Archive | motherhood

A Little Bit of Life Lately

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Hello again! How are you all?! It’s been quiet on my blog the past couple of weeks, thanks to a slew of sickness and Elliott being out of town and family visiting and other writing. I’m savoring nap/rest time right now where my kids have to be quiet for an hour… and where I can catch up with you, read a bit, and eat a huge bowl of strawberries and cream!

I thought I’d share a few photos from my phone to get caught up:

becca-garber-update-may-2015-1.jpg The weekend of Mother’s Day, my parents were in town after Elliott left for three weeks of Airborne School. I was so glad to have them here for a couple of weeks! We went to see my cousin Tyler in a rock climbing competition (he placed third!) and on Mother’s Day my mom and I went on an amazing historical home tour in our town.

IMG_8569 My cousin KT and her husband and daughter also came for a short visit, and the kiddos had so much fun together. We visited the San Diego Zoo…

IMG_8586 … and the beach, where Alton made a huge sand castle fortress and the kids waited like hungry vultures until they could knock it down as soon as he was done.

becca-garber-update-may-2015-2 We also spent a lot of quiet days at home and enjoying time with my mom, who is such a wonderful guest and friend and support to me, especially in this stage of young motherhood. Thank you for all your help, Mom!

We also finally harvested our first artichokes from our very thirsty, very demanding, very temperamental artichoke plant. (He seriously has a personality all of his own!) And one afternoon Lena and I cut out paper dolls from a book, which was about as much fun and as frustrating as I remembered from when I was about her age…

IMG_8650 Right after my parents left, the kids and I roadtripped up to central California for Elliott’s cousin’s wedding. Since it was a five-hour drive, we were all really bummed Elliott couldn’t be there! But the drive when surprisingly well. These two are good little travelers. We trained ’em young!

becca-garber-update-may-2015-3 Elliott’s parents flew out for the wedding, and his dad had fun showing us around the small town where he grew up. He treated us all to donuts! The kids we beside themselves with glee.

becca-garber-update-may-2015-4 The rehearsal dinner and wedding were beautiful, all in the bride’s family’s backyard. What a setting! Lena and Gil were antsy during the ceremony, but that meant we got the best seats in the house.

IMG_8694 Unfortunately, while I was standing in the hors d’oeurves line, Gil and Lena were dancing with some other kids, and then Gil suddenly stopped and threw up… all over the dance floor! I had brought another shirt, so my mother-in-law changed him while I did the Mom’s Walk of Shame and marched out onto the dance floor to wipe up the mess with a stack of baby wipes. Unfortunately, Gil had barely donned a clean shirt when he threw up again, and so I decided to cut my losses and go home.

It was a looooong night of vomit almost every hour for Gil, and I wasn’t sure what we would do the next morning. I didn’t think I could drive home by myself with him in this state! Miraculously, my mother-in-law was able to change her flight free of charge, and she offered to drive us home to San Diego and then fly out of that airport the next morning. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

It was such a gift, and definitely needed because Gil was still sick for the next four days. Thankfully he’s better now… and has moved onto a new virus. This has been the spring of sickness for us, and I am so ready for it to end!

IMG_8735 Lena was so glad to come home to her precious kittens, all of whom are growing up so quickly and continue to bring us so much joy.

IMG_8795 Elliott was still out of town and the kids were still sick and I was so tired, but Lena had been begging me to “make cheese!” with her for days. So finally we finished gathering the supplies and made homemade mozzarella. It was super easy; here’s the recipe we used. I think we kneaded it too much at the end because it is unfortunately very rubbery. We’ll do better next time! Now we just need all our tomato plants to ripen so we can make a totally homemade caprese salad.

becca-garber-update-may-2015-5 And then Elliott came home! I can’t even begin to describe how relieved and happy I was after worrying and praying over his safety for the past three weeks. He was training to become a paratrooper, and that involved two weeks of training and then one week of jumping out of a moving airplane with a parachute five separate times. But he has nothing worse to show for his trials than a few fading bruises. Here’s a video if you want to see what he did!

Lena took our picture… about 100 times, including some great outtakes, like Elliott “fixing” my hair the way he does before most photos.

