View from below as Jacob and the girls climb the steep staircase on the side of the mountain

Nursery Ravine Hike: It’s Not for Babies

South Africa is one of the most biodiverse places on earth and home to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. There the country’s unique vegetation flourishes and the Nursery Ravine hike begins. From the entrance of the gardens, you follow a cobblestone path lined with huge clusters of tall, thick bamboo reeds and fig trees. The long branches snake upward to create a canopy overhead.  At the fork in the path, continue straight and the canopy suddenly opens revealing the first of many long, wide green lawns surrounded by shrubs, flowers and more trees. Towering above it all is Table Mountain. The gardens are located on the backside of the mountain where you can see the three major peaks: Castle Rock, Fernwood and Devil’s Peak. The trio radiate a powerfully entrancing energy that draws you inside.

View of the city along side enormous castle rock
Castle Rock

Fernwood Peak is my favorite.  The top of the peak is as tall as it is wide and the rock juts out of the fynbos in a sheer, steep cliff. The layers of sediment are shades of gray with a scattering of green from the brush that hang onto the rock with a tight grip.

Our neighbor once told us that many people come to Cape Town for various medical procedures and the wind and air here are often described as the “Cape Doctor”. I think of this every time I see Fernwood and have an urge to be as close to her as possible. When my physiotherapist told me about a hike that starts in Kirstenbosch and leads up to the top of Table Mountain, I was an easy sell. She explained that the trail would eventually lead to the cable car on the other side of the mountain; a ride down would drop us at the stop for the double-decker Red City Tour bus that would then take us back to our car at Kirstenbosch. Based on my research it appeared the whole experience should take about five hours.

I worked hard building the strength in my knees and a month later, during the school holiday the perfect time was upon us. The winds were finally calm and the sky a clear blue. We packed our snacks and lunch and set out unknowingly into our twelve-hour day (yes, you read that correctly…twelve hours, not five). We entered the grounds of Kristenbosch at about 9:30am, followed the map and immediately began our uphill climb toward the Nursery Ravine trail.   My PT made it clear that we should follow the Nursery Ravine and not Skeleton Gorge. Skeleton Gorge is much steeper and has several ladders one must use to scale the walls of the cliffs. Nursery Ravine has only one. She assured me that once on top the trail would then “gently undulate” toward the cable car.

The Nursery Ravine trail is more like a long staircase ascending up the side of the mountain for 1,903 ft. (580m) though a forest of tall trees. Step after step this staircase follows the rocky Nursery Stream, which in summer is a trickle but in winter (lucky for us) was flowing in a long beautiful waterfall. water splashes over mossy rocksOnce the trees clear the reward is a close up view of Castle Rock (the girls thought it looked more like a multi-layered cake). The trail takes you right along the side the monstrous rock, which had patches of bright green moss seeping with water. Quinn led the way for most of the two-hour ascent, living up to her nickname of Mountain Goat. We stopped frequently to rest, take pictures and assess our progress (Less rest time and you can make it up in one hour). Once we reached the top we celebrated our success with lunch, long views of the city below and the view of the ocean stretching out in the distance. We all felt ready for the undulating trail that was promised.

The trail, however, did not level out until after another two hours of hiking up, over and through the rocky terrain. On the upside, the unexpected, non-undulating part of the hike allowed me to finally get my feet on my beloved Fernwood Peak. I stopped every now and then to breathe in the beauty and allow her medicine to flow up through my feet. Really, this mountain is that powerful. Jacob usually gives me a loving eye-roll when I talk about nature in this way, but even he agreed the energy was palpable.

Jacob and the girls stand on top of rocks in front of Fernwood Peak
Fernwood Peak

Just as when we explored Machu Picchu, I was in awe of the girls’ ability to stick with our hike. They were led by their curiosity instead of glued to the spot by the awareness of their tired legs. Don’t get me wrong, there was a time or ten when the glue tried to take hold but that was when Jacob and I came to the rescue. We have learned that shaming and yelling at our kids (hey, I’m not proud of those moments but every parent has them) does not motivate them to persist at whatever they are trying to accomplish. Positive parenting wins the day every time. We often used snacks to entice them to push on and in the last hour of our six-hour hike (when the trail was finally undulating), Jacob used humor and games to keep them moving forward (I, myself, was lost in the music of the frogs and auburn colors of the fall fynbos).

