Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Squeezed in

our floating home...it seemed so big when we first bought it..when there was only two of us!
Some days it just feels like the boat is positively bursting at its seams. Not so much in terms of "too much stuff," but in terms of "too many people." When we first moved aboard it was just the two of us. We had tons of space. A guest bedroom and bathroom even! Then we had our first daughter and it was no big deal. Babies take up very little room and we didn't have very much stuff for her, she slept with us for the first six months of her life..we still had space. Then our second came along and we squeezed in a little more. The vee-berth is 100% kid land now (pink and blue - their favorite colors - little clothes, artwork tacked on the walls, stuffed animals, books - typical kid bedroom stuff). But of course they never want to hang out in their bedroom so they take over the main cabin - the living room. Suddenly our long, tall, and wide boat doesn't have enough space. They are loud (something which I don't discourage...they're kids, I'm loud, we're loud), our toddler demands the entire couch then the older one demands the entire floor and vice versa. Hans and I are relegated to the galley, but we can barely hear each other talk because they girls are so busy singing and playing their loud game of pirates or mermaids or fairies or Frozen. Calm doesn't descend until bedtime. And then it is blissfully quiet.

We could make changes. We could ask for inside voices, we could not have Disney songs blasting from Spotify, we could encourage them to play a quiet game or puzzles or legos. We could (and often do) let them watch some TV in the evening, pre-dinner when we're trying to talk about our days and relax. But, normally, we don't. Just like I encourage creativity by providing art supplies and blank white paper, I can't stifle their creativity by asking them to ease up on their imaginative play. "Captain Hook is coming! Quick! Hide the treasure!" Of course that's loud, and it should be!

When there aren't enough seats for everyone, or a desk to check your email, you improvise.
Chasing down a leak. This is our bed platform all taken apart and Hans is troubleshooting the hot water heater. Note that he's still in his scrubs. Welcome home. Glad you saved some lives...but seems like we have a leak... no rest for the weary! 

But there are times, when we're in the middle of a fairy rescue and the dragon is about to breathe fire, when I dream of a bigger space...a house. A house with a playroom that is not also the living room open onto the kitchen. A house where we can't all touch each other just by reaching out our arms. Maybe even a house where there's a backyard for the kids to be outside, and out of earshot, for an hour or so. Yes, I'd love a little more space. I think we all would. The girls get sick of each other and start fighting or complaining. This morning we had one kid at school and the other one at home, and the one at home was SO happy to have the whole place to herself. No sharing! I hear you little one.
It's impossible to line up all your matchbox cars on the couch if you have to share the space! Lucky Matilda got the boat to herself this morning.
I'll always be tied to boats and to the water. I'll be living aboard and various times throughout my life, but when the kids are little, and loud, some more space would surely be welcome.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Adventurer + parent: making the combination happen

...on sailing and fear and parental responsibility

One of my favorite things about sailing is the space it gives me to think, or not think. I find it so meditative to be out on the water with only the sound of wind and water lapping against the hull. Yes, sailing is romantic. It can also be meditative when the wind is up and we're heeled over, sometimes burying the rain, scrambling to shorten sail - that's the time when 100% of my attention is on the action at hand. My mind is certainly not drifting to my daily stressors. There's no room for them on board. That's a different kind of meditation.

I've always done some of my best thinking and dreaming out on the water. It's one of the only places that I can let go of the daily grind and just be. The kids feel it too. I'll often hear them singing or humming when they're on deck - caught up in the moment.

Last week I went sailing with a friend who is a newbie and she started asking questions about making long passages. She wanted to know if I was scared when we were out on the ocean, out of sight of land, back in the days when we were cruising in the Caribbean. My answer: no, not really, and for a few reasons: 1) I was 100% confident in our boat and I have enough boat and sailing knowledge that I knew how the boat would react to big waves or big winds, 2) we were prepared for worst-case scenarios, we knew what would happen and how we would deal with man overboard or sinking, 3) we only made short passages so, with the exception of squalls, we were never surprised by the weather, and 4) I was in my 20s, pre-kids. What, exactly, are single, 20-year-old kids scared of?

So now, ten years later with two kids and a little sailboat, I admitted that I do get nervous when it gets windy on the river, or when the boat heels (tips) uncomfortably, or when a gust of wind pushes us. I haven't felt that kind of trepidation since we first started sailing, when I didn't really know what I was doing, and even then it wasn't the kind of "oh shit gut-wrenching fear" that I get sometimes when the kids are aboard.

