Friday, May 29, 2015

Change is in the Air (We Have a Hurricane Plan)

The cruising season is winding down. The anchorages are thinning out, exposing more and more mooring balls each night and the marinas are peppered with empty slips as boats haul out or set sail for points north or south. The beach bars are a little less lively, evenings a little quieter, and the sound of dogs, birds and roosters replace those of outboard dinghy engines. The charterers have headed back north where the weather has finally warmed up and the cruisers have headed south to hunker down for hurricane season. Yet we remain.

It's kind of nice, actually.

While I must admit I have grown to love the energy that these islands have during peak season, this relative quiet is a welcome change. Some cruisers scoff at areas like this which are deemed by many to be "too touristy", but we have really enjoyed it here. In fact, I'd go so far as to say we love it here. Before we came down, we weren't so sure - our decision was mostly practical. We were nervous that anchorages might be too crowded, that we'd pay a fortune in mooring fees, that we'd get sick of all the "credit card captains"... but our worries were all for naught. While it is true that the British Virgin Islands are rife with charter boats and much more crowded than, say, the Grenadines or Bahamas (with the exception of Georgetown, of course), there are still many places to go that feel a bit "off the beaten path". Even still, we've never felt that our experience down here has been lessened or somehow tarnished by the presence of others. Maybe we're different from other cruisers in this way? In fact - meeting people has been a huge bonus of this season. We've been gifted loads of left over provisions (everything from beer to paper towels) from generous charters who see that we live-aboard (it's pretty obvious who is a charter boat and who is a not in these parts) and we have met no fewer than two blog followers per week since we've arrived. It's amazing to see how many people we've touched with this site and be able to put some faces to our wonderful readers. We've never been far from friends, that is for sure, and there's something to be said for that. Don't get me wrong - being alone in a secluded anchorage is wonderful (we've experienced that quite a bit in the Bahamas and down island), but there are some major plusses to being among others as well. We enjoy both.

For our maiden season as a very young family of five, I seriously don't think we could have picked a better area to ease back into a life afloat. Where there are tourists, there are amenities and when cruising with kids, it's really nice to be able to hit up a little grocery store every other day if need be (Gah! Out of diapers!) and to know that there are always services (pediatricians, yacht chandleries, marinas, etc.) nearby should we need them, not to mention the fun of being able to enjoy a drink or two at some of the world's best and most famous beach bars (and, hey, the ability to order a pizza to-go is pretty nice too on occasion). We have all the time in the world to go "off the grid", but for now, keeping one foot in the "developed" world has been great for us. Then there is the sailing.  We've actually enjoyed it so much more this season because here, there is almost always somewhere to sail to in just about any wind condition. And the distances? Being underway for no more than two or three hours is awesome and a must for our little crew ("if I can't see it, we don't sail there" is a joke I tell a lot). If we really want a change of scenery, the incredible island of St. John (possibly my favorite island yet?) has a distinctly different vibe and is only a hop, skip and a jump away. As for paying for moorings? We have paid for no more than five nights on mooring balls here in the BVI's since we arrived four months ago. The fact that we can anchor just about anywhere here was a huge relief to us, as the savings are significant. "I love anchoring in a mooring field where everyone else is paying $30 bucks a night" Scott ruminated last night as we swung on our Rocna in Soper's Hole, sipping on rum drinks, "it's like free money". And it is. Free is good.

But the winds of change are on the horizon and hurricane season is upon us. So where does that leave us? What's our plan?


Sailing down to Grenada is not an option for us - I have zero interest in covering those kind of miles with three small children. It was wonderful with one child, probably would have been "do-able" with two, but with infant twins and a toddler? No thank you. Being conservative has worked beautifully for us thus far and we have no plans to change that now. As such, we've decided that we're going to haul our boat and head back to Chicago for a few months to visit with family and friends before we return, yet again, to the British Virgin Islands in September or October. There are many reasons for this decision, and we hope to be able to share them with you soon, but for now - it feels good to know that we'll be spending summer with family and friends. And it feels really good to have a plan.

Change is in the air.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Grandma's Are Here!

