Archive | family

A Day in Oxford // England with Kids // Part 3

IMG_1645 One of our favorite places in the world is Oxford, “the city of dreaming spires.” I visited my friend Laura in Oxford when she was a student there, and then I returned as a summer university student about 10 years ago. Elliott has also visited twice, and we each have our own memories and our own favorite places around the city.

Also, has anyone else read A Severe Mercy, part of which takes place in Oxford? We read it together when we first started dating, and it is a book that we reference often as our inspiration for a tender and adventurous marriage.

We decided to go to Oxford on our second day in England, on Friday, April 8th. We stayed on our feet almost all day and managed to see a lot of this beautiful place!

IMG_0039 First stop: the local library. This was unintended; we got off the bus at the wrong stop — whoops. But we needed wifi in order to orient ourselves. (Later that day we bought SIM cards for our iPhones and now have U.K. phone numbers and data. We’re European locals again for a few weeks!)

IMG_0076 Found these two cute prisoners at the Oxford Castle. We could definitely use one of these at home — hah!

IMG_0040 IMG_0078 IMG_0079 Magdalen College and Magdalen Street (pronounced “Maudlin”) are everywhere in Oxford! Our little Magdalena (nicknamed Lena) loved that.

IMG_0082 At The Eagle and Child pub for lunch with my own littlest child.

IMG_0083 We enjoyed following in the footsteps of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and the other “Inklings” to eat and talk at this pub, but we found more Americans here than anywhere else in Oxford. It’s more of a tourist attraction now, I suppose… oh well.

IMG_0043 Around the corner from the pub is the Ashmolean Museum, where the kids saw their first Egyptian mummies and enjoyed the beautiful children’s section.

IMG_0084 IMG_0096 IMG_0085 We adults paid £2 each to go inside the private grounds of Balliol College, one of the many colleges that make up Oxford University. The gardens were in gorgeous spring bloom! It was a perfect spring day, and we ended up staying for over an hour, exploring and then relaxing on the grass. Visiting Balliol is one of my favorite memories of our trip so far. These are a few of my favorite photos (out of about 100!).

IMG_0048 Reading the hymnbook in the Balliol chapel. They’re both beginning readers, so they have been trying to decipher signs and books everywhere we go on this trip.

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IMG_0058 After Balliol, we walked across the street to visit Blackwell’s, a huge and incredible bookshop. When I was a summer student, I spent many hours studying and reading inside the Classics section or the cafe there.

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IMG_0091 IMG_0090 IMG_0092 We walked on to Christ Church Meadow on our way to visit Magdalen College. The kids were enjoying a precious hot chocolate that Elliott had purchased for them in Blackwell’s. He rarely buys them anything sweet, so they were savoring every sip!

IMG_0062 A view of the Christ Church Cathedral from the Meadow.

IMG_0063 IMG_0064 IMG_0065 IMG_0066 Approaching Magdalen College now. All the trees in bloom…!

IMG_0068 Inside the cloisters of Magdalen College. Years ago I went up to the top of that tower with some friends. The key to enter was about 10 inches long.

IMG_0101 The deer park in Magdalen College.

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IMG_0073 We walked through the grounds to the meadow behind the college. The story goes that Lewis and Tolkien used to walk together around the meadow here, feet crunching on the path as they discussed faith and life.

IMG_0070 This beautiful old house reminds me of Toad Hall from The Wind in the Willows!

IMG_0071 IMG_0072 I used to come back here to the meadow and quiet gardens behind it as a summer student to read and study. What a gloriously beautiful place!


IMG_0074 If you are in need of grit, Magdalen College has some.

IMG_0075 Magdalen College’s boats being gathered up for the night. I wish we could have hired a punt boat and taken the kids around the River Cherwell in the meadow; I have fond memories of doing that with friends as a summer student. We’ll have to save that for next time… maybe when they can all swim!

And that was the end of our lovely day in Oxford. Have you been? Which little nooks and crannies are your favorites?

7 :: in family, travel

Jet Lag and Farm Parks // England with Kids // Part 2

To see Part 1 of this series, click here!

IMG_0020 Jet lag is no joke, and it is especially rough when your kids are waking up right as you parents are just ready to go to bed. Ugh. However, I shouldn’t complain, as the kids crashed at their usual bedtimes, and Forest and Gil only caused trouble between 10pm-12am. We all slept in late the next morning!

IMG_0022 Our friends have a wonderful playroom for their young son, but even more wonderful was this gadget…

IMG_0019 … their amazing coffee machine which made me a cappuccino each morning! Or maybe more than one cappuccino, hah. I now know what I would like for Christmas, dear Elliott.

