When Being Home is…Overwhelming.

Man, it’s been a strange time hasn’t it? As the entire world seems to slow to a halt and we are all thrust into this new normal, it’s easy to get…well overwhelmed. As an introvert this is even easier. I think it’s also so easy to forget about this when you are not an introvert. But this post isn’t really about that.

Let me be clear…this post is not about the quarantine, shelter in place, isolation, lockdown, whatever you are referring to it as in your own country. I am 100% in favor of this and believe that is absolutely necessary. To me, this is not up for debate. This virus is not something to mess around about (and honestly if you just follow the mandate of staying home, it won’t be a long process to have it work its way through and out) and I am not going to debate something that, at this point, is semantics. Many countries have issued a lockdown measure of some sort, so whatever your feelings are, you are locked down.

This post is about what this actually looks like in terms of mental health. Of what we can do about that, of what we can do with our kids, what we can do for ourselves, and how we work through all of the confusion, overwhelm, and upset. No matter what end you fall on, no matter how this affects you economically, we are all dealing with a lot of feelings.

I don’t have all the answers on this. In fact, as I am writing this, I am struggling myself. I’m struggling with the amount of noise in our home, the never ending feeling of chaos, the nonexistence of a true routine, trying to do some form of “school” with a toddler who desperately just wants to go TO school, and trying to navigate having all 4 of us home ALL THE TIME. As much as I love my family and I’m grateful to have this time together, it’s TOUGH, and I think that is something we can all agree with.

For me, I am struggling with feeling overwhelmed with…well everything. We’ve finally got things up and running for Colton’s school, but that is creating it’s own problem (you can read about this below), I’ve got a million things that I want to accomplish, my husband is still working and going to school, and our house is just…much louder than normal. As an introvert who absolutely needs quiet and alone time it’s just making this a lot harder than I thought it would be. Today is the first day that I just wanted to breakdown.

So, what can we do?

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photo credit Daisy from Daisy Zimmer Photography (full photo on my SM)

I talked about how to stay positive last week (you can read that HERE), but what else can we do? I think honestly, the first place to start is to communicate and talk or write it out. Tell your partner or spouse what you NEED in a way that is constructive. For me personally, I NEED to have quiet time. I need to have 10-20 minutes at different points throughout the day of just quiet. Now, this is almost impossible with two toddler boys, but I try to find little pockets where I can take it. I also listen when he tells me he needs something. We are trying to find a good give and take with all of us being home as he is still working and doing school during this time. He has things that he needs the time to do and needs to take care of, and sometimes that means locking himself away for a couple of hours to get those things done.

So, for example, doing a little yoga first thing in the morning. My husband stays quiet during this and does his own thing (homework, check news, check emails) so I can ease into my morning before chaos ensues and the boys wake up. Once I am done with yoga, I try to take another 15 minutes to journal. I write out EVERYTHING. What I am feeling, what I am seeing, what I am hearing. I write about how the previous day went, what I want to accomplish today, and just a general “get your mind right” moment.

Another chance I get to get a little quiet (and build the endorphins) is a run (I mean it’s more of a run/walk, but you get the gist). This week I started doing the Couch to 5K program in an effort to get a little break/me time in my days. Since we are restricted to the house EXCEPT for groceries/meds and exercise outdoors, I am taking full advantage of the exercise outdoors option. This gives me a chance to just wander back into my brain, check out of real life, and run my feelings out.

Speaking of music, I find that just jamming it out to your favorite song or playlist is an excellent option. Blast the tunes, have a little breathing session or dance session and dust of the cobwebs in your mind. Music is such a big part of my attitude and I find even just two songs (right now Sunflower by Post Malone and SOS by Aviccii) is all I really need to get a mood booster. It also gives my kids a chance to wiggle about and I’m not hearing the nonstop chattering. We all seem to come together for those couple minutes, and it works.

Something else that I think is really important is to lean in toward whatever you are feeling. This is an overwhelming time and we are trying to figure out what life looks like and it’s ok to feel mad, to feel sad, to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to take some time out to feel those feelings. THEY ARE TOTALLY VALID FEELINGS TO HAVE. No matter what your background is, no matter how this affects you, it is OK to feel this way. And right now, more than ever, I think that it is important for us to process those feelings. We will have a harder and faster burnout if we just continue to try and put a happy face on and hold it together.

