Friday, February 28, 2014

screen time

This is one of my favorite pictures of Hans and Freja. 

But it is also a carbon copy of how Hans and I spend our evenings after the girls have gone to bed. The girls are asleep? It's all quiet? Great. Everyone grab your computer: it's time to waste away those precious adult-only hours on Facebook, Zillow, Pinterest, and, for Hans, the student-doctor network.

We strongly believe in no screen time before age two and then very limited screen time after that. There is one specific time that Freja is allowed to watch TV: when Hans is working late and I am putting Matilda to bed. She watches Emil i Lönneberga and knows that as soon as I am finished with Matilda she has to close the computer. No discussion. 

We need to follow her lead. How about no screen time for adults? When we were cruising on Whisper we watched a fair amount of movies, but we also read a lot of books and played cards and scrabble and socialized in the evenings.

Yet, these days, it's the same story every night. The pull of the internet. There is always something to look up, some information to glean, a silly video or an important news story. I'm trying to make an effort to read more books, even simple page-turning novels. I've pulled our game box out of the storage spot under Matilda's bed. But that's it. Not exactly a valiant effort.

Hans and the girls spend a fair amount of time doing this:

and this:

We need to do the same.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


From this 
our floating home, m/v Rhumb Line
to this:
the bounty from our future garden.

via this:
and the worms, that will make it possible.

When people found out I was pregnant with Freja, one of the first questions was: So when do you move off the boat? Then I got pregnant with Matilda and the question was: Okay, so now when do you move off the boat? 

Our next big life change is a move from Philadelphia to wherever Hans gets into residency, and, if all goes according to plan, we'll be moving to a more southern, water-based city. Think Florida. And before you get a chance to ask: So, what are you going to do with the boat? Here is the answer: Drive it south, of course! It couldn't be easier. We don't need to rent a Uhaul, we don't need to tow a trailer behind the car, we don't need to arrange temporary housing. We just need to fill up the gas tanks and untie the dock lines. 

But one day, one day, we will move off the boat. I promise. I don't dream of a house, per se, but of the space. And not the space to be found in the kitchen or living room, but outside. I dream of a yard where the girls can play and where I can have a garden. (I do, however, dream of a bigger bathroom.)

It's only a matter of weeks before we find out where Hans will do his next step of doctor training, so landlubbing is on my mind. Ideally, once we get settled in our new city, we'll sell the boat and use the proceeds toward the purchase of a house. With a yard. A pool or waterfront would be awesome. Hence my dreams of dirt.

As I dream of gardens and green in February, I was introduced to vermicompost. Or, worm composting. We went to the Please Touch Museum this morning with friends and there was a short program for the kids on worms and worm boxes. I was just as fascinated as the kids. I know about compost - throwing your kitchen scraps in a pile in the backyard and letting them ferment and fester till they turn into dark, rich soil - but I didn't know about vermicompost. Basically, getting a bunch of worms, sticking them in a box and throwing them your kitchen scraps every day. They eat the scraps and turn them into even darker, even richer soil.

So whenever we do move ashore, we won't be getting Fido or sleek black cat. I bet we'll be getting a couple pounds of red wigglers.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Old friends, new friends

It's rather easy for me to lump my friends into distinct categories.

There are the childhood friends:
Kristen and Kate circa 1998

The college friends:
Kristen, Josie, and Laura circa 2010

The post-college, pre-kid friends:
Suzanne and Hans circa 2008
The sailing friends:
The Hopetown crew, 2007
The kid friends:
Julie and Susanna, 2013

This isn't very surprising. Alex Williams wrote a piece about this in the New York Times. As we go through different stages in life, we make different types of friends. But it's our early friends, the childhood friends and the college friends that stay with us.  

How did we make such great friends when we were younger? Proximity, unplanned interactions (spontaneity), and letting your guard down: these are all necessary ingredients for new friendships. This ingredient list makes it hard to make new friends after we are married and have kids. Our time is stretched, our weekends are full. We hardly have time for our families, never mind hanging out at the bar or a sporting event. Friends with kids work because the kids can play and the adults can socialize.

When Hans and I first moved to Philadelphia almost five years ago we hardly knew anyone. I could count on one hand the number of people I could call up to meet for happy hour on a Friday night. We spent many, many nights enjoying the summer evenings on our boat, just the two of us. It was a marked difference from the life we had just left, the cruising life. Sailing our boat around the Caribbean, we had little else to do but plan the next happy hour or beach potluck. We had friends in every harbor and if we didn't it was easy enough to make quick introductions and make new friends. The boating community is a real community. That's not always the case in the city.

