Monday, May 23, 2016

10 Boat Features we Find Useful for the Baby on Board


Boating and babies go together better than you might imagine, however, there are a few concessions one must make in order for the transition to be a smooth one. The boat you choose is a big one. The vessel you select for your journey – it’s pedigree, age, performance and features – can and will hugely impact your experience and enjoyment. This rule applies whether or not you have kids on board. There are certain traits, however, that really seem to suit the “baby on board” moniker. After three kids and over four years of boating with babies and/or toddlers we have compiled a list of ten boat characteristics that make life afloat with little ones easier. If you are like me, anything that makes the already hard job of parenting less of a crazy train is worth noting, so take heed. These things might not be “essential” but will almost certainly impact the frustrating vs. fun factor. 

Plenty of cabins/bunks

We wish SO BADLY we had a third cabin, it’s insane. We will most certainly be upgrading to a new boat in the next couple years and you had better believe our next boat will have a third cabin. The twins currently share our v-berth, but Isla sleeps in a make shift bunk bed we made in our walk-thru. She loves it and it works great for her…now. It’s definitely got an expiration date as it’s smaller than a toddler bed and children have this uncanny ability to grow non-stop, not to mention the fact that her placement in the “main cabin” of our boat greatly inhibits our life after she goes to bed. We cannot cook, watch movies, or hang out in our salon once it’s ‘lights out’ for her. Not the biggest deal to befall a boater, but something to seriously consider when boat shopping.
sailing with babies

Plenty of water tankage

We used to be really conservative about our water use aboard when we cruised as a couple. We carried 60 gallons and had a 5 gallon per hour water maker that we’d run for a few hours once a week. We were so good and ecological! Now? We’re all “Who built the Ark? Let’s fill up that baby pool on the aft deck so the kids will play quietly for twenty minutes!” Luckily, when we were actively cruising with our eldest, we foresaw the need (or desire?) for more water and outfitted our boat with a high-output Cruise RO water maker. We sang it praise almost every day. Babies are messy. REALLY Being able to hose them off after the beach, the pool, or after they smear pasta sauce and/or god knows what else all over their adorable pudgy bodies really makes life easier. Not to mention the ability to do laundry regularly. We regularly rinse our boat, our clothes, ourselves and our kids and – believe me – life is better because of it!
sailing with babies

Ability to be singlehanded

This is a biggie for the baby boat because human babies are pretty damn dependent for the first couple years of life. We learned very quickly that once we had our first child, one person needed to be on boat duty, while the other was on baby duty. When sailing overnight, we both assumed watch schedules while Isla slept, but most of the time, mommy tended to all things baby, while daddy sailed the boat. Of course we both could do the other’s job (to a point, Scott couldn’t nurse the babies) but we found this arrangement worked well for us.

Center cockpit

There are those that love center cockpit boats, and those that don’t. We stand firmly and proudly in the first camp. A center cockpit is great for a ‘baby boat’ for so many reasons. For one, it provides a nice 360 degree buffer between the water and the child, which is always a nice bonus when it comes to a baby on a boat. It also allows for an aft cabin, which makes for a great en-suite master bedroom and a little separation from the front of the boat and kids. And finally the center cockpit layout provides an aft-deck which makes a great place to load and unload provisions, store beach gear an other miscellaneous effects, and makes for an ideal area to hose off and/or shower after a day at the beach.
sailing with babies

Swim platform

This makes getting in and out of the dinghy with babies tremendously easier. Having a nice, secure step or platform between the boat and the dinghy is great for doing the (sometimes precarious) baby-to-boat handoff. And if you ever find yourself solo parenting as I do? The step is almost a necessity! We will never own a boat without one of these!

One level interior

Having an interior with as few “levels” as possible is nice because, trust me, your baby will fall down those naughty little steps all. the. time. before they figure out how to climb up or down them. Granted, this window of time is super short so if you have a few steps (and I’m not talking about the companionway steps) fear not…but if you have the choice, a boat with a level interior will guarantee you hear fewer blood curdling screams from a tot that just took a tumble, not to mention give a little more surface to practice crawling or walking. Don’t get me wrong, your boat baby will take a ton of tumbles regardless – but if you want less, find a boat with less steps.
sailing with babies

