Archive | April, 2014

life & links


Gil where the sink used to be. Lena (dress on backwards) just observing his predicament.

It’s naptime. I lit a candle, warmed up some coffee, started some laundry, and settled down to enjoy a few blogs and some quiet time before buzzing around like a bee again. Elliott’s brother and sister-in-law arrive tomorrow afternoon, and we are so excited to see them! This house needs a little lot of ship-shaping before they see it, though, and I’m spending tomorrow morning at a Ricotta Cheese Workshop with the kids, so this afternoon and evening are my chance to wash sheets and towels, hide clutter, sweep dirt under the rug, you know…

In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to share a few recent links. Cup of Jo’s Friday link posts are my favorites; it’s always fun to see what others are discovering around the internets! Do you have any links to add?

So creative… and beautiful!

Tsh’s new post about organizing vs. decluttering. Inspiring.

My latest purchase.

The trailer for American Blogger caused a big backlash. What do you think?

My new favorite mommy blog and her hilarious answer to the question, “Do you work?”

The anti-vaccine movement and Jenny McCarthy? There’s a link.

Made me laugh.

Rumsfeld’s hilarious letter accompanying his 2014 tax return.

Another sobering reminder to put your phone away in the car.

Yes, please!

I started this book in Paris and it’s so good!

5 easy ways to improve your handwriting. (#2 is my biggest takeaway.)

I made this last week and it was meh. Do you have a favorite Thai recipe?

My thoughtful friend Courtney posted about why she is not a hands free mama, which reminded me of this great piece by Sarah Bessey on why she doesn’t mind her kids seeing her on her computer. Great food for thought.

Any favorite links to add? I always love a good reason to procrastinate!!!

Have a great Tuesday.

7 :: in links I love

Our Beach Vacation in Sicily {San Vito Lo Capo}


For two years now, everyone has been telling us that the beaches on the western coast of Sicily (three hours from us on the eastern coast) were beautiful, but WOW!!! We were dazzled by the grandeur, the colors (so many shades of blue!), and the landscape.

Added bonus? Elliott’s parents were with us for their annual spring visit!


Reunited! Lena was literally squealing with glee as she ran to hug them.


I think my mother-in-law and I made “Mom and Wife of the Year” status on the morning we baked cinnamon rolls. Note to self: make ’em often!


Early morning artwork with our breakfast.


Our beautiful-but-rustic apartment was a 15-minute drive from the stunning Zingaro Nature Reserve.



Pointing out fishing boats on our hike down to that perfect, perfect little beach.

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Feeding Grampa some pebbles. By the way, I have learned to vote for pebble beaches over sandy beaches. Pebbles stay on the beach, but sand seems to follow us everywhere for days.



More early morning projects.


Grampa and his two baby birds.


Hiking to the beach on our second day in Zingaro.

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She’s got the beach babe pose all figured out.


One night we drove into the town of San Vito Lo Capo for dinner and took a walk along the huge beach there. It was breezy, chilly, and totally empty, ie. the polar opposite of summer.

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The day we left San Vito, we had a looooooong drive ahead of us and no real schedule, so we stopped a couple of times to picnic and explore. Perhaps we’ve finally figured out how to roadtrip with toddlers?!

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Stretching our legs in the town of Castellammare, where I just learned many famous American Mafia leaders were born. Western Sicily has historically had a much stronger Mafia presence than our part of eastern Sicily. (No complaints here.)


About an hour later, we dropped off Grampa and Marmee at the Palermo airport and said, “See you in Paris!” Then we drove across Sicily, unpacked, packed again, and flew to France two days later. A whirlwind, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I can’t think of two more different cities than Paris and San Vito Lo Capo, though! Photos of Paris coming soon.

5 :: in beach, family, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, travel, visitors

It takes a village to raise a child, so make sure you’re a part of one.


Last week, a friend asked me to come speak at an event she was hosting on our Navy base (Sigonella). Elizabeth called it a “Parenting Toolkit Workshop,” and there were speakers addressing nutrition, relaxation/downtime, and children’s emotions. She had been reading my blog and we’d been emailing since before she arrived, so she thought I might be able to add a “real life” aspect to the parenting talk.

As I thought about what to say, it really boiled down to two things:

  • It takes a village to raise a child, so make sure you’re a part of one, and
  • Sicily is a place to unplug and restart your parenting.

