Saturday, October 18, 2014

In Limbo: The Downside of a Dream on Hold

I studied Dante's Inferno in college. While I don't remember too much about the allegory, I do recall with pretty vivid detail his description of limbo.  It was a place teetering on the outskirts of hell specially reserved for people who didn't accept or deny Christ and "lacked the hope for something greater than rational minds can conceive." In other words, it was a place for people who made no commitment one way or another, an eternal hang-out for folks who failed to make conscious moral choices. It certainly wasn't heaven but it wasn't quite damnation either. Free thinkers like the poets and philosophers of antiquity (along with unbaptised babies) hung out in this limbo. Today, the term "limbo" is used more informally to describe state of being stagnant, that irksome feeling of going from nowhere to nowhere.  A period of uncertainty.

It also happens to be exactly where Scott and I find ourselves these days.
(And, no, Socrates and Homer are not here. Bummer.)

Every day I get emails from people asking questions on how to make their dreams of living on a boat come true. They want to know the secret to breaking out of the rat race and find a way to fill the cruising kitty and fund their dreams. "How do you do it?" they want to know.

The truth is: we don't know. We have no answers. We have no magic to share. We're not living our dream. We're not making it happen. Sure, it worked for a while. But now? Not so much.

And herein lies the downside of choosing an alternative lifestyle at relatively young ages: Scott and I have no real fallback plan.

We sold our cars, left our jobs, and all our money went into our boat and our dream. We have no home. We have no significant savings. We are living with my parents for crying out loud (which we are incredibly grateful for because we'd be living in a van by the river otherwise). We have no idea where to go from here and it feels like we're starting from square one, except we're not in our twenties, but in our mid to late thirties with three small children. You can praise our lifestyle all you want, but right now we are hardly "living the dream". In fact from our vantage point (and I'm sure the vantage point of others) - we feel like utter failures.

We left in 2010 with big plans and enough money to float us along for a good while. When that ran out, Scott found work and we were, happily, living check to check while floating along. Bringing one baby into the equation didn't even phase us. It was all good and we kept plugging along. When we found out we were having twins, however, a colossal (and blessed!) monkey wrench was thrown into our life (insert sound of record scratching).

So here we are.  In limbo. Going nowhere. Stuck in a rut. And feeling pretty crappy about it. Wah, wah.

Since we've been home I have been in a fog of multiple motherhood and only now am I reaching a point with the twins that I feel like I can come up for air and take a look around.  Scott has been working really hard to try and make a decent income from various real estate outlets, but they haven't proven viable for the long term. We have no idea what to do. We're not sure where to go from here. We have no real plan (other than this one, for now) and no concrete ideas on how to support ourselves and our dreams moving forward.

I would love to be able to write more, to do freelance work and bring in some income (the blog and various affiliates do bring in a nice chunk of change, but certainly not enough to call "income") - but right now, almost all of my time is spent caring for our children which, mind you, I am very happy to do, but it's not leaving much room for anything else. Scott would love to find a gig that allows for us to live on the boat part time, and land part time but, as most of you know, that's a pretty tall order. Not to mention he has some pretty hefty gaps in his resume now and no real fall-back "career".

Choosing an alternative lifestyle, while it grants us some wonderful adventures and opportunities, has left us feeling a little lost and...for lack of a better word...stuck. We don't own any real land-based possessions to speak of, but we do own our boat, so do we move aboard Asante full-time? Do we look for job-opportunities in the British or US Virgin Islands and commit ourselves to a life aboard abroad? If so - what would we do? Thankfully, the door is always open with Island Windjammers, and Scott was offered a gig to be a captain and take out passengers on our boat - but then what would me and the girls do all day? Surely vacationers aren't interested in days sails with three babies on a boat and that's not really the kind of lifestyle we're looking for either.  Do we come back to land, rent a house and re-enter the working world with the hopes to save enough to take off again in a few years? We don't have the answers to any of these questions right now and that is a pretty unsettling feeling.

Has living in the "real world" gotten to us? Has our semi-reluctant re-entry into a society that values careers, home ownership and material goods tainted our dreaming minds? Have we been comparing ourselves to our land-lubbing peers and felt the sting that the life we have lead and what we have done is simply not valued here?  Perhaps. I certainly think this is a big part of it.