Vinyl cushions

Never in a million years would I have outfitted a boat with white vinyl cushions, but holy heck am I glad webought a boat with them. I cannot even IMAGINE what our cushions would look like if they were regular interior fabric because the amount of food, sauce, paint, marker, crayon, pen, playdoh, juice and you don’t even want to know what else I have wiped off is INSANE. Three toddlers are messy. Period. Our cushions not only clean up like a breeze, but make me more laid back about messes (and making them! which, mind you, goes against my very tidy nature but is great for kids) because, “It’s cool, kids! Don’t sweat that spilled paint! Look, we just wipe it right up!” I mean, I wash our cushions using the same spray cleaner I use for the counters. It. is. awesome. Would not want a baby boat without them.
sailing with babies

Extra storage

We are definitely not minimalists, but we do try to limit what we bring on board. Even still, three kids equal a ton of crap. From booster chairs to books, from crafting supplies to clothes, from beach toys to building blocks – you will need a good place to keep it all. The more storage, the better. And if you can be well organized about it, even better. Organization on a boat is like golf, never mastered and a constant work in progress.

Two heads

This is one of the bonuses of a center cockpit boat. And whether or not you *think* you need an extra head they are sure nice to have because – ***spoiler alert*** – heads break down and people sometimes have to go “potty” at the same time. Toddlers, fyi, aren’t always great at holding it either and men, well…men tend to take their time. We love having two heads aboard and with a family of five, we’ve sung our extra head praise more than once, let me tell you!
sailing with babies

Aft deck shower

Salt water and sand do not belong in the boat. They are a major pain in the butt if they infiltrate the interior so your mission, should you chose to accept it – is to keep it out. The best way to do this, short of avoiding beaches and salt water all together (not advisable!) is to do a fresh water rinse immediately when you return to the boat. Note that this favorable feature combines line items #2 (water tankage) and #4 (center cockpit). Being able to rinse off completely before we ever set foot in our cockpit is wonderful and definitely keeps salt and sand at bay. We keep a little bin full of our wash soap and shampoo on the aft deck and usually rinse off at least once, sometimes two or three times a day depending on our excursions.
sailing with babies
So there you have the ten features we have found hugely beneficial to a boat with babies on board. It obviously goes without saying that these are things that we have found helpful and you might very have a different experience. We’ve seen families with children cruising on the most luxurious of catamarans with every gadget under the sun and we’ve seen families of five living aboard a simple thirty-two footer with as few systems as possible. It’s also worth noting that the baby and toddler stages of life are quick and fleeting, so whether or not your boat truly suits the baby stage might not be that important for you. Many of these features, however, will be enjoyed well past babyhood so keep that in mind. Either way, making sure you find a boat that works well for you and your family is the most important thing, so chose wisely. Fair winds!
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR ZIZOO BOATS.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Teaching a Toddler How to Swim: What Is Working for Us

"Wow, you're kids must be great swimmers!" We hear this a lot from people when they meet us and learn that we live on a sailboat with our young children. While our girls are only aged two and four - very respectable ages to remain reliant on floatation devices, mind you - in the live-aboard/cruising world, many children are skilled swimmers by these ages. Ours, however, were not. I was embarrassed to admit that, "No, none of our girls swim actually..."feeling a little pang of parental shame and longing for the day my girls could swim freely like many of their boat and island dwelling peers. Regardless, I knew not to push or force the issue, to let things happen on their own time and remained patient and vigilant about exposing them to swimming children and plenty of time in the water.

A few weeks ago I made the acquaintance of the lovely "Grannie Annie" who is something of a legend here on Tortola (her husband started the infamous Willy T floating bar over at Norman Island). She moved here in 1957 and has been a swim instructor for over 40 years, instructing hundreds and hundreds of children how to swim during her illustrious career.  Her entire family - right down to the grandkids - are lovely and they give back to the community in big ways. She oozes patience and kindness and is the kind of soul you are happy to know. Immediately drawn to her, we started talking and she said she'd love to help teach our girls to swim once a week when time and weather permitted. I was thrilled.

