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Because I Have Two Hours to Write!

becca garber rosebasket 683x1024 Because I Have Two Hours to Write!

Beautiful matching outfits handmade by my “Aunt” Leslie of Rosebasket.
If you click on this image, it will take you to her handmade clothing website!

For the past four weeks my sister-in-law Jess has been visiting, and I’ve got to say, having someone visit you who loves to cook, care for children, and can slip seamlessly into your life is an amazing gift. This morning — juuuust as the kids and I were finishing an epic showdown that involved a lotlotlot of toothpaste — Jess said,

“Hey Becca, is there anything you’d like to do this morning? I can watch the kids.”

And within 10 minutes I had slipped out the back door and started speed-walking towards the library. Two hours to myself to write and think! I could scarcely believe it.

I even snapped ridiculous selfies on the way and sent them to Elliott, saying, “I’m on my way to the library to write! This is amazing!”

So let’s just take a moment to celebrate Jess and the awesomeness of having her with us for a whole month:

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Cooking AND baking are part of her daily routine, which means I’ve made about three dinners in the last month. Which is amazing. Stay and cook for us forever, Jess?

And anyway, here I am, in the library, writing to you. I thought I’d use this time for a few fun updates…

It’s only Wednesday, but in our household one big party starts today when Uncle David gets off the plane. This is Jess’s last week with us and so David (Elliott and Jess’s brother) and Emily (my sister) have decided to fly out and join us for a few days.

Em just got her ticket yesterday after a few days of deliberation, and Lena and I freaked out with happiness at the zoo, right in front of the lions, and took this photo for her:

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I think you couldn’t have happier smiles!

Speaking of the zoo, it was so much fun. I invited my new friend, Heather, and her two boys (who are exactly Lena and Gil’s ages) to come with us, and we wrangled children and tried to get a few words in edgewise and overall had a great time, I think. icon wink Because I Have Two Hours to Write!

Last week, Heather and I also left all four of our kids with Jess (thank you, Jess!!!) so that we could slip away for a pedicure and quiet conversation in a little cafe. I’m thrilled to see friendships forming here in Coronado as our lives slowly take on shape:

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L: All four kids looking — if not smiling — at the camera is a major success!
R: Pumpkin spice latte date with a new, good friend.

On a more serious note… it’s happening. “Making room” is happening. We chose to live in Coronado and get this bigger house so we could fill it up to bursting with friends and family, and I rejoice every time I see someone take me up on it. Some friend or family member buy a plane ticket and send me their itinerary, some sweet neighbor show up on the doorstep with something yummy, some new friend bring their kids over and watch the house get wonderfully messy and laugh with me. Praise God. We have so far to go (what church will we go to? how will we offer our home to our church?), but these past few months have affirmed God’s blessing on our choice of neighborhood and home — even so, so far from family in D.C. — and my heart rejoices.

OK, back to fun updates. This past weekend, Jess took care of our kids while Elliott and I went on a 36-hour getaway to L.A.! (Remember my aspirations in this post? They’re happening!)

becca garber updates coronado october 8 Because I Have Two Hours to Write!

L: You’re supposed to be able to see the Hollywood sign behind us…
R: Our favorite movie star.

I’ve always wanted to see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and… maybe a few movie stars, too. Well, we saw all those things (probably including a couple stars because I realized we don’t watch enough TV to know who most people are), and — best of all — we had some time alone together. We went on long walks, lingered over delicious brunches, stayed at a bookstore as long as we wanted, slept in on Sunday morning, and overall celebrated being best friends and being married. It was just lovely. Thank you for taking me, Elliott!

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L: Just another $1.4 million car on the street!
R: All afternoon in a bookstore = our love language

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L: Reading in bed as long as we liked!
R: Beverly Hills Farmers Market for breakfast and bluegrass.

What else? My parents also visited recently, and one night they took us out to dinner and then to the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado to see Les Miserables. Such an amazing production! If you’re local, the tickets are half off (and almost gone) on Halloween night. Jess, David, Emily, and I are going this Friday thanks to that deal.

My “little” cousins visited from L.A. while my parents were here. They are so good with Lena and Gil. I’m like… how did you guys learn to be so great with little kids? I was not like you when I was 12!

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Once upon a time Tyler and Ashley were my ring bearer and flower girl, and now look at them!