IMG_0144 My friend also had bouquets of gorgeous spring flowers all around her home, and more carefully nurtured blooms in her garden outdoors. What a gift to enjoy such generous and beautiful hospitality from old friends!

IMG_0024 While Elliott worked from home and Forest napped, Lena, Gil, and I walked into the little town of Gerrards Cross, admiring the gorgeous homes in the neighborhood along the way. They all had such English names and windows and gardens.

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IMG_0023 After a requisite stop in the town’s bookshop, we walked home and decided to go to a nearby “farm park” for the afternoon. This turned out to be one of Elliott’s greatest ideas ever, as it was just the right level of activity for the kids, low-energy activity for the parents, and cuteness all around.

IMG_0036 We need farm parks in the States! This one had a barn with adorable newborn animals to meet and feed, three huge outdoor playgrounds, a crazy indoor playground, delicious cafe, maze, tractor/hay ride, mini tractors and go karts for kids to drive themselves, and even a mini golf course. We stayed for 5 hours and could have stayed much longer!

IMG_0038 IMG_0025 IMG_0026 IMG_0027 Not so sure about the chickens. He cried every time they moved!

IMG_0028 IMG_0029 He seemed to like the Silkie chickens best, just like his dad does.

IMG_0034 Sheep in the background!

IMG_0030 I laughed out loud when I saw this photo because this is exactly how I felt about this time. We were sitting in bleachers waiting for the kids to give baby goats bottles of milk (!), and I was literally falling asleep on my feet, swaying slightly and catching myself just before losing my balance. Yikes! Where’s the cafe and a giant cup of coffee?!

IMG_0031 I am sure this is why Forest has a runny nose now… ugh. But how could I resist letting him try out an old-fashioned ball pit, and how could he resist a taste?

The older kids were off on a massive indoor playground, like a Chick-Fil-A indoor playspace x1000. If you want to see Lena taking on a slide with a 15-foot vertical drop, check out this video. I had sweaty palms while watching her!

IMG_0033 Falling asleep in my arms… one of the sweetest moments for a mother at the end of a wonderful day.

More to come. :)

4 :: in family, travel

Three Kids and Three Weeks in Europe! // Part 1

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This month, my little family is on the trip of a lifetime: three weeks in Europe!

We’ve been looking for a way to use Elliott’s extra vacation time, and so in January we started looking at airline tickets. Elliott found a phenomenal deal to Europe on Norwegian Airlines. For less than $1100, he purchased roundtrip tickets between LA and Europe for our entire family! We jumped on the flights, and now, in early April, here we are in the U.K.

The days are flying by, and I want to record them in real time if I can. I share a few photos a day on Instagram, but I don’t want to post too much on there. Besides, there is so much more to record and remember!

IMG_1305 Right before we left, our dear friends came to stay in our house and take care of our pets. They have two kids that are close to Lena and Gil’s age, and the four children had so much fun together! We were sorry to leave!

IMG_1310 Forest helped with packing. I’m hoping to write a list of what we packed soon. We brought 4 carry-on suitcases and didn’t check any bags, except for free-to-check baby items: umbrella stroller, baby bed, and narrow car seats and booster seats for our European rental cars.

IMG_1311 And we’re off! We left on Tuesday, April 4, and we had to drive 2 hours to LA first. We parked our car in long-term parking and then took the shuttle to the airport. By the time we got through security, we felt like we’d already run a marathon! Packing, organizing the house, driving, and dealing with the airport had made for a very full day.

IMG_1315 We were super early to the airport, which I loved and Elliott begrudgingly accepted — hah! We have access to certain airport lounges thanks to one of our credit cards, so we headed there for a couple of hours before our flight.

IMG_1317 Lena had turned 6 the day before, so she was eager to break out some of her birthday presents!

IMG_1340 Time to head to our gate! The rolling suitcases took a little bit of figuring out…

IMG_1342 … but this makes it look like a breeze. For those who are interested, these are the suitcases we purchased after comparing tons of them. They fit the carry-on size requirements for all European airlines.

IMG_1345 On the flight, we were seated together, but I requested to move when I saw there was an empty seat in front of the bulkhead, which had the attachments for a baby bassinet. They let me move to that seat, and I was so thankful. However, Forest was really too big for the bassinet (he’s 30 inches long and weighs 20 lbs), and so he only slept comfortably in it for a few hours.

