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Archive for August, 2007

sto come a papa

Vatican city is exquisite–a place built to show the magnificence of God and the power of the pope.


The Vatican museum houses some of Europe’s greatest works of art, including a statue of our beloved Bartleby.
The line to the Sistine Chapel starts in the Hall of Maps. Fortunately, we got there early so there were only a few people ahead of us.

The Sistine chapel was literally lit up by the magnitude of illegal flash photographs and the chorus of “NO FOTO PER FAVORE!!!” heralded throughout the chapel. Within the crowded chaos, we were able to find a quiet bench to sit and soak in the stories of the Bible unfolding across the ceiling. It was breathtaking (and quiet uncapturable by camera).

We slid out of the Sistine Chapel through a secret door (thank you Rick Steves) and found ourselves in the entry way of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is the most glorious and immense church that I have ever stepped foot in. It was beautiful and fast beyond words.


It is the largest church in the world and most of the great churches in Europe could fit in the atrium. And the dome is so tall that the Statue of Liberty could not reach the top.


This 70 foot canopy shelters the main alter, which is over the tomb of St. Peter. It is the largest bronze sculpture in the world.

Everything about St. Peter’s Basilica is so grandiose and immense, that you feel so small and insignificant. Yet our God is so much greater than this church that could not even house his toe and so personal that He hears our every prayer.

Goodbye Rome, we are off to the coast!

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l’italia e fantastica

If you have ever been to Rome, than you know that it ROARS. The Lions of the Colosseum have been reincarnated as the Smart ForTwo’s that tear through the city seeking to devour tourist and local alike.

Really it is the craziest, most frenetic city that I have yet to experience–and it is at it’s peak when you are seriously sleep deprived and stumbling through jet lag.

Scattered amongst the frenzy are some of Western Civilizations most important historical ruins and church histories most valuable art.

On the first day we did the Caesar shuffle–From Capital Hill to the Roman Forum through the Arch of Titus by the Arch of Constantine to the Colosseum back through Palantine Hill and finally over to the Pantheon. It was incredible to walk the pathways of senators and gladiators–to stand the boulders that became the foundation of western civilization.

It’s not possible to walk thirty-three miles in one day without forming thirteen blisters on your feet and acquiring a very strong hunger. We ducked into a quiet pizzaria for lunch and then we found a lovely street cafe for a true pasta dinner complete with a wandering accordion player and singer.
After serenading our table, the gentleman promptly held out is hand for “la musica!”

We finished our first day in Italy taking in a local concert at the Spanish Steps. Rome is so loud that standard microphones are useless. This vocalist preferred a giant megaphone!

Well, I was going to include day two in Rome in this post, but Grandma Penny just arrived to take Ava and I to lunch. Post more of our adventures later.

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sweet reunion


Happy Day!

We are leaving St. Louis in a few hours to return to our home. So happy to be together again!

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brilliant craic

Thank the Lord for the Irish and their sensible keyboards!

Ten years ago this month I met the man of my dreams in Ireland–I also met some amazing Irish folk. We’ve spent the past two days at the home of our friend Gareth and his lovely wife Rachel. Yesterday, after worshipping in their church they drove us up to the coast of Northen Ireland. The coast was as brilliant and beautiful as the last time we saw it ten years ago. We walked out on the Giant’s Causeway again, but this time holding hands.

Gareth and Rachel have been amazing hosts–Gareth made us an Irish fry for breakfast, which consists of fried bacon, soda bread, potato bread, bacon, and tomatoes. It has been so nice to be in a home after weeks in hotels and trains.

And Ohhhh I miss my Ava. We talked to her for a long time last night, and I could hardly sleep because I miss her so much. Only two more days!!

We are off to Newry now, which is the town we stayed in the last time we were here.

Bye now.

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bonjour de paris

I’m typing on a French laptop and the keyboard is laid out differently with the letters in different spots–it’s quite difficult, so this will be short. We arrived this morning on the over night train–slept fairly well considering.

At our swanky Paris hotel now; waiting for an early check-in. The past 3 days have been amazing and overwhelming. Can’t wait to take a shower!

So far the French are ridiculously friendly and helpful. It’s very nice! And my nose led me to the most amazing bakery on the way from the Metro to our Hotel. Best warm pastry ever!

Room is ready now–Salut!

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la dolce vita!!!

Buon Giorno from Cinqe Terre! Wow, we are having an amazing, amazing time! After a too-fast tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel (beautiful is too small a word. I honestly started to cry at St. Peter’s Basilica), we waved goodbye to the wild Romans and their hot city.

We traveled north to cool off in the Lingurian sea at Cinque Terre, five villages built up into the mountains. We have spent the last two days swimming in the sea, strolling through the most enchanting Italian villages, and sampling gelato at every corner. This is exactly how I always imagined Italy to be!

