Welcome, Ellie!  We’re so glad you’re here!  For those who like details, here they are.  For the rest, there will be a birth announcement with the vital stats coming out soon . . .

With each kid I’ve had more and more pre-labor contractions and with Ellie they were particularly hard to distinguish from labor.  Four weeks before the due date of June 15th I thought my water had broken, but it was a false alarm.  As soon as my homebirth window started I did everything I could get prepare labor – taking long walks, raspberry tea (which is interestingly enough a labor tea here and not an all-things-motherhood tea as in America), etc. etc.  Still, whenever contractions picked up they’d die down again in a few hours.

Mom arrived and we all enjoyed spending time with her while waiting for baby.  She was able to see much of our routines and special places.  With the help I was able to cook and freeze several meals and take care of other household needs.  I even sorted and filed all our US tax papers from 2008 to the present.  The due date came and went.  I had mentally told myself that it would still be fine if the baby came as late as the 21st because it would still give us a good week with Mom here.  Still, I had hoped the baby would be early . . . my journal reads “waiting in limbo is hard!”

Five days after the due date it looked like things were intensifying, but once again, as bedtime rolled around, contractions went away.  The next morning, however, I was woken up at 4am with a clear and strong contraction, followed by more every 10 minutes.  This time I was pretty sure things were underway, though given my track record I was pretty sure I’d be laboring all day and only delivering the next.  I used the early morning time to write some emails and wrap up some computer business between contractions.

We have a book about homebirth that describes labor as “Mommy has pains in her tummy” so I used that phrase to explain to the kids what was going on.  Vivienne said her tummy hurt, too, so I got out the peppermint oil, which helps with nausea (real or imagined, it works).  I love the smells of the oils, but this time it made me feel nauseous.  Try as I might, I didn’t manage to keep my cookies down.  “Yep, labor for sure” I thought to myself.

It was Sunday the 21st and we’d planned to eat pancakes and go to the Catholic service (our church was on retreat and didn’t have a service that day).  By the time the pancakes were ready, I was feeling fine and hungry, and figuring on a long labor, I joined the lot in our pancake feast.  By 9am contractions were nearly gone.  At 10 we decided to go to church after all.  Another false alarm!

The rest of the day was uneventful, except for the fact that the Catholics didn’t have a Sunday service either (they have them on Saturday nights in the summer).  Around dinner time contractions picked up again and during Family Meeting (Sunday evening tradition) I’d have to stop and concentrate through them.  Around 8pm I had a contractions that made me want to have Stephan near me, so I figured it was time to call the midwife.  Not long afterwards they died away.  9pm is my bedtime and my body turned off.  The midwife arrived at 9:30 and I had to admit my belly was quiet (thankfully the kids were too – asleep in bed).  She gave me the option of taking a walk and trying some homeopathic pills to get labor going again, or of going to bed and getting rest.  I opted for the walk – I wanted that baby!

The midwife, Stephan and I took a short walk that was interrupted by many little contractions.  We practiced how Stephan could support me during them, which was quite helpful.  I still didn’t think it was all that much more than what I’d been experiencing before and I wasn’t convinced I was in real labor, or at least thought I had lots of laboring yet to do.

Not too long after returning home I asked her to check me – I was five centimeters already!  That was happy news.  I’d be having my baby sometime tomorrow!

Normally I labor on my own or with static support from Stephan, but since we’d practiced Stephan was able to push on my back in the right way that really reduced the pain and helped me work with the contraction and allow it to take over rather than fighting it.  I labored mostly standing up to let gravity help.  I tried hands and knees (the favored position for birthing two of my three) but the pile of pillows was too unstable a support.  The midwife suggested I try my side.  I had one contraction there and didn’t feel I could allow the full power of the contraction work so I wanted to move.  Patricia (the midwife) said I could give birth on my side, too (of course at the time I didn’t have the energy to say I knew this because Joseph was born that way) but I thought I was far from delivery and wanted to move, but another contraction came and I started pushing and the baby started moving!  I couldn’t believe I was past transition and pushing already.

