Friday, June 14, 2013

Toddler adorbs

This YouTube video of toddlers chatting with ASL in the car is completely adorable.  It's also impressive because these boys were just adopted from China six months before this video was filmed and prior to that had NO language at all.  Sign language is wonderful!  We sign some to Pippa and she already signs "milk" but we really should be more diligent about signing to her.

The original description is included beneath the video.


While waiting for their daddy at the car repair shop, Mom explained that Daddy's car broke down and needed to be fixed. (The oldest asked if it needed batteries, because that's what's wrong when their toys stop working!) I began filming when Daddy got in the car and the boys began to tell them about what they saw in the garage. Oh, and we were near an airport, which will help you understand context. That, and the boys are obsessed with transportation!
I must add that our boys had NO language just six months ago when we adopted them. They have flourished with ASL as their first language. The older boy on the left is deaf. The younger boy on the right (with the loose seatbelt...thanks for pointing that out. Consider it fixed!) is mostly hearing/a little hard-of-hearing. 
I pray this inspires parents with deaf kids to sign with them! Signing will NOT hinder their speech, but will vastly improve their ability to learn. Signing gives them a way to express themselves and gives YOU a way to truly know them. 
Bless all of you who have watched so far! Thanks for sharing!
www.thebrownfamily.us Follow to see more about the boys and our family.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

This and That


  • Check out our new morsel of goodness to the left.
  • It is still light outside here at 9 p.m.
  • Baby likes to sleep in the "knee-chest" position.  Which means she sleeps on her tummy with her legs tucked under her so she's on her knees.  
  • I read about this new study about infant sleep.  The money quote: "What this study means to parents is that if a baby is crying and waking often during the night, it's more likely attributed to your baby's genetic predisposition than to a mom or dad's parenting." You can read the whole study here at the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • I'm in love with European shoes.  Well, maybe love is a strong word.  How about I'm totally crushing on European shoes?  Yeah, that's better.  I stopped by a shoe store today.  It was a bad idea because I absolutely don't need new shoes of any kind.  I wanted to buy half the store.  Flats, heels, wedges, athletic-casual, sandals... All of them oh, so gorgeous!  Seriously, there were at least 25 pairs I wanted to buy.  It was reminiscent of the Nordstrom Rack incident of fall 2007.  Let me just say it's a good thing I have absolutely no idea what my European shoe size is (and that I had to get home to baby) or our German bank account could have seen some serious damage.  
  • T and I are watching West Wing on DVD.  It really is my favorite TV series of all time.  Followed by Gilmore Girls then Perfect Strangers.  After that the rankings get messy.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vienna

May is full of German holidays.  Well, actually, they are Catholic holidays - so not all of Germany gets the holidays, just heavily Catholic Bavaria.  Ascension Day was on a Thursday, so T took the day after that off and voila! we had a four day weekend.  So off we went to Vienna.

We thought about renting a car since the drive was only 4 hours.  We thought about flying since it wasn't too expensive.  But we ended up taking the train - it takes four hours to get there but you don't have to pay attention or keep baby in a car seat,  it was cheaper than flying, and we wouldn't need a car while we were actually in Vienna.

At the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) in Munich.

We tried to travel light, but it's hard when you have to lug around a stroller / carseat combo.  T was such a star to make sure everything got on the train.   The DB (DeutchBahn aka German Rail) has two kinds of tickets.  The first type is a reserved seat on the train, with a specific car number and seat number within that car.  This costs a bit extra.  The second type of ticket is just a ticket to get on the train.  You get on and find an empty seat that isn't reserved (reserved seats have a digital message above them).  If there aren't any empty seats, you just stand in the aisle.   We paid extra to have the reserved seat tickets.  We didn't want to mess around with standing in the aisle with a baby.

The German country side from out the window.

Our train made three stops before Vienna.  The first two hours of the train ride were great there was lot of space and we patting ourselves on the back for choosing to take the train and thinking we would do all our future travelling by train.

Pippa napping on T during the train ride.

The second two hours weren't that great.  At one of the stops a lot of people got on and suddenly the aisles were jam packed with people standing.  The ticket checker had a seriously hard time getting through all the crowds of people.

Family photo while the going was still good.

