"called to build the kingdom first through the romance and adventure of our home..."


London | Day 1 | Europe Holiday

“Charles Dickens routinely walked the streets, in 10 or 20-mile stretches, applying his inimitable powers of observation to its blustery rush, its incoherence and inconsistencies.

In sight and sound and smell and touch he conjured the perfect tapestry to weave his stories of love and loss, regret and reward into. It leapt from the realm of the workaday to the wonderful.

London was his muse. It was what really inspired him to write his great works. But his relationship with it was a love/hate one. He explored its dark as well as its colourful side.”
(Lucy Davies)


Our Month Itinerary

day_two_london (3 of 164).jpg

After a bumpy, out-of-our-hands-start to this experience-of-a-lifetime trip we woke up on a few hours of sleep, determined to adjust our bodies and see the wonders of London! (It took about 33 hours from leaving the house to get to the airport to arrival at our London hotel, instead of the supposed 12-13. Our airline didn’t offer wifi, and we tried to get in touch with our hotel, but we couldn’t and they canceled our entire reservation… so when we arrived at 2 am the following day, we had to figure out for an hour where to go. Anyways! We were wiped, and didn’t know we’d be hitting out-of-our-control-snags often… far more often than normal during travel and life, at least in our experience! It had the effect of both making the trip require more of us than we anticipated, but also made room for us to seeeriously “taste the flavors” of what was good. We made some of the best memories of our entire lives, and KNEW it. And sat right there in it, like a bathtub with the drain open… letting all the water run out before we moved, delighting in all the splashes and play we could. Until next time. And there was always a bubbly, exciting next time to wait for!)

Our first stop of the day was the 10:45 am Changing of The Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a distinct and impressively performed event that is very worth seeing! Not just a “tourist trap.”

day_two_london (8 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (15 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (9 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (11 of 164).jpg

I had brought along in our suitcase a homemade, burned-edge Pirate’s Map with directions to Neverland, fairies I ordered from Amazon, and sparkly pixie dust I found in my mom’s closet. We told Rue and Jo that Neverland used to be up in the clouds, but Captain Hook captured it so now it was in London, where he ship-wrecked. They watched “Peter Pan” daily leading up to the trip, and we wanted so much for their little imaginations to run wild of the story. My sister, Katie, was super helpful in subtly sprinkling dust along our walk, and I would set fairies in various places nearby. “We MUST be on the right track, guys! Keep following the signs to Neverland!”

day_two_london (20 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (18 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (19 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (25 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (23 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (21 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (28 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (29 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (31 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (33 of 164).jpg

The fairies led us to Hyde Park, and Princess Diana’s Memorial Garden - a quintessential, peaceful, and oh-so-lovely nook on the earth.

day_two_london (37 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (34 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (42 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (43 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (36 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (45 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (53 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (62 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (49 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (47 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (57 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (72 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (50 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (41 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (71 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (51 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (39 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (64 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (65 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (70 of 164).jpg

“Peter Pan: The boy who would not grow up.” We told the kids that Peter Pan watched over Neverland during the day, and came to life to fly around London at night. Once we could find Peter, we KNEW we were close to the fantasy world, where Captain Hook’s REAL ship was still hiding!

day_two_london (68 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (69 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (67 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (60 of 164).jpg

“Time Flies.” When we weaved our way through the paths and hedges to get to the Princess Diana Memorial Park, all Peter-Pan themed, Rue was glowing. He kept saying “I just cannot even BELIEVE we really found it! Can you even believe??” He had the place to himself for a full hour, and it was just what my mama-heart hoped would be (of course memory-making doesn’t always go like you envision! So it’s sure sweet when it really does.)

day_two_london (77 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (76 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (82 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (85 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (79 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (83 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (87 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (78 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (81 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (80 of 164).jpg

The playground is near Kensington Palace, and the darling Notting Hill and Portobello Market area of the city. We wandered through colorful cheery lane after lane, ate a needed lunch of big-burgers and piles of fries, and soaked up as much dearness as we could.

day_two_london (92 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (89 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (90 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (88 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (111 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (94 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (97 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (95 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (96 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (106 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (102 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (99 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (98 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (184 of 288).jpg
day_two_london (100 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (108 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (103 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (117 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (122 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (119 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (114 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (123 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (112 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (109 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (124 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (121 of 164).jpg

