misadventures in modern parenting with snow angels

How to be a grown-ass woman

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Parenting

My mujer mojo is missing in action.

talon smiling on bellyThe title of this post makes it sound like I’m going to tell you how to be a responsible female adult.  Instead, I’m trolling for your ideas on the subject.

First off, an explanation.  I spent a fabulous three estrogen-soaked days with a couple of stellar lady friends last weekend.  We convened with a 5-week-old and a 5-month-old in a wood-fire-heated cabin near Sand Point and proceeded to settle in.  We chatted.  Cooked.  Cooed at babies.  Changed a LOT of diapers.  And we walked in the snowy woods, drank dark beer, and debriefed what it means to be a mother.  One of my friends remarked that she recently got called out for not behaving like a “grown-ass woman.”

Back in my own homestead, this term shot into my sleep-deprived brain during a mid-night awakening.  I started ruminating on what, exactly, characterizes such a woman. Was I a grown-ass woman?  More importantly, do I want to be one?

misadventures in modern parenting in a cabin in the woods

I certainly feel a lot more grown-up lately, though in a tired sort of way.  And I definitely notice my ass more, now that I run up and down the stairs to wash diapers, and squat up and down to pick up my big baby boy.  But I might feel the least womanly that I’ve ever felt.  Becoming a new mother seems to have neutered–or at least muted–my gender.  My boobs are utilitarian.  My hair is limp and dull.  My mujer mojo is missing in action.

That’s why I’m putting it out to all of you wise readers.  Does being a grown-ass woman mean waving bye-bye to my pre-baby mojo, or does it mean I have to get it back?  And how, exactly, do I get it back?

Neutering aside, here are a few more reasons why I’m pretty sure I’ve become a grown-ass woman:

  1. I put my child first.
  2. I can touch poop without making jokes or gagging uncontrollably.
  3. I appreciate my family and friends more than ever, and strive to help them as much as they help me.
  4. I worry about getting injured or dying, which makes things like snowboarding or flying in helicopters less appealing.
  5. I still want to have fun, escape reality, and do reckless things (even though #4 gets in the way).
  6. I wash dishes when they’re dirty (eventually).
  7. I’m willing to make sacrifices and compromises.
  8. I totally hate making sacrifices and compromises.
  9. I can have serious conversations about important topics.
  10. I can make snow angels or play balloon wars.

This list tells me that being a grown-ass woman is an oxymoron, a contradiction, and often confusing.  What do you all think are the qualities of a grown-ass woman?

misadventures in modern parenting with snow angels

Bachelorette Party in Bend - On the Horizon Line Blog - brianna randall

Penis Paraphernalia and Pregnant Women

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Pregnancy

Blow up dicks aren’t typically a decoration associated with pregnant women. Yet I recently found my 5-month pregnant self wading gleefully through cock-and-ball straws, shot skis filled with tequila, and naked hot-tubbers drinking sangria. Even more startling, the scene transpired only a few days after my re-entry to America after a year spent sailing abroad.

I parachuted back to the Pacific Northwest, landing straight into a full-scale bachelorette party for one of my best friends. We jammed 11 women – 3 of whom were pregnant – into a cabin near Bend, along with some stringed instruments, a stocked costume box, plenty of penis paraphernalia, and enough liquor to kill a couple of cows.

Sure, penis paraphernalia is one of the last things I’m craving midway though my second-trimester. But I’d been looking forward to this female festival for weeks, ever since I’d realized we could time our return to surprise my friend. The giggles and raunchy jokes were nectar for my estrogen-starved senses after spending 24/7 with only my husband.

Rob was chomping at the bit to see his boyfriends, too, ready to chainsaw some trees, traipse along streams, and make unwise, testosterone-based decisions. One of the main reasons we decided to put our travels on hiatus was because we missed our people. One year away from friends and family starts to leave a gap in your heart. My husband and I were both aching to fill the hole. I started closing that gap during the raucous weekend in Bend.

I danced and tossed rings at the blow-up dick with the best of ‘em. I mastered the two minute dip-in/dip-out of the hot tub. I matched the sangria drinkers glass for glass with soda water. I put on wigs and hoop skirts, and reminisced with the bride-to-be about past boyfriends. I stayed up way past my usual bedtime.

