UDDER CHAOS
Tales of life on an island littered with goats
Udder Chaos

No Turning Back Now

After months of stalling, pouting and breathing frantically into a paper bag I finally gathered my courage and hit "purchase" on a plane ticket to Greenville, South Carolina this past February.
I had to go back to see if I could still imagine living there, to make sure that what we all felt during our road trip wasn’t some strange, one-time alignment of stars.
What if we were wrong? What if this city we spent less than a day in wasn’t anything like we thought?
  
I wanted to go without kids, without anyone to “sell”, just me, my gut and a girlfriend (to make sure I actually left the hotel room). I was so scared I would hate Greenville, while secretly hoping to visit and go “What the hell were we thinking, THIS PLACE SUCKS!”, storming out and returning to our little island.

Inconveniently, that didn't happen and it all crystalized during lunch on our second day in town. Somewhere between the moment when the waiter asked “So, what brings you Ladies to town?” and when I started sobbing incoherently in reply.....that’s when I realized that I didn't hate Greenville. 
And not hating Greenville would mean that this move would have to become a reality now.

Damn. 



Troubled by this realization, yet encouraged by the low, low bar of “non hatred” for Greenville, I got the road trip mobile out of storage in Orlando and drove it to Greenville in March, this time to meet my teenage sons who currently live in Dallas. We visited high schools I had spent weeks researching and after gathering all my courage, we even went to looked at houses together. 
Many of them had this strange white stuff on the ground. (Sigh)


It turns out that Greenville is indeed a lovely city that we can still imagine living in. And while we didn't find a house yet, we picked a high school and an approximate moving date. 

As a display of my commitment/grasp on priorities, I went and bough wine glasses and an espresso machine for our future house in the US. They're currently sitting in the trunk of my car, parked at the airport in Greenville.  

Clearly, there is no turning back now.

MacGyver Bag (This Might Explain A Lot)

Due to popular demand (i.e. one of you asked) and my friend Shannon's post here, I present you the contents of the famous MacGyver bag:


1. Several packets of Sugru, the air-drying silicone putty that can be used to fix cars, cables, handles and just about anything you can imagine. Honestly, I have no idea how MacGyver happened without this stuff. 
2. Dental floss for both it's intended purpose or tying something together
3. Regular and blister bandaids
4. Gum 'cause how else is MacGyver supposed to make a bomb. Duh. 
5. Extra earbuds with mic in case I forget my awesome one's 
6. Swiss army knife, TSA approved travel size. This one was once used to save a dog's life at the beach, true story!
7. 2 yards of duct tape (with pickles on it that says "Dill with it") wrapped around some bobby pins. I really feel like this item requires no explanation.
8. Flashlight
9. Lip balm, which is also great on cuts or pending blisters
10. Female hardware which is seriously great for sooo many things. If you don't believe me, read this "The Art of Manliness" 
11. Emergency googly eyes, safety pins, paper clip and a cigar punch, because sometimes you have to keep things from falling apart and other times you have to loosen things up. Also, cigar cutters suck.
12. Nail clippers
13. Hair tie, spare button, universal handcuff key because you just never know where life takes you. 
14. Emergency mustache which is a total must have for disguises or when you need to make 3 year olds laugh.
15. Tums
16. Single black nylon sock, an absolute must have as a stylish hair band for surprise dates or tying something together. And I guess you could use it as a sock too, but I've never done that. 
17. Survival multi tool, again TSA approved. I use this thing all the time. Seriously. 
18. Pain meds and Alka Seltzer 
19. Permanent marker and nail file for when you're on a 6 week road trip and your temporary license plate blows off and you have to make a new one out of an envelope, pencil tops, duct tape and a permanent marker. 
20. Moo cards for when you meet random, yet awesome people 
21. Sewing kit, especially handy for emergency altering clothes at conferences. 
22. Cable ties because these things are the greatest! 
23. Benedryl for when someone has an allergic reaction 
24. Shout wipes for those of us blessed with a little less grace than others
25. Mini screw driver set, emergency cash and check in case you live on a Caribbean island where people only take cash or checks and despite how hard you try to remember that, you still continue walking around with credit cards only most of the time. 
26. Waterproof case because nobody likes a wet emergency moustache.

