Monday, April 25, 2016

Oliver: 7 months

Here we are.. month 7!.. now more than half way through Oliver's first year.. WOW!
This month has been very eventful as far as milestones go.. Oliver has become increasingly interested in toys and is very interactive; he plays with his sisters ALL THE TIME and I can finally see some real exchanges between them...it's the most adorable thing and I love to see how protective they are of him and also very helpful!
Oliver "talks" (more like babbles) A LOT.. he says dadda, mama, bah bah and many other cute baby words that I can't get enough of, it's so entertaining to talk to him and hear him respond and smile. 
He can roll, scoot, sit up, grab things, feed himself pieces of food and is basically eating EVERYTHING (except for nuts, honey and citrus); I am really happy with our decision to skip baby food and go straight to table food, I feel like feeding him is so easy and he has really caught on the concept of chewing, biting and swallowing all kinds of foods... so far his favorites include avocado, pasta, bread, chicken, mushrooms and cheese.


Oliver has also mastered the "all fours" position and can rock back and forth.  Sometimes (by fluke), he will put one hand in front of the other but I don't think he understands what crawling means just yet.  I will be honest and say that I'd rather him hold off a bit with the crawling because I'm already exhausted as it is without having to chase him around....


He is currently 21 lbs and 28 inches long, wearing size 9 or 12 months (depending on the brand) and STILL successfully breastfeeding exclusively; he still nurses every 2-3 hours and our bond is stronger than ever! ;)


Now on to the "ugly" part... Oliver STILL doesn't sleep through the night...he is such a nightmare when it comes to sleeping.  We still struggle to put him down for the first stretch of the night and after that he is up every two hours (sometimes even less!) and wants to eat every time.  He is also VERY demanding and wants to be held ALL THE TIME!! We are beyond exhausted and sometimes I wonder how God thought I'd be able to handle another baby because he tests my patience more often than not and I get so desperate when I can't figure out how to get him to calm down.
Yes he is smiley and sweet but he can also be the whiniest and crankiest baby sometimes and those are the times when I wonder if my life would be better without him in it... I realize that sounds horrible, but that's what sleep deprivation does to a mom and I gotta be honest with myself because it is NOT always rainbows and butterflies with these squishy babies...
We recently purchased a king size bed because as horrible as it sounds (for some!), we still share a bed with Oliver and I can't see an end to this habit since he won't sleep anywhere else! :/  I will admit to the fact that I love the baby cuddles, especially now that there's room for everyone in our huge bed! ;)

With all that said, I still love my baby and I feel so blessed to have him in our lives. He brings so much joy to our family and I can't wait to see him turn into a wonderful boy and amazing man. 

Happy 7 months, Oliver! We love you!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tales from Europe- Part 2

I've slacked majorly with writing about our recent trip to Europe, but I will go ahead and post Part 2 of it because I want to remember every little thing in a few years and this is a great way to do that!

The third city we visited was Vienna, Austria, which is probably the most regal of all the places we saw so it was a good contrast because it is also such a modern yet classic place; we really enjoyed our stay in Vienna. 
Vienna was SO clean...probably one of the cleanest places I've ever seen which made it such a "walkable" place and very easy to navigate.  By the time we got to Vienna, the weather was already warming up and the days were the most perfect. This city was also the most expensive one of all and probably the second (after Budapest) with less people willing to speak English so Iggy got to practice some of his German skills, which was very fun to watch to say the least! :)
I also noticed that Vienna was the most diverse city, as far as nationalities and cultures observed. 
Here's Iggy in front of our hotel...

Again..tour buses were a hit; the ones in Vienna were specially clean and organized.. we really loved them...

Here we are at the famous Belvedere Palace, such a beautiful place filled with so much history...


I love this picture of the kids at the famous Belvedere Gardens, a very kid friendly spot.. they had so much fun running around this historic place. 


Here's Gaby and I at Schwarzenbergplatz, a very beautiful spot in Vienna with one of the biggest fountains in the city... the day was simply amazing...


Oliver really enjoyed the tour buses, he was so chill the whole time and even  used the headsets at some point...


And I just love this picture of the famous Prater in Vienna, a hot spot for both tourists and locals.  If you ever visit this wonderful city, don't miss this peculiar attraction which features hundreds of attractions, stores and restaurants.  We really enjoyed our time there... 


After Vienna, we headed to our final city, the wonderful Budapest. I will admit to the fact that my expectations for Budapest were the lowest and I only added this destination to our itinerary because it made our trip cheaper (go figure!). By the time we had to go to Budapest, the kids were already tired of trains, hotels and planes and were asking to go home but the prospect of a new city excited all of us and we HAD to visit anyways because that's where our trip was supposed to end. 
And let me just say WOW! I simply LOVED this place and (after Prague) it was my favorite of all. I had heard Budapest is a "magical" place and no words can describe how beautiful it is and how glad I am to have had the opportunity to visit it. 