So when people write us asking how we do it, I am inclined to write back: I'm so sorry, but I just. don't. know. It worked for us for a while, but now that we have a family - and a substantial one at that - suddenly, everything is a little a lot more complicated. We want so much for our girls. We want them to be proud of us, to see what we have accomplished and, in turn, inspire them to work hard to achieve their dreams, whatever those might be. We want them to be happy, confident, strong and kind. We want to teach them to be citizens of the world, and the sort of people who dream big and strive to make the world a better place.

What we don't know is what that life looks like and how to get there. We've been floating along without any real direction or long-term plan for so long, that we've sort of atrophied our ability to steer.

Limbo.

Lucky for us, our "limbo" is less permanent than Dante's.  We are not eternally stuck here. We have the means to get out because our limbo is an intermediate condition, an intermission. We have no idea what lies ahead, but I guess that's what makes life beautiful, right? It's the uncertainty and the mystery of the future, and the lessons we learn along the way, that keep us moving forward toward something (hopefully) bigger and better than before...
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
- Gilda Radner

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Times When I am Grateful to Be Home: When We Have a Sick Baby

I guess you could argue that this never would have happened on the boat, and I would probably be inclined to agree with you (we never got sick with colds and/or flu when cruising), but when I noticed our sweet Mira's neck swelling unusually - on a Sunday afternoon no less - I was really grateful for a society with 'doctors' on call' and a state of the art hospital.

Let me back up a little...

Mira and Haven suffered their first colds two weeks ago. Sick twins who cannot breath out of their noses and have yet to master mouth-breathing is the tenth circle of hell; it's not the end of the world, not by a long shot, but it guarantees sleepless nights, super cranky babies and lots and lots of middle of the night snot sucking compliments of the Nosefrida (moms of babies - you need this thing!). Anywho... Haven's cold came and went over the course of a week or so and while Mira's seemed to do the same, her demeanor indicated otherwise. Our usually happy, mellow and chilled-out baby was fussy, cranky, and wanted nothing more than to be held. Something was up. We kept chalking it up to teething and remnants of the cold, but day after day she seemed to get worse and not better. She would wince in pain when we picked her up or put her down, and her default mood was fussy instead of happy. My instincts told me something was very wrong, and it was something I couldn't see. I took her to the pediatrician suspecting an ear infection. Nada. He gave her the once over, and even though she was wailing in pain while he examined her (which, I noted to him, was very unusual for Mira who is not a crier), he sent us home. I waited another day or two knowing something was amiss. A UTI? A broken rib? Something she ingested wreaking havoc? Knowing that something was hurting our sweet baby and not knowing what it was exactly was killing me.

This past Sunday she took a turn for the worse, I could not put her down and all she wanted to do was sleep. Typically, a baby who sleeps all day is a dream... but for Mira? This was very unusual and cause for concern. I had no sooner made the decision to take her back to the doctor on Monday when she lifted her sad little head up from my chest and I noticed that her neck, right below her ear, was significantly swollen and puffy. Knowing that's where the lymph nodes reside, I immediately called the emergency line for our pediatrician. I told the on-call doctor our history and what I saw, and she sent me to the pediatric ER here in our town.

Poor swollen baby :(
We've been here ever since. Mira had/has a sizable abscess on her lymph node and needed to have it drained in the operating room and receive a hefty dose of intravenous antibiotics. She is now on the mend and doing well, but we have to remain here for monitoring and more tests.

Lots of cuddle time
Those of you who follow our Facebook Page know all about this little ordeal (thank you so much for the outpouring of love, prayers and well-wishes, it means a lot), but I wanted to write about it here because a) that's
what I do and b) I have been in a hospital room with only one child for over seventy-two hours and I can only watch so much television. (I mean, after being a stay at home mom of three where I literally don't sit down for more than five minutes before 7pm, believe it or not, this feels more like a spa than a hospital.)

Thankfully, due to draining, antibiotics, and some great doctors and nurses Mira is (rather quickly) returning to her happy, mellow little self. She has been *such* a trooper and has hardly complained at all despite being hooked up to IV's and beeping machines and being confined either to my arms or a crib that looks more like a baby jail. She is winning hearts left and right around here with her smiley eyes and flirty grin, and - hopefully - we will be going home soon. While holding my baby while an IV was inserted into her chubby little hand, positioning her writhing body so blood could be drawn, and having her taken from me while she went into surgery will go down as a few of the hardest things I have done, I can say it is a huge relief to finally have some answers for what was wrong with her. There is nothing worse than the lack of a diagnosis for a child you just know is not right.

This whole episode - and the shockingly abundant down time that has come with it - got me thinking. Namely that a) I am very grateful we were here when this happened and that b) nothing, absolutely nothing, puts the world in perspective quite like having a sick child. Everything else is just noise and you'd give up everything and anything you possibly could to ensure your little one's health. That's a whole new level of prioritizing for me.

With challenge, comes growth.

On the mend and smiling again. Cannot tell you how happy I was to see this smile!
Sleeping angel.
Look mom! I'm in baby jail!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Baby on Board" Flag: Gettysburg Flag Works (and a giveaway!)

Many months ago I was contacted by Gettysburg Flag Works offering us a boat flag. Flags and boats kind of go hand in hand (they are still used to communicate messages from vessel to vessel) and this fine company was offering us one of our choice. Unfortunately, we're already equipped with an American flag and all the signal and courtesy flags we'll ever need, so we weren't looking to add to our collection.  I was just about to send a gracious "Thanks, but no thanks" email when an idea struck me.  What about a custom flag?

I poked around on the website and sure enough, they do make custom boat flags so I asked if they'd be willing to give us a 'one of a kind' in lieu of a pre-existing flag and they agreed.  Super! Awesome! But what, exactly, would our flag be? Hmm.... We don't really have a logo, and I wasn't interested in flag that boasted a phrase or a giant margarita glass when it hit me: "What about a 'baby on board' flag?"  I mean, people hang 'baby on board' signs in their cars, why not have one for a boat? I got to work designing something in my head.  I had the vision of a baby face in a porthole and I bought the vectors to do it - but I quickly realized I lacked the design skills to create something of quality. So I resorted to my trusty Facebook fan base to see if we had any graphic designers in our midst who were willing to do pro-bono work and, sure enough, we did.  Really, really talented ones too!  We had so many wonderful entrants offer up designs but unfortunately, I could only choose one.  Enter:  the incredibly talented Jamie Pullar (seriously, if you have design needs, contact her: www.jamiepullar.com) she. is. awesome.


One of the earlier designs which we tweaked.


After emailing back and forth about what I was looking for and tweaking some of her early samples, we came up with what I think is the perfect "baby on board" flag.  Jamie is the real deal and I feel so lucky to have found her as I am definitely going to be utilizing her talents for future projects.  She works fast, understands a vision, and delivers professional results. Once we decided on the design, she sent the artwork over to the folks at Gettysburg Flagworks as per their requirements, and a couple of weeks later our (awesome) flag arrived.
It turned out better than I could have ever imagined.  This flag is a high-quality item and not your run of the mill, flimsy mail-order burgee. It's double-sided, measures 12 x 18 and made of heavy-duty nylon. The material is thick and strong, definitely meant to withstand the marine environment, and stand up to the wind.  The stitching is super tough and durable.  The print is crisp, sharp and clear.  It looks fan-freaking-tastic. We love it.  Whats even better?  It's a great company.  They were friendly, responsive and professional. I worked directly with Mike, the owner and CEO, and he was great. Thank you, Mike!

If you are looking for a cool and unique gift to give that special sailor you know, a custom boat flag that sports a logo, mantra, boat name or - heck - even a margarita glass, might just fit the bill.

The coolest part?  They want to give a flag away to one of you!  Gettysburg Flag Works will giveaway an existing flag OR a credit for $50 towards a custom flag to one lucky winner (sorry, only US addresses please).

All you need to do is:
  1. Post a comment on this blog post or on our Facebook Page explaining why you are deserving of a new boat flag, and what type of flag you would love to have (if it's custom, tell us your vision!). 
  2. Make sure to leave your email address in the comment (in the abc(at)whatever.com format) so I can contact you if you win.
I will chose a winner in the next week or so.

Disclosure: I was given a flag at no cost.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Wearing" Twins: My Favorite Methods of Tandem Babywearing

"You've got your hands full!" This phrase is, bar none, the most common reaction from people when they see me out and about with our three girls ("Your poor husband!" is a close second). A mom grocery shopping with three kids under three is always going to attract some attention, but a mom grocery shopping while wearing two infants and pushing a toddler in a grocery cart gets a lot of attention.  She might even get her photo taken by strangers once or twice a week (no joke).  Unlike some twin moms, I don't mind the attention that our twins bring. Instead of getting annoyed with this very common (and understandable) reaction, I always smile back, raise my arms up in the air while my babies sit all cozied up on my hips in their ring slings and say "Well, technically, I am hands-free".  Then we all have a good little chuckle.