This is especially true if you are a mom. Your kids are likely scared, nervous, freaking out, confused, mad, sad, everything that they can feel, they are feeling. While our first instinct is to hold it together, to be the strong one, it isn’t’ bad for them to see you struggle too. It helps them process their own emotions if we can be clear and concise about it. For me this is really key for when I am feeling frustrated or sad with not being able to do something or needing some space, my boys pick up on that and I explain to them exactly what is going on. This then stimulates a conversation (in as much a 4 and 2 yr. old can do) about how we are feeling. So, lean into those feelings, process them, and it might be easier for you to move forward and find joy in the little things again.

Going to quickly touch on school (as I don’t really know that I can truly talk about that). School is a hard one. I feel like we’ve really hit this hard as even though Colton was only in preschool for a month and a half he got really attached to it. If he could go every single day he could. It was his space to learn, to engage, to have a little “life of his own” for lack of a better phrase. He LOVED it and to have that yanked out from under him so soon has been a real struggle for him. Further, we are continuing with a digital learning plan with his school and that’s been…hard. He doesn’t have the same focus at home that he does in school and, of course, at home he also has little bro who wants to be involved. It’s been hard to try and explain to him what is going on and how we are handling everything right now, because the moment we explain it to him he just gets sad and says he wants to go to school. It breaks my heart.

I know that you moms of older kids are feeling that same pressure, but also adding in the academics to it as well. Luckily with Colton in preschool the hardest thing we are dealing with is focus issues, his academics and such are fairly straightforward for him. I’ve been reading posts from various teachers who all seem to agree- with this new normal, it means we need to adapt across the board. Forcing the kids to sit at a desk for 8 hours at home is just not feasible. So, lean into your kids. Listen to them when they say something. Interact with their needs. Some kids may work better at home when there is noise in the background, some kids may need to be at a desk every time they work, some kids may be focus on real world learning more than classroom. Each school is handling digital learning differently, but from what I’ve seen there is time that they meet with their teachers and do their work, and then there is free work time. Balance both of those with some real-world play and real-world lessons and a routine will start to emerge. This is a whole new level for all of us…give yourself and your kids grace. It’s not easy, but they will be OK.

Finally, if you are in a financial spot to do so, try and support some of your local or online businesses. I’m going to share a couple of my favorites that I have either ordered through already, or will be ordering through over the next couple months…

https://www.rachelallene.com/shop Rachel Allene is like the jolt of sunshine that we all need anyway. Her products are not only practical (hello mugs and shirts and coffee? We all need those), but they are absolutely adorable! They are the perfect amount of whimsy, beauty, and season. I highly recommend checking her shop out for your mugs and shirt needs.

https://www.bookshelfthomasville.com/ This is a small, local, independent bookstore in Georgia that carries most new releases, along with some merchandise. They are doing online orders, but also curbside pickup if you are in their area. I always love supporting independent bookstores, so this is the perfect chance for you to do so as well.

https://kelseyconversephotography.pixieset.com/guestlogin/travelprints/?return=%2Ftravelprints%2F If you are looking to spruce up your interior wall game, check out Kelsey’s travel photography. These are some incredible photos and would liven up any room that you want to. I would also just recommend following kelsconverse on Instagram because she is one of those genuine souls on the internet.

Also, as many have suggested, buy gift cards to some of your favorite spots. This is a great option if you want to support restaurants or other smaller in store places. OR if you want to support, but don’t need anything at the present moment. Buy a gift card and gift it or save it for a special occasion for yourself. This gives a small business some much needed cash flow in this trying time.

Finally, go show your blogger friends some love! Click on the links to their most recent posts, like them, leave them a comment, and spread the love around. Ultimately what this time is teaching us is to slow down, remember what community really is, and enjoy a little breather from the busy world we live in.

Round the Kettle Ep. 24: Coronavirus and My Thoughts

Happy Sunday to all! How are things looking in your neck of the woods?

I mentioned on Social Media that we were supposed to have a little girls weekend this weekend in Prague that we were looking forward to for a few weeks. However, we have had travel restrictions placed on us both as a military family AND by the country that we were supposed to be visiting. So, I am now writing to you in the comfort of my comfiest clothes, in my office, with full plans to spend the weekend reading.

