Archive | June, 2013

thoughts on excess :: media

7 book review

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

About three times a year, I rant around the house, screaming at our stuff: “What is all this?  How did this get here?  Why do we have so much junk?  How am I supposed to keep up with all of this?  Where did this all come from?”  And then I remember:

I bought it all.

I suppose acting like someone snuck into my house while I was feeding the homeless and filled my shelves with more black shirts and a fourth set of Legos against my will is probably ignoble.  To hear me fuss, you’d think I was a victim of drive-by consumerism.  Guess what, doves?

I’m a part of this little game.

I see it (on you, on them, in their house, at Target, on TV).  I manufacture a need for it.  Then I buy it.   I use it a little or not.  I store it/shelve it/stack it/stuff it/get tired of it, then wage war against it one day when all my little things are strewn about as escapees from their shelves and drawers.

It’s a quote from Jen Hatmaker’s new book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  It’s a thoughtful but easy-to-read book that will challenge you to simplify your life.  Jen is a writer and speaker and her husband is a pastor in Austin, Texas.  They have five children, two of them recently adopted.

She’s funny and self-deprecating, making it easy for me to enjoy the blog-like style of this book.  After being challenged by a lower-income child who declared her family “RICH,” Jen decided to evaluate 7 areas of her life over 7 months in order to be a better steward of the earth.  Jen addressed these 7 areas in her book:

  • Food
  • Clothes
  • Possessions
  • Media
  • Waste
  • Spending
  • Stress

My favorite chapters were about media, waste, and spending.  I started to write thoughts on these three topics and then realized… this is a really long blog post!  So I’m going to spread it over a few days and make it into a mini series about cutting down on excess.  If you’ve done any of these things, or if you think I’m crazy, or if you have some good ideas… chime in!

First up… media.

Jen cut out all media for her family for a month, including TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, and radio.  Texting and internet had strict limitations that basically can be boiled down to “business only.”  Her takeaway will sound a little clichéd to some of you.  She found that her family now had time for new and better habits that began to seep into their home life including:

  • Cooking together
  • Walks after dinner
  • Porch time with our friends
  • Endless craft projects at the table
  • Dinner with neighbors
  • Actual phone calls
  • Four books read, fifth in queue

“But… but…” I spluttered, “this description is what Elliott and I want always our home to look like!”  We want to prioritize face-to-face conversations, meals together, family activities, working with our hands, and inviting people to share their lives in our home.

Right?  Don’t we all?

I want to be the kind of person who always keeps media in check so that I don’t need a drastic cleanse one day.

Yeah.  I’m already past that point, I’m afraid.  Maybe it’s time to start thinking about cutting back.

I recently read a fabulous post on A Practical Wedding about unplugging from the internet every weekend.  It made me consider unplugging every now and then once I get back home to Sicily.  Have you ever done it?

As I thought about it, I realized that it’s unrealistic for me to turn off the internet and iPhone apps in the evenings or on weekends.  Those are the only times I can pull out my computer and work because I try to keep my computer closed when my children are awake.

However, my iPhone is always around to take a cute photo of Lena or Gil… and once a photo is taken, why not Instagram it or check email or browse Facebook updates?  Once I’m looking at my phone, Lena wants to look at my phone, and then… whatever productive, healthy, fun thing we were doing is out the window.  I heard on NPR the other day that the average iPhone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day.  Terrifying as that sounds, I know I look at my iPhone at least two times more often than I should!

What if I decide not to check my email or iPhone apps every Monday through Friday morning?  It could be from the time Elliott leaves for work until when Lena goes down for her nap around 1pm.  I am considering it.  I feel like it would help me be a more focused, present mother to my children.  It might help Lena and I focus more deeply on play or projects or even just on having a conversation instead of lapsing into silence (iPhone silence for me, play-until-bored silence for her).  It might also help me use my free minutes to check something off my to-do list instead of checking my email again.

What do you think?  Have you ever unplugged?  Would you consider limiting your media usage for the sake of your family?

9 :: in good reads

Gil’s 5-month photo shoot

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I don’t know about you, but when it comes to friends, I have a special place in my heart for those who have these three character qualities:

  1. Good taste
  2. Incredible handicraft skills
  3. Adoration of your child that rivals your own

Do you have friends like this?  They are good people, these friends!

My sister-in-law Eden and my own mom are definitely in this category for me.  Another wonderful friend is my “Aunt” Leslie, who I have known since before I can remember and who absolutely loves my two little ones.  She owns an heirloom clothing business called Rosebasket and has made beautiful clothing for Lena and Gil.  She made the darling outfit pictured above for Gil after he was born.

Although it probably won’t fit Gil properly until next summer, just for fun we dressed him up in this outfit last week and took some photos.  I have been wanting to do another Gil photo shoot after the last one went pretty well (although his first photo shoot was a bit of a bust!).  I loved how these photos turned out.  He’s such a cute little munchkin!

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Now, Gil, can you please learn to be as good at sleeping through the night as you are at taking pictures?  I love you, my adorable baby boy.

