Thursday, July 28, 2011

Italy trip

We made a trip over to Italy back in May and Greg spent part of the 10 hour flight back typing up this blog entry.

Italy 2011


Lisa’s younger brother Joe (aka “Bubba Joe”) is a West Point grad and an Army Ranger that has been stationed in Vicenza, Italy for the last several years when he was not deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Since we found out back in 2006 or 2007 that Bubba Joe would be stationed in Italy we have said over and over that we would go visit him. We were planning to go over with Lisa’s parents back in the summer of 2009, but with Brooklyn due that summer we had to pass. Since this month was the end of Bubba Joe’s stent in the Army and, therefore, his last month in Italy, it was now or never to make the trip over. So, despite Brooklyn being 21-months old, Lisa being 6-months pregnant, and Greg being really busy at work, we packed our bags and headed over the pond with Lisa’s parents to have Bubba Joe show us around Italy. In an effort to capture at least some of the great times we had on our 10-day trip, we are going to post a bunch of pictures and the associated stories here on our blog.

Our translator and tour guide, Bubba Joe

The Trip Over

When getting ready for the trip, a lot of people would ask “Well, what are you going to do with Brooklyn while you’re gone?” And when we would tell them that she was going with us, the reactions ranged from stunned silence (“Oh …”) to questions regarding our sanity (“Have you thought this through?!”, “Are you crazy?!”) to optimistic fear (“Oh! Good luck with that!”).

For only being 21-months old, Brooklyn has been subjected to a lot of plane flights and has been a GREAT traveler. But all of those trips were in the 1-3 hour time frame. Now we were talking about 16+ straight hours of traveling from leaving our house to when we would arrive at our hotel in Rome … YIKES! We had definitely not thought this through! To add to the fun, we would have just gotten back into town from Conway, Arkansas after attending Lisa’s other brother A.J.’s graduation from Hendrix! Nothing like a 5+ hour drive from Arkansas to get our international traveling started. We just might be crazy and we would definitely need some luck for the trip to go smoothly!

Apparently, smooth traveling luck comes in the form of grandparents and a monkey!! On the 9+ hour flight to Madrid, the only time Brooklyn made a fuss was when her grandparents had the audacity to need to go to the restroom, so she was forced to sit across the aisle with Mom and Dad. This was unacceptable and led to a couple minutes of whining until the bathroom breaks were over and Brooklyn and monkey could go back to Grandma and Grandpa’s laps! With a lot of sleeping, coloring, eating, and playing with Grandma and Grandpa, Brooklyn made the trip over with ease, which made the trip easy for everyone else.

Brooklyn and her seatmate, Grandma


We started and ended our trip in Rome. Rome is Greg’s favorite city. He loves the combination of history, modern relevance, interesting architecture, good food, and walkability that is found in few other cities. Also, the fact that they keep the city relatively clean (as opposed to Naples that, as far as we can tell, is simply the trash can of Italy) doesn’t hurt. Even though we had been to Rome before, we went back to the traditional tourist spots: St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps.

Brooklyn and Grandpa at the Vatican

Trying to get some Holy water

Also, on our last night of the trip Lisa and Greg spent a romantic night wandering around the city passing what seemed like every major landmark and small garden in Rome, while Grandma, Grandpa, and Bubba Joe entertained Brooklyn.


Il Vittoriano

Brooklyn and Monkey

For Brooklyn’s 1st birthday, she received a little stuffed animal monkey from one of Greg’s co-workers, Rachel, and her husband, Rob. For whatever reason, she has been enamored with “Monkey” ever since. When Brooklyn was 17-18 months old she started having Monkey do things, beginning with carrying diapers over to her changing pad. This entailed Brooklyn carrying Monkey over to the diapers and making “Monkey’s hand” (really Brooklyn’s hand that was next to Monkey’s hand) reach down and pick up a diaper. So, when Brooklyn/Monkey would bring the diaper over to the changing pad you would have to say “Thank you, Monkey!” If you said, “Thank you, Brooklyn!”, Brooklyn would look at you like you were crazy and wait for you to say “Thank you, Monkey!”. Over the months, Monkey’s talents have continued to develop. These days Monkey does pretty much everything Brooklyn does and needs pretty much everything Brooklyn needs (including diaper changes, drinks, vitamins, teeth brushing, etc.)! So, when deciding what Brooklyn would get to bring to Italy, Monkey was without a doubt item number one. As you can tell from the pictures, Brooklyn wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Waiting to board in Dallas