I was in the window seat and T had the aisle seat, so he was next to all the people standing.  Unfortunately, the worst people were standing right next to us.  An old man was standing right next to T.  The old man had pretty bad B.O. and put his arm up on T's head rest.  Not just on the edge to keep from swaying, but all the way over so that T had to actually move his head and whole body so that the old man wouldn't touch him.  No amount of dirty looks (from me - I was standing facing the old man with Pippa in the carrier trying to calm her down) or moving (by T) got that old man to move.  Gah!  We paid for that seat and we couldn't even use all of it!  It was a long 1.5 hours until that old man (and a lot of other people) got off at another stop.

Obviously, this view was before the aisles were packed.



We got off the train in Vienna and immediately looked for somewhere to eat (we learned our lesson in London - major transit hubs are your best bet for "safe" food).  We found a really yummy instant pasta place.  So of course, we had to take some adorable photos of Pippa eating.  You're welcome.



The Westbahnhof in Vienna had a mall attached to it and it cracked us up that "Dreams and Visions" was closed.  We bought our 72 hour public transit tickets and this was the button we had to press. (Funny phrase, but we were so glad that there was an English language option!)

T navigated us to our hotel, Renaissance Wein Hotel which was across the street from a U-bahn (subway) station.  Something else we learned from our London trip: it doesn't matter if you don't stay in the city center as long as you stay very close to a subway station.  We really liked the Renaissance Wein Hotel (and the delicious breakfast that was included - I had an omelet and waffle made fresh to order every morning.)

We knew that seeing a city with a baby would be different and that we would probably have to choose just the top things that we wanted to visit.  Since the libraries in Munich don't have tourist books in English we turned to the internet to tell us what to see in Vienna.  The Rick Steves guides on hulu and YouTube were long AND terrible.  But we found a series by geobeats that gave us the Vienna top 10 and was less than two minutes long.  And that's mostly what we based our sight seeing on.  (That and a quick look at tripadvisor.com.)  If you don't want to read the rest of this post or check out our photos, you can just watch the geobeats video and / or read the text in the description and that was pretty much what we saw in Vienna.

Anyway, since we got to the hotel around 3 p.m. we dropped our bags and headed out to explore.  First up - the Secession Building.  Secession is the style of art this building is based on and that's where it gets the name.  It hosts rotating art exhibits that we didn't check out.  But the golden ball on top is pretty cool!  (No, that's not a black dot on your computer screen, it's on the photo.  I know.  I tried to clean it off, too.)



Not sure what this building is... it was across from Secession Building and I thought it looked cool and oh, so European.  

Then we moseyed over to the Museum Quarter.  Like the title suggests, there are a lot of museums in this area.  We didn't go in any... T isn't into art, I have spent a lot of time in the (free) Smithsonian art museums, and baby Pippa was antsy and we didn't want to pay full admission just to leave 15 minutes later.  Like I said, it's different doing tourist things with a baby.  


Instead we just sat in the grass and enjoyed the views.



Check out how we are wearing shorts.  Oh, I miss those days.  It hasn't been warm enough since the first two days in Vienna to wear shorts.  That's almost a full month of "spring" that hasn't been warm at all.  Several times in the past three weeks we wished we hadn't put our winter coats away.  I actually got out baby's winter hats again.

Attempted family self photo.  We're just going to have to start asking other people to take our family photo for us.



Suuuuuuper baby!     (She is getting so long!)

This self photo is better, but of course baby is in the stroller so she's not in it.
The statue in the background is of "Sissy" - Empress Elisabeth who was married to Franz Joseph I (who reigned from 1848 to 1916).  Sissy is very in vogue these days and pretty much seen as Princess Diana of her time by the Viennese.  We learned quite a bit about her and her life when we later toured the Hofburg Palace.  T and I both think she was selfish, immature, not very loving to her husband or children, and not that great of a human being.  We don't understand the Viennese infatuation with her though, we suspect it may have something to do with the way she was favorably portrayed in several European movies made in the 50s...

Ah!  The horse is about to trample me!

Then we walked over to the Rathaus (city hall).

It's quite lovely and my favorite feature is the cute window boxes with red flowers!  I think all government buildings everywhere should have flower window boxes.  Wouldn't some fun pansy window boxes just make the Supreme Court Building look a bit less intimidating?  Or maybe intimidating is the vibe they are going for...

And they even had tulips out front!  You know how much I love tulips!

Vienna is so much like Munich and Germany.  Here's the biggest difference I noticed between Munich and Vienna:  In Vienna the windows open out and from the bottom.  In Munich they open in from the top.

While we were walking around the Rathaus I saw this church so we walked down the block to check it out closer.  Not sure what church is is, but it looked cool.

Doesn't T look like he has such a baby face here?  He looks like the little freshman I met at college almost 10 years ago.

