August 2013: Connor’s 16-month update

Your personality is really starting to develop and shine. You are so curious, and you pay so much attention to everything going on around you. There are plenty of times when you notice a noise, animal, etc. before daddy or I can even have the chance to point it out! I love seeing your skills and abilities develop. For example, now you can put all of the shapes through the matching holes on your mailbox toy all by yourself, you identify SO many objects, body parts, foods, etc., and you can “walk” up the stairs instead of climbing on hands and knees.

Signs
You are really learning quickly. It shocks me when you use a sign that I haven’t shown you very many times! New signs this month include: music, book, tree, moon, stars, sun, cloud, bells, window, light, car, truck, shoes, bath, strawberry, kiwi, smoothie, bread, peach, tired, hungry, thank you, I love you, red, sit, lion, giraffe, elephant, monkey, fish, octopus, bear, horse.

Talking
Even though you are not speaking any words yet, it is amazing to see your verbal skills develop. You say the beginning sound of several words, like “bah” for bath, ball, bear, and banana, “ck” for car, or “muh” for music. Sometimes the middle sound is what sticks out to you, or else it’s just easier for you to say, such as “guh” for hunGry, and “ck” for truCKs. Although you have said “mama” and “dada,” you still don’t consistently use the words towards us.

Favorite toys
You still LOVE pots, pans, spoons, bowls, and any container with a lid. New favorites include the salad spinner and cookie sheets.

Don’t get between a man and his wooden spoon!
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Ok, now how do I put this salad spinner back together…?
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Sorry for the poor picture quality…the budding chef never holds still!
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Favorite books
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Rumble in the Jungle, Little Lion, Dear Zoo

Favorite activities
Going on walks around town and stopping to pick up leaves, rocks, etc.
Playing Peekaboo (it’s so cute now that YOU can do it!)
Giving us raspberries on our bellies
Climbing on everything – if I turn my back for a second, you’re standing up on a chair!
Pointing out dogs, pigs, cars, and trucks everywhere we go by signing and making the sounds

New animal sounds
Cat, dog, owl, chicken

Mama’s little helper
You help put clothes in the washer, take them out of the dryer, etc…but after loading/unloading a few pieces, your attention turns towards climbing into the laundry basket on top of the clean clothes!
I got out a step-stool in the kitchen so that you can watch up close, but most of the time I end up holding you because you don’t want to miss anything! You love pots SO MUCH that you get extremely agitated if there is a pot on the stove and you can’t have it. You fervently use your “please” sign while saying, “Tsss! Tsss!” for the hot pot until someone picks you up to see it. Even if we pick you up to look, you often are still upset because you want to take the lid off or stir it.

Other fun things
When music plays, you “sing” along and dance! It is so cute. Your singing is kind of a sing-song humming sound, and your signature dance move is swinging your arms back and forth. If you want us to turn on the music, you stand by the iPod dock while making the sign for music and saying, “muh!”
Sometimes you carry around a phone, hold it up to your ear, and yell loudly into it. We aren’t quite sure how you learned to do that! Sure, you have seen us on the phone now and then (but not so often in this age of email, texting, and Facebook), but we certainly don’t talk THAT loudly :).

New teeth
Immediately after your molars cut through, you decided to go ahead and work on the next round. One canine cut through at the end of the July, another just the other day, and the others are bulging and ready to cut.

Eating habits
We are so thrilled that you are such a great eater. Let’s hope it continues! You now prefer to bite off from bigger pieces of foods instead of having them cut into small pieces. Eggs and peaches are new favorites, you still LOVE avocado and applesauce, and this week you had salmon for the first time. You are really good at eating with your spoon…whether it’s your small spoon, or a big one you swiped from mama! It’s fun for you to work on getting a piece of food onto your fork.

Sleeping habits
Jetlag recovery only took about a week once we got back from the states. You settled back into your “normal” routine, and once you were actually getting consistent nighttime sleep, you were ready to just take one nap each day instead of two. We have so much more time to explore and play when you only nap once :). Nighttime has been roughly 7:30pm-6:30am, and naptime is around 11:30-1:00.

