Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Four years ago

We always said if we ever got married, we'd go back to Italy for our wedding. After all, without Italy we wouldn't be together.

We met because of a perfect tangle of misadventures – an impulsive side-trip, a railway strike, a bus crash, lost tickets, a missed connection – things that could only seem "meant to be" in hindsight. And we fell for each other by accident, really – blame the bridges of Venice at midnight, an orchestra practicing in the back streets after dusk, homemade wine, fireflies like Christmas lights on the hills. When it comes to amore, Italy doesn't mess around.

When we planned our wedding in Florence, we didn't forget the chaos of the time we'd spent in Italy (it was charming, but it was chaos) and we decided to keep things as simple as we could. I made our invitations and I bought my dress in Dallas, without a single alteration. My father-in-law chose my wedding shoes. My mum did my hair (if you could see the back, you'd know she's a genius). I did my own makeup. My brother Aaron made my bouquet from flowers he found at a little roadside store on the morning of the wedding, and my brother Jules played the piano in the church. The priest was an old friend of Nathan's med school chaplain. We had our reception at a 14th-century villa on an olive grove in the countryside – a place we saw for the first time just three days before the wedding. Every question the owner asked us, we answered "just do what you usually do, and we'll be happy". We even skipped the usual crowd of attendants – Aaron was my best man, and Nathan's best man was John (his friend since fourth grade, who was with us when we met – poor soul).

All our simple plans aside, we were determined to expect the unexpected and not come unglued if it all went awry. Really, what's Italy without a few twists in the tale?

Imagine our amazement when everything – and I mean everything – went right. The sun shone in the middle of February! The day was warm, where 10 days earlier there'd been snow! The photographers came all the way from Poggibonsi, and were brilliant. The priest felt like an old friend. And out of all the Australians and all the Americans, not one of our 50 guests got lost.

Our wedding day was four years ago. But when we think about February 17, 2004, it sometimes feels like yesterday. I mean it – when it comes to love, Italy doesn't mess around.

{Photography by Carlo Carletti and Angelo Governi of Arte Fotografica}

Sunday, 24 February 2008

28 Weeks, still standing

So, the "Wow, you must be due any day now!" and "Don't have the baby in the restaurant!" comments are getting a bit embarrassing. Even when I went for my seven-month OB appointment, the nurse said "Whoa!".

My doctor was more reassuring. She did say I'm measuring almost three weeks further along than I should be, but she's not going to worry about it yet.

Maybe Kickbaby (as Berry has named him) is just showing off. He doesn't seem at all concerned that, with only two months of pregnancy left, his mother has had to drag her reluctant self out and buy bigger maternity clothes.

I'm hoping – in vain, I know – that all this growing will slow down soon. I don't know how much bigger I can handle...


Tuesday, 19 February 2008

San Antonio and Circleball

A toddler plus a pregnant girl plus a nine-hour car trip seemed like a bad idea, so we decided that Nathan would go alone on his soccer team's trip to the Air Force tournament in San Antonio.

A couple of days beforehand, though, I suddenly felt stir-crazy and thought maybe nine hours in the car each way would be better than staying behind in Mississippi. So we all went.

It's just as well, because it turned out Berry had so much to contribute to the soccer tournament (or "circleball", as she's convinced it's called). Come rain or shine – and there was a lot of rain – she "warmed up" with the guys, did all the stretches, and then objected long and loud to being relegated to the sidelines.

"I help Dadda!" she shouted at me over and over, "I help! I help circleball!". She was astounded that I couldn't see how useful she'd be, and beyond annoyed that I wouldn't let her on to the field.

In addition to being astounded and annoyed, she was also determined and fast – so that I spent most of our time at the games sprinting after a toddler on a mission. It's a non-amusing pastime when you're six months pregnant.

We gave up on two particularly rainy, muddy games and shopped instead (Mississippi makes even the most shopping-averse girl desperate for a decent mall... and oh boy, does Texas love malls). On the third day, the sun shone and we made it through a whole game – although the Berry sprints did prompt two toddler time-outs, where both of us sat, annoyed, in the car.

Nathan's team lost in the semi-finals, but we all left happy. Nathan got his Mexican-food fix, I got out of Mississippi, we revisited the Alamo and the River Walk, and we all had some good – and rare – family time.

And Berry left confident in the knowledge that "her" team would've won, if only mama hadn't kept the star player off the field.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Brand new!

Paula and Ren (Nathan's brother) had their baby yesterday! A cute cousin for Berry, a niece for us, and a happy day for everyone.

I think the email from Nathan's dad – now grandpa to both Berry and little Parker – says it all:

"Parker Sumalee Evans. Born 10:02am. 8lbs 12oz, 20in. All doing well (Ren still in recovery)."


Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Taking Charge

For anyone anxious about the outcome of the November elections, relax: Berry already runs the country. You just don't know it yet.

Well, to be accurate, she runs all the parts of the country that matter to her. Anywhere there's a grandparent, a parent, a cousin, a friend, a rival or a puppy – she's got it covered.

In addition to issuing little directions ("Si-down, Nanna!", "Wake up, Ga-gum!", "No touch my mama, Emma!") she's apparently taken on her own toddler-leadership role. After her preschool class field trip to the dental clinic yesterday, Berry's teacher told me that all the kids had been scared of the dentist's chair, shrinking into the corners of the room. That was until Berry climbed up on the chair, lay back and let the nurse put the special glasses on her. After that, all the kids wanted in on the action. "Little miss is the leader," her teacher said, "They just wait to see what she does."