I’ve never been so fresh for birth (I’m mostly up the whole night before with contractions and don’t deliver until much later) so I had energy to push.  The amniotic sac broke and the head was close.  More pushing and suddenly water cannon-balled out and hi the midwife – tricked ya!  A push later and the head was born.  Apparently I was told to wait to push out the rest but I didn’t hear it.  I pushed and more baby came out so I kept on pushing.  She was here!  I’d birthed her in the same bed and in the same positon as I had Joseph. 

I rolled to my back to receive my baby but had such pain I was paralyzed.  I also couldn’t believe it was over already!  When I caught my breath I asked what time it was.  I had tried not to think about it before, but it would be so nice if the baby came on Stephan’s guess also because it was Father’s Day and the summer solstice.  The answer was 11:01pm according to our bedroom clock which is 3minutes behind . . .

Amazing!  At 9:30pm I thought labor had stopped and 1.5 hours later I had a baby and on the 21st to boot!

The midwife pushed the placenta out and my pain slowly subsided.  I had had trouble with muscle cramps in my lower belly during pregnancy, so I’m guessing they seized up at the same time the uterus was trying to expel the placenta.  In any case, as usual, I was in too much pain to have an ecstasy moment of pulling the newly born to my chest.  I always dream about it before and after but in the moment – ouch.  At least the memory isn’t painful and it stays sweet.

The midwife was impressed with the size of the placenta so decided to weigh it.  A normal placenta is 500-700 grams.  This one was 900!  She said no wonder the baby didn’t want to leave the womb – it was a five star hotel!

After some cuddling we checked the sex – a little girl!  She had some vernix but not much.  She scored a rare 10 10 10 on her Apgar, with perfect color and good cry at birth.  At 51cm long and 3650grams she was thankfully smaller than Daniel.  Stephan cut the cord and she had little trouble latching on to nurse.  I let the midwife dress her up so we could settle down and get some sleep.

Mom got to see the birth (the kids never woke up) and she went to bed soon after so she could get some sleep and be ready to greet the kids in the morning so we could sleep a bit longer.  I couldn’t sleep much longer than my usual wake-up, also because of the news I had to share with the kids.  Can you imagine going to bed with two siblings and waking up with three?  What fun.  They fell in love with her right away.

We held a family naming session in the morning and quickly agreed on Eleonora Margaret Stücklin (Ellie for short).  It’s pronounced with five syllables – think Italian.  Most sources agree that Eleonora means “light” in some variation.  Even though she was born in the dark it was still the summer solstice!  Too bad Father’s Day isn’t always on the 21st of June, but at least it might help me remember what month Father’s Day is in!

Ellie is a peaceful baby.  I had a little trouble breastfeeding the first week, but I am healed now.  She eats well, sleeps well and uses the potty well.  I’m much more relaxed about EC – doing none at night and only as I feel like it during the day and we still catch most of her poos.  It’s amazing what being relaxed with buy you.  I wonder if that’s why she sleeps better than my others ever did as babies.  She regularly gives me two 3 or 4 hour stretches as night and a 4 hour afternoon nap (smart in this heat).  With my others I considered it a small miracle if they had a 3 hour sleep stretch.  Four happened a few times a year . . .

So I am so thankful that I am allowed to have and hold a beautiful, healthy, precious little baby girl!  Life is anything but easy, but we are blessed and we are happy!  (Except that we had to say goodbye to Grandma – we all miss you!)

Praise be to God!

Posted by harp on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 8:38 pm | Edit
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Some of you complain that there is little about me on the blog of late.  I find my Bullet Journal is a better place for the day-to-day mundane things that I somehow have an obsession to write down.  When I think of how my college updates always included how each class went . . . wow, what devoted family that read all that!

This month marks a full year of Bullet Journaling, and just as with the discovery of GTD, I can’t imagine life without it!  Stephan orders a new journal for me three times a year with recent photos of the kids on the cover.  It’s a surprise for me (new photos) yet a “no-brainer” gift for him to give at Christmas and my birthday.  Talk about win-win.

