Archive | Lena

What Classical Conversations Looks Like In Our Home

img_8283 My children starting school on a recent morning!

If you came into my house right now and asked Lena, “Hey Lena, can you tell me about the Hundred Years War?” she would sing:

“Yes! During the Hundred Years War, Joan of Arc and King Charles VII led the French to defeat England at the Battle of Orleans. In the late 1340s, fleas on rats carried the Plague, which killed one out of three Europeans.”

“Can you tell me about how animals react to environmental change?”

“In reaction to environmental change, animals will adapt, migrate, or hibernate.”

“What about skip counting by 2s?”

And she would sing a clever little ditty to the ABC tune that ends with, “Would you like to hear some more?”

And at that point you might or you might not like to hear some more, but she can go on for a long time!

All of this information comes from different things Lena has learned in Classical Conversations. In my last post, I discussed our kindergarten curriculum, and I mentioned that we joined Classical Conversations as well. Deciding to join was a big decision for us this year, and I think we’re still adjusting. There is a lot to get used to!

For those who are unfamiliar, Classical Conversations (CC) is a homeschooling support organization. Communities or campuses are everywhere, including overseas. Last year, as we were considering homeschooling,  I learned a lot of my friends were attending the weekly “schoolhouse” meeting and loving it. Since the closest CC community meets just four blocks from our house, and because we already knew half the group, it seemed a shame not to join! We have enjoyed it a lot, but it has also been challenging. (More about this at the end of my post.)

Every Tuesday we meet with the other homeschoolers at CC for three hours. Lena is in a class with other 5- and 6-year-olds, Gil is in a nursery/preschool room, and Forest hangs out with me — which is challenging because I am required to be with Lena the whole time and help in her class. This ain’t no drop-off program! Parents are involved in every aspect.

img_6310 Some of our CC Timeline Cards on display in our dining/school room.

During those three hours, Lena and the eight other kids in her class are taught by a fellow mom, called a tutor. Lena learns the new “grammar” for the week (one item from history, math, English, science, Latin, and geography, and seven new points on the timeline), participates in an art project and a science experiment, does a 3-minute presentation on an assigned topic that she has prepared, and spends 30 minutes reviewing information she learned previously in the year.

It’s like drinking from a fire hose. A fire hose that never turns off!

That said, I have found a lot to appreciate about CC. I love that she is learning history and geography, that she is learning alongside other kids (they have so much fun!), that I am not her only teacher, and that she already is learning good public speaking skills.

And now — how do we “do” Classical Conversations in our home? I think there are about four main ways:

  • Displaying the “memory work” for the week
  • Review games and questions
  • Timeline cards with the song
  • Dry-erase maps
  • Songs from CC Connected and the CC cds

img_8558 Displaying the “memory work” for the week: This is a pretty basic thing that I think every CC mom does, but I am actually not very faithful at doing this! I am learning.

If it’s a good week, on Monday morning I will print (or write/make, but that doesn’t happen as easily) the history, geography, math, science, and English facts for the week and display them in our dining/school room alongside the seven timeline cards for the week. (CC moms, I mostly find these on CC Connected under “File Sharing” and by searching for “Tri-Fold” downloads for the week we’re on.)

A lot of moms have tri-fold or bulletin boards that they tape everything to, but in our current house I don’t have a good space to display one, so I just use painter’s tape to attach things to the wall.

img_6318 becca-garber-classical-conversations-homeschool-review-book-jpg Review games and questions: This little photo album of the weekly CC information has been so helpful for me. I made it at the beginning of the year by using downloads I found on the CC Connected file sharing. (CC moms, I searched for username “barledge” and “4×6 Flipbook,” printed all the files as photos at Walgreens, and put them in a 48-photo album I found on Amazon.)

Lena and I use this review book when we knit together on the couch, or when we play Candyland. If Lena lands on a red square in Candyland, she has to answer a science question because the science questions are red in the review book. If I land on a blue square, I answer an English question, and so on.

If Gil wants to play… well, we don’t get very far in our review!

fullsizerender-3 Timeline cards with the song: Each week we learn seven new points on the timeline, which starts with “Age of Ancient Empires” and ends with current events. Each point on the timeline has a laminated card (see above), and I keep all of them in 5.5 x 8.5 binders with page protectors.

There is also a timeline song that we use to memorize all the points on the timeline. We even learn hand motions for each point! (Well, we try… those are hard for five-year-olds.) The video above includes the entire song if you’d like to hear it. Lena and I sing the song as we flip through the timeline cards, stopping to ask questions about different ones.

fullsizerender-2 Dry-erase maps: Another thing we do is use these laminated maps to review geography. I’ll ask her to find Portugal or the Aral Sea or the Scandinavian Peninsula, and Lena will check each location with a dry erase marker. We also occasionally use our globe instead, which I purchased with charter school money.

