Archive | military life

Hello Again! // Fresh Starts & Honest Reflections

A photo from this very morning, since this post is all about getting current!

Dear blog readers, it’s been so long! I last wrote in April (!) with updates from our trip to England and France (except I never got around to France…). I love having this record of our lives, and staying in touch with so many of you through these almost-letter-like blog posts.

And yet somehow writing here has become more intimidating in recent years. I used to blog every day when Lena was a baby! We had such a unique story then with our life in Sicily, and I was learning and discovering new things about marriage and parenting and stay-at-home motherhood and travel, and also blogging in general was uber-popular.

After we moved to California in 2014, though, I felt like I lost the unique story we had to tell. I felt like I was “just another American mom,” and I also felt more vulnerable to criticism and judgment. What would make me an expert now on anything? Who would agree that my way of doing things would be “right” or admirable or unique, or even relatable? It was easier and more comfortable to withdraw from blogging.

Also, I was busier! Two — and eventually three — kids will do that to you, I’ve realized, as will homeschooling. I was also working as a writer for a local newspaper while continuing my copyediting work. And Instagram really took off, and that was kind of like mini-blogging.

But over the years I’ve realized how much I miss connecting with so many old friends and dear family. When I write here, it is like writing many of you a letter or long-overdue email. It’s also so fun to share photos, including many that don’t make it onto Instagram, and capture our everyday lives. I know I’ll treasure this imperfect record, and so will my family, in the many years to come.

All this to say — I’d like to give writing and sharing in this space a fresh start. Let’s see how it goes. :)

So anyway, my last blog post was from April… 10 months ago. Since then, so many things have happened!

  • In June, we moved from Coronado, California, to Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • We spent an epic 7 weeks on the road, driving with our three children all the way up the West Coast to Vancouver, and then across the entire continent to Virginia.
  • After 8 years of service, Elliott got off active duty in the military and is now in the Army Reserve. He’s attached to an Army Reserve unit in southern Germany, which he visits every 3 months for about a week. He’s also working from home on various entrepreneurial projects. It’s been a big adjustment to have him home every day, all day… I’m sure that would be interesting fodder for a blog post! I had some trepidation about how this new lifestyle would pan out, but I realize more and more what an enormous gift it is. We share time with the children, interact with our neighbors, improve our home together, and get to be fully present while our children are young. We also have great flexibility with his work, my work, and homeschooling — I am writing this from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, which we decided to visit just two weeks ago.
  • We bought an old house that had been a duplex, and we are now living in both sides of the duplex. It’s complicated and quirky, but we’ve worked really hard to make it cute. My next posts will be Before and After photos of our house!
  • We have continued homeschooling Lena (First Grade) and Gil (Pre-K)… and Forest (Preschool, because let’s call it what it is–entertaining him is a handful!). Our children are now ages six-and-a-half (Lena), five (Gil), and Forest will be two in May. And…
  • We are going to have another baby! Our third boy will be born in mid-June 2018. Believe it or not, our only girl, Lena, wanted a boy more than anything, so with that great relief, we’re all very thankful and eagerly looking forward to becoming a family of six! More blog posts about this transition to come, I hope.

Here are some photos to round out the “picture”!

May 2017 – Enjoying the last of California and Army life!

June 2017 – Saying goodbye to our beloved house in Coronado.

And then we began our 7-week road trip! This one is from an outdoor festival in Redding, CA.

Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon!

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Astoria, Oregon, and a rare picture of Gil Garber looking and smiling at the camera.

Happy 4th of July… from Vancouver, Canada!

Biking around Stanley Park in Vancouver.

Two nights of camping in Yosemite, a first for us with kids.

Grand Teton National Park was a glorious highlight of our trip.

August 2017 – At my cousin Allie’s wedding in Newport, RI.

September 2017 – We went with Elliott on his first Army Reserve trip to Bavaria, Germany.

