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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

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!

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

Welcome to the World, Forest Everett Garber!

IMG_1668 Look who’s here! Our third child was born on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, at 6:38 in the morning. We are praising God for his healthy and speedy arrival.

FullSizeRender 2 I will treasure this picture forever! The joy and thankfulness we all felt in this photo is tangible, don’t you think?

We have had to spend a full two days at the hospital before going home because, for those familiar with labor and delivery, I was GBS positive and didn’t have time to receive the antibiotics before Forest was born. I took the opportunity of these quieter hours to write up a short birth story — because who knows how much time I’ll have for anything once I get home!

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-1 My due date was May 19, but some ultrasounds had indicated that my due date might actually be May 17. After I fell on a slippery road two weeks ago, though, and no baby came, Elliott was beginning to feel like “the baby will never be born!” and “you might be pregnant forever!” I had such a long to-do list around the house, however, that I was in no rush for our baby to arrive any sooner than he wanted to. In a family poll guessing his due date, I said June 1, which would be exactly one day less than 42 weeks overdue. Maybe I was a little too generous with that estimation…

My mom arrived May 16, and at that point I felt ready to welcome the baby anytime, since she could take care of Lena and Gil at a moment’s notice. I still had some things I wanted to do — attend a final MOPS meeting, freeze a few meals if I had time, get a manicure and pedicure! — but mostly I was just relaxing and ready.

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-7 The night of May 17, we hosted a large group of friends for dinner that were visiting from India and L.A. Elliott and I went to bed that night feeling tired and ready to sleep, and with no premonitions of what was to come. Elliott didn’t ask me if anything had changed (like he usually did 5xs/day), and I was glad he didn’t because I’d been noticing a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions once I got into bed. Could this be the early stages of labor? I didn’t want to get Elliott’s hopes up!

I woke up around 3am with steady but painless little contractions. When I timed them, they were about three minutes apart and lasting a minute. After about 30 minutes, Elliott woke up, we talked and finally began to gather a few final things to go to the hospital. It seemed early to go, despite the steady contractions, because I wasn’t in any pain.

Unfortunately, when we got up to pack, the contractions seemed to stop. Arg! We were so discouraged. Was this just a tease?

IMG_1806 We got back into bed, and my contractions had slowed down, but now they were getting more painful. Elliott timed them for about 15 minutes while I began to get a little worried that maybe now we’d waited too long. When we got out of bed this time, my teeth were chattering, and I told Elliott, “I think I’m in transition,” or getting very close to pushing. Elliott quickly woke my mom, we threw a few things in the car, and — at 5:20 am — we were on our way!

Within 15 minutes, we walked onto the labor and delivery floor, with Elliott carrying bags and pillows and a giant yoga ball, and me walking in a daze. A nurse brought us into a waiting room and asked us to fill out some admission paperwork, and I grabbed onto a chair during a painful contraction while Elliott said, “I think it’s too late for that.”

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-3 Sure enough, by the time the nurse got me into a room a minute later and checked me, she had to hit the call bell right away, saying, “She’s complete, complete, and +2 station, ready to push!”

I didn’t have time to talk about my ‘birth plan,’ which it is why it is especially incredible how the next hour unfolded. I wanted to request the midwife on call be in charge of the delivery, and I wanted a quiet birthing experience with just a nurse and a midwife in the room. I didn’t want an epidural or other meds, and I preferred to do things naturally and peacefully at my own pace. My friend and nurse Melissa facilitated a wonderful birth for us and Gil in Sicily, and I was hoping to have something like that for this baby.

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-2 Anyway, there I was, ready to push within 5 minutes of arriving on the floor. Just then, a woman walked into the room and introduced herself as the midwife, and I recognized her as a friendly, kind woman who’d done our baby’s 9-week ultrasound last October. Together, she and one nurse took over our care, and there was no one else in the room. The midwife, Sarah, asked me what I wanted to do to be comfortable, and she never once asked if I wanted an epidural. She facilitated a comfortable position for me and cheerfully coached me through delivery.

For me, pushing is my least favorite part of labor because I don’t have an urge to push like most women. I just have to tell myself, “OK, here’s a contraction, let’s do this” over and over. Elliott and the midwife were both laughing at my resigned attitude towards the task ahead of me each time I felt a contraction and prepared to push. I wasn’t in much pain, though, and since I didn’t have much choice in the matter, we made steady progress. Within about 30 minutes, Elliott lifted our son up for me to hold!

