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Six Kids in San Diego + a Giveaway Winner!

Did you win the Meadow Kids Toys giveaway?

Winner is announced at the bottom of this post!

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becca garber arthurs visit coronado 8 Six Kids in San Diego + a Giveaway Winner!

Sometimes I have twinges of doubt about renting our house in Coronado. We could have downsized more, lived in a small apartment, decided on a two-bedroom with no guestroom. Should we have chosen something smaller? Can I keep it clean? Are we worthy of it?

And then I turn around and — once again — our home is filled to b u r s t i n g with visitors, and I remember that this is exactly what Elliott and I dreamed of, exactly why we chose this house, exactly why we are right here. It is affirming and thrilling to see our friends and family take us so seriously and show up on our doorstep. As I write this, Elliott’s sister Jess is visiting for five weeks, my parents are here for a couple of weeks, and — as soon as they go — Elliott’s brother David is coming for a long weekend.

Anyone else want to come too? icon wink Six Kids in San Diego + a Giveaway Winner!

becca garber arthurs visit coronado 6 Six Kids in San Diego + a Giveaway Winner!

A few weeks ago our dear friends from Sicily came for a week-long visit. Put four adults, six little kids, one cat, and a lot of memories and laughter and good food together and what have you got? A lot of this, that’s what:

becca garber arthurs visit coronado 12 Six Kids in San Diego + a Giveaway Winner!

It really was laughter and smiles all week, and we had so much fun making memories on new beaches and new neighborhoods. One of our favorite evenings involved lots of tidal pools, hermit crabs, and a beautiful sunset.

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Elliott was completely in his element as a marine life-loving veterinarian.

becca garber arthurs visit coronado 10 Six Kids in San Diego + a Giveaway Winner!

Hermit crab!

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Another day we all went to the San Diego Zoo and spent the entire time seeing everything we could:

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Can you count six kids?!

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Sweet Baby Eden

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I spy a hippo who needs some dental work.

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On the Arthurs’ last full day in San Diego, we visited the Little Italy Farmers Market and stocked up on Sicilian favorites at a local pasticceria. Unfortunately, the arancini were nothing like the ones we came to love in Sicily, but some of the sweets made up for it! Afterwards the kids explored the splash pad and amazing playground at Waterfront Park:

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And there were more good times, but sometimes the camera stays tucked away for the best of them, like the chatter and spills of two moms making dinner, or the quiet conversations while the kids run wild around us, or the day at the beach with more tidal pools, hermit crabs, and memories.

We’re so glad you came, Josh, Becca, Elise, Caleb, Lucas, and little Eden! You’re welcome to crash here anytime, and we can wait to visit you in St. Louis. We love you guys so much!

And now who’s next? We’d love to host you too!

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Once all the entries were carefully tallied (120 total entries) and Random.org did its work, the winner of the Meadow Kids Toys giveaway was #76, Sarah. Congrats, Sarah! I’ll send you an email and your toys will be on their way shortly!

4 :: in friends, hospitality, San Diego, Sicily, visitors

Goals for the Time in Between {Thoughts on Babies, Breastfeeding, and Biking}

IMG 4376 e1413065182664 Goals for the Time in Between {Thoughts on Babies, Breastfeeding, and Biking}

As of last week, I am not pregnant and not breastfeeding for the first time in over FOUR years. Gil stopped nursing, and therefore I am not feeding, supporting, or nurturing anything with my body on a daily basis.

I have my body all to myself!

It happened sort of unexpectedly. Gil had only been nursing once a day (before bed at night) for months and months now, and I kept dawdling about weaning him. We were about to move, and then we were moving, and then we were traveling, and then we were settling. The time was imminent, but not yet. And then last Saturday night he was so tired that he threw a tantrum, and I couldn’t get him to calm down or even nurse. I finally just put him in bed. He was asleep within seconds. And the next day he didn’t want to nurse, and I thought, “Can it really be this easy?”

And it was. Some aches for me and some distractions for him, but that’s it. No more Mama’s milk for my little boy.

