Saturday, May 26, 2012

The adventure starts here

My little sister is getting married. I can hardly believe it! This is going to be such an exciting week! Little r and I headed to the States to spend the week before the wedding helping my sister with pre-wedding plans and hanging out with family and old friends.

The trip from Germany to Virginia was an adventure to say the least, but then I'm sure at this point you'd expect nothing less from us. Big R will be joining us a little closer to the wedding day because he needed to stay home for work. So, little r and I did the big journey across the Atlantic alone again (but we'll have Big R with us on the way home, thank goodness).

It was somewhat liberating to pack for this trip because for the first time in...FOREVER I planned to check a bag. So I was able to pack all that I needed without trying to squeeze a lot into a small bag and try to over think what to bring that wouldn't take up space. The carseat came with us because there is no other way to keep little r in his seat on the flight, so that meant I needed to pack my handy strap to attach it to the roller bag. Just about everyone on the trip noticed. It was kind of fun that so many people thought it was cool. Quite frankly, that strap is pretty darn cool. It was certainly a life saver for me on this trip.

My son is special. There's just no other way about it. On a 9-hour transatlantic flight, he slept only for the last 45 minutes. And no, I'm not kidding or exaggerating. I'm just happy that this time I didn't also have a screaming cat with us. We had no shortage of entertainment options, although little r was not in the mood to be entertained, so he kept things interesting. We managed to lose a shoe during a screaming fit to the bathroom, push the flight attendant call button at least half a dozen times, and we also had a puking episode that made the entire plane sympathize for us and come to my aid.

It's pretty amazing how wonderful people can be when you are in a situation like that. We got little r cleaned up and in fresh clothes. Of course when it happened I was sipping on a little wine the flight attendant comped me, reading my book, and little r had the iPad in front of him watching cartoons. That scenario makes for the need for a careful recovery and clean up. Poor little guy was just covered in puke. It just kept coming and coming. Something no loving mother likes to experience.

He finally sacked out with 45 minutes left in the flight. I had to plea for help to get everything off the plane because little r was not going to wake up for anything. He slept through customs - all 75 minutes of it - and was frustrated when I had to wake him up again to fight our way through security. Both lines were painfully long, so we nearly missed our flight from Charlotte to DC. It really is difficult to take an international flight back to the US when you don't fly direct. If you ever do it, give yourself well over 2 hours because I had 2 1/5 hours and it was barely enough.

Finally on the puddle jumper to DC, and we got stuck on the Tarmac for almost 2 hours. That is no fun. I really thought little r was going to cause us to bring the plane back to the gate. The plane was too small to bring the carseat on board and you think this crazy little bear would stay in his seat? Ha! No freaking way. He was a madman. Pretty darn cute when we were cleared for takeoff though. He cheered and clapped with the rest of the plane.

The second flight was short and sweet in comparison, and little r was so excited to see his papa. He helped me carry our bags to baggage claim and then ran his heart out to this older man when I said, "there's papa - go get him!" It was really funny. The older man said he almost inherited a grandson. Haha. And little r was so confused that his papa looked different.

We were finally at papa's house around 10 p.m. That was a long day for us considering we left for the Frankfurt airport at 7 a.m. in Germany. We got settled in, little r was snuggled up and in sleepy land, and my dad and I shared good conversation over a bottle of wine. It was a lovely end to a very hectic adventure.

Now we are in Richmond and we are running around checking things off of my sister's list. I have people around me helping absorb little r's manic craziness. Hopefully he'll start sleeping and eating better so my sweet little man can make an appearance on this trip. I'm optimistic ;)





Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Universe is trying to tell me something...

The "dankee" is my nemisis. It's plain and simple. Little r loves that hunk of cotton like no other, and I can completely understand the attachment being that I still have mine (try not to judge, it's just how things work sometimes). But lately, that cotton blanket has been putting my head into a tailspin. It actually hasn't given me much heartburn recently. The last time we lost the thing was last summer, and since then I keep ahold of it like nobody's business. When it comes up "missing" it's generaly found in the comparment of his firetruck, or stuffed into a box or corner somewhere, but it doesn't stay into hiding for long... 

