Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Never: The Toddler Edition

I quite like the ridicule I get for doing things I said I would never do, so I figured it was time to update my baby lists of nevers with a toddler edition. If you are new around here, I made a couple of lists before having children of things I would never do with my own child. Many people laughed and said I'd eat my words, and, I have in fact eaten some words and they were quite tasty, thank you. So, now I will make an all inclusive list of things I will never do with a toddler.

Number One. I will never have my child on a leash. I gave in on my stroller "never", so I am going to use that form of entrapment for as long as I can.

Number Two. I will never accept Crocs as an appropriate form of footwear. No way, no how.

Number Three. Umm. Hmm. These are harder to come up with this time. Oh! I know! I will never allow my child to have a temper tantrum in a public area.

Okay, yes, number 3 is a joke, and I probably just jinxed/bad karma-ed myself for 1,200 public tantrums in my near future for even making a joke about it.

But, I've thought and thought about this and all I can come up with is a measly two items for my never list: the toddler edition. Is that because I'm more open minded due to eating so many words the first time around, or is it because I have absolutely no clue about the toddler stage? Probably a little bit of both.

But the fact of the matter is Charley is an angel child and I'm sure we'll just ease right through this next stage as simply as we eased through the baby stage.
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She has a pirate arm in that picture on the left because she was swinging it at lightning speed due to her frustration and the camera couldn't keep up. 

Or maybe not.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Prague and Scotchguard

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I'm back from our European vacation and I have pictures. Who doesn't love looking through someone else's vacation photos?

We went to Prague, Czech Republic and Scotchguard (err, Stuttgart), Germany. [Sarah - that nickname totally made me laugh and it's what I think every time I see the word now!] It was beautiful, wonderful, fun, and all other positive adjectives all rolled into one. But, who wants to hear someone say how amazing, perfect, dreamy, etc someone else's vacation was? You'd rather hear about the things that didn't go quite as planned as a little vindication for your not being able to fit in my suitcase, right? So I'll share some stories that will let you know that wasn't always as perfect as it may look in photos...

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So, John (my husband), Matt (one of our bestest friends) and I were leaving Tuesday at 5pm for our overnight flight to Munich, and then on to Prague. I had read that cabs can be a little sketchy in Prague, so I had arranged a car from our hotel in Prague to pick us up at the airport at noon. I was sent a confirmation email of the transfer and was told the driver would be holding a sign with my name on it and the hotel's logo on it*** and he'd wait for an hour for us. Perfect. I couldn't wait to see my name on one of those signs!

On Tuesday afternoon while still at work, I received an email from the hotel that the driver waited for us for an hour and we never showed, so I'd get charged the $30 for the transfer. What!? Silly people! I set the transfer up for tomorrow, not today! So I opened the confirmation email, and right there it said "Tuesday, August 7, 2012". Whoops. I guess since our flight left on Tuesday I mistakenly set up our transfer for Tuesday even though we didn't get there until Wednesday. Thankfully I got the email before I had left already so I was able to reschedule the transfer for the next day. I had wasted $30 before we ever got out of the U.S.

***So, we landed and found the man with the sign with my name on it and it was just a white piece of paper with our last name written on it in black marker - sort of homeless man style, only it wasn't written on cardboard. I was so excited to see my name that we shook hands with the man and followed him out to the hotel shuttle. Only, when we got to the "shuttle" in the parking lot, it was a regular Mercedes with no mention of the hotel anywhere on it. Not what I was expecting, but whatever. They must do things differently here. So we all get in and off we go. 10 minutes later, it dawns on me that his little sign did not have the hotel logo on it as I was promised, the car had no mention of the hotel on it, and we may have just been kidnapped and he's taking us somewhere to hold us hostage. But not to worry (because I did enough of that for all of us in my head), he did end up dropping us off at our hotel and all was well, but for a minute there I thought we were going to be broadcast on the next episode of Dateline: Kidnapped Abroad.

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The only "plan" I made for the entire trip was later Wednesday afternoon and it was a 3 hour Segway tour of Prague. (Thanks to Erica's suggestion of a bike tour which inspired this! Glad I ended up choosing a Segway over a bike because Prague may be the 2nd hilliest city ever, next to San Francisco.) John was very anti-tour, but I tried to tell him that it may seem nice to see cities on your own, but when you walk up to the old building/bridge/clock/whatever and it looks cool but you know nothing about it, it sort of doesn't have the same affect. So, doing this tour was fast, we'd learn something about all of the old stuff we'll see, and it was private! So no giant group of amateur Segwayers trying to make our way through a crowded city. A win/win/win, and he finally agreed.

