how we spend our days {Part 1 of 2}


Right before Gil was born, I did a two-part blog series documenting a regular day at home with Lena.  I knew those days were precious, and I wanted to capture the whole day in images as best I could (mostly for my own sake!).  Little did I know that Gil would be born the next day.  That really was the very last day in that stage of our lives.

Just like last January, change is on the horizon for us now.  We will only be in Sicily for another 8 months, and after that I don’t know where we’ll be or what my everyday life will look like.  I could very well go back to work, and/or my children might be in school or daycare.  Who knows?

There is also change in the weather here, as the autumn winds begin to whistle around our house on the cliff and the fields below us once again turn lush and green with the winter rains.

And there is change in our children.  They are not the same from day to day or even moment to moment.  When I took these pictures last week, Gil preferred to scoot everywhere, hoisting himself forward on his two arms and dragging his legs behind him.  Now, just four days later, he’s marching around on all fours with military precision.  Lena has probably learned 10 new words.  How can I keep up with all this change?

Of course the answer is that I can’t keep up with it.  I can only enjoy these fleeting days filled with growth and development and constant newness.  So, in order to capture a little bit of these days for my memory, I grabbed my camera on the morning of November 14th — my 27th birthday.  It was a special day in some ways (hot breakfast and cupcakes and presents, oh my!), but in others it was just the same as most others, because sameness — rhythm, routine — is necessary with young ones.

How we spend our days is, after all, how we spend our lives. (Annie Dillard)

So here is a day in our lives.


On that morning, Elliott let me sleep in… which was blissful!  We’re terrible at going to bed on time, and so we end up getting 6-7 hours of sleep most nights.  It just isn’t enough for either one of us, but we are starved for time to work on projects and spend time together after the kids are in bed, so I doubt our bedtime will change anytime soon.  To cope with this, we’ve started helping each other sleep in, which makes a monumental difference in our attitudes.

As soon as I stepped into the living room, Lena ran towards me holding a birthday card, her face lit up like the sunrise and words bubbling out of her with excitement.  She showed me the balloons, heart, and letters she and Elliott had drawn together, and then she opened up the card to show me five globs of scribble, which she pointed to in turn and described as, “A blue lion… and a red lion… and a yellow lion… and a green lion… and a… a pink lion!”  Except “lion” was more like “yion.”  You could have cleaned me up off the floor with a sponge; I totally melted into a little puddle of love.

I scooped her up and took her back to bed with me for some snuggles while Elliott disappeared into the kitchen…


… and returned a short while later with breakfast on a tray!  Hot coffee, bacon, an egg, and two pancakes (one with syrup and one with Nutella and banana, just the way I like them).   He then took Lena and left me to eat and read quietly in bed.  For some reason, this seemed like the very height of luxury to me right then.  I didn’t have to jump up to grab anything, and I didn’t have to feed anyone but myself.  And I could read!  “Honey, that was wonderful,” I told Elliott, “We have got to treat each other to it more often!”


Elliott had to run out the door to work, so I took over duty in the kitchen.  He gave us each a kiss and dashed out the door as we made plans to see him later for a picnic on the playground.

Out the kitchen window, I drank in the view of Etna, the volcano that dominates the eastern Sicilian skyline.  On winter mornings there’s barely a cloud in the sky.  Breathtaking!



My little ones were finishing their breakfast.  They are both huge fans of pancakes and eggs, a treat in our house!


Lena and Gil love to “snuggle” in Gil’s bed, where they play with toys, roll, and tumble.  Lena particularly enjoys this because it’s the only time she gets to have a pacifier (Gil’s, of course), which she still misses very much.  Sometimes she seems so mature, and sometimes I see glimpses of the little girl that was Gil’s age… wasn’t it just last week?!


Since they were safe and happily playing in Gil’s bed, started a load of laundry in our tiny Italian washing machine.  Afterwards I moved them to my bed for more snuggles as I got ready for the day.



Gil’s gets busier by the day.  Drawers, cupboards, and doors are his favorite things, and he loves to open and close them and see what’s on the other side.


Caught ya!


I moved into the bathroom, and they followed me… and disemboweled my toiletry bag.  Lena found something for her lips…

becca-garber-27-birthday-16 becca-garber-27-birthday-2

I caught Lena jumping on the bed — a forbidden but also an irresistible temptation for her! — and moved the group to the living room rug, where we keep a rotation of toys.  Gil pounded one of the cat’s toys onto a vintage Fisher Price xylophone, which I was stoked to find at a junk antique fair last week.


Lena asked me to help her make a “choo-choo train,” which is a line of blocks that she can then roll her cars over.


Gil found an actual choo-choo train.


Siena, our constant companion.  I have been so grateful for her tolerance and even fascination with my children as they’ve grown.  She lets Gil almost smother her before she disentangles herself, and she has always been gentle but firm in letting the kids know her limits.  She’s eager to be right on the periphery of our activity, a quiet shadow following us around the house.

After this, it was about 10am and Gil was ready for his morning nap.  I changed his diaper, zipped him up in a sleep sack, and then nursed him on the guest room bed.  Lena — who is not very good at amusing herself — quietly slipped into the room and snuggled up next to us, doing her best not to talk.  After a few minutes I laid a drowsy Gil down in his bed, and Lena and I tiptoed out of the room.


In the kitchen, clouds obscured Mt Etna already.


Lena read a library book while I gathered ingredients for carrot cupcakes.  I had to teach a knitting class at 6:30 tonight, and we like to eat and put Gil to bed before I go.  Because of this, I needed to have dinner ready by 5pm.  I wanted to make it special — it was my b’day! — and fun for my family.  I’ll cash in on my birthday reward of a husband-cooked meal some other time!


As the cupcakes baked, I mixed spices to marinate the meat for this incredible recipe


… and chopped onions, tomatoes, and peppers as part of the criolla salsa to accompany the meat.

That’s about half of the photos from that day.  I’ll pick up tomorrow with some cloth diaper-folding, a visit to base, my task list during the kids’ nap time, and a birthday dinner!

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6 Responses to how we spend our days {Part 1 of 2}

  1. David November 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    love it :)

  2. jonathan November 18, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    loved this! looking forward to part two.

  3. Steph @ meet.make.laugh. November 18, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Happy Birthday!! That breakfast in bed looks delightful…. (and I loved the Handsmaids Tale!)

  4. Anna H November 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    Thank you for answering my questions to you–with pictures, too. I’m sure I’m not the only one who asked. :) It looks like you had a great day so far.

  5. Lucy November 23, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

    So so sweet. Gil getting into drawers makes me laugh. He is growing up so fast! And I love the light in Lena’s eyes in the photo of her eating breakfast. Every photo is a feast for me!


  1. how we spend our days {Part 2 of 2} - Becca Garber - November 19, 2013

    […] you’d like to see Part 1 of this little series, click here.  Just for fun — and for myself in the years to come — I’m documenting a day […]

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