Monday, October 29, 2012


I have a lot of catching up to do!  We've had a string of fun trips all in a row: Paris, Bratislava, and Vienna.  We had such a great time and are so grateful we got to visit these beautiful places--but it sure is nice to be at home. :)  Anyway, first up, Paris!  Cam and I went for three days, just the two of us.  We have this great couple in our ward here who stayed home with Andy.  It was amazing for us to be able to spend some time alone, to eat in nice restaurants and cafes, and to not have our schedules revolve around Andy.  We absolutely loved every minute of it.  I spent a week in Paris with my family about ten years ago, but I remember surprisingly little about it, so I was very excited to go back.  Cam had never been, so he was excited, too.

Paris is about 3 hours away by train.  We loved just relaxing during the ride.  I finally got Cameron to watch "Pride and Prejudice" with me, which he loved. (Though he might not admit it to you.)  We stayed in a teeny-tiny studio apartment with a perfect location--5 minute walk to the Louvre!  And a couple shops down was the best bakery I've ever been to in my life.  I'll refrain from admitting how many pain au chocolates I ate during our stay.  The only downside of the accommodation was the super uncomfortable futon we had to sleep on.  We thought we'd be catching up on sleep without Andy there, but we slept so badly!  Oh well. The price you pay for a great location.

We spent Friday doing a lot of the main tourist sites.  We started with the Louvre and exhausted ourselves with all the walking we did.  We saw a few of the most famous pieces (like the Mona Lisa, of course), spent some time looking at the egyptian artifacts, and also the italian sculptures.  We loved it all, of course.  Next, we walked from the Louvre through the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triumphe. After that, we headed over to the Eiffel Tower.  We went to the top and loved the stunning view.  That night we headed by the opera for a dinner reservation.  It was amazing to eat out without Andy! We actually got to sit and enjoy our food and the atmosphere.  Imagine that.  Apparently I'm a lame old person because I was content to head back to our place at this point (9:30/10 PM) but Cameron insisted we stay out and get some dessert at a great little cafe.

Cam crossing the Seine to the Louvre.   
The Louvre! 
The crowd in front of the Mona Lisa. 

Arc de Triumphe 

View from the Eiffel
Walking down the stairs. 
Cam's food!  Please note that $7 Pepsi he chose to purchase.
Saturday morning we headed out to Versailles.  We were going back and forth on whether or not we should go, and we are so glad we went.  It ended up being our favorite part of the trip!  Of course, the palace is absolutely breathtaking.  It's fancier than anything you could imagine.  Our favorite part, however, was the gardens.  There are no words to describe how beautiful they are.  It was rainy that day, so everything was a little misty with a slight fog, making it especially gorgeous.  I'd read a tip on a blog somewhere to rent bikes and ride through the public parts of the gardens.  We were apprehensive because of the rain, but we did it anyway and are so glad.  This seriously was both of our favorite parts of the whole trip.  We were pretty much all alone out there and we loved every second of it.  That afternoon, we headed over to Notre Dame.  It's so unique, so dark, so beautiful.  We both loved it.  We happened to get there just before Vespers, so we stayed for the service.  I was hoping it would be a full choir (which I love!), but it was just a couple soloists.  Still, it was a nice experience.  We walked around in the Latin Quarter for a bit, which is a really fun, lively, touristy area.  Then, we headed to dinner.  Our dinner was amazing.  We had a reservation somewhere else, but we happened upon this little restaurant, outside of tourist areas, full of french people, delicious food, cozy atmosphere, reasonable get the idea.  We loved every second of it.  I had salmon; Cameron had duck.  After dinner, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night.  We even got to see it sparkle.  Beautiful! Pretty much the perfect day.

All that gold!

Rameau, a famous french music theorist.  His statue was in Versailles! 
View from the back.
View of the gardens.  We road bikes all the way around the lake you see far in the distance. 

Here we are on the far end of that lake.  You can kind of see Versailles  way far back.  

Back at the gardens.  Amazing!

