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Friday, February 24, 2012

What I Did During My Winter Break...nothing much!

Taking the Eurorail to Vienna, our little compartment, Toga included
Last year, if you asked me what I did during the school's February break, you would had thought I was some sort of nomad. Remember last February I was living in Europe, so all this traveling was luring me. Kids time off from school+Europe= some sort of vacation. So weeks prior to the break, I visited my favorite travel agent, who spoke great English. She helped me to book my whole trip to Vienna, Austria. We were taking the train, and we found a great hotel right outside "the ring," or the downtown area. Days before my trip, my husband tells me that his company needs him to be in New York State, the same week as my Vienna trip. He was never going to go with us, since he had to work, but we had our dog to think about. Since everyone I knew had plans over the February break, Toga had to come with us. Once again, I visited my favorite travel agent, and told her now my dog was coming on my trip. She laughed for a good minute. I think she thought I was absolutely out of my mind. Luckily, the hotel I had reserved allowed for dogs, and I had to buy Toga a ticket to ride the Euro rail, which costs as much as my ticket!
We boarded the train on a very early Tuesday morning. It was fun to ride the Eurorail, in our own little compartment. We traveled through Germany, Czech Republic, and finally Austria. It was a full day's trip on the train, taking more than 6 hours. Looking back, I don't know how I survived, with the kids, the dog, and just me. And I was traveling in foreign countries.
Vienna's City Hall, where we ice skated.
Our trip to Vienna was full of adventure and wonder. We spent four days in Vienna, with our guidebooks and our winter wardrobes (it was cold when we visited). Riley was impressed with the city's transportation system- it was one of the few cities in Europe we visited that had trams, subways and buses. We took the #1 and #2 trams around the "ring" and explored the city in this way; getting off whenever we chose. Maggie's liked the tour of the Schonbrunn Palace, and while taking the tour, we learned all about the Queen, whose name was Sissy, who had a reputation for just doing whatever she wanted, which was rare in those days. At the end of the tour, Maggie got a doll of Sissy. We ice skated under the City Hall lights,which was magical. The City Hall was lit up, there were two skating rinks, and little paths of ice, like roads, that even had stop signs! We walked along the streets where the artist Hundertwasser built and designed funky housing, with trees coming out of the sides of the buildings, crooked sidewalks, and without regard to line symmetry when designing his buildings. It was all very Dr. Seuss and very whimsical. We went to the House of Music, attended a Mozart concert (Mozart is from Vienna), and I didn't want to leave Vienna without exposing my children to the classical music of Vienna. We strolled along StephanPlatz, the city's main shopping district. We were in awe of the architecture, and we found the people in Austria to be extremely kind and friendly and smiley; very different than in East Germany.

Hundertwasser Museum, with trees coming out of the building.
Toga did great on our trip. We took him out with us during the day, and by night he was so tired, he calmly napped in the hotel with his stuffed turtle. When we had lunch, the restaurants would allow us to have Toga with us, and he sat with us at the table. Yes, in most of Europe, dogs are allowed wherever you go.
After coming back from Vienna, we had only 2 days to rest, then we were off to Paris. We were going to Paris for 3 days, and our Paris trip was during the week the kids went back to school after Winter Break. Both Riley and Maggie's teachers applauded me for taking the kids on trips, and since both of my kids are doing great in school, I didn't feel one ounce of guilt for taking them out of school. And they missed a lot of school last year!

Maggie and I, and the River Seine
Before our elevator ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Walking the Marcais district
But, look at all they were learning about the world! We took a plane to Paris (without Toga; he stayed home with Tim). Once we landed in Paris, we were quickly navigating ourselves around the city. I chose a hotel in the Oberkampt district; away from tourists. I wanted to experience and see people that lived in Paris. It was a great neighborhood, but it was about an hour's train ride from the airport. Paris is a HUGE city, and everything in the city is scattered all around. The Eiffel Tower was a good 40 minute subway ride from our hotel, the Arc was about 20 minutes from the Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame was a 20 minute bus ride from our hotel. It takes awhile to get places in Paris. We even traveled to Versailles, which was about an hour train ride outside Paris. I loved Paris. There's something about just walking the streets of Paris. There are no skyscrapers in Paris, because of the ground not being able to support the massive buildings, so everything is just so quaint and cute. Each neighborhood had its own distinct personality. We walked through the Marcais district, the Republique, the Bastille and the area around the Arc and the Eiffel Tower. We hiked up the stairs to Montmartre. We saw amazing architecture, including Notre Dame. My favorite part of Paris was the immediate area around Notre Dame, around the River Seine. It was so romantic, with the little bridges connecting the little island that Notre Dame is on.

