Friday, December 30, 2011

my first baby shower

I didn't get to have a baby shower when I was pregnant with Graham. For lots of reasons, it just simply never happened. So, while Lauren was here, I got to have my very first baby shower.


It was organized by Stephanie, who is incredibly creative and crafty.  She hosted it at a wine bar (yay!) and had us all whipping out our artistic abilities by drawing on bibs and writing advise cards.

I have really come to understand and rely on the whole Navy family concept over here. We spend holidays together, host baby showers together, and help each other with newborns. We can all relate to the feelings of homesickness and loneliness from being so far from our friends and families in the US. I can't say enough about how grateful I am to have these people in my life.

Thanks for showering my baby and me with gifts, girls! I, for one, had a reeeeallly great time!


Oh, and I forgot to mention that it was a co-shower. That's Katie with the other belly. She's due a month before me!

Yay again for babies!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

you say raaaa-chetta, I say row-chetta

I hope ya'll had good holiday celebrations. Eventually, I'll tell you about ours, but I am so far behind on blogging, so I'm just going to continue where I left off.

I was describing one of my days in Napoli with Lauren, which was about 10 days ago, now...

Several hours after our little run-in with the train officials, Lauren and I are fed, cultured from walking through the Archeological Museum, and ready to get a pizza for poor, sick Tony and head home. We decide to go back to Starita Pizza where we lunched on a thing called a "racket pizza."

 I gotta tell ya, I have this thing for comparing pizzas around here. I've eaten a lot of them, and this one takes the cake. Win. Delicious. I just couldn't live with myself if I didn't take one home to Tony. So, there we are, back at the pizza joint, where I ask our same waiter for a "row-chetta."

"Okay," he says. "Just one?"

"Yep. Solo uno," I respond.

I pay the lady at the counter, then Lauren and I stand in everyone's way while we wait for our pizza. One of the cooks hands me a bag with a deep-fried potato thing in it. "Hmm, I wonder if he wants me to eat this, " I say to Lauren. We proceed to eat it and the cooks keep pointing to napkins and we tell them how good it is and rub our bellies and thank them and continue to wait. "It tastes like a crochet," says Lauren. "Mmm," I say. I tell Lauren that I've had friends here tell me that sometimes when they were pregnant, people just gave them food. I figured this was one of those incidents. 

And we wait. I start getting the dreaded tingly pregnant legs, so I find a stool in the corner to lean on. We wait some more. The cooks (all men) continue to glance up at us and smile. We get hot, so we go out for a stroll and tell everyone we'll be back. We walk up and down the street, then check back in at the pizza shop. Everyone waves, but no pizza. We decide to wait outside and just pop our heads in once in awhile. We start felling like creepy peeping toms, so I finally go inside to ask again about the pizza.


Our waiter comes back with a puzzled look on his face asking what is wrong. I tell him we are patiently waiting for our pizza.

"Pizza?" he asks.

"Si. Uno row-cchetta pizza."

I see the confusion on his face melt away as he begins to apologize profusely. He definitely thought I had said, "crochet," previously, because the appropriate pronunciation for the racket pizza is "raaaaacchetta."

Lauren and I laugh about how weird we must have looked standing there eating one crochet and rubbing our bellies and waiting around like idiots. Within five minutes, our pizza is ready and we are heading out the door.

"Are you going to pay?" asks our waiter.

"Oh, I already paid," I explain, thinking that the lady behind the counter understood my pizza order in the first place and charged me for it.

We walk away, pizza in hand, laughing at our silly selves who, so recently felt pride at standing up to the man, but then didn't want to be rude to the pizza makers and demand our pizza. Suddenly, we hear our waiter flagging us down. He approaches and says, "The pizza is 7 Euro."

"Yes, I know. I paid the lady 8 Euro," I tell him. He looks hesitant, but apologizes again and heads back.

I start thinking about the money I gave to the lady behind the counter and realize that I handed her a 10 Euro bill and she gave me a whole bunch of change. I understood her to ask for 8 Euro, but suddenly that makes no sense. The cobwebs in my pregnant brain begin to clear away and it dawns on me that I paid her 80 Euro cents for 1 crochet. Duh.  There was never a moment when anyone in the pizza shop thought I had ordered a pizza.