We are back at the Nanny Cay Marina, but this time - instead of diagnosing a generator on the fritz - we are here to greet visitors. Very special visitors. That's right, the grandmas are here. Not one, but two. Do you know what that means? That means the adult to child ratio has tipped in favor of the adults!! Boo yah! Somebody get me a pitcher of painkiller 'cause I'm taking the day off!

All joking aside, my mom and Scott's mom arrived together a couple days ago and it's wonderful to have them. Our girls clearly adore their grannies and the feeling is mutual. Loving your child is one thing but to see another person love your child just as much is a beautiful gift. Grandmas. What would parents do without them? We're very lucky to have these crazy, wonderful, loving women in our lives.

While many people assume that their arrival has Scott and I taking breaks and enjoying "babysitters" that's unfortunately not the case. While the presence of our mothers' is a humongous help, we still have quite the crew and keeping up with them - believe it or not - can easily occupy four adults all day long, not to mention the fact that the second we get "help" we turn immediately to boat projects. Luckily the grandma's have rented a condo just a hop, skip and jump from our boat, and having a large (air conditioned) space for our girls to run around in has been great (minus the steep tiled stairs, keeping the kids off of those is a full time job). Then there are the daily pool trips and afternoon beach outings and all the pre-and-post excursion rigamarole that goes along with those things (dressing, packing, snacking, undressing, hosing, re-dressing, unpacking...etc.) We fill our days to the brim and by nightfall, we kick back on the porch with our wine, the day a blur of getting kids in and out of swim suits, changing diapers, slathering sunscreen, schlepping children from boat to condo and visa versa, prepping and cleaning up after meals, wiping off dirt, kissing boo-boos and chasing babies to the tune of The Sabre Dance. It's fun, exhausting, slightly repetitive and a little bit thrilling. Thank god for nap times. Seriously. The babies and the grandmas need them by mid-day!

So if things are a bit quiet over here, it's for good reason. We're enjoying having our mama's here, and they are enjoying their grand babies. It's win/win all around. We've also been incredibly busy "behind the scenes" working on another very large (aka life-changing) project that we hope to be able to share with you soon - but for now, you'll just have to wait (insert smiley face with the tongue out).

In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be lounging poolside with a painkiller.

(Well, there will be a painkiller and there might be a pool, but there will be no lounging!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sundogs, Mineral Dust and Rainstorms on Cooper Island

There's this atmospheric phenomenon called a "sun dog". I'd never seen one before coming down to the Caribbean, but apparently this is the name given to the glorious halo that appears around the sun in certain conditions. When I first saw one here on Tortola, I had no idea what it was. It was so beautiful, so unusual it almost looked apocalyptic. Other worldly even. "Wow. That's crazy," I said to Scott as I pointed up to the glowing circle around the sun, then lowered my voice, "It looks kind of ominous". It goes without saying that I am the more dramatic of our pair.

"It's a sort of weather phenomenon" he said matter of factly, "I think it means it's going to rain or something. I can't remember". He shrugged and went back to his business.

I've learned a couple things since then, namely:

1) The sun dog does precede rain.
2) The sun dog does not lie.


We are something of a spectacle down here. We turn heads. People whisper. They stare. They smile. They laugh. Some take pictures. Almost everyone who crosses our path when we're rolling five deep makes a comment (always pleasant and kind). I mean, we have two babies and a toddler on a boat. It's not a very common thing to see, so we get it. Anyone with infant twins will tell you that their "parent of multiples" rank grants them a sort of mini-celebrity status when out and about. Put those twins into a hilarious (and super functional) little dinghy seat and head to the beach? The cameras come out. Wear one on front, one on back while the other parent wears the toddler? People stop to give us props. Take them to an offshore snorkel spot in the dinghy and then get caught, totally unprepared, in a torrential downpour? People notice.


Cooper Island was just what the doctor ordered last week. We'd been anchored outside of Road Town for a few days and while the proximity to town is advantageous and useful, it's not the most picturesque and swimming is a big no no unless you want water borne pathogen to enter your system.

We wanted to get back to nature, back to the turquoise water and back to the beach. Cooper Island (siiiiiggggh) proved the perfect place.

