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.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Letters from the Twin Trenches: 6 Months In

Back story to our "Letters from the Twin Trenches" series...When we were in the BVI's we met up with some blog followers.  They were young, fun and we enjoyed hanging out with them (and the left over provisions they gave us from their charter when they flew home the next day).  Fast forward to months later when I announced our twin pregnancy on the blog...  Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Kimberly telling me that she, too, was pregnant with twins and only a week ahead of me.  "Must have been something in those painkillers!" she wrote... And so began a pretty incredible and prolific E-pal friendship chronicling our respective pregnancies and birth stories that continues to this day.  Her beautiful fraternal twin girls were born (full term) two weeks before ours and I have to tell you, sharing our (eerily similar) journeys via email has been very cathartic for me.  Solidarity.  If there is one thing you need as a parent of twins it's community.  We need to know we are not alone when it seems our sanity is teetering on the brink, which it will do from time to time when there are two newborns in the house.  Particularly if those newborns are screaming in unison.  These are some letters to her...they tell it like it is.  The good, the bad, the ugly...

August 26th, 2014

Gah!!....I have been meaning to write you and am a total boob for not. The past month has been so busy with overnight visitors and travel and mini-getaways...it's been crazy. I saw an ecard meme thingy with a picture of a housewife holding a pad of paper and a pen and the line: "yeah sure, let me just add that to the list if things that will never get done".  That's how I feel these days. THAT is my life.

Anyway, thank you for writing and CONGRATS on making it through a half a year!!!!!!!!!!

As for the ups and downs, YES. I write you from the 1am feeding that should've been "dropped" a month or two ago and Isla is screaming for me in her room because now she can't sleep without me. I have to lock my door otherwise she comes in and wakes the babies, who, on some nights wake up as often as every 2 hours. Not. Good. It breaks my heart to lock Isla out but what else can I do? And the nights where the twins ("the twins" almost always being Haven) wake every 2 hours? Shoot me. To add insult to injury Isla is also up at 5 am on some mornings which is insane. Is it too much to ask to get one solid 5-6 hour chunk a night and get up north of 6am?!? My pediatrician is like, "They should be sleeping 10 hours at night" and I can't decide whether to laugh hysterically in his face or rip out his eyeballs.  Have you given any thought to crying it out? I fear I might have to go there but am terrified of it. Mira would be fine, or at least tolerable and probably respond well to it but I fear that Haven would literally blow a head gasket. I just don't know what else to do though...

So that's that. I kind of want to kill the twin moms whose kids sleep all night and on a schedule. I mean, WTF?!? HOW?!?! Naps, thankfully, are getting longer but we are nowhere  near a regular pattern. Totally across the board in time and duration. I just kind of gave up on waiting for that and am just happy that they usually sleep at or about the same time. Tiny victories. I'm all about the tiny victories.

What is awesome is how cute they are these days which somehow manages to make up for it all. They are super happy, smiley and social babies which is so fun (and so different than how Isla was at that age). No teeth yet, but they are coming. Both girls chew like puppies on anything they can get their hands on and the drool is impressive and plentiful. Both have started the process of crawling by scootching around on their bellies. I can no longer leave them on a bed. Haven has, er, proven that to me. (Thud!!) #momoftheyear

Vacation was awesome. Just amazing. The kids did better on the boat than we ever could have imagined and the fact that it was just our little fam of five was fantastic. We are still living w my parents right now (guest house not finished) and we needed alone time more than we knew it (and we knew it!!!). House will hopefully be ready in time for us to leave this January - ha!

On vacay we came up with the family motto: "if Haven's happy, we're all happy" because she is still (and I fear will ALWAYS be) loud as s**t and the one child who can turn a good outing into one that must be aborted immediately. Every family's got one, right? We went out for many meals and sometimes she'd start squawking in her pterodactyl way and I'd turn around (as I desperately waved a rattle in her face to distract her) and say, " if you can believe it, these are her happy noises!" But she was good. Just loud. And, man, can her little face melt your heart. That baby is all smiles, all the time. Overall we did a lot (hikes, walks, beaches,etc) and had fun, and the babies were awesome (minus the sleep stuff) which says a lot! I'll take it!