Hand-me-down toys from friends are the best! Giddy up!
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Day trip to Trier – August 12, 2013

Just imagine the conversations around the water cooler on Tuesday mornings after a 4-day weekend:

    “So what did you do over the long weekend?”
    “I took the train to Paris.”
    “I drove to Trier, the oldest city in Germany.”
    “I flew to Tuscany.”

Living in Europe certainly has its perks :). I might miss our family like crazy, but we are so blessed to have the opportunity to travel! And for now, Connor thinks traveling is pretty fun, too!

Get this. I did most of the planning for our day in Trier, and…we didn’t get lost, we didn’t argue, and we saw everything we planned to see! Sometimes I amaze myself. Connor was a perfect traveler today. (Shhh, don’t tell him that he missed an awesome playground while he napped.) His favorite sights of the day were the piggy bank in the visitor’s center and the dogs outside the cathedral. (This kid has some serious pig/dog radar. All of a sudden he will start snorting or “oof”-ing like crazy, and Charlie and I have to look around for the pig or dog.) He also enjoyed the elephant statues scattered all over the city that were each decorated in a different theme.

Mama, do you need help reading the map?
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Just a few of the MANY elephants in Trier…
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Trier was founded around 17 BC. I really can’t wrap my brain around that!! It lies along the Mosel River in western Germany, not far from the Luxembourg border.

Porta Nigra
This was one of the city gates of Roman Trier. The city was enclosed by a wall, and Porta Nigra is the only gate that survived the destruction of the rest of the city’s Roman fortifications during the Middle Ages.

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Hauptmarkt (Main Market Square)
Full of shops, cafes, bakeries, street performers…and lots of tourists, even on a Monday!

View of the Hauptmarkt from the Porta Nigra, as well as the Cathedral off to the left
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Dreikönigenhaus (House of the Three Magi)
This house was built around 1230. The city wall wasn’t complete, so the house had to defend itself. That’s why the door is on the second story! The residents used a ladder to enter the house and pulled it up after themselves. The first floor is now a cafe.

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Dom (St. Peter’s Cathedral)
The sign said “Stille Bitte,” which roughly translates as, “Connor and mama run around outside and ‘oof’ at all the dogs while daddy takes pictures inside.”

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Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
Another “Stille Bitte” play break for Connor 🙂
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Basilika
This structure was once the reception hall for the Roman Emperors who lived in Trier from 286 until the end of the 4th century.

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KurfĂĽrstliches Palais (Electoral Palace)
We didn’t go inside the palace, but we walked through the beautiful gardens.

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Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths)
This was meant to serve as baths for the people of Trier, but it was never completed.

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Karl Marx Haus
We didn’t go inside…just walked to it for a picture! Karl Marx was born in Trier in 1818.

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We picked up some lunch as we walked through the Hauptmarkt again to get back to our car. Our final destination was the Römerbrucke (Roman Bridge), which is the oldest bridge in Germany. We thought we would park so that we could get out to look and take pictures, but as we drove up we realized it wasn’t much to look at. But we drove across it…that counts for something!

We made it home in time to relax before heating up leftovers for dinner. Our list of desired travel destinations is loooong…I can’t wait for our next adventure!

Hochspeyer’s Kerwe
Our town held its annual Kerwe (fair) this past weekend. We tried to check it out on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t open until the evening. On Sunday we decided to watch the parade that is held every year during the Kerwe. The newspaper said it started at 2:00, so a few minutes before 2:00 we made our way towards the center of town. There were people gathered along the sidewalks, so we waited…and waited…and waited. It wasn’t until around 3:00 that the parade made it to the center of town! When we saw two guys pulling a cart behind the band and stopping to pour cups of wine (and saw the band members walking back for refills), we understood why the parade had moved so slowly :). Almost every float had someone throwing candy or handing out cups of beer or wine. Now we know what to do next year: don’t arrive on time, and elbow our way to the front for drinks and candy! Fireworks were set off on Monday night, but Charlie said they weren’t very spectacular. I was already in bed!

