Life in Suburbia (NSFW)

I believe days should begin happily.  For me, this means snuggles with my littles, a cappuccino, and club music from 5-10 years ago.  It becomes a fun game.  It's not monotony, it's a girls' night out morning in!
yes, I Googled 'night club' and added the first image I saw
As in, "hey ladies, drinks are on me!" (Because the drinks are Carnation instant breakfast, and it's my job to nourish you)  Or, "All right ladies, let's get fancy!"  (change into something other than their pajamas/ the clothes I fell asleep in the night before while nursing Patrick)  

Inevitably, the cappuccino wears off/ Ludacris comes on, and I realize my morning is less this:

...and more this:

...and that is sad.  This morning, though, something changed!  A thought full of Christmas cheer flitted into my mind!  A thought of second chances and hope and redemption!  Michael Bolton went from a punchline to this!

So, downtrodden moms and dads and nerdy white guys everywhere, if that no-talent assclown can do it, there's hope for us all!  Ho ho ho, and a very merry Christmas :-)


Finland: the testicles of the eurozone

Scott's unrelenting awesomeness (second marathon) giving us an other excuse to travel

"Finland~ where 4 am looks the same as 10 pm, and both are indistinguishable from noon."
~first sentence in my journal from our time in Finland

"Mom!  Finland is a GREAT place!  The power hasn't even gone out today!  We should stay here forever, probably."  ~Kylie

"Internet speed in Finland... over Wifi... while streaming Youtube: 15x faster than the hardwired DSL at my house in Naples.  *sigh*"  ~Scott's status update

"Finland has so many foods!  We had dinner that wasn't pizza OR pasta!!!" ~Avalon

"Your words should be better than your silence.  If they aren't, stay silent." ~Finnish saying

That actually sums up our experience fairly completely.  If you're just here to get Finland's vibe, you can probably close this window now.  If you're more the 'I like pictures & sexual innuendo type', feel free to continue reading :-)


Enchanting parks everywhere

I love you guys :-)

A stuffed reindeer carcass!  Let's pat it for an hour!

Quite possibly Kylie's favorite part of the entire vacation
At first we just thought EVERY kid we saw was returning from a fishing trip.  Turns out it rains so often they have an outfit for it, much like the requisite snowsuits I had growing up.

One of many games of tag with Aunt Christy, who is unequivocally the best
Is good you came in summer.  Winter can be verrrrrrry depressing

This actually isn't innuendo.  What is it?  I'm not sure.  Let's make it a fun multiple choice question!  This is:
a) a map of the eurozone
b) a low resolution picture that was all I could find
c) what happens when you let Europeans design something
d) the best thing to ever happen to Sweden
Admit it: now that you've seen it *without* Norway, you can't un-see it
This isn't really innuendo either.  I should have come up with a better heading.  So what is it?  An awkward family moment.  We took a boat ride to an island zoo (awesome!).
It's a traffic light for boats!
almost there!  also awesome!
...and then this happened:
The girls saw (and became enamored with) this peacock.  Which, unfortunately, Avalon kept calling the "he-cock".  As in, "Momma look at that pretty he-cock!" or
That sure is a big he-cock, huh Kylie?" 
"When I grow up, I'm gonna get a he-cock!" 
"Yay, yay, the pretty he-cock is following us!"
* sigh *

Lastly (but not leastly), we came across this in our "what to do in Finland" brochure:
Finland, it's a bold move presuming I'll *love* having my calf bitten while kneeling on a toilet and leaning out a window


Patrick Lawrence

Patrick Lawrence, every time I write your name, I smile.  It's your daddy and my daddy all rolled into a tiny little you. I'm so glad you're here.

This has been a hard year, little man, so very hard in a lot of ways.  I was the sickest I've ever been... my back has gotten so bad the doctor said I might never run again... I couldn't be there for your Gramps when he lost his mom... and I had to say goodbye to one of my favorite people in the world.

It would have been so easy to dismiss 2013 as a year we'd have been better off without.

...and then I held you.  I touched your little cheek and kissed your tiny nose and everything hard and sad just melted away.