Where the Heart (Mostly) Is

I thought I was pretty well prepared for our 6 week road trip across the US. I expected the vast distances we’d drive (on the right, ideally), the constant barrage of lights and sounds and Fox news. I knew to expect the “don’t get ahead of me” urgency and mix of exciting new things and uncomfortable new things, because I lived there for 14 years. And actually, I was looking forward to being in a country where you can buy kids shoes. And Advil and produce. In the same place, at 3am, on a Sunday.


The Route

We set out on this trip without a set itinerary on purpose. I wanted the flexibility of going where we felt like and I wanted the kids to research places and determine where to go, ultimately because I wanted them to be part of how we ended up at the place, our new home.
So every night we'd discuss the three options - West, South or East - and the cities, attractions and historical things along each path, before plotting our course for the next day and booking our next hotel. In other words, if you ever want to drive across 13 States along the most inefficient route, give me a call, I got this down pat.


The Mission

I knew there would be no way to take the kids - the girls particularly - from Anguilla with it's tight knit community to Anonymoustown, USA, so we focused on going through smaller cities between 50 - 100 thousand people, hoping to find at least trace amounts of community.

I had previously spent about a year, trying to find the best place to move to according to data, overlaying maps on crime rate, diversity, education, cost of living, average age, weather and "number of hours to the nearest international airport". (I know, don't judge me.) This road trip was actually born out of the realization that finding a home on paper is about as as absurd as finding a husband on paper, although I'll admit to knowing nothing about the later. Essentially, "home" isn't about matching a list of criteria but rather about a feeling when you get there. And if that feeling is right, the criteria list usually gets tossed out the window anyway.


The Surprise Element

Backed by a year of research, I was sure I knew what we were looking for til about 10 days into our trip, which is when the girls pointed out that basically only white people live in America, which is the moment "diversity" got put on the priority list. 
We're used to being the minority here in Anguilla and they're totally right, as soon as you go North of.. let's say Miami, any significant amount of racial diversity tends to fade away until you get into bigger cities again.
How people interact, especially with those that are different in some way, shape or form is very important to me as "being open to new and different things" bleeds into so many parts of life, including how kids treat each other in school. I'm convinced that living in a place where you can walk around without fear of judgement for what you look like or who you chose to be has more than a few positive benefits, although I don't have statistics for that one and you definitely do not want me to go down that rabbit hole again. 


MacGyuver This!

Armed with a bucket full of statistics, I knew where to go to find diversity, but the flaw in that theory became obvious quickly as it's not actually diversity I'm interested in, but rather how diversity is accepted, which is both something you can't quantify and something there are no charts for. Bummer.

So how do you look for something you can't quantify? Not sure, but spending some time on any random bench in any given city is a most excellent start. Sit still, turn off your hearing, and look for variations in facial expressions as people walk by and you can get a pretty good sense of how people react to strangers or those that aren't like them.
That Japanese tourist, that tattooed couple with the dog, that black woman pushing a stroller, that homeless guy, that Grandma-type. Who makes eye contact with whom, who gets seen but then immediately avoided and which type of person doesn't ever get acknowledged at all. Fascinating stuff. Sometimes sad stuff. Clearly not an exact science but as good a "diversity acceptance meter" as I was able to come up with in a pinch.


The Hypothesis

My best case scenario for the trip involved being swept off my feet by Randomtown, USA at some point along the 6 weeks. Fast and furious, maybe even causing us to scrap the rest of the road trip and just coming back to pack. Love is love. Game over. 
At the very least, I figured across 22 cities we'd at least find a few we'd like, which would simplify the selection process significantly.
Either way we'd have a proper adventure at a minimum, even if things didn't go as planned but come on, how hard can it be.... 