I have written pretty frequently about my love of "wearing" our babies.  When Isla was born I was gifted a Moby Wrap by a very good friend and that single gesture literally changed my life and the way I would child-rear.  Prior to that moment, I had never even heard the term "babywearing".  Sure, I'd seen the popular "baby bjorn" (a carrier which, by the waydoes not render the same baby wearing benefits as other carriers and wraps) but other than that, I knew nothing about it.  Once I learned how to use my Moby Wrap, I was obsessed and wore Isla all snuggled up on my chest for approximately four months non-stop.  Ever since, I have been a huge advocate of "baby wearing" and all goodness that it promotes between mother and child.

The benefits of baby wearing are vast.  Babies who are worn regularly are shown to have positive "attachment" to their parents, they cry less, and are (in general) happier.  Baby wearing has been proven to help physical, cognitive and verbal development as well.  The list of "pros" goes on and it is my personal mission to help expose as many people to the beauty of baby wearing as I possibly can, because I truly see it as a gift and something that makes motherhood (particularly twin + toddler motherhood) so. much. easier. And, let's face it, I am totally down with anything that allows me to free my hands so that I can easily drink wine enjoy the park with our toddler.

When I found out we were pregnant with twins, I instantly began to research whether or not it was possible to wear two at once.  Knowing how wonderful it was to wear (and simultaneously bond with) Isla, I desperately wanted to be able to share the same experience with the twins.  I hit the world wide web looking for answers and I found it in the form of "tandem" baby wearing. I am happy to say that our twins have been held and carried almost as much as any singleton baby. This is a feat that I am super proud of but one that could not have been accomplished without the art of babywearing. Sure, I might be an inch shorter by the time our twins turn one, but it'll be an inch lost to gain a mile. Or something like that.

Anywho...

Turns out, there are lots of ways to wear twins (or two infants close in age) and I have tried many of them.  When I get "into" something I tend to go "all in" so I have accumulated no fewer than ten different carriers in which to wear our twins and Isla.  I will go through some of my favorite types of carriers and carries in this post.  Please note:  This is not a "how to" (but I will post links to articles and videos when appropriate) and you should baby wear at your own discretion, as some of these methods require some skill and if not done correctly can injure your baby.  Also, I am not a baby wearing pro and all the opinions about the carriers and best ages of them are my own. Always check with the manufacturer and do your own homework/research as well. In other words, please do not sue me. Thank you.

Okay, here goes...

The Moby (aka "stretchy") Wrap:  The Moby Wrap was the first wrap I ever owned so it
holds a very special place in my heart.  This awesome PDF illustrates the many ways to use this wrap. It is fantastic for one baby, particularly a very little baby - but it is also great for wearing newborn twins.  I tandem wore the girls in my Moby wrap using the "twin cradle carry" for the first three months and it was fantastic. Once both of them started to clock in at over ten pounds, however, I found it too much weight on my front to be comfortable and because of the stretchy nature of this wrap, after an hour or so the babies would get all slouchy and saggy.  (This is the same reason you should not use a stretchy wrap to wear twins in a front and back carry, fyi).  I also found all the fabric to be very hot in the summertime.  If you are having a winter baby, the Moby wrap is your friend!

Cost: $40-$50
Pros: A super snug fit, baby is very securely attached to momma, baby is almost instantly put into a coma-like slumber once settled.
Cons: It's a TON of fabric and can be intimidating to learn the wraps. Not great for summer time as it can get very hot, not easy to take a sleeping baby out of it without waking, with twins you are really limited to only a front carry.
Best age: I preferred my Moby for newborns up until 3/4 months (but really babies can be worn in a Moby much longer).

