Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's just another day...

Living on board a boat near our nation's capital means extraordinary sights and experiences become part of our everyday life.

The phone rings. "Hey, do you want some tickets to see President Obama speak at the US Naval Academy Graduation?" We didn't blink, in fact we were out the door so fast I also forgot my camera. But luckily an entire press corps was there to do the job, so we got to sit back with 30-thousand of our closest friends and bask in the pomp and glow of the very special day.

Zach's observation: "Obama is really handsome! I really like his red tie." My son the fashionista. My thought, after realizing he was staying for the entire ceremony and seeing him shake EVERY hand of the 1023 graduates: "Oy vay he's gonna plotz in this heat, somebody get the president a glass of water please!"

Then the Blue Angels were in town and practicing right over our boat all week. Zach was half excited and half distressed by the noise (not nearly as distressed as Mookie the guinea pig).

Again, my thoughts were more along the Jewish Mother tangent: "I don't think they should be flying that close together. Their mamas would not like this one bit." (yes that's our rigging in the foreground, they were THAT close)

Later that week, this was my view as I was going to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Fireworks! Right outside our hatch.

(isn't sad that I had my camera in the bathroom but forgot it on my way to see the President?!)

But for my sweet boy, THIS was the highlight of the week...

"Mommy, I got to talk to a REAL lady pirate!" We woke up one morning and there she was...
out on the marina lawn prepping to do a talk for a school group on a tour boat. She saw my little guy gawking and was kind enough to walk over and say hello. He's still talking about her.

Presidents, Pirates, Pyrotechnics, jets whizzing by at 1200 miles an hour. Yeah, it's just another day in the neighborhood.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Next Generation

We knew each other when we were teenagers. M and I used to sit up late at night and talk about "when we're 40" or "one day when we're married and have kids". Well we're not exactly 40 yet, but we're basically in that category we wondered about way back when. And for the first time our children played together.

And neither of us could really articulate the feeling at the moment, but I can say I was bowled over at the sight of our babies holding hands and giggling together. This is that moment we talked about. And it's so much sweeter than those two goofy girls sitting under the stars on a farm in Kansas could have ever imagined.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


The perfect weekend weather. The construction barges have moved on and out of the way. We're finally free...
Z was a bouncing bean and literally spent the whole voyage jumping on the tramps with a smile glued to his little face, while I had to find my inner Mama Zen. The Worry Wart in me says, "Boy, get back off those tramps while we're under way and sit still in the cockpit where I can breathe easy and keep you safe." And the Continuum Concept Adventurer in me says, "Despite the gray hairs I'm getting just watching him, I need to trust him. I need to let him find his feet and develop his own way on the water. He NEEDS to do this in play form now so he can hold his own on board down the road."

How can you raise little adventurers if you don't let them have their little adventures?
He will scrape his knee and bump his head and break a bone and push it to the edge. But he's becoming THAT guy, the one who's been around boats his whole life and will read the wind and waves as easily as he breathes. The guy I looked at with envy when I was in my 20's and started sailing seriously, struggling to learn the ropes.

My job is not to shelter him and tell him what to do, I need to let him find his way and be there when he needs me. I think of all of the experiences I had when I was younger, and often my first thought is "I'd die if Z did THAT!" But my parents let me be free, all the while withholding judgment or anxiety or control, just letting me know they loved me and they would always be there. The freedom to travel with my friends as a teenager. The freedom to sleep on the streets of Chicago to get concert tickets. The freedom to move on to a boat. The freedom to sail off to Cuba and be incommunicado for 2 months. The freedom to raise my family afloat.

It takes every bit of strength I have to stand back and let him go forth and be free. But I know how vital it is, because it's the life we lead.

Pirate Night

Wet night. Cold air. Reading by the warm candle glow.

Sea tales from one of our current favorite salty dog books, Pirates, Ships, and Sailors by Kathryn & Byron Jackson.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Brown Thumb

It's official. Plants hate me. If my camera/ computer connection was working I would photograph the pots we planted a few weeks back and show you our progress as of today. But I don't even think we need the visual. I can sum it up in one word. DIRT. I have several little pots and buckets on the dock and in the cockpit of barren dirt.


Ok. So I'm not a gardener (ironic since my dad is practically self sufficient on his farm). But I can scavenge with the best of them. We now have a secret place in our local park where we hunt for morels. And after signing up for this way cool monthly booklet from Herbal Roots, we're learning how to identify and, better yet, put to use the plants growing all around us!

May was dandelions, and Zach has turned the hunt for these little weeds into a zealous passion, yelling from his car seat as we whip by dandelion covered median strips on the highway for me to pull over and let him pick some.

I am loving how he now appreciates this underdog of the plant world, and goes around boasting that they're his new favorite "grow food".

We got a few stares as we spent the afternoon sitting on the dock with a bucket and the hose rinsing (and rinsing and rinsing -- oh how the boy loves that hose) loads of dandelions while reading the fun stories from Herbal Roots.