The signage for most of the trail was severally lacking but once we reached the tip top of Table Mountain, the National Park Service finally marked the way with little yellow feet painted on select rocks. Jacob, in his stroke of genius, named these marks “energy feet”. One step on the marks and both Mackenzie and Quinn sprang into action.  There were also low, wooden bridges scattered throughout the trail that elevate hikers over rocks covered with slippery moss.  After Quinn took a spill that sent her sprawling, Mackenzie quickly understood the purpose of our energy game and came to Quinn’s rescue by wisely naming the walkways “healing bridges”. That was all it took; Quinn’s bruised knee was miraculously healed and she was on her way again.

Once at the cable car station, Jacob and I sipped happily on a cold beer while the girls ate a free candy ring from the gift shop. We took in the eagle-like view of Table Mountain with its rippling edges that drop into the cornflower blue ocean.

Rocks with tufts of grass growing in between, the ocean in the distance
Top of Table Mountain

We reached our destination about an hour later than what was planned but we all had a feeling of pride and achievement. After our rest, we found the end of the hour-long cable car line (need I remind you that this was a holiday weekend, oops). Luckily we met a very nice family and so while Jacob and I were entertained by conversation, the girls were entertained by watching a couple of Rock Dassies (small animals who are a distant cousin to the elephant.) hop across great gaps between steep rocks (an action that indicates they may be adrenalin addicts or evolved without depth perception).

Once at the bottom of our cable car ride, we found our Red City Tour Bus and picked a perfect yet chilly seat on top. Off we went, making the best of the six o’clock hour and rumblings in our tummies (our snacks long gone) by naming our ride the “sunset tour”. There must have been a nagging doubt in Jacob’s head that made him pull out his phone and look up the tour bus route. Suddenly an, “oh, crap!” came from behind me. “Amy,” Jacob said with exhaustion in his voice, “we are on the wrong bus.” “What?” I asked stunned, “There is more than one bus line?”

Why yes, yes in fact there are four. This bus line would neither take us back to Kirstenbosch nor to our car. No, that bus left over an hour ago and was the last one of the day.

I immediately felt shame and panic that I had totally screwed up. I was in charge of this little excursion and it had already been way longer than I anticipated. Travel is a constant test of one’s ability to pay attention to details and thoroughly read all the information before setting out on an excursion and sometimes things happen. Sometimes you take for granted that an outing appears straightforward or that another person’s assessment of what you and your kids can handle is accurate. There is no use stewing about it; flogging yourself does neither you nor anyone else any good at any time but especially when traveling. Plus, these we-survived-it stories are the ones that make blog posts and create laughter when shared with friends, right? After a quick chat with the bus driver it was apparent that our only solution was to find a taxi back to Kirstenbosch. Thankfully, our tour bus tickets were not wasted, they are good for two weeks from the date of purchase and the driver did not scan the barcode when initially got on, whew!

This crazy excursion reminded me that sometimes we get things right and sometimes we don’t but we always go away a little smarter about how to make this crazy journey with our kids work. So, here are a few ways we have become a bit more travel savvy:

Ten Tips for Foreign Travel with Kids:

  1. Understand that travel is slower. Do not try to pack everything in. Either plan for a longer holiday so that you can space out all the places you want to go or prioritize the important places and be ok with it. Remember, no matter how hard you try, you can never see it everything.
  2. Pack lots of snacks and a little extra just in case.
  3. Pack lots of Band-Aids, antiseptic spray and antibiotic ointment. It may seem obvious but don’t forget hats, sunscreen, plenty of water, tissue and toilet paper.
  4. Use positive, motivating games to keep your kids engaged in the present moment (helps cut down on the frequency of the question “are we there yet?”), for example
    • Count the Stairs
    • Ask them to find their favorite bug, flower, tree etc
    • Let them take turns as the photographer
    • If in a safe spot, let your kids take turns as the leader
  5. Rest, rest, rest and remember to stay in the moment too.
  6. Get them engaged in the planning, where they will go, what they will see, etc. Give them an outline of what the day will entail.
  7. Read about the history or science before you go and talk about it as you are there
  8. Have them carry their own little purse or bag with small toys or coloring stuff inside
  9. Remember that play is the way kids work out their stress and their triumphs. Find a playground when things are tough and you won’t be sorry.
hot peppers

Eating in Costa Rica – Part 2

As one of our servers described, as a Costa Rican, he prefers milder food and isn’t very adventurous when he eats out in his home country or when traveling.  I am not sure if this is the reason that the food tends to feature few spices other than a bit of salt and the occasional pepper, but in general eating in Costa Rica was at times very disappointing and often a tad bland.  Our best bets were the restaurants that featured foreign cuisine or interestingly vegan/vegetarian cuisine. See below for more details about our dining adventures.


