Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Back to the Boat, Back on Island Time: On Adaptation and Change

It never ceases to amaze me just how adaptable children are. After two months back in the US at my mom's house, I was certain we'd have a little "adjustment" period back at the boat. The girls, after all, are getting bigger, older, and can most certainly grasp the difference between a boat and a house, not to mention the concept of personal space. They loved being back at Grandma's. They have friends back there, we fell into a nice little routine, and - most concerning for me - they became pretty accustomed to life in a three bedroom ranch. They played tag every morning, hid under beds and behind drapery...they enjoyed their own rooms and had plenty of drawers each for their clothes (on the boat they have the equivalent of one small drawer each and only the twins have their own dedicated 'room'). They played in the back yard on the tire swing, pushed baby doll strollers down hallways, and rode bikes and trikes a plenty...Bringing them back to the boat meant a lot of this stuff was going to come to an abrupt halt.

So you can imagine my surprise when, after over a week of being back, I have yet to hear of a single complaint about anything we left back home (minus grandma, of course). I haven't heard any lamentations over the lack of a backyard or whining that they miss the library, nor have the girls put in requests for anything that I thought they might miss - from food to toys - from their time up north. They haven't even asked for television (which was something we admittedly watched significantly more of back in the house). I was, at the very least, prepared for a few sleepless nights as they re-acclimated with their old beds, but, no. In fact, they fell back into napping and night sleeping better than they did these last two months on land! I have to say I was shocked. Each time we have a transition like this I brace myself for a fallout, for tantrums and wonky adjustment periods - and yet - they never happen.  It's incredible and once again our girls show me that mama needs to take a chill pill. "I have no idea why this still surprises me" I told my mom on the phone the other day. "They just fall back into step." To which she replied with her motherly wisdom, "Kids are very adaptable."

And they are. And it's pretty amazing.


The days leading up to our departure were super busy on both ends; I was busy packing up and prepping for the flights (remember, I prepare for these things like a ninja!), Scott was up to his eyeballs in work while simultaneously launching and readying Asante for our return (she was on the hard the last three months). I'm glossing over a ton of details but suffice it to say we were frenetic on both ends. The girls and I enjoyed an uneventful day of travel and landed on Tortola just as the sun was beginning to set and the tree frogs start singing their nightly tunes. Our favorite taxi driver, Larry, picked us up with a big smile and huge hugs, and soon we were en-route back to the boat.

The girls were *so* excited to be back. The boat was a flurry of energy; snuggles with daddy, finding "new" toys, running amok (as children who have been cooped up in planes for a whole day are wont to do) and preparing dinner. Meanwhile, I unpacked all our bags.

The next morning we went out to breakfast with daddy and - oh my gosh! - the girls were greeted with so many hugs and fist bumps and smiles from every direction. "Who are you people and where were you?" one fellow breakfast patron asked with a laugh, "I've never seen so many people so excited to see four girls!" It gave us the warm fuzzies to know we were missed since, truth be told, sometimes I think the presence of three very active, loud and exuberant toddlers might cramp our marina's style. It's hard to keep a low profile around here with our crew. Not everyone loves little children and I can respect that - but according to the various workers, wait staff and crew members around us who repeatedly told the girls, "Nanny Cay just wasn't the same without you!" we were missed. And I believe wholeheartedly that Nanny Cay wasn't the same, if for no other reason than it was a lot more quiet!


Being back has been amazing and totally rejuvenating. And, okay, it's not all been smooth sailing; my car got a flat on the first day I drove it and I also discovered I can no longer get out of the driver's side door without rolling down the window and opening it from the outside (#islandcars). Other than those minor nuisances, life is good. Scott is busier than ever at the moment, we are down pretty much all our captains this month so he is pulling double duty and burning the midnight oil every night to stay on top of everything. I am so incredibly proud of him and how he's managing because it is not easy. Meanwhile, the girls and I have fallen right back into swing. We have our little routine of breakfast on the boat followed by some morning outing/activity/playdate, then lunch and nap time around noon, then our afternoon outing/activity/playdate followed by dinner, bath and bedtime between 7 and 7:30pm. Of course there are variations and special occasions, but that's the gist of it. Lots of fresh air, playtime with other children, and glorious sunshine. The pool and beach are regulars in our days and then there's the beach bar, which in the afternoon is a hub of activity and where I can let the girls run free with their little friends to climb trees, swing from ropes, build with the beach jenga blocks or hold scooter races. It's simple, no fluff, fun. And mommy can have her afternoon spritzer or two (wink).