IMG_8818 We have some very proud kiddos, too! Do you like the shirts Elliott got them? :)

becca-garber-update-may-2015-6 Over the weekend we did some fun things together as a family and with friends, including going to this rodeo — Gil’s first!

IMG_8902 We visited the tide pools at Sunset Cliffs (I also blogged about them here), where the kids found sea anemones and hermit crabs, and then found kelp pods to pop. I said this could be their cover of their first album, “Smashing Kelp.”

becca-garber-update-may-2015-7 On Sunday we visited North Park, where my favorite store — Pigment — has been reconfigured to accommodate an entire section where you can design your own terrarium. You can even buy a little brass watering can to go with it! Gil was all over that.

IMG_8967 On Memorial Day we visited Kensington (a cool neighborhood where we almost bought a house) for their small town parade. Fun with friends even in the rain!

IMG_8970 Yesterday the kiddos and I visited the museums in Balboa Park for “free resident Tuesday,” a perk that we take advantage of pretty frequently. We visited the underwhelming Automotive Museum, where the best thing we found was this picture for my dad, who worked for Mobil for most of his career!

IMG_8966 And I’ll leave you with these sweet kittens, who are now eight weeks old and so much fun! What have you all been up to? Happy Wednesday!

7 :: in deployment, family, husband, kittens, life lately, motherhood, visitors, wedding

My New Trick for Being On Time, Organized, and Remembering Everything (Sorta)

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Despite this beautiful Rifle Paper Co photograph, my #1 tip is not about writing things down so that you’re on time, organized, and remember everything. I’ve tried that, and it just isn’t enough for me.

I’ve given paper lists and planners a fair shot. I use this notepad regularly for groceries and to-do lists, but frequently they are forgotten. I hemmed and hawed here about getting a paper planner, but finally I just admitted to myself that it would be a passing fad and I would let it collect dust by May.

So I’ve taken to using my Google calendar more heavily than ever on my phone and computer.

AND

I have started setting alarms on my phone for myself.

All. The. Time.

Need to be at the UPS store when it opens? Set an alarm for the time you absolutely must leave.

Need to put something in the mailbox for a neighbor to pick up? Set an alarm to put it in after you know the mail will be delivered.

Need to bid on something on eBay? Set an alarm for three minutes before the bidding closes so you can slip in your surprise final bid in the last 20 seconds.

Need to call someone during the kids’ nap time? Set an alarm.

Need to go to bed by 10pm? Set an alarm.

Need to get to church on time? Set an alarm.

And so on and so forth. It works!

I’ve also been using my Google calendar alerts, and every time I put something in my calendar I will frequently add a pop-up alert for a day and hour before the event just to be sure I remember it and I’m on time.

Now, all this didn’t stop me from forgetting a doctor’s appointment last week and racing in with flushed cheeks and sweaty palms exactly 10 minutes too late (whomp whomp), but that was because I failed to check my phone and my email and look at any paper reminders beforehand. AND forgot to set an alarm.

I’m a work in progress, what can I say?! And I need all the help I can get!

Do you have any other great, new tricks for getting places on time, staying organized, and remembering absolutely everything? You know I need them.

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Thank you again to all who entered the beautiful doll and book giveaway from BB&J last week! The giveaway closed at midnight on Friday, and the winner (Heidi P.) has been emailed. Congrats, Heidi!

Anna of BB&J Handmade is offering a generous discount for Making Room readers until May 15. The code for free shipping is MAKINGROOM15. Hustle on over to her shop and pick out your favorites!

6 :: in motherhood, thoughts

Happy 4th Birthday, Lovely Lena!!!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-3 Every year on my children’s birthdays, I try to take photos throughout the whole day and then post them here. I love looking back on each birthday to see how they have changed and grown! Here is Lena’s first birthday, first party, second birthday, second party, and third birthday (and no party because her mama grew up too, hardy har), as well as Gil’s first and second birthdays.

This year Elliott’s parents were visiting but went home the day before Lena’s actual birthday, so we celebrated before they left with a special meal and a couple of presents. Her grandparents bought her the doll stroller she’s been asking about; I’ve heard her say, “For my birthday I want a balloon and a doll stroller” for the past four months or so.