Happy Halloween from Charlottesville, and a very joyful St. George the Knight, brave maiden, and truly fearsome dragon.

January 2017 – My favorite little shadow. Not posed at all!

Announcing our 4th pregnancy at 19 weeks!

Gil’s 5th birthday party with grandparents and sweet neighbor friends.

All right, it’s been so long since I’ve used my blog that I’m not sure this will even publish. Yikes! In the words of John Avery Wittaker, let’s go ahead and see if this thing works…

23 :: in life lately, military life, thoughts

A Baby Shower for Our Little Boy

Well, I had this post all ready to go and then went into labor! It’s so special now to look back on this beautiful baby shower and recall all the love these women were already demonstrating to Forest long before he was born. Thank you again, sweet friends.

*****

IMG_2806 Last month, four of my dear friends here in Coronado threw me a baby shower. They totally knocked it out of the park with all the sweet details, fun games, and incredible food. My friend Annelie took gorgeous pictures, and I snapped a few on my phone (all the ones that don’t look as good as hers!). I never want to forget how loved I felt that day, surrounded by some of the precious people who have made Coronado our home.

IMG_1180 Annelie volunteered to take care of food, and she amazed with the delicious spread of pastries, mini sandwiches, salads, and desserts. She is one of the most talented women I’ve ever met — and also one of the most inspiring because she’s always so pumped up to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Makes her an incredible running partner. ;)

IMG_1179 Cuteness began as soon as you walked through the door with the “woodland animals” theme!

IMG_2795 Karinne, Priscilla, and me–all of us preggo and probably talking about birth stories again…

IMG_2776 becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-1 IMG_2770 IMG_2781 Priscilla covered the decorations, which included some hand-painted onesies I can’t wait to put on this little guy when he arrives.

IMG_2774 IMG_2792 Vanessa and Rachel, caught in the middle of a good story!

IMG_2779 IMG_2793 Callie and Lorina (left and center) are fellow military spouses and members of our church life group, and Erika is my sister-in-law who got to attend the shower while she was in town. Thank you for coming, Erika!

IMG_2780 becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-2 Jeanna and Heather are two more of my friends who are expecting babies in the fall, Jeanna’s second and Heather’s fourth. Brave and beautiful women!

IMG_2772 Annelie made my favorite dessert: mini pavlovas.  Aren’t they the prettiest little desserts?

IMG_2819 No baby shower is complete without children in utero and out, I don’t think. I think we had five in utero and three babes in arms!

IMG_2814 Precious little Wesley… not so sure of the camera. My heart rejoices every time I see him.

IMG_1186 The winner of each game got to take home a pot of lavender. All the ladies who threw this shower had such good taste!

IMG_2802   becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-4 On the right, beautiful Kristi, one of the shower hostesses and a military mama/wife extraordinaire.

IMG_2846 Rachel’s diaper cake. Can you believe how pretty it is?! She bought a few things off my registry (Lifefactory glass baby bottle, Avanchy spoons, Lifefactory teethers, Aden & Anais burpy bib) and combined it so beautifully with greenery and flowers and ribbons and much-needed diapers. It’s the prettiest — and most color-coordinated — diaper cake I’ve ever seen!

IMG_2825 Maggie wrapped each gift individually and wrote a note about why she had given me each thing (mostly books with stories she loved)… and then added Sophie for the baby to chew on while I read to my older two! So very thoughtful.

becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-3 Everyone had to cut a length of ribbon to the size they thought my belly was, and Abby is measuring hers above. Almost everyone overestimated! Is that good or bad?! ;)

IMG_2821 becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-5 IMG_2844 Not a super flattering picture of me from the side — wink wink — but I had to share one of Annelie. She has an Etsy shop, and for her baby gift she sewed two minky burp clothes, a blanket, and a little doll blanket for Lena, all with the woodland animals theme — and made all that food! Thank you is not enough, Annelie.

becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-7 IMG_2831 How’d you do on the “gestational age for animals” quiz, Jeanna? No one had a clue how long most of those animals are pregnant! Such an appropriate game for a veterinarian’s wife’s baby shower!

becca-garber-coronado-baby-shower-2016-6 You filled up my heart, all of you! Thank you all for celebrating this little baby boy with me. Can’t wait for Forest Everett to meet you all!