It was also very expensive on the whole.  We often kept costs of eating out low at most one drink each and we typically had the girls share a small side dish (papas fritas or patacones) along with one main dish.

Homemade patacones!

Kid’s menus are not typical in these areas and the amount of food was generally more than enough for our girls. Even with these tactics we averaged $43.34/meal when eating out.  If you ignore some of the anomalies, like the time we only had fries and four cokes, the total pushes nearly $50/meal to dine at a restaurant.

Recapping these numbers makes me miss our tiny kitchen in our cabina in Punta Uva.  A couple of days before we departed, they replaced our little burners with a small gas range.  With an oven, we could have been a tad more creative in our own home cooking and would have saved homemade casadoeven more.  As it was, we really did fantastic eating at home. Shopping nearly daily for just what we needed and using almost every bit of it went a long way to keeping our costs down.  On average, we spent $8.89/meal.  This included the cost of buying our water every day, a variety of snacks, a small cache of salt and spices and a few storage helpers to allow us to save leftovers in the fridge more easily.

I will post final budget numbers for Costa Rica after our last day there (we return for a day before flying to Perú), but here are some other numbers that might interest you:

  • Snacks/Fruit when out and about: $24.76 for the month (this is by no means all snacks…with two kids that snack constantly this just represents the times we bought things other than at the market)
  • Ice Cream on hot days: $35.45 for the month, about $9-10 for the four of us to indulge a bit.
  • Pipas frias (cold coconuts): $1.50-$2.50 each depending on vendor.
  • Total daily spent on food: $38.18
  • About $13/meal for a family of four. If your kids are older it will likely be higher.
Place Notes Total
Selvin’s Terrible food…the place itself was amazing. Cool lights, beautiful wood tables and chairs and tucked into the jungle just off the main road. Sadly the service was severely lacking. We have come to expect a slower pace than typical in the USA, but this stretched our patience. Then our food finally came…my steak was gristly and cooked poorly, chicken was dry and over-cooked, and the sauce was a salt bomb. The kids had the Sea Bass and this actually was very nicely cooked, but Mackenzie complained it was too lemony. I would say if you do find yourself here, stick with the seafood and avoid the Caribbean sauce. $60.57
Alice Ice Cream Bar Ice cream was very nice and the family running it is very friendly. An expat couple from New York provided great information about the Puerto Viejo area and a few words of advice about our next foray to Panama. As an added bonus, their 8 year old son asked Mack to play soccer with him. Amazing what 30 minutes kicking a ball (especially being allowed to do it in an unused corner of the restaurant) does for connecting two kids 🙂 $11.73
Bri Bri As Amy previously mentioned, we took a trip into an indigenous reserve to visit the Bri Bri people. As part of this a family shared a traditional homemade meal with us consisting of stewed fruits, vegetables and poultry of some sort. This concoction was served in a banana leaf bowl (a tad challenging to manage for the uninitiated) and a coconut cup with a lemony water. After we finished our meal, we sampled fresh handmade chocolates. This included a sample of the raw cacao fruit, a cluster of nuts covered in a slimy white flesh that tasted like jolly ranchers, and eating a fresh roasted cacao nut. Later we were also treated to a traditional hot cacao drink.  Delicious! N/A (Part of larger package)
Maxi’s This Caribbean style soda just off the beach in Manzanillo was a gem.  The food isn’t necessarily all that special, but coupled with the view and friendly staff it was very nice. It was recommended by many of our friends and family that had visited the area in years past. Reggae is thumping and the restaurant upstairs features great views of the water. The chicken was well cooked, with savory seasoning and a tasty side of rice and beans, plantains and cabbage salad. The fish version was ok, the fish was nicely cooked, but wasn’t a great fit with the rice and beans. The girls however loved their arroz con pollo! $56.30
Como en mi Casa A fantastic accident! I was first made aware of this locale by our Spanish teacher Matías and it caused me a bit of confusion. I had asked him if we could maybe have a lesson somewhere besides my kitchen and he suggested that we could go someplace…como en mi casa! I mistook that to mean “like my house” instead of the name of a restaurant. The menu is simple and features vegan, gluten free and vegetarian cuisine. The baked goods were fantastic, the organic local produce was amazing and the preparation was perfect. My Gallo Pinto featured perfectly fried eggs, flavorful rice and beans, fresh fruit and a delightful semi-hard cheese. Amy chose the Mediterranean sandwich and enjoyed every bite. The girls split the hummus snack and goat cheese platter (both of which I sampled). The staff is friendly and the owner brought the girls two organic gluten free chocolate cookies. When asked if the owner was nice, Mack replied, “Yes, cause she didn’t ask you first if we could have a cookie!” $34.29
Wandha We were stuck…last night in town, no food in our fridge and only a credit card to pay for dinner. After multiple strikeouts (no reservation, no we don’t take credit cards, no we are closed) we wound up at Wandha, a restaurant attached to Hotel Shawandha in the area of Punta Uva. This was a budget buster! they featured a kids platter of spaghetti bolognese that included a drink for $10 a plate. My corsair shrimp dish was tasty with a nicely spiced coconut curry and Amy’s steamed white fish was tasty and well prepared. Amy had a nice glass of wine and we shared a fantastic desert of chocolate mousse with ginger sorbet. The service was fantastic and the atmosphere was nice. A great place, but very expensive for anyone on a budget. $95.24