Love,
Mama

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P.S.  Winner of the bike seat and helmet giveaway is announced here!

7 :: in friends, Gil, Rosebasket

this June morning

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I followed Lena outside with my cup of coffee this morning, answering her suggestion of, “Go ou’side, Mama.  See bugs.  Come, Mama.”  I’m so glad I listened to her.  What a beautiful Virginia morning!  We enjoyed all of it outside: exploring my mom’s gorgeous garden, playing around in the wagon, and having a tea party on the porch.

My “Aunt” Leslie is not pictured in these photos, but she was with us this morning and later took heaps of photos of Gil.  I’m so excited to share another “Gil photoshoot” on the blog on Monday.  I really think he gets cuter every day… but I’m his mama, after all!

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How’s the weather where you live?  I’m glad not to be in Sicily right now; Elliott said he was sweating while sitting still in our house last night.  It’s 100 degrees there and feels hotter, but here in Virginia we still have some beautiful “spring” days left… even though this is the first day of summer!  Do you plan to be outside this weekend?

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P.S. Today is the LAST DAY to enter the bike seat and helmet giveaway!  Winner will be announced on Monday!

8 :: in family, life lately, pretty places

a visit to Marmee’s library

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Hello again!  We’ve been deeply enjoying our time here in Virginia, soaking up every moment with family and with each other.  Unfortunately Elliott returned to work in Sicily yesterday and I’m feeling a little lost without him.  Sigh.

I have another month here in the States, so if you’re in the neighborhood… email me so we can hang out!

On Elliott’s last day here we decided to visit his mom at work.  She’s an elementary school librarian, so she’s an easy grandmother to go visit!  We loved the books, the bean bags, the stuffed animals, and the colorful, cozy environment of her beautiful library.

Lena also enjoyed visiting a classroom of 5th Graders that participated in a book club this past year with Marmee (as Lena calls her grandmother).  She gave them all hugs and high fives before they were dismissed.  Our little ham!

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I love Elliott’s beard and longer hair in these photos.  At work he has to be clean-shaven with a short haircut, so every time we’re on vacation he grows his beard for me!

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I had to include the last photo that my father-in-law took of Lena.  She bombed it by sticking her finger in her nose right in front of her smile!  Good thing she’s cute.

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If you haven’t yet, you might want to enter my giveaway for a child’s bike seat and helmet!

7 :: in family

{closed} Child Bike Seat + Helmet GIVEAWAY!

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I have a wonderful giveaway for anyone who love being outdoors with kids!  Polisport is a company based in Portugal that sells bike products around the world.  I couldn’t believe it when I got an email asking me if I would like to review one of their bike seats and helmets.  Not only do they sell beautiful products, but this is also the first time I’ve been asked to review something on my blog.  Hooray!  I asked if I could give a bike seat and helmet away to one of you all, and they said yes.  So lucky you, too!

I was thrilled for another reason, too: Elliott and I love bike riding and want to pass that along to our kids.  I used to bike to work when I lived in Boston.  As newlyweds in D.C. we biked everywhere, including clear across the city to visit the zoo on multiple occasions.  Getting and giving away a bike seat and helmet seemed too good to be true.

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I immediately loved the sleek design of the bike seat and the sturdy build of the helmet. The weight limit for the seat is 22 kgs (48.5 lbs), so Lena will be able to use it until she’d rather ride her own bike beside me!

The bike seat included detailed instructions for installation as well as all the necessary tools (hex key, wrench).  Elliott and I installed the seat in about 45 minutes.  In retrospect I think we should have used Elliott’s larger, sturdier tools… and maybe done it during nap time!  However, Elliott is Mr. Safety Conscious and he was happy with the sturdy installation, so that’s says a lot to me.

Here are a few close-up details of the bike seat itself.  I love the mesh pocket in the back of the seat for maps, snacks, etc.  The rubber straps over Lena’s feet and the snug 5-point harness will keep her secure. becca-garber-polisport-bike-seat-giveaway-4

Here’s a close-up of the seat’s attachment to the bike.  One major bonus of this child’s seat: it’s easy to remove if your child isn’t with you.  If you push the red button and detach the red strap around the seat, the bike seat will slip right off.  Options are key!

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Would you like to win one of these bike seats and a helmet for you and your child?  Here are THREE options for you to enter.  You can do just one or all three:

1) Leave a comment on this post telling me why you’d like to win the seat and helmet.

2) Sign up for my mailing list (see left sidebar) and leave a comment telling me you did so.

3) Like Polisport on Facebook and leave a comment telling me you did so.

A winner will be drawn at random this coming Friday and announced next Monday.
Good luck and happy riding!

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P.S. Wondering why it looks like we’re in southern California?  We took these photos on the Navy base in Sicily (Sigonella).  So there’s another snapshot into a corner of our lives!  Mt Etna presides over everything in the background, of course.

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The winner is #33, Erin R.!  I’ll send you an email, Erin, to get your address so Polisport can send you the bike seat and helmet.  Congratulations and happy biking!

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