We have dreams of taking our kids on long sailing trips. I dream of showing them places in the world that are only accessible by boat. I dream of long passages. My friend, similarly, dreams of going on adventures with her family - living in different places, exploring the world, not falling into the easy trap of suburbia. How, then, can these dreams become reality if, as a mother, I now feel a type of protective mama bear fear that I've never felt before? The stakes are infinitely higher when you are responsible for little people. Their lives, literally, are in my hands. (I can see why people choose to stay snugly in suburbia.) The stakes are a little higher, to say the least. With these high stakes and with the fear and with the socially-accepted, easy option of suburbia, how can I be both an adventurer and a parent?

We bought a little sailboat last summer because we like sailing. I missed sailing and needed to be out on the water (in an active sense, not sitting on a boat at the dock like I do with 80% of my time). By taking the kids sailing on a regular basis, we're teaching them how to sail and, hopefully, instilling a love of sailing at a young age. (At least we're teaching them that we love sailing and they just have to grin and bear it.) Generally speaking, kids don't like change. By incorporating sailing into their lives at a young age, hopefully it won't be too shocking when we move onto a sailboat, cut the docklines, and sail to the horizon. Here's hoping, at least.

Get the right gear that will keep you and your kids safe. This is a big deal. I'd be scared shitless if I were driving down the highway and the kids weren't strapped in carseats. Likewise, I want a boat (my chosen method of adventuring) that has tough enough rigging for strong winds, that has heavy ballast to right itself, and has a sturdy rudder that will stay firmly attached to the boat. I want appropriately-sized ground tackle (anchor and chain) to keep us in one place all night. Hans recently rebuilt the v-berth on our current sailboat so the girls will be more secure when we're underway. Sailing with kids is more relaxing now b/c I don't have to worry about them falling through the gap between the cushions.

Having a strong base of knowledge to fall back on can keep you confident and rational. Knowledge has always been a big thing for me. Before I actually stepped on a boat, I read about sailing. A lot. I practiced knots in the living room. I learned the vocabulary. When, at long last, I finally did start sailing, I wasn't (too) scared of capsizing, I knew how to cleat off the line, and I knew that ropes are called lines. I wasn't always comfortable and I was certainly scared at times, but I knew the reason for everything and I could logically talk myself out of fear.

Have a good plan in place for the trip or adventure - a plan that considers the basics of sleep and food to more abstract preferences such as personal interests of each person on the trip. Basically, don't get hungry, don't get cold, don't get tired, and make sure everyone is having a good time. Scale back. When we go sailing now with the kids, we go for an hour or two. Enough time to get the wind in the sails, but not really enough time for the kids to get bored and whiney. Change the adventure to accommodate shorter attention spans, hungry bellies, and the need to be with other kids and running around doing kid things.

Find your community of adventurers and embrace it. Make friends - local and long-distance - and get support and encouragement from like-minded people. Choosing adventure over a more traditional lifestyle of house-school-job is challenging. It's hard to go off the beaten track, but having a group of people to bounce ideas off of and get inspiration from is invaluable. Likewise, involve and educate your everyday community (your friends and family) so you can get support and encouragement from those that already love you and your kids.

Go with the idea that plans can and will change, but choosing adventure means being open to the adventure, no matter how that adventure may evolve.

Be confident and clear in your dreams and aspirations. Naysayers abound and successful adventuring depends in a large part on remaining steadfast to your own personal commitment. Know why you want to do something different - the short-term benefits and the long-term benefits. There are so many reasons that I want to take my kids on an extended sailing trip (aka cruising), but many of them revolve around the reasons why I feel it is important to travel with kids. I'd like to take them out of their comfort zone to know that with risk comes reward. Sure, traveling by sailboat is often akin to camping, but then you get to an island unpopulated by humans. You see a night sky untouched by light pollution. You hear the earth uninterrupted by human noise. You can sail to an iceberg.

We're still a number of years away from going on a big adventure with our kids, but I'm determined that the adventure will happen. I'm working on making it happen now. We go on small adventures - we go sailing, we go camping, we go on road trips and the kids can easily handle a six hour car ride (thank you DVD player). A stationary life has never been the life for me. I love my community and I love making local connections, but I yearn to see what's around the next corner and what people a few hundred miles away are eating for dinner. With some planning, knowledge, and preparation, I'm confident that I won't let fear or the ease of a more traditional life get in the way of taking off. The promise of adventure is just too great for that.

our monkeys aren't afraid of much
I think they have the adventurer spirit built in to their DNA.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Living Authentically

 A fellow blogger over on Goodie Goodie Gumdrop posed a question in a recent article that challenged me: Tell me how you are living authentically?

