dreams of travel

I had originally started my trip to California with the goal of traveling most of the year, and spending summers at home in Michigan. It definitely didn’t turn out that way! Although I would still ideally love to be traveling much of the time, there were so many reasons that I changed my plans. Primarily, because I fell in love with an amazing person who stole my heart and even made me want to get married (something I swore I’d never do!). She couldn’t leave her town, so I more than willingly moved there.

But that wasn’t all… my daughter didn’t turn out to be the type to do well with full-time travel. While she loved trips, she wanted to “go home” more than anything after a week. When she realized we were staying in California, it set off years of “I miss Michigaaaaaan!” crying spells. She still tells me, 3 1/2 years later, that Michigan is still home. She has a lot of anxiety, and moving didn’t help that one bit. In fact, it set her back a lot in terms of hard behavior… so there was no way I could keep moving around with her. She’s my heart, my everything, and I’d do anything to give her the stability she needs to be happy. To this day, she still wants to go back to Michigan, but she also loves her home here. She’s a total homebody! Who knew?

Then there is work. I seriously cannot do travel nursing… I’m just not flexible enough to keep learning different systems, different rules, different places that things are kept. I only somewhat enjoy and get satisfaction from my job when I feel a sense of mastery and can move up in the hierarchy ladder. So when I went to Stanford, I decided that would be it for me. I’m staying until the bitter end. And it was 100% the right decision! I love my unit, I love all of the experience I’ve gotten, I love being part of committees and doing charge nurse. For the first time in a very long time, I like my job and feel invested in it.

So, I don’t travel around the world for now (well, no one is at this point, thanks to ‘rona). I do get to experience beaches, cliffs, forests, hills, and all of the varied ecosystems around the Bay Area! I’m also close to one of my favorite cities ever, San Francisco. And I make the best money a nurse can make, on top of it all. I don’t have a big old farmhouse withe nooks and crannies like I’d like, but I still have my lake cottage and I have big goals for it. It will be my dream escape as I redo it from top to bottom. We have taken lots of trips to national parks, Disney Land, and Washington (my wife’s home state), and once we can move around again, I’m sure we’ll travel farther out once more. (Hello, cheap flights to Hawaii from the West Coast!)

And lets be real… one day all four of our baby birds will fly the coop, and we can travel and do whatever we want. Hopefully with our grown up kiddos, too!

Local beauty… just a quick drive away, beautiful lush mountains

they’re here!

We have twinsies! We are beyond exhausted, running on only a few hours of sleep per night. Good god. The first 24 hours was the hardest, because the boys were starving and frantic for milk that hadn’t come in yet. We had to start snaking a little tube into their mouths while they nursed and feeding them. They are great breastfeeders, there just isn’t enough colostrum to fill their little tummies! So basically they were nursing and fussing around the clock, until we started supplementing. But my wife’s milk is coming in more and more, so we’re hoping for a great first weight check tomorrow!

The birth went smoothly, and we had only two small snags: Baby B, Basti, lost too much weight the first day (11%), and Lindsey fainted after her first shower. But everything went fine other than those things!

I missed M, my original baby, while at the hospital for 3 days. We’ve been delirious, hallucinating even, on so little sleep. People have sent food, and money, to help us, which is a godsend. My mom has helped by staying at home with the girls, making breakfast, doing laundry, and so many people have chipped in to provide transportation for the big girls’ school and other things. It honestly takes a village, and I haven’t been afraid to ask for help! We’ll take all the help we can get!

One funny thing that happened is that we got a good look at the placenta after, and it appears not to be a single placenta, as all the high-risk perinatologists thought! It is, instead, two placentas fused together. Incredibly rare! But this also means the boys could be fraternal, not identical! We’ll only know by doing a DNA test. The pathology of the placenta will also confirm that it was two placentas, not one.

From Minnesota Center for Twin and Family research:

Though fraternal twins have their own separate placentas, sometimes the two fertilized eggs implant close to each other in the uterus, which can result in their placentas fusing. The two fused placentas look like one placenta, causing them to be mistaken for identical twins.

This is a fairly common mistake; as many as twenty percent of all twin births are misidentified as identical or fraternal. This confusion is one reason why we take special steps, such as sometimes taking blood, to determine if twins are identical or fraternal.