Enter our insanity yesterday... Much to my objection, little r was NOT going to leave his dankee at home. He insisted that he bring it to kindergarten and that it stay there with him all day. It's not that this is forbidden or anything. I let him bring it to school occasionally - when he's sick, super tired, seemingly attached... The teachers at his kindergarten are awesome about helping him keep track of it. Even the other toys he insists on taking with him to school eventually find their way back home (ok, most of them do - some end up in other little boy's pockets and go home with them, but most return themselves to little r's bag).


Yesterday we had a different series of events unfold. When I picked him up, we went to grab his things and his dankee was not among them. Very strange. We did a quick search and then I asked one of his teachers if she had seen it. We tore apart that kindergarten. Trying hard to retrace every last step that little kid took. The likelihood was dim that some little kid went home with it. Unlike the cool cars little r brought to school, I can guarantee his dankee is a ragged mess (that usually smells just lovely) that not even a small child other than little r would find fascinating enough to bring home.


We had to leave without the dankee. My attitude was somewhat nonchalant. Until I let my mind ruminate on the idea as we walked home. Then it wondered into areas of my imagination I didn't want it to go. Reminding me things like, we are going on a two week vacation to the U.S. this week for my sister's wedding and no dankee ment...the thought was TOO painful. Let's just not go there.


Just before my heart was racing so hard I was close to cardiac arrest, the kindergarten called and said they had found it. Holy bananas! For all of you that sent good "finders" vibes this way, we thank you!


I'd like to say this post ends there, but, of course, that would be no fun at all. It's more interesting to know that we lost it again today. And no, it wasn't at kindergarten. I might have a few screws loose, but I'm not quite that stupid (or at least I don't think I am). No, this time the dankee was lost in the comfortable confines of my own home.


After yesterday, I was not letting that happy piece of cotton love out of my sight. It stayed here all day, and I was careful to watch little r with it every moment we were at home. My mind has been all but made up that there is rarely an occasion to bring the dankee out of our house. So, it didn't...leave our house, that is...


We were settling down for a little tv time before dinner, and little r asked for his dankee. "Well, where is it sweetheart?" "It's gone, Mommy." Ok, seriously, what does that mean? I immediately went on a search throughout the house looking for it. For nearly an hour I retraced every step I thought that little man made. I placed myself in the mind of a toddler, and, of course, that of the dankee as well, and tried with all my might to locate that....THING!!!


My pleas for help got me nowhere. Little r was too enthrawled with Curious George to realize we were amidst a tradegy. Oh, to have such bliss. I finally just gave up. I had turned my house inside out looking for that blanket, and I had absolutely nothing... nada, zilch. We were SO SCREWED!!! Yes, the universe is definitely trying to tell me something...


You most definitley noted that I used the word "were" so you know there is an end to this story. I tossed up my hands and headed into the kitchen to make dinner for little r. My hope was that taking a break would make it miraculously appear. The break had absolutely nothing to do with how that blanket was found.


I'm halfway through dinner prep and there it is...sitting inside the SILVERWARE DRAWER!!! Seriously?! Little r, you are no doubt going to be the end of me, buddy. No clue WHAT his dankee was doing in the silverware drawer, and my child with the otherwise brilliant memory had nothing to offer as to why it was there or what he was thinking when he put it there. We'll let this go, THIS TIME.


I'm just relieved we finally found it... I think I need to pin it to his shirt on our trip this week. It's liable to end up in the pilot's lap if I'm not careful...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Taking things to the next level

This seems to be my motto lately: Taking things to the next level. Being never satisfied with purely sitting still, but also realizing that the world cannot be conquered, I've been struggling to find a good balance. Something to keep my mind engaged and my body moving forward. I started to realized that when I took care of my body, my mind finds calm.

The Jamie Eason LIVEFIT fitness challenge not only got me to a happier weight, but I have found that I am now stronger and able to push myself in ways I was afraid to do before. The LIVEFIT challenge was all about weight lifting and spending innumerable hours in the gym. Believe it or not, I have not lifted a single weight, dumbbell or otherwise, since I finished that last fitness session. But that doesn't mean I have stayed still. Quite the contrary, I can no longer sit still. On those days I give myself a "rest" I feel lazy and bloated, which has been a great motivator to keep me active.