Layover in Madrid (it's the middle of the night for us)

Taking a walking break with monkey

Celebrity Brooklyn

We weren’t aware of this before we got to Italy, but apparently Brooklyn is a celebrity there! Everywhere we went she was getting free stuff and people were taking pictures of her. Now, here in the States it is not uncommon for people to pay Brooklyn attention, but it is generally a simple “She is cute” after watching her play around a little bit. Not in Italy! You would have thought it was the only baby they had ever seen. Within a couple of hours of arriving in Rome, we had lost track of all the free stuff that she had gotten! Just arriving at the hotel the Bellman gave her candy (not just one piece, but an adult-size handful!), a receptionist gave her an apricot fruit drink (very random, but she liked it!), and another receptionist gave her a box of Italian candy that was like M&Ms. This continued through our entire trip! Pretty much anywhere we went, Brooklyn would get free gelato, free candy, or a free toy. Brooklyn was always reluctant to take whatever was being offered (probably a combination of stranger anxiety, being shy, and not knowing what was going on). So whoever was offering the goods would basically have to beg Brooklyn to take it, which just made it seem like she was big-timing them … just like a celebrity. Finally, even the Customs agents were loving Brooklyn. As we were passing through Customs in Rome on our way back, the Customs agent took Brooklyn’s passport over the to next agent just to show her how cute it was!


Along the trip Brooklyn decided that one of her favorite things to do would be to jump off of any step or any raised surface that we would allow her to get onto. So from Vatican city to the streets of Palermo she would seek out anything and everything resembling a step in hopes of getting to jump down onto the ground. Brooklyn also likes to have anyone or anything she can name participate in whatever activity she is doing. In other words, she likes to take turns with everyone else. This typically leads to Mommy, Daddy, Monkey, Puppy, Giraffe, Hop (bunny), Boy, Girl, and Baby singing songs (Lisa is the pro at singing for Puppy, Giraffe, Hop, Boy, Girl, and Baby!!). So, naturally, Brooklyn was constantly inviting Grandma, Grandpa, Bubba Joe, Mommy, and Daddy to jump off of whatever she was jumping off of with her. Brooklyn couldn’t get enough jumpy! If we would let her, she would continually “jumpy” over and over again. This led to a hilarious exchange while we were in Rome. After getting everyone to jump off a step with her many times, Lisa said she could jump “one more time.” Brooklyn stepped up, jumped down “one more time” and without a pause starting begging for another “one more time, please” with the following facial and hand expressions!!


"One more time, please"

Greg is trying to get his phone out to take video

Needless to say, we couldn’t say no to that charm, so she proceeded to milk it for all it was worth and jumped at least 15-20 “one more times” off that step!

Getting Bubba Joe in on the action

And Mommy can't pass up a good Jumpy!

Rome to Sorrento

From Rome, we headed South along the coast to Sorrento. On the way, we stopped to see the Pompei ruins, which we learned is the most visited archeological site in the world. We helped keep their ranking! For those that don’t know (like us before we got there), Pompei was a very large city that was buried in lava and ash by a Volcano (Mt. Vesuvius) around 49 AD, killing everyone in city. There was so much ash that many of the peoples’ skeletons along with the stone buildings and streets were preserved in the ash. If any of you ever go there with a kiddo, do NOT bring a stroller. We took ours because Grandpa thought he remembered it being pretty flat. It was flat … until you got past the modern walkway to the actual ruins! The stroller almost lost an axel on that stop!

We made it through without losing Brooklyn or the stroller!

Such a nice family picture!

After Pompei, we finished the drive down the coast to Sorrento, which is along the Amalfi coast of Italy. We stayed at the same hotel (Il Nido) that Lisa’s parents had stayed at back in 2009 on the recommendation of an Italian co-worker of Lisa’s Dad. Needless to say, we went back for a reason. Just look at the view from our room’s balcony!