Okay, I have to go. I nursed them and of course chill Mira is out but Haven thinks it's play time and is squeaking.

Congrats again on reaching 6 months mama. Can not even believe it's been a half of a year. Scary how fast time flies.

Much love, sorry I've been such a slacker. It's not 'cause I don't love ya ;)

Brittany

Follow up ....

September 6, 2014

Sigh.  I just loving having you and knowing we are pretty much going through the SAME stuff.  Honestly, it's weird.  How is it that we are doing EVERYTHING right and NOTHING seems to be working?!?!  So...going out on a limb here (and being my hippy dippy self)... but I once read that Pisces babies are their OWN people and will always march to the beat of their own drummer, they are not the babies that can be put on a "schedule".  I remember reading that and being like, "CRAP! I didn't just see that...that did NOT just get in my head...that is NOT true" but now, after literally doing EVERYTHING "right" I recall reading that and I throw my hands up in the air and think to myself, "Dammit. This is in the stars". Sigh. So maybe it's just their fishy natures, I don't know.

So last night was supposed to be my first night away from the girls.  My girlfriends were all going up to Lake Geneva for a girls weekend and I was just going to go for the night and come back this morning.  I felt funny about it, and really didn't want to go - but Scott insisted (he really is a super dad, so hands on and awesome - I am very thankful for him) and wanted me to go and have a good time. With great reservation I went, and on the way there was caught in a storm so severe I thought it might be a tornado.  Literally had to pull off the road and wait because I couldn't see a thing.  Of course me being me took it as a sign.  But the rain subsided and - urged by my girlfriends and Scott - I pushed on.

Guess who drove home at 2:30am?

This girl.

Haven woke up crying, quickly escalated into her "someone just stabbed my eyeball with a needle" cry and all hell broke loose.  Scott was texting me like, "What do I do? She won't take a bottle!" and, after some back and forth, we finally decided I needed to come home (and for Scott to agree to that says a lot - he does NOT give up!!).  Thank god I wasn't drunk (I did have a couple several hours earlier, but was not impaired, unless you count my COMPLETE exhaustion) - but it was an hour and a half drive and, man, I am just glad I didn't fall asleep at the wheel. In hindsight I probably should have just stayed and let her cry with him as one night away from mommy is certainly better than no mommy!! But...yeah.  I'm in the same camp mama.  I love these babies so much - honestly, they are the cutest things ever - but holy crap, the nighttime shenanigans are getting to me.  I literally drink a pot of coffee every morning.  I joke that my breast milk is a mixture of coffee and wine, which also might explain a few things but, whatever. I gotta keep on keeping on and those are my poisons.  Sue me.

Naps are here and there.  Some days they are 2 hours, some days they are 25 minutes.  No rhyme or reason.  It's insane.  I literally want to call Dr. Wiessbluth and be like, 'LISTEN A-HOLE!! IT'S NOT EFFING WORKING!! YOU NEED TO GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE AND SET THIS S*** RIGHT!"  The fact that he is actually Chicago based is tempting, but booking an appointment with him requires time and energy I just don't have.  

We, too, started solids.  This morning in fact.  It did not go well.  I think Haven's tongue is too big for her mouth, like, for real.  It's just always...there.  This certainly didn't help the whole "eating with a spoon" thing.  (note: Google 'baby with tongue too big for mouth') Nothing that went in, stayed in.  It's amazing, I feel like Isla came into this world knowing exactly what to do.  She just got it. I never remember anything being hard with her, motherhood was a total cake walk with her and with these two? I am like a deer in the headlights sometimes. The Universe is all "Welcome to motherhood!! You don't know squat!" It's pretty humbling.

But, not to be a total Debbie Downer, yes - days are awesome, the babies are seriously too chewable and adorable for words and if they were just sleeping through the night everything would be infinitely better.  What I wouldn't do for a solid 5 hour chunk.  Good grief.  Maybe all this means they will be awesome children from here on out?  Is that possible we're just paying our dues on the front end?  Haha - here's hoping.  In the mean time, lets start an army against smug twin moms who are all "yeah, my babies were sleeping 7pm-7am at eight weeks and taking three two-hour naps in the day".  Those women are robots and should be eradicated.  Their babies will be meth heads.