I talk it over with Lauren and we debate about whether or not to humiliate ourselves again and go back in. We start to feel bad for our waiter, who will probably have to pay for the pizza if we don't, and then it occurs to me that I'm definitely going to want to return to this place and I don't want them to remember me as the creepy peeping tom who stole a delicious "row-cchetta" pizza. 

Once again, Lauren and I find ourselves smiling at the pizza cooks as we pay them the correct amount. The owner laughs and blames it all on the waiter saying that the waiter only understands Japanese.

We just walked away laughing and I made a promise to myself to keep practicing the Italian language and learn more of its customs, because, obviously, even after a year and a half of living here, I still don't have this place figured out.

Friday, December 23, 2011

a good place

As we know, the train system in Naples is not exactly slick. The fact that I even bother to purchase tickets to get on the thing is a great example of my honesty and stewardship. At the stop near my house, there is an empty, abandoned "station" that I never  set foot in unless it's really windy or something. I simply wait for the train outside. I get on, and there is nowhere to stamp the ticket, so I always wonder why I even buy them.

So, there Lauren and I are with two shiny tickets in our hands as we exit the train at Montesanto station in the heart of Naples' craziness. When, what to our wondering eyes should appear, but several train station guards asking for tickets and trying to cause fear. Happy that I am a good steward with a newly purchased ticket, I proudly show ours to the guard. You can imagine my surprise when he does not let us pass, but starts writing on the outside of his citation booklet that we each owe 21 Euro, because our tickets are not stamped. He writes down the number, "42," then crosses it out and writes "21." Like he's giving us a two-for-one deal! What a guy!

"Um, dove e la macchina (where is/was the stamp machine)?"  I ask, knowing perfectly well that there is one inside that "station," where we got on the train, but not knowing that the darn thing even works.

"Alla stazione (at the station)," he responds, looking off into the distance to avoid eye-contact.

"Non lo so (I don't know)," I say, meaning that I don't know where the machine is at the station and I don't know how to stamp the ticket, etc...

This encounter goes on for several more minutes with me getting my Neopalitan attitude on and raising my voice. The whole time, thinking in my head that this is not possibly happening and there is no way in hell I'm giving this guy any money. In the meantime, Lauren continues to act like a dumb tourist who doesn't know how the train system works in Naples. The guard gets his other guard friend who speaks English and both are demanding that we pay them some cash. Suddenly, it dawns on me that he needs to just write me a citation and I can pay it later, so I say, "I have no money!" Lauren pulls out 5 Euro and says, "This is all I have."

"You have no money?"

The mood has changed as they realize they are not walking away with our cash. The English speaker tells Lauren to put her 5 Euro away and tells his friend to please validate our tickets and let us go. As we're leaving he says, "We want you and other tourists to know that Naples is a good place. It is a good place."

We walked away with smiles from ear to ear, beaming with self-pride. Because, we both knew that there was a time in our lives when we would have just succumbed to the pressure and handed over the money.

Quick disclaimer: I do love Naples and believe it is a truly good place. A little corruption simply adds to its character. 

Okay, that's the end of this story.

Stay tuned for another exciting story involving elements of miscommunication, language barriers, and cultural differences...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

our good friend, Lauren


Okay, so I lied. I am not just a little sad at the moment. I am very sad. Like, can't stop crying when I hear a gushy song on the radio and can't look at photos without a mini-meltdown sad. I miss my friend very much.

I mentioned before how she and I lead pretty different lives right now. She lives and works in a little town called El Geneina, which is in the region of Gharb Dārfūr, which is in the country of Sudan, which is on the continent of Africa. She is working to implement plans to bring water and sanitation to people who left their hometown during the wars and have since returned, but have no work or homes to return to and therefore live in camps together (internally displaced person camps, for short). She is very strong and brave and walks through the desert to get to work and lives without hot water. I, on the other hand, am currently gallivanting around Italy and Europe, eating rich foods, enjoying hot showers, and working to raise a kid and grow a new baby. You don't need a microscope to see the contrasts.