None of us had ever Segwayed before, but they give you a quick little demonstration before you set out on our tour which involved a little trip up the sidewalk and back. She assured us that we'd have it down pat within 10 minutes. Matt went up and back. John went up and back. And then I went up and back. And then she made me go again. Why me!? I'm super athletic/coordinated/not-clumsy! Doesn't she see this!? [Sarcasm font]

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Anyways, we set off on our 10 kilometer tour of the city and none of us had any issues Segwaying at all. Except for that time where we were going down a very steep path and I couldn't slow down and almost ran over the instructor. And then the fact that I was required to be right behind the instructor at all times so she could save me from death by Segway if needed. And the fact that my Segway kept losing it's center of gravity and wanted to tip me backwards over and over. (This one was actually due to the cobblestones, not my fault!) It was almost like an iRobot moment. I swear my Segway had it out for me.

(But I don't want people to get the wrong idea, it really was the best part of my whole trip. It really wasn't that difficult and I'm alive to tell the tale. And if I can do it, honestly, ANYONE can. Do it! It's fun!)

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The next day we did some sightseeing on our own, and then we had to catch a train to Scotchguard later that evening at 6pm. We spent the afternoon trying several Czech beers thanks to a recommendation of our Segway tour guide and were definitely ready to eat dinner on the train when we got there. It was a 12 hour train ride, after all. We were dreaming of sitting on the restaurant car having dinner, and then heading to the bar car to sample some more beers. 

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So we check into our tiny little private room which consisted of three bunk beds (one of them flipped up for a row of 3 seats) and a bathroom so tiny that the shower head doubled as the sink faucet and waited for dinner time. Our first class reservation included champagne and orange juice for mimosas so we made those for the first part of our journey. John then went to go ask our car's captain (captain? conductor? I'm not sure what his train title is...) where we could get some dinner and/or more drinks and much to our surprise, there was no dinner car! Or bar car! We were essentially going to starve/dehydrate until breakfast. He DID offer some snacks for sale though. So, our dream dinner on the train turned into Mimosas, Snickers bars and bags of chips in our room. 

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On Saturday we had some errands to run. We had our friend's wedding to attend that evening, and the wedding shuttle was picking us up at our hotel at 1:45 p.m. Both John and Matt forgot to pack undershirts and were wearing white button-up shirts to the wedding, and I wanted to find a shawl or cardigan to wear over my sleeveless dress, since it had been a little chilly in the evenings and the only jacket I brought was a white sweatshirt jacket. I don't think that would look right with my smurfy, one-shouldered dress. 

We head over to the airport which was the closest place for shopping near our hotel. To make a long story short, none of us found anything that would work. My arms were going to have to be bare, and Matt and John's chests would have to be too, underneath their shirt of course. Otherwise that might have been a little Chippendale-ish.

Since we wasted so much time running our errands which resulted in absolutely nothing, we had to rush to get ready when we got back to the hotel. I immediately start trying to find an easy updo on Pinterest because I'd seen them on there a million times before. I find one that I am SURE I can do. I try and try. I never get past the ponytail part. Either my hair is too short, or has too many layers, or I'm just hair challenged. (Likely the latter.) But I end up with my hair down and we rush out of the hotel to make it to the shuttle on time.

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It's not bad, but just once I want to be one of those girls that can have pretty updoed hair at a wedding that I did myself!

We have to go to another hotel to pick up the rest of the wedding guests on the shuttle. On the way there I realize I forgot something very, very important while struggling with my hair for so long. Deodorant. Deodorant!? I will not be able to dance or move or even lift my arms the entire evening! Not that I haven't perfected the keep-your-arms-down-maneuver before.

But I realize we have to stop at another hotel before we get there. And all hotels have stuff like that at the front desk for their guests. Sure, we aren't a guest there, but they won't know! So I send John in because I'm too ashamed to do it myself. He comes back with deodorant in hand. Thank goodness. I didn't want to be more awkwardly shy all evening than I normally am. Deodorant saved the evening!

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Although deodorant couldn't save my heels from falling in those cracks one million times!

During the wedding reception, we were seated at a table with mostly Americans, and two German friends of the bride that we'd met a couple of times. They spoke good English thankfully, as I do not speak good, err, any German. We were chatting it up and our server must have assumed I was German too. At one point, she had a tray with a giant beer on it and asked me a question in German. I didn't understand her so she realized I spoke English, and started to lean down to ask me the same question in English. As she did, the beer spilt all over me, my dress, my chair, and something I had hanging on the corner of my chair - my camera!! She was so so apologetic, and felt awful so I didn't want to make her feel bad at all. It was just an accident. BUT! My camera!! 

John and I dried it off as much as we could. It was covered in beer. (as was I, but at the moment I was more concerned with my camera) We let it sit for a while and then took a test picture. It worked. Whew. I would hate to have to figure out the conversion of Euros to dollars for them to pay for my camera! It's dangerous to do the conversions. The best method is always to just close your eyes and hand over your credit card. 