Then we took the world-famous Tube trains to the Tower of London. We missed the early afternoon crowds, and had a mostly-quiet atmosphere to see the crown jewels, the ravens, interact with those delightful beefeaters, be mesmerized by old things like “The Bell Tower, 1020,” and even breezed through the Torture Tower (not visually gory by any means). I will repeat, as I post about this trip, what we repeated many times a day on this trip: it is impossible to not be impacted by the real history of generations upon generations of lives and stories that came before you when you’re in places like these. Places hundreds, thousands!, of years older than our entire established country.

day_two_london (132 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (128 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (127 of 164).jpg

“There was no electricity! No motors! No cranes! These were hand-dug from the ground, hand-loaded to a cart, hand-built and carved into this building. And, 1000 years later, here we are touching it. HOW did they do this? HOW did they figure it out? HOW did they work so hard?” How many stories we know of that happened here, and how many have been lost to the silence of Time Past? How meaningful, how blessed, to be able to come with our eyeballs, and fingertips, and dreams, and take in history before our eyes.

day_two_london (146 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (150 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (140 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (134 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (143 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (137 of 164).jpg

This little scene brought me tickled-joy. Two grown kinds giving gifts, and being clever and funny about it. 800 years ago. Just love it.

day_two_london (151 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (152 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (148 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (147 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (138 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (153 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (156 of 164).jpg
day_two_london (157 of 164).jpg

We were sluggish and ready for sleep by early evening, so we took a red double-decker bus back to our hotel… and as we neared our stop, we saw the reflections of a Mama Bear Pink Sunset on every window and car-mirror. I turned around to see this sight, after an entirely grey, sunless day… we ended Day One with what is the equivalent of our family’s Promise By Rainbow. Filled with peace, gratitude, and eagerness for rest and all the adventures to come, we slept hard.

day_two_london (163 of 164).jpg

Meaning + Thoughts | Europe

“Isn’t it what all the great wars and battles are fought for -
so that at day’s end a family may eat together in a peaceful house?”
(Ursula K. Le Oiun)

day_three_cotswolds (78 of 133).jpg

Our Month Itinerary

The longing to be able to bring others into my actual thoughts is incessant. Moving from the boundary-less brain to the confinement of word, written or spoken, or visuals, is a frustrating process. It never is as clearly overlapping, stumping, united and profound on the outside as it is inside the home of my mind.

I posted in 11 different parts on my IG feed the 11 different strands to a braid; a braid that has been wrapped round, and stitched up, to become the metaphorical basket holding our trip. Everything we did, gathered, overcome, and felt was set inside our little Thought Basket, and we arrived in the States yesterday with special things overflowing from the top (we’d stop often to bend over, and smash an item or two back in for the time being. Everything will be sorted out and unfolded and given a place soon.).

Here are these thoughts listed out in blog-format for ease of reading and referencing, and to try to communicate the headspace we’re in… and why “all this” meant “so much.”

venice (3 of 4).jpg


Our flight to London from Newark was delayed by many hours (come to find out, the entire airline would cease to exist after an instant bankruptcy a few weeks later. But that’s a Tom Hanks style story for another time). This Tom Hanks story is about his young lookalike, an 83 year old NY art professor, and a world-champion-boxing, Reebok-sponsored, international model-and-painter.

The three were on the same flight as us, delayed like us, and happened to sit by us with water bottles and sandwiches at our gate. The three talked for hours, and Caleb and I eavesdropped for hours. Young Tom gave every reason to believe he was a spirited, affected writer or journalist of some sort. He did the majority of the prodding and question-asking, creating an empty bucket for the other two to spill their thoughts. Our modern age, communication, art, intimacy, money-making ... they covered much ground. When asked his thoughts on Instagram, the professor paused and said, almost word for word (I took notes):

“For 55 years I’ve been teaching students the critical nature of authenticity and art. ‘Say something, ask something, and mean it,’ I tell them. And now I see pretty girls in pretty outfits, out in every corner, with their boyfriend or girlfriend taking dozens, hundreds, of pictures. They run to the camera and check, then run back and try again. All this time, and effort. And I wonder: what are they saying? Everyone can make art, but not everyone does. The quantity of images that exist is beyond grasp, but what is being created? And what are these voluminous creations saying? What do they *mean*? I worry about losing the ability to create honestly; to say something with art form.”