Harsh and Cold for $500, Alex 

What I wasn't prepared for, was driving 4500 miles and ending up with merely one place we all could imagine living in, which is basically a small step above finding a place we "didn't dislike".
What an embarrassing and arrogant thing to admit, much less feel. To have the support of the most patient employer ever, have so many generous friends open their homes to us, show us around their cities… only to drive away, somehow deeming them all unfit for us, which made it impossible to not feel like an over-privileged asshole, i.e. “incredibly disappointed” for the easily offended among you. 


The Conclusion
In the end, there was one place we liked, or rather that the girls and I liked and the boys didn't have anything against. A place called Greenville, South Carolina where people readily made eye contact, not just with us but with those who didn't look alike. A small city with a surprising amount of international flair, obvious diversity, a big performing arts center, music and good schools. One place we felt welcome and comfortable that had - gasp - free wifi downtown, which almost makes up for the occasional snow. Almost.

Update: Crappy video of a random concert we came across in Greenville, a reggae band singing "Down by the river", on the river going through downtown, with granny types square dancing along. In the rain, as you do. Pure greatness!


The Timing

Trying to decide when to move ended up being like pulling (rotting) teeth - everyone agrees it is needed, but nobody wants to do it. For one, sitting down for this conversation would mean the end of our road trip, which meant the end of our Summer together. 
Not moving right away would mean the boys would go back to live in Texas again.
Deciding to move half way through the year would mean the the girls and I would have to spend 6 months in the US alone, while the boys finish their school year in Dallas. And if you saw how those teenage boys would sit there for hours answering questions about what it's like to go live in America, then you'd know that moving to the US alone would be the same as moving into the deep end of the pool. Not a good option. 

So in an annoyingly rational call, mostly fueled by annoyingly valid arguments the kids made, we decided to move at the end of this school year, meaning June 2014. 
Sigh.
It's taken me a while to digest and accept this part, still not sure I'm fully on board with this yet, mostly 'cause it's inconvenient and leaves way too much time between now and actually acting on it. The truth is, I wanted to fall in love with a place because then all I'd have to do was react. Reacting is easy. Deliberate effort is hard. Waiting is the hardest.


Bonus Badges Unlocked
 
There were many occasions the kids blew me away by being way more capable and creative than I had previously thought. Saying things like "do we have to go a park? can't we just get in the car and drive some more" after 80 hours of driving is one of those instances. 
 
Watching the 10 year old girls correctly pick metro lines, read maps to get us to museums, asking for help when needed, figuring out which way is West (and hence North) and actually getting us to where we needed to go is another. Although I'll take credit for dealing with all street vendors, homeless people and those 13 half used paper metro cards. (Shout-out to the DC metro system!)

Between "learning to navigate", "making lunch for 5 in a moving car" and "getting checked out, packing 5 people's stuff into 3 carry on's and getting it to fit in the car in the ONLY configuration possible, in under 20 minutes", my kids are basically really for the zombie apocalypse. You know, just in case. 



The Real Lesson

In the end, we spent 44 days together in the same room and the same car, all without killing each other, which is perhaps our biggest accomplishment. We learned so much about navigating civilization, people watching and talking to strangers. We learned how to adjust when things don't go as planned, how to deal with moods, spilled milk and bad pop music.

In our pursuit of "home" we learned about claiming the space in this World that we are given, showing up in places where you may or may not belong, and making it yours anyway. (Having the luxury of) pursuing that which makes us feel vulnerable and alive, while being grounded by the strength and safety of each other. Kind people that love and accept unconditionally, even when you screw up. Especially when you screw up. 

Perhaps that's what "home" really is about.
 

