An Italian Wedding

So, the day of the wedding was finally upon us. The morning spent scrambling to get everyone dressed, including a number of trips to and from Marco's apartment and our hotel made by moi to retrieve various accessories Will forgot to complete his mess dress. 

The caravan lined up in the parking lot of the apartment complex, and as we left to get in the car Marco assured us he had a friend coming to pick him up. We felt a bit odd leaving the groom behind to wait for some random person to pick him up, but he insisted so we went on our way.

Once at the church everyone stood waiting outside when all of a sudden we heard the rumble of a motorcycle and there was Marco speeding by.
The first time he passed by so quickly we barely caught that it was him, but luckily he made a second round at a much slower pace so we could get the full effect. 
And then he strolled up to the church, cool as a cucumber. 
More suave than George C. himself :)
One thing I appreciated most about this wedding, was the relaxed pace at which everything happened. There was no dreadful rehearsal, no drama over who was going to do what. Everyone just did what they did when the clock struck 11:00. 
I'm still not sure who even told Will which position to stand at the front of the church. 
Outside of the traditional standing for the bride's march down the aisle along with a few responses to the priest, everyone just kind of did what they wanted. It seemed like family and friends and photographers alike walked where they pleased to capture the perfect shot. 
The church choir (I assume it was the church's choir I mean) sang and the music literally brought tears to my eyes every single time. It was just gorgeous. 
It was a catholic mass so the service stretched over an hour. Fortunately after playing, snacking on some cheerios and only a few attempts to run away and check out a few fun looking corners of the church, Aubrey passed out in my arms for the rest of the service. 
The ceremony was amazing, but was really got us was the reception. It started under a covered patio on a farm. The cocktail hour food was a variety of cold cut meats, caprese skewers, quiche, an assortment of pickled and grilled vegetables slaw, baked/fried cheese, and plenty of crudités. 
Prosecco was flowing...
music was playing...
and even the kids were entertained by the magicians that so kindly gave the parents a break. 
For any American wedding, that would have been it. And it would have been great. But in Italy, that was only the beginning. Not even the beginning As it turned out we still had 3/4 of the way to go!
This is where I failed miserably, both as a blogger and for my family back home who were dying to know about the wedding.

The ceremony started at 11:00am, and at the time that seemed like a pretty early start time. I kept wondering what the plan would be for the rest of the day. I had no idea there would be a nine course dinner, including intermissions (because you seriously need some time to digest between plates), a progression of drinks, side shows involving the bride and groom, and moving from location to location within the venue for each segment of the day, until we left, early, at 11:00pm. 

I forgot to take even a single picture of the food. 

I forgot to take even a single picture of Marco and Will until we snapped one on the iPhone just before it ended. 

Quite honestly, I forgot to do anything but eat, drink, and be merry, and that my friends is probably the best indicator of a successful wedding. We had SO much fun. Will and I both declared it to be the best wedding we've ever attended, and I'm thinking that may stay true for a very long time. 

So congrats to "Marco" and "Elaina," we are so, so grateful you let us be a part of your wedding day. We're so happy for you and wish you many year of love, life and happiness!! 

Aubrey Turns One

I'll be honest, I didn't write this post until this morning. I wasn't totally sure what to say exactly. When your first born, well and probably every child of yours, reaches that magical first birthday it's a really emotionally charged time. I'm not normally too sappy over Aubrey. I don't wish for time to stop, or mourn for the days when she was a teeny tiny newborn. Instead, each new day I just look forward to watching her continue learning and discovering in her little world. Of course there are times, usually when she refuses to sit still for even a minute, I miss snuggling her sleeping little self into my chest, but overall I love each day of her life so far, equally.

We happen to be in Germany right now, just a couple of minutes from the place where Aubrey was born. Every day as we driven and walked around I've been filled with memories of our time here last year. Giving birth by no means is pleasurable of course, but the moments leading up to my labor, and the days afterwards will forever remain some of the most magical in my life. Life was so surreal in that time. We had no idea how to be parents, yet at the same time deep down we totally did. The look of awe on Will's face when he looked down at our baby girl with always be etched into my memories. Breastfeeding for the first few times, changing itty bitty diapers, and venturing around Germany with this little human cocooned in her wrap close to me. It was amazing.

Aubrey is so different from what I expected. Being a mother is much different than I expected. I'm glad for that. I'm glad I didn't have it all figured out beforehand, and that God sent me this little soul to inspire and challenge me in ways that only she can.

I pray that every year I will be as happy and grateful, and celebrate her as much as I do this year. I pray we will continue to grow and learn together. I pray for God to help Will and I be the best parents we can be for her. I pray she shows the same light and fire and curiosity for life as an adult, as she does right now. I pray that she will live a long and happy life. And most of all, I pray a prayer of gratitude to God for blessing us with this amazing experience, for letting us be parents, for giving us such a precious gift.

Happy Birthday Aubrey Eleanor!!