Now, before I get super far into this I want you to tell me, has Coronavirus stopped you from living your life? Have you experienced any changes? How is the panic in your area? What are YOU seeing in your community?

(In a weird way I’m actually very interested in the whole “feet on the ground” folks in their own communities’ outset on the virus. I find that it gives a much better view of what is going on than anything else.)

Here are my thoughts on Coronavirus. I’m concerned to an extent. I don’t want to spread it to my family, my friends, my larger community. There are enough unknowns, enough questions, that I understand the travel bans, the closure of places that aren’t able to be easily cleaned and sanitized (like Disneyland). The ability of this virus to spread is something to be concerned about, similar to how we get concerned about many other diseases and viruses. While I am not traveling, not within or outside of Germany, I see no problem of taking a trip into the city using appropriate caution (aka washing my hands a little more than normal, not touching my face, keeping my general distance from others- all things I would do normally). Something I’m not doing? Freaking out. Panic buying all the toilet paper (seriously- what the hell is the deal with this?!). Panic buying really anything beyond normal groceries. We have had a confirmed case in our little community and I got a direct understanding of how they are conducting checks and determining who is actually at risk of exposure when this happens.

I think that the right steps at this point to take are to just practice common sense. Something that we should have all been doing long before this anyways. Listen to the official statements put out by government entities, not what your friends/colleagues/the rumor mill are saying (unless those people are directly in the government system and can give factual information). If you are looking at a quarantine situation, then listen to that. And for crying out loud, if you are sick, even if just a common cold, stay home.

All of this is common sense, but for some reason we have all seemed to have forgotten it in the past few weeks. I think we are starting to fall into the media trap of hysteria to an extent. It is causing mis information, unnecessary panic (note – I said PANIC not concern, concern is certainly valid in this), and shortages of items across the board. Countries, states, and communities are doing what they feel is best for their own people and if you feel that there should be further steps taken for yourself and your family, then you are certainly able to take those steps.

One more thing, at a time like this, community becomes even more important. Help out others, your friends, your neighbors, the random stranger that you don’t know. As schools, businesses, and communities begin to close, we are all going to feel those affects. Offer to bring by groceries, water, help with meals, whatever. Support those who are going to be in need of it. The way that we get through this is by coming together and working through this as one. Let’s see this pull of us back together as a people.

As I’ve said, for us we are living life normally, minus our upcoming trips. I’m concerned (as I think would be normal in any case), but I’m not agonizing over it and hermitting in my home (any more than normal at least ha ha). We are also keeping up to date to our potential of exposure as we have had a case in our immediate area. We are tracking things appropriately, but I probably won’t be sharing too much on that end (at least as of this exact point) as I don’t want to unnecessarily spread misinformation or cause anymore panic.

Tell me, how are you feeling? How are you doing with Coronavirus? Have you seen any local impact for you? I definitely want to hear from others!

Round the Kettle Ep. 23: Hello Again!

Hello again! I feel a little strange writing this again as it’s been a few weeks since I sat down at a blank word document on a computer screen. To be honest, I took a little bit longer than I had intended, but the past few weeks have been a little bit harder than expected. I felt like I needed just a bit more and then, I wanted to have a little bit more of an informal post before just jumping right back into posts. A bit of a catch up- which is what Round the Kettle kind of is.

So, how are you? How did February treat you?

I feel like February is one of those sneaky tough months that, if you don’t catch it early, can be a bit of a struggle. Yes, Valentine’s Day is nice and all, but February can be dark and dreary with winter striking a blow at every turn. Maybe that was a bit dramatic? Regardless, we struggled.

Since we returned from our trip to Rome, my husband has been away (off and on at first and then fully towards the end) for most of January and February dealing with work things. As the boys are getting older, they are starting to understand and react to those changes. And, as they get older in some ways it gets easier, and in some ways it gets harder. I’ve always felt like I’ve done really well “handling everything” when my husband is away for work, but there have been a couple times over the past year that I’ve had to take a little step back from my own expectations. To be honest, I feel a little worn out (a little being the complete operative term here) and at times have felt a bit defeated. It’s not easy, even with a support system of friends, a routine to stick to, and the means of contacting my husband when needed.

I don’t want to whine, or spend much of this post reflecting on the past month, but I also don’t want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that the past few weeks weren’t as hard as they were. So, there’s that.

Moving forward into March, I want to focus on breaking some habits that I “re developed” the past month, get back to my roots of who I am, and start planning for the rest of our year. It kind of sounds silly, here being the 1st of March and I want to plan for the year, but honestly, it’s been so…”winter” here that I don’t know how much we would have really done anyways. We kind of hunkered down and just enjoyed being home, having slow weekend mornings, and working on our new routine (I honestly wonder if this will be a thing for upcoming years- guess it depends on where life takes us). All of that is changing as we start to come out of our little hibernation.

What have we got planned? Well, we have two or three definite travel plans (dates picked, location…picked in my mind ha-ha), as well as a bunch of day trip ideas swirling around. We’ve got a couple of cultural things (one of which has passed, but I’ll be talking about more tomorrow) as well as a little look into our “life at home” and the new routine we have in place. Over the next couple weeks, I am going to be “experimenting” with different posts, different things to talk about, and just seeing what kind of sticks. Something I want to focus on is going to be quality over quantity, so you may see a little change in that way. I’m kind of bordering on rambling at this point, but basically hello! I’m back, feeling much clearer minded and ready to get back to writing. The little break I took is a good one and one I think I’ll be taking every year.

How are you?

Life in Europe – 1 Year In

Where to even begin with this post?! I mean, seriously…where do I even start? It’s been a year. We’ve been here a year. Well technically it’ll be a year on Friday, but still…a whole year. It’s hard to wrap my mind around.

A year ago, we stepped on a flight leaving out of Baltimore (after a flight from KY to MD) and into, at the time, the unknown. 8 hours later (or something like that) we stepped off the plane on a whole new continent that we hadn’t been to before, in a new country, ready for a new adventure. And an adventure it has been.

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Our first 5 months here consisted of living in a hotel, traveling (A LOT), and trying to learn our way around the customs and traditions of Germany. Things like stores being closed on Sundays, paying for restrooms, paying for water at restaurants, the dinners out that last hours, and driving as fast as we “like” on the autobahn (which isn’t as true or fun as you would think) were all new to us. After 5 ½ months in a hotel apartment, we got a house. A spacious 3 bedroom + to make all our own (well except for no painting, no major construction, etc.). We spent the rest of the year “settling in”. A year later and I feel like we finally feel settled, feel a part of our little community, have good friends that we can count on, and have things figured out.

And traveling. We’ve traveled more in the past year than I think we have in the span of our lives. We’ve learned more history, more culture, more information in the past year than ever before. We’ve seen the not so good parts of history up close, seen the gorgeous scenery of several countries, and have had one incredible trip after another. This first year taught us, more than anything, how to adapt, how to go with the flow, how to work with what we have. And, as much as it may seem like an “on the go” lifestyle, we’ve really slowed down in a way. We’ve stopped and smelled the roses for lack of a better phrase. We’ve taken so much more time as a family, exposing not only ourselves, but our children to different ways of living. One of the most incredible things was my older son telling us, at 4 years old, about The Colosseum and what used to happen. At 4 years old.

We’ve traveled to 11 countries, visited 14 castles, we’ve seen more churches than I can even count, seen the Tulips in The Netherlands, the Tower of London, the Dachau Concentration Camps, the filming locations for The Sound of Music, The Pantheon and Ancient Rome, and so, so much more. We’ve been to Oktoberfest, a whopping 7 cities (some of which had multiple within the city) Christmas Markets, and numerous cultural festivals and events. We’ve really tried to be involved and be a part of the culture in Germany. To celebrate with them, mourn with them, understand their history, culture, and what is important to them in life.

Even with all of that, we are still just living our life. We live our everyday lives. My husband goes to work in the morning, our oldest is starting school (just preschool, but still), both boys go to playgroup, I read and write every day, and we chat with friends over coffee or dinner. We just happen to be in Germany. I think this might be when I just get mind boggled the most. When I’m making that afternoon cup of tea or curling up in the evenings with my family. When I look at my backyard and it hits me…we are in Germany. This is when I count my blessings.

It’s hard to believe that we have our “home” days. That we aren’t always out adventuring, discovering new places, seeing more and more. I think that’s kind of the strange assumption that is made when you see someone who is able to move to a foreign country for a few years- that they are always going to be traveling. But that is just not the case for us. For us we have to have that down time. Not only do work and our boys make that a necessity, but it’s also just a quirk to us. We are homebodies by nature and so we usually need to have a little bit of home time in between all the travel, and it can’t just be a couple nights. Plus, there is adventure right in our backyard. There is so much to do and see right nearby us that it makes our home time weekends still full of fun.

This first year in Germany has been an adjustment, a whirlwind, an adventure. I can’t wait to see what the next two bring us.

Recommendations and Tips for – A Trip to Rome

We spent a magical week in Rome over the Winter Holidays and today I am going to share some of the spots I think you HAVE to go to, some of the spots that may not be as incredible as you think, and some tips for navigating your time in Rome. All of these kind of wrap together, so this Recommendations and Tips post might weave in and out between tips and recommendations. If you are interested in finding out exactly what we did you can find the following posts on that subject: The First Few Days, Vatican City, Ancient Rome, The Final Days.

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Recommendations:

My first recommendation is to take at least 5 days to visit Rome. It IS doable in a 4-day weekend, but you will get no rest and feel like you are just shuffling from place to place and not getting a chance to soak everything in. I feel like 5 days is the perfect amount of time to hit each spot without being rushed. I would say you don’t need any more than 7 days (if you really want to go longer) as at that point you’ve started to exhaust some of the area. Ultimately, it’ll be more focused on what you want to do and see than anything else.

In terms of the sights you have to see, you can “knock out” most of the tourist spots in one day. Starting at the Spanish Steps, then to Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and The Pantheon (or you can do that backwards if you would like to see sunset on the Spanish Steps- which I would recommend). I would save Vatican City and Castel Sant’Angelo for a day together (as they are right next to each other). You’ll spend over half a day at The Vatican, so make sure you plan accordingly. I would also devote the Roman Forum, Colosseum, and Alter of the Fatherland to its own day (I would end the day at the monument as watching the sunset on the Forum is just incredible).

Honestly, I can’t recommend walking around Rome enough (fun fact- I said the same thing about London). There is just so much to see and the history of the city is so rich, that you can just turn a corner and there are the columns of an Ancient Rome building or see the culture up close and personal with people chatting about life in Rome. It’s just incredible. Everyone is incredibly hospitable as well and are happy to help in stores, restaurants, hotels.

In terms of eating- there is very little that you can do wrong in Rome. Thing is, a lot of the blogs that I read before going there said that the best restaurants are the ones off the beaten path, that don’t have the waiters waiting outside to lure you in, and I don’t know if I agree with that necessarily. Rome is a tourist spot and so, yes the restaurants are going to do whatever they can to get folks seated in their restaurant. I can tell you this, hole in the wall or on the tourist pathway, we did not have one bad meal. For specific recommendations: we loved The Loft for breakfast/brunch and Il Miraggio for lunch (and dinner), as well as Don Chisciotte. Those are the three that really stood out, but you can look back through my posts to see where else we ate.

Tips:

As always, I highly recommend using public transportation. Driving in Rome is not dissimilar to driving in New York City. The underground metro system is great and easy to navigate and, while the bus system isn’t the greatest, it will get you from place A to place B easier than if you tried to drive it yourself. You can buy a 7-day pass for the transport system and it is reasonably priced and well worth it.

Something you already probably know is that Rome is a tourist destination. There is no doubt that it is packed with people and the tourist spots (like Trevi Fountain) are going to be incredibly crowded. Be aware of yourself, your belongings, and your children (as you would any other time of traveling). But also, if you are wanting to get “the picture”, don’t be afraid to go to a different spot. You don’t need to queue in line with a bunch of other people, walk to another corner or spot and you’ll not only get a unique shot, but it’ll also be much easier to see things a little differently. You don’t always have to fight the crowds to see the scene.

I think that that is all I’ve got for tips and recommendations. Honestly, there is very little that you can really go wrong with in Rome! I LOVED everything we did and saw while there. Everything is just such a dream and so surreal and the people were so welcoming. However, I know that this post was vague at times, so if you have more specific questions, please feel free to send me a message or email and I can go into more specifics!

Round the Kettle Ep. 22- Entering February (finally!)

Oh hi. It’s been a while since I’ve done a Round the Kettle chatty post. They are still happening (as if you were really worried ha-ha), but I really felt the “workload” of the Christmas Season at the end of November and through December. I didn’t want to inundate your feed and email boxes with a ridiculous amount of posts, so I let them go until after the New Year past. This is probably going to be a “thing” that I do every year while we are in Europe. There is just so much to do and see around Christmas Season that I want to share, that they just aren’t possible.

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Let’s start with a little catch up…how are you doing?

So, a brief catch up…as you will now know we spent our New Years in Rome on a weeklong holiday that still seems just so surreal in my mind. I can’t believe that I can say that I’ve been to Rome…just like I can say I’ve been to Scotland, London, Dover, The Netherlands…I mean the list goes on. It’s even more surreal and reflective as we are starting to come up on our one-year mark of living in Germany (that post is coming up this coming week). It’s funny because we are just living our normal lives, day to day, and then going on these incredible adventures that we only dreamed about.

I digress…

January passed by as January always seems to, dragging by, giving all of us that New Year’s funk at the end and making us wonder…will February ever come?! Don’t worry, February is here, and we’ve all survived. In a way January wasn’t too bad for me this year, a couple rough spots here and there, but overall pretty good. But February? I anticipate February being a rough one. We’ve got quite a few changes coming our way starting on Monday and I just feel like settling into a new groove is going to be…interesting. Our oldest is starting his preschool program, my husband has been much busier with work in January and into February, and I’m trying to figure out what our “normal” is going to be moving forward once again. It’s all good things, but it just means we’ve got a bit of a transition to make.

With that being said, I am going to be taking a little step back from the blog for a couple weeks in February. This week there will be posts as normal, and then there will be two weeks where I am not going to have any blog posts going up. I will be active as normal on IG/FB, but in terms of blog content, it’ll be quiet. I really try to take a week or two weeks “off” a couple times of year as I find that it helps me quiet my mind and refresh my brain. I’ve been writing pretty consistently for a few months now without a break (I posted a 14 posts in December where I normally average 9-11 posts a month) and I really just need to take a minute, not stare at a blank word document, and just breathe. February tends to actually be a pretty good time to do this as it is slow and quiet as it is (we aren’t traveling at all this month) and with these couple things changing at home, I need to just be able to focus on life.

How was your January? Did you have a good month or are you just ready for February?

 

A Cuppa Cosy Winter Holiday 2019 – Rome The Final Days

And so, we come to our final “what we did” post of our Winter Holiday. Our trip was jam packed from start to finish, although there was a definite difference to the second half of our trip. Vatican City was a nice way to “break up” the week we were there as that trip was about halfway through. We’d covered most of the Tourist Spots in our first few days in Rome (read that HERE), we covered Vatican City at that halfway mark (you can read that HERE), then Ancient Rome (one of my absolute FAVORITES read HERE)and now all we had left was New Year’s Day and then some.

So, a quick brief breakdown, Day 1 was spent at Castel Sant’Angelo, checking into our Bed & Breakfast, The Spanish Steps and The Trevi Fountain. Day 2 was spent at Piazza Navona, The Pantheon, and Piazza del Popolo. Day 3 was spent at Santa Maria in Aracoeli, The Alter of the Fatherland, and Quirinale Palace. Each day also consisted of a lot of just walking the streets of Rome- you see so much more by just walking around and you get such a great feel of the place. Day 4 was spent at Vatican City walking the halls of Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Day 5 was spent going back in time to Ancient Rome and discovering what life was like in a vastly different era. So, that brings us to New Year’s Day and Day 6 of our trip…

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Day 6: New Year’s Day

Oh, New Years in Europe. New Years in Europe is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that big of a New Years party goer, but saw the Times Square parties on TV and have heard enough to stories to have what I think is a good idea and I can tell you… the United States doesn’t have much on Europe. And most of the celebrations continue through to the next day. The streets on New Year’s Day are full of celebration, most places are closed, and the atmosphere just feels fun!

We started off the New Year with a breakfast at The Loft, where we had previously eaten. Ate some delicious food, drank some delicious coffee, and then headed out to a very exciting event. We were able to attend the Pope’s New Years Day Prayer. IMG_5054Now, the prayer is actually the Angelus and he will also give a reflection on the Gospel of the day, and on the day that we were there, some additional commentary. Here’s a secret, you can go to this most Sunday’s at noon and participate in this very special moment. I have included a link to the commentary that he gave on New Year’s Day (HERE), and you can view his “schedule” HERE to check if he will be doing the prayer while you are there (if this is something you are interested in). The entire prayer and comments lasts about 15-20 minutes and he speaks into a microphone from the window to the right of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was an incredible moment, so moving and you could feel everyone around you just being swept away by his words and his speaking. It’s something to be experienced, whether you are religious or not.

After the address we decided to further our religious experiences and head over to the Great Synagogue of Rome.

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This Jewish Quarter is one of the oldest, most intact in the world and the Roman Synagogue and Museum reflect both the community and the history. There has been a Jewish presence in Rome since at least the 2nd Century B.C and the museum, located in the basement of the synagogue, displays the history of the community, several artifacts through the history, and is a wealth of information about the traditions and rights of passage of the religion. For me personally, having grown up in a Jewish family, I found it really welcoming and heartwarming to see so much of what I know in such a positive, beautiful light. It was neat to learn some facts about the history of the Jews in Rome and how they were saved during World War 2. Before we get into that, first you need to know that Rome is the ONLY city in Europe to never expel it’s Jews. Did it try to convert them? Yes, there was even a Jewish Ghetto in the 16th century, but it never expelled them (and the Ghetto was abolished in the 19th century- the last in Europe to do so). When the Germans occupied Rome in 1943 the Jewish Community was told it could be saved by giving 50kg of gold. The was given to the Germans and included contributions by non-Jews as well, but the agreement never ended up being upheld. About 2000 Jews were still sent to concentration camps.

Admission to the Museum includes admission and a short tour of the Synagogue.

The Synagogue itself is incredible, dating back to the 19th century and  featuring several different styles which you can see simply by looking from the ground up to the ceiling. You can see the various cultural and design elements (including Spanish, Egyptian, & Roman) and it feels like a good representation of what the community is now. After all, it is an eclectic meld of a wide variety of people from all around Europe. It also features a square aluminum dome which causes it to stand out amongst the other dome’s and, as such, is easily identifiable.  The Synagogue has been visited by 3 different Pope’s, the first of which being a surprise visit in the 1980’s (and marked the first visit since the early history of the Catholic Church).

Finally, we spent our first night of 2020 watching the Sunset over the Roman Forum.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it for a really long time, Roman Sunsets are incredible. I’ve always just really been a Sunrise fan, but this trip in particular reminded me just how beautiful a sunset can be.

Day 7:

Our final day in Rome was one that we weren’t really sure what to do with. We had almost the entire day to explore and weren’t quite sure what else to really do. Most of our “big ticket” items that we wanted to see we had seen, so we decided to just jump on the subway, pick a random spot and explore from there. Lucky for us the “stars aligned” and we wound up at Villa Borghese Gardens.

Listed as the third largest public park in the city, it’s a little haven of beauty in the city. Dating back to the early 17th century, when Cardinal Borghese decided to turn his vineyard into an extensive set of gardens. Within the gardens there is The Temple of Aesculapius, which has a beautiful lake around it and a Piazza that has been turned into a dog park, but was previously used as an equestrian track. There is also the famous Galleria Borghese (that you need to purchase tickets in advance to see) and its garden, the Villa Medici, which now houses a French Academy, a replica of the Globe Theatre, and a Zoo.

We wandered through the Gardens, which was a really nice little nature break, saw the Water Clock and Temple, stopped by the Borghese Gallery, and then headed to the Zoo. This is the Exposition Zoo, which features minimal caging and contains a little museum. I was really surprised by this zoo, the number of animals it contained, and how well cared for they were. Some of the things that I am normally concerned with in terms of zoo’s, were handled well at this particular one. The boys really enjoyed their time there, noting the Elephant, Snakes, and Crocodile as their best and worst animals (the crocodile because it was “scary”).

These couple spots seemed to be the perfect way to end our trip, which worked out well because shortly after our Zoo visit we headed to the train station and made our way back home.

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The entire trip still feels so incredibly surreal and one that I really loved. In my first post, I talked about how we handled this holiday a little bit differently than our Summer one and I can definitely see the benefits to both ways of traveling (the go, go, go vs. take it easy and truly vacationing). We just had such a lovely time and, yet again, a dream trip come true.

I hope that you enjoyed coming along with us! I hope I’ve done it just a little bit of justice for you.