Also, the daily breakfast with fresh-squeezed orange juice out on a large terrace with the same view didn’t hurt. Here’s Brooklyn and Grandma enjoying a little breakfast.

Brooklyn still has monkey!

Sorrento is a great little, quiet resort town on the coast. It originally settled by the Greeks and then later by the Romans. There were stores in the town that have been open since the mid-1800s, which is astonishing when you think about it! That really puts the local Dallas establishments that proudly proclaim “Open Since 1990” or even “Open Since 1970” into perspective!


Throughout Italy they have little corner markets with local, fresh fruit. While we were in Sorrento, the strawberries smelled pretty good so we bought a couple baskets full. Little did we know these strawberries would be the best strawberries on the planet! We wouldn’t call ourselves strawberry connoisseurs, but Lisa and I have had the good fortune to taste some pretty good strawberries over years, including fresh picked strawberries in Norway, and these were hands down the best.

The strawberries looked different than your typical strawberries. They didn’t have the tiny black seeds on the outside, but barely had any visible seeds and what seeds were visible were more of a yellowish color. Also, the strawberries went to a point at both ends, whereas typical strawberries we get in the U.S. are concave at the top. Finally, the strawberries were fairly small compared to what we get in the U.S. But what they looked like didn’t really matter because they tasted so good! Somehow the fresh strawberries tasted more like a strawberry jelly than a fresh strawberry because they were so sweet. Needless to say, Brooklyn fell in love with the “fragolas” (Italian word for strawberries) and we heard a continuous request from Brooklyn for “more strawberries” and “green off” (take the leaves off the top). Here is Brooklyn carrying around her basket of green off strawberries and stuffing her face!

Who thought giving her strawberries by white dresses was a good idea?

Unfortunately, while the strawberries throughout the rest of Italy were good, they paled in comparison to the ones we got in Sorrento. Luckily, we made the most of the strawberries in Sorrento stopping regularly at the nearest market whenever our baskets began running low.

Sorrento to Palermo

From Sorrento, we headed further South to Sicily. To get there, we took an overnight ferry from Naples to Palermo. Since we had spent a couple days in Sorrento already, we decided to spend the day leading up to the ferry ride in Naples. Mistake! Naples is just a dirty, dirty city. There was literally trash everywhere. It was almost impossible to appreciate any of the history or culture of the city because you had to constantly look down to make sure you weren’t about to step in something you would regret! After about 2 hours in Naples (with about 6 more to go before we could get on the ferry!) we were longing for the good days of clean streets and delicious strawberries back in Sorrento. We literally could not get out of Naples fast enough!

Ready to get out of Naples!

The ferry ride to Palermo was uneventful and put us into Palermo at a little before 7:00 in the morning. Again, on recommendation of Lisa’s Dad’s Italian co-worker, Toni Manino, we were staying at a bed and breakfast (Casa Manzella) in a town, Terrasini, that was 15-20 miles from Palermo. While Casa Manzella didn’t have quite the view of Il Nido, it was a nice bed and breakfast in a great location by the town square. Terrasini is small town, so we had pretty much seen everything there was to see that morning while we were trying to kill some time so that it was a more reasonable hour to call the owner of the bed and breakfast to let him know we were there. When we called him close to 9:00 am, it still sounded like we woke him up in the middle of the night! He showed up about 30 min later and checked us in!