So! They appear to not be mo-di twins at all, but fused di di twins! Crazy! Sometimes they look identical, and sometimes they don’t, so the jury is still out. Personality-wise, Mr. Joe is the stronger sucker, and usually more demanding as far as wanting to be held, or wanting to eat. Basti is more laid back, ok with lying flat in a bassinet to sleep while swaddled, and a sleepy feeder who sometimes needs lots of encouragement to finish a meal. They both weigh pretty much the same and were the same length. They have medium to light brown hair, and very dark blue eyes! They were both born with the same sacral dimple, no birth marks, and perfectly formed everything.

Over and out… struggling through the first stages of twin mom life, but happy to have them here!

Baby A (Mr. Joe) and Baby B (Basti)

for my daughter, my inspiration and my teacher

I have been on a journey to removing my daughter from the conventional education system since she was 2 1/2. Today, we are three days away from seeing that dream realized. My daughter, so full of energy that she has been diagnosed with ADHD, so sensitive to noise and light that she has been diagnosed with SPD, so in tune with her brain’s physiological need to feel the breeze, the soil, the rush of equilibrium as you jump or race through space, that she has been called disruptive, annoying, “special needs”, and wild (even by me), would have done so well in a hunter gatherer society, where the sensations of nature all around her would have given her a sense of balance and peace, where her energy and enthusiasm would have made her one of the most successful members of her tribe, where her curiosity and incessant need to do would have driven her to quick and easy accomplishment and satisfaction.

She doesn’t live in a hunter gatherer tribe. She lives in a truly weird version of humanity that has arisen in 3% of human history. (Written human history is 3% of anatomical human history.) She is, historically speaking, a completely normal homo sapien. She has not adapted genetically or physiologically to the last 3% of our biological history. She possesses completely normal biological instincts, as most children do, but unlike many children, she has not been able to adapt, in her 6 years of life, to a biologically weird culture. And so she is a biological norm, and a cultural anomaly. She is “wild”, and I, her mother, have failed to “tame” her. All of the supplements, occupational therapy, food restrictions, punishments, rewards, pressure, shaming, and leading-by-example in the world has not transformed her from her biology.

But it’s ok. I can’t change the culture or the society or the world that she was born into. I can step back and look at the big picture. I can take advantage, at every opportunity, of the scenarios in which she shines as a truly human mammal. Look at her on the beach, for example, running and digging and playing for hours. Not too tired, not too cold, not whining about sand or sun or wind. She has stamina, she has the ability to meet her own needs, she has drive, she has focus, she is kind, she is insightful, she is generous, she is in all her glory.

When you see children who do not learn well in school, they will often display characteristics that would be valued and admired in any number of non-WEIRD cultures around the world. They are physically energetic; they are independent; they are sociable; they are funny. They like to do things with their hands. They crave real play, play that is exuberant, that tests their strength and skill and daring and endurance; they crave real work, work that is important, that is concrete, that makes a valued contribution. They dislike abstraction; they dislike being sedentary; they dislike authoritarian control. They like to focus on the things that interest them, that spark their curiosity, that drive them to tinker and explore.

-Carol Black, “A Thousand Rivers”

My daughter is exactly as above. She wants to contribute to the real world. No amount of “Montessori work”, as brilliant and creative as it may be, can take the place of figuring out how to make a bridge out of sand, how to make cupcakes out of random kitchen ingredients, or how to keep a fire burning with leaves and sticks. She needs to play, and not in the cutesy way of driving little trains along little tracks, or assigning mother/father roles to baby dolls (although yes, she does that, too). She needs to play exuberantly, and with the force of her whole body. She can play this way all day, and she can because she must. She is driven to socialize and interact in every moment. You can sit her at a desk, but that won’t diminish her need to talk to and explore with another human being. This is how she learns and grows from her world. She is the fullest expression of what it means to be a young mammal. Observe and study young monkeys, young tigers, young dolphins, and you’ll see what I mean.