Our trip to the states: Week 2

After a wonderful week with Charlie’s family, it was time for a week with the Mraz clan. 33 relatives packed into 2 houses for a week…sounds like a reality show! Believe it or not, we all get along, and we always have a fantastic time together.

I briefly mentioned in the previous post that Connor has been teething this entire time. He just finished cutting all 4 molars right before our trip, so we thought he would have a well-deserved teething break during vacation. Nope, the canine teeth decided to give him a run for his money immediately following the molars. Along with the jetlag and getting used to new people and places, he was a drooling, snotty, uncomfortable, teething mess most of the first week. By the end of our first vacation week, he was finally feeling relief from his teeth, and I think that was part of the reason he had been so clingy during the first week. We were (pleasantly) shocked at how he immediately warmed up to everyone at the beach! Suddenly he was Mr. Independent, whereas I could hardly leave the room even for a moment during the first week.

Connor loved the ocean! On our first full day, we put on all of his swimming apparel (courtesy of Gram and Aunt Michelle), covered him with sunscreen, and headed to the beach. Connor had a blast playing at the shoreline as the waves came in, dunking his bucket and shovel into the sand and water. After we had sand in places we didn’t even know we had, we walked back to the house, showered off outside, and gave Connor his first experience in a big pool. (Our family had two houses for the week, and both had pools!) Well, we should have quit while we were ahead, because the pool was more frustrating than fun. Connor liked the water…actually, he liked it a little too much. He wanted to just go in all the way by himself, and wasn’t content in a raft or someone’s arms. We decided that was enough water and sun for one day, and spent the rest of the day playing indoors. With so many people around, Connor constantly had playmates! Plus, he found the cupboards filled with pots and lids. You have never seen a happier little guy!

Most of the days were some variation on a theme of relaxing inside, going for a walk, going to the beach and/or pool, napping, playing card games, drinking the cocktail of the day, and enjoying everyone’s company! Connor learned many new tricks from my relatives, like the fist bump, saying “zoom!” as the cars drive by, actually blowing on the bubble wand instead of just putting it in his mouth, and blowing on something that’s hot…just to name a few! Some of my cousins were fascinated with Connor’s signs, so he was able to teach them a few tricks right back!

We bought a flotation swimsuit for Connor halfway through the week to try and give him a little more freedom in the pool. The shirt had flotation inserts built into it, but it was too big for him, so once he got into the water the whole thing just lifted all the way to his chin and was really awkward for him. By the end of the week, we had given up on the pool and went back to the beach instead.

Connor’s flotation suit…”Get me out of this thing!!”
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My mom came to visit us this week! She drove up to Virginia and stayed with her sister for a few days, and came to visit us at the beach for two days. It was so great to spend time with her, and she loved playing with Connor. We enjoyed some quality time together watching Connor play in the sand, doing the Jumble puzzles in the newspaper, and catching up on our soap opera.

Charlie had two fun outings during the week: deep sea fishing, and a trip to Jamestown. The fishing trip wasn’t exactly successful (the group only came home with one fish and one small shark), but Charlie still had a great time hanging out with some of my uncles and cousins.

There is always an abundance of delicious homemade meals and snacks when the Mraz family gets together, but we always go out to dinner one night during the beach week. We used to go to the same restaurant as one giant group, but over the last few vacations we have split up in order to please various palates. Charlie, Connor, and I went to a BBQ restaurant with two of my aunts, several cousins, and an uncle. We took turns chasing Connor around the restaurant until it was time to eat, then he sat and happily ate dinner with us. Our meals weren’t that great, but the BBQ nachos and fried pickle appetizers were the biggest hits.

After our evening out to dinner
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The last full day was filled with trying to enjoy every moment. Some beach highlights include my cousin Max being buried in the sand, watching a low-flying chinook cruise by, playing with Connor in the sand and shore, and taking a few group photos once we realized “most of us” were there.

