It’s a . . . baby!

Sorry to have been silent for so long. You may have guessed, but I had a baby! That was more than two weeks ago, and it’s taken me this long to have any thought to spare for blogging!

But while blogging was on hiatus, our free range dreams were not. We’re closer than ever to the getting on the road!

First, here’s where you can find the birth story. I posted it on my other blog for consistency because my previous two birth stories are already there. Let me just briefly note here that we had a wonderful homebirth and a wonderful baby and I’m amazed every day that life is so good and wondrous!

With that out of the way, I can plunge ahead with our plans to get on the road. Here’s how things are developing:

  • David’s CD was released in April and he had his CD Release Party (hopefully I’ll get a chance to blog about that here soon)
  • We’ve officially decided to tour up the east coast (from Florida to Maine)
  • David gave notice that he will be leaving his job in the next three to six weeks

Benny needs:

  • a roof vent cover replaced (ours broke, and now we have to put a garbage bag over the opening when it rains—tre ghetto!)
  • a funny sound investigated and resolved
  • a fan to blow on the kids while we’re driving (and ideally one we can use when we’re parked, too, but not plugged in)
  • duvet covers(!) for the beds instead of the two-piece sheet/comforter set up we have now—for ease of making beds and converting the kids bed into benches for car seats!
  • A metal box built on the back to hold the 55 gallon drum we have acquired for storing MORE VEGGIE OIL (yay) and tools that David can use to make us some money while on the road
  • Oh, and it would be awfully nice if we could get the fan over the range fixed too.
  • propane detector installed
  • light bulbs switched out for LED
  • leak in storage compartment fixed so we can, you know, store stuff in it
  • water filter for drinking water

Benny’s so cool—I love him!

Other:

  • move completely into RV (which means figuring out where everything fits…and what just doesn’t)
  • empty house (which involves storage, selling things, and calling Goodwill)
  • rent or sell house (but we’ve got a property manager coming on board this month and this falls to him now)
  • buy PA for gigging that actually fits in our available storage
  • change address for my baby wrap business
  • change address with the post office
  • cancel all subscriptions (including Netflix)
  • arrange for mail forwarding (a la David’s parents, mostly)
  • book tour and plan route (in progress—and more fun than most of the chores on the list)
  • sell David’s work van
  • pay insurance on Benny for year
  • prepay phone/internet service
  • find smaller bread machine

Sadly, solar panels are not going to be purchased prior to our departure. We just can’t keep waiting to go, so we’re going and if we find a way to get solar panels we will, but we’re going regardless!

Our plan is to go up and then back down the east coast for a few months, possibly returning to see family and friends in Florida in September for Ada’s seventh birthday. Then we’ll want to head west, but planning that would be getting ahead of ourselves. One thing (or the hundred things listed above) at a time, you know?

More soon, Diana

Handwashing Laundry

Yesterday I received birthday presents from my family, and they were kind enough to get me just what I asked for: new toys for the new RV life.

While my sister makes fun of me for my list of practical items, I was seriously stoked.  These are the tools I’m using to build my new dream-chasing life.  They’re my baby steps to leaving behind bourgeoisie mediocrity.  I nearly jumped for joy as I opened them!

I couldn’t wait to do laundry!  This was the first time, so I don’t know what load size will be optimum, or how long a day’s worth of laundry will take me, but we did the trial run with five flat diapers and about as many cloth wipes, plus one cloth liner.

My parents thoughtfully provided a 5 gallon bucket with the breathing mobile washer, and we put it in the bathtub to contain splashes.    With only a couple gallons of water, nothing splashed out so now I know we don’t need the bathtub precaution, or a lid with a hole in it (which I thought we might want).

Putting the six year old to work.

I used four soap nuts, which is what I use in our washing machine.  I don’t know of anyone who has combined these two uncommon laundry methods–soapnuts and hand washing–but I love my soapnuts and don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t work.  In fact, the combo seemed to be a great success.  After a minute or two of plunging, the formerly strongly smelling cloth smelled clean and pure!