The Ring Sling:  This is, right now, my numero uno preferred way to wear the girls.  I have Lite-on-Shoulder Baby Sling which are super affordable (some ring slings can cost upwards of $100) and they are, as the name suggests, light and easy.  I seriously LOVE the ease of use and convenience of them.  Most of the other methods of baby wearing I mention here usually lull the girls into a pretty deep sleep because I use the chest-facing positions which limit the view and provide closeness to mamas heart and chest (natural sleep aids), so when I don't want the girls to fall fast asleep (say, right after a two hour nap) I will pop them in the ring slings and we'll take a walk or go grocery shopping.  They get the benefit of stimulation but still have the closeness of mama.  When the babies are on me they are almost always content and hardly ever cry or make a peep.  We can go about our business happily and with no fuss and drama (as opposed to in a stroller where one or both are usually fussing at any given time).

Cost: $30-$100 depending on material, retailer and/or if you DIY
Pros: Very easy to get on and off, good for when you want babies to stay awake a bit (but they will happily fall asleep eventually if tired in these slings), these pack very small and are super easy to keep in a purse or diaper bag for when you need them. Good for summer as the material is light and breathable.
Cons: When wearing two, after an hour or two you will feel it. Not my favorite way to carry sleeping twins (I prefer the wearer-facing position on the chest for sleep).  When wearing two, you are definitely a 'wide load' (not, however, as wide and bulky as a double stroller). Sometimes it can be tricky to get the "seat" right if you are just starting out.
Best age: I prefer the ring slings when a baby has good neck strength and is a little bit more "sturdy", so from 3 or 4 months on.

The Woven (aka "not-stretchy") Wrap:  Many "hardcore" baby wearers swear by the woven wrap because they are so incredibly versatile. There are many different kinds but I have a size seven Didymos Wrap which is the size most recommended for tandem wearing. A woven wrap is similar to the Moby wrap, but it does not stretch and so it can be used for a whole host of carries that a Moby can't, like front and back carries (whereby one baby is strapped on your front and one strapped on your back) which are for sure the most comfortable way to wear twins, but also the most complicated.  If I am alone and need both babies to go to sleep and for whatever reason can't put them in their crib, I love this wrap because both zonk out after about five minutes.  The downside of using this wrap for the front and back carry is that if the baby on the back wants out, you must rouse the baby on the front as well.  The other downside is that you can't really see the baby on the back so I have been known to ask, "Hey, can you tell me if this baby is sleeping?" to the grocery store checkout clerk or a random passerby.  I have also resorted to taking awkward selfies with my iPhone in order to see the baby in the back as well.

Cost: $70-$250 depending on material, size and brand.
Pros: Most comfortable, balanced way to carry twins. Very versatile (many different types of carries can be done using these wraps)
Cons: Twin front and back carries are the most tricky and require the most skill, like the Moby, these consist of a LOT of fabric and can be very warm, not typically an "easy in/easy out" type of carrier.
Best age: Newborns to toddlers, depending on the type of carry

The Soft Structured Carrier:  I have five of these.  Two Ergo Performance Carrier, two Mei Tai Carriers and one Tula Toddler Carrier (for Isla).  These are great and super easy once your babies are sturdy enough for them. I have just started using these with the twins (one ergo on front, one ergo on back) and man, is it a breeze and SO much more comfortable for longer walkds than a tandem hip carry.  While I do prefer the closeness that the wraps and ring slings provide, as the twins get bigger these will be the standard way I wear them.  The carrier we used most with Isla on the boat was, hands down, the Ergo.

Cost: $40-$130 depending on brand/type
Pros: Super easy to get on and off, comfortable to wear, offers the most balanced way to wear twins.
Cons: Slightly bulkier than the ring slings, can get warm.
Best age: (in my opinion) 6 months to toddlers (you can wear younger babies in these using an infant insert but I prefer the snuggliness of the wraps to these for tiny babies)

The Baby K'Tan Breeze:  I am a big fan of the Baby K'tan Breeze.  I don't know of any other mom's who use these, but they are very light (great for hot climates or summer babies) and super easy to use (unlike the wraps, which take some practice) but still provide the same front cradle carry like the Moby or woven.  I have two of these carriers, one for each baby and I have tandem worn them on the front by shifting one baby to my left and the other to my right.  While this did work, it was pretty difficult to execute and very exhausting to have almost thirty pounds of baby hanging at my front so Scott and I use these carriers independently when we can each wear a baby and we want them to sleep. They are great to travel with when you want to pack light.

Cost: about $60
Pros: Light and super easy to get on and off, great for when you want baby to sleep, great for hot climates or summer months.
Cons: They don't feel as "secure" as the wraps, can't really adjust the fit, and you are pretty limited to the types of carries.  You also must make sure you get the right size which can be tricky. And while you CAN wear two smaller babies at once it is not easy nor pretty, and probably not recommended (I have just done it out of desperation).
Best age: 2-3 months and up since the fit isn't as snug.

So...if you are keeping track, that is twelve carriers for our kiddos.  Kinda crazy, I know.  But anyone who is into baby wearing will tell you it's an addiction.  Kind of like tattoos.  Or not.  Either way, once you start - you're not going to want to stop. It's healthy, convenient and a fantastic way to travel with the littles (by boat or plane or just out and about), way, way easier than carting a stroller (have you seen the size of twin strollers?!)  Wear those babies and you, too, will quickly see first hand the advantages and benefits. Happy bonding :)

Some notes on Babywearing:
  • Your baby might resist babywearing at first. This is normal. Some fussiness and crying does NOT mean you should give up and that they won't ever like it. Practice makes perfect. With all our babies, there were tears at first - but as soon as I started moving (sometimes I had to walk around the block) they settled and each time it got easier. Now, they get excited when they see me putting on the carriers they love it THAT much.
  • Many of these wraps and soft structured carriers can be used together. For example, you can wear one baby on your front in a Moby wrap and then have a baby on your back in an Ergo. There are many combinations that can be made with different carriers for tandem wearing!
  • Dad's (and others) can wear babies too! When we go out on "family walks" I often prefer to ditch the stroller and have Scott wear one of the twins on his front, Isla on his back and then I will wear the other twin. Super easy and fun - not only is it a good work out for mom and dad, but it promotes bonding and development for baby!
  • When wrapping, the tighter the better. It will feel strange and too tight at first, but remember how compact those babies were in the womb? That's the type of closeness you want. A snug fit is much better (and safer) than a loose one.
  • There are MANY more types of baby carries and carriers out there! Everyone has their favorite carries and carriers and what has worked for me may or may not work for you. Many communities have programs where you can rent baby wraps and carriers to see if you like them before you buy them so look for baby wearing groups near you.
Resources:
Babywearing 101:  Probably the best downloadable PDF illustrating MANY carries and carriers.
Babywearing Tips and Tricks:  A nice Pinterest board dedicated to all things babywearing!
Wrap Your Baby: A page dedicated to wrapping twins. Ideas and Videos included.
Babywearing International: Non-profit dedicated to promoting babywearing.
Choosing a Baby Carrier: A small explanation of the types of carriers.
Slings, Wraps and other Carriers - Where, How and Why: Article by one of my faves, Kelly mom.
Soft Structured Carrier Comparison Chart - This. Is. Awesome. And shows all the different types of soft structured carriers.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Baby on Board: First Family Cruising Vacation

As most of you know, we spent a week living aboard my dad's 47 foot sailboat last month. As much as it was a well-deserved vacation, it was also a test: could we "successfully" cruise and live on a sailboat with three children under the age of three? While I am all about throwing caution to the wind and "just going for it", I didn't want our family of five to fly down to our boat in the Caribbean without at least some idea what we were getting into. Sure, we cruised with one baby easily. But, three? Mark my words, parenting three versus parenting one is a completely different beast and it certainly doesn't take a genius to figure that moving our party of five aboard a boat might prove...challenging.

The answer is, yes. Yes we can thrive on a boat as a family of five. Granted, we only lived aboard for one week, stayed in marinas the whole time and we only sailed a measly fifty or sixty miles, but it was the litmus test as we needed. You know how they say if you can run a half marathon you can run a full?  Well, I knew that if we could do it for a week - we'd be able to do it longer. Prior to this trip, my biggest concerns were the following (brace yourself, they are not going to be what you think they were!):  a) how would the five of us manage in such a (relatively) small space b) would the babies be able to sleep in a completely new environment (i.e. not their cribs) c) would the girls be able to go down for their respective nap times without waking one another up (boats have very few, very thin 'walls' and are much noisier than houses) d) would Isla be too active and rambunctious for the boat (making sailing with her wholly unpleasant) e) would sailing with all three of them be nothing short of a cluster (insert expletive) and f) would the general mayhem of our daily life allow for any time to actually enjoy ourselves?

Answers: a) Fine b) Yes c) Yes d) No e) No and f) Yes.  A resounding yes.

