Thursday, June 25, 2009

Four years ago today...

Dear Kate and Riley,

Four years ago today was one of the greatest days of my life. Dad and I were married and sealed for all eternity in the San Diego temple. It was a great day when we were promised many wonderful things. I remember all of our family and many of our friends being there with us to celebrate. I feel truly lucky to have found your Dad. We have been through a lot together in the past four years but it has made us stronger and made our love even deeper. I know we will celebrate many many anniversaries to come.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Dear Kate and Riley,

I know you wish you could personally wish your Dad a happy Father's Day. Zachary and I tried our best to make it a good day for Dad. Even though I had kicked him downstairs due to his snoring and coughing (I'm a mean wife), I tried to let him sleep in a little. Then we made him pancakes (from scratch!) and headed to church. Zach hand picked a Mickey Mouse card for Dad and we got him some golf balls. We made a feast of cordon blue, twice baked potatoes, broccoli and rolls. Zach even helped me make the sauce. Then we got to have yummy dessert with our friends the Hunts. We think Dad had a pretty good day.

You are lucky to have such a wonderful Dad. He gets better and more patient every day (Zach has taught both of us patience!). I love to watch him play with Zach and I LOVE to listen when he gets Zach out of bed in the morning, it is truly a precious moment I get to experience almost every day. He always remembers you and thanks Heavenly Father for you in our prayers. He is the one who reminds me to do Family Home evening and he tries so hard to take great care of our little family.

Happy Father's Day to Dad!


Zach got some blocks this weekend and he sat for hours playing with Dad. It was so cute to watch them stack them up together

I know this picture is blurry but it shows how excited Zach was to play blocks with Dad

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Back to reality

Dear Kate and Riley,
Well the trip was fun but as all good things, it had to come to an end. We have had kind of a killer introduction back to reality though. We brought home a sick little Zachary who promptly gave his sickness to his already tired and jet lagged mom and then we gave it to Dad. Most of our first week back was spent laying around on the couch and packing on the pounds I didn't pack on in Italy (shoot!).

Dad and I had decided before the trip that when we got home it was finally going to be time for Zachary to say goodbye to his beloved "B" (binkie). The problem was that when we got back he seemed more attached than ever before, wanting it ALL the time and freaking out when he couldn't have it. Add to that the fact that he was sick and we decided it wasn't time. Well, this weekend he seemed quite a bit better so we decided to go for it. Dad was really gung ho but I think he forgot that its easy to be gung ho when you are the one who leaves all day! I was so nervous I couldn't sleep the night before. I think that I didn't really intend to do it.

Day 1-- we woke up in the morning and my resolve was already gone. I decided we would go half way, I would make him leave binkie in the bed all day and only use it for naps and bed. This seemed like a good compromise to me. The morning was AWFUL. Really awful, he had tantrum after tantrum. He'd forget about it for 10 min and then stop what he was doing, fling himself to the floor and yell "BINK, BINK, BINK, BIIIIIIIINK!" He cried so hard he threw up-- twice. I thought I was going to lose it. I gave it to him for his nap but made him leave it in his bed after. The evening went much better with fewer tantrums and not as many requests. I had to work that night so Aaron put him down and he actually went down WITHOUT the binkie! He slept all night and even though he woke up pretty early, it wasn't too early to deal with.

Day 2-- Disneyland without binkie. Went great. He only asked for it a few times, mostly in the car. He has started to ask for "nack" (snacks) instead. I'm worried he'll be like the smoker who gains 20 pounds when they quit. Nap was a disaster. It wasn't happening. I gave in and gave him the binkie for the nap. Went down for the night again without it, no problem. Woke up early again but not too early I couldn't deal.

Day 3-- 24 hours without it. I was more determined today. The morning went well. Only asked for it a few times and when I reminded him it went bye-bye he would say "yeah". Nap. I was going to stick to my guns. He screamed for 20 min. Fell asleep. Woke up. Screamed again. I thought I should give in. But now he's sleeping.

Anyway, that is the play by play. I needed this documented for the next time I have to go through it. If this is as bad as it gets, it really wasn't that bad. I think it was the right time for him, he was getting too attached but I knew he was young enough still to let it go.