So far, we have had ONE lesson with the lovely Annie and I am super proud to say, we now have a swimmer! And once things clicked, it happened fast (we laid some good ground work, for sure). There are steps we took that expedited things, and I am going to share what we did and what worked for us (because I now wished we'd done some of them earlier). Keep in mind, I am not a child swim instructor and have zero professional knowledge on this subject. It's personal, not professional, experience. I share what we have done and learned (some of which came from Grannie Annie, who *is* a professional), simply to tell you what worked for us, and what might work for you. I realize there are many different methods and schools of thought regarding teaching kids to swim, so these may or may not jive with you. If you happen to be a professional swim instructor and have other tips to add, I welcome them! Please add in the comments so we all can learn. As with anything regarding children, use your own discretion and do your own research if you have questions.
Isla's first lesson with Annie, she started with a small back float and lost it within the hour.
Teaching a Toddler to Swim, Tricks that Have Worked For Us:
  1.  Don't force it. Forcing kids to do things (like eat veggies, potty train, and wear the cute outfit grandma got them) usually doesn't bode well for anyone. As much as I'd loved to have had Isla swimming by age two, she simply was not interested. She loved the water, but hated (and I mean hated) getting her hair and face wet. We were patient and let her get comfortable very slowly. Bath time helped a lot with this, but she was still what I would call a "slow adopter". Every child is different. The twins, on the other hand, have no issue getting their heads and faces wet, blowing bubbles and going underwater, so they are much further ahead at age two than Isla was at their age. We concentrate as much as possible on having fun in the water and not making it torture. 
  2.  Expose them to water as much - and as early - as possible. This is also a no-brainer, but a child who is never around water is probably not going to be super comfortable in it. Practice makes perfect. We are very lucky to live in a marina with a gorgeous pool that we can use freely, and we bring our girls there at least four times a week to swim and play. Don't have a pool? No problem. You can get over a lot of swimming hurdles (like getting hair and face wet, learning to blow bubbles, floating on tummy, etc) in a backyard baby pool or even a bathtub. 
    Watering cans and water toys in a tub can go a long way in getting kids comfortable in the water
  3. Start them with simple tricks. As mentioned above, starting early with things like: getting your child comfortable getting his or her head and face wet (you can use a small cup, or one of those cups with holes in the bottom to create a shower effect), teaching them how to blow bubbles in the water, showing your child how to wipe water out of their eyes, and practicing the proper kicking position either using a pool noodle, floaties or a kickboard can go a long way in garnering the skills that lead to swimming. These little tricks will lay some solid groundwork to help set up your child for swimming success when they start lessons (either with you or an official program). Start simple and don't forget to make it FUN!
  4. Get them a mask, goggles and/or a snorkel. When Isla was still in her puddle jumper, the introduction of a mask and snorkel really kick-started her efforts to learn to swim. The mask got her so much more excited about swimming, not to mention it naturally put her in the correct position in the water (prone on tummy, not straight up and down like so many children instinctively do when first starting). The mask and snorkel also greatly improved her kicking motion from the ineffective "bicycle" kick to the proper swim kick. We use these Aqua Sphere goggles for our girls, which are great for swimming. And we have this mask and snorkel set for Isla, which she loves and actually prefers over goggles. 
    The snorkel was a HUGE hit with Isla and she snorkeled months before she swam
  5. Expose them to other kids swimming. There is no greater way to get a kid excited about doing something than to show him or her a friend or peer that is doing that same thing. When Isla would see her friends swimming in the pool without floatation aids, she would run up and ask when she could swim without them. Sometimes, a little peer pressure is a good thing. The fact that big sister is swimming now has Haven hot on her tail.
  6. Start with puddle jumpers. I know that using floatation devices is frowned upon by many swim instructors, but for me - bringing three toddlers to the pool by myself would be impossible without them. These Puddle Jumpers really gave my girls confidence in the water and gave me some serious peace of mind.  Our girls love swimming in them and the freedom and independence they allow. While they are rated for 30-50 lbs, we actually had the twins swimming in these much earlier, about sixteen months and just made sure to keep a close eye so no little arms slipped out. These are also Coast Guard Certified as child floatation devices so they can double as life vests on the dock or during dinghy ride if need be (we still use a proper life vest when sailing). Keep in mind, having these floaties on your children doesn't mean you can leave your kids unattended (one arm out of the sling and they will no longer float properly), but you can relax a little more knowing your kids will swim easily and comfortably wearing these.
  7. Move onto a progressive back float. We had some cruising friends visit us at the marina and their two (adorable) kids were the same ages as ours. Both their kids, however, could swim. "How?!" I asked, desperate. Hermione presented me with a progressive back float with four foam boards on it. The idea behind the float is three fold: 1) The kids must work to use them (do NOT take your eyes off the kids as this is a swim aid, NOT a floatation device) 2) They teach proper swimming positioning (on belly, not straight up and down) and 3) You can remove the foam boards one by one as your child gains confidence in the water. I ordered this brand and within two days Isla went from four floats to two. Haven, who started with four two weeks ago, is currently swimming two and well on her way to swimming unaided. Mira, our little 'lazy river' swimmer is happy as a clam to just float in the water in her puddle jumper still, and we're totally okay with that.
    Very proud of going from four floats to two. It was super easy and painless.
  8. Add fins. This right here is the piece de resistance and we have Grannie Annie to thank for it. Never in a million years would I have thought to put my toddler in fins to help her swim, but Annie told me that they instinctively teach kids to kick properly (and not simply bicycle) in the water. I was apprehensive, but trusted her implicitly. Within one hour of wearing the fins and getting used to them, Isla was confidently swimming without a float. It was amazing. She is still using the fins, mind you, which in and of themselves are a form of assistance I guess, but she is swimming properly, with good form and gaining more and more confidence every day. Soon enough we will lose the fins, just as we have every other device - but for now, these were the magic bullet that made the most dramatic improvement. Granny Annie got Isla's fins from K-Mart in St. Thomas, but if I were to buy a pair I'd go for these well-reputed toddler fins.
  9. Teach them to "zoom". Annie taught me this trick. What you do is hold your child under their arms alongside you near a wall or the stairs, somewhere they are comfortable and can easily stand or hold on, step a few feet away, and then "zoom" them - essentially glide by pushing through the water - back to where they can stand. This is how we got Isla swimming on her own. After three or four "zooms", she was good to go. The gliding feeling gave her the proper swimming sensation, and eventually she started kicking and swimming on her own. Note: this is a somewhat advanced technique and Isla protested a lot at first because it requires the parent or teach to let go of the child which can be scary for the child. But if we don't let go, how will they learn on their own? Eventually she got it. 
    The flippers that made the biggest difference of all!
Watching Isla learn to swim, and being a part of it every step of the way, has been one of the most incredible moments in parenthood for me thus far. "I am so proud of myself mommy!" she tells me. Obviously this particular skill is heavily weighted due to our lifestyle and the fact that being able to swim is not only a huge benefit to enjoying island/boat life, but also a means for survival, which is a huge relief. While we are certainly not at the point where I'd leave her in a pool unattended or take my eyes off her for any considerable length of time while she's in the water, she is getting stronger every day. We will continue her lessons with the infamous (and simply magical) "Granny Nanny Annie" and her skills will continue to improve. There is still much work to be done, but we turned a major corner over here and I hope our tips can help some of you to get your tots swimming!



