Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cinque Terre!

 After Florence, we took a couple trains up to the Ligurian Sea to a place I have been dreaming of going to for years: Cinque Terre! Cinque Terre means “5 lands” for the 5 coastal towns that make up the Cinque Terre National Park. The quaintness and beauty of the towns was unforgettable. 

When you get off the train at the first town, Riomaggiore, the train platform is this view. Total heart eyes. So we had to haul our luggage underneath the platform, back up the stairs and up the hill to the town and then up the 3 flights of stairs to our cute Airbnb. There really was no way to avoid not having to bring all of our luggage, but my travel tip is if you can, don’t bring a lot of stuff!! It was so exhausting.

We hung out a little bit on our little balcony after that exhausting luggage ordeal ha. We had planned to do the hike that connected all the towns together (there is also a local train you can take), but after our Airbnb host recommended a place for a boat ride to see the towns, we were sold. It cost more money than hiking, but it was so relaxing, and so beautiful! And also fun to be able to jump in and swim a little. 
Beautiful Riomaggiore where we stayed:


And Manarola, which was my favorite. We stayed here to enjoy some yummy food at Nessun Dorma, the little cafe with this incredible view! 

Can you spy Victor taking another dip? 

It was such a dreamy day. So happy and thankful we finally made it! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Dreamy Florence Day 2


We had a nice full day in Florence the next day, but it didn’t feel crazy. Florence is small enough to walk everywhere so it just didn’t feel exhausting. Our first place was the Galleria dell Accademia, where the statue of David is! So apparently, Italy in June is insane tourist season who knew? Haha. Therefore the line to get in was crazy long, and we didn’t think to get reservations ahead of time. Luckily I had made one to the Uffizi for later, and I still had time to get one to the Vatican museum. Anyway. We had been waiting in line for an hour or so...still having a long way to go when a travel agent approached us that she had two cancellations. Sounds like a scam—which happens, so we were hesitant but we decided quickly to go with her, and sure enough she got us right in! So that was nice to not have to wait any longer! 

And I’ll be honest. The Statue of David TOTALLY lives up to the hype. It probably is the only work of art that has taken my breath away when I saw it. You turn the corner and see these incredible “unfinished” sculptures also by Michelangelo and then wow, there David is at the end of the hallway. So much bigger and inspiring than you’re expecting! 

Oh, David.

We went and walked around the Cathedral and checked out the baptistry doors (didn’t go inside since I didn’t think we would need reservations my bad. Good thing it’s super cool on the outside too). We also did a lot of shopping this day because Florence is AMAZING with local artisans and just a lot of beautiful things. I loved the shopping.

Bought a plate for my plate wall at this great shop where the artist was there and working on other stuff as well. 
Bought some cool handbound books with the specialty Florentine marbeled paper. Victor also bought some ties and shaving stuff, and I bought a nativity scene from the sweetest nuns. We could have bought a lot more stuff! Haha. 

Later in the day we had our time at the Uffizi Gallery! Such a cool museum. The building itself was so cool. I also liked how it was smaller and more manageable it was than the Louvre. 

There were several spots in the gallery where the cathedral would peak through and I loved it every time. 

This gelato was probably my favorite in Florence! We ate a looot of gelato in our time in Italy! 
We ate here for dinner at the suggestion of my cousin who had just been to Florence right before us and it was my favorite meal we had. It was so funny though because in our time in Italy, we tried to hold off eating dinner until their “normal” time which is like 9 or 10 but we never could! I think all the restaurant people thought we were weird for showing up for dinner so early but hey, there were never any wait times because of it! 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Firenze!! The first day

I was soooo excited for our next part of our trip. My first time to Italy! 

We flew into Florence directly from Romania, dropped off our stuff at our Airbnb and immediately started walking around the city. And it probably took less than an hour for the city to capture my heart. 
We stumbled onto so many gems in the city as we made our way over to the Piazzele Michelangelo (where the gorgeous overlook of the city is) First was the nicest pharmacy you’ll ever see in your life, at the Santa Maria Novella Monastery. The monks here invented Rose Water during the plague, and so that’s what I purchased. They sell all kinds of soaps and lotions, and the place is amazing. 
Just before I headed to Italy, I saw a news featured about a French artist that lives in Florence named Clet. He adds stickers onto street signs throughout the city and it was like a treasure hunt trying to spot them. Then we totally stumbled on his studio/shop and sure enough he was just hanging out so we got to meet him. That was fun. 

And then we made our way back to our apartment and made sure to make a gelato stop (one of many!) with pretty views of Ponte Vecchio. 
Man, I loved Florence so much. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

I can still recall our last summer...of international traveling

 Reeewind! Since I have so much to catch up on, and since we can’t travel much this year, I’m reminiscing to my last international trip before I got pregnant last summer. 

Victor got invited by his old boss in Oki to help out with a military exercise in Romania since his boss knew that he knew tech, and spoke Romanian. His boss actually said me and the kids could come stay the whole time during the exercise, but staying in a hotel for a month with them while Victor was working a lot didn’t sound very appealing. So I can out at the end of the exercise and met him in Romania for a couple days. 

It was great meeting up with him after he had been gone for over a month...and in our old stomping grounds. I love coming back to Romania. We stayed in Bucharest mostly, and I was impressed with all the revitalizing of downtown they’ve done. Lots of fun and artsy areas that weren’t there when I lived there. 