I have been running - A LOT. I have worked on my stride, and I push myself much harder than I have in the past. My running has improved dramatically. I also made a discovery that changed everything with regard to my training: my shoes. Seriously, running in shoes that are too small is a great way to discourage yourself from training. When I was doing all my marathon training (now almost a decade ago - holy crap!) I was incessant about having the "right" shoe. You can't run 26 miles in the wrong shoes - you just can't. I went to running clinics and had professionals look at my feet and watch me run, and I finally found the "perfect" pair of running shoes. I stuck with these shoes for all three marathons I completed and all of the training leading up to them. It was what my feet were comfortable in.

These perfect shoes can't work if they aren't the perfect size though. If you are doing something you normally love and you are in severe pain, your body is trying to tell you things need to change. I had ordered new running shoes during my LIVEFIT training, and I was so frustrated that they were too small. WAY too small. It dawned on me that those were the first pair I had ordered since little r was born, and when I measured my feet at a shoe store, I was faced with the nasty reality that my feet grew a whole size! Yeah, one of those fun little side effects of pregnancy. Why your feet grow when you are pregnant is beyond me. Must have something to do with preventing your body from falling over on your face.

Faced with the reality that I needed to order new running shoes (AGAIN), I decided that I should re-evaluate the shoes altogether. I overpronate (yeah, sounds like a TMI, right?) and the Brooks I had been running in were really aggressive to correct this issue. This time around I ordered trail runners and shoes that were a little less aggressive. These are my new FAVORITE shoes. Brooks Ravenna 3 - amazing!!! My feet are unbelievably happy. It is UNREAL how awesome it feels to run. I can push myself to levels I never knew before. Is it possible I ran all three marathons in the WRONG shoes? It is, and boy is that unfortunate. I'm just glad I discovered this before I wasted away this short amount of time we have here where I can run on all these awesome trails.

But it's not just the running that's keeping my mind calm, it's the yoga. I've been doing a lot of yoga lately. Not every day, like I would like, but pretty close. I have two dozen different yoga sessions downloaded on my iPod and I try to sneak in a session whenever I can - even if it's for 20 minutes. My friend, K, has also started teaching yoga at the gym on post, so I try to get to her class at least once a week if not more.

With my yoga though, I realized that I really wanted to take my practice to a different level. This is something I never thought I could do, but when you start practicing regularly and challenging yourself, it's amazing what your body is capable of. When K showed me how to do a headstand, my whole yoga world changed. It was amazing! Your body doesn't have to be flexible to become a yogini, you just have to practice yoga regularly and learn how to do these poses correctly.

K, as my savior and ultimate challenger, encouraged me to go to a yoga clinic at the last minute right when I returned home from my trip to Italy. It was a clinic taught by American yogini, Simon Park, and it was being offered at a yoga studio just outside of Nuremberg (which is less than an hour away). Big R told me I needed to do this and he'd make it work, and he did (man, I really love my husband!). Then this past weekend I attended another workshop taught by Gina Caputo. This was the best yoga of my life - hands down, the absolute best.

To all my yoga friends, have you ever gone to a workshop or yoga challenge? We did 2-3 hour yoga sessions, which seems like a lot (and I suppose it really is), but the luxury of time and the experience you put your body and mind through is like no other. I never thought this would be such a life-changing experience for me, and it truly was. I was able to achieve poses and arm stands I never before thought possible. I left the yoga studio feeling refreshed, calm, and my body carried with it a euphoria. The endorphins you release through your body doing an intense yoga session must be extreme because I felt phenomenal.

When we were in the middle of our strenuous class on arm balances with Gina Caputo, she had us doing a million exercise to "light our fire," which essentially translated into making our abdominals scream. The room was dripping and we were suffering through the intense abdominal exercises. So, she stopped us and gave one of the best motivational speeches I have ever experienced.

Gina said, "do you trust me? I need you all to trust me." She basically said that she is the instructor. She is trained to help us take our yoga to the next level. She knows it is difficult and challenging, so she needed us to trust that she wouldn't make us do something we weren't capable of doing. That we need to trust her and fight through the difficulties and focus on the breathing. To do what she said for as long as she asked us to, and not to give in or take a break until she says to. "Your mind will give you 108 reasons for stopping, don't listen to it," she said. "Your mind is lazy, but your body is strong. Trust your body, and ignore your lazy mind and work toward your challenge." It's crazy, but she was so right. She also told us that our minds need the challenge to avoid getting bored. We need to work toward something seemingly impossible and show our minds that we can achieve it. "If you tell yourself you can't do it, you are right. If you tell yourself you can do it, you are probably right." I fell in love with this woman. She was amazing and I wish I could afford to take her workshops all over the world! (I'm paraphrasing based on my memory, of course, so it's not ver batum, but it just sounds more powerful when I write it as her words.)