Road Trip Fun Facts

  • Days spent travelling: 44 or 6 weeks
  • Number of suitcases taken: 3, which is 2/3 of a suitcase per person.
  • Number of transportation methods used: 9, car and taxi, ferry boat, bicycle, subway, kayak, bus, paddle boat, plane, monorail.
  • Distance driven: 4500 miles or 7200  km, or roughly 300 times the length of Anguilla. Or like crossing the US along the orange route below, twice.
  • Average miles/km per day: 102 mi/ km 
  • Average price of gasoline in the US: 48% of what it costs in Anguilla

  • Average time per day spent driving: 2.3 hours
  • Number of speeding tickets the kids bet I would get: 2, 2, 3 and 5
  • Number of speeding tickets received: 0
  • Number of days spent speeding: [redacted]
  • Number of states visited: 13 or 26% of the US
  • Number of oceans visited: 3, the Caribbean Sea, the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.   
  • Number of countries visited: 4, if you count Anguilla and St Maartin, which is French and Dutch. 
  • Number of different places we spent the night at: 20
  • Average stay at each hotel: 2.2 days 
  • Average cost of housing, per day: 91% of what I pay for housing in Anguilla, except our house here doesn't come with a complimentary breakfast buffet for 5 people.

  • Cities visited: 23. Yardley, PA; Rhinebeck, NY; Newark, DE; Washington DC; Richmond and Petersburg, VA; Asheville and Charlotte, NC; Nashville, TN; Las Vegas, NV;  Chattanooga and Soddy Daisy, TN; Gainesville and Savannah, GA; Greenville,Beaufort  and Charleston, SC; Jacksonville, Destin, Seaside, Tallahassee,Tampa and Orlando, FL.
  • Place most similar to Anguilla: Destin, FL as it's the same in size and residentsbut Destin has 750% the amount of tourism that Anguilla does.
  • Place least similar to Anguilla: Manhattan, NYC which is oddly enough also almost the exact same physical size as Anguilla, but has 1245% times the population.
  • Number of museums, playgrounds, parks, laser tag and movie theatres visited: 16 which is a huge deal as Anguilla has none of any of those.
  • Number of grocery stores we went to: 12, all of which could have housed our little island store in the produce section alone.
  • Average price of food, compared to Anguilla: roughly 42% although it would have been much lower if it wasn't for Manhattan.
  • Number of fast food places visited: 1
  • Number of food deliveries: 1 
  • Number of pets we met: 15 or 25 if you include mice or 46 if you include fish.
  • Number of pets the kids wanted to kidnap: 45
  • Number of pets the kids actually tried to kidnap: 1 teeny tiny mouse
  • Number of accidents or injuries: 0
  • Number of memories made and wonderful people we met along the way: countless
Tools used to plot our route:
Google Maps, Tripadvisor.com, Tripit.com, Hi-Def radar app, Facebook, Twitter

Hardware used: 
2005 Chrystler Pacifica I bought 7 hours into our trip. Koolatron Voyager Cooler. TomTom navigation system. Swiss army knives, duct tape, frisbee, twine, soccer ball, cable ties, kazoo, water guns, nunchucks, kite, slingshot, giant bubble wands, TMNT backpack.
2 iPads, 1 Kindle Fire, 4 Blackberry phones, 1 Virgin mobile mifi, 1 Fujitsu x10 camera, 4 amazing kids up for anything, 1 slightly insane adult.

The Paradox of Choice

4500 miles, 13 States and 6 weeks in civilization are behind us. We’ve met wonderful people and had fantastic adventures while living out of 3 carry on’s, hotels and a car we bought in the US.

That’s 6 weeks of being in control of the temperature in every room, including the car. 6 weeks of instant access to any kind of store you can imagine, at 1am, on a Sunday night. 6 weeks of picking directions to travel in, without notice, with the internet as our guide. 6 weeks of any kind of movies/concerts/museum/park to entertain us along with any kind of food imaginable ready for ordering/picking up/delivery, 24/7. 6 weeks of glorious drinking water available ANYWHERE, as much as you wanted.
In other words, we've had a fantastic time thoroughly taking advantage of everything the US has to offer and reveling in this sense of control and convenience. 
Man, you should have seen the look on the girls’ faces as they got to pay the pizza delivery guy, which is something they had never before experienced and had only ever seen on TV.