Last night we climbed up to the top of a cliff to have dinner over looking the sea. Cinque Terra is the birthplace of pesto, and it is simply the besto! (Shanel is probably the only one who will appreciate that Friend’s allusion, but there you go). Having left our most of our money and our cash cards at the hotel, we arrived at Ristorante Castello with just enough euros for an amazing pesto and veal dinner.

I’m enchanted with the sea and Nate is in love with the food! There are fresh paninis, pizzas, and foccaccias in little eateries lining the towns. I think that Nate has sampled one from each! Oh and he has found the best little fruit smoothie shop. No frozen fruit or premade juice–the sweet lady pulls the fruit out of the basket slices it up, adds fresh squeezed lemonade, and mixes in yogurt. It’s a delicious way to start the morning.

We spent most of today swimming. The water is so blue and so clear that you can see to the bottom even where it is very deep. We swam out to this rock ridge far from the beach today, and Nate enjoyed counting the crabs scurring around us as well as diving off the rocks. Oh, it is so beautiful here.

Nate’s hungry again, so I have to sign off.

Ciao!

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buon giorno

Greetings from Rome, the most frenetic and crazy city I have ever set sandals in! We walked the paths of gladiators and senators yesterday through the Colloseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, and many other impressive ruins. We returned to the amazing Hotel Sonya after ten hours of walking and thirty-three hours of being awake (unless you count two one-hour plane naps). A hotel bed never felt so good!

With a refreshing twelve hours of sleep and and belly full of Italian pastries and coffee, we are on our way to explore the Sistine Chapel and and the Vatican. Our love to you all and especially Ava! Ciao!

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bon voyage

In about six hours we will be boarding a plane bound for Rome!

We cannot believe this day has finally arrived, nor can we believe how difficult it is to leave Ava behind. In January it seemed completely fine to leave Ava with three of her favorite playmates for two weeks, now it seems impossible.

Ava was overjoyed today to be reunited with Naomi, Audrey, and Cate that we hardly saw her all day. She assured us that she would not miss us and that she wanted to stay behind. This is her special trip!

Please pray that the Lord will watch over and protect our sweet Ava as she stays with our dear cousins. Pray also that the Lord would comfort her and help her to be happy and compliant. And while you are at it, you can pray that the Lord will comfort this mama’s heart as she leaves her baby behind.

See you in a couple weeks!

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Strawberry Cone for Ava, Nutty Bar for Shane, and Chocolate Cone for Levi

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and then she falls asleep.

After two weeks of strategizing with painstaking detail about how I could give Ava a rest time, have her hair done, her wedding clothes on, and be at the church for pictures at 1:45 pm (the time she is normally sleeping), Ava’s internal sleep clock took over all and she fell asleep on the five minute drive from the church to the park. She was completely comatose for the next two hours while she was transferred from lap to lap under the blazing, August sun.

She woke up just in time to add her sweetness to the chapel pictures and line up for the wedding march.


As the well practiced flower girl, Ava was able to deplete her basket of petals in a mere three handfuls. And after having a two hour power nap neither the pew nor Grandma Penny could contain the wedding excitement of this three-year-old. I heard “Mama!” right before I saw a red lollipop waving flower girl fly across the front of the church and up the stairs to take her place next to her “mama.” I felt my face turn the shade the Charm Blow Pop that Ava continued to wave at the congregation attempting to listen to the pastor’s address to the couple. He was exhorting Chad and Emily to speak in song, hymns and spiritual songs to each other, and I was quite certain that at any moment Ava might take up this encouragement and begin to awe the guests with her musical talents in addition to her baton twirling skills.

My friend Jennifer (who was the wedding photographer) claims to have some sweet pictures of this unplanned performance. I have yet to see them, but here is one snap that I adore:


You can view more of her amazing wedding photography at www.jennifermckinneyphotography.blogspot.com!

Ava twirled and danced, twirled and danced, and twirled her away around the reception. She was certain that as the very special flower girl she must have a place at the head table, even if that place was Mama’s lap in front of Mama’s food and most importantly Mama’s cake. She had climbed her way up there during the oh so critical best man’s speech. The only way the bridesmaids and I could keep her from upstaging her uncle was to stick more pieces of cake in front of her. After three pieces of wedding cake and half a piece of chocolate torte she pushed away the remainder and declared something that I never thought I would hear her say: “here you go Mama, I’ve had enough cake!” She flew out of my lap to join the gift bearers and resume her role as wedding twirler.

As our Saab light blinked midnight, Ava’s glitter slippers hit the car floor and her curls pillowed the little head dreaming of petals, dancers, music, kissing and most importantly, cake!

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