Archive | goals

Our First Coronado 4th of July!

IMG_9944 (2) Happy 4th of July!

… a couple weeks late…

But it’s a quiet, rainy (!) Saturday and I just finished this lovely book and the kids are both still napping, so in the time I’ve got before they wake up, I’d love to share these photos with you. Our first 4th of July in Coronado (a place that is famous for its festivities on the 4th) was so much fun, and I broke out my real camera for the parade, so there are some worthwhile memories in here.

IMG_9957 To be honest, the best thing that happened all day was that my whole family ran the Crown City Classic 5K together. I’ll wax eloquent for a few minutes with a little story…

Once upon a time, I was a runner, one of those people who ran for the fun of it and signed up for races with my friends on the weekends. Although I never raced more than my town’s annual 10 Miler, it was still a part of my identity.

And then I had two kids in two years and lived in Italy for three years (which is a lovely place to live but a hard place to jog!), and I lost my running routine. When we moved to Coronado last year, I knew this was my chance to get back into it. Coronado is relatively flat, has perfect weather, and offers wide paths along the bay and the ocean… how could I not?

Yet despite living in such a runner’s dream world, I found it very hard to get outside and run. I told myself I would, but when my alarm rang in the morning, I turned it off. Then I told myself I needed new shoes, and then treated myself to my first piece of fancy running gear, and then bought a better headband — but none of it did me much good.

Finally, in May I signed up for Coronado’s 4th of July 5K. Now I had to train. This would be my first race after two kids! I was going to make this happen.

At first I planned to run this race on my own, but when I found out that jogging strollers were allowed, Elliott agreed to run with Lena and Gil in the jogging stroller too. My sister Emily would be in town, and she excitedly agreed to run with us as well. A family run on the 4th of July! How patriotic!

Having Elliott as a pacesetter and motivator really helped me to get out there and train. We spent many evenings in June jogging around Coronado with Lena and Gil in the stroller, stopping at playgrounds to let them play, and then running home as the sun sank low in the sky.

Finally, the 4th of July came. We all arrived at Tidelands Park and felt the adrenaline in the air. Lena delightedly pointed out women in red, white, and blue tutus and an especially enthusiastic couple in American flag bathing suits and body paint. A band played at the start of the course, and a cheerful announcer counted down the final minutes. We lined up at the back of the pack of runners, excited to race for the first time together.

And then we were off!

Well, sort of. We were behind all the racers, so it took a couple minutes for a thousand runners to begin ahead of us. At the starting line, we broke into a jog under a giant American flag held up over our heads.

The course went along the bay, under the Coronado Bridge, and down Glorietta Blvd by the golf course. It was a narrow course that doubles back on itself, which made it difficult to run quickly at the back of the pack, but also interesting because we could see all the faster racers coming back after we’d only just started running! Always motivating.

As we looped around and started running along the bay again, heading for the finish line, Elliott said, “This is it!” and I realized I was about to accomplish a huge goal. I’d told myself I wanted to do this, to run again, to finish a race, and finally we’d made it happen. We’d trained together, and now we were racing together as a family, along with hundreds of other Americans on the 239th birthday of our country in one of the most wonderful towns in the world. We rounded the final turn and heard the band playing, the cameras clicking, the families cheering.

And we smiled wide as we raced down the final stretch and over the finish line together. We did it! Such an amazing way to kick of the 4th of July together.

IMG_9965 After that, we went home for breakfast and showers and then walked up to Orange Ave (“Main Street”) for Coronado’s famous 4th of July parade. We joined some wonderful friends on their blankets, brought some picnic items to share, and then just parked ourselves on the curb for the next couple of hours.

Does your town have a 4th of July parade? This was definitely the best one I’d ever seen!

IMG_9968 becca-garber-fourth-july-2015-coronado-1.jpg IMG_0063 Thanks for sharing your blanket with us, Priscilla!

IMG_0033 IMG_0066 My dear friend Jeanna, fellow military wife and mom.

IMG_0074 IMG_0078 “Peace, ambulance driver!”

becca-garber-fourth-july-2015-coronado-2 IMG_0046 Poor Elliott, always getting his girls’ long hair in his eyes…

IMG_0038 Gil and Caroline… such chums!