Budapest had the BEST food of all places and we were lucky to try some typical dishes such as Langos, Goulash, potato pancakes and many more. I really love how my girls (especially Olivia) are so adventurous when it comes to new foods; some of these new flavors were simply fascinating. 


Budapest also had the best weather of all four cities; we were able to take off our sweaters and walk around without being cold. The architecture was impressive and we specially enjoyed our visit to the Hungarian Parliament building, which is the 2nd largest in Europe (after the English Parliament in London). Here's a family picture at the Parliament. 


Family enjoying a nice walk in Budapest... Iggy was a champ at baby wearing.. go daddy!


Here are the girls in front of the famous Bridge of Chains, one of the many bridges that connect Buda to Pest...


We went on the funicular to the Buda Castle and enjoyed some of the most amazing views of the city. 


Here we are on our Danube River cruise, which allowed us to tour the whole city via boat and was the perfect addition to our trip...
Not many people spoke English in Budapest so communicating was a bit more challenging. The city was fairly cheap because Hungary has its own currency (the Forint) and the exchange rate was very beneficial to us... 


And as a bonus, here's a couple of pictures of Oliver on the plane during our last flight (almost 13 hours long!). By the time we were on this flight, he was SO done! He was tired and cranky but even then he was able to keep it together for the most part... such a good boy!


Some of the things I learned about traveling with a baby (or traveling in general):
- Pack light... as light as you possibly can. All our train transfers and adventures were slightly easier because we didn't bring unnecessary things and I still believe we could have done better. 
- Baby wearing is the bomb! Because we brought our Tula carrier, it was so much easier to haul Oliver and the kids around; he would sleep and eat in the carrier and we walked a lot faster when we didn't have to push the stroller
- Bring a SMALL stroller if needed. Before I went on the trip, a friend of mine suggested a cheap tiny Walmart stroller, which was probably the biggest hit. In my mind, I would be able to dispose of it had it become an inconvenience (it was $20). We didn't have to get rid of it so that's a good thing!
- Pack lots of snacks!  Trains snacks can be expensive so packing some kid friendly snacks is a must if you want to avoid overspending.
- Drink LOTS of water. Walking around can be so exhausting and getting dehydrated is always a possibility so carrying water bottles around is imperative when touring big cities. 
- Have pocket change and cash in hand. There's a lot of "cash only" places/stores in these cities so carrying some cash allows for easy shopping and less frustration in case you really want to buy something at some of these spots...and have change for the restrooms too, because most of them have a fee!
- Plan your days but allow for flexibility.  The truth is, kids get tired and there will be days when they're not up to a jam packed itinerary so it's always a good idea to have some flexibility and understand that a slower pace might be better some days but have some plan anyways.
- Check the weather daily! Weather can be very volatile so knowing what kind of day is ahead is crucial when planning your daily attire.  There were days when we didn't check and we were stuck carrying heavy coats that weren't necessary or needing an extra layer that we didn't put on. 
- Buy souvenirs throughout!!! Lots of friends and family really appreciate small souvenirs so buying little things every day will make it easier so you don't have to rush at the last minute. There are lots and lots of souvenir stores in Europe and they feature the cutest little things so shop away!
- Take LOTS of pictures! I'm sure everyone agrees with this one but I feel compelled to remind you. Besides your mental images, pictures are the only tangible memories to bring back from a trip.  It is such a pleasure to look back at pictures and reminisce of wonderful times. 

I feel so blessed to have had (yet again!) the opportunity to travel with my family. And since some people were asking, I will say that I don't regret taking Oliver and even I got so many comments on how "crazy" I was to take him on such long trip, I am so happy we did because even though he won't remember this trip one bit, the rest of us will and that is something that nobody can take away!
Looking forward to our next trip and I hope you enjoyed reading our tales from Europe! ;)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Tales from Europe- Part 1

