Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Favorite Time of the Year

I love Christmas time and it's FINALLY here!! One of my favorite things about Christmas is seeing this guy.

JEFFREY
Jeff is Joe's older brother who lives in a special needs home in California. Seeing Jeff is kind of like watching General Conference. He only comes twice a year, and he leaves us all wishing WE would be better to be able to live with HIM again. He is so kind, humble, meek, and submissive. He adores little kids and he has nothing but love to share. When I'm around him I just smile all the time, he just makes me happy. Happy Birthday Jeff, we love you!!




His favorite things in life are his mom, socks, movies, and Applebee's! Hurry back Jeff!!!!


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Truely a MIRACLE

Madison,
Congratulations kiddo! The Lord loves you and has blessed you and your family tremendously!!
Get better soon so we can see your precious smile again!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Miss Madison

Everyone knows we set up this blog to share our travel stories because we always get hounded by people who want to see pictures and hear all about our adventures. But tonight, I wanted to be more personal.

My heart has been full of emotions this past week, both good and bad. I don't usually care about Thanksgiving. To me it's just a fun precursor to Christmas but this year was different. I had some amazing experiences this weekend, ones that I have not felt in a long time. I was reminded of everything I'm thankful for, and more.

This weekend was more of a spiritual awakening. I was reminded of the power of the Priesthood and how much I love to see honorable leaders gather together, and to experience the Power of God that they radiate. I love that. As Joe's dad was being set apart to be in the bishopric, I looked at the people around me and how amazing they are. I am blessed to be around people who inspire me all the time. In my home, my family, my friends, and my work. I love my job. I love the people that I work with, I love what I do. I experience joy and pain with these families, and I watch miracles happen everyday. Often times parents think they couldn't have done it without us nurses (it's only half true). What they don't know is how much I learn and am inspired by them. There are always success stories, but often, there are not.

One family had just had their 3rd baby boy. He was term and all seemed well until he was sent to us and we noticed there were several problems with this little boy. He was in our unit for 2 months and I was blessed to get to know them and take care of their little boy everyday. I grew to love this family and as they found out more of the problems this little boy had, I hurt with them. Finally, on Mother's Day they were allowed to take their little boy home, but only because there was nothing else we could do. I cried for probably 3 weeks straight, knowing the next time I would see him would be at his funeral. He lived for 15 months.

That is just one of the families I will never forget. There are many others whom I have loved and learned from. But right now, my heart is hurting for the Hiles family. They were in our unit for 2 months as well. I took care of these twins during their stay in our unit.


I love this family. Michelle and I are so alike. Mark is just cool and laid back (like my Joe) and these twins are the cutest!! I have kept tabs on them over the year and was in total shock when Michelle called to tell me little Madison needs a heart transplant. If you would like to follow their story, you can visit their site here. I was in shock, but hopeful because Madison was doing so well. Well, tonight at 1 a.m. I received a text from Michelle that Madison is in the PICU and the only thing I can think of is.....the roller coaster has begun. It was much sooner than I thought it would be. All my love to the Hiles family, you can do this. And you know you can call me ANYTIME, like you already do :)


Little Miss Madison, your journey will be long and not so fun. You have always been the sensitive one :) Your parents love you and Cooper too. You're in my prayers.
Love,
Your nurse from the NICU

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

London, Uk

Our next destination naturally had to be London. Unfortunately, we spent the least amount of days there when it was the city we could have used the most time in. When I asked the passport officer if London was doable in 3 days, he reported back to me that it takes a lifetime to see London. After being there, I understand. We really only had 2.5 days because our flight didn't get in until the afternoon so there was no jet-lag resting period. We landed, went to the hotel, showered and were out the door. Our first destination was a stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

We of course had to see the Tower of London. Many people told me to watch "The Other Boleyn Girl" before going and as disturbing as it was, I'm glad we did. However as we walked around and there were paintings of the real Henry, I was disgusted. I just pretended it was actually Eric Bana. But let me say England is a very rich country...the Crown Jewels were RiDiCuLoUs!!! I was in heaven looking at all those sparklies!! And if you ever go there the BEST fish and chips were at the Tower!!!!!!!

Here we are at the British Museum. We were only there for 1.5 hours before it closed, basically enough to see the highlights, the Rosetta Stone being one of them. And yes, they had stools you could carry around and sit and look at the exhibits. And of course Joe did.

Other places we hit: Changing of the Guard (I really want one of those hats!) and Piccadilly Circus.

Pretty.

Mind The Gap

This is St. Paul's Cathedral. I didn't plan on climbing a gazillion stairs like all the other Cathedrals in Europe we've seen, but this one was actually included in the (expensive) price so we did. I utilized my time up there though, looking out to the places I wanted to see but knew we wouldn't have time.

Westminster Abbey. My favorite of this trip. It really is GORGEOUS.

Parliament and Big Ben as seen from the London Eye. Absolutely Phenomenal.

