Archive | September, 2013

4 Tips for Car Trips with Small Children

becca-garber-car-trips-small-children photo from early March when Gil was about 6 weeks old!

As I mentioned in this post, my 2.5-year-old Lena, my 8-month-old Gil, and I spent a lot of time on the road this past week!  Last Friday night, as I was driving the 4 hours home from Durham with two sleeping babies in the back seat, I tried to think of all the things that had helped our past few drives go smoothly… or not so smoothly.  Some things worked, some didn’t.  Here is some distilled advice, after a lot of tears and a lot of sleeping on the road recently:

1)  Before you hit the road, take 5.  Take 5 minutes (or 20…) to make sure that you are really ready to leave the house and hit the road in good shape.  Before leaving Durham, I made sure I had a big cloth bag of toys and books within easy reach to hand to my kids, entered the home address into the GPS, took Lena and myself to the bathroom, treated myself to a big Starbucks coffee, and stopped to fill up my gas tank.  Now, hopefully, I could drive in absolute silence and the kids would sleep most of the time.  No gas station stops when the children are tenuously asleep, please!

2) Dress for success.  For me, this meant changing Gil’s diaper and putting him into a soft cotton sleeper.  I wanted him to be in his pajamas so he wouldn’t wake up because he was cold or uncomfortable.  If I want Lena to sleep, I often put her in a diaper to avoid any mishaps.  I have also given her socks or a light blanket.

3) Drive at night if at all possible.  This was a complete break-through for me, and it was life changing.  In Durham, we went out to dinner and then a playground with our friends.  Around 8pm, I thought my kids were probably tired enough, and so we said goodbye.  Then I bought coffee and gas, told my children it was time to sleep, and ceased all conversation.  Miraculously, it worked, and they both slept from Durham to northern Virginia.  It made the 4-hour trip actually last 4 hours.  A trip like that during the day might have taken as many as 6 hours with breaks for the bathroom, lunch, and sanity.  Also, I was driving during my normal waking hours anyway, and so ended up going to bed at a relatively reasonable time.

4) If someone else is driving and you are sitting beside your child to keep her happy, it can often be very hard to get her to go to sleep.  I finally learned (on an 8-hour road trip from Sicily to Naples) to fake sleep.  I would tell Lena it was time to nap, then just lean back, close my eyes, and fake it.  It still works every time.  Lena and Gil quickly get bored, then drowsy, and then drop off to sleep.

Of course sometimes none of these things work… like at 11:30 on Friday night when we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic outside D.C. because of roadwork.  The kids woke up and cried, of course.  We finally got to a gas station, where we stopped for nursing and bathroom breaks.  They were furious when I strapped them back into their car seats, and the only way I could think to keep them happy was to sing loudly the whole way home.  Thankfully Lena’s new favorite song was on the radio to help me out: “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, ‘cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR…”

Do you have any tips for keeping your kids happy in the car?  I’ve got another road trip coming up, so I’m all ears!

6 :: in motherhood, travel

hello from North Carolina!


Guess where we are?!  Visiting these goofballs in their new digs!

Lena, Gil, and I had kind of a crazy Tuesday.  Elliott’s leave/vacation was over after two wonderful weeks here in the U.S., and it was time for him to get on a flight back home to Sicily.  We drove to Norfolk early in the morning with Elliott to see if he could get on a military flight.  After hours of waiting, he got one of the last available seats on the plane!  We were sad to see him go, but grateful that he was getting back for free instead of having to buy a last minute ticket or drive up and down the East Coast looking for another military flight home.  Whew!

We finally hugged him goodbye around 8pm, and I put my two exhausted children into the car.  And then we hit the road for North Carolina!  Three-and-a-half hours later, we pulled into the Arthurs’ driveway in Durham… after a whole day on the road and approximately 7 hours in the car with two children two years old and younger.  I was very glad to get a big hug from my friend Becca… and then go to bed!

It’s so good to see these wonderful friends after so many happy memories in Sicily.  We’ve been catching up over spilled cereal and battery-operated trains, as two moms do.  I love their new house (with all their familiar dishes, toys, couch, etc.), and it’s so fun to see them in their new life.

Any recommendations of fun things to do in the area?  I am really looking forward to my first taste of Carolina BBQ!

