Sunday, February 7, 2016

Florence

We planned a day on our own in Florence because we had the most incredible tour guide at our disposal.  This gal:
She spent some time in Florence on P-days on her mission so she knew her way around and how to get to all the highlights.  We got a taxi to the train station and took about an hour train ride to the station right in the center of Florence.  The train ride in itself was so much fun.  Finn wasn't ready to be parted with his new gladiator sword so he brought it along for the day.
The views along the way were incredible.  Rolling green hills, beautiful brightly colored Tuscan houses, vineyards and orchards.  I wish I'd taken more pictures just from the window of the train.
From the train station we headed straight to the Accademia museum to make sure we got in at our reservation time to see the David.  Again, not sure how we would feel seeing this famous statue in person that we'd seen in pictures all our lives but Glenn and I were both really surprised at how impressed we were.  

I didn't realize how tall it was.  It's huge, and on a big pedestal as well.  Every muscle and vein and curl of his hair is so detailed and life-like.  I have no idea how someone could picture something so huge and detailed and then carve it out of marble without making any mistakes.  It's flawless and so incredible.   
Here's Auntie Mallo, telling the boys about how Michelangelo wanted to portray David in the moment when he knew he could win and capture the look of confidence and certainty on his face.



Finny, playing with his banana...in front of the David, while entertaining his sisters.  Awesome.
Yep, two baby girls just hanging out with David.  Our lives are unreal.
After seeing the David we walked around for a bit admiring all of the gorgeous details of Florence.  I could live in Florence.   Everywhere street and scene looks like it's straight out of an Italian postcard.  Shutters everywhere, cool street lights, laundry hanging from clotheslines out of windows, tiny alleys with cobblestone streets.  I wanted to take a picture of absolutely everywhere I looked.


We stopped briefly at the Duomo.  I wished we had the time to go inside but the kids were not in the mood for a cathedral.  But even outside, it was one of the most ornate and beautiful buildings I've ever seen.  I wished, again, that I knew more about art history and could pick out the saints and stories in all of the paintings.

Mal was supposed to meet an old mission friend there but she couldn't make it at the last minute.  So we headed off to find some lunch.  We ended up stopping at a little bistro where we picked some sandwiches from a display.  Not my favorite lunch but still way better than anything in Saudi!
After lunch we headed to the leather market and shopped for the afternoon.
Our crazy boys playing.  In Florence.
The market was so fun.  We all found some great treasures.  My only regret was that I didn't find the perfect ornament.  There were several that I passed but I wanted to see them all before deciding and then it got too late and we had to run back to the train without one.  We did find several treasures though.  Glenn got some amazing and really inexpensive ties, I found a purse and a cute green wallet, the boys got belts (to put their Gladiator scabbards on, of course!) and Mal got a great new bag.  It was a very successful, if slightly longer than Glenn would have liked, shopping afternoon.  
And it was so fun, as always, watching people love our kiddos.  A couple of guys really adored Finn and ended up running around their booth having a sword fight.  The shopkeeper grabbed a broom handle and they chased each other around, both totally entertained by each other and having a great time.  It was hilarious and so cute.

Then absolutely everyone we passed had to say hi to the baby girls, who were their usual smiley selves eating up the attention.  
Tate was sweet playing with the girls when they occasionally got fussy.
We shopped until the very last minute.  Stopping at a shoe store on our way out of town.  Glenn got a couple of pair of Italian leather shoes for a song and we practically ran to the train station, buried in bags and shoe boxes, hauling two strollers and four kiddos.  The train back was really full and we had more than a few Italians who were not pleased with our taking up so much room and having so much difficulty maneuvering our stroller when they needed to get around us but we tried our best.  Sweet Finn had had it and was asleep most of the trip.  Wearing his new belt, of course.
It was a beautiful and somewhat slower paced day in Florence.  I'd go back there in a second.  Everything was so beautiful and, except for the understandable grumpiness on the train, everyone was so kind and accommodating.  One more successful day down!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dear Kenna,