Songs from CC Connected and the CC cds: CC has put a lot of the material children need to learn to song, such as the timeline song above. This is so helpful with memorization! The kids and I listen to songs I’ve downloaded from the CC Connected file sharing. Today they were singing about pints, quarts, liquids, and plasma with me in the kitchen as we made cookies.

We also listen to the CC cds when we drive in the car. We spend very little time in our car, though — maybe 30 minutes total every week — so this isn’t a great way for us to memorize and learn material. This is the “disadvantage” of living in a walkable community!

One question you might be asking is, “Does Lena get it? Is all this memorization worth it?”

I think the answer is NO, she doesn’t get it, but YES, she is learning, and by the end of the year she will have grown exponentially in her knowledge of history and geography. (The English, some of the science, and a lot of the math facts will be over her head for a while yet.)

If we stick with CC, Lena will learn almost all new information each year for three years. (The timeline and some of the other information stays the same every year.) Each year, the tutor in her class will introduce the material at her level and expect more of her, as will I at home. After three years, she’ll repeat all three years. This way she’ll get this information twice over the course of six years from Kindergarten-Fifth Grade. It takes some of the pressure off of this year for sure.

Is all this memorization worth it? I think so, at least to some degree. She will not remember everything she learns this year, but it’s ok. There are no tests. She might remember it in three years when she repeats all this information, but in the meantime she is exercising her memory muscles, learning so much about the world and her place in it, and gets a sense of pride and accomplishment from working hard and learning the information. These skills are worth a very great deal.

Do I love CC? Will we stick with this for all of elementary school, or all of our homeschooling years? I have nooooooo idea. I do think one of the greatest gifts of CC is community. It is hugely encouraging to hang out with other families each week, to eat a picnic lunch at the park together after class (every week because this is Southern California and the weather is always gorgeous!), and to talk and be inspired and be refreshed every Tuesday.

However, if I were presented with another homeschooling co-op with awesome classes and friendships, I am not so sure I’d do CC. I think this is because I am more excited about the community than about CC itself. I like the approach CC takes a lot, but I was also homeschooled K-12 myself and then went to a public university and had an incredible experience with like-minded believers there, so I know there are many, many ways to do homeschooling and do education in general.

I think our bottom line is: we’ll just take each year at a time, evaluating thoughtfully how each of our kids are doing, how we are doing, and what educational approach would fit our family and our kids best. We’ll stay humble, we’ll stay flexible, we’ll all keep learning together.

What do you think? Would you ever do CC? Why or why not?






19 :: in homeschool, Lena

Our Homeschool Kindergarten Curriculum


A lot of you have asked, and here it is! A complete write-up of Lena’s homeschool curriculum choices, including some information about Classical Conversations. I wish I had found a blog post out there like this when I was looking at curriculum, so I’m excited to summarize this for those who are a year or two behind me.

First of all, this year our goal was to ease into formal education and to have a lot of fun along the way. Children learn best at this age through listening to stories, playing, and living life in a loving, structured environment. So we don’t necessarily do school every weekday (although we do try), and we don’t spend more than about two hours total on school each day (including reading aloud). It’s just kindergarten! In California, it’s not even required.

Knowing myself, though, I wanted some accountability. I am much more likely to look at a free morning and say, “Yay! Let’s go to the zoo!” rather than sit down with schoolbooks and science experiments. So we signed up to be a part of two programs to enhance our homeschooling experience.

img_6422 The first was to sign up with a homeschool charter school. These, I think, are unique to California. By signing up for FREE, you are given at least $500 per semester to spend on educational materials and classes, you are assigned a California state-certified teacher who will meet up with you monthly to check on your work and give you guidance, and you can sign up for optional weekly enrichment classes, field trips, and activities. There are multiple charter schools in southern California; Julian, Dehesa, The Learning Choice, and Inspire are some.

We signed up for Inspire Charter School, and I have been very happy with this choice. With Inspire we received $1600 in the fall and $1000 in the spring to spend on curriculum and classes — with the only stipulation that they not be affiliated with religion in any way. (Hence our secular kindergarten curriculum. The texts themselves do not mention God or faith, but of course our worldview and beliefs influence our approach and teaching.) With this money we have purchased almost all the materials listed below, and Lena has taken Monart classes, piano lessons, and gymnastics lessons so far.

