Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Our Summer Travels: Helsinki, Tallinn and Salzburg

If you are considering an international trip with your children, do it! While practically unheard of in the states, traveling to different countries with your kids in tow is the norm all throughout Europe. Back in 2016 when our little A was 14 months old, we almost cancelled our trip because nearly everyone we spoke to thought we were nuts. Two years and two international trips later, I was much more relaxed and excited before we left, even though we now have two children. 

Baby C turned 11 months and started standing the day before we left. As I was finishing up packing, I heard one note on the piano, and was surprised to find him standing there, holding onto the keys before slowly falling to his bum-bum. He sprouted his fourth tooth while we were gone, and we made the transition from formula to whole milk. He was a dream, time-change and all. They both were, really, although A did have her usual few meltdowns over things that can be important to toddlers, such as who pushes the stroller, Mommy or Daddy. All was forgiven on our last day when she was an angel through a late night, front row Mozart concert that took place by candlelight in a restaurant that has been in operation since the year 803; arguably the world's oldest. In fact, she now has some credit in the bank due to pulling this off.
I don't have the best memory, and dream of our children one day retracing some of our vacation steps, maybe with children of their own. The fun filled days of any vacation easily become a blur and so I try to write a little update at the end of the day, no matter how tired I am. Then I use these little synopses when I create a photo album later on. Travel logs can be quite pedestrian at times, and mine is no exception. But my account of our travels and memories is something that I leave for my children; something that can't be burned in a fire, or lost in a bad economy. Of all the things I wish I still had of my Mom's, her words and personal memories are at the top of the list. And so, here are mine.
We flew business class, and were fortunate to have an empty seat next to us that was given to Baby C. While we may have received some nervous glances from those around us, it was a night flight and both children were fast asleep by 10pm. They slept  9-10 hours, until breakfast was served.
Pedestrian area? Not quite.
Day 1- We arrived in Helsinki and checked into our hotel. Then, we walked for pizza close by. The pizza place was in a courtyard, which seemed like a purely pedestrian area. But I learned in Budapest that this is not always the case! Unlike the states, a random car would pull up when you least expected it. We sat and people-watched for a bit, then headed back to the hotel. We all went to bed at 10pm but the kids were up from 1:30 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. which was tough. Thankfully, we all slept until 2pm the next day! 
Day 2- We are in LOVE with Helsinki!!!! We came here sort of on a whim, because LAX opened up a direct route. The population of the whole country is 5 million, which is HALF that of LA County alone. It definitely has a much smaller feel compared to other European capitals, and a whole lot less tourists. We found it to be super walkable, clean, and safe with beautiful views. I was already so happy that we brought our double stroller! Today, we slept until 2pm local time and headed out until 9pm. A and I went on the skywheel, which has amazing views of the land and sea. Nervous at first, I used it as an opportunity to talk to her about finding courage, and after a few rotations, she felt comfortable enough to switch sides for a different view. We checked out some beautiful, old churches and explored a cemetery/playground. Then we came back to the hotel to try out the sauna before getting ready to go out to a very late dinner at 11pm. It was still light out!
Day 3- We all slept from 1:30am-2pm! I couldn't believe it was that late, and that we had slept so well again. We packed our bathing suits and walked down to the Allas sea pools for swimming! Because it was a bit overcast, we had the place almost to ourselves. There was a large shallow pool for kids, a deeper pool with lanes for swimming and "dipping" and a grimy-looking pool filled with seawater. After spending some time swimming with A, my hubby watched the kids while I spent 25 min in a 130 degree sauna. Then, I jumped in the 50 degree sea pool. It was so cold that it took my breath away several times, as I quickly swam to the ladder. 
Have a stroller you love? Bring it! 
The kids were able to nap whenever they wanted,
 on our longer days when we didn't return to the hotel for nap.

