Ready, Set, Go!

We’re determined not to overbook our Jelly Bean.

We make sure she eats her meals at home, has lots of time to play, and doesn’t get overstressed.  She is at a school that doesn’t assign homework in first grade, so she has plenty of time for just being a kid.

However, we jumped at the chance to sign her up for piano lessons in the fall, and this was something she caught onto very quickly.  It seems that she takes after her mother’s side of the family:

And today, Beanie discovered a new hobby.

Daddy was very excited when the flier came home from school, about the “Stampede” race at the school carnival.  Everyone on Rob’s side of the family runs, and Rob still enters 5K’s. 

And so today was the big day…

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Time for some stretching…

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Soon it was time to line up…

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More stretching…

And then they’re off!  Beanie quickly pulled away from the pack (and left Daddy in the dust!)

Beanie stayed well ahead of the pack and ran most of the half mile around the school.  And she finished well ahead of the other first graders!

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Time for some orange juice while she waited for everyone else to finish…

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And then the Bean received her first medal!

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It was a tiring race, but she did save some energy for jumping around…

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And of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without getting a green star painted in her hair!

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Beanie is very proud of herself and can’t stop talking about her medal and how she “beat most of the kids.”  She is a competitive little buddy!  We found some racing shoes for her at Goodwill, and she and Daddy are going to start training at the gym.

February–Full Circle

Those of you who have been here a long time might remember that back in the summer of 2011, a couple we met in Harrisville, Michigan captured our imagination:

(Me back then).

(Beanie and Megan back then).

That summer, Megan and Corey–both recent college graduates at the time–lived aboard for more than 4 months and sailed the Lakes, before ending the summer with a wedding aboard on Grand Traverse Bay.  While we ended that season early after running aground, we followed their adventures for a number of years.  After proceeding to a honeymoon in Thailand, their adventures were followed by a newlywed settling-down time, followed by another summer of cruising, followed by a new baby, followed by…wait for it…a motor home and a move from Michigan to Texas!

They moved to Austin, which is a few hour away from Houston, but we have been following their blog and waiting for the time to be right for a meet-up.  And that happened this weekend.  We spent our Valentine’s day having a lovely get-together with Megan, Corey, and their 6-month-0ld son, Danforth.  

Beanie by our new table.

Beanie by our new table.

Picnic on the island!

Picnic on the island!

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Us, now!

Us, now!

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Tall bike ride!

Tall bike ride!

I hope you spent this wonderful February weekend in the company of friends and family as well!

New Year’s Eve 2015

New Year’s Eve has always been a significant holiday for Rob and me.

We met at a roller skating party when it “turned” 1995, back when we were both 16.  We started dating exclusively that night, and Rob proposed at midnight at Y2K.

We consider New Year’s to be our “real” anniversary, and this year we’ve been together for 20 years!

So what better way to spend this anniversary, than at a Yogi Bear campground?  This  park was closer and less expensive, so it was less fancy than the one we visited for Thanksgiving.  But I still had visions of us sitting around the fire, sipping bubbly, while we welcomed 2015.

What I hadn’t counted on were temperatures in the 30’s.  We were so glad that our cabin was heated!  Nevertheless, we did bundle up and have a good time!

Beanie was the only brave soul who watched the outdoor movie, which ironically was “Ice Age.”

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But the main event involved the Nintendo WiiU we had received when we checked our mail on the way there.  It was hard to pull Beanie away!

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We did get her out to play in the kid “habitat,” as we called it.  There was a family reunion in the park, so there were plenty of kids to play with.  Nobody lasted very long though!

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A visit to the game room was in order…

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And lots of coffee to keep us warm!

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Beanie found some dried worm snacks at the camp store and insisted that she wanted some.  Rob cautioned her that they really were worms, and Beanie’s response was, “But they’re dead!”

And she did seem to enjoy them.

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Her costumes came along…

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We tried having a fire, but it was so damp that it wouldn’t stay lit.  We ended up microwaving hot dogs and s’mores.