Ready to walk to the beach!
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“Evan, I brought my shovel to help you finish burying Max!”
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Sand AND water?? I LOVE the beach!
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Most of the family…eleven were still at the house or pool
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My cousins!
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The last day also included two outings for Charlie and me (gasp!) without our little sidekick. Yes folks, these were the only two times in the entire last year that one of us has not been with Connor. We went to beach yoga in the morning with a group of my uncles and cousins (soooo relaxing to listen to the waves), and in the afternoon, Charlie and I took a canoe ride along the canal behind our house. Connor had a blast while we were gone both times, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even miss us! The day wrapped up with a group picture by the pool, and packing up the dreaded suitcases :(.

The traditional poolside shot of the whole family
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Everyone was up early on Saturday to start the journey home. My dad and stepmom drove us back to Michelle’s house, then they said goodbye and started their own trek back to Georgia. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening with Michelle and her family.

Last shot before we left the beach house. Connor says, “If I force a smile, can we stay another week??”
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On Sunday, it was time to head to the airport. We pretty much had a flawless trip back to Germany. No delays, all bags arrived on time, and the only meltdown Connor had during the entire journey home was when I left him with Charlie to go to the bathroom by myself on the plane!

The sad realization at the end of the vacation was that I felt like we were LEAVING home instead of GOING home. We are definitely enjoying our time in Germany, but we are so much looking forward to living near family when we move back to the states in two years.

All in all, we had a fantastic trip! As I’m writing this blog, we have basically recovered from jetlag and we’re back on normal schedules, and Charlie has been back to work for several days. Connor’s excitement over reacquainting himself with his own toys has overshadowed the longing for all of his playmates that he left behind.

I will leave you with a few more pictures, because that’s the real reason you read the blog anyway, right?

This is my serious face. I seriously want to go to the beach.
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Beach kisses 🙂
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Proof that Charlie was there!
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Our little beach bum20130807-100243.jpg
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Our trip to the states: Week 1

Phew! We made it there, we had fun, and we made it back! This may have been our one and only trip to the states while we are living in Germany, but it was most definitely worth it. We were SO lucky to be able to see so many relatives during our two-week vacation. We spent the first week with Charlie’s parents and his sister Michelle, her husband Wayne, and their two teenage-boys Garrett and Eric in Bumpass, VA. They just moved into their beautiful custom-built home on about 40 acres of land. The second week was spent at Sandbridge Beach, VA with my dad, stepmom, and extended family.

We had a surprisingly smooth trip to start our vacation. The only small bumps were a TSA pat-down for Charlie in Charlotte (courtesy of Connor’s suspicious fruit purĂ©e pouch), a short delay on our connecting flight from Charlotte to Richmond, and having to wait an extra hour for one of our bags to arrive in Richmond. Connor napped at the beginning and end of the long overseas flight (an 8’40” flight), and during the middle hours we kept busy with books, toys, snacks, and walking up and down the aisle while Connor excitedly signed “hat” and “glasses” as he looked at the people and their accessories. By the time we arrived at Michelle’s house around 11:00pm, we were all exhausted, and promptly crashed in bed.

Jetlag certainly took its toll over the next several days. The roughest patch was our first full day when Connor decided that 1:30pm-11:30pm was bedtime. Couldn’t blame him…that was his exact bedtime in Germany time! Charlie’s parents arrived from Texas that day and didn’t get to see much of the sleeping little man. Thankfully they stayed all week, so they were able to spend a lot of time with their favorite “German” grandson.

Jetlag: July 2013 vs. August 2012
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On Sunday, we had a cookout with Charlie’s cousin Terry and his wife Stephanie, and his Aunt Shirley. They all drove from Maryland to see us for the day! (They also visited us at the Baltimore airport last summer while we waited for our flight to Germany.) Connor was still pretty shy with everyone, but he was finally ready to run around like a wild man and play, followed by a 5:15pm bedtime. My brother Jason and his wife Kelly arrived that evening to visit! They happened to be driving home from New York to Atlanta that weekend, so they planned to stop and see us. Charlie and I had a nice evening catching up with them while Connor slept, and in the morning they were able to have some fun playtime with Connor.