Except, when we are together, you would never know how different our lives are. When we first met as freshman in college, we were a couple of self-conscious goodie-goodies. We have remained friends as we've both evolved into more confident (and more fun) free spirits. Fortunately, we have changed together and have been able to maintain a deep, strong, and loving friendship that transcends our differing paths in life.

Her visit to Italy was perfect. We showed her Naples. We ate lots of pizza. We soaked up some sunshine. And, we were fortunate enough to be able to take Lauren back to Florence. The land where she studied abroad in college while I was being chased by sharks. I've always wanted to visit this place with her. The actuality of it is still a little unreal.

She had no problem fitting right into our little life here. She showed Graham pictures of camels and patiently walked hand-in-hand with him down the Ponte Vecchio while he looked at each and every jewel and gelato flavor in the windows.


She helped him get dressed in the mornings, and she read stories whenever he wanted.


Her patience was impressive. It caused me to reminisce about the time she came to visit us in Oklahoma when Graham was a mere few weeks old. Tony had to leave on a Navy trip, so she sat up late with me and helped me rock my baby to sleep. She fed him and changed his diapers and basically became a second mother to him while she was there. The examples of her goodness and helpfulness in my life are endless. I miss her. Now that she's gone, it feels like we are missing a member of our family.

I don't like that feeling one bit, but I gotta be me and stay positive and be grateful for the time we got to have together.

Thank you, Lauren, for using your very precious and well-deserved R&R days to be with us.

And come back, soon!

I need you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

bump on the blog

I'm feeling a little sad at the moment. I just took Lauren to the airport after spending ten glorious days with her. I miss her already. Plus, I am a bit under the weather. So, to cheer myself up, I'm going to share my bump with you once again.

This was taken last week by Lauren when I was at the 28 week mark and officially turned the corner into the third trimester.



I know. I am a little behind on blogging. Forgive me.

Today, I am celebrating 29 weeks of pregnancy. There are elbows, knees, and feet poking me in the ribs. This is getting real, folks.

I can't wait to share some stories with you about my time with Lauren, but I think I'm going to rest for a few minutes, first.

We'll talk real soon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

better watch out.. better not cry.. LAUREN is coming to town!

Okay, so, I was half-joking about the whole drowning in frosting thing. That stuff starts to taste a little gross after awhile. 

In all seriousness, though, you might not hear from me for a few days, because I will be playing with Lauren. If you know me, then you know Lauren. We are two peas in a pod that happen to be living drastically different lives at the moment, but that's a whole 'nother story. She's coming allll the way from the Sudan in Africa to spend ten days with me. She ought to be arriving in 7 or 8 hours or so. Ah!

I'm not quite sure how to tell you just how excited I am. It's like a piece of home is coming to me. It's going to be a great day.

I hope ya'll have a good day, too.

Go hug your friend.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

a head of cauliflower

My dad keeps putting videos of Graham as an 8-9 month old baby on our facebook page. I appreciate them. I really do. It is so fun to look back at my baby.

The only problem is that he is not a baby anymore.


So, as an emotional pregnant lady, they are causing me to look at these pictures (most of them taken while we were Paris, so you get to see more Paris footage. Yay!) and wish that I could just push pause on life for awhile.

Things are moving too quickly.


People are growing too fast.

I mean, as we speak, Graham is hanging out at his buddy's house. Without me. I am no longer needed during his play dates. When did that happen? 

According to the world wide web, the baby that is inside my body is currently the size of a head of cauliflower.

Cauliflower? That's just too big! It seems like yesterday that it was just the size of a piece of rice! Why must the world turn so quickly? 


Where does the time go?

In three, short months, this baby will no longer be inside of me. It will be out here. In this world. Continuing to grow.


And, so. When the frustrations and discomforts and tiredness (and boy, have I been tired this go-around) of pregnancy start to get to me, I try to remember to embrace these moments and enjoy the calm before the storm of having a newborn plus this little rascal in the house.

The gash above his eye is from falling off a bed in a hotel room. Someone really needs to explain the importance of being still while sleeping to this child!

 Because, before I know it, my kids will be 35 and I'll still be watching their baby videos while weeping over my spoonfuls of Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Fudge frosting...

Not that I've been known to do things like that or anything. 

If you don't hear from me for awhile, call for help. I may or may not be drowning in chocolate frosting. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

book club

Yes, I belong to a book club.