After that I had a terrible time getting him back to sleep; he just wouldn’t settle in the Ergo, the bassinet, or my arms. Finally we both fell asleep with me sitting down and him in the Ergo.

Elliott had a slightly better time with the older kids. Thanks to my move, they each had two seats to themselves! He also gave them melatonin, a natural sleep aid, which was new for us. I purchased this melatonin right before our flight, and our pediatrician friend recommended doses for them based on their age and size. It seemed to work well, as the kids slept off and on for about 7 hours. On a 9.5-hour flight, that is solid gold!

IMG_0017 And finally, many hours later, we landed at London’s Gatwick airport. The kids were still wearing their pajamas when we disembarked… oops!

IMG_1359 And here we are, ready to head out to our rental car. I didn’t plan it, but they are totally matching their suitcases.

IMG_0018 And now in the rental car! I did a lot of research and decided to get Diono car seats for Forest and Gil because they are so narrow and so safe. Thankfully, a mom I trusted in my neighborhood was selling two of them for $40 each, and so I purchased them for this trip and for Hawaii, and I plan to resell them or give them away afterwards. For Lena I purchased a Bubble Bum inflatable booster seat after hearing about it from more trusted pediatrician friends. It is also super narrow.

The Car Crash Detective’s “3 Across Guide” was helpful in determining which configurations of seats would probably fit into little rental cars. We rented a small Skoda Octavia station wagon, and all our luggage fit easily in the back. Now I am wondering why we have a minivan?!

At last, with everything and everyone securely in place, we left the airport. Unfortunately, by now it was 4pm and prime rush hour, so we spent the next 2 hours on the M25 highway around London, exhausted beyond belief, telling the kids “just a little bit longer!”

We finally arrived around dinner time to my friend Laura’s house in Gerrards Cross, a lovely neighborhood outside London. I’ll pick up our story again soon with the details of our first few days!

15 :: in family, travel

Hello 2017!

Merry Christmas from Lena (5), Gil (3), and Forest (7 months)! This photo was on the front of our Christmas card this year. Our Christmas card photo this year: Lena (5), Gil (3), and Forest (7 months).

Hello, old blog. I think of you often, mostly because putting words and photos into this space is a way to record both the images and the emotions of this stage of life, marriage, and motherhood. I miss doing this, and reading my readers’ stories too, and sharing in this small community online.

And so, at least for the month of January, one of my goals is to write four blog posts. I am already over a week into this month and haven’t been able to write until now, so we’ll see if this happens!

I thought a fun thing to do would be to capture the last few weeks in a bunch of photos. A lot of my favorite photos are on Instagram, but here are some that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason, yet still tell our story.

becca-garber-hello-2017-1 In December right before Christmas, we went on a five-day vacation to Cambria on the central California coast with my mom, dad, sister Emily, brother Eric, and his girlfriend Rebecca. We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb on Stepladder Ranch, and we spent hours hiking in the lush green hills around the ranch.

img_7685 Sunrise through the lavender outside our bedroom window.

becca-garber-hello-2017-2 We went on a tour of Stepladder Creamery, a goat dairy on the ranch. It was so green; all the shades of green and red and blue were like technicolor. The cheese was great too!

becca-garber-hello-2017-3 Forest was everyone’s favorite to snuggle.

img_7736 Sunset at Elephant Seal Beach, where we saw male elephant seals fighting and tiny newborn baby seals nursing. Elliott and I haven’t been back here since our honeymoon almost seven years ago, so it was crazy to stand there watching the same amazing sight… but with our three children.

becca-garber-hello-2017-4 Mornings at the ranch house.

becca-garber-hello-2017-5 My mom bought fun spa items for us girls to enjoy while we were there, and Lena had so much fun pampering all of us. I want to repeat this experience! Turns out she gives a facial (the five-year-old version) just as well as she climbs trees.

becca-garber-hello-2017-6 Frolicking in the hills!

img_7755 We visited Hearst Castle while we were staying just a few miles away, and it was opulent and magnificent. This is the indoor pool. Can you imagine hanging out here with movie stars in the 1930s and ’40s?

becca-garber-hello-2017-7 The long drive home. I hate LA traffic.

img_7783 Christmas Eve breakfast! Elliott’s favorite cinnamon rolls were a must.

becca-garber-hello-2017-8 My little family ready to head out to the Christmas Eve service at church, and our Christmas Day dinner the next day.

img_7814 The whole crew enjoying Christmas morning breakfast. We are so glad you all came!