And that pretty much concludes our trip. It was really short. It was enough time to get a taste of London, but not enough time to fall in love with it. It was so expensive! The city is so spread out. We were out the door by 7:30 am and came home at 10 pm each night and we were hurrying through everything (except the Abbey of course...probably why it was my favorite) just to be able to see as much as possible. We saw a lot: Hyde Park, Kensington Palace/Gardens, Peter Pan, Nottinghill, Westminster Abbey, Parliament/Big Ben, London Eye, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace/Changing of the Guard, Harrods, ride the Double Decker buses, British Museum, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, FISH AND CHIPS (yea!), and of course came home saying MIND THE GAP all the time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dobry Den (the only thing we could say)

It's true! We finally made it to our dream destination...PRAGUE!! We made all the plans, but I refused to believe that we would actually get there. Even as we waited patiently in Atlanta (which was a nightmare to get to) I still refused to believe. It wasn't until we were buckled in, on our way and they kept translating everything into Czech, that it finally dawned on me.....WE'RE GOING TO PRAGUE. Then it was all nerves from there. We've always gotten by with the language because of my Portuguese, but I knew I had no chance of picking up Czech. Flying over Eastern Europe was beautiful. Green forests with occasional old farmhouses was picturesque. So here we are as we landed.

We were fortunate enough to stay at the Marriott (thanks Adrian!) and it was beautiful. The location was primo, the beds comfy and they even had a shoe buffer!


One of our first places to visit was the Natural History Museum which was the site for Mission Impossible (where Tom Cruise dresses up as the Senator for the party). The scene is filmed on the staircase which was actually really small, but looking at our pictures, it looks big on film and photos. The museum itself was pretty neat. A lot of archeology, geology, animal history, and even a section displaying the labor and delivery tools used in the old days....yeah, made me not want to have babies.



There was a lot of different architecture. Definitely Medieval, Bohemian, and Baroque, this being one of the most famous Baroque churches. I called it the barbie doll church. It looked like a playhouse. The inside is covered in pink imitation marble. It was so glossy and pretty! The bottom left picture is the pulpit and the bottom right pictures is the organ that Mozart played when he lived in Prague.

It was during our first evening walk that I fell in love with this church. It was in Old Town Square where I realized that everything that I had heard about Prague was true: It's a storybook fairytale land. Walking in the streets felt like walking in Robin Hood times AND Disneyland. It didn't look real, it looked like a lot at Universal Studios. For how old the city is, it is soooo well preserved. I can say this is my favorite church EVER. It amazes me that it was built 100 years after the Pisa Cathedral, but it is totally different.

Prazsky Hrad

We spent a day at Prague Castle. It was tiring but fun. They have a changing of the guard, ancient palace (they still use part of the palace for current government), 3 churches, museums, garden, and fun grounds to explore. It is home to St. Vitus Cathedral where the Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept. They weren't on display, neither could we see the door with the 7 locks that it's in because of renovation. I must say it's very beautiful and unique, but it's the most well lit cathedral I have ever been in. It didn't feel dark and closed in like Notre Dame.

This is Golden Lane at the castle. This is where the goldsmiths and other servants would live. They're like midget homes. The ceilings are low and most of them are only 1 room which now house little shops. We did climb to the second floor, it was a long hallway where they housed the ancient types of Medieval armors and spears. And yes, there was even a torcher chamber (bottom right pic).


More amazing architecture. The top left pic is St. Vitus Cathedral, top right is the ancient palace.


The food there was very heavy but good. It was actually a great mix of a lot of cultures. But we had to try the most authentic. Klobasy with Sauerkraut which was really good and filling, but oh so greasy. We also found the apple strudel place that Samantha Brown went to and it IS that big. We did splurge one night and I loved what I got, but Joe ordered chicken and it still had feathers....and he was sick for the rest of the night of course. By our last night, I still hadn't tried the Goulash, but we were tired of the heaviness so we opted for Pizza, and it was just like Italy's.


Part of the charm of Prague were the Bohemian doors EVERYWHERE. Whether is was in a touristy area, or a home, ALL the doors looked like this.