Costa Rica: The Month in Review

We have arrived in Bocas Town, Bocas del Torro Province, Panama.  Our new one bedroom condo is air conditioned and bug free, a welcomed luxury.  I am in the small living room watching the girls turn the two sets of bunkbeds, that are also in the living room, into forts.  My mind drifts back to the cabina that we left in Costa Rica.  I am missing the peaceful solitude of our jungle bungalow and the sounds of nature all around.  Bocas Town is way more lively and seems to be preparing for some sort of festival, a story I am sure we will share in the coming week.

This morning I am reflecting on the first month of our year long adventure.  We had our last few days in Costa Rica planned out so well.  We would spend Monday doing errands in Puerto Viejo, a hot 40 min bike ride (I’m sure if you weren’t lugging two kids you could go faster), and enjoy lunch at Lidia’s Place, a highly recommended lunch spot to get the local dish of Casado. Tuesday we would go to our favorite beach spot and Wednesday we planned to do laundry (most of which needs to be air dried), slowly start to pack and then enjoy one last dinner at our favorite spot, Pita Bonita.

Mackenzie in a waterfall

Quinn holding a green parrotWell…this isn’t how it all ended up working out.  Monday we rode into town as planned, at the peak of hunger, pulled up in front of Lidia’s only to find it closed.  Dang! Now what?  Feeling hot and hungry the moans of disappointment from the girls in the background, Jacob and I looked at each other pleadingly for the other to think of plan B.  Luckily, Jacob remembered that our Spanish teacher Matías recommended a place called Como en mi Casa.  Jacob remembered this place because about out a week earlier he misunderstood the meeting location that Matías  told him for one of their Spanish lessons. Jacob thought Matías said to meet him at his home but instead Matías meant for them to meet at this restaurant.  Oops! Anyway, there we were hot, hungry and cranky.

Como en Mi Casa serves a vegetarian and vegan menu of locally grown, organic products ironically located above a butcher on the second floor of the building.  We rode up and saw several patrons sitting at the bar on the balcony enjoying their lunches.  Hooray, crisis averted!  The ambience was beautiful.  Great music, friendly staff and the owner’s art dots the walls.  She requested the girls draw her a picture to put on display.  The food was amazing.  Jacob’s Pinto Gallo was beautifully spiced and came with a delicious salsa. I had an amazing Mediterranean garden burger with fresh made bread topped with sun dried tomatoes and perfectly ripe avocados (which normally give me stomach problems when I eat them but somehow in Costa Rica it doesn’t effect me as much).  The girls shared a goat cheese and cracker plate and some fresh made hummus.  Fantastic.  Hypnotized by the girls’ cuteness, the owner gave them each a house-made, vegan chocolate cookie made from local chocolate.