And then you spend a few hours on planes and boats and just like that, it’s all gone.
The nice car with the buttons is gone. The AC is gone and you're back to "indoor camping" with open doors and windows and a house makes a variety of noises as the West Indies breeze blows through it. No more food deliveries but instead a small grocery store the size of most American produce sections. No more shoe stores or movie theatres or museums. No more carpets, although the scorpion that greeted me last night didn’t seem to mind the tile floor. 
No more control, just you and nature and whatever the supply boat happened to deliver this week. 

Slow, uncontrollable and inconvenient. But somehow, this lack of instant access to choices feels more like a relief than a burden. (Although, be sure to ask me about this next time the island runs out of gasoline, or the grocery store is out of milk and eggs again.)
There is a certain liberating quality to simplicity, as the more choices we have, the more complicated things become, the more pressure there seems to be.


Kind of like when you get to go on a 6 week road trip with your 4 kids to chose any place you want to live.

Oh The Places You'll Go

It’s almost 2 weeks into our 6 week road trip and the constant barrage of noise and action of the US is slowly starting to seem normal. We have “only” covered 3 states - New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware  - while staying with friends, which was an intentional slow start to the trip surrounded by familiar and friendly faces. So far we’ve covered roughly 950 miles, which isn’t that much but the reality of living out of suitcases and a car is starting to sink in, along with some “What have I done?!?!?”.

Interesting to see the kids faces as they see new places, different customs, like unlimited drinking water, which is unbelievable if you grew up in Anguilla, a country without a water system that relies on rain water being collected. One of my favorite moments of flying here was one of the girls asking who they had to ask and pay to have a drink from a water fountain at the airport. "Free? As much as you want????" 

(Manhattan elevator pic with dog we were *this* close to kidnapping)

One of the many reasons I wanted to do a 6 week road trip with the kids was ‘cause I didn’t want them to not be intimidated in times of uncertainty (which is pretty much all the time) and I didn’t want them to be afraid of making decisions, right or wrong. I want them to trust their information gathering and problem solving skills to feel comfortable navigating in life, to keep that sense of adventure and not be afraid to experiment.

And mainly, I wanted them to be there as we (hopefully) find our new home, to navigate along with me on our way from New York City to Orlando. Sure, picking a place to move to on my own and informing the kids of their new home seems easier but also rather uncomfortable if you reverse the situation. How would you feel if someone told you that your new home in another country was going to be called ________ (fill in the blank place you’ve never heard of) and you had no way to know what it looks like, feels like, smells like?

But doing a road trip where each of the kids got to navigate, each getting a chance to decide which direction we’d go in – South, East or West - would mean that they each would be part of how and why we got to our eventual new home. Also, it would save me from having to sell them on our new place, which seemed like a win-win.

And even if we don’t end up finding a place, I figured spending some time together trying new things and help each other cope with problems we've not encountered before would be good for us, but especially the kids who have had to work through things such as how to deal with missing a flight on our way here (check). They've also had to do online research on things to see along our travels (check) while also considering the budget and sometimes making tough decisions because something costs too much (check). I wanted them to be in situations they don’t know how to deal with like ordering room service (check) or using online tools to find a grocery store in the middle of Manhattan (check). 

I was hoping for the lengthy and sweet conversations where the girls ask the boys all about American schools and what having a locker and a cafeteria is like (check). And I wanted to let the kids know that I too constantly learn new things, which was surely evident in my sheer look of panic while driving on the right in Manhattan (check) in our new car that we bought hours after landing (check).

In the end, I consider my only job as a parent to teach my kids how to make decisions and solve problems in my absence when dealing with the colorful mix of rainbows and crap that life tends to dish out. I don't want my kids to be afraid of life, to be too scared to make decisions and I desperately want them to feel capable of moving around this World like they belong in it. 

And they do belong in it. 

Now if we could only figure out where…. 