8 :: in friends, military life, travel

My Favorite Newborn Essentials

becca-garber-newborn-product-recommendations Ahh… baby gear!  Choosing what to buy or register for is truly overwhelming for parents-to-be.  I have had only two newborns, so I can’t claim to be an expert on everything.  However,  I think most moms will agree that after two kids you’ve seen a lot of baby stuff — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and you have found your favorites.  So here are my favorites!

1. Chicco Keyfit 30 car seat.  We used Consumer Reports to help us choose the top-rated, safest baby items, and this car seat gets the highest ratings from them.  We have found it easy to use and very durable.  It still looks brand new after being buckled and unbuckled from dozens of vehicles, traveling to approximately 10 countries with us, and weathering almost as many trans-Atlantic flights.  Extra tip: I borrowed this stroller frame from a friend.  I loved that it fit my car seat, all my bags, and usually some extras, because otherwise I would have been carrying everything, including my sleeping baby in his heavy car seat.

2. Zip-up sleepers.  Zip-ups are the easiest to get on and off your newborn because nothing has to go over his/her head!   Most sleepers snap up, but new parents will find themselves fumbling for a few weeks before they can snap them up easily even in the dark.  I love this one from Baby Gap — they have the cutest prints! — but there are many less expensive options, too.

3.  A bouncer.  Gil loved his bouncer (borrowed from a friend) and I carried it all over the house wherever I went with him.  This bouncer has the highest average customer rating on Amazon, and I love its sleek, quiet profile.  Extra tip: If your bouncer has a toy bar (maybe with obnoxious lights and music?), remove it until your child can focus, play with it, and appreciate it.  Until he was a couple months old, the toy bar just scared Gil, and it got in my way when I took him in and out of the seat.

4.  A swing.  Gil also loved his swing, and he napped in it for months.  Although I didn’t love having that big clunky thing in my home, I did thank God for that invention many, many times during those first three months.  We got an older version of this swing from someone in our neighborhood; it has the highest average customer review on Amazon.

5. Arms Reach Mini Co-Sleeper.  I’ve sung the praises of this little crib before in my post about sharing a bedroom with your baby.  It was Gil’s bed for the first 4 months of his life, even after he moved into his own room.  It folds down into a little portable carrying case, just like a Pack n Play.  I loved the storage pockets underneath and on the sides, too.

6. NUK pacifiers.  Elliott’s mom gave me a package of NUK pacifiers when I was pregnant with Lena because “these were the kind Elliott loved,” and I have been grateful for that early direction.  Mostly I like that I can buy them anywhere (including on military bases for much less than on Amazon), and so I never have to worry about being stuck somewhere and offering Gil a pacifier that he won’t take.  They are also inexpensive, BPA-free, and orthodontist-approved.  Elliott and I have been so grateful that our kids liked pacifiers (personally, I think you have to teach a child to take a pacifier) because it has saved us all so much grief when they could soothe their natural need to suck.  Also, it’s a lot easier to one day take away a pacifier than a thumb!

7.  Aden & Anais swaddle blankets.  These have become the world’s favorite, so I am just person #54,937 to sing the praises of these swaddle blankets.  They are lightweight and fold up tiny, but somehow they are also warm and surprisingly large.  The muslin fabric has the perfect amount of stretch and grip to keep your newborn swaddled.   Besides swaddling, we have used them as picnic blankets, nursing covers, sunshades, and sleeping pads everywhere we go.  I also own the extra lightweight bamboo version with these Indian-inspired prints… so beautiful!

8. Moby wrap.  We were given a Moby wrap, Baby Bjorn carrier, and Ergo carrier, and I love them all, but the Moby is my favorite for newborn-four months.  It is so soft and cozy, and it supports the fetal position newborns like to assume.  Our babies have loved being snuggled close to me and Elliott, especially in cold weather.  My friend Emily wore her newborn all over the house in her Moby for the first weeks of his life.

9.  Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe.  Our babies both loved being swaddled until they were about three months old, but they became Houdinis at getting out of swaddle blankets.  This wrap is the answer: the velcro closures kept our kids cozy, safe, and securely swaddled.  I like to have at least three.  I have also heard wonderful things about the Halo Swaddle Sleepsack, which gives your baby more room to kick and move his legs.


Those are the things we have most appreciated with our newborns.  Experienced moms, what have you enjoyed best of all?  I know of several moms-to-be who will be reading this, eager to hear your advice!

