Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 In Review: A Video Recap

2013 was quite a year for us.  I'm not one to say anything is "the best ever" because, to me, the best is always yet to come.  But suffice it to say, the big "one-three" left quite a mark on our lives.  We left Ft. Lauderdale in our newly outfitted boat, took our time sailing the Exumas, celebrated Isla's first birthday on the beach in Georgetown, did our longest non-stop offshore passage to the British Virgin Islands, met some of the best friends we could ever ask for, narrowly dodged our first tropical storm, island hopped down to Grenada, discovered we were pregnant with not one but two more little fishes, island hopped back up to St. Maarten and moved back to land to take a hiatus from cruising as we adjust to our impending status as a family of five.  It's been a year full of adventure, fun and love and we're looking forward to the blessings and new adventures that 2014 will bring.

I made the above video compilation of shots from this last year.  Making it brought tears of joy to my eyes as I relived moments from this past year like they happened yesterday.  Time really does fly.  What shocked me the most is the incredible difference between Isla in the beginning and at the end.  I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed living it!

Thank you, as always, for being a part of our "family" and following along on our journey.  You make it that much sweeter.  Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Why Not You?

Because I have made a conscious effort not to get sucked into mindlessly watching television since moving back to land (it is not easy, mind you!), I've continued my habit of reading, both online and in books (okay, and nesting - I'm nesting like a mofo these days.  If nesting were a competitive sport, I'd be Olympics bound).  The other day I came across this poem and it really struck a chord with me in my current self-reflective state.  As the New Year approaches and people begin to contemplate the one gone by and consider resolutions for the one ahead I thought that perhaps it might inspire you as well?  There's some good stuff here...I know it spoke to me.

Today, many will awaken with a fresh sense of inspiration. 
Why not you?
Today, many will open their eyes to the beauty that surrounds them. 
Why not you?
Today, many will choose to leave the ghost of yesterday behind and seize the immeasurable power of today. 
Why not you?
Today, many will break through the barriers of the past by looking at the blessings of the present. 
Why not you?
Today, for many the burden of self doubt and insecurity will be lifted by the security and confidence of empowerment. 
Why not you?
Today, many will rise above their believed limitations and make contact with their powerful innate strength. 
Why not you?
Today, many will choose to live in such a manner that they will be a positive role model for their children. 
Why not you?
Today, many will choose to free themselves from the personal imprisonment of their bad habits. 
Why not you?
Today, many will choose to live free of conditions and rules governing their own happiness. 
Why not you?
Today, many will find abundance in simplicity. 
Why not you?
Today, many will be confronted by difficult moral choices and they will choose to do what is right instead of what is beneficial. 
Why not you?
Today, many will decide to no longer sit back with a victim mentality, but to take charge of their lives and make positive changes. 
Why not you?
Today, many will take the action necessary to make a difference. 
Why not you?
Today, many will make the commitment to be a better mother, father, son, daughter, student, teacher, worker, boss, brother, sister, & so much more. 
Why not you?
Today is a new day!
Many will seize this day.
Many will live it to the fullest.
Why not you?

- Steve Mariboli 
Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

We hope this holiday season and all its blessings have you jumping for joy!

From our family to yours, we wish you much love and laughter today and every day and a New Year filled with happiness, good health and inner peace.  Thank you, as always, for your unwavering love, friendship, readership and support - you continue to simultaneously humble and inspire me on a daily basis.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!  May 2014 be the year of your DREAMS.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the Night Before Christmas...(The Cruiser's Version)

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the boat
not a creature was stirring, not even a roach.
The dry bags were hung on the davits with care, 
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their berth, 
while visions of snorkeling filled them with mirth.
And mama in her ponytail and I in my headlamp, 
had just dropped the 'hook in a new harbor "camp".

When out on the deck there arose such a clatter, 
I sprang from the nav station to see what was the matter.
To the aft cabin I flew like a flash, 
grabbed my machete and opened the hatch.

The full moonlight sparkled and danced on the ocean, 
while our boat gently rocked with a side to side motion.
When what to my sun-tired eyes should appear, 
but a flying pirogue pulled by eight tiny deer.
With a laughing old helmsman singin' a Caribbean shtick, 
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than dolphins, his coursers they came, 
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Dasher! Now Dancer! 
Now Prancer! Now Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid!
On Donner! On Blitzen!
From the top of the mast all the way to the clew!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away you!"

As sea birds before a wild hurricane fly, 
when met with an obstacle, take to the sky.
Over twinkling anchor lights 'round the harbor they flew
with a boat full of parts and St. Nicholas, too. 

When suddenly I heard on the cabin-top roof 
the prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.
As I clicked off my headlamp and was turning around, 
down the companionway stairs came St. Nick with a bound!

Hawaiian shirt, bermuda shorts and waternut in hand,
his feet and his face were all covered in sand.
A sack full of provisions he had slung on his hub
and he looked like a man just returned from Sam's Club.

His eyes, how they sparkled!  His wrinkles, how cheery!
His cheeks were all sunburned, his nose was all peely!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a sail, 
the ends of his beard housed a braid, like a tail.
The stump of his Cuban cast a faint yellow glow,
but the Old Salt, he knew better than to smoke down below.
His face was all weathered, and he had a big tum, 
from a lifetime of rays and plenty of fun. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old Salt
and I knew right away this was not an assault.
A wink of his eye and a swig of his rum, 
soon gave me to know he was nothing but fun.