nice_france (2 of 6).jpg


A few days before our trip I received a message from @littlemamaclark, who was sending along a GK Chesterton quote she thought would resonate with us.
It did.
"And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” On our little drive to Normandy, France Caleb and I spent most our time thinking out loud about these ideas. We agree with them.
Not let the wild things run wild.
Not let the good things be hidden under a bushel, locked inside a tight box, or walled in (with patrols in the look-out towers, watching every move).
Then the questions are begged: What is this room-giving order? What is good? And how do you let it out? We’ll be dwelling here for some time. “Whatever is honest, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of goodness, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

fontainblue (2 of 22).jpg


Someone Caleb and I followed before we even met, who is known online for her beautiful everything: family, pictures, home, parties, body, words, thought process, etc shared some significant and heavy life updates recently, while constantly proclaiming freedom, hope, and joy. She wrote this on Facebook during our trip, in response to messages she was getting after her ‘big announcement’: "I've had maybe a dozen messages that read something like this one I got:
'Incredible what we will portray to the outside world because we feel we have to. I always thought you were so blessed in life and love... a picture perfect life...'
I'm sure the messages aren't in ill-will, and I am glad for them as it gives me the opportunity to share of the Power of God.
Every picture I have ever posted was real joy. It was, and is who we are! We never put on a show. Ever. We never ever even thought to hide. We never felt we had to portray anything but who we were. And here is who we were and who we are now: strong and resilient [and joyful.]
We made daily choices to find the good and joy in our lives. This is my mantra and my mission, and my heart.
I led us all these years to not just be content, but to thrive, and fight, and love, and enjoy all there was to enjoy in life. I have always been honest with the world, friends, and anyone that God is near to the broken-hearted and that suffering has drawn me close to Him and to see life in an entirely different way. I spoke of this insistently and with still respecting my own privacy and life.
There is no need to portray. There is no need for picture perfect. We are just us - the joy of the Lord was our strength to bring us into freedom.
I was also given the power of the Most High God. That, you guys, is not a portrayal, it is Matthew 22:29: 'And Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God."' I have known His power. I have experienced it. Seen it, felt it, been saved by it, been comforted by it. Been renewed by it, healed by it." ( - 
@hope.chronicles )

hallstat2 (1 of 1).jpg

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time I 
rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

nice_france (6 of 6).jpg


We ate in Rouen, right beside La Couronne, the restaurant that introduced Julia Child to French Cuisine and her destiny. “The most exciting meal of her life,” she later wrote. When I had checked a few months earlier, the Michelin-rated establishment did have a few reservations left for the day we’d be there but we opted for a more flexible, kid-friendly dinner plan.

Inside the neighboring restaurant Caleb and I talked over our risotto and a pasta dish called “Surprising!” Other than us and our affectionate waiter, the place was empty. As we were finishing up a pair of couples (probably in their 60’s) came in, then seem confused. The waiter went smiling and running towards them “Yes, yes... you’re in the right place! No one is here yet because it’s so early!” It was 7:30 PM. They laughed, and we couldn’t help but overhear as they engaged the waiter about American vs. European culture.

Someone asked our server about a day in his life: “Oh, well, I get up around 9 or 9:30, you see, and start to work at maybe 10:30 until 2. Then I have the afternoon off for my pleasure, and I come back to work at 5:00. Please, sit... and you must take your time.” I ordered a re-fill on my wine.

chatue_fontainblue (15 of 32).jpg

PART VI: STOP AND STARE, LIKE ANIMALS DO • Sheldon Vanauken, “A Severe Mercy”
“Those walks, especially as the sun got up and began to warm us, were leisurely, full of pauses to talk to a farmer or farmwife. Some-times they would have us in for a glass of fresh milk. Or sometimes we would stop and sit on a wall, eating a sun-warmed tomato, talking or peacefully silent. Often we talked of the sad and somehow outrageous fact that in most lives, perhaps our own before long, there isn’t time for long walks and sitting on walls.
We quoted a poem by W. H. Davies to the effect that
it is a poor life if we have no time ‘to stop and stare’ as sheep and cows can do. We agreed. Nor were we cheered by the prospect of an occasional day off from an office, for with only one day there would be a sense of time at one’s back, a time too limited to ‘waste’ sitting on walls.
How were we to contrive a life full of time—a timeful life—where we could be quiet and leisurely, where we could stop and stare?”

day_four_brighton (14 of 27).jpg


European law requires all companies to give employees a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation. Many countries have holiday requirements, too. (Forget some of that northern-Europe maternity and paternity leave...!). While this is obviously a very political, economical, and statistical conversation, all of that is secondary to the essential, soulful nature of having time.