Beach excursions, shell collecting, paddle boarding, and swimming off the back of the boat are our standard activities for us in a nice anchorage. Snorkeling is tricky these days, as none of our girls are ready for that yet, and we must go one at a time while the other watches the kids in the dinghy, which is a lot easier said than done (remember when we saw that shark!?) But Cooper is known for having some fantastic underwater life at the point off the cut, and Scott wanted me to enjoy a different kind of outing on Mother's Day. Truth be told, I haven't snorkeled once this season - so I was excited.


Earlier in the day I'd spotted and photographed the sun dog. "Rain's finally coming!" I said to Scott excitedly. It hadn't rained for weeks here and our boat needed a good rinsing in the form of a tropical downpour. It's been so dry that the mineral dust that blows across the Atlantic from the Saharan Desert hung in the sky, creating a yellow-tinged haze every evening, clinging to everything damp. The air was thick with the stuff which was evident by the fine layer of it all over our boat. As fascinating - and photogenic - as this weather phenomenon is, we were due for some rain.

The yellow haze brought to us all the way from the Saharan Desert!
"We better get going if you want to snorkel before it starts pouring" Scott warned. The dark grey clouds were now gathering on the horizon. We packed up our clan, turning the heads of all the charter boaters around us as we passed by, and made our way to the snorkel spot. "We might need to bail," Scott said looking at the ominous sky as I tied our dinghy to the day float, "I think it's going to rain really soon." The other dinghies of snorkelers were packing up and leaving but we decided to risk it. I'd only need ten or fifteen minutes anyway since that's about how long you can entertain little ones in a stationary dinghy. I took our waterproof camera to capture some video and hopped in the water, promising to come back immediately if and when the rain started.

But that's the thing about Caribbean rain. Rarely is it gradual with a pitter patter that slowly leads to a crescendo. When it hits, the skies open up and heavy, substantial drops batter down relentlessly. It's torrential. No sooner had I snorkeled to the reef and gotten a little video of a blue tang for Isla (she watched her first movie a couple weeks ago, Finding Nemo, and is a big fan Dory) when I surfaced and felt the strange sensation of rain on my back (strange because to get wet while in the water feels...odd). I popped my head up, gasped at the sheer white out of rain around me, heard our babies crying and hauled it back to the dinghy.

Breathless from my speed swim, I found Isla crouched underneath Scott's legs using his wide brimmed hat for cover. As I lobbed into the dingy Scott was struggling to keep the wailing twins calm, as this sudden and very extreme rain storm scared the crap out of them. I fumbled for a sarong from our backpack and covered their heads, smiling and talking to them in a happy, calm voice to soothe them. The sarong was useless. Instantly it was soaked. We were safe, of course. It was only rain, after all. But we must have looked like quite the freak show sitting there under a handkerchief of a sarong during a white-out downpour with two screaming babies and a cowering toddler. It was not our finest parental hour, trumped only by the time we picnicked, hobo-style, outside of the government building here in Road Town while we waited for our passport extensions.


The rain didn't last more than seven or eight minutes, but we were all soaking wet by the time it passed and the sun hadn't made it's return which meant we were all chattering cold. The dinghy ride back with our water-logged, crying children was the parental equivalent of the "walk of shame" but by the time we got to our boat, the sun was shining, the babies were happy and Isla was asking to go back to the beach to collect treasures.

So we made a u-turn and back to the beach we went. It was only water, after all.

But we'll heed those sun dogs a little closer next time.
Mother's day was wonderful. I am blessed and honored to be the one for these three! 
Our little island girl

Friday, May 08, 2015

You Can Shake the Hand of the Coconut Man

It’s not every day that you’re walking along and suddenly hear a voice from high up in the treetops.

“You like coconuts?” we heard from above as we walked by.

Isla stopped in her tracks, looked at me, and then looked up in the palm trees, thoroughly confused.

That's when I saw him, an elderly local man with a fluffy white beard in cramp-ons and jeans smiling down at us from up in a coconut tree.

Always one to take the opportunity to show our girls the beautiful and unique moments that our lifestyle presents (and being something of a child at heart) I pointed up excitedly: 

“Look Isla,” I exclaimed with a big smile, "It’s the coconut man way up in the palm tree! He climbed up there to bring some coconuts down.” She craned her neck way back, brought her hand over her eyes to shade from the sun and squinted.