Thank you for being the promise of sunshine I could daydream about when everything seemed dark.  I thought losing my Nana would shatter me.  Thanks for being with me during that goodbye.  I took care of myself for your sake even when I wouldn't have for my own.  Thanks for that, little prince, and for giving us the gift of having a newborn in Italy.

Our neighbors are thrilled with your birth, and bring us food constantly so that I'll have plenty of milk for you. Men stop in the street to smile and pat your cheek.  Cashiers leave their registers to hold you.  Restaurant owners exclaim "auguri!" and come over to kiss your little feet and hands.  I've fallen madly in love with you, little one, and this section of Napoli has, too.
I ate approximately half of this

Every day my heart feels full to capacity... and every night it must get bigger, because the next morning I wake up and somehow love you even more.  I'm thrilled that you are here, sweet boy, and I couldn't love you more.  ...at least until I wake up tomorrow :-)


Black Forest Getaway

Gabe continued his awesome streak and watched the wee ladies so Scott and I could have a grownup weekend.  In Germany.  Nestled between the Black Forest and thermal spas.  Life is just so full of lovely sometimes :-)

We started our Saturday with a drive through the Black Forest to see some castles.

As predicted, my rapidly expanding belly quickly grew hungry and we had lunch in a castle listening to a fairly great band.  I think they were local high schoolers, and we were serenaded with Rolling in the Deep, Another One Bites the Dust, and other surprising-in-a-castle selections at Burg Hohenzollern.
the aforementioned rapidly expanding 6 month belly
Castle lunch (ps 'clouded apple and elderberry juice' just tastes like cranberry)
We stopped at Schloss Lichtenstein on our way back, and it had a beer garden and ropes course!  Well done, you!  Followed up our castle voyage with a trip to Caracalla Spa.  I want to describe it.  I wouldn't do it justice.  It's kind of like the best pool day ever... in thermal water at varying and awesome temperatures... with little kiosks containing juicers... and an array of saunas... or dampfbad... just delightful.  Evening concluded with dinner served to us by people in lederhosen that went until 11:00.  I dozed off at the table around 10:45 :-)

Sunday we went to Freidrichsbad spa, which was a borderline religious experience. According to Mark Twain:
"After 10 minutes at Freidrichsbad, you forget time. After 20 minutes, the world."

Again, I'm not going to do this place justice.  I'm certainly not going to outdo Mark Twain :-)  However, it was like being brought back in time, and once you arrive, finding that you're an aristocrat... or super back in time, a Roman senator.  The spa as it stands today was built in 1877 and was made to cater to the aristocracy and royalty of the time.  The original spa, Acqua Aurelia, was built in 69 AD, and the ruins are still recognizable and open for touring.  

At its most simplistic, Freidrichsbad is a series of thermal baths, saunas, scrubs, and massages.   The first eight stations gradually raise your body temperature (with an amazing soap and brush massage midway through), then stations 9-13 lower your body temperature back to normal.  The experience ends with a cream massage, being burrito wrapped like a newborn in a quiet room (we both fell asleep) and a leisurely tea and reading time to re-acclimate to the world you forgot existed.

The rest of the weekend was spent strolling through the tranquil town enjoying life, but now that we're back in sweaty Naples I'm getting too jealous of past-me to write about it, so here are some pictures and I'll caption them for you and call it good :-)

The little stream that ran through town

fountains everywhere

Germany: you're clean and efficient and lovely.
Leave fashion to other countries.
Don't recreate the Red Wedding in a shop window.

This entire country looks like a fairy tale

pictured: Scott enjoying a fountain
not pictured: the adorable old french couples,
ladies with parasols, men with berets

Oh, Germany, even your barns are efficient!

Seriously, guys, not your forte

Black Forest cake at Cafe Konig, as
recommended by Tolstoy.  Cared for neither
the cake, nor the Cafe.  In future, will
not take food advice from deceased,
depressing authors
Far nicer experience at Kaffeehause.  How every day should begin :-)
And now, for your viewing and educational pleasure, some awesome German words courtesy of Ryanair:

tantenverfuher: young man of good manners you suspect of devious motives (literally 'aunt seducer')
kummerspeck: excess weight gained from emotional eating (literally 'grief bacon')
drachenfutter: gift/ peace offering guilty husbands give to their wives (literally 'dragon fodder')


Hurricane Ava

 Oh, Avalon.  My lovely little hurricane of a child.  You are three years old today, and it's wonderful and devastating at the same time.  Somehow in what felt like a few weeks, another year went by.  Last night I told you, "this is the last night you'll be two!" and felt like my Nana.  Last night your dad said, "you'll never be two again" and I wanted to cry.  There's so much about you right now that I wish I could freeze in time.