Okay.  Going to drink some coffee.  Last night was a long one and right now ALL the babies are sleeping so I have probably 30 more seconds of 'me' time ;).  Hang in there mama. I just try to remember that this is such a small period in our lives and to try my best to be present.  We're learning important lessons here.  Not sure what they are at the moment, but I think by the end of this year I will have more patience than a Buddhist monk, so there's that.

Love.  Sleep.  and SOME semblance of a schedule to your day!

xo
Brittany
Haven on the left, Mira on the right.  Love bugs!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Liebster Award: A Bloggy Good Chain Letter


I remember the letter well. It was in a nondescript envelop from a close friend of mine and addressed to Isla. "Hmmmm...." I thought, "I wonder why my friend is sending Isla letters?" It didn't look like a birth announcement, a card or an invitation.  I opened it and there it was: a legitimate chain letter that promised Isla sheets upon sheets of stickers as long as I sent it on.  I groaned, cursed my friend for roping me in and complied.  After all, it was for the kids.  Isla got some new stickers out of the deal and mama swore it was the last time she'd partake in such a ruse.

Until now.

Our blog has been graciously nominated for a Liebster award which, as far as I can tell, is the bloggers version of a chain letter.  I answer ten questions, then come up with ten questions to send to ten other bloggers, they answer my questions, come up with their own, and send them on to ten others.  And so it goes.  Luckily there is no threat attached to this "chain" so it would have been easy to pass up, but since blog posts are thin these days and some of these questions are the ones we've been getting a lot from followers, I thought I would partake in the fun.  Not to mention it's very kind to be nominated.  Since I have been nominated a few times, I will answer all thirty questions in one fell swoop. Thank you to Lyndy at Homeschool Ahoy, my dear friend Genevieve over at It's a Necessity and Tammy from Things we Did Today for the love!  

Here are the answers to the questions that were given to us:

