Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Autumn Vacation 2014, Part 1 - Vienna

Early in October we left for a real vacation, out of the Middle East and into Europe! We were excited to have a break and just relax, see green grass and be in a more refined society. It didn't disappoint.

I thought this was traveling light.

Daniel did okay on the flight, Benjamin was great.

Because most of our vacation trips have been back to the States, I had forgotten what it was like to travel without jetlag. It was delightful to have only one flight of a little over three hours and then be at our destination. We got into Vienna about 7pm and had a taxi waiting for us, since car seats are mandatory and I didn't want to fool with bringing ours as we weren't renting a car.

Leaving our AirBnB apartment. The building was a little sketchy, but we ended up loving it.

First morning in Vienna, breakfast at a coffeehouse, Cafe Jelinek.

Amazing being able to walk on real sidewalks and have good public transportation.

I really enjoyed using my German. I thought I would get laughed at to my face and they would speak English to me, but I was able to converse in a basic way and it felt amazing to be in a place where I could read signs and get my point across in the local language. Now I'm ready to live in Germany or Austria at any time.

Pretty staircase in the apartment building.

Ready to go!

The living room of our apartment. Notice the table's sharp corners, not great for Daniel who's a wobbly walker.

There was so much light! A really great home base.

Pretty much as soon as Daniel turned one he started walking. It took him maybe a week to be completely comfortable and not want to be held for too long. He's all about walking, which is much earlier than Benjamin who waited until he was 16 months. It was good timing, he could walk around in the grass at the parks. It was glorious to be in pretty parks and have lush grass all around us.


I want to live in Vienna so badly now.

We didn't have a big itinerary for sightseeing, since we had the kids. I had one thing planned for each day, which ended up being the right level of activity. One day we did the Museum of Natural History, another we went to the zoo. We also visited the Wurstelprater, an amusement park. Our apartment was convenient to two U-bahn lines, and I'm now convinced that Vienna has the best public transport system in the world. We rode during the week and on the weekends, trains consistently came at most 6 minutes apart. Everything was stroller-friendly, except for the oldest trams. No turnstiles, you just buy your ticket and prepare to show it if asked. Seamless. The Metro in DC is a joke compared to the Vienna system.

Benjamin was scared of the dino skeletons at the Museum of Natural History.

And this Allosauraus was animatronic, causing all children present to freak out and cry hysterically.  

Daniel was unfazed.

Enjoying a hearty lunch of schnitzel at the amusement park. We noticed lots of people in native dress, and found out later that's just what some people like to do on the weekends, get dressed up and go out.

This is inside the Prater amusement park.

The park was really fun, here we're waiting on the Liliputbahn, a tiny train that goes around the park.

Just enough room for the stroller.

Fun on the tiny train.

Benjamin was excited for the ride, where horses pull carriage-things. He started crying as soon as it started.

On the Riesenrad.

Views of Vienna.

The Wurstelprater from high up.

Catching some sights.

One thing I wished we'd spent longer at was the zoo. It's on the grounds of the palace and is lovely. There are lots of exhibits and you could spend a full day, if your children were cooperative.

On the Schönbrunn grounds, heading toward the zoo.

The weather was amazing while we were there, cool and sunny.

Hello, koala!

Huge hippos.

Benjamin loved the zoo!


Baby elephant!

The Vienna Zoo is beautiful, we didn't get to see everything because it's huge.

The polar bears were very active, playing with their large white ball.

This was Benjamin's favorite item of the trip, he kept asking to look at his map.

Impressed, as always.

While we ate lunch, this peacock sauntered by.

The boys enjoyed the park inside the zoo.

For one euro, you can control the machine and move some dirt.

Worth it!

We did a little "train" (bus) tour around the palace, since we knew the boys wouldn't last for the real thing. Here's the Gloriette.

A view of the palace from the Gloriette.

We ate at some fun places, the most unusual was probably Yak and Yeti, a Nepali/Tibetan place. It was tasty and about 20 yards from our apartment. We also got some delicious pretzels while we walked around the zoo. There are bakery stands every so often, and you can get a delicious sandwich easily. I can see myself living well in Vienna, if given the opportunity. We stayed for five nights in Vienna and then traveled to Budapest by train, which is the subject of my next post.

Brothers on vacation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Daniel is One!

Today is Daniel's first birthday. His entrance into the world was documented here, if you're interested.

We had a low-key day, hanging out at home. I picked up Thomas from work and got home to find the Domino's delivery guy at the door. We had a fun pizza dinner (Benjamin's favorite food) and cupcakes for dessert. Benjamin did want one, and then didn't, but at least Daniel enjoyed his.

After a short bath interlude it was present time. I had thought we'd toned down the gifts, but he had a lot to open. This is a good reminder that we need to streamline before Christmas and only have one gift from us (the parents). Daniel didn't seem overwhelmed but Benjamin got a little cranky, despite getting a present of his own from Grandma.

Benjamin "gave" Daniel the racetrack.

It's crack cocaine for babies and kids.

It's a book!

Thanks for the cool rocket and book, Aunt Priscilla and Uncle Trevor!

We gave him a book and some fun little blocks.

Naturally the best part is the wrapping.

Mimi and Papa sent the bug jug and Tobbles!

Benjamin also enjoys the rocket.

The toys are taking over.

It's been a full year with two kids, and even though it's tricky at times, I'm so thankful that God blessed us with Daniel. He's fully boy, loves cruising around and laughing. He's got four teeth on the top and two on the bottom, with two more top teeth almost through.

Someone wants to walk so badly.

As for what we've been up to the past couple months, I decided early in July that it was time to really buckle down and get Benjamin potty trained. We did a full week almost of having a timer go every 10 minutes, then every 15, 20 etc. He's done pretty well, since we'd been reading potty books and had the seat and everything since over a year ago it wasn't a new concept. But man, he still has consistently damp underwear. He'll sit on the potty to poop, and has had only one accident so far. But he'll get busy playing or watching a movie and just have a big spot. I have to tell him to go sit on the potty, which he does, but it's pretty annoying to run through every pair of underwear in a day. (I've ordered more, which should bring us up to about 30 pairs.)

I know it takes time and I'm trying not to let it bother me. I've started putting him in pullups when we leave the house because the stress of changing outfits ten times was wearing on me. Here's hoping when he starts preschool (this week!) he'll see that all his new friends are potty trained and it will click.

School really snuck up on me. I'm excited for him to go and make friends and have a little more structure to his mornings, but it'll be very strange. I'm hoping to take Daniel to some playgroups and I am looking forward to more one-on-one time with him. I think his language is slower to develop because Benjamin is constantly talking to me and I feel like any time it's quiet I just want to enjoy it and not create conversations with the baby. But I know I need to make the effort and it'll be easier when I'm not running to help Benjamin with the potty.

Eleven months to go! We need to get started on our Jordan experiences. And there's still time left for you to visit! We cleaned the guest room today, so book your tickets.