There was a pause as she focused on him in the shadows of the fronds, and yelled:

“Can I have one?”

Kids are nothing if not direct.

“Isla, that’s not polite,” I reminded her in a hushed tone. “He’s working for those coconuts. And that is not how we ask for things.”

She looked at me, and then back up at the palm top.

“Can I have a coconut please?” she corrected, louder.

“Sure,” he said with a smile as he started down the tree, his climbing gear clanking and banging like a Caribbean Jacob Marley. He was old, with a kind face, deep wrinkles and full beard bleached white from age and sun. His voice had a sweet hiss indicating, perhaps, that he was missing a few teeth. His body, despite being covered in a tee-shirt and jeans, was strong and wiry. 

"I’m going to climb up that big tree over there and get some more, come back in ten minutes and I’ll be up there, then I will give you a coconut," he said with a smile.

We agreed that we’d come back, and continued on our stroll.

When we returned he was where he promised he’d be.

“Stay clear down below. Gimme lots of room,” he warned waving his arm at the ground beneath him. Getting hit by a three pound falling coconut from twenty-five feet up would really put a damper on our day. We gave him a wide berth and watched him work with his lines and machete; cutting, tying off the stalk and then gently lowering the coconuts to the ground in a bundle. He moved swiftly, like the pro that he was.

“You’re cheating!” another local fellow walked by and chided looking up referring to coconut mans use of heavily spiked climbing shoes and rope. Both men laughed heartily as a bundle of coconuts were lowered gently to the ground.  The girls were mesmerized.  Our new friend soon followed, machete in hand, beckoning Isla over to watch him.

With samurai precision he cut off the top of the water nut in three swift hacks, exposing a small hole at the top. He then reached into his pocket, produced a straw and handed the coconut over to Isla. He told us his name was Shalom.

I have had a very long love affair with coconut water (not to be confused with coconut milk) and it could be said that my girls were literally swimming in it in utero, I drank that much. It’s full of nutrients, incredibly hydrating, and islanders claim it to have tremendous health benefits.  As a result, all three of our girls love the stuff - particularly Isla - so she made no haste in accepting Shalom's offer for a drink.

“Do you do harvest coconuts all over Tortola?” I asked. 

“Yes,” he replied, “There are only a few of us who do it this way.” I got the impression that climbing trees for coconuts was perhaps a dying art, kind of like scrimshaw, but I couldn’t be sure. “I do hundreds of trees on de island.”

“I need to come every six months to get dem down,” he continued, “Or else de residents get upset. Falling coconuts are no good. Kids play here.”

Isla and I finished off the water from our young coconut. Shalom took it from us and with another swift hack, cut it in half, and then pulled off a piece of the husk, handing it to Isla. “A spoon,” he said, “To get out the jelly.”

Young coconuts (often called "water nuts") are very different from the “old” ones that most of us are used to. For one, they are green and not brown. Instead of the tough, dense, white meat (the stuff that we usually eat in chunks or grated), the inside of a "water nut" is gelatinous and slimy, almost like a thin filet of fish. There are hints of the coconut flavor that we are all used to, but the consistency takes some getting used to and is something of an acquired taste.

Isla is not a fan, and immediately upon putting it in her mouth, she spit it out.

Shalom laughed and produced another coconut which he opened for us to drink from. 

Knowing that coconuts were this kind man’s livelihood made me feel guilty for taking from his stash “Oh, thank you,” I started. “Here, let me give you some money for these…” I fumbled for my wallet.

He put up his hand and shook his head emphatically.

“No no no, you need to drink this. Stay strong and healthy!” he started laughing and indicated our three girls seated before him, “You are a busy woman, you need the strength.”

I smiled and thanked him as we finished off the water. We shook hands as we parted.