We made Lena close her eyes while I brought the stroller out, covered in a blanket. Lena opened her eyes and saw the gift, but then she totally turned the tables on us and told us to close our eyes while she now did the unveiling. We complied…

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-1 … and I just love the next picture. Her grandparent’s faces (especially in comparison with Gil’s deadpan) makes me laugh every time.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-2 Lena and Gil, needless to say, both love the stroller. Thank you, Grampa and Marmee!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-18 The stroller itself, for those who are wondering, is an antique, but I bought it off my neighborhood yard sale (on behalf of Lena’s grandparents) and so all that I know is that it was made between the 1920s and 1950s. It needed a little TLC when we got it, including new screws for the handlebars and some bedding to make her doll comfortable. My mom and mother-in-law both contributed to the little mattress and quilt inside the stroller. I love what a collaborative effort this gift was!

On Lena’s actual birthday, Gil woke up early, and he was excited to go into Lena’s bedroom when she woke up to sing “Happy Birthday” with us. Unfortunately this is the last thing she wanted to hear right as she opened her eyes. ;)

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-4 We made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, her favorite. Always a group project around here, especially where dough and frosting are concerned.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-5 She posed with her presents, which she opened slowly, one by one, throughout the day. Please admire my wrapping job, which included the very last of all the wrapping paper I have left over from my wedding and baby showers! Do you think that means I can finally, in good conscience, buy some of this gorgeous paper?!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-17 Friends and family were so generous, as always. Here Lena is studying a card and wearing a beautiful handmade dress from my dear friend Nicole (who attended Lena’s 1st birthday party in Sicily with her family!) and is jumping in pink knee-high socks from her Auntie Jess.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-14 The “most played with” gift award goes to this toy. I can’t even believe how much time we all (including friends who visit) spend building and creating with it. Thanks to everyone who recommended them on this post! You were so right.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-16 Elliott came home for lunch and we took the kids to the carousel at the zoo, continuing the tradition from Gil’s birthday. Carousels are so hard to capture even in multiple photos, but trust me when I say that this one is a gem.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-6 I tried and tried but got no good pictures of the birthday girl on her horse. I stopped trying when Lena reached excitedly for my hand and held onto it tightly the rest of the ride.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-7 At home, our quiet, everyday routine prevailed after all the excitement. Lena and I snuggled together to read before her “nap”/rest time, just like we always do, and today she picked Paddington.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-8 After naps, the kids opened a gift from her great-grandparents while Lena wore her birthday gift from her Auntie Em.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-9 It was kinetic sand!!! Love this stuff.

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-11 The kiddos continued to help in the kitchen, this time to make Lena’s birthday cake. She has been asking for “a strawberry cake” for a year, after having a raspberry cake last year. I finally decided to use this pavlova recipe (thank you, Amanda!) and top the meringue with fresh cream and strawberries. Unfortunately Gil grabbed the salt shaker when I wasn’t looking and did some serious damage to the flavor, but… life goes on!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-10 At the end of the day, I needed groceries and Lena still needed the balloon that I promised her for a birthday gift six months ago, so we went to the commissary… just me and her. What a treat to be alone, just the two of us! We both kept looking at each other like, “Where’s Gil?”

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-12 At home, I made a meal that Lena loves: roast chicken with root vegetables, green beans (under the foil, and with lots of butter!), and fresh fruit. My dad was in town and joined us for the meal, which made it even more special.

And then this little lady finally let us sing “Happy Birthday” to her!

becca-garber-lena-fourth-birthday-13 Like most, this day was not without its mishaps (like the too-salty pavlova and the Fiasco of the Frozen Balloon, may it now forever be forgotten), but it was also full of thankfulness for one very precious little girl.

