Archive | San Diego

08/52 + A Visit to the San Diego Zoo with Grampa!

becca-garber-san-diego-zoo-grampa-2 One of the best parts of having grandparents with work all over the U.S. is that they can sometimes add San Diego to their itinerary! Elliott’s dad has taken every speaking engagement in San Diego that he can, and we were treated to a visit from him last week.

He’s a gentle, kind soul that his grandkids adore, and I can never forget my first impression of him about seven years ago: “He looks like Santa Claus! If I marry this man [Elliott] and we have kids, I would love them to have a grandfather who looks like Santa Claus.”

Some dreams really do come true!

becca-garber-san-diego-zoo-grampa-3.jpg We took Grampa to the San Diego Zoo one morning, a place he hasn’t visited since he was a boy. His strongest memory was of the giant tortoises, and so we visited them first. The kids and I have been ALL OVER this zoo, I thought, but hadn’t seen these fellows yet. What else is hiding in that huge zoo?!

Image-1 My favorite photo from the day… :)

becca-garber-san-diego-zoo-grampa-4.jpg I’m including this one of Lena because I don’t think she stuck her tongue out to be rude, just to be funny for the camera, and it shows a lot of things that are true about her lately. She’s a little performer. The other photo is equally descriptive: she loooooves the zoo workers who dress up like animals. Gil is not so sure…

becca-garber-san-diego-zoo-grampa-1 This man loves his snacks. He is supremely content with a bag of snacks in hand, walking around the playground or sitting in the stroller, and watching the world go by.

becca-garber-san-diego-zoo-grampa-5.jpg We are having a minor obsession with koalas these days, and the play structure inside the koala area isn’t bad either. Exhibit B right here.

And, just for fun, here are a couple other photos of the kids from the week:

becca-garber-lena-portrait-08-15 Lena: Enjoying a quiet snack of yogurt after waking up from her nap to find Grampa in the house. Still flushed from sleep and the shy excitement of discovering our visitor! He had just taken a photo of our cat, Siena, and was showing it to the kids on his phone.

becca-garber-gil-portrait-08-15 Gil: We had a rainy weekend in San Diego, a rare treat around here. I am totally spoiled, though, because I am not used to be cooped up indoors with the kids anymore! The kids enjoyed a lot of jammies that day.


And that’s the weekend update from around here! What did you do this past weekend?

10 :: in 52 project, San Diego, visitors

Catching Up on the 52 Project!

becca-garber-52-project-02:2015-gil Last year I took a photo of each of my children each week as part of “The 52 Project.” I only made it half the year and it was sometimes a rather last-minute deal, but it was fun and worth it because look at Gil’s hair! And this is one of my favorite photos ever of Lena.

So I’m late this year, but I think I want to do it again. (Now maybe by March or so I’ll write down my goals for 2015… and do whatever else people usually do on January 1!)

Here are Weeks 1 through 7. I’ll follow up with Week 8 in a few days, hopefully after I get out my “real camera” and have some fun!

Week 1

becca-garber-52-project-01:2015-lena Lena: Lena: She’s climbing anything and everything these days, and her brother isn’t far behind. This photo is from a quick trip the three of us took one morning to the San Diego Zoo, where Gil learned how to say “koala.”

becca-garber-52-project-01:2015-gil Gil: Enjoying the last vestiges of Christmas with his Grampa. We spent most of the first week of the year in Virginia with our families. I miss those candy cane-striped pajamas already!

Week 2

becca-garber-52-project-03:2015-lena Lena: We spent part of Week 2 and 3 up the California coast in Santa Barbara county, where Elliott’s friends have a ranch. I loved watching Lena slip right into ranch life. Look at the way she cocks her little hip as she watches her dad from the back of the flatbed truck! She rides on hay bales back there like a natural, too.

becca-garber-52-project-03:2015-gil Gil: He rode his first horse at the ranch that weekend! BAREBACK! When we were there in September, Gil wouldn’t let us put him on Bliss, but this time he took right to her.

Week 3

becca-garber-52-project-04:2015-lena Lena: So content and such a good traveler! She’s always been flexible and fascinated by new places, even when she was two months old and I flew with her to visit Elliott on an Army assignment in Israel. This weekend was no exception… except when we were in the car driving to and from Santa Barbara. That time was not so great…

becca-garber-52-project-04:2015-gil Gil: We found a real tractor. He got to sit on it. Bliss x2!