My mom also brought the kids this amazing play quilt that she made for Gil. All the animals fit into the pockets of the train cars, and the sun, moon, kite, and an airplane are removable with velcro. It even has little miniature dolls that look like Lena and Gil! Can you believe it? What an heirloom!

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And I just saw the kids and Jess across the library looking for me, so my time’s up! It was wonderful. Thanks for reading.

What are YOU looking forward to this week?

xoxo,

Becca

14 :: in Coronado, family, life lately, motherhood, San Diego

Confessions of a Third Culture Kid + A Book Giveaway

becca garber guest post egypt Confessions of a Third Culture Kid + A Book Giveaway

On the L: With my siblings and dad at the pyramids circa 1996. I’m the one with the unfortunate bangs on the far left.
On the R: Back at the pyramids with Elliott and Lena (!) in 2010.

A recent Monday morning. Six women sat around a table, plates filled with food, ready to talk.

“Let’s get to know each other a little better by sharing about the cities we’ve lived in,” my new core group leader suggested, shifting the baby in her arms as she surveyed our small group. “Might but a fun way to tell our life stories. I’ll start…”

In my seat next to her, I tensed inwardly. I felt my otherness, my weirdness, slipping back over me. I had dressed like the others, talked like the others; I fit in, they thought. I looked the part. I looked like a nice, average American girl, just like everyone else in the group.

But that’s just part of my story. It’s only the last eight years of my life story, actually. The eight years that involve living in America, going to an American school, marrying a semi-American boy, and having two cute and semi-American children.

The 19 years before the last eight were what had me sweating.

I didn’t grow up in the States. I was born in Egypt and lived in Australia, Singapore, Pakistan, Singapore again, India, and Brazil all before I started college. It was a different life, a life studded with foods and holidays and cultures and languages that I can taste on my tongue, see in my memory, and long for without warning.

As I waited for my turn to share my life story last week, I remembered a book I was reading at home called Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging. The author, blogger Marilyn Gardner, is a friend of mine, and recently I had agreed to read and review her book. However, I had no idea how relevant the book would be to me. Marilyn also grew up overseas; she spent her childhood in Pakistan and her adulthood between Egypt, Pakistan, and the States. (Sound like someone you know?!)

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With my dad when he graduated from the American University of Cairo in 1987.

In her book, Marilyn writes with poignant understanding about third culture kids: children who spent most of their childhoods outside their passport country. Her observations and anecdotes flooded me with memories, sometimes bringing me to tears, sometimes leaving me running to Elliott, saying, “Listen to this! I have felt this way and it’s so true!”

Here’s one of my favorite quotes (which perfectly captured how I felt that Monday as I prepared — again — to share my “third culture kid” childhood):

As a child raised between worlds… I was neither of one world nor the other; I occupied a culture between…. In this other world called the United States, the blue passport bearing my picture and various stamps told me, told the world, that I belonged. That I was a citizen. But I never felt like I belonged in this other world. At any given time I was less or more comfortable, but I always felt like a bit of a fake. I didn’t know how to buy clothes. I didn’t know how to dress for winter. I didn’t know the idioms, the slang that was so important at that age. I had no clue about pop culture. I was trying to fake it, trying to fit, but at heart an imposter.

I got it. I knew how the author felt. Especially in college, fresh from a childhood overseas, I struggled daily just to fit in. I worked so hard. What did the other students wear? What did they do in their free time? Where did they live? What did I need to do to fit in? I transformed my wardrobe, made friends, joined organizations, moved out of my far-away dorm into the center of student life. Packed my life full just to fit in, to lose my otherness, to stop feeling so awkward, so left out. So lonely.

I just wanted to belong.

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My first smile on a bus in Cairo. I have a  feeling I will look exactly like this when I am 92 years old, plus wrinkles and including chub.

I’ve spent the last few years synthesizing my childhood and my future, trying to blend them into a cohesive whole. Elliott — my multifaceted, amazing husband and best friend — has enabled me to do this. To embrace our American-ness and combine it with a life overseas.

