"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Friday, July 29, 2016

charlotte is four

Charlotte had a birthday and turned into a heap, big four year old.

Four sounds like so much more than three.

And who wouldn't love to have a birthday party to celebrated in Italy?

(Eliza is holding up her fingers too, since her birthday wasn't long before.)

Too bad she probably won't remember it ;)

Francesco caught wind that it was her birthday and he took charge of the celebration. He covered the evening dinner table with paper and set out pencils and pens to color with.

Right up Charlotte's alley.

She also loves family games. There was to be a soccer tournament after dinner and Francesco devised a way for the Americans to play the Italians in honor of the games going on in France.

Julie painted a flag for our team.

Janie decided she wanted to play on the Italian team since she's pretty much adopted all things Italian.

I don't have any pictures of the game itself, (1) because I was too busy as an unsuccessful goalie for our team and (2) darkness got thick pretty fast.

Paired with salad and some soup, Julie's risotto was to die for that night.

She had also made the most beautiful birthday cake for Charlotte.

When it was too dark to see outside any longer, we came inside and Francesco presented Charlotte with the first clue to a treasure hunt.

She loved running around the villa looking for each clue and a riddle to solve in order to make it to the next.

Francesco used different animals spread far and wide around the house as his theme. A taxidermy bird, a dog statue, a stuffed animal cat, a plastic pig.

The final clue brought her back to the kitchen table to an old music box rocking horse where Francesco, Julie and Sophie gave Charlotte a coloring book for a present.

Charlotte is an art fiend so that coloring book was pretty thrilling to her.

We sang and she made her birthday wish ....

Which was to become a real horse. Oh, to be four.

Then opened a few token, easily packable gifts from us.

I still feel like I could eat this girl's cheeks daily, which I'm pretty sure doesn't extend far beyond four years. Maybe it's because she's always gonna be my baby. Maybe it's just because she's so darn cute.

Here's four reasons why we love this vibrant four year old more than we can say:

1. Charlotte has got spunk. Not the kind that can't be completely reigned in when need be. She's got a mind of her own and knows what she wants and will fight for it but not to utterly unreasonably levels. I love that she's strong willed. But I also love that together we can sit and work out solutions. That fire coupled with an internal awareness of when to give, is what makes her the perfect package.

2. We often tease about her being super human. She runs on high octane. Needs little sleep. Has a love of learning. Wants to write and read and do everything now. She falls down and gets right back up. Give her a bike, she'll ride it. Give her a mountain, she'll climb it. She just go, go, goes.

3. Charlotte is Eliza's best friend in the whole wide world. Eliza loves with a pure heart and Charlotte is her biggest fan and protector. I love watching their relationship. There's nothing and no one that comes between them.

4. There's a really unique lust for life there. Charlotte is excited about everything she's faced with. Everything. All the time.

Oh man, do I love that little girl. Happy birthday, Lottie-da. Four years and looking forward to so many, many more. You are the light that will keep us young.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

heaven's artistry

We've experienced some spectacular beauty on this little journey of ours.

Most of that beauty comes from what we have seen growing within ourselves.

No matter where any of us are, life travels in peaks and valleys. There are times where I just cannot believe these fantastic folks are mine and sure enough, minutes later teasing turns to tears. 

When real life doesn't match up with some ideal picture I've created, I find myself sinking ... even in a place as beautiful as this.

But the key difference between wallowing in frustration and finding inner peace comes in our reaction to the flaws of life.

Practice in learning to move through imperfection with care and kindness, patience and compassion, empathy and just a little more love, brings us out on the other side hoping for some semblance of refinement.

I couldn't be more grateful for this undistracted opportunity we have had as a family to work on moving through the valley's just a little more smoothly as we climb to stunning mountain vistas; those moments where I catch my breath once again, that these are my people.

We aren't perfect at it. Not even close. Because it's just as hard for us as it is for anybody.

But, if we can take even a shred of that growth home with us, back to the messy chaos of every day life, that's all the beauty I need.

In the meantime, exploring "our estate" has held some pretty great evidence of heaven's artistry.

And our new favorite gal, Sophie, is pretty great, too.