Living in a luxury apartment building – where everything is not so “luxury”

In our last unit in this building, we were in a “model” unit that had mostly sun shades in all the rooms. It made pulling them up and down really easy. Unfortunately in the rest of the units in this building, they use blinds, which we not only hate, but are frustrating to use, and are really, really easy to break. I get that there are different types of blinds, but these are just… awful. Also, how the hell are you supposed to clean them?

A few weeks ago, our nanny said the sun was in her eyes and also shining on Kaia while on the play mat, so she’d been pulling them down in the living room in the afternoon as the sun was setting. When Chris went to adjust it up when he got home, the entire thing snapped and fell apart. The handyman came the next day and had to replace the entire thing.

Oh, and then yesterday, I pulled the blinds back up in our bedroom, and the main piece that holds them all together snapped and fell down. The handyman had to come to put it back. He said they were just cheap blinds, so it’s easy for this to happen. Well, isn’t that nice to know that we have cheap blinds in this expensive building?

I also asked the building manager to have the painter to come do a few touch ups. He told me that the paint, while technically the same color, is not the same “type,” (in other words, the new paint is cheaper because our management company is getting cheaper), so the paint may not match 100 percent. I said whatever, just touch it up anyway. It’s not like we own this place…

It’s always fun to know that while your rent is always going to go up, even in a “luxury” apartment building like this, the materials they use to put these units together is only going to get cheaper. What better way to show tenant appreciation than that?

The Monday after Thanksgiving: when no one wants to work

I had two meetings scheduled today: one was at 9am and external, while the second one was at 1:30pm and internal. The external meeting got cancelled, and the internal meeting still happened. It was just a 1:1 with someone I got assigned to help onboard onto our team. She said almost all her meetings got cancelled today or people said they were out sick, so she decided to forgo wearing makeup. “Sure, everyone’s sick! How convenient!” she laughed.

Motivation to work after a long time away from work is really hard. It’s almost like both your mind and your body are dragging, wondering why you have to be back at work when instead, your trip could have just gone longer. But I guess that’s why people take advantage of “sick” days! But I guess we all need something to jolt ourselves back into action to prevent from being lazy and not accomplishing anything.

Either way, it’s hard to not do anything when you have a young baby who is completely dependent on you to raise. Kaia still has to eat, so I still have to prep food for her. That’s my real work now.

Flying home and dealing with landing

Somehow, the trip has already ended. It’s almost like in some ways, it just started, but I guess that’s how these trips go. We flew back home via London on British Airways. We were seated in the front row of Business Class, which meant that Kaia got her own little “bassinet,” which was really a more easily adjustable version of a Baby Bjorn chair that could be fully reclined. We had her eat in it sitting quite upright, and it worked really well, but she refused to sleep in it and got fussy. The way that the “bassinet” gets installed is that the baby faces everyone who walks by. So this meant a lot of the flight attendants tried to be friendly with her… which she was not always keen on. Somehow, one flight attendant who really tried to befriend her always elicited crying from her. She refused to like him and got bad vibes from him, and we’re still not quite sure why.

Landing was tough. She had only been napping for maybe a couple hours, and I had to wake her up to get ready to land. She was really upset and cried a lot, and there was really nothing we could do to help her. We tried patting her, singing to her, holding her close, but it all failed. Eventually, I handed her over to Chris, and she calmed down when we finally landed.

Oh, and here’s a fun little fact about Global Entry: even if both partners have Global Entry and your baby does not (because we didn’t think she could get it), you cannot go through Global Entry; one partner has to take the baby through the regular immigration line for screening. That’s really annoying and stupid, but hey, apparently the people who work at EWR immigration say that’s the way it should be! I was wearing Kaia, so I took her into the line while Chris went through Global Entry. And as soon as we separated, Kaia cried a little. Yeah well, that’s how I felt, so I guess we can all agree how dumb it was.

Babies eating in public – highly distracted

So far, we’ve been really lucky with Kaia because she’s been such a good little eater. Not only does she seem willing to try pretty much everything we put in front of her, but she’s really embraced greens. Many times, she actually prefers to eat whatever green vegetable we put in front of her over other things. I’ve been really intentional about trying to make sure there’s something green on her plate at every meal, so I hope that effort is paying off.

The thing is — she’s mostly eaten her solids in a controlled environment. That is to say — she’s almost always at home, in a high chair strapped in with a tray, silicone bib on, with one of us there coaching her and supervising, encouraging her to eat. The second she’s had anyone else there, even if it’s Chris or our handyman friend, she gets really distracted and wants to know what else is going on. She’ll try turning her whole body in her chair. She’ll stare at the washer as our clothes are being swished around. If she hears music, she’ll stop and try to see what direction from which the music is coming. Babies are easily distracted, and so that makes feeding them in public even more challenging. Kaia is no exception to this.