You're dazzling, little one.  Everywhere we go, you sparkle and charm and people love you.  You love them back.  You're so smart and roughly 93% of your brain is devoted to animals.  Every day you choose a new one to emulate, and spend your days barking like a puppy carrying things in your teeth, galloping like a horse, or flapping your wings like a dragon.

From the depths of your soul you believe you are a princess.  You go days without taking off your tiara.  You wear your princess dress to the commissary, the beach, and the movie theater.  Your imagination is incredible, and whatever world you happen to be occupying at a given moment, we're all drawn in, too.  If you're Wendy, Dad's Captain Hook.  If you're Cinderella, Kylie's a handsome prince.  If you're a baby scarlet macaw, then I'm your momma bird building us a nest.

You are our little Italiana.  If we'd allow it, you'd start every day with a cappuccino.  When you speak, your hands tell stories.  Everything you feel, you feel deeply and passionately.  When you're disappointed, your wail would put a dirge to shame.  When you're happy, your laughter pierces every corner of the house.  When you're feeling lovey, you catapult yourself onto us clinging like a baby koala.

You bring us so much joy.

You're Shirley Temple and a cherub and a naughty little imp rolled into one.

At some point, your shamelessness will probably disappear.  You will no longer proudly announce you've poo-ed yourself adding, "ta-da!"  You'll call them 'pajamas' instead of 'pajamins'...  You may even realize that the gate guard is waving the next car in, not waving to you because "he thinks I'm so cute!"

I'll really miss my firework of a two year old.   If the past 3 years are any indication though, growing older just means you're going to fill our lives with even more awesome.  We love you, Ava Rain.


Our bella weekend

Armed with Gabe, friends, and a four day weekend, the Crawfords traveled from the boot's ankle all the way to the upper-knee (assuming Italy is a thigh-high boot, which I think is a safe assumption).
From light blue Campania to olive green Liguria
First stop was Lucca.  Oh, Lucca, how I love thee.  As in, debated aloud abandoning all of our worldly possessions and just never leaving.  We spent the morning walking around the wall (designed by Leondardo Da Vinci) surrounding the city.  It is wide enough that it has become a promenade where lucky locals and tourists can jog/ bike/ walk their dogs/ bask in the glory that is being alive.
Lucca!  You built a playground on top of a wall!  You beautiful genius, you!
As we continued our stroll, I told the girls how this wall was initially built to keep the town safe from attackers.  In could-not-have-planned-it-better-fashion, a nice Italian popped his head out from what used to be an arrowslit to say ciao to the 'bella principesse".  Kylie was pretty excited about the idea of medieval battles and we told warrior princess stories the rest of the walk.

Mom!  We must keep walking so people will see me and say 'Oh- she must be the princess of the wall!'

Be still my heart- a tiny moat!!!  That's it, we're never leaving.
Around noon my "let's just stay here for ever and ever" was outvoted, so we had some incredible gelato at the renowned Gelateria Veneta and headed to La Spezia/ Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre ('five lands') is made up of five little towns clustered on the shore of Liguria.  They look similar to the Amalfi coast~ colorful buildings stacked on cliffs leading down to the water~ but are more secluded.  Because they are so hard to reach, they were (and sometimes still are) considered 'a hidden treasure' of Italy.  This is no longer the case, so if you're looking for quiet exploration/ authentic Italy, go elsewhere or not during high season.  If you're looking for beautiful scenery/ lovely hiking/ great pesto and wine, Cinque Terre in the summer is still a safe bet.