Day 4- When we asked our concierge about walking to the zoo, one woman said “it can’t be done” and a different woman said “no one has ever done it.” Because the Helsinki zoo is on an island, we thought that she literally meant that it could not be done. But looking at the map, it seemed accessible by a bridge, and not too far away; 4-5 miles at most. We walked it and it was amazing! We had biking/walking trails all the way and amazing views of the harbor. We ran into a local couple and walked with them the majority of the way and learned a lot and had a lot of laughs. Many of my sauna questions were answered; yes, you go in naked with the parents of someone you're dating, but usually only same gender if alone. Because the zoo is on an island, there were amazing views around every turn. It was 11 miles round trip! Kids were great and napped in stroller on way back. 
Day 5- Today was a much more low-key day. We happened upon St. John’s Lutheran Church, which is the largest stone church in Finland, seating 2,600 people. It's done in a beautiful Neogothic style, with gargoyles posted as guards all around. There was a playground on the side that we spent some time in. As most churches have, there was an area to light a candle. I dropped in a Euro, and explained that we would light one for her Nana. She thought I meant someone else, and very reverently started to pray to her friend Mak:  

After that, we did a little strolling and shopping, and then went back to the room for nap-time, where everyone napped except me. That evening we went for Italian food again. Charles moves up and down in his high-chair when we sing baby shark; it's our new favorite way to pass the time while we're waiting for our food to arrive. 

Day 6- Our last full day in Helsinki. We walked about 8 miles round trip to the Redi mall to try and find some non-touristy souvenirs. The kids had fun at little play areas in the mall and even in a kid's clothing store. But throughout almost all of our time at the mall, A was focused on a hand-sewn fairy house that she wanted. We wanted her to look around and make sure that was they toy she wanted, but she wanted it now and made it very clear by repeating and whining "I want it nooooowwww." We tried redirecting her, to no avail. It reached a point where we realized that giving her the toy would reinforce the poor behavior. But it was so darn cute and unique, and I really wanted it for her! We were leaving for Estonia the next day, and it was the one souvenir she picked out from Finland. So to compromise, we told her she was not getting it today, and I left to "go to the bathroom" and went back to get it for a different, future day. The sweet woman working there understood, as she had heard her pleading in the store. "I'll wrap it in yellow, for a day when she's feeling more sunny." It would have been so much easier to just give it to her, because when we went from telling her she could pick it out if she was sure she liked it best, to telling her we were not getting it, her behavior escalated with actual crying. But once she realized we were serious, she relented and we were able to enjoy a late lunch overlooking the river. It would have been easier in the short term to give it to her right then, but much more difficult in the long run, because we would have just taught her that if she just keeps at it long enough, we give in. We would have been reinforcing her behavior. Other than some clothes that were on sale for the kids, we didn't find anything at the mall to buy. On the way back, we purchased some matching wool capes for A and I that we had our eyes on, and a wooden tractor for Chompers. I ran into a pack of Irish wolf hounds and had to stop for a picture with them. 

Day 7
- My husband told me that we were taking a boat to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. I'm not sure exactly what I was picturing, but it was so much nicer than I was expect ing, and massive! It had 9 floors, a kids’ play room, a dance floor complete with live band, multiple shops and restaurants and my husband even sprung the 30 Euros for us to have our own room!! Even though it was only a 2 hour ride, father and son were able to nap, while A and I explored the different floors. 

It was a short cab ride to our hotel and I quickly realized that this city was unlike any other. walking around old town Tallinn was like stepping into a fairytale, complete with a medieval wall around the city and a Rapunzel tower. Our hotel was way beyond what I was expecting, and beyond what A was expecting because she asked if we could stay there again sometime, in the same room. Hotel rooms in all over Europe are much smaller than what we're used to in the states. I didn't realize that my husband booked suites for us, sort of necessary with needing space for the two children.

My husband loved the traditional Estonian food, which is mostly a lot of meat, and we did too! In the habit of ordering Italian food for the kids, I ordered a cheese pizza at one place, only to have her eat more of the crispy pork shank than we were expecting. We all went to bed excited to explore more tomorrow!