A huge THANK YOU to the wonderful "Grannie Nanny Annie" who really helped us turn this corner. We are forever indebted to you! xo

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Aren't You Worried about Them Falling Overboard?" Real and Imagined Fears of Living Aboard with Three Toddlers

We live on a 44 foot sail boat with our three toddlers age four and under. Considering this living arrangement falls well outside the range of "normal" for most land-dwelling folks, we get a lot of questions. But no question do we field so much as: "Aren't you afraid of them falling overboard?!" While, yes, the fact that we are surrounded by water combined with the reality that not one of our three children can swim unaided yet falls in the "Big F***ing Deal" category, you might be surprised to learn that, no, we almost never worry about them falling off the boat.

(insert sound of record scratching)

Don't get me wrong, our kids going overboard is our greatest concern and, potentially, our worst nightmare. But "worry" about it? No. So...why? A few reasons, really: 1) They are constantly supervised by an adult when they are on deck, not to mention well contained by protective netting around our boat's perimeter and 2) the water is warm and clear here so if they did happen to fall in, particularly because they are always under close watch, one of us would be able to retrieve them in a matter of seconds. Would we worry about this more if we were living in the Arctic where you have only moments in the water before hypothermia sets in, or if we lived somewhere where water was brackish and murky? Probably. But here? Not so much. And finally, 3) our girls have grown up on and around boats. It's natural and normal to them. They know how to move and maneuver like little pros, and furthermore know the "rules" and don't climb the lifelines or venture to the 'off limits' area of our boat. We are very frank with our daughters and mince no words when it comes to their understanding of safety. We tell it like it is: "If you fall in the water, you will sink like a stone to the bottom of the ocean." Sure, that might sound a little harsh, but a healthy dose of fear has a very real place in this particular scenario. We don't worry about them falling overboard at anchor any more than we would worry about our boat suddenly springing a leak. Sure, it's possible. But it certainly doesn't keep us up at night.

