Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mackenzie - 8 Months


Today is February 11, 2014 and you are 8 months old today! It's been a rough month for you little girl. You have kept an ear infection through one round of antibiotics and are currently on a second round. You were sick most most of your entire 7th month.

On top of that, you are getting your top teeth. I'm pretty sure all four are trying to come in at the same time. You already have two lower teeth. Considering all the pain that you're in, you've been a pretty happy baby. You are fussier than normal the last week or so though. I think it's mostly teeth because we never even knew your ears were bothering you. We only found out you had an ear infection because we took Chloe to the doctor and they heard you coughing so they wanted to look in your ears.

8 Months old

You can get yourself into a sitting position now and you started crawling today. You don't crawl very far, but you will be zooming around soon. Chloe's pretty excited about it. But I suspect her tune will change once she realizes that it's more difficult to keep you away from her things. She's pretty good at sharing, but on her terms.

You babble a lot now. Lots of da-da-da and ba-ba-ba. We are trying to get you to clap and wave. 

You are much more interested in eating now. You like carrots, sweet potatoes and oatmeal with pears. You don't really like any of the meats...pureed meat sounds disgusting.

Your favorite toy is a squeaky monkey teether.

You love to cuddle. As much as you like to be alone in your room for quiet time, you like to be near someone when you are with us. You prefer that someone to be Chloe, but you settle for mom or dad.
Chloe dressed MJ up in her best

You can still fit into 9 month clothes, but are quickly outgrowing the onesies because you are so long. You are wearing a size 3 diaper, but I think we are about to move up to 4. 
Chloe is always asking to take pictures with her sister.

You take two naps a day and you are champ at putting yourself to sleep for naps and bed.
love these girls

You love, love, love bath time! We are letting you and Chloe take baths together because you sit up so well now. It makes bath time so much easier on this mom. haha. Plus, you girls like to splash together. 
bath time prep

You still look like you are going to be our little blondie and you have just as much (if not more) hair than Chloe did. It's harder to see your hair because it's lighter than hers was, but there is a lot of it. You have a bit of a reverse mullet. It's longer at the front, top of your head. We used to style it into a faux hawk, but it's too long to stand up now.

see my teeth?

We are enjoying getting to know you, MJ, Kenzie Kenz.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Granthamania Eurotrip 2014 - Part 3 - Amsterdam, Netherlands

Two days in Paris and we set out for Amsterdam. We opted for a train, again. The train rides were really great. When we boarded the train in London, we had to go through security like we were taking an airplane. We didn't go through any security at all in Paris. We just got on the train and went to Amsterdam. I guess they have open borders because we didn't have to have our passports checked either. It was just as easy as driving from Texas to Oklahoma.


Train ride from Paris to Amsterdam
probably in Belgium 
Below is our hotel room in Amsterdam. We stayed at the Luxor. It was two streets away from the red light district and it was great. We did have a mix up and paid for an extra night because they had another guest with our same last name. But, they realized the mistake and put us in a larger room and removed the charge. 
by far the nicest hotel we stayed at

I know these pictures don't do this city any justice. I would love to go back in the spring or summer. This is the oldest city that we visited architecturally. They said a lot of the buildings date back to the 1500s. It amazes me that this city is so well laid out for it's age.


We rarely encountered moving vehicles. Most everyone walks or bikes. There are bikes lined up along all the housing and the bridges. I have NEVER seen so many bikes. And junky bikes, too. They don't seem to care what the bike looks long as it has aired up tires and a functioning chain, they drive pedal it. Many of the bikes were "customized" with spray paint or other decorations.

the bridge in the background is lined with bikes
They said most of the people here own boats. Apparently in the summer, everyone gets out on their boats to hang out. I saw a picture of it in our hotel and you can't see the water for all the boats in the canals.

they say everyone owns a boat and that's the thing to do in summer

Below is the Anne Frank house. We toured it. People were so quiet throughout the tour. I was pretty impressed with how reverent everyone was. The two stories that the Frank family occupied with another family was much larger than I expected. It still wasn't big enough to be comfortable for 2 years of hiding without any access to the outside world! It was four rooms split between 2 floors. The staircase to get to their hiding spot was more of a ladder and it was still hidden behind the bookshelf. They had the posters and pictures that Anne pasted on the wall of her bedroom on display in her room. I haven't read the diary since 7th grade, but I plan to read it again soon. One thing that really touched me was an interview they did with her dad, Otto. He said that he and Anne were close, but when he read the diary he was touched by how insightful, wise and affected she was by everything (I'm really paraphrasing here...). He said his conclusion was that no parent ever truly knows their child. I suspect that's true of every relationship, but it made me a little sad.