Our teacher meets us once a month at our local library, and she always goes over the “I Can” statements that address what California kindergartners are learning each quarter. I can write numbers 1 to 10. I can recognize food as a source of energy. I can retell a story. This way I can also teach Lena these things and make sure she’s not behind in or missing any area. We are always ahead of what the state expects, but it’s helpful to have anyway.

The other thing we signed up for is Classical Conversations, a homeschooling support community that is distinctly Christian. I’ll write more about this another day, but for now we are very happy with and grateful for this support, inspiration, and group of friends.

Last but not least: I read reviews of all curriculum on Cathy Duffy Reviews, a website that I highly recommend for all homeschool curriculum.

And now, our curriculum choices!

With Inspire, we were required to teach four subjects: Math, Language Arts, Science, and History. Here is what I chose for each one:


img_6326 img_6327 img_8543 For Math I chose Math-U-See after comparing it to many programs including Saxon, Life of Fred, and Singapore Math.

Math-U-See is a complete program that includes a fun and simple workbook as well as manipulatives (those snap-together blocks pictured above), a teacher’s manual, and even a songbook and CD. Truthfully, I have barely used anything except the workbook, which is very straightforward. Lena really likes it, too.

I bought both the Kindergarten (Primer) and First Grade (Alpha) programs together, and I anticipate that we’ll start the First Grade one before the end of the year. For First Grade I’d also like to try Christian Light Education Mathematics which looks engaging and interesting with a lot of shorter workbooks. The program is written by Mennonites, so the word problems are all about farm chores with cute, simple illustrations.


img_6307 fullsizerender For Language Arts we needed to cover reading and handwriting.

For handwriting, we are using Handwriting Without Tears, and I really like it. We bought a kindergarten workbook for Lena and a preschooler’s workbook for Gil, and they finished them in a few months. I just ordered the First Grade workbook for Lena for more printing practice. She’ll do a cursive workbook in a couple more years.

I also bought handwriting practice paper, a whiteboard to use like an old-fashioned slate, Dixon Ticonderoga pencils (the best!), and a Staedtler pencil sharpener.

For reading, we have only been using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This book is taking us quiiiiiite a while. Our experience definitely not been ‘just 100 days and your kid is reading,’ as I think we’ve been plugging through it for about a year and a half now and we are on Lesson 75 (of 100, obvi). I like the commonsense way that new sounds and words are introduced, and how each lesson reviews and then builds upon previous lessons.

For beginning readers, we’ve used the Bob Books, which are fun and quick reads. I’ve been loving books by Margaret Hillert from the library, too, which are simple, colorful, and repetitive. They were published in the 1970s and our library has about 50 of them. We also have a collection of Dick and Jane stories, which is what my dad used when he was learning to read. Gil loves them just as much as his grandfather did 50 years ago!


img_6315 I didn’t want to go overboard on science because there is a lot to cover in the Classical Conversations curriculum. So I bought just one science kit and one book. The Magic School Bus is about the level of a kindergartner, and it’s colorful and fun.

I have also purchased a few other kits: Glow-and-Grow Terrarium, Crystal Growing Kit, and Mind-Blowing Science Kit. We actually gave these to the kids for Christmas gifts! (Nerds.) I also bought this fun book of science experiments. Mostly I just want to make science fun and cool and accessible — for all of us.

As a busy mom, science kits are great. Everything I need + instructions arrive in one box, and voilà… science! I’ve also looked into signing up for a monthly craft/science subscription like Kiwi Crate or Little Passports, but I haven’t bitten the bullet yet.


fullsizerender-1 I heard a lot of good things about The Story of the World history curriculum, which includes a read-aloud history book, an activity manual with all kinds of coloring pages and craft ideas, and a CD on which Jim Weiss (our favorite book narrator) reads the history book out loud. There are four volumes: Ancient Times, The Middle Ages, Early Modern Times, and The Modern Age. For our first year with a kindergartner, one volume (just The Middle Ages) has been enough. I like the curriculum enough to want to invest in all four volumes, though, which potentially will last us through middle school because the activity manual includes assignments for kids of all ages, from coloring pages for Lena to writing assignments for older children.

This is not a Christian curriculum, so the charter school is fine with us using it. However, it is told from a classical education worldview and is very sympathetic to Christianity. In addition, the author is a well-known Christian homeschool educator.