At the corner of the Rathaus was the first and only drinking fountain we have seen in Europe.  I was probably overly excited about this.  The water was even cold!

The Rathaus is a really good looking building.

And that was it for the day.  I slept surprisingly well in the hotel bed.  Yay!

The next morning we headed to Schloß Schönbrunn (Schönbrunn Palace).  Also, I didn't know for the first week we were in Germany that ß isn't a fancy B but a unique letter that represents two S's in a row (so Schloß could also be correctly written as Schloss).


It was supposed to be hot that day so we decided to do the gardens first before the sun was beating down.


Some of these photos are from the iPhone, some from our digital camera (that somehow I messed up the settings on so some photos look washed out), and some from T's film camera that he was experimenting with.

Looking into the Crown Prince Garden (which we didn't pay the €3 to get into, but now I wish we had).  The rest of the gardens are free.  I thought it was interesting that the flower beds are hidden behind hedges so you can really only see the flowers looking down.  Just looking across you only see the hedges.  Since then I've noticed the same type of flower bed / hedge combo at a few other palaces.


At the back of the palace looking toward the Gloriette.  (A Gloriette is just a building in a garden that is elevated compared to the rest of the surroundings.)


You can't see it here, but all the figures (except the center one) have fin legs / feet.  Even the horses!  I really like how T captured the falling water here.

Looking toward the palace from the top of the fountain.

A switch of photo taking device and holding baby.
Right after this photo we stopped to put sunscreen on Pippa (she was asleep in the carseat before) and let me just say that everyone loves a baby.  Especially our adorable, smiley baby.  Everywhere we go, tourist destination or not, people are just all over her.  It's kinda fun.  

T and Pippa look a bit pasty white in the rest of the photos from this day because the sunscreen was physical sunscreen aka zinc oxide aka the white stuff that never fully rubs in.


The Gloriette!  You can tell baby is excited to be at the top of the hill!  Or maybe just out of the stroller...

We asked a stranger to take a family photo of us from this same spot in front of the Gloriette, but it turned out awful.  We were all in it, but the Gloriette was barely in it.


This self-portrait family photo with the Gloriette turned out better, even though the settings on the digital camera were still messed up and the colors are a bit off.

Baby is looking toward the Gloriette while I look toward Vienna and the palace.



T paid the €3 to climb the steps to the top of the Gloriette while I fed baby in the shade.  The view from the very top:

Pro Tip: Skip climbing to the top of the Gloriette.  The view from the base of the Gloriette is just as good.

Just a fun looking statue at the base of the Gloriette.

There is a zoo on the Schönbrunn grounds, but we didn't go because Pippa isn't old enough to care about it so we saved our money.

Pro Tip:  The Schönbrunn grounds are enormous and have many paths, but the only actual gardens are directly next to the palace.  The rest are just trees and grass left to their own devices.  They are nice to walk through, but if you're in a tourist crunch, just stick to the path right up to the Gloriette, the Crown Prince Garden, and the small garden on the opposite side of the palace right next to the palace.

Down a side path.

The small garden on the opposite side of palace of the Crown Prince Gardens.



This is the backside of the palace.  Pippa and I are the little speck on the staircase at the bottom of the photo.

Hanging out in the guard hut.

Then we took the tour of the actual palace, where, of course, no photos were allowed.  Just a bit on the inside:  The audio guide (included) is actually very good.  It doesn't drag and is pretty informative.  The rooms were pretty and impressive, but not mind blowing.

While on the tour of the palace (no photos allowed) where Pippa fell asleep on me.  That's why Pippa's cheeks are red here - she isn't sunburned!
Pro Tip: There are so many ticket options to tour Schönbrunn.  We bought the Sissi ticket which included the grand tour at Schönbrunn, Hofburg Palace, the silver collection, and the furniture collection.  The Schönbrunn grand tour, which is all 40 rooms (including the so called Million Dollar Room), wasn't worth it.  I think the imperial tour (only the first 22 out of 40 rooms) was great and it's shorter, too.  We completely skipped the furniture collection (at a different location).  The silver collection, which was just ok, is at Hofburg.  I think if we did it again we would just buy separate tickets for everything.  Though the Sissi ticket does let you skip to the front of the line for tours.

As we were leaving Schönbrunn we asked a stranger to take a family photo and this one turned out!