I emptied the water from the bucket and filled it with rinse water.  I’m not sure that this will be necessary with soap nuts for detergent.  Soap nuts do not leave any residue in the cloth that needs to be rinsed out, and as I said, the laundry was already smelling like a spring morning.  The water I dumped out was dirty.  After doing a rinse cycle (just another minute of plunging in the fresh water), I emptied the bucket again and this water appeared to be clean.

For those who want a better idea of how this device works, here’s a YouTube video:

Next I searched for a place to use the spin dryer.  I intended to put it in the bathtub, too, but the cord wouldn’t reach an outlet from there.  The spin dryer spits out water, which is why I thought to use it in the tub.  We eventually settled on the kitchen counter as the perfect location, with the empty tube hanging down into the sink.  It was easy enough to transfer the wet diapers to the spinner–I squeezed the water out first, which in retrospect I think was unnecessary because the spinner is equipped to handle water.  Set the timer for two minutes, and the thing turned on, releasing astonishing amounts of water into the sink, and humming a pleasant, quiet hum.

The diapers came out damp and I hung them over the shower curtain to finish drying.  They definitely aren’t dripping–the spinner did a great job and if there was any sun today, I’m sure I could have had them completely dry in 10 or 20 minutes outside.

So, I’m happy with the equipment.  The plunger shaped washer unscrews so that the base and the stick can be stored separately–nice feature for a gal moving into a 22′ home.

The spinner is tiny, but for our new home it’s kind of huge (18 inches tall).  I’m not sure where we’re going to keep it but I’m pretty sure it will be an invaluable part of our routine and worth making room for.  I don’t know of any of our cabinets it will fit in, except maybe the closet, but as the tiny closet is our only clothes storage, it will probably be full of clothes.  The spinner might fit under one of the bench seats at the dinette (each seat opens up like a chest for storage), but with vegetable oil collecting equipment in one seat, and my plans to store baby wrap inventory in the second, I don’t know about that.  It may be that the spinner lives in our shower (which we will not be using so often), and when we need the shower we’ll have to take the spinner out and set it on the floor/bed/table/kitchen counter.

With the spinner taking up so much room, I don’t know that we’ll have space for a five gallon bucket to wash in.  The 5 gallon bucket is about as big as the spinner (and, no, the spinner does not conveniently fit inside).  Maybe a smaller bucket (which might need a lid with a hole to contain splashes) would suffice and could be stored under the bathroom sink.  Or maybe the five gallon bucket could be secured to the outside of the motorhome somehow, being light when empty and durable in that plastic bucket kind of way.  Our shower has a little square bathtub which would work great instead of a bucket, but then there’s no easy way to dispose of the wash water without filling up our gray water tank, and I liked the idea of avoiding that since we’ll be boondocking a lot and not want to have to dump any more often than necessary.  Further brainstorming is required here.

For drying diapers and clothes after washing, I plan to get an outdoor clothesline and an indoor one for when we can’t hang outside.  We may attach a retracting clothesline to the outside of the motorhome that can be pulled out to hook onto a friendly nearby tree.    The indoor clothesline solution might be a simple tension rod in the shower (and the shower rod itself as a second drying rack since the clothes will not be dripping), or something snazzier like this telescoping rack.  So many possibilities.

Now that I’ve used my new laundry supplies, I’m thinking that once we’re on the road, it might work well to do laundry once a day, and that our trips to the laundromat will be infrequent indeed.  Every day may sound like a lot of work, but both the washer and spinner are so quick and effective, that I think even several loads could be accomplished without too great a time outlay, and by keeping up every day, we’ll not have the problem of storing dirty laundry, and we can get away with fewer changes of clothes–both important in our tiny home.