Time to rest. Time to sleep. Time to waste. Time to bond, and stay bonded. Time to experiment. Time to wonder. Time to prepare. Time to see where this good thing called “time” goes when it has room to run wild. Time for time to go slow. Time to create quality (because quantity time DOES create quality time. Every product that would be considered “high quality” takes more time to produce. Rush is not the creator of merit.). Productivity! Goals! Hustle! Progress! Innovation! I know. I know. There’s outstanding reason to believe that the outcome of released pressure, gathered hours, and enough pausing (daily, weekly, yearly) revives a worker to be their most creative, rejuvenated, sharp self.

Before the Industrial Revolution, and light-bulbs and electricity, there was no government mandate. There was darkness. And coldness. Long winter in many parts of the world to guarantee a built in hunker, hygge, and re-fill. One of the very first things we know about God in Scripture is that He produced creative work (without effort), He loved what He had done and made, and He (not because of tiredness) rested to do nothing but enjoy.

One rest-day a week is about 15% of a week. 15% of an average waking day is about 2.5 hours. 15% of a year is about 7-8 weeks. As much as Caleb and I have discussed and agreed on these loose principals, it’s taking time to turn this big ship named Lady Life. We arrive here, in 2018, with all the shoulders of past generations under our feet... and we’re convinced we must figure out how to take hold of the time we’ve been offered through the sacrifice, and often brutal drudgery, of others.

The best of the past (villages, organic, local work) can go hand-in-hand with modern technology, education, and access to the world and all its potential. We can create room for time.

day_two_london (66 of 164).jpg


A week before this trip, we as dinner with my mom’s best friend and her husband, who recently returned from their 30th-anniversary-trip: a week in France. ⠀

We saw their pictures, and heard their stories. We told them our itinerary and hopes for our upcoming month. At one point they shared an observation, after describing their long, lingering meals every day: “Our guess is that the difference in cultures is in large part due to the World Wars. They had to live here, see it, re-build it. It’s like they collectively understood they have to take time to enjoy good in life...” ⠀⠀

Their thoughts matched precisely with what I heard Esther Perel, a skilled marriage and relationship therapist, share about her parents. They were concentration camp survivors, and met on road as they walked the direction of Home after liberation. Her parents felt a sense of special honor and fortunate responsibility. Esther said “There were those who didn’t die, and there were those who lived. My parents lived.”

day_three_cotswolds (109 of 133).jpg


“Telling a story is like reaching into a granary full of wheat and drawing out a handful. There is always more to tell than can be told.” (Wendell Berry)

One of the, oh, how do you rank these things?, Top Three most important values we are hoping to instill in our kids is the value of story. “What happens??” “You have to read it; you have to watch it.” What happens? You have to live it, little ones.

Everyone has a true story — many would break your heart — and everyone has their version of their story, some more accurate to the truth than others. Be the kind of boy, or girl, or man, or woman, who cares about the stories. Cares enough to ask. Cares enough to see what happened. Stories, by definition, must have “a conflict,” or “a problem.” You’re a living story, and you must be prepared to overcome and resolve.. Imagine, reflect, envision — make up stories, and re-tell stories, and write them on the tablet of your soul, and read them — on paper and on faces.

“Keep your faith in all beautiful things; in the sun when it is hidden, in the Spring when it is gone.” (Roy Rolfe Gilson) Believe in the power of all these pieces, more than could ever be told, and be curious about the Author. What is He saying? What does His story mean? 

normandy (2 of 3).jpg


Actually, 1850-1950. 100 years where the life as century upon century before had known it, changed for good. We’re the great-and-grandchildren of these unbelievable years. I have an enormous amount to say our perspective on the Industrial Revolution, WW1, Belle Époque and the Roaring 20’s, The Great Depression, WW2, and “the fabulous 50s.” What a whiplash for our collective psyche. What a series of intense brokenness and valor. I’ll share more with time.

To say the least, though, it was powerful to watch our children play on the rocks at “Bloody Beach” (Omaha Beach) in Normandy, to walk over the buried bodies of the men who died there... for things just like this: families to safely, freely vacation and enjoy their lives together.

