omelets for breakfast

Last day without mom – not even a full one as she’s back tonight sometime around 11pm. We’re “camped” close enough to SFO that we can watch her plane on approach if we go outside at the right time, so I think we’ll try to do that.

Instead of going shopping while Sharaun’s been gone I’ve been slowly working to maximize our existing food stores in the RV. I love doing this. It gives me a feeling of being efficient and I love efficiency. What’s more I feel creative when I can make something surprising with only what we’ve got. This morning I wanted to use the remaining eggs, and we had some bacon, the last couple slices of cheese, an unused onion and half a tomato so I decided to make the kids omelets.

I haven’t made an omelet probably since my first couple years of college when I was still living at home, and I don’t think either of the kids has ever really had one. It’s funny sometimes how there are things we tend to cook/make, and things we don’t, and how that varies from family to family or person to person. We don’t make a lot of seafood, even though Sharaun and I both like seafood. We don’t make omelets. Don’t make many casseroles. It’s not that we don’t have diversity in our repertoire – I guess it’s that you just get settled into a rotation or something. I suppose it has a lot to do with what was made in your home as you were growing up.

Anyway I made omelets for the kids, who were fairly taken aback that dad could execute cooking requiring such perceived technical skill. “Did you use a recipe, Dad?,” Cohen asked. No, I did not. “Dad, this is so good!,” said Keaton, obviously a bit surprised to be having the opinion. I overcooked Cohen’s (the first one I did) just slightly, had the gas turned up just a bit too high for the post-fold cook, but Keaton’s came out awesome. I used three eggs each, partially because we had six eggs left and I wanted to finish them and partially because I didn’t know if I could even make a proper omelet with just two eggs. Neither kid ate all theirs so I happily cleaned up the leavings as my own breaking of fast.

After cleaning the mess, which wasn’t too bad but for the splattered bacon grease, I felt good. Like, particularly good… surprisingly good. I had cared for my children, fed them foodstuffs so they would not starve that day, single-handedly knocked out a tier on Maslow’s pyramid. I had surprised them with a skill they didn’t know I had. And you know men and fathers and husbands and sons all deeply want, no, need!, their family to acknowledge their skills and smarts and provision. Dad can change the oil in the car, he can hang a picture straight, he can fix a leaky toilet, and he can even make an omelet!

There was this brief moment, just after I got started and had all the ingredients arrayed before me on the laughably small RV kitchen counter, where I became overwhelmed and a bit frustrated. This was too much; we needed to get school started and here I am needing to dice tomato and onion and fry and cut bacon and I’ve only got the one small frying pan and I’ll have to dirty two bowls and and and! It was going to take forever! I should’ve just made them toast and given them each a yogurt or sliced up our last apple.

But not giving up provided a sweet victory. This one little accomplishment, and the resultant praise from my children, set the day off on a wonderful note, a serious high!  Still riding that high right now, in fact.

Hugs & love.

near enough midnight

It’s near enough midnight & I’ve just set down my Kindle but not yet turned out the light. I’m in the back of the RV on the queen bed, but since we’re “camped” on the margins of a suburban street in Napa I’ve kept the slide-outs slid-in out of respect for our temporary neighbors & there’s no walking room around the bed. The bed is still functional, and the tightness of the space is even a bit inviting.

Cohen is sharing the bed with me tonight as Sharaun is still gone & he’s already deeply asleep, his breath coming in the loud and almost confident rhythm of a contended slumber. And taking my attention from my book I’m sitting here admiring my progeny.

His hair is so fair that little lengths of it catch the light and almost glow. His lips are slightly open and a little wet with drool. The skin on his arm has red creases and lines where he’s been lying on the wrinkled sheets and they’ve made an impression. He’s absolutely gone to sleep, I can pick up his arms or force open his little balled fists and he registers no awareness or disturbance. He’s out.

We made this little human! And look how big he’s getting! A little bigger every day! For years I changed his diapers and now he takes his own showers & does two-digit subtraction with “regrouping” (the fancy common-core word for what I learned as “borrowing”).

This process, this slow transforming of babies into adults, is incredibly fascinating. And on this trip I intent to immerse myself in study of it; to watch it in slow motion & thus influence & inform tiny little turnings I’d have otherwise missed entirely.

To stare at my sleeping children and simply enjoy their being.

Yeah. That’s good.

that weather where it feels like you’re floating

The past few days Sharaun has been gone on her girl’s trip.  I’ve taken to calling it a “girl’s trip” because it sounds much better than saying “New Kids on the Block cruise,” which just sounds sad and embarrassing.  Regardless, that means it’s been kids & dad back here on the roadtrip.  

For our dad-days I decided to go spend a few nights visiting a friend who’s also currently taking a break from his career to work at a winery in Napa Valley.  He’s got a little triplex walking distance from downtown Napa and wide enough streets that we had ample room to “camp” right beside his place.  

