Friday, August 22, 2014

First Sailing Trip with "Three Under Three"

Last week we went where very few have gone before us:  On a week long sailing vacation with infant twins and a toddler. Something that more than a few people told us we were nuts to do (and fellow moms of multiples said they'd never do).  Considering our current baby to adult ratio and the fact that our familial scenario can (and does) go from zero to crazy in the bat of any eye, we knew it was a bold move. Lucky for us,  bold moves seem to be our default so we didn't think twice and went for it. As my mentor and fellow sailor, Capt'n Fatty, says"Fortune favors the brave", and crazy brave we are.

The week long adventure was more than a family vacation. The real point was to do a test run and see how (and if) we could handle a boat with three little ones in tow.  After all, we might be bold, but we're not stupid. We wanted a little glimpse of what we might be in for this coming January, and while our experience as both sailors and parents gave us a vague idea, you never really know how something will play out until you dive right in and do it.  So that is what we did.

I am thrilled to report it went better than either of us could have possibly imagined, which is saying a lot considering it could have been a complete bust.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't without a few hiccups and of course there were challenges (and the ever-present struggle of sleep deprivation which is something we are constantly dealing with) - but overall, we learned that we can go forth to the British Virgin Island's without hesitation. 

I don't have time at the moment to recount all the details of our 'maiden voyage', but I don't want to leave you with fluff so I can say that the success of this trip was brought forth by four things:
  1. Being conservative: We were super conservative and sailed only fifty miles over the course of six days and only in fair weather.  Sailing with babies is not easy and (in our opinion) best done in small chunks.  This is why we plan to only cruise the British Virgin Islands where passages over three or four hours are almost non-existent.  Baby steps.  We've nothing to prove.
  2. Baby wearing: I "wore" the twins on every shore excursion and it made life so much easier, we didn't need to deal with a bulky stroller and could go everywhere with ease (hiking, beach, shops..etc) not to mention the fact that when the babies are on me they are almost always happy and content.  "Wearing" the twins also gave us a glimpse of what life would be like as "A-list" celebrities. Seriously, people were taking our picture everywhere and we couldn't walk 20 feet without getting stopped, pointed at, and/or whispered about.  Pretty hysterical.  I am in the process of writing an in-depth post on the benefits of baby wearing and the different ways I "wear" the twins, so stay tuned for that. 
  3. The sleep schedule: I have sang the sleep schedule praise numerous times on this blog and while the twins are not quite on a predictable "schedule", I did put them down for naps every 1.5-2 hours which meant that when they were awake, they were well-rested and happy.  Happy babies make life so much more pleasant. In addition, we timed sails around when they would be sleeping, which also made sailing with the kiddos much easier.
  4. Two full-time parents:  Having a super hands-on husband (who also occasionally baby wore!) was by far the biggest reason we were successful.  It is definitely difficult to be "outnumbered" - but three kids is totally manageable if there are two adults to help wrangle them!  I would NOT attempt a life on a boat with three little ones unless we could divide and conquer!
So there's the teaser for you.  I will write more in-depth in coming posts, but wanted to let you all know where we have been.  In the meantime, you can check out our Facebook Page for some pictures and updates from the trip.   

Are there any specific questions or topics you would like to see covered?  Share in the comments.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Everything Looks Perfect from Far Away

Last night I heard the very sad news that Robin Williams died.  "What does that have to do with sailing?" you ask.  Nothing.  His death has nothing to do with sailing.   But his death has struck me harder than I could have ever imagined. This blog has deviated from the boating life for a while now and, believe it or not, the untimely death of Robin Williams is, in fact, relevant to this blog in that it has touched on a subject that I have been wanting to write about for quite some time, but never seemed to find the way.

As soon as the news of the alleged suicide hit the internet, people have been expressing their collective grief. The reactions run the gamut: it's tragic, it's a waste, so sad, huge loss, etc.  But the overwhelming emotion bubbling to the top of the chatter is the absolute shock the majority of the world feels. "Robin Williams, master of laughs, depressed!?"  "Robin Williams, successful movie star and comedian, taking his own life?!" Of course 99.9% of the people chiming in (me included) didn't know Mr. Williams personally, but we all "knew" him based on what he shared with the world.  Namely: a lot of laughs.  According to what we could see, he was a happy, manic, goof ball, hell-bent on making people smile.  But we obviously only saw part of the picture.

And this is what I think is wrong with today.
(And here is where I am going to deviate and get a little abstract...)

We live in a world of over-sharing.  Facebook, Twitter, Snap-chat, Instagram, Tumblr and, of course, blogging all fall under the umbrella of "social media" which, by definition, is: websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.  The word "network" implies connection.  Most of us partake in this charade at some level; you must have either incredible resolve or be completely technically incompetent to avoid it - but it's important to remember what it is: a charade.  The assumption is that this type of networking "connects" all of us and makes us feel like we are not alone, yet for so many this could not be farther from the truth.  Most of us share only the best and bury the rest which leads to a bunch of people seeing our "ideal" lives and feeling inadequate or insecure, or worse - making those of us who suffer feel tremendously alone in our pain.  The selfies are picture perfect, the meals are organic and ornate, the outfits flawless and fitting.  The relationships are happy and effortless, the friendships deep and meaningful, the families close and loving.  No one bitches about their marriages, complains about the dosage of their anti-depressant, or admits the fact that they think they might be dropping the ball on the whole "parenthood" thing.  Nope.  The world according to social media is perfect and it is total bull-crap.  "This is your life.  This is your life according to Facebook."

