Thursday, January 23, 2014

ice world

This is the year of ice. It's fairly unusual for us to have temperatures cold enough to create this Arctic scene we have around our boat this month.

And it's not just around the boat, but inside our bubble too.

Way back when, when Doug and I first moved aboard our first boat with our intrepid mutt Schooner-dog, we experienced a winter like this. Then we smiled upon global warming, burned some styrofoam, and hoped for the best. I guess our luck ran out.

The kids love the ice. I mean when they poke their wee noses out of the bubble and see ice on the water it's suddenly party time. Naia loves throwing rocks across the smooth, thin ice layers that first form. She laughs each time as she's expecting a PLOP and gets a SKID instead. But that's the early ice that forms when the weather is still tolerable.

Then the thicker ice of deep winter sets in. We can hear it bumping against our hulls like clumsy polar bears. Zach and the other boat kids love pressing their luck on the edge of the sinking dinghy dock so they can throw snowballs...

...and of course poke ice chunks with sticks. Of course.

Sometimes I chuckle thinking about Zach age 40 saying to his kids, "When I was YOUR age, I didn't have these newfangled toys you kids have, I played with icebergs, sticks, and rocks!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

winter... again

Naia and I lasted about 20 minutes during the first dusting (with 30 minutes of dressing and another 10 undressing.) Zach and his friends stayed out in the single digit, snowing, 25mph wind weather all. afternoon. long. We called them inside at sunset. That's pure puppy power.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Just Naia

Everyone told me that by age 3 she's be a full on Disney Princess diva. Like there was somehow no avoiding it. No matter how we raised her or what our home life was like, it would just happen. She would dictate to me what she would wear each day, and it would of course be Pepto Bismol pink with loads of sparkles. She would spend her days pretending to get married to Princes and wearing tiaras and tutus and puffy sleeved dresses. And that, I was told, is how little girls end up. Period.

Well here we are at 3 1/4 years and nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe it's having a big brother? Maybe it's this outdoor life we lead? Maybe it's because we don't have a TV and limit what she sees on a screen at all? Maybe it's just who she is.

"I'm just NAIA!", she declares to anyone who bends down and calls her Princess in sugary tones normally reserved for cats.

She could care less about clothes, which I love because then I get to dress her up any way I like.

Colors don't matter either, though she leans towards yellow. Her play is totally gender neutral. She's just as happy playing with her brother's Legos, playing with her animals and babies, or driving her little trucks around. She loves books, sorting tiny things, pestering her brother, singing, dancing, and stomping in puddles.

Dinner conversations with Naia often go something like this, "Mama does Santa Claus fart?" (yes honey, I'm sure he does) "Do you think his farts smell like candy canes and cookies?"

She is confident, outgoing, well mannered, and the boss of the whole wide world. We joke that she will one day be the supreme dictator of her own small island nation.

She loves making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing. She is also affectionate, extremely empathetic, and loving as anything.

She's of the age where people are always asking if she's in preschool yet. No, we don't plan to send her to preschool, or any school really. I am so happy to have the space enough between kids to have the hindsight about early learning and what really matters. We could care less about her learning letters, writing her name, counting, "socializing", and all the rest of the stuff gringos tend to think is necessary for little ones. After going through the paces with child #1, I have since realized and learned that those things can and will come later on and learning them early offers NO, and I repeat NOOOO benefit.

What is most important to us is that she is well mannered, considerate, helpful, joyful, curious, secure, and experiences as much as possible while in the loving circle of her family.

Playing with bugs, creating something out of nothing, knowing where food really comes from, appreciating understanding music, forming relationships, hearing poetry, testing limits, getting bored, feeling frustrated, solving problems,and most importantly just being free to be.

She doesn't need toddler ballet lessons or gymnastics or karate, (though we are doing swim lessons because ya know, we live on a boat.) She needs to be a kid. And even if one day she decides to bust out in a pink Princess dress and tiara, that's fine by me too. It's all part of growing up. I don't care if she's the first one reading or the last one finishing the race. I don't care if she can make letters or draw people or button her sweater. It will all come when she's ready. I just want her to savor this brief, beautiful ride we call childhood.

She's not a Princess or a Tom Boy. As she always reminds everyone, she's just Naia. And she's just right.

Monday, January 13, 2014

what the fox said...

We hear lots of things from our boat when we sleep with the hatches open. We can hear the fog horn from Thomas Point Lighthouse. We hear when the recycling truck comes to empty the dumpsters. We hear great blue herons squawk as they land on the pilings nearby. We hear neighbors wheeling dock carts to their boats.  Last night we heard something very strange. It woke Doug and Naia and I all at the same time, and we all popped up to figure it out. It was a repetitive howl/ shriek/ squawking noise and it was so close to the boat. I stuck my head out the hatch over our bed and figured out it was coming from the lawn just next to our boat, but I couldn't see anything. There are some bushes there and I guessed whatever it was, was in those bushes.