Underway it's similar. Our girls are never more than four feet from a parent, usually in the cockpit with Scott and I, and always in their lifejackets. We are lucky to live in a cruising area where we don't see big seas or rough weather, and if weather is inclement you won't find us sailing. On nice days, I often venture on deck with the girls to have dance parties during a smooth passage and they love to be on in the open air, watching the water for dolphins and turtles and waving hello at other boats. While we still allow them a little freedom to explore, the rules are a more stringent underway because man overboard drills in even the most pleasant conditions can be challenging, particularly if you're retrieving a small child (if a child were to go in, I'd immediately jump in after her and Scott would bring the boat back, fyi). I have zero interest in ever experiencing this horror, so our #1 rule is to stay on the boat. Period. We don't climb the rigging. We don't run. If it's rough we do not leave the cockpit and no one is allowed on deck without a parent present. Our girls understand that they must maneuver carefully and use one hand for the boat and one hand for themselves while the boat is underway. If we move between the bow of the boat and the cockpit I usually walk with them while the other two are seated securely on deck holding on to hand rails. "Always hold on," I remind them sternly. "You must always be holding on to the boat when we are moving." And they do. We are cautious, calculated and careful, but worried about them going overboard? Not really.

So where do we get a little fearful? Where does worry come into play?

Three words: At the dock.

A dock gives off false security and makes many of us feel okay because - hey, it's a dock! It's stable and safe and people and boats are around! But, no. All it would take is for one child to get out of my view and run off (it doesn't take long, believe me) and the repercussions could be disastrous. Keeping tabs on three (very active and curious) children is not always easy. While the marina does provide some security in that we have a whole community of people who watch after our girls from afar and more than once I have had a friend help me capture a runaway child, it's more of a perk and not something I count on. I am cautious and constantly doing the 'head count' if they are walking free (I am not to the point of leashes yet, but holy crap I'm close!) There are serious hazards on docks; a child might trip over a hose, a cleat or a line and fall in unnoticed, might try to balance or climb up a piling and slip over. She might see something in the water and try to reach it and topple in. Or maybe try to board a boat and misjudge the step. Any of these situations could be compounded by a good knock on the head during a tumble, rendering her unconscious and in the water... I could go on and on with scenarios but the bottom line is: these are potentially life and death situations. These are things we don't mess around with. These are the thoughts that, if I let them, keep me awake at night.

Because of these very real dangers, we have a strict lifejacket rule when on the dock and unless our girls are attached to our person or in their stroller , they are (almost always) in life jackets when walking around. Because they are so used to the rule, they often put them on themselves and with little protest. It's normal and understood. Other marina rules? They are never allowed to get on or off a boat without adult help or supervision. If we want to look at something in the water, we lie on our bellies to do so (it's much harder to fall head first into the water from a laying position than from a kneeling one). When running we keep a healthy distance from the edge so a normal trip doesn't turn into a swim. These rules were drilled into my head like "please" and "thank you" when I was a cruising kid and I've passed them onto our children. With these few safety measures in place, we certainly feel better, but I'd be lying if I said there was zero worry. It's amplified because I am chasing around three kids, usually by myself, two of whom are twins with a penchant for running in opposite directions just to mess with me - so I am always on high alert. When they run around with their lifejackets on? I worry less. WAY less. In fact, I'm pretty laid back about their wanderings as long as I can see them and know they will float. "Oh, they're so close to the water!" someone will tell me with concern in their voice, "Aren't you afraid they'll fall in?" they ask. "If they do," I start, "They will float and they certainly won't do it again!" The onlookers don't typically share my cavalier attitude and laugh nervously as they pass. But my thinking is this: worst case scenario, one of my girls falls in and gets a good scare. I fish them out (no doubt in front of a large gasping audience whispering #momoftheyear), give them a cuddle and we carry on with our day after a good rinse and change of clothes. Of course I don't want this to happen, but I'm all about kids exploring and learning natural consequences as long as the consequences aren't dire. If my girls are wearing life jackets, my worry is almost nil. Almost.