0 :: in friends, life lately, military life, motherhood, new baby series

A Pre-Baby Update!

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Hello again, everyone! Time for the quarterly update on this blog. :) Our third child is due in a week and a half (May 19, I’m looking at you), and I would love to try to catch up a little bit before he arrives. Some of you may remember that this blog and Gil were born on almost the same day — so long ago now!

Life continues to be very sweet here in Coronado, and we are so thankful for good friends, spiritual fellowship, healthy children, a relaxed work schedule for Elliott, and so much more. Here’s a little glimpse into our lives since February:

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L: Lena loves weaving on her little loom from Grammie!
R: My silly kiddos after church (and a 27-week baby bump).

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L: Two children quietly waiting for a prescription to be ready in the North Island Medical Clinic pharmacy. I am so grateful for free, excellent healthcare through the military. It’s very bare-bones, but you can’t beat how easy and close it is.
R: On our way to the library with the doll stroller, with Gil practicing for his little brother’s arrival!

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L: Gymnastics at the park after soccer class.
R: Starting Little House at Plum Creek with Lena before her nap/rest time.

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L: Storytime at the library, a weekly tradition that we love.
R: Gil is officially potty-trained!

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28 weeks! Bumping along…

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An NSW wives’ “St. Galentine’s Day” party with two of my best friends here in Coronado.

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Reading Angelina Ballerina books with the kids (28 weeks) in the story tent at the library.

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29 weeks! Loving all the flowers that bloom year-round here in southern California.

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L: Last run of this pregnancy (30 weeks) with Annelie. I miss long conversations with her and am looking forward to getting back to those — and running — later this summer!
R: Gil’s pediatrician diagnosed a heart murmur, so we got an echocardiogram to check it out. Moments like these are when I realize how thin the line is between good health and chronic illness. Thankfully, he got a clean bill of health — no murmur! We were so grateful and relieved.

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L: Two “twins” (matching shirts, jean shorts, and blue shoes) filling up my grocery cart!
R: I took Lena to see an Irish dancing school perform at our library, and her feet won’t stay still now.

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L: This girl loves her mama to read to her! Starting first thing in the morning almost every morning…
R: The Hotel Del Coronado asked if I’d like to write an article for my paper about the locals’ specials they are offering in their spa. I asked if I could try them out first, and they said yes! Love my job.

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L: Eye candy. Can’t walk by this store without stopping in awe.
R: Another beach sunset at 31 weeks!

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We flew to Virginia over Easter weekend for Elliott’s sister’s wedding. We ate Bodo’s Bagels with a few of his siblings in Charlottesville. So good to see family!

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L: After the wedding, Daniel and Jess posed with their three ringbearers and three flowergirls! Can you pick out Lena and Gil?
R: We also enjoyed a little Charlottesville wine tasting with family at our favorite spot: King Family Vineyards. The kids loved the new toy.

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We came home from Virginia and Elliott got promoted!

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I love you so much, Soldier of mine!

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On April 3rd, Lena turned 5!

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She had a very specific vision for her cake: blue with cherries (like her bike) and white writing and sprinkles, lots and lots of sprinkles!

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I see more Little House reading in our future. I’ve been enjoying these books as much as she has, I think.

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Chatting with Marmee as she enjoys her new present (which I highly recommend; it’s like a modern slate).

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A little more of my Lena: tongue out as she decorates her cake, and tucking her baby in for the night before going to bed.

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L: Evening walk to enjoy the gorgeous flowers blooming in Coronado in mid-April.
R: 35 weeks!