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While Beanie was outside, I moved the clock an hour head, and then another.It was getting close.  Time to break out the sparkling cider!

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Get ready…

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Happy new year!

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And, satisfied with herself for staying up until midnight, Beanie headed to bed.  Two hours later, Rob and I broke out the champagne and welcomed 2015 properly.

May this be a year of adventures for all of us!

Christmas on Breaking Tradition

This year “Breaking Tradition” was the theme of our Christmas.

First off, we made kind of a spontaneous decision not to travel up north.  We made this choice for various reasons, and we will be making the trip in the summer.  This year, it was time to do something different.

So we were on our own for the holidays.  This the first time in our marriage that we haven’t visited relatives for Christmas, and we wanted to make sure it wasn’t depressing.  Drawing on our success from Thanksgiving, we created a holiday experience that was uniquely…us!

We wanted a real tree, but none of them were small enough.  So we bought the last artificial one at Family Dollar.

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The stockings were hung over the settee with care…

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Beanie got some “Reindeer food” from school, so she spread it over the bow to help Santa’s reindeer find us.

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Notice the low tide.  Boarding was difficult, even with the ladder.

Beanie awoke at 5 a.m. (yes we were up already, because we were so excited!) and chattered to us about the thudding sound she heard when the reindeer landed on the boat, and the sleigh bells.  (For those who don’t know, Santa comes through the hatch when he delivers presents to boats).  Finally, at 6, we let her open her presents.

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She had to open the big one first…

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Because her stocking was filled with homemade mixes!

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My present came in a cardboard box with “Apple” written in faux-Cyrillic.

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I had lost my beloved iPod to the depths of Clear Lake back in October.  Rob found a broken one of e-bay and repaired it to like-new condition.

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Beanie has wanted a Hide Away pet, and we found a new one at the ICM thrift store.  That’s also where we found the Easy Bake Oven, for $4.

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A shave kit for Rob.  I also got him a Maggard razor, but couldn’t find where I’d hidden it!  He found it later, stashed in the bathroom.

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And a pipe rack, with a few pipes…

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Beanie enjoyed her numerous e-bay and thrift store finds.

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Back when we lived in Michigan, Beanie had a suitcase filled with costumes.  Since she was outgrowing them, they got left behind during the move, and Beanie has asked about it many times.  So I stocked up on 90% off costumes after Halloween, and found a suitcase at Goodwill.

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After opening presents, we headed over to my parents’ apartment (they were in Michigan, so we were house-sitting) to enjoy some hors d’voures.

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And yes, Beanie’s Easy Bake Oven and costumes came along!

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Every year that Rob and I have been together, we have made a cookie house.  We began by making them from scratch.  Then, after we got married, we started buying kits.  Now we buy a kit and hot glue it together!  Here’s this year’s creation, which is mainly Beanie’s vision:

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So that was our Christmas!  Spending it on the boat got us thinking about our future and our plans, which still include eventually cruising full-time.  And while that is at least a few years down the road, we have started brainstorming ways to make that possible.  In that spirit, I have begun experimenting with various projects to use my writing to help support us.

As I try new projects, I will, unfortunately, be spending less time with you here.  But fear not–Journey to Ithaca will continue until the day we leave port.  (I already have my last post planned out, but that will be quite a few years from now!)

As far as immediate plans are concerned, our winter break is far from over.  Tonight, Beanie and I will visit the zoo and look at the Christmas lights (here’s hoping that it warms up and doesn’t rain!).  And tomorrow we’re heading to Houston’s Jellystone Park to celebrate New Year’s.  This campground is cheaper than the one at Canyon Lake, but our accommodations will be much more rustic.  I will be posting pictures.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday as well!  I will meet up with you in 2015.

 

 

Our Unconventional Thanksgiving

In 2009, we did Thanksgiving on our own.

My family had their festivities earlier, and Rob’s parents were staying in Florida.  So we went to the home up north, where we always had the feast, and tried our best to prepare one of our own.

