Apr 15, 2014

Busy Busy On Our Time Off : BBQs, Kiteboarding, Circus, and Grandmaman

   Over the past couple of weeks we have not had any of the volunteer groups here and so we have been filling our time with fun stuff. Because everyone knows that idle hands, well, are boring. Here's just a glimpse into our past weeks.

BBQs with Friend

   Having Joaquin, and family, here with us means that our meat consumption has risen to a new level. Everyone who knows Joaquin knows what a cookout involves, usually somewhere near five or six different kinds of meat, and a couple onions and potatoes for our "vegetables". It is, of course, always completely delicious. We fill our tummies, the kids goof around, and we chilax.

Look what Marie found, butter named after our Arias

Kiteboarding Lesson

   Eben and I threw ourselves into a new extreme sport. Since I have no real "boarding" background, other than snowboarding a handful of times, mostly on bunny hills, we chose to dish out the money and take some courses. We paid for 9 hours, of which Eben used 3 and I used the other 6. Our instructors, Jonathan and Jennifer, divided and conquered.

   Day 1 of classes
Two hours on the beach, first learning how to handle a small stunt kite and then moving on to a real 7 meter kite. Going from a two-string kite, to an actual kite with four-strings and a bar was a totally different feel. It took me a bit to learn how to control the direction of the kite as well as the power needed to make it respond a certain way, but once I got the hang of it, Jennifer said she was impressed at how fast I was catching on. We ripped through the class and I was ready to hit the water, in our next lesson.

   Day 2 of classes
Eben joined me so that we could learn some of the safety and self-rescue techniques needed if ever we are out in the water, the kite goes down, and we need to get ourselves out of a sticky situation. Unfortunately once we got through that the winds were just a touch too light to fly a kite. We could get them up but they weren't very responsive and our instructor said we would just be wasting our time (and money), get frustrated with ourselves and the kite, and not learn that much. So after our hour of safety we called it quits for the day.

   Day 3 of classes
While Eben went with Jonathan and learned some tips on getting up on the board, I was with Jennifer learning to Body Drag. That is exactly what it sounds like, you take the kite, enter the water, and with the help of the wind, you get dragged around. The first couple of times I went out with Jennifer hanging on to the back of my harness. That way she could guide me through it and help me control the kite if every I got a face full of water, which happened A LOT. From a distance, when I could open my eyes between waves blasting me with salt water, I could see Eben up on the board riding around and having a great time. Minus the feeling of having ingested more than my share of ocean, I had a blast too, just dragging around. I was supposed to attempt body dragging on my own that day, but the wind and waves shifted to a point where I was not comfortable going out by myself, and Jennifer agreed, so we continued on as a pair.

   Day 4 of classes
With one last hour to use, Jennifer and I did a quick recap of the safety procedures, practiced launching and landing the kite, and then I was in the water, on my own, to fend off the waves and travel with the wind. Body dragging on my own. It did get a bit sketchy, due to some miscommunication, and I got a bit too close to a reef. But thankfully, my previous knowledge of water/reefs from sailing and the skills they taught me instinctually came in to play and I steered the kite in the opposite direction and dragged my toosh out of there. I was happy to call that the end of our lessons.

So as you can guess we still have a lot of practicing to do, on our own. I am not yet up on a board, and think I have a fair bit of kite control practicing to do. Eben on the other hand is up and riding. We are now on the hunt for equipment. This sport is not cheap, and since we have two of us to gear up, we are trying to do it on the budget side. So far we have 2 kites, 1 board, and a couple of harnesses that some friends have lent us.

yep, face full of water

Circus Classes
   We wanted to get Arias into some sort of "structured" classes. It didn't matter if it was dance, soccer, swimming, etc. We just wanted her to be able to hang out with some other kids her age in a more structured way than what she is experiencing in daycare/preschool. That is when a friend of ours mentioned circus class. A hotel in Cabarete. Extreme Hotel, hosts classes for a local circus. Once a week they do classes for the little ones. It is adorable to see 5-6 little girls the same age, doing everything from floor work, balancing, flips, trampoline, and the latest act, the trapeze. It seems that the years of having Eben toss Arias around has paid off because she was loving flying on the trapeze and bouncing and flipping around on the trampoline. We are so happy that we found these classes, because she loves them, and we love watching all the crazy things they will have her doing every week.

GrandMaman Visits

   My mother is in town for two weeks. It is so wonderful to have her with us, see the girls playing with their Grandmaman, and getting to see the DR through a new set of eyes. It has been a year since she last got to see the girls, and us, and there is a lot of catching up to do. So far we have been showing her around the Sosua/Cabarete area, using our pool to the fullest, and having long chats into the evenings. I am looking forward to plenty more time hanging out.

Apr 9, 2014

In Support of Babes On Boats

Tell me, do these kids look unhappy, mistreated, or neglected because we have chosen the path less taken? Everyone has an opinion, and mine is that our babies are more open-minded and conscious individuals because of the life they have had to date. Even if they are too young to remember all of this, it has shaped who they are. Don't let the negativity of others' opinions drag you down.

Apr 6, 2014

Celebrating Our Youngest Skipper

   About 25 months ago we left our boat moored in Georgetown, Bahamas to fly back to Canada to prep for the birth of our second skipper. At that point I was 9 months pregnant, and pushing the airlines limits of letting me fly with how far along I was. I was to the point of needing a helping hand to climb up the side of the boat and the help of two strong individuals to hoist me into the dinghy from the water, like some sort of wounded whale. It was time. 
   We went back to the wintery cold and stayed with our amazing friends, Luc and Amanda, as we counted down the days to our due date. On our exact expected date contractions began and our friends graciously left us their house, and took Arias with them, so that we could give birth to our second child in the comfort of a home. Of all the enormous rooms we could have chosen from to give birth, Ellia made her presence into the world "quick as a bullet" on their half-bathroom floor. 

   Fastforward a few months, after we had done some work to plump up the bank account a little, we returned to our boat and continued on with our liveaboard life now with two skippers in tow. Ellia spent the first year of her life attached to mama. If I wasn't carrying her, either on my hip or in her baby sling, she was not happy. She was not your typical baby cooing and laughing at every adult that made funny faces at her, but quite the opposite, she would stare them down and make them feel like real asses for trying. But once she warmed up to someone she was a flirt and very much a comedic character. This headstrong little individual has taught me a lot about myself, and in particular my hot buttons. She can be a challenge but makes up for it by being an awesome cuddler with the cutest little toosh around.

   Today we celebrate her second birthday with friends joining us for a pool and pizza party. So far it is not the birthday party that she is most excited about, or the presents or the cake, but the fact that Papa shaved his face for her! She loves soft kisses from her papa. She has also been making sure, all morning, that Arias will not eat "all my cake". And she has been telling everyone that she is now 3 years old, and thinking that that  is the funniest joke in the world. She gets her sense of humour from me (where you think you're jokes are the funniest and can't help but laugh at yourself). 

   Once again it was wonderful finding ourselves surrounded by our friends, eating, swimming, laughing, and enjoying another day in the DR. Today was a special day, we celebrated one amazing little human being.

ice cream from Annalise and Arnim

her very own My Little Pony

thank yous

Joaquin, Marie, Eva, and Hadrien got a gift for Arias too

the bag O' Candy!

cake cutting

Matt and Jessica

Arnim, Annalise, and baby Conrad

Kit, Blu, Bo, and Gigi

Apr 4, 2014

Old Friends, New Country

   Today we got to hang out with some great friends of ours that FINALLY made it to the DR. When Eben first started his sailing adventures years ago with his buddy Jordan they were both complete newbies at it. Other than a couple of encyclopedias they had no experience under their belts. Thankfully for them, and myself and our children, Joaquin took them under his wing. He became their Ocean Papa and schooled them in the ways of sailing. With his infinite jedi knowledge of boats and everything involved in that world, he got the boys ready enough to set sail on their own.