We spent our first year in Philadelphia with Hans's classmates, all of whom were five to ten years younger than us, some of them almost directly out of college; I started up a young adults group at my church; and we went to different bars every weekend. Freja was born and we trudged through the first year, trying to figure out our new parenting gig. Freja's first birthday rolled around and we had a little party for her. I looked around and saw over twenty people in attendance. Where did they all come from? I didn't even know we had friends! We met them through Freja. They were our kid friends. What did we have in common? Kids.

Yet I value my non-kid friendships. They're different. I have a few non-kid friends that I treasure. They love my girls and, somehow they still tolerate me and hearing about my genius children. I know I'm only allowed to brag about (ahem. I mean talk about) my kids for a short amount of time before their eyes glaze over. And then I'm challenged. What else can I talk about that doesn't involve pooping on the potty or sleeping through the night? I'm up for the challenge. It's refreshing. But therein lies the next challenge.

Freja and Jeanette, 2014

How do I find and make new non-kid friends?

It was easy when we were sailing. It was a little like college. Proximity and spontaneity. We had boating in common; we had proximity (same harbor); and we had time (nothing else to do). Spontaneous get-togethers were commonplace. Instead of planning to meet for dinner in two weeks, we met for dinner that same night.

Making new friends is like dating. You have to put yourself out on the line. Don't wait for two weeks before having someone over for dinner. Meet for coffee and then let that coffee lead to dinner. Be open, be accepting, be interested.

Proximity, unplanned interactions (spontaneity), and letting your guard down: We just need to get out there and make friends. See people again, and again, and again. Pretend you're in college (well, perhaps minus the Wednesday night tequila shots). Have fun.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Simplifying Life: trying to be clutter free (Part 2 of 2)

People often ask: "How do you do it? How do you live on that tiny boat with two kids?" My answer: It's just the same as living on land, but smaller. And because it's smaller, we don't have the space for a gazillion toys. Not having tons of's actually refreshing. I know what toys we have, I know what toys the girls like and which ones they're not very interested in, I know which ones they might like in the future. But we still have a bunch of toys and the only way I can keep the clutter and mess under control is by using some sort of toy rotation.

Instead of housing books, the bookshelf in the main cabin is now a depository for Matilda's board books and a few toys both she and Freja enjoy.  We have a tiny play stove that we bought in Sweden that also doubles as a stool for Freja. She has a corner of the counter allocated for her "choking hazards." Small toys that a preschooler can play with but a baby would choke on.

Freja standing on her stove; Matilda hoping she can one day climb up there.

Matilda with her bookshelf emptied.

Toys and books at baby level. 
But yes, we have many, many more toys than fit in the little bookshelf. Hidden away in the closet in the aft cabin is a big box filled with blocks, legos, dolls, ball games, and more. When the girls get bored with what is currently on the shelf, about once every two weeks or so,  I wait until they're sleeping them stealthily swap the toys out. They wake up in the morning to a whole new batch of toys.

Toy rotation is also a tenet of the Montessori way of learning. The Montessori method believes that kids get easily overwhelmed with too many choices. The image of a kid leaning over toy box and frantically slinging toys over his shoulders till the box is empty and the living room floor is covered with toys is no urban legend. It happens. Shelves allow kids to see what toys are available and select what they want to work with. Not only are their fewer toys out which means fewer toys to pick up at the end of the day, but the girls know exactly what their options are for play and they can be a little more intentional. (Well, as intentional as little one can be!) Our shelves are not beautiful and we have a fair number of plastic hand-me-down toys, but here are a couple posts of prettier play spaces for kids: Montessori for Beginners and Toys, Materials, and Shelves.

Sometimes Freja does panic and suddenly want to play with Legos or that "blue toy that has the song that goes da da da dum de dum and there is the ball thing that goes around" (if you know what toy she is talking about, please tell me!) and I'll pull out the requested toy. But, generally, the girls seem happy playing with only a few toys at a time and it only takes a few minutes to clean up the mess at the end of the day. Win-win all around.