I thought I’d share a little bit from each of these points as an encouragement to other parents out there. If you’re here in Sicily or about to move here, hopefully this discussion will also be a resource and a guide for you. However, I hope you’ll feel a fire lit under you no matter where you are or what your stage of life you’re in.

So here we go with my first point: it takes a village!

One thing that many people comment on in Sicily/Sigonella is that they feel isolated. I don’t know if this is true of all military base housing, but here in Sigonella, it’s a common refrain. There are so many reasons for this, I’m sure:

  • Base housing is a fishbowl. People appreciate privacy. It’s hard to balance privacy with vulnerability.
  • They miss the community they left.
  • They don’t want to be there. (Perhaps they didn’t want to move to Sicily. Perhaps they wanted to live out in town.)
  • Closeness is uncomfortable sometimes!

But base housing isn’t really that different from living “out in town,” ie. in an Italian house or apartment in an Italian town near the base. Out in town, people feel isolated too.

  • There are a language and cultural barriers, which means… no friends to go outside and see/talk to.
  • There are very few outdoor, public community spaces to go hang out in (at least in my town).
  • It’s easier to interact with a computer, or with food in your kitchen, or with your own kids in a safe space, than to go outside.

However, becoming comfortable with an isolated, insulated life is not how we were meant to live. You may disagree with me on that, and so perhaps that’s the fodder for another blog post. But I believe strongly that we should live in community, that we should go outside frequently, that we should know our neighbors, that we should welcome them into our homes (a lot! all the time! standing invitation!), that we should cook for them, that we should accept their food, that we should be open and nonjudgmental and communicative and truthful even if we don’t like them.

Even if we can’t speak their language.

The person I’m aspiring to emulate in all of this is, of course, Jesus, who hung out with everyone (saints and sinners) everywhere (temples and wells, open fields and street corners). He came to love and live with people, and I think we are hardwired as humans to need and love and crave human interaction, support, and community.

If you feel isolated, if you want to live in community, the only person who is going to change that is YOU.

Ok, that was the tough stuff. Here are some personal examples of things I am glad we did here in Sicily to build community.

And then there are some things I wish I’d done.

  • Things I am glad we did 
      • We invited people into our home regularly for meals, Bible study, game nights, book club, play dates, birthday parties, holidays, and anything we could think of. As a general goal, we had someone in our home at least once a week for at least one of these reasons. People love to see inside other people’s homes. People don’t mind the scattered toys and dirty floors. If they do, they are probably learning — just like I am — to get over it and to enjoy the real, honest person who was brave enough to invite them in.


      • We attended religious services (in our case, the base chapel) regularly, even though we didn’t always like it. If we were in town, we went to chapel, even with visitors. What we didn’t like — the music, the nursery — we tried to quietly contribute to and improve, at least for a season.


      • I got very involved in the women’s Bible study… that became “my thing.” Maybe that’s because they offered free childcare? I’m not ashamed to admit it! Either way, those women became my best friends at Sigonella.


      • We vacationed with another Sigonella family. The first time, they invited us to join them on a trip to Cinque Terre. The second time we invited them to rent a house on the beach with us in Sicily. Both of these trips were messy at times, but ultimately so much more fun than going by ourselves.


      • For awhile, I met up at the market each week with a friend. We had a standing agreement to buy our vegetables together at 9am on Wednesdays. This kept us both accountable to go to the market in our town, a key part of Sicilian life.



      • I invited other moms to go on adventures with me, like to Taormina, or to the train in Catania. Or on a hike with their dog if they don’t have kids!


      • I invited myself over. A LOT.


  • Things I wish we’d done 
      • I wish I had gotten my kids involved in the local culture in some way (preschool, sports, even a regular Italian babysitter). That contact is more for me than for my children, because they will be too young to remember any Italian or maybe anything about Sicily. But those contacts with Italy would have helped me so much. I would have had more Italian acquaintances, and I might even have had some real Italian friends. I would also have learned more about holidays, family structure, and food.


      • I wish I had taken Italian lessons. I got books but barely studied them. I knew I needed to just bite the bullet, spend the money, and get a tutor for a few months to launch my understanding. But I never did.


      • I wish we had sought counseling when we needed it for our marriage or our parenting. There are resources through the chapel and the Fleet and Family Support Center. Sometimes you just need an outside perspective.


      • Lastly and most importantly, I wish I had invited people over sooner, not just after I got to know them pretty well. The best place to get to know someone is usually over a meal, even if the meal is PB&Js with both of your kids in a messy kitchen.