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Blurriness is not due to camera malfunctioning, just operator error. 
We flew back home on Monday. It's different flying home because it's not overnight - it's just like a really long day instead. So, in our eightish hour flight I watched 3 movies (although I had to fast forward the end of the last one to finish it in time) listened to two full albums, and took an hourish nap. And then our layover was in Newark so as we landed we all got to see the NYC skyline, Statue of Liberty, Hudson river, and the Meadowlands stadium for the first time. We were super excited as none of us had been to NYC before. 

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John complained about the girliness of our combined carry-on bag about one trillion times. Seriously.

We begin a very bumpy descent. Darn turbulence. We start to make our landing, and it does seem like it's taking a bit long for the wheels to actually hit the ground. But they finally do. Whew. Another safe landing......but, no, wait. We speed up again. Speed, speed, speed, with jet engines engine-ing again. And we take back off, slowly, very slowly. It doesn't feel like we are pulling back enough and I picture a giant wall at the end of the runway that we are nearing towards. No, it makes absolutely no sense to build a wall at the end of a runway and no, I've never seen a runway with a wall, but in my head this was what I was picturing and I was sure we weren't going to be high up off the ground enough to make it over said wall. Looking out the window at NYC is no longer enticing and I keep repeating "I don't like this, I don't like this, I don't like this." Turns out I act like a five year old when faced with near-death scenarios.

We eventually get all the way back up in the air. The captain comes on and says "As you noticed, we've been rerouted. We'll be landing again soon. Thank you for your patience." WHAT?! No explanation for what we just experienced? It was probably good to NOT know as we still had to land once again, but I will forever be curious if they overshot the runway and ran out of time, or if they were trying to avoid a giant brick wall, or what. Since I'm here to tell the tale, you know that we did safely land after a 30 minute circle around the airport. It was scary though! Scary I tell you!

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So see, it wasn't perfect! Doesn't that make you feel better that you missed out on such beautiful weather, beautiful sights, and an incredibly good time at our incredibly good friend's wedding?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Charley Bear: 11 Months

[1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, 7 months, 8.5 months, 9 months, 10 months]

On the 4th of this month, Charley turned 11 months old! So big!
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Listen...my viable options were very limited this month. I had no choice but to go with this awkward pose. She was actually trying to pull off that headband, but instead it looks like she's saying "heyyyyy baby, look at me!"
She's still not walking unassisted, but she's getting closer. We went to the beach for a week this month, and our favorite, shaded hangout spot is underneath the house (it's on stilts). The floors are concrete, and I couldn't let Charley crawl around on concrete so I needed another solution. I thought about bringing another Pack N Play to leave downstairs, but she wouldn't have wanted to stay in that for very long. While there, I had the brilliant idea to buy a walker (you know, the ones they say not to use anymore) and looked on the local Craigslist down there. Found one, went and bought it, and it was perfect. She was running around in no time.

It was the first thing that made her realize that to walk, you need to move your feet. Before, if you were to hold her up by her hands to let her practice walking, her feet would be so firmly planted on the ground that it was near impossible to get her to pick one foot up and move it. She loves this thing!

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She's getting more hair! No where near enough for a bow yet, but we're getting there. It's looking more dirty blonde than white blonde these days. I'm sure she will be a brunette before too long anyways.


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She does some new cute little things now too. My mom taught her to put her hand up to her ear (or behind her head) and say "Hello??" She has a couple of play phones, but she hasn't yet figured out these are the things you are supposed to put to your ear and say hello on. Baby steps.

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My dad taught her to cover her eyes and play peekaboo. Although, she rarely covers her eyes and if she does it's just one. Usually her hands end up on her forehead. Enough to let you know that yes, she does understand the silly game, but if she covered her eyes up she wouldn't be able to see and that would be dumb, she says!

She has 7 or 8 teeth these days. I'm not sure which and you only get a short amount of time to feel around in there before the chompers chomp down on you. I'm okay with not knowing the exact tooth count. I value my fingertips too much.

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That Cheerio doesn't stand a chance in those chompers!
And most importantly (although this happened after her 11 month birthday, but before I posted this so I'm including it), she spent the night away from me for the first time. For 6 straight nights in fact. While I was ACROSS THE GLOBE. [deep breaths] It's not that I was afraid to leave her or anything, we just never really had the need to leave her overnight. I wasn't sure how she'd sleep elsewhere, and I would feel so guilty if she woke up all night at someone else's house.