Our fear was that it might be the neighbor's cat. She is an outdoor cat and loves to go prowling around at all hours, so I wanted to be sure she was ok. Long story short, we figured out it wasn't the cat and went back to sleep listening to this awful sound over and over much of the night.

In the morning Zach and I searched different wild animal distress calls online. He guessed raccoon. Nope. Then we looked up fox and bingo! If you scroll 43 seconds into this clip, you will hear what we heard all night long

We have had fox "issues" at the marina before, and we see them all the time, but this was the first time we heard one so clearly. The kids wanted to find evidence of the fox, so Zach outfitted them for an expedition (he really finds the outfitting part just as much fun as the expedition which cracks me up) and off they went.

Zach was excited to find fox scat nearby, and also 2 dead mice (which were probably the work of the neighborhood cat, but I didn't want to spoil the fun for them.)

So it seems the fox was just having a hot date here in our bushes. It's all good. I love the idea of seeing some fox pups come spring time.

Unfortunately, going on a fox hunt and not actually seeing a fox made a certain wee lass unhappy. (And big brother made sure to mock her, but only when she wasn't able to see him doing so.)

But big brother did his best to get her to smile... literally.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

baby it's cold outside

It takes a certain kind of crazy to winter aboard a boat. It's rather like camping, only more comfortable and a lot more wobbly. Maryland got sucked into what the weather stations are all now calling the Polar Vortex, which sounds more like a Star Trek episode than a freakish cold snap. For the past 48 hours we've been in the single digits and with the wind dare I say a bit below zero as well.

But the children! What about the children?! Honestly, they hardly notice it. I am not going to lie to you, it's cold in here. When I woke up this morning all the heaters were going full blast and yet the inside temp was 46F. Not pretty. But both kids were sleeping in wool long underwear with jammies on top and nice warm socks and more quilts and duvets than you'd believe we can even store on this boat. Naia of course has the extra advantage of body heat as she still sleeps with Doug and I, and Zach though on his own knows the door is always open if he needs to dog pile in for warmth. One of us wakes up well before them and starts baking and boiling water and cooking up a big hot breakfast. And soon as the sun creeps above the horizon and the muffins start to rise, the cabin temps in the boat rise too so that by the time the kids are up, it's cozy enough. They have yet to utter the words, "I'm cold," except when playing outside in the worst of it.

(Don't let that sunburst fool you. It's a big, fat, cold, lie!)

Wintering aboard is one part preparation and knowledge, one part psychology, and one part just plain gusto. We've been through so, so, so many winters aboard. Doug and I have been aboard full time since 1998. That's officially a long time. I was in my 20's! We have the routines down for getting water into the tanks, staying safe on icy docks, insulating the hulls and lockers, combating condensation, and winterizing systems. We have got down our little tricks like putting a jar lid over the galley sink drain to keep the cold wind from blowing through, keeping the cupboard closed so the cold air from the hull doesn't flow out, and our latest is hanging our movie screen over the sliding glass doors at night to keep the cold air from radiating off them into the main cabin.

And of course chilling beverages out the galley hatch for easy access. Key to winter survival.

The hardest part for me is the psychology. House, boat, apartment, RV, whatever... I just don't get along with winter. I so admire those people with wintry pluck who strap on their snow shoes and head out into the cold. I just get the blues. And I complain. And I literally hold my whole body in a tense ball of misery until the first 60 degree day with more than 12 hours of daylight. Back before I had kids, I was on the road all the time for work. I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I got to call the shots for the most part about where I went. I would book shoots all winter long in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego, and so on. On the road, in the sunshine, with a week back home here and there. Then when Zach came along and I took a break from producing and directing, he and I would head to Hawaii every winter to see my dad. That only happened though because of the kindness of pilot friends who hooked us up with passes. That deal is no longer an option, and tickets for 4 or even 3 of us are just not affordable, so we haven't been to Hawaii Since Naia was in my belly. So we sit here, ticking off the days to when we can go back to our carefree outside life again. I guess that's it, we really just aren't inside people.

But the gusto is what keeps us here. It's not like I'd be any happier with this weather in  house. Sure my toes would be warmer, but winter is winter. We have icicles hanging from our fenders, but we have neighbors to chat with and laugh with as we all warm up in the laundry room taking extra long to dry our loads. We have ice bergs thudding against the hulls, but we have fox scurrying around the marina and seagulls bumming for treats. We have heaters that need to be turned down in order to run the vacuum or blender, but we also have good friends who will happily take us in if things get really bad or we lose power. The kids are happy, we have a roof over our heads, we have heat(ish), we have full bellies and each other. It's all a good adventure!

But seriously, if anyone has any airline connections that can get us to Hawaii...

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