It's Not You, It's Me

A tidal wave of nausea and cold sweat hit me this morning, as I uttered the words "see you in September" to someone. No clue how it happened so fast, but this is going to be our last weekend in Anguilla, which means it's officially time to panic about such things as packing, organizing pet care and not having a car in the US for our road trip - undoubtedly a rather important part of the road trip concept. But also, if this is our last weekend here, then that means it's time to let go, which basically means I'll be spending the weekend hyperventilating. 

Yes, I know we will be back, maybe even before September, maybe just to pack, maybe to stay here for a while and strategize. But I know full well that once we leave in a few days, the island we know and have loved for 8 years won't be here when we return. Regardless if we do or don't find a new right place to live, Anguilla will have changed. We will have changed and this place will once again seem foreign and inconvenient, with a pretty 210 degree ocean view but so much tranquillity it's deafening.


Anguilla has taught me so much - how to be still, how to listen, how to allow those tiny voices to bubble up, even though they don't usually tell you anything you want to hear.
It's here where I learned to be at peace and how to be a single parent to the four kids - sometimes even simultaneously. Turns out having nobody else to rely on (or blame) takes away all your leeway and excuses and forces you have to try harder. Or something different. Either way, it makes you try something.
Actually, Anguilla made us all try harder and it taught us how to work together as a family in order to cope with "indoor camping" and the often overwhelming inconveniences of island life. Not having stores forced us all to learn reeeeally creative problem solving, which is both a giant pain (when it happens to me) and a beautiful life skill lessons (when it happens to the kids).

Anguilla also taught us about connecting with people, to be open in ways I am not sure I know how to be in civilization. Here we learned to observe more and judge less and Anguilla has allowed the kids to find out about being a minority in the gentlest of ways possible. 
This island has a way to make people feel safe and let go of layers of bullshit and defences, which usually results in people interacting in ways which are both genuine and strangely healing. And 
I do worry that particularly the girls will feel lost or somehow less important in the US without this, unable to understand why people don't look them in the eye and say "good morning".

I also worry that with all the conveniences and stuff the US has to offer, we won't need each other the way we do here. That we'll have to try less hard to make life work.
I worry that I don't know how to pull off 6 weeks on the road without accidentally strangling a kid or two. And I worry I won't hear myself think or have enough time and space to be still, while constantly moving. But I suppose all that is part of the point of this trip.

Six weeks is just enough time to be dazzled by unlimited, potable water and the opportunities of life in civilization and forget a lot about what Anguilla really is like. Six weeks is just long enough for all kinds of things to fade into the background, so that being open to something new has a chance. Something I am hoping will happen, somewhere along the road between New York and Florida.

The Long Way Home

When something is right, it is dreadfully obvious. It comes to you naturally, effortlessly - no pushing or pulling required. And as a matter of fact, when something truly is right, you don't actually get to decide. It just happens and it usually comes when you least expect it. 

Right things can’t be argued with, they aren’t rational, which is rather tricky for those of us with an affinity for logical decision-making. 
Right things also can't rbe stopped, no matter how much you might want to. Sure, you can be in denial, you can settle, you can stop taking action on the situation, but (if you’re lucky) it’s just a matter of time before you run into that right thing, making you realize how wrong the thing is you currently have in your life.

So really, spotting right things is easy! They instantly, inexplicably make you feel more whole than you did before you met that right thing. No decision making involved, no agonizing, no real wavering. It just is. 
That doesn’t mean that right things are easy though. They're not and they have a habit of turning your life upside down. And sometimes you meet a right thing at the wrong moment in time to come back to it years later to have a completely different experience.

Without fail though, right things come to you. They can't be pushed or pulled or coerced, which is simultaneously incredibly liberating and frustrating.
As a matter of fact, usually you have to go through a whole series of wrong things, before you can even recognize the right one. 
Nobody is born knowing their favorite _____ (fill in the blank noun) it involves experiencing many, before you even have a chance of recognizing the right one.

Being still enough to where you can hear yourself on this level, the nuances in these whispers, the irrational ways in which you feel more whole around something - that's the tricky part.


