Milestone Moment

We have achieved a milestone on STORY TIME. After two and a half years of planning departures and returns around nap time or bedtime, we returned to our slip while W was awake and in the cockpit.

I was a nervous wreck as we approached the dock. We spent the night on another incredible anchor out, and our return time didn’t match up with nap time. While Conor and I have docked the boat with our daughter awake before, it has always been with an extra crew member or two to wrangle her and keep her occupied while we worked. This time, it was just the two of us.

With all that can go wrong during docking, it was always the easiest choice to have her asleep and out of the way in the past. I didn’t want to think about her grabbing the wheel while Conor was backing up, or tripping on deck while I tried to catch a line, or especially going overboard so close to the dock. All of this flashed through my mind and Conor had to remind me that she wasn’t a baby anymore.

This was the natural next step. W knows how to behave on a boat. She knows what she is and is not allowed to do, ingrained from her earliest memories. She knows where her safe spot is to sit and, most importantly, STAY when Mommy and Daddy are busy.

We talked it up the whole trip back to the marina—expectations, what was going to happen, and what we needed her to do. I am also not above bribery and set her up with a lollipop to entertain her while she watched the action.

As parents we cannot let our personal fears interfere with our children’s opportunities to rise to occasions. They often prove to us that they are ready before we think they are, and when given the chance, can blow us away. We chose to live aboard to provide growth and development opportunities that are unmatched in a traditional home. When faced with such a choice this time, I had to take a deep breath and trust her.

milestone
Explaining the docking process. She knows it is serious!

And guess what? W did AMAZING. She didn’t move, or demand attention, or grab anything. She sat quietly and watched, a feat I assumed to be nearly impossible for a child under three. I think that within the next two years, she will graduate to throwing and catching lines! She is well on her way to becoming a productive crew member in her own right. This comes just in time to start all over again with baby brother in a few months! At least he will have W to show him the ropes.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, W, and Baby

 

Fishing for Phones

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!

 

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Keeping Boat Baby Busy

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

Cons:

  • 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.

tot time
Ice Ice Baby

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!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Keep Us In Your Hearts

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.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Shake Out The Sails…

Because Story Time is officially back at it this season! Sunday was our first sail of 2019 and MAN did it feel great to be out on the water again. 75 degrees and sunny with 5-10 knot winds means that winter has finally lifted. Conor is home from Norway at last, and there is no better way to reconnect as a family than doing what we love all together.

It didn’t matter that we discovered a rip in our mainsail (again! Seriously, wtf) and the wind died on us for about an hour out there, because our engine ran great, our rigging looks good, and Story Time seems no worse for the wear after hanging out in her slip for the past 4 months.

We had a magical encounter with a pod of 6 dolphins that played around our boat for at least 20 minutes. I could have reached out and touched them, they were that close. I was a bit nervous to see how W would cooperate while we were sailing now that she’s extremely mobile, but she loves her sailing harness and was very into ‘helping’ with the lines.

harness

Looking at this picture makes my heart so full. She’s only 15 months but ready to dive right in to every adventure. I can just see the little girl she’ll become—brave and fierce!

I’m keeping this post short and sweet so we can get back to family time, but now that Conor is home I will be able to update more frequently with sailing and liveaboard life. After only 2 posts in March (gah!) I promise to be more on top of it in April.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

2018 Recap Video

 

Well guys, Conor is back in North Carolina to do Marine things. W and I are still hanging in WA because he is going to be so busy, but we miss him so much! Thank God for Skype.

To commemorate what a great year we had as a family, I put together a little recap video for 2018. Our 2017 video is here, and our 2018 one picks up right where that one left off! It is crazy to look back and see how tiny W used to be. This year consisted of sleepless nights, two cross-country trips to WA, boat work, long summer nights, great sailing as a family of 3, and more. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed that I was able to put this together just a week after New Year. The 2017 recap video didn’t get posted until March 2018. I think I’m more on top of it this year!

The song is ‘End of the World’ by the Dirty Heads. Thanks for following our journey!

 

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Boat Baby On The Move

We have reached a new milestone as W approaches her first birthday: climbing.

This child. Good lord. She isn’t walking yet, but has refused to allow her lack of bipedal mobility to slow her down. Capable of traversing the boat from v-berth to aft cabin in a mere 3 seconds, our speed crawler leaves a path of destruction in her wake. Nothing is safe on tables or settee couches. This week she figured out how to get up onto our bed, and already has her sights set on her next challenge: the stairs.

Favorite games this week include standing on couches and pulling her books down, emptying Mom’s closet, terrorizing the dog (who can no longer escape up high and out of reach), and knocking the fruit basket down.

To make the cockpit and deck a safe place to explore (and lower Mom’s blood pressure) we got this child sailing harness from West Marine. It gives her the freedom to move without us worrying about her going overboard. We haven’t used it sailing yet (and will probably use it in combination with a life jacket while we are underway) but it has been great at the dock for some outside playtime. My sister’s response when I sent this photo to my family: “Oh how cute. Is she a rescue?”

harness

Just as we figure out this stage, in a blink she will be walking! And with it a whole new set of challenges. We are loving every minute of it, though, and feel lucky to view the world through her curious eyes. Nothing holds this “Go Go Go” baby back!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Writer Life

While we are still quite a ways off from our cruising dreams, I feel like the next 18 months are going to fly by. We need to start thinking ahead and planning for the future, especially for our financial future. Active duty military life has been a safety net for us, but soon we will be out in the “real” world. So guess what I did? I got a job.

Well, two jobs really. Freelance writing and contracting gigs that I can do from the boat while W is asleep. I am a content creator for an athleisure wear company called DYI and write things like mailers, product description, and ad campaigns. My other job is working for a company called Elite Editing. I’m just doing some of their blog posts right now, but eventually will be editing manuscripts for people looking to self-publish novels and writing the accompanying blurbs/taglines.

Don’t get me wrong, writing novels is still my #1 passion. Actually, I couldn’t have gotten these other jobs without having “Traditionally published author” on my resume. The opportunities came up thanks to some wonderful friends who thought I would be a good fit and encouraged me to apply. Plus, the hours and schedule flexibility were just too good to pass up! As W gets older and more independent, I can increase my workload. Right now, it is great to squirrel away extra money for our cruising kitty.

I feel like I finally have my feet under me with regards to parenting and boat life, and it is time to slowly ease back into the workforce. My book, Cloaked, is still going strong and I have another book on the way (more to come on that soon!). Between writing novels, book promo, two freelance jobs, keeping up this blog, and raising a baby, my brain is always going 100 mph!

Writing, writing, writing, all day long. I never thought I would be able to write for a living, and now that dream is coming true. We will see how it all balances out, especially with the craziness of Marine Corps schedules, but for now I’m staying on top of it all. If anyone has any organizational tips, send them my way!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

Proud Fair-weather Sailors

We are fair-weather sailors and not ashamed to admit it. Though one day we aspire to be salty and experienced in all conditions, now is not the time to be reckless. We have a baby on board. Enough said.

I will admit it can be frustrating. In order for us to take the boat out, we have to work around nap schedules, military life, and weather windows. Basically, we have to sail on weekends, with decent temperatures, no storms or high winds in the 12-hour forecast, and be back at the dock in time for baby bedtime routine. This perfection only occurs about once or twice per month, sadly.

Before W came around, “good enough” conditions were just fine. It was a thrill to handle the unexpected, and learn on our toes. Now, it just isn’t worth sacrificing our family happiness to push ourselves to the limit on the boat. Stressed out Mama=stressed out baby, and that means lots of screaming. That is not my idea of quality family time!

So for now we are making the most of our easy sailing days, and focusing on making positive memories with our boat baby. We had an absolutely wonderful, easy sailing day this weekend with some good friends. Sunny, 7 mph winds, and 68 degrees. Conor and I actually got a few pictures together! Can you believe it’s November?

I’m hoping this won’t be our last sail of the season, but I have to accept that it may well be. Last year, temperatures dropped dramatically after Thanksgiving. If we are lucky enough to have good weather for the next few weeks, we will jump on our chance. But if there is any doubt…well, we still have springtime sailing to look forward to!