Before I get all sappy about how that makes me feel, let’s focus on the fact that for the first time in three years (three years!!!) I have a completely “baby free” body. This is cause for celebration! What have I been waiting to do for three years that I’ve put off because I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding? What have I said I would do “one day when my babies don’t need me every few hours”?

Now is the time to do it!

And so here are a few things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Run a 5K. I used to do this. I used to run a lot in college, and once — very foolishly — I even ran the Charlottesville 10 Miler. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done (even worse than birthing babies) because I am not a naturally strong runner and I hadn’t trained well at all. But 5Ks I did and I can do, and I’d really like to get to the point where I’m running regularly enough that a 5K is feasible and even fun.
  • Make a habit of rising early to read God’s Word. I mentioned here that I’ve started doing this — albeit sporadically as of yet — and it has been delightful and refreshing. I’ve wanted to do this but always had babies who slept with me or seemed finely attuned to wake up whenever I did. Now Gil really does sleep till 7:30 even if I get up. It’s finally time.
  • Bike around our town with my kids in tow. Shortly after moving here, Elliott and I found a great deal on a double bike trailer on Craigslist, and then we found an amazing blue vintage bicycle from the 1960s for me. All that was left to do was hook one to the other and take ‘em out for a spin, and this weekend we did! The kids loved it, and so did we. But, I realized, this is my chance to use the trailer and the bike: before Lena wants to ride her own bike and before we have another baby (because babies cannot ride in bike trailers or bike seats until they are at least 12 months old). Let’s take this window of time and pedal everywhere!
  • Tone my six-pack abs. Juuuuuuuust kidding. This one might be the hardest to make happen, actually. Starts with a confession: I cannot do a sit-up. A traditional, lying-on-the-floor-to-sitting-up sit up. I also have soft, stretch-marked skin on my stomach that I hide from everyone, even the doctor. When I’ve confessed that I think my bikini-wearing days are over (not that I even want to wear one, I just want the option of wearing one), a couple good friends have suggested I try to tone my stomach muscles. See what happens. Maybe all that extra skin will tighten up over tighter muscles. What do you think?
  • Go on a big trip with Elliott. Just the two of us. Somewhere for more than one night. We’ve gone on a couple of getaways in Sicily and one in Paris, but they were always 24 hours or less. My dream (a lifelong dream of dreams!) is to go to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos. With my outdoorsy, animal-loving veterinarian husband, I can’t think of a lovelier vacation. But I would be also love to go to San Francisco or Portland or even somewhere in Mexico (which is just 15 miles away!). Do you have any suggestions?

Did you ever set goals for yourself during a season of in between, like “before I get married I want to…” or “before we have our first baby we want to…”? It’s motivating for the time between, I think.

Or even if those things never happen — because being blessed with another baby is not a given, just like anything in life — there is joy in making the most of the here and now. And of thanking God for today and carpe diem-ing it like there’s no tomorrow.

IMG 4375 Goals for the Time in Between {Thoughts on Babies, Breastfeeding, and Biking}

 

19 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, Gil, thoughts

A Giveaway from Meadow Kids Toys!

Recently Updated252 A Giveaway from Meadow Kids Toys!

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m so excited to share a giveaway with you today from a wonderful British toy company.

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Meadow Kids contacted me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d like to review some of their products. I took a peek at their website and loved everything I saw: hands-on, creativity-inspiring toys for crafting, building, and imagining. It was hard to choose favorites between the bath toys, wooden beads, and all kinds of clever crafts. Meadow Kids also has some absolutely lovely books, and they sent me (and Lena and Gil!) a couple to review.

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Great was the delight in our household when new books arrived! Lena opened up a storybook with a puzzle on each page. It couldn’t have been more perfect for her because this girl loves puzzles. Gil, meanwhile, received a picture book with an adorable little hand puppet hedgehog,

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Lena did every one of those puzzles so carefully and excitedly! And Gil loved his book, but busied himself….

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… quickly figuring out exactly how that hedgehog puppet worked. He’s such a  little engineer these days.