Of course, as anyone who does Classical Conversations knows, there is a LOT of history to learn for that program alone! But there is so much to say about Classical Conversations that I will save it for another day.


img_6314 I invested in a few art materials, but we haven’t used these too much. Lena got a lot of art education from her Monart class, and she gets a weekly art lesson at Classical Conversations as well. She has, however, really enjoyed these colored pencils! We’ll use the other two books in the photo more in future years, I think.


puf11-puffin-complete-front-1200 Last but not least, we read a lot together. I used charter school money to buy this pretty set of books and this rainbow-colored collection of Puffin Children’s Classics, too. Lots of reading ahead of us! Right now I am reading Wind in the Willows aloud to Lena from this gorgeously-illustrated volume we bought at a used book sale years ago, anticipating days just like these.

And there you have it! What do you think? Do any of these books look familiar to you? Any recommendations for other things I should consider for First Grade?

I’m not sure yet if we’ll be homeschoolers forever, but for now… this is our life, it is challenging, but it has also been wonderful so far. I love our slower pace of life in which our whole family works and learns together. Are you homeschooling? Have you found the same thing?










16 :: in homeschool, Lena

Hello 2017!

Merry Christmas from Lena (5), Gil (3), and Forest (7 months)! This photo was on the front of our Christmas card this year. Our Christmas card photo this year: Lena (5), Gil (3), and Forest (7 months).

Hello, old blog. I think of you often, mostly because putting words and photos into this space is a way to record both the images and the emotions of this stage of life, marriage, and motherhood. I miss doing this, and reading my readers’ stories too, and sharing in this small community online.

And so, at least for the month of January, one of my goals is to write four blog posts. I am already over a week into this month and haven’t been able to write until now, so we’ll see if this happens!

I thought a fun thing to do would be to capture the last few weeks in a bunch of photos. A lot of my favorite photos are on Instagram, but here are some that didn’t make the cut for whatever reason, yet still tell our story.

becca-garber-hello-2017-1 In December right before Christmas, we went on a five-day vacation to Cambria on the central California coast with my mom, dad, sister Emily, brother Eric, and his girlfriend Rebecca. We stayed in a gorgeous Airbnb on Stepladder Ranch, and we spent hours hiking in the lush green hills around the ranch.

img_7685 Sunrise through the lavender outside our bedroom window.

becca-garber-hello-2017-2 We went on a tour of Stepladder Creamery, a goat dairy on the ranch. It was so green; all the shades of green and red and blue were like technicolor. The cheese was great too!

becca-garber-hello-2017-3 Forest was everyone’s favorite to snuggle.

img_7736 Sunset at Elephant Seal Beach, where we saw male elephant seals fighting and tiny newborn baby seals nursing. Elliott and I haven’t been back here since our honeymoon almost seven years ago, so it was crazy to stand there watching the same amazing sight… but with our three children.

becca-garber-hello-2017-4 Mornings at the ranch house.

becca-garber-hello-2017-5 My mom bought fun spa items for us girls to enjoy while we were there, and Lena had so much fun pampering all of us. I want to repeat this experience! Turns out she gives a facial (the five-year-old version) just as well as she climbs trees.

becca-garber-hello-2017-6 Frolicking in the hills!

img_7755 We visited Hearst Castle while we were staying just a few miles away, and it was opulent and magnificent. This is the indoor pool. Can you imagine hanging out here with movie stars in the 1930s and ’40s?

becca-garber-hello-2017-7 The long drive home. I hate LA traffic.

img_7783 Christmas Eve breakfast! Elliott’s favorite cinnamon rolls were a must.

becca-garber-hello-2017-8 My little family ready to head out to the Christmas Eve service at church, and our Christmas Day dinner the next day.

img_7814 The whole crew enjoying Christmas morning breakfast. We are so glad you all came!

img_7865 My three precious children on Christmas morning. Forest’s first! My heart was so full of thankfulness that day.

img_7871 Between travel to St Louis, Virginia, and Cambria in December, Forest’s sleep schedule was a total wreck and he was so exhausted by the time Christmas was over. We moved him up to his own bedroom (and out of our closet!) right after my family departed. We also moved him out of the little Arm’s Reach co-sleeper bed he’d slept in his whole life, and now he is in a real “big boy” crib. He’s already sleeping so much better. Not sleeping through the night, though I think he could. I know… babies and parents and sleep… the endless drama…

img_7872 Elliott’s parents got into town for a week-long visit the same day my family left, and we spent a quiet day at home before going to the San Diego Holiday Bowl parade the next day. The kids loved all the balloon floats and bands!

becca-garber-hello-2017-9 We celebrated a second Christmas with Elliott’s parents, this time just stockings. The kids especially enjoyed the packs of gum I put in there, and the little balloon pump and long tube balloons that we made into shapes. So entertaining!