He spoke not a word, but got to work down below
And serviced our systems with the speed of a pro!
He cleaned up our terminals and replaced an old hose, 
After halving my "to-do" list, up the companionway he rose.

He jumped into his boat, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all went like a nautical missile.
But I heard him exclaim as he sailed through the night
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

© original adaptation written by Brittany Meyers, property of Windtraveler.net

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Landlocked Cruisers in Cold Places

Just a little update to let you know how we're doing...

First up is the fact that I am now 28 weeks pregnant.  We are officially on the "home stretch" of this pregnancy which is equally exciting and daunting.  It still doesn't seem real to me that we are about to have twins, and even though I have read twelve (count them...twelve) books on all subjects "twin rearing" and clearly have a belly full of squirming baby limbs I still have a very hard time picturing what our life is going to look like when this actually goes down.  Obviously "hectic" will be an adequate descriptor for a while.  But I think the adjectives "amazing" and "beautiful" will find their ways into our day to day lives as well, so we'll be good.  We'll have a ton of support on the home front and I am told that that, combined with my already organized/scheduled nature will be a huge help when these girls arrive.  A day at a time, I guess.

The weather here is...uninspiring.  While the blanket of white snow on the ground is quite pretty and holiday spirit that fills the air certainly lightens the mood, the grey and drab sky is something that a sun-loving girl like me just can't seem to get used to - but at least it makes me appreciate those sunny days all the more.  When the sun does come out we go outside and soak up that vitamin D like junkies jonesn' for a fix.  I honestly don't mind the cold (bundling up is kind of fun...kind of), but the sun is what I miss the most.  I honestly don't think I'd mind living in a wintery climate for a chunk of time as long as it was sunny more days than not.  The greater Chicagoland area, for your information, is not that place.

The biggest change is the amount of time we spend indoors.  Life on a boat lends itself to an abundance of outside time and because it's so cold up here we are sort of limited.  We get outside for park outings and walks when the weather permits, but it's by no means daily. In addition, we are pretty adamant about very limited television for Isla which means I have to come up with fun activities to fill our days indoors.  Let me tell you,  this takes a tremendous amount of work and effort!  I am dabbling with crafting (yes, I said crafting...) but, like it's cousin cooking, this is not something that comes naturally to me.  Turns out going to a craft store without actual crafts in mind is a bad idea and majorly overwhelming.  Martha Stewart, I am not.  But I try and we're having fun just playing and spending time together.  Isla continues to thrive and if she is missing the boat and the islands, you would never know it.  We could all learn a thing or two from kids.  They are the most adaptable, in the moment people on the planet.

The other thing I do when I have some down time is shop for boats.  I know, I know.  I just can't seem to help myself.  It is inevitable that, at some point, we will be getting a bigger boat and we have our eyes and hearts set on a three cabin monohull.  I know many of you think that a catamaran is what we need - but, as I have said before, we are just not "cat" people.  We think a well appointed three cabin monohull that is set up for live-aboard cruising (and, ideally, already in the islands) will suit our needs just fine and there are some really great boats out there at the moment.  We'll see.  It's fun and exciting and, yes, a little addicting to look.  The fact of the matter is that 12-18 months will fly by and we'll be back out there before we know it.  But, yes, a bigger boat is definitely in our future at some point.

Several of you have asked how Scott is adjusting and the answer is:  he's not.  He's still working in the Grenadines for Island Windjammers and he doesn't fly back until January 10th after he and my dad deliver our boat, Asante, to the BVI's for long-term storage.  He's having a hard time being away this particular rotation, more than usual.  With me being so pregnant and Isla at an age where she actually "misses" daddy and is visibly learning and doing new things every day, he just wants to be back with us.  But we gotta do what we gotta do.  Thank God for Skype, that's for sure.  Watching Isla talk with her daddy over the computer is pretty much the cutest thing ever.

So that's us at the moment.  Christmas is fast approaching and we have plenty of family brunches, dinners, parties and festivities to keep us busy - we're having a great time with friends and family and like I said before, we're living it up and relishing in the tremendous benefits this life affords us while our sea legs go into hibernation.  We're making the most of it, that's for sure.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adventures in Holidays: That Night We Almost Burned our House Down Before A Dinner Party

Clark wasn't with us last night, but had he been - he'd have felt right at home.
Otherwise known as: how not to start a dinner party.

So my parents have these great friends that they have had since forever; lovely people with a lovely family that they don't get to see that often and, needless to say, I haven't seen them in ages.  So we arranged a nice holiday dinner to catch up and make merry, as you do during this time of year.

What ensued was like a deleted scene straight out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Our guests were scheduled to arrive at 5:30 so they could see Isla before bed.  Right before they arrived my mom decided to start a fire in the sitting room fireplace, you know - for ambience.  While we use the fireplace in the family room daily, this was the first time this season we were using the one off the kitchen.  My wonderful mother, in the midst of the hubbub of setting the table, putting finishing touches on the dinner and getting ready for our friends, forgot to open the flue, which is kind of a big deal when you start a wood burning fire in a fireplace.   

