Sunshine Boy

Alex Anthony was adopted by my sister and brother-in-law when he was around eighteen months-old. Our whole family went to meet Alex at the airport the night his daddy brought him home from China. Sucking intently on a pacifier, his chocolate eyes met our family of blue eyes with curiosity and fear. He spent the first few months learning to trust these new adults in his life, some of the most loving parents I know. And he alas began to call them Daddy and Mommy.

It wasn't until coming home after being gone a year and a half in Italy that I noticed the incredible progress that had taken place in this little guy. He is almost four and is the happiest pre-schooler I've ever known. His smile lights up a room and overwhelms my heart. Perhaps I am overwhelmed because I remember that timid, fear-ridden toddler who would cry whenever his mommy left the room, out of angst that she might not return. As cliche' as it sounds, Alex's life reminds me of the difference one family can make in one child's life.

I cannot imagine our family without him. I love you Alex!!!

I can see a lot of light in you...

Pretty sure I could write a whole book about these two beauties. When my mom gave birth to Kaitlyn when I was ten, I was ecstatic. When Alison came along, I was beginning to be swallowed up by training bras and Truth or Dare and sort of lost the sentiment. But it returned in my high school years...and into college. And they were like a trial run of parenting. No baggage. Well, except that one time I dragged Ali across the carpet because she was throwing a fit.

They have turned out to be everything I ever thought and told them they were and would be: Smart, talented, beautiful, amazing, amazing, amazing. And now, the irony: I am finding myself much more often the learner, the lesser, the apprentice in a world of fresh perspective and big dreams, of fearless living and boundless confidence.

Kait and Ali: Iwuvyou.

Nine years later...

I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge, when telling the story of how Thomas and I met and married, that God’s grace through the life of Elias, growing and kicking and hiccupping in my womb, is to thank for keeping us together that first year of marriage.

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant. I was working the 5:00 a.m. shift at a maternity home in Bloomington, Indiana. It was three weeks after our spontaneous marriage ceremony, performed by a big black judge in downtown Indianapolis, 15 minutes before the courthouse closed on New Year’s Eve.

I walked out of the maternity home into the cold January air and threw the hood of my sweatshirt over my head of curly hair. Fumbling for the keys to the Crisis Pregnancy Center next door, I turned the handle and made my way to the little room where many a woman found herself in the same circumstance I would soon find myself in.

I opened the cabinet and grabbed a pregnancy test, assuming that the random thought of being pregnant was just my imagination. The test would prove that for sure.

I walked back over to the old Victorian home with its brass handles and paisley wallpaper and cold floors. Making my way into the office bathroom, where I would have many a meltdown over my marriage that year, I unwrapped the test and peed on the stick and waited all of ten seconds before a little blue line appeared. Surely the line meant negative. I re-read the instructions.

A collision of excitement and complete fear filled my gut.

And months passed. And I fell in love with the baby growing inside of me.

And on the night he was born, October 8, 2002 at 10:10 p.m., I couldn’t believe that he was so perfect. His eyes were big and round, the way that are now, and he made his way to my breast.

And I would never be the same.

The next day, Thomas crowded in bed with me as we lay on our sides watching Elias James Shophet sleep next to us on the crisp white hospital sheets. We began to cry simultaneously, as if on cue. I think we cried for what this moment represented: Hope. For our marriage. Our future. Our love.

Or maybe we just cried because he was so perfect. So beautiful. Because we were so evidently a family.

Elias James: I love you sweet boy. Nine years ago, you changed my world. I love what you teach me everyday. You have grown me up and made me understand God’s grace in tangible ways, ways that leave me humbled daily. Happy Birthday!


Yesterday we went to Savona, the closest beach to where we live in Turin. The journey started off a sunny one, but somewhere in the mountains, the clouds began to roll in and a cold breeze began to blow. Should have checked the weather, I suppose; however, overcast days make for the best photos, and the weather certainly didn't stop our kids from playing in the waves.

I loved this moment. I was standing on these huge rocks that have been crystallized over time to form these eccentric patterns that look like something out of a textile magazine. The kids were watching the fishermen and this African dude stood to our right, sporting his white Speedo and looking out into the ocean. I loved the solitude that stood in front of me in that moment, beckoning me to listen as the waves crashed into the rocks and the fishermen stood quietly and patiently awaiting a bite and a man, his smallness juxtaposed against the ocean's grand mystery, stood perhaps contemplating all he has left behind and a wide open future, unknown and mysterious, that lay in front of him.

labbra da granita (slushie lips)

Boys and Summer

I grew up with three sisters and thus the whole raising boys thing is completely new territory for me. Who knew wrestling and tickling on the bed could provide the same satisfaction for my boys as taking my daughter on a two hour shopping/lunch date? They are easy in these wonderful ways that boys simply are.