I was painfully shy as a kid – terrified of public embarrassment, of saying the wrong thing, of looking silly or of making people angry. It's a revelation to see a child – my own child – comfortable in her own skin and confident that the world will accept her.

That's an enchanted little universe, and I hope at least part of it will survive her childhood intact.


Monday, 11 February 2008

Letterpress: Evolution

Above: my 1902 Chandler & Price Old Style 8x12 letterpress "in the wild" in a little town outside Yakima, Washington, when I bought it on April 28 last year. Even before it got outside (it was only in the elements for about a week) it had accumulated a substantial coat of dirt, oil and grime, and was showing its age.

Ten months and 4000-odd miles later, the letterpress emerges from climate-controlled storage and undergoes the "Dad treatment". My dad used 'down time' during his visit from Australia to whip the press into shape: new motor, new pulley, new belt, gear rebuild, comprehensive oiling, and more cleaning than it had probably seen in decades. The photo above shows it without its upper feed table (which tends to obscure some of the work). The photo below shows what it looked like before Dad came along.

See? It was a bit scary. And deeply dirty.

The picture below shows the press after Nathan's Dad got going on it last week. Among other things, he cleaned and shined the ink disk, fitted a kill switch (which my Dad lamented not having time to do before he left) and attached the upper feed table after a minor repair.

You'll notice two of the three rollers are missing in the photo above. The previous owner had apparently been getting by on two rollers, but I've ordered three new vinylith rollers from NA Graphics in Colorado, along with trucks, California wash, tympan and packing.

Above: another "before" photo, showing years of accumulated grime.

Now that's better... lots of olive oil, fine-grade steel wool, 3-in-1, marine grease, compressed air, fine-grade sandpaper, kerosene, WD-40, and two Dads later – I have a letterpress to be proud of.

I still need to order grippers (just last week I realised they were missing, not just packed elsewhere) and a new bail to replace one that looks like it broke off years ago... but I'm getting scarily close to having no excuses not to use this monster! It's exciting and daunting.

But mostly exciting.


Sunday, 10 February 2008

Three hundred calories

Why oh why does being pregnant make you so hungry if you only need 300 extra calories per day??

The books merrily say things like: "you can get those 300 calories from a small tub of yoghurt and a piece of toast" !

Are they serious? Are these things written by men? Some days I want to get my extra 300 calories from a hamburger the size of a bus.

I would much prefer to listen to my mum, who says she followed "the Very Hungry Caterpillar philosophy – you know, just eat and eat and eat and eat". And she stayed skinny after having five kids. Five kids – read 'em and weep, people.

Equally, I could listen to this girl on Etsy, who said, "I totally bought into the whole 'you are eating for two' BS... They didn't specify what two, so I ate for two linebackers."

For now, I'll wander back to my twice-washed salad, my Lean Cuisine bowl (yes, I am too lazy to cook) and my Dove mini 60-calorie bar.

And feel a bit sorry for myself.


Thursday, 7 February 2008

Ridiculous picture of the week

In the early '90s, my sister and I saw Parenthood several times (it's possible we had unreasonable crushes on Tom Hulce) and we were endlessly amused by the toddler who ran around with a bucket on his head, crashing into walls. We felt a bit sorry for his mother.

Now Berry's making me be that mother. She loves to put blankets, paper bags, towels over her head and crow, without a hint of irony, "I seeeeeeeeeee you!"

I'll say this for the Parenthood kid: if you're going to crash into walls, a bucket makes much better headgear than a paper bag.


Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Adventures all over

My parents never stay for long enough – with five kids on four continents, it's tricky – and this time they were only here for nine days. Still, Berry managed to give her Australian Grandma and Grandad (or Ga-gum and Ad-dad, as she prefers to call them) a pretty decent tour of Louisiana.

We went to New Orleans for streetcars and shotgun houses, antique shops and jazz bands, Southern food, Uptown charm and dirty Bourbon Street.

We went to Breaux Bridge for swamps and sleeping alligators, Cajun music and Crawfish Town, and to see Berry's Grandpa and Tine as well as her great-grandparents who live there. Berry focused on the important things, like squirrels and balloon animals, murals in restaurants, eating, trying on Tine's jewellery, making friends with Woo-woof, and organising her various grandparents: "Si-down, Ad-dad!", "Draw, Papa, draw!".

She also took very seriously the job of keeping Grandma awake on drives: "Wake up, Ga-gum! Wake up!" over and over again. Knowing my mum the way I do, I could've told Berry it was a pointless task. Mum will be wide-awake at 2am, phoning her far-flung kids and answering emails, but daytime rolls round and she'll nod off at the drop of a hat. Driving around town on the second day of their trip, we were laughing at her extraordinary napping abilities. "I'm feeling surprisingly awake, actually," Mum said brightly from the back seat. Thirty seconds later, she was sound asleep. So Berry had a full-time job on her hands.

But sometimes naps catch up with even the best anti-sleep crusader. Family trips are exhausting, and although Berry fell asleep just in time to miss a Cajun music jam we knew she'd love, no one had the heart to wake her.

Not even Ga-gum.