The first few days while at the hotel restaurant for breakfast and at the lounge in the evening, it was a real struggle to feed her. She’d take a few bites of something that she seemingly liked, but as soon as a friendly face walked by, she’d smile and try to watch that person, thus ignoring her food and anytime we’d try to get her attention. I’d usually be pumping and trying my best to be careful to not get my tubes twisted in something while attempting to spoon feed her or get her to look at a new food I put down in front of her. Chris had been really sensitive to her making a mess, so in certain places, he insisted we try to put food directly in her mouth or spoon feed to reduce the amount of mess. The problem with that is that Kaia is pretty independent; she prefers to self-feed, and sometimes she gets REALLY angry when you try to feed her that she’ll just flat out reject the food, even if she had previously indicated interest. She got mad when we tried to control a pouch at the Christmas market the other day, and she just started fussing and crying, and then just refused the pouch altogether. She’s not at that level of dexterity yet to realize that when she squeezes the pouch too hard, the food just squirts out uncontrollably and fails to end up in her mouth. Now that we’re at the end of the trip, it’s gotten easier, but it was still hard and took a lot of time. Plus, I’d be scrambling to eat my own food before it got cold while also cutting and prepping her food into safe bites/sizes, and so it was a lot of multitasking for me. It was hard to enjoy most of those meals.

Even though Chris wasn’t doing most of this feeding, he was clearly getting very impatient with the whole process, especially since Kaia will ignore a food… and then 40 minutes later, decide she wants to eat it again. She likes to take her time and graze — if you want to call it “grazing.”

“Every meal we sit down and watch her eat is yet another tick against having a second child!” he grumbled.

Uh-huh.

Pumping while traveling in Europe

I am still pumping three times a day. Even during this trip, I haven’t skipped a pump. I pumped at the Charlotte AA airport lounge, on the plane from Charlotte to Munich, at the hotel restaurant during breakfast, at the hotel lounge, and of course, in our hotel room. Yesterday night, I even pumped on the train from Salzburg back to Munich; I just wouldn’t wash my parts in the train bathroom because I knew it would be absolutely filthy.

The love/hate relationship I’ve had with pumping has been ongoing. It made me sad to wean down from 4 to 3 pumps per day, but at the same time, I felt more liberated and like I wasn’t totally chained to the breast pump anymore. It’s annoyed me to have every single meal at the hotel, whether it’s breakfast or dinner, with the pump connected to my nipples. I envy Chris being able to walk in and out of the restaurant without his nipples connected to anything, to feed Kaia food without being constrained by a nipple sucking device. But it’s a choice I made that I stand by and live with. It’s an inconvenience, an annoyance. But it’s given my baby fuel to grow and thrive. And that still makes me happy, even when she is now having significantly more solids and far less breast milk. And while I do not love to pump, I pump because I love. And I am still grateful to my Spectra pump for providing me technology to feed my baby when she was unable to breastfeed directly from my breast. I still pump because I love.

First Thanksgiving meal at a fine dining establishment where I got chased around by an overbearing baby-hating restaurant manager

While exploring Salzburg today, Chris took us out into what felt like the countryside, where parts of Sound of Music were filmed, as well as where the fine dining establishment Restaurant Brunnauer is. It was a tucked away, white linen-cloth type restaurant with the choice of a fixed price lunch, which we opted for. I wasn’t sure how we’d do this with a baby with us, but they immediately accommodated us and offered Kaia a high chair when we asked. The servers all seemed fine, and we got put in a dining room with just one other couple. Kaia did quite well during the meal, mostly eating from our hands and fingers and being pretty happy and observant.

My irritation came, though, during the two times I took her to the bathroom to change her diaper. I had to bring the stroller into the bathroom so I’d have a safe place to keep her when washing my hands. A woman who I later figured out was the restaurant manager came in and gave me a disapproving look (those looks transcend language) and said there wasn’t enough room for a stroller in the bathroom. There was no changing table, so I had to change Kaia on the floor on top of a changing pad. I gave her a hard stare, said nothing, then continued changing Kaia. She left and came back when I was done changing and started obsessively cleaning every area she saw the changing pad and the stroller wheels touched. She was being passive aggressive and rude, but I chose to ignore her.