Anne Frank House

bikes everywhere
According the riverboat tour we took, Amsterdam has a housing shortage. So all along the canals you will see house boats. The windows were open on some of them and we could see inside them. I wish I could have toured one. They had one available for tour, but we didn't see it.
see the houseboat?
 Amsterdam has a housing shortage, so people live on house boats.

such a great city!
I tried mayonnaise on french fries (apparently a Dutch thing). I like mayo, but I still needed a little ketchup mixed with it to make it taste the way I like. :) I thought it was funny how big the mayo packets were. 
they put mayonnaise on their fries
Below you can see the dancing ladies. They are quite crooked. Can you see how they lean? Mark had noticed a lot of buildings leaning even before the tour guide pointed this out. We kind of wondered how their building codes are and if anyone has ever inspected this stuff. But I suppose if these buildings have been around for hundreds of years, it's probably a non-issue. 

the dancing ladies of Amsterdam...don't Google that
You'll get a lot of stuff about the red light district

We mostly just walked around in Amsterdam. We stopped at a few bars to drink an Amstel or a Heineken. We ate burgers, but we never tried an apple pie. That's a big regret for me. I think they put cheese on them. Not sure about that.

at night from an outdoor patio at the bar

on the bar patio
they have heaters outside, so you can still enjoy the outdoors in the cold weather
I took this picture from the riverboat tour. There are so many bridges in Amsterdam. Around 1500!
seven bridges
can't see all seven from this picture, but they go back as far as the eye can see

first of the seven bridges

We did walk around the red light district. I didn't take any pictures. I didn't want to get yelled at by one of the hookers. Pictures are frowned upon. It wasn't nearly as "seedy" as most people probably think. Of course we were never walking around super late. Maybe midnight was the latest we were there. The women stand in the windows in their underwear. A lot of them were applying their makeup or messing with their phones while we walked around. We did see a few of them opening doors to explain their rates to the men who were interested. I'm not going to lie. It bothers me that there is a market for this and I question whether the all the women involved are there voluntarily. But I had to see what this red light district was all about. I saw parents walking down the street with their kids in tow and nobody even glanced at the hookers in the windows. The women weren't revealing anything more than a swimsuit would allow. 

We went into one coffee shop called the Bulldog. It was decorated like the inside of a tree with toadstools everywhere. I'm pretty sure that would mess with your head if you were tripping (hallucinating). That's not my thing. 

a Heineken cheers to our last day.
Amsterdam was a great way to end our trip. We had been running around like crazy in London and Paris to try and see as much as possible. Since Amsterdam is much smaller and a lot more laid back, we were able to rest a little more. It truly was our favorite place.

We left Amsterdam after two days. We had to fly into Iceland first then on to New York. I was worried about getting stuck in Iceland. But, we got stuck in New York instead. I'm surprised they let us land. New York already had nearly a foot of snow.
That's Iceland out there.

Mark and I raced to get to our terminal to change our flight to the earliest flight the next day. That was an adventure that resulted in me screaming (no exaggeration) at a NYC bus driver. Long story short...they took us out of the airport and to a subway station. Then they threatened to not return us to the I freaked. Don't mess with a mom trying to get home to see her babies. And yankees, you are no match for an angry TEXAN. haha

JFK airport...snowing like it's the North Pole
We made it back to the airport. Got the earliest flight for the next day and spent the night on the airport floor. It wasn't fun, but we made it back to Austin the next day! Thanks to my mom for watching the girls and extra day!

Our bed for the night. JFK airport floor. Terminal 5 baggage claim.
For the record, I was mad at that bus driver and I do wish I had been able to remain calm. But I was really impressed and appreciative of all the New Yorkers who stayed at work to help all the weary and stranded travelers. The people at Jet Blue were so helpful and friendly and they were worried about getting home to their kids for the night, too. But they didn't take it out on us. I'm always impressed by how friendly/nice people in New York are...I feel like you always hear how rude they are. Other than the bus driver, that has never been my experience.
airport the next morning.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Granthamania Eurotrip 2014 - Part 2 - Paris, France

After two days in London, we were off to Paris. We opted for a train ride on the Eurostar. We wanted to see countryside and travel on a train.
train ride from London to Paris

taken in the cab on the way to hotel
We only had two days in Paris so we hit the ground running! Cab ride to hotel, dropped off bags and started exploring!
another very small hotel room. Hotel

the red canopy in the bottom right is where we ate lunch.
it was a cute little corner cafe.

The next few pictures are of the Eiffel Tower. I can't believe how much I loved that structure. I really thought it would be over-rated and so cliche. In fact, Mark and I drank a bottle of wine and ate some macaroons on a park bench in front of the tower on our last night in Paris.

I read somewhere; although, I can't cite the source that the Eiffel Tower only took two years to build. The tallest structure before that was the Washington Monument and it took 30 years to complete. How is that for a feat of engineering?