On this trip we’ve seen our children in Anne Frank’s bedroom in the Secret Annexe where she wrote her diaries, in the hiding place the Ten Boom Family used to save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives, beneath the crest where Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” sits today, in front of the wall of names of French Jews at the Holocaust Museum in Paris.

Another Tom Hanks moment, before he dies in Saving Private Ryan: “Earn it.” Know what happened. Live like you care that you’re alive — not just that you didn’t die. Do something that matters (the courage of love and kindness, the smallest ways, matters). Prepare to be brave. And enjoy all their sacrifice granted us. When the evil things threatened to run wild, room was made for good. It didn’t eradicate evil or it’s consequences, but our generation has been giving the chance to make room. We have voices, ability, and opportunity... may we earn, use, and enjoy them deeply.

normandy (3 of 3).jpg


“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” (Wendell Berry)

When we travel, almost more than ever, we find ourselves commenting about who we know and care for would love this! or that! or thus! “Gosh, I was my dad was here...” “Wouldn’t your sister be losing her mind?!” “Ugh, if I could teleport The Girls right now...” Within the community of our family of four, it is sweet work, expanded joy, and a precious gift to be able to welcome people into our world. We share our home dozens of times throughout the year, but this trip was an extra layer of “dream comes true!” by being able to work it out that we could include six of “our people” with us. To not just wish so-and-so could be seeing “_______,” But to actually see them seeing it. Experiencing it together. From 13 days to less than 48 hours, each person who became a part of this trip is deeply special to us. My sister, Katelynn, then our like-a-sister friend Caroline, then “my bestie” and her husband, Lydia and Stefan, and ending with Caleb’s mom and sister, Cindy and Bek, added so much to the story of this month. (We had hoped Caleb’s twin and family could join us, but schedules didn’t work out... instead they were able to take advantage of the cheap flights and go on their own month long voyage earlier this year!) It’s meaningful to get to add memories, to overcome little travel hurdles, to be seen at your best and worst, and to share “once in a lifetime” with ones your soul loves.

Sometimes space and privacy is very important and necessary and good, but sometimes sharing space, joining together, and coming along with each other is the beautifully good. (We missed a few dozen others, though… Can’t we just all re-locate to the same lovely village and live there forever, growing and connecting and creating side-by-side?)

Europe Trip | Day 2 | Palace of Venaria

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.”
(Giuseppe Verdi)

This second day was our only rainy/poor weather day of the trip... and I'm actually really glad we got to see it! As we drove south from the Alps to the Northern Italy Coast we looked out our windows adoringly. Caleb couldn't stop talking about the towns "nestled" into the hills, "tucked" into the land, and "perched" on the cliffs. The fog puffs rolled in and out and it all felt cinematic and brooding. We loved it.

However, we had to make sure we made the most of the day! Honestly, Caleb and I could carry on with any travel plans in the rain. Rain jackets, umbrellas, and darting in and out of buildings is no problem. But the kids. It's another story when little ones are slipping, cold, strapped-in, and uncomfortable! I wanted to make sure we still "experienced Italy" but indoors. Palace of Venaria it was! (I was inspired by Naomi Davis who has taken her kids into many castles/palaces/tours while traveling.)

I'm SO glad it rained.

Otherwise we may not have stopped and made an indoor solution work. And this was one of the best memories of the whole trip. It was not crowded in the slightest, the kids could roam around the big rooms, and then run around the Galleria Grande. I was happy as a plum to take our time enjoying the splendor (snapping pictures furiously) and Caleb inspected the doors, trim, and engravings in awe. 

There are 54 rooms to go through (I don't think we hit them all! haha But we did at least a few dozen!) filled with history of the home. It was built in the late 1600's by Charles Emmanuel for, what I can tell, basically a bragging right and "honor" for his wife, Marie Jeanne Baptiste, Regent of Savoy.  It was all the rage. Buying towns and building manors. It was also his hunting lodge *straight line mouth emoji* It turned into a military hub during Napoleon's era and was used as a training facility by the Italian government much after.

But now, happily, the gardens and buildings are restored to their former glory... and glorious they are! The art and building detail was head-spinning. Like walking through Tuscan Pemberley.