Notre Dame
Me being a hunchback in front of Notre Dame.  I'm clever, I know.
Latin Quarter
Cam is pretty proud of taking this picture.
Sunday morning we headed to the Musee D'orsay.  I remember loving it when I came with my family, so we had to go back.  It was only a two minute walk from where we stayed (seriously, best location ever!), so we got there before the lines and crowds.  We loved it all, but especially loved the impressionism section, which is what the museum is famous for.  My dad loves to paint and is particularly fond of impressionism, so I grew up loving it.  They have so many Monets, Manets, Renoirs, and Degas (my favorite!).  It's amazing to see the real things in person.  After that, we headed to see the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Monmartre.  Monmartre was a really fun, lively area to walk around in and the view from the Basilica is incredible.  We loved it!  It was such a great trip overall.  We both fell in love with Paris and are so grateful we got to visit!

Cam with a crepe in front of Sacre-Coeur.
View from Sacre-Coeur.  We watched this amazing juggler while we sat on the steps.  He was  incredible.  I've never seen so many people rush up to give him money! (Ourselves included.)
Random things we loved about Paris:
1) They'll serve you tap water!  And even bring it out chilled in nice little bottles or pitchers! Amazing.
2) Americans everywhere.  Well...I don't know if we loved this.  It was nice to hear something familiar, but it seems like every american we overheard was loud and obnoxious.  I hope this was just the americans we encountered and we're not all like that. My favorite American lady I overheard was actually talking about us.  She was watching us guzzle our full glasses of water and was appalled because she thought it was liquor.  Too funny.
3) Stopping at bakeries for croissants and macaroons.  Crepes on the street.  Ham sandwiches at cafes.  Stopping for hot chocolates.
4) The warm weather!  We were surprised at how much warmer it felt than Amsterdam.  Granted, it was raining a lot of the time we were there, but it was still nice.
5) The public transit.  It was so good!  Especially compared to Berlin, which was our most recent endeavor.
6) Climbing loads of stairs without having to worry about a stroller.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

16 Months

Andy has grown up so much in the last couple months.  He is so much more of a little boy and becomes less baby every day.  I love seeing all that he learns and how he changes, but it goes too fast! Some updates and milestones:
  • Some words he says and associates correctly are: dada, mama, doddy (doggy...but he still thinks all animals are dogs),  I (hi), bye, ayo (hello), nanas (bananas...and all food, actually), and uh oh.
  • One of the cutest things he does right now is talk into the phone and say hi.  It doesn't even have to be a real phone.  He'll hold anything up to his ear and say hi.  
  • He's learned how to dance, which is adorable.  His version of dancing is pretty much squatting up and down.
  • Much to my dismay, he's learning to climb up on things (like the couch), and has way too many falls.  
  • He absolutely loves to run around outside.  Sadly, this doesn't happen all that often, living right in downtown Amsterdam.  I try to take him to the park a couple times a week, and he gets so excited when he realizes I'm taking him out of the stroller.  (Poor guy spends so much time in that thing!) 
  • He loves trying to climb the stairs standing up.  With help, of course. He knows he can't do it on his own, so he holds up his little hand looking for mine to help him.  I love it.  
  • He loves to have his teeth brushed.  Of course, he mostly tries to suck off as much toothpaste as possible while I try to get a few good brushes in there. :) 
  • He also likes when I do his hair.  He tilts his head forward for me when he sees the comb.  Adorable.
  • Cameron and I always talk about what a social little guy he is.  I swear, it's his goal to win over whomever he's with.  We'll get in the elevator or metro with someone, and it's his personal mission to become best friends with them.  He smiles coyly at them and says "hi," until they give him some attention. It always works.  
  • He is also stubborn and strong-willed.  Always has been.  If something devastating happens (like...I take too long to pour the water into his sippy cup), he's so upset he can't even breathe.  Literally, he turns blue and eventually starts screaming about 30 seconds after the initial upset.  You think we'd be used to it, since it happens daily, but it scares us every time.  
  • He loves to run to the door when Dad gets home from work.  Cameron is his absolute favorite person.  He can't stop smiling the second he sees him.  Even a picture of him.  One of his favorite activities during the day is going through Cameron's facebook profile pictures.  He says "dada" when he sees each one.  Cutest thing ever.
  • His favorite song right now is, "If You're Happy and You Know It."  He claps when he's supposed to and touches his head when he's supposed to.  He's also learning to touch his nose and ears on command, but he gets them a little mixed up right now. :)
  • He also loves "Old McDonald Had a Farm," the ABC song, playing pat-a-cake, and the Itsy-Bitsy Spider.
  • He likes to imitate us when we shake our heads.   
  • His eating habits still drive us insane.  He makes sure to tell us he doesn't like or want something by throwing it on the ground or handing it back to us.  Especially when it's something healthy I've been slaving away preparing all day.  His favorite foods are bananas, apples, yogurt, raisins, and peanut butter sandwiches.  (Notice no green vegetables are included in this list.)  
  • He loves curtains and thinks hiding in them/pulling on them is hilarious.  I'm just waiting for the day he ruins the church's curtains.  
  • He loves being around other little kids.  I feel so terrible that we yanked him away from so many playmates in Round Rock just as he was really becoming interested in playing with them!  Whenever he sees another little one at the park or something, he makes a beeline for them and wants to play.  
  • He enjoys his books lately.  Still, he's not interested in me reading them to him.  He just wants to turn the pages by himself.  He still loves books where he can lift the flaps.  His favorite book right now is called "Hushabye Counting."  My dear friend Katie gave it to us when he was born.  (Thanks Katie!) It's the only one he'll actually let me read him from cover to cover.   
  • He is such a boy and finds anything destructive to be hilarious.  Things like throwing food everywhere, puppets knocking down blocks, etc.  
  • Speaking of puppets, he loves them.  My mom just sent him four, and he carries them around everywhere.  His blocks are probably his favorite toy right now, which he's gotten really good at stacking by himself.  
  • He loves his stuffed animals in his crib and still talks to them for quite a while before falling asleep.  
  • Speaking of sleep, he just dropped his morning nap and is down to one nap now.  I'm missing my morning free time (shower time!), but it was definitely time.  He usually naps from about 1-3 and goes to bed about 7:30 or 8 and wakes up about 6:30 or 7.  No complaints here.  A year ago, I never believed this day of normal sleeping patterns would come. 
  • As always, a little slow in the teeth category.  He's got 4 on the top, and barely 3 on the bottom.   
We love little Andy so much.  We're so grateful to have him in our family!  