And when the partying got too intense, I retreated to a quieter corner with the other two pregnant friends to talk about stretch marks and labor positions over hot tea. It was the first time I got to share revelations about growing a person inside of me with other pregnant women. A special treat, in this unlikely setting.

The penis-paraphernalia girl party eased my transition back into “real life” here in the States. It was the perfect mix of old jokes and new adventures, favorite costumes and changing bodies. I’ll be as big as a house when we all reconnect at the wedding in July. Meanwhile, Rob and I are ready to leap into the next trimester – and the next adventure – here in Montana, fortified by the friendships we missed while away.

Pregnant ladies at a bachelorette party in Bend - On the Horizon Line Blog - Brianna Randall

Brianna's grandparents at their renewal of vows ceremony in San Diego.

Dreams of Grandpa on an Overnight Train from Bangkok

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

My grandpa loved trains. And by ‘love,’ I mean a borderline obsession. He grew up in Connecticut, raised by a florist and a Congregational minister in a pedigreed line that dated back to the original founders of New England, and of America. Grandpa became the sixth Congregational minister in that line.

But first, he grew up near the train, in a time when trains were still an elegant means of traversing the grand American continent. Frederick Bradley worked on his family’s flower farm, and looked forward to hearing the train’s whistle. To running alongside it, waving at the people inside, wondering where their journey would lead.

Grandpa told me plenty of stories about trains. As a child, I could hear the whistle, picture the dining car, watch the caboose fading away, feel the wonder of being carried to new horizons. Each Christmas for nearly forty years, my grandma would give her husband some type of train memorabilia: a model car, a painting, railroad tracks. They had a veritable fleet of electric train sets when I was a kid.

Each Christmas, Grandpa would make sure there was a six-foot-long train choo-chooing around the tree, complete with a model conductor, the dining car, fake smoke from the engine stack, and shiny red caboose. He loved to watch it go. So did I. Or maybe I simply got excited because Grandpa got so excited about the trains.

Now I’m on a real train. A train complete with a conductor, a dining car, a caboose, and people waving out the window as they journey to new horizons. I’ve been on trains before, although not often, and usually commuter trains that carry me from one big city to the next. Fancy and fast trains that don’t have the rocking rhythm of their more clunky ancestors.

train from bangkok to chiang mai brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog

This train is in Thailand, and is neither fast nor fancy by modern standards. Yet it is still elegant. The railway from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was completed in 1921, and I can feel the history in this train car. The pair of facing seats neatly fold into sleeping berths. The ladder to the upper bunk doubles as the luggage storage. The doors between the train cars slide open and shut, and the step between them leaves you with a bubble of adrenaline as you step above the tracks. Polite Thai workers walk between the cars offering coffee, juice, beer, snacks. The bathrooms are shockingly spartan, but also efficient – a hole in the floor through the toilet, a shower hose and a sink to wash up.

You must talk to the people in your berth. You can’t fade away into a wifi world of virtual communication. I met two Germans, a Chinese Thai man, a French family. We muddle our way through various languages to learn a little about each other. Rob improbably strikes up a conversation in Malagasy with a woman from Madagascar, where he lived for two years.

Then it’s time to pull the curtains around each bunk. Lay under the blanket provided, and let the train rock you gently to sleep, lulled by the knowledge that you will wake up to a new landscape, with new opportunities just beyond the tracks.

I thought about my grandpa for most of the train ride, even in my train-rocked dreams. I miss him, and my grandmother who both died too young. I can hear their voices now, as if I could call them up from Chiang Mai to tell them about my journey. About their very first great-grandchild who is riding inside of me on this train.

“Brianna,” my grandma would say, in her warm but precise speech. “Do you really have enough clothes in that tiny bag of yours? ”

“Bri,” my grandpa would exclaim. “How are you? Where are you? Tell me about the train.” And so I did. In my dreams.

Brianna's grandparents at their renewal of vows ceremony in San Diego.

Top 10 Photos of the South Pacific

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Community and Culture, Family and Friends, Fishing, Hiking, Ocean Tales, Outdoor Adventures, Sailing, Traveling

As we leave the Pacific for Southeast Asia, it seems like a good time to reflect upon what we’ve seen this past year.  Here are a few of our favorite photos, which give a taste of sailing, swimming and living across the South Pacific islands.  Note: This Top 10 album is also available on our Facebook page.