I am truly delighted with both the products we received from Meadow Kids, and I can tell that their toys and books are made with care and with children in mind. They will not last forever (some of Lena’s puzzle pieces were a little flimsy), but they will endure a child’s love and foster creativity and imagination in your children… and their parents!

Meadow Kids is offering something absolutely wonderful today to one lucky someone: a bundle of toys and books! Here are the goodies:

Meadow Kids giveaway A Giveaway from Meadow Kids Toys!

This giveaway package includes:

The Sleepy Puppy Hand Puppet Book || The Secret Garden Fingerprint Friends || Mix and Match Animals Bath Stickers || In the Garden Wooden Threading Beads

This box full of goodies for your own child or your favorite niece, nephew, or friend. (Christmas is coming, after all!) Giveaway ends next Tuesday, October 14!

You have FIVE ways to enter. Be sure to tell me in the comments which ways you have entered!

  • Visit Meadow Kids and leave a comment saying what your favorite toy is.
  • Sign up for my mailing list (or tell me that you already did!)
  • Follow me on Pinterest (or tell me that you already do)
  • Follow me on Instagram (or tell me that you already do)

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Good luck, and I hope you win!

Yes, you.

I really do!

 

49 :: in giveaway

When Your Neighbors Can Hear Every Word

  pumpkins1 When Your Neighbors Can Hear Every Word

Image via

I’m not used to living so close to people.

Our first evening in our house in Coronado, we stopped still and listened in amazement. We were eating dinner on the deck, and we could hear the children on the other side of the fence, just 10 feet away from our dinner table, chattering with each other as they jumped on their trampoline. We could see them through the gaps in the bamboo fence. Just 10 feet away! We could watch their parents come out to break up an argument between them. We could hear the words exchanged, hear the inflections of frustration and exhaustion in their voices, see glimpses of their clothes and their gestures and their moving lips.

We turned back to our meal, trying to ignore the lives being lived just a few feet away, as we fed our children blueberries and turkey.

That night, Elliott and I put our kids to sleep and then leaned back on our own pillows to read before bed. It was 8 o’clock, quiet. And then — again! — we heard voices, different neighbors this time: a husband and wife, preparing to eat dinner in their garden.

“Wait! I told you to leave the salmon on the grill for a few more minutes!”

“But it’s done.”

“No, it’s not, look at this. Not flaking! It needs more time.”

I felt my own stomach muscles clench reflexively as the argument escalated. But then…

“Oh, you’re right, honey, I see you’re right. I’ll put it back on.”

I relaxed, impressed with this woman, this new neighbor of mine who knows out to pick her battles. Shyly, I peeked out the window. I could see a middle-aged couple in their quiet garden, he in a woven robe, living out their lives, completely unaware that I could hear every word and observe every action. I closed the shutters. There is a fine line between hearing words unintentionally and watching actions intentionally, and I wanted to respect their privacy.

We did not live close to our neighbors in Sicily. Our house was located on the end of a dead-end street, and the buildings around us were all garages. We lived right below a castle with a large courtyard, so we heard plenty of activity, but we had no windows facing the town or other people. All our windows faced outward towards the countryside: deep valleys, sprawling vistas, and people living hundreds of feet below us, half a mile away.

We liked it. As a mom, I became used it without even trying. The baby is screaming? No one will hear him but my own family. I’m disciplining Lena? No one will hear our interaction, meted out as I see fit. It’s a hot day? No one will see our entire family clad only in underwear.

But immediately our life in California is different. If we can hear them, they can hear us. This is partly because it is HOT here, and none of us have air conditioning, and so we’re all living with every single window open as wide as it can go. And all of us eating outside. And playing outside. And living outside, a few feet from individual decks and backyards, escaping the heat together and practically landing in each other’s laps.

This happened a couple of weeks ago:

“Is it someone’s birthday today?” my neighbor asked when we ran into her on the sidewalk.

“No, not today,” I said, somewhat confused.

“Oh, I thought I heard you singing ‘Happy Birthday’ earlier.”

