Thursday, July 02, 2015

birthday, camping, and catching up

We are all together again and so there has been less time on the computer and more just hanging out, enjoying the summer, and doing loads of boat work.

And of course June was special not just because we got Doug back from the Middle East, but also it was Zach's 11th birthday. ELEVEN. That's very big and still so very little at the same time.

Celebrating was a low key gathering of friends for what was supposed to be a pool party at the marina. But thunder and lightening were threatening a storm, so they closed the pool. Not a worry, the kids made themselves happy with a big water fight, staying cool in the sweltering humidity.

(Zach is holding a plastic fake dog poo. This is one of his favorite birthday gifts.)




We had a little family celebration at home on the boat...



And then per the wishes of the birthday boy, we went camping up at Shenandoah National Park. It was our first time camping with Choo Choo, so we weren't sure what to expect with him. Thankfully Shenandoah is a very dog friendly park. But we found out that Choo is a bit of a prima donna.



We went to a local cave, did a little hiking, and checked out a bizarre local museum with old parade floats.








My baby boy is eleven, really? Sigh.

Monday, June 08, 2015

183/ 24/ 7

I've been keeping a tiny secret. Since the week after Thanksgiving I have been solo with the kids. My husband was deployed to Qatar for work... for 6 months. I haven't mentioned it except to close friends because it didn't seem prudent to let anyone and everyone know I was alone with the kids on the boat. So from the first week in December, through the winter holidays, during the trip to Nicaragua, into the winter from hell, and on forward into spring and the start of summer it's just been the kids and me. Because we homeschool it's been a non-stop party of three for 6 months. 183 days, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No help from grandparents. No babysitters. No breaks. At all. Not even for an hour.

I now pause to bow down and pay respects to parents who are solo all the time for whatever reason. Holy guacamole!

Was it hard? Hell yeah, but not in the ways I anticipated. Boat chores and maintenance, daily grind, and traveling with the kids was all perfectly manageable. What was the most difficult was the loneliness. Night after night having to get dinner on the table, things cleaned up, activities and such prepped for the next day and no adult conversation was crazy making. No adult company save for the passing chats of marina folks walking around or talking long distance with friends on Facebook. I experienced 2 deaths of people dear to me. I juggled medical issues, mechanical issues, technical issues, and all of the everyday. All alone. Manageable, but lonely.

I learned a lot from the experience. First and foremost, when somebody is struggling or going through a rough patch don't ever, ever say... "Let me know if I can help."  Because people who need help don't have the strength to come up for air and ask for it. They can't let you know because they are treading water and out of breath. Just show up.  Bring coffee. Bring wine. Tell (don't ask) the person you are picking up the kids for the afternoon and they can have some time off. Invite them to dinner on a specific night. Drop off a lasagna. Include them in potlucks and cook outs and get togethers. Having gone without all that and needing just a little of it so desperately, I realize how I can be a better helper to others when they are down and out and alone. Facebook doesn't count. Make the time. Show up.

As for the kids, it was difficult on them in different ways. I was grateful for Facetime which made it possible for them to have a video chat with daddy just about once a day. Virtual parents are no substitute for the real thing, but it's so much better than I imagine it was "back in the day", when kids just waited for a letter in the mailbox and stay at home parents lived in total isolation while the other was deployed.  Thank you technology!

I noticed when we were around other adult men, the kids would gravitate to them. Our cousin in DC, friend's dads, dock neighbors, whoever it was they seemed to crave that daddy figure time.  For Naia it was all very confusing. She knew Daddy was at work, and could point to Qatar on a map and drag her little finger back to Maryland. She knew he was coming back, but when? At age 4 they basically have zero grasp on time. To her, 6 months meant counting to 6 and daddy was supposed to appear. Zach understood fully. He can do math and understands time and calendars and time zones and all. Most days he was a big helper, and steady as can be. But once and a while he would crack. He would have a good cry and wish daddy was back sooner and say how unfair it was and hug a lot and then be ok.

It was of course hard on Doug too. He worked non-stop, 12 hours days, every single day for the 6 months. It was a grind. And being away from the kids was tough on him too.