This is Part 1 of my overdue post from our most recent Europe trip, which definitely deserves to be written because the trip was pretty epic, considering we flew across the Atlantic with a 6 month old baby and all! 
We are, admittedly, travel addicts and getting to know new places is our guilty pleasure; now, traveling as a family of 5 is a whole new level of awesome and we thoroughly enjoyed our two weeks in the old continent with our crew. 
This time around we were lucky to visit 4 amazing cities; Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Budapest and for the purposes of this post I will focus on the first two. 
I will start by saying that traveling with Oliver was much easier than I imagined; I will admit to the fact that on the weeks days leading up to the trip I was starting to doubt myself and feel that I was crazy to even think of taking a baby to such far places and such long trip; I was seriously having nightmares about the plane ride, train travels and everything having to do with the trip but thankfully my baby proved me wrong and things were a breeze. 
Berlin was COLD! To us Floridians, the 30's are definitely unknown territory so we were bundled up the whole time we were there. I wore Oliver most of the time and he remained warm and cozy next to his mama and sleeping away in our Tula carrier. I discovered that Germans, although not the sweetest people, are very kind to babies and their mothers; I enjoyed their cordiality everywhere we went. We got to visit historic places such as the remains of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate and other famous spots in the German capital. 
A few things about Berlin:
- Ice is a foreign concept...what??! I could never enjoy a cold beverage and most places offered NO ICE at all! This is terrible for the ice lover in me...
- Metro tickets are not checked- gotta love the German honor system.. I don't think that would ever fly here!
- Supermarket bags aren't free, I'm sure all my "green" friends would support this idea..you want a plastic bag for your groceries? Then you can pay for it!
- No soda refills.. I'm sure it's like that pretty much across Europe, but still awful to me
- Public restrooms aren't free! This is another European thing I always have issues with. Why would people get charged to use the restroom?? Sometimes even as much as a Euro ($1+) and if you don't have change, you're basically screwed because restrooms have a fee even in shopping malls.. Not cool, Europe.. not cool! (kids don't pay so I guess that was a plus)
I really love that the kids learned so much about history during this trip; they really showed genuine interest about the history of the Berlin Wall and the wars and we really enjoyed teaching them about it. I'm a strong believer in exposing the kids to new places and cultures as early as possible.
Here they are learning about East and West Berlin and the location of the Wall. 


About to start our tour of the Berlin Wall


Iggy "crossing" the Wall


The girls being tourists in Berlin..


Family at the Brandenburg Gate


..and the girls with the Bear, which is the mascot of Berlin.  There are literally hundreds of bears around the city, all painted with a different theme.  The girls enjoyed finding new bears all over the place and taking pictures with each of them.  This was one of the highlights of this city. 


Our second city was Prague, which is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Prague has the most beautiful buildings, bridges, lakes, churches, etc.  We got to Prague via train, which I must say is an amazing way to travel with kids.  
Trains in Europe are like metros on steroids since they combine the convenience of metro platforms and the comfort of a train. Arriving 30 minutes prior to departure time is more than enough so this makes traveling much easier. Trains also feature small snack bars, clean restrooms, private cabins (optional) and curtains to block out the light.  The kids really enjoyed the train travels and so did we. 
Here they are with daddy arriving at the Prague train station.  


Some things about Prague:
- People are pretty rough around the edges; I thought many of them were quite rude and not very welcoming, especially considering how touristic Prague is. 
- Not very many spoke English but most of them at least tried. Czech can be a very difficult language to understand...
- Again.. NO ICE.. omg! Next time I'm bringing my own ice machine
- Fast food places have no trash cans but rather a tray storage system for people to just leave them there to be picked up
- Bathrooms aren't free! This seriously drives me nuts.. but in Prague was even worse than in Berlin because even kids were charged for restrooms! Even McDonald's charged for restrooms for its customers.
- The Czech local currency (Koruna) made for very CHEAP things. I guess the exchange rate worked in our favor and this one one of the cheapest places we visited. Score!

Tour buses are amazing when traveling with kids; they make for an easy way to get to know the whole city by exploring the main highlights and you can go at your own pace. Hop On Hop Off buses also offer voice narration in many languages, which makes for an even more entertaining journey. In most cases, kids are free and  prices are fairly affordable.  We used these tour buses in every city and they were a real hit!


Here's the family at Prague Castle, one of the most iconic buildings in this beautiful city. 


The kids being tourists in Prague.  These fellas were hilarious and earned their tip by making the girls feel like real queens with all their props...This picture will turn into a classic in no time. 


Prague had the most amazing views and the weather was warmer than Berlin, which made for way more comfortable days for this tropical family. 


I got to fulfill one of my life long dream of visiting the Infant of Prague at the Church of Our Lady Victorious.  Not only did I get to visit this amazing place, but we also got to attend Easter mass there and enjoy the wonderful vibe that filled the whole place.  What a blessing!


Celebrating Easter in Prague was pretty epic; we enjoyed one of the most perfect days and spent some time at Old Town Square, one of the most visited spots in the city. 


Prague's architecture was breathtaking.  Here's the Ginger & Fred building, a famous structure by Frank Gehry and quite peculiar. This one is worth the million pictures we took of it. Lovely place. 


We really enjoyed visiting Berlin and Prague and the kids did incredibly well during this adventure. The food was delicious, the days were beautiful, our hotels were amazing and everything was perfect. Most people speak English but communicating was easier in Germany than in the Czech Republic.  We especially enjoyed trying local foods such as the Trdelnik and getting to visit iconic buildings. 
On my next post, I will write about Vienna and Budapest as well as our return flight and other adventures from our journey and additional recommendations for traveling Europe with small children.