Week 4

becca-garber-52-project-05:2015-lena Lena: We started reading Little House in the Big Woods before bed, and I was amazed by how much I remembered from my own childhood! My mom read it aloud to me when I was about five, and in retrospect I think Lena was too young. We’ll read it again in a couple years when she’s ready for the rest of the series, too. We just finished Charlotte’s Web together last week, which was equally sweet and memorable for the two of us.

becca-garber-52-project-05:2015-gil Gil: This little guy turned two on January 25! He couldn’t wait to get out of the bath that night to keep playing with all his new toys, and this ended up being my favorite photo from the day.

Week 5

becca-garber-52-project-06:2015-lena Lena: She’s always coming up with new and hilarious games to play with Gil these days; this time it was finding pillowcases in the linen closet and announcing, “We’re ghosts!” I’ve waited a L O N G time for them to finally start playing together independently, and I feel like it’s finally, really happening.

becca-garber-52-project-06:2015-gil Gil: Our church celebrated “Scottish Heritage Sunday,” which I’ve never heard of before, but we loved! So much plaid and so many kilts, even miniature ones on a couple adorable little boys! Maybe Gil needs one next year??

Week 6

becca-garber-52-project-07:2015-lena Lena: Valentine’s Day! We were in the park when Lena’s little friend Caleb got out of his preschool Valentine’s Day party, and he sweetly sat down and shared his entire bag of candy (!) with his brother and his friends. Lena now wants to go to school. (Of course.)

becca-garber-52-project-07:2015-gil Gil: I learned that our library loans out free passes to the New Children’s Museum downtown, so I took the kids one day. I’d heard so much about the museum for so long, and it did not disappoint! A table of KAPLA blocks, a whole tractor to paint, an entire balcony for blowing bubbles, a gigantic soft squishy playground, a whole room full of books and tent-making supplies, and even a bouncy house… felt like heaven to everyone involved. San Diego wins.

Week 7

becca-garber-52-project-08:2015-lena Lena: She continues to be my effortless fashionista. (Either that or the topknot is the easiest and cutest hairstyle ever!) We’ve been going to the beach a lot lately, taking advantage of the milder temperatures and sun during the winter. It’s 75-80 degrees most days, so we should live it up while we can! (Did I mention that San Diego wins?)

becca-garber-52-project-2015-gil Gil: Our local MOMS Club took a trip to the Coronado fire station, which was kind of stressful with 91 children (just kidding) but also totally fascinating and very “small town.” The kids watched a real fireman slide down a real fire pole and Gil has wanted to “see pole” (see the picture) every day ever since. Here it is, just for fun:

becca-garber-coronado-fire-station ——–

And now a question for you: how do you enjoy and look at your pictures? All mine are on my computer! Do you print out individual photos and put them in albums? Or do you print photo books through a certain service? I am starting to worry that Lena will lose her memories of Sicily if we don’t reinforce them with photos, but I don’t have a single photo book — or photo! — printed. Help! Where to start?

21 :: in 52 project, memories, San Diego

Friendsgiving with California Flair!

becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-2 Happy Cyber Monday!

Just kidding, that’s awful.

Did you host Thanksgiving this year, or did you spend most of the weekend enjoying family, full of turkey, and curled up on a couch in your parents’ wonderful home?

Some dear friends joined us here in San Diego for Thanksgiving, and so we hosted and celebrated with them for four wonderful days. Long-time readers of the blog will remember Lewis and Bekah from our brief life in San Antonio as well as their visit to Sicily last fall. This time they brought their beautiful baby with them, little Moira Sage, and Lena and Gil are in love with her.

Lena had this countdown going on before their arrival:

“Only four more naps till Thanksgiving! One after lunch nap, one after dinner nap, and then one after lunch nap tomorrow and one dinner nap tomorrow, and then Thanksgiving!!! And our friends will be here! Yaaaay!”

I heard her repeat a variation of this at least 10 times a day for the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, I dutifully lugged home stacks of Thanksgiving-related books from the library and read them all to her, explaining over and over about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, religious freedom, and Squanto planting corn with fish.

But Thanksgiving for Lena is still all about the naps and the friends… and maybe that’s all for the best when you’re three years old. Or any age, actually.

For our Thanksgiving dinner with our friends, Elliott and I brined our 18lb turkey for the first time ever, and it was SO deliciously juicy and flavorful. I also tried a bunch of new recipes, including these Epicurious recipes for stuffing and sweet potatoes and these Style Me Pretty recipes for green bean casserole and gravy and cranberry sauce, but I shot from the hip for mashed potatoes because I’m wild and crazy like that!

The day after Thanksgiving, we headed to the beautiful gardens and art museums of Balboa Park. Being outdoors with good friends is the best way to spend Black Friday, am I right?!

Elliott and Lewis have been friends since their undergrad days at UVA, and now they have amazing careers and wives (both named Becca/Bekah… so weird) and adorable children of their very own. AKA they have lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, if I do say so myself.

This monarch butterfly had just crawled out of its chrysalis (on the right of the photo) and was exercising his new wings when we found him.

becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-13 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-6 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-5 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-7 becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-14
Moira gives Gil a back massage?

Poor Gil. Will your pants ever ever stay up?

In an art museum next to the botanical gardens, Lena admired a painting of the Piazza Duomo in Venice, and I told her about when we visited that piazza with her as a baby.

becca-garber-balboa-park-botanical-gardens-thanksgiving-15Can you guess which child is the architect’s daughter?!

Lewis and Bekah treated us to a delicious lunch at Panama 66 in Balboa Park. Every one of us loved their food and the idyllic outdoor setting, and I’ll be dreaming about that fancy-schmanzy tuna melt for a long time.

On the left: “We could be royals…”

And on the right: another points-for-trying family photo shoot. How they all go these days…


I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving with your loved ones. I am thankful for YOU!

2 :: in friends, holidays, hospitality, San Diego

Veterans Day at SeaWorld!

I think Elliott and I are still more excited than our kids every time we go to the zoo or SeaWorld, although I suppose that won’t last much longer! It’s amazing to be so close to such magnificent animals… and even to be able to touch and hold some of them. Unfortunately, my love for SeaWorld has been a little more informed and a little more skeptical in recent years (more about that later), and a visit is now conflicting for Elliott and me. I’m curious to know if any of you feel the same way?

Thanks to being in the military, we are allowed to visit SeaWorld once a year for free, and it’s a treat we’ve enjoyed every chance we’ve gotten.  It gets better (and worse…!) every time now that we have kids, I think. Funny how that happens. ;)

We planned our route with the kids at the beginning of the day. Gil was really into it.

becca-garber-seaworld-12 First stop: petting little bamboo sharks!

The dolphins never fail to delight. We caught them right as their trainers were working with them, which was like a miniature show!

After his trainers left, this clever fellow managed to flip open the top of his treat box with his nose. He couldn’t get the box to tip over, though, even with a whole crowd cheering him on!

My son and my daughter. Crazies, both of ’em.

Speaking of crazy, why do we even bring a stroller if no one rides in it? Someday I’m going to climb in and make them push me.

When I first saw the “Shamu Show” (orca performance) in 2010, it was so beautiful (Free Willy forever!) that there were tears running down my cheeks at the end of the show. However, these days it is underwhelming because the trainers don’t get in the water with the orcas anymore.

And, of course, the whale (hah) in the room is the way SeaWorld treats their animals. We haven’t seen Blackfish yet; have you? I’d like to see it, even though I know I’ll probably never want to go to SeaWorld again after that.

All that aside, this was the cutest thing we saw all day!


All the petting pools were amazing, and the kids loved gently touching manta rays and holding starfish in their hands underwater.

becca-garber-seaworld-14 [Fishy] Christmas decorations already?!

And the day ended with a hilarious sea lion and otter show, definitely a highlight of the day. We were laughing so hard the entire time as the animals and their trainers danced to “Gangam Style” or acted out a CSI episode. What amazing, intelligent animals!

And that’s how we spent Veterans Day. What about you?

I’d love to know: have you ever been to SeaWorld, or do you have an opinion about zoos and parks where animals are held captive? There’s definitely a sad, not-as-it-should-be aspect to places like those, even with all the good they do for awareness, conservation, and endangered animals. What do you think?

9 :: in family, military life, San Diego

Because I Have Two Hours to Write!

Beautiful matching outfits handmade by my "Aunt" Leslie of Rosebasket.

Beautiful matching outfits handmade by my “Aunt” Leslie of Rosebasket.
If you click on this image, it will take you to her handmade clothing website!

For the past four weeks my sister-in-law Jess has been visiting, and I’ve got to say, having someone visit you who loves to cook, care for children, and can slip seamlessly into your life is an amazing gift. This morning — juuuust as the kids and I were finishing an epic showdown that involved a lotlotlot of toothpaste — Jess said,

“Hey Becca, is there anything you’d like to do this morning? I can watch the kids.”

And within 10 minutes I had slipped out the back door and started speed-walking towards the library. Two hours to myself to write and think! I could scarcely believe it.

I even snapped ridiculous selfies on the way and sent them to Elliott, saying, “I’m on my way to the library to write! This is amazing!”

So let’s just take a moment to celebrate Jess and the awesomeness of having her with us for a whole month:


Cooking AND baking are part of her daily routine, which means I’ve made about three dinners in the last month. Which is amazing. Stay and cook for us forever, Jess?

And anyway, here I am, in the library, writing to you. I thought I’d use this time for a few fun updates…

It’s only Wednesday, but in our household one big party starts today when Uncle David gets off the plane. This is Jess’s last week with us and so David (Elliott and Jess’s brother) and Emily (my sister) have decided to fly out and join us for a few days.

Em just got her ticket yesterday after a few days of deliberation, and Lena and I freaked out with happiness at the zoo, right in front of the lions, and took this photo for her:

I think you couldn’t have happier smiles!

Speaking of the zoo, it was so much fun. I invited my new friend, Heather, and her two boys (who are exactly Lena and Gil’s ages) to come with us, and we wrangled children and tried to get a few words in edgewise and overall had a great time, I think. ;)

Last week, Heather and I also left all four of our kids with Jess (thank you, Jess!!!) so that we could slip away for a pedicure and quiet conversation in a little cafe. I’m thrilled to see friendships forming here in Coronado as our lives slowly take on shape:


L: All four kids looking — if not smiling — at the camera is a major success!
R: Pumpkin spice latte date with a new, good friend.

On a more serious note… it’s happening. “Making room” is happening. We chose to live in Coronado and get this bigger house so we could fill it up to bursting with friends and family, and I rejoice every time I see someone take me up on it. Some friend or family member buy a plane ticket and send me their itinerary, some sweet neighbor show up on the doorstep with something yummy, some new friend bring their kids over and watch the house get wonderfully messy and laugh with me. Praise God. We have so far to go (what church will we go to? how will we offer our home to our church?), but these past few months have affirmed God’s blessing on our choice of neighborhood and home — even so, so far from family in D.C. — and my heart rejoices.

OK, back to fun updates. This past weekend, Jess took care of our kids while Elliott and I went on a 36-hour getaway to L.A.! (Remember my aspirations in this post? They’re happening!)


L: You’re supposed to be able to see the Hollywood sign behind us…
R: Our favorite movie star.

I’ve always wanted to see Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and… maybe a few movie stars, too. Well, we saw all those things (probably including a couple stars because I realized we don’t watch enough TV to know who most people are), and — best of all — we had some time alone together. We went on long walks, lingered over delicious brunches, stayed at a bookstore as long as we wanted, slept in on Sunday morning, and overall celebrated being best friends and being married. It was just lovely. Thank you for taking me, Elliott!


L: Just another $1.4 million car on the street!
R: All afternoon in a bookstore = our love language


L: Reading in bed as long as we liked!
R: Beverly Hills Farmers Market for breakfast and bluegrass.

What else? My parents also visited recently, and one night they took us out to dinner and then to the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado to see Les Miserables. Such an amazing production! If you’re local, the tickets are half off (and almost gone) on Halloween night. Jess, David, Emily, and I are going this Friday thanks to that deal.

My “little” cousins visited from L.A. while my parents were here. They are so good with Lena and Gil. I’m like… how did you guys learn to be so great with little kids? I was not like you when I was 12!


Once upon a time Tyler and Ashley were my ring bearer and flower girl, and now look at them!

My mom also brought the kids this amazing play quilt that she made for Gil. All the animals fit into the pockets of the train cars, and the sun, moon, kite, and an airplane are removable with velcro. It even has little miniature dolls that look like Lena and Gil! Can you believe it? What an heirloom!


And I just saw the kids and Jess across the library looking for me, so my time’s up! It was wonderful. Thanks for reading.

What are YOU looking forward to this week?



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15 :: in Coronado, family, life lately, motherhood, San Diego

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