The first and only time I’ve experienced a right thing in the places category was the first time I stepped foot on Anguilla.
Before that moment, I never knew how “not quite at home” I felt in every place I had ever lived, including the place I was born and raised.

The problem with experiencing such a clear and loud “right thing” is that it ruins you. Nothing less will do. Or at the very least, you’re painfully aware of the inadequacy of everything else.

I knew when we moved to Anguilla 8 years ago that this island would be temporary - all things are.
This tiny island has been such a wonderful place to raise kids, but it never was going to be the right place for teenagers. I knew that from the start and I’ve hoped and prayed and pushed and pulled to find a new “right place” for us before the clock would catch up.

After spending months researching a place to move to - overlaying weather maps with “distance from major airport” charts, school, average age, political landscape and cost of living statistics, I’ve come up with nothing. Nada. Logic and data are failing me, which is a blow all on it’s own.

The truth is, you can’t force a right thing to happen, and certainly not on paper. You have to experience it, see how it makes you feel, and on the odd chance you are lucky enough to find that right thing, nothing else matters. Tear up that criteria chart - game over!


You know the joke about the guy who prays every day to win the lottery, to which God replies with “Help me here, buy a ticket!”?
I’ve abandoned searching for a new home on paper and am taking it to the road. The long way, to (hopefully) a new home. So with an open heart, observant eyes, way too many digital devices and all four kids – we’re about to embark on a 6 week road trip across the Eastern-ish part of the US. 

And if we’re lucky, we will indeed find that right place for us all to move to next.  Either way, it'll be entirely obvious if and when we get there. No doubt about that.

The Only Constant

Roughly 3 year ago, as my oldest finished 6th grade here in Anguilla, I made the excruciating decision to send both boys to middle school in Dallas and live with their Dad. The two of you paying attention (hi Mom!) may have noticed that this corresponds directly with the roughly 3 year gap between posts here, but never mind that. 

Before the boys left, we had spent years defining and refining our roles and responsibilities in this family, in this place. There are no conveniences here in Anguilla, no dishwasher, no fast food, no clothes dryer and with just me, the four kids and a full time job, all that inconvenience got divvied up as chores. Everyone simply had to try just a little bit harder.  

Eventually, everyone found their place and their role. It was loads of hard work but everyone in this house was needed, which is what likely never made any of the kids complain.  
They learned ways to delegate, organize and come up with new systems of doing things. They learned how to be observant and "read" moods, be more in tune and work with adjusting their force and timing. They invented games, helped each other with homework and anything in between. There were lots of clashes along the way but it was truly impressive to sit and watch the four of them work and play together effortlessly, like a well oiled machine.

And then, when the boys left, that whole thing sputtered and fell apart. 
It broke my heart. 
It broke our hearts.
Those two missing links instantly turned our previously smooth life into some exhausting, heavy and disabling thing. Not impossible to cope with, but what I imagine it to be like to have your left arm cut off. Everything was difficult and wrong and insufficient and we struggled for a while to draw a new circle and form a newly functioning, downsized family identity. 

For the past 3 years, the boys have come to Anguilla only twice a year and it's been utterly fascinating to watch what happens within minutes of their arrival each time. After the hug fest and dog pile is over, everyone gets quiet for a bit… and then goes on just like before. 
It's barely noticeable to the naked eye but it's like suddenly, everyone remembers their place again, the formation. Like magnets clicking together with that tiny "clank" sound. Everyone is a little bit more whole again. A little bit more needed and secure again. A little bit taller and stronger.
In the boys own words: "Being here gives us something to bond over. It makes us want to be better people, better role models to the girls, more helpful to you."

The boys are here now, until the end of the Summer and the vote we took is unanimous - it's time to find a new home for all of us, together.  

Who gon feed de Chirun?

Subscribe


More:

Twitter: akafrancie
Facebook: akafrancie
Email: francie at visitusinanguilla dot com
Pics: Flickr Stream
Video: YouTube Stream