Speaking of scooters, our Micro Scooters have now become the preferred method of travel for the girls. These days, instead of me pushing a double stroller to and fro most of the time, you will find our little gang ripping around the marina like little skater girls. It's pretty hilarious to watch because they are so small and so fast, that it's rare for anyone who passes not to smile or giggle because they look so damn cute all in a row squealing and laughing. Yet another reminder of how fast time flies and how with every month a new milestone is reached when kids are little. There is no way I would have trusted them to fly around here a few months ago, but now - it's how they roll and they love the independence. Of course they are wearing their life jackets while doing so - they get ahead of me so quickly now and the threat of falling in is more imminent - the life jackets put my mind and heart at ease. "If they fall in, they'll float" I tell onlookers. Bumps, bruises and scrapes don't phase me. In fact I encourage those things with our girls. But water safety is no joke. Even though the girls know our "rules" and have excellent control over their rides, it's better to be safe than sorry. That PSA aside...we love our "scooter boards" (as Mira likes to call them, oh yeah - the twins are full on talking now!) and if you are looking for a great scooter for your child, you seriously need to check Micro Scooters out.

So that is where we are at. It's been a pretty great re-entry to boat life and we have been welcomed back to our adopted island with open arms. Life is simple and we are happy. The fact that our girls have made this transition easy makes me very proud of them and I sure hope that this flexibility continues into adulthood for them (it's a trait that doesn't come as naturally to their mother *coughcough*). Change is not always easy and rarely is it effortless, but it is good. And adaptability is what can make it great. Being back on island, back to our floating home? It's exactly what we needed.

Now...how they will handle pre-school three half-days out of the week? That adjustment might prove a little more difficult, for all of us!

Tiny space? No big deal to these kids. In fact, I think they prefer close quarters!
Always a great option for a morning activity
Scooter races are the afternoon activity of choice on many days
This is what I call the "Meyers Mimosa" - soda water and orange juice. 
Swinging from trees is always fun!
We spend a lot of time crafting and coloring as well, but these mess free Water Wow's are my fave!
"How old is that little girl?" is a question I get all the time about our fearless little Haven.
This is our backyard. I mean...what a view to take in every day. I love it.
Back to the baby pool bath on the aft deck - and we've now discovered that Joy dish soap makes the BEST bubbles. Score!
Beaching it in our SwimZip Swimwear SPF rash guards. Love our little beach babies.
Good bye sun, thanks for a great day! So happy to be able to catch the sunset every night again.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Foot in Both Worlds

As our time back on land comes to a close (how did two months go by that fast?) I am constantly asked the question, "Aren't you *so* glad to leave and go back?" It's hard to answer that because - for the last four years or so - Scott and I have remained, more or less, tethered to land. After a year and a half of solo cruising, we came home to have Isla and moved to Florida for six months after that to refit our boat. We then set sail only to return home a little over a year later to give birth to our (surprise!) twins. Two infants at once, as you can probably imagine, was a real game changer and we lived with my parents for a year while we adjusted to live as an insta-family of five. We were, for all intents and purposes, land-lubbers and, for us, it was the only way to be during that (incredibly difficult) season of our lives. We then began the process of buying a business on Tortola which dictated that we move off island for six months while the deal went through, and from now forward, as official "expats", we plan to come back for visits at least once a year to see family and friends and "get off the rock", as it were.

Land life is simply part of our life, and we are grateful for it.

So am I glad to leave? No. This visit has been amazing. Scott and I got away - alone, together - for the first time in four years to attend one of my best friend's weddings in Santa Barbara where (cough cough) Gweneth Paltrow (among others!!) was a fellow guest (my friend is a very successful Hollywood writer and, no, I did not meet her but could have touched her a couple times!), Scott got to spend some quality time with his brother on a motorcycle trip riding "the tail of the dragon" in Tennessee, we spent a positively beautiful week in Northern Michigan with most of Scott's family, the girls and I had countless playdates with wonderful neighborhood kids and kindred spirit mom friends, we got to see all of my immediate family and their families'...there were bonfires, play parks, museum visits and sleepovers...dinners out, talks over wine and spirit-lifting hang-outs with old friends...the list goes on. It was wonderful and went by too fast, and it's precisely why we keep coming back - because there is so very much here for us.

