Whack. Whack-whack. Whack. As the boat rolls slowly side to side, little arms and feet pummel my body in a rhythmic pattern. “Coooo-wheeee! Phfewt.” Someone is awake.
The open hatch over our bed frames a light blue sky, with soft streaks of pink and yellow. I crack open an eye to confer with the clock. 7:28 am. Not too bad, later than yesterday. I glance at the other pillow and confirm that Rob is still asleep or at least pretending to be. “Ooooooo-umph. Thhhhheck.” Whack-whack. Decision time: Scoot away from the flailing limbs and pretend to be asleep as well? Or peek over at my baby and admit defeat. I always lose at this morning game. Etolin’s wake up noises are too funny, I start laughing and then his big eyes find me, peeking over the blanket. A massive smile breaks out over his face as he registers my presence, and his arms flap up and down in quick succession. When Rob admits defeat too and leans over my shoulder to say “Good morning Big Guy,” Etolin almost loses it, pumping his legs dramatically and letting out a loud eagle-like shriek that tapers into a coo. He looks back and forth between us with a wide dimpled grin, then abruptly turns his head up towards the hatch to return to the business of greeting the day.
We’re anchored in Punta de Mita, the swell has dropped for a few days and the boat is pleasantly becalmed. When I climb out of bed and poke my head above deck, here is what I see: A dozen other sailboats anchored a comfortable distance around us. Low clouds waiting to burn off the dark jungle mountains on the opposite side of the bay. Flocks of Herman gulls and pelicans pestering fishermen as they drift by us, cleaning their catch from the night before. A lone paddle boarder, racing no one out to sea.
Back aboard our floating universe I see surf wax and dingy fuel and our tiller draped in rash guards and salty towels. There are small drool rags of various colors tucked in handy nooks, like under the dodger and from hanging coils off the mizzen mast. A long row of rinsed cloth diapers are clipped to our starboard lifelines and wave like surrender flags in the breeze. A faint odor rises up from damp flip flops.
I tuck my head below and survey the interior of our 38’ by 12’ home. A small rack of clean dishes sit by the sink where Rob placed them to dry last night after washing up from the tofu peanut stir fry he made for dinner. The portside quarter berth cradles instruments- guitar, ukulele, drum, baby rattles. The starboard berth holds dry goods and fruit- limes getting squished by grapefruits, apples and bananas, separated by type for freshness. Rob ducks out of the forward cabin with Etolin in his arms, headed for the changing table. While they debate, using mostly body language, the merits of wearing clothes vs. spending the day in the nude, I put on water for oatmeal. Eventually Etolin concedes to Rob’s persuasive arguments and removes his foot from his mouth, allowing the proper placement of his diaper followed by a onesie. Rob takes over breakfast preparations and I carry Etolin up to the cockpit to look for whales.
We knew this year would be different but some of the ways have surprised us. We sleep less overall but take more naps. We argue less and laugh more often, usually at Etolin. Our friends have kindly adapted to our new, baby-centric worldview and in return we try not to bring up just how cute, amazing and extra brilliant he is every 5 seconds.
Our laundry situation has taken a turn for the embarrassing. Our simple ship doesn’t have pressurized water, much less a washing machine so we schlep our dirty clothes to a lavanderia, where nice people wash it for us. In past seasons, we darkened the doorway of a lavanderia about once a month. Now, our laundry basket fills at an alarming rate, even though the contents, individually, are miniscule, and we are forced to go weekly. At first we went to a different lavanderia each time, to mask the ridiculous frequency. Now we admit that we can’t let drool, sweat, spit up and urine get the best of us so we resign ourselves to regular trips to “Cowboys”, our preferred place of laundry business. On laundry day Rob rounds up the tiny pjs and itsy bitsy socks while I gather the cloth diapers off the lifelines. These lucky diapers have already experienced a warm ocean rinse off, a brisk dry in the tropical zephyrs and a long bake in the Mexican sun. All they need now is a final round in freshwater, a resource that is in short supply aboard Velella velella. Thank you Cowboys for keeping us clean!
A few things are the same this year. We still swim regularly and host cockpit potlucks and beach bonfires and surf and read and write and go on adventures with friends. And our family still loves to visit us! We had a wonderful time when my mom was here. We went to Sayulita, the La Cruz Sunday Market, my writer’s group and paddle boarding and also managed to take Big E. swimming almost every day. She and Etolin bonded over their love of water, making funny faces and bright shiny objects. A friend loaned us a stroller so Abuelita Juanita was able to parade her grandson along the cobblestone streets and enjoy all the attention lavished on babies in this baby-loving country. Our Spanish improves with every conversation about our grande guapo gordito con ojos azules.
Etolin at just over 5 months is a warm, happy, alert, pensive, curious, waving, active baby who sits and stands with support but still mostly stays in our lap when we want him to. I’m both excited and sad when I think about all the changes to come in the next few months. We want him to be healthy so we hope that scooting will lead to crawling and then walking and gurgles and trills will shape themselves into words. He’s already zoning in on our plates and even grabbed a stick of celery out of my hand the other day and tried to bite it. He doesn’t have any teeth yet so we swapped it for a chew toy but I know solid foods are not far away. Breastfeeding less will be liberating but it’s also his first big step away from me. All of the major milestones are essentially leaps out of our arms. I know it is our job as parents to lovingly let our children go over and over again but part of me is already dreading it. But it is not up to me and besides, I tell myself, how can we build forts and sandcastles and surf and play on boats and explore the world together if he stays a baby forever? So I hold him tight and cover him in kisses and then gradually, bit by bit, let him go.
xoK. R. and E.
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