I should also mention that I don’t expect to wash everything we wore each day.  I’m a believer in re-wearing clothes if they don’t look or smell dirty.  Undergarments excepted.  Especially the bulkier items that would fill up a load in my new washing/drying system, can be re-used (thinking jeans here).  So the daily laundry would likely be a few loads of diapers (we’ll have two in diapers but the flats we use are not bulky, the wool covers do not need to be washed daily, and we practice elimination communication with our babies, which reduces the number of diapers we go through), a load of clothes including underwear/socks and some shirts, and maybe another load of rags (we don’t use papertowels or napkins).

I’m pretty happy to find a laundry solution that is:

  • more convenient than a laundromat
  • more sanitary than a laundromat (and free from scents/chemicals)
  • faster than conventional washers/dryers
  • lighter on the planet than conventional laundry methods (much less water, much less energy)
  • cheap and
  • compatible with our low-electric needs since we plan to rely on solar for most of our energy

Taking a big breath…and letting go.

house under the oaks

The stress of trying to arrange for an estate sale was too much for me, so I let it go and have been giving our things away.  I’ve found that there is a greater benefit to this decision than I knew:

We’re letting go of the an accumulation stage of our lives.  We’re saying, “Nah, we don’t need things,” and, “That IS beautiful–I’m glad I got to see it but I don’t need to own it.”  We’re saying, “I don’t need more than five outfits–it’s easier to keep up with laundry this way.”

Selling our possessions is still granting them too much importance.  It is letting them continue to loom large in our lives, hearts, and pocketbooks.  It is still living life in accordance with ownership.

Giving them away is much more in the spirit of this great endeavor we are embarking upon.  Giving them away says that possessions are useful to those who use them, and we begrudge them to no one.  It says that we are open to things (material and ideological) flowing in and out of our lives unhindered by sometimes-irrational emotional ties.

I also figure the karma is bound to prepare us for a life of needing and using little, and relying on being able to conjure up what we do need as we need it.   Letting our things go out into the world, creates a world where things can flow to and from us more easily.  Being less greedy makes it possible for us to have things more easily.

Practically speaking?  We have lots of expenses to cover in preparation for this trip.  Wouldn’t selling our things help get our solar array?  Yes.  But it’s not worth it.  We will just have to get our solar array without hoarding and haggling.

I’m struggling now to figure out how to apply this newfound release (and relaxation) to our house.  Debt is always a complicating factor, and that’s the problem with the house–we owe as much, or more than, it’s worth.  How do we release the house when it is tied to obligation?  We looked into selling it, but it doesn’t seem like we can get enough to pay it off.  So we’re looking into renting it, which is not our preference because we want to be cut free from the ownership of it.  We want to not be collecting money from it, and paying money out on it.  We want to not know or care if something broke, or even whether the trees are fruiting.  We have other things to rest our attentions and intentions upon now and we’re ready for a different game.

Yet, the debt, and the house remain.  It is a beautiful house, that I would dearly regret letting go if I wasn’t so excited about letting go.  We got married on the lawn surrounded by the people dearest to us.  Our daughters were born in the house.  We built half the house ourselves, painted fanciful murals and details, tiled imaginative and personal mosaics, planted blooming vines that have flourished…

And now that I am finding it so easy to let go, I can appreciate the house, and the memories, without any urge to hold onto the physical markers of those things.  I have my husband, my marriage, and my children.  The place where wonderful things happened–and whether or not we keep it–is not nearly so relevant to the wonderful things themselves as it used to seem.

While I contemplate how to release the house, debt and all, I invite anyone looking for a love-filled family home to consider buying or renting ours, seen here: http://www.wrapyourbaby.com/house/details.html

And anyone who has advice or words of encouragement–always welcome!  Please comment with your insight.  I could use some right now.

Progress!

Getting rid of stuff–or dekludging, as we call it–happened to an actual perceivable degree this weekend.  You see, Sunday was my birthday and what did I want?  LESS stuff!  My darling husband obliged by taking a day off from the giant mess of things we always have to get done, and just sorted and boxed things instead.

dekludging

Then he took stuff to charity.  I should have counted the boxes.  At least two big boxes, several littler ones, and random objects like a stool, a rug, a box fan, a globe…all gone!