5 :: in motherhood, new baby series

our last mom-outing to Taormina


Oh Taormina! Your picturesque streets, dazzling vistas, and romantic aura charm everyone who visits you. I’ve been hooked since my first visit over two years ago, which was also my very first “mom and kids outing” with my best friend Becca Arthur. We have visited this beautiful town together so many times, but this was our last trip together, as the Arthurs were moving to the States in just two days.  So bittersweet!


Lunch from Da Cristina, our favorite pizzeria in Taormina.  We learned about it in this wonderful NY Times article!


Lucas shares some pizza.  Caleb participates vicariously in the bite from the background.


Making friends with little Italian boys by the town fountain.


Our motley crew outside a Versace store
& peekaboo, Lena and Caleb!


Fascinated by the little mechanical toys in the piazza
& admiring the view from the cliffs of Taormina.


My pretty Lena… with a frown.


Mandatory stop for the best granite (Italian ice) in Taormina!  Lena got strawberry and lemon, and I got peach and lemon, both made with fresh fruit.  Gil got a taste but wasn’t so sure…


Rebecca enjoying granita and brioche for the last time in Taormina with her Lucas, Baby Eden, and Caleb.


Last adventure of the day: walking up to the Greek amphitheater!  This was the first time I had visited, even though it’s a huge attraction in Taormina.  Lena and Lucas wait for us to buy tickets so they can go in the gate.


The Arthur kids have visited many times and had fun showing Lena all the fun places to climb.


We loved exploring the old amphitheater and admiring the gorgeous view from the top.  The theater was all set up for summer concerts and operas, which are a big attraction all summer long.


Everyone was pretty tuckered out by this point… including Gil!

becca-garber-taormina-kids-16 becca-garber-taormina-kids

Last pit stop: popsicles.  They were so so good, but…


… very, very messy!


At the end of that day, with two moms and six kids, we were all ready for a nap!

But leaving Taormina for the last time together was sad. Becca taught me so much about getting out and experiencing the culture of Italy. She embraced her stay-at-home mom status in a totally unique way: she would find another fearless mom, pack multiple children into a minivan, and set off on an all-day adventure around Sicily. She would savor architecture, food, gelato, and beautiful views while navigating rapid Italian, tiny roads, tricky parking, vague directions, and often a very confused GPS. She would roll her eyes and laugh at the chaos of life with so many little children, then pile them into her stroller and strap them onto her back and set off around the next corner. She loved Italy, and Italy loved her back.

Perhaps the parallels between her cultural adventures and the way she lived her everyday life are pretty obvious.  In so many ways, she is the mom and woman I aspire to be: warm, generous, self-deprecating, humble, and full of laughter… while also a fabulous cook (including of local specialties), creative mom, come-as-you/we-are hostess, and loyal friend.  In some ways, Becca was my first “mom” friend, someone I bonded with not just because we had a lot in common and loved being together, but someone whose kids loved my kids and who shared mothering — in all its crushing losses and thrilling joys — with me in everyday life.

I miss you, Becca!  Can’t wait for some adventures together soon in North Carolina!

8 :: in friends, motherhood, Sicily, Taormina, travel

shop crush :: Wheat USA

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becca-garber-wheat-usa.jpg So this really has nothing to do with anything, but I walked past this gorgeous store in Annapolis yesterday and fell head over heels in love.  It was a children’s Danish clothing store.  You know the feeling when you see a collection of things and your heart says, Wow… this is me!  Every single article of clothing was beautifully made from such lovely materials.  The effect of the whole store took my breath away.

I came home and looked up the shop, which is called Wheat USA.  Started by Danish parents, the shop aims to provide beautiful clothing made from natural materials.  From the website: “The design is Danish and by its simple lines, the light colours and the original patterns, it carries on the Scandinavian tradition of design simplicity.”  I love that.  I’ve realized over time that I love dressing my children in lighter colors — even white, although it’s impractical — because their bright blue eyes and golden hair and rosy cheeks just glow when set off by softer, paler shades.  The grays, blues, pinks, and purples of Wheat were calling my name!

Anyway, this is not a sponsored post (I wish it were!)… I just loved the design and wanted to share it with you, my readers.  Have you made any beautiful design discoveries lately?

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