The spread was beautiful, albeit smaller than what we were used to, but something about it was still incredibly depressing.  Because it wasn’t the food that made Thanksgiving what it was.  It was the fun of having everyone there, and all the memories of the goofiness from the past.

So you can imagine how I felt when I realized we would be doing Thanksgiving on our own this year.

A little research, though, and a little willingness to continue to break from tradition, helped us to create a new tradition.  We found a Yogi Bear campground in the San Antonio area, where we could rent a cabin, take Beanie to numerous Thanksgiving activities, and even attend a potluck feast at the end of our stay.

This would be our first trip out of Houston, other than the drives up to Michigan.  We were excited about the prospect of spending a week in a small house, with real beds, a full-sized kitchen, and our own bathroom.  And getting out of the city would be fun too.

So, over the river and through to woods, to Canyon Lake we went!

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To spend a week at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park!

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We love to pack light on most trips, when we’re taking the long drive to Michigan and bouncing around from here to there.  But we carried the majority of our earthly possessions with us this time.  We were staying in one place for a week, and we wanted to get the most out of our luxurious, spacious get-away.

Here’s our cabin:

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Rob brought his tall bike along.

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And, sure enough, we enjoyed snuggling up in real beds!

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I did our Thanksgiving cooking in a real kitchen.

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There were plenty of fun activities to keep the Bean occupied.  She got up bright and early to meet Yogi Bear…

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Took lots of nature walks…

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Visited the playground and game room…

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Frequented the jumping pillow across from our cabin…

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Took a “hey hey” ride in the afternoon…

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And many at night!

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S’more after the hay ride…

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And a visit from a friend…

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Beanie’s favorite activity by far, however, was arts and crafts.

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With Ranger Ana, her best buddy!

With Ranger Ana, her best buddy!

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All in all, it was a great new tradition, and anything but depressing.  We loved our week away, and were also very happy to return home.

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How was your Thankgiving week?

A Warm Welcome!

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Two years ago, during the summer of 2012, I wrote a guest post for Francine’s blog at Miss Minimalist.  At that time we were in the beginning of our 91-day-cruise on Moonraker, anchored out in Thunder Bay.  We had no clue that it would be our last summer cruising on the Great Lakes and that Beanie–who was about to begin her second year in the inclusive Head Start class–would not start kindergarten in Michigan.  Or that two years later we would no longer live on land.

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Looking at all these changes, I decided it was high time to send Francine an update.

So if you’ve just found your way here from Miss Minimalist–welcome aboard!  I’ve been writing this blog for three and a half years.  If you’re interested in my posts from the earlier days, you will want to check out my Start Here page, which I update every March.

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Otherwise, here are some recent posts on the various topics I like to discuss here:

Blossom–My “coming out” post where I announce our plans to move from Michigan to Texas.

Breaking Tradition–My first post about the boat we now live on.  It needed a lot of work!

10 Surprises About Marina Life–About our daily live aboard Breaking Tradition.

Minimalism: A Beginner’s Guide–Interviews with minimalist bloggers about the beginnings of their adventures toward less.

35 Lessons in 35 Years–Lessons I’ve learned, with links to posts telling the story behind each.  An ongoing project and a great sampling of my philosophical posts.

Pancakes–Why I’m fine with being a “bad” mom.

This Isn’t Holland–On raising a kid with a disability.

First Day of School, Take II–My daughter’s school experience this year.

It Still Matters–Why I’ve continued to teach.

12 Years Ago–On marriage–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

New Year’s Eve: 1995 and 2000–A “spill your guts” post about my backstory.

I hope you enjoy exploring my blog.  Please feel free to comment–the discussion is what makes this such a great community, and I always do write a reply!  I am also on Facebook and Twitter.  I use social media sparingly, so there is no need to follow on more than one site.  But connecting on either of those–or following via e-mail–will guarantee that you don’t miss a post!

Red?!  I guess I got bored with aging gracefully...

Red?! I guess I got bored with aging gracefully…

Please also link to your blog in the comments.  I am very interested in reading about your adventures!

 

 

“House”work

I have written many times about my dislike of housework.  And I have often told you how much quicker housework is in a small space.