Day 8 - A and I had breakfast at the hotel while the boys slept before we all headed out to walk around Old Town. We explored a little open-air market with live music near the Gothic Town Hall that was built in the 13th century. A practiced hammering a nail, using a saw and asked Daddy to "Tell me about the bad guys" at least 25 times. She is very intrigued by the walls surrounding Old Town that kept them out, and wants to know where they are now. A restaurant with a wolf in the window and a pirate ship caught her eye, so we ate there for lunch. Although we ordered a margarita pizza, she didn't care for it and ate more of the fried pork shank! Later, we found some amazing views overlooking the city, and had dinner at a quiet place by the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. She had a blast feeding a sea gull some of her left-overs, with Dad's encouragement, and belly laughed when the bird swooped down to get it. C is now able to get himself up onto A's low couch/bed with no assistance and is pulling to stand even more. 

Day 9 - We spent the day wandering around Old Town and found a medieval festival that happens four days a year, and has been running for the past 20 years. A was so excited to watch the "bad guys" fight, and we kept seeing the men in armor walking around the city, which intrigued her. We had our hair braided and both kids took a turn riding a wooden horse to joust. After that, A and I went on a horse-drawn carriage ride. We had been planning to go on a tour in a rickshaw, and weren’t sure the carriage ride would be worth the extra euros. But it definitely was, because everyone looked at her and waved and smiled on the 20 min ride through town. She waved for quite awhile, but then said her wrist was tired. I told her that princesses have to get used to waving and showed her how the queen just rotates her wrist to conserve energy. I thought of Mom and hoped she was smiling down. 

A and I climbed the 115 steps to the top of the Town Hall belfry for some amazing views while C slept and Daddy relaxed with a beer. The steps at the top were narrow and steep; each went well above her knees! as we neared the top. She decided she definitely would not like to live in Rapunzel’s tower.
After descending, we walked around some antique shops while the kids slept, had the meat-feast for two at the same traditional restaurant and stopped off at a park on the way home.

Early flight tomorrow so it is just after 9pm and we’re all in bed! Excited to see Salzburg tomorrow!

Day 10 - Up early to fly to Salzburg! By far my favorite city on this trip!!! Our hotel is smack dab in the middle of everything, right on the green Salzach river (limestone), just below the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It is right by St Peter’s monastery/cemetery and the Salzburg Cathedral...where the same font that Mozart was baptized in still remains! There’s something incredible and unexpected around each corner! C and A were incredible today!! We set our alarm for 4:15am and woke them up when we’ve been sleeping every day until after 9! We had prepped A the night before, so groggy though she was, she got right up and got going. We had a 2 hour flight to Vienna and then an hour to Salzburg and C fell asleep just after takeoff both times! In spite of the fact they made me take him out of his cozy carrier. He fussed for about 3 seconds, then was back asleep. We had a little rain today, which was nice, but beautiful sunny skies later in the day. Probably just under 70, which is nice walking weather!

Day 11 - A and I and I took a class at a cooking school this morning. We made apple strudel and an egg white soufflĂ© called Salzburger Nockerl. She did so well! After class, we stopped by a playground on the river and experienced just how much more fun European playgrounds are!! Things like merry-go-rounds and seesaws that are hard to find in the states are basic staples here.

Day 12 - Today may have been the best day! We woke up early (7am) to grab a quick breakfast at the hotel before the short walk to our bus to Berchtesgarten and Eagle’s Nest. My husband was dreading the organized tour but it wasn’t too bad! We didn’t have to stick with the group, but because we were a part of them, we didn’t need to wait in line for any tickets. The panoramic views were unreal!