[anything_slider title=”Top 10 Photos of the South Pacific” column=”full-width” autoslide=”2″ slider_id=”3667″/]

 

Click here to see a full photo album of Cassidy's visit to Tonga!

Farewell to our First Visitor

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Family and Friends, Outdoor Adventures, Traveling

Click here to see a full photo album of Cassidy's visit to Tonga!

It was a typical Randall sister reunion, full of music, good food and lots of novel-reading between the many outdoor adventures. Cassidy left yesterday after a month with us here in Vava’u. I cried tears of joy when she arrived, and tears of sorrow when she left.

If you’re a visual person, check out the full photo slideshow of Cassidy’s month exploring Tonga here. (I still haven’t figured out why some of you can’t see pictures on our blog. Apologies for the inconvenience, and visit this outside link to see some photos while I keep working on the problem.)

For the more prosaic among our followers, read on to see the Top Ten highlights from hosting our very first visitor, who happens to be my favorite person in the world:

1. Rob taught Cass how to scuba dive, and she rocked the underwater world on 4 different dives.
2. We spent a week on Fofoa, an outer island on the west end of Vava’u, kayaking and snorkeling every day.
3. Cass was lucky enough to have close-up personal encounters with a sea turtle, a spotted eagle ray, a couple of sharks, and thousands of cool fish.
4. I took her on a triathalon slog across the main island, which consisted of 4 hours of bike-riding, hiking straight down (and then up) a slippery muddy trail, swimming in a washing-machine current created by huge waves, and getting deyhydrated enough to think that warm Sprite bought in a tiny village was the BEST thing EVER..
5. We took our slow, slow dingy six miles south to Fenua Unga, where we sat in seawater pools and swam under waterfalls created by the cascading waves.
6. Seahorses. Pregnant male ones, even.
7. The “Waking Dream Cavalcade” released its first album, with Rob on guitar, Cass on ukelele, and me on mandolin — new instruments for all of us!
8. Cass spent an afternoon doing ocean donuts in Ben and Lisa’s power kayak, one of the awesomest water toys out there.
9. We ate daily doses of local pineapple, avocado, papaya and mango, along with fresh giant trevally caught on Rob’s fly rod from the sailboat.
10. Cass attained her goal for this vacation: watch every sunset. And there were some glorious ones, too.

Of course, like all of life, there were lowlights, too: rainy days in a leaky boat; all of us getting sick around Christmas; the boat’s solar panel blowing overboard in a storm (and minimal electricity aboard afterwards). But the lowlights tend to accentuate the good parts. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself, now that I’m facing six months apart from my sister. The distance will make our togetherness even more special when next we get to adventure together.

 

Click here to see sunset picture of a beach in Tonga.

2013 – One Incredible Year in Review

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Fishing, Ocean Tales, Outdoor Adventures, Reflections on Life, Sailing, Traveling

Click here to see sunset picture of a beach in Tonga.

6,000 nautical miles
26 tropical islands
8 countries
7 sailboats
6 months living on the sea
3 months living in Tonga
2 careers put on hold
2 big backpacks
1 incredible year

In some ways, it feels like 2013 was the longest year in ages. Probably because a lot happened. We quit our jobs, packed up our house, kissed friends and family goodbye. We sailed one-quarter of the way around the planet, and met countless new people living a range of different lifestyles. Here are some highlights from our journey this year:

Favorite Places:

Palmerston Atoll, an island in the Cooks with only 60 people divided into three governing families, no roads, and abundant fish. Fakarava, for its unspoiled wildlife where we dove with 200­+ sharks. Bora Bora for its sheer beauty and sandy anchorages. Niue, the smallest country on earth, where Rob saved a woman’s life (stay tuned for that story!) and every resident waves as you pass by. The Kingdom of Tonga, where we have taken up temporary residence, for the sense of community, the accessible water sports, and the local culture.