This item on display was one of my favorite parts of the visit: an enormous hand-drawn family tree. The intricacy and printer-like quality...!

palace_venaria_reale_turin_italy_savoy (43 of 79).jpg

When I shared a picture from this visit on Instagram, a few people asked me how I took such a great picture while traveling. The quick answer? We had ton of time, no crowds to fight, and I wanted to! Haha The longer answer is, well, you know "the best-laid plans of mice and men..."  Just because a mama is hopeful doesn't mean "it" is going to happen! My general rule of thumb for travel pictures with the kids is: setting and characters. Meaning, I'll take pictures of the places and the stuff ("the setting") all on its own, and then try to get the kids against a wall or on a bench or anywhere, really, during that day. I know I can compile these images together for an album, or, say, a blog post, to tell the story of the day. I don't HAVE to have the kids in all the stage-setting shots, since Lord knows they're probably face-first into the stroller basket looking for a cookie. "Never try to make a happy child happier!" And certainly never try to make a happy child upset haha!

If I've been able to do both things I start to gain traction and courage and think about getting the characters IN the setting. If anyone ever offers to "take a picture of the four of you" I always say yes (we had a number taken this trip... and a couple were perfect!!). Then once the kids have been documented I sometimes let myself try to get a shot of just Caleb and I that isn't a selfie. Practically speaking, this means I'm manning the camera and he's manning the kids for the most part. When I've gotten what I want (or things are starting to fall apart and I'm needed), I put my camera away and turn that part of my brain off. And for me, since I am a photographer, having my camera out and being in "picture mode" doesn't take me away from the present. Truthfully, when I'm even taking pictures with my phone I feel that pull away from the moment -- tapping a screen and seeing it through a flashcard size window. But when I am using my camera it's almost a tool to focus in on the moment; to absorb the scene. Maybe how some journal about a travel day or listen to certain music to set the tone/memory in place. I believe what I'm doing is useful and good for our little family history; something we and our kids and hopefully their kids! will look back on someday and I also find it personally fun. Anywho, there's the long answer!

I was worried we wouldn't get pictures of us "in the setting" and I couldn't stand it because everything was SO beautiful. I took a few of Rowdy playing, and then selfies in a mirrored door... but I needn't have worried! There was pleeeenty of time for pictures, and even setting the camera aside in the Galleria Grande.

palace_venaria_reale_turin_italy_savoy (68 of 79).jpg
palace_venaria_reale_turin_italy_savoy (29 of 79).jpg

This is the exact view you see when you push past the curtain doorway to enter the room. We stopped in our tracks and my heart began to race. Overwhelming in the grandest, most inspiring ways.

palace_venaria_reale_turin_italy_savoy (18 of 79).jpg
palace_venaria_reale_turin_italy_savoy (24 of 79).jpg
palace_venaria_reale_turin_italy_savoy (58 of 79).jpg

We spent about 20-30 minutes in here! The kids played tag, rolled on the floor, looked out the windows, and enjoyed their echoes. We could not BELIEVE that no one else was in here!! Other groups walked through and I saw maybe two people snap a picture. But no one stopped. Everyone just walked through like a hallway. I guess when you're from Italy and you've seen it all, this ain't much? I don't know. We were enthralled. Right before we were ready to go I thought Caleb and I should try to get a pretty shot. This was the luckiest iPhone selfie ever. One try!! (Caleb had been so sweet, too. He grabbed me up in a big swaying hug and burst out "This is so romantic!" I love his easily-moved, affectionate wonder. That's part of why I wanted a "real" picture of us to remember. It had been a "real" memorable moment not just as a family, but as a couple. He brings out the softie in me ;) And even convinced me to be in front of the camera solo. *horrors* it didn't last long but... that happened?

As we walked out we chatted about how many little royal Savoy children had done the exact same thing our kids just did and how, no, I don't need a souvenir hand towel from the gift shop. Two villages and a palace will do. 😘

Ps. They host an actual Grand Ball here! Look!

Up next! Portofino & St. Margherita!

Europe Trip | Day 1 | Chamonix + Annecy

"So ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, 'In what country on earth would you rather live?' — 'Certainly in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest & sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be my second choice? France.'"
(Thomas Jefferson)

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 7.46.43 AM.png

This trip. Wow. It is quite hard to know where to begin. Caleb and I, like probably very many and very average dating couples, had always talked about wanting to visit Europe together, specifically Italy and France.

