Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Best Possible Day in the Vatican!

In January, we cut Rome out of our trip at the last minute when we found out that Pope Francis was in Chile and there would be no Papal audience that Wednesday.  We decided that we could fly to Rome just for a Wednesday to see him since w had already seen all that we wanted to see of Rome in previous trips (when Pope Francis never was in town.)  It was the best decision ever!

Wednesday morning we got up early and bundled up, remember it had snowed and was unseasonably cold for Rome.  The general audience was held inside which was the key because if it is outside he stays in his Pope Mobile and you get to see him, but not too close.  We stood in line and saw so many people, nuns, brides in their wedding dress dancing around to keep warm, etc.  We started to feel like this wasn't going to happen when they divided our half of the line and insisted in Italian that we go to another entrance.  After finally getting through security, Genevieve took a few steps and face planted into the ground.  The cobblestones tripped her up.  Thankfully, despite how it looked, she was okay with only a few bruises on her knees.  Luckily, she distributed her weight well this time and didn't break her arm again.  We pulled her up and I helped her walk so we could get inside the Paul IV building.  We met up with godfather Brian after a few interesting "chats" with some of the Swiss Guard trying to get around to where he was standing and saving us a spot.  He carefully inserted children and then switched with Brian so we could get a chance at shaking his hand.  

Swiss Guard in the Background...

Anxiously Awaiting the Pope!

Brian offered for me to switch with him and hold Bobby on the front row, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to withstand the Italian way of pushing and holding the spot.  At first Judah and Drew were in the corner and about 30 minutes into our wait, five minutes before Pope Francis came in, Drew started getting claustrophobic and started pushing which caused Judah to bump his head and start crying.  I decided it was best to switch Isaac and him so I could hold him up.  He was too short to see over the barrier anyway.

This is where it gets good.  Pope Francis came in and went straight to a mother holding a baby and then he turned and saw Bobby.  He was smiling the most genuine, sweet smile as he made a bee-line over to Bobby.  After touching his cheeks he blessed each of the kids and then came back to stand in front of Bobby.  He was just smiling and Bobby was babbling away saying who knows what and then he reached out to touch his crucifix.  Pope Francis just stood there, letting him touch his crucifix for what seemed like eternity, but was really only seconds.  

I had decided to not take pictures and just be present in the moment before hand and so I didn't even have my phone out.  When we saw Pope Benedict XVI back in 2010 and he blessed the oldest three children Brian took a picture, but it only had the top of our heads.  I figured something like that would happen again, so we were going to rely on the papal photographer.  Great decision!  They did such an excellent job.  You can find the pictures on this website by following these instructions:

1.  Click on "General Audience 2018"
2.  Click on the February 28th date.
3.  Click on Ingresso Aula Paola VI
4. Go to page 3 and scroll towards the bottom where our photos start.  They continue on other pages.

It doesn't end here.  It just gets more surreal.  A particularly stunning photo of Bobby's hand touching his crucifix was posted on the Popes Instagram account and Catholic News Agency contacted Brian after godfather Brian reposted his Instargram photo, and then my husband was tagged and identified through this social media labyrinth.  And they wrote up an article all about it, quoting Brian many times.  Here is the link to that article which includes a video clip of "the Bobby" and the Pope.

After the papal blessing, they keep the doors locked and won't let people out until the Pope has left the building and it was quite a long wait for the children.  They ate me out of all my snacks and were all starving.  While we waited, I videotaped Bobby telling/asking about him what had just happened because someone did not even get the significance of this whole incredible event.  But don't you worry!  Those photos are getting ordered and blown up and and hung on our wall, and this boy is going to totally get it one day!

Aaaaah!  What a memorable day!

Some very hungry people!

Lunch afterwards

And then Gelato!  While I was waiting for the kids to finish their ice creams, I checked the website for the pictures to see if they were up yet and they were.  This is when we discovered to precious, and now semi famous, photo of Bobby's hand touching the Pope's crucifix.  We showed it to the people behind the counter and they were all blown away as well.
After gelato, we took the train to Scala Santa just because it is one of our favorites and the kids didn't remember it.  We all went up the stairs on our knees, except for Bobby who has never walked up stairs without holding someone's hand because 1.) he's not been strong enough to actually do it with out being able to pull a little on someone's hand and 2.) he's been too nervous.  But this was his "day of all days," as Dr. Seuss put it, and he just started walking up the steps in front of me and without holding onto anything.  It kind of made me a little nervous, because he still didn't look super steady.  Wow!

Then we made our way over and up to the NAC, the North American College for Seminarians.  Godfather Brian had arranged for a tour for our family that ended in attending evening prayers with the seminarians.  

Patrick, our guide, was so great with the kids, engaging them and quizzing them on religion and history.  I was pleased that our children knew the answers and are actually learning things at home. 

Here he is showing them some historical sites from the top of the building, including Milvian bridge.

It's a little blurry, but everyone is looking, and no one looks too unhappy either.

After evening prayers, we met up with an old friend and priest for dinner.  It was a long, late dinner after a long, eventful day, but thankfully the children all behaved and we had a terrific visit.

We walked 30 minutes to our apartment and passed St. Peter's.  Drew wanted this picture, trying to hold it up.  Pisa flashbacks, maybe.

And that's a wrap.  Ciao, Roma!  Hopefully, this won't be our last time to see you, but it looks like it will be some time before we meet again.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Counting Flights, Snow in Rome, and a Long Travel Day

We made a very quick trip to Rome to attend the papal audience; more on that tomorrow.  It was so quick (only one full day in Rome) that we flew and packed only a teeny tiny backpack for all the kids with two changes of clothes plus pjs.  I only brought one change of clothes.  We brought just a few snacks, books, and tablets to keep people occupied on the plane and in restaurants.  It was officially THE lightest packing I have ever done.  