I am not saying that we need to start airing our dirty laundry on the internet or spewing all that is wrong in our lives on the web to solve this problem.  I don't know what the answer is.  I do, however, think that people need to stop assuming that what they read and see is the whole picture, because more often than not, it isn't.  It's easy to project a certain image from behind the pages of a magazine, book, profile or blog but the vast majority of us live lives of "quiet desperation" and yet we see very little of that.  I am not even going to pretend I know what it feels like to suffer from clinical depression or to feel so desperate that I would consider taking my own life.  But what I do know from being the author of this blog is that there are a lot of assumptions and misconceptions about me, our life, and our family that are just dead wrong.  It's not easy to be 100% honest with each other because in order to do so we must expose something and become vulnerable.  "Vulnerable" has a negative connotation in our society and it's very difficult to open up and expose our weaknesses to others, particularly if those around you assume you have it all.  Yet sharing vulnerability is precisely what takes us beyond the superficial and connects us more deeply than anything.  Therein lies the catch 22.

I think there are some important lessons and conversations to be had as a result of the passing of one of the greatest comedic geniuses of all time.  No one is perfect.  No one has it all and unless you truly "know" a person, you never really know them and their struggles or their pain.  Depression is a very real, very insidious disease that knows no boundaries and I believe that the lack of real connection between human beings today is part of why this disease runs so rampant in our society.  We compare ourselves constantly against false measures; whether it be the models in magazines, the characters in movies, or our very own Facebook news feeds. Everything looks perfect from far away, and the internet - specifically social media - is like a backwards telescope.
"We all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go “that’s baaaaad.” Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in the wood and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." - Dead Poets Society
While I obviously place a high value on marching to the beat of your own drum and living "outside the box," I think it is so important to remember that even as individuals we are all in this together and that, no matter what, we are never alone.

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams.  Thank you for making all of us laugh.  Thank you for creating beauty. Thank you for making this world a better place with your gift.

No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
-Robin Williams

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PLAN: Just Another Dirty Four Letter Word (but here's ours anyway)

The BVI's
I have alluded to many "plans" throughout this blog.  Some have come to fruition, some have not.  For most travelers (I don't believe this is limited to cruisers) plans are simply guidelines, something to aspire to so that we keep moving forward toward our goals.  It's nice to have plans - without them we are rudderless ships - but it is equally nice to be flexible with those plans because sometimes our greatest adventures happen when we allow ourselves the ability to "sail the wind we are in" so to speak.  Opportunity favors the bold, so it behoves us to take risks, live courageously and without fear.

So, we have a plan...

We're going back to the boat.  With three kids under three.

Bold? For sure. Insane?  Maybe.

Of course some of you will call us crazy/stupid/selfish...etc, but we think our "plan" is actually pretty good.  Heck, I'd even venture to call it a little conservative.  But then again, you're talking to a girl who moved to Tanzania, East Africa by herself when she was twenty-four.  Crazy and conservative are relative terms in my book.

But I digress...

Flights have been purchased for the entire family to fly down to the British Virgin Islands (BVI's) January 2015.  We have rented a condo at the boatyard where we will stay for two weeks while Scott recommissions s/v Asante.  My mom will be with us during that time (after this past winter, she is positively thrilled at the prospect of the tropics in January) so she will help me with the girls while Scott gets our boat ready to splash again.  Once the boat is a "go", we'll move aboard and spend the remainder of the season lazily cruising around the British Virgin Islands.  << This here, is the "conservative" part.

We are going to take baby steps.  After sailing with Isla for twenty months, we learned a thing or two about cruising with kids.  With her, it was pretty seamless and easy for us, but we also know that going from one to three kids is no joke (like, for real...no joke).  We will be outnumbered and that alone ups the ante on the difficulty scale, not to mention the twin factor which pretty much puts that ante up into orbit.  Any parent of multiples will agree, twins are a completely different ball of wax.  So when we were making this "plan", we took stock of what we learned with Isla, and are omitting the aspects of kid cruising that were the most difficult, namely (in no particular order):  1) really long passages 2) overnight passages and 3) rough weather.  Obviously we cannot control the weather, but the BVI's are relatively easy peasy sailing; no passages longer than 4-6 hours, no need for any overnights, and relatively protected waters where rough seas and the need to watch the weather are significantly less than elsewhere.  In fact, it's kind of like sailing in a (really expensive and very crowded) bathtub.  Kind of.  

While this plan is in no way "fool proof" or a guarantee that this transition will be smooth sailing (pun intended), we think that this will give us a good shot at actually enjoying ourselves on the boat instead of simply suffering through it.  With this plan we have options... If we find that we have a good handle on things, we can be more "adventurous" and head to the US Virgins and even the Spanish Virgins and Puerto Rico.  If we discover that short day sails are our max, in the BVI's we will stay.  Our girls will still benefit from the same gifts that a life aboard gave their big sister (intense family time, living with less, majority of wake time outside in nature...etc), but without the stress of passage making, overnights and rough sails.