Church in the main square in town

Terrasini served as home base for short excursions to surrounding points of interest, including Segesta, Trappeto, and Palermo. Trappeto had special meaning for Lisa’s Dad as his grandparents had lived there! He actually spoke to an elderly man on the street who said there were still some Sanfilippos who lived on a street down the way. While we were walking down the street looking for a Sanfilippo name plate or something on a call button, a lady came out to see Brooklyn (naturally!). With Bubba Joe’s help translating we found out that her last name was Sanfilippi and that some of her relatives were Sanfilippos! Brooklyn was really friendly with Mrs. Sanfilippi until we tried to hand her to her for a picture, then Brooklyn lost it and made the face you see in the picture!
Bordering Terrasini was a town called Cinisi, which is apparently where Toni Manino (Lisa’s Dad’s co-worker who essentially served as our travel guide and booking agent for the trip!) grew up. We actually met up with his sister at a cafĂ© called Pallazollo. Pallazollo turned out to be our go to place for apperativo, which is similar to happy hour in the U.S. but way more awesome. Essentially, they put out a buffet of really good food (sandwiches, meats, cheeses, various fried stuff, nuts, etc.) that is free as long as your table is buying drinks. We typically couldn’t resist adding some gelato and pastries (each made fresh daily) to our apperativo food arsenal. For us, apperativo was enough to be a dinner, but the locals insisted that you had to eat dinner in addition to apperativo. Apparently, there is a reason that the Southern Italians have reputation for being heavier! However, that is not because of eating too much pizza at lunch.

While someone in our party typically had pizza for lunch in Rome, Sorrento, and Naples, once we got down to Sicily they looked at us crazy when we asked about getting pizza for lunch! One day at a local market, we asked if there was anywhere in town that served pizza for lunch and after some discussion between the workers the answer was simply no! The result is that all of the pizza places don’t open until 3:00 pm and the restaurants that serve things other than pizza, don’t offer pizza until dinner. This got us thinking about things in the U.S. that we consider “dinner only” items and couldn’t possibly get at lunch. While breakfast typically isn’t available for dinner (at most restaurants) in the U.S., we couldn’t think of anything that is available at dinner but not a lunch. Can anyone think of anything?

We had planned on going to the Palermo v. Chieve soccer match while we were down there, but a perfect storm of events kept us from getting tickets. First, Palermo’s website indicated that tickets were on sale only through a ticket broker (similar to TicketMaster) and that there were two available shops to pick them up on game day, Sunday. Bubba Joe and Greg trekked down to Palermo around 2:00 pm to get tickets for the 6:00 pm game only to find out that both shops were closed on Sundays. So, they decided to head to the stadium in hopes that there would be a ticket office, despite the fact that many stadiums actually do not have ticket offices and those that do are typically not open on game days or close well before game time. This is obviously quite different than in the U.S., where you can walk up to most sporting events and buy a ticket at the window and walk right in to the game. You also have to have your passport (or local ID) to buy tickets and the tickets will only get you into the game if they match your ID. This obviously cuts down significantly on scalping! It is actually designed to prevent the actual “hooligans” who have been banned from attending games by the European soccer association (UEFA) from getting in. After stopping by the closed stores, talking to street vendors about scarf prices and the location of the stadium, Joe and Greg found a couple of booths outside the stadium that were labeled as the ticket office at about 3:35 or 15:35 as the locals would refer to it. Upon further inspection, they noticed that the ticket office was open on Sundays until 15:30!! They had missed it by 5 minutes! Unbelievable! In the end, it probably worked out for the best because it was a rainy evening and Palermo ended up losing 3-1, while we enjoyed a nice apperativo back at Pallazollo! However, the next day we did go back by the stadium for a few pictures while we were seeing the sights in Palermo. Also, Brooklyn picked up a Palermo jersey. It wasn’t hard for her to support a team that wears pink!

Outside the stadium

That's the end of Greg's post. And I'll just wrap it up by saying that on the trip home Brooklyn had pink eye in both eyes and a double ear infection. She was definitely fussy and cried on takeoffs and landings and was not a happy camper while we were stranded in Chicago for 6 hours. But looking back on it, she did amazingly well given what she was dealing with! We were so happy to be back home when we finally got here at 2 in the morning!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This and That

Brooklyn and I made a trip up to St. Louis last week to see my family while Greg hosted a bachelor party at our house. (I was not the least bit upset about being kicked out!) We had a great time visiting. I love that there are so many things to do in St. Louis that are free! We went to the zoo twice because Brooklyn continues to be fascinated with animals! She loved the monkeys, of course. And she would have gone on every animal on the carousel if we had let her!

She's been randomly saying things about our trip up to St. Louis and to the zoo since we've been back. Every time we're in the car she wants to go to "Grandma Grandpa house". She will say that we need to take a plane and that "Mom" and Brooklyn fly up in the seats and monkey and blankie fly down with the suitcase.