Needless to say, the house filled with thick smoke in under five minutes.  Alarms began to sound and once we couldn't stop those, more - even louder - alarms began to sound.  My mom started running around frantically trying to opening windows while fanning the smoke with a dish towel (an utterly futile effort) exclaiming "What do we do!?!?!"  I grabbed Isla who naturally began to cry seeing all the mayhem and because I didn't exactly know what to do as this isn't exactly my house, I said, "First you need to open that flue!" (she did) followed by "Do you know how to turn the alarms off?" (She did not).  We called my dad who was on his way home from work.  No answer.  We continued to open windows and - in general - run around like chickens with our heads cut off while being more or less ineffective at resolving anything.  I finally got Isla calmed and even enthralled with all the excitement around and began making phone calls to the alarm company to call off the dogs...but it was too late.  

Our lovely dinner guests arrived at our front door (which was wide open in an effort to dissipate the smoke) in the midst of this chaos and quickly sprung to action fanning smoke and opening doors before they even got their coats off.  Not five minutes later two blaring, flashing fire trucks arrived.  Neighbors curiously took to the streets to see what the ruckus was about as five decked-out fire-folk politely marched into the house.  "Hi there!" I said, "Happy holidays! Forgot to open the flue! Sorry to bother!" I continued as each one passed by.  Isla, in the meantime, kept chirping "Fire! Fire!" and smiling as they passed.  The uniformed men immediately sprung to action by opening up the house, checking for carbon monoxide and trying (unsuccessfully) to turn off the alarms. 

After about thirty minutes, the smoke finally dissipated enough for the frantic alarms to subside, the house was given the all-clear and deemed "safe" and the firemen left with a tip of their hats.  Wine was served.  

At least we didn't burn dinner.

What's your favorite National Lampoon's worthy holiday moment?  Surely we can't be the only ones?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Side Effect of Living on a Boat: Uber Organization

"A place for everything and everything in it's place" is a mantra for many (organized/neat/tidy) cruising sailors.  Of course, not all of us are the same; and I have been on many a boat where organization is clearly not a priority - but for us, it is.  When space is at such a premium, even the tiniest amount of clutter or disarray can make a place look "messy" not to mention the fact that to get the most out of storage on a boat (you will never have enough, mind you) you must use it very wisely and effectively.  I was organized and tidy before I moved onto a boat, but three years of living afloat really kicked my love of order up a notch.

It seems that this is a desire/impulse/urge I have brought back to land because this, combined with my undeniable "nesting instinct", caused me to spend the better part of yesterday organizing and cleaning all the cupboards in my parents kitchen.  If you are thinking "clearly she has too much time on her hands" you would be correct.  It's like twenty friggin' degrees outside, people.

Before I go on you should know that my parents are very clean and tidy people - their house is by no means a mess, quite the opposite in fact.  One look inside the refrigerator, kitchen cupboards or pantry, however, and you'd think you stumbled upon an episode of Hoarders.  Opening the pantry you would see that my father is clearly an accumulator of sauces and spices in need of an intervention.  Doubles, triples and even quadruples of oils, vinegars and rubs were jammed all together into a giant conglomerate of confusion.  I threw out rubs, spices and sauces that pre-dated 2010.  Some of the spice packs might have even been left over from the Reagan years.  My mother - while the furthest thing from a hoarder and a lover of tidiness - squirrels away anything and everything just to simply get it out of the way and cares not for rhyme and reason as to how it is done.  Bouillon cubes sit next to the cereal.  Canned goods are here and there.  Random half-eaten jars of peanut butter are sprinkled among four or five shelves.  Crackers and bags of cereal sit in their haphazardly torn packages, open and exposed (the woman doesn't even use chip clips!).  I found a rubbermaid container of brown sugar that had morphed into brick of sweetness so solid it could have been considered a weapon.  All these things are a crime against cruising and would not fly on a boat.  Something had to be done.

My compulsive tendencies took over and - with the blessing and help from my parents - I put my cruiser mind to work and made magic out of mayhem.

After a solid four hours of work and a very fruitful trip to The Container Store - we finished.  Of course I didn't take any real "before" pictures because I didn't think of it until after the work was complete, but trust me when I say the "afters" tell a whole, new story.  I can now open all the cupboards without having an anxiety attack and we can eat a can of beans without fear of botulism.  Win/win, right?  Both my mom and dad are thrilled.  Point for the boomerang child!
This is only SOME of the spices and how they were stowed.  You should have seen the sauces!!!
My storage solution for the spices.  The turn-style stepped spice rack.
Pantry "after" shot.  If it looks like there is no food in there, it's because there isn't. 
We whittled down the oils, vinegars and sauces to a select few.
The tea, coffee and associated cabinet has been rid of clutter and organized.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: Re-Entry

"You must really miss the Caribbean right now" is something I am hearing a lot these days from people.  Because it's cold here.  Really cold.  Frigid cold, in fact.  Isla and I walked to the local Walgreens the other day to mail some Christmas cards and get some fresh air and the poor thing would gasp with every blast of biting wind and nuzzle her face in my shoulder exclaiming "cooooold!"  With temperatures in the teens in our neck of the woods, we're not getting out as much as we used to, that is for sure.