We rolled in on Thursday afternoon around 3pm and only after my usual somewhat manic focus on leveling the rig and getting settled in our spot did I notice just how amazing a day it was.  The sun was shining, the sky was a cloudless blue, and the temperature was that perfect temperature where there seems to be zero differential between the body’s natural temperature and the outside air – where it almost gives you this feeling of floating… or being perfectly matched with your environs.  

We decided (OK I decided but the kids ended up being willing enough) to take a walk into downtown Napa.  Google navigated us through the neighborhood on a ~20min easy walk.  Over the next few hours we had appetizers and beers (dad only) at a couple gorgeous outdoor spots & then got some ice cream before walking back home as dusk settled in.   

During our walks there and back we talked about the various houses we passed along the way.  Which ones we’d like to live in, what we’d change if we did live in them, which ones might be the best to trick-or-treat at come Halloween.  At dinner we talked about our favorite parts of the trip so far and what we’re looking forward to coming up.   

Both kids were well behaved and we were all invested in just hanging out.  It was a wonderful time where I could just sit and talk and connect with the kids, and will, I think, be a particularly memorable bit of the trip. 

That said, I am eager to have Sharaun back.

Peace & hugs.

we’re doing this wrong

One of the habits I’ve been fueling, as opposed to those I’ve been attempting to starve-out, on this roadtrip is reading for pleasure.  I love reading, but I do it in a very bursty way.  I’ll read every day, devouring books, for months on end, and then I’ll simply put a book down and not read at all for, again, months on end.  I’ve been trying to smooth-out that ebb and flow a bit.  

I began the trip choosing to read East of Eden, something I’ve always wanted to read.  Bolstered by the fact that my mom had also just read it (not planned, but a nice happenstance) and we could thus have it as a topic of shared discussion, I dove in. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about one particular passage from the book that really stuck with me.  I won’t spoil anything, but I’ll set the scene just a little.  Turn of the century America, a man has just left the post office having picked up a letter from his out-of-state brother.  Here’s what Steinbeck actually wrote:

A man who gets few letters does not open one lightly.  He hefts it for weight, reads the name of the sender on the envelope and the address, looks at the handwriting, and studies the postmark and the date.  

… He looked at the envelope … He turned the envelope over and looked at the back … Once having decided to open the letter he took out his pocketknife, opened the big blade, and inspected the envelope for a point of ingress, found none, held the letter up to the sun to make sure not to cut the message, tapped the letter to one end of the envelope, and cut off the other end.  He blew in the end and extracted the letter with two fingers.  He read the letter very slowly.  

First off, can we just pause for a moment and appreciate the laboriously detailed documentation of such a simple action?  It’s glorious!  Not only that, but taking such luxury in capturing such a small thing seems to brilliantly underscore the actual slow savoring being described.  It’s like in the Simon and Garfunkel song Overs, where Simon holds the word “long” for a long time.  You want to let the reader know just how serious the business of this letter is, how meaningfully slow the character is considering & consuming it?  Got it.  

But that’s not what I’m writing about either.  

The point of me sharing the Steinbeck passage, the thing that struck and has stayed with me, is just how luxurious certain things can be if we just slow down and take the time to enjoy them for every detail.   

In my life, I savor very little.  I rarely slow down.  Every moment is a multitasked context-switching fastlane.  On this trip, forcing myself to see and feel and reflect, I have been amazed to find that a single waking day can, when properly savored, feel like two or even three times what I’m normally used to.  You probably know the days, they are likely poolside on vacation when you’ve not checked the time in a while and think to yourself, “It must be getting near dinnertime,” and are then shocked to find it’s barely past 2pm.   It’s that kind of purposed-slowness.  And, when you can achieve it, it’s simply beautiful.  

I won’t say I’ve achieved this state in some permanent way, but this trip is helping me hone my skills in slowing down, in savoring life.  Further, I can say with certainty that cellphones are the worst enemy here.  At least for me, with my cellphone at arms reach, I can always be working on something between everything else – and that means cheating anyone or anything I’m doing of the proper consideration and involvement.   I find myself addicted to the little device in my pocket, and realizing it’s stealing my ability to be undivided in my attention.  

So that languid exploration of getting and opening a letter stays prominent in my mind.  Reading it, noticing the contrast to the haste & partial attention which characterizes most actions I take, makes me realize… we are doing this wrong; so very wrong.  I am going too fast, I am doing too much at once, I am just not living in the moment and enjoying things.  

I am seriously working on fixing that.  

Until later, peace all.

evolving

I was doing OK… then we changed routine. I’m still trying – please keep checking.