So, no, I'm not "glad" to leave ( though I am happy to be escaping winter!) - it is, in fact, a bit sad. We have a wonderful life up here filled with family, friends and - oh man - the general convenience of the 'burbs cannot be beat. But are we happy to go back to our little boat and little island? You betcha.


You see, by having one foot in both worlds, we are offered a unique perspective and one that helps us to appreciate the other world. I've always been one to caution the notion that there is any one single way to live that is better than another (i.e. land life vs. island life vs. cruising) because the fact of the matter is this: it's completely subjective and while many people love the above lifestyles, just as many do not. My best friend in the whole wide world came to visit us last season and one night, as we were sipping rum cocktails gazing out as the sun set over the water she said, "Britt...I totally get why you live here. This place is amazing and it is so totally you. You are clearly in your element. But me? No. This wouldn't work for me." It was not an insult and I was in no way offended.  I completely agreed with her because a) I know her better than I know anybody and, no, it is definitely not her jam and b) I know that our slightly alternative lifestyle is not a one size fits all kind of existence.

On the flip side, how she feels about island/live-aboard life is precisely how I feel about a more traditional, suburban/city life. I appreciate the convenience, the plethora of things to do, the accessibility to great restaurants and shows and of course the proximity to friends and family...but for now, it's just not for us.

And yet, we have an amazing thing up here. We have my family here and Scott's family just day's drive over in Michigan (seriously, the most underrated state in the lower 50 in my opinion. So. Damn. Beautiful.) and we get to spend time with them when we visit, exploring the woods, the shores of fresh water lakes, and - in general - living our days outside in the fresh air. Our girls have a slew of aunts and uncles who adore them and cousins on both sides whom they consider their best friends - these kinds of bonds are the very reason we keep a tether to shore. I have an incredible group of friends - some of whom I have known since I was five - who, despite our distance and once-a-year visits, are truly some of the most incredible people in the world and fill my life, heart and soul with love and joy...My girls adore their grandparents, they love our neighbors, and the relationships they have with these people are important to us. It's a pleasure to be here, not a burden.

We have the same level of appreciation, however, for our little island life. While the roots we have planted are new, we have begun to develop a great and very fulfilling existence. Our business is thriving and exciting to us. We absolutely love our "neighborhood" and cross-cultural community at Nanny Cay, the seeds for great friendships have been planted and are being sowed, the girls thrive like the wild little (often naked) bush children they are and I really love the slower and simpler pace of day to day living. Everything feels a little less rushed, everyone has a little more time and I like that. Our choices for everything from what to do to what to eat are most definitely limited compared to what is available up here, but what we do get is constant and close access to jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring natural beauty day in and day out and that, to me, is priceless. The water, specifically, is truly a salve to my soul and, man, I'm excited to get back and dip my toes into it. I need it..


There are also some very exciting changes on the horizon that if you follow our >>Facebook Page<< you already know... Scott was only back for a short while during this trip (we kept our business running year round this year) but his visit allowed us a quick trip to the East Coast to do some boat shopping. Yep, you read that correctly: boat shopping. Scott and I had a sort of "come to Jesus" type talk and decided that we needed a bigger boat sooner than later. Long story short: I am more than excited to announce that we are under contract with a 48 foot three cabin cutter-rigged monohull (more details soon, I promise!) and the boat goes to survey the day after the girls and I return to Tortola. To say we are excited about this new development is a massive understatement, but - like I said - the hows and why's of all this require a whole separate blog post and, until the boat passes survey (which it should) we aren't counting any chickens. Patience, please.

Another amazing change we will be coming back to is the fact that all three girls will attend a little pre-school three half-days a week. While I have been home with all of them as their major care-taker 24/7 for the last four and a half years, the time has come to give myself a little break - not to mention the fact the girls are literally begging me to send them to school. Again, there is a whole post here and I'll delve more into why we made this decision a little later. Suffice it to say, we did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people and decided that at this juncture of our lives - this will be best for everybody. We are all super stoked.

This trip home has been a fantastic "factory reset" - and while we are sad to say "goodbye" - there is so much to look forward to. While having a "foot in both worlds" might, to some, seem non-committal or even limiting, to us it feels like a huge gift and makes life a little sweeter.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have packing to do and lists to make! We are island bound in t-minus three days!

(and here is where I barrage you with a completely random assortment of photos of our visit! I tried as best I could to cut down from the 2K I took, but it was not easy!)

To all our friends and family who made this visit so great, we thank you! To those of you who we adore with all our hearts yet could not see this time around, we are sorry and we'll catch you next time! xoxo
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