Simplifying Life: trying to be clutter free (Part 1 of 2)

For me, simplifying our life aboard is easy. We constantly strive to have less stuff aboard. We don't have space for it. Less clutter, less stuff to pick up and put away, less stuff to buy. There are a few places on the boat that are clutter focal points for me: the three counters in the main cabin (the living room) of the boat. If the counters are clear of stuff, I feel like our life is somewhat in order. When stuff starts to pile up, which it does, and it does so at an alarming rate, I feel like we're inundated with mess and I get a sudden urge to start cleaning and purging. Clutter is a cause of stress.

Joshua Becker, a blogger, writer, and motivational speaker, feels the same way. His family of four embarked on a project in 2008 to live with less stuff. they are consciously and intentionally living with less stuff in an attempt to live life focused on their values, not on their stuff. He blogs about their lifestyle here: Becoming Minimalist, and includes a quick checklist of what he believes are the benefits of their lifestyle including less stress and having a living space that is easier to clean.

Having less stuff is also a key component to economic freedom. If we're not bogged down with the "need" to have the latest and greatest electronic gadgets, new shoes, or fancy clothes, we're left with space in our bank accounts to work less, save more, or pay off some debt. Economic freedom leads to freedom and self-determination.

For us, living on a boat makes minimalism a necessity. We don't have the space for extra stuff like seasonal decorations or decorative yet functional tissue boxes. We have a few nice things, like paintings and photos on the walls, and the counters in the aft cabin are lined with books. Besides that, I strive to keep the counters clear. Clear counters means there is space for temporary things like bright flowers or a small bum.

Freja sitting on the counter. Since it is normally clear,
it had space to host her bum,  Advent candles, and a gingerbread house at Christmas.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blue jobs, pink jobs

 I first heard the terms "blue jobs" and "pink jobs" when we started working on our sailboat Whisper. As we planned our trip to the Caribbean, Hans and I knew that it was important that we could both handle all the systems on the boat. We didn't both need to be experts at everything, but if one of us fell overboard or became sick, the other person needed to be able to take over. Then I started hearing about blue jobs. And that is why I became the official anchor weigher.

weighing anchor. "put your legs into it!"

We outfitted Whisper with a 26 pound Delta anchor with 100 feet of chain and no windlass. Damned if I was going to be at the tiller every time because I didn't have the upper body strength to hoist it on deck. (Of course fellow boaters didn't know of my resolve and probably saw Hans as the a**hole for having his wife up on deck doing the heavy work while he simply steered and adjusted the throttle to the engine.) There would be no blue jobs and pink jobs aboard Whisper. After learning how to change the oil on our diesel engine and helping Hans clean the carburetor on our dinghy engine, I started to rethink my stance on pink jobs and blue jobs. Pink jobs: cooking, laundry, dusting. Blue jobs: engine maintenance, bilge cleaning, electronics repair. "Oh honey, what do you want for dinner tonight?"

Eventually we divided the tasks on Whisper based on who was best suited for what particular job (and personal interests). Hans worked on the engine because he likes taking things apart and putting them back together; I hung the laundry out to dry because I love drying laundry in the sun; I did mast and rigging work because it was easier for Hans to hoist me up the mast than vice versa; etc. But, to an outsider, our jobs were divided down the color lines. That divide exists on our new boat, m/v Rhumb Line.
rolling out Swedish meatballs on Whisper.

Whisper from above, taken by her unofficial rigger, yours truly.
Hans cleans the engine with a toothbrush.

I have zero, I repeat ZERO, interest in the two gas guzzling engines under our main cabin sole. "Hans!" Hans has no interest in washing our clothes while I still marvel at the electric washer (you would too after washing clothes by hand in a salty environment for almost 3 years). I dust and vacuum; Hans power washes the decks; I sew curtains and cushion covers; Hans replaces burnt out fuses and bilge pump alarms; I clean the toilet; Hans replaces the macerator pump when it breaks. (Yes! Score one point for the pink team!)

Hang on, re-read that last paragraph. What year are we living in? 1956? No, it's 2011. Have we really divided our married boat life down such gender-typed lines? Are we doing what works best for our respective talents and interests, or have we fallen victim to the stereotypical pink and blue jobs? And now for the major question: If we continue to divide our skills as we are doing, and if Hans works as a doctor and I work from home part-time and take care of our kids the rest of the time, how will we raise kids to be thoughtful, progressive, feminists who have never heard the terms "pink jobs" and "blue jobs?" How will we teach them that men can stay home and do laundry and art projects while mom goes to work and brings home the bacon when we are modeling such old-fashioned gender based roles in our own relationship?