We made sure to visit Sora Gorzo, I got to see more people at church, and another person was visiting Bucharest the same time as us: the pope! He drove right past our hotel in his Dacia Pope mobile and it was fun to see him, and more fun to see the excitement the Eastern Orthodox Romanians has to see the Catholic pope? Haha,  but still a cool experience.

We only left the city once—a drive up to Curtea de Argeş and up into the mountains to show Victors coworkers the real Dracula’s fortress. It’s a cool hike, but sadly when we got there, the hike was closed because of bear sightings no! And then sure enough, we saw these guys on the road:

So we took the guys to the famous monestery in Curtea de Argeş. It’s like the Westminster Abbey for Romania. Lots of kings and queens buried there. 

We also had lunch up by this beautiful lake. The guys took a boat ride across to the dam...and I took a nap in the van because I was just so dang jet lagged even after a few days in country. It was crazy. Anyway! A great time in Romania. Excited for the next part of our trip! 

I gave birth the day the world shut down


Well, I had a baby! Since my unintentional blogging gap I managed to grow an entire human, give birth, and now he’s 5 months old! I have written my other two birth stories pretty quickly after, so I need to get this one down before I forget. Each of my birth experiences have been so different, and to be honest I thought and was hoping this one would be like Dom’s which was my favorite birthing experience, but alas it was not so, and as I remember things in hindsight, I realize how many tender mercies took place, since I gave birth on March 12, the day the world (or the USA at least) shut down because of Covid 19. 

To backtrack a little, Victor was gone the last 2 months of my pregnancy: working on a project with a team at the Pentagon. They said he could come back for the birth, but were asking for a date when he could come back. I was so annoyed, thinking “well tell them my due date is March 12, but my body does what it wants, and don’t count on that at all.” But sure enough, that’s the day he came, and all that stuff of trying to get Victor back to DC didn’t matter anyway since by the time the baby arrived, everyone working on the project was told to finish it from home. 

My amazing mother in law arrived 2 days before my due date, and the day before while both boys were in school, I had the inspiration to go get pedicures together—a tender mercy of sorts since by the time I got out of the hospital, there would be no nail salons open anymore haha. But that was nice to do with her. And then that evening, my amazing friends in my ward had a little “baby sprinkle” for me. When they asked if that day was cutting it too close to my due date I replied “don’t worry, I know I’ll go over so it will be fine.” 

Then the next morning was my due date appointment. The hospital was starting to set triage tents up outside for the impending virus spreading in the USA. It was starting to feel weird. At my appointment, I strangely had a high blood pressure reading, which I never had before. They decided to send me up to labor and delivery just to “run some tests,” which I thought nothing of. But the doctor came in and said “we could do all that, but it’s your due date already, so let’s just induce you to be safe.” 

That was not the kind of labor I was expecting or planning for, and I was not prepared, and once the induction process started, I frankly was angry that it was happening this way. The pain started quickly and strongly, the iv was placed somewhere weird and made it very painful and irritating. Normally when I labor at home first, I can move around and take a bath and shower, which I couldn’t do. And sorry to not be g rated, but I was so sick of the invasiveness of getting my cervix checked and then the breaking of my water, that when I told the nurse a few hours later that I felt pressure and pain and she offered to check my dilation, I said “I don’t want any more hands up my vagina!” But I let her and sure enough, it was time to push. 

The doctor came in to have me start pushing and joked “so what are you going to name him? Covid?” And I was too out of it to realize “Covid” was the new name for the coronavirus, so I just ignored his bad joke while victor gave him a courtesy laugh ha. Can you tell I was not in a very good mood? 

Pushing was hard and took a little longer than with Dom—about 20 minutes. (Which still isn’t bad, I know.) But then there he was, and all the physical pain from contractions and the wonky epidural was gone, as was the emotional stress I had been feeling for most of the afternoon. Those first moments meeting my newborns are pure bliss—the closest thing to heaven. It’s surreal and euphoric. 

I did skin to skin for a long time. I snuggled with him while he cried—he was pretty dramatic, and then I fed him as well before we decided to finally see how much he weighed. He came in over 10 pounds! Such a shock to both of us. 

My mother in law brought both the boys the next morning. J should have been at school—unknowingly it turned out to be the last day before schools shut down, and sometimes I feel sad he never got to go that last day, but then I remember he got to do something other siblings of Covid births didn’t get to do: actually come to the hospital and have those amazing first moments of seeing their new baby. So I realize now that that doctors decision to induce me was full of tender mercies like that. And since my blood pressure was only high that one random time, I think that it was possibly divine intervention as well so I could have the baby when I did, and not a week later (like I usually am), when things truly were so much different. 

We got to come home on Saturday and then hunkered down! Our quarantine and “self isolating” was probably something I would have done anyway, but “staying safe at home” never felt more right than with a beautiful sleepy newborn to snuggle with all day. 

We are so grateful for this precious gift from God. We named him Mateo Jeffrey Castro. His middle name is after my dad. And we are all smitten with him, especially his older brothers. A little too smitten, but I would rather have that than have them not care! We just are so so thankful. He’s the best thing to happen in 2020, hands down!