“We did! I forgot. It’s my sister’s birthday today, and so the kids and I recorded a video of us singing for her.”

And all the while I’m thinking, OMG she heard that?! She can heard everything! She can hear every time I put the kids in time out! She can hear every time Gil has a temper tantrum! She can heard the kids arguing, me intervening, and every conversation we have about poop and pee. All. Day. Long.

Yes, she can hear everything. They can all hear the scattered, louder parts of our everyday lives.

Is there a way to turn this around, to make it something good?

Is there a way to redeem the crowding, to share something other than “Happy Birthday”?

Yes. I’ve been thinking about it for a month now, and I think yes.

What about hearing Lena’s little voice singing, “Jesus Loves Me”?

What about hearing Elliott and I disagree graciously over the grill, like our neighbors did?

What about hearing us talk to our children about obeying God and His Word, instead of disciplining them just because we’re embarrassed or annoyed?

What about hearing us get mad, get frustrated, raise our voices at our kids (we all do, it’s inevitable)… and then ask them for forgiveness?

“I was wrong, Lena, and I’m sorry. I should not have been so angry. Will you forgive me?”

Over the past month, this has slowly become my goal. To let my neighbors hear a life lived out with grace. With frustration, yes. With toddler tears, yes. With lots of “Happy Birthday,” yes. With plenty of failings, plenty of mess, plenty of reality. But also with grace shown to each other, pulled from a source greater than ourselves, filling us up, spilling over, flowing out, shared with others.

Through the windows, across the deck, over the fence, into their homes.

Or over a glass of wine in our backyard. Because I’d like to share that with our neighbors, too.

17 :: in Coronado, family, home sweet home, thoughts

On Waking Up Before My Children

books coffee morning On Waking Up Before My Children image via

For as long as I can remember, Elliott and I have gotten up in the morning with our kids. A little voice calling, “Maaaama!” is the signal that our day has begun. One of us stumbles out of bed, bleary-eyed, and brings that baby back to bed with us, and then the three (and eventually four) of us wake up together.

It sounds deliciously relaxed and cozy to start the day this way, but most of the time it’s really not. It’s whines of “I want breakfast now” and more fussing than seems fair and a general sense that the day has gotten away from you before you were ready for it to begin.

So this week… I started waking up before my kids. Ok, it’s Tuesday, so we’ll see if it lasts! But I knew this week I needed a little extra time to get my bearings in the morning. Elliott’s out of town, my dad is staying with us, and thus I’m facing a week of solo parenting. In order to parent and serve with grace and patience, I’ll need to know my limits and guard them carefully.

Thus far, by the time nap time finally comes every day, it’s all I can do not to dump the kids into their cribs and race for the couch with a good book and a tall glass of ice water (it’s been so hot here and we don’t have A/C). My soul craves that time alone without little voices, little messes, little tummies, little needs.

But I’ve felt extra strength and peace in the morning thanks to waking up an hour or so (or less…) before them. I make a pot of coffee and sit at the table and take a tentative sip. I’m sure many of you know how spectacularly delicious that predawn, freshly-brewed cup of coffee tastes. It’s indescribably fortifying.

And then I’ve been turning to the Bible, reading a few chapters according to the plan that Elliott and I do together. A great sense of peace comes not only from God’s Word itself but also from knowing that I have “tithed” this time, that I have set my priorities in order, that I have responded in gratefulness to the Father for all the good gifts He’s given me.

And then I pray, set the Bible aside, and dive for a few minutes into my latest library book, gathering my last pieces of reserve around me like a blanket to help me stay warm, stay strong, stay gracious for whatever the day might hold.

And then…

“Maaaaaama!”

And so it begins again.

What about you? Do you wake up before you absolutely have to? Generally Elliott and I stay up too late (eleven-thirty, twelve…) to make it feasible to get up early. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Or maybe I should be asking, “What gets to you to bed early enough at night?” Because I’ve got to do something about that next!

pixel On Waking Up Before My Children
22 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, motherhood, thoughts

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