Archive | May, 2014

At last… Paris!


It’s been a month now since we were in lovely Pah-ree, and I think that’s because every time I looked at the pictures I got so depressed. Paris was so much more beautiful in my memory! It was like a dream!

But in my mediocre photographs, it looked rather ordinary, and our children looked somewhat overwhelmed, and the parents and grandparents looked very grateful to be sitting down with whatever beverage was in front of them.

I suppose many things were true simultaneously: we were enthralled and we were exhausted, we were fascinated and we were fatigued, we were savoring and we were stressed. Such is traveling with little children. And traveling to a place like Paris — which is e-nor-mous — when you are trying to see as much as possible in four days, well… there’s sure to be a lot of bliss and a lot of blerg.

Anyway. I finally did edit the photos. I think these “few” — culled from hundreds — help it to look delightful again, and that’s how I’d like to remember it!


Our babies will fit in the overhead luggage!
Also, first glimpses of Paris near the apartment we were sharing with Elliott’s parents.


In the final 15 minutes of an exhausting day of travel from Sicily to Paris, Gil threw up on me in a taxi. We arrived at our apartment feeling like we’d traveled across the world instead of the continent. That night, Elliott and I left our sleeping children in his parents’ care and went on a walk through Paris at midnight. Oh, how we needed that walk. We saw Notre Dame (behind us in the b&w photo) and then wandered back along the Île Saint-Louis to Berthillon.

And then we ended up behind Natalie Portman to get our ice cream! Way to redeem yourself, Paris. Thank you.


Pont des Amoureux (Love Lock Bridge) by Notre Dame the next morning.


Grampa & Gil inside Notre Dame Cathedral.




At the Rodin Museum with his Marmee.


Picking out a treat at the museum’s pretty outdoor cafe.





We spent a whole day at Versailles, where we loved the grounds (pictured above and below) and spent hours walking, picnicking, and biking around them.




This bike ride around the gardens was one of the best things we did on the whole trip.


On the R, goofing off with Lena in the elevator inside the palace because someone “weally, weally need to use da baffroom.” Real life with kids, even at Versailles.


The Hall of Mirrors inside the palace. I have pointedly cut off the heads of the several hundred other tourists who were packed like sardines into the room with us.


The kids rode not one but two! carousels by the Eiffel Tower one afternoon. Lucky ducks.


Eiffel Tower by day and by night from Trocadero. So beautiful! Lena shrieked with glee when the sparkly lights came on around 9pm. As my mother-in-law said, we all felt the same way, but Lena was the one who expressed it. Magical!



We visited Notre Dame every day. Lovely lady.


We happened upon the Marche aux Fleurs unexpectedly and felt like we’d stepped into a painting. A perfumed, misty, sensational painting.



Lena amused herself in line outside Saint Chapelle.


Inside Saint Chapelle, more beautiful than I’d ever imagined.


On our last night in Paris, we met up with my California cousins in a park between our apartments. The adults picnicked with baguettes, meats, cheeses, and wine in the grass, and the kids ran in ever-widening circles away from us and around the gardens and play equipment. A perfect, child-centric end to our stay.


The park where we met up with my cousins. Let me just close by saying that I love almost everything about Paris, but the parks and playgrounds every few blocks stole the show. When the kids were cranky, when we all needed to rest our feet, when it was time to spread out a picnic and relax… well, there’s nothing like a Parisian park.


Right, Gil?


Have you ever been to Paris? What were your favorite things about the city? Not just museums, but unforgettable moments or memories?

13 :: in family, Paris, travel

portraits of my children {19|52}



The 52 Project: A portrait of my children once a week + every week in 2014.
See the whole series here.

Lena: This isn’t the greatest photo (her face is in shadow), but it captured so much about her these days that I decided to include it anyway. These days she wants to climb on anything and everything, fearlessly hang on right side up or upside down, and then jump off or down if she possibly can. The photo also captures her crazy hair, which she no longer allows me to touch without a serious battle of the wills. And it captures her determination to dress herself, and to wear whatever she picked, even if I make a case that things should match. She goes through full wardrobe changes at least three times a day, emerging with all kinds of crazy combinations of clothes, with usually everything on backwards. How does she do that? Shouldn’t there be a 50/50 chance that it will go on the right way? But it’s so cute and innocent, and she’s so determined and comfortable, so… we let it lie.