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W

S/V STORY TIME

Let me start off this post by showing you the BEST PHOTO OF OUR BOAT EVER TAKEN!

best boat

Shout out to Chelsea and Chris, our B-dock neighbors, for taking this awesome shot.

Now for the updates.

We renamed our boat! You all know we decided on STORY TIME a loonnnggg time ago, but this past weekend we finally got around to putting the new decals up and having our celebration. We wanted to make it a big deal, marking our 1 year anniversary at Gottschalk Marina and surviving our first hurricane. So many amazing people have come into our lives this past year, and we wanted to thank them all for being such great friends. How do you show people you love them? Give them lots of food and alcohol!

Here was the script we used for the renaming ceremony. The first part is letting go of the old name, AT LAST, and the second part is the christening. Boat re-namings are very particular and stem from centuries of superstition. We followed a script we found online, but made some of our own modifications. The cutest one was W hitting her xylophone instead of us ringing a bell 🙂

Opening Invocation & BlessingTay

Ring the ship’s bell and call the ceremony to order.

In the name of all who have sailed aboard this vessel in the past and in the name of all who may sail aboard her in the future, we invoke the ancient god of wind, Aeolus, and the ancient god of sea, Neptune, also hailed as Poseidon, to favor us with their blessings today.

Expression of GratitudeTay

Mighty Neptune, King of all that moves in or on the waves, and mighty Aeolus, guardian of the winds and all that blows before them…We offer gratitude for the protection you have afforded this vessel in the past. We express our thanks that she has always found shelter from tempest and storm and that she always enjoyed safe passage to port.”

xylophone
Calling the ceremony to order

Supplication & De-NamingConor

Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage… We implore you in your graciousness to expunge for all time from your records and recollection the name AT LAST which has ceased to be an entity in your kingdom. As proof thereof, we submit this token bearing her name to be corrupted through your powers and forever be purged from the sea”

At this point, the coin with AT LAST is dropped from the bow of the boat into the sea.

Now the name of this vessel which has hitherto been known as AT LAST is struck and removed from all records and archives. In grateful acknowledgment we offer these libations.”

(Pour champagne into water)

Ring the bell. Everyone drink a toast.

bowchampagne

Now to prepare for the renaming…

Rededication & Preparation for Re-NamingTay

Oh mighty and great ruler of the seas and oceans, to whom all ships and we who venture upon your vast domain are required to pay homage, we implore you in your graciousness to guard this worthy vessel with your mighty arm and trident and ensure her safe and rapid passage throughout her journeys within your realm. In good faith, we seal this pact with a libation offered according to the hallowed ritual of the sea…we offer these libations to Neptune and the sea.” (Pour champagne and toast)

Oh mighty rulers of the winds, through whose power our frail vessels traverse the wild and faceless deep, we implore you to grant this worthy vessel the benefits and pleasures of your bounty and your gentle protection.”

(Pour champagne and toast)

Placing of Good Luck Symbols—Conor

As you likely know, part of the custom of a boat renaming ceremony is to place a silver dollar under the mast to show the boat that we will take care of every financial need the boat has. But instead of a silver dollar, we have a unit coin.

We will not place it under the mast, but instead it will be placed at the helm with promises to never steer our vessel wrong. We hope this shows the boat that we will look for fair winds and following seas, and to make her part of our great memories together.

Ring the bell. Everyone drink a toast.

We will now perform the Re-naming.”

Renaming—Tay

Ring the bell—wait for silence.

I name this ship STORY TIME….Let it be recorded, that on this day October 6th, 2018 and forever more, this fine vessel is named STORY TIME.”

storytime1

Take a bottle of champagne, shake it and spray it on the hull.

Finally, a toast to all of you, with many thanks for coming today to help carry out our naming ceremony. Cheers!!”

Ring the bell.

groupphoto (2)
The crew!

Then, we partied all evening. Our inaugural sail was the next morning, and STORY TIME danced along the wind. We are very happy with how everything turned out, and are grateful for our dream boat and wonderful friends.

Love,

Taylor, Conor, and W