***

We take the safety of our children very, very seriously and I'm doing risk analysis while watching my kids play a hundred times a day. Bad things can happen. Accidents happen. We know that. Risks are everywhere on both land and sea. We do not, however, let a fear of "what if" rule our life. If that was the attitude we maintained, we'd never have left on a sailboat in the first place. For the most part, we let our kids be kids and give them a long leash to explore their capabilities and the world around them. Our girls climb up our mast and hang out on the boom. They swing from trees with ropes. They scale walls, climb like monkeys and run with hopeless abandon. Sure, they have the bumps, scrapes and bruises to prove it, but it's pure fact that humans learn by doing and so - with some simple rules in place and supervision from afar - we let them do. Our parenting style is to teach rather than dissuade, to empower rather than frighten. We do this, in part, by managing our own worry. Our goal - like most parents - is to raise happy, independent, confident children who trust the power of their bodies and minds, and who have a healthy respect for - but are not afraid of - the world around them. So, sure, like every parent - we worry. We worry about a million things like their happiness, health and success in life...But we don't really worry about them falling off the boat.

Sailing; in lifejackets (always) and one hand for the boat, one hand for themselves.
Always on our bellies to look at the water (Thank you Cindy W. for this tip!!)
When we're dock walkin', we are wearing life jackets. (and going opposite ways)

Practicing climbing, problem-solving, and balance. 
Looking out over the water, our fender was on the deck but usually they are never leaning over life lines.
I rigged up a line from the mast to the bow and it provided a TON of entertainment.  
When sailing on a nice day, this is how you will usually find the girls and I. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

On Writing, Time and What's Up: A Rambling Recap of the Last Few Weeks

So much to say, but the wind won't write my words!
It's hard to find time to blog these days. Which is frustrating to me since writing is something I need to do. Just as some people need to run or make music or sing, so must I write. Scott will vouch for the fact that if I've gone too long without it, I get all wonky and - in general - pretty unpleasant. "Go write," he'll say in exasperation. "I'll take the kids. But for God's sake, just write something." It is my life's greatest passion; the hobby that keeps my brain sharp, my thoughts clear and yields the most fulfillment. I love it. My mind is a dizzy flurry of thoughts, stories and ideas I want to flush out and I often have the urge to break open my computer in the wee hours of night (or morning, rather) to jot down a reflection so I can bring it to life later. What can I say? Like many writers, I have the compulsion to share...what I lack, however, is time.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I haven't been able to share much on the blog these days, or at least not as much as I would like. Luckily, our social media accounts - like Instagram and Facebook - make sharing in snippets pretty effortless. I post very regularly over there because it's simple, quick and easy. As much as I enjoy chronicling our life in images and short captions (because I really look at it all as a chronicle), it doesn't quite scratch the creative itch for me and it certainly only shows 1/100th of the picture. It offers a precisely filtered highlight reel and doesn't cut to the nitty gritty like I sometimes like to do. But it'll do for now. High season is behind us (maybe?) and Scott should (in theory) be able to help out with the girls a little bit more, affording me a few hours here and there to work and write. So more to come, I promise.

***

So, what's been going on the past few weeks?

Well, a lot. My parents and my amazing sister came to visit (separately), and spending time with them and showing them our new "island expat" lifestyle was so much fun. Our business continues to flourish which is wonderful but means that Scott is burning the midnight oil every. single. night. If you think running a day charter business in the tropics is all fun in the sun, you'd be wrong. It's a hell of a lot of work, and because I am on mommy duty all day, every day...the business end of things falls on Scott's shoulders.  I must say he is doing an incredible job, and seeing him take the bull by the horns and assume the roll of business owner with such ability and ease is impressive. It's a pretty insane work load though, and while we are taking steps to streamline certain procedures so that the work/life balance is better for him - these things take time. Not the worst problem to have but no one can work 12-18 hour days forever. That's a one way ticket to crazy town right there.