Gil: I took this right as he spotted a stranger crossing the playground, and his face immediately changed from disinterest to curiosity and then a sweet, shy smile. He’s so personable these days, walking up to people in the airport and holding out a hand in greeting, sharing his toys with any diners near us in a restaurant, content to sit on anyone’s lap after church to see if they’ll feed him. (“Donuts only, please, and none of that fruit stuff. I know the diff.”) And his blond curls and blue eyes will pretty much get him whatever he wants, especially here in Italy. He charms the socks right off his mama most of the time, too, which is unfortunate because he happens to also be developing a strong will and a well-timed burst of tears whenever he doesn’t get what he wants. Amiable baby no more, folks; we have a determined toddler on our hands. Greeeeat…

And finally, random quotes from Lena:

“I did that when I was eight years old.” (She is three.)

“I am sad today because my sister went to fool [school] without me.” (She doesn’t have a sister.)

While staring down at the baby pool on the porch that I was dutifully filling up: “Why did you peel off my paper wrapping? Now I’m naaaaked.” (Took me a minute. She was quoting this.)

While I weigh vegetables and stick labels on them at the grocery store: “We guys want a sticker.”

5 :: in 52 project

bread + wine + kids + travel


I took this photo in our Paris apartment on a quiet afternoon that Elliott and I spent reading and sipping hot, milked-down espresso as the kids slept. (In other words… that afternoon was heaven on earth!)

The other day Lena and I were sitting on the couch together, as we often do during Gil’s morning nap. We finished reading picture books together, and she started coloring. I turned back to Bread and Wine, a book I find myself reading slowly, savoring, and then caught up in irresistibly, reading faster than I intend, but unable to put down for the sheer joy and beauty of each honest story, each delicious food, each life lesson, that the author shares.

I had come to the chapter innocuously titled “Delicious Everywhere,” and I was totally roped in because she was writing about traveling and eating around the world, two things near and dear to my heart.

And then boom. I hit these last two paragraphs of the chapter, and my heart started to sing in my chest. Every line felt like it was written just for me, a perfect description of everything I feel and act upon in my life, said in a way I’ve always been struggling to find.

And right there, on the couch, in the middle of the morning, I began to cry.

“Sometimes people ask me why I travel so much, and specifically why we travel with [our little kids] so often. I think they think it’s easier to keep the kids at home, in their routines, surrounded by their stuff. It is. But we travel because it’s there. Because Capri exists and Kenya exists and Tel Aviv exists, and I want to taste every bite of it. We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood — they love to play, to discover, to learn.

“I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see themselves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful play, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room. I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bite of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious.” (emphasis mine)

I don’t yet understand why I love living and traveling overseas so much. Yes, I did grow up mostly overseas, but I didn’t always love it, and when we moved back to the States and I went to college, I was so ready. I was so done with living overseas. I loved living in Virginia and Boston and D.C. for a few years.

But then — as soon as the opportunity presented itself — I couldn’t wait to live overseas again. As Elliott will tell you, we’re living in Italy now because he let me choose where we could live next, and I chose Italy.

And, to be honest, I have really mixed emotions about moving back to the States for our new life in CA. Earlier this spring, Elliott interviewed for a job that would have sent us to Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia, and a big part of me longed for him to get that job, for us to plunge headfirst into yet another culture, another language, another city map, another international church, another home away from home.

I am sure there are many sinful emotions tied up in my love of living and traveling and being overseas. There’s pride and a desire for adventure and a longing to be different.

But there’s also a love for it. Learning the road rules, the food cultures, the hand gestures, the clothing staples, the housing quirks, and the right way to check out in a grocery store… I love all that. No matter where I am in the world, I get a thrill from learning these everyday communication techniques, learning how to fit in like a local, learning how to blend my family’s culture and the country’s culture.

And so, because of all these tied-to-my-heartstrings reasons, I’ve loved this chance to birth one of my children and raise two of them — at least for a little while — in another country. Together, Elliott and I encouraged and taught and watched them experience and savor this overseas life too. We watched them play with children for hours who didn’t speak their language, watched their eyes light up with delight over foods we can’t find in the States, watched them hike mountains and swim in oceans and walk on streets where no one else shares their nationality.

Our children’s acceptance and fascination with all we teach them — “this is good” or “this is different” or “this is home” — is a privilege given to parents. For this season of life, I’m so glad that we could teach them that home includes buying olives and eggplants at the market each week, and a handyman who speaks only Italian, and the unbending rule that you must say “grazie” after someone does something kind.

I hope we can continue to welcome the world into our home, in California and beyond, through food, visitors, books, and discussions around the dinner table. I worry that I will become complacent, or that I’ll forget. I fear — because I know my weaknesses — that I’ll become comfortable with familiar and forget the beauty and challenge of living so close to the ground in another culture. I hope I won’t forget.