And voila -- our harvest! A fresh crop of healthy, happy, wild and free dandelion greens. When we saw some for sale later that week at Whole Foods, Z said, "Why would people buy those here when they are growing everywhere? And they taste better when you get them yourself mama."

As for those pots of dirt, I think I'll just pull the worms out of them and stick to fishing from the aft deck.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Compassionate Capitalist

It started with discovering this great little spice grinder while rummaging in the galley. He also scrounged up some whole nutmeg from our cluttered spice cubby and went to work (oh what a wonderful way to keep a little one busy).

It quickly evolved in to an entrepreneurial venture.

He cut some card stock with the "fancy scissors" and carefully scribed a thoughtful description of his wares.
Scooped in to bags, tied up, and ready for sale!

Our first customer naturally was our gregarious dock neighbor G who played along magnanimously and even sealed the deal with a business like hand shake. Zach suggested multiple uses for his ground nutmeg, including "sprinkle it on your coffee or ice cream or put it in your sock drawer so it will make everything smell better."

All of this for the bargain basement price of $.0.05 -- that's right just one nickel. Z is stuck on all things 5 lately with his 5ht birthday looming on the horizon.

One customer gently suggested charging more -- explaining the idea of production costs versus profit. Zach listened carefully and swiftly answered, "But I want poor people to be able to buy some too. So I will keep it 5 cents."

So what is our compassionate capitalist saving for? A bag of M&M's from the local cafe. The amount of nutmeg he's burning through could buy a whole lot of M&M's, but mama just smiles at the process and tries not to think about the profit loss. Whatever happened to a simple lemonade stand?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notes On A Dinner Party

Dinner at 6:00pm at J's boat.
Calm, cool night in the anchorage.
Dinghies in the "parking lot".

Potluck love.

Boy supervises grill work.

Mom checks out creative cockpit garden on host boat. Conversation flows from water tanks to handicap accessability aboard to welding.

And then he calls them. And then they come. Host generously gives up half a loaf of bread to the cause.

Heading home in the dark, a fellow boater needs help. We zip over and find an old friend. Rescue wrapped in giggles.

This is the life.

Night Visitor

I'm sitting by the dim glow of the laptop in the main salon, little boy asleep beside me, and I notice a shadow. Usually it means a person walking by, momentarily blocking out the unnaturally bright dock light. But this shadow is slow and awkward. I look up and there he is. The largest great blue heron I have ever laid eyes on. Daintily strolling up our dock as if he were trying to find a certain boat to visit. He's easily taller than Z. I grab my camera and slink over to the door, we lock eyes, I fumble with lens cap, he takes to the night sky. My heart is still thumping. I love living on the water.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Marina Library

If you walk in to any marina just about anywhere in the USA you will find this scene.

A completely impromptu, unofficial, unsanctioned library. In marina laundry rooms and restrooms all over, sailors drop off the books they are all finished with and pick up new material for the next leg of their journey. Sailors have been doing this for ages, long before freecycle and the internet. If you're lucky you can paw past the Danielle Steele and get some real gems. If you're super lucky, you might even get a hand written log of where that book has been or where it originated.

I remember discovering Carl Hiaasen in a marina somewhere along the South Carolina coast, and loving the company of his fast paced wit while we inched our way to Florida. And on many a cold winter night I have lucked on a dusty classic in these shelves, like Old Man And The Sea, to keep me warm.

The selection is always diverse. Just one sampling from our marina's book shelf and you can see the books range from Jane Eyre to Fly Fishing to to travel guides to dog training to Faulkner.

Here are the gems I found this week.

And I left a few favorites too, hoping they will find their way in to appreciative hands and under the gaze of hungry eyes.

Even though sailors are going more high tech these days, I hope this old tradition never dies.

In The Now

I am so grateful for this little piece of the world we inhabit. Sure I get restless about wanting to start traveling by sailboat again. Sure I am itching to explore more of the world and show it to Z at the same time. But when I look over my shoulder and see this scene, I can't help but appreciate the here and now.

Z and our dock neighbor M doing what they love most, mucking around. I never know what these two are going to bring me next -- frogs, dead snakes, blue crabs, horseshoe crabs, earth worms, dead fish, bits of stinging nettle, you name it. They're like little cats bringing home dead and wriggling things as a proud prize.

Their favorite of late is grass shrimp. They spend hours squatting in the shallows, scooping up shrimp, naming them, counting them, they even tried selling them once lemonade stand style.

Ocean voyaging seems like a once-upon-a-time from my own memoirs and a distant promise in Zach's story. But for right now, all I need to do is look at these two, and I can't help but think everything is right in our little corner of the world.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tea For Two

I have a secret. I don’t do this parenting thing all by myself. Aside from my husband, I have helpers. They’ve been around since the toddler days and have changed with the times, but I couldn’t have made through many a rough day without them. Their names are Rufus Rumplebottom, Matilda Maple, The Queen of England, and Harley Buckle.