Other news? Oh! We got a second car (a white Hyundai Veracruz, baby!) The girls and I are now mobile and while we absolutely love Nanny Cay and our extended family of workers, neighbors and friends that are here with us - it's been nice to change things up a little with the freedom to go to other places, parks and beaches without paying an arm and a leg in taxi fare (there is no public transportation here). The girls are ob-sessed with the car and car rides. Obsessed. Every night after I tuck the twins in (and after I do the little routine they've developed of doing kisses, hugs and - get this - fist and elbow bumps) they say, "Car?" and I say, "Yes. We will go in the car tomorrow" to which they reply, "Okay!" So, yeah. The car is a big hit all around. Granted, finding car seats was a treat. Tracking down one on this island is like finding a needle in a haystack, locating three proved pretty much impossible. So we drove around (very carefully) without them for a while which was utterly TERRIFYING. The twins figured out how to unbuckle the seat belts approximately .02 seconds after I secured them the first time which meant driving around, for them, was like being in some sort of moving jungle gym and for me was...it was...let's just say I could've used a Xanax. We eventually found one booster style seat and rotated the kids around in that for a week or so, but one carseat for three kids is no good not to mention it created an existential dilemma a la "Sophie's Choice" every time I got them in the car. Who gets to ride in the car seat today? After realizing decent carseats weren't going to magically appear in my car or on this island for that matter, I ordered some on Amazon (this car seat can fit three in one row! Take note moms of multiples!) and my dad shipped them down to us. Now we are safe and my kids aren't hanging out the windows like dogs anymore. Whoo hoo!

We've also decided that we'll soon be putting the girls in a pre-school/play group here two days a week for a half-day to give me a little break and allow me to stay on top of things like a) my business responsibilities (I am technically the marketing manager of Aristocat Charters), b) "house" chores (like organizing cupboards, tidying lockers, purging excess and cleaning the fridge; things that need to happen regularly around here but don't) c) my personal hygiene (there are really nice *warm* shower facilities here. I use them maybe twice a week and cold-water bathe on the aft deck with the girls 90% of the time) and d) my writing (see first paragraph.) This change, I think, will also be great for them socially as they love other kids and while we play with other children on a daily basis, I think a little regular playtime with kids their own ages will be helpful. Did I mention that I think this will be great for my sanity? Because...that too.

***

Despite the fact that I haven't been writing much, we've had several things written about us and a couple new interviews went "live" recently, so if you'd like to read those they are here:

  • This Adventurous Couple are Raising Three Kids on a Boat in the Caribbean - an article that got compiled on the world wide web and has been shared a bunch. It's pretty accurate and uses a bunch of our pictures except we left in 2010, not 2012. We had nothing to do with this piece, and were not contacted for it. But I'm grateful for the publicity and the shares that have come from it.
  • Goodie Goodie Gumdrops: Inside a Traveler's Walls - A great interview series about people who live and travel in unique situations. Jessica's blog is pretty awesome too! This piece is specifically about our boat, what we love about it, what we don't, how we have altered it to make it work for us, and why we chose it for our home.
  • Women and Cruising: 12 Questions for the Asante Family - Part of a great series of interviews with families who sail with children. I answer twelve questions about life aboard with kids, the good, bad and poopy.

In related news, I have also been updating the pages of this blog, the "ABOUT" page got a refresher as did our "PRESS" page. Feel free to poke around there, and people interested in boating with babies, please check out our Baby on Board page where I've consolidated most of our posts on sailing, traveling and living tiny with tots.

What else? (Yes, I realize I am rambling)...That's about it. We have our good days and bad. The girls are growing in leaps and bounds and with that come new revelations, freedoms and challenges. Spending so much time with them and watching them grow, learn, and become who they are is pure magic, it really is. But with yin, there comes yang and darkness follows light. There have been some pretty significant and very personal extended family struggles that I have kept to myself which have been devastating and life-altering. We ride up and down the unpredictable wave of life just like anyone else and sometimes we are at the crest and can see what's coming our way, sometimes we are in the trough and have no idea what hit us. That's how it goes, we have all been there. But despite that, I call myself lucky and I am thankful beyond words. It's a wonderful, beautiful life and there is no place - literally no place - I would rather be than right here, right now. My heart is so full of love, gratitude and happiness for the life we have created, for our children and what we are accomplishing.

My time, whether or not I am writing, is well spent.

And that is (the very cliff-noted version of) where we are at right now...

Thanks, as always, for reading and following along on our journey. It's truly an honor.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Isla Turns Four: An Island Party fit for a Princess

Isla turned four on the last day of March. She reminds me daily of this fact and believes wholeheartedly that this magical number makes her a "big girl." I appease her, of course, because being proud of growing up is something I wish for her, but I silently cling to the toddler traits that linger; the dimply hands, the perfectly round tush, her sing-song bell of a voice, her chubby (but thinning) cheeks...so while she fancies herself something of a "big girl", I still look at her beautiful, brown, soulful eyes and see my little baby.