"But you will be outnumbered!" you say.  Yes.  We will.  But what I have learned thus far with three kids is the fact that if you have two adults on duty, it's totally manageable.  While I can handle all three kids by myself (it is not easy, mind you, but do-able) - it is so much better with another adult so we can 'divide and conquer'.  The fact that Scott and I will be full-time parents while on the boat is exactly what makes this plan viable, which brings me to the next part...

For the foreseeable future, we plan to cruise only part-time meaning that when hurricane season comes around, we will return to the states.  There are several reasons for this:  1) our families are here and we want to see more of them 2) sitting more or less idle during hurricane season was never very fun for us 3) summertime in Chicago is amazing and...oh yeah...4) someone needs to work, and at the time being while I am basking in babies, that person is Scott.

While the captain's gig with Island Windjammers worked out great for us in the past, it is just not realistic for Scott to leave me for a month at a time alone on the boat with three kids under three while he honor his rotation.  Being a single boat mom to one child was totally do-able, but three babies?  No thank you.  So we are putting our ducks in a row so that we can come home and make money during the summers and then cruise/travel as a complete family unit during the winters.  

So there you have it.  The "plan" as it exists right now.  Obviously all of this is subject to change and there are lots of things to figure out (namely our sleeping arrangement for a family of five in a two cabin boat), but for now it feels really good to know we will be heading south for the winter.  It's all about baby steps over here, in so many ways.

>>>>Below are some pics of our last time in the BVIs when Isla was about 13 months <<<<

There are actually PARKS for kids in the BVI's (these are as rare as unicorns in the islands, fyi!)
Swimming off the back of the boat is always fun
There are LOTS of little ones in the BVI's too, which is a big plus (also note: tropical slushy rum drink in mom's hand) 
Dinghy rides! 
Cane Garden Bay was one of our favorites 
Swimming in the bubbly pool
Boat baby :) 
Exploring the Baths
Leary of a squall on the horizon

Friday, July 18, 2014

106th Chicago to Mackinac Race

Today marks the start of the 106th annual Chicago to Mackinac race.  Well, for the cruising division anyway.  Race boats start tomorrow.  It's a little bitter-sweet for me since I will not be partaking as I have in years past.  This race is always a highlight of summer for us "pond sailors" and it was during contemplative night watches of previous Mac's where I began to dream and scheme in earnest about a life afloat, not to mention it was during the '07 race when Scott and I first met.  Alas, breast pumps have no place on race boats so I'll be sitting this one out.  Scott, lucky fellow, gets a well deserved break from this estrogen-rich household and is very much looking forward to being surrounded by only men for a few days.  Can't say I blame him although I shudder to think what that head (aka. toilet) will look like after three or four days of ten men aboard.  Blech.  No thank you.

The "plan" was for me and the girls to drive up to the island to meet them on Sunday at which point Scott and I would take the helm and cruise for a week or so in Northern Michigan.  However, after pouring over the logistics of getting three babies up to the island and where we would end up with the boat and how we would return from the trip were mind boggling, and - let's be honest - driving in an SUV with three children under three for eight-plus hours has got to be a legitimate form of torture.  So, instead, my mom and dad will sail their boat back to Chicago (or thereabouts) and Scott, the girls and I will hop aboard for a week long cruise down in the lower latitudes of the lake.  Less driving, fewer logistical hiccups. Win/win.

Anyway...

Today also marks my handsome hubby's 38th birthday and there is nothing that he deserves more than to enjoy a weekend of straight-up sailing (pretty much his favorite thing) sans babies.  We'll miss him so much but he has earned a break from the mayhem of twinfants and the tall task of being super dad! Scott will be racing on my father's boat with my brothers and eight others.  If you are interested in tracking their progress, feel free to do so here.  The boat's name is "Lancashire Lass".

Fair winds and following seas guys! Sail fast and have fun!
My handsome hubby in his element.
*Above photos taken by Andy Jury

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Family Sail

Not going to lie, three kids under three kind of puts a damper on spontaneity.  It's not that easy to go anywhere or do anything on a whim these days.  There are nap times to consider, diapers to change, feedings to be had, bedtimes to honor and about a million other things thrown into the mix.  So when Scott suddenly said, "Let's go sailing" this last Sunday morning after no forethought or planning on our part, my knee jerk reaction was to reply with a, "you're joking, right?"  But he wasn't and I didn't and we learned the important lesson that we've still got some "get up and go" left in us.

It was a gorgeous day, the wind was steady out of the west, the seas were flat and the sun was warm and high.  We travel pretty light for a family of five (at least we strive to) so we packed up some lunch, my new favorite light weight baby carriers, a diaper bag of reinforcements and off we went.  No toys, no bells, no whistles.  Just us and the kids.  It was an awesome day on the water and it completely made it clear that we can absolutely sail as a family of five and still enjoy it.  Our good friend AJ came with (you might remember him from the delivery from Georgetown to Tortola) and the six of us delighted in the kind of Chicago day that makes living here during this past winter totally worth it.