I hope to keep pushing myself. Running faster and longer, achieving new yoga challenges and attending more workshops and yoga classes. When your mind is calm, the other stresses that life inevitably brings feel easier. Life seems less hectic these days, even though I know in many ways it's more hectic than it has ever been. We have a crazy summer full of plans, including a big trip back home for a couple weeks for my little sister's wedding - YEEEEAAAAAHHH! I want to bring these calming activities with me. My running shoes and my yoga mat are finding their way into my suitcase - that you can count on.

What do you do to keep your mind calm?


Friday, May 18, 2012

Phones - our internal conundrum

I read an opinion column in the Times yesterday that a friend had posted on Facebook, and I quickly found myself "sharing" it on my wall with everyone. You might have had a chance to read it. The op-ed was about how our cell phones are getting in the way of good parenting. This is something I have been acknowledging for awhile, but seeing it in print really brought it front and center for me.

This girl is not going to lie, I am easily as addicted to my phone as the next gal, believe me. I don't find myself pining for it, but when it's around, I am obsessively checking it. It's almost like a brainwashing or a curse luring me to my phone to check text messages or see what the latest status is on Facebook. My talking time has decreased substantially since I moved to Germany though. I found myself on the phone so much when I lived in Virginia. Having a cell plan that had free minutes to those with the same cell carrier was a ticket for me to have full liberty to talk as much as I possibly could. This wasn't all a bad thing. It kept me in touch with those that I love, namely my mother and my sister and Big R, of course.

When little r came along, I noticed that my talk-time had to go down because he needed my attention, and rightfully so. Even today he is horrible about allowing me to talk on the phone. I don't do it much, and he despises it. He can be an angel all day and then unleash the furry the minute the phone touches my ear. To remedy this, I became an avid texter. Seriously, it's hard to believe sometimes how much I text my friends.

As horrible as it might be to face that truth, I can understand how we get this way, and why it can be difficult to stop. When little r was born, I was mostly alone. I'm sure this happens quite often to new mothers, and for me it was difficult. Big R was working incredibly long hours, my sister was excellent at keeping herself busy as well with all of her responsibilities, and most of my other friends were working. It's funny how we can let ourselves miss those social interactions especially when we are equally as busy with life ourselves.

Texting and messaging became my connection with the outside world. It was my way to not lose the adult in me or to share in my experiences with this precious new addition to my life. One of my closest friends in Virginia had her first baby within weeks of little r being born, and I think we kept our sanity primarily because we would text each other little tidbits all throughout the day - something to helps us remember we weren't doing any of this alone.

All that aside, I really despise how I let my phone own me. Don't you? It's almost refreshing when we go on these vacations outside of Germany and we're required to keep our cell phones turned off. Sometimes we are lucky with wi-fi in our hotel, but often we are not. It forces us to fall back into that world where people communicated in a different way. Not having our minds tied to our phones and the virtual world we have become so addicted to keeps us focused more on our travels and adventures. It keeps us from sharing things probably not worth sharing, and forces me to take pause and think through the parts of our adventures that everyone would love to hear about. Believe me, some of our adventures could create a three-page rant, that is much more fun and hilarious when widdled down to a short paragraph.

Next week little r and I head back to the U.S. to start two weeks of wedding mania. It's going to be an insanely excellent time, and I can hardly wait. While we are there though, my cell phone will be turned off. Except for the occasional wi-fi connection while we are at home, I'll be giving myself a much needed virtual vacation. I think my mind could use the cleanse, couldn't yours? Maybe it'll help me let go a little bit so I can recover from this "chatting" obsession. Or maybe not :)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The weekend according to my iPhone

We've been a busy crew this past weekend. Luckily, we had our iPhones with us for most of it, so we were able to capture our weekend in pictures. So, I thought it would be fun to share a few with you...

We started out the weekend driving to Heidelberg for the JAG Military Ball. Not too many people from Bamberg made the trek out there, but my friend, K, and her husband were there, so we had a great time.

We didn't stay in Heidelberg after the Ball, so I stayed up talking nonsense with Big R while he drove us home and little r slept.