Side note: She's been calling me "Mom" lately and I think it's because she head me saying that up in St. Louis. But she's also been shortening words lately like saying, "pup and monk". Hopefully it passes because I don't think it's fair that she stops calling me Mommy before she's even 2!

She tells the bear to stop showering because the birds are going to eat all of your food. She tells the squirrels to stop eating the birds' food (in the bird feeder at Grandma and Grandpa's house). She tells the boy to make sure his life jacket is on when he gets in the cold water with the penguins. And I'm not sure how many times a day she mentions that Grandma needs to repaint her toenails and fingernails pink because it is being scratched off.

Her memory wears me out every day! And don't try to whisper or talk about her to someone, because she will hear and remember and bring it up at some random point! So these are some of the pictures from our trip and since we've been home.

Sammy, could 'ya please? I mean honestly! (Actually I think they were trying to hide)

Much better!

Brooklyn enjoying the best dessert ever created...gooey butter cake!

Making sure Grandma keeps it neat!

Giving Mommy the evil eye for interrupting Brooklyn/Grandma time.
Is this the natural pose that you use when your nails are painted? I'm pretty sure no one showed her how to do this.

Riding the giraffe

Making sure the stingrays stay in the water!

This is the picture I showed Brooklyn and asked her to smile like Mommy for the next picture.
This is what I got!

Taking a nap with monkey.

Monday, May 9, 2011

We're back!

So we haven't really gone anywhere, we've just been busy around here. We actually are going somewhere very exciting next week and hopefully it won't take 3 months to post the millions of pictures I'm sure we'll take. Here is what we've been up to the past 3 months!

We went to the lake house to check on things and on the long car ride home we decided that Brooklyn should enjoy an Oreo cookie. She loved it!

I took Brooklyn to the Mills mall in Grapevine and let her ride the carousel. She liked it until it started moving. And I got really dizzy on it! Apparently we need to practice more spinning around at home!

She loved riding the "choo choo truck". She knows that it's a train, but insists on calling it a truck. She just laughs when you try to correct her. So set in her ways already!

She also enjoyed the boat, but I think she likes Daddy's boat more.

She's in the caboose!

We met some friends for lunch at the Village of Allen and then let Brooklyn play in the water fountains. She had so much fun once she got used to the water spraying at her. We brought a change of clothes and she almost got those soaking wet when she ran off while we were looking the other way!

While I'm sure I ate a lot at lunch, that is also a pregnant belly you're noticing! I'm about 24 weeks along now and Greg likes to say I'm showing like I did at 33 weeks with Brooklyn! Brooklyn has a baby brother coming and I'm trying to enjoy the calm days and sleep-filled nights before he arrives. I'll try to be better about taking more pictures to document this pregnancy!

Super excited about the "wawa"!

Brooklyn and I went to the library one day when they had outdoor activities. Brooklyn is barefoot because she stepped in a swimming pool of bubbles earlier! Fortunately it wasn't that cold out! She loved drawing with the chalk, so we went to the store on the way home to pick some up!

We've also been going to the Dallas Art Museum the past two months. On the first Tuesday of the month they have children's activities and admission is free! This is a wall of ivy outside in the sculpture garden.

Brooklyn had a good time playing with these magnets.

There are horses outside the new OBGYN's office that we've been going to. Brooklyn enjoys the horses from far away. She was a little weary this close!

She would prefer this distance! She's pointing at some longhorn cattle.

Posing in her Easter outfit!

Not so silly in this one!

More fun at the Dallas Art Museum with our BFF, Isaac!

So cute together!

Playing with the streamers outside at the art museum.

Brooklyn is growing up so quickly! She's learning multiple words each day, talking in 2-4 word sentences, remembers the craziest and most minute details of every single day, loves reading books to her animals and being read to, doing puzzles, playing outside in the dirt and pointing out everything she knows the words for when we're driving in the car. She hates getting her hair rinsed out in the bath right now for some reason. As in she screams and stands up in the tub when you try to rinse out the shampoo! Who knows! Hopefully this phase passes quickly!

That's all for now! We'll be back in a couple weeks with some really good pictures hopefully!