First (and last) time I let him feed himself his peanut butter nutella sandwich.

First time coloring!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


We were lucky enough to head to spend this past weekend in Berlin.  We arrived thursday night and came home sunday night.  I'll be honest--it was a pretty rough trip.  We felt like we were just moving between different scenes of a continuous nightmare.  Andy had about a 3 day permanent tantrum, the weather was rainy and freezing, and we had a difficult time maneuvering around such a big city (bad hotel location, complicated transit system that wasn't stroller friendly, etc.).  I guess not every trip can be sunshine and roses! Especially with a toddler in tow.  All in all, we think it was still worth it.  Berlin is definitely worth a visit.  It's more of an educational trip than a fun trip.  You can tell the city has seen some hard times and is still recovering.  It has a dark, but fascinating, history.  We learned so much as we visited the different museums and sites.

Cam worked from the hotel room most of the day, so Andy and I went out exploring.  We headed out to Unter den Linden (the shopping street), Tiergarten Park, and the Brandenburg Gate.  I was a little nervous to head out into the middle of a strange city with my baby--especially since people do not speak english very well.  After a long and incredibly confusing hour and twenty minutes, we made it! The Brandenburg Gate is stunning.  Tiergarten Park is definitely the most beautiful park I've ever been in.  It even beats out the Vondelpark here and all the parks in London, which are all gorgeous.  I couldn't believe how many trees there are and how tall they are.  It feels like you're in the middle of a forest.  There was a big street fair going on in the middle of the park, which was fun to see.

Brandenburg Gate
Fair in the middle of Tiergarten.
Monument in the middle of Tiergarten.
More Tiergarten.
After Andy's afternoon nap, we headed out with Cam to go to the Jewish Museum.  After a long, confusing, and wet journey, we made it! The architecture is unusual and beautiful.  We both learned a lot.  Of course, Andy decided the ideal time to start screaming was in the Holocaust section.  We kept getting dirty looks from people who I'm sure thought we were so disrespectful in such a sacred place. They probably didn't have kids.