Go ahead.

Poke and make fun if you'd like.

Okay, now that that's out of the way, I can tell you something neat.

Back at the beginning of November, which to some of you might actually feel like a month ago, but to me feels like yesterday, I did something really fun with my book club. I took a girls trip to Siena. First, we read the book, "Daughter of Siena," and then we decided to hold our book club meeting in Siena.

Because we live in Italy and we can do things like that.

The best part for me was that my grandma got to come along. She read the book and joined right in with our good times.

If you also belong to a book club, I highly recommend an "on site" book club meeting if you can manage it. You won't regret it.

Thanks again and again to Katie and Stephanie for doing the bulk of the organizing. You guys amaze me!

Friday, December 2, 2011

it was bound to happen

The other day, Graham had a friend from school come to the house after school. This particular friend happens to be a year older and he is also American (just a little background for context). After a few minutes of playing in Graham's room, his friend emerged asking, "Can I watch TV?"

"We don't have a TV connection here." I said.

"Do you have a Wii?"


"Oh. We have a Wii at our house. What about a Nintendo?"

"Um, sorry, no."

"Do you have any kind of games?" he persisted.

"Well, we have board games and card games."

"Oh. How about any movies? Can I see all your movies?"

"We only have a few..."

"Um, how about milk? Can I have some milk?"

"Yes. That we do have!" I exclaimed, as I jumped up to pour him a glass, happy to change the subject. I started wondering if Graham is going to have trouble convincing friends to come to his house since we don't have video games and big screen televisions with millions of channels. Graham is planning to go to this friend's house next week, where he will most likely get to play the Wii for the first time and then he will probably come home and beg for one and wonder why we don't have one. I knew it was only a matter of time before the whole video game thing became an issue. I just didn't think it would happen at 4.5 years old. I was thinking more along the lines of 14.5 years or so...

It's not that we're against video games or television or anything (television, maybe, because we hate commercials). Tony and I just simply don't care for them. We prefer to waste our time making French apple tarts, reading, and helping Graham build things with Lincoln Logs. I know. Boring, right? But, I assure you, we are okay with our simple, boring selves. We're just hoping that Graham will follow suit. 

Anyway, as Graham's friend was leaving, he noticed Graham's collection of sticks that I managed to put outside.

"Wow!" he exclaimed.  "Look at those sticks! I don't have sticks at my house!"

I wiped my brow in relief and said a little prayer of thanks to the sticks.

Maybe Graham's house will be cool after all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

artsy in Paris

In the land of a zillion and seven artistic masterpieces, I got inspired to be a little more artsy with my camera.

These are my attempts at art.


Don't worry. I won't quit my day job.

Wait. I don't have a day job.


So, I guess I'll just keep practicing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

thoroughly jostled

 I hope everyone had a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving. I, for one, am grateful that we're taking a little break from our travels, so I finally have some time to sit down and blog about Paris.

Let's begin with the Eiffel Tower. I was unexpectedly super impressed with the thing. I knew that Paris had so many spectacular things to see and discover, so the Eiffel Tower was really not on the top of my list of things-I-must-do-while-in-Paris. As it turned out, we could see the thing from our apartment and it was well within jogging distance, so I ended up spending quite a bit of time marveling at it. As it were, I ended up falling in love with it.


I fell so in love with the stunning structure that it quickly became a must-do, and I insisted we make it to the top with my grandparents. I mean, how could they leave Paris without going to the top of the Eiffel Tower? That would be preposterous! 

And so we went. And we had our giant jogging stroller with us, assuming they would have a place to check it. They handed us a nice little tag to put on it at the ticket counter, which we figured was meant for taking to the check-your-stroller-here-spot. We filed through the lines and waited and waited and asked one of the attendants where we should put the stroller. He just pointed to the elevator. Hmm. That's when we took a closer look at the little tag and realized it said, "If you leave your stroller anywhere, it will be confiscated and destroyed." So, there we were, smashed into tiny lines with a giant stroller. It was like trying to navigate a Hummer through an ant maze. Rather uncomfortable, to say the least.

