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Travel Abroad or Move Abroad?

These two motivate me to be a better person every single day.
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“What’s the plan?”


“I don’t know.  I’m waiting.  It doesn’t feel right.  I can’t rush these things.”

I stop asking and wait.  I’ve learned, after 12 years, that continuing to ask, push, prod and poke is not going to get me an answer I want.

That’s where we were last fall.  I believe it was November, right about the time I started my blogging ‘hiatus’.  It looked, at that time, that we might not travel at all.  Chicken had landed a prime project and had no plans of sacrificing career mobility in pursuit of travel.
Her words, “this is YOUR
dream, not mine”, effectively crushed me.

I suppose I could’ve blogged about that.  But it felt so spoiled and elitist and just plain wrong.  Really, I mean, I was sad and angry and getting depressed…because I couldn’t travel for a year with my family?  Really?  There are so many bigger things in the world to worry about. Talk about your first world problems.  I was more than a bit obnoxious about my disappointment.  
After a long soul search, I snapped and realized how ridiculous I was being about the entire thing.  So we don’t travel right now.  That’s OK.
What’s the rush, right?  After all, the older the boys are, the easier it will be getting around, having them carry their own bags, etc.
But for me, having this deadline equals having a goal and that is something that has been lacking in my life since…I got pregnant.  That’s almost 4 years.  My only ‘goals’ in the past 4 years have revolved around the kids and their needs.  Yes, yes, I know you aren’t supposed to do this, lose yourself in your children and abandon YOU.  But I have, I did and now I’m finally able to come out of the fog (more and more) and do something for me because it’s been all about the twins.

The terrible two’s weren’t terrible at all.  They were tough, but that was expected.  Personally, I had a lot of fun, yes I also drank a bit more, but overall I have a very positive memory of the past year.  Also, what I’ve never shared, is that I’ve been doing this all alone.  Since the boys were born I have either had Chicken or a nanny helping out.  But after we returned from Costa Rica last winter, I knew I needed to let our nanny go and earmark that cash for travel.
Since last April, closing up on a year, I’ve been completely on my own.  And I do mean all day, every day, day in and day out.  No family around, no help.  Chicken has been traveling more and more with her job (presently she’s traveling for 8 solid weeks, only home on the weekends) and while this is great for her career, it’s tough here at home.
The ‘trip’ or ‘travel’ was my super bright light shining down the calendar year and hearing it might not happen took my light away.

And then…interesting how the universe takes her time…things just started happening.  Circumstances in Chicken’s job changed, all still good, but changes nevertheless.  
In the space of less than a month we are suddenly looking at two new job opportunities in either Hong Kong or Singapore.  Plus, Chicken finally brought up the conversation with her superiors about taking a sabbatical for a year (or less) and that went very well.
Many positive things are happening and I have to believe only more good things are in store.

Honestly, I don’t know which option I’d choose. I do research on HK and decide I want to move.  Then I hear more about families raising kids in Singapore and determine that’s where we need to be.
So, maybe we’ll be moving to Asia this year.  Or maybe not.  I do have a voice in the matter, but ultimately, it will be Chicken’s decision as it’s her work.  Any of the options are fantastic as they all include two of the key things–travel and Asia!

For today, I am trying my hardest to focus on the NOW.  Stop trying so damn hard to pinpoint exactly when these things will happen in the future and simply step back and accept that the right things will happen.  The less I try to control, the happier I am going to be.  I’m choosing to live now and in the moment.  I don’t want to look back and realize I missed out because I was so busy looking ahead.

During the day it’s all, “he’s touching me!!” but when the lights go off….

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I’ve been asked by a few other bloggers to write more in detail about “how” I met some of these travel lifestyle goals.  If there’s something you would like to know more about regarding our travel plans–don’t be shy, just ask!
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Update #2 on Travel Lifestyle Goals

Hello, Mr. Crab, pleased to meet you
It’s been so long since I’ve posted I hardly know where to start, so I’m just going to dive in with it.
Back in September–I can hardly believe it’s already five months ago–I blogged about our travel lifestyle goals here.



