Monday, February 28, 2011

Slide, Slide, Slippity Slide

Mommy to Claudia: What was the best part of the vacation, Bop?
Claudia to Mommy: Seriously? The slide. Duh.
She went feet first... Head first...
Feet first on tummy...
Then she didn't even bother climbing up to the slide.
She just dove head first into the balls.

She'd go so fast she'd flip over half the time.
... Then she'd just lay in the balls.
It made her happy.
Really happy!

Here's my favorite leftovers from the Salzburg trip. Watching her play in the playplace at the hotel made us want to shrink down to toddler size and go careening down that slide ourselves. She had just as much fun at an interstate fast food playplace where we stopped during the drive. Nothing beats the thrill of a great slide. Nothing!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Salzburg Land Trip

Last Friday we loaded up the family truckster and headed to Salzburg.
Claudia passed the six hour drive with some yoga moves.When we arrived in Fuschl Am See (half hour outside Salzburg),
there was hardly a spec of snow.
When we woke up the next day... snow everywhere.
We got Claudia ready in a puffer snow suit.
She actually liked it! She didn't necessarily want to go outside in the puff suit, though.
Just wanted to wear it around the hotel.
She eventually warmed up (figuratively only) to the idea of sledding.
Claudia was most happy at the hotel, eating french fries.
She braved the cold as long as Russell held her hand.
She'd yell "Hand! Hold! Tight!"
Here they are ambling along in the snow.
We couldn't get over how beautiful it was in the snow.
Here's the path leading to the bunny hill, where we spent all our time.
Being in the snowy woods was peaceful & a little spooky.
Things were much more upbeat on the sleigh ride.
During the ride, Claudia stood up in the sleigh and stared at the horses.
She identified the horses' legs, ears, head, tail, bottom & tummy
for everyone along for the ride in the sleigh.
They all spoke German, so the insightful lesson was lost on them.
We found this guy carved into a tree stump.
If you look close (bottom left), you can see his name is Alfred.
Claudia called him Tiki Man.
Here's Claudia and I tearing up the bunny slope on our sled.
Walking in the snow with Daddy
just something pretty to look at...
These are the same hills where Maria once frolicked.
They look a lot different covered in snow. Russell was pretty speedy on his tube.
Here's a shot from the sleigh ride.
We were going through the Ellmautal Valley.
I took this on the way out of town... it's 7 degrees below.
I think that's around 19 degrees farenheit. Too cold for me!
That leaves us with Claudia's favorite part of the trip:
a chocolate filed donut thing we had on the way home.
It was probably one of the funniest parts of the trip. =)

All the schools are out this week for "ski week." Seriously. We followed suit and headed for the Austrian Alps. It was a six hour drive to Salzburg Land... or as I call it Sound of Music Land. We definitely will have to go back in the summer when it looks more Sound of Music-y and we can tour all the sites from the movie. We didn't do any skiing. Claudia definitely wasn't ready for that. We stuck to sledding, which she tolerated and even enjoyed at some points. She loved the sleigh ride, the swimming pool and the big indoor slide and ball pit. These were a few of her favorite things. Eventually we had to say so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, adieu. It was a beautiful trip and I definitely want to climb every mountain there again some day. Ok, I'll stop now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Claudia's First Parent-Teacher Conference

Initially I thought a parent-teacher conference for a twenty-two month old sounded a little silly. I had a feeling this would be some kind of sit down where they told me that Claudia might be eating too much paste or hurling too much mud on the playground. I was pleasantly surprised. I should start this by saying how much I love Claudia's school. There are children from all over the world that are all assimilated into English speaking classes and the children learn all about each other's cultures. It's a fascinating experience and I'm glad we could get Claudia into the school.

Now, let me tell you about the conference. It was led by Claudia's favorite teacher, Miss Reka. Miss Reka is amazing with children, particularly Claudia. At the conference, Miss Reka gave me a portfolio on Claudia. It had her art
work, pictures of Claudia at school and little progress reports about Claudia. They continue to add to the portfolio, so unfortunately, I have to give it back. I wanted to record and share some of the more entertaining excerpts. I think these pictures (of workout Claudia!) go nicely with the quotes. Here goes...