But the strange thing is this:  I actually do not miss the Caribbean.

Okay, that is not entirely true, of course I miss the warm weather, not having to put on so many layers of clothes every morning, and the fact that - on the boat - my daytime clothes easily double as pajamas.  I miss the water and beaches and the boat and I am really missing my tan right about now (how quickly they fade!).  But I'm not missing these things as much as I thought I would, which is kind of interesting.

Maybe it's just self preservation.  A mentality shift that is forcing/allowing me to just be present and embrace where I am right now, instead of longing to be elsewhere.  Maybe it was time for a break to re-charge and re-calibrate after all?  The fact that we spent the last couple weeks on the boat sedentary and in a marina definitely made this transition easier because living on a cruising boat that is dock locked is significantly less-fun than actually cruising.  There is a huge difference between the two.  Whatever the reason, this "re-entry" isn't as hard as I imagined... Spending the vast majority of the past three years living on a boat on the water in tropical climates has certainly primed me for appreciating the finer things that land life offers: washer/dryers, unlimited running water, private showers, fantastic grocery stores, big beds with down comforters, super fast/reliable internet, ability to make phone calls to my hearts content (though I am not much of a phone person to be honest) and pretty much every other convenience that can be imagined from the abundance of space to the profusion of choices that face every new day.

I have a huge appreciation for these things and am happily reveling in all of them.  But the best part of being back ashore, without question, is being near friends and family.  I am sure this comes as no shock to anyone who has ever spent significant time away from "home".  Missing loved ones is the single most consistent grievance among cruising sailors.  The fact that I have been coming and going from mine for a nice chunk of my adult life means it's nice and kind of refreshing to be slowly settling into some pattern of consistency.  I can get an invite for a party in a month and know that I can go because I will be here.  I can contemplate signing up little Isla for a swimming lessons or a dance class because we're sticking around for more than a few weeks.   I don't feel the need to rush like crazy to see people because we have time on our sides for a change.  Isla can bond with and learn from a plethora of local playmates - from my best friends kiddos to her cousin who is only four months younger.  The islands will always be there.  We will undoubtably go back to cruising, back to our boat...  But these special moments in time with family and friends?  These are things that do not lie in wait.  Kids get older, people move away, families expand and milestones are reached.  We need to catch the moments while we can, embrace them and savor them, and being right, here right now is allowing us to do that.

Living on a boat and traveling is an amazing life (to us, at least), but there is definitely something to be said for staying put for a little while.  The other day I got a library card.  I've invested in a winter wardrobe that consists of fleece lined leggings, boots, leg warmers, hats and gloves.  My friends and I are scheduling regular play dates with our kids to ward off cabin fever.  While I could definitely do with a few more degrees and a bit more sunshine right now, I think we are in the right place - for me, for our unborn babies, for Isla, for our family.  It's definitely different and there is still a lot of change on the horizon that will take some major adjusting to, but with a change in latitude comes a change in attitude.  I say "bring it".

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So We Went to See Santa...

...and this happened.

We waited over an hour at the mall.  On a Monday.  In the beginning of December.  With hardly any line.  This of course made me wonder out loud to my girlfriend how in the HECK anyone would brave a Santa line with a toddler closer to Christmas and - God forbid - on a weekend.  Those of you who have or would are much nicer parents than myself because I don't think you could pay me to be near this fellow on a weekend (do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep an active toddler entertained in a line for even an hour, let alone three?!?)  Good thing too, because Isla was clearly not impressed and, judging by the photo, the feeling was mutual.  In fact, he immediately took a break after I picked Isla up off his lap.  Like, immediately.  It's got to be a little disheartening (not to mention exhausting) to be terrorizing babies and toddlers all day long.  Thank God for the three and up crowd who actually like good ol' Saint Nick and don't scream bloody murder the moment they see his face up close.

Of course I thought this was totally hysterical and this is precisely the reaction I anticipated for two reasons: 1) 99% of photos I have seen of toddlers Isla's age (or thereabouts) with Santa show children reaching various shades of crimson displaying similar levels of terror and 2) Isla's aversion to men with facial hair.

So I was not a bit shocked when she went stiff as a board and began to scream the very instant I placed her on his lap.  Classic.  Snap, snap, snap.  The poor, exhausted photographer desperately tried to distract her from her tears and wails with jingle bells and squeaky toys but Isla would have none of it.  She was done.

For those of you who worry that our sweet girl has been scarred for life by the big man in red, fear not!  She stopped screaming as quickly as she started and for the next two hours kept chirping excitedly, "saw Santa! Lap?" as if the whole thing was this awesome, happy encounter.  When we got home and I showed her the picture with him, she pointed and smiled, "Santa! Lap?" and displayed zero distaste or malice.  In fact, she looked pretty darn excited to see the big guy in print.  Toddlers.  They never know what they want.  So, yeah, she's gonna be okay.

Speaking of photos...the above is a picture of a picture because I was not allowed one with my own camera.  Apparently times are tough in the North Pole and they need extra revenue.  A helper elf came up to us in line and asked, "Will you be buying a package or just visiting?" and, after seeing that the basic package (two 5 x 7 photos) was $20, I was all "no thanks".  But, just to check I added, "we can take pictures with our own cameras though, right?" Negative.  So, really, I paid $20 bucks to entertain my child in a line for an hour and get a picture of her screaming at the end of it.  Good times.

It was worth it, though.  The "screaming with Santa" photo is like a right of passage.  So, to me, this picture is priceless.

Ho, ho, ho!

Monday, December 09, 2013

No Place Like Home for the Holidays

Okay, so I might have a bit of a Caribbean soul in this midwestern body, but one thing is for sure:  Christmas just doesn't feel the same down island.  As someone whose holiday spirit was tenderly cultivated on twinkling lights, snow forts, caroling, cocoa, family goodness and all things "Christmas" it actually feels really, really nice to be home this time of year.  The fact that it snowed about three inches last night, well, that's just icing - or frosting, rather - on the...er...ground.

Our trip from tropics to tundra was uneventful, Isla is a now a bonafide pro at air travel and as long as I have some good snacks, a couple engaging toys (this particular happy in-flight baby was brought to you by Play-Doh, thank you Darcy!) and a book or two - she is a happy camper.  I reveled in the delights of traveling with only one as the next time we fly we will most likely have three in tow, which seems like utter madness to me.  But I digress...

The cold was obviously a shock to the system, for both of us.  When we emerged from the vestibule doors of the O'Hare Airport baggage terminal, we were blasted with a chill so biting it took our breath away.  "Cooold!" exclaimed Isla as she stopped in her tracks with wide-eyed wonder and pointed outside.  Yes, baby.  Yes it is.  But the nice thing about the cold is that there are plenty of ways to escape it and we had with us a hefty arsenal of layers with which to fend it off.  One thing, however, that I cannot seem to combat is the shock to my skin...  

We island dwellers sure take humidity and the wonderful effects it has on the epidermis for granted!  Almost instantly my lips began to chap and my skin went ashy and itchy so since we have arrived I have been slathering myself in scented massage oil after each (warm, luxurious!) shower and drinking coconut water like it's going out of style.  Isla is the same, exclaiming "itchy!" randomly throughout the day.  I am sure the fact that her limbs are not used to being clothed is a part of this as well.  I keep reapplying baby lotion to her as well but even her skin seems to be drying out.  I think our bodies simply need to re-calibrate to a drier, cooler climate, but hydration and keeping well-oiled seem to be helping a little.

We've been adjusting pretty well, to be honest.  I am happy to be home.  Isla is totally unfazed (though she has asked to go to the beach several times!) and now that grandma is around all the time, I'm old news.  It feels really great to be around family and friends and I am definitely reveling in the holiday spirit.  It's nice to wake up and not be sweaty.  To have my best friends (and their kiddos) just a phone call and a short drive away, to watch my parents and Isla bring each other so much joy.  To kick up my feet in front of a crackling fire and sip a cup of cider while chatting to my best friend on the phone.  To have access to all the benefits that a life ashore presents (and there are many).  And I feel really, really good to know I am now near proper medical care now that I am in my third trimester which is typically when things can get funky with a twin pregnancy.  (I got another glimpse of our baby girls the other day and all three of us are doing great).

So, yeah, we're all good over here.  It's all fires, family, friends and Christmas spirit at the moment so, really, how could I complain?  I am a lucky girl.  There's no place like home for the holidays, no matter how far away you roam...

Friday, December 06, 2013

Last Quiet Moments on the Boat (for a while)

It figures that the magnitude of leaving would hit me when I got up to go to the bathroom this morning at 5:30am.  It's kind of sad.  I have been so busy these past few days, pushing myself too hard (for my condition), making too many lists and checking too many things off of them that I never really had time to slow down and savor what is happening which, like I said, is a good thing because it has kept me at an emotional arms length from it all.

While there is a very large part of me that is ready to come home for this hiatus (namely my ever-growing belly!), of course I am sad.  This is going to be a hard transition for me.  I'm a little nervous how I will handle it all.  Don't get me wrong, like I have said a million times before, we are going to begin another great chapter and we have incredible friends and family and a very good situation before us which will have innumerable rewards, perks and benefits.  But I really, really like living on our boat with our baby.  I am going to miss watching Isla climb around the deck and rigging like a pro, the way she maneuvers like an old salt around lines, cleats and winches (it is pretty incredible to see, let me tell you!).  I am going to miss her little v-berth and the way we cuddle up there, so close with so little room.  How, because it's not well lit at night, I need to wear a head lamp to read her her bedtime stories, how she instantly becomes the sweetheart of the anchorage or marina, strutting down the docks, waving "hi" at people she meets and flashing them her million dollar smile.  Watching her revel in a new place, with new people... seeing her soak it all in and take away little cultural trinkets like the way she says "bon jour" now from time to time instead of "hi".

I'm going to miss nice day sails to new places, watching her move around like an expert in her little tether, the way she gets all situated in the cockpit and plays with her toys.  I am going to miss having our family - just us - be so close and together twenty four hours a day.  I am going to miss morning dips in the ocean, watching Isla play on the beach, swimming with her and watching her blossom as a little fishy sailor baby.  I will miss singing songs to her while she lays on my chest in the cockpit when underway, watching the birds and the waves and the breeze blow by under the sunshine.  I am really going to miss our friends and the precious love that has developed between Isla and Stormer (they are more like siblings now than anything, this is how much time we have spent together)...how when Isla hear's their dinghy pull up she screams with excitement, scrambles up the companionway stairs and squeals in her most I-am-so-excited way "HIIIIIIII!!! HIIIIII!!! HIIIIII!!" Obviously I could go on and on and on but I will stop since I am pretty much emotionally cutting myself here ('emotional cutter' - an awesomely hilarious phrase I learned the other day, it's when people unintentionally torture themselves, often resulting in emotional strife and tears, by doing things like watch sad videos on the internet or forcing themselves to cram a lifetime of memories into a blog post).

It's funny - as I am rattling these things off - the most I am going to miss are all things related to Isla and us as a small family...because bringing her onto the boat completely enriched our cruising experience and I 100% believe that this babyhood on the water did nothing but amazing things for her development.  So, yes, there is a little part of me that feels almost like I will be robbing her when I bring her back to land.  Of course I know this is not true, I know that she will thrive wherever she is and her awesomeness is not just a result of being on a boat for the bulk of her short life, but a combination of many things.  And she will gain new skills on land and benefit from a host of new experiences and people that I am not able to see just yet through my foggy glasses.  It is going to be fantastic and, just as it was the last time we went home for a hiatus, it's going to be just as hard to leave there as it is here.  I know all these things.

But the bottom line is this:  as much as I appreciate where we are going and why we are going there, there are a lot of aspects of this lifestyle that I will long for (and - admittedly - some I will not!) and the change will probably be a hard one for me, at least at first.  Luckily, as I have learned the last few days, nothing will keep a mind from dwelling like extreme busyness and in a couple months I am going to have a LOT going on and there will be no time for it.  This is a good thing.  And man am I excited to meet these little baby girls in my belly!

But right now, as I lay in my dark aft cabin alone while my mom and sweet baby still fast asleep, I'll just listen to the hum of our cabin fan, the sound of random waves splashing against the hull and the wind as it whistles gently overhead.  I am just going to let this all sink in and savor these last few moments before I hear the sing-song "mommy! mommy!" of our little Isla waking up with laughter and giggles in her bed.

Oh!...there it is now.  Gotta run.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Packing Up and Shipping Out

Should packing up be this much fun?
It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff you can accumulate on a boat.  It's insane, actually.  Live-aboard cruising boats are like the Mary Poppin's carpet bag on steroids.  We learned this lesson the first time we packed up our boat, and I am learning it again this time around.  Where the heck did all these clothes come from?  How many towels, sheet sets and blankets can one boat have?  And exactly how many was I planning to feed with all these canned goods?  Thankfully, my amazing mother flew down the other day to help me out.  Packing up all your worldly belongings and then traveling with them through three airports over the course of a day is a lot to handle alone, never mind twenty-six weeks pregnant while accompanied by a very active toddler.  So, being the awesome mother she is (and, okay, her grandmotherly adoration was definitely a motivator as well) she flew down to help me pack up and ship out, as it were.

While we are not taking everything off the boat (like spares, charts, galley gear, books and any thing strictly 'boat' related) like we did when we moved off of our first boat, Rasmus, I am prepping this boat to be left for over a year.  We want to come back to no surprises which further means I have had my work cut out for me.  An unused boat on the hard can harbor a litany of unpleasant surprises if you don't pay careful attention to how you put it away (mold and bugs come to mind).  All the food has come off, yes, even the non-perishables.  Every last can, morsel and spice must go bye-bye (our friends have been happy recipients of the bounty).  I have put every single one of our paper books into a large water-tight bin so that - should a leak occur (best to assume the worst-case scenario imo) - we do not return to ruined, moldy pages.  All our towels, throw rugs, and linens have been washed and stowed in airtight bags, again to prevent them from getting wet and moldy.  I have de-cluttered and cleaned out all our hanging lockers and cupboards.  I have packed up pretty much all of our clothes and the ones I have left are, again, sealed in bags.  Isla's beloved toys have been put in a box to ship home.  The fridge has been emptied and cleaned.  Toiletries have been removed, medicine boxes have been cleaned out, old sunscreen has been tossed, trinkets stowed away and anything we haven't used in the last year has either been donated or trashed.  Today the interior of the boat is getting a through cleaning.  It's been a busy and slightly hectic couple of days and, for an organization junkie like myself, it feels pretty good to be on the finishing end of it.  I'm the kind of person who, before a vacation, would clean her entire apartment (laundry and all) just to ensure I came back to a nice, welcoming place where I could kick back my feet.  Same goes for the boat (though you will never return to a decommissioned boat and kick up your feet!).

Of course there is a lot of other stuff to do.  Boaty-type stuff like remove sails, halyards, solar panels...etc.  Luckily, Scott is returning to the boat in four weeks after this last work rotation at which point he will sail her to the British Virgin Islands where Asante will be hauled out and put on the hard to await our return as a crew of five (!?).  He will be able to finish where I left off so the urgency is not 100% on me at the moment, though I do want to make his job as easy for him as possible.  The goal in all this, of course, is to come back to the same pristine boat that I am sitting on right now (though we do plan on having some modifications made to make the boat more family-of-five friendly).

So that is where I am at right now.  We fly out tomorrow morning, bright and early.  Luckily, the busyness of it all and the distractions (and help!) of our amazing friends have forced me to focus on the now and not dwell on the fact that this is my last full day on our boat for a very long time.  If idle hands are the devil's playground, an idle mind is his nice and cozy living room where he plots his games so keeping busy has helped me from getting too nostalgic and emotional about it all (read: sobbing like a baby).

Also - I need to thank you guys for the incredible outpouring of support, love and awesomeness I have received (and continue to receive) since my last post.  Man, I love you folks.  For real.  Looks like a lot of you could care less if we are actually cruising or sailing and are happy to jump ship and follow us wherever we go - so thank you for that, this makes me happy.  Your kind words and support brought me to tears of joy and while I do not have the time to get back to each and every one of you at the moment, I do feel compelled to say THANK YOU collectively.  I really, really appreciate all the love.

The next post you read from me will be from a northern latitude.  Wish me warmness from the inside out 'cause the cold will be quite a shock to this system!

Monday, December 02, 2013

A New Horizon: Thoughts on Change

So here we are.

Scott went off to work last week for the next five weeks - his last rotation with Island Windjammers for the foreseeable future (the door to return remains open) - and Isla and I are on the boat, prepping her for our impending departure, a date that is hurtling towards us despite my attempts to ignore it.

We leave on Friday.

We fly back home to Chicago and leave the tropics, our boat, our home for the next fifteen to twenty months, give or take.  That's right.  We're moving back to land.  We're going to become C.L.O.D's (cruisers living on dirt, though I really hate that acronym).  And oh yeah, and I'm going to give birth to twins in the next couple of months.  Our lives are about to do a major, major about face.

Ironically, it's the whole 'moving back to land' thing that's the biggest pill to swallow for me and I have been procrastinating writing about it because writing about it makes it real.  I don't want it to be real.  Don't get me wrong, I know that this is what we have to do and I know that this is what is best for our family right now.  I am excited to spend the holidays with loved ones, I am happy that I am going home to my amazing friends and I am beyond grateful to be welcomed with open arms into a home that is full of happiness, laughter, support and love.  Wonderful, amazing things are in store for us, and I should be counting my blessings that we have so much to look forward to and be thankful for all the options that are before us, but I just can't shake this feeling of melancholy that sits like a pit in my tummy.  I can't seem to get excited about moving back to land, even with all the benefits that doing so entails.  Each day I pack up more and more of our boat, I get a little more sad.  You see, I don't want things to change.  I am really, really sad to end this chapter.

I know, I know...Change is part of life.  Change is good and necessary for growth... But despite being a person who's life has more or less been defined by coming and going and living pretty unconventionally, I have never been one to take unplanned life changes in stride with my head held high.  Oh no, as much as I hate to admit this rather large character flaw (namely that I am a control freak), change that I have not been the master of has to pull me forward by the scruff of my neck while I kick and scream in protest: "But I LIKED the way things were!" "Leave me be! I was happy where I was!!!"  When my best friend got married - as thrilled as I was for her to have found an awesome life partner, father and husband - I grieved for the duo that we used to be (and let me tell you, we were - and still are - quite a pair!).  When I left Africa after three incredible life-altering years, I came home in a fog that took months to come out of.  When summer and sailing season ended each year in my former land life, I mourned and went into a funk.  When we part ways with buddy boats, I get weepy.  In other words, when my little world is rocked, it takes me a good, long while to get my bearings again.  Seems out of character, right?  Guess I am not as "go with the flow" as I might like to think I am.  I'm a walking, talking paradox at times.

Part of this current resistance, no doubt, is the fact that it is winter right now and (despite loving to ski), I never have and never will be a "winter" or cold weather person.  I will be going home to temperatures in the single and possibly negative digits.  Up north where I come from, is not unusual for the sun to remain in hiding for days at a time this time of year.  It's dark a lot and, obviously, really cold.  For a sun-loving, beach-going, warm-weather-lover like me, it's hard to get excited about those things.  For someone like me, weather like that is just a tad depressing.

The other part of this resistance and sorrow is that I kind of feel like we're breaking up, you and I.

Sharing this adventure with you all has been a pleasure, you have brought me tremendous support, joy, insight and, sometimes, even friendship.  You have challenged, inspired and pushed me.  And while we have no plans to sell this boat (unless we buy another one) and are prepping to resume cruising again in the 2015 season (we plan to be based in the BVI's where it will be easier to island hop and adjust to life aboard as five, more on this to come), this hiatus will be a long one.  I am still going to write during this land-based period, and when I feel inspired or have reason, it will be boat and cruising related... But for the most part - I'm going to be a landlubber embarking on a new adventure.  Namely one of the "three children under three" variety.  I have no doubt that being a mama to a toddler and twins (a situation likened to the 'decathlon of parenting' in a book I read) will provide me with plenty of fodder for amusing and insightful stories and blog posts, sporadic as they might be for a while.  But I also know that reading about adventures in twin rearing is not why many of you are here...

And while I welcome with open arms the new followers of this blog who are reading to follow exactly that stuff ,  I also know that I will be parting ways with some of you - and that is totally understandable and okay (this began, after all, as a cruising blog).  But do me a favor and refrain from actually telling me that you will be no longer be reading or that you are so sad we are moving back to land you can hardly stand it or that you just know we won't be happy ashore and that we should really reconsider our options (yes, emails in all three categories have been received).  Right now, I need to focus on the positive and hearing those things makes me sad.

Regardless, as sentimental as I am about this chapter ending, I am ready to embrace this new adventure (yes, even despite the cold weather).  It's time.  The past couple of months have been challenging for us in ways that I have not shared.  We need to re-charge our batteries and focus on what is the most important thing right now:  our family and healthy babies.  Scott and I were texting yesterday about this very subject and he reminded me that every major change in our life has lead us to something even better than before: from buying our first boat, to quitting our jobs to leaving Chicago, to sailing to Grenada, to Scott getting employed by Island Windjammers, to coming home for eight months to have Isla, to getting a bigger boat and resuming cruising again...all of these major shifts in our life were not without some yin and yang type emotions and growing pains...but every single time, and I mean every. single. time. we came out the other side better than before.  Each and every transformation cultivated us into something greater, whether or not we knew it at the time.  So, while I might be resistant to this big change upon us and lament the end of this amazing chapter, I know in my heart of hearts that this slash mark on the timeline of our lives will mark the beginning of something even greater than before...

And we'll be back on the boat, back in the islands, back to living our dream.  Of that I am certain.

We have committed ourselves to a life less ordinary, a life where adventure is the rule and not the exception.

But for now, we'll take pause.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Maho Beach: Quite A Rush (But not without Side Effects)

Considering this beach is a cars width away from the runway of the Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten, well, I think it goes without saying it's not what you would call "relaxing".  Lounging in the sand while sipping a tropical slushy rum drink and diving into a good book as the surf laps up against your feet is not what you come to this beach to do.  Oh no, you come here for one reason and one reason alone:  to get blasted by the jets of a 747 (or - if you are smart - watch others get jet blasted while you drink tropical slushy rum drinks from the relative safety of a bar nearby).  Welcome, my friends, to Maho Beach...

Our little girl happens to be obsessed, and I mean obsessed, with airplanes so it was a no brainer that we'd take her here.  She was in heaven, constantly pointing up to the sky and saying "ah-rane! ah-rane!" and then, as they flew directly overhead - so close it seemed you'd almost get clipped - she'd let out an excited "WHOOAAAAA!" followed by wide eyes and a look that said "holy crap mama, that was awesome".  Her mind was blown and to see a twenty month old child's mind being blown is pretty much the coolest thing ever.  The look on her face was priceless and made all the toxic fumes we no doubt inhaled totally worth it.

Of course me being the uber documenter I am, just had to experience the blast first hand and try to get some video footage of it.  Granted, I did not "ride the fence" like some other crazy fools (in which they hold on to the fence directly behind the plane and literally bathe in an abundance of toxic fumes and unadulterated jet power) but stood a little farther back on the beach.  When the engines fired up, an incredibly powerful blast of warm air rushed over me, forcing me to lean up against it to counteract the pressure and kicking up a tremendous amount of sand and debris...hats went flying, sunglasses were ripped off faces and a couple people (who were clearly inebriated) actually toppled over.  I had to turn my head and cover my face and, try as I might, I could not keep the camera directed towards the plane.  You can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of the whole thing.  I mean, who the heck stands behind a plane taking off for fun? I guess I do.  And apparently a LOT of other people too.  Just check YouTube for proof.

Anyway, apparently there is no other place in the world you can get this close to planes as they are landing and taking off (in fact, in most places this would probably be highly illegal but since when do the Dutch care about legality?) and the local Sunset Bar actually posts the times of take offs and landings so spectators can be sure to get in on the action.  I am here to report it's quite the rush and a good laugh (I am sorry, but seeing someone being blown over and rolling down the beach as a result of the jet blast is just hysterical...unless, of course, the person really gets hurt).

Unfortunately, I did not escape Maho Beach unscathed as the very next day I came down with some sort of eye infection.  And there is no one, and I mean no one can make a wonky eye look good.  According to the medical clinic which was (thankfully) right on the marina premises, I suffered a clogged duct of sorts.  It was painful, yes, but more than that it was pretty unsightly as my right eye was completely swollen.  While Scott tried to convince me that I was pulling of the "Christie Brinkley" look (I guess her eyes are squinty?) my friend Darcy could not look me in the eye without busting out into full-belly laughter at my awkward Quasimodo face (it was DEFINITELY more Quasi and Christie, I promise you that).  Luckily, after a dose of antibiotics and some specialty eye drops, I am back to normal.

Thanks to Maho Beach I will never take facial symmetry - and the power of a jet engine - for granted again.

The flow of planes is steady, and not all are big air busses.  Plenty of small planes too - all very cool to see.
Isla and Stormer being their adorable selves.  They are so in love!
Take off.  Note the man rolling down the beach.  Again, hysterical.
It's all fun and games until...
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