Jessica defines living authentically as striving toward a life that makes you happy without fear or naysayers dictating what you choose to do.

Am I living authentically? Yes. In the sense that I am trying my hardest to make life good for myself and my family, while at the same time acknowledging the long view. Is my life 100% perfect and exactly how I want to live? Nope. There are things I want to do now but can't because of my commitment to my family. I've absolutely put a lot of my own aspirations on hold for my family. I have dreams of where I'll be in ten years, and it's not here. Not on this boat at a dock with my husband working and me being the housewife and having my days arranged around playdates and naps. It's great right now because that's where we are in life. I've said it before, right now works, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. It's not perfect and it's not my ideal, but it's authentic. Yes. I am being true to myself and my dreams.

As a family, our authentic life is defined by: a certain amount of self-determination, a certain amount of compromise, and concrete limits (Hans's training and our finances). How do I find the sweet spot of living authentically (read: happily, fulfilled, challenged) within the constraints of regular life? How do I make my current life satisfying and happy when I know it's not my ultimate dream?

Embrace the now
Embracing the now is probably the most crucial component of living authentically. It's impossible to be happy today if I'm only thinking about my ideal life. Embracing the now means doing things that make me happy and also challenge me. Sailing is huge. We have a little sailboat and my happiest moments are spent out on the water. You can call it a hobby or a past time, but, regardless, in order to embrace the now it's important to find an activity where you can just relax and be happy. Running, sewing, playing a team sport, cooking - there are lots of options. I gravitate to being active and outdoors.

Challenge yourself
I struggle with finding challenge in my daily life. Don't get me wrong, I am not a supermom. But, at this point, dealing with tantrums, cleaning up the constant mess, providing space and activities for my kids to be engaged - this is all pretty routine and, while dealing with a tantrum is most definitely challenging in the moment, I'm talking about finding personal challenge for myself that engages a different part of my brain than making pb&j and drawing with sidewalk chalk.

These monkeys keep me on my toes!

After years of dipping in and out of yoga practice, I'm fully one of those yoga people now. Like a friend said: I drank the yoga Kool-Aid. I aim to do at least three videos a week and, in turn, those videos make me feel strong, a tiny bit more flexible, and my bad shoulder is FINALLY starting to feel better.

I would like to start volunteering and I've found an organization that would be a perfect fit for both my schedule and my interests, but it seems like my initial challenge is simply finding a time to meet with the volunteer coordinator. Between her schedule, mine, and my kids being sick, the initial meeting has yet to happen.

I talk about community a lot. It is extremely important to me. (Case in point: two neighbors came rushing over to help yesterday evening when I was home alone and Freja vomited all over the main cabin. LOVE my marina neighbors.)

One of my job titles is stay-at-home-mom, and, like all other professionals, I need colleagues. I have a number of mom friends, near and far, that I rely on for play dates, internet humor, and nap time phone calls of support. I recently started going to a weekly mom's group (childcare provided!), and the support and community offered there is strong.

Eyes on the prize
While I am currently living authentically by focusing on the here and now, I can do so because we have concrete goals for the future. We have a rough time line, we have a plan, we have a clear vision. We know what we want to do and we feel confident that we will get there. It is vital to have a game plan, otherwise we'd swing from branch to branch, looking for the perfect place to land, but taking ten years to get there, as opposed to five if we had a good plan. I keep the plan in my back pocket, so if I'm feeling stuck or having a bad day, I know that it's all part of the bigger picture.

Cutting myself a break
Striving to live authentically can be exhausting. I certainly don't spend every day thinking about how I can make it the best day ever, nor do I want to fall into the trap of just letting the days go by unnoticed and unremarkable. But some days I just chill out. I let the girls watch TV. I read a book on the back deck at nap time. I nap at nap time. I drive the girls to school instead of bike. We order pizza for dinner.

Living authentically means being happy today and dreaming for tomorrow. I try to strike a good balance between the two; I recognize my weakness and try to actively work toward personal challenge; I try to sit back and enjoy the here and now.