I want to run with this momentum.  If I can get a couple more boxes filled, I can have someone pick them up, and maybe take some furniture too.

We’ve been reluctant to get rid of things like the couch until we’re really moved out, because why not leave the creature comforts until we’re done with them.  But I’m beginning to realize that we’ll never be moved out until we do get rid of them!  I want to give away the couch, our big livingroom chair, and an old beat up but cool organ.  We’ll see if I go through with it.

I have some things boxed up that I foolishly boxed in our plastic lidded boxes.  Well, we may need to keep the boxes, though I want to give away their contents.  Good planning, right?  So I have a box of Christmas ornaments to re-box, and a box of kitchen items.

I decided I would be fine not toting Christmas decorations around (or storing them).  I thought, what a nice tradition it will be to make new ornaments with the kids each year.  Popcorn strands and cranberry garlands, orange slice ornaments, paper snowflakes…

I still love that idea, a way to fill up our Decembers with productive Christmas activity.  But we also discovered that we have some ornaments we just don’t want to give up.  Things made by David and his sister as children.  Some passed down from my grandmother.  And some ornaments gifted by my mother or which we got ourselves over the past seven years since we became a family that commemorate various times or occasions of our life together.  So we have a small box of Christmas ornaments to store and the rest are outa here!

The Things That Own You

The world has to learn that the actual pleasure derived from material things is of rather low quality on the whole and less even in quantity than it looks to those who have not tried it.  – Oliver Wendell Holmes

stuff piled up to go

Wow, I’ve had a rough week.  I feel positively weighed down by the stuff in this house, and everyday I make huge efforts towards getting rid of it and it hardly seems to make a dent.

And I wondered, why is this so hard?  Shouldn’t I feel lighter everyday that the weight of my possessions is lighter?  Shouldn’t this exercise leave me feeling buoyant and free?

Do you know what I think the problem is?  I think the things are clinging to me.  I have no problem letting them go, but they are not so easy to convince.  In embarking on this plan to eliminate the stuff, I have opened up a can of worms.  I am up to my elbows in things I don’t want, and whereas their weight has been sitting on the floor of my closets up until the present, now their weight is in my arms and on my shoulders.  I feel like the Shell Silverstein character: ah, heck, it’s up to my neck!

I think this is the natural resistance of chaos to simplicity.  I think I have to stay strong and keep my saber swinging to and fro through the thick jungle of it all until suddenly I will find myself in a peaceful meadow and the job will be done.

One decision I’ve made to help myself in this task is to forgo the estate sale.  We’re going the goodwill route (as in, you provide a big truck, and we will give you all our things).  For me, at this point in my life and times (and pregnancy), the effort of getting rid of things without getting them out of the house, while placing value on them (in the form of price stickers), and getting them cleaned up and sorted, without my kids breaking, removing, or playing with them, was just an impossibility.  Do you know how much easier it is to say, “I don’t need this, I don’t need this, I don’t need this…” as you toss things higgeldy-piggeldy into a cardboard box?

There are some big ticket items that we plan to sell on Craigslist because it’s hard not to try to recoup something out of this mess, especially when we haven’t bought the solar panels for our motorhome yet!

And the biggest task lying in wait for me is paperwork:  filing cabinets full, baskets brimming over, piles and stacks, and random particles that have drifted down to form a blanket of forms, envelopes, reminders, invitations, coupons, receipts and records on the floor.