While our trip was not without challenges (diaper blow outs, a couple of terrible-two style tantrums and a clogged milk duct), my major worries were put at ease after the first 24 hours.  Our sleeping arrangements were as follows:  I was up in the v-berth with the twins (to easily accommodate night nursing), Isla had the aft cabin, and Scott was in the pullman berth in the salon. It worked.

The key to the general success of our trip was to keep it simple and stick to our routine:
  • We kept our boat jaunts very conservative, only sailing a few hours from place to place, and only moving during good weather. Because of these two things, we were able to relax, enjoy some decent sailing, and never felt overwhelmed. We also remained flexible and timed our sails when the twins' went down for a nap. One two-hour passage was completed with ALL babies sleeping! That was a treat.
  • We respected our children's schedules. I know I sound like a broken record, but it's so true; well-rested babies are waaaaay happier than tired babies. The twins would nap every two hours (from their last wake-up) and we made sure that I was back at the boat to put them down within that time frame. It worked out great because it allowed for Scott and Isla to have some quality time together, and I could rest while the babies slept. Isla was always back for her noon nap and all the kids were asleep by 7pm (aka "wine time"). While sticking to this schedule definitely limited our daily activities, it was well worth it. I've said it before, and it bears repeating: one outing with happy babies is infinitely better than three with unhappy ones. We went hiking, perused a local farmer's market, hit the beach, went out for meals (yes, you read that correctly - meals, plural), and enjoyed family walks and window shopping in the quaint harbor towns of Holland, South Haven and Saugatuck.  
  • We packed light (well, "light" for a family of five). Aside from the necessities like clothes and diapers, we kept it very simple on the "entertainment" front; Isla was allowed one small tote bag of toys (which she hardly ever played with) and a nice smattering of books, and for the babies all we brought was their no-nonsense activity mat and small activity triangle.  We brought one click and go double stroller which we hardly ever used because I wore the babies almost everywhere we went, and - of course - we traveled with their carseats. And now for my personal baby PSA: While it is very hard to ignore the lure of baby-directed marketing which would have you believe your child needs a semi-truck of stuff in order to make it through the first year, if you really break it down (and/or have to be mindful of space) children need very, very little in order to thrive. For example, I was told that an infant swing was an "essential" piece of gear for twins and that I would most likely need not one but two. I opted out and, surprise! We've done just fine.
Overall we had an amazing vacation that gave us the confidence to know that we can, indeed, go forward with our conservative, yet ballsy, plan to bring our family down to the British Virgin Islands and cruise for the bulk of the 2015 season beginning this January. With there be challenges? Of course. Will it be a piece of cake? Heck no. Will it be worth it? We think so. Time will tell. BVI's or Bust! The countdown begins...
Our vessel for the week.  A beautiful custom Kanter 47.
Yep, we actually went sailing!
Daddy and Isla making castles at the beach
#wearthem
Image compliments of Paul Steinmetz who came upon us while we were out
Sundown in Saugatuck
Baby butts on the beach, we love our oversized microfiber beach blanket and baby tushes!
This little sunshine child is just at home on a beach by the water as ever.

This is what you call "extreme baby wearing"...a 45 minute hike complete with three hundred something stairs!
Big Red lighthouse
Overlooking the beautiful Lake Michigan from a dune in Saugatuck
Outdoor, casual venues with high tables, fast service and strong drinks were our restaurants of choice ;)
Daddy wears the kiddos too! I use a Tula Toddler carrier for Isla.
Who needs toys when you can have a tether and harness to chew on?
Yep, she's flying a kite all by herself!
Sunset on Lake Macatawa
We travel so light sometimes, that we even forgot her swimsuit.  Lucky for the birthday suit!
These two were a real hit around town and on the beach.  They loved feeling the sand under their bellies.
Teething, boat baby style.
Isla is so at home on a boat.  Just happy and easy. No need to hover over her, she will happily sit on deck and watch the horizon. Quite a feat for a very active 2 year old. "Once a boat baby, always a boat baby" ;)
Happiness.
Isla quickly makes friends wherever she goes. Hike!
Morning playtime in the v-berth.  A whole lot of estrogen right here! Poor Scott.
Happy on the beach.
Me and our first boat baby, the best deck swab and sailing buddy ever. My sunshine, my heart, my love.
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