Life Beyond the Baby Monitor

Dear Liz C.,

I’m often asked how life is different with two children. In particular, I’m asked what things I did differently on my second go-round and, honestly, I didn’t change that much. We were pretty laid back parents with Archer, even as an infant, and that remains true with Honor. We exist somewhere at the intersection of gentle and free-range parenting and it worked well with our first, so why change anything with our second?


That said, one thing that we’ve done differently this time that has absolutely made me a better, saner parent: we ditched the baby monitor.

It wasn’t a deliberate decision at first. We loved our Sony baby monitor with Archer. Good range, awesome battery life, and very little interference, but – because we’re in Germany – we couldn’t actually USE it here (different voltages and they ran wonky on our power transformers).

So, we kept saying that we would go snag a German monitor, but then we just… didn’t.

I moved Honor from the bassinet outside of our room into the Rock ‘n Play (and later, the Pack ‘n Play) next to my side of the bed so that I could hear her if she cried and found that this arrangement absolutely transformed me as a parent.

With Archer, I spent so much of the night staring at the monitor. Did he just make a sound? Is he waking up? Was that a sneeze or a cough? Is he getting sick? Did he just knock the last of his pacifiers onto the ground? Is he stuck between the crib rails? Was that static or some horrifying EVP ghost trying to communicate with me from beyond the grave? IS MY HOUSE HAUNTED? DO WE NEED TO MOVE TO ANOTHER STATE? OH MY GOD SOMEONE PLEASE SAVE ME I AM GOING TO BE EATEN BY GHOULS.*

With Honor, I’ve learned her sleep sounds and never have to wonder if she needs a pacifier, a cuddle, or a quick readjustment. I’m close enough that I can address her needs without really waking up at all. I can pop a pacifier back in without opening my eyes, pat her back without lifting my head from my pillow, and hum her a lullaby without so much as disturbing my own cozy blankies.

If she stirs, I know it. I’m never guessing the way I did with the baby monitor. And it’s awesome. I’m never losing sleep staring at the little lights on the white receiver.

We are to a point now that she is almost sleeping all the way through the night (though she often nurses around 4-5am and then goes back to sleep for a while), so we will be transitioning her into her own space soon. It’ll be bittersweet as I’ve enjoyed waking up with her nearby, but I’m so thankful for the realization that the monitor was doing more harm than good for my sanity and sleep schedule.

Will this arrangement work for everyone? Probably not. The real heart of it is understanding how you work, how your baby works, and how you can combine those things to achieve a better routine for you, your sanity, and your family. Even if, sometimes, it breaks with what you had envisioned in your head as the “right way” to do the whole parenting thing.

Smooches from Wiesbaden,

Lizzy B.

*My great fear of EVP, demons, and hauntings is also why I can’t have a video monitor because babies look fucking TERRIFYING on video monitors, okay?

SPEAKING of the Diva Cup

Okay, Liz C. There I was. Sitting quietly, enjoying a beer after I put the kids to bed. The house was blissfully silent and I was just thinking about getting out my laptop to do some writing (or, you know, dick around on the Internet) when I heard some peeps from upstairs.

Archer, in the last few months, has become THAT KID, who gets out of bed a bunch after bedtime. He’s gotta go potty. He needs a drink of water. He wants the door a wittle bit open. He needs a different snuggly friend (what he calls his stuffed animals – isn’t that so flipping cute?!). He wants to cuddle. The list goes on. I’m generally unbothered by it because it’s cute and, someday, he won’t pitter-pat out of his bedroom an hour after bedtime and ask if I can come rub his back.

ANYWAY. I heard some little boy peeps and so tip-toed up the stairs to see what he was doing.

As I made my way slowly into our giant, awesome bathroom, I see that he has a Lightning McQueen out and he’s reciting lines from Cars (a totally typical scene in our house). As I draw nearer, I hear him mention Sally and a “Lincoln Continental Breakfast.”

My eyes fell onto his play scene and I notice that, at the center of it all, is my (clean) Diva Cup.

Hey! I didn't use a picture of my ACTUAL Diva Cup because that seemed inappropriate. I HAVE BOUNDARIES!

Hey! I didn’t use a picture of my ACTUAL Diva Cup because that seemed inappropriate. I HAVE BOUNDARIES!

It’s standing, pointy end up, surrounded by cars and I said, “Archer, what the heck are you DOING? It’s way past your bedtime!”

He looked up and said, “Mommy, I found Lighting McQueen’s Cozy Cone!”

Does this story make ANY sense if you don't have a 4 year old?

