Catnap’s New Meaning

As if nap time weren’t already hard enough for me, it got even more challenging today.

For starters, our new living situation made it difficult to get the baby to sleep.  Back home, I used to rock her swaddled up until she fell asleep, at which point I would put her in the crib.   When we got here it was extremely hot, so I had to ditch the warm swaddle.   In addition, I had no rocker.  The only thing that worked was nursing her to sleep.

Now nursing is the only way I can get her to sleep.  It is something I have been struggling with in my mind because I can’t foresee how it will end.  She doesn’t know how to soothe herself to sleep.   At bedtime, I can get her into her crib after nursing, but for naps I pretty much end up holding her because she wakes up when I try to set her down. That means I spend a lot of time each day with her in my arms.

Well, I think this makes someone jealous.  That someone is my cat, Zoe.   She has always loved to snuggle with me.   She sleeps on me at night, often on my chest.   When the baby was waking up one or two times a night and I would crawl back to bed, Zoe would be there to hop right up on my chest to get her snuggle time in. 

She wasn’t allowed in the baby’s room at home, but here there is no lock on the door and she can easily push it open.  I tried to barricade it with a basket, but she still gets in.  From time to time, when I am nursing the baby in her room, Zoe will push in a walk around. 

Today she took it up a notch.

While the baby was sleeting, a word borrowed from a friend, which means sleeping and eating at the same time, Zoe pushed her way in and hopped up on my lap; a lap that was already filled by the baby.  She stepped over the baby and up onto my neck/chest where she stayed and purred.  Eventually, she migrated down to my legs and snuggled in there until the baby woke up an hour later.

Tonight, when I went up to nurse the baby at nighttime, I found the crib already occupied by Zoe!  I took her out, put her outside the room and shut the door.   Fifteen minutes into nursing the baby, she was back.   She hopped right up and proceeded to inch her way up my neck.  This time she had her front paws on my shoulder, head lying on the back of the chair, and her butt rested on the baby, who didn’t even budge.  She purred and seemed to fall asleep.

I took her off so I could put the baby in the crib and she left the room.  Unfortunately, the baby woke up and I had to nurse her some more to get her back to bed.   In the meantime, Zoe came back and hopped into the crib, where she gave herself a thorough bath.   I figured she would hop out when I laid the baby in. Nope.  I lay the baby down and Zoe stayed contently curled up at the other end of the crib.

I wish I had a picture of all of these different scenes.   They would be perfect for the baby book.   We’ll see if this is a one-time thing or a new piece of the daily routine.  Though I had two hot bodies on me, at least I got to snuggle with my two favorite girls at once.

Adjusting to a Our New Home Country

If it were just Greg and I, adjusting wouldn’t be much of a problem.  Having lived in Greece, we are used to a lot of the nuances that make Europe different than the states.   The tough parts of adjusting right now are the baby, the two cats, and trying to live dairy free.  

THE BABY

At five months old, she had been sleeping 9-10 hours a night for almost two months straight.   We arrived here and the jet lag has hit her the hardest.  The first night she was up at 2 in the morning giggling and talking and ready to play, while we were fighting to keep our eyes open.   Every night she goes down about an hour earlier.   She has also been fussier, but I can’t tell if it’s because she is teething, my change in diet, or the move. Feels like we are back to month one where I am up feeding her twice a night.

Also, not having the comforts of home (our glider) I am having a hard time getting her to sleep at all without nursing her.  But a great friend of mine made me realize that everything thing is so different for her right now.  Nursing is one of her only familiarities right now and that is what she needs.

 THE CATS

The cats are also having a difficult time, but get better each day. As I have said before, cats don’t like change and everything about our new place is different and strange to them.

ImageThey have never done stairs, let alone spiral stairs, so we had to teach them to go up and down.  

 They never had windows that open because we are on the fourth floor of our condo and feared them falling out, so we always did AC instead of windows.   With no AC here, we have to open windows.  They love it but we are a nervous wreck.  

Living on the top floor of our building, they also never heard noises above them, so anytime someone is walking or talking upstairs and they are downstairs they get nervous.   We also don’t have a door to the outside in the states since we live on the top floor.   Here we worry about them escaping out the door to the outside world!

Little by little they are getting used to the sounds and smells.   Everyday they get more comfortable.  The cool thing is that I think it has brought them together.   The last two days we have found them sleeping together, which they haven’t done in years!

THE DAIRY FREE DIET

My dairy free diet is nearly impossible.  If you don’t speak the language, eating out in another country can be extremely difficult if you have diet restrictions.   I know the word for milk and can check labels, but I don’t feel comfortable asking in a restaurant.   So basically, I am avoiding blatant dairy containing foods like ice cream, pizza, and straight cheese. I might order food not expecting it to have dairy and it does.  If that is the case, I will just go with it.

I did have success today and found soymilk, a soy coffee drink, and a soy chocolate pudding that are all delicious.  So that will allow me to have cereal, coffee, and a dessert at home.

UNCOMFORTABLE NOW, COMFORTABLE LATER

It all comes back to that mantra of Greg and mine.  Things may be uncomfortable now, but with time we will all be in the groove.  We are already so happy with our decision to come here and it’s only been a little over a week. 