   Over the following years Joaquin, Marie, and their kids, Hadrien and Ava have made Dinner Key Marina a second home for us. We spent 11 months in Miami fixing up our boat and in that time they graciously opened up their boat and their kitchen to us. Every time we would have a layover in Miami we would try and get a couple of extra weeks there just to go hang out with these guys. We have had countless bbq's on their dock and days of just hanging out. They even opened up their second boat to us when we needed a place to crash for a couple of weeks. 

   This family is dear to us, and Arias has always claimed that Ava is her bestest friend. So when we heard that they were finally untying s/v Mirador's docklines and would be down to join us in the DR in 8 weeks we were ecstatic. We envisioned spending hurricane season with them and having months and months to catch up and hang out. Of course boat life never goes as planned and hurricane season came and went and we didn't see them. But yesterday they finally arrived! 

   We gave them one night to recoup from their passage from Turks and Caicos. This morning we were in the car before even having breakfast and making our way to their boat for a full day visit. After lazing around the pool and letting the kids splash around we took them into Puerto Plata for some lunch and errand running. Before we knew it the sun was setting and we were making plans for tomorrow. We are now back in our bed, watching a show, while Arias sleeps soundly next to their two kids, who we kidnapped for the first of many sleepovers. Now we will start working them to stay here long enough that they spend this upcoming hurricane season with us. 

Mar 29, 2014

Playing Tourist

  We travel a lot, by means that many don't use. Getting to see the off-beat paths because our boat goes where many tour buses won't. But that doesn't change the fact that we still like to play tourist every now and again. And today was one of those days.

   Being that we don't have a group of volunteers here right now, or for the next couple of weeks, our schedules are rather open. And with the girls being on a regular "work-week" schedule, they don't go to school on weekends. So this morning we were left wondering what we should do with our free time. Ever since we arrived back in the DR we have been putting our feelers out there to see what is available in terms of family entertainment. Today we decided to go and check some of them out.

   We started off our morning at Ocean Village. It is a gringo haven full of fun stuff. We went there to use their playpark and waterpark. It was pricey but we had been bribing (bribery #1) the girls with this place all week and so we had to follow through and take them to thank them for the good behaviour they had exemplified towards the end of the week. When we first arrived the skies were grey and the rain was drizzling. We had a few second thoughts about paying the entrance fee is we were going to be forced out by the rain soon after. But the girls we so excited that we could not deny them. We spent a couple of hours there, and the girls had their fix. Swings, teeter-totters, waterslides and pools. After mustering up some courage Arias went on the big waterslides and then did not want to stop. Then she tried her skills at boncing across floating lilypads, Wipeout-style. And Ellia, well she seems to aire on the more cautious side , like her mama, (Eben prefers to call us wimps) and decided to suntan with me instead. They were spent and ready for nap by noon.

   After lunch and nap we all piled into the car again and headed in the opposite direction towards Playa Dorada. The purpose of this excursion was to go check out a movie theatre we had heard opened in the area, and to see what else was over there since we had never been. We drove into the gated community which was compound after compound, lined with a golf course on one side and the ocean on the other. A quarter of the places looked empty or run down, and the others were on the other spectrum, high end and tropical. But all of the properties are well-kept manicured lawns and big green spaces. The "mall" area in the center of it, where the cinema is, is a conglomeration of shops selling rum, cigars, and tourist niknaks. It is definitely geared towards the tourists visiting the area, and walking around there brought us flashbacks of Cancun and Honolulu melded together. But I guess many of these tourist "malls" look similar, selling the same tshirts, hats, and bags, just with different city names on them depending on your location. It didn't take us long to walk through the entire mall, since we weren't really shopping, and aren't in need of any tour packages. But we couldn't leave until giving the girls a chance to climb through the slightly unstable jungle gym structure, which was three levels tall and had a ball room on the second one. (Bribery #2, for giving us good behaviour as we dragged them through the tourist mall).

   We finished off our tourist adventure back at our "hometel", sitting at the bar sipping Banana Mamas (birbery #3) and watching the waves crash in. It was definitely fun discovering a different side of the DR and knowing whats being offered just two towns away.

   **Yes, bribery, it is an awesome parenting tool, and those who don't believe this, well they must not have kids of their own. **

Arias' sweet skills

Ellia mimicking mama and tanning

you can imagine what Arias did next!