So, I might as well start with some updates.  Let’s go!

 Just another sunset in Ko Phayam
My friend, a former Hell’s Angel.  We made an unlikely duo.

Financial Goals:

Accumulate enough frequent flier miles for




us all to fly free round-trip NYC-Bangkok — 100%

  • In Sept. this goal was met with the caveat that two of us would be flying on American Airlines and two of us would be on Delta Airlines.
  • As of Feb. 2013, we have enough American Airlines/partner miles for ALL FOUR of us to fly for free round trip.  Originally, we wanted to fly Cathay Pacific, but it looks like we’ll be aiming for Japan Airlines though Tokyo. 
Earn an ‘adequate’ amount of Starwood/Marriott/Hyatt/Hilton hotel points to ‘cushion’ our stay from time to time when we need a break — 100%
  • We continue to accumulate points, almost exclusively through Starwood.  Our goal was to use our American Airlines Visa card until our airlines miles goals were met, then to switch over to our Starwood AmEx card so we could keep working on the hotel points.
  • As of Feb. 2013, we have enough Starwood points for a 2 week vacation here over Christmas and New Year holidays.
  • Or we could divvy up the points for different stays along the way.  For instance, they also have some nice properties in Vietnam.  We plan to spend one month in Vietnam, so staying somewhere like this along the way would be a welcome change from guesthouses.
  • Regardless, we still have 8 months of spending to accumulate points plus Chicken is doing loads of travel for her job presently, so those miles and points are going to keep adding up.
Reserve savings to sustain us for 6 months upon return — 100%

Save enough money to travel for one year without working — 100%
  • In September, this was 65%, but the goal has now been met!
A roll of toilet paper for a napkin dispenser?  In South East Asia, yes, yes, yes.

Personal Goals:

Develop a location independent income stream — 0% – 100%

  • This is something I’ve really dropped the ball on getting started.  There have been some good changes lately that is going to make it possible for ME to start getting more ‘work’ done.  I’m looking forward to doing something for ME!
  • Kate has leads from past employers for project work she can do remotely.  So, for her, perhaps this goal is 100%.

Potty Train the boys (except for nights) — 100%

  • Fully daytime trained for the past 6 months.
  • If we still have to use diapers at night while we travel I am totally fine with this, especially since we’ll be sleeping on mattresses and linens other than our own…
  • Many times Grunter wakes up dry, so we could get there in 8 months time, right?


Switch boys to ‘real’ beds —
100%

  • This was a disaster at last update.  But we made it and they can now sleep anywhere.  We’ve even had different people put them to bed (family members, baby sitters) and all is well in the kingdom of sleep.  Yeah!

Go Stroller-Free — 100%


  • They are good little walkers and can go quite far before getting truly tired.  As long as I keep pushing us to not use the stroller here at home, I’m confident they can build up their stamina to keep up while traveling.  Especially since we’re not going to be doing long walks/hikes, etc.  
  • Plus there will always be a bus / motorbike / tuk tuk / songtaew / taxi / boat / skytrain / back of a pick up truck / ferry / donkey cart / elephant / subway — just around the corner to rescue us!  Did I miss any forms of transport?!
  • I was set on ditching the stroller on their 3rd birthday (2 weeks ago), but I’m not going to until summertime/warmer weather.  In NYC, your stroller is your car and right now, until it’s scooter weather, I need my ‘car’ more than they do.  Half the time, they end up walking while I push an empty stroller.
  • Instead of ditching the stroller, I emptied it, folded it up and and am storing it down in our bike room.  This way, if we need it that day, we go get it, but if not, we walk, etc.  This also means that for the first time in THREE years, I don’t have a massive double stroller sitting in my dining room area!  That, is lovely.