Sunday, June 07, 2009


From Borgo di Vagli we dropped off the rental car and took the train to Rome. I have to say I was sort of prepared not to like Rome, I had heard a lot of bad things about it. I thought I was going to be right when we arrived at the train station and decided to take the metro to our hotel. Aaron assured me it was only a 1 km walk to our hotel which I thought I could easily handle. Instead, it turned out to be almost a MILE and a half (BIG difference from a km), UPHILL, in the BLAZING sun while wheeling our bags. I was drenched in sweat and cursing Aaron under my breath. When we finally arrived at the hotel the nice lady at the front desk told us about the local train which had a stop literally around the corner from the hotel. I was mad we didn't know about it before, but glad we wouldn't have to make the trek from the metro every time we wanted to go into town. After a long nap and a shower, I decided to give Rome another chance.

Turns out, I loved it! I felt like Rome just had an energy of sorts and so much history and I really just loved it. That first afternoon we just took the train into town and walked around. We saw the Spanish Steps, threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain (it is supposed to mean you get to come back!), and shopped all evening. I loved all the people, and like I said, just the energy of the place, I can't describe it well with words. That first night we saw that around seven all the little restaraunts just drag tables out into the streets and onto the sidewalks to set up for dinner. Its pretty crazy but we ate at a little restaurant at a table literally in the road with a view of the Trevi Fountain. After dinner we watched street performers and walked around until late just people watching and having a blast.

The next day we did the Colosseum in the morning which was really cool, we had a podcast to give us some history too. We also did the Roman Forum which I loved (and made me wish I was teaching 10th graders Julius Caesar!) even though it was REALLY hot. We took a siesta in the afternoon and then went back into town to walk around the Vatican area and see it lit up at night. We got dinner at one of the street restaurants again but this time learned you don't want the table in the gutter!

Our last day in Rome we got up early to get in line for the Vatican museum which houses the Sistine Chapel. We had heard the lines were brutal so we were prepared but we got lucky and the line wasn't too long. The Vatican museum was really cool but the Sistine Chapel was the real reason to be there. It had recently been cleaned and the colors were SO vibrant and amazing and I just couldn't imagine Michealangelo standing on scaffolding and painting that, its crazy! After the Vatican Museum we did St. Peter's Basilica which was the most amazing church I have ever seen. The dome was amazing, the altar, I am just not even going to try to do it justice. I was in awe.

Our last night we did some more shopping and checked out some different piazzas and got dinner at a little bit of a nicer restaurant on one of the piazzas. It was a great night and we ended it by getting gelato (one last time!) and eating it on the Spanish Steps.

Rome was a great city and I think I could have easily spent a week or more there. It was a great way to end our trip. We headed home the next day, sad but excited to get back to our baby! I really hope that some day we can do it again.

Throwing my coin into the Trevi Fountain

The first McDonald's in Italy. It was SO fancy, and all I really wanted was a fountain drink (but they didn't know to put ice in it, well you can't win them all!)

Trevi Fountain at night

In the Colusseum


By Rome we were pretty sick of asking people to take our picture. We attempted the self portrait a number of times but its pretty hard with our big camera, I think that Aaron looks pained in every single one of these that we tried!

Me and my Gladiator

Vatican at night

The Sistine Chapel, doesn't even remotely do it justice

The dome at St. Peter's

The Pantheon

And that's it folks! Til next time! (I hope)

Thursday, June 04, 2009


From Florence we rented a car (an awesome Fiat!) and drove to Tuscany. We were a little stressed that the car rental place didn't have a GPS for us but thankfully we really didn't have any problem getting around (once we figured out how to put the car into reverse-- no joke this took us about 10 min).

We drove from Florence first to San Gimignano which is this old town that still has standing towers from ancient feuding families. Although it isn't much more now than a tourist trap I really liked it, the old cobblestone streets, the walled city and the towers, I imagined the Capulets and Montagues and Romeo climbing to Juliette's window (ok, I'm an English teacher, what do you expect?). The town was really small so we just walked around for a while, got pizza for lunch, did some shopping and headed out.

The scenery while we drove was spectacular. Beautiful rolling hills with these terraced fields all up the hills. It was so green and beautiful and felt a little like we had gone back in time. I loved coming around a corner and happening upon a little town on top of a hill, so cool.

