Monday, March 31, 2014


Around Valentine's Day, David and Patricia fly to Rome with a church group pilgrimage.  They are supposed to arrive home February 28th, but the morning before their departure, Patricia became dangerously ill.  Fortunately, someone told David to get a taxi and take her to the private Vatican hospital instead of an ambulance to the public hospital (a HUGE blessing).  Upon admittance, they immediately gave her 5 pints of blood, which is half of your body's blood.  On Saturday, the bleeding began again and she had an emergency colonectomy.  This solidified that she would be in the Italian hospital for 7 - 10 days for recovery.  We kind of thought the worst was behind us (which it was medically), but there were a lot of challenges ahead.

5:00 PM on a Monday evening, I find out that Anna Belle and I are going to be the ones to fly to Rome.  I ran out to do some last minute shopping and finished packing at about midnight.  We dropped Brady off at stay and play really early (which he was a bit nervous about, which was a bit emotional).  Taylor dropped Anna Belle and I off at the airport at 6:30 AM.  There were 22 empty seats on the plane and 30 something flying standby.  Anna Belle and I were number 21 and 22 in line, so if 1 person surprised us, both of us would have been bumped.  To make it more exciting, you watch everyone board the plane, and then they call up standby folks one by one (if you miss your name, you miss your flight).  As soon as you get your ticket, you board immediately.  

The aforementioned happened on our Houston to DC flight.  The DC to Rome flight was a lot more open, so I was expecting zero drama, but Anna Belle had something different in mind.  In our 1 hour layover, she had to go potty 4 times.  The restrooms were a good walk away (maybe 10 gates away).  After 3 visits, they're starting to call standby and she tells me she has to go again.  I told someone at the gate about our situation and he blessedly showed mercy on us.  AB ended up getting her pants a little wet, which necessitated a wardrobe change.  Once again, we got on the flight with a spare seat and extra leg room.

Here's my girl eating dinner on the plane.  I bought a few of her favorite Disney shows and Frozen on her iPad.  She happily put on her headphones and played with her iPad or the TV's on the plane.  Neither of us slept really well, but we did sleep, which is great.

One of my sister's friends said they didn't want to bring a stroller on a trip, which is just about the biggest mistake ever.  I joke that my stroller is to me like Sampson's hair is to him.  It gives me super human strength.  I fly with no checked baggage.  The stroller allows me to hang my purse on over the handle bars and then I hook up my rolling backpack (with all my clothes) to one side, Anna Belle sits inside as the counterweight and we can conquer the big scary airport alone.

We did run into some issues in the Rome airport.  When I went to France with both kids, the French civilians would go out of their way to help us through.  In Italy, everyone pushed us around and cut in front of us at every opportunity (particularly in customs).  Finally someone had mercy on us and held his arms up to keep people from pushing as we held our place in line... it turns out he was French.  I later realized that he thought he was picking up a date for caffe' (despite my child and obvious wedding rings).

I finally made it to the taxi line, and some guy tries to take me to a limo.  Nope!  I pushed my way back to the front of the taxi line, clipping other's heels as I went and got into a taxi that took my Visa. No taxi driver knew where I was going, so I was fortunate (thank you Taylor) to have international cell phone service with a map to the hospital.

Once in the taxi, I began realizing how little Italian I knew.  He was talking about the Papa and a special day, when I realize it's Ash Wednesday and Anna Belle's birthday!  Here's my first birthday pic of my girl, with her Doc McStuffins bag to make Grandma feel better.

Here's a photo of the hallway where I walked to Patricia's room.  The windows were always open, which was actually a refreshing change from American hospitals.

About 15 minutes after arrival, they moved Patricia across the hall to a bigger room, so they sent David and I to the waiting room.

These menus were no fun for David and I.  I spent a lot of time with my phone's Italian translator because the menu was different each day.  Neither of us are completely sure, but we didn't always get what we ordered.

Anna Belle and I checked into the Convent / B&B next door, then went to lunch in Trastevere.  The hospital was in MonteVerde, which is not listed in any tourist publication because it's VERY residential.  Down the "mountain" Trastevere was a nice little neighborhood where Anna Belle and I ate a few meals.  This was a pizza place that we went to twice, once with David and once at the end of the trip.

After an afternoon nap, Anna Belle and I walked to the local grocery store to pick up a few creature comforts for us and for Grandma.  I found this little shop and grabbed a few Italian shirts for the kids.  The lady was extraordinarily helpful.  She pulled down piles and piles of clothes in my kids sizes.  Another traveling lesson, don't pass something and plan to do it later.  I've made this mistake several times, but not on this trip.  I was really glad to have a few souvenirs checked off my list.  You can see how extremely tired AB is.