Does this story make ANY sense if you don’t have a 4 year old?

Which is why I’m going to refer to having my period as “taking a trip to Radiator Springs” for the rest of my life.

On the Storage Capacity of the Vagina

Hello, Liz C.

After having Archer, I had a Mirena IUD. It worked well for me and I enjoyed living life mostly period free for the two plus years we waited to try to conceive Honor. This time around, I wanted to try a Paragard (copper wire) IUD. The lack of hormones really appealed to me. So, I made my appointment at my swanky German GYN’s office to have the nifty little device shoved up my hoo-ha.

I was nervous. Not sure why, really. I had been through the process before and, while it hurts, it’s not TERRIBLE. Similar, I guess, to the stupid poof of air at the eye doctor: the waiting is the worst part. I squirmed around in the waiting room, sweating buckets and being generally disgruntled.

The insertion wasn’t terrible and, because my GYN is pretty awesome, she had a glass of Riesling waiting for me to sip while the shock of having my cervix RIPPED OPEN and a tiny device inserted into my uterus wore off. Great, right?

ANYWAY. Since having my last IUD out, I had started using the Diva Cup instead of pads or tampons. I was curious to know if it would be okay to use it with my IUD because, like, it really seemed like a lot of stuff crammed on up there, you know?

So, GYN and I are chatting while my IUD settled into its new home (I should really name it, huh?), and I mention that I’d like to use my Diva Cup with it. “Huh,” said my doc, “I’ve never known anyone who uses one of those.”

I noted that I was surprised because, in Germany, tampons don’t have applicators and they’re obsessed with recycling. So it seems like the Diva Cup would be the MOST GERMAN WAY to handle your period. No fear of just shoving things up there! And no waste!

Doc laughed, agreed, and said she didn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to use my IUD and Diva Cup together… and then was silent for a moment before murmuring, “The storage capacity of the vagina is really quite impressive.”

And it’s true.

I love you, Liz C.


Lizzy B.


Dearest Lizzy B.,

Your photos from Trier were so gorgeous, as are both of your kids. Was especially taken by the blue & white dome image at the top of your post – I am a total sucker for blue & white anything. I dig Architectural Wedgewood, I guess is what I’m saying.

Oh, Liz. Last weekend was a flurry of Shakespeare, some Bardolatry, and slug-i-tude, with a sidebar of Homeowner’s Insurance Claim faffery.

You may recall from previous talks you & I have had off-blof (eee I like how that goes) that my Sainted Husband (TM) Tom is now a docent at the Folger Shakespeare Library here in DC. It’s kind of a big deal – or at least, in our house it is. He is also a high school English teacher, and Adviser to the journalism program at his high school, as well. All of which is prefacing that we spend the weekend you were in Trier steeping in all things Shakespeare.

One day (Thursday I think?) was the high school Shakespeare festival at the Folger, and my husband’s school sent a troupe to perform selected scenes of mistaken identity, themed “I am not who I am”. Tom and I went along as chaperones, we took our daughter in order to begin her indoctrination into being a total Drama Nerd, and it was pretty much the best thing ever.

Mistress of the Revels being awesome

The Folger has a Mistress of the Revels (she in the wings, above left) who keeps things rolling along, and provides fab games between performances to keep kids occupied & also Bard-o-lated.

Anyway, so we spent all of one day at the Folger watching high schools and a middle school be awesome in pentameters iambic,

Then on Friday night, Tom & Sophie and our friend Jody & me all went to see the Folger’s amazing production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. It all starts with a dead body on the stage:


And death just romps around from there while Richard goes from sane to crazy in the space of like, half a scene. Significant to both these events, by the way, was the fact that the Folger’s stage was set up for the first time (and possibly last time ever) in the round.

It was pretty cool.

The Folger was built in sort of standard DC greek-revival-esque style, but with an Art Deco twist – these are what the windows look like from the inside, at night, with the shades drawn to protect the exhibits inside:


The rest of our weekend was spent recovering from all the contact with other human beings we had to have for that whole Bardstravaganza, and dealing with homeowner’s insurance fallout from a burst pipe we had in our basement in January. That requires a whole other post, though, so for now I’ll just say, Trier looked amazing, I miss your face, and I have missed this blof and chatting with you and the Internets.


Liz C.

Historic Trier: A Day Trip

Hello, Liz C.!

This past weekend, we made the two hour drive with a group of friends (including Archer’s new bestie Rose) from our little village to historic Trier. I feel compelled to call it historic Trier, rather than just Trier, because it’s the oldest city in Germany. And Germany is really old, so saying something is the oldest city in a really old country is pretty amazing to my American brain.