Tuesday came and after a lazy morning we lathered on our sunscreen, donned our swimsuits and mounted our bikes to head to the favorite beach spot.  From our house you take the second road to the Arrecife beach, named after the restaurant that is located there.  The bumpy, rocky road leads you along the ocean where you can pick from a series of little private coves.  The water is calm and a perfect depth for Quinn to feel safe playing a little further out from the shore. Plenty of beach to lay your towel and some shade from the overhanging palm trees make this a great spot.  Because Mackenzie helps me pedal, we tend to go much faster than Jacob pulling Quinn in the trailer.  We bumped on ahead and scouted out our spot. “Man, the wind has really picked up today”, I thought “and the tide is high” (cue Blondie’s song The Tide is High here).  We waited for Jacob and Quinn to catch up, assessed the conditions and decided to look further down.  This pattern would happen over and over again for the next 30 minutes until a decision was made to go back to Punta Uva cove where we know it to be calmer waters as it is protected by the point.  (English translation is Grape Point, odd since we didn’t see grapes in that area).  We rode up, parked our bikes and realized that the conditions were the same. Choppy water and not much dry beach due to the high tide.  We made the best of it.  Jacob and I floated out in the waves and the girls dug holes, built castles and drew sea turtles in the sand.

I imagine by now you are getting the sense that we had the saying “the best laid plans…” going around in our heads. Really it is not until now, that I realize none of our final-days-plans worked out as we hoped. We just rolled with it so to speak, figured it out and made the best of it, discovering jewels we would otherwise have missed.  Not to say it wasn’t devoid of feelings of frustration and whining, I don’t want to paint the picture that every moment is magical.  So it was not surprising that the same pattern happened on Wednesday too.  I saved laundry for our last day so as to optimize our clean clothes for our next destination.  We woke to cloudy skies but with high hopes I started the laundry after attending my final yoga class (lovely).  As I hung it out on the line, the clouds loomed.  Yep, after about an hour on the line, the rain came and I sprinted back to the “laundry grove” to save the almost dry clothes.  Clothes retrieved and rehung on a line on our porch our thoughts drifted to dinner.  Jacob decided he better look up Pita Bonita to “make sure it’s open” because on his way back from a bike ride, he noticed the cerrado sign hanging on the door.  Internet said it was supposed to be open but when I called….NOOOOOOOO!  Closed. This was the biggest bummer of the week and one that was not so easy from which to bounce back.  Now what?  Well, Jungle Love is not too far down the road but it is a dark on the road at night and this made us both very nervous.  Website said open, lights attached to the bikes,  let’s go.

“No, we do not have a reservation” we said forlornly to the hostess.  “I can’t get you in until 7:30pm” she said “most places are closed on Wednesdays” she went on. (now 7:30 was an hour and a half away. Some of you might be thinking 7:30 is reasonable, why don’t you just wait? If your thinking that, I’m guessing you don’t have kids).  Ok, well, there is the super expensive place up the road that may not have anything that the kids will like, we can look at the menu.  Oh, wait, they don’t take cards and we have spent all of our Costa Rican Colones and didn’t bring any US dollars (most places will accept dollars). Ok…What now?

All this time Jacob and I were debating, Mackenzie was jumping up and down trying to get us to listen to her that she had seen a place up the road that was open.  At this point, we are all starving and it is starting to rain again.  After checking a couple more places with the same “no cards” response, we finally listened to Mackenzie.  We landed at a place called Resturante Wandha.  The restaurant was part of a larger resort and therefore we paid resort prices.  The food was ok, I had a tropical sea bass dish. The fish was steamed in a ginger broth inside a banana leaf.  Jacob had a curried shrimp dish.  The waiter was very nice and ambience was great but I wouldn’t go back. It was no Pita Bonita.

While we waited for our meal, I asked Jacob and the girls for their top three favorite things over the last month.  Here were the responses:


  1. Trying new foods
  2. Seeing Howler Monkeys
  3. Taking hikes


  1.  Seeing pretty flowers
  2. Trying new foods
  3. Going to the beach


  1. The delicious squash dish at the organic farm on Punta Mona
  2. Spending time together as a family
  3. All the friendly people


  1. The sound of Howler Monkeys
  2.  The hike at La Ceiba
  3.  The dining experience at Como en Mi Casa

There were many more amazing things we could all add to our list.  Returning to this place some time in the future to really become fluent in Spanish and  immerse in life there could be a possibility.  On our way to Bocas, we met a very nice man from Germany who has paused for a year of travel twice in his life.  He said the first time he went it took a bit to adjust to the realization that he had time.  Time to explore at whatever pace he wanted and yet, it still was not enough to go everywhere he wished.  As I look forward to the next leg of our travels, I realize I am doing the same adjustment.  My brain has moments of panic that we need to “get it all in”.  It may look like “vacationing” on the outside and granted some of it is that but I feel more like we have given ourselves the gift of time, togetherness and learning. There are hard days.  The girls are not always so cooperative and Jacob and I bite at each other some but in the long run, this time together, time to explore new locations is precious.