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L: The most amazing book. Five stars, highly recommend, go out and buy it today.
R: Something she drew during her rest time for me!

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Every couple of months, I get to review the new tasting menu at one of our favorite restaurants in Coronado for my work at the paper. It’s always a fun date night for Elliott and me! This time we were tasting seared halibut and a smoked salmon cake.

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The Coronado Flower Show is always a highlight of the spring!

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Elliott and the kids replanted our balcony garden in Earth Boxes earlier this spring. One evening in mid-April, they discovered the first ripe cucumbers. Strawberries, tomatoes, corn, peppers, and more varieties of cucumbers are on their way as well.

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Hard at work weaving more potholders on a chilly morning outside with me.

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Can’t wait to meet this little man! On the right, 36 weeks.

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A lot of my friends and I decided to have second and third children around the same time, it seems, and I have hosted three baby showers in the past couple of months! Here are the leftover decorations from one of them, and I have more photos to share of a pretty, girly baby shower I co-hosted this past Saturday. Coming soon!

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Little artists after their rest time.

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Elliott’s brother Jonathan and his wife Erika came to visit for a week. We loved showing them around San Diego and adventuring up to the Santa Ynez Valley with them, too.

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L: Delicious breakfast in La Jolla at one of our favorite places: The Cottage.
R: Hanging out with one of the adorable men in my life while everyone else went ocean kayaking in La Jolla Cove.

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On a hike on our friend’s ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley. Elliott and I visited here during our coastal California honeymoon, and it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world!

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L: Lunch at In-n-Out on our way back to San Diego.
R: “You made a mess all over my coffee table, so I guess I’ll have to nap in here.”

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In a slightly scary turn of events, I slipped and fell on a wet road at 37 weeks and had to spend 24 hours in the hospital for monitoring! Thankfully the baby and I were totally fine, and everything is back to normal. I also must admit: I enjoyed the break to get some writing, reading, knitting, and journaling done.

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The food was meager, I gotta say. This was “lunch” at 4pm, and they forgot my dinner. (Although an apologetic nurse did offer me her store-bought salad!) It’s good to be on this side of healthcare every now and then, I think. ;)

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L: Some good reading as we consider homeschooling Lena next year.
R: Me and my two (three!) favorite kiddos in the whole entire world.

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We continue to love slipping away to the beach in the evenings, sometimes with a hastily packed picnic dinner, and sometimes with just books and sand toys.

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The jacarandas are in bloom! We can’t get enough of them!

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And last but not least, another evening on the beach. Will we keep doing this once we have a new baby? I hope so! Only a matter of days before we find out!

Check back soon for a couple of pretty posts about baby showers (my own as well as the one I co-hosted) and some book recommendations… and maybe some favorite baby products I can’t wait to use?

Or just check back to see if we had a baby. ;)

17 :: in family, life lately, military life, motherhood

Can Time Apart Be Good for a Marriage? + A Few Thoughts on Deployment

Have you ever spent time away from your spouse?

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A younger version of us on the day Elliott was commissioned.

Maybe you were surprised at how easy some things were without him around. I’m betting most of us have. Marriage is hard work!

Earlier this year, my husband was deployed for one month, which sounds long to some and short to others, depending upon what is normal to you. But still, no matter what your normal is, a month is a month. It’s 30 days and 30 nights without your husband going through the rhythms of life with you: greeting you after work, helping you put the kids to bed, spooning you as you fall asleep, waking up with morning breath, kissing you goodbye for the day.

It’s a month without someone checking in on you, hearing the nuances of your day (both praiseworthy and not), parenting with you, and holding you accountable.

Can a break be good for a marriage? Can a deployment be a positive thing?

For us, I think it was good in some ways. Here’s why:

First of all, for us, this deployment was long anticipated. Elliott had wanted to do a “combat” tour ever since he joined the Army, but he’s been in for five years and has volunteered to go many times. And he had never gotten that chance.

For any service member, there is camaraderie in a real deployment, and there is honor in serving “over there.” So when Elliott found out that a SEAL commander needed him, urgently but probably briefly, in the Middle East, I was genuinely and truly thrilled for him.

Of course my next question was, “For how long?!?!”

Elliott said it would be a month at the most. I nodded, relieved. I thought I could handle a month.

That month apart had its really low points. I want to make that very clear! Most of them involved tired children bawling, “I want Daaaadddy! Daaaaaaadddddyyyy!” some time after 7pm. I didn’t always like the person I became at that time of day. I’d rather not ever meet her again.

But it also had adventure and renewed purpose for Elliott, and that was good for him. He is a better soldier because of it, no doubt about it, and a wiser and better man.

And here is my second point about why deployment was good for us.

That deployment had adventure and renewed purpose for me, too.

There was something about being the only adult in the house that was empowering as well as freeing. Gone were the questions like, “Is he going to do that? Or do I have to?” If the trash needed to be taken out, I had to do it. If the diaper was dirty again, I was the only one changing it. If the car or the garden or the kids or the neighbors or the government or the landlord or someone needed something…

… it was all on me.

And it was hard, yes, but in some ways it was so simple. I just had to get it done.

There’s also freedom in letting things go, especially in the kitchen. When Elliott is home, we eat dinner together as a family every night, and I work hard to make healthy, varied meals. That preparation of a main dish and a couple sides, though, routinely takes me over an hour every evening. Because 4-6pm is also post-nap-grouchy time with the kids, it’s often the most stressful time in my day.

Now, Elliott has often told me to not stress about dinner, to serve us leftovers and raw fruit and vegetables before cooking more food, and to eat things before they go bad. He also likes PB&J sandwiches for lunch every day. He’s easy to feed and easy to please. He is not holding me to this full-dinner standard. I am!

Without Elliott home, I didn’t focus quite so much on my role as home chef. As in, I barely turned on the oven. I made a lot of pasta, and I also made this weird sauerkraut and sausage thing he doesn’t like but I love. Mostly, though, we ate a lot of leftovers, a couple rotisserie chickens, and Trader Joes pizza. We cleaned out the freezer, too, which really needed to happen.

“Cleaning out the freezer” is actually a metaphor, I think, for a how a lot of wives approach their husbands’ deployments or long business trips. Just like moving or having a baby, the purging and nesting instincts kick in when your routine is disrupted. I found myself doing things I’d never do in my normal, everyday routine.

Some of them can be good. Some of them can be fun! Like watching chick flicks. I watched a lot of chick flicks the first two weeks of Elliott’s deployment. What is is about lonely nights and chick flicks? They go together like salted caramel ice cream and… me, that’s for sure.

That disruption in routine can also inspire me to take on new projects and start new things. One big change I made during Elliott’s deployment was that I applied for a writing job at a local online newspaper. I think I still would have applied whether he was here or not, but it was fun to share the exciting developments with him from afar, too. He came home to a wife who is now a paid writer for a local paper, an official reviewer of films and critic of restaurants, a local columnist with new co-workers. It gave me a boost of confidence and can-do-it attitude right at the end of his deployment.

I really liked the person I was when I just got things done – rather than the person who waits, calculating, mentally nagging, wondering if and when my husband’s going to step in and help out. I want to have a servant’s heart and a can-do attitude about life. Both of these qualities are beautiful, and I know that such an attitude – when correctly applied and received – is much more encouraging, inspiring, and refreshing at home.

And it’s amazing to make things happen! Like applying for the kind of job you’d like to have. Getting projects done. Becoming the person you’d like to be.

Now. ALL. THAT. SAID!

I have one more, final, most important thought.

It is very easy to walk away from this post (or these thoughts, for me) and think, “Maybe being apart for a month was really good! Maybe I could even be a better person if we were apart more, and I could be a better, more accomplished, more can-do wife when we’re together.”