Eiffel Tower was erected for the 1889 World's Fair

most visited paid monument in the World

Enjoying some wine at a cafe.
We spent most of our time strolling around the streets of Paris. I haven't looked at a map since we returned, but I suspect we didn't make it very far. We didn't even make it to Montmartre where we would have been able to see the Moulin Rouge.
on the second level of the Eiffel Tower
view from 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower

The Wall for Peace

In Epcot's Paris pavilion, they have a French bakery where they serve cream puffs. This Paris Brest was the closest thing I could find and it was pretty close...and delicious. I would have gained 10 pounds in two days while we were in France if we hadn't been walking so much.

took me forever to find a cream puff
turns out they call them Paris Brest...not sure it is exactly the same as a cream puff
close enough

Tuileries Garden
The Louvre

Eiffel Tower

Everything was so much larger than I expected in France. Mark and I joked that whoever said everything is bigger in Texas has never been to France. For example, the Arc de Triomphe is so much larger in person than it looks in pictures. Just look at the picture below and you can see some people standing directly in front of the monument. See how small they are?

My mom requested this photo...It's from the movie Forget Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Directly across from the Eiffel Tower, was what we think was a military academy of some sort. The next two pictures are from those buildings. It looked like they had been sprayed with bullet holes and shrapnel. We assume it was from WWII. We also saw a picture of Hitler and the Nazis standing directly front of this building with the Tower in the background. It was kind of surreal to think that we were in the same city and country that had such an impact on history.

bullet holes...we assume from WWII

looked like more shrapnel markings
This brings me to my next set of pictures. The Army Museum (Musée de l'Armée). This is where Les Invalides (Napoleon's tomb) is located. We didn't see the entire museum. We focused mostly on WWI and WWII history. It was interesting, but there weren't many explanations written in English, so we missed a lot. It was really interesting to see the story of the invasion on the beaches of Normandy from another country's perspective. Here in the States we focus on our role in that invasion...of course...and I'm not saying that's wrong. But, when we were in this museum there wasn't a whole lot of attention paid to it. You have to think that's because it was such a small part of what France had actually experienced during the Nazi invasion. I don't think they were downplaying the significance of it, just trying to give all aspects of the war their attention. I also don't remember covering in my classes how many other countries played a role in Normandy. Canada, the UK, the Free French Forces (who I had never heard of ) were all there. According to Wikipedia,  "Polish forces also participated, as well as contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands." And that's not covering the air forces that were helping. 

Just like Mark and I have different experiences of the same trip, different countries have different experiences of the same war. It was educational to see from another country's 'eyes.'

So while we were at the museum, we had to go see Napoleon's tomb. I mean could you not?

Les Invalides
Unlike the man himself, his tomb was huge! It was beautiful. As a disclaimer, he isn't the only person entombed here. There is a complete list on Wikipedia.
The dome above Napoleons casket

Napoleon is inside is huge.
It is the Russian Doll of caskets.  There are caskets within each other.

Here are some more pictures of the Arc. We didn't go to the top for viewing. I wanted to get my view from Paris on top of the Notre Dame, but we opted to do the second level of the Tower instead.

A great shot of the tower lit up at night from across the Seine river. It was twinkling, which the picture doesn't capture

The Notre Dame! We took a cab from our hotel to see this cathedral. When we pulled up, I was disappointed. From the outside, it was underwhelming for me. I'm really not sure what I expected because it's a beautiful church. Mark and I decided to go inside since it was free to enter. Let me tell you...I am so very glad we did! I didn't take a lot of pictures because I was so busy absorbing every inch of this magnificent structure.

one of the many stained glass windows

the stained glass at the front of the church

alter...if that's what you call it? not sure


this is just a quaint little French area 

this is totally French, right?

Saint-Chapelle was very beautiful. I'm not sure it was worth the money to get it. Unless you consider that they are currently working to restore this beautiful piece of history and your entrance fee is obviously helping with that. It dates back to the 1200's!
stained glass from Sainte-Chapelle

more Sainte-Chapelle
We didn't actually tour the Louvre. I had seen some of the art work on tour in Houston years ago. Since we didn't have much time and the Louvre could take days to see a decent portion, we decided to just marvel at the outside.
The Louvre

The Louvre is huge. This isn't even 1/3 of the building.

We stopped at Love lock bridge. We bought a lock from some stranger, wrote our names, the names of our girls and the year. Then we snapped the lock on the bridge and threw the key into the Seine. 

Love lock bridge.

See our love lock? Chloe and MJ are written on the back.

Mark was tired from all the walking.
Paris was such a fun city. I always swore that I never wanted to visit. But, I'm so glad I did. I hope to go back someday.

I do have to share a sweet story about Mark. We were walking down the street and a woman (probably 40-50) was coming out of a restaurant/bar to get into a cab. She fell because she was pretty hammered. Mark walked over, helped her up and into the cab. She never said a word to him or even looked at him. But it was so sweet! We laughed about it a lot. Not her falling...just the fact that she didn't say anything. She probably had to go home and wash the "American" off her...haha.