Freja: there are no blue jobs and there are no pink jobs. There are only jobs.

cloth only please

Warning! Warning! Poop-talk about to commence...

Hans and Freja (only 3 months old, so little!) 
It's nice to wear only a diaper on hot days
I was never the kind of girl who dreamed of my perfect wedding or thought of names of my future children. I did always know, however, that I would use cloth diapers on my babies' bums. Why? Mainly for the environment. I reuse ziploc bags, wash laundry in cold water, shop at the thrift store, ride my bicycle, support local, organic farmers, and, generally, try to be a good citizen on this planet. Throwing away upwards of 12 paper/plastic/polymer diapers a day would not fit in with my lifestyle. Not every diaper is poopy, generally only one a day. The rest are just pee-soaked cotton. Believe me, parents have to deal with a lot more gross things than pee on a daily basis. It's really no big deal.

Why else have I used cloth diapers on Freja and now Matilda?
  • They're good for sensitive skin. (This is largely due to the fact that you can tell when a cloth diaper is wet easier than with a disposable so cloth diapers get changed more frequently. So, theoretically, this argument is moot if a disposable diaper is changed as frequently as a cloth diaper, but since disposables cost's easy to justify leaving them on for just a little bit longer.)
  • It's easy! I use pre-folds because they are affordable, absorbent, and don't leak, but cloth diapers have gotten fancy over the years. Check out these BumGenius all-in-ones: BumGenius Elemental
  • It's not messy or gross. (The diaper goes straight from bum to bucket; from bucket to washing machine. I rarely touch poop. It does get stinkier and messier when solid foods are introduced, but, like I said before, babies and toddlers aren't neat and clean. No big deal.)
  • I have a good system. I don't know why I would use disposables. Pay money for something that I'm going to throw away?
Cloth diapering is becoming more and more popular and information and products are multiplying rapidly on the internet. When I was pregnant with Freja I was inundated with information. Flats, pre-folds, AIOs, fitted, covers, PUL, etc. etc. I felt like I was learning a new language. So, to help potential cloth diaperers out, and to answer any questions people may have about why we do this (in this day and age!), here is a quick cloth diapering 101.

The two-part system: the cloth diaper and the waterproof cover. If Matilda wears a cloth diaper without a cover, she will leave wet marks wherever she sits or lies. The waterproof cover is the barrier between the wet diaper and the person or surface.

Baby Freja, modeling the two-part system: PUL cover with a diaper underneath

The cloth diaper: options are endless. 
  • The old standby are flat diapers. These are basically rectangles of many layers of twill or gauze fabric that is folded and pinned in place on baby. Luckily for parents these days, pins have been replaced by Snappis, sort of like a rubber shaped "T" with Ace bandage hooks on the ends.
a flat diaper
sleeping in a flat diaper secured with a Snappi (note that she's also lying on a towel to act as the barrier between the diaper and the couch).
  • Fitted diapers. These look exactly like disposables but they're made out of cloth. Freja's Meme (my mom) spent the winter before Freja was born sewing fitted diapers for her new grandbaby. She used a combination of terry cloth (cut-up towels), microfiber, fleece, and cotton. We've found the best combination to be fleece on the outside filled with microfiber and terry cloth. Fitted diapers close with either velcro (Aplix) or snaps. I prefer velcro because it's easy to affix on a squirmy baby, but some friends prefer snaps because you don't have to worry about closing the velcro before washing the diaper.

a fitted diaper; looks and wears just like a disposable but is cotton.
  • Pocket diapers: cloth diapers are notorious for their slow-drying time. I refuse to use the dryer for diapers since that defeats the purpose of helping the environment by using cloth. Pocket diapers help solve the problem of slow-drying by breaking down the fitted diaper into various components. The diaper is fitted and has a pocket down the middle for the soaker pad. When the diaper is soiled, pull out the soaker pad and wash and dry the diaper and pad separately. By thinning out the diaper it dries faster.
The cover:
  •  Covers are generally made out of PUL (I can't remember what this stands for but it's a type of waterproof plastic). They come in plain white, solid colors, or fun prints. Snaps or velcro close the cover over the diaper. A friend recently recommended the Nikky cover which is all cotton and allows the baby's bum to breath easier.
a cover made out of PUL