The discomfort grew as we approached the top. It got colder. The lanes got smaller. Our patience grew thinner. At one point, Tony physically grabbed a man and gently guided him to where he needed to stand in order to be out of the Hummer's way. Even Grandpa, who weeks earlier declared that he never likes to push people in line, was shoving people left and right. It was not our best moment. 

We were, as Tony so perfectly described it, "thoroughly jostled" as we made our decent from the top where we couldn't see very much due to the evening foggy mist that suddenly decided to join us. As we waited in line on the bottom tier, the tower began to light up. Once again, we found ourselves gazing in awe at the wondrous spectacle while laughing hysterically at the whole situation. 


 All relationships involve a few growing pains, I suppose.

Which means that, yes, I am still in love with this tangled, iron mess.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

little rascal


This was our Little Bud last year. The picture was taken in Florence at Piazza Michelangelo. This was when he still had a little bit of baby left in his face. He was calm, carefree, sweet and snuggley. A perfect Little Bud.

And here he is a year later on the same bed of grass. 

Not quite as calm as he once was.

Still carefree, though.


A lot more silly than sweet. 
And I'm not sure I'd like to snuggle up to that dirty face.

The process has been gradual, but it recently hit me from out of nowhere like a ton of bricks that my baby is now a kid.  A full blown rascal of a kid.

Today, I am officially dubbing him "Little Rascal."

I can't stop time from marching on, so I might as well accept it and enjoy this next faze in his life. Right?

Monday, November 21, 2011

six weeks

Have you ever been on a retreat?

Throughout my days of attending Catholic high school and college, I went on many spiritual retreats organized by the schools. I would greet each one with anticipation, then ride the roller-coaster of emotions that inevitably came along with searching my soul for a few days, and then form new and deep relationships with fellow retreaters. Time would disappear, and I would forget about the rest of the world for awhile. I often left these retreats with feelings of hope and happiness, but greeting the "real world" always involved some struggles. After a weekend or week-long retreat, I would feel happy and inspired, but also tired, scattered, distracted, and unsure what to do with myself.

Six weeks with my grandparents has left me feeling as though I just went on a loooong retreat. I don't know where the time went. I forgot about the rest of the world and devoted all of my time and energy to them. I got to hear stories about their past that I'd never heard before, and I got to be reminded of the ones I already knew. I enjoyed discussions with Grandpa about "all natural" food and free-trade coffee. I got to see their eyes light up as they constantly discovered and learned new things while we journeyed through Italy and then Paris. I bore witness to them as they left their routines, stepped out of their comfort zones,  and explored new tastes (like grapa!).

I watched as they dealt with all the quirks that come with traveling, like small hotels, weird bathrooms, getting lost (oops!), strange electrical outlets, and different cultural approaches to things like customer service. The most fun thing for me to see over the six weeks was how they tested their limits and walked more than they ever thought possible (over cobblestones, through ancient ruins, around countless churches, and through the mazes of metro stations).


As we approach the great American holiday of Thanksgiving and reflect upon what it is that we are grateful for in life, I get to hold deep gratitude in my heart for the time I spent with my grandparents. They taught me new things and inspired me to never let aging get in the way of allowing me to do the things I love.

And, most especially, they exemplified to me the possibility of loving the same partner through all the ups and downs and continuing that love into the great grand parenting years.

Thanks for visiting, guys. I hope you're adjusting alright to your real world.

I'm busy baking and packing and preparing for our next adventure to a villa in the region of Umbria for a Thanksgiving with friends.

Like I told you while you were here, I don't really have a "real world" for the time being, which makes transitioning out of my retreat a little less shocking.

Friday, November 18, 2011

bump on the blog

24 weeks.

I think.

I've lost all track of time.

We are currently deeply engrossed in the enrichment of our lives through all the art and culture in Paris.

I hope to return on Sunday with much to share.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

funny story

Good news! I've got internet!

And we're happy as clams here in Paris!

Let me tell you a quick story.

Every night, I give Graham lots of kisses as I tuck him in bed. We do butterfly kisses, fish kisses, Italian kisses (one kiss on each cheek), regular kisses, Eskimo kisses, etc...

Tonight, since we're in France, Graham asked, "Mom, how do you do a French kiss?"


image source

Tell me, now. How would you have answered that question??