I’m happy to have a better outlet to spell out all the details of my life, and the details of the kids’ educational journeys, yet a birthday seems like a good occasion to share a little of what I’ve been focused on personally.

Most importantly, I’m in a place of peace with God and family.  It’s taken a few years for struggling in motherhood to be able to say that, so I count it a blessing every day.  I can honestly say I LOVE life at home.  I love being with the kids.  I love improving our home and lives.  I wish Stephan didn’t have to be at work so much, but I love the time we do get to spend with him.  I say I love life, but it doesn’t mean I love every minute of it.  This morning the kids gave me an extra dose of whining, fighting, and driving me nuts, but I’ve come to see a fair amount of that as part of the job.  No person is perfect, no kid is perfect, no parent or parenting technique is perfect, so no family functions perfectly and neither does any church or community.  When things go wrong I still like to think of solutions, but I no longer feel compelled to fix every problem or address everything that isn’t right.  Some things time will fix, but most importantly, many things only God can fix and in the meantime he’s told us to bear patiently with one another.  That means that often when things go wrong it’s because my husband sins, and my kids sin, and I sin, and our sinning makes it easier for others to sin in return.  It doesn’t mean we have to change our system, it means we have to forgive and keep on truckin.’  This seems obvious, but for a “visionary” like me, it’s taken a long time to learn that sometimes stepping back is better than diving in.

(The “visionary” vs. the “contented” personality idea was developed by Stephan, I believe.  It describes the two of us well.  We balance each other out.  He helps me find contentment and gratitude right where we are, and I help him see how it can be even better with a little bit of effort.)

For Christmas, Stephan gave me a night away in a B&B at the edge of the Alps nearby.  I used it to plan 2015 and at the last minute I spent too much money on an online program to help me set and achieve my goals for the year.  I fully intended to return it for my money back, but the problem was, it really helped me focus and use the time efficiently, so that I was all set when I returned.  How much is that worth?  Priceless, really.  Quite a bit of the information I already knew or had already learned the hard way, but enough was new, and it was very well put together and more importantly, compact in presentation, and one pays for efficiency.  For the interested, the course was Five Days to Your Best Year Ever (yes, I think the title is cheesy) by Michael Hyatt, and I heard about it through Power of Moms.  I think he does something like it leading up to every New Year.

Whether it was the push from the course, my experience, or of course, more likely, a combination of both, I’ve worked hard this year and have enjoyed some lovely fruit for my efforts.  Thanks to all my supporters!  It has made a huge difference to have people to report to as I worked toward my goals.  In fact, the one goal I haven’t picked a partner for is the one that is due in two week and hasn’t budged . . .


Goals Achieved

 1. Establish a morning and evening routine, and adapt it throughout the year.

I realized that a key to success would be regular time to work, which means regular bedtimes and more organized mornings.  Through this goal and an accident, I discovered that I LOVE getting up at 5am and having some time to myself before the day starts.  For the first time in my life, I almost have enough thinking time.  It occurs to me that my need for private thinking it is insanely high, but that seems to be the was of it.  When I get my thinking time, I have a great mood, enjoy the day, and am incredible efficient and relaxed.  It’s worth it.  (We’ll see what will happen when I have an infant robbing me of sleep . . .)

 2. Establish a basic morning homeschool routine.

This forced me to define what was important to me for my kids to learn, and how to fit it in.  It also forced me to define what I thought was important to me, but really was mostly outside pressure.  The month-worth of intense effort I put into this really paid off and we are still enjoying the same basic structure to our mornings.  No more guilt that I haven’t spent enough time with the kids.  No more guilt that they’re not learning enough.  Yes, there are a million things I’d like to add, but I’ve got the basics, and there is time.  Yes, there is time to decide what to add and when.

 3. Make a system for everything that needs it.

This was a successful failure.  There is much that still needs to be organized, but I fixed some major holes and have a routine for reviewing and improving systems.  I also learned that such a goal is like having the goal “Do the dishes so well you never have to do them again.”  Life just doesn’t work that way . . .