Dear Kenna,

You are one year old today, little girl.  How on earth did that happen?!  I swear you were just barely born.  And I would sit up in the hospital bed, singing songs to you while you slept.  Actually excited over every squeak that you made because it meant I got to pick you up and hold you again.  It felt like I won a prize.  Some incredible contest that I was lucky enough to be the Momma to two baby girls.  Two perfect, healthy, beautiful little tiny baby girls.  The tiniest babies I'd ever seen or held.  And they were mine!  It just felt too good to be true, but somehow it was!    When we first found out we were having twins, and then discovered that you were both little girls, I was a little nervous.  We had Tate and Finn and we thought the boy thing seemed pretty easy.  We had it figured out.  And the thought of adding two girls our family made us, well maybe just me, a little nervous.  But one day when you were just a couple of weeks old I heard your Dad telling someone that you and Taryn were easier babies combined than either of your brothers were as babies on their own.  At first I thought, "that's a little extreme, Glenn."  But after a moment's thought, I knew he was right.  You two have been wonderful babies.  Which, considering all the traveling and schedule changing and moving around we've done, is pretty miraculous, honey.  You and Taryn are content, easy, sweet little babies and you make our family better.  We make more sense somehow and feel closer and more complete than ever.  I can't imagine our lives without our two sweet girls and I still feel like I won a prize every day, looking at the two of you playing together.  How did I get so lucky?

I'm so glad you have such great siblings.  Tate and Finn adore you and Taryn.  They are so proud of you and will show you off endlessly to anyone who will pause as we're walking by.  It's so sweet.  Finn's favorite thing to do is make goofy noises and faces to make you laugh, and you do, Kenna.  You laugh so hard and so easily for Finn.  He can get the biggest smiles and the best belly laughs much easier and faster than anyone else in the world.  It's beautiful what you guys have together.  And I'm so very glad you came into this world and our family with your sister.  Your Auntie Mallo and I are really close but our age difference was a barrier when we were younger.  One of my first thoughts on learning that you two were coming at the same time was, "oh I hope they have what Mal and I have from the very beginning!"  I hope you love each other.  That you're best friends and never forget how lucky you are to have a sister who is going through everything at the same time as you.  Growing teeth, trying new foods, switching to new car seats, learning to walk.  Every new hurdle in life will hit you two at the same time and I'm just so glad you'll always have each other as you leap.

Oh my Kenna. I love you, little one.  You have the sweetest little tender heart.  From day one you've been a little more vocal about your needs than your sister.  You were the one to wake up first and sound the alarm like clockwork when it was time to eat.  You made the noise so she never had to because she got fed at the same time anyway.  We've been told this is often the way with twinners.  One will be the caretaker and one will be content, knowing that she's taken care of.  Your little cry sounds like your heart is breaking.  When you're tired, hungry, or heaven forbid, we put you down or walk away when you really want to be held, you cry like it's the end of the world.  Not like you're angry at all.  Like you are hurt and so so sad.  It's so funny and cute.  Those moments are few though compared to the moments when you are so happy and content just to play, explore, and find things to get into.  Your smile is easy.  You're very friendly.  And when we meet new people, which we frequently do as we're traveling and EVERYONE wants to meet you when we pass in the street, you are the first to reward them for stopping to say hi, with a big grin.  Usually with your little tongue sticking out.  

We call you Baby K, Kenna baby, Miss K or occasionally K Town.  You are very adventurous and have really loved having your mobility.  You and your sister's favorite things to get into in every room are the things we CONSTANTLY tell you not to touch.  The water cooler, plugs and outlets, the toilet (playing in the water or flushing), toilet paper, emptying cupboards and drawers.  But those are the things you are very clearly most excited and motivated to get to.  I don't know if we're going to be able to teach you any time soon to avoid them.  Repetition doesn't seem to be doing it.  Miraculously you seemed to stay away from the Christmas tree when we asked you to.  Every other request though, has been ignored like it's hilarious that we even asked.  You're dangerously close to walking.  You've just started this week to walk with Finn's little Lightning McQueen walker and you light up like you've never been so proud.  I love those moments.  Seeing your face light up with pride is one of my most favorite sights in the world.