Is my job as a mother, then, to force her to comply with the trappings of this modern era? Should she be made to sit still in a circle, or at a desk, for hours on end? What will this achieve or accomplish, other than a sense of control for the rest of us? I must encourage and model kindness of spirit, respect for the boundaries and needs of others, and the ability to regulate oneself for ultimate inner peace. Yes, those must be my goals as a parent. And yet, my little human mammal has arrived on this planet to show me that this need not be achieved within four walls. She is at her most regulated, kind, and respectful when she is respected for who she is and what she needs. And what she needs is the type of environment where she will blossom into who she is meant to be.

My daughter, my teacher, my inspiration: In three days you will be released into this world. You will be asked to take control of your own learning and your own fate. You will be given guidance and leadership, but not force or control. You will become responsible for what you know, and how you know it. You will learn to regulate yourself in whatever way works best for you as a unique individual. You will find those places in which your caring spirit and your insatiable curiosity lead you to greatness.

You will bloom into your truest, most radiant self. I am humbled to be with you on your journey as your mother, your mentor, and your friend.

4 weeks!

Four weeks left of school for my little one! There are certain days that inspire me to enter the next year, without “school”, with passion and without fear. One of those days was Sunday, when my girl and I headed off to a new beach to see what we could see. We discovered a free children’s program led by park rangers, we got to see them feed the aquarium life there, a little tour behind the scenes of the tanks, and then out to the beach!

Making a new friend, working together, digging hands and toes and bodies into the natural world.

With my own eyes, I could see that play in this mud was worth 1000 hours in a classroom. The cooperation, teamwork, communication, sensory stimuli, engineering, creativity, knowledge building, and nature exploration was good for body, mind, and soul, not just mind. And let’s be honest… who can learn when their body’s needs, and their soul’s needs, are not also being met?

Running free, learning in peace.

As well-meaning and loving as the adults in my daughter’s school have been (and they have been so loving with her), nothing can fill a child with learning the way that freedom can. After school, my daughter is grumpy, sad, irritable, and tired with low self-esteem. After 5 hours straight on the beach, exploring freely or learning from rangers, whichever she chose, she was calm, regulated, confident, and happy. So, it seems to me, the choice has become a no-brainer.

Exploring the free aquarium on the beach. Learning happens all the time!

Not everyone has the choice, financially, or for child-care reasons. I’ve been given an incredible gift: an opportunity to give her the learning that fills her up, rather than empties her. We are taking it! Now, wouldn’t it be amazing, if someday, all children could access this type of education???

Anything less is not good enough.

taking the big leap

Today we withdrew my daughter from her private school for the foreseeable future. I’ve dreamed of homeschooling, or actually worldschooling, or real life education, since my daughter was two, but until now I’ve never had the means. With twins on the way, and with a two parent household, someone being home all or most of the day every day is finally a reality (and a necessity). And with a little bit of research into the homeschooling community around us, a lot of inner searching, much excitement, and some trepidation, we are giving it a try!

Even in the small, lovely Montessori private school that she has attended the past two years, I see my child suffering in a “school” environment. I see her growing sullen, reluctant to go to school, and feeling irritable and cranky after school, unable to focus on the activities she loves in the evenings. Why do children need to “recover” from school anyway? Because it’s work. Not good work, that you are inspired to do, but often drudge work. The school our girls go to really improves on public schools in a number of important and valuable ways, but when I looked at my very active, very impulsive, sensory processing-challenged daughter, I see a child for whom “classroom learning” is not the right fit, not right now. All of the authority that goes with a rigid schedule of academics and the crowd-control necessary for a peaceful group of 25 three-to-six-year-olds is a round-hold square-peg scenario for her.

And yet, we’ve been wavering because, well, we love the people at the school and appreciate the nurturing atmosphere that contributed so much to our children’s well-being. And also because we aren’t sure how we can possibly tolerate having this very energetic and sometimes difficult child at home 24/7. Actually, having her at home 24/7 is not even an option that she will tolerate.

The only way this could work is if we found some sort of outside programming that she could attend during the week to take the place of school. Something supervised but free-form. Something engaging and active. And so far, we think we have found a few very good options. Programs that take place all day, every day, in the great outdoors (thank you, California weather!). Programs that allow children to learn and inquire and grow at their own pace (goodbye to the reading level expectations!), while allowing for maximum movement and activity. And, by the way, it’s for a fraction of the price of private school tuition AND the occupational therapy required to fit my little square peg into that big round hole that is “school”.