IMG_0042 becca-garber-fourth-july-2015-coronado-3 IMG_0055 IMG_0098 becca-garber-fourth-july-2015-coronado-4 Love you, Jeanna! Also, Lena was inspired by the Irish dancers in the parade, and she’s been kicking her heels up and skipping around with her hands on her hips ever since. Maybe it’s time for some dance lessons…?

IMG_9979 That night we walked down to the bay for fireworks, which were spectacular! You can see the kids enjoyed it just a little bit. :)

IMG_9981 And that was all — such a full, thankful day. For all my American readers, what did you do for the 4th? Hope it was a joyous day for you as well!

4 :: in Coronado, family, goals, holidays

Why You Should Have Your Friends Over for Dinner

Our studio in D.C.

Our first home in D.C.

When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a 388 sq ft studio in Washington, D.C. That tiny apartment was like a bird’s nest; we were level with blooming magnolias in spring and could see the Capitol Dome out our window.

Despite having just enough room to turn around in, we made a regular habit of hosting friends for dinner. We were young and so happy, and so we opened our doors and borrowed chairs and sat on the bed and drank wine. Acquaintances turned into lifelong friends.

Looking back, those were our greatest hosting days so far in our marriage. I think part of it was innocence; we were too young to care about our Craigslist furniture and too-spicy curries. But I think the other part was time and energy – those were the days before we (and all our friends) had kids and early bedtimes. We had no one to entertain but other young couples and friends, and we had nothing but time.

When we moved to Coronado, we dreamed of having those days again. We have a deck and patio furniture and a grill, and the weather here is perfect 364 days of the year. The scene is set for entertaining. We have so much to offer now, compared to the tiny one-room studio in D.C.

And yet months have gone by, and my husband and I realized recently that we’ve hardly had any friends over to dinner. Traveling for work, bedtime with the kids, visiting extended family, and so on and so forth – all of these things have slowed our good intentions down.

Then we made some new friends in Coronado. We only hung out with them once before we received an invitation to have dinner in their home. It was a delicious meal in their simple two-bedroom apartment on Orange Ave. Our two kids and their two kids ran wild through the three rooms of the house. Our Moscow mules chilled in copper mugs on an IKEA table. Their simple, genuine hospitality warmed us through and through. Our friends continued this spontaneous, generous welcoming, giving freely of their time and food and home, never minding the kids or the space. They offered cheerfully, and we felt at home.

Since then, my husband and I have decided to try to have friends over to dinner three times a month. It’s a lot of work for many reasons, especially because, like us, most our friends have a couple kids under five. During our meal, we all spend just as much time seated as running after our children. Also I am still the kind of disorganized person who does a whole week’s cleaning in the hour before her guests arrive. So far I only have two good go-to recipes that accommodate for allergies and children and work well on the grill. We are not yet practiced hosts.

But I almost don’t want to be. Yes, I want to serve good food and strong wine and have forks and plates at everyone’s place. I want to clean the toilet before they arrive, do some tidying, and have the meal mostly ready. I want my guests to feel special, loved, welcomed.

But I don’t want them to ever feel like they are anywhere but in a home.

When I walk into a friend’s house and see her dust bunnies and dishes in the sink and pile of laundry waiting to be folded, I see a home. I feel connection, comfort, and even relief. She didn’t hide the mess before I came! She didn’t clean for me! Her kids don’t have any clean underwear either! Being welcomed into such a home is a sign of friendship these days. It’s a way of saying, “I am who I am, and I know you will see my real life and love me for it. I trust you.” I want to spend time in homes like that, to have friends like that, to fill my life with honesty like that.

I want our guests to feel that way, too. In some ways, I never want to get so good at hosting that I lose touch with that newlywed bride stirring a pot of made-up stew with her husband, taste testing from the wooden spoon, and then welcoming guests into a one-room home with no embarrassment and so much love.

So I’ll keep sending out dinner invitations. I can’t promise my guests an immaculate house, or quiet children. I can’t even promise them a wine glass, because I break them all and I drink my wine out of juice glasses now. I’m still working on finding good recipes to feed them.

But I do promise them a clean plate and a chair to sit in. I promise them a family and a home. I promise them a heart that wants them there.

Take this bread, this wine, this friendship, and stay awhile.