But, besides one incident where we think major gas was to blame, she slept great (12-14 hours!!) and my parents and sisters literally fought over her while I was gone. If that doesn't make my Mama heart swell with joy, I don't know what does. Love that my family loves her as much as I do! I sure did miss her though! NEVER. AGAIN. Just kidding. In fact, I need an overnight babysitter for a night in September, and I'm thinking about opening it up to the highest bidder. ;)

But, it wasn't all puppies and rainbows this month. She did get sick while on vacation in Florida. Does that sound familiar? Yes, she also got sick on our previous vacation in Florida. What does this child have against vacationing in Florida!? It was a stomach bug that dealt her a couple of pukes, and a lot of ickiness from the other end. The pukes were only twice in the first day or two, but the other end ickiness lasted almost TWO weeks. I had to buy diapers without a coupon, and that pained me the most. Just kidding. I really, really hated her being sick and even though I got extra snuggles, I wished I could make it stop. Poor, sweet baby.

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Such a treat. I hadn't napped/slept with her snuggling next to me since maternity leave.
And, even though her mommy waited until she was 15 for her first flight, and her Gamma was 55 before her first flight, Charley flew for the first time at 11 months old. She did so great, and the other airplane passengers told me how great she was once we landed. Before we took off I avoided all eye contact so I didn't have to see them rolling their eyes about sitting near the lady with the baby. I don't blame them. I know I did the same thing just a year ago.

The next month is a big one. A one year old? How did this happen? Be sure that major party planning is going on and I'll share details after the party.

Happy 11 months, baby!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Help! I'm so unfortunate to have to go to Europe and I can't figure out what I want to see and do while I'm there.

Listen, I am not trying to be show-offy or anything. This is an honest cry for help. And, a last minute cry for help at that. Here's the deal.

Some of our very best friends are getting married very soon in Germany. John is in the wedding, and we are so so excited to go. We are going to do some sightseeing for a few days before and after the wedding. First, we are going to Prague. Sounds amazing right?

Then, we take an overnight train from Prague to Stuttgart, Germany for a few days. The wedding is here, and we have been to Germany, but not this city. So, two new cities to explore in a very short time. Surely I can make us a list of some things to see or do while we are there for just 6 days, right?

Well, no. I have known about this trip for over a year and have had so much time to plan it. I have planned several big trips before. John, my parents and I went to Europe in 2007. Then, my parents and I went to Alaska in 2008 to name a couple. I spent countless hours planning both of these trips and had our schedules perfected before we ever stepped off of the plane for those trips. I don't like being OVERscheduled for trips, but I have a reason that I like to at least have some ideas of things to do before I go. I took a trip to Europe for spring break in high school and during our free time one afternoon, my friends and I could not make up our minds about what we wanted to see in the city of PARIS and so we eventually decided on some torcher device museum or something (don't ask), took subways and trains across the city to get there only to see the line was ridiculously long and we'd never get in before they closed and basically we wasted our only non-scheduled time in Paris because I didn't do any research about anything before we went. Still makes me angry to this day to think about it. Wasted time! In Paris! Ahhh!

Basically, I just like to have a list of things to choose from if we should happen upon some free time, so I don't have to spend my time scrambling and googling to find stuff for us to do. This trip is very short so I would be so angry to waste any of it. This is not a cheap trip for us! We must take advantage of every waking second!

Yet, every time I sit down to make a list of things to see or do, I come up with next to nothing. For Prague, I have more ideas than I do for Stuttgart, but it still isn't much. I know we'll see the St. Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, but what else? HALP!

Photos of Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti), Prague
This photo of Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti) is courtesy of TripAdvisor


And Stuttgart, the bride grew up here and sent me a list of things we could see or do. Two of the things were the Mercedes and the Porsche museums, and frankly, I'm not into museums OR cars, and since I'M planning this and not my two traveling mates (husband and male BFF), I get to choose and I'm not choosing those. There were some castles and things on the list too, but, I just can't seem to narrow it down and pick one.

And, this is the part where you will for sure roll your eyes at me. But hear me out...

Every time I think I find something I'd like to see or do, I discount it in my head because I feel like I've already done that. For example, one of the castles the bride suggested to me looks just like Versailles in Paris. And I've done that, twice. So, do I want to go to a look alike castle again?

Photos of Ludwigsburg Palace (Residenzschloss), Ludwigsburg
This photo of Ludwigsburg Palace (Residenzschloss) is courtesy of TripAdvisor 
 Or, there is a very tall TV Tower thing to climb in Stuttgart that has amazing views of the city. But then I think, well, I've climbed the Eiffel Tower and lighthouses and such, and sure it's really cool, but is one overhead view any better than the others? Why am I so non-inspired by any of this stuff? I feel like such a snob, and it's ridiculous because even though I have traveled some it's not like I'm well-traveled or anything. I just don't understand me.

So please, internetty friends. Help me plan this trip. Have you ever been to these places? If not, do you want to do some googling for me to find some really awesome things to do? I'm not into museums or organized tours (for the most part), but love to see stuff I've never seen before. I think part of the problem is that neither of these places are places with obvious tourist attractions, such as Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, or Mt. McKinley. So, whatcha got?