Keep in mind, it's still our first day there.  After the grocery and boutique visits, we walked straight back to the hospital.  One of the nuns, Sister Kathy, game Anna Belle this pen from Peru and a puzzle.  

We left the hospital at bedtime, and Anna Belle helped put away groceries (mostly juice and water). 

Anna Belle found a second wind and began the nightly tradition of jumping back and forth between the beds while I tried to communicate with everyone at home.  My back and neck were hurting, so I hung my head off the edge of the bed.  Anna Belle joined me and we both giggle about it for quite awhile before I pulled out my phone to take a picture.  Being really, really tired is sometimes fun.

Breakfast is served 7:30 AM - 9:00 AM, so I set my alarm, and we enjoyed our breakfast.  This girl loves hot tea because she loves tea parties.  We drank a lot of hot tea on the trip, but this was our first.  There were 3 different nuns who rotated on breakfast duty.  They were all very sweet to ask me how Patricia was doing each day.  They also remembered that Anna Belle and I always ordered tea for two  (with limone').

Here's a view from our hotel room.  The wall on the left is from 400 AD.  I have another close up picture of the SPQR symbol from ancient Rome.   They actually still use that symbol on their sewer caps and other random things.

This was the view from Patricia's room.  The pink house on the left had a King Charles Spaniel, who we called Charlie.  Charlie was a rich little dog, with lots of yard space.  He barked continually when he was outside, so we would rush to the window to watch him.  The right side looks like grass, but it's actually algae covered concrete.  The large tree in the bottom middle is a big olive tree.

Here's a close up of the ancient city wall.  The convent (Villa Maria) and the hospital (Salvatore Mundi) were just outside of this wall.  Taylor talked me out of bringing my new camera.  I'm really glad he did because I wouldn't have been able to juggle any more stuff.  I'm also pretty impressed with the iPhone camera capabilities.

Just after breakfast, we went to the hospital to visit Patricia.  After a late lunch and lounging around the hospital, at 3:00 PM, we decided to take a tour of St. Peter's and eat dinner away from the hospital.  I don't know if I had sympathy pains, a reaction to hospital food or if I was just excessively stagnant, but I had really bad stomach cramps at this point.  Walking seemed to be the cure.  

St. Peter's does not allow strollers.  Fortunately, they have a really secure area to check your stroller.  I left everything there except my child and my cell phone (which is a huge international no-no for me).  I carried Anna Belle through and tried to take a few pictures.  I also enjoyed the adoration chapel on the side, where I could sit down and appreciate the scenery for a while.

Upon leaving St. Peter's, I bought a rosary for Taylor, which I promptly lost.  I went looking for a taxi stand, but couldn't find one.  I just kept walking and walking.  I felt a lot like Forest Gump, not exactly sure how long I would go or where it would take me.  I dodged a menagerie of street vendors pushing in front of us to sell toys or junk to Anna Belle and me.  We crossed the Tiber and were close to Piazza Navona, when I decided to stop and take a picture of Anna Belle, who had just woken up.

We made it to Piazza Navona, where I expected to find a place to eat.  We were really too late for lunch and too early for dinner.  We bought some art from a street vendor, who gave Anna Belle a tiny piece of art for free.  She was VERY proud of it.  We stopped to watch a comedian / street jester.  He had quite a crowd, and we managed to get in the front row.  The more time I spent in Italy, the better I got at pushing my way through crowds.  Anna Belle laughed and really enjoyed it.  Then, we continued our trek to the Pantheon.

By the time we arrived at he Pantheon,  AB had fallen asleep again.  Please take a moment to notice how rough the cobblestone is.  Our brand new stroller squeaked like crazy after this walk.

A short walk later, we arrived at the Trevi fountain.  I found two British girls taking pictures of one another and finally offered to take a picture of them together.  They returned the favor for Anna Belle and I.

We finally made it to the Spanish Steps.  That kiosk on the left is actually the construction barrier around the fountain which is undergoing renovations.  The tourists were really starting to come out as dinner time approached.  A few groups of Asian girls stopped to take pictures of Anna Belle.  

I couldn't believe how many cars and motorcycles lined all the streets... far more than Paris or Barcelona.

Around 6:30 PM, we arrived to a nice little restaurant recommended by Rick Steves.  His anti-pasta plate description swooned me, but I really fell in love with the ambiance.  Look at this place!