img_7899 We visited Torrey Pines State Reserve one day, and a cockatoo walked right up with his owner and made himself at home! He untied our shoe laces, ate our carrots, and then meandered on his happy way.

img_7920 Elliott’s sister gave the kids cloth bags and fabric paint for Christmas, and they had so much fun decorating them. I love this messy, realistic scene that is reminiscent of many many mornings in our home.

becca-garber-hello-2017-10 At the recommendation of multiple friends, I got my first Erin Condren planner this year. Already I love having a paper planner so much. I feel like I have a clear grasp of what this week holds, and what I need to get done, like send birthday cards, schedule babysitters, accomplish monthly goals… things that often got pushed to the last minute or just forgotten. When my family relies on me to be organized as well as provide for them in myriad ways, I don’t want to waste my time being disorganized, last-minute, or forgetful. This is my realization and aspiration, anyway. More about goals in an upcoming post!

becca-garber-hello-2017-11 My baby’s first time in the shopping cart seat, and one of my favorite parts of the day: bathing Forest, wrapping him up in his hooded towel, dressing him in cozy pajamas, snuggling up to nurse him, and then laying his sleepy body down in his crib. I love having a baby so so so much, even with the challenges.

img_8003 I’ve been selling and giving away a lot of things this month (spring cleaning!), and I loved this photo of a hand bell set I was ready to part with. Sadly, my kids were always more interested in ringing them loudly enough to wake up the neighbors than playing “Jingle Bells.”

becca-garber-hello-2017-12 Photos of me and my best friend before a hot date to an Italian restaurant!

img_8127 For my job at a local paper, I reviewed Buona Forchetta, a popular Italian restaurant in San Diego, and then interviewed the owner. Everyone loved the article, and I loved the entire experience from start to finish! Here’s the article if you’d like to read it.

becca-garber-hello-2017-13 Our beloved baby. On the left, he was eating some crackers (love Mum-Mums!) at the library, and on the right he was hanging out with me, Elliott, and our dog on a date while Elliott’s parents took the older two kids to La Jolla Cove.

becca-garber-hello-2017-14 More of my baby. I might be obsessed a little. Also he loves his bath each night so much!

img_8139 Photo of Bluewater Boathouse (another restaurant I review each quarter for the newspaper) and Glorietta Bay at sunrise, taken on a run with friends. We live in such a breathtakingly beautiful place!

becca-garber-hello-2017-15 Lena showed Forest how to set up her new gears toy, and Gil snapped this random photo of me one night when I was giving Forest a bath.

img_8165 Last week we rode the ferry from Coronado to downtown San Diego (I love this photo from the ride) to get Lena a new passport and apply for Forest’s first. We’d like to do some international travel this spring, but we’re still not sure where.

becca-garber-hello-2017-16 Playing on the amazing playground after our passport appointments. Forest is such a serious swinger, and Lena is such a daredevil one!

img_8185 And finally, here is a photo of my precious Gil, because I don’t take enough of this sweet, goofy boy. He wasn’t feeling great here (the kids have been suffering from stomach bugs this past week), but he came along so cheerfully on this expedition on the ferry and smiled so sweetly here.

And that’s all for now! A busy season, but one I don’t ever want to forget. If only that were possible… at least for all the best memories!




9 :: in Coronado, family, Forest, Gil, holidays, home sweet home, Lena, life lately, San Diego

An Update from the Sunny Coast


Well hi! It’s been months since I’ve updated this old blog. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and everything else that we missed!

I think when you disappear from a space — or slowly slip away — readers often wonder if something is wrong. (I know I’ve hidden away from social media and blogs at times when things are hard or uncertain.) Yet this time I slipped away because life was so good, because the days were so full, and because I didn’t want to miss any of it (even by recording it!). Also, the unique story we had in Sicily didn’t seem so unique now that we were in California.

Anyway, all that to say, these past few months have been some of the best, and they have been thoroughly enjoyed and lived in the present. I bet you know what I mean and how that feels. It’s so good.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-1 So here we are in 2016. I thought I’d update with some of my favorite photos from the first two months of the year, starting with these: an early morning cuppa and journaling, and my little man Gil learning his letters.


Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook will know this, but we are expecting another baby! I am due with #3 in mid-May, and we have been savoring this pregnancy so much because of the joy of sharing it with our children.

Lena really gets it and knows things will be hard and wonderful when the baby arrives. She tells everyone she is going to change the baby’s diapers, and the other day she told me, “I might have to do all the cooking after the baby arrives, Mama.” What would I do without her?

IMG_3308 Lena and I have been reading aloud a lot together (maybe too much — she can be really demanding when she loves a book), and we started the year with this gorgeous Rifle Paper Co. edition of Alice in Wonderland. What a wacky book! The illustrations were exquisite.

IMG_3321 Lena made a “sweater” for her cousin from some wrapping paper, yarn, and tape. She has such an imagination…

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-2 … as evidenced by this blanket/block/rubber band creation on the floor: a butterfly!

On the right, I was 22 weeks pregnant with this third babe, enjoying a full-length mirror and two hours of work/writing time while the kids were in weekly enrichment classes at the Coronado Community Center.

IMG_3407 El Niño came to visit and we were hit with days of torrential rain. After it passed, we headed up into the hills (along with the rest of San Diego) to play in the snow. We didn’t find much, and it was mostly ice.

IMG_3376 Eventually we left the crowds and found a quiet country road with some hikes. Gil posed like a model.

IMG_3383 And Lena and Gil found their own chunks of snow/ice to play with in the shade! Overall, the trip was a win, but we’re looking forward to East Coast winters again in the future some day.

IMG_3446 They looked so cute laughing down at me from the second floor that I took their picture! Also, the Christmas decorations finally came down in late January…

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-3 Lena discovered my phone was unlocked and took selfies…

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-4 Our town’s library is the most magical place. This afternoon activity was a birthday party for Winnie the Pooh. The librarians read Pooh poems, taught Pooh songs, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Pooh, and served up birthday cake!

IMG_3713 On January 25, Gil turned THREE! We had a quiet day, a special dinner, made a cake, blew out candles, and opened a few presents. One of them was a green train engine to add to his little train set, and this was his first battery-operated train car. Hours of amusement ensued.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-5 Happy birthday, sweet Gil! Hope you enjoyed all the piles of sprinkles you dumped on your cake, and the red and blue frosting you so specifically chose. We love you!

IMG_3774 Evening walk to the beach for sunset, always magnificent.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-8 For our 6th anniversary on January 30th, I told Elliott all I wanted was to walk to the beach and order pizza for a picnic dinner there. I got my wish! The kids thought they were pretty lucky to be included, too.

IMG_3830 Quiet Saturday morning reading and snuggling in Mama and Daddy’s bed.

IMG_3802 Lena and Elliott went to a golf tournament for fun with friends, so Gil and I ran errands and then got a treat ourselves at my favorite Coronado cafe: Tartine. Gil looked in the dessert case and of all the desserts, he chose my favorite: pavlova. Way to go, Gil!

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-7 Every few months or so, I provide refreshments for our church after the service. That week I made mini bacon and caramelized onion quiches, banana bread, and winter fruit salad. I was missing pomegranate seeds, which would have made the salad extra pretty!

In the second photo, Gil was my fashion photographer for a less-than-successful photoshoot.

IMG_3897 A friend and I hosted a Valentine’s Day crafting party at my house for our local Moms Club, and it was a huge hit! We had so much fun, and I loved seeing so many friends in my home.

IMG_3908 They are a pretty wonderful bunch. :)

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-6 Back from an early-morning run with a good friend before the kids are up! My 24-week bump and I got to enjoy some quiet reading and journaling.

And on the right… those kiddos in their footie pajamas are always up to something. It has been one of my greatest joys this season to see them really play together, creating their own games and building forts and using their imaginations for hours at a time. It makes mothering them so much more fun, too.

IMG_3457 The kids started playing soccer on Wednesday afternoons with Little Rascalz Soccer School, a play-based, preschool-oriented introduction to sports. It’s really good for the kids, I think, and I hope I can continue to encourage them to play sports like they do now: purely for the fun of it.

IMG_3655 Lena and Gil’s friend was turning four, and his dad (a SEAL, as many guys are in Coronado, the home of the Navy SEALs) set up a slack line and zip line for the kids to enjoy at the park. Pizza, cake, and zip lines — that was Lena’s kind of party!

IMG_3653 Later that night, we decided to have our second family movie night of all time and watch Toy Story. So far we’ve seen this one and Finding Nemo, and we’re thinking of watching Cinderella next. This slow introduction to movies together has been a lot of fun, and I like how movies are a treat for all of us this way.

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-9 On the left, Lena and I read through all five books in the Samantha series (American Girl) in a few days. She loved them, even though a lot of the historical context was over her head. Can’t wait till she can read all these books on her own in a few years! I loved them all and still remember so much of the stories.

On the right, we went kayaking as a family last Saturday morning in the San Diego Bay, and Gil took the relaxing aspect of kayaking right to heart!