Our German Cottage

The hubs and I are ADDICTED to Househunters International, especially the European episodes. We would watch it and say, “Look.  Those people moved abroad with their kids or their pets.  We can do it too!”.

We love guessing which of the three houses the people are going to pick and also like to say which one we would chose. Well, if we were on an episode ourselves we would definitely choose the home we are in now.  Just like the show where each choice has its pros and cons, so does our new home.  It has boatloads of charm with the thick wooden beams, original wood floors, and German antique and modern furnishings and decor.   It feels so homey.  I love the smell when we walk in the door, it just screams Germany to me.  I don’t know why.

The downside is that those original floors creak loudly and are not always level.  The walls are quite thin, so you can hear anyone walking or talking upstairs.   And the spiral staircase!  It is a necessity for such a small house, but can be a challenge when trying to carry a baby up and down or if you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.   Even so, the positives far outweigh any negative.

This is the first time in any home in Europe where we have had so many appliances.  We have a dishwasher, washer/dryer, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, hot water boiler, iron, CD, and tv.  We feel very spoiled.  We are loving our new home.

International Cat Travel

The most daunting part of our moving to Germany was taking our cats with.  Our cats are our children and there was never an option of leaving them behind.  Either they came with or we didn’t go.   We didn’t want to let them stand in the way of this opportunity, so we were willing to do whatever it took to bring them with. It used to be that animals were quarantined.  In some countries, they still are.  However, to come to Germany, they would get to come right along with us in the cabin of the plane, but we had to jump through some hoops first.

We had to get rabies shot and a special European 15 digit microchip, which we had to order online, 21 days or more prior to the trip.  Then, we had to get a health exam done 10 days or fewer prior to the trip.  Next, we had to go to the APHIS office of Illinois, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to get three separate documents certified.  These documents were giving our vet palpations over whether or not he filled them out right and used the correct color ink.  He was afraid he would be the reason we were denied entry of our cats.

So we got all the paperwork and medical stuff done. The next hurdle was actually getting them on the plane and the flight itself.   The airlines had a weight limit of 18 lbs. per cat including the carrier.  Well, one of our two cats is a little plump and a month before the trip he and his carrier combined was 19.4 lbs.  So we had to put him through a little boot camp and diet to get him ready.  At the airport, each cat has to be carried by hand through the security machine, while his or her carrier goes through the X-ray. This was our biggest concern because we didn’t want them to bolt in the airport.

There were many days we went back and forth about whether or not to go through with it because of the cats.  Would they be okay?  Would they be different cats once we got there?   Would they cry the whole flight or get sick?  There are so many unknowns.  But the one thing we have learned and try to keep in mind with anything in life is that you can’t let fear keep you from doing something.

In the end, everything turned out fine and actually easier than we thought. At the check-in counter they just asked us their weight, they didn’t even put them on the scale.  So it turned out we could have said anything, but Micho did lose enough weight in actuality.   When we got to security, we asked if there was anyway to get around taking them out of the carrier, and they allowed one of us to go to a private room.   My hubby did that one, not me, and he has the scratches to show for it, but he said it was better than doing it out in the open.   Then on the flight they were quiet the whole trip until the last 30 minutes. One of them cried the duration of the descent.  I think his little ears were hurting as much as ours were!

This just proved to us again, if you have faith and a positive attitude that things will turn out okay.   We can’t let fears hold us back.   Now, their adjustment to our new home is a different story, I will save for another post.  But they made it.  They are officially international travelers!

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Embracing uncomfortable

Is anyone surprised when I say we are moving back to Europe? We must sound like a broken record!

We are going back to Europe so Greg can play basketball again.  Our destination is Hagen, Germany, where Greg played two years ago.   What makes this, his 8th season of professional basketball, crazier is that we are going to be taking our two cats, Zoe and Micho, and our baby girl.

You can’t believe how many people say things to me like, “Wow!   You are an amazing wife to keep doing this for Greg!” or “How do you keep putting up with this?”  I guess people don’t understand that going is just as much for me as it is for him.  While he gets to follow his dream of playing professional basketball, I get to follow my dream of living abroad and passion for travel.   I am not “putting up” with anything.

Are we excited?  Definitely!  Are we nervous? Most definitely!  The strange thing is that the part we are most nervous about is bringing the cats, not the baby.  The baby will adapt, but will our cats? It’s no easy task to bring cats overseas.  We are not only concerned about getting the right vaccinations and documents, but seeing how they will do on the plane and in their new home.  Will they howl the entire flight?   Will they be stressed about their new environment?  Cats do not like change.  They would be content to stay in the same place forever if they could.  Unfortunately, their parents (Greg and I) feel the exact opposite.  Staying in a comfortable place for too long makes us uncomfortable.

That’s our new motto, by the way.  “What’s uncomfortable now becomes comfortable later.  What’s comfortable now becomes uncomfortable later.”

Will it be difficult to leave family and friends? Yes (uncomfortable)

Will it be stressful moving our family on only 1 suitcase each? Yes (uncomfortable)

Will it be challenging to be there without a support system and dealing with a different culture/language? Yes (uncomfortable)

Anything worth doing is going to be uncomfortable at first.  But we believe that doing what you love will make you happy in the end, you just have to get through the hard work and difficult phase. The discomforts of the move far outweigh the feelings of regret we may feel later.   So for now, we are embracing uncomfortable.