This year has been a very busy year, baby girl.  We've traveled all over the place.  When you were a teensy little three-month old baby we went to London as a family to watch your Daddy run a marathon.  Since then we've been to the United States for the first time, the UAE, Oman, Spain, Italy, Monaco, France, Germany and Austria.  It's been an incredible year, baby girl.  And while I know you won't remember these things because you're just too new to the world, we couldn't imagine doing them without our little sisters.  Traveling with twin babies isn't very easy, but it's fun to see how easily you win people over wherever we go and you two really are such good babies.  

You LOVE the water, Kenna.  When you were a new baby we'd take you to the pool in Rakah and you'd be so happy and relaxed that you'd just fall asleep on your shoulders as we watched your brothers play in the water. Once you got old enough to sit up in the bath you started to splash with the happiest little proud smile on your face.  It makes us very happy that you and your sister love the water so much as it seems to be one of our family things.  We love to swim and it's very lucky that all of you do as well!

You're not a very picky eater.  I think the only thing you've turned down so far is green beans.  You love all fruits and can go through several handfuls of those little baby puffs in a sitting.  You attacked your little birthday cupcake tonight with such enthusiasm I was bent over laughing.  It's been really fun to watch you discover new foods.  You still don't have any teeth so I think once you grow in a few of those your range of foods we can give you will get even bigger.

I love reading stories to you and your sister.  It was kind of a wiggle-fest at first but recently you two have started to immediately snuggle up when I put a book in front of you.  Usually Taryn turns the pages, I'm not sure if that's just the agreement between you or if you just don't want to move your arm.  But you both sit there, snuggled and still while we read.  Sometimes you'll smile or giggle a bit at some joke you perceive in the story.  Then as soon as the last page is turned, you and your sister start squirming and crying and trying to get away because you know that nap time is coming next!

You're good little sleepers for the most part.  You're still taking a morning and afternoon nap.  Usually they're about an hour and a half each.  Sometimes you and your sister have nightmares for a few nights in a row.  It's really heartbreaking to see.  You're usually crying in your sleep and it takes a bit to wake you up.  It sounds so scared and sad and I wonder what on earth you could be thinking about that makes you feel that way.  So unfair for teensy babies!  Luckily, as with most tricky things, you two seem to take turns.  It's a rare moment when both of you are upset or not sleeping well or sick at the same time.  It's a huge blessing that usually only one of you is in desperate need at one time.  I hope that trend continues because it feels really helpless on those rare moments when you do both need me and I have to make one of you wait.  

Oh baby Kenna, I love you so very much.  I was really nervous about having twin little girls.  If you'd like me.  If I'd be able to be enough for both of you.  If I'd be a good momma to baby girls.  But my sweet girl, I just couldn't imagine my life without you.  Your expressive little chocolate eyes and your tender heart speaks to mine.  Your teensy pig tails and drooly smile just own me.  You're an incredible, beautiful, strong and sweet little girl.  We can tell so many wonderful qualities about the little person you are already and we can't wait to see what you'll become in the next year.   I'll miss tiny baby Kenna.  The way your little body fit way up on my shoulder.  The way your whispy hair fell to the tips of your ears.  The way your tiny chin would shiver when you cried and how quickly your eyes fill up with tears and how they'd stop when we turned on music or sang you a song.  The way you curl your arms in and tuck your bottom up when you snuggle in my arms.  I've loved this first year of your life and I know that the second year is going to be just as magical.  