My brain, being broken in all the ways I’ve come to know, has been thinking of this trip as a string of four segments. That I do this is actually a bit disappointing to me… like I’m somehow unable to let the trip be organic – I have to dissect it and give it a taxonomy and think of it as a series of beginnings and ends. While I worry about that, I guess it’s just how I do. So, to the point, I’ve been thinking of this trip as a string of four segments: (1) Pre-Hawaii, (2) Post-Hawaii, (3) Cruise-to-Christmas, and (4) the great unknown. We’re in the second segment now, having finished both our Pacific Northwest tour & our Hawaii vacation-from-vacation. Sharaun goes on her New Kids cruise this coming week and after that we have about two months to meander from California to Florida (our third segment, in my diseased thinking).

I’m looking forward to finally ranging afar from home – to striking out across country and leaving the west coast behind. We’ve talked about consciously slowing down the pace, spending more time in each stop, reducing diving time even more. We started this week, spending Monday nearly all week camped in the same place. I loved it. I had time to sit in the sun in my cam chair, drinking a beer and practicing tying knots (what is it that’s so fascinating about tying knots?). Had time to pull out the guitar for the first time yet on the trip and practice chord changes (no, I cannot play a dang thing still). Had time to take a nap in the hammock with Cohen & zip-tie a life-sized skeleton to the ladder on the back of the RV to show our Halloween spirit.

I want more days where there is nothing to do at all. Not even a planned hike or anything. Just wake up, go for a walk with coffee, do school, and then have the rest of the day for reading and thinking and whatever the heck else we want.

I think we’ll get better at this. We’re already adapting in what I see as healthy ways – learning from our time thus far and tweaking. Example: Keaton and I had been averaging about 90min of math every day for school. This was encroaching on the time Sharaun had for her other subjects, and, when I pulled-up the class webpage for the 7th math teach she’d have if she were in school back home I was surprised to discover that we were fast outpacing them through the material thus far. The solution: Change math to ~40min/day and slow down, spend more time on mastery. I switched to the new model this week and it already feels a lot better to me (and to Keaton, I think). We’re learning…

Until later, peace.

professor me

On our year-long road trip, in addition to being “dad” to Keaton, I am also her math teacher. 

Prior to actually executing in this role, I went through a range of emotions.  I was nervous and overwhelmed.  I was unsure about how we’d define her curriculum, anxious about how she’d accept and work with me as an instructor vs. a parent.  

I settled myself a bit once Sharaun and I made the decision that, for math, we’d stick tightly to the California “common core” curriculum for 7th grade.  Since we don’t intend to continue homeschool after this year of travel, we wanted to be sure that when she’s plugged back into the public school system she had learned the same things in the same ways with the same approaches as her peers.  

We’re now in week two of road-school, and are finishing up our first unit, which is focused on operations with rational numbers.  A good bit is review for her, but based on our work so far it’s welcomed review.  We’ve had more good days than bad, and all my nerves and overwhelmedness and anxiety is gone. 

It’s not that it’s a piece of cake – there’s a lot of preparation and a fair amount of just-me time investment required.  But… I am finding myself really, truly enjoying it all… both the preparation and the actual teaching parts.  I also feel myself developing a feel for it… and being more comfortable tailoring what we’re doing to how Keaton seems to be responding and learning (or not).

Case in point, we had a pretty terrible day on Tuesday this week. The lesson was two hours of tears and frustration and plain just not getting it.  Prior to that day, we had been on-track to review the unit today and test on it tomorrow.  But Keaton didn’t have it… she was still getting tripped-up, and she got more and more down on it all with each successive wrong answer or hang-up.  

So, we changed the plan.  We spent this morning doing a bunch of review drills, hitting the key skills in repetition, working together if needed.  Oh man, did it help.  Just taking the time to do a little more work, to slow down, to get a string of right answers under her belt, to gain a little confidence.  What’s more, I think I’m going to do the same thing with tomorrow’s lesson, too. 

After all, I’m the teacher.

getting used to it

Nothing in an RV is easy to get.

Everything is forever behind everything else.  No matter what it is that you need, it’s guaranteed to be under, behind, or inside three or four other cumbersome-to-move things you don’t.  This is Law #1 of full-time RVing.  

To get the shoes I wanted to wear for church this morning, I had to pull-out the shoe-storage bin and paw to the back, where, of course, the brown ones were.  

Keaton wanted to ride her bike after dinner, but you can’t just get her bike… you must remove all bikes.  Can’t ride without a helmet, but that bin is four-deep in the (thankfully) cavernous rear storage space.  

Ran out of toilet paper?  Not enough room under the bathroom sink so that’s a walk outside to the paper bin.   Same for extra paper plates or napkins.  

Living in this tiny space if full of “excuse mes,” “sorry, I’m in heres,” and “did someone move my X?”  But, you know what… 

I am getting used to it.  We are getting used to it.