AIOs or All-in-ones
  • These work the most like disposable diapers. Cotton, microfiber, or terry cloth is covered with PUL (the waterproof fabric) so cloth diapering is just a one step process. Freja's Meme made a couple of these but they were a little bulky compared to the two-part system. Still, no leaks and convenient for travel.
  • We have a little Haier washing machine on the boat. I am in awe of parents who cloth diaper without a washing machine. If we didn't have the washing machine I would probably use gdiapers, a good hybrid of disposable and cloth.
  • soiled diapers get dropped into a bucket. 
  • If the cover smells like pee or has poop on it, the cover goes in the bucket too.
  • Every other day I dump the contents of the bucket into the washing machine.
  • Cold water rinse.
  • Hot water wash with Purex Free & Clear detergent. The main consideration with detergents is that it shouldn't contain enzymes, softeners, brighteners, etc. which can buildup in the diapers and make them less absorbent.
  • Cold water rinse.
  • Second cold water rinse.
  • Hang out on the line to dry.
  • That's it! I spend about 30 minutes every other day washing, drying, and folding the diapers.
I find a couple websites to be informative and to carry a wide range of products:

I am a strong advocate of cloth diapers and would love to answer any questions about the process, products, etc. Do you cloth diaper? Wish you did but aren't sure where to start? Chime in! 

On board m/v Rhumb Line: the forward head

Fresh out of the factory, the Carver 3607's forward head is split with the sink and hanging locker on starboard and the toilet and shower to port. What does that mean to non-boaters? As you are standing in the bathroom at the front of the boat facing the bow (front), the sink is to your right and the toilet and shower are to your left. You pass through the "bathroom" to get to the vee-berth.

On m/v Rhumb Line, that head area has been converted into clothes storage, a changing table, and more clothes storage for the girls. During our first couple years aboard the boat we rarely used this cramped toilet space and micro-sized sink. Now we find ourselves up there multiple times a day. As we went through the invariable nesting that most first-time parents obsess over, we converted the head to clothes and diaper storage as well as a drop-down changing table for Freja. Now it serves as a changing table for Matilda and Freja uses the toilet. When I forget to put the changing table up, she has even figured out how to squeeze under it to use toilet.

A view of Matilda's clothes. Yes, she's small, 
but she has enough clothes for multiple outfit changes per day.
Changing table up . . .

and dropped down.

clean, fresh diapers

the starboard side with Freja's clothes under the sink
and dresses, coats, and clothes that don't quite fit yet in the locker behind the mirror.

Welcome Aboard m/v Rhumb Line

m/v Rhumb Line  is a 1989 Carver 3607 Aft Cabin, a gas guzzling power cruiser. We like to take him (Yes, him. There is nothing remotely feminine about this boat.) out for short sunset cruises in the summer to catch some fresh(er) air to get some peace and quiet from the noise of the city and to get a change of scenery from the marina. But we can't stray far since the boat is powered with two HUGE gas engines, sucking down something like 5 gallons an hour at idle, 20+ gallons an hour when cruising on a plane. So 99.9% of the time, m/v Rhumb Line is our floating condo in Philadelphia. Compared to our 27' Albin Vega sailboat, the Carver is a mighty spacious condo.

a quick sketch of our interior layout
Headroom, windows, copious amounts of sunlight, a tall fridge, two heads (toilets), a shower, a double bed, a washing machine, etc. etc. It's a completely different world--like comparing apples to oranges.

The boat is a late 80's vintage and I can best describe the interior decor as Motel 6 inspired. Lots of pastels and large, watercolor-esque brush strokes. We made short work of ripping out most of the curtains and the beige carpeting and repainting the walls with fresh, bright paint. We stripped and oiled the interior teak and varnished the exterior brightwork. Before Freja was born we converted the vee-berth into a safe space for a baby and made some semi-permanent modifications to the forward head to include a changing table and easy access to all her tiny socks, leggings, and dresses. We constantly battle with climate control--it's always too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but we've added insulation and have learned the best placement for our heaters.

Our jobs are firmly divided between pink and blue jobs. I've embraced this division of labor because I have no interest in working on the engines, the plumbing, or adjusting squeaky docklines at 10PM in January. Hans takes care of all the stereotypical manly-man jobs on the boat while I stay inside and polish the silver.

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for a photographic tour of our floating home as well as discussions of what works and what doesn't for our liveaboard lifestyle.

In the meantime, check out this quick search on to see similar boats: