Archive | September, 2013

beloved darling

26 Sep

Check us out, due entirely to Julie’s craftsmanship.  And take a look at Julie’s video regarding her hope to adopt.

Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-014 Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-036 Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-411 Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-265 Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-420

I’m also having a good time going through the photographs of other families/partnerships.  We had gone into the shoot with the goal of just getting a few good shots of the three of us–it’s interesting to see how much variety of personality and style comes through.  I know, I know…obvious right?  It just doesn’t seem like so long ago when families all crammed into a windowless studio and took the generic picture with a grey backdrop, like my family did…I’ll have to dig up one of them to share.



val d’orcia

25 Sep

On our drive from Pompeii, after Ari conked out, John handed me a folder of well-organized travel documents–printed copies of all our room reservations, our flight information, our car rental agreement, etc.  Nestled between the boring confirmations (I am profoundly grateful that John rocks at this stuff so my talents can be, well, demonstrated elsewhere), was this article that John had dug up, but had not yet read.  Of course, the kid doesn’t remember how he even came across the article, but he printed it out on the off chance that it might be helpful.

Damn, he’s good.

Danielle Pergament’s account of her foray in Val d’Orchia with her husband and new baby inadvertently became our tour guide.

We couldn’t complain about the almost four-hour nap Ari took in the car between Pompeii and Val d’Orchia, but the last 45 minutes, once we got off the highway and she finally woke up, were miserable.  After trying to sooth her, sing to her, even tempt her with treats, all the while she screamed and writhed against the straps of her carseat, I finally released her and held her for the rest of the trip.  There wasn’t another soul on the back country roads, but I was still nervous that a tire striking a rock at just the right angle might create a collision between our heads and the window–I made John drive painfully slowly.  We needed exact coordinates to find Angela and Olimpia’s “farm”, a few kilometers up an unmarked, dirt road.  And when we thought we were surely lost in the mountains, with night descending, John just got out of the car to look for the farm on foot, quicker at that point than our trusty rental could dare.  Well worth it all:


After stopping by the local Coop (which the Italians pronounce “cop”) for some staples, we enjoyed a glass of Brunello di Montalcino with local pecorino, just as Pergament directed, on our own patio.  And then we ventured to the Rocca d’Orcia for dinner.


John ordered rabbit, and I ordered wild boar, and we could not guess which one Ari loved more–the alternating bites could not come fast enough!

The next morning we took our time.  We got down to the Abbey of St. Antimo around midday and listened to Gregorian chant echoing over the stone walls.

IMG_5255IMG_5259IMG_5271 IMG_5275

Over the course of the trip, we would ask each other periodically what our favorite part had been so far–we could never decide.  But out favorite meal: Il Leccio atop the mediaeval town of Sant’Angelo in Colle.  No question.  It is worth a trip; you will eat well here.  John got their famous spinach and ricotta ravioli in a butter and sage sauce, while I got one of their many veal variations.  I would have licked the plate.


We couldn’t help ourselves, as we slid into the driveway of the Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, a family-run vineyard.  And we loaded our car with a nice brunello and a grappa to take back home.


Then we satisfied the Twilight fan in me by visiting Montepulciano, where New Moon was filmed.  (So, how many readers would I lose if I admitted to devouring the books in the post-MCAT haze of 2009.  Crack literature.  It’s so, so bad, but I could not stop.  A weight was lifted when I finally got rid of the series in this purge.)  But in all seriousness, every street of this town was picturesque, every view of the surrounding mountains, vineyards, and farms was beyond words.

IMG_2268IMG_5322 IMG_5323 IMG_5327IMG_5333IMG_5339



24 Sep

When I was kid, my mom read me a book about Mount Vesuvius and the legend of Pompeii.  I remember being really effected by the image of a couple, buried in ash, preserved together for thousands of years.

Outside of the archeological village, the modern city of Pompeii is fairly dilapidated and depressing–it looks reliant on of the World Heritage Site to bring in visitors (with good reason), and has ceased to maintain a living, breathing body outside from the attraction.  But the archeological site is magnificent and extensive, and we could have easily spent more than one day getting lost in the ancient town.

IMG_5168IMG_5176IMG_5181 IMG_5179IMG_5196IMG_5202 IMG_5200IMG_5221 IMG_5223IMG_5234

Mount Vesuvius and a little preview of Ari’s well-deserved meltdown:


Although it wasn’t exceptionally hot, just an hour under the dry sun with little reprieve is too much.  We practically sprinted out of the village, Ari squirming violently in my arms the entire way.  We bee-lined for what we knew was an over-priced tourist trap just outside the gates, but it had shade and cold water and nocciola gelato.  And then our babe slept almost the entire four-hour drive to Val d’Orcia.


the amalfi coast

23 Sep

I should start by saying that John planned pretty much the entirety of this trip (yeah!), since the bulk of planning needed to be done while I was studying for step 1.  Have I ever mentioned that John lived in Rome for four years when he was a teenager?  I love being married to an insider!

One evening we were sitting across from each other at the dining room table, me poring over endless lists of medications and their mechanisms, John studying intently his Lonely Planet, and he looked up, “So, would you be like way disappointed if we don’t visit Rome at all?”  Nope, not even a little.  The big cities of Europe–I get it, they’re awe-inspiring, and one can spend a lifetime in just one of them and not experience all its wonders.  But I feel like trying to tackle the greatest hits in a few days is exhausting and kind of takes the fun out of the discovery.

We had such a good experience with airbnb on our honeymoon, that we used it almost exclusively for this trip.  Our first stop was Sorrento, where we stayed in a gorgeous room in Gabriella’s home.  The patio had a jaw-dropping view of Mount Vesuvius!


So much of the charm of the place was Gabriella herself.  As we started to unload our bags, she promptly whisked Ari into her arms and carried her to the patio where a small carb treat was waiting for her.  Ari’s face, peering over Gabriella’s shoulder at me, said, Uh, okay…I’m confused but I like it.  This woman smells like the bread.  In the evenings we had dinner all together with Gabriella and her son.  In the mornings we ate fresh figs from her gardens.


We conquered Sorrento, Positano, Nocelle, and Ravello:


We walked the path of the gods (until little miss got a bit overheated):


I am still dumbfounded by how much we were able to pack in a day–though a far cry from what John would have planned during our pre-Ari days–and I feel a little guilty for how much we pushed her.  But gelato makes up for a multitude of sins…

orchard is her middle name

21 Sep

No joke.  Carmela in Latin means “a fruitful orchard, as Mount Carmel in Palestine.”

The afternoon started a bit roughly.  (Boring alert: we’re in the transition from two to one nap a day, and sometimes we miss the mark and things end terribly.  Today 30 minutes of solid crying on the way home from Home Depot escalated when her fingers got pinched in her high chair.  She eventually went down, but dramatically so.)  But orchards have wind and dirt and funky big leaves to squish in the palms of our hands.


tomatoes 14 tomatoes 13 tomatoes 12 tomatoes 11tomatoes 10

Our bounty (even the way Tiffany lays out her veggies looks artistic):

tomatoes 9 tomatoes 8

Hay, less than impressed:

tomatoes 7

She makes being wedged between pumpkins look like the greatest ever:

tomatoes 6 tomatoes 5 tomatoes 4

Because I had to:

tomatoes 3 tomatoes 2 tomatoes 1

Thank you so much, Tiffany, for these sweet pictures!




on co-sleeping

16 Sep

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against co-sleeping, stating that it increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Therefore, John and I were adamantly against co-sleeping.  I mean, we can be a little granola, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is not exactly a fringe group; if it provides recommendations for keeping your child alive in the first year of life, we take them.  To add terror to our paranoia, John’s seen a number of parents bring in blue babies to the ED after accidents of co-sleeping…scary stuff!

And then the three-week mark of postpartum sleep-deprivation set in and, despite all efforts otherwise, I would fall asleep with Ari cozily nestled on my chest.  Each time I would wake up practically in nervous tears that I might have restricted her breathing for a moment, causing some sort of neurological damage that would unfold in the coming days/weeks/years.  I was petrified.  And then at times, much to John’s chagrin, I would surrender, and I would settle into a safe, well-contained portion of the bed, and co-sleep.

At our one-month appointment, I admitted my transgressions to my pediatrician.  “I know it’s risky, I know it’s not recommended, but how exactly bad is this?”  He responded sympathetically, “Look, I can’t recommend it outright, but I can tell you that co-sleeping is practiced exclusively in a number of countries, and they don’t have a higher incidence of SIDS.  At some point, you have to weigh the risks of co-sleeping with those of you being horribly sleep-deprived.”  John and I also reassured ourselves that we weren’t overweight, we didn’t smoke, and we weren’t sleeping altered by drugs or alcohol, some of the confounding variables that seemed to be present in co-sleeping accidents.

Regardless, as soon as other options presented themselves–when Ari fell in love with her swing–we moved away from co-sleeping and didn’t return…until our first night in Italy.  We were all still recovering from the infamous flight across the pond, and our exhausted little nugget was not tolerating the pea-pod.  She would kick and get increasingly frustrated by/hysterical due to the elastic recoil of the tent; she would sit up and her head would bounce off the top–she was a mess.  After a few minutes of walking and singing, John lay the still wide awake Ari down on her stomach next to me on the soft queen mattress.  As soon as her cheek hit the bed, she was out like a light, it was remarkable.  We didn’t question it; we didn’t try to move her; we just gave in to sleeping with her between us.  It was sweet, and having all of us well-rested set the tone for the coming week of travel.  And I couldn’t help but giggle the couple of times John and I would wake up just barely hanging on to our respective edge of the queen bed, being pushed to the sides by a 21-pound infant who decided that she wanted to sleep perpendicular.

Below, moments of peri-sleep caught on camera:

IMG_2219IMG_2220IMG_2221IMG_2223 IMG_2227IMG_2233IMG_2469

ari’s worst flight

13 Sep

Um, I guess this conversation I had with the lady across the aisle 16 minutes from landing in Rome sums it up:

Next flight, you need to bring a pacifier.  Have you ever tried a pacifier?  I mean, I notice that you breastfeed–which I think is great by the way–but sometimes it helps to have a pacifier.  You know, something to shove in it’s mouth.  Because it has been screaming.  All.  Flight.  Long.  That’s nine hours.  It clearly needs something, and you’re not providing it.  Have you even thought about the other people on this flight?  The first couple days of vacation are going to be ruined for most of the flight.  They will most certainly be ruined for me.  I haven’t slept.  And I have the worst headache.  I just can’t imagine anything more rude.  You’re just the rudest woman I’ve ever met.

I kept my face unaffected and my gaze constant on her, while Ari continued to squirm exhaustingly in my arms, latching and unlatching to suckle every few seconds, fat tears rolling down her cheeks.  After a few seconds, I responded, “You know, I think I understand.  Sometimes when I have a headache, I say really inconsiderate things as well.”

Not the most witty comeback, but I was sleep-deprived too.  And it at least shut her up.

To be fair, though, we felt horrible for the disturbance we caused.  We did give her some benadryl, but it only made her more exhausted and miserable without bridging her over to sleep.  (For the record, benadryl can cause paradoxical excitation in some children, for unknown reasons.  We had tested it out on her beforehand; it does make her drowsy and, normally, helps her fall asleep.)  We carried on special snacks and a few toys.  I just think she was being 10.5 months old.  She’s a different girl than she was when we went to Israel.  Poor thing wanted to crawl around and stretch out, and I’m not surprised I couldn’t figure out the magic formula for getting her to fall asleep in my arms–if nursing doesn’t cut it, nothing will.

And 99.9% of the people on the flight (and on all our flights) have been lovely to us.  A woman an aisle ahead of us offered to hold Ari for a while, for example.  We were bound to run into an overwhelmed, exhausted individual who had reached her limit.

Oh!  And one other wrench: there was a medical emergency on a plane, and John was called away for close to three hours.  The good news: 1) The woman turned out stable and, for the most part, okay.  2) Everyone LOVED John (I mean, how could you not?), and flight attendants would come up to me periodically, “Your husband is amazing!”  3) As a result, no one bothered me about bouncing my daughter in the aisle.  4) Since another doctor was being less than helpful/downright disruptive, the U.S. marshals on the flight made an appearance–cool, hunh?  And the not-so-great: 1) I lost my other set of hands for three hours, and I think Ari was pissed in part because she was bored of just me.  2) Kind of a stressful flight for the hubs.

In summary, Ari has survived ten flights in her first year of life, six of which were international.  We are going to hold off booking major travel for the foreseeable future, although with our family scattered and the holidays coming up, I have a feeling we might leave the security of ground sooner than we might like.

Made the rest of the vacation a breeze.  A happy babe is…something pretty great (isn’t there a happy-wife-is-a-happy-life correlate?)


happy fourth

12 Sep


John, I have loved every minute.

One of the joys of all the weddings of 2013 has been the opportunity to remember and reflect upon our marriage.  When we sit side-by-side and our hands graze one another (when our sweet daughter allows us as much), I still feel the excitement I experienced when our pinkie fingers briefly touched as we watched a reading of A Christmas Carol on our first pseudo-date ten years ago in December.

Tonight we celebrated by opening a bottle from a vineyard we visited in Bordeaux shortly before getting engaged.  It was simple, and an appreciated calm from our week of over-indulgence in Italy.  Marry me again!

Our first…

Our second…

Our third…

(Photos above, no surprise, taken by the beloved Julie.)


wedding season 2013

1 Sep

(Which do you like better, Christmas or Wedding season?)

I really need to take a week or two to just write about the weddings we’ve been to this year.  It’s been an active season for our family, in a great way.  Is there anything better than watching friends and family get hitched, and then throwing back a cocktail and dancing without any inhibition?  (If you were me, you would have to dance without inhibition, because it would be the only way you would get on the dance floor at all.  My husband has actually asked me, “What are you doing with your limbs, anyway?”  It ain’t pretty, but it is enthusiastic.)  Best day ever, for everyone involved.

Lucie and Ryan’s day was no exception.  They are two friends from medical school who have somehow created a strong and welcoming partnership despite enormous stresses–can you imagine applying to I think 30 joint MD-PhD programs in order to ensure that you would be in the same city?  Applying to med school on my own was stress-inducing enough!  I have long admired their love and passion for all things (medicine, science, relationships, athletics, travel), and it was a privilege to be part of their celebration.

Like the other weddings of the season, I will (really) write more later (small personal preview: last minute I went stag because John woke up with food poisoning–poor kid!), but I still need to pack for Lorenzo and Lauren’s wedding in ITALY.  We did okay traveling to Israel with the babe at six months, but I’m not sure I’ve totally anticipated the challenges of traveling with a 10.5-month-old.  In an effort for less costly travel, John and I are not sitting together on the flight across the pond.  I’m hoping I might be able to sniff out the folks who are obviously parents but are traveling sans dependents, hold out Ari in all her cuteness and negotiate a seat swap.  Wishful thinking?  Wish us luck!!  xoxo

Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-024 Jesus-family-portraits-Meadowlark-Botanical-Gardens-Vienna-Virginia-479