36 :: in Coronado, family, friends, goals, home sweet home, hospitality, marriage, San Diego, thoughts, visitors

All I Didn’t Do in 2014 {aka My Goals in Review}

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I’ve been procrastinating about this post because it’s going to be depressing! I set some lofty goals and did not achieve very many. Here’s how it all panned out:

Goal 1: Love Elliott, Lena, and Gil.

Elliott: Encourage him to write. He’s writing a book and wants to have it completely finished by the time we leave Sicily in July 2014.

We did this! I invested in his writing and progress by checking in with him, helping him carve out blocks of time, and motivating him to get started. He gets the real glory, though: he finished his book before we left Sicily! He’s waiting to hear back from editors now.

Lena: Establish a morning “school” period with Lena for 1 hour at least 2xs/wk when at home.

I worked on this goal sporadically at best until about June/July, when we moved from Sicily to the States. I haven’t come back to it, unfortunately. I did manage to write a blog post about 37 Ways to Stay Sane at Home with Your Preschooler, though. I thought Lena might be reading by the end of 2014, but her skill level (ie. she knows her letter sounds and might be able to figure out “cat” and “Bob,” etc.) has not changed all year.

Gil: Read one book with Gil every day.

We did this! Gil loves books now, and we really enjoy reading to him. He is a very interactive reader and loves to comment on everything on every page…

Goal 2: Read, Read, Read

This I did achieve, at the detriment of other writing goals, unfortunately. (See below.) I read 72 books in 2014, and you can see the full list here.

Part 1: Read five classics.

I read five: The Pilgrim’s Progress, Never Let Me Go, Parnassus on Wheels, The Screwtape Letters, and The Giver. Not quite the classics I was aiming for. But I did manage a few “modern” classics-slash-books I have been meaning to read forever, like Unbroken, The History of Love, and The Book Thief.

Part 2: Finish War and Peace!

NOPE. I think I read about five pages? Out of 1300? So yeah…

Part 3: Read five parenting books.

I read six: Mommy, Teach Me!, Honey for a Child’s Heart, The Whole-Brained Child, Grace-Based Parenting, Steady Days, and Playful Learning.

Part 4: Read 3 books about Italy.

I read three: A House in Sicily, Mattanza, and La Bella Figura.

Goal 3: Make contact with my siblings (Eric and Emily) once per week via email, phone call, letter, package, or a visit.

I didn’t do this. I started off strong, but by March or so, I wasn’t making regular contact anymore. I’m sorry, Eric and Emily. :(

Thankfully we were together this summer for awhile, and we have been in a lot more contact since I moved back to the States. I feel closer to them than I did in Sicily. I still need to work on this goal, though!

Goal 4: Write daily in my One Line a Day Journal.

Nope. I think I recorded about 20 days the whole year.

Goal 5: Learn more about and practice the manual settings on my camera.

Nope. Still no clue and so I’m still shooting on my DSLR camera with just the automatic settings. Sigh.

Goal 6: Publish a piece of writing (fiction or non-fiction) in a non-blog setting.

I did get a piece published in a small magazine that you’ve all never heard of called Among Worlds, so that was cool!

Goal 7: Write 12 guest posts for other blogs (average of one per month).

Unfortunately I only did five guest posts, but each one of them was a great privilege, and I have more lined up for 2015! Here are the guest posts I wrote in 2014:

Thank you for featuring my writing, Marilyn, Alica, Gabrielle, and Courtney!

Goal 8: Study Italian: finish Italian Made Simple before we leave Italy in July 2014.

Noooooope. Did a couple pages, and then sold the book when we moved. I will probably never speak fluent Italian, and I can blame myself for that. Whomp whomp.

——–

So there it is… my half-achieved goals of 2014. Clearly I like to read novels but not camera manuals or Italian primers, and I like to dream big but have trouble making the nitty gritty happen!

Should I try this again in 2015? Still deciding… I might take a different approach this year.

What about you? Did you accomplish any or all of the goals you set for yourself in 2014? Inspire us!

16 :: in goals

“Let’s bake cookies right now!” + Other Musings About Procrastination

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A sweet photo taken right before the moment Lena decided Gil was too heavy for her.

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See?

Dear friends,

Good morning! It’s a chilly one here in Coronado, where the ocean turns the sun-warmed air into low-hanging fog and penetrating damp at night. Our window-filled house absorbs the cold, so I have taken to cuddling up in sweatshirts and these tried-and-true slippers while I sip my morning coffee.