An Italian Wedding: The Pre-wedding Festivities

I'm going to have to just admit up front that I did not do the best job documenting this amazing experience through photos. A middle of the night departure from Germany, followed by a full day of activities with no nap to be had, before finally finding our heads on a pillow close to midnight, suffice it to say my energy levels were just way too low to do a proper job.

However, I will do my best to recap what ended up being the most unique and awesome wedding (and wedding weekend) we've ever been a part of.

It started on Friday. Our friend, the groom - let's call him Marco for sake of ease since I didn't get his permission to use his name on the blog, picked Aubrey and I up from the airport and gave us a ride into Sacile. Will was still working on a trial back in Germany and wouldn't be joining us until Saturday, so while we waited for him to arrive we got to join in on all the family functions leading up to the wedding.

Shortly after settling in our hotel we met back at Marco's apartment to carpool over to his future in-laws for lunch. As Aubrey and I walked into the apartment we were met by a collection of faces, some slightly familiar, others not at all, all of which were smiling, and none of which seemed the least bit surprised that even though they didn't know who we were we walked into the living room and made ourselves at home. Marco was nowhere to be seen at the moment.

Aubrey and I started introducing ourselves, and she shortly reprised her role as the center of attention, as she seems to do in any crowd these days. Girl is a total ham and loves the attention.

A little while later, a harbinger for just how Italian time seems to work, Marco and his bride-to-be (let's call her Elaina) arrived and it was time to head out for lunch.

I've always had visions of what it would be like to join in on a big Italian family dinner. I'm happy to report that it was everything I had imagined. From the time we set foot in the door till the time we left the house was filled with happy boisterous conversation. Lunch was served in a manner of courses, as is custom in Italy, starting with a pistachio pasta, followed by a thin cutlet of breaded chicken, salad (always served last in Italy), and fresh fruit for dessert. Wine and soda water littered the table, and it was all I could do not to eat my bodyweight in the food that was set before me.

There was a large assortment of dolls and toys scattered all over the living room, necessary supplies for the multiple kids Marco's mother in law watches regularly. Aubrey settled in, learning to navigate shared play with the other little girls who immediately claimed all of the toys for themselves. I never realized how hard it would be to sit back and let Aubrey sort things out for herself.

The afternoon wore on, with people rotating through the front door. We had a dinner engagement that was supposed to start at 6:00 and the time was already nearing 4:00. And has nature would have it, Aubrey finally crashed in my arms mere minutes before it was time to leave. How she had made it over 13 hours without a nap was beyond me.
A few short hours later, thankfully at a new time of 7:00, we met back over at Marco's, then walked to the pizzeria next door for dinner. Dinner was a continuation of meeting the people that had traveled near and far for the wedding, along with a few pep talks for the much anticipated final event of the night - Marco's serenade to his bride-to-be.

The serenade is a tradition, not sure if it's specific to Elaina's family, or to Italy in general. For the serenade, Elaina's family chose a song for Marco to sing to Elaina while being documented by the wedding videographer, and flanked by singing performances by Elaina's family.

That night Aubrey and I found ourselves in a crowd of friends and family, trying hard to keep their excited conversation to a low roar as we waiting patiently for the show to begin. The serenade is a surprise for the bride. Before too long, large lights were set up illuminating Marco's "stage," the singers were in place, and the music began. A few moments passed before the door opened and Elaina was met with a street full of people and music filling the air. When the time came, Marco bravely clutched his microphone and offered his best rendition of Fools Rush In, while a teary eyed Elaina quietly watched. We all cheered and joined in giving Marco our best melodic support, then it was time for the family to continue with their musical selections.

For a time they sang a collection of more modern Italian songs, but then a man with an accordion broke into song, belting out traditional tunes from their families' hometowns.

Being in the military has brought me many moments when I can't help but stop and appreciate the fact that I would have never gotten to have those moments without the Air Force. That night, with the accordion in the background and a heartfelt beautiful Italian melody playing through the air, on a street in a small Italian town, with people cheers-ing their glasses of prosecco and extending their well wishes to the newlyweds, I was just so...thankful. Never in a million years could I have guessed that I would have found myself there. It's memories like those that make up for the sacrifices you make living the military life, at least for those of us that value that kind of thing.

I loved it so much that I fought through the total exhaustion I felt from still not having had a wink of sleep since waking up at 2:00 am, for as long as I could. Eventually it caught up with me though, and Aubrey and I bummed a ride back to the hotel around midnight. Will was arriving the next morning.

The day before the wedding Marco and I picked up Will from the airport, then Will and I took the afternoon to ourselves to stroll around Sacile, before the casual dinner at Marco's apartment that night.

What was meant to be a casual dinner anyway.

The plan was for a few people to come over to Marco's apartment and hang out for a while. To relax before the big day if you will. What really happened was that just about everyone in town ended up coming, each bringing a bottle of wine to contribute, Marco's brother took over the cooking, and basically the casual dinner turned into a party.