No Naps Needed — 100%

  • In September this was 40%, but shortly after the move to ‘big boy’ beds, they dropped the nap completely.  They have never napped in their open bed.  Never. They can fall asleep on the bus, the subway, the stroller, the car, etc. but the bed, at home?  Never.
My friend in the cafe, who comes to work from Burma during the high season

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    Celebrating Obama’s Big Win

    The next morning, of course.  It’s wonderful to tell my children how America elected a President who believes in equality for ALL people.  And they are old enough they are going to remember him.  Warms my heart.

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    Rolling with the Punches

    There’s a lot going on over here in Pufferville (there always is) and I’m going to try to play catch up in 20 minutes.

    First of all, for those of you who have participated in my poll, thank you.  At the time of the poll it certainly did look as if we might jump the gun and leave in February.
    However, life in the Big Apple changes quickly and new opportunities–hardly punches–have come our way.  Chicken got herself
    a big fat promotion plus she was awarded a juicy project she’s had her eye on for a long time.

    By the way, while I was writing that, I felt my upper arm and damn, it’s scrawny.  I have really let myself go.  I keep reading everyone’s FB status of the 5K they ran or a freaking marathon or all the weights they are lifting or how they are practically running their own ashram with their divine yoga skills and let me tell you, I am out.of.shape.
    My hair looks like shit, I rarely bother with makeup, I’m flabby (but thin) and my clothes are in need of an overhaul.  Also, Chicken claims I wear the ugliest shoes in NYC (they are comfy!).  I seriously am thinking of BEGGING “What Not to Wear” to come rescue me.  They could title it “Lesbian Twin Mom Stuck in Yoga Pants But Never Does Yoga”.  Actually that’s not very catchy, they will have to come up with something better but that’s there job, not mine.
    If they came to my house right at this moment, they would find me in the clothes I slept in last night right down to the no bra, hair in a clip and a fresh face (haha) and the boys are still in their pj’s as well.  And Chicken.  We are a family seriously embracing our right to wear comfy clothes 24 hours/day.

    In addition, I seemed to have developed a bit of a beer habit which is really helping the flab that has decided to take up residence in my belly regions.  OK, so one beer a night isn’t exactly a bad habit, but considering I haven’t even bought beer in years and years this is pretty big.  This ‘desire’ to have a drink say around noon, 5pm happened to coincide right at the time the boys truly stopped napping.  We do OK getting through our day, but come 3pm they are really starting to lose it and there are still 4 hours to go in the day.  By 3:30 5pm, I am starting to lose it and often crack open a beer.  It sure does make bath time a whole lot more fun, let me tell you.

    Back to the update.  

    We can’t leave in February and there’s a possibility we might not leave in September.  More than likely we will, but it might be pushed back a bit.
    The original planning session did not take into consideration that Chicken might be in her dream job 9 months later.  How many of us can say:

    • We love our work
    • We love our team
    • We have flexible hours
    • We work from home
    • We travel for work once a month and enjoy that break from ‘life’
    • We have great benefits, including a pension plan
    • And, well, the money ain’t bad either
    I never could say that when I was in the working world.  None of it.
    Who would want to give that up?  Am I disappointed that plans might change?  Yes.
    Do I feel like she has most of the control?  Yes.
    But it’s a compromise and it makes sense overall.
    For now, Chicken is looking at options for the following, not necessarily in this order:
    1. Taking a sabbatical (6 months unpaid)
    2. Finding a way to become an independent contractor with her company for X amount of time (50% work for 50% of pay–probably only 6 months)
    3. Working out of the Singapore office (full pay)
    4. Working in India (full pay)
    As you can see, one year of travel isn’t on that list.
    She has offered up a bit of a ‘deal’ for me and that is that I can travel a few more months, a month, maybe two tops, either before our launch date or after the 6 months is up on my own with the twins.
    I’d take that.  Even if it means a 24 hour flight on my own with two 4-year-old, I’m down with that.
    Right?  It’s just 24 hours on a plane.  How bad could it be?
    Don’t answer that question.
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    The Hits Just Keep Coming

    I know everyone thinks their kids say the darndest things and I agree.
    Kids DO say some amazing things.
    I’m sharing these more so I don’t forget how wonderful and imaginative they are at this age, but I hope they provide you a smile or laugh as well.

    Sebastian:

    • On observing the letter ‘C’:  “They busted this letter O open so it’s a rainbow.”
    • On me looking at a red spot on Max’s face and asking him if it was a mosquito bite:  “That mossie is going to get time out.  He is not supposed to bite.”
    • While suggesting animals while singing ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm’:  “Jellyfish!”  What does a jellyfish sound like? “Sting Sting Here!”  and “Lobster!”  What does a lobster sound like? “Pinch Pinch Here!”
    • On dinosaurs:  “I do not like the dinosaurs with the big teeth, but I like the duck billed plat-puss dinosaur.  He does not have teeth and will not bite me.”
    • On returning home to NYC after a visit upstate to Nana’s where the house the cold, it rained and he was forced to wear clothing (Nana’s rule, not mine):  “I like to be home where I am not cold and I can be naked.”

    Max:

    • On meeting my friend Sid who lives in Hong Kong:  “That is a place not in America.  We live in America.”
    • On being asked, by another mother, where the train was going while playing on the playground: “Cambodia!” (She then looked at me and said, “For real?  My kid doesn’t even know the word Cambodia.”)
    • On looking at some motorcycles parked on the curb, “Here, we cannot ride these.  But in some other places maybe we can.”  Me, “Really, like what other places?”  Max, “Um, I think Thailand.  The place with the spirit houses.”
    • On admiring my necklace:  “You always wear this mommy?”  Yes.  “You think it’s pretty mommy?”  I do.  “I do, too.  Maybe I can have a necklace with a Buddha, huh Mommy?  Maybe you can find one for me to wear like you?”
    These are some of the recent bits of dialogue that have stayed with me.  Although this age is tough in so many ways, I love their ability to communicate and think for themselves.  It’s such a fascinating developmental process and I’m (overall) really enjoying this age.

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    My Kids Will Only Nap in the Stroller

    Everything comes full circle. When they were babies they would only nap in the stroller and so I walked and walked and walked. Rain or shine. Snow or sweat. And now, here we are again. 
    A stroller walk was the only thing that got them to sleep today. Too bad it’s 5pm. 
    The stroller is heavy, it hurts my wrists and it’s the lovely wet, cold, dark time of year–but I think stroller walks are back on.  Ah well, I need more exercise.

    An old lady had the nerve
    to come up and tell me Max couldn’t breathe like that. I snapped at her that I’d managed to keep them alive for almost 3 years thank you very much. Which was, you know, a ‘more’ polite way of saying “Shut the Fuck Up Thank You Very Much”.



    Then I went and bought beer. They are still sound asleep in the stroller and I….am drinking a beer on the couch.

    They kicked off their rain boots and promptly conked out.
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    Inspiration for Family Travel


    Dream a Little Dream.  
    No, that’s not quite right.  Dream a BIG dream.  Why not?  Make it the biggest, best dream and then set a plan to fulfill that dream.  I’ve known from the time I was a small girl I wanted to travel the world.  At 18, I set out on my own to see the big, wide world and haven’t looked back. 
    While in South East Asia, I noticed loads of families out traveling with their small children.  They were doing things and going places with kids in tow.  It had never occurred to me that was a possibility.  I had thought of travel as something you do before children or after, not during.  When I met this family (photos below) while scuba diving off a remote and completely rustic Thai island, a lightbulb went off and a new dream was in the making.

     Upper Deck of the Boat and the 3-year-old is asleep on the deck, so close to the edge.  Blew my mind.

    Scuba Diving Family Who Changed My Life
    Even though my partner and I didn’t have any children and I had no idea when we would start a family, there was one thing I did know for sure:  We would travel with them.  We would start traveling when they were young and we would never stop.
    By the time we depart with our boys and make our way to Thailand, it will be 10 years since I met the family pictured above.  I don’t know who they are or where they are from.  I know nothing about them at all.  But I have gazed at these photos year after year as I dreamed my dream.
    Thank you, whoever you are, for inspiring me and giving me hope.
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    Spinach Ricotta Bites–Gluten Free

    Do your kids each spinach?  Mine do…sort of.
    I never thought I’d be ‘that’ mom who hid vegetables in food, but I do what have to do.  The twins are the pickiest eaters, but they also are pretty normal toddlers who are resistant to trying things that are green.
    Luckily there are loads of ways to incorporate healthy green into tasty dishes that will not only have your kids eating vegetables, but asking for more.
    These are a favorite with my wife and kids.  I hope you’ll love them, too.

    Spinach Ricotta Bites – adapted from Weelicious

    spinach-ricotta-bites-220-293.jpg

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 1 cup ricotta cheese (low or full fat ricotta will work)
    • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    • 1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained well (i use my hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt



    Preparation

    1. 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. 2. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 4 minutes until tender.
    3. 3. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute then set aside to cool.
    4. 4. Whisk eggs in a bowl and stir in ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
    5. 5. Once combined, stir in spinach, salt and cooled onion and garlic mixture.
    6. 6. Pour the mixture into lightly greased mini muffin cups.
    7. 7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the filling is set and golden on top.
    8. 8. Serve.

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    How to Handle the Question of Homeschooling

    It’s back to school time.  Almost everyone I know has posted a photo of their little adorables all ready for their first day of school.
    Not me.
    They are not going to school.
    My boys are 2.6 years old.  Do they need to go to school?
    The state of New York says that legally, I don’t have to put them into school until Kindergarten.
    Of course, there are ways around that with homeschooling, but legally I
    have a few years until they have to go to a ‘school’ of some kind.  And Kate and I have to agree what that is going to be.  Right now, we are not in agreement and are choosing to respect each other’s opinions.
    It’s a tricky tightrope.

    I knew that by choosing not to do a “2’s” program or some full time preschool, I was going to have to answer a lot of questions, but I didn’t realize quite how many and from so many different people.
    Friends, family, strangers, nannies on the playground.  Everyone wants to know if my kids are going to school this Fall.
    And every time someone asks I feel like I have to explain myself.

    I shouldn’t–really.  I should just be able to say, “No.  They are staying home with me.”
    But I go on with the justifications, “It costs so much money.  I still couldn’t go back to work because of the hours.  If I did go back to work I’d have to get a nanny to fill in the gaps.  The preschool + the nanny would probably cost more than I’d be making.”

    Preschool in Manhattan is crazy expensive and I’m not convinced they need it.  Besides–they are TWO!
    That’s what I really want to say.  But in saying that I am going to offend and alienate myself to a large portion of my social circle.
    If I’m really on a roll, I tell them that we decided to take the boy’s preschool money and travel for a year instead.  So yeah, we DO have the money.  (Kate hates it when I make it sound like we can’t afford to send them to preschool).  We are just deciding to make a better investment with it.  After all, I personally, cannot think of a better education than taking your kids traveling with you.  
    This either opens up an entire conversation of ‘Wow’s’ or their eyes glaze over as they process what the hippie in the city just said.
    Worldschooling.  Roadschooling.  Homeschooling.  Whatever you want to call it, the kids are going to be learning an incredible amount in the years coming up and I’m convinced it’s for the best.
    These boys of mine are ahead of the curve already.  I know I’m biased because they are mine (but not genetically–I didn’t have anything to do with these brains of theirs), but these two are crazy smart.  This is a benefit of being able to choose the ideal specimen for 50% of their genetic makeup.  It’s a nice bonus after all of the hassle of trying to get pregnant and shelling out 25K, right?!

    I don’t think keeping them out of preschool is going to do any great harm and I do have them signed up for a couple of outside classes so it’s not like we don’t get out and do other things.
    In fact, we get out and do more than most other moms I know.  We have new adventures every single week and New York City has an endless supply of more amazing things to discover.

    If you want to homeschool and you want the world at your fingertips–this is the city to be doing it.

    Sebastian aka Whoop Whoop thinking about all of the animals he just saw at the Bronx Zoo….