After Eagle’s Nest, we stopped for lunch in Bertchesgaden. Again, we would have liked more time! A and I bought coordinating Dirndls, and C even got a traditional outfit; his first pair of lederhosen. Autumn had a blast in a street fountain on the walk back to our hotel. "Mommy - I can run through the water?" she inquired, full of joy, and I couldn't say no. I try not to say no, unless I have a good reason. And "Your clothes will get wet" wasn't a good one. A slept on the bus ride home, so while father and son napped for a few hours, we went to Mozart’s birth house and museum. His family lived on a third floor apartment. We split a treat and had a lock engraved with our last name and the year to leave on the bridge.

Once N and C were up, we walked to her favorite playground with the merry-go-round and seesaw. Then we walked a bit further down the river to a brewery at a monastery founded in 1621!!! The Biergarten was unlike anything I’ve experienced! Food was good- a lot of different choices that seemed to be independently run.

We walked along the river around 930pm as the sun was setting for a beautiful view! Hoping to do less tomorrow, but it was an unforgettable day.

Day 13 - Today we started with our big (included) breakfast at the hotel and then wandered around for souvenirs. Went back to the cathedral to make sure I noticed which font Mozart was baptized in. It contains holy water still and we blessed ourselves. While everyone napped I ran 4 miles along the Salzach and found a bigger playground that we’re going to go to tomorrow. After nap, we took the funicular up to the fortress- built in 1621 and one of the largest preserved castles in Europe. We had dinner up there with panoramic views. I seem to have caught A’s cold and am a bit achy.

Day 14 - What an incredible last night in Salzburg!!! We attended the best Mozart music performance while being served a candlelit dinner in the Baroque Hall of the St. Peter monastery!! Oldest restaurant in Salzburg and I think Europe! I enjoyed it so much more than I ever expected!
By visiting our performance you will be taken back to Mozart’s time. Enjoy an evening likely to have taken place in 1790 - in the Baroque Hall lit by candles, having a dinner based on historical recipes, listening to a concert with musicians in authentic costumes and the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.“
The Baroque Hall St. Peter - let the majestic ambience enchant you The Mozart Dinner Concert takes place in the unique and historic atmosphere of St. Peter Stiftskulinarium. The Baroque Hall - with its stucco and frescoes - is a magnificent showpiece. St. Peter is part of the famous Benedictine monastery and is located in the oldest part of Salzburg. The Baroque Hall is one of the last concert halls in Salzburg where real candle light is still permitted. St. Peter Stiftskulinarium itself is the oldest restaurant in Europe first mentioned in 803. Even the Mozart family ate dinner here. In October 1783, Mozart´s sister "Nannerl" wrote in her diary: “Papa and Henry had lunch at St. Peter... made music ... rained heavily“. Composer Michael Haydn lived and performed music in the "Haydn Room". Our musicians often like to spend their breaks here while dinner is served to our guests in the Baroque Hall
My husband still loves to surprise me, so we were front and center - the only people in attendance with their own private table. All others had 8 chairs, but our table just had 4 and we were served different food. It was much fancier than I was expecting. And the food! It was amazing, although I do now feel slightly guilty knowing I had veal.
Although the dinner when until 9:45pm, both kids were amazing! We were prepared to take either of them out to the courtyard if they fussed, but they were transfixed:

Some prepping and bribing may have taken place with A beforehand, who now gets to watch as many movies on the plane ride home as she wants. It also helped that she had a fun morning exploring a large park without limitations and was able to run around and explore to her heart’s content. The park even had a little stream.

Toward the end, the female singer tapped and smiled at A as she walked up to the stage three separate times, eliciting a huge smile. A woman stopped me in the bathroom to tell me how well behaved they were, and an elderly British couple stopped us as we were leaving, saying they were the most well-behaved kids they had ever seen, and that they just couldn’t believe it. It is so nice that we can expose them to this! We never dreamed that we would be able to take them to something of this caliber at their ages!

Wearing his first pair of lederhosen. 
Again, don't be afraid to travel with your kids! We loved it so much that we've already booked next summer: Krakow and Croatia. I'm looking forward to a lifetime of travel with them.