Isla was completely content and busied herself happily with the boat while she sang her impressive repertoire of songs.  She is a self-entertaining champion and an awesome little sailing companion.  The twins napped in the slings and when they weren't sleeping they were giggling and cooing in the pilot berth.  They have salt in their veins and, being Pisces, love the water and outdoors.  It was a dream come true and the kind of day you store in your memory bank under "extra special" to recall on the days that don't go so well so that you can maintain perspective and sanity.  It was fantastic.  I am seriously more excited than ever to get back down island aboard Asante.  More on this in a later post (spoiler alert: plane tickets have been purchased).  For now, here are some pics of the beautiful day aboard my dad's boat*.












*After my last post about sailing on my dad's boat, several of you inquired as to what sort of boat it was.  It is a custom built Kanter 47.  As my dad always says, "Britt, there is no such thing as the perfect boat....except the one you build for yourself". She's a beaut.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Letters from the Twin Trenches: 4 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...

July 10, 2014


Hey there mama.

Picture this:  me, at the computer, glasses all crooked and smudged, hair akin to a rat's nest, yesterdays breast-milk stained tank top on, cold coffee (cup #3) at my side and eyes that have bags under them the size of texas.  I haven't showered in two days.  My teeth are still unbrushed and it is noon.

It's been that kind of week.

Last week I didn't write back because it was all peaches and cream over here.  Girls napping in 1.5 hour stretches, night sleeps lasting 6-8 hours, bedtime happening before 7pm.  It was too good to be true and I didn't want to jinx it or - worse - gloat about my twin triumphs if you were still struggling.  Plus, I know better than to count on the good days because we both know that there is always a twinado on the horizon, just waiting to throw our worlds into a tailspin.

Man, I get a little dramatic when I am sleep deprived, don't I? (face palm)

So, the good news is the girls turned 4 months and are both doing awesome.  Growing well.  Haven is tracking like a 5 month old (trying to stand, crawl, super strong...etc) and Mira is tracking like a normal  4 month old (rolling over, holding head up during tummy time...etc) and even jumped up from the 12th to the 20th percentile!! Whoot whoot!! So that is all good stuff.  Both girls are all smiles these days as well, which is awesome too but....BUT....ever since that fateful 4 month appointment we have entered some sort of sleep regression where I am up every 1.5 - 2 hours with one or the other.  This translates into very little sleep of the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" variety.  They are back doing the grunting thing which, as you well know, is my version of fingernails on a chalk board.  When that grunting starts good grief, look out.  The gas is back.  Not sure what I have eaten this week to make them so uncomfortable but both of them are tooting MACHINES.  I am telling you, their farts could power a turbine engine.  Haven will escalate so quickly into cries - nay - SCREAMS of discomfort, which - of course - wake the whole house.  Two nights in a row my mom or Scott have come into the room terrified they would find me sticking her with a needle or beating the crap out of her - THAT is how loudly and intensely this child screams.  The only thing that will quiet her is the boob, though I do TRY to massage the gas out with only moderate success.  Then, just as I get her quiet and sleeping again, Mira will start to stir (thank god with no where *near* the intensity of her sister - I could not handle that cry in surround sound).  It is seriously like a joke and sometimes in the middle of the night I am moved to fits of maniacal laughter at the absurdity of it all.  Real life whack-a-mole.  I read some twin mom describe the first year with twins in this regard and it is SO true.  Throw a two year old in the mix and you have a recipe for absurdity fit for a Pinter play (sorry if you don't get the reference, I was in theater). Whack. A. Mole.  Just trying to stay on top of it all is a full-time job.  #captainobvious  My mother's helper, Linda, is a god-send and I honestly don't know what I would do without her.  She is SUCH a big help.  We divide and conquer.

Okay, enough of the woe is me crap, hopefully whatever I ate that is causing this will get out of my system and I can go back to sleeping for more than 2 hours at a time again...but for now, we wait...

I'm so happy you discovered a car trick!!! Windows down does it, eh?  We have not taken them on a ride in the car for anything more than a pediatrician appointment as of late (last 45 minute trip into the city just about did me and my mom in) but when we do, I will try that. Once, on the way back from a wedding when they were screaming in unison, Scott, Isla and I discovered we could *kind of* quiet them if we all just pretended to cry too. "Can't beat 'em, join 'em" mentality. Haha.  I like the window trick better!  And, again, mad props to you for getting out on the boat with those little fish.  Seriously, that is some kind of crazy (and all sorts of awesome) that they sleep better on the boat than at home.  We've never overnighted on a boat with ours, but one day.  Soon (more on this...BVI tickets are booked!).  

Scott is doing the Mac Race next week with my dad (and others), which makes me insanely jealous.  The "plan" was to drive up to the Island with all the girls but we thought a little more on that and decided against it because - honestly - it sounded like a logistical nightmare and driving 8 hours with three babies terrifies me. Sailing with them doesn't bother me in the least, but a car trip?  Fuhgetaboutit. So we are going to cruise my dad's boat later (some time in August) from Chicago to Southwest Michigan (my fave) where we will only have to drive for 45 minutes with them to get to the boat ;)  BIIIIIIIG difference and potential sanity-saver.

