Archive | January, 2015

28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years


Once upon a time, way back in November, I had a birthday. I turned 28, but I was sick that day, and so not much happened besides staying in bed and reading an entire book. (Thank you again, Elliott!) I had planned, though, to post a list of “28 things I’ve learned in 28 years” that day, as inspired by my friend and blogger Mary.

Months later, and now it’s January. However, it’s sort of nice to edit and add to this list at the beginning of a brand new year. Lessons learned, wisdom gleaned, and advice taken to heart are all a part of growing older, and they are inspiration to take some of them even more to heart in 2015.

Out of all of these bits and pieces of learning, though, I do see the outline of a girl/woman who is unique and distinct, who has learned some of what works for her and what doesn’t, who has learned what she wants to give her whole life to and what she loves most of all.

I know we’re all like that, a beautiful mosaic combining our grandparents’ wisdom and our parents’ support and our spouse’s love and our children’s lives and our God’s mercy. What little bits of life have you learned? I’d love to learn from you!

So anyway… without further ado, here are 28 things I’ve learned in 28 years.

1. Take time to read. (You knew I’d say this!) It’s life-sustaining to make others’ stories part of our own.

2. If possible, let your children grow up with animals, including with animals that have babies. Raising dozens of birds and rabbits, having a dog and cat, and being around horses were all rich gifts to my childhood. These animals helped me see the world and even myself as part of a natural cycle of birth, life, and death in a way that is healthy, messy, and realistic.

3. When you and your friends’ husbands are out of town, have a friend and her kids over for dinner. Make something simple, pour a little wine, and let the kids play. At the end of the night you’ll both definitely be tired, but you’ll also be refreshed.

4. Keep an eye out for cute used clothes for your friends’ babies. There is something profoundly sweet about getting a little consignment or hand-me-down outfit in the mail that says, “I think your child is beautiful, too!”

5. Learn what matters to your husband — really good curry, toys put away at night, your natural hair when you skip the blow dryer — and make it matter to you too.

6. A spoon of Nutella straight out of the jar is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

7. Find your favorite crowd-pleasing, affordable wine and keep a good stash.

8. After three years in Italy of washing dishes by hand, I found the perfect dish soap. It smells incredible and leaves my dishes as well as my hands clean and happy. I buy it in bulk on Amazon.

9. When your husband tells you something, listen the first time. Often men don’t talk too much, and they feel respected and loved when you listen and remember.

10. If you don’t have a TV, you don’t miss much.

11. Try to only bring things into your home that your whole family will love: toys, food, books, furniture, cleaning products, etc. It keeps it simple.

12. On a hot summer afternoon, a can of sparkling flavored water can taste so, so good!

13. Make annual goals, not resolutions. You have the whole year to work on them, and they give you a way to track your progress.

14. “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise.” Or at least makes him or her a better parent!

15. Take care of your computer. Let it sleep and restart it regularly. Do the updates it tells you to do. Back it up onto an external hard drive or something similar. Keep it clean and tidy inside and out. You’ll both be so much happier.

16. I’ve tried many, many tools and products to keep my floor clean and the only thing that has worked is just cleaning it more often.

17. Go to the library with a list of good children’s books, like Scholastic’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids or Sonlight’s Read-Aloud book lists. Let your kids grab some things off the shelves, but try to choose a few of the classics each visit, too. There’s a reason they’ve stood the test of time. A few books might even make you cry!

18. (This one is tongue in cheek and with a twinkle in my eye, not meant to offend anyone.) After two babies, my opinion is that cloth diapers weren’t worth it for us due to the cost of electricity and water required to get them clean. Also no one should have to have that much contact with anyone’s poop! (And I’m a nurse!)

19. If someone you know dies, please please please say something to his or her family. Send a card, send an email, send a Facebook message, say something in person. Even if you only work up your courage years later, it doesn’t matter. That acknowledgment and that love means more than you can ever possibly imagine.

20. Try to always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car.

21. Buy a pretty notepad, stick it on your fridge, and keep a running grocery list all week. Better yet, make a grocery list and meal plan at the same time!

22. They make alarm clocks that turn green at the time you want your child to get up. They are wonderful.

23. Set up automatic monthly withdrawals from your bank or credit card to support your missionary friends or ministries you love. You’ll probably never miss the extra $50, but your choice to give and live with less will change the world.