One of my favorite things about raising boys is watching how they take pleasure in (self-initiated) work. They love feeling strong and capable and the older they get, I have to say, it's coming in more and more handy when it comes to carrying groceries in, taking the trash out, or in the case of this photo, "carrying a watermelon." (Anyone else think of Baby from Dirty Dancing when you read that?)

Summer. Boys. They seem to go together. From the tan line across their lower backs (one of my favorite physical aesthetics on humans) to playing baseball, splashing in the pool, and burying themselves in the sand.

First Bank of Keziah

I couldn't help but share this one...

My daughter has a lot of creative much that my stomach sort of aches whenever she tells me she has an idea. You see, her ideas do not involve making cute little bracelets or picking out a Da Vinci print to copy. No, no. Her ideas involve crafting machinery, sewing elaborate dresses, creating restaurants and shops and oh my goodness, the list goes on and on.

Every now and then, I conjure up the energy to help out, or in the very least, document, her conception of what, surprisingly, most often, looks like what she had in mind. (Did I really just write a sentence with five commas?)

She donned my glasses, which she couldn't see out of at all, and being the wonderful little poser she is, gave me her "serious face," because after all, bankers are pretty serious. Especially the ones who create machines that will produce money so we can be rich, as was her idea. :)

The Veneto

Last week we took a last-minute getaway to the Veneto, visiting Verona, Lago de Garda and Thomas' old U.S. Army stomping grounds, Vicenza. Of course, I am disappointed we didn't make it to Venice, the city of water, but we had a wonderful time nonetheless. Some friends let us stay with them in Verona and there we visited the Arena, Juliet's balcony (and of course we wrote on her wall), a number of famous architectural anomalies, as well as a photo exhibit of Henri Cartier-Bresson's work. Verona is magical and I was very sad to leave this beautiful city, rich in history and in culture, yet small in a way that made me feel more at home than where I sit now, in our "home" outside of Torino. We also made it to Gardaland, an under-glorified Disney World. I was pleasantly surprised to find it clean, spacious, and not crowded. There is nothing like sitting next to your child as they experience the thrill of a roller coaster for the first time, whether that "thrill" was traumatizing or not. :)

A Day in the Mountains

I met Allesandra at McDonald's on a Friday afternoon. I was most likely yelling at one of my children in English when one of her twin sons made his way over to his mother and said, in Italian, "Loro parlono in inglese" (they speak English). As life would have it, a friendly Allesandra introduced herself and told me that her boys go to an English-speaking school and thus her interest in American culture was heightened. We continued to see each other for several months on some Fridays and then finally we got our families together. They have a lovely little flat in the mountains and they invited us a few weeks ago for a "grigliata" (a barbeque). It was a beautiful day in Sestriere, home of some of the winter Olympic games in 2006. We walked a trail through the luscious green hills, in the midst of the French Alps and hunted for mushrooms, watched for prairie dogs, drank from fountains that are always running with mountain water, discovered a little cheese farm, complete with a little puppy that followed us all the way to the car, and enjoyed the great company and their knowledge of their little mountain city. Thanks Allesandra and Roberto! These pics are for you guys!


I can't stop taking pictures of farms.

I grew up in the suburbs, in a small town nestled in farmland. I love the way the gold and green dance together behind a blue sky. We have been driving out into the country a lot this summer and when I see hay bales at dusk, my heart beats a little faster. But pictures without people have never done much for me. So I have been using my little guinea pigs (husband and kids) to give a context for the ambiance and nostalgia that I feel when driving by the fields.

The first photo below was so hard for me to edit. I wanted it to look like a painting...and I wanted it to have this euphoric, timeless feel, where anyone looking at it might think it is in HIS locale (city, country, etc.). I tried several actions, but just couldn't get it right. Finally, I found one that worked and adjusted the lighting and then did some burning and dodging and alas, I got what I was envisioning.

And might I add that it's Ezra in the photo. He was screaming and running away from me. Like I have said before, most good things (start or) end in tears. :)

"La Fattoria Del Gelato" (the ice cream farm)

I've been hearing about the "Gelato Farm" outside of Torino for over a year now and thought it was finally time to check it out. My oldest son has an obsession with animals and so he had quite the time, as did the other two, playing with the baby goats that kept escaping from the pen. And of course we had to try the gelato, since it is, after all, farmed (??) there.

In case you were wondering, my daughter isn't the favorite, as it would seem in my many photos of her as opposed to her brothers. It's just that she loves to pose for pictures and the boys, well, let's just say there is always a bribe involved.

And a thanks to my husband who shot the photos of me EXACTLY as I envisioned them. I had an obsession with that yellow bench. The texture...the way it looked with the hay bales and the green grass and Ezra's blue shirt. I could have sat in that barn all day.

These were taken with my Nikon D90 with my 50 mm. lens at almost always 1.8 or 2.2.

L'estate in Italia

White legs slowly getting tanned at the pool, naps with alligators, dinners on our balcony, trips to the plant store, concerts downtown, and a mind full of images yet to be taken...

Summer in Italy.