We had a late night with a long drive home, so we spent much of the next day cuddling.

And because it was such a beautiful day, Big R thought the perfect Mother's Day evening would be a bike ride to a local Keller (or beer garden for those Americans among us), called Weiher. The beer received the gold star in Germany last year and the Keller was awesome. It was surrounded by beautiful landscape that reminded me so much of home in Vermont, there was a playground and a petting zoo, and the food was so German we loved it. It was a perfect end to a relaxing day.

The next day we had a parents day, or Elternstag, at little r's kindergarten. After having some yummy cake the kids made for us, we got to watch little r play with his friends.

That night the local church had a service in parade fashion - outside walking down the street - band and all. We have the coolest experiences here. It was such a unique thing to see that I whisked little r out of his bath so we could watch the procession down the street...

And today we snuck in a walk between storms and naps and sneezing and runny noses. Both little r and Rani were happy for the escape.

How was your weekend?


Friday, May 11, 2012

Do For Yourself Day...

I'm in a rut.  No clue why, I mean I really shouldn't be.  My crazy toddler is finally getting some sleep and somewhat returning to normal, the weather is beautiful, and my life is good.  I have a dozen projects unfinished that need attending to, articles writing themselves in my head that need to come to life on the computer, events to plan, emails to write and respond to, a house to clean, German to learn, a book club book that I need to finish, flights to book, and travel arrangements to make.  Yet, what am I doing?  I'm sitting on my porch cuddled up on our new couch, reading blogs and catching up on the news while drinking tea and enjoying the sunshine.

Yep, my motivation to do anything productive is out the window today.  Somewhere between preparing invites and hanging laundry my mind decided I needed a day off.  Not a bad thing, I suppose, but definitely an unproductive thing.  I feel lately like I've being in this mode of "go, go, go" and I am giving myself no time to enjoy the present.  Do you every do this?  I'm sure you do, we ALL do.

I declare today a "Do For Yourself Day."  Take a moment, whether it's five minutes or five hours and let your mind go, breathe deep, and tell yourself it's ok to be unproductive.  If you do this, you'll feel better, and I'll have company :)

Here is my view this morning.  Want to join me for a cup of coffee?  We can talk life or just listen to the birds. Either way I promise it will be lovely.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Venice: Canals dreams are made of

Venice is an amazing city, there is no doubt about it. There is no wonder it is one of the top ten most visited cities in the world. Its reputation precedes it, and it does not disappoint. In a mere five minutes you can cross no less than half a dozen canals all picturesque and right out of your dreams.

My memories of Venice were all good ones. I traveled here with my best friend after college back in the late 90's, and we fell in love with Venice. We were young and broke, and quite honestly exhausted of the tourist travel by the time we reached Venice. So when we arrived by train, we road the vapporetti (the public boat "bus") for easily two hours and enjoyed all the views provided from the main canal. We were interested in doing anything that wasn't tourist related, so we traversed the streets and found ourselves sitting on the edge of the canal talking to local Italian men for hours before finding a local restaurant for dinner and hopping the night train to Munich. It was a great day in Venice.

The trip we took last week was both different and the same. Having little r in tow for this trip made things interesting. He was just downright tired of traveling. Despite getting good sleep at night, he wasn't napping, and frankly, we were all pretty exhausted, so how could we blame him?

But it was Venice! How could we go wrong in Venice, I mean, really? The weather was nice with a pending storm looming, but it was a bit overrun with tourists the day we were there. I didn't really expect anything less, so we just took it all in and tried not to lose little r in the crowds.

We visited San Marcos Square and saw St. Mark's Bascilla (well, Big R did, little r and I waited outside and enjoyed people watching)...

Big R captured a bird in flight crossing in front of the Bascilla.
The detail on this ancient church was breathtaking.
The ceilings were lined with gold, of course.
And the floors were made up of mosaic tiles.
we went to the top of the Campanile bell tower to get amazing views of Venice (unfortunately this was one tower we didn't get to walk up - the elevator is the only way up this tower)...

Campanile bell tower
St. Marcos Square

we chased the birds in St. Marcos Square (easily little r's favorite part of the day)...

and we attempted lunch and enjoyed some gelato (we were in Italy afterall!). Little r had other ideas in mind when it came to lunch, and it's the first time in I can't tell you how long we had to take turns leaving the cafe because he was putting on a theatrical performance. The Italians love children though, so before we knew it, we had men entertaining little r with talking lobsters and singing fish. Never a dull moment in our travels...