We were seated in the very back corner of the restaurant, which was really hard to get to with a stroller.  It was also really nice to be in a corner where I'm not worried about tripping people with the stroller or having things stolen.  Anna Belle woke up for another tea party, in very good spirits.  This was probably my favorite meal of the trip.

For quite some time, I had been promising Anna Belle gelato.  We enjoyed our relaxing dinner so much, I almost forgot about it.  As soon as she saw a shop, she reminded me.  This was probably the most expensive gelato of the trip, but they gave her a really cute little bib that went around her arms.  There was a taxi stand nearby.  I was really grateful to have a map, because once again, the taxi driver had no idea where our hotel / hospital / street address was.  I had been gone for 5 hours on my second day in Rome.  I knew David and Patricia would be worried, so I went straight to the hospital.  We shared some of our adventure and learned that Patricia wouldn't be able to come home as soon as we hoped.  We later learned that this was due to her low hemoglobin.

 The next day, Friday, I was drained of energy.  I went to the grocery store in the morning to pick up prosciutto, crackers and organic greek yogurt for Patricia before heading to the hospital.  I was also beginning to realize she had no idea what life outside the hospital looked like.  I took a few pictures of the giant hill I had to trek from the B&B... quite picturesque and steep.

I bought this cardigan after deciding to go to Rome, and I wore it every day there.  Here we are in the elevator, my daily reminder of how tired we looked.

This is what our room looked like at the convent / B&B.  You can see the art I bought and Anna Belle's little gift from the street vendor.

On Saturday, we went into Trastevere for lunch and got a bit lost.  I couldn't find the restaurant I was looking for, but we landed on an acceptable lunch place.

AB was happy to roam Rome without the stroller.

At bedtime, I would set up Frozen on Anna Belle's iPad.  We went to bed near midnight every night.

One of the nuns brought a few little pieces of jewelry as a gift / souvenir.  Anna Belle fell in love with a bracelet, and stacked it between her Pringles.  There are a lot of messy things that make me twitch at home, but away from home, when I'm really tired, I just snapped a photo and let it be.

On Sunday we went to the Colosseum.  This is quite possibly the worst place in the world to take a stroller.  There were stairs all over the perimeter, the cobblestone was enormous and uneven.  We took a lap around, bought a souvenir book (which AB and I both love) and went straight to lunch.

A lot of the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine were under renovation.  Anna Belle was tired of the sun in her eyes and used her new book to shade her eyes.

Ahh... I love sitting down for meals.  AB's content to just be out of her stroller, and I'm happy to be off my feet.  We went to the chirporactor on our first day home and we were both really out of whack.

I'm not sure why, but Anna Belle wanted to waddle like a penguin.  She won the hearts of the two neighboring tables, both parties were French.

I had to trick Anna Belle into thinking I was playing with my phone instead of taking pictures to get these shots.  I really loved watching her eat this whole meal.

One of the best shots of the entire trip:

This is a bench at the top of the hill, right at the entrance to the hospital.

We took a taxi to the hotel where David and Patricia stayed for there first 2 weeks in Rome.  The view of St. Peter's was really gorgeous. 

Everyone at the hotel spoke English, and the waiter offered us straws and ice.  It was like being back in the US, and it made me a little homesick.  

This is another restaurant specializing in anti-pasta plates, but with a really awesome selection of wine and scotch.

After the meal, we went to Piazza Navonna to get gelato, again.  I tried to tell David I was stopping to take pictures, and managed to scare him by disappearing.

Technically, the photo below is horrible.  Personally, Anna Belle looks like a little angel.

Here's the front of our B&B.

On Monday, Anna Belle and I were really starting to feel under the weather.  Patricia was doing a lot better and was able to communicate her needs better with the staff.  At this point, Jeffrey had built a relationship with the right people within UHC and the hospital, so things were moving in the right direction.  Anna Belle and I stayed in bed until 2:00 PM.  Taylor scheduled our flight home for Tuesday morning, which had a lot of vacant seats.

After our very long nap, Anna Belle and I went back to our first restaurant of the trip... a pizza place.  The door below goes to a sculptor's studio, which was across the street from our restaurant.

My favorite trip pic:

After filling our bellies, we visited the hospital one last time.  Martina, our favorite nurse, gave Anna Belle these Minnie Mouse ears.

We hung out with Grandma for a few hours before bedtime.  Our return flight was early, so Taylor scheduled a van to pick us up from the B&B at 5:30 AM.  Neither of us slept more than an hour the whole trip, but Anna Belle was in good spirits the whole trip.  She's quite the little traveler.