24. Hospitality is an art, but it’s also a way of life. Make it your way of life right now and worry about the art later. There are lonely friends and family out there who would love a meal at your table.

25. Make your prayers more about praising God for what he’s already done and less about asking for things. Practice this by choosing one verse and making your whole prayer about adoring, confessing, thanking, and asking God all from the context of that one verse.

26. Our children are watching us. I started running sporadically in the morning and now Lena loves running and putting on her sneakers and “exhersizing.” I am still amazed that such a little, positive choice on my behalf can quite possibly have a significant, positive impact on her whole life.

27. Learn what genre of books you like and don’t be ashamed about it. Just dive in and read. Good books lead to more good books, and some reading leads to lots of reading. You just have to find your own delightfully slippery slope.

28. Speak gently. Be kind. So incredibly difficult, and yet so supremely important.
What about you? What are some snippets of wisdom or lessons you’ve learned in your years of life? We’d all love to hear them!
27 :: in Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom Series, motherhood, thoughts

On Becca’s Bookshelf // December Edition

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Well, my Decembers reads were… meh. I made some hasty choices before leaving for vacation AND I read several dry-ish parenting books. But ya win some, ya lose some, right? Here’s the scoop on what to read and what to avoid!

  • That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay. “When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food.” What… that sounds delightful! And the cover has the Eiffel Tower on it! Letters and Paris and books and cookery? As Amy Poehler would say, “Yes, please!” But unfortunately the book touched only lightly on all these themes while focusing much more heavily on the absurdly wealthy characters, predatory divorcée neighbors, stressful family relationships, and — the greatest disappointment of all — emails (not a single letter!). For those who like love and letters, try 84, Charing Cross Rd or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society instead. — 2 stars
  • The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. This book promises “12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive.” Despite such a promise, I didn’t find anything revolutionary about the book; it seemed to mostly be scientific explanations for well-known life issues. Example: you should help your child connect his feelings (right brain) with logic (left brain) to effectively work through frustration. Great info, but not  profound. I would recommend NutureShock or Simplicity Parenting for truly revolutionary parenting research. — 3 stars
  • Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. As you all know by now, I love cross-cultural memoirs, especially when they involve France! The author describes her rather fairytale life — meet a cute French PhD student, move to Paris, get married, visit lovely in-laws on the Brittany coast, puh-lease you’re killing me — and then describes the real life side, too, like buying an apartment in Paris, making real friends with Europeans, and watching her father-in-law being treated for cancer in the French medical system. She is an opinionated woman from a small slice of upper class American politics and privilege, though, and her narrative voice is heavy-handed at times. For all this… — 3 stars
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I loved Bossypants and really enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, so the natural next step is to read the next comedienne‘s memoir, right? Well, not quite. Turns out it helps if you actually watch her on TV. I’ve seen Baby Mama and a few YouTube videos of her SNL skits, but otherwise I mostly love Amy by osmosis… because everyone else loves Parks & Rec and because of Tina. I felt like I couldn’t appreciate a lot of the humor and anecdotes because of this, and thus I missed the point of the memoir. Also I thought she complained a lot about writing a memoir when… wasn’t it your decision to write it, Amy? — 2 stars
  • I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum. I grabbed this one at the library quickly before leaving for Christmas, but maybe I should have thought through the premise more. A husband cheats on his wife, his wife finds out, and then he decides to win his wife back again. The book would have been better if it focused less on the former (too much flashback about his affair) and a lot more on the latter (in which he proved himself a very clumsy and selfish husband, and I’m not sure I would take him back either). It earns a half-hearted third star for the final redemption. — 3 stars
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Ahh, at last, something good! Something pure, golden, and enduring! This book (first published in 1969) is a priceless resource for any book lover who wants to pass on the wisdom and delight of a good story to their children. The first 1/3 is an engaging treatise on reading together as a family and building a foundation of good books; the second 2/3 contains lists of wonderful children’s books for age 0 to adult. Highly recommended! 5 stars
  • Mommy, Teach Me! by Barbara Curtis. Another incredible resource to add to your parenting library. The first half of the book is an apologetic for preschool at home with a Montessori and Christian approach, a combination which is unusual and inspiring. The second half is a manual of practical activities you can do with your child with bowls, buttons, pitchers, marbles, and other everyday objects in your home. — 4 stars


Did you set reading goals for 2015? Here’s an amazing reading goal list from one of my favorite blogs. I read a lot of books in 2014, but I am wondering about slowing down in 2015 in order to write more… hmm…

What did you read in December? Any recommendations for all of us?