Thanks for a wonderful year you little darling.  I love you.  
The world is yours,
Mom

Dear Taryn,

Dear Taryn,

You are one year old today.  I have no idea how that happened so fast.  It seems like moments ago that we were sitting together in the Aramco hospital.  I couldn't stop kissing your tiny cheeks, marveling at this baby girl in my arms.  The tiniest little baby I'd ever held and I couldn't believe you were mine.  Couldn't believe that I somehow got lucky enough to be the mom to not just one baby girl, but two.  I had a few moments of inspiration after we found out we were going to be having two baby girls, that is of course, after the initial complete panic.  First, a good friend of mine from Texas talked to me about her mixed feelings about having her third boy and the things she felt she'd miss without having a daughter of her own.  Things I hadn't considered before.  Being able to help you and your sister go through the temple some day.  Helping you pick out your wedding dress.  Helping you care for your own babies some day.  Things I'll do with your brothers, but in a very different way than I'll be able to do with my little girls.  And then I thought a lot about my sister, your Auntie Mallo.  Maybe because she was living with us when we found out about the two of you.  Maybe just because I was thinking a lot about sisters.  I thought about how Auntie Mallo and I were just four years apart in age and those tiny four years made what seemed like an insurmountable gap between us when we were young.  We seemed too far apart to be really close.  It wasn't until we were much older that those four years seemed so tiny.  Now we're the best of friends.  But now it feels like we missed so many years of being best friends.  I was so glad that you have your own sister.  A sister who's just four minutes older than you.  A sister who has your back, knows your struggles, and is learning and changing right along with you.  Growing teeth with you, learning to crawl with you, trying new foods with you.  I hope that you two will be close.  As close as sisters can be.  I'm sure there will be times when you drive each other crazy.  But I'm just so glad that your dad and I didn't ever have to wonder if there were going to be three of four kiddos in our family.  Your Father in Heaven knew that you two belonged with us.  And that you'd need each other in this life.

Taryn, I love you so much, little girl.  You're a darling little peanut.  You've gone through little phases of stranger danger but for the most part you're the sunniest little girl.  Your smile lights up your whole face from your eyes to your teensy chin and I've yet to meet anyone who can look at your little face while you're smiling and not smile back.  It's infectious and beautiful and it's a gift, hon.  From the very beginning we could tell there was something innately happy about your little soul.  Your cheerfulness is so bubbly and easy.  

Your brothers adore you, T.  We've called you a lot of little nicknames but our favorite two are Sweet T and Taryn-y.  That one is from Finn.  He's in a phase of naming everything what it is with an -y at the end.  (Beary the bear, Bitey the shark, Car-y the car...).  When you first came home from the hospital he started calling you Taryn-y and he said it in the cutest little baby talk voice.  Pretty soon we were all saying it too.  That Finn, he has your number.  He cannot get enough of you and your sister.  Since the day you learned to smile and then the day you learned to giggle he has been able to get those smiles and giggles quicker and brighter than anyone else on earth.  You, Kenna and Finn, you have something special.  Finn had every right to be thrown for a loop when you two showed up, but he couldn't be more pleased to have you two around to entertain, wrestle, and goof off with.  It makes me so happy to see him love you with his whole heart.  

Tate adores you guys as well.  He's not quite as physical about it but man does he love to show you off.  He's so proud of his two little sisters.  He tells everyone every where we go that he has two baby sisters.  And he tells me all the time, "Mom, I love our babies.  They're the cutest babies ever."  And every time he prays he remembers to bless our babies.  He's going to take good care of you two.  

You're an adventurous little squirt and the few months that you've been crawling have been much busier than the previous months.  You're into every drawer and cupboard.  Pull on every plug and stick your fingers in every outlet.  You've recently discovered splashing in toilets that your brothers leave open and holding down the cold water spigot on the water cooler until it soaks you and the floor.  I don't know if you're going to "learn" any time soon to stop getting into the few things in every room that we've told you not to.  We keep trying to teach you but we're pretty sure that knowing that you shouldn't, is precisely what motivates you to do it.  But with you and your sister getting into the same stinkery situations all the time, it's a little overwhelming sometimes.  