IMG_4022 My little nap time companion. Siena, our Maine Coon, likes to find me on the couch, play with my hair for a few minutes, and then lie down on it to take a nap.

IMG_4033 Annelie, my Swedish friend and running partner, invited us over to celebrate Fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday. We ate semla, the traditional Swedish cardamom and cream buns that Swedes enjoy before the start of Lent.

I love being included in her Swedish traditions! I never got a picture of it, but she brought her family and Swedish friends to come caroling on Saint Lucia Day right before Christmas. Do you remember that tradition from the Kirsten (American Girl) books? They were dressed in white with candles and wreaths! So magical.

IMG_4052 Another magical thing is how this little girl has taken to her first bike. We encouraged her to practice and practice and practice on her balance bike, and finally in early February I found a two-wheeler on Craigslist that was not super girly or too boyish. She was pedaling independently on it after 15 minutes, and now she streaks around our driveway, standing up on the pedals and pumping away. We’re so proud, and she loves her new freedom!

IMG_4059 El Niño rains and storms have changed the topography of our beaches, exposing an old shipwreck that is usually buried in the sand. One evening we met a bunch of friends there (and tons of tourists) to walk through the shallow water and out onto the wreck. It’s a sunken gambling boat, so rumor has it that there’s money around here, too!

IMG_4123 Elliott’s parents visited for a long weekend, and on their last morning here we took them to Balboa Park to ride the carousel and explore the gardens. Gotta love that 80-degree weather in February!

IMG_4128 One night Elliott cut Gil’s hair and let the kids watch half an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I came back from a run the next morning and found them sitting side by side on the couch, Gil’s hand on Lena’s knee, enjoying the second half of the show together.

IMG_4130 I brought the kids with me when I took my glucose tolerance test for pregnancy, and they wanted to taste the last drop in the bottle to see what it was like. They loved it, of course.

IMG_4136 I don’t write about it too much on here, but my part-time work as a staff writer for eCoronado (a local online newspaper) is a wonderful part of my life. I write at least two articles a week for the paper, and half of these are food reviews of restaurants, movie reviews of the newest blockbuster, or stage reviews of theater productions. I love promoting local shop owners and artists in our town, getting to enjoy arts and culture for free (Elliott and I go on so many good dates!), and sharing my knowledge with Coronado.

Last week I wrote an article about drones in Coronado, which are a major hazard due to low-flying planes and helicopters in a town with two military bases. My story got picked up by a local news station, and I was interviewed by the station about my article. The 3-minute story ran on the 7pm local news! It was such a cool experience (despite having to talk into the sun for about 20 minutes without sunglasses on!).

becca-garber-update-coronado-2016-10 And now, last but not least, a precious photo of Gil with his grandmother during her visit, giggling on the whirling carousel, and me at 27 weeks pregnant.

If you look at the photo on the left quickly, it looks like my belly sticks out as far as the end of the bed, rather than only as far as my hand. I’ve still got three months to go, though, so my belly will stick out that far before too long! Bring it on, baby. We can’t wait to meet you!

12 :: in Coronado, family, Gil, home sweet home, Lena, life lately

Life Lately… An Overdue Update!


First of all, the giveaway for a signed copy of Elliott’s first novel ends at midnight tonight! Enter by commenting on this post if you’d like to win. :)

Secondly, I have stopped looking at/posting regularly on Instagram for a while after getting back from Yosemite because I enjoyed the break so much, and I don’t like the [self-induced!] pressure of always trying to take an “Instagram-worthy” picture. Can anyone else relate to this? Anyway, I’m sure I’ll eventually post/browse regularly again, but in the meantime I wanted to bring some of the family memories back to the blog again. It’s been a while! Here are my favorite photos I found on my phone from the past month:

IMG_1312 As we often do in the evenings here, a few weeks ago we jogged to the beach to enjoy the sunset and a family picnic. Lena’s 4.5 years old now, and sometimes she amazes me by how grown up she seems!

IMG_1314 The setting sun shines down on Point Loma and a lone fisherman.

IMG_1322 The tide’s coming in, save the tractor!

IMG_1335 I hosted a pool play date at my house for my local moms club after feeling convicted that I haven’t been opening up my home much lately. Elliott and I don’t know how much longer we’ll live in Coronado, and I want more friends to come over, see my dirt, feel loved, and enjoy our home with us. Anyway, tangent aside, sooo many kids came (mine aren’t even in the pool here), and I had to get a second baby pool for the little ones, and there were snacks everywhere, and moms could only get five-second conversations in before they were interrupted again and again, but we all had so much fun. Must do this again!