Our next stop was a castle (well I guess ruins of a castle) called Monteriggioni. There wasn't much to see there but you could walk on the outer walls (built in the 1200's, impressive all by itself) and get some great views of the surrounding countryside. We got gelato there (of course) and walked the walls before heading out.

After the castle we got to Sienna. This was probably the most stressful part of driving since the roads were a little confusing in town. In Sienna we visited the church (of course), climbed a crazy winding staircase to the top for some amazing views and visited the crypts of the church which again, reminded me of Romeo and Juliette. If I was still teaching I would have taken lots of pictures of the crypts to have my kids imagine what it would have been like for poor Juliette to wake up in that dark scary place!

Sienna didn't live up to the hype for me. Maybe we didn't stay there long enough. We only stayed a few hours and then took off again, after stopping at the grocery store (an adventure in and of itself) for some food to bring to the "villa" where we would be staying.

Our next stop (this was a long day!) was Cortona. I LOOOOOOOVED Cortona! If you have seen or read Under the Tuscan Sun (I haven't but will now). It is where that book/movie took place. It was just this lovely, small, romantic, rustic town. I seriously just loved it. Plus we got there right at sunset so it was just beautiful. We ate at this adorable little restaurant where Aaron had a man crush on our old man server and I just loved every second of it.

After Cortona we had the adventure of finding the "villa". The VERY generous CEO of Aaron's work let us use their Tuscan time share for two nights at a place called Borgo de Valgli. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, about an hour outside Cortona. We drove up this windy two lane road up the mountain, down the mountain, sure we were lost until we came to a tiny little sign that said Borgo de Valgi. Then we turned off the road to drive 2 km on a one lane gravel road and there we were. In the middle of the countryside in a restored 14th century farmhouse! It was amazing! We had our own little apartment with 2 bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen and livingroom, it was bigger than our condo! We got there late so we just headed to bed.

The next day we decided to take as a relaxing day we tried to sleep in (apparently 14th C farmhouses do not have window coverings though so it was kind of bright!), we did some laundry and just hung out by the pool with incredible views (until I got scared away by the plentiful scary bugs, we were really in the country!). We had the salami and cheese and bread we had bought at the grocery store and I fell in love with REAL Italian salami. In the afternoon we went back to Cortona since I had loved it so much, walked around, went to the church and the fortress at the top, had a snack and hung out for a while. We decided to have dinner in the small town that was closest to Borgo di Vagli but when we got there we realized it was a VERY small town and there wasn't a restaurant. Instead we bought some food at the market and Aaron made me an authentic Italian missionary dinner (pasta and red sauce). It was delicious.

The best adventure at Borgo di Vagli was coming home that second afternoon and discovering a HORNET in our apartment. If you have never seen a hornet before and right now you are imagining a bee, try again. It is more like the biggest dinosaur type bee thing you have ever seen. Aaron and I were both FREAKING out. I hid in the bathroom screaming while he tried to get it out of the house. Aaron finally went and got someone at reception who turned out to be some 90 lb English woman who was also scared silly (she had actually been stung by one before so her fear didn't make me feel any better). She though, knew how to open the big front kitchen windows and was able to shoo the hornet out that way. It was pretty hilarious (after I was done screaming).

outside San Gimignano

Aaron on top of the castle walls

The campo in Sienna

Sunset at Cortona

Making breakfast at the farmhouse

Laying our "under the Tuscan sun". I was obsessed with these great lawn chairs that had the adjustable face shield. I need one for the beach.

Borgo di Vagli


On top of the fortress in Cortona

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


From Riomaggiore we took an early train to Florence, we had to switch trains twice which was kind of a pain but we got some real local flavor, morning commuters, students heading the the university in Pisa and trains so crowded we had to straddle our bags so others could sit next to us (hey, we were lucky not to be standing!).

We arrived in Florence in the morning and found our "hotel". It was pretty sketchy but hey, the price was right, hotels in Florence were expensive (and no Marriott!). Next time (if I say it enough it will happen, right?) I would splurge a little more for one closer to town.