To end on a more thoughtful note, I want to say what great joy Lena gives me with her heart and her faith. We clash daily over wills (more often than me and Gil) and frustrate each other all day long; she’s not perfect and I’m definitely not either. Even still, despite all our mistakes, she is loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, and she is truly an amazing and tender big sister. She will run to Gil when he cries, like when he wakes up in the morning, and she is inclusive and compassionate and joyful with him. I’m amazed by her memory of things that happened two years ago (“That’s what we did in Sicily… I’m not sure if you remember, but I do”) and of formative moments that we would never have known made such an impression (“Mama, do you remember when I went to the Pumpkin Playground with Grampa and Marmee?” two and a half years ago). She’s silly and strong and curious and bright and hopeful.

Above all, she speaks matter-of-factually and often about God, his death, his resurrection, and her sure place in heaven. She anticipates seeing Aunt Booie there one day. She prays aloud before meals with a childlike sweetness, and I do believe — and I do not say this lightly — that she loves and knows Jesus. This gives her mother’s heart the greatest joy of all.

I love you, my precious Lena. You are such a gift to us!

12 :: in Lena, motherhood

Raising Compassionate Kids :: A Taste of the Real World

raising-compassionate-kids “You guys live in paradise!” my dad exclaimed this evening after listening to me rehash my day. “You walked to the park in the morning, the beach in the evening, you’re going to the zoo tomorrow, and all in this perfect weather…!”

We laughed, knowing he’d barely hit the highlights. Raising kids in Coronado is a dream come true.

But Coronado is just a steppingstone for us in the long road of life. Much as I want to live life here to the fullest, I also want Lena and Gil to know that there is a world beyond Coronado. It is an incredible world, with diverse and fascinating people, and it is valuable and beautiful.

I want them to know that every day of their lives, even before they can understand what they are learning, so that their natural instinct is to respond with compassion, responsibility, and love.

So recently I began to look for ways to do that. I had two constraining criteria, though. Lena and Gil are almost four and barely two years old, so I needed something that would be age-appropriate for them. I also wanted to be able to walk.

Believe it or not, finding something wasn’t hard. As many of you know, I’m a nurse (currently on a hiatus to raise babies and write), and I have spent a lot of time in nursing homes. Most assisted living facilities have regular activities and volunteer opportunities.

In January of this year, I did a Google search for “assisted living Coronado,” and only one result popped up. I pressed “call” under the listing for the Coronado Retirement Village to ask if they had an activities director. Within seconds I heard the bright and cheery voice of Ally, activities director extraordinaire.

Five minutes later, I had a date and a time to join the residents for a Thursday morning crock-pot cooking class.

The first morning we showed up, I was nervous. Would Lena and Gil behave? What would we do? Would residents be mostly bed-bound, or walking around the facility, or lucid? I really had no idea.

Also, even though we had walked to almost every corner of Coronado, we had not walked to the corner that included the assisted living facility, and we were on unfamiliar ground.

But I shouldn’t have worried.

The facility is beautiful, sparkling clean with big windows overlooking Tidelands Park and the bay. That first day, Ally greeted us and took us upstairs to the two community rooms filled with books, a vintage bingo set, a couple of TVs, and plenty of comfortable seating. We passed quiet private rooms where staff members were fanning clean sheets over beds.

Clearly, we had stepped into a bustling little community, less like a hospital than a well-run apartment building.

IMG_7280 We have continued to visit the CRV every Thursday morning this spring, and this past week we made chocolate chip pancakes with the residents. I watched as two-year-old Gil carefully carried a paper plate with a pancake to each resident, and then held it still while three-year-old Lena poured a dollop of syrup onto each pancake. They waited patiently to serve everyone, and then they sat down to eat a pancake of their own. Later, they delivered cups of water, and then returned to gather up the trash.

Next Ally got out various games in the community room. As I watched Lena and Gil blow bubbles and various residents pop them, I realized that I had brought my children to just the right place. The residents were delighted with my children – most of them forget and are newly delighted each week. They also enjoy playing the same games and eating the same snacks that my preschool-age children do.