From Homeschool Ahoy:
  1. Introduce us to your live aboard family, how many in your crew and how old are they? We are Scott (38), Brittany (35), Isla (2.5) and twins, Haven and Mira (6 months). That is four girls to one guy if you are counting.  We have what some might call "girl power."
  2. What sort of boat do you have and would you recommend it for other families hoping to live aboard? Our boat is a Brewer 44. We're not sticklers on what sort of boat a family might need (many would say catamaran), but as monohull sailors we have found a center cockpit layout and a boat that's easy to single hand key features in our experience of cruising with a baby.
  3. How did you come to the decision to live aboard? It was something both Scott and I always wanted to do.  It came up on our first date.  Kind of sealed the deal for us.
  4. Where are you now and what are your sailing plans, if you have any, for the future? For the upcoming season with our little ones, our plan is to island hop in the British Virgin Islands.  We also plan to sail the Bahamas again in the near future, it's pretty perfect for so many reasons and would be great to cruise with kiddos.  We also would love to cruise the East Coast and Scott would love to cruise the Pacific Northwest.  I'd love to see the Mediterranean, but we don't want to cross oceans until the kids are older.
  5. What’s the best learning experience your kids have had since living aboard that you could pass on to other sailing families for them and their children? Gosh, there are so many.  Cultural exposure comes to mind, but that's a no brainer.  Once thing that I think is great about living aboard is the fact that boat kids learn to self entertain and are very creative.  Kids these days have so much (toys, activities, television time, etc.) so I think there is ample learning for kids where there is less.  The natural world is a fabulous playground.
  6. What style of education do you prefer for your littlest crew members, are you homeschooling/world schooling/un-schooling… or eclectic like me? Have they ever been or will they ever go to a traditional school? Our kids are too young to make this decision, but we are strongly considering homeschooling for a myriad of reasons, our nomadic lifestyle and the desire to maintain it being the big one.  The jury, however, is still out.  
  7. What’s your best memory from the last year? Growing our family from three to five.
  8. Name the most challenging experience you have had whilst living aboard and what did you do to overcome it? Hmm...domestic disputes could get ugly, Scott and I are both pretty stubborn.  We learned (and are still learning) the best ways of dealing with these in tight spaces is to communicate, set expectations and give each other space.  Constantly fixing things can get old too, but you don't "overcome" this - you just deal with it.  And take really good care of your stuff.
  9. Will you always live aboard or is this just one of the many adventures you hope to share with your family? I think we'll always have a boat and we'll always cruise whether it be a week here and there or a two year sabbatical, but there are so many adventures to be had in this life.  Not to mention we want our girls to be able to rip on skis so we'll have to head to the mountains at some point and, sadly, cruising season and ski season are the same.  If they weren't, this world would be a perfect place. 
  10. What motivates you to blog and what tips can you offer fellow yachty bloggers?  I love to share stories and connect with people.  The fact that I actually inspire people here and there was an unexpected bonus to this.  I love it and I love all the good stuff that has come from it.  Writing is my passion and it is my greatest form of expression.  If I don't do it I don't feel right.  My blogging tips are here.
From (my good friend Genevieve at) It's a Necessity:
  1. Describe yourself in 5 words. No more, no less.  Live life to the fullest. 
  2. What do you blog about? What do you NOT blog about?  I blog about whatever tickles my fancy but usually it's related to sailing, travel, living one's dreams and children.  I don't blog about things that would be considered "airing dirty laundry."  Some things are sacred.  Like dirty laundry.
  3. You have $10 US to spend, what is the first thing you buy? I wish I could say something cool like "train ticket," but the true answer would be coffee since sleep is the only thing I really lack these days (#twinfants).  Large drip with a shot of espresso, 2% milk and a lot of sugar is my current poison.  In one coffee shop this concoction was called the "ticker kicker."  I liked that.  Since that would probably only cost $5, I'd buy two of them.
  4. What is the worst travel spot you have been to?  Definitely not the worst spot, but my worst travel experience was in Amsterdam.  It was a comedy of errors and I didn't even get to smoke good pot in a cool coffeehouse, but did end up staying with a very kind map maker who took pity on my travel partner and I.
  5. What is your favorite saying/slang/term you have picked up through your travels? I like the term "lime" from Grenada.  It means "to hang out/chill out" and can be used as a noun and a verb.  As in: "we're limin' by the water" or "come join us for a lime on the beach." We like to lime.
  6. If you were invited to a dress up party what costume would you wear?  I love the 1920's so I'd try to find a stellar flapper get up.
  7. What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or not)? Wine.  Specifically any sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.  Chilean sauv blancs are a close second.  Favorites:  Brancott and Kim Crawford.  Nectar of the Gods.
  8. How much wine is too much?  If you ask me this sober, the answer is "there is no such thing as too much."  Ask me after a bender and I will say "two bottles."  That second bottle always does me in, but it usually means a really good night was had.
  9. What are you afraid of? Not living up to my potential.
  10.  If you could have one wish granted, what would you ask for?  Healthy, happy, long lives for our children.
From Things We did Today:
  1. What is the one thing you wish more people knew about you? Don't be afraid to brag here... this is your chance!  This blog paints a pretty one dimensional view of me. People think I am some sort of Pollyanna. People closest to me would find this hysterical. I swear, piss me off and I will cut you (wink). I am a former "wild child" and "bad girl." That doesn't really come across on this blog which became clear when several people assumed I was a peppy cheerleader in high school (I wasn't).  Also, I literally just learned that you only need one space after a sentence and this is killing me because it will take me at least four years to do that without thinking about it. Grammar has never been my strong suit in case you didn't notice.
  2. If you could have EITHER five minutes with a crystal ball OR five minutes with a Genie... which would you choose and what would you ask for?  I would choose a Genie because Genie > Crystal Ball, and see number 10 above.
  3. What would you say is your partner's greatest contribution to your success as sailors/cruisers?  He amazes me with his ability to get things done and make things happen. No such thing as a "honey do" list for him. He has no fear, can fix anything and he's one hell of a sailor. He's also an amazing, very hands-on daddy. Priceless qualities in a (cruising) mate. We make a very good team.
  4. When will you/did you REALLY consider yourself to be a Cruiser? What does the word "Cruiser" mean to you?  Not sure.  I think after we got past the "Thorny Path" we felt pretty good.  A cruiser is anyone who travels by boat. I think it's that simple.
  5. What do you think will be the thing that ends your Cruising journey? And why?  Our cruising journey will always stop and go I think - but we will always be sailors and I think we will always have a sailboat.  Things that will end it for certain: a) if we are not enjoying it anymore b) we can no longer afford to do it and c) we find some other adventure to sink our teeth into.
  6. What was it like the moment that you "decided" to go cruising? What was the catalyst? Or was it a more gradual thing that just happened?  For me, I read Maiden Voyage when I was thirteen or so and when I finished it I thought, "I want to do that."  I have been known to be impulsive.
  7. How did your current boat get its name? Have you ever thought of changing it?  The story behind our boat's name is here.  We love it.
  8. What size boat do you/will you cruise on? And if money were no object... would you buy a bigger one?  We cruise on a Brewer 44.  If money were no object we would absolutely buy a bigger boat.  It would be a three cabin monohull in the 48-53 foot range.  Ideally it would be a Hallberg-Rassy 53.
  9. It is often said that before you leave, everyone says they will come visit you, but most never do. Who would you MOST like to come visit you on your boat and why?  Richard Branson.  He seems like he would be awesome to hang out with and he could go kiteboarding with Scott.  Or my best friend because I KNOW she's awesome to hang out with and loves wine as much as me.  But, really, we can't have visitors these days since we have no more room!
  10. Thinking back to before you tossed the dock lines and how you thought cruising would be, what in reality was your biggest misconception? What was your biggest surprise? What was your biggest disappointment?  Misconception: you can sail around the world in two years. (you can, but you're moving faster than we'd ever care to)  Surprise:  how little we actually move under strictly sail power. Disappointment: rolly anchorages.
Thank you humbly for the nominations friends, but the buck stops here.  Since pretty much every single cruising blog I know of has already been nominated multiple times, I will just redirect you to the blogs that nominated me (links above) and have you take a look at their other nominees.  There are thirty of them combined, so that should keep you busy for a while! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Back from the Lake