Amy and Jacob selfie. Amy with red lips and Jacob with "war paint"

We are living on a tight budget to make this happen, having many discussions of what our “work” looks like now and in the future.  As predicted, Costa Rica was a great landing spot for our first destination. Taking a month to establish our travel/school routine, exploration and togetherness proved to be a great decision. For the next 5-6 weeks we will be more on the move.  8 days in Bocas then to Lima, Peru for 3 before heading out on our exploration of the southern half of Peru. Bouncing around to new locations each week we are there.  This will be a good test of our communication, parenting and emotion regulation skills.  So… Here we go!

Moving out and traveling on

Moving out is not as easy as I thought it would be.   My shoulder has been killing me and my stress level is at an all time high.  We are down to the final few days before we close on the house and I am seriously regretting not requesting a later closing/possession date.

This has been a tough three days and to complicate matters further, Amy’s knees are in bad shape.  They have swollen to nearly double their normal size and she can hardly move. On Friday, the reality of how much we had left to do started to sink in.  This isn’t going to be like when we moved to a new house.  This time we won’t have another house so all the loose ends must be tied up, they can’t just be thrown on the back of a moving truck to deal with later.  I knew we would figure this out, but it wasn’t going to be easy at all.

On Saturday, two close friends came by to pick up the couches they purchased.  Chris took one look around and said, “I hope you don’t have to be out today, cause you would be screwed!”  Thankfully we still had four more days at that point, but we weren’t far removed from being screwed.  My mom and Ben would be by soon to start helping move out the bedroom furniture that they purchased from us and the girls furniture that Ben made for them.  That would be a major piece for sure, but it wasn’t nearly enough.  After nearly seven hours of loading and unloading we still had more to do…they would have to return the next day to help get it done.

Needless to say, I slept poorly on Saturday night.  Despite my physical exhaustion I couldn’t help run through the list of all the unfinished items.  I kept wondering, how is this going to happen when Amy can hardly walk…Not to mention that if she is more seriously injured than tendonitis or bursitis it may have big impacts on our other plans.  As the morning dawned, Amy’s sister and nephew came over to help and so did my mother and Ben.  It turned into another long, exhausting day, but we made massive progress.  Progress to the point where my stress started to wane and I could actually sit down, enjoy a cheeseburger (albeit with no furniture other than lawn chairs) and watch the Bronco game.

This was an emotional weekend, often feeling physically beat down and mentally overwhelmed.  But it was a reminder of how important our friends and families are to us.  Without them, we would be nowhere near a point where we can finally say goodbye to our house and take this trip.  It is also a reminder that we will face some challenges during this adventure and that we won’t always have their immediate physical support to rely on in a pinch.  It is exciting and a little frightening at the same time to think about how we might overcome such times.

What We Are Bringing

As the items start rolling in, we have to make some tough decisions about what we are bringing. The list is long right now, and will likely change before long!

We ordered a Kindle Fire for one of our daughters when Amazon was having a sale. Jacob had another one that he got from credit card points a year or so ago and never used. We will use them for school purposes for the girls. They have already discovered the math and reading games and love to play them. The cases they picked out were part of the “stuff” that came yesterday. Here is a list of the other stuff:

Parachute Cord: We have read over and over that having some kind of clothes line with you is helpful. My friend told me never to dry anything flat while in Costa Rica because it will immediately start growing mildew. You can buy a “travel” clothes line but the reviews indicated that is was sometimes too short and the material started breaking down right away. Another blogger raved about parachute cord because it can serve many purposes and is a fraction of the cost of the “travel” clothesline. So, we’ll see.

Packing Cubes: Ok. These definitely have mixed reviews. Some people hate ‘em some love ‘em. Jacob was on the fence but I like the idea of pulling out one cube of clothes or electronics or whatever instead of rummaging through the pack and disturbing the organization. Plus they are purple, can’t go wrong with purple. ☺

Plugs and adapter: I think we will have more electronics than anything else in our packs. 4 kindles, one ipad, two laptops, two phones, electric toothbrush, and a Bluetooth speaker. “Holy Christmas” as my good friend D’ would say. That’s a lot of electronics. For this reason, we decided to purchase a travel power cord. It has multiple USB ports. It seems pretty bulky but I’ll make Jacob carry it. 😉 Jacob discovered that all of our electronics are made with an internal electricity adapter, meaning they will automatically convert the watts necessary for power so all we need is the different plug adapters.