Jason and Kelly left on Monday morning, and Charlie did some errands with his dad: a trip to Whole Foods to pick up a few things for the week, lunch, and an unsuccessful stop at the Apple store to replace my iPad. (I dropped it right before our trip, and thankfully we have the replacement plan. The store was too busy, so they told Charlie to come back on Friday.) By the time they got home, Connor and I had hit the wall. We were both tired and cranky, and poor Connor was just DYING for a pot with a lid. His own personal drawer filled with Tupperware just wasn’t quite enough. He was so frustrated that he couldn’t have a pot like he is used to having at home. On top of jetlag, new people, and a new house, he has also been busy teething. There were many tears shed by both of us that afternoon, but by that night we were at least into a somewhat normal sleep routine (early bedtime and wake-up time, plus two naps). Monday was also Charlie’s birthday! His mom made lasagna and his favorite cake: yellow cake with chocolate icing.

On Tuesday, our nephew Garrett had a dive meet. We had all planned to go, but it was just so unbearably hot that we decided it wouldn’t be good to take Connor out there. So, Connor and I stayed home with Charlie’s mom while Charlie, his dad, and our nephew Eric went to watch the meet. Charlie videotaped it so that I could watch! Tuesday’s angst for Connor was the crockpot that was cooking our dinner all day. He constantly wanted to be picked up to look at it and take the lid off, making “tssss!” sounds because it was hot.

Wednesday brought more visitors: longtime friends of the family John and Dianne. We hadn’t seen them since our wedding! They drove from West Virginia to visit for two days. Connor was going nuts all afternoon over the tea kettle and the big pot of chili cooking on the stove. Poor guy just wants everything in the kitchen! He was super clingy all week, and I could hardly leave to go to the bathroom without him melting down. The evening wrapped up with a rousing game of Mexican-Train Dominoes (a Brokovich family favorite) after Connor went to bed.

The next day, Connor continued to go crazy for pots and lids while Charlie cooked a fantastic German meal for everyone (chicken Jaegerschnitzel with spätzle). Meanwhile, Connor was able to have some fun in a “play nook” that his cousin Eric made for him with blankets and pillows. Every time Connor got in and messed it up, Eric happily rebuilt it for him. Eric and his brother Garrett absolutely loved playing with Connor! That evening, I had luck on my side as we played another game of dominoes. Those of you who know my usual losing streak with games will be shocked to hear that I won by a huge point-spread!

Friday brought another trip to the Apple store so that Charlie could replace my iPad. He and his parents enjoyed the afternoon out together while Connor and I had a blast playing at home with his cousins!

On Saturday morning, we took some family pictures. My dad and stepmom arrived mid-morning, and after an early lunch we loaded up the car to head to Sandbridge Beach. It was sad to say goodbye to Charlie’s family, but we knew we would be back for one more night after our week at the beach. The drive to the beach took a lot longer than it should have due to traffic (4 hours), but after Connor’s I’m-sleepy-meltdown, he managed to take a good nap in the car. (Seriously…the two biggest meltdowns of the entire vacation were during the drive to and from the beach.) We arrived at our beach house and reunited with my relatives, many of whom we hadn’t seen since our last beach vacation 2 years ago. (My dad is the oldest of 9 children, and almost everyone gets together every other summer for a beach vacation. I have always loved seeing all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and it was even more special this year because most of them were meeting Connor for the first time!) After getting settled in our room, we took a walk across two streets to the beach to give Connor his first view of the ocean. Once we returned, he immediately made himself at home and had fun with anyone and everyone who was around him!

Stay tuned for the next post about our week at the beach!

We didn’t take many pictures the first week, but Charlie got a few shots of our little musician:
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