They arrive when mama either isn’t able to make things happen or simply needs a break. Z may not brush his teeth when I ask him to, but when Harley Buckle steps in, he happily goes with the flow. Sometimes it seems like a monumental task to get the boy dressed and out the door, but Rufus Rumplebottom manages with ease. And Matilda Maple can explain away those unexplainable things and even out talk this non-stop talker.

Lately Z’s been spending a lot of time with the Queen. And one day he got this idea that he really wanted to have tea with the Queen, not just regular tea, but High Tea. And he wanted it make it and serve it himself. One problem... we didn’t have a proper tea set. After browsing the internet and toy store options, I was told that none were fit for the Queen.

So we did what anyone expecting royalty would do. We went to Goodwill. Rows and rows of mismatched and long forgotten china just waiting to be snatched up at $0.50 pop. He picked out the perfect set, stripes and flowers and gold and blue, and finally had a proper High Tea with The Queen.

The Queen is delighted to report that the boy handled the boiling water and tea steeping with grace and dignity, although she tried not to notice when he stuck his fingers in the sugar bowl for a lick.

Whoever said all those years in drama classes would get me nowhere was clearly not a parent.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Listening Walk

"You know mama, the gnarly old trees have a lot of history they can tell. It's just that nobody but the fairies and the gnomes ever listen to them."

Go spend the weekend listening. To your children, to someone older, to the wind, to the ocean, to the gnarly trees.

The Perfect Pet

We used to have a dog. Our dear sweet mutt Schooner-dog cruised with us to Cuba and back and guarded the boat loyal and true. But he left this world in August last year. And after we swore we'd be a pet-free boat.

But kids need animal companions. I truly believe there is something magical that happens when a child interacts with an animal. Any animal. But pets on boats are tricky. Consider this:

* Cats are out because I am insanely allergic.

* Fish. Forget it. Can you imagine the goldfish bowl sloshing around while we're under sail?!

* Another dog... no. Too much commitment. We want to leave to cruise again in 2 years and we don't want to cruise with a dog again. So keeping one while we're tied to the dock would be fun, until we break the news to the dog and the kiddo that they don't ever get to see each other again. No thank you.

* Reptiles. They draw too many amps. That's right, the heat lamps required for the cold blooded companions would be a major power suck. We'd have to turn off the lizard light every time we used the microwave or blender.

* Birds. Well, they live too long. It's a big commitment. Parrots can live to 90 years, often surviving their owners. And we're not sure we want to face the logistics of cruising overseas with a parrot on board. Paperwork, vaccinations, parrot sitters while we travel inland. Forget it!

* Rodents. Ah-ha, now we're talking! Our dirty little secret is that we caved in and freecycled for a guinea pig in December. I never blogged about it because, frankly, he's boring and not terribly photogenic. BUT, no heat lamps, no allergies, low maintenance, and they only live 2-3 years! His name is Mookie and he only shows his face when he hears me cutting up cantaloupe. Zach is really good about feeding him and I get the glamorous job of cage cleaning.

The only thing easier than a guinea pig is this...

Yup. Z caught and brought home his very own caterpillar. He is over the moon about this little guy and loves all two inches of him with all his heart. He named him Cheeky, and my only worry is that Z will literally love him to death. Cheeky has had a ride on the remote control truck, moved in with the gnomes, been stuffed inside a lantern, got abandoned in the nature table, sailed on the toy pirate ship, had tea with the Queen, met the guinea pig face to face, and was forced to pose for a portrait session.

But hopefully, if he's not too traumatized, he'll go in to his cocoon, make some magic, emerge as a whole new pet, and fly away. It doesn't get much easier than that.

(these beautiful butterfly life cycle pieces are from the fabulous MamaRoots! and the bug box is from BirchLeaf Designs)

P.S. As of tonight our little Cheeky is now in his cocoon. So we hold our breath for 3 weeks.
Staring at him intently Z said, "I think he's dreaming of all the fun times he had with me."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Welcome Aboard -- The Book Nook

Officially it's the pass through / hallway on the starboard side of the boat (opposite the galley). This space has a lot of potential and we've seen many incarnations in different versions of this boat. For us, it's the library. Naturally all of those shelves on the outboard side became a home for books (more books are stored ALL over the boat but this is the main area). The weight of the books is centrally located and evenly distributed (an important factor in a catamaran). And the lockers under the shelves are craft and homeschool supplies.

But the inboard side of the hallway has been a big question mark for the past 5 years. Honestly, more like a big mess. One of our 37hp Yanmar diesel engines lives under that counter. And the top of that empty counter seems to magnetically pull in piles of unfolded laundry, stacks of unread mail, and anything that hasn't been put away. But my boy had an idea. He said, "mommy, clean up your junk so I can do something with this counter." And so I did. And so he did.

He laid out some quilts, plopped down some pillows, hung up his drawings, set up his lantern (we still need to install a light on the ceiling), and of course picked out his favorite books of the moment.

Then Z declared the Book Nook was open for business.

Now when it's really quiet all of the sudden on board, instead of wondering if he's coloring the walls or raiding the dark chocolate stash, I know he's curled up here.

Of course now I need to find a new place to sort laundry.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...