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-4 Elliott both got to deliver the baby and cut the cord, and then we were able to take him in. The relief and emotional rush of those first few minutes with our brand new baby are incomparable. Over the next hour, as he snuggled close, skin to skin, and then began to nurse with effortless instinct, I thanked God over and over and over. I had felt anxious towards the end of this pregnancy, but here our baby was — 10 fingers, 10 toes, wonderfully and fearfully made. Thank you, thank you, thank you God!

IMG_1947 Once we settled in our recovery room, the urgent question became, “What shall we name him?” We had thought about many names for a long time, but we kept coming back to both Forest and Everett. In the end, we loved the combination of the two, as well as the strength of the name itself.

We called him Forest because he came into being last August when Elliott and I went on a hiking trip in the High Sierra backcountry of Yosemite. His life began in a forest! We also hope and pray that he will love and care for Creation and its Creator God all the days of his life.

Everett is a family name on my side, and Elliott has also always looked up to and admired C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General of the United States, who tied together his faith, work, and public service in admirable ways, and who Elliott met when he was a little boy. Mostly, though, I just really like the name Everett!

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-10 Forest has had some eager little visitors here at the hospital, and watching my parents and our children with him has been so sweet! Lena loves holding him quietly in bed and watching him and asking questions, and Gil meanwhile bounces around him like a rambunctious puppy, digs in his blankets for his feet, his nose or eyes before we can stop him, and overall terrifies us somewhat with his tough love. It’s going to be an exciting adventure when we get home….

I am so SO grateful for my mom. She’s taken incredible, creative, and energetic care of Lena and Gil, meaning that both Elliott and I can stay at the hospital and bond with Forest. The first night in the hospital, Elliott brought me sushi and champagne, and we had a celebratory feast. The second night we both held Forest and ate popcorn and watched Shakespeare in Love. Almost a vacation!

becca-garber-welcome-forest-everett-new-baby-6 These first 48 hours of Forest’s life have been so peaceful and joy-filled, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Thank you, thank you, God.

And now, Elliott and Forest, let’s go home and let the wild rumpus start!

22 :: in family, Forest, life lately, motherhood, new baby series, thoughts

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

image via

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.

——–

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

How Do You Get Rid of Things?

image via

Earlier this week, I reviewed the books I read in April. One of them was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book I really enjoyed. I would like to put more of Marie Kondo’s ideas into practice, but there is one thing stopping me.

What do you do with all the stuff you want to get rid of?

Marie suggests you put it all in trash bags, but she is vague after that. What you do with perfectly good clothing mixed up with used lotions and extra shampoo and knicknacks? I kept reading her book to find out what she suggested.

But she suggested nothing. She was not concerned about the stuff she purged. After reading the entire book, my best guess is that she puts all of it in a dumpster and forgets about it.

But when I look at my pile of “no longer wanted” stuff in our garage, I can’t imagine just heaving it all into a dumpster. There’s a pair of barely used Chacos (women’s size 9, do you want them?) and three pretty vases and two boxes of books and stacks and stacks of kids’ clothing.

There are two reasons I can’t just dump all this stuff.

The first is thrift. If I go through my closet and really, truly only keep items that “bring me joy,” there are going to be a lot of perfectly good jeans and dresses and shoes that go into trash bags. And the idea of throwing them into the dumpster isn’t just wasteful, it’s also sad. I bought all of these things in the past five years or so, and some of them brand new and for full price. Am I really going to throw them all away? Or take them to Goodwill and never recoup any of my financial investment?

So I don’t. I put them in the garage, and when I have a few minutes I photograph them and try to sell them on a local online yard sale site, or on eBay, or on Craigslist. I try and I am successful about 25% of the time. I make a few dollars. Is it worth the trouble?

A penny saved is a penny earned… right?

The other reason I can’t throw things out is that I value reusing and recycling things. Almost all of my children’s clothes were already used when I acquired them. Some of them have a lot of life left, and I’d rather encourage reusing and recycling in our culture and help people who also don’t want to buy new.

But then I stop and look at a lot of the secondhand things I am attempting to resell, and I wonder if it is worth selling some of these clothes. By the time my children have worn their secondhand clothing, even the nice brands are very worn. Is it fair to sell these things and not donate them? Is it worth the time and effort?

What do you think? What do you do? How do you recoup your initial investment, and how do you just let go of things?

I would love to live in a home where we use what we own and where we love everything in our house. I enjoy living simply and thoughtfully and thriftily. But besides the really obvious point of only buying what I absolutely love and absolutely need from here on out, how do I get there?

——–

P.S. Don’t forget to enter our beautiful giveaway before it closes on Friday at midnight!

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