Flash drive: Video and pics take up a ton of memory so probably a good idea to have extra storage.

Sleep Sheet: Oddly enough, I already have one of these and my mom had two silk sleep sheets from when my sister and I were kids. She made our down sleeping bags from a 1970s Frostline Kit, I guess the sleep sheets were part of that kit. I bet she didn’t anticipate them going around the world with her granddaughters! We have been told and also read that some hostels charge extra for sheets and we may also want these for other situations where we want a layer between our bodies and the bed. (yikes).

The Home School Switch

Whew or “Peweph” as Mackenzie pronounces it. The home school switch is proving to be a tricky transistion. Trying to get my daughters, mostly oldest, to buy that I can be mama and teacher. I am getting A LOT of flack. “uugh, I don’t want to do school” and “I don’t know how to write”. Man. How do we do this?

I am struggling today. Feeling irritable and trying to figure out what is going on. The girls would have started school today. We ran into the mother of one of Mackenzie’s friends from school.   She had only supportive words to say, but reminded me that school started. My girls were rambunctious all the way through the store and have been picking at each other for the last few days. It feels like the end of summer. It is like they have an internal clock that says, “we are bored, time for school”. It happens every year at this time. Maybe it is me? Maybe I am bored; maybe I am ready for some space from the kids and they from each other. This makes be feel anxious about our trip. If they are sick of each other now, what are we going to do on the road?   And then I think, we will have structure. We will do exercise in the morning followed by 2 hours of reading, writing and math. Here are a couple of the texts we are using to help guide our year, What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
and What Your Third Grader Needs to Know.
We will have structured quiet, reflective time in the afternoon to draw pictures of our day or write about the adventures we had. I need to have faith that this will help us all feel more grounded, get along better. I know that part of my irritability is not enough exercise. I am naming the intention to make the daily structure, healthy eating and exercise happen. We all need it.

The other part of my irritability, I think, is the judgment that I am feeling from family and strangers today. The cashier in the grocery store gave me a look of displeasure when he saw me walk up to the line with my two kids. “didn’t they start school?” he says. “not yet” I said in a sing-song-ey voice, trying brush it off and skip to the part where I confirm I have found everything I need. “what school do they go to?” he continued.   Uugh. I could lie and say the name of some random school but some how I feel obligated to explain why they aren’t in school yet and then proceed to have an awkward conversation about our trip and defend our “dangerous” and “crazy” decision to travel around the world for a year. To endure the lifted eyebrows of an older man who clearly does not understand what we are doing or why we would choose to travel with our kids in this dangerous, scary world. I don’t think this would have bothered me so much if I had not just spoken with my mother a few hours earlier who was sharing gossip about our extended family “gossiping” with each other about our decision with the same emotional tone. “dangerous” “risky” “Irresponsible”. It makes me think about the culture of fear in which Americans live and about our media’s talent of hooking our attention through catchy-fear based headlines. The trans-generational message that you must buy a house, have 2.5 kids, a dog, and follow gender roles that have been laid out before you by previous generations. I’m not saying this is a bad life. I have been living it. It is a beautiful life. I have found much happiness in watching my kids learn to ride their bikes in our street, in taking them to their first day of school. I am likely to return to this life AND I want to experience an adventure. I want to see the world, the different cultures that I am suppose to understand from reading about them in text books starting in kindergarten through graduate school. I want to live in different countries to really expand my understanding of what diversity means.

Believe me, I am not naïve about what we are doing. I understand the inherent risks. I also understand the amazing ways we are all going to change. Develop a better capacity for patience and adversity. Gel as a family in ways we could never do living this life of running from place to place, school drop off to school pick up to swimming practice to gymnastics to a quick dinner before homework and bed, only to do it all over again the next day, each of us working ourselves into little islands under the same roof. Just because we are making a choice in our lives that others view as different, does it make it “wrong”? I believe you make your own happiness and the only thing limiting you, is you. If you hate your job, who says you have to stick with your original job decision? I think it is only yourself, or some obscure cultural norm that you follow.