Aubrey was finally paying us back for the lack of sleep the day before so we had to skip out on the planned foray around town for the after party. We did, however, stop for a bite of gelato before turning in for the night.
It turned out we would need the extra rest. We soon learned Italian weddings are a bit different than American ones.

A Stroll Through Sacile, Italy

From the time we filled out our first "dream sheet" of assignment locations for the Air Force, Aviano, Italy has been my #1 choice. It didn't matter if our chances were dismal at best, or that neither of us speak a lick of Italian. All I knew was that being stationed in one of my favorite countries, with endless access to the culinary delicacies and gorgeous foods the Italians pride themselves on, while also being in close proximity to the rest of Europe's wonders, was truly one of the biggest dreams I could think of.
I read once that if the Air Force stationed you there, the Gods were smiling down on you. I believed that statement then.
But after being in South Dakota, then Turkey, and then visiting the Aviano area for a short stint, I will confirm it's accuracy 120%. 
It's not that it's located in a bustling metropolis, or that the surrounding beauty is necessarily the most breathtaking, but rather that it's beautiful in it's simplicity. It's the idyllic Italian countryside experience, with sleepy little towns, and lavish displays at even the smallest of food markets.
It's being greeted by a friendly face who may not understand a word of English, but somehow insists that you have an espresso upon your arrival to the hotel (cappuccino in the square below, pictured above). 
It's the fact that the train runs even to the most remote places, meaning almost nowhere is inaccessible. 
We were blessed with finding a great friendship with one of Will's fellow JAGs at Ellsworth in South Dakota, and as luck would have it (and the fact that he is fluent in Italian and has family just a few short hours away from the base) he got stationed at Aviano. Shortly thereafter he met the woman who would eventually become his bride. And Will was asked (much to both of our delight) to be in the wedding. 
Our friend lives in a small town a few kilometers from the base, so while we were in for the wedding festivities we took a little time to walk around and get to know the town. 
And subsequently made multiple notes at just how lucky these people were in comparison to what we deal with in Turkey.
It's sad to say, but just being able to stroll around town for an afternoon is an amazing luxury that we now do not take for granted.
The weather in Italy is gorgeous this time of year. Slightly cool in the mornings and evenings, but warm during the day. 
We had a great afternoon followed by home cooked meal by our friends brother in an apartment busting at the seams with friends and family in to celebrate. If there has ever been a time I wish time could slow down, it would have been this weekend.
Stay tuned for the details of our first Italian wedding experience! 

Joining In On Husband's Work Trips...The Other 97% Of Time

I've read posts throughout the years written by some of my favorite bloggers making sure their readers understand that their blogs are a mere glimpse into the "pretty" parts of their lives. Ensuring those following that contrary to popular belief, they aren't always dressed better than Rachel Zoe, eating a meal prepared by Wolfgang Puck himself, while their perfectly clean and behaved (and well dressed) children silently complete a masterpiece to rival the greatest works of art in history.

Not only am I none of those, ever, but I also want to believe that I keep it real enough that you guys know life in my little world is far from an endless perfect and happy fairy tale.


Sitting here tonight, alone, again, on this pleather couch in TLF, watching a crap movie I'm not the least bit interested in because it's the only thing AFN (Armed Forces Network) has on, not even wondering when Will will finally get "home" for the night because anytime he says he'll be home in an hour it turns into 2 or 3, I can't help but think...I seriously hope people realize that the travel and excitement I post about are literally the highlights in the real life, everyday, often very boring reality that we live.

Most importantly, I don't want a future JAG wife or husband, who is probably scouring the interwebs for any and all information they can find about what life in the JAG really means, to find my blog and be led to think that it's nothing but exotic trips and amazing experiences.

The real truth is, I spend the vast majority of my time alone (well, now with Aubrey). Even before Will became an ADC. The hours of a JAG can be very long. The hours for Will as an ADC, especially when on a case, can often mean working from sunrise to well past sunset.

Tonight Will made it back to our room in lodging at the decent hour of 18:15, and was able to stay (while working on his computer intermittently) for a whole hour and a half. Just long enough to put Aubrey to bed, and eat the dinner I prepared. Then he left to meet with a witness as I finished cleaning up the dishes and settling onto the couch with a glass of wine. We had one free day over the weekend, and that will be the only real time we will have together this entire trip. But to me, it's worth the trouble of coming all the way here, just to have that day, to be able to sleep in the same bed at night, and to do whatever it takes so that Aubrey at least sees his face as many days as possible.

This life is far from glamorous. It's full of highs and lows, great extremes of once-in-a-lifetime moments, contrasting with those of utter loneliness. There is no day-to-day routine for us as a family. There is no "normal."

I'm not writing this to generate sympathy. Call me masochistic, but in an odd way, I thrive on the ups and downs, and constant craziness. Some days the idea of settling back home seems so appealing, but I know I would miss this.

What I do want, is for anyone reading to know that like anyone else, our life, while great and perfect for us, is still full of imperfect and challenging moments.

I'm going to stop there. Just had a moment of needing to relate on the realness of life. The good...and the not so great.