How have you been doing lately? Feeling goal-oriented and focused, or frustrated and not so sure? I’m in the second camp, I think, with a general sense that there isn’t enough time or quiet in the day to get anything extra accomplished.

There’s still more settling in to do in our home: I’d love to hang pictures, buy plants, and organize the piles of Rubbermaid containers and junk in the garage. I’d love to run regularly and wake up early like I talked about in this post (instead of once every three weeks…). I’d like to start some dedicated preschool time again with Lena again instead of running around so much. I’d like to get a haircut (haven’t gotten one since I donated my hair last year!). I’d like… I’d love… I wish…

The other day I started thinking about this long list, and I got so discouraged. Am I just a procrastinator? Am I all talk and no action? I am a stay-at-home mom, my only job is my home and family, I have no excuse for not getting it all done. I’ll never have more time in the day than I have now!

I was beating myself up the other day when I remembered two conversations with two people, one of them who I know very well and one of whom I have just met.

The first person is my grandmother, who is amazing. She is and has always been stylish, beautiful, a fantastic cook, and a cornerstone family member. She wakes up at 5am to walk on her treadmill each day. She never fails to send cards or packages for birthdays, all holidays, and just because.

Long ago, when I was about nine or ten, we were visiting my grandparents for a week in St. Louis, just like we did every summer. “What would you like to do while you’re here this week, Becca?” she asked me.

“Hmm,” I said, “I definitely want to bake chocolate chip cookies and go to the Science Museum… and– ”

“Well, let’s bake cookies right now!” she suggested.

I looked at her, astonished. I meant sometime, but she was saying now? I had just arrived! We had ages to make chocolate chip cookies! A whole week!

But even then, at age nine, I realized my grandmother’s wisdom. We had time right now to start doing what we wanted to do. A quiet afternoon, all the ingredients, and a goal. If we put it off to another day, who knew if it would really happen? This way we would be able to eat chocolate chip cookies all week long!

I never forgot her initiative, her energy, her make-it-happen wisdom that afternoon. I realized all these things also formed the core of the woman I admired, the woman who always sends everyone in her family a birthday gift (and it gets there a week early). The woman who sewed me a whole wardrobe of gorgeous dress-up gowns that I wore to threads. The woman who knitted the blankets my children sleep under every night. The woman who taught me to knit! The woman who makes it happen, stitched with love, every day for a whole clan of people who adore her.

At the same time, though, I know that there are only 24 hours in the day, and I can’t get everything done right away, right now, especially with small and precious children in my care. That cliche about letting the dishes go because your children need you? Most of the time it’s not even a choice. They need you right now.

The second conversation, one I had more recently, encouraged me about that:

Elliott and I took the kids to the playground on Sunday afternoon, and I noticed a small child I recognized from church. He’s African American and his dad is white, so they’re not hard to remember. Pretty soon his dad, Elliott and I were talking, and he told us a little more of his story. He and his wife have three daughters — all in middle school now — and they have just recently begun fostering children with the goal of adoption.

My heart swelled with excitement and longing just talking to him. In recent years I’ve become more interesting in fostering and adopting. However, with our transitional military life and our own young children and our relatively young marriage (five years this January!), it seems like too much right now.

Sometimes I get frustrated, watching the days go by and wondering if we shouldn’t be doing more, serving more, giving back more, accomplishing more. I talk about fostering, or taking my kids to a nursing home regularly, or doing preschool with Lena (where has that goal gone lately??), or running or journaling or waking up early or whatever the new thing is this week.

But what my friend at the playground helped me to realize is this:

There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven.

Their season is now. They can foster now. They can adopt now. They are ready, and they have taken on this challenge. Not when their kids were three and one. But now. During our conversation, his three preteen girls were watching his foster son, and so this father gave us all his attention and chatted away. Elliott and I, meanwhile, talked with the parental head swivel (“where is Lena… where is Gil… back to conversation… where is Lena… where is Gil…”) and excused ourselves more than once to rescue or dust off our children.

We left shortly afterwards and headed home to a lunch, storytime, and putting them to bed for naps. We collapsed onto the couch afterwards, tired, heads ringing, glad for peace and books and time alone together. I had planned to ask Elliott to organize the garage with me then, but it totally slipped my mind. I wouldn’t have wanted to then anyway. I had a precious hour to rest with my husband on a Sunday afternoon, and that is exactly what my body craved and needed right then. I needed rest. It was the season for rest. And the garage could wait.