So, today I was feeling unmotivated when I surveyed the mess before me. I had been sick for a week, and Rob had been taking care of me, instead of cleaning the boat. So it was truly daunting.

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I had made Swedish meatballs the night before, in honor of “Swedish day” (we honor Rob’s heritage, instead of celebrating the Hallmark holiday, Sweetest Day).  And Beanie had been making batch after batch of her addictive “Critter Mix,” that she had learned to create at school on Friday.

And then an idea struck me.  I could do a blog post about the short amount of time I spend doing housework on our tiny boat.  I would take “before” pictures, and then update every 10 minutes.

The first 10 minutes went by smoothly, with the clock being stopped momentarily when Rob came in and wanted to play video games.  When I told him what I was up to, he offered to help.  Normally, I would have embraced this, but in the name of science (and of my blog post) I sent him out with a coffee to “walk around and talk to people.”

Here’s what I accomplished in the first 10:

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The kitchen was beautiful, and the dishes were clean!  Washing the dishes is a challenge, since we have lukewarm water only, from our shore hook-up, and our drain empties very slowly.  And Swedish meatballs certainly leave behind a mess!

The kitchen is the most difficult part, so I knew the main salon and quarter berth would go quickly.  However, my second 10 minutes were interrupted…

Our neighbors returned from their cruise.  Beanie enthusiastically found her Critter Mix ingredients and got to work…

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And Wanda, next door, was happy to see Beanie and even happier to enjoy her snack mix!

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The dogs next door were excited as well.

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So, on to the main salon.  As predicted, it cleaned up quite nicely, which Rob was busy discussing photography with Wanda.

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Next challenge–the head.  We don’t use the head itself, but the medicine cabinet was a mess after my recent illness.

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And here’s Beanie’s room.

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I got right to work, with only a few interruptions from Rob and various neighbors.  And here we are, 10 minutes later:

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So, now, all that is left is Beanie’s room.  Here’s the current status on that:

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She has too many toys, and it is a mess.  But no biggie.

However, the clock had to be stopped many times.

First, Beanie’s grandparents called to say the were on their way to pick her up.  So she had to make Critter Mix.  The we visited with them, and they visited with our other neighbors.

After they left, our other neighbors needed an update on Beanie, and I was informed that I needed to let Beanie know that she owed Deanne a Mario Kart-and-Critter Mix date on her boat  

I told Deanne about my blog post I was working on.  I let her know that cleaning the house took me 40  minutes total, on a “bad day.”  She agreed, “Yes, that’s the best thing about living on a boat!”

But then I added that, with everything else it’s taken me an hour and a half!

Beanie's clean room!

Beanie’s clean room!

Deanne laughed, and said, “You know, I think that’s why boats are always messy.  We just have better things to do.”

The Cat Came Back

The time has come for me to tell you a little about our boat kitty, Popcorn.

Rob and I got our first cat, Espresso, right before we got married, and we were happy to be a one-cat family.  Espresso was happy living in the trailer park with us, and adapted well to our move into the house.  She eagerly greeted us when we returned home from the hospital with a newborn Beanie in tow.

We lived in a small town in the woods, and once a week we drove 40 minutes away to the nearest non-tourist grocery store (the the farmer’s market and the food co-op!).  It was on our way home from this town that we noticed a dead cat in the middle of a rather busy road through farm country.  Rob slammed on the brakes, drove the car onto the shoulder, and threw it into reverse.  When we got to the cat, he darted out the door.

Before I could ask what was going on, he returned to the car and handed me a tiny grey tabby kitten.  Apparently, this kitten had been sitting next to her dead mother in the road.  She squeaked, and I set her in the back seat, next to a beaming two-year-old Beanie.

Some Internet research indicated that the kitty was 4 weeks old, and may or may not survive away from her mother.  We bought some cans of meat baby food and poured her some of Beanie’s Amish whole milk, which she happily gobbled up.  Within a couple days, she was eating canned cat food.