What can I say about our Isla? She is strong, smart, loving, kind, cautious, wise and brave. Her sense of humor is awesome and she lives to make people laugh. Her smile lights up a room. Her mind is a veritable sponge of wonder, curiosity and intrigue. She is absolutely brilliant, a total goof ball and full of personality. She shines bright with her giggles and makes friends wherever she goes. She is an amazing big sister to the twins (well, most of the time!) and makes our lives better in every conceivable way. She is full of joy and so. much. fun. Of course she can be stubborn, willful and possesses the persistence of a hungry used car salesman...after all, she is four. But these things go with the territory of raising a fiercely independent, strong female so I will take it. There are no words that can adequately relay the adoration we have for this little ray of sunshine, but we love her to the moon and back (a million times) and watching her grow is nothing short of a pleasure. Every single day I learn from this child, she has been my greatest teacher.

***

I put slightly more effort into her birthday party than I did for the twins. She is now at an age where a birthday matters, at least a little. And I wanted her to feel very special on her day. Of course a beach party was in order...while I did start 'planning' earlier, I stuck with my method of keeping it simple. We invited all her "neighborhood" friends, pre-ordered a couple extra-large trays of pizza, Scott arranged for a special "Elsa" princess cake and we staked out a picnic table on the beach. Of course the beach bar was slinging beers for the adults. What's a party without beverages for the adults, right?

Our very good friends from s/v Necesse made the trip over from St. Thomas to spend four days with us which was definitely a birthday highlight for both Isla and I. Not only is Genevieve one of my very best friends, but her youngest, Ellia, and Isla are only a week apart in age and shared their first birthday's together in the Bahamas. We've been crossing paths with them ever since and every time it is a pleasure to get our kids together (more so now because they fight so much less!) and continue making memories. We adore the Stolz's, and it was very special that they made the effort to come in to spend time with us. Thank you guys!

***

As it turns out, her birthday also coincided with the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival which is a week of partying and racing that happens each year here at Nanny Cay. I wasn't so sure how it was going to work out with our party merging on the beach with the after party, but as luck would have it - Isla's birthday celebration happened just before the race festivities started, and as we began to wrap up our party, the racer's bash commenced. This conveniently into our "after-party" as well. The "big kids" of the group lingered with the mamas, dancing wildly to the live band and enjoying the festive atmosphere into the night. It was an amazing day for an amazing little girl who is loved fiercely and completely.

But enough of that, I will let our party pictures tell the story...

Thank you to everyone who came out to make Isla's day special, you all know who you are and we are SO grateful. Here's to being FOUR!

The neighborhood kids gathered to decorate for her. Note: Horns and balloons will never cease to please kids, apparently.

One of her favorite "big boys"
Working our the finer points of birthday horn blowing.
So simple, yet so entertaining.
Our awesome friend Keanna brought markers and coloring books for Isla, which - in turn - became the hit of the party!!
Isla and two of her best pals. She refers to them as "her buddies" it's pretty adorable!
Keanna, coloring. Because adults coloring is all the rage these days!
Don't let the presence of beer in every single photo frighten you. It was for the adults, I swear.
Daddy arriving with her balloons (one of her birthday present wishes) and cake!
Isla opening a very special gift from her buddy, Stormer. Her very own jewelry box. She LOVES it. 
2 x 4 beach jenga blocks also double as construction blocks for beach kids! 
No beach party is complete without sand toys. Darcy and sweet baby Rio playing with Haven.
Making castles. 
Follow the yellow brick road, Haven!
V and A, two of our very awesome boat neighbor kids! Love them.
Haven enjoying her pizza. Side note: this is also usually the only time you don't hear her!  
These three dancing was absolutely adorable!
Isla and the beautiful hand-made wind chime made for her by her pal, Nico. She loves it and it hangs right by her bed.
The Elsa cake was a HUGE hit!
The party in full swing with all her pals around.
Isla and Ellia looking adorable, eating cake. "Shut your mouth, dear" ;)
Give this little sweet pea some balloons and she is good to go. Take them away and LOOK OUT!

Beautiful, goofy Arias!! I think she liked the cake! 
Haven, yelling as usual (she has almost no volume control!), and holding up FOUR for her sister.
This was the OTHER gift Isla asked mommy and daddy for, an Ariel dress. She was, obviously, pleased.  
"Mommy, don't I look beautiful!" You ALWAYS look beautiful honey, because your heart is beautiful!

This picture, though not the best in quality, sums up this wonderful, joyful child. Happy birthday Isla.

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