After six years of keeping that desire near the top of the list, we had halfway decided to take a two or three week trip whenever we went across the pond. Enough time to see the heart and coast of Italy, the home of the great "rebirth of literature, music, philosophy, other arts, and science." The Alps, the prestigious Milan, always-a-good-idea Paris, roving vineyards, valleys, and hills in Tuscany, Cannes (after falling in love with it thanks to Mr. Bean), the small town used as inspiration for Belle's hometown in Beauty & The Beast, Provence, the stacked colorful buildings on the Mediterranean Sea, Versailles. Central and South France to Northern and Central Italy, please.

As it goes, we were never finding just the right price, the right hunk of time, the right schedule. "Before we have kids!" (ha.), "Before Rowdy turns two so he's still free..." (ha.) "Before we have another baby!" (ha!) After a couple milestones went by, and enticed by the best deal I've seen on Groupon Getaways in years of hunting, the time had come. We would have to "split" our "perfect" (pffft, don't get me wrong... what we did was divine) plan into two smaller trips, but we had to stop talking about it and just go. So, we did five actual days in Italy with one actual day in the French Alps, plus three travel days bookending the whole experience. The "bottom half" of our original plan, for 1/3 of the price that I'd seen otherwise! I can't say enough about how spectacular each and every day was. 

Sometimes people (me included) utilize the skill of photography and presentation to make an event or moment look better than it really was. In this case, photographs and words fall shamefully short. I can't describe how blue the air was, how close the snow-capped cliffs hugged in every direction, how thrilling the chilled air was to inhale, how charming building after building after building, how quiet and still the town sat. (This was us for 85% of the week). 

So! France, you were an elegant tease and we will be back for more! After leaving Orlando at 5 am, taking the train downtown to Madison Square Garden for lunch, and trekking back to the airport, we flew eight hours from New York to Milan, landing at 8:00 am Italian Time, which was 2:00 am our time, a time we could easily be going to bed! Phew. Everyone's advice was to push through it. So we did. But jet lag hit harder than we expected... it was tough to pull that "all-nighter" physically. Thankfully our day's plans fueled us with Trenta sized cups of adrenaline and shots of majesty to keep us awake! We got into our rental car and drove almost three hours into Chamonix and glorious Mount Blanc, where we wandered about and ate lunch, then left in late afternoon for Annecy, arriving about an hour later.

We checked into our hotel and loaded the kids up to meet our friend Sylvie for the evening. She is in school in Geneva and we were both bridesmaids in our mutual best friends weddings last year. In-between timeline changes and jewelry sharing, we talked a number of times about seeing her in Europe this coming year. It was wonderful to have made it happen! And SO great to have a familiar face, long dinner conversation, and delightful friend to spend the evening with. We fell in love with France that night, Annecy in particular. It was our favorite place in the whole trip. The mountains, the lake, the winding alleys, the bridges covered in moss and ivy, the flowers flowers flowers, the lack of marketing for tourists, the colors and detail on the buildings, the food and wine and CROISSANTS, the cleanliness, the pale blue glacial water flowing through town. Ugh, I still wonder if it was a real place or if I was walking through a dream.

Alright, without further ado, the pictures:


So tired / "so funny" / but so happy! Summer slept the whole flight to Milan! Good thing because the rest of us didn't ;)

Our first meal! We kept saying "I don't know if this is good or if we're just really tired and hungry... BUT THIS IS SO GOOD." The bread and cheese, especially... a refrain we repeated many a time.


Hey pretty Sylv! You're a good one. Thank you for the effort, the "chill" with our crazy kids, all we talked about, and affirming our wonder. If Sylvie says Annecy is "a special place," it must be true. She's seen far more than we have!

Caleb's favorite setting/spot in the entire trip! Oh, I wish I could get a picture to really capture all the details of it! 

Every turn and street was more darling and romantic than the next.

I'm proud of these babies! It was a long day and they were little troopers. Not without breakdowns, but they didn't quit. And they really had so much fun, like they could sense the specialness or excitement!

europe_trip (121 of 164).jpg

Not bad for 20 hours of travel and 36 without sleep! ha! #keepbackingup

europe_trip (115 of 164).jpg

Oooooh! Melts my heart. He was so happy!

What We Ate: 

Vinistrot / Red wine, charcuterie, steak, greens, and frites. (One of our favorite meals!!)
Phillipe Rigollot / Croissant and dessert (IN-sane! A Sylvie reccomendation!)
Cafe Valentino / Garlic bread, pasta, pizza, salad

A Few iPhone Snaps:

Up next: Beginning our Italian leg of the adventure, starting in Turin and Venaria!