We've traveled all over the world together this year.  When you were just three months old you went with us to London to watch your Daddy run a marathon.  Since then you've been to the United States for the first time, Dubai, Oman, Spain, Italy, Monaco, France, Germany and Austria.  It's been an incredible year, baby girl.  And while I know you won't remember these things because you're just too new to the world, we wouldn't do them without you.  We love watching your eyes as you see the chocolate molds spinning at the chocolate factory.  See the smile on your face as you explore the splash pad on the cruise ship, and watch your teensy chubby legs swinging in the front pack as we walk through Pompeii.  Exploring the world with two teensy babies isn't easy, but luckily you two are extraordinarily good babies.  

You LOVE the water.  When you were too little to splash you'd fall asleep on our shoulders in the hot sun while we were holding you in the cool pool.  Once you got old enough to sit up in the bath you started to splash.  You giggle and fall on your tummy, splashing water in your eyes and mouth and not minding one bit.  You're going to be a little fish just like your brothers and we're SO glad.  

I don't know if you love to eat.  You'll eat pretty much anything we put in front of you and you'll get mad when you're hungry.  The only thing you've said, "pass" to is green beans.  But otherwise you'll put it down.  It seems like more of a "have to" than a "want to" though.  There are things that make your eyes light up but food doesn't seem, at this stage, to be one of those.  

Story time has gotten to be really fun lately.  You and Kenna will sit on my lap, lean your heads against my chest and against each other and then you hold really still, breathing deeply while I read.  Usually you're the one turning pages.  Either because Kenna's arm is pinned under your arm or because you two have just decided that's your job.  Then like clockwork, as soon as the last page is turned you both squirm and cry trying to get away, knowing that nap time is coming next!  

You're good little sleepers for the most part.  You're still taking a morning and afternoon nap.  Usually they're about an hour and a half each.  Sometimes you and K go through phases of having nightmares for a few nights in a row.  It's the saddest thing to see you so upset in your sleep and we feel so helpless trying to calm you down.  Luckily, as with most tricky things, you two seem to take turns.  It's a rare moment when both of you are upset or not sleeping well or sick at the same time.  It's a huge blessing that usually only one of you is in desperate need at one time.  I hope that trend continues because it feels really helpless on those rare moments when you do both need me and I have to make one of you wait.  

You know what, Taryn?  I really wasn't sure about this whole having twin girls thing.  I had two little boys and I loved them so much and I wasn't sure about how good a mother I'd be to two little girls.  But I couldn't imagine my life without you.  You and K make our lives complete.  Every single day I have a moment where I feel so proud and happy that I think my heart might burst, looking at you and your siblings playing together.  Or seeing you learn to clap or shake your head, "no".  Or seeing how different your smile looks with teensy teeth coming in.  And those moments make all the logistically tricky things so worth it.  

I'll miss baby you.  So so much.  I've really loved getting to know you this year.  Watching your tiny body grow.  Watching you learn new things.  Watching you grow hair, stand up, play with toys.   Learning the things that make you excited and the things that make you sad.  Holding you tight and feeling your teensy arms and hands squeeze me back while you let out a gorgeous little happy squeal.  I'll miss all of these things.  You've been a great little baby, sweetheart.  And I know that you'll be just as great as a one year old.  
Thanks for a wonderful year you little darling.  I love you.  
The world is yours,
Mom

Picture Tuesday, week 50

I don't know how it happened but suddenly the girls are one year old today...and I seem to have missed two weeks in my picture Tuesdays?!  I have no idea how that happened!  I tried to be so diligent.  But at any rate, here we are, one year later.
Kenna and Taryn are beautiful, sassy, independent, sweet, darling little girls.  No more newborn twins.  No more tiny infants sharing a bouncy chair.  They're big girls.  Close to walking, starting to drink real milk, eating real food, and having their own opinions.  This parenting thing is the most wonderful awful thing ever.  I'm so proud of every tiny thing they do that is new every day.  And I'm stunned when big milestone days like today come around and it seems like the last year that I that I was privileged in love with these two little ladies has flown by in a blink.  So here is our last picture Tuesday update with a few pictures of Miss T and Miss K taken on their very first birthday!