Sometimes it is good to jump right up and bake chocolate chip cookies with your child. Sometimes it is good to sit still by yourself. Sometimes — meaning sometime soon — it will be right to organize the garage. It is the season for organizing the garage.

But right now… I hear a little voice calling, “Mama!”

And so it is the season for that.

You know?

xoxo,

Becca

14 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, family, goals, thoughts

Five Books to Read This Summer

becca-garber-recommended-summer-reading

I think if I could travel the world, have a dog, and read books for the rest of my life,
I would be completely happy.

— my sister, last week —

This past week I dove into the most wonderful group of novels, one after another, barely coming up for air between them, tearing through them hours on end, waking up early and going to sleep late to read and read and read. Afterwards I laughingly said I’d gone on a “book binge,” my first in a long time. I’d forgotten what that felt like.

So if you’re looking for some yummy reads, look no further! Here are five books I haven’t been able to put down:

I’ve talked about this one before because — oh! — I loved it so much. I laughed, cried, and left feeling like I’d made a new friend. It’s a warm, tender, open-armed memoir of the author’s life and kitchen table. It’s a manifesto for pouring wine, breaking bread, and making room for friends around your table and in your heart. Woven between the author’s favorite recipes are beautiful, honest stories from her own life. I made her lentil soup for dinner tonight!

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This was a Book Club choice, and I was ambivalent… until I realized that it is based on a true story. And then I was blown away. It’s a sweeping Southern drama, telling the story of Sarah Grimke, born into Charleston belle privilege, and Handful, the slave she was gifted on her twelfth birthday. Sarah goes on to become one of the first female abolitionists, and her story is painful, riveting, and inspiring. Read it to be taught as well as to enjoy.

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It’s a short, easy read, but the fact that it is also based on extensive historical research makes it powerful and memorable. The book follows the story of Vivian, an orphan in NYC who is put on the infamous “orphan train” heading West to families in need of shop labor or farm hands. Some of the orphans’ stories are devastatingly sad, and Vivian’s takes sickening turns. But the ending is sweet and redemptive, and I loved the modern-day orphan story woven back and forth through the historical narrative. Read it!

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This was one of the books from my book binge. I inhaled the 450-page novel in about 48 hours, scrambling to think of things for Lena and Gil to do by themselves so that I could just keep reading! The story begins in the 1960s when teenage Laurel, up in the tree house on her family’s property, witnesses her mother open the door to a strange man and then kill him in cold blood. Unable to forget the murder years later, Laurel goes on a quest to uncover her mother’s past, taking her deep into WWII London during the Blitz.

(Note: I also read The Forgotten Garden by the same author that week, and it was good too.)

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What a treat. Reads like chick lit, but the author is smarter and keener, and she knows how to deal with deep heart issues while keeping the tone light and fun. The main character, Alice, hits her head and wakes up thinking that she is newlywed, pregnant, and completely happy… none of which are true because it’s actually 10 years later and she has three children, an estranged husband, and a lot of water under the bridge with her sister and friends. Will losing her memory let her to redeem her family, friends, and life? Or is it too late?

(Note: I also read the author’s newer book, The Husband’s Secret, and loved it almost as much. Highly recommend this one too!)

And here are a few more honorable mentions that I’ve loved over the past few years:

  1. A Severe Mercy — a true love story & the book Elliott and I read when we were falling in love
  2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? — light, fun, mother-daughter story
  3. Unbroken — riveting WWII memoir (I think I was the last of my friends to read this)
  4. The Glass Castle — family, heartbreak, memoir
  5. The Light Between Oceans — infertility, love, & Australia
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale — distopia with a “Biblical” twist
  7. The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love — FAVORITE!!!
  8. Bringing Up Bébé — American vs. French parenting, ie. my kind of brain candy
  9. NutureShock: New Thinking About Children — game-changer for parents
  10. 84, Charing Cross Road — handwritten letters, books, love
  11. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster — EDGE OF MY SEAT
  12. My Life in France — Julia Child, FOOD, France

Do you have any recommendations for me? Happy reading!

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14 :: in book reviews, goals, good reads

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