Marilyn’s book, though, brought back wave upon wave of memories. I remembered afresh the delight of living in another culture, of assimilating new and old, of learning to navigate a foreign land with ease and awareness. I remembered how my heart sings as I stride through international terminals, as I hand over my passport, as I find my seat on a plane, as I feel the dip and the lift as the plane climbs into the air. I remembered the deep pain of leaving a country behind forever, of re-entering the States, of reverse culture shock, and of feeling achingly far from home. Marilyn’s words, memories, and stories brought it all back.

Some passages in her book felt like I could have written them myself:

The day my passport expired and I realized there was no upcoming reason to renew it, I felt as if I had been robbed of my identity.

My passport was my grown-up teddy bear. [When it expired], I made up my mind that no matter what, I would not let my passport expire again. While I knew that my identity was far more than a document that had expired, the symbol represented too much of my life — people I loved, places I had been and pivotal events that shaped who I had become — to let go.

I am an invisible immigrant….. I can adapt a chocolate chip cookie recipe to taste good without brown sugar or chocolate chips. I can decode idioms in Arabic or Urdu. I am completely comfortable in crowded bazaars or navigating any major airport in the world. I can make an orange-cranberry salad without the cranberries…. And I understand the importance of identifying friends with commissary privileges and make sure they are invited to dinner so that next time I see them there will be cranberries for my orange-cranberry salad.

(All throughout my childhood I loved being friends with kids who had commissary privileges and could buy cranberry sauce and Blue Bunny ice cream and chocolate chips. And then in Italy I became the friend with commissary privileges… and it was glorious.)

Third culture kid envy… It is what I feel when my feet are trapped on the ground for too long while I watch others travel. It is what I feel when I hear others, sometimes worthy and sometimes not, talk about Pakistan or Egypt, my beloved places. It is what I taste when I hear that someone is going on a long trip, leaving from the international terminal just minutes from my house. It reaches crisis stage when I find out someone is moving overseas. And I so long and need to overcome this syndrome, but there are times when I think that it is impossible.

(Yes, it’s true. I’m not proud, but such envy has consumed me, especially since we moved back to the States this summer.)

What happens when the third culture kid becomes an adult and settles in their passport country? For a time everything seems backwards and contrary. Few of us had the dreams of owning our own homes, or becoming “successful” as defined by middle-class America. Our parents had lived counter-culture and had passed that on to us. Nothing really prepared us for a life in suburbs or small towns of the Western hemisphere.

Perhaps our unspoken fear is that if we learn to sing songs of joy in this new place, this new land, then we will forget the old, we will lose our identity, all that we know, all that is familiar. As one person put it: “I wanted to preserve my identity, to hold dear the soil in which my roots are settled, to Never Forget Who I Am. After all — my identity has come at such a high cost.

This past Monday, when my turn came to share my life story, I chose to start it in a new way. I chose not to blush, smooth over my strangeness, downplay the different childhood that I’d had. I chose to own it, to share it, to explain it and hold it out and offer it without reservation.

Take me or leave me, here I am.

“I’m a third culture kid,” I said. “I spent most of my life overseas until I started college, and I got back overseas as soon as I could after that. Living overseas is a huge part of my identity, and I want to live as much of my life outside of the U.S. as I can. My story starts in Egypt when my dad was in graduate school…”

May it not be too long (oh please, Lord, don’t let it be too long) before I’m standing in the international terminal of another airport, passport in hand, ready to fly away into the Great, Beautiful World once again.

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2014 Phone pics July December 319 Confessions of a Third Culture Kid + A Book Giveaway

image via

Would you like to win a copy of Marilyn’s beautiful book? For the third culture kids who read this blog (I know there are many of you!) or for the parents out there who long to raise kids overseas, this book is for you! Marilyn has an autographed copy just waiting to send to you.

Entering to win is easy. Just leave a comment in this post and tell me why you’d like to read this book!

Giveaway closes next Monday, November 3. Happy reading!

P.S. If you haven’t seen this crazy-but-true list yet, it’s guaranteed to put a few smiles and eye rolls on your third culture kid-lovin’ face.

63 :: in Army, book reviews, giveaway, home sweet home, memories, thoughts, travel

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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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!

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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:

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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.

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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!

10 :: 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}

 

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

A Giveaway from Meadow Kids Toys! {closed}

Recently Updated252 A Giveaway from Meadow Kids Toys! {closed}

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! {closed}

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!

 

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49 :: in giveaway

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