Itinerary, Lindsey-style
I cannot believe I just posted that.  At any rate, if you look at day #2 you can see (maybe) that there's a shore, and 5 towns along it, and maybe if you can discern crappy penmanship you can even see their names :-)  

Monterosso: The largest and most resort-ish of the towns.  With their fitness and motivation, our friends hiked there (look at that- my silly picture is already paying off), with my pregnancy/ spinal fracture I took the train.  We really have the most amazing friends... despite hours of hiking/ driving/ cars getting turned around & vandalized/ etc. they still showed up smiling, ready for hours of playing and exploring.
"Well I've got that interview in the morning [on her book/ life/ mission to rescue an abused girl] but we wanted to squeeze in a visit with you guys.  Also, I brought bubbles for the princesses!" Seriously Kate, you're my hero.
Not pictured, but very much remembered: Alex, Brian & Warren pretending to be water monsters with the girls; MD & Laura helping Kylie with her giant rock collection; Molly, Kate, and Rebecca exploring the town and helping Kylie and Avalon determine which gelato flavor would be the very best; Laura announcing her hero-status and passing out mojitos for the grown ups and about 8 pounds of trail mix for the kids... 

Lounging on the beach next to Scott... watching our happy laughing Napoli-family... feeling baby boy squirming and kicking... I wish I could have just bottled that moment up for when life gets hard, to help me remember that sometimes, life is perfect.

Vernazza: The Crawford contingent didn't make it to the town, but it's where the rest of the group was staying.  At the very least, we can vouch for availability even when you don't make reservations until the week before your trip in the height of summer :-)

Corniglia: After getting off the train, one must hike to get to the town. As my itinerary so succinctly puts it, "no thank you, hiking".  The rest of the group agreed, so we have no tips for the curious reader.

Manarola: A nice little town with good food and a fun swimming area.  In lieu of adjectives, here are some pictures:

Take off my crown to swim?  What am I, a peasant?

 Gabe jumps off the top of the rock (fails to impress any hot locals, desperately impresses his little nieces)

Riomaggiore: The quaintest of the towns we explored.  This is where my (Grant) family stayed/ fell in love with the first time we went to Italy.  We (the Crawfords + Gabe) stopped here for a lovely dinner and tasted the famous Cinque Terre wine, which didn't disappoint.  Yes, there is a bottle waiting to be opened when baby boy & I get home from the hospital :-)
 The wee ladies were less impressed with the quaintness, and had *nearly* given up on Riomaggiore.  Then this happened:
For no apparent reason, a DJ booth and bubble cannon were set up outside of the train station.  Quickly declared the best day ever.
La Spezia: The five of us stayed in a nice apartment here.  Most of our time was spent in Cinque Terre, but we can highly recommend the focaccia & cornetti La Spezia has to offer.
I'm Avalon, and I approve of this breakfast
breakfast focaccia
dessert focaccia
Lerici: Our last stop in Liguria, we went to Lerici beach... and kind of regretted not staying there the entire weekend... I think Scott summed it up with, "So this is how the Italian riviera is supposed to be!"  Sweet Italian families everywhere building sand castles/ sculpting sand cars with their kids... wrinkled couples walking hand in hand... little old ladies slowly walking/ talking/ gesturing their way down the beach together... paddle boats with slides... a castle in the background... it was bliss.

Pisa: We rounded out the trip with the obligatory trip to the leaning tower.  Solely so Scott could authoritatively tell people that it's a waste of time.  Upside: the girls wondering aloud multiple times why that silly tower didn't know how to stand up straight, stereotyping tourists by the pictures they take (Americans push the tower over like a giant, Asians try to martial-art it over with leaping kicks, everybody else apparently just wants a picture of themselves making out in front of it), and commissioning a cheesy spray painting I've wanted for about 11 years.

These things make me inexplicably happy.  I want to buy one from every tourist trap we see :-)

Baby boy makes his first appearance in a family photo

"Momma, I like that silly-falling-over-tower of Pisa!"
Thus concludes our weekend.  This is where most of you should probably stop reading.  For the grandparents out there, I'm going to add in an embarrassing number of pictures of our kids.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~the break before wading into obnoxious parent territory~~~~~~~~~~~

"Yay, giddyup Princess Luna (what she's calling Uncle Gabe)!  Now say NEIGH!!!, Princess Luna!"

surveying the itinerary 

checking out a crab

Kylie (to the boy in our group): Oh, no thank you, I don't need help.  I am brave and strong.