Laska Praha

The Jewish Quarter was probably one of my favorite areas. Not only was it the wealthy area of Prague and architecturally beautiful, but it was our first time experiencing the impact of WW2. The top 2 pics are of the oldest Synagogue of Europe, it is where the Sacred Scrolls of the Torah are kept. Joe had to wear a Yarmulke to enter. I loved experiencing the Jewish Cemetery. The Jews were given only that plot of land to bury the dead from 1400's-1700's. Approximately 100,000 people are buried there. They were buried 12 layers deep thus they had to share the headstones, and not everybody got one. The most moving was the Pinkas Synagogue. They converted it to honor the Czech Jews who died in WW2. All the walls are covered with names of the those who died along with their birth/death dates from floor to ceiling. It was UNREAL. They also had an encased area where there were children's drawings. A woman who was a painter/designer and an art student held classes in Terezin (the transition camp). She felt it would be therapeutic for the children to express their thoughts and feelings in art form and provided this for the children. Everyday they would have a theme of what they were supposed to draw for example, their home, their bedrooms at the camp, the night they were taken from their homes etc. When this woman was taken to Auschwitz, she hid 2 luggage's full of these drawings, and they were later found and displayed. It was heartbreaking to see these drawings and you could tell exactly what they were drawing and how awful it must have been. We couldn't take pictures, but one sticks out in my head vividly. It was all grey and black, there was a building with many chimney stacks emitting "smoke" and there were dead trees all around the building. It was pretty amazing, but awful at the same time.

We climbed Old Town Bridge tower where we were able to capture these photos. You can see the vibrant colors of the city as well as seeing why Prague is known as "The city of 100 spires."


We spent our last night in Old Town Square (our fav) where they have my favorite church, the astronomical clock and much much more. It was hard to say goodbye. It came and went.

That concludes our trip, this was my favorite picture that we took (Prague Castle from across Charles Bridge). The sky really was that blue. Everything about Prague was exactly as I had anticipated. The people were VERY nice and spoke English. The food was unique but good, the sites were beautiful, the history was rich and it is a storybook city. What I also loved about the city was that the souvenirs catered to the storybook theory. There were so many fun things to choose from! We got an orange and black candle that that had a Prague scene carved in it, we got a medieval witch that laughs when you clap your hands and her eyes glow, just to name a few. All in all we fell in love with Prague even more!!!!!!!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rome, Italy

We stayed right by the Colosseum in Rome, which was my favorite of the entire trip. I loved that we got to see it every morning and night, it is sooooo mesmerising. Here we are waiting for the bus right by the hotel.

This is a view from across the street. These ruins were the gladiator's barracks. There were doorways (now cemented in) where they could go underground and pop up in the arena when the emperor wanted more.


The top picture shows a replica of the pully system that was used. The bottom picture is where the pulley system used to be, with the rebuilt wooden platform so we could see what it was like.


The massive and phenomenal Colosseum. The cross on the left is where the Emperor would sit.



Angels & Demons with the Cook's

St. Peter's Basilica. Angels & Demons was released the day we got to Rome. I wish we would have seen it before, but it was fun to see it right when we got home because everything was so fresh in our minds. We did see almost everything they visited, the one exception being the church at Piazza del Popolo.

You have to walk through the entire Vatican Museum before getting to the Sistine Chapel. They had some cool things, including this extremely well preserved mummy. They pulled out her brain through her left eye and the original cloth they put in the socket is still there. Joe once again took some illegal pictures of the Sistine chapel...I'm so proud. And here we are having lunch with our much needed Coke's. It was so hot!


St. Peter's Basilica. I've never paid attention to any conclave that's happened during my lifetime, but it was fun to watch it in the movie and to actually be where it all goes down.I learned so much about the Catholic church while in Italy.




The view from the top of St. Peter's Basilica. Vatican City is HUGE.

AMO ROMA

Castel Sant'lAngelo was AWESOME. It was our last day there and we couldn't decide what to see next, but I had remembered the book mentioning this place, so we went. I'm so glad we did, it was really cool.

It was interesting to watch the movie and to see the different areas, but the movie made it look different then the layout actually is. Remember, we took these pictures before we saw the movie. Cool huh?


More scenes from the movie, and scenes of the lovely Roma.


The Spanish Steps....it was ALWAYS so crowded that it wasn't very much fun, but it is beautiful.


And of course the fabulous Trevi Fountain which I adored looking at. There are a ton of people there all the time too, but it was beautiful, day and night.



And that concludes our Italy trip. We learned, laughed, and loved that's for sure. We met a lot of amazing people too, not just Doyle. Our last night in Rome, was really memorable. Doyle recommended this really amazing restaurant. We sat in the corner and an elderly couple from Florida sat next to us. The four of us started talking, then an Italian local who was there by himself, who was sitting on the opposite side of elderly couple, joined in the conversation. We were there so long we got kicked out! This trip will always be remembered. It was a culmination of remarkable history, beautiful art, amazing architecture, wonderful food, fun experiences, laughter with new friends, and being with my Sweetheart through it all.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hotel Degli Orafi

We chose to spend a little more and stay at this awesome hotel in Florence. The location was primo and the breakfast was amazing. The movie "A Room With A View" was filmed here. It is in between the Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio. This is the entrance in a pedestrian only street.

It used to be an old palace so it was a very unique experience. The breakfast room was the old ballroom and you could sit right on the river for breakfast. They had beautiful sitting rooms and a library.
In front of our hotel room.


This guy sang every night promoting his cd's. He was REALLY good.


A classical concert. They taped off the assigned seats but there were hundreds of people standing around listening.