Fun fact: It’s been just me, W, and Scout on the boat since Hurricane Dorian. During the evacuation, Conor had to leave to attend a military school for two months on the west coast. HE JUST CAME HOME!
Let me tell you, it has not been easy. Major props to single parents out there. I’ve been going going going for weeks with no break. Also, I’ve had to do all the dirty boat chores AND handle an increasingly opinionated toddler. In the past two months, I’ve done 3 pump outs, fixed the central air twice, hauled laundry/groceries/garbage up the docks more times than I can count, shuttled W to swim EVERY DAY+ story time, gymnastics, tot time, and park visits. Itsy bitsy spider and baby shark haunted my dreams. There was either a child clinging to me or a dog in my lap 24/7. My autonomy disappeared.
And I really, really, really missed my adventure partner in all of this.
I know I’ve been sparse with updates recently, but I’ll get back to posting more frequently instead of collapsing on the couch at the end of each day. Thankfully, this was the last major hurdle before the reserves next year. Now that it’s done (and he kicked butt at the school!) we can focus on sailing, cruising prep, and time as a family again. The Marine Corps ball is next week, and we are taking the boat down to Wilmington for 5 nights. Stay tuned for trip updates and see if these boat people can get fancy.
Stroller. Life jacket. Sailing harness. Elephant leash. Lillebaby backpack.
W does not leave the boat without one of these devices. People make jokes when they see my toddler on a leash but Scout running free on the docks. My response? “I trust my dog more than I trust my kid not to fall into the water.” Also, Scout can swim. Little kids are complete egoists with no semblance of self-preservation. Their curiosity knows no bounds. They also like to do the exact opposite of what you tell them.
I encourage W to test her limits daily. She climbs, falls, runs, swings, and plays harder than any kid I’ve met. She makes mistakes and learns from them. Part of this ‘run wild, my child’ mindset is fostering a way and an environment where she can do that independently—but not around water just yet. That’s why I signed W up for ISR.
ISR is a swim program that teaches survival swimming to infants and toddlers. It is an intensive course that runs Monday through Friday for 6-8 weeks straight. Lessons are only 10 minutes per day, but at the end of this program W will be able to fall face-first and fully clothed into the pool, flip herself over, and float on her back. She will learn how to save herself. Here is a link to the website for more information. Be aware, some of the stories are tear-jerkers!
Of course, ISR training is NOT a substitute for child supervision around water. It will just add extra piece of mind in case, God forbid, she ends up in the river. As scary as it is to consider this happening, I need to give my child all the tools I can to support her, especially considering our lifestyle.
We’ve got one full week under our belts. I say ‘we’ because the time and money commitment to this as parents is no joke. W is also understanding that sometimes we must be comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to learn new skills. I just know that it will all be worth it in the end, and she will be SO PROUD of herself for learning to swim.
This weekend, I planned to have an epic post to share with you all. The original Labor Day weekend plan was to motor to Swansboro, stay the night, offshore sail in the freaking OCEAN, stay another night in Swansboro, and then return to Gottschalk with some incredible stories.
Then Hurricane Dorian appeared on the horizon, and plans changed.
Instead, we did an overnight raft up with some of our bestest dock buddies and stayed in New River! For those of you who don’t know what a raft up is, it is when one boat drops anchor and the rest tie up on either side. For this raft up, there were 4 boats in total—Zach and Corri were the “anchor” boat on Minoh, Story Time was on her port side, April Fools (a catamaran) was on the starboard, and the littlest boat was a 26-footer on the end.
It was a ton of fun to be able to walk across 4 boats to eat, drink, chat, and take in the views. 80 degrees, cool breeze, light chop, and surrounded by laughing friends… anchoring out always feels like something out of a dream. It is so removed from real life I wish everyone could experience it. In such perfect weather, it was hard remember that there is a very real hurricane threat lurking.
The next morning, after coffee and breakfast and amid W’s absolute obsession with her “CoCo” (Corri), we hit the beach. Can you tell we were still a bit in denial about the hurricane to-do list waiting for us back at the marina?
I’m thankful we took the time to enjoy ourselves before hurling into this week and all the drama it will bring. Boats are a LOT of work and can be a pain in the butt, especially around this time of year. It was nice to appreciate Story Time for all the joy she brings to our lives before cursing a lengthy checklist while Dorian bears down.
Well, folks, it finally happened. After 2+ years of living aboard, my phone decided to go for a swim.
W and I were playing up in the cockpit yesterday morning. She was of course wearing her life jacket, but decided to try and step off the boat by herself. I grabbed her before she succeeded, and in doing so I sacrificed my phone.
PLOP. Right into the river.
I looked at her. She looked at me. “Mama. Uh oh!”
Yep. Uh oh was right.
I think drowning a phone is right of passage for all boaters. I’m actually surprised I held out this long. A wave of acceptance washed over me as I stared into the murky depths below. Sighing, I went to procure a net. My wonderful neighbor Ron came out and used his expertise to fish for it. Apparently, this was the fourth phone he’d scooped up this year.
Five minutes later, it was back in my hands, covered in mud. It had a case on it, but the port covers were not all the way sealed when it dunked. I wiped it off as best I could, put it in a bag of rice for 24 hours, and hoped for the best.
There was nothing more to do, so why stress? Surprisingly, it ended up being an awesome 24 hours. I kind of liked not being able to talk to anyone, be “on call”, feel guilty for not responding to people right away. No hotspot, no internet, nothing but the here and now. I was completely unplugged and totally present.
W and I had a wonderful day. After my weekend trip to Nashville to celebrate my mom’s 60th, I missed our quality time together. It was quiet and sweet, just the two of us. After she went to bed, instead of procrastinating with Netflix I did some boat projects that had been on my to-do list for a while and got some editing done.
This morning, miracle of miracles, the phone worked when I turned it back on. It is a little janky—the speakerphone works but not regular audio, the center button freaks out, and I am having trouble importing pictures to my computer—but it lives. I thought for sure it was done.
I am happy and grateful that my phone works, but this past day was a great reminder to slow down. I want to make it a regular thing, maybe once per week. Turn everything off and not worry that I’m missing out on something. The cruising lifestyle requires this, so it will be good practice for next year!
We had a fantastic boating experience with another family this weekend. We invited one of my writer friends, her husband, and their two kids to come sailing with us on Sunday morning. This was their first time on a sailboat, and they were eager to learn!
Aspects of boat life that have slowly become mundane to us over the last two years were put into a new and refreshing light when explaining them to a six and eight-year-old. Getting off the dock became more than throwing lines and getting out to sail as quickly as possible. It turned into a fascinating explanation of WHY for everything. Why are there so many ropes? Why do you tie them that way? Why do we throw that over there? Why does the engine make that noise? Why do you have to look for water coming out the back of the boat? A five-minute process turned into twenty, but it enriched the experience for everyone.
Out on the water, the kids steered the boat, learned how to trim the sails, and found out how the navigation equipment worked. We even hung out with some dolphin friends!
Though he has had a great career in the Marine Corps, I really think teaching will be somewhere in my sweet husband’s future. Watching him interact with W fills my heart, but also seeing his ‘teacher mode’ with older kids makes me excited for the years to come. I can’t wait until W is old enough to go from “keep her from falling off the boat” to “active crew participant”.
It just amazes me how kids soak up knowledge and dive into new activities without hesitation. They aren’t afraid to do it wrong or ask questions. This makes sailing even more enjoyable because it snaps adults out of autopilot. Kids make you live in the moment; to stop and think about what you are doing, and most importantly, WHY you are doing it. And the answer is usually, “Because it’s fun!”
People who find out we live on a boat: “How do you deal with a toddler in such a small space?”
Me: “How do you keep track of your toddler in such a large space?”
But really, I think no matter where you live, entertaining a toddler is hard work. This is the struggle that all parents face, the never-ending question of “What are we going to DO today?”
Pros for living on a boat with a toddler:
I’m never more than 10 feet from her at any given time
Boat-proofed is automatically baby-proofed. Everything is latched, furniture is built in, and corners are rounded.
A lot of time spent outdoors
When we are all on the boat, we are all hanging out together!
Don’t have tons of toys underfoot
Everything is spill-proof and waterproof
I’m never more than 10 feet from her at any given time
Silence is never an option
Deck time always involves a lifejacket
No space indoors to run her ragged
The last con is the biggest hurdle for us. How do I make sure my toddler burns off enough energy when she can’t run around outside due to weather? Summer here is challenging. 105 degree days with sudden thunderstorms. Here’s what we do to fill our week and get off the boat:
Early morning walks (most mornings) with an hour pit stop at the park. It is usually cool and shaded enough until 9 am. W can climb to her heart’s content while Scout and I get some exercise.
Story time at Barnes&Noble. Music, books, and socialization with kids. Plus, it is air-conditioned and there is an indoor play area at the other end of the mall. More things to climb.