“See you in six months," he waved with a smile. And with that, he began to summit his next tree.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Our Boat Interior: A Photo Tour

I love taking a look inside other people’s boats given the opportunity. Each one is so unique and I love to see the different ways people make their boat's their home. I think this desire to “look behind the curtain” is pretty common among boaters, as most sailors love a good peek 'down below'; there is always a new boat hack to be learned, interesting gadget to check out, and, lets face it, there’s something intriguing about seeing how folks make the most out of a tiny space. I always enjoy how people express themselves in the decor (or lack thereof) of their boat, and the stories their boats tell.

And so now I want to show you ours.

As our boat is not only a cruising boat, but our homeI have done my best to make it first and foremost, functional, but also comfortable and welcoming. I have written about the art of making a boat a home before, but times - and decor - have changed since then, so I thought I’d revisit. It's been a work in progress and I really love how she looks and works down below. As comfy as she is, her decor is also super functional...when we are sailing, everything stays put and we don't have to worry about projectiles and general mayhem down below. Living in this boat's belly is cozy and, despite being a pretty tight space for a family of five, enjoyable.

For more technical information about our boat like what make she is and why we bought her, please visit this page. But for the grand photo tour of how she looks today, stick with me.

Ready? Let's go...

We’ll start at the pointy end and work our way back...
Starting from up front, this is called the "v-berth" and is where the twins, Haven and Mira (Meer-ah) sleep. You can read more about how I designed our girls' sleeping arrangements here, but the twins really enjoy sleeping and playing up here. I wrote about decorating their room, specifically, here. I really, really love how it turned out. They seem to like it, too.
Here are some more pictures of their sleeping space. To the left (port side) is where both girls sleep, together. They have a few stuffed animals (including their beloved lovies) and snuggling blankets in there. It's roomy and cozy. On the right (starboard side), is a small gear hammock for their books and a few stuffed toys. The mirrored cabinets above this are where all of their clothes are stored. I have a portable changing pad that I put down in this space to change diapers as well. Who says you need a changing table?! 
Connected to the v-berth is an ensuite bathroom, or "head" as we boaters like to call it - which can be accessed from both the v-berth or the salon (there are two doors to it). It's small and simple, but it works and has plenty of storage for most of our medicines and spare toiletries. It is also where my most favorite quote in the world lives. If you don't know this quote, you should definitely read Desiderata

Moving aft of the v-berth is our main living space, often called the "salon" or "main cabin". I love how bright and airy it feels, something that's not always easy with a monohull where you are technically living "below ground". To the left are all our physical books which are mostly reference guides and children's books since Scott and I have e-readers. Underneath and behind all those white cushions you see is storage. Tons of storage. We keep food, beverages, spare parts and all sorts of stuff in those compartments. Also worth noting (because everyone who sees pics of our boat asks "How do you keep those cushions white with small kids!?!), the cushions are made of vinyl (starboard) and ultra-leather (port), meaning anything that gets on them - from markers to spaghetti sauce - wipes right off, piece of cake. Pretty clutch if you have small kids aboard. (Note: They are different materials because when we reconfigured the salon seating, ultra-suede was too expensive so we opted for vinyl).
Here are some more pictures of our salon. The picture on the left is looking aft (back) from the v-berth, the others show the salon from other angles. "A place for everything and everything in it's place" - that's my motto down below. Keeps life tidy and simple.
This is our kitchen or galley. The two rectangles you see are our fridge (left) and freezer (right). Since we eat vegetarian on our boat we don't use our freezer and it, too, has become more coveted storage space. The open cupboard to the right of the stove is a new pantry area we made by removing our old microwave that we used exactly never. So nice. Our boat does not lack storage, and we love her for that. Can you spot my trusty copy of The Boat Galley Cookbook? (wink)
Here are some other views of our galley. As much as I really hate cooking and everything related to it (provisioning, grocery shopping, food prep, meal planning, etc.) I do really love our galley. For being the size of a small hall closet, it's very functional and has a great layout with plenty of counter space.
This are is directly across from our galley and is our navigation station, "nav station" for short. Our SSB radio, VHF radio, FM radio, modem, inverter controls and battery monitor live here. As do all of the children's toys. What you see there is just about all of them, minus the craft stuff which lives in a cupboard. We keep the boat tidy and organized by keeping a policy of cleaning up after ourselves before moving on to the next toy. It works. Sometimes. Either way, the kids can keep themselves pretty well entertained for chunks of time in this area. The drawers to the left are huge and deep and we keep electronics in the top two, and the bottom is a huge file-like cabinet where we store our onions and potatoes. All our cupboards drawers and cabinets latch shut so the boat is more or less baby proof in this way, which is nice.
Moving aft beyond our companionway stairs is the walk-thru to the aft cabin. This is also where Isla sleeps, but each day we break down her bunk and stow it because this is also a high-traffic and very functional area as this is where Scott stores pretty much all his tools. You can see the mast steps Scott installed so Isla can climb up to her bunk in the picture on the right. The counter top of this area flips up to expose what has become our sort of "junk drawer". We store all sorts of things from battery chargers to simple everyday tools to charts in this area so we need access to it daily. The large opening doors you see on the port side are our engine room access. Plenty of space to do oil changes and work on our generator and engine. Big bonus.
Here's what the walk-thru looks like when it's all set up as Isla's little bunk bed. She loves it up there and the set up and break down takes all of three minutes.

Emerging through the walk-thru is our aft cabin, or the master suite where Scott and I sleep. Our bed is more or less king size and the fact that all sides but one are contained mean morning pile-ons with all the girls happen here...a lot. The large top drawer you see in the center is where all of Isla's clothes are. The bottom one is where our air conditioning unit lives. The mirrored side cabinets are more clothing storage.
More shots of our aft cabin.  The picture on the upper right is looking back to the walk thru from our bed, and the two bottom pictures show where Scott and I keep the bulk of our clothes (mine are kept in the cabinets pictured left, his in those pictured center - yes, I have more storage space than he does - but only slightly so!)
This is our aft head or "bathroom". It's pretty small and cramped and if I am to be honest it's my least favorite room on our boat, but it works. And, hey, it's a bathroom so big deal. We have a separate sit-down shower stall which we hardly ever use (we chose to shower off the back of our boat unless we are at a marina) and it works well enough when we need it. Not much more to say about this room. Lots more storage, blah blah blah.
And here is our cockpit where we spend a huge amount of our time. It's our front porch, back porch and living room all in one. Ours is pretty spacious, super comfortable and kind of perfect for little ones. We love it. The views are great. 

So there you have it, our boat from front to back. Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our home!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Park Clean Up: Paying it Forward

Playgrounds are few and far between in these parts, and our girls love them. So when we find one with nice equipment it's kind of like the play-time jackpot. While beaches and the ocean are lovely and standard fun for our girls, going to a park is a nice break from the sandy mess that always ensues after a beach day. And when beaches aren't an option, getting off the boat at least once a day is a must for the ever-important "energy burn".

Last week in Road Town we headed to a park that we've been to before. It's got a nice variety of gear, soft astro-turf covering the ground and we can generally let the girls loose to climb, swing and slide at their leisure. We made our way through the bustling downtown area, wearing all the girls - winding our way through the narrow roads, past the colorful shop windows and finally to our destination.

But this time, the park looked a little different than the last time we were here. This time it was covered - and I mean covered - in trash.

"What the heck?" I muttered to Scott as we walked through the park entrance, my face puckered in disgust.

It literally looked as if someone took a huge garbage bag of cups, straws, plastic cutlery, chicken bones, soda cans, take out containers and bottles and literally emptied it out all over the park. On purpose.

It was disgusting.

"This is so bad it almost looks like a joke" I said to Scott in disbelief. I have seen a lot of trash in these islands because, sadly, environmental education has a long way to come down here, but the sheer amount of condensed litter in this one little park really took the cake. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Garbage was literally everywhere. Everywhere. And no dice throwing it all away in the existing garbage cans (points for having them!) because they were completely overflowing.

"I wish we had a garbage bag" I said to Scott, shaking my head. He wholeheartedly agreed. But we didn't, so we did our best to ignore the filth and tried to make the best of it, making sure none of it found it's way into the mouths of the twins as they explored. The icing on the cake came when I had to dress the wound of a local boy who sliced his bare foot open on a shard of glass.

I mean, come on.

The next day we returned to the park and while we were hopeful that maybe just maybe someone came back and cleaned up the mess, we brought with us a garbage bag.

No one had cleaned up the mess.

So we did.

Forty-five minutes later the park was more or less litter-less and our girls were free to play in a clean environment. I knew that tidying up the park would make me feel better (for better or worse, I am a bit of a neat freak in case you hadn't picked up on that), but I was shocked at how totally gratified I felt. Looking at our giant garbage bag full of trash and then looking at the beautiful, clean playground, gave me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.

Because, duh, doing good things for no other reason than to do good things feels...well...good.

There is truly something wonderful about taking a little ownership of something and making it beautiful again. Because (and sorry to get all Pollyanna here), we are kind of all in this together.

It was also a fantastic teachable moment for our girls.

Of course our efforts did little to dent what is clearly a much bigger, underlying issue. Our clean up was a temporary fix and we knew it. We returned to the park the next day only to find more trash strewn about. I can't say I was surprised, but it was a bummer.

"Who trashes this park like this?" I asked the old man who runs the little snack shack on the premises.

"You are the ones who cleaned it up yesterday?" he asked lifting his chin inquisitively. We replied that, yes, it was us. "It's the school children," he started with a solemn shake of his head, "...they come here for lunch and then just leave it a mess." He continued sweeping his stoop and shaking his head. I asked for another garbage bag and he gave me one. I collected some more trash, futile as it was. Because the fact of the matter was that no matter how many times we cleaned up this park, it was going to get trashed over and over again.



We returned again the next day and (in the words of those catchy internet articles) won't believe what happened next...

When I let Haven out of her carrier to stretch her legs and run around, she walked right over to an empty plastic water bottle and picked up. She looked at us, looked at the bottle, smiled her Haven-bright smile and waddled right over to the garbage can and threw it in. I swear to God. Right into the trash bin. Scott and I could not believe our eyes. Then, she strutted over to a paper bag, picked it up and threw it in the garbage. Then a bottle cap. Then another soda can. Each time she came across a stray piece of garbage, she picked it up and threw it away.

Scott and I were totally gobsmacked. And incredibly proud.

If there was ever any doubt that kids learn directly from watching their parents and/or caretakers, this trumps it. I have never been so awed in my life. I know it doesn't sound like much, but seeing her do that - totally unprovoked and at just over one year old, mind you - (we have video to prove it, sadly internet bandwidth tells me it will take 20 hours to upload) was truly a magical parenting moment for me. One that I will never forget.

And it made that seemingly futile effort of cleaning up that park totally worth it.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, it's nice to be reminded that we as parents are doing something right every once and a while.

It also drove home a meaningful lesson for me:

While we might not be able to change current behavior, we can influence future behavior and there is tremendous power and beauty in that.

It's an important reminder.

So pick up that stray soda can and throw it out. Help that old women out of her car. Give that man the extra dime he needs to make his purchase. Assist that fellow shopper bag her groceries. Help that struggling boater tie up his dock lines. Hold the door. Say hello. Always remember "please" and "thank you". Smile.

And watch with joy as your children pay it forward.

Because no good deed goes undone, and in one way or another, it will come back to you. Karma is a beautiful thing.
The mess. The photos don't really do it justice, but you get the idea.
Our family, taking matters into our own hands!
All better! Isn't it lovely?
We didn't dare leave our garbage bag behind, took it with us to dispose of in a dumpster.
Here's Haven the following day throwing out garbage totally unprovoked and on her own volition. She is one.
And here's Isla doing the same. Proud mama right here!

Friday, May 01, 2015

A Reunion and a Birthday: The Beauty of Plans and Non-Plans Alike

About a year ago we received an email from some blog followers, Sarah and Mark. They had hatched a plan to take a sabbatical and cruise for six months with their youngest son, Jimmy, and wondered if we would be willing to consult with them about when and where to do it (Bahamas or Caribbean?) and what sort of boat to do it on (rented or owned?) Being recently inducted into multiple baby madness, we didn't feel comfortable charging them for our limited and biased "expertise" but we definitely wanted to help them out if we could. Over multiple emails, we decided a dinner would do - and they drove down from Wisconsin to meet us for a meal over which we would answer any questions they had, and guide them as best we could.

A friendship was born.