And that attitude, I realized, is toxic.

Marriage is about togetherness. In a Christian marriage, it’s a union of two people who, with all their rough edges and quirks, are committed to helping each other become more and more like Jesus, more and more holy. And the process of becoming more like Jesus is not about building ourselves up, having our personal space, having our freedom, having our “me time.”

No, it’s about laying ourselves down.

It’s about becoming one flesh. It’s about loving one another through thick and thin, through all the changes of our lives, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

When Elliott and I made those marriage vows, we committed to living life together for the ultimate benefit of the other for the glory of God. We knew it would be hard, and that we would both change, and that we would need to adjust and accommodate. We are diamonds in the rough, and by constantly rubbing against each other – over the breakfast table, on long plane flights, through major holidays, in bed at night – we are revealing the diamonds within.

I still think the deployment and the time apart was good. We really did enjoy a lot of things about that month, and we both grew as individuals. I think it genuinely was healthy for us as a unit, too.

But I refuse to think that being away from my husband is better than being with him. I love him, and there’s not much else that compares to belonging to him in this life. And I know choosing him is right, every time. I vowed to do so, to build a marriage with him for God’s glory, and the rewards are eternal.

Have you ever felt this way about time away from your spouse?

Has time apart been more healthy or more damaging to your relationship?

45 :: in Army, deployment, marriage, military life

Veterans Day at SeaWorld!

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I think Elliott and I are still more excited than our kids every time we go to the zoo or SeaWorld, although I suppose that won’t last much longer! It’s amazing to be so close to such magnificent animals… and even to be able to touch and hold some of them. Unfortunately, my love for SeaWorld has been a little more informed and a little more skeptical in recent years (more about that later), and a visit is now conflicting for Elliott and me. I’m curious to know if any of you feel the same way?

Thanks to being in the military, we are allowed to visit SeaWorld once a year for free, and it’s a treat we’ve enjoyed every chance we’ve gotten.  It gets better (and worse…!) every time now that we have kids, I think. Funny how that happens. ;)

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We planned our route with the kids at the beginning of the day. Gil was really into it.

becca-garber-seaworld-12 First stop: petting little bamboo sharks!

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The dolphins never fail to delight. We caught them right as their trainers were working with them, which was like a miniature show!

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After his trainers left, this clever fellow managed to flip open the top of his treat box with his nose. He couldn’t get the box to tip over, though, even with a whole crowd cheering him on!

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My son and my daughter. Crazies, both of ’em.

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Speaking of crazy, why do we even bring a stroller if no one rides in it? Someday I’m going to climb in and make them push me.

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When I first saw the “Shamu Show” (orca performance) in 2010, it was so beautiful (Free Willy forever!) that there were tears running down my cheeks at the end of the show. However, these days it is underwhelming because the trainers don’t get in the water with the orcas anymore.

And, of course, the whale (hah) in the room is the way SeaWorld treats their animals. We haven’t seen Blackfish yet; have you? I’d like to see it, even though I know I’ll probably never want to go to SeaWorld again after that.

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All that aside, this was the cutest thing we saw all day!

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All the petting pools were amazing, and the kids loved gently touching manta rays and holding starfish in their hands underwater.

becca-garber-seaworld-14 [Fishy] Christmas decorations already?!

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And the day ended with a hilarious sea lion and otter show, definitely a highlight of the day. We were laughing so hard the entire time as the animals and their trainers danced to “Gangam Style” or acted out a CSI episode. What amazing, intelligent animals!

And that’s how we spent Veterans Day. What about you?

I’d love to know: have you ever been to SeaWorld, or do you have an opinion about zoos and parks where animals are held captive? There’s definitely a sad, not-as-it-should-be aspect to places like those, even with all the good they do for awareness, conservation, and endangered animals. What do you think?

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9 :: in family, military life, San Diego

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