For inspiration, here are some people’s ideas and suggestions in dealing with the dilemna of stuff:

100 things challenge

insight from a minimalist

Other Fulltime RV Dwellers

We’re not the first to think that a family of five can be happy living fulltime in an RV: http://www.lundy5.com/

This family is working on baby #6: Roadschooling Ryans

Family of six living their dream of changing the world: Passion to Action

Unschooling family of four: Clan of Parents

This family of four traveled in a vegetable powered motorhome showing the nation how to live lightly: Happy Janssens

Thanks to Mariza for reminding me to include the Ticknor Tribe, a family of 13(!) living on the road fulltime: Our Traveling Tribe

Or peruse a whole bunch of blogs by families on the road.

And here’s one with no kids, and not traveling, but a perfectly respectable architect living in an RV.  He uses it as a home and office in Santa Barbara, having chosen to live in an RV because “It’s not only beautiful, it’s also useful.”  He offers 12 real life reasons why living in 158 sq ft can be a very grand experience:

http://tinyhouseblog.com/travel-trailers/living-large-in-a-tiny-place/

Permission to Relax

Belle at the beach

I’m starting to think that when all the work of preparing for serenity becomes stressful, I’m doing something wrong.  Shouldn’t serenity be one of those things that you don’t have to prepare for?  Can’t I find serenity and then expect the logistics to fall into place BECAUSE I’m serene?

After a tearful morning, I’ve realized that for me, yes, the answer is to be serene, not to work harder towards serenity.  The love of friends and family has calmed me down, and I’ve made some decisions that will lighten the stress.  If this blog is about chasing dreams, I would officially like to propose that actions (and thought processes) which make you feel peaceful will bring you nearer your dreams than those that are “productive” but stressful.  I encourage anyone reading (whether you’re to the point of tears or not) to look at what is making life difficult and resolve to let it be easier.  Not lazier, but more peaceful.

Be willing to let go of some plans.  Maybe letting go is a better plan.

When my actions are better aligned to my intentions, I am actually more productive, because I am excited and energized and the things I work on actually lead to the results I care about.  I just wanted to share.

Unschooling

“I guess my ideal educational system would be a society in which knowledge was widely free and widely and freely shared, and children were everywhere trusted, respected, safe, valued, and welcomed . . . I think practically anything we do to help is mostly going to be harmful except for very limited things – answering questions, showing people things if they ask you, being there as a kind of friendly, sympathetic companion if they have things to talk about, giving them comfort if they need that.” ~John Holt

My mother told me about a now-grown woman she met who was unschooled and seemed to have no knowledge of any subject but fashion magazines.  I told her that was very surprising and not like any unschooler I had heard of.  It was several minutes later in the conversation before I realized this woman wasn’t really unschooled–she was a product of the public school system and my mom was calling her unschooled as synonymous with “neglected education.”

But that’s the thing, I think the public school education is prone to neglect.  Those poor teachers have to lecture to 30 students at a time–of course some of them are neglected!  When you are unschooling, there is no neglect possible because you are not relying on a teacher to educate you.

Unschooling is the opposite.  Unschooling is, like the point of this blog, following passions.  And following passions is ALWAYS educational, regardless of age, time of day or year, or proximity to a schoolroom.  Following passions leads to deep understanding and CARING about a subject.  It leads to fascination with other subjects and an awareness of how different “subjects” fit together so snugly that sometimes the lines between are blurred and any attempt to partition them and teach them separately can be seen as ridiculous and futile.  When you are unschooling, you learn about the world, instead of subjects.

Why should a person choose to unschool?  Unschooling is a good choice if you are too busy with this fascinating world to take time out for education.

For example, maybe you need to sleep during school hours so you can stay up to watch the lunar eclipse.  As a parent, I have a role, but it is no more complicated than the kind of mindful parenting we all strive for whether our children go to school or not: attention, encouragement, sharing, and being willing to listen and learn from my children.

Read what some unschoolers have to say on the subject:

Why Unschool

Yes, I can Write!