As we were waiting to take off, I started counting how many flights Bobby's been on and then tried my best to recall the same stats for all of the kids.  I am still not sure that the girls' stats are accurate, but here is what I can remember specifically.  I counted all one way flights, not including any stops along the way.  These numbers include both flights to and from Rome this time.

Bobby-11 flights in less than three years of life

I told Bobby that the airplane was going to be loud when it takes off.  Afterwards he looked at me and said very quietly, "I want to get off this airplane."  That's when I started counting up flights because this guy is no newbie to flying, but he had never even noticed take off before.

Upon arrival we saw the remnants of the snow.  Apparently, it never snows in Rome and this was the first time in fifteen years.  I had been looking forward to some warmer weather and while I guess it was technically warmer than in Germany, it wasn't quite what I was imagining.  It snowed the night before we left Germany so all was white when we left.
After arriving, we had to hop on a bus for a 45 minute ride to the main train station, where we switched to the Metro for another 15 minutes.  Then we walked about 10 minutes to our apartment.  We left our house at 8am and arrived at the apartment about 4:00pm.  If we had driven it would have been a travel time of about 12 hours, so we didn't save a ton of time in the end.

What a smile!

After we got situated in our apartment, we went to the Pantheon to meet Godfather Brian.  We went to a spaghetteria that was seriously amazing!

Pantheon Ceiling

After dinner, it was gelato, of course, even though it was 9:30pm and even though it was super cold.  We had an early morning planned the next day, but we survived on less than an ideal amount of sleep.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Flying Kites: Because we had actual clear blue skies and sun!!!!

Hannah had a basketball game after church.  Then we went to a play together that our friends were in.  We missed out on this kite fun, but the rest had a lot of fun.  It was very windy and cold.  Drew was freezing, I was told, since he left his coat and gloves in my van and I left before they headed out.

Judah put his ninja turtle jammies on top of his Mass clothes.  :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Winterburning in Our Village

We tried to take Brian's cousins to the Rhein River for a short cruise, but we were super embarrassed to find that it was closed for the season.  Brian had checked the website, but he didn't see anything about the winter closure.  So instead we drove to the village that we were going to go to via river to have a look around and some lunch.  Both turned out to be difficult.  Almost everything was closed except one restaurant.  All the shops were closed for the winter too.  When we got home, our village was having a Winterburning festival where they make a bonfire with all the Christmas trees that they collected a month before from the villagers.  Before that they meet in the town square and everybody buys torches and lights them to process up the hill to where the bonfire is.  Children with giant torches walking in a line is a little scary, but we made it with only a few singed hairs.

I carried Bobby in the hiking backpack to try it out verses the Ergo.  Whoa, is it ever heavy!  The plan was to let Brian carry him and give me a break since I'm always the one to carry him, but Bob didn't like that idea and I don't do fire.  I wanted Brian to be able to help the children if need be.

My sweet, tired boy!
Of course, there was food (bratwurst) and warm drinks (Gluwein, Kinderpunch, hot chocolate).  We met up with different friends throughout the evening and, despite the cold temperature, we had a good time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Heidelberg, Germany: Cousins come for a visit!

 Brian's cousin (and her family) from England arrived on a Thursday.  We took them to the American shops that day while Brian was at work and met him for dinner afterwards.  Annabelle (almost 4) was a doll and totally fell in love with Hannah and Drew immediately.  She either had Hannah's hand or was chasing Drew around giggling at everything he did.  It was super adorable.  Plus, I just couldn't get enough of her precious British accent.  She would say to her baby brother, "Reuben, would you like to have a go?"  and we were puddy in her hands.  Reuben (almost 2) was a bit shier, but he still copied his sister and wanted to hold Hannah's hand from time to time as well.

We gave up TV/movies for Lent so the boys were anxious to look over Reuben's shoulder at his tablet.

The next day we got going as soon as we could and drove an hour and a half to Heidelberg.  We first ate lunch because many a plans have gone awry with sightseeing with hungry little ones.  After a delightful lunch, we went to the train that takes you up to the castle.  There are tracks and a special train that go straight up the side of the mountain to the castle, no switchbacks or long rides around the mountain.  

Just arrived

The front of the train had a big glass front that you could look out and see the tracks and tunnel.  The kids thought this was pretty cool, except for Hannah who was pretty scared.  I told her she was doing a great job and I was proud of her.  She said something to the effect of her not having a choice.  On the contrary, I then proceeded to tell her how I handled the skyline in Disney World when my parents made me go on it.  I cried and tried to hold onto the gate so they couldn't get me on.  I also have a vague memory of trying to convince the guy running the ride that they were not my parents and they had kidnapped me.  She thought that story was pretty funny and it took her mind off her own fear.  

Somebody was feeling left out since Annabelle and Drew were having such a time of it together.  I told him to just go join in.  He said he wasn't funny like Drew, but I told him that was nonsense.  He makes me laugh all the time.

And here he is trying to join in the fun, but clearly not making much headway.  He looks like he's a stand up comedian in this picture.

Largest wine barrel

I think this was a mistake picture, but I kind of like it.

And I really LOVE this picture!

He's got something that really gets the little girls.  He's got a girl at Kindergarten that makes him hearts all the time and is very fond of him.

Going back down the mountain with a front row seat!

We stopped for treats for the car ride home before leaving.

Another favorite picture of the kids!