Okay, gotta run.  I am going to *try* for a blog post today, but I might just step outside and enjoy the sun.  We will see!  Hope things are going well in your camp.  Sending wishes for long sleep stretches and fewer crying outbursts.  Speaking of, how is Annelise doing (she was the one who was crying so much she was choking, right?)  Any news on that?  And how is you mom doing in the daytimes with them while you are working?  Does she find it crazy challenging or has she taken to it like a duck to water?

xo

Brittany

PS.  Not sure if you saw the mom of twelve (TWELVE!?!?!) who recently posted in the twin forum we are in, but her twins were her second to last kids and she said that NOTHING could have prepared her for the challenge of two at once.  Nothing. She had NINE kids before them.  #validation #twinsarenojoke

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Thoughts on Land-Life, "Re-Entry" and Adaptability

We have been landlubbers now for eight months.  Eight months.  Two hundred and forty-four days ago we packed up our boat and moved back stateside to await the birth of our twins. Time flies when you're havin' babies (yes, plural).  I realize I am pointing out the blatantly obvious when I say that the cruising community is pretty impermanent.  Most people do not cruise indefinitely and many have very distinct dates for their sailing sabbaticals, be it a year or more.  The point is:  the life aquatic, for the vast majority, comes to an end for one reason or another and people move back to (dun-dun-dun): land.  This is often referred to as "re-entry".  For some, this is an incredibly difficult time fraught with feelings of displacement, sadness and confusion, for others - it's time to...well... yuck it up, refill the kitty and enjoy the many perks that land affords.

So...how have we 'adjusted' to life as landlubbers?

Pretty seamlessly, thankyouverymuch.  I mean, this is land we're talking about, not prison.  There are as many benefits/advantages/plusses to a life ashore as there are a life afloat - they are just different.  It's all about perspective and how well you adapt to the situation at hand.  It doesn't hurt that we have some pretty incredible friends and family around us as well...

Scott and I have both been fairly transient in our lives from relatively young ages.  We are pretty adaptable.  I'm not sure if this attribute is the result of or the reason for our wayward tendencies - but I have learned that adaptability might be the single-most important trait for the gypsy soul, and maybe even life in general.  After all, it was Charles Darwin, the foremost authority on adaptability, who declared: "It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change".  He was right.  The ability to become accustomed to new conditions is not only helpful when traveling, but also when coming home....and, come to think of it, when getting married, starting a new job, moving house, and - er - having twins, to name a few.

I must admit, by no means has this transition to "landlubber" (and, more specifically) "mom of three" been effortless and smooth.  There is a very, very large part of me that longs for the cruising life again and when I scroll through my photos of the last few years (man did I take some awesome pictures!) I am overcome with nostalgia.  On the "mom" front, I have had my fair share of mini meltdowns (and one big one that might possibly have shared a spot with "mental breakdown" in the ven diagram of emotional health) as the result of going from one child to three over night.  But I also strive to enjoy the here and now.  And the here and now is pretty dang good.  We are surrounded by family and friends, it's summertime, and we're taking advantage and enjoying all the "perks" (of which there are many) that land life affords.  We've enjoyed going out to eat with friends and spent quality time with loved ones. We've basked in modern conveniences like refrigeration, an endless supply of running water, stand up showers, well-appointed grocery stores, take-out food, comfy beds and the luxury of having a vehicle at our disposal.  We've gone to concerts, gotten good and quaffed at tailgates and barbecues, and lounged pool side.  All of these things have made life pretty grand for the time being, and having lived without many of these conveniences, we have a marked appreciation for them.  (Particularly the DVR and ability to catch up on our favorite show Modern Family.)

More than anything, however, being home has been a necessity thanks to operation "family supersize", and big changes are sometimes more palatable when you don't really have much of a choice.

The past four months since the twins' birth, while wonderful, have not been without difficulty.  The sleepless nights, the frustration, the exhaustion, the non-stop "I-don't-sit-down-all-day-and-don't-brush-my-teeth-until-evening" reality that is three children under the age of three have been... rough.  I cannot even IMAGINE how we would have survived the "twin trenches" on a boat without any help.  I'm sure it would have been possible, but not pleasant.  Nope.  Being home has been fantastic in this regard, and I for one greatly appreciate this time immensely (namely: my mother, have I mentioned she is a saint?)

This hiatus has also afforded Scott the time to indulge in his passion of real estate, and in a matter of weeks after returning home he got his license and was up and running like a regular Phil Dunphy.  He's got several active listings, a property that he is going to "flip" and we even have a rental on our radar so (fingers crossed) we'll be heading back to the boat with a little cash in the kitty.  And Isla?  Little Miss Isla is thriving.  She loves her friends, the parks, the museums, the play dates, exploring in the backyard, walks with grandma, mornings with grandpa...She hasn't missed a beat.  Kids wrote the book on adaptability and she is no exception.

Of course I miss the boat.  Of course I miss cruising.  But I know that living in the past prohibits us from moving toward a future.  When I look at pictures of our friends who are still "out there", I don't feel the least bit jealous or envious (well, okay, these guys make me a *little* jealous) because having lived the life of a cruiser,  I also know that there is a flip side to those images and it's not all palm trees and beautiful beaches out there.  Not to mention the thought of sailing through a squall/doing boat work/provisioning ashore/fixing broken stuff/sweating in the hot summer sun without AC...etc. with three babies right now does NOT sound appealing.

So, while we haven't put down any roots, we'll enjoy the view from our happy little nook in suburbia for a while longer.  Now that we have re-entered and adapted (and summer has arrived), it's not so bad.  In fact, it's downright enjoyable.  Change is good, for now.

The sea can wait, at least until winter returns ;).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Throw-Back Thursday: Boat Baby

Can you guess who this boat baby is?

Yep, this is lil' ol' me circa 1979.  Isn't my mom a beaut and don't you just love her frosted tips?  Believe it or not, she rocked leg warmers and sweat bands back in those days too.  Jane Fonda had nothing on her.  The woman could aerobisize like no other. 

Anywho...

My sister was in town this past weekend and we had a fun trip down memory lane sitting in the back yard, sifting through the piles and piles of photo albums that my family keeps in the basement.  We had lots of laughs looking at hilarious outfits and hairdos, remembering characters past and present and re-living memories that had been collecting dust in the corners of our minds for the past thirty years or so. The pictorial journey produced some classic photo-gems like this one.  

While chuckling at our 1980's childhoods (hello neon! whaddup mullet!), we also noticed that the vast majority of our photos were taken outside with a significant amount of those taking place on the water and around boats.  

And I thought, "No wonder."

While they weren't full time live-aboards, my parents always had a sailboat (started with a Pearson 25, followed by a Pretorian 35, then a Frers 44 and finally a custom Kanter 47) and each summer they'd load up that boat with provisions, books and bathing suits and we'd cruise the coast of Lake Michigan for weeks at a time.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are from the jaunts along that shore; the small harbor towns, ice cream shops, white sand beaches, rolling sand dunes and, of course, the general adventures that life on a boat provides (sailboats are bonafide playgrounds for little ones).  

Those summers had a profound effect on our lives and family; fostering a very close familial bond, an affinity for the water and a deep love of reading to name a few.  Not to mention the desire to raise my own family this way.

The pictures told a story and while it's easy to romanticize the past, there is no mistaking we shared a wonderful childhood full of love, fun and togetherness - both on shore and at sea.

I wonder what gems the photo books of the future will provide for our girls?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

On Being Published and Facing Fears

It may come as a surprise to some of you that I have not been officially 'published' until now.  Sure, I have contributed to magazine articles before and we have been regularly featured in Cruising World Online, but as far as bonafide published articles go, I was zero for zero.  It's pretty embarrassing, actually, considering how much I write and how much joy writing brings me.  I mean, I probably have at least a handful of blog posts that I could tweak and turn into pretty decent articles, and yet, I don't.  Why?

The simple answer is fear.  More specifically: fear of failure.

The thing is this: I have been so immersed in blog writing for so long, that to take off my "blogger" hat and put on a legit "article writer" hat is really, really difficult for me.  I know this because I have been asked (on several occasions) by editors to write articles for their publications and each time I come up with a big, fat, nothing.  I freeze.  I get a case of writer's block that is so colossal,I can't navigate around it.  

You see,  the two styles of writing are very different... With blogging I can be as casual as I want and I don't always have to have a point.  I write, first and foremost, for myself so if you guys out there in cyberspace don't like it - that's totally okay (though I prefer it when you do).  There is also a history that is understood, and for those of you who don't know our history, there are always backlinks and "about us" pages to fill in the blanks.  Grammar can be forgiven (well, kind of, I love those of you who help me edit), and I often write exactly the way I talk.  I can say things like, "awesome" and "um" and "whatever".  It flows, it's natural and - for me - this style is pretty easy.  With articles, however, you are working for someone else. The style is (usually) more formal and everything needs to be laid out in a distinct manner with "x" number of words.  There must be a clear beginning, middle and end and grammar and proper sentence structure are very important.  The story must be interesting and compelling and - most important - be good enough for people to want to read it (they are, after all, trying to sell magazines).  With article writing there is pressure.  Pressure to be successful.  Pressure to be good.  Way more pressure than what I feel when I'm prattling on or waxing poetic on this blog.  Admittedly, some of what I post is crap, some is not.  And that's okay because this is my blog and it's up to me what I chose to say.  That kind of logic doesn't really fly in the publishing world.  At least, I don't think it does.

So yeah.

The fact that I am finally published is a big deal to me.  Not a big deal in the "I have arrived" way (I haven't).  Not a big deal in that it was mind blowing to see my name in print (it wasn't).  I didn't shed any tears of joy.  The article is not framed on the mantel and there was no celebratory champagne toast when we got our hands on it.  Nope.  My being published is a big deal in that I did it.   I finally faced my fear, put myself out there and saw a legitimate writing project through from beginning to end.  It's a big deal because it hopefully marks a beginning of something that might just take shape as a career of sorts... or, at the very least, support my growing wine habit (twins, people, twins <<< see how I did that? You can't do that in an article!)