Then we headed over to the Vienna Opera House.  We arrived 15 minutes before the tour started.  We weren't sure how many people they took on each tour and we were a bit concerned that 1) we were too far back in the line to get in and 2) that they might not let babies on the tour (I would just go on the tour while T would play with Pippa on the grass).  While waiting in line, Pippa, of course, made a bunch of new friends and was smiling and cooing up a storm.  The Opera House let every person in line in the tour (which makes sense because they want to make the most money!) and babies were welcome and we just had to leave the stroller near the front.  I thought it was going to be one big tour with English translation, but it was actually eight separate tours all in different languages.  Each tour started at a different location inside the Opera House so there wasn't any overlapping.

There were opera costume photo ops available while waiting for tours to start inside the Opera House.

The tour was very cool.  The Vienna Opera House is smaller than I thought but also more impressive than I expected.

 My mom said I should have sung a note so I could say I sang at the Vienna Opera House.
Backstage looking out toward the audience.  They were putting together sets for that night's performance.  While we were back here T got Pippa to sleep in the carrier.

Looking at the stage from a box.  Obviously, the best tickets are very expensive, but you can buy standing room only tickets for only €6!  Something I would have loved to do if we didn't have baby along with us.  

The interior of the Opera House is very ornate.




Outside the Opera House.

I asked T to take one of me outside the Opera House.  I was wearing his film camera around my neck and quickly tried to take it off before the photo.  I ended up smacking myself in center of my forehead with it (it's a heavy metal thing).  It really hurt, but T didn't see it happen and he just wanted to take the photo quickly then get going.  So I tried to smile.  A few steps later I reached up and felt blood on my forehead and a nice lump to go along with it.  Lovely.

While we were waiting for the S-Bahn Pippa woke up.  We put the top flap down and kept her in the carrier because it was easier since we were almost back to the hotel.

We got back to the hotel around 4:30 and decided to take Pippa for a swim in the hotel pool.  She LOVED it!  It was completely adorable - she was cooing and giggling for a solid hour.


The next morning we got a late start because Pippa woke up pretty early then took a two hour nap and we've learned to just let a sleeping baby sleep.  We've gotten into the habit of rocking Pippa to sleep for naps (I don't think it's necessarily a bad habit to rock your baby to sleep.  It's incredibly natural and soothing for both of us.) but of course the hotel didn't have a rocking chair and she was fighting this nap.  T eventually got her down and they were adorable together.


We started at Hofburg - the Imperial Residence in Vienna.

The first two days of our trip we had lovely weather, the last two days... not so much.  It was pretty cold.  T and I only had light jackets, but Pippa stayed plenty warm.  I really love this photo T took with the film camera of her bundled up outside the Hofburg.

As we rounded a corner we saw a huge crowd of people behind a big monument even though it was raining.  I asked T, "Why are all those people just standing there?"  And literally as I finished the question a big Austrian band that was obscured by the monument started playing.
The Sissy section of the tour (which covers her entire life) was interesting, but the rooms of the palace looked incredibly similar to the rooms at Schönbrunn.   The audio guide for some of the rooms (like the Emperor's bedroom, study, and receiving area) was literally identical to the Schönbrunn audio guide. 

The Imperial Silver Collection.  Well, a very small part of it.  
There were a TON of gold and silver dishes / serving trays / candle sticks, and incredibly fine china.  Cool to look at, but it can be seen very quickly.  We had an audio guide for the silver collection and the Hofburg, but we didn't listen to anything about the silver collection.  I just wanted to quickly see the pretty things; I didn't care where they came from or what event they were used for.  I imagine most people are this way...


Just outside the exit and just past all the smokers.  
People (in Vienna and Munich and probably much of Europe) light a cigarette as they push open a door to exit a building.  They smoke on the escalator down to the non-smoking train station.  They smoke at every outdoor patio restaurant.  And in Vienna, people can even smoke INSIDE regular cafes and restaurants.  I really thought that the whole world had banned indoor smoking, but I thought wrong.

Punched while horse-ing! (A play on this "punched while eating" Saturday Night Live short.  The end doesn't make sense, but it's funny anyway.)

It was raining and we were hungry so we found a restaurant a block from the Hofburg.  In Germany (and Austria, which is very similar to Germany), there aren't hostesses at restaurants.  You just look for an open table and grab it.  It can be difficult sometimes because people just stay at a table in a cafe for hours.  And it's difficult when you're almost done eating because the second you look like you might be thinking about leaving someone is hovering waiting to take your table (at least when it's busy or raining).  Also, the tables in German restaurants are extremely close together.  Extremely.  Also, water isn't free and neither are refills.