Even though I know I don't have to, I feel the need to apologize for the lack of posts as of late.  It's certainly not for a dearth of material as I have about a dozen half-written posts in my drafts folder.  The problem, my friends, is time.  I know I don't have to explain how that having a toddler and twinfants is probably the gold medal standard for time-suckage but there are just not enough hours in the day to do all that I want to do, and the few hours of quiet time I do get are spent drinking copious amounts of wine (joking...kind of).  Sigh. Time is a precious commodity, and lucky for us we've been spending it soaking up the last days of summer in style with our little munchkins and enjoying every minute of it.  Because the other funny thing about time?  It goes by so dang fast.

We just returned last night from another epic family vacation.  This time, we headed to Northern Michigan where we rented the most adorable teeny-tiny cottage (only slightly larger than our boat in square footage) on Lake Bellaire to spend time with Scott's family.  It was bliss.  Lake living is where it is at and Scott and I have put it out into the Universe that one day we will have a cozy cottage on a lake somewhere where our girls can spend the summers canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing, hiking, dinghy sailing, making s'mores around a campfire, collecting fireflies, skipping stones and - in general - being kids in the great outdoors.  I don't know what it is, but there is something special about waking up and walking out your back door to the morning sun glistening on a lake.  The fresh air, the cool morning mist, the chirping birds, the feel of dewy grass underfoot...  Not sure if it's like this for everyone - for some it might be mountains or forests or deserts - but for me being on the water is so peaceful and calming.   It's probably why I love living on a boat so much, the constant presence of water right at my doorstep.  Everything somehow seems more tolerable, more beautiful, more meaningful, more special, just more when I am close to water.  Life is better.  I love it.  I guess that's the true gift nature gives us and why it's so important to get out in it as often as we can.

So there's that.  I could go on and on, but the babies are stirring from their nap and so I'll just leave you with a few pictures that I think sum it up nicely.









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