We ran ads in the paper and on Craig’s List, but nobody was missing the little barn kitten.  After two weeks, we had bonded with our little buddy and took the ads down.

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Popcorn was much wilder than Espresso, and she escaped from our house for a few days one time, which resulted in our finding an Amish veterinarian to “fix” her cheaply.

Due to her wild disposition, Popcorn spent the summer of 2012 living with my parents, while Espresso joined us on Moonraker.

Espresso didn’t live long enough to join us on the move to Texas, but Popcorn and her litter box piled into the back of the Volvo.  In our apartment, she put our pet deposit to good use as she tore up the carpet, only escaping once for a few days.

In contrast, the life on the boat seemed to mellow Popcorn.  She could often be found curled up on a dinette seat, or sunning herself on the deck.  After falling off of the boat once–and swimming to the dock and climbing up underneath, so that we had to remove a board to free her!–she seemed to have no desire to travel to the land.

Then her food dish started to get empty.

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She was outside when we went to bed, but we thought nothing of it.  She did that often, then either scratched at the door or let herself in when she was ready.  But, the next morning, I awoke, realizing that I had not heard Popcorn come inside.  We looked around and figured she must be hiding somewhere.

But, after two weeks, it became clear that Popcorn had ventured off the boat.

After that long, we figured that she was not coming back, and talked about getting rid of the dishes and litter box.  We pondered new uses for the quarter berth.

Then, we heard rumors of a tabby cat on the island in the marina, mooching food off of the boaters.  Rob spent some time looking for her there, to no avail.

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We kept an eye out, until Friday, when Rob received an interesting call from the marina office.  There are almost no stray cats in Clear Lake Shores, so the owner of a local antique shop thought it was interesting when a cute little tabby with a collar (someone else she met on her adventures gave her the collar!) showed up, hungry.  While she lived there, the owner heard from the Boater’s Resale shop above that a family in our marina was missing a cat.  So they called the office, and Rob took little Popcorn home.

Enjoying her time in the antique shop, Popcorn was reluctant to leave.  But after filling her stomach and taking a LONG nap, she’s settled back into the routine on Breaking Tradition.  And she still likes to wear her new collar.

Pancakes

breakfast

I’ve never told you that sometimes I’m a bad mom.

I don’t always remember to read with my daughter every night.  I didn’t do a single in-kind activity with her during her last semester of preschool.  Some nights, I forego the bath, because we were out so late having fun.  And she’s often the one who reminds me that her teeth need brushing.

I am the parent who forgets to sign the forms for school, and needs frequent e-mail reminders.  Some nights, when we’re at the boat, we pick up a Happy Meal for her to enjoy.  Bedtime involves her watching Cinderella, until she’s ready to go to bed (which, surprisingly, always happens at a reasonable hour).  In spite of my resolve to be “natural” and “countercultural,” she knows all of the Disney princesses by name, owns numerous electronic toys, and loves playing Mario Kart with Rob and me.

Our life is one of squalor.  While we once aspired to have the elegant label of “minimalists,” we now live in a way that transcends labels.  My bicycle, with my helmet slung off of the handlebars, is the focal point of our living room.  Beanie’s tricycle stands next to it; there is no point in putting it away, because she rides it nearly everyday.  At times, her toy train runs through the entire apartment, acting as a means of transporting her toys from one room to another.  Boxes are strewn about, with boat and moped parts ordered from around the world.  Behind our table, a tiller handle is propped up against the wall (oddly enough, we don’t have sails stashed anywhere in our apartment.  That might be a first).  The once-empty master bedroom is now completely full.  The plastic kitchen that we pulled out of the dumpster has become a Doc McStuffins hospital, with a few teacups hanging amidst the stuffed animals.  In the middle of the floor, Beanie’s bicycle and scooter stand ready for action.  Her cardboard playhouse occupies the wall opposite the kitchen, and that is where she enjoys her movies.  The closet is filled with toys removed from the toybox, and her Pikachu and pirate costumes are strewn about on the floor.