 4. Finish our US taxes, FBAR, and 2015 budget by April 1st.

This took effort, but I did it, and without any super late nights.  (Technically I haven’t sent the taxes in yet, but they are done, and only awaiting the feedback of a proofreader.)  I haven’t been fully caught up with money since I married, so it was a wonderful feeling to have the “new receipts” drawer empty and the Quicken books basically accurate for the first time.


All of these goals were done before my birthday – happy birthday to me!

There is much debate over whether you should make your future goals public or not.  I’ll side with those who say it’s better not to, if only to shorten the length of this post.  I will, however give you a sneak peek into one goal that is still in the infant stages: I’ve started a new blog!  I'll still keep this one for personal updates, though.  I hope to publish three short posts a week on the new blog and get a conversation going.  I just put it up live on Saturday, and I have much to learn about blogging, but slow and steady is the key!  Come and check it out and join the conversation.  I look forward to chatting with you there!


Blue Ocean Families


Lastly, as proud as I am of producing and not just consuming, I must share my latest consumption of great indulgence.  I have resisted the cult for years, but I’ve finally given in and am bathing my senses in all that is Nespresso.  I bought a De’Longhi Lattissima Plus.  I’m pouring over coffee choices like an oenophile with his wine, and loving every minute of it.

Posted by harp on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Edit
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I’ve been up to my years in taxes, FBAR, summer planning, science exhibitions and our homeschool application, but I don’t want the blog to die, so here’s a change I made a few weeks ago that is working wonders for me.


I’ve long been annoyed that getting out of the house involves a complicated dance of gathering this and that into one or another bag so we have what we need.  I can’t keep it all in one place because we use the stuff at home, too, and it’s always a different combo of stuff we need depending on whether we’re going shopping, to the doctors or to the playground.


I finally took a Saturday morning at the bakery to think about solutions.  I have a planner and wallet in one, but I only use 12 pages of the planner and get annoyed I can’t just bring the wallet, so I have a change purse that holds a few cards, but then I have to switch things in and out . . .


Anyway, I stopped by the mall on the way (it really is on the way) and looked through wallets to see what’s available.  I got some ideas and then over my coffee I brainstormed the idea solution for my personal belongings (and the kids’!).  I gave myself permission to buy whatever I needed to.  It probably took me far too long, but after an hour I had a good idea of what I wanted, and even thought I might be able to make do with what I had at home.  Probably too much of my stuff has ended up in dress-up when I want it out of my wardrobe but can’t stand to throw it out – but this time it paid off.  I found an old purse and it fit the stuff and documents I wanted, then I found an old zip-folder that held the other documents I wanted.  I had “repurpose zip-folder into an office-on-the-go” on my to do list for ages, but never did it.  Giving myself the permission to buy what I needed gave me the freedom to think through what I wanted and narrowed my thinking enough to make what I had work.


Amazingly, I have picture to share!  I used our little camera and uploaded them right away yesterday. (Click to enlarge)


My solution:

  1. Purse with money (room for two currencies), spot for cell phone (another reason not to get a smart phone), a few cards, and a copy of my important documents.  This goes with me always and even has its own strap if I get to travel light.
  2. Zip-case for when I need more documents.  I can had the health records when going to the doctors or passports when flying.  I like having this separate from my wallet because if someone steals my wallet I still have our important documents.  If they still my whole bag I’m in trouble, but I feel better with things separated anyway.  The kids’ health and ID cards are in here in one zip-bag, so they can easily be handed off to someone else when I am away from the kids.  I also have all my other shopping cards and a pen and pencile.  Basically, when I bring a bag I have this and my wallet, but whenever I need to I can just bring my wallet and know I have the basics.
  3. My journal! For all the thoughts and reviewing and processing and note-taking that comes at me moment by moment.

Everything I need and it's so small!


I am loving the solution so much.  It was well worth the time thinking it through, and I didn’t spend a penny . . . besides the 3.90 coffee. ;)

Lo and behold, there were other photos on the camera.  Here is one of me and my hot wheels.  Welcome to my life!