So about that article....

Some of you might remember my post about this awesome guy.  Denis and I loosely kept in touch after I wrote that piece and when we moved back stateside to await the birth of our girls, I got a phone call from him asking if I was interested in telling the rest of his story.  "You were there for the beginning, and I'd like you to tell the end" he said.  I was flattered.  Classic Boat Magazine had gotten wind of his accomplishment and wanted an exclusive.  Denis had the story, but needed a writer. (Side note: Isn't serendipity awesome?)  I had to think about taking the project on, and I almost used my pregnancy and impending twins as an excuse not to.  Why?  Because I was afraid.  I was afraid to get out of my comfort zone, afraid to try something different, afraid to fail...  This, unfortunately, is a theme that has been somewhat recurring in my life and this time, after some deliberation, I thought, "No.  I am not going to let my fear of failure hold me back.  I am going to try".   The Universe had put an awesome opportunity in my lap and, dag nabbit, I was going to take it.

So I did.

Denis recounted his incredible story to me over the course several long phone interviews and slowly but surely, I pieced together a digestible 2000 word article from my sixteen pages of notes.

My best friend, a former copy editor (and excellent writer in her own right), acted as my proofreader by giving me excellent notes and several others read it with great feedback.  After a few days, it was finished.  I was so nervous.  I felt exposed, vulnerable and I worried relentlessly that it sucked.  With great trepidation, I sent the final draft to Denis.  When he didn't get back to me right away I was sure he hated it.  I was certain I had failed him and he was trying to find a way to tactfully tell me so.

But I was wrong.  He loved it, and he sent it on to Classic Boat Magazine, at which point all the anxiety I felt resurfaced.  "Will they laugh at me?"  "Will they like it?" "Is the story worthy of their pages?"  Weeks went by without word.  Naturally I feared the worst: that my story had not made the cut and was shelved.  That the editors of the magazine didn't like it.  That I had failed.

I had all but forgotten about the whole thing (I was days away from giving birth and a little...preoccupied) when I received an email from Denis with the final PDF layout of our article ready for print.  I couldn't believe it.  I was...shocked, excited, proud.  It was official:  my words would be on the glossy pages of a very respectable and pretty large boating publication.

The article is a six page cover story entitled, simply, "Antigua to New York" (a name given to my article by the editors, since I, in my newbi-ness, failed to title it [facepalm]). It is featured in the May 2014 issue of Classic Boat Magazine and it's pretty good, if I do say so myself.  It's not perfect, it's not earth shattering and it's certainly not going to go "viral" but it's a start.  And I learned a very important lesson: that true failure only happens when we cease to try.

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" 
- Vincent van Gogh

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Letters from the Twin Trenches: Three 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...

June 5th, 2014

I am home alone, the house is quiet.  It is 7:30pm.  I am drinking wine (only glass number one, which is good).

SIIIIGGGH.

As you might have seen from my most recent blog post, it had been a tough couple of days.  But today is a new day, and so far - so good. 

I am very glad to hear you didn't lose your breast milk in the "great thaw".  That would seriously be awful.  Ugh.  All that work pumping and for nothing.  It's so true what they say: that s**t is liquid GOLD.  

And I am beyond impressed at your boating weekend adventures.  That is so fantastic that you get out and spend some overnights on the boat and it works out well.  Most first time moms would not attempt such an escapade - let alone a mom of twins - so you deserve some major accolades for venturing out like that.  Scott and I are very mindful to do things as "minimally" as possible so that we can have that sort of mobility as well.  We don't travel with a pack-n-play, we don't bring an arsenal of toys for Isla, we try very hard to travel "light" (although that phrase is downright laughable when you have three kids).  Even with our pared down essentials we have a car load of crap.  Oh, and I'm addicted to baby wearing so I have, like, eight different wraps that we can use with the girls including a toddler sized carrier for Isla.  So I guess it's all relative.  

And hooray for monitors!! That's great you could hang with the adults on the dock once you put the girls to bed (I told you, Pisces love the water and they will be drawn to it so of course they slept better on the boat!!).  We have a pretty strict 6-7pm bedtime window for all of our girls and WOW- it is so nice to have our evenings back.  We can actually make dinner plans knowing the babies won't wake for a feeding until between 10:30 and 11:30 which is awesome.  Whether or not I have the energy for those plans is another thing...but, usually, I rally.  The promise of wine will do that to a girl like me.

As for the sleep thing.  UGH.  I know what you mean.  It is so frustrating, and infinitely so with two.  We follow all the advice in the books; namely not letting them stay awake longer than 2 hours before putting them down for a nap - but then what the hell does the book say if the nap is only 40, 30, or (the WORST) 15 minutes?!?! Nada.  I feel your pain on this front and I'm sorry you're struggling.  As for how we get them down, we have these things called "lovies" that some friends sent us (snuggly small animal blankets) - those things are their "bedtime cue".  I lay them down in the crib, put them on their sides (and sometimes even on their tummies, Mira loves tummy sleeping - and, yes, I know it's a big no no) we put the "lovies" in their arms, close to their faces and then pop their binkies in their mouths.  They nuzzle up to the lovies and, on good days, fall asleep (unassisted) within minutes.  Of course not all days are good days, in fact most are not - and in that case, I leave the room.  I let them fuss/cry a little, then I go back in, replace the binkies, stroke their noses to help them close their eyes, flip them over or re-position them, and then I wait.  Sometimes it takes me 30 minutes to get them both sleeping and I am burning mad calories running up and down the stairs here.  