img_7865 My three precious children on Christmas morning. Forest’s first! My heart was so full of thankfulness that day.

img_7871 Between travel to St Louis, Virginia, and Cambria in December, Forest’s sleep schedule was a total wreck and he was so exhausted by the time Christmas was over. We moved him up to his own bedroom (and out of our closet!) right after my family departed. We also moved him out of the little Arm’s Reach co-sleeper bed he’d slept in his whole life, and now he is in a real “big boy” crib. He’s already sleeping so much better. Not sleeping through the night, though I think he could. I know… babies and parents and sleep… the endless drama…

img_7872 Elliott’s parents got into town for a week-long visit the same day my family left, and we spent a quiet day at home before going to the San Diego Holiday Bowl parade the next day. The kids loved all the balloon floats and bands!

becca-garber-hello-2017-9 We celebrated a second Christmas with Elliott’s parents, this time just stockings. The kids especially enjoyed the packs of gum I put in there, and the little balloon pump and long tube balloons that we made into shapes. So entertaining!

img_7899 We visited Torrey Pines State Reserve one day, and a cockatoo walked right up with his owner and made himself at home! He untied our shoe laces, ate our carrots, and then meandered on his happy way.

img_7920 Elliott’s sister gave the kids cloth bags and fabric paint for Christmas, and they had so much fun decorating them. I love this messy, realistic scene that is reminiscent of many many mornings in our home.

becca-garber-hello-2017-10 At the recommendation of multiple friends, I got my first Erin Condren planner this year. Already I love having a paper planner so much. I feel like I have a clear grasp of what this week holds, and what I need to get done, like send birthday cards, schedule babysitters, accomplish monthly goals… things that often got pushed to the last minute or just forgotten. When my family relies on me to be organized as well as provide for them in myriad ways, I don’t want to waste my time being disorganized, last-minute, or forgetful. This is my realization and aspiration, anyway. More about goals in an upcoming post!

becca-garber-hello-2017-11 My baby’s first time in the shopping cart seat, and one of my favorite parts of the day: bathing Forest, wrapping him up in his hooded towel, dressing him in cozy pajamas, snuggling up to nurse him, and then laying his sleepy body down in his crib. I love having a baby so so so much, even with the challenges.

img_8003 I’ve been selling and giving away a lot of things this month (spring cleaning!), and I loved this photo of a hand bell set I was ready to part with. Sadly, my kids were always more interested in ringing them loudly enough to wake up the neighbors than playing “Jingle Bells.”

becca-garber-hello-2017-12 Photos of me and my best friend before a hot date to an Italian restaurant!

img_8127 For my job at a local paper, I reviewed Buona Forchetta, a popular Italian restaurant in San Diego, and then interviewed the owner. Everyone loved the article, and I loved the entire experience from start to finish! Here’s the article if you’d like to read it.

becca-garber-hello-2017-13 Our beloved baby. On the left, he was eating some crackers (love Mum-Mums!) at the library, and on the right he was hanging out with me, Elliott, and our dog on a date while Elliott’s parents took the older two kids to La Jolla Cove.

becca-garber-hello-2017-14 More of my baby. I might be obsessed a little. Also he loves his bath each night so much!

img_8139 Photo of Bluewater Boathouse (another restaurant I review each quarter for the newspaper) and Glorietta Bay at sunrise, taken on a run with friends. We live in such a breathtakingly beautiful place!

becca-garber-hello-2017-15 Lena showed Forest how to set up her new gears toy, and Gil snapped this random photo of me one night when I was giving Forest a bath.

img_8165 Last week we rode the ferry from Coronado to downtown San Diego (I love this photo from the ride) to get Lena a new passport and apply for Forest’s first. We’d like to do some international travel this spring, but we’re still not sure where.

becca-garber-hello-2017-16 Playing on the amazing playground after our passport appointments. Forest is such a serious swinger, and Lena is such a daredevil one!

img_8185 And finally, here is a photo of my precious Gil, because I don’t take enough of this sweet, goofy boy. He wasn’t feeling great here (the kids have been suffering from stomach bugs this past week), but he came along so cheerfully on this expedition on the ferry and smiled so sweetly here.

And that’s all for now! A busy season, but one I don’t ever want to forget. If only that were possible… at least for all the best memories!

xo

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9 :: in Coronado, family, Forest, Gil, holidays, home sweet home, Lena, life lately, San Diego

Our First Week with Forest Everett

Forest Everett birth announcement See Gil’s almost-identical blog birth announcement in this post!