Anyway, we were able to snag a table as someone left.  We ordered and Pippa was getting fussy so I tried to feed her, but she kept getting distracted by everything going on and then was fussing even more.  So T and I quickly ate (and let Pippa eat some of my delicious grilled chicken) and left and I nursed her in the carrier where she fell asleep.  Eating a non-fast food restaurant with a baby is not easy and now I remember why we avoid it.

We headed over to Belvedere, yet another palace in Vienna.  We had seen a lot of palaces lately and we were a bit tired so we decided to save our money and not go inside (also, because it's mostly rotating art exhibits which T was not interested in.)  Here we are in front of Upper Belvedere (there are two buildings).

Pippa slept the entire time we were wandering the gardens.  This garden is between Upper Belvedere (in the background) and lower Belvedere.  Well, actually ALL the gardens are between Upper and Lower Belvedere.

Yeah, that's the umbrella in the upper corner.  It's hard taking a photo while holding an umbrella and keeping a blanket on baby!

Looking the opposite direction.


I love looking down and seeing this.
I did a pretty good job of keeping baby dry but every once in a while a little breeze would put a few raindrops on Pippa's hair.


This is what I want the entrance to my future garden to look like.

The bump and scrape on my forehead from the camera look like just a big zit here.

Upper Belvedere

We waited a while for other tourists to leave so T could get these next two shots.  But I didn't care because baby was asleep.


We took a different route to get back to the tram and saw this monument.  It was obviously a WWII monument, but the writing on the arches was in Cyrillic Script...
After we got back to Munich we looked it up and found it is the Soviet War Memorial (Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee (English: Heroes' Monument of the Red Army)).  It commemorates the 17,000 Soviet soldiers who died in the Battle of Vienna in WWII.  Apparently, it's pretty unpopular in Vienna but I wouldn't have guessed that by the amount of flowers in front of it.

 We headed back to the hotel and thought about swimming again, but ended up just chilling and working on Pippa's gymnastic skills and hanging out in front of the mirror.

I love her little pointed toes!

Not related at all to these photos - Pippa slept in the hotel's pack and play and she still went to bed around 7 p.m. with her sound machine on and the lights off.  Which meant that T and I had to sit in the darkness together for three hours.  Luckily, we were prepared and brought the laptop and headphones and "The Sandlot" and second season of "West Wing" to watch after Pippa went to bed.


Also not related to these photos - During this trip Pippa started doing this gasping thing, mostly when excited.  At first we thought it was related to her cold, but it wasn't.  Luckily now (three weeks later) she's stopped doing it.  She also learned how to arch her back during this trip.  Fun! Not.

She was holding on so tight to T's hair.  So tight!

T took Pippa with him to pick up some dinner and I was alone for the first time in 2.5 months.  It was only 45 minutes, but it was very nice.

Pippa really loves the mirror.  I'm pretty sure most babies do.
video


After Pippa was asleep I was putting my engagement ring in it's box and my CTR ring that was loose in the box fell out and down the sink drain!  T undid the sink trap (where the pipe curves) and he got the ring out.  SOOOO glad it wasn't my engagement ring!  And I will never take off my ring near a sink again.

The next morning we checked out but left our bags at the hotel because our train didn't leave until 2 p.m.  We checked out this St. Stephen's Cathedral.  We didn't go in because it was Sunday and there was a service going on.  While T explored a bit I got Pippa to sleep in the stroller.  



Does anyone know why many churches are like this with light and dark stone?  It just looks dirty to me.  I know part of the cathedral had to be rebuild after WWII, is the dark stone the original and the white stone the new?

Then we headed to Hundertwasserhaus - a funky apartment building designed to show unpredictability.  It has crooked floors, varied colors curved walls, and a forest on the roof among other interesting features.   

Since people actually live here, tours are not given.

We popped over a few blocks and saw the Danube River.

Then it was back to the hotel to grab our bags and off to the train station.

The train going back to Munich had at least twice as many cars and there were only a few people without reserved seats standing near the doors (not in the aisle) of our car.

We've seen a lot of these yellow fields and finally found out they are mustard fields.

I was a bit nervous because when we bought our reserved tickets the only ones left were for "quiet cars" where cells phones, music, and loud talking are prohibited.  Generally, I am all about these things, but we also had Pippa and as you know, small babies sometimes aren't silent.  But Pippa was pretty good and eventually took a nice little nap on my lap.


We got home and put our sweet baby right to bed and soon followed suit.


Gold stars all around if you managed to read this incredibly long post in one sitting!