But is it all too good to be true? What will it really be like, to drive her further, to have her around more, to balance homeschool activities with sister’s school schedule and two newborn babies?

We don’t know. It may turn out to be nothing like we hope, but I have a feeling it will be amazing. And I know that by taking giant leaps on faith alone, you sometimes find more joy than you ever could’ve imagined!

made it to the other side

I’m finally comfortable at work, and can start relaxing and breathing through life again. In fact, dare I say it, I’m even having fun here on my fourth night without a preceptor. There are some cool people here, and it’s business as usual as far as nursing goes. I’m chatting with people, starting to eat again, and have gotten some nice compliments on my nursing care. THANK GOD.

Today was the first day that I had a sort of routine with M, too. I increased her frequency and length of school day, so that I can sleep until 2 or 3 while she’s there. Then pick her up, do something with her, clean the house, feed her dinner, get ready for work. By then she is tired and ready to just lie down with grandma. Up until now, I’ve slept and woken with anxiety and panic. Today… no! It also helps that I’ll be off of work for several days after this, too. I feel freer.

So I’m doing it, guys! I managed to be a nurse somewhere else… it was crazy hard (mentally), but four shifts in I’m feeling totally fine about it. Free from anxiety, I can now be super excited about my future, and my life here.

waves of anxiety

I’m on a roller coaster. At times I’m fine, thinking that everything was fine at the new job and I’m going to get through every night just fine, take it one night at a time. I got this. Then there are some hours where my body is in agony, panicky, unable to eat, my stomach churning. Luckily, I hadn’t really had panic or anxiety like this in years, and I didn’t expect to have it like this again, if I had I never would have come. I still feel like I’m in the right place, but I’m begging the universe to let this anxiety calm down in the coming weeks. It’s exhausting and I’m already so exhausted. I know that night shift is the worst possible thing for my panic attacks (it was so bad for me when I did nights in 2010). When I’m tired, I’m prone to anxiety. I also know that evening (right before I work) is my trigger time, and not drinking enough water. I’m trying to force myself to eat and drink as much as my stomach will allow me, and remind myself that I’m overtired.

I keep telling myself that it’s ok for me to be anxious right now. Every single thing in my life changed in a week’s time. It was all like a vacation until they put some patients’ lives in my hands, and I was in a social situation with strangers for hours on end. It’s totally normal to feel panicky in the beginning weeks. But god, it’s such an awful feeling. The symptoms themselves trigger more panic in a positive feedback loop. The tightness in my stomach, it causes my heart to race and my body to shake, and then the tears come. I’m out of practice for keeping it at bay and I’m trying to dig back to five years ago and all the ways I coaxed myself out of a life of anxiety.

There are some other travelers on their first contract who are feeling the same way. That makes me feel a little better. There is even one from my same hospital back home. We are both missing our home hospital fiercely, well at least the comfort and proficiency we had achieved there. If my old hospital suddenly popped up here, I’d run into it with tears of joy streaming down my face. I miss feeling competent, like I’m really good at something. Good enough to train others, good enough to make a huge difference in the care of patients. Right now at work I’m just struggling to keep up. My only homesickness is for the comfort I had at work, which is totally gone now.

Well tonight I’ll be on my own for the first time. Charge nurse and unit, please be kind.

cross-country road trip

So after Christmas we will be loading up the car (to the roof, I’m sure) and following the setting sun as far west as we can go. We are going on an epic 8 day adventure from the Midwest to the West Coast, and yes we are cutting south to avoid snowy, wintery roads.

Day 1: Michigan to the St. Louis area: where I am hoping relatives let us sleep for free.
Day 2: St. Louis to Tulsa Start the morning with a romp in Forest Park
Day 3: Tulsa to Tucumcari, New Mexico (Why here? Because it’s too far to Albequerque, and the hotels are cheap)
Day 4: Tucumcari to Flagstaff, Arizona
Day 5: Grand Canyon 1.5 hours drive to the south rim and overnight in Grand Canyon village… this is our “break day”, all other days are 7 hours of driving
Day 6: Grand Canyon to Barstow, CA Little pitstop in the Mojave Desert
Day 7: Barstow, CA to Monterey, CA via Highway 1 Lots of lovely scenery here, good places to stop
Day 8: Monterey to San Ramon Spend the morning on the beaches of Monterey, and it’s just 1.5 hours drive to my best friend’s house in the East Bay area

We stay with her for two nights and then we are off to our new temporary home in San Francisco!