And I really enjoyed this fun video addressing common homeschooling peeves (not specific to unschooling):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1z_zMtofvY&feature=related

As for the specific case of my six year old daughter, Ada, I pointed out to my mother that she already has interests and knowledge far surpassing the grown “unschooler” my mother described.  And my mother agreed.  It’s not because I or anyone else had a list of subjects that should be covered.   It’s because, living in this world as she does, she became interested in words, numbers, shapes, and sounds.  It’s because grandma told her that the direction North had shifted, and showed her pictures of Mount Rushmore.  It’s because we read books together that take place all over geography and history.  She doesn’t know that you are supposed to learn addition before subtraction, followed by multiplication, so she learned them all at once simply by understanding numbers (which happened because no one took her interest in numbers and made it a chore).  She doesn’t know that division is different from multiplication either.  And is it?  She was never taught her shapes or colors, but seems to have picked them up.  She was not introduced to classical music, yet her favorite song in the world is Dance of the Reed Flutes by Tchaikovsky.

My mother homeschooled me.  I know she is confident in homeschooling and biased against public schools.  I believe she is concerned about our unschooling because she knows I am busy cooking cleaning and keeping my kids safe, blogging and running a business.  She knows that my home is not one enrichment activity after another, that I am not spending the day sitting on the floor with my girls doing science experiments.  Yet somehow Ada knows about the life cycle of jellyfish and how fruit are produced.  Sure my goal is to spend more time with them, but in the meantime, Ada has not let my life interfere with her education in the least.  Which leads me to believe that life is one big enrichment activity whether I’m busy or not.  Either I’m doing something right, or it was never in my hands in the first place.

Goodnight Moon

Goodnight Moon

Annabelle brings this book to me and makes her request noise, “Dee? Dee?”

“In the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon…”

And her face lights up and she swings her short legs with excitement.

We have several good books which she loves, but we could read nothing but this one and she would be happy.  This is handy, since the RV doesn’t have a bookshelf, and we won’t have a library card.

Beyond convenience, these little moments remind me that everything we need will be coming with us: Goodnight Moon, our family, and time together.

Toddler reading

Cloth Diapers On the Road

Question: are you crazy to move into a 22 foot motorhome with cloth diapers for two and no washer/dryer?!

Answer: yes

But here’s the plan: First, I am switching to flat diapers in preparation for our newborn-to-be.

flat diaper vrs fitted diaper
Flat diaper, compared to a fitted diaper that we have been using.

I love flat diapers for several reasons:

  • they are super cheap
  • they take up very little room
  • they are a cinch to wash
  • they dry if you look at them hard
  • they are one-size-fits-all
  • they are old-fashioned

It will be easy to wash wet diapers in the sink or at a campground and hang dry them inside of an hour to use again.  In this way, we will not get too desperate for a laundromat.

Both babies will use the same diapers so there will be no need to store them separately.

Storage space will be much less than with fluffy prefolds, fitteds, pockets, or all-in-one diapers.

Many, many flat diapers will fit into the zippered hanging wetbag that will be our diaper pail.

We use only wool covers, which are re-used again and again without washing due to wool’s amazing properties.  When they do need to be washed, I will hand wash them in the sink/a bucket/the tub.

Concerned that I am using a public laundry facility to wash cloth diapers?  I am too, a little.  Baby bottoms are so pure and sensitive, and it is important to me that only clean cotton be used to cover bottoms and genitals–that’s one reason why we cloth diaper in the first place!

So, while I have no worries about the cleanliness of my diaper washing routine (the diapers come out perfectly sanitary and so do the machines), I am used to having my own washer and not having to worry about the cleanliness of the other users!

I plan to use vinegar in each wash as a disinfectant against what might be lurking in the machine.  I will use baking soda as a deodorant in hopes that it will counteract any residual scented detergent.   And I will take comfort in knowing that flat diapers are so thin that they do not hold onto bacteria or chemicals, but wash out very thoroughly.

I will dry on high heat as an extra precaution, nonetheless.  Flat diapers can take that kind of treatment.

Toddler wearing a flat diaper with snappi.
So cute in cloth!
Rear view of the flat diaper.
Rear view of the flat diaper.