Favorite Wildlife Moments:
We’ve spent hundreds of hours underwater and thousands of hours floating on top of it. The most memorable sightings include: a lone Orca whale breaching alongside our boat; floating next to 7 sea turtles in the Galapagos; snorkeling with sea lions in Baja; diving with manta rays in Bora Bora; jumping into the deep blue and seeing dozens of curious sharks; listening to the humpback whales sing underwater and watching a mama and her baby play; cheering as dolphins ride the bow wave of our sailboat; and swimming at night through bioluminescent plankton that glow and sparkle.

Biggest Challenges:

  • Nothing is ever still while sailing from place to place, which means dealing with seasickness, a rocking stove while you cook, and always having to brace yourself as you sit or walk or sleep.
  • Tight quarters and communal living arrangements can be tough at times.
  • Wind, waves and currents control when and where you go, testing your patience and flexibility.
  • Bringing the right stuff with you and anticipating what you need during long passages at sea.
  • Reconciling the illusion of paradise with the reality of bugs, heat, storms, and the inevitable list of chores and repairs that come with living on a boat.
  • Meeting like-minded people and finding friendships as close as those we left behind.

Best Parts of Living At Sea:

  • Nights where the stars are endless and bright.
  • Shades of infinite blues.
  • Syncing your daily life with the rhythm of the sun, the wind, the moon.
  • Watching birds and fish and dolphins and whales from the bow.
  • Visiting remote and spectacular places that are inaccessible by plane or car.
  • Spending time with yourself and each other.

Click here to see photo of Bri and Rob in the South Pacific.

bri and cass at the wedding in Missoula - on the horizon line

I’m so excited!

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends

bri and cass at the wedding in Missoula - on the horizon line

Ko hoku tokoua tu ne ha’u heni ahoni.

In Tongan, that means: my sister is coming here tomorrow. After eight long months, I finally get to see my favorite person again. She’s my other half. (Luckily, Rob is totally cool with sharing those two descriptors with Cassidy.)

The Tongan word for a sibling of the same sex is “tokoua.” You use different words when referring to your borther if you’re a woman, or your sister if you’re a man. But for Cass and me, “tokoua” applies in more ways than one. It literally translates to “second person,” since “toko” is person and “ua” is two. We’ve always been two peas in a pod, mistaken for twins, and best friends. She is my second person. With her around, I feel more complete.

It feels like Rob and I have been planning for Cassidy’s visit for about 6 of the 8 months we’ve been traveling through the South Pacific. We would discuss the ideal location to be in December while sailing a multi-day passage in July. We would dive on a reef in Bora Bora and say, “Cass would love it here.” We scoped out beaches in Tonga to map out the best spots to bring her. We busted ass cleaning and repairing Waking Dream to make sure it was a lovely home for her stay (her bed’s been made for over a week, since I’m so excited).

And now she’s flying in. Today. To Tonga. It seems surreal, in many ways, to have our Montana life and our American family pop up in this new home with our new friends. But it also feels exactly right. I can’t wait to have Cassidy meet Vava’u, and for Vava’u to embrace Cassidy.

Ko hoku tokoua tu ne ha’u heni ahoni. Oku ou lahi aupito fiefia!

My sister is coming here tomorrow. I’m so very happy!

brianna and rob on the horizon line travel blog tonga vavau

Bang Bang (with goats and hot pants)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Family and Friends, Videos

This is what we do on the average Tuesday in Tonga.  No, we weren’t on drugs, and no, this was not the result of a dare or a lost bet.  We spent a week on Tapana Island with our new friends, Billy and Magenta, perfecting our band’s repertoire and running around the island in costumes.

It felt a lot like a “Glee” episode — someone would sing a random snippet part way through cooking dinner, and the rest of us would pick up nearby instruments to accompany the remainder of the song. We even wrote a couple of originals that might appear in later videos.

Fun, right?  We think so.

If you like Riff Raff’s first music video, please share it.  Spread the love.  Send the barnyard animals and synchronized swimming scenes into the homes of your friends, so that they, too, can laugh at Rob’s amorous goat-petting and stylish swimming shorts.  Enjoy.

Disclaimer: no sheep were harmed during the making of this film.

 

brianna randall rob roberts travel private island travel tonga beach

Magical Mandala on Fetoko Island

Posted on Posted in Community and Culture, Family and Friends

brianna randall rob roberts travel private island travel tonga beach

Fetoko Island is not on any maps. You can’t find it on navigation charts, and many people here in Tonga would scratch their heads if