You know those people you meet and you instantly start talking like you've known each other for years? Those people where there is never an awkward lull in conversation and there is a general excitement and energy in the air when together? The kind of people who, after hanging out with them, leave you smiling and feeling better about yourself and life in general? The McGuire's are those people.

The connection was so immediate and natural that we discussed everything but boats and cruising for the bulk of our three hour meal. The conversation just flowed. They didn't really need specifics, anyway. They just needed reaffirmation that, yes, they could do this and, yes, they absolutely should do this. We gave them the little boost they were looking for. Everything else was just logistics. Before we knew it, the lights were dimming and busboys were turning up chairs. It was time to end our awesome evening. We parted ways that night as friends, and vowed to keep in touch via email to help them hash out the details of their plan.

Fast forward a few months..."We are renting a boat in Grenada and will be finishing up our trip in the British Virgin Islands in April" they wrote to tell us, "Will you be there?" they asked. We told them that we should be (at that point we had no idea how things would go with 'three under three' aboard and we were playing it by ear) and that if we were here, we'd be waiting with tropical slushy rum drinks in hand to toast their trip.

And last week, that is exactly what we did.

I love it when a plan comes together.

We were able to buddy boat with the McGuire's for almost a week and it was fantastic. I seriously cannot sing enough praise about this family, and particularly their thirteen year old son who is by far the coolest and sweetest young man I have ever met. I will be turning to Mark and Sarah for parenting advice in the years to come (they have two older daughters in college), because these folks are doing it right.

As if the company could get any better, we were then surprised by my cruising bestie, Genevieve, and the rest of the adorable crew of s/v Necesse over in Jost Van Dyke. Our three crews hit up Foxy's at Great Harbor and the bubbly pools at Diamond Cay and - after some discussion - decided to buddy boat over to Cane Garden Bay, one of my all-time favorite anchorages, to celebrate my twenty-ninth birthday in true BVI style (coughcough*I turned thirty-six*coughcough).

This was very fortuitous as I had all but forgotten about my birthday until a couple of days before (I sometimes have to be reminded what month it is, let alone date #cruiserproblems). Due to this little oversight, we had no plans whatsoever to celebrate my birthday in any special way let alone with awesome friends in one of my favorite bays. For the stars to align and create such a perfect last minute "plan"? Well, that's just serendipity at it's best.

I love it when a non-plan comes together.

Scott let me sleep in, made a delicious home-made Belgian waffle breakfast and then baked cupcakes to share with everyone for our afternoon beach gathering. The sun was shining, the kids were running amok, Painkiller's were flowing (as was a delicious lava cake baked by Sarah!) - and I was surrounded by some truly wonderful people. Really couldn't ask for more.

Since I don't get out much (ever) these days, for my (spontaneous last-minute) 'party', I had decided on a ladies' night outing to Quitos beach bar. It was a blast. My girl Genevieve, her wonderful mother in law Diane-Marie, and the lovely Sarah were my partners in crime and what a great group it was. We talked over drinks, danced our butts off and even belted out an old favorite, "Red Red Wine" (a Caribbean standard, imo) with the one man band. So. Much. Fun. Earlier in the evening I had experimented with wearing some essential oils - it was, admittedly, an "interesting" blend- and, evidently it was a hit with the local men. So much so that they wanted me to bring them some so they could wear my scent. Hmmmm (Insert emoticon face with the squiggly line mouth). I guess I should've left the patchouli back in 1997 where I left it. Either way, we had no shortage of dance partners and before we knew it, it was midnight. Not "cruisers midnight" (which is 9pm) but actual midnight. Our Cinderella posse needed to get home, stat. We were turning into pumpkins, fast.

I was a little fuzzy the following day (note: I have not slept a solid seven hours in over a year!) but it was so worth it to welcome the upper half of thirty with a bang and in the company of some incredible people.
Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Family photo at the beautiful bubbly pool
Jimmy, delivering me the sweetest home-made birthday card ever and my birthday bottle of sauvignon blanc!

Isla made me a card too, I love the little people she made! My favorite gift ;)
Some pics from our girls night out - so much fun with these fabulous women!
I mean, look at these goofballs. What's not to love?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...