We started off at some gardens in Florence but, personally they weren't very impressive. Add that to the heat and the fact that I had a horrible blister from hiking and it didn't start off as the best day. After the gardens though it got better. We went to the Ufizzi museum where we had a Rick Steve's podcast to "show" us around. That was great because it helped us hit the major works and gave us some history to actually appreciate them, much better than wandering aimlessly around a museum. After the Ufizzi we went to the Academia which is where Michelangelo's David is housed. It was AMAZING! Really much more impressive in person than I ever could have imagined.

We had an ok lunch in Florence but our dinner was great. We had heard Florence was known for their beef so we got fliet and it was awesome! It was another meal to remember. We also did some good shopping in Florence, it was "the" place for leather so of couse I had to buy a few bags, Aaron did a GREAT job of bartering with the vendors! We spent a lot of time people watching as well, which was fun, there was a really funny street preformer in the main piazza that I could have sat and watched for hours.

Our sketchy hotel worked out fine and since we were only staying for one night it wasn't that big of a deal at all. And hey, it has AC which always makes me happy. :)

Aaron in front of the famous bridge the Ponte Vecchio

The gardens had great views of Florence

Fake David statue, the real one was much more impressive, but no photos allowed!

This was our awesome shower in florence. It was really just a shower head on the wall behind the bathroom door. So if someone was showering, you couldn't open the door, well you could but you would have smashed the showering person. Also, although there was a drain on the floor, the water still went everywhere, leaving the floor soaked. It was funny.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cinque Terre-- Riomaggiore

View from our room in Riomaggiore

The next morning we left Milan on an early train to the Cinque Terre, five towns on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This was a pretty train ride and I didn't have to sit backwards, yay. I was surprised as we got closer and closer how many more tourists we saw. This place was crawling with American and German tourists. It was interesting as we started to hear English more and more.

When we arrived in Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of the five, we realized we had not made arrangements to meet Claudio, the man we were renting a room from. When we got off the train we tried to call him but couldn't get ahold of him. Unsure what to do, we sort of looked a little lost at the train station with our bags and no place to go. Aaron stopped an old man to ask him a question and the guy ended up being so nice. He pretty much dropped whatever it was he was doing and walked us into the center of town. He yelled across the street to his buddy and then we had two guys helping us look for Claudio. The town itself was TINY, just one main road with a few restaurants and shops and then houses just huddled up against the coast and stacked on top of each other. Anway, eventually we had like three old guys looking for Claudio for us and Aaron finally got ahold of him on his phone. He came and walked us up about 200 stairs to our place, just a little studio apartment but it was perfect and had a great view.

We got a lunch and explored Riomaggiore and then we did the hike to the next town of Monorola, explored that town a little, and did another slightly longer hike to Corneglia and then took the train back to Riomaggiore. We had dinner and I decided to be brave and order sea food, since we were at the sea after all. Well I ended up with an entire sea bass on my plate, eyes, fins, and all! I did manage to eat quite a bit before I got really grossed out.

That night we took the train to Monterosso, the northernmost town and explored. Each town was a little different but they were all so great. We got dessert in Monterosso and took the train back.

The next day we took the train back to Monterosso to do the two hardest hikes, first to Vernazza and then from Vernazza to Corneglia. The hikes were tough! Tons of steps and steep up hills but BEAUTIFUL and green and amazing views. When we finished the first hike and got to Vernazza we got lunch and hung out and I went swimming in the sea. Aaron wouldn't come, I don't know why, but it was so cool and beautiful! Then we did the last hike into Corneglia, which was also tough but beautiful and took the train back again.

That night we got dinner in Monterosso and I had probably one of my best meals from the trip, a local pasta called trofie with pesto--- soooo yummy!

I LOVED the cinque terre, could have stayed here another day or two for sure, it was just beautiful and relaxing.

The many steps up to our room and all over the towns

Riomaggiore from the harbor

Monorola with gelato!

My sea bass-- the whole thing!

Sunset in Riomaggiore

Starting our 2nd day hikes in Monterosso

On the trail with beautiful views

On the trail with Vernazza below

Swimming in the harbor in Vernazza, I promise I wasn't the only one!

Views of Vernazza from the other side as we hiked to Corneglia

On the trail with Corneglia in the background