Posted by harp on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm | Edit
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One great aspect of the Bullet Journal is that you don’t have to decide on a pre-made structure.  You just start and it structures itself along the way.  Yet I still spent an hour “setting up” my new journal.  Should I incorporate my ASAP lists?  Should I move my calendar?  All the months up front or each as I go along?  What about in back so it’s easy to find? Etc. etc.


Why, oh why?!?!


I am still under perfectionism’s curse!

Posted by harp on Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Edit
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Monday I celebrated my 32nd birthday, and we saved ourselves the hassle of sticking to preconceived notions of how birthdays go by having me write out the day I wanted.  This way Stephan didn’t have to guess, or think much, and I didn’t have to hope, I could just make requests guilt-free.  This worked splendidly for everyone.  We will definitely do it again.


A sampling:

-Blueberry pancake breakfast (cooked by me without anyone in the kitchen)

-Baths for the older two so I could work around the house

-Boiled potatoes for lunch because I forgot to put the menu plan on the shopping list

-Chocolate birthday cake baked by husband and kids

-Happy Birthday sung in series: Joseph, Vivienne, Stephan!  My first birthday song from my kids!!!

-Happy Birthday sung in chorus from NH!

-Gifts: a few great Kindle books, and a beautiful journal with photos of my husband and kids, including the picture of “love” written by Joseph in chalk on the balcony with his 2 yr-old hand in it . . . it made me cry!

-Family Project Time, working on a gift for my sis (her birthday was 6months ago…)

-Grocery trip that left me alone in the house to work on kid and baby clothes sorting and an overhaul of my own wardrobe.  One big bag of baby clothes now in the cellar. Room to breath in my closet again.  Whohoooo!

-A sweet and honoring note from my mom and an equally precious conversation with my husband discussing it


Motherhood changed my idea of what a birthday should look like.  Motherhood is a long, hard road.  Motherhood made this birthday the best ever – and I always love my birthdays!




Love to all!


(And to all who thought of me but didn’t contact me on the day – don’t let yourself feel an iota of guilt about it.  We all have enough on our plates and knowing I am loved is the best gift of all.)

Posted by harp on Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Edit
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Overwhelmed.  So much I want to do. Now way to do it.


I had an awesome birthday, which I’d love to write about, but I have to make lunch.


I sorted my clothes, and all the kid and baby clothes.


I could do it because I had permission to order everyone around all day.  I decided what to do with my time, and with Stephan’s time.


I can’t live every day like that.  How do I get things done otherwise?


I keep getting closer, then I feel further away than ever when it doesn’t quite work.


I want to fix everything. NOW!


Pick one thing. I said I’d blog every day. Hm. I have a long list of things to blog.


Blog something.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 10:43 am | Edit
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At this time tomorrow my speech will be delivered and I can get back to everything I’ve put off while frantically preparing for it.  I didn’t do as badly as I used to in college, but it still took a crazy amount of time and it made it quite clear that my German could be much improved.  Still, I’m not cursing the day I agreed to speak, so that’s a big win compared to my former life.


So, I hope to keep up the blogging better after that. Famous last words . . .


Right now I’m feeling pretty high in the sky because I can’t improve my speech much at this late in the game and we just added two square meters to our apartment.  How, you ask?


We took a step of radical decluttering and put our big couch up on freecycle-type site.  We didn’t think anyone would want it, but it got snatched up yesterday and is now in a new loving home.  We have promptly filled up the space with the pack-‘n-play and will soon move the filing cabinet out of the bedroom and next to the desk where we can actually use it while kids are napping . . .

Posted by harp on Friday, March 28, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Edit
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Posted by harp on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm | Edit
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Posted by harp on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Edit
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The low point arrives and passes.

Posted by harp on Monday, March 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Edit
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Yes, the series continues, and will continue until Video #17.  Remember, this is all in the past – I’ve survived it!  I’m busy with speech preparations, though, so I wouldn’t be blogging had I not prepared this already.

Posted by harp on Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Edit
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Posted by harp on Friday, March 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm | Edit
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Posted by harp on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 11:40 am | Edit
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And btw, the thank you notes are still not done and we do the music at church once a month, not once a week . . .

Posted by harp on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Edit
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Posted by harp on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm | Edit
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