Forest Everett is sleeping next to me now, making those little newborn squeaks and coos that I cannot get enough of. Thanks to the totally self-sacrificial love and care of my mom and Elliott, I have been given ample time to savor these newborn days, nap, relax, and enjoy. I’m grateful for such a peaceful start to life with Forest, especially after our start with Gil was so difficult.

Here are some of my favorite memories from this first week with our third baby!

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-2 We brought Forest home on last Friday morning. I took a moment to to fix the drive in my memory, as I did with Lena and Gil.  All the purple-blossomed jacaranda trees were in bloom, and the water and sky were a brilliant blue as we crossed the bridge. Coronado looked like a green jewel surrounded by a sapphire sea. What a beautiful place to come home to, Forest!

IMG_1990 Leaving the hospital.

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-1 The kids were so excited to see him home at last!

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-3 Gil tried on the outfit he wore so often as a newborn. Doesn’t fit you anymore, big guy.

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-4 Elliott and I took Forest to his first pediatrician appointment on Saturday morning, which he passed with flying colors. I have thanked God over and over this week for his health, ease with nursing, and so-far easy-going nature. I don’t take it for granted now–experience has humbled me!

On the right, my Forest next to a wonderful cookbook my friend loaned me.

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-5 Left: All snuggled up while everyone else went to church. Forest and I listened to a sermon and soaked up the peace and quiet.

Right: FaceTime in two different rooms of the house never ceases to amaze my kids!

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-6 I love every tiny little feature! The beautiful swaddle blanket is from Little Unicorn and the pacifier is from Natursutten, and so far I’m a big fan of both.

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-7 On Sunday night, Elliott and I went out for a sushi date, something I have been dreaming of for a long time. We went out for sushi when Lena was a few days old, too, so I guess it’s kind of a tradition at this point. ;)

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-8 Afterwards we had more time before our older kids would be in bed (thanks, parents!), so we walked along the beach to the famous Hotel Del Coronado and enjoyed a drink at sunset. Little Forest woke up to nurse on the beach but otherwise lounged or slept quietly the whole time. Well done, little guy!

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-9 becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-10 One evening my mom took the kids to the park, and so Forest and I sat outside for a long time, snuggling and nursing and playing with each other’s hands. I cannot get enough of this precious newborn stage!

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-11 I guess none of us can. :)

IMG_2333 becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-12 On the left, early morning jammie snuggles. On the right, Forest is wrapped in a beautiful blanket that a friend gave me for Lena over five years ago.

IMG_2117 How we roll around here, undies and all. So far Elliott and I are not regretting the purchase of the secondhand Mamaroo that Forest is in. It’s given us quiet evenings to ourselves when he tends to be a little fussy, and that alone has made it worth it so far. We suffered through many, many interrupted evenings with newborn to 3-month-old Gil.

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-13 A familiar position for me on the left, as I tend to nurse my new babies lying down about 50% off the time. They can figure out the right latch without much interference from me, and they often fall asleep for hours after nursing like this. Other moms, do you have some unconventional adaptations like this?

On the right, my beautiful mom with her one-week-old grandson!

IMG_2384 Fresh produce that Elliott and Lena gathered from our EarthBox garden. Two kinds of tomatoes, peas, and lemon cucumbers. No strawberries because those get eaten right off the vine as soon as they’re ripe.

IMG_2422 A multi-tasking Grammie, who I think was talking to Elliott about summer vacation plans at the same time!

IMG_2377 Siena, our Maine Coon cat, joined our family right before Gil was born, and she’s been a nurturer ever since. She still runs over to Gil whenever he cries, or paws at him to help him stop.

becca-garber-coronado-forest-everett-first-week-2016-16 On the left, Forest is sporting a bracelet Lena made for him before he was born. On the right… back to diapers once again, even though we only put away Gil’s nighttime diapers last month. Sigh!

IMG_2457 Forest’s first bath on his one-week birthday, with plenty of assistance from his big sister.

IMG_0817 Little squish!

IMG_2466 How our evenings go these days: snuggles and conversations (and diaper changes).

Below are a series of photos I took on Forest’s one-week “birthday,” taken in chronological order. You’ll see how the order tells a story. ;)

IMG_2453 IMG_2450 IMG_2452 IMG_2454 IMG_2455 IMG_0772 IMG_2456 And that’s it! We love you, little Forest Everett, and you have brought so much joy to our home since you arrived. May it always be so. We are so glad God gave you to us to be part of our family!

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4 :: in family, Forest, home sweet home, life lately, motherhood, new baby series, thoughts

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