Kenna has been a bit more adventurous with walking this week.  She's started to like walking while pushing different toys or holding onto someone's fingers.  She pushes the little elephant ball popper across the floor and she loves Finn's old Lightening McQueen walker.  She'll push it across the room until it runs into something then she walks around it, grabs onto the steering wheel and walks it back in the other direction.  It's so cute to watch her go back and forth and take such pride in her independent movement.  Still no teeth, silly girl.
Taryn has had some nightmares this week.  It's mostly been Kenna having sad dreams and crying in her sleep but Taryn has been doing it the last couple of nights.  It's so sad.  She just cries in her sleep in such a scared and sad voice and doesn't even wake when we pick her up.  What do babies have to be so sad about?!  It's heartbreaking to see them so sad and scared when they're so teensy.
They took a few days to come around and feel all the way better.  Kenna's still a tiny bit speckled but Taryn's been better for days.  I'm glad we're finally all healthy again.  That was a rough week.  Hopefully we can all stay healthy for a while this time!!
It's funny to watch these two sillies together.  Sometimes they are both happy and enjoying exploring and getting into trouble together.  But they're rarely both grumpy at once.  Kenna seems to be able to rally a bit quicker after waking up in the morning or from naps.  Give her a few ounces of milk and she's all smiles and snugs.  Taryn needs a minute more to come around.  And if Finn gets in her face and tries to get her to play and smile, she lets him know that she is NOT ready yet.  They both get a little emotional when they're hungry or ready to sleep but we have to not pay attention to the first little one sounding the alarm before it gets far enough to have them both be mad at once.  It's really nice that they take turns having a moment so we usually have one little babe to tend to and one who's all smiles.  We really love our little ones.
I was talking to my friend tonight about how we're going to have a little family birthday celebration and likely the boys will be opening gifts and blowing out candles for the girlies.  Her response was, "Well, they survived this year too.  They certainly deserve to blow out candles!"  It was a perfect little reminder that we all, our whole Makechnie family, and other family far away and friends and neighbors here who helped and gave advice and brought meals and watched kiddos.  Friends who helped us get to the store or held a baby in the pool when it was too hot to play outside.  We all made it.  And considering the difficult situations we were in this year, I think it's quite an accomplishment for us all!  We all deserve to blow out a candle today! It's been a truly marvelous year.  I've found myself marveling at our new little life.  Our beautiful, strong, healthy baby girls.  Our kind, patient little boys.  A dad and husband who adores us and a year of seeing the world and jumping in with both feet all together as a family.  It's been wonderful.  And I'll forever look back on this year with a smile in my heart and tears in my eyes remembering how our family became complete and closer together than ever because of our two little miracle babies.
So here they are on their last picture Tuesday.  My little birthday girls!