The Jewish Museum.  I stole this picture from wikipedia because it was too dark when we left to get a picture.  I wish the weather had been this nice when we were there. :)
We packed a lot in on Saturday.  We started out by taking Cam back to the Brandenburg Gate and Tiergarten Park.  He fell in love with the park as much as I had.  We saw the Holocaust Memorial, too.  We headed over to Checkpoint Charlie afterwards.  We learned so much in the museum.  It's crazy for us to realize the wall was up in our lifetime.  After that, we went to see a long stretch of original wall.  We happened on an incredible museum that was right by it called Topography of Terror.  It's basically a museum about the Nazi reign from 1933-1945 located right where their main offices were.  It is horrifying.  I was so saddened to learn more about what actually went on under Hitler.  Obviously I'm familiar with the Holocaust, but there was so much more.  Both Cameron and I really got a lot of out of this museum; we'd never heard of it, so we were lucky to find it.  

Cute Andy in his adult size poncho. 
Another Brandenburg Gate picture.  Poor Andy's hat was on backwards. 
We love Tiergarten.  Wouldn't it be incredible to go on a run here?

We found this cool monument in Tiergarten.  It's a monument to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart! If you look close there's bullet holes all over from WWII.  Crazy. 
Holocaust Memorial.

Checkpoint Charlie 
Miracle of miracles.  Andy took a nap on the go! I don't think that's happened since he was 3 months old. 
Closeup on Checkpoint Charlie sign. 
Long stretch of original wall in front of Topography of Terror Museum.

Andy stretching his little legs in front of the wall.
After that came the rain disaster.  We were on our way to Berliner Dom (a beautiful cathedral).  It had been raining all weekend, but all of a sudden came a serious downpour.  Umbrellas did nothing.  It seriously dumped buckets of water for about two minutes, and then we were soaked.  It looked like we'd just showered with our clothes on.  I guess normally this wouldn't be a big deal; we'd just go back to the hotel and change, right?  Slight problem: we flew on Easy Jet (a budget airline), so we could only bring one piece of luggage between the three of us, which meant Cam and I only brought the pants and shoes and jackets we were currently wearing.  So we head back to the hotel.  There's not a dryer there or anywhere nearby.  We finally decide I'll go to H&M (which is only a couple blocks from our hotel) and buy us some cheap pants.  The only problem was that I didn't have anything to wear to H&M.  I wasn't about to put back on my soaking wet pants, so  I came up with this creative outfit.  Yes, I am wearing my sweater as a skirt.  And yes, that is Cameron's shirt I'm wearing.  We only had a few dry options at this point.  Let's just say I got some really strange looks!  I couldn't stop laughing either, which made me look even more crazy.  Oh well, makes for good memories. :)  

Don't I look beautiful?  I wish you could see my boots better because that was really the icing on the cake.
When we got back out, we headed to see the East Side Gallery.  It's the longest remaining stretch of the wall that a bunch of artists painted in 1990 to celebrate the newfound freedom.  It's a hip, trendy area.  We were pretty cold (perhaps because we were wearing our wet shoes and jackets), but we managed and really enjoyed it.  

You may or may not know that Cam is an awesome juggler.  So we had to get a picture of this amazing juggler doing 5 balls! 

Both sides of the wall. 

We headed to the Reichstag (the parliament building) in the morning and after pleading with several employees, we were lucky enough to get tickets to visit the dome on the top.  (Apparently you have to get tickets about 5 hours before you want to go, and we didn't have that kind of time.)  The views of the city are incredible!  We were so glad it worked out for us to be able to see it.  Since we'd missed Berliner Dom the day before, we headed back.  It is stunning.  There are so many things I love about europe, but the architecture might be top on the list.  You just can't find this sort of thing anywhere else.
The Reichstag.  You can kinda see the dome in the back. 
Inside the dome. 
Outside the dome.
View of Tiergarten from the top of the Reichstag.  
Berliner Dom.  I had to include at least one picture of Andy screaming to keep things accurate. 
Inside Berliner Dom.
One more miracle! He slept for 30 min. of the plane ride home.  Perhaps because he didn't get a nap the rest of the day.
One last cute picture of Andy.  I think the highlight of the trip for him was saying "Hi" (though it sounded more like "eye") into our hotel phone about 100 times a day.  Adorable.
Isn't Berlin cool?  We feel really lucky we had the opportunity to visit such a historic, interesting place.  This trip had its moments, but we're still glad we went.  However, we've promised ourselves we're not taking "any more" trips with Andy.  I'm sure we'll forget how traumatic this weekend was and book a few more eventually, but we hope to use babysitters more. We are unbelievably excited for our trip to Paris next week...because we have some awesome sitters staying at home with Andy.  Yay!