Tot Time on base, or as W calls it, “T-T!” There is a 2-hour ‘free play’ for kids under 2 in one of the community center gyms on Camp Lejeune. Different toys and socialization time in the AC!
Gymnastics on Thursdays in the ‘Mommy and Me’ class. I think this one is her favorite. By the time the hour class is done, she usually falls asleep in the car.
Starbucks usually precedes a trip to the grocery store. Caffeine boost for Mom and a croissant for W! A good place to hang and people watch.
Library visits are also a favorite. We frequent two that are on base. They have separate kids rooms with puzzles and play structures, too!
Pool time is reserved for super-hot afternoons and extra-energy days. W likes the shaded kiddy pool, and 1 hr after playing in that she’s ready for bed.
Beach days are the best, but less frequent due to the absolute mess involved (read: SAND EVERYWHERE) but we usually go at least once per week. Conor loves doing this with her, so it is usually on the weekend.
Deck time will also entertain W for a while, as long as there is ice involved! Easiest entertainment ever: Get a bag of ice. Put out bowls of different sizes. Give toddler a big spoon. Have her move ice to various containers. When it melts, no cleanup needed! I don’t know why this is so amusing, but W loves it.
These are the big ones. When we are on the boat, we play games, sing songs, build block towers, read books, color, play pretend with baby doll, and try to empty various cabinets.
How do you entertain your toddler? Give me ideas below!
Hello friends. It has been a tough couple of weeks. We found out last week (on Conor’s birthday, unfortunately) that my fifth pregnancy was unviable. For those of you who have been following our journey for a while, you might remember this post where I discussed our three previous losses before getting pregnant with Baby W.
For this current pregnancy, I went in for my first ultrasound at what was supposed to be 10.5 weeks along. It turns out the babies, yes babies—it was twins—stopped growing at 6 weeks. This matched the timeline with 3 of my other losses around the same time. We are devastated. We have lost 5 babies. It doesn’t even seem possible to type it out. 5 babies. Unreal.
I had a D&C yesterday. This is a procedure to surgically remove an incomplete miscarriage because my body wasn’t getting the memo to do it on its own. I opted for the surgical route because I did the medical way with my second miscarriage and it was excruciating. I was in labor with W for 17 hours and gave birth to her unmedicated, and I can safely say I would rather do that again than miscarry with the Cytotec. The D&C procedure went great and today I physically feel fine. Emotionally, well, who knows. We are taking it day by day. Thank God we are so busy with W and we are holding her extra close.
There may be a light at the end of this long tunnel. This is about to get pretty personal, just warning you. My doctor believes I may have what is called a septate uterus. This is a line of cartilage running through the uterus that increases the chance of miscarriage in women by about 40%. If embryos attach to this instead of the uterine wall, there is no blood flow for a placenta to form. This is likely what is happening with me, because the babies all stopped growing around the same time. While it is a relief to maybe have an answer, it means another surgery. It also just really, really sucks because these losses could have been prevented if we had known. The only way to test for this condition, though, is to have recurrent losses.
So as it turns out, Baby W was pretty much a miracle. The likelihood of carrying her to term and having a natural birth with my suspected condition was incredibly low.
The outpouring of love and support from family and close friends during this time has been incredible. We have received cards, care packages, phone calls, and hugs. While it is tempting to just hide away from the world to grieve, it is also so incredibly important to talk about this.
I wanted to share this story because of the impact being open with pregnancy loss has had on the people in my life. Since writing my first story about it, I have had numerous friends reach out to me with their own miscarriage experience because they didn’t know any other women who had gone through the same thing. You are NOT alone. Even once the miscarriage is over, there is still the lingering pain of a future unfulfilled. You remember your due date. Think about your child’s future milestones. Holidays. What you would be doing this very minute if you hadn’t had a loss. It is so hard, and I think that people who have shared this experience have a special connection. We should be free to talk and heal. I channeled some of my experience into Sonder Village with a character who dealt with multiple pregnancy loss and infertility. Writing is my outlet, and a part of me needed to put it in the book to process my own emotions.
Everyone deals with loss differently. Conor has been a rock throughout all of this even though he is grieving and heartbroken, too. I am so thankful to have such a supportive husband by my side throughout all of this. After getting the bad news at the ultrasound last week, I spent the weekend finishing my next book. It was almost like a ‘fuck you’ to the universe. I am STILL ME. I am STILL STRONG. I can STILL do great things. One of my bad ass friends ran a half-marathon the day after getting her terrible news to know her body was still hers. Another friend started a business. Women are incredible, and though we may hurt, we do not break.