It’s going to be fantastic, right??? Well, my 3 1/2-year-old is not going to enjoy 7 hours of driving time per day, let me tell you. No one is going to enjoy cheap Super 8 motels. So yeah, a lot of it will be misery. But the Grand Canyon, Mojave Desert, and Highway 1 will definitely help us out at the end!

Now we’re going to be so free…

But freedom can be lonely.

I got my first ever travel contract… San Francisco! We’ll be living (and I’ll be working) right in the city! I can’t wait to bike to work, grocery shop a few blocks away, and be so close to parks. (Golden Gate Park will be less than a few blocks away.) We’re going to be real urbanites.

After the contract ends in April it’s back to Kathmandu for a month to 6 weeks. Then back to Michigan for some summer by my lake.

End of December we drive across the country and I’m going to take the southern route to avoid snow on the highway. St. Louis, to Amarillo, to Grand Canyon, to Las Vegas, to Yosemite, to SF! I wanted my sister to road trip with us, but alas she has pesky things like family in town for the holidays and back to work after. I’m going to be doing these things with my mom, but we’ll be on our own. A little gypsy family.

I can’t believe we’re actually doing it. Taking off and becoming gypsies. It’s so amazing and I just wish I had a pack of friends doing it, too!! But except for some really amazing bloggers that I read, I’m going this alone. People must think I’m crazy… This is a daydream, a pipe dream, right? Real single moms don’t just up and.take off. The timing isn’t right… There’s not enough money saved… The what ifs abound…

Well, here we go anyway. I only have one life, and I’ve watched too many well-meaning people die without ever really living. People put off their dreams with all kinds of practical and realistic excuses. Either you do this or you don’t… There’s no in between!

Ok universe, I’m leaping in perfect trust… Catch me if you can!

free falling

Our future is totally up in the air. And I’m ok with it… which is odd. You’d think I’d find it terrifying, but I don’t. I’m confident I’ll find a travel nurse position that is good if not great. There aren’t a ton of January start dates out yet from hospitals, so I’m still waiting. I probably get asked 15 times a day where I’m going after leaving my job in December… it boggles the minds of most people that I don’t know still! I feel a sense of peace and confidence about it, though. It’s going to be just fine.

Money worries me, though. M worries me, too. Since coming home from Nepal she says many times a day, “Ahhhh, it’s so nice to be home.” I don’t want to live a life on the move if she’ll hate it. On the other hand, staying here is unsustainable from a money standpoint. Maybe traveling is partly good for kids, though, because they do so much appreciate “home” after returning. I mean, I don’t want her to think that having running hot water that is safe to drink is just a given. We should all appreciate and value it as the luxury it is. I want her to appreciate indoor heating and plumbing, 24/7 electricity, and access to entertainment and amenities because not everyone in the world has those things. It’s important to both appreciate places where those things are not available and feel gratitude for what you have at home.

I’m optimistic that I might find a position in the Bay Area of California to start, and be able to have my best friend nearby. It would give us built-in family, someone for M to socialize with, and even another childcare option when my mom needs a break. Access to beaches and mountains would restore my soul and help get me through to my next Nepal trip! I’m not going to pay off all my debt before traveling… I’ll work on it always, but as an ICU nurse I know firsthand that life is too short to put off what you want to do in life, even for responsible reasons. I have to budget carefully so that I can make all my payments on time, and not add onto any debt, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll life until age 80 so I have to travel at the same time.

Also, I have no problem telling everyone that my end game is to live in Nepal for parts of the year. I’m looking at renting an apartment for like $300 a month, and when I’m not there AirBnB’ing it out to other travelers. I have friends there I can pay to get them the key and make sure they don’t trash it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Kathmandu “home” to come back to?