Later on towards the end of our meal, I knew Kaia had done a poop, so I brought her into the bathroom to change her again. And once again, the manager came in and this time, she said, this is a restaurant where many people will be using the bathroom, and having nappies in the rubbish bin would prove to be quite unpleasant for the other guests. She even told me she removed the used nappy that I had put in the bin earlier. Like I cared? I kept changing Kaia, and she just stood there and watched me change her. It was once again, passive aggressive and rude, but what else was I supposed to do? I had to change my baby, and there was no where else to do it. The manager asked if I had a place in my diaper bag to store the used nappy. I said no. She asked if I could take it outside. I just ignored her and didn’t say anything. Finally, she insisted she take the used diaper, and so I handed it to her without saying anything. Then, after putting my baby back in the stroller and washing my hands, she went through the same fruitless routine of trying to manually hand scrub every area she saw the stroller or the changing pad on.

Restaurant managers are supposed to make guests feel welcome. She made me feel extremely unwelcome, and it was clear she was not a fan of babies or families in her restaurant. Sure, we could have chosen not to dine there, but our baby was well behaved the entire time, and we gave the restaurant revenue. Shouldn’t she be grateful and hospitable and treat us well instead of being a passive aggressive, condescending twat?

Christmas markets and European travel with a baby

The last three days, we’ve been exploring Munich and now Salzburg along with Kaia. It’s definitely a much different trip, all the way from packing and checking a bag (and now having it delayed) to how we start and end our days, to how quickly we go from place to place. Today, we annoyingly got told when we reached Mozart’s birthplace and home that while the site has been set up to accommodate wheelchair access, strollers are not permitted, and therefore, we either had to ditch the stroller or just not go in. The person at the front was very nonchalant about it: “I don’t make up the rules! This isn’t just for you; this is for anyone with a stroller!” Was it a huge loss to not see Mozart’s birthplace? No, but it was just a little frustrating since I did want to see it. Plus, why would you be happy to accommodate wheelchairs but not strollers…? Aren’t they basically the same thing — wheeled devices that get people around who cannot otherwise get around themselves…?

At all the Christmas markets we’ve ever been to, we’ve always seen lots of children and strollers, so I didn’t think it could be that big of a deal to bring our baby with us to these markets. Now, we just cannot stay as late since Kaia needs to eat, plus I still need to pump and space my three pumps out throughout the day. We’re still enjoying gluhwein and food, just a little earlier. We’ve also tried to avoid areas that get too cramped since accidents with mulled wine and babies could potentially get a little ugly and messy. And Kaia at her age now, well, she can’t quite appreciate things like the handmade German Christmas houses that I obsess over. She got a little feisty when I was trying to choose one, and Chris had to move her around in the stroller a bit.

I have been pleasantly surprised to see that most of the bathrooms we’ve been in accommodate babies and changing them quite well. I’d always heard that European countries in general were more accommodating of babies and children, but actually experiencing it has been quite heartening. There is oftentimes a dedicated room for changing stations, and even without a dedicated room, the changing table is quite large and ample, even complete with a fluffy pillowed pad that literally creates a cushiony experience for the baby while having her diaper changed. One changing station at a beer hall bathroom even had “white noise” like music for the baby that you could hear only if you were directly standing at the changing table. It was the sound of birds chirping and singing. That was a really cute touch.

I also noticed that in general, baby items just seemed a lot less expensive in Germany — everything from diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper cream to the food jars and pouches, which were all supposed to be organic, with no added sugar or salt. The pouches I got for Kaia were all around 70 to 99 Euro cents per 100-125g packet; when you see these in the U.S. according to a friend of mine who buys them for her toddler, they’re anywhere from $2.99-5 each. That’s quite a difference in cost! Chris says it’s likely because they are viewed as actual essential items in Europe, whereas in the U.S., literally everything has a markup once you say it’s for maternity or a baby. It just makes the U.S. seem even more unfriendly towards babies and families…. it’s a wonder why so many people still choose to procreate in the U.S. given the dismal treatment and circumstances for families.

When your bag is delayed in the EU and you have nothing to wear: you shop while your airline pays for it

It’s Tuesday, and I am still wearing the same clothes I wore to the airport on Sunday and going through Charlotte and then arriving in Munich. Kaia is also wearing the same onesie, as well. She only has one backup onesie outfit in her diaper bag, and that’s it. As the delayed checked bag was supposed to arrive in Munich today, we still have not heard anything from the airport or airline regarding where our bag is. All I know from the updates in my AA app is that the luggage has been tracked as having arrived at Munich airport this morning, and then after that, there’s no updates. What was I supposed to do?

At a minimum, given it’s late autumn, it’s not like my clothes are sweaty and smelly from hot weather, but I really did want clean underwear and socks. And my baby really does need other clothes to wear, especially since her solid feeds are so messy, even while out and about. So we went shopping today at H&M and Zara, and I immediately was reminded of exactly how much I hate shopping in store. Shopping online is so easy: it’s from the comfort of wherever I am in front of my computer. I can multitask while doing it. I can edit my cart and update over the course of a few days and change my mind. Sure, I can’t try on clothes, so there’s no guarantee it will fit properly or look right on my figure. But hey, that level of convenience is fine if the store has a good return policy (e.g. free online returns with pre-paid label or I can return in store to the location closest to me).

You would think I would have gotten excited to hear that I was able to buy new clothes and get them fully reimbursed by AA, but no, I just felt irritated that I still didn’t have my bag, and I had to waste time getting new clothes and trying them on. While everyone wants to look good in the clothes they wear, I am pretty utilitarian about my clothes: I want them to fit and be comfortable for whatever I am wearing them for, but outside of that, I have little to no attachment to any of them. That’s why in an ideal world, I would not own any clothes other than underwear/bras/socks/maybe hats/gloves, and literally everything else would be rented or borrowed on demand. How much more space would I have if my closets didn’t have all these annoying clothes in them! And for Kaia, it really wasn’t enjoyable finding things for her, either. Chris didn’t want to help pick anything out; he wanted to be out of there ASAP and hated the time spent there more than I did. H&M’s selection for babies as young as her, at least at the location we went to, was pretty terrible to nonexistent; most of their clothes were for 2+ years of age. Zara had a better selection, but still, no onesies and mostly favored older kids, not babies. I just felt impatient and wanted to get it done as soon as possible.

This is why I get annoyed when people make sexist generations and assume all women love shopping. My uncle, to this day, still assumes I love shopping and am faking it when I say I hate it. What is he basing his ridiculous assumption on… Nothing that is actually about ME!

First overseas trip for the Pookster

Germany and Austria will be the second and third countries that Kaia will visit outside of her home country in the U.S. Chris really found the idea of spending a third Thanksgiving in a row in New York so unbearable that he made this trip happen. This will be our first Thanksgiving as a family of three, and the first European Thanksgiving we will celebrate with our baby Kaia. The flight over went decently well. Kaia had some short periods of fussiness, but overall, she seemed quite calm and adjusted well. She had some moments at the Christmas market where she got a little upset, likely because she wasn’t getting enough food and was confused what time it was. And I was still on edge about the idea of giving her too many foods with added salt and sugar, but I realized quickly that I needed to let it go. It’s not her everyday eating, I told myself. All her home meals with be added-salt free, or very little; this is just a holiday away from home and will be a short period of time in the grand scheme of things; this will not define her eating habits moving forward. I had to keep telling myself this to prevent myself from feeling like a bad mom.

Oh, and another fun thing happened: it’s also our first overseas trip where for the very first time, our one checked bag got delayed; the airline just left it in Charlotte and said they’d have it sent over the next day. What fun, and of course it had to happen with our first trip with a baby. EU law protects fliers, though, and requires airlines to cover the cost of items that were necessary in those checked bags, up to 1,300 euros. So I also had to suck it up and got Kaia some jarred food and pouches, just to ensure she was getting nutrients from solid food and no added salt/sugar. At least in the EU, the food laws are also stricter, so I know that the quality of these jarred and pouch foods is higher than back in the U.S.

Baby appropriate food in flight

When people think of “baby food,” they often think of the commercial baby food pureed, as made famous and normalized by Gerber. So when you think about baby-appropriate food in flight, the only stuff they are going to give you, if anything, will be commercially made and jarred pureed foods like fruit or meat and gravy, which all sound quite disgusting if you ask me. We were told erroneous information by the American Airlines agent over the phone, who said that when prompted on their website, I can choose either my food or my baby’s food (commercial food) since I have an infant-in-lap ticket. The option allows you to choose either/or, not “and,” so I chose my adult food and was told by the agent that the baby food would be in-flight since they would know I’d have an infant in lap given my ticket type. Well, that was wrong: they told me not only that there was no food for the baby inflight, but also that I should always choose the baby food when presented with the option online, because there would always be more than enough adult meals on any given flight.

Either way, I wasn’t pleased. The food seemed too salty to give Kaia in flight. I have been pretty strict with only a couple exceptions about making sure that no salt is added to food she eats, but this food would be WAY too salty. It was even salty for me! Not to mention I really had no easy or safe way to feed her without a proper high chair (or ANY chair) to sit her down in. So we just had her drink breast milk in flight that I pumped. Wouldn’t it be nice if airlines actually did pre-prepare baby appropriate food as opposed to commercial food — if they just steamed or roasted some fruits and vegetables until easily pierce-able with a fork, along some rice or noodles, and just didn’t add any salt or sugar? How hard could that possibly be for them? I suppose that is just too much effort for an airline to make for a family.