We wandered through the streets of Venice and got terribly lost with all the other tourists. I'm thinking that tourists holding maps and pointing at buildings is a common occurrence, and the locals undoubtedly get a little tired of giving directions. But my goodness is that island confusing! Even Big R with his navigational skills couldn't figure out where we were. At least we weren't in a hurry, and getting lost doesn't mean much when you aren't looking for something in particular, so we just enjoyed our excursions down the local streets and Big R took a lot of pictures.

Beautiful balconies
Elegant canals
Big R's skillful photography puts this setting in the early 1900's
Only in Venice can a photograph in front of someone's underware be considered glamorous
More canals...
The main canal in Venice
A gondola ride was initially in our plans, but at 80 EUR for an hour and eminent rain (and a screaming toddler) deterred us this time around. Instead we took a gondola ride on one of the canal crossings. It was actually pretty fun. For 0.50 EUR you could get a trip from one side to the other (there are only a few bridges that cross the main canal). So, technically we got our gondola ride. Isn't it romantic?

The navigational signs finally started leading us in the right direction (I have a feeling we weren't the first tourists to get horribly lost in Venice), and before we knew it we were looking at the train station. Our plan was to check the train schedule and then find a canal-side restaurant to enjoy an early dinner before heading back to Vicenza. Unfortunately, little r again had other ideas. While Big R was in the station, little r had a meltdown of colossal proportions. I seriously have never experienced a tantrum with him that was this awesome. We were surrounded by hundreds of people, which translates into thousands of eyes staring us down. It was pretty incredible. I was waiting to get arrested because clearly I was torturing him, obviously since he was screaming like I was trying to kill him. Yeah, not one of his shining moments. Oh well, we all have them...

Many tears later (from both of us), and Big R returned. It didn't take long for us to decide that heading home would be the best option. So, that's exactly what we did. You'd be surprised to know that he was awake the entire ride back to Vicenza and was even CRAZY. We were glad to be home, and I think little r was, too.

Overall Venice is an amazing place. I think it's a place that is best visited in a romantic way though, either with a loved one or a best friend. You should go and stay for a couple days so you can enjoy Venice away from the daily tourists that flock the town. It's pretty manic and the heavily touristed areas definitely rub the locals the wrong way. You could feel it in the mood. I'm sure this disappears in the wee hours of the morning or late into the night. Man, Venice would be a fabulous place to see after dark. Yes, I highly recommend Venice, just don't bring a toddler. It's doable, but it's not the best way to see this amazing city.

We capped off the night with yet another bottle of wine purchased at the PX - it was Italian, but again probably flown in from California. This time Big R joined me on the bathroom floor as we ate fritos and drank our wine. Not exactly glamorous, nor was it the canal-side dinner we were hoping for, but at least we were sharing it together. Somehow that made everything seem just that much better...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Verona, my love

There was something about Verona that got to me. It might have been the time of year, the perfect weather, or my mood, but I quickly fell in love with this northern Italian city. I was so disappointed that Big R wasn't there to share it with me. I know he would have fallen for its charm as well.

Verona is a quick train ride from Vicenza, and there was no question that it was going to be on my itinerary. I was a little timid to take on the adventure when I read that the train station sits rather far south of the city center. I wasn't sure how much adventure I had left in me. I am so glad I didn't get spooked because to have missed Verona would have been a shame.

And adventure it was. Of course it was, how could a day dealing with trains, buses, castles, arenas, tourists, and a teething toddler NOT be an adventure. The day before I had scoped out the train station in Vicenza so that I could remove some of the mystery that awaited my day. I already had the buses figured out and the train scheduled showed at least 3, if not 4, trains an hour heading to Verona. Unfortunately, I missed the bus stop for the train station, and got stuck walking nearly a mile to back track. Don't ask how this happened, it just did. I literally bought our train ticket the minute the next train was leaving, so THAT certainly was not going to happen, especially not with the stroller. The next "ride" to Verona was in 20 minutes, which wasn't the issue. The issue, according to little r, was that it was a bus and NOT a train that we'd be taking to Verona. Oh, the disappointments we experience as a little one. The bus ride ended up being pretty swell. I was able to toss the stroller underneath the bus and forget about it until we got there and we sat next to this nice Italian man that didn't speak a lick of English but smiled and played with little r the entire way there.

