Posted on December 14, 2018
Greetings from life on land!
It’s been a while. We’re entrenched. Maybe it’s time for a little update?
First day of school pics
Whelp, we didn’t totally ruin them, which is no small relief.
Both kids are enrolled at the middle school two blocks from the house we’re renting, and as far as I’m concerned, everything has gone better than expected. (If you ask the kids about this, they’ll tell you a long and fraught story about all the terrible things they’re being forced to endure, like gym and homework; but it’s pretty much just the standard horrors of middle school, not anything specific that we’re brought down on their heads.) This school is different than the one they would have gone to at our old house, so they’ve been plunged not only into a new school structure (middle school versus elementary), but also a completely different social circle; all of their friends from before are at a different school. And yet, they persevere! T has found a small group of close buddies to hang with, while in typical fashion, F has made friends with essentially everyone in her grade. Also, there’s a boyfriend. Honestly, as far as the 14-year-old is concerned, she’s probably really happy I’m no longer updating you all on her life.
Academically, things have gone even more smoothly. It’s hilarious to contrast our expectations for boatschool with what actually happened; we didn’t even work through a quarter of the stuff I’d expected to get done. And yet, somehow, the kids have been thriving. There’s was a lot of anxiety initially about making sure they were keeping track of all the work, but they’ve managed the content of their classes with élan. A’s all around. Whew!
Back at work, and really happy to be there. It took a while for all the paperwork to clear, so he could actually start working, but now he’s 100% back. Michu really loves his job; it’s one of the big reasons we decided not to squeeze out another year of cruising. And much like the kids with school, he was relieved to discover he hasn’t lost all of his skills.
Oh, I’m just sitting on the couch, wasting my time. Well, not really. Despite some initial sleuthing into the job market, we decided it made a lot of sense for me to still be at home for another year or so. Managing our lives is still a pretty big challenge over here, with all of the changes we’ve been going through. Which brings us to…
Life as planned:
We are still amazed that we did all of the things we’d initially planned on doing (except for our leg to Colombia…darn wind just wouldn’t lay down). As of this week, that includes buying a new house! So now, our lives are spread between three properties: our original duplex, which is rented out; the house that we’re renting, with all of it’s weirdness; and the new house, a small 1914 farmhouse that needs at least a little work before we move in. Now that life is settling into a rhythm, Michu and I are really looking forward to having a new project; hopefully, we can use some of our old boat skills to manage the work on the new place, and maybe stick some solar on the roof.
Life is weird:
Three big things have emerged that continue to freak us our here on land: the amount of money in the US; the amount of scheduling people are expected to complete in a day; and the lack of casual connection on a daily basis.
The money is the easiest thing to acclimate to, I think, and we’re starting to not see it as much. We still shake our heads at the phone bill–currently ten times what we’d been paying as we traveled–and can’t see a $15 cocktail as anything more than a very rare indulgence, not a weekly habit. The amount people spend on cars and clothes, as though it’s a requirement and not an option, is still strange. But as we think about the changes we’d like to make to our new house, we’re starting to fall into patterns of consumption that have been foreign to us for the past eight years, between saving for the trip and actual boat life. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly an adjustment; we’re just trying to keep things in perspective. Meanwhile, infrastructure still dazzles us, the kids have their own school-issued Chromebooks, and we just dropped a week’s worth of Mexican groceries on our first Christmas tree in a long time.
Scheduling is a harder pill to swallow. Michu’s work schedule fluctuates every week, while the kids are gone at school for such long stretches every day. Both kids have private music lessons each week; F is also on a swim team, with practice three times a week plus the occasional weekend swim meet. There’s after-school clubs, and babysitting and cat-sitting gigs. Birthday parties. Playdates. ACTUAL dates. It’s a lot to keep track of, and much of it involves driving around, which I do not love. Layering in the homework and instrument practice, and the kids are completely wiped out. There’s just so much to do! Early on in our return, we had a family meeting to hash our some chores; the kids wanted to contribute more to the family, and I didn’t want to raise a couple of slackers who didn’t know how to cook, clean a bathroom or do their own laundry. All of those things have fallen by the wayside; being a kid in America is essentially a full-time job.
Which brings us to Major Weirdness Number Three: the lack of just hanging out and connecting. We aren’t the only ones rockin’ a complex schedule; if plans aren’t on the calendar three weeks in advance, they’re probably not going to happen. And that’s a shame. When we first came back, we had a lot more time to walk around the neighborhood and drop by friends’ houses, just to see if they were home. Since school started, no one has that kind of time. Plus–man, it’s cold!! There’s ice! I don’t remember how to walk on this stuff! But trying to make concrete plans well in advance just adds to the to-do list. For my part, that’s the thing I miss the most from the past year; the causal hangout, the spur-of-the-moment potluck, the hike where you just pull together half the anchorage on your way to the trailhead. So many things are more difficult on a boat, but making connections was much, much easier.
Do we miss the boat? Yes and no. We’re certainly enjoying some of the pleasures of being on land, particularly laundry, libraries, and a modern kitchen. It’s been interesting to house-shop, and have people tell us, “After the boat, any house you buy will feel huge and amazing! Any kitchen will be a palace after being on the boat!” That’s…not actually how that works. The demands of land-life mean that the kids need more than just a closet to live in; cooking dinner every day on a hot plate is not ok when you’re faced daily with neighbors whipping up pasta dinners on a $2,000 stove. People acclimate really quickly to their surroundings, and we’ve acclimated to full-sized beds and desk space with a vengeance. And while comparison may be the thief of happiness, it’s still hard to avoid. If everyone around you is cooking on a two-burner propane gimballed stove, that seems normal; but if everyone has a dual-fuel range with a hood vent, it’s difficult not to struggle with inadequacy. On a boat, there are some pretty big perks for living in a tiny space, as well; on land, being more expansive is one of the compensations for waking up with the same view every morning.
We’re trying to keep a hold on some of the lessons of boat life, particularly our perspective on the difference between “want” and “need.” We’ve been really successful in keeping the family bonds strong; we still regularly all pile onto one little couch to watch a movie, and our kids still tell us pretty much everything that’s going on with their lives. I’m sure that will fade a bit as they age, but hopefully those bonds have been reinforced for life.
The blog is our primary nostalgia-generator. When I look back to see what we were doing on a given day one year ago, or two, it makes me really happy to think about the great adventure we managed to pull off; but it also makes me sad that we’re living such a routine life at the moment. I’m not missing the boat, per se; I’m missing the excitement and variety that each day on the water brings. We’ve been so busy, stepping into our routines, buying the new house, cementing our old networks back into place, but I think it’s just about time to start planning some more extraordinary expeditions. It’ll have to be on a much smaller scale, but we need to inject some exploring back into our lives.