Monday, January 25, 2016

Rome

Our day in Rome was the complete opposite of Naples from the get-go.  We arranged a private tour to make sure we could get around, go at our pace, get all the information we were craving, and be able to hit all the highlights in Rome that we wanted to see in just one day.  It turned out so perfectly  We got off the boat and were met by our private driver for the day who had a huge van for us.  We brought our stroller so that made it a lot easier for us as well.  Our driver, Valentino, was very personable, so kind to the kids and every time we turned around he was making faces at one of the babes or listening with interest to one of our boys stories.  He was awesome.  He drove us about an hour to the Vatican and the conversation along the way was great.  As it turns out this is a theme in Italy.  The conversation was so easy with the Italians we met and it was really refreshing to be met with such warmth by complete strangers.  Quite the opposite of most of our social interactions with Saudis.
Miss Grace met us at the Vatican.  I can't imagine what must have gone through her mind when she discovered that her tour for the day was with a family group of 7 including four young kids.  But I'm glad she came to work that day anyway!  Miss Grace made our day.  Our first stop was the Vatican and after she led us through security and ticket lines she stopped at this bench and told our boys stories about the Sistine Chapel.  She told them about Michelangelo painting for years standing up.  She showed them details and quizzed them on bible stories.  She showed them how he painted some of his contemporaries who he didn't like or who had peeked at the painting before it was finished, into his paintings naked, or headed to hell.  She had so many stories and pictures and told them all with such animation that they were really drawn in.  We fell in love with Miss Grace.  She couldn't have been a more perfect fit for us that day.
We wandered pretty quickly through some of the halls of the Vatican museums on the way to the Sistine Chapel, Miss Grace stopping us occasionally to tell us about a particularly important statue or...
tell us stories about the current pope and point out his modest residence out the window.
Here we are, with Miss Grace peeking around the corner making sure we were following, headed to the Sistine Chapel.
Pictures weren't allowed and I didn't want to get into trouble.  Plus I was holding a baby and whispering to two busy boys.  Glenn and Mallory, however, took the prohibition as a challenged and managed to get a few sneaky pics.
It was breathtaking.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  What I might feel when I saw this room that I'd heard about all my life.  It was more than beautiful.  It was awe-inspiring.  I hope I never forget the feeling of walking through the doorway and looking up.  It felt like a gust of wind hit me and I was stunned.  Completely in disbelief that I was really here.  In the Sistine Chapel.  We were ushered into the chapel and it was very crowded.  We stood in a huddled group surrounded on all sides and whispered I spy games with the boys trying to help them see details of the ceiling that Miss Grace had told them about.  Every once in a while the Vatican guards told people to quiet down.  It was easy to forget that it was a Chapel and not a museum.  I could have stood there staring at it for much longer but the boys were about done so after a few minutes we walked out and headed to our last Vatican stop, St. Peter's Basilica.  The boys needed a break so we found a little spot outside to give them snacks and then headed into St. Peter's.  
The girls did great up until we walked into St. Peter's.  They were all smiles even though they were so tired.  
It's funny.  For months over the summer I'd had a recurring dream that I'm standing, holding Kenna, in front of the Pieta.  THE Pieta, and she starts melting down.  Crying inconsolably because it happens to be nap time and she's exhausted.  I was so worried about being in the most special, reverent place I could think of on our trip, and having a baby meltdown in that spot.  AAAAaaand that's what happened.  She calmed down after a few minutes, but that moment, when my family was admiring the Pieta and Miss Grace was telling stories of the crazy man who tried to break it and showing more pictures on the ipad (seriously, she was so amazing), I was walking around trying to decide if I should just leave because Kenna was crying.  Oh well.  
This is the only picture I got of the Pieta.  It's super blurry but at least I managed one before I had to walk around.  Such a beautiful and powerful piece.
It was another really hot day and the boys were ready for a break so we took a quick stroll around St. Peter's and Miss Grace's commentary was perfect.  Perfect details of information for us.  Just enough but not too much.  And when the boys needed something she knew when to let us handle it and when it would be helpful if she distracted them with, "Hey, do you want to see something gross?!" and she'd take them over to see one of the Pope's bodies, entombed right there in the church.  She was so good.  
After we left St. Peter's Valentino was waiting right outside the walls for us and we decided that it would be best if we took a lunch break for the boys' sake.  They took us to a place they recommended and we had a delicious lunch together.  Everyone perked up a little bit with some delicious pizza, pasta and Caprese salad.  It was amazing.  Everything was amazing.  My favorite part of the lunch discussion was when Miss Grace showed us some of the hand signals that Italians use to communicate without words.  That was really entertaining.  
Then it was off to the Colosseum!  Another dream come true!  It's unreal that I get to see these places at all, let alone on a disney cruise and with my whole family.  What a dream.
No big deal.  Just hanging out on a column at the Colosseum.
It was very hot and we were grateful for all the shade within the walls.  We loved all of Miss Grace's stories about the shows and tournaments held there.  She showed us the bathroom stalls (super gross),
Tons of artifacts and different carvings that advertised the matches.