This is why the blogging has been slow and infrequent. By this last month I was crawling to the finish line. Trying to meet deadlines, keeping it together, getting end of year homeschool review together, so tired... so very tired.

(Tracking his flight online with FlightAware. The kids loved watching the little plane icon move across the globe in real time.)

Getting Doug at the airport yesterday was sort of hilarious. We got there way too early, so excited about seeing him. Then the long wait started. The kids ran in circles, whined a lot, played games, spilled snacks, whined some more, ran some more. So many people steadily streaming out of customs, none of them were daddy. I started a joke to keep them going, I'd see a person who was clearly not daddy and say, "Look there's daddy. He's really short and bald now." Or, "Look there's daddy, he's got long blonde hair and wears red dresses now." It would make Zach roll his eyes and Naia collapse into laughter.

When he did finally come out, little Naia was so hopped up on anticipation she fell to the floor and wept. Yes, my sweet, we all feel it.






Despite the long haul, at the end of it all... we did it. It truly made us all stronger. It made us realize how important it is to stay strong as a family, working together and getting through the rough spots. It made me extra grateful on those long lonely days to climb into bed late at night and see my babies sleeping there, holding each other like little monkeys. Grateful to climb in next to them and snuggle all night long. And now so grateful that we're all together, home. Because home is not where you are, but who you're with.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

evenings on deck

We've settled into a new pattern with the warmer, longer evenings. No longer are we scurrying indoors and hiding from the cold and dark. We're all having a hard time coming inside at all until the sun is far below the horizon and the first three stars are out.

The new evening entertainment is just hanging out on the foredeck. Swinging, jumping, spoiling the dog, tackling, giggling, reading, playing ukulele, anything as long as it's out in the fresh fabulous spring air.  We're savoring each sunset. Sometimes we blow the conch horn. Other times we snap a dozen photos, and still other times we just stare silently in gratitude for another beautiful day.















Wednesday, May 06, 2015

girls weekend

Recently Naia and I had a weekend all to ourselves. She was so excited to have a "only girls weekend", yet neither of us really knew what that was going to mean. Of course, when guys have a weekend to themselves, they sit around and eat junky food and watch bad movies, right? We ladies do things a little differently.

This is the disgusting goop that falls under our cockpit floor tiles all winter long. We decided it was warm enough to tackle cleaning the boat cockpit.






Yeah, we know how to party, scrub brushes and a hose. Look out world! Sorry I don't have an after photo, just imagine it all white and clean.

Naia also wanted to plant a garden. We have a long history of neglecting and killing plants in our family, she hasn't caught on to that yet. So I let her plop some tomato seeds into some soil. I am not sure why I bother getting organic everything when nothing will ever sprout up from our dirt box. Ever hopeful, maybe she holds the green thumb in the family.




The best part of girls weekend was just having the undivided attention to spend with my wee girl. We spoiled the dog (even though he is a boy, he was allowed), we played loud music, we looked for water snakes, and I got her hooked on Enid Blyton books. She is such a great little buddy to have around. I can't wait to have more weekends like this with her.






Saturday, May 02, 2015

wild edibles walk

I can safely say it now. No more chance of a freeze. It's finally spring. Finally. I know this because Naia said so. And I make it a point not to argue with 4 year olds.

We were chatting in a friend's front yard, kids playing and parents hanging out. The dad of these friends gathered a bouquet of violets and handed it to Naia. She smiled and accepted, then without missing a beat she stuffed the bouquet in her mouth. The look on that dad's face was priceless. He said, "I've never given flowers to a lady before and had her eat them."

I love that Naia knows her wild edibles pretty well for a 4 year old. She gets that clover, onion grass, dandelion, red bud, various mints, and of course violets are all good to munch on.




We proceeded to pick (with permission) all of the violets from their yard, and went home to make violet simple syrup (though it looked more pink than violet/purple.) And from that you can then make lemonade or spritzers for a spring time drink.
Zach invited some friends over to have violet lemonade and red bud ice cubes.











There was quite a bit of sugar in these drinks. Herbal, but sugary. Things got a little silly. Because it's spring.
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