And I hope it won’t be too long before we pack our bags and move overseas again for awhile. Oh please, God, don’t let it be too long.

Have you ever left a life overseas, and do you long to go back? Any encouragement for someone about to make the transition to the States?

21 :: in good reads, military life, thoughts, travel

portraits of my children {17|52 + 18|52}


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

OK, time to play catch up! I came home from Paris totally photoed-out, and so for all of Week 17 of the photo project, I didn’t want to take a single picture. I did get a couple of iPhone photos, though…

Lena (below): We spent a quiet week at home after Paris. During that time, Lena rediscovered her blocks and built this amazing tower while I was somewhere else in the house. When she called me to see her masterpiece, I was completely impressed. She’s never constructed anything so elaborate before. Her smile tells you she knows it, too!

Gil: My sweet “Aunt” Leslie has an heirloom children’s clothing business, and she made these beautiful color-coordinated outfits for the kids when Gil was born. Last Sunday we took them to church all gussied up in their finery. Despite looking like they stepped out of the 19th century, I think both of them were a lot more comfortable than they are in some of their more fashionable 21st century duds!


This past Wednesday, Elliott’s brother Jonathan and his wife Erika joined us for five days. Elliott took time off work to spend with them, and we spent every day exploring Sicily and introducing them to our favorite towns, sights, and foods. The kids loved having them here, and we were all so sad to see them leave this morning.

(And there I go second-guessing our decision to not move back to D.C. to be near family for the millionth time…!)

Anyway, we spent one day with J+E in the beautiful town of Taormina, which has already been featured on this blog about 10 times. As usual, we ate our way through Taormina, capping it all off with the delicious granita (Italian ice made with fresh fruit) at Bam Bar. Lena’s face says it all once again…

And I’ll leave you to enjoy Gil’s series of portraits with his Aunt Erika below. He’s figuring the important things out in life first, I guess!






4 :: in 52 project, Rosebasket, Taormina, visitors

Where We’re Headed Next: San Diego!!!

Image via

I think it’s time for an official “what happens after Sicily?” update around here! My husband Elliott wrote a blog post this week about our next move, and there are a lot of juicy details in that about rejections and deliberations that lead to our final decision: after we leave Sicily in July, we’re headed to the beaches and bustle of San Diego, California!

Some of you might remember this post about the difficult decision we were making between D.C. and San Diego. Most of our family lives in D.C., and we lived there as newlyweds. After this summer, Elliott had been planning to get out of the military and find work in the D.C. area so we could spend more time with them for a year or two.

However, somewhat out of the blue in December, the Army offered him a dream job. Would he be interested in filling a new position that just opened up for a veterinarian with the Naval Special Warfare Command, home of the SEALs?

For more than 10 years, Elliott had dreamed of a job like this: a chance to work with the elite of the world’s military, to care for their working dogs, and maybe even to work with their dolphins and sea lions. His eyes lit up whenever he talked about it. We both couldn’t imagine how he could turn this down.

After lots of conversations with family and lots of time on our knees, we decided to take the job!

One of the things we’re most excited about is the location of Elliott’s new base: the beautiful peninsula of Coronado just off the coast of San Diego. I’ve only been to SD twice on quick visits, but both times included an obligatory trip to Coronado to admire its long white beaches, darling cottages, picturesque shops, and famous hotel.

Working in Coronado will be amazing, but living there would be a dream come true. Unfortunately, Coronado housing is proving to be a bit of a problem. (Anyone who knows Coronado has a wry smile on their face right now.) The rental market is extremely competitive, and so even though Elliott has been super proactive about looking for a home, so far we’re still on the hunt.

Another option we’re prayerfully considering is living in a completely different part of the city, closer to the church we’ll probably attend. There are a lot of unknowns, so it’s hard to make such lifestyle-determining decisions from thousands of miles away. If you’re the praying kind, we’d appreciate your prayers!

We’ll leave Sicily in July, visit family along the way, and arrive in California the first week of August. But as I type this, there are brownies in the oven, and still-sandy swimsuits drying outside, and Jonathan and Erika — our latest visitors — are sharing the couch with Elliott. There is absolutely no sign that we have less than three months left in this beautiful home in Italy.

I’m excited about what lies ahead, but for now . . . the kitchen timer is going off, and I’m ready for hot brownies with our guests. Let’s savor “making room in Sicily” for a little longer!

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28 :: in Army, Coronado, husband, military life

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