Unreal.


After the Colosseum the boys were really excited about gladiators...how could they not be?!  And they really wanted to find some gladiator armor.  Miss Grace said she knew a shop that would probably have some so we headed off to our next spot and promised the boys we'd find some before the day was out.  Our last stop with Miss Grace was the Pantheon.
Again, I wasn't really sure what to expect but it was ridiculous.  This enormous, technically perfect structure that was built a hundred years after Christ and somehow it's still standing?!  
Just the sheer size of the place was impressive.  But the way they made the dome so perfectly round, the way the light penetrates the entire room from just one open circle in the roof, it's just so cool.
Finn was at his best in the Pantheon.  He was hamming it up and cracking his sisters up.  He's always had something special with them, but it was even more adorable on this trip when we all got tired and worn down to see him be able to dust himself off and ham it up for his sisters simply because he loves them and loves that he can make them happy.
We only had Miss Grace for 5 hours so the Pantheon was our last stop with her.  She showed us a shop with gladiator armor.  Glenn got an extra sword and they had a battle right there in the side street by the Pantheon.  It was one of the most darling things I've ever seen.  Tate's go-to quote that he kept saying was, "You'll never finish me alive!"  I have no idea where he got it from but it was adorable.
 Our last selfie with Miss Grace.
We got to hang out with Valentino for another few hours before we had to head back to the cruise ship so we did a quick stop at the Trevi Fountain.  We threw some pennies in a tiny puddle they had for the purpose out front but the fountain was under renovation.  Likely for a few years.  It was stunning and we're still so glad we stopped.  

Next we headed over to the Spanish Steps.  The boys had impromptu battles in the road on our way.


So cool.
For the next hour or so we asked Mal to direct us to some of her areas in Rome.  We went to the church and tried to get in but it was locked.  It was kind of surreal to see streets that she lived on, places she grocery shopped, and sights that I'd seen pictures of her in front of from years ago on her mission.  It seemed like such a distant part of her life.  A part I'd never really fully understand and of course, I won't ever FULLY understand it, but it was really cool to be there with her and have her show us places she lived.  And I loved that the boys got to hear her talk about her mission and speak Italian with people all week.  It made my heart smile to hear my beautiful sister speaking her beautiful language.  
Mal really wanted to find this tiny bakery that the missionaries would go to for chocolate filled croissants and as she tried to direct Valentino to it he knew exactly where she was talking about.  He actually lived in that neighborhood and frequented the bakery as well.  It was a TINY little bakery called "wunder" and you had to go around to the back in this sketchy little alley.  It was so cool.  Such a little treasure we never would have stumbled upon on our own but those croissants were incredible.  Here's Mal, so excited that we found it!
Nothing could really top the bakery so after that stop we bid farewell to Rome.  Promising our little pennies in the fountain that we'd come back some day.  The kids all slept on our drive back to the ship as we chatted with Valentino.  It was an absolutely blissful day.  Hot and exhausting, but because we had our own guide we were able to take things at our own pace.  We stopped when we needed to stop.  We hit everything we needed.  We got lots of great information and kept the boys interested as well.  It was perfect.  I loved Rome.  I'm such a history nerd and this city is saturated in so much history I could spend my life there and never know all the layers of history that fill literally every nook and cranny of the city.  What a great day.