We toured the cathedral, Trier Dom (aka The High Cathedral of Saint Peter), as well as the ancient excavations of the Roman cities underneath. The church, founded by Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, is enormous, imposing, and – I’m told – surprisingly well-lit as compared to many cathedrals throughout Europe.

Pro Tip: if you rally enough people to go on a tour of a historic site in a place where you don’t necessarily speak the language, it actually becomes quite affordable to book a private tour in your own native tongue. And your cranky kids won’t bother any other paying customers because it’s just you and your friends.

There were no photos allowed in the excavations and I was pretty busy chasing Archer, so I don’t have many photos of inside the cathedral, but – boy howdy – it was impressive. Of particular note was the Seamless Robe of Jesus, presumably worn before or during the crucifixion.

You can’t see the ACTUAL robe, only the ornate chamber where it’s kept safe from the outside elements. Every so often, they open it up and show it off to the public, though. THAT’D be something I’d love to see.

When our tours were over, we wandered through the open-air market and saw these crazy flowers. What even ARE these things?

Then made our way to the Bitburger Wursthaus to enjoy beers and wings (a novelty in Germany!). The food was so good that I forgot to take pictures of it, though. Sorry.

Bellies full, the kids rode a carousel…

… ate ice cream…

… and were attacked by our friend, Lauren, who is a top notch tickle monster.

All in all, a pretty incredible day in Germany. So. What did YOU do last weekend?

Love and kisses,

Lizzy B.

Honor Elizabeth: Giraffe Hunter

Hey, Liz C.,

Long time. Did you know I had a baby? I mean, I know you know I had a baby, but does the INTERNET know I had a baby? I mean, I’m sure they know because it’s all I post about at the moment. Breastfeeding. Being the mom of two kids. Sleeping (or not sleeping). And lots and lots of photos of this darling little girl we call Honor Elizabeth: Giraffe Hunter.



I’ve got oh so much more to write, but – at the moment – I’m on a deadline. I just wanted you (and the world) to know that we’re alive. And we have a lot to say.


Lizzy B.

It Sneaks Up on You

Dearest Lizzy B.,

Yesterday was February 2nd.

It’s an odd date for me, because there are some years that it slips right past me, and I don’t realize it was there until it’s been and gone. This year, though, it was stealthy, and came in to grab me by the feels a few days in advance and just not announce itself for what it was.

12 years ago yesterday, I went to Baltimore with my husband, to the hospital at Johns Hopkins. We went to meet my stepfather there, so that we could be present when they switched off the machines keeping my mother’s body breathing. She’d died sometime in the night, they said; nobody home in her brain. Because she was an organ donor, though, there were Things That Needed to be Done, which gave us time to go and say goodbye.

As it turned out, the Things That Needed Doing took all day long. We arrived very early in the morning, but didn’t get to the worst part until much later in the day – that was when they came to tell us there was nothing they could take from her body that could be used. Not even her retinas.

I don’t know why I hold on to that last piece of information in my head – brains are weird.

My stepfather argued with me that I shouldn’t be present when they turned off the machines, that I should not remember my mother that way. I refused to leave. I said that she was present when I came into the world, and I would be there to see her out of it.

So I was.

My mother was 46 years old, the same age as Phillip Seymour Hoffman. MS and Behcet’s disease had eroded her body’s ability to function so far that it finally gave out. Her heart, however, was strong. The nurses came in, disconnected the breathing apparatus, did all of their tube-and-wire disconnections, and my stepfather and I sat on either side of my mother’s body, each of us holding a hand, and watched the monitor reflecting the beat of her heart. We watched her body try to breathe for her and fail, and then, for an agonizingly long period of time, we watched her lion’s heart fight and fight…and finally stop.

That day remains the worst day of my life.

No surprise, then, I suppose, that for years after, I would be pretty much non-functional on February 2nd. I might be up and walking around, I might be talking, I might be interacting…but nobody would be home in my heart. My heart was back in Baltimore, lying in broken pieces on the floor beside my mother’s deathbed.

As the years have gone by, though, sometimes the date would move by me and hit me later on. I’d realize that somehow I’d missed it, and guilt would bury me in a rush. How could I forget?

I never forget.

This year, though, I found myself inside Friday night, two days before the anniversary of my mother’s death, sobbing over nothing in particular. Sometimes this can be a hormone response (because being a girl is AWESOME, y’all), but it didn’t feel like that. It felt like my heart was cracking open, only I couldn’t figure out WHY. Until suddenly, while trying to explain my breakdown in a text to a very tolerant and supportive friend, I realized what it was. It was nearly February 2nd. My body is conditioned to know that this is the time it happened. Not to a minute or an hour, necessarily, just that this dark time of year that affects so many of my friends with Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder, is also the time of year when everything changed for me and my brother.

Yesterday, instead of curling up in my bed and hiding from the world, I went to see a friend who lives in Baltimore. She escorted me around her city and showed me a lovely museum, took me to an amazing lunch at a restaurant we discovered just by wandering around, explored a sex shop (because why not?), a magic shop, an antique shop, and the Hon Cafe. Then she gave me Bellocq tea samples to try and sent me home to watch the football game with my husband.

Liz, until this year, I have avoided Baltimore almost instinctively. I have gone when I had to go, but have always felt uneasy and unpleasant there. I have nothing against the city itself; it’s beautiful and full of character, we know people that live there who are wonderful and whom we love to see – I just couldn’t handle seeing the hospital tower on the skyline. It was always like reliving the moment my heart shattered, watching hers stop.

This time, though, I went back to Baltimore and met a friend and spent the day making some good memories there. It was short, and some of it hurt, but it was good to be there and not be swamped by the date, and everything that lives inside it.

This year, although it snuck up on me, I feel like I handled it mostly okay. I like to think my mother might be proud.


Liz C.

Modern Parenting is NO. JOKE.

Dear Internets,

Can you help a Mama out a little, please? I have a mid-elementary-age daughter. Articles and studies everywhere are all telling me how incredibly at risk she is because of all the media to which she’s essentially got to be connected in order to keep up in the world in which she’s growing up.

So what I’d like to know from you, fellow parents, is what tools do you use, if any, to 1) keep your kids safe online, b) keep tabs on what they’re doing, and c) keep them connected without them becoming completely consumed with online/screen time?

Desperate Mamas need to know.


Liz C.

In the Kitchen with Liz²

Dear Internets,

Since we’re talking about recipes a little bit now, I figured I’d share this week’s surprise cooking triumph:


OMG I KNOW. I mean, I like meatloaf fine. It’s a nice warm cozy comfort food that works well to use things up, is fairly simple to make, etc. But I had never made nor consumed a meatloaf that would have garnered a wow from me until now.

The base recipe I went from comes via Bon Appetit magazine/Epicurious’ website:

Here’s what I did differently:

My SIL can’t eat beef at all, so I subbed vegetable broth for the beef broth, and used ground pork, sweet italian sausage, and ground turkey for my meat mix.

Also, instead of actual fresh dill stalks, I used the fresh dill paste that comes in a tube, usually sold in the grocery section right next to where the packets of fresh herbs are. My SIL is also a chef, and she’s been using these almost exclusively of late. It stays fresh longer, you use only what you need, and the flavors are just as bright as if we’d pulled the herbs straight from the garden.

Served with skin-on red mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli.

A Few Pieces of Paper

Dear Liz C.,

I’ve not been shy about the shitty side of life as an ex-pat here in Germany. It’s isolating. It’s gloomy. It’s far away from you and a lot of people I love. When it comes down to it, it’s just harder than I thought it would be. Harder to maintain my freelance income. Harder to maintain my friendships with people across an ocean. Harder to be a thoughtful mom. Harder to be a passionate wife. Harder, most importantly, for me to find any kind of significance in my day-to-day life.

All of this means that my happiness hasn’t come as quickly as I might like. I’ve had to be more deliberate to seek out my joy. I’ve had to work more to smile, seek laughter where once it grew naturally.

This aggressive malaise has penetrated my work life more profoundly than I originally cared to admit. Lost clients, missed deadlines, and a general falling out of love with the whole of Internet marketing (and, really, a realization that maybe I’m just not very good at what I do… but that’s another post altogether).

So, what do you do when your happiness is elusive and tricksy?

I’ve been taking steps towards making Germany a happy place for some time. Blooming where I’m planted, I suppose. I try to get out of the house more often. I’ve spent more time downtown recently than ever before, for example.

It also means that I’ve been seeking ways to see my life dramatically altered. Something new. Something different. Something that will give me purpose as I sort of float listlessly through my ex-pat experience.

So, as of yesterday, I’ve submitted some Potentially Life-Changing Paperwork to the US Department of State, seeking a security clearance that would allow me to accept a new and exciting job here in Wiesbaden. If I’m granted a clearance and like the work, it could even mean extending our stay in Germany by a year.

A few pieces of paper. A whole lot of significance. Wish me luck.


Lizzy B.