Think about the place where you live right now. What will you regret not doing after you leave? What were your expectations when you arrived? How can you make them happen?

Maybe can answer that question with… what did you love in your last home? Was there a mom’s group that organized activities for you and your kids that you relied on each week? Were you a part of a book club? Did you gather your friends to relax over beers on your back porch every Friday night? Were you involved in a sport or social activity?

Parenting and marriage are hard work, especially so far from home. You need people.

You need them so that someone can watch your child or pets overnight when you go to the hospital to have another baby.

You need them so that someone can pack up your house for you and sell your cars when you get terrible news (illness, death) and have to move back to the States immediately.

You need them so that you can walk up to someone’s house and say, “I drove all the way here and forgot to bring lunch for my kids… can I borrow some food?!”

You need them because exploring a new place, taking your kids to the playground, or having a picnic are always more fun with friends!

If you don’t like something where you live, don’t isolate yourself. Don’t gossip about it. And don’t just grin and bear it either. DO something about it.

If you don’t like something where you live, change it. If you don’t have something, get it. If you don’t want to be there, make it a place where you want to be!

This is a little corny, but it says it best: be the change you wish to see in your community.

18 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, hospitality, military life, motherhood, Sicily, thoughts

portraits of my children in Paris {16/52}



The 52 Project: a portrait of my children once a week + every week in 2014.

Lena: What a wonderful week we’ve had! Last Thursday we flew to Paris to meet up with my parents-in-law, and for the next four days we explored the streets, museums, cafes, and boulangeries to our heart’s content. Those of you who follow me on Instagram have seen some photos already, but I’ll be working on the best of them to share over the next week or so. In this photo, Lena is sitting in the children’s corner of Shakespeare and Co. enjoying books with another little visitor. I’ve wanted to visit this bookshop for years, and it was thrilling to finally wander through the book-filled rooms. It’s about as close to Midnight in Paris as you can get in real life.

Gil: We spent one day whole day visiting Versailles, where the magnificent gardens and musical fountains were our favorite part. I took this picture shortly after we arrived, worn out from long lines and ecstatic about green grass. This photo reminded me of one I took of Lena two years ago in Germany in the springtime. We love those buttercups!


And now we’re home, sorting through piles of laundry, restocking the fridge, and helping children get caught up on sleep. I wondered if there would be a horrible post-vacation crash… you know, the one where you just want to go back to wherever the food was better or the surroundings were prettier or the responsibilities were lighter. That is a familiar sensation to me. At other periods in my life after I came home from vacation, I could barely lift my head off the pillow to start the day. Work or school or relationships or loneliness just felt too hard to face. I’m sure you have had times like that, too.

Well, the post-vacay low hasn’t hit me yet, although maybe it will as the routine gets a little less desperate and a little more… routine again. I’ve been realizing, though, that I have a daily life that I really love right now, and so the sweetness of Paris doesn’t feel as much like a sugar rush (and daily life doesn’t feel as much like a sugar crash) as it might if my everyday life or routine was hard to face every morning. I’m grateful for that. There’s a balance and a peace to my life right now, despite the Cheerios underfoot and dinner prep I should have started an hour ago…

How about you? Are you glad to wake up in the morning these days? Or are you looking forward to a time when you’ll feel more like that, such as after you graduate or after your kids are older?

6 :: in 52 project, Paris, travel

portraits of my children {15/52}



The 52 Project: A portrait of my children once a week & every week in 2014.

Lena: Well, if these photos are not evidence enough, we went to the beach! Elliott’s parents visited for a few days, and we met up with them in Palermo on the western coast of Sicily. From Palermo, we drove a couple of hours down the coast to the beach town of San Vito Lo Capo, where Elliott had found this picturesque apartment rental for us. It was about 15 minutes from the beautiful nature reserve of Zingaro, where both of these photos were taken. Can you believe those colors?!

Gil: This little man might be turning a new leaf with his beach-phobia. He loved the smooth pebbles and amused himself for hours by throwing them against other rocks, piling them up on our laps, or trying to feed them to his Grampa. He also started saying “Lena” this week (“Neee-nah!”), is almost running, and continues to delight everyone he meets with his irresistible blond curls.

I’ve got more pretty photos to share of our hike, apartment, and time with grandparents. I’ll see if I can get my act together to share them tomorrow!

What were you up to this past weekend? Any vacation plans around spring break?

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6 :: in 52 project, pretty places, San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, travel

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