Once in Verona, the local bus system didn't take long to figure out. Many of the lines are designed to shuffle all the tourists downtown, so you could take one of many to get where we were going. Our first impression of Verona was the Arena, and what an impression it was!

Arena di Verona is a Roman Amphitheatre that was built in 30 AD when this location was still outside the city walls.

At the height of its era, the Arena could host up to 30,000 people. It is still used today for operatic performances and is known famously for its acoustical genius as no microphones are needed. You can see all of the more modern seating for these performances in red.

And the Romans always did know how to do things right. They were sure to provide excellent views from the top. Here is one of many.

It's a shame (again) that Big R wasn't with us so he could work his photographic prowess. My photographic skills are hanging out somewhere with my navigational skills - both would have been handy on this trip. You could climb all the way to the top, but the staircases were precarious and slick (especially with flip-flops), so my eyes were peeled on watching little r.

We walked around Piazza Bra where the Arena is located and took in the brilliant energy.

Piazza Bra is connected to Piazza delle Erbe by Via Mazzini, which is a pedestrian street lined with shops and cafes. Everything felt very swanky and very Italian. The details on the buildings were like eye candy and all of the balconies were draped with flowers and greenery.

Piazza delle Erbe quickly became one of my favorite Piazzas. I have no idea what this square is like on an average day, but the day that little r and I were in Verona, a market filled the Piazza. The stands were selling all the Italian fare you'd expect to see, but my favorite was the fresh fruit being sold sliced and mixed in a cup. It was a perfect snack for a warm spring day.

We stopped for lunch and sat outside to do some people watching in the Piazza. We had pizza, of course, and I had a lovely glass of wine. I wish I could say that the lunch was "lovely" as well, but little r had other ideas and it was anything but relaxing. I had them pack up his leftover pizza and I was so glad I made that decision because he ate the entire thing throughout the course of the day.

My hope that little r would sleep with a full stomach never came true, unfortunately, but he did behave well enough that we were able to see the insides of a few churches and visit many of the sites. Verona is a great city to just take in, and that's exactly what we did.

Juliet's balcony
My valiant attempts to get little r to nap in the stroller failed miserably. I was surprised by how little he asked to get out of the stroller though. I really expected that to be a much larger battle. One of the few times I did let him roam free I regretted it because his feet weren't on the ground two seconds and he was running down the street. If you have never been to Italy let me just say this, the drivers are a tad bit CRAZY here, so the last thing you want is a toddler on the loose. Yikes, yeah, I was freaking out. I left the stroller behind and started chasing him down. When I did finally catch him, but flip-flops slid across the thick cobble stones of the road and my feet went right out from under me. WABAM! Yeah, that left a pretty mark on my knee. I locked him back in the stroller and put on a pretty face. The last thing I was interested in was a repeat. Instead we found ourselves back at Piazza Bra in a super family friendly restaurant enjoying some "juice" and people watching until I felt rested enough to attempt the adventure back to Vicenza.

With a crown on his head and a balloon in his hand, we were ready to find a bus to the train station. The next train would be in 30 minutes so we took our time and got to the platform to wait. I opted to pay a little extra for the fast train, which also meant we had assigned seating. We were in Car 009, so I stood at the end of the platform. It was, of course, the wrong end, so when the train arrived, I had to sprint from one end of the platform to the other praying people would get out of my way. Then the balloon went flying, little r started screaming, and my panic button was pushed when I got the stroller collapsed and couldn't figure out how I was going to get us all up the narrow steps onto the train. A nice a Italian man helped me, and I didn't even bother looking for our seats. I plopped down in the first row I saw and the train rolled forward. Phew! Talk about cutting things close!

The train ride was a nightmare with little r, but he passed out as soon as we got on the bus to head home. He didn't wake up again until the next morning - hardly even budged when I put him to bed. Guess he was a tired little man :) I again ate trail mix and drank wine on the floor of the bathroom for dinner. Big R was stuck in court really late. I'm pretty sure he finally walked in after the midnight hour, but I didn't mind because it meant they were DONE and we got to spend the next day in Venice together. I had been seriously missing my partner in crime.