IMG_1357 The kids and I went to the zoo with my friend Heather and her three boys, and at the end Heather pushed four kids in her stroller up a huge hill. Look at that front tire! I don’t know how she did it, but I was her cheering squad as I pushed one lone child in my own stroller beside her.

IMG_1373 This is a memory from a fun morning, so I thought I’d share it. I write for a local online paper, and one article I wrote recently was about a brand new breastfeeding support group in Coronado. For the first 30 minutes of the support session, no one showed up, and so I just chatted with the lactation educator and hoped she’d get some clients. And then three moms and babies walked in! We were both so happy, and I think her support group is off to a great start.

IMG_1392 Later that week, I took my family out to a restaurant (Calypso Cafe in the Coronado Cays for my local readers!) to write a food review for my job. It was a special outing, since we don’t eat out as a family very often, and we all enjoyed the delicious food by the water.

IMG_1403 Not the best picture, but Lena and I are finally twins! I’ve been wanting to get us matching Saltwater sandals for a long time, and finally a pair became available in her size on eBay to match my own favorite shoes. Now she picks both pairs out of the closet and brings mine to me before we go anywhere.

IMG_1425 It RAINED one day! I delayed nap/rest time for an hour so that the kids could enjoy the deluge outside. Mostly they enjoyed one of their favorite activities: crushing chalk just to see what it will do… because our house is where chalk comes to die.

IMG_1426 My friend Maggie invited us over to her house to watch a movie on a rainy afternoon, another novelty for many reasons. The kids looked so cute all lined up and snuggling!

becca-garber-life-update The first photo is from a run I took a couple of weeks ago with my friend Annelie. I haven’t run more than four miles in a long time, so this was a historic day! Next I’ll work on my pace (haha)… but Annelie and I talk too much during our weekly runs to go much faster! I love that the map shows we ran around the island of Coronado (the whole western half is a military base), something I’ve wanted to do since I moved here.

The second photo is of another fun trip to the zoo with friends! Lena is always happiest when climbing the highest thing in sight, and Gil is always happiest with a bag of snacks in hand.

IMG_1459 We spent a Saturday at the beach! I got a little reading in before some of our friends arrived, and we spent the rest of the morning playing in the sand and surf. I actually swam in the ocean that day because it was so warm, something I’ve never done before in Coronado! The beaches here bring currents of water down from Alaska, meaning the water is bone-chillingly cold most of the year.

IMG_1462 IMG_1465 Auntie Jess came to visit for a few days! We took her out to one of our favorite restaurants in Balboa Park, Panama 66. Their tuna melt and cheese board are to die for…

IMG_1472 Elliott played hooky from work for a couple of hours so we could go hiking at Torrey Pines, one of our favorite urban hiking spots near our house.

IMG_1477 On another night, I took Elliott and Jess out to dinner for San Diego Restaurant Week, as I was reviewing their menu for another article. I loved all the seafood, but that key lime pie for dessert is what I’m dreaming about now…

IMG_1476 We took a picture of the receipt showing the 100% discount for being a “media/travel writer!” Dreams really do come true.

IMG_1495 Lena walked out of rest time in her bedroom one afternoon covered head to toe with marker ink. I tried so hard not to laugh out loud and almost succeeded. The end of her rest time that day turned into a solo bubble bath!

IMG_1507 Lena and Gil are taking classes this fall at our community center, and Lena is taking a STEAM class (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). She came home and told me about the vinegar and baking soda they mixed in a bowl, and that reminded me of a science experiment I did in elementary school with my mom. We made a volcano out of play doh and then watched it erupt!

IMG_1514 This is all Gil wants to do for several hours every day: “my wanta paint.” (“My” is his word for me, I, and myself these days.) His favorite part is taking the tops off and lining up all the bottles, but he does enjoy painting every now and then too…

IMG_1525 One last delicious food item because I couldn’t resist! This is from Saturday night, when Elliott and I reviewed a local European cafe and then walked across Coronado to a little community theater to review the play Thoroughly Modern Millie. I love this writing/reviewing work so much, and Elliott is also enjoying the upgrade to our dating life. ;)

What have you been up to in September? I hope wherever you are that a pumpkin spice latte sounds perfectly seasonal and amazing. I am waiting for that day to come to San Diego, but it’s the hottest time of the year here… so I’ll keep dreaming.

And that’s all for now!  Oh, except… go here to enter the giveaway if you haven’t yet!

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10 :: in Coronado, family, Gil, home sweet home, Lena, life lately, memories, San Diego

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