15 :: in book reviews, On Becca’s Bookshelf

All the Happy Christmas Memories


A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, friends! Did you have a wonderful Christmas? I think 2014’s holiday season might have topped the charts for me. We spent two cozy, leisurely weeks in Virginia, first with my family and then with Elliott’s. All the people I love the most all in one place… eating, laughing, giving gifts, sleeping in, talking in pajamas all day long. Let’s do it all again tomorrow!

But since we can’t (le sigh), here are some of the best memories:


Both children fell asleep on my lap on the flight from San Diego to Baltimore. I was so stressed out imagining how everything would go, but every single detail  (food on the plane, attitudes on the plane, entertainment on the plane, you catch my drift) went so much better than I’d anticipated. Maybe that’s what happens when you expect the absolute worst? Elliott rolls his eyes at my pessimism about travel with children, but at least I’m never disappointed!


At my family’s house, Gil and Lena looooooved helping Grammie make peppermint bark, although they got a little sidetracked during the peppermint crushing stage.


Gil and Lena truly believe that “smile for the camera!” means to open their mouth or bite their bottom lip, respectively. We’ll see how long this lasts.


Christmas morning with my family! I gave the grandparents and great-grandparents a photo calendar again, the same simple gift I’ve been giving them for the past three years now.

Also Lena got footie pajamas, which is all she wanted for Christmas.

becca-garber-christmas-2015-virginia-4 Gil didn’t really care about his presents (he preferred the unwrapping process), but he did pause to admire the generous Amazon gift card that did not belong to him.


The next day Em and I got a manicure and a pedicure (and an unsuccessful selfie), and my mom took Lena and Gil for a walk “in the wagon.”


And then we drove all of three miles away to enjoy the Garber family Christmas! Elliott spent most of his childhood Christmases in this house, but this is actually the FIRST Christmas we’ve spent at the Garbers’ since we got married 5 years ago. We’ve been overseas for every one of them until now. This felt like a homecoming in the best of ways.


This year we skipped big gifts and just exchanged stockings, which was a new tradition for me. I loved it! I had the best time picking out little treasures for Gil and Lena and then stuffing them with Elliott into the stockings I’d sewn by hand.


The Garbers’ beautiful dog Mia got her own stocking and her own new toy! Lena, meanwhile, helped everyone unpack and examine their stockings bit by bit…


Afterwards Uncle David told her a story (in her second pair of footie pajamas that she received for Christmas, so I guess she made that request loud and clear). I admired the beautiful contents of my stocking, all given to me by Jess, who knows me very well!


Unfortunately, Jess was pretty sick the whole time we were there. Not sure if Lena’s little visits helped her recovery or not…


On the last day of 2014, we visited the Botanic Garden with Elliott’s parents. I’ve always loved the Garden since we lived within walking distance of it on Capitol Hill as newlyweds. I even have memories of visiting the Garden alone with Lena when she was just a couple weeks old… and she slept through the whole thing snuggled into the Moby wrap on my chest.


The Garbers welcomed in the new year with stories, knitting, games, and “whoops, quick, let’s count down!” at midnight. My kind of party.


We spent some time on Capitol Hill and around D.C., most of it without our kids, and these were gloriously refreshing times for me and Elliott. Some of our happiest memories together come from these few blocks around the Capitol, and we love coming back. The photos above are from Union Market (SO COOL) and a chilly morning eating pretzel bombs and sliders at the delicious Pretzel Bakery where Uncle Jonathan works.


On our last day in D.C., Elliott and I spent the afternoon wandering through the Hirshorn Museum, relaxing at a cafe in Mt Pleasant, and then returning to the church we attended as newlyweds. So refreshing on so many levels.


Two of my favorite things: family loving on my children… and a new knitting project in my lap! I knitted up a storm while I was home, finishing three pairs of gloves and this beautiful scarf (in deep red) for my sister Emily.


And then… time to fly West again. We miss you, Virginia and D.C.! There’s no place like home.

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22 :: in DC, family, holidays, home sweet home, life lately

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