Quote: Claudia is independent; when she falls down she can stand up by herself.
She is an easy going little girl. She can accept new situations with reasonable care.
Quote: Claudia knows the routine very well and can follow it,
but she needs still to listen more.
She can very much be a little daydreamer.
She is always busy with something.
Quote: Claudia is one of the busiest girls in the classroom.
She is very creative in games; she talks a lot; she uses strategy while playing.
She loves to play seesaw, is learning to jump, and sings and dances.
Quote: Claudia still needs to practice a little bit more self control.
She can be very impatient.
She quite often wanders off while we are in singing circle.
Quote: Claudia can stand up for her own rights.
She empathizes with others.
She can share and take turns and cooperates with both teachers and children.
Quote: Claudia is a very kind, helpful little girl.
She never hurts anyone and plays nicely with others.
She has strong language skills and a beautiful accent.
She has settled in very nicely.

I left the parent-teacher conference laughing and smiling. I'm glad that Claudia has found her place in her school and is surrounded by sweet friends and caring teachers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day: Love, Lobsters & Language Lessons

This didn't really have much to do with Valentine's...
Claudia just loves having her "piggies" counted.
The "wee wee wee all the way home" part is her favorite.
You can find a few stores here that sell chocolates and cards,
but for the most part, you make your own Valentine goodies.
CC made her teachers chocolate cookies.
Some shaped like hearts...
... others shaped like less typical Valentines.
Moose, porcupine, bear, squirrel.
It shaped up to be the cast of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Claudia's school had a Valentine's assembly.
Per norm, the Happy Hippo class was asked to "sit quietly and observe."
Claudia saved her energy for home...
She ran around the house pretending to be a lobster.
It sure made my day!
Only in a child's magic world can oven mits turn into lobster claws.
She screamed "lobser! lobser!" at everyone..., Daddyboy, Winston &
the alarm technician that serviced our alarm during our V-day dinner.
Winston kept triggering our alarm... at night!!
My V-day gift was alarm sensors that Winston won't set off. =)
Happy Valentine's Day,
from our hearts to yours!!

This year we learned what its like to celebrate Valentine's Day in a country where there is no Hallmark... surprisingly, it's not all a big capitalist boondoggle after all! In Hungary, February 14th has, since the 3rd century, been recognized as a day dedicated to the matyred Roman Saint Valentine (the "day of Balint" here). Starting in the late eighties, early nineties, shortly around the time that the Iron Curtain was lifted here, Hungary started celebrating Valentine's Day in a more western day... flowers, hearts, candies... you know, the right way. =)
Russell and I celebrated by taking a romantic Hungarian language course together. I can tell you this... Hungarian is NOT a romance language. No matter what you are saying, it sounds like you are planning a hit on someone. It's a pretty harsh sounding language, but I'm sure with our Louisiana-Texas accents we can soften it up a bit! With that, I send you oleles es cskok (hugs and kisses) from Budapest.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fisherman's Bastion... no fish involved

Elle Decor's City Guide to Budapest classified Fisherman's Bastion as an "Essential Budapest" site. See map above. The little cartoon is pretty accurate - fairy tale castle looking thing on top of hill. We hiked up Castle Hill to check it out. First we came upon Matthias (or Matyas) Church on Szentharomsag. Did I mention we are having beautiful weather?
What do you think of the tiles? I love them.
There's a little history on the church's art nouveau renovation below.
Fisherman's Bastion is a long white rampart with seven towers, each meant to represent the seven Magyar tribes. It was built in the late 1800s, right above where Budapest's fish market once stood.
Here's a little pic of King Ishtvan. As you may recall, he is riding his horse, Old Paint.
Russell and Claudia taking in the views of the Danube.
Not sure if you can see, but the towers are all connected by the long winding rampart. I bet it looks pretty neat at night when it's all lit up by the lanterns.
Claudia and Daddy taking at look at Matyas Church.
It's really beautiful on the outside.
Claudia said she liked it this much and stretched out her hands.
Not really. She was begging us to get her closer to the hawk. See below.
Claudia and I took in some views from one of the torrents.
You could see up and down the Danube.
The whole thing is up on Castle Hill, above the city.
Here's an up close view of one of the towers. They're really pretty big - this one holds a restaurant.
A shot of Parliament.

Our trip to the Fisherman's Bastion did not disappoint. It had the best views of the city I've seen so far. Claudia, however, was only interested in a giant hawk that some guy was toting around. You could pose for pictures with the hawk. She saw him and said "hold! Hold!" Russell took one look and said "absolutely not." He said the same thing when Claudia wanted to pet a llama at the Houston Rodeo petting zoo.

Another perk of the Fisherman's Bastion is its close proximity to Matyas Church. It was built in the 13th century, but was given a big facelift in the 1800s when the yellow, orange and green tiles were added to the roof. Hungary went through a golden age of ceramic-adorned architecture and has several Art Nouveau palaces sprinkled throughout the city. I'm trying to visit all of them and when I do, I'll compile all the pictures in a post. Get excited!

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