For about an hour each week, bringing preschoolers and assisted living residents together is a wonderful playtime for both of them.

becca-garber-assisted-living-coronado.jpg As the weeks have gone by, Lena, Gil, and I have learned names, personalities, and life stories. The kids know what a walker is for, and a wheelchair, and that some people just doze off in the middle of a game. During our visits, the kids know that they are in second place and that their job is to be friendly and helpful. They hear the same questions repeated every time we visit, sometimes multiple times per visit from the same person, and they are learning to respond clearly and politely, saying, “My name is Lena. This is Gil. He is a boy, and I am a girl.” They are learning to call the residents “our friends.”

For us, our local assisted living facility has been a gentle way to teach our kids that not everyone looks and talks and acts just like they do. I love seeing my children look at this part of the world with compassion instead of confusion or fear. The genuinely kind staff and residents are a joy to count among our friends in Coronado, too.

I’d love to know — as you think back on your childhood, what formed your mindset about “normal” and “comfort zone”? What did your parents or teachers do well (or not so well) to help you think compassionately about the world?

14 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, Coronado, motherhood, thoughts

The Prayer I Pray for My Children Every Day

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When Elliott and I were newlyweds, we attended an Anglican church in Washington, D.C. Many of the traditions of that church were a mystery to me, and they still are. (I can tell you about my church roots some other time.)

But during that year and a half, I came to deeply appreciate the Anglican church liturgy.

At first it seemed funny to repeat the same prayers every week – the same one for confession, the same one for communion, the same creed sandwiched between the two – but eventually I came to savor those prayers. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like my soul sank into them. Like into a soft bed or a couch.

During most of the service, my brain was humming: lifting up and soaring during the hymns and songs, focusing and thinking during the sermon, flitting from people watching to worship to people watching and back again.

But during the liturgical repetitions — during those prayers — my mouth and my heart and my brain all connected as I said those same familiar words again, forming them like pearls in my mouth, pondering and polishing them like rosary beads. Each week every word made more sense, and then became more precious, and then became the song of my heart. By comparison, I’ve felt this way about some popular songs that I’ve heard over and over on the radio until they worked their way into my brain and became my song and defined a certain period of my life. You know what I mean?

Anyway, back to the prayer I pray for my children, not the liturgy in general. Here is the prayer we learned in that church:

Almighty God, heavenly Father,
you have blessed our congregation with the joy and care of children.
Give us courage, patience, and wisdom
as we bring them up in the faith
that they might never know a day apart from you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I love those words:

  • Blessed our congregation – Raising these children is corporate work, ie. it takes a village to raise a child
  • The joy and care of children – A blessing and a responsibility
  • Courage, patience, and wisdom – What a powerful trifecta. How many thousands of times a day do I need courage, or find myself horribly lacking in patience, or grapple for wisdom?
  • As we bring them up in the faith – This hearkens back to a commitment that began with the congregation’s and parents’ pledge to the children at their baptism, that they would teach them about their faith and how it applies to their life and work.
  • That they might never know a day apart from you – The cry of my heart! Elliott and I were both born into homes where Jesus was loved and followed by “clay-footed” but faithful parents. Over the years we came to make that faith our own, and we are grateful that God has held us in his hand throughout our journeys. I hope and pray that our children have this same testimony.
  • Through Jesus Christ our Lord — all things are possible through him!

I remember the first Sunday after we found out we were pregnant with Lena. I was so lonely and sad, because Elliott had just deployed for a year and Lena was totally unexpected and I was overwhelmed and so discouraged. And there I was, standing alone in church, our first child being knit together inside me, praying aloud with the congregation this beautiful, rich, deep, true prayer, and I was praying it for our own child, and I just cried and cried. There was such longing in those tears for so many things.

After repeating it a hundred times over a hundred Sundays, I memorized this prayer. I began to pray it at home whenever I prayed for our children. In Italy, with our old church far away, we prayed. And now we pray in California, years after we began, longing together for courage and patience and wisdom to bring our children up in the faith, longing that they might never know a day apart from Jesus.

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There are so many ways to pray for those we love. I remember my mom said she prayed for me and my future husband every day of my life. Well, I’ve already failed at that for my own kids… but I guess doing starts with trying! (And I can imagine it feels more relevant as they get older.)

Do you have any prayers that you particularly love and repeat often, whether about children or not?

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19 :: in motherhood, thoughts

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