We are a small, happy family of four. My husband, a baby, a dog and me. My husband works on a yacht. A large, luxury megayacht which tends to be based in some fairly fabulous places. The thing is, where the boat goes, we go! When she was was just eight weeks old our daughter, Coco, boarded her first trans-Atlantic flight and since then we haven't stopped. This is a blog of our rather unusual yet adventurous life. No two days are the same.

Friday, September 24, 2010

You've got a friend

Why are we all such sensitive souls? I was watching Coco playing with her cousins the other day. She is at the age where she is just beginning to really be aware of those around her. You can definitely tell that she is that bit more excited and certainly more distracted when there are other children around. We first noticed it in America when Hugo and her obviously began to bond. They wanted to watch and interact with each other - not all the time, but definitely some of the time.

Since we have got home Coco has been surrounded by cousins and friends of different ages and she is getting more and more sociable by the minute. She is learning from her peers, from activities to words. In the last week she has been taught how to use a slide, how to draw with a crayon and how to say "no" - all of which have been taught to her by other children. It is amazing. But fortunately, there is only one emotion at the moment - pure excitement. She has no idea that some of the children at toddler group dis her because she is too little, she doesn't take offence at being pushed over, she has no idea that some of her friends and more comfortable with each other than they are with her because they know one another better.

I was so saddened to hear how quickly a social consciousness is learned. By the time children are at nursery it seems they start differentiating between best friends and just friends. Children can even identify "friendships" and "acquaintances" and are acutely aware when they are being excluded or left out. I hadn't really stopped to think about how it all starts so early, these judgements and decisions about people. These desires to fit into a tribe or a gang, to work out who your kindred spirits are and how we sometimes try to monopolise them and make them solely ours.

I remember friendships being terribly painful when I was younger. I always seemed to be on the edge of a well established group, usually entering it a little late. I always had a lot of friends, don't get me wrong, but I was always terrible worried about getting between people, offending people and not fitting in.

I don't have that now. I have some amazing friends who I love dearly. I am incredibly lucky to have old friends, new friends and family who are friends and I can honestly say that, although I do feel lonely living often thousands of miles from most of them, a quick phone call or email often solves that. But now and again those past insecurities raise their ugly heads and you realise, scarily, that you still have to play those same careful cards that you had to play at school and those fragile egg-shells still need to be stepped on gently.

How can I teach Coco to have confidence in her friendships and relationships? That she doesn't have to control them because people will choose to be there for her and have fun with her, but they are also free to have many many other friends, as is she. I suppose enjoying her own friendship is key as well, not needing others to be at peace and feel fulfilled but to sometimes be able to just be alone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I do run, run, run...

I mentioned a while back that I had started running again. I think at the same time I said that I would keep you updated on the progress of my return to fitness and promptly never mentioned it again. Well, this isn't because I haven't continued with my running regime but I have to confess, it hasn't gone quite as planned (not quite as rigorous as originally intended). But - these things rarely do, certainly in my case!

There were a couple of reasons I embarked on a new running programme. Those of you who have known me for a while may remember that I tend to agree to undertaking stupid challenges such as marathons, channel swims and mountain climbs. Although I used to be fairly sporty, I am not a natural runner - I'm just not built for it - which makes the challenge all that more interesting.

There is the vanity. If I'm not training for something- I will not run. I'm no gym bunny that's for sure. I need to run. I have thrown in the odd passing comment or two about the fact that I have been trying to loose weight over the summer. It's not a big thing, but I have worked pretty hard at it and lost a total of 35lbs since May. Now I've reached the weight that I am happy with, I need to get fit to help maintain all my hard work.

The most important reason for this latest is fitness drive is that I love pushing myself to extremes to raise money for charity. I give what I can to my chosen good causes throughout the year via direct debits, I pop the odd pound in collection cans, I donate my unwanted belongings to charity shops, but raising money by putting myself through a bit of pain and hard work feels like a good thing to do. I feel justified is asking people to support me because this isn't just for fun. Believe me - it definitely isn't just for fun.

This is the hardest it has ever been to get back into physical shape. It has been so long since I did any serious physical excersise that my muscles feel like jelly! Having a baby doesn't seem to been the best thing for my body when it comes to enhancing my chances of returning to peak physical condition. For a start my boobs are so heavy and droopy I am having to wear two sports bras to offer anything even close to adequate support. My hips are clicky - you'd have thought that a year on they would have fully recovered from that joyous stirrup experience but alas - no. Finally, the biggest confession, and I am only telling you this to prove that I am earning ever penny I am raising, my pelvic floor muscles leave a lot to be desired. I never, ever, EVER thought I would need a nappy to run at my young (!) age - it is mortifying! Now surely that confession deserves a pound or two?!

