first second city

Apparently anniversaries make me blog…
23 years ago, on November 10, my dad woke me up with the words “Do you want to go to school or come to West Berlin with us?”

Having grown up just outside the Berlin Wall – far enough to be allowed visitors but close enough to always hear the dogs and gunshots – this was a pretty amazing question. And guess what, I didn’t go to school that day, but got to meet my second Berlin, which immediately impressed me with all its lights and colors…

I will never forget the wave of relief and happiness the events of that night brought to my family. To my grandparents, who had suffered through 40 years of socialist dictatorship including an innocent imprisonment by the GDR government, to my parents who were dying to speak their mind and travel the world, and even to us kids who had to make sense of the different stories we constantly heard at home and in school. I actually recall being told in 4th grade that the West Germans were plotting WW3. In 1988. By my history teacher.

Chicago very rarely reminds me of Berlin. But remembering that November morning makes me appreciate being here a lot. Living in the US with my dual citizen babies is a big deal, considering where I started off. And I am beyond grateful to know that all my grandparents are still with me to savor this experience.

Danke to everyone who made this possible. Happy anniversary, peaceful revolution.

birthday rollercoaster

On July 24, 2011, my diary reads: Der schlimmste und beste Tag (The worst and best day) – ever.

One year later, on another rainy July morning, this manic spectrum of memories and emotions is still with me, but I’ve come to accept that the story of Q&L’s arrival [in short: days of excruciating pain from a twin-related kidney blockage, topped with 48 hours of induced labor in a desperate attempt to avoid a c-section (both boys had recently turned and were positioned perfectly…), only to finally give in, then think we were through it all but end up in a second emergency surgery two hours later, again in full consciousness – while R was left alone with his newborn sons, growing unsure if he would see me again – losing more than half of my blood, getting hooked up for transfusions and iron injections, and consequently not being able to hold/nurse/take care of my babies for the first couple of days] is part of our story. Which is otherwise a good one. Q&L stole my heart the moment their slimy little cheeks touched mine – and, most importantly, turned out to be the happiest, healthiest and toughest little guys I’ve ever met.

Twin year 1, with all its challenges, always referred to as ‘the hardest,’ was generally a blast. In retrospect, I’m not entirely sure how we made it through the first three months with R in Chicago and me in Berlin, even though I had the strongest imaginable partner-in-crime in my Mom who dedicated her summer to us, made sure I got some sleep during the boys’ crazy 3-hour-feeding intervals, and helped me become the Mama I wanted to be.

In comparison, months 4-8 seemed like a walk in the park – all four of us together, with amazing family support on this side of the pond, discovering our new city and making new friends with two chipper babies who ate and slept well – this phase immediately made us want another set. Which kind of paused in month 9 when Q&L got serious about moving – nonstop, always, immer, that is. Exhausting as hell, but: Watching them explore the world with all senses and without any reservations, seeing them develop, learn, imitate and interact, is the single best thing in my life.

Twin year 2 will bring even more mobility, language(s?), a working Mama, 2L Papa, at least one Berlin trip and uncountable firsts. I officially can’t wait.

Happy first birthday, mini men. I couldn’t love you more.
And happy first birthday, R. I told you I was the luckiest.

good flight, and good luck

As the August travel craze is approaching, a quick note on traveling the air with mini globetrotters in their first year.
Here’s what worked for us:

1) Sky Cribs

They live in the front wall of the back compartment and are a true life-saver: Baby Bassinets. Some airlines won’t let you reserve them in advance (really, BA?) but most of them do. And, they’re free. Tricky part: The seat next to you will be kept open until the very last second but if the flight is solidly booked, someone might sit next to you – and therefore, kind of under your baby. Still – planes are perfect sound machines, and the fancy little beds with pillows, sheets and blankets actually seem to be quite comfy…

Q&L, snoozing away over the Atlantic.

Random fact that came in handy for us: SAS has the highest weight allowance of all the airlines going to Europe.

2) Airplane Ears
Babies can’t adjust the air pressure by swallowing so they need a boob or bottle during take off and landing to keep their ears from hurting. It works beautifully.

3) Hands-free Babes
If you can, don’t burden yourself with a stroller or car seat in the airport. Especially if you have to switch planes, a baby carrier is the way to go. Easy transfer (and entertainment!) on the plane and, most importantly, two free hands for luggage, passport control and the like.

Smooth Travels, everyone!

reversecultureshocked, anyone?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of the reverse culture shock – coming home for the first time after moving abroad is supposed to hit you much harder than initially leaving.

So here I was during our recent Berlin visit, all prepared, bracing myself to get freaked out. And yes, I did notice a bunch of otherness – lower conversational noise levels, all sorts of prohibition signs, über-hipsters en masse, reasonable quantities of anything food, (and how is the sky bigger over Chicago?) – but no potential shock material.

Still, the trip left me with a pinch of confusion. Traveling both directions, I had the feeling I was headed home. Which I wasn’t prepared for.

nine months later

Nine months ago, I left my hometown Berlin for Chicago with the three loves of my life – two of whom I had just given birth to. As a starting point to this blog, here’s a list of the top 10 surprises that awaited me. Very subjective, very random, high- and low-lights included.

1 | Q&L rock my world more than I could have ever known. I’m wondering what I did with all that love before they were here to absorb it. And, how many smiles can you fit in a day?

2 | Strolling along Lake Michigan in the crisp morning air makes me wanna be nowhere else on planet earth.

3 | Mayor Emanuel recently touted having gone the longest time without a murder in the city of Chicago: 5 days.

4 | A guy on the street apologized to me for walking next to us with a cigarette in his hand. Outside! I wanted to hug him and tell him to take this to Berlin.

5 | Our health insurance let us know, via invoice, that they’re not covering any routine baby care or immunizations. Babies have to get sick before insurance kicks in.

6 | I’m actually starting to enjoy chitchatting to strangers – not a very German trait. Can’t count the times I was randomly informed though that I’ve got ‘my hands full’ with the boys. Alternatively, that they’re ‘double trouble’.

7 | The insanity of the Republican primaries kept me wondering if this was all one giant comedy skit. Turns out it was not.

8 | My favorite basketball player is the son of my childhood tennis idol.

9 | Life with two bubbly mini people has actually made me a calmer person.

10 | The occasional homesickness, or any other problem, can instantly be cured by a sloppy baby kiss.