It was in this squalor that my morning began, today.  I had made my way through our kitchen, filled with the remnants from last night’s cooking experiment (I have yet to have success with perogies, but I won’t stop trying!), and created some coffee for Rob and me.  After coffee and conversation, followed by a shower and my morning routine, I made my current favorite breakfast, one fried egg with pepper jack cheese. So far, I’ve loved 10 pounds off of my body, by eating simply and mindfully.

While fully enjoying the soft yolk and crispy whites, I heard some chattering just before the master bedroom door opened with a cracking sound.  Beanie emerges, with her hair disheveled, wearing the sundress she fell asleep in, with temporary princess tattoos covering her arms.  With a sleepy smile, she climbs onto my lap and leans against me, her ear over my heart.

A year ago, she could not speak in sentences.  Today, she proclaims, “I love you, Mommy!”

She draws her head back, grins at me, and relives our spring break adventures.  “I go to Kemah boardwalk,” she begins.  “I ride Jungle Bounce.  It is so high!  I go to music park (the park near our marina slip has an area where you can stomp the ground and hear a great drum beat.  At the end of this post is a video of Beanie dancing to it).  I go to Houston Children’s Museum.  I want to be a doctor.  Or an ambulance.”

I know she means “paramedic.”  I smile at her.  The world is your oyster, Beanie.

I’ve finished my egg, and it’s time for her to eat something.  Breakfast and lunch are when Beanie eats the most, and she’s still pretty twiggy, so I’m always eager to get her lots of healthy calories.  I consider making her a PBJ, but today seems to require something special.

I’m not a good cook.  But I have a friend who is, so I used his pancake recipe.  I poured too much batter into my cast iron pan, and it spread to completely cover the surface.  Thus, Beanie was treated to a “gigantic pancake,” which she excitedly took, once I had placed it on a plate.

“I want a Pacman pancake!” she announced.  I asked her if she wanted me to make it into a Pacman.  “No, I make a Pacman pancake,” she insisted.

So Jelly Bean joyfully ate her creation, then caught me trying to make more giant pancakes for the rest of the week.  She danced in front of the container in which I was placing them, until I gave her one more.

Later today, she will head over to Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment, where she will spend the night.  On Monday, she will accompany me to the gym, for my yoga class, and she looks forward to playing with the kids in the nursery.

I’m not supermom.  But who is?  Within the squalor of our life is something very real, very pure, and very deep.

This is love.

 

Still Waters and Sunshine

It is springtime here.  We have made it through yet another winter.

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Spring came slowly and gently, like awakening from a long slumber.  One day, it was too warm to wear my winter coat on my ride home, so I left it in the back seat of my car.  It remained there for a week, before being returned to the closet.

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I started wearing my jeans less, my sundresses more.

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We began to ride our bicycles more often.

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As we walk through the courtyard, we’re greeted by the hum of air conditioners.

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The gray skies have cleared, allowing sunshine to fill the world.

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As the skies have cleared outside, so have they within my soul.

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Relaxing and glimpsing the lovely world of reality–the reality that exists beyond my previous situation–I’ve found the path I’d lost, with my students.  I am able to connect with them, just as I had in the beginning of my career, before so many things led me to lose my way.  I am able to love, and to understand, more deeply than I ever realized was possible.

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I search for meaning less, realizing that my search for meaning was nothing more than a search for safety, validation, and approval.  The most beautiful things in life don’t have a meaning that can be put into words.

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It is a time of understanding, and accepting.  It’s accepting the hills and valleys, and realizing that experiencing a valley is not the same as backsliding.

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It is a time of living life, rather than experiencing it from a computer screen.  It is a movement toward the physical, the concrete.  And it is a movement that is just happening, rather than being forced.

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Yesterday, when I was walking from my car, with my arms full of school supplies for my students, I realized I was smiling.  Smiling, spontaneously, with nobody around to see.  And that’s when peace took my hand, like an old friend I hadn’t seen in years.

I thought about cropping the gas can and sail cover from the picture, but decided that they belong there!

I thought about cropping the gas can and sail cover from the picture, but decided that they belong there!