However, it is all worth it. Last summer my beloved father-in-law lost his brave battle against a brain tumour and it is for him that our family has decided to pull together and do something special. It's not just me going through this pain and discomfort - in October we are heading to the Eden Project to run in their annual marathon. My brother-in law will run a full marathon (what a hero), I will do the half marathon and Angus and his sister will be running the fun-run with all the children. Everything we raise will be donated to the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust, a fantastic organisation that is dedicated to child and adult tumour research in the UK.

I managed a comfortable five miles this evening with some whopping hills, the question is will I be able to manage 13 miles in just three weeks time? Wish me luck!

If you wish to donate - leave a comment and I will send you the link our justgiving page

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Caught in a support net

Oh it's good to be back at the computer again. I can't deny that it has been kinda good to have had a few days off. Away from emails, even phone calls (we don't have mobile reception in our new home) and more sadly, my blog and everyones else's blogs.

After a tiring but successful pack-up, flight, move-into-new-house week, (oh and let's add a quick Christening and Birthday party to last weeks activities too, just in case we weren't busy enough) we are now completely settled in our lovely new house in beautiful (but wet) Dorset.

I have been thinking a lot today about support networks. I think Coco's Christening was the thing that got me started. When I asked a dear friend if she would be Coco's godmother she said she was excited to become a part of our extended family. I love the idea of extended family. I am very happy for my extended family to grown and grow and grow and it isn't exactly small as it is! I'm not from your normal (what's normal nowadays anyway) kind of family. I have biological and non-biological siblings. I have dear, dear family friends who I consider cousins. I have a godmother who is as much a part of my family as anyone. I have nieces who I love like my own children and now Coco has all of this support around her too.

When I had time to stop for long enough to absorb anything over the weekend I saw all of those people I love doing all of these selfless tasks just for us. From my sister and mother calmly pulling together a fab BBQ on Saturday evening to my mother-in-law appearing with a beautiful table decoration on Sunday. My niece taking on the roll of supper-nanny for the whole of the Christening day and my mothers best friend hot-footing it down to Dorset from London despite having a husky voice after bellowing Land of Hope and Glory out with all her might at the Royal Albert Hall the night before. Everyone making these momentous efforts for Coco was just amazing.

A support network is often something that is lacking when we are on the move and so I appreciate it so much more when I am home. Yesterday I was literally woozy with exhaustion and a friend invited Coco for tea at the drop of a hat. Last night my sister-in-law popped over for a cuppa and to offer some company on my first night alone in our new home.

It's the little things, the half an hour of baby-sitting, the offer to do a dog-walk or to give you a lift somewhere. I think, having not been around family and friends for so long, I am blown away by people's generosity and the sense of community there is at home. I know people for a start - that helps when you need a bit of a support network. I hope I don't take advantage of it too much over the next couple of months and that I can offer some reciprocal support, but it is lovely to have some time amongst people I know and love, like wearing your favourite sweater on a rainy evening.

I even took advantage of having Buster back in the family fold this evening and was braver about letting Coco work-out eating her yogurt without my help. His support was invaluable, after all I don't have to clean up after her, he will do it for me!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here We Go Again

I'm just taking a little break from packing. It will have to be a short break though as I am on a roll and I have less that 48 hours to get everything done, board our flight and wing it back to the UK! Aarrgghhh!

It is one of the only things I hate about our lifestyle (obviously I miss family and friends like crazy - but other than that), all the frigging packing!

You would have though I would be good at it by now, and I probably am getting better, but there is still a lot to learn and a long way to go  before I become a master. At this very moment in time it feels like absolute chaos. Actually, not absolute chaos, organised chaos but chaos none the less.

We seem to have more clothes between the three of us than we have bags...

And most of the toys are going to have to stay here.

The things I can never work out are:

Where did all the moisturiser come from?
How do I end up with so many half packets of rice and pasta?
Do ANY of my clothes actually go together?
Do ANY of Coco's clothes actually fit her?
Why do I have such an enormous medical kit and yet none of us are ever really ill (touch wood!)?
How do I even begin to work out which toys are essential and which can be stored?
Do I really need all this stuff that "might come in handy one day"?

If I was a proper packing / travelling expert I would have a capsule wardrobe for both Coco and myself. We would be elegant and stylish yet space efficient - as it is, I seem to have a heap of clothes that don't really go together and I wear flip-flops with everything, not because I want to, but because I never really know what shoes go with what. I would love to appear on one of those clothes shows where they completely re-vamp your wardrobe. Surely there is some mileage in an episode that condenses a whole wardrobe of clothes (including shoes) into one bag?