The people in Paris were so friendly and nice. There's a saying about how rude the French are, but I never experienced it. When we exited the subway, after first arriving in Paris, we looked lost, with all of our baggage and our exposed map. Immediately, a French woman helped us to find our hotel.

Eating crepes in Montmartre
After returning back to Germany, one of the moms from the kids' international school asked me where I was, since my kids missed 3 days of school that week. I told her we went to Vienna and then to Paris. She laughed and called me crazy. She was a woman from India, and she always put a smile on my face because she was always wondering what I was up to. Her daughter and my daughter became friends at the school. One of my favorite people I met there; but this comment made me laugh, because maybe I was crazy for doing so much.
Now, a year later, you ask me: What did you do this year?
At Notre Dame
Absolutely nothing! My energy bank needs to be filled up again. Remember, last year I wasn't working so traveling was my work last year. This year, it's back to work teaching, I really just needed a break and I welcome the nothingness this break. We did a little bit, here and there. Our big outing was to my favorite lunch restaurant, The Whistling Kettle, and then another day, an outing to Crossgates Mall. And I did go out with my friends one night, but that's another story...
One of the days during this break, I went to Job Lots, which is this real bizarre store, that reminds me of a flea market. While there, I ran into one of my friends, who just got back from Honduras. "I found the deal on You need to check it out."
So, I've been on LivingSocial everyday since, and I'm ready to go to an exotic vacation in April. But for February, I just needed to do nothing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

On the eve of Valentine's Day

I love this picture of Tim and I. We woke up early on our lake cottage vacation. Maggie came over to us, with the camera and took our picture.

The kids and I on vacation alone in Spain. We had a lot of fun on our vacations, just the 3 of us, traveling in Europe.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Today, I spent the whole day getting ready for the big holiday party that I'll have in my kindergarten classroom. I just addressed the last of my valentine cards for my students, and my own kids are all set. I even bought a cute little Valentine's card for Tim, and after I drop my kids off at their German class tomorrow, I'll walk downtown Saratoga and buy them little treats.
I have felt so fortunate in love. Tim and I have been married for 16 years, and he's truly my best friend, and a man who loves me for me. I am so grateful for the man that I picked to marry; he is a romantic man everyday, not just on Valentine's. He surprises me with breakfast in bed on weekend mornings, brings me home ice cream when he knows I'm had a rough day, massages my back, and holds my hand when we take walks or when we drive in the car. He proposed marriage to me at Rockefeller Center, after telling me that where ever life took us, we could always see Rockefeller from anywhere in the world on TV. His original proposal was supposed to happen earlier that afternoon, while we were in the audience at the David Letterman show, but I guess David Letterman never got the letter Tim wrote to him, begging him to propose on national TV. Now that's romantic!
I love that my son has such a great role model for a father. My son is always wonderful to me, just like his dad. He's going to make some woman really happy. He's so thoughtful and always wants to help me- And my daughter loves to spend one-on-one time with me, and I treasure these times together. She told me a month or so ago, that I was her best friend. I fought back tears, and gave her the biggest hug.
A couple weeks ago, I was sent home from work with a bad headache. My mom picked up my kids for me from school. She dropped them off in the driveway, and the kids let themselves in. I was upstairs, sleeping off the pain in my head. They surprised me, and made me my favorite hot apple tea, and brought it to me in bed. It was so sweet. They watched me drink it, as they laid on my bed, gazing at me, and hoping that I was feeling better. My kids have learned such generous actions by watching the love between Tim and I.
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I feel so lucky in love.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Headaches are a headache

Many of you know that when I got the chance to travel to Singapore last December, I went zip-lining across the Indian Ocean at Sentosa Island. What most of you didn't know was that I suffered with migraine headaches for most of my trip to Singapore, and I almost didn't zip-line because I wasn't feeling well. The picture of me and Riley was the next day- the kids and I went back to Sentosa Island by ourselves, since Tim was working. I remember feeling so sick when we were walking around, and later, at the aquarium. But, I always have a smile on my face! I've learned to deal with the pain, and most people don't even know I have one...

These last couple weeks, I have been in pain.

For 2 weeks, I have suffered from migraine headaches. I decided enough is enough, and once again, called my doctor. This week, my doctor prescribed me a preventative migraine pill; a pill that I take everyday so I don't get headaches. I was hoping to leave with answers: Why do I get headaches? Is there something I'm doing to trigger them? But as I sat in her office, and she called in my new prescription to my pharmacy, I didn't even have the energy to ask her these questions, since I was still suffering from a headache.

Since my mid 20's, I have had migraines. My doctors in California and in Oregon both sent me for CAT scans, and nothing ever came up. I was diagnosed with migraine headaches, and given prescriptions to take when I feel a headache coming on. The prescription medicines I have been on usually make me feel drowsy and dizzy, so I usually don't take these medicines unless I know I'm home for the night. About 5 years ago, I discovered Excedrin Migraine, and I find that 85% of the time, this over-the-counter pill worked. 15% of the time,when Excedrin Migraine didn't work, I had to go to Plan B, which was my prescription medicines. But in recent years, I have been popping Excedrin Migraine like it's a daily vitamin, almost like I had an addiction to them. I haven't been feeling healthy doing this, even though my headaches go away. My headaches have been getting progressingly worse.

I usually get these headaches in the morning. These headaches make me cry. I hate the way I feel. And I have to work as a kindergarten teacher. And be a mom. And a wife. I have a lot of people and kids that I interact with on a daily basis, and it's just not good when you have a painful headache. When I have a headache, I just want to close my bedroom door, shut the window shades, and hide in my bed. When so many people depend on you each day, it's nearly impossible to feel like this.

I was hoping my doctor would give me alternatives, other than the drowsy migraine prescription meds that I have been given throughout the years. That's the big difference between European doctors and American doctors. I'm still trying to figure out what philosophy I like better.

When I lived in Germany, it was the complete opposite. If you were sick, the doctors treated your sickness with homeopathic over-the-counter medicine. One time Riley had bronchitis, and he was treated with a breathing machine, instead of an antibiotic. It took him 2 weeks to get better, and he missed 10 days of school. Last year, I had a sinus infection, and I was treated with ear and nose drops. A month later, still sick, my doctor finally gave me an antibiotic. I was frustrated with the process, and the time that it takes to either feel better from a sickness, and the time it takes to get a good antibiotic. In the States, it can just be the opposite. Seven years ago, I was just returning back to teaching, after moving back to New York. I was just offered a job working in a Saratoga Springs elementary school, and feeling the stress of the decision I made in returning back to work, I was feeling overwhelmed. It was the day of my "New Teacher Orientation," and I had a routine doctor's appointment right after my orientation. After a whole day of listening to the human resources people and the district's policies, I was feeling overwhelmed. I walked into my doctor's office, and after being brave that whole day, the feelings of guilt, unhappiness and anxiety were building. I soon realized that I was crying at the doctor's office, telling her just how I wasn't feeling ready to go back to work. My doctor, a female doctor just a couple years older than me, told me that she thought I was depressed, and prescribed me an anti-depressant. Looking back, I can't believe she gave that diagnosis, after such a short visit. I was simply having a moment. So, this is the same doctor who prescribed me my daily preventative headache pill. I want answers to my headaches. But I am thankful that at least for the moment, I feel at ease with these headaches. I go back to my doctor in 5 weeks for a follow-up visit, so I'm hoping at that time, to discuss why I get these, and if there's anything natural I can do. I'm not totally missing those homeopathic European medicines, but I appreciate European doctors and how they seem to try to treat the illness with answers first...