Almost ALWAYS one of them falls asleep without issue, so then I freak out about the other going to sleep within 20 minutes of the other for the sake of the "SCHEDULE"....if nothing is working and she is not sleeping, that is when I resort to the moby wrap and I put the offending baby in that which basically guarantees coma-like sleep until the other one will wake up.  I have not let them "cry it out" - but I will let them fuss and protest for a few minutes before I go back and try to get them to sleep again.  It's exhausting and my life pretty much revolves around this behavior of running up the stairs, stroking noses, and sticking binkies back in mouths in an effort to get the babies to sleep every ninety minutes to two hours.  I watch the clock like a hawk and make sure their last "nap" ends within an hour and a half of 6:30 (bedtime) so that they are tired and fall asleep.  Evenings are actually much better than naps (most days...not all) - and they will both fall asleep pretty easily at night within 30 minutes of each other and then Haven wakes up for food (and I wake Mira up still too) around 10:30/11.  Sometimes I can get her to go another hour if I bring her in bed with me, so I do that too.  Mira (our little one) is our better sleeper in general - but she, like your Annalise, is small and just completely feels like a wet noodle compared to Haven whom we refer to as "the beast" (she probably will not take kindly to that nick name later in life I am guessing).  But according to our pediatrician, both girls are "normal" and following their "curves" so that is good.  You can't really ask for more than healthy babies, right?

That is so great that your girls will do a seven hour stretch here and there...sigh...that must be amazing (stops.  guzzles wine.) I CANNOT wait until my girls will go six hours or longer!! I never had to let Isla cry it out, and she didn't sleep through the night (twelve hours) until a year old (but went to bed easily, napped well and only woke up for one tiny feeding session, so it never bothered me) but I don't think I can wait that long with these two.  We shall see...I am just hoping to catch that "next carrot" of the four month milestone when more "magic" happens (what that is, exactly, I do not know - but lots of people throw that number out there).  But, hey, what do we have if we don't have hope?...oh yeah, awesome, adorable, cute, cuddly babies.  And thank you for complimenting their rolls (well, Haven's at least, Mira is a string bean) - I love baby rolls too.  And wow, the smiles and coos that these girls give me are SO awesome.  Isla never really did that.  She was such a serious baby, it was like pulling teeth to get her to smile and you can forget about a cute little baby chit-chat.  Nope.  She was way too busy taking it all in and planning world domination.  These babies though?  They are so social and just smile and coo with ease.  It's awesome and for sure the Universe's way of making the bad days more bearable, of that I am certain.

I love that your mom has been enlisted as the sleep enforcer.  What an awesome trooper she is.  And to have made a sleep graph?  Well...I think you have your bases covered and struck gold with that one.  Something tells me she will work.  If she's making charts, she takes it seriously and she'll make it happen.  That is awesome to have someone in your camp that "gets it". Yay for your mom!  As for your running out of breast milk and not being able to keep up - you have done an AWESOME job.  There is NO SHAME in supplementing with formula or stopping the pumping game all together.  I honestly tip my hat to working moms who pump.  That is SO hard to do and SUCH a pain in the butt.  People look at me and are all "way to go with breastfeeding" and I think to myself, "I got the easy gig!!"... It's the working moms who pump that deserve the high five! So, really, high five to you. You are an awesome mom.  You do what you gotta do girl.  I'm so impressed with how well you are doing as a first time working mom with twins.

I'm glad that work is going well and keeping you off neurotic internet searching - or at least curbing it.  I, too, am not researching doom and gloom as much as I used to, though I do pop onto the Mom of Multiples Facebook groups during late night nursing sessions which I think I need to stop doing.  Today a new mom who's babies are five months or something asked "what was the hardest stage for your twins?" and everyone was all, "Oh man, the baby stage is a PIECE OF CAKE compared to later!!" and I pretty much wanted to cry.  And then I wanted to punch everyone who mocked us moms of twinfants saying that we'd better enjoy them as babies because it gets SO. MUCH. WORSE. when they are toddlers.  I mean, come ON.  I am thinking about starting a blog entitled "people I want to punch in the face" (the twins have clearly brought out my aggressive, scrappy side) and the first on that list will be moms who smuggly tell me that the baby stage is "soooo easy".  I mean, shoot me.

Okay, I'm finishing my second glass of wine and moving onto number three and I think I might even lay on the couch and watch some Portlandia.  Do you watch that show?  If not - start recording it.  It. Is. Brilliant.  I want to be best friends will Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein.  They are comedic brilliance.  Possibly the best comedy due since Abbot and Costello.

Much love to you.  SO much love.

Brittany
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