As for Coco - she seems to be a weird size. Most of her clothes are still 6 - 9 months and the 12 - 18 months stuff is enormous on her. What is so strange about it is when you see her with other children her age she looks the same, if not bigger, than most of them? What is all that about? I'd be very interested to know if anyone else struggles with the sizing of children's clothes. The problem is, she is all out of sync with the seasons. It is my fault for being a cheap skate and buying clothes in sales anticipating her size in time for the next season (wrongly it would seem). Oh well, I'll just have to tell her that the baggy look was in when she looks back over her baby photos in years to come.

Anyway, there is still loads to do and I haven't even started the cleaning or painting over the scratches on the walls! I must get on.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blown Away!

Well - actually we haven't been and nor am I! After all of the excitement of the last couple of days I was really hoping to have a power-cut at the very least, but the effects of Hurricane Earl ended up being nothing more that a few car alarms going off in the middle of the night.

The preparation was by far the most interesting bit of the whole event. Yesterday Coco and I drove to Connecticut to pick up Angus and Uncle Gabes after they had taken the boat down to a hurricane hole there as a precaution. Our journey back to Newport was a little hairy, no wind but the most torrential rain. There was that sense of nervous tension in the air, something big was about to happen. I was relieved to get safely tucked-up at home with a fridge full of food, a box of candles and heaps of loo roll (Angus's biggest fear seemed to be running out of toilet paper!). I had spent the previous day cooking up a storm (excuse the pun) so that we wouldn't all go hungry - tortilla, chilli, muffins, cookies, hummus - we were ready for whatever Earl was going to throw at us!

I have to confess - I love a bit of drama. I hate that hurricanes can be so devastating and I am fully aware how dangerous they are, but the idea of being involved in something so powerful and out of control I just find electrifying. We'd been tracking Earl all day and reports indicated that we would start to experience the worsening weather from about 6pm. So, at about 4pm we donned our foul weather gear and hit the streets. Newport's shipyard was chock-a-block with boats that had be hauled out of the water in preparation of the storm. Those that were still in had literally battened down the hatches. I have never seen so many lines tied to the dock and some had even taped across the windows.

This weekend is a holiday weekend in the US and Newport is one of their busiest summer destinations. You wouldn't believe that a Bank Holiday Friday evening could be so quiet. There was nobody around (sensibly) and signs in shop windows read 'Closed - I've run for cover'. I loved it, having the streets to ourselves and the sense of anticipation.

We spent the evening going backwards and forwards to the window watching the trees... nothing. At 9pm we decided to have an early night as we suspected we may be up for part of the night at lease! Well, at about midnight the storm hit. I woke up because of the car alarms but Angus slept through the whole thing and I'm not surprised. We have definitely experienced much worse storms back in the UK.

This morning (very well rested after a full 10 hours sleep!!) we discovered that Earl have veered East and was categorised a mere Tropical Storm by the time it passed our latitude. However, despite all of this, why let the truth get in the way of a good story? I can hear the tale I will be telling my Grandchildren - "your Grandfather and I lived through the great Hurricane Earl of 2010, you remember that dear? Oh, that was a terrible night!"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The weather is a changin'

I'm feeling very end of seasonish. Although the weather is still hot, the leaves are turning, the tourists are starting to dissipate, the 'fall' term is underway and the yachties are beginning to pack up and move on.  The summer season in the world of boats is drawing to a close.

Don't be deceived by the calm atmosphere, on the face of it all is well but all is not completely plain sailing here in Rhode Island. We are all currently keeping a beady eye on hurricane Earl as it blows its way north, straight towards New England! There is every chance that the hurricane could change direction or weaken on its journey but every captain with a boat in the area would be silly not to make plans to secure their vessel - just in case. I will keep you posted on its progress but at the moment we could be in for an extremely windy weekend!

We still have just over a week until this little family of three wraps up its business in Newport for this year and heads back to the UK for a couple of months. With Angus back in town, and a few days of good weather forecast until we start to feel the effects of the hurricane, we decided on a family outing to the zoo. I haven't been to a zoo for years and Coco never has so we were all excited about our little jaunt.

Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford is the perfect starter zoo. It is small but beautifully kept with a couple of wow animals (elephants) to draw in the crowds but mainly you see animals that are indigenous to the USA (black bears, bison and beavers) all are equally as impressive. Coco seemed to love it giving frequent waves and overexcited shouts of, "HI", to every single animal or person that we passed by. There was a little farm when you could pat the horses and have pony rides and plenty of shady grassy areas to picnic and watch the world go by. If you need it, there is a small restaurant to buy food and drinks. Not that we did, we were armed with a box full of sandwiches and fruit so with our entrance being just $6 each and Coco was free, we had a delightful yet cheap day out. You can't ask for more than that really!

Today is our wedding anniversary (three years! Can you believe it?) and the sun is shining. Angus is at work this morning but I anticipate something delicious to eat and drink later - yum! I will leave you with my favourite wedding photo in honour of the occasion...