants (post-Mattias'-infanthood, that is), so lots of plants went in the window sills to be resuscitated. I have a general theory that setting plants in the window is a good way to make your house look welcoming from the outside AND provide a level of semi privacy. As I hinted earlier, maybe this makes me an old lady. Or maybe it makes me super retro cool. (Um, probably not, huh?)

One thing I'm not doing very well is mixing the plants together. I imagine a gardener (with an outdoor garden) would be much better at mixing textures and colors and patterns. I don't really know how to do that AT ALL yet. And I don't know where to begin in a houseplant (as opposed to garden) setting. There's The Pots and The "Furniture" and The Size and The Plant's Sunlight Needs to consider....

Papyrus and little succulent whose name I forget.

This plant above is my favorite, papyrus. It's cheap, it likes to be swimming in water, and it grows like crazy. It needs sun, but other than that: it's an easy-to-care-for and under-appreciated as a houseplant. It pretty much fills its container with shoots. This papyrus is about 40" tall; it just keeps growing taller in competition for the sunlight. That means you could do all sorts of interesting things with papyrus: imagine it in a long, thin container! It would make a living screen wall if you had a bright, sunny location.

Pencil cactus

The pencil cactus is one of my newer additions. This one has chartreuse leaves and tips. Occasionally, I've seen them in stores with red branch tips. I really wanted one with red tips, but always tsk'ed over the cost and never bought one when I saw it. Eventually, I gave up. Chartreuse it is.

Children and Houseplants:
First, my houseplants have all suffered when there is a baby in the house. I just can't remember to take care of the plants when there's a baby around. I anticipate many of these plants suffer in the coming months.

Second, Yes! The boys dig in the dirt: mostly 35-month-old Mattias, at this point. I was going to take the front loader out of this photo, but then I realized that this is more honest about what goes on around here:


This particular front loader doesn't fit well in the pot.  But I have had SEVERAL conversations with Mattias this winter about (smaller) front loaders and backhoes digging in the dirt. The best prevention for this ficus is to either take away small construction vehicles, or tape paper over the top of the pot and around the trunk. Mattias STILL continues to insist that his diggers NEED to dig there, so the conversations aren't helping (yet).

Third, Yes! The boys destroy the plants. They pull off leaves and pretend the leaves are who-knows-what. I think in this particular insistence, the leaves were food they were cooking:

pieces of "food" on the box lid

I heard that jade plants like to be "woody;" in other words, they don't like to have too many leaves. (?) This is one of the reasons I've allowed this jade plant to continue to sit in the boys' play areas, even if it gets occasional abuse. The best thing for this jade plant, however, was when I let it sit outdoors over the summer. It loved the outdoors. I'm not very brave about bringing houseplants outdoors (bugs! disease! hailstorms!) but they do seem to thrive and grow exponentially when I take the chance.

Jade outdoors in early summer. (It was a lot smaller.)
The plant in the red pot is Lemon Fizz Lavender Cotton. It didn't survive in the pot.
(I think the Lemon Fizz wanted to be in the ground.) 

At this point, nobody is actually putting leaves in their mouths to eat anymore, but when they were younger, it was a concern. Certain houseplants are poisonous (the pencil cactus, for example) and so those plants were relegated to the off limits guest room, or placed up really, really high. As the boys get older, and the span of age ranges in our house gets wider, I think I'm going to need new techniques to keep everyone in line.

The mystery plant: in the big terra cotta pot...
Help Me! The Mystery Plant:
This plant above is brand new to our house. The original owner tells me it's about 20 years old, but she's not sure what it is. She was sure it wasn't getting enough sun in her house, and that's why she gave it to me. (We get a lot of sunlight.) I'm not sure how representative the overall photo (above) is. For all I know, this would be a very bushy plant/tree given enough sunlight. So, I'm including a photo of the leaves and stem/bark. My first two concerns are: it's in a really big pot, given the spread of its branches. How big could the rootball possibly be? Maybe it needs a smaller pot?  It's also in some very sandy soil.
Mystery plant leaves

Any ideas what this plant is? I would love to bring it back to it's full glory! I could go to a nursery with these photos and some leaves, but asking the internet requires less know?

Sunday, March 3, 2013


I think the third trimester is starting to catch up with me. Until last week, I've been in a patch of feeling pretty good physically. But this week, I've hit a wall as I try to adjust (again) to the physical aspects of my pregnant body. At 32 weeks, my weight is the same now as it was at 40 weeks and 2 days with Noah. I can't imagine lugging around any more than I am. Remember the Venus (or Woman) of Willendorf from Art History 101? She's stopped looking exaggerated and started to look just about normal. Recent art historians think she might have been a self portrait as opposed to some sort of male idealization? - I totally get it.

And I'm doing a fair amount of lugging. It was a lot easier to be pregnant the first time around. I think I went swimming fairly often during my third trimester with Noah to relieve the weightiness - and maybe even a couple of times when I was pregnant with Mattias. But the thought of going swimming, (Noah and Mattias and) Trixie-pregnant me sounds more overwhelming than relaxing. Nowadays, I'm not just lugging Trixie, I'm occasionally, literally, lugging Mattias, who will throw a tantrum and lay down in the middle of a puddle if he's asked to walk further than convenient. And I'm at least figuratively lugging Noah, who walks by himself, but still needs to be watched, lest he step out in front of car in the parking lot, or whatnot. Minimally, I lug twice a day, doing the school drop off/pick up with Noah. But it can easily be more than that if we have errands to run or if we were to, GULP, go swimming....

This week, I found myself setting a wet Mattias on my shelf of a belly (which conveniently pushes Trixie's foot out from under my rib), and then craning my neck around Mattias to keep an eye on Noah as he climbed over snow piles in the parking lot. Oh, please, I thought, Please, don't make me need to follow him over that snow! I try to see it as comedy. I'm not a stroller person, because I dislike the fussiness of a stroller, but something is going to have to change to get through the next seven weeks. Strapping Mattias in the stroller might be a partial answer to kid-lugging. Then I guess I'll be lugging around a stroller through the snow piles instead. (But the piles are melting. Maybe they'll be gone by Monday. One can hope.)

Complicating the physical aspects of lugging all of us around lately has been a series of mild viruses. There's been some missed school, some missed child-care, a generally higher level of whininess/clinginess, and more child night-waking than I would like.

I've never envied my friends who've been put on bed rest during their pregnancies. Until now. Bed rest sounds kind of nice. But here's what I tell myself: all this lugging is good for you. All this physical activity is good, it's exercise, it's keeping you healthy during pregnancy - all the doctor's number confirm this - just keep doing what you're doing. It's working out perfectly! Who knows what would happen if you ACTUALLY went on bed rest. You might just feel LESS good. Just make sure you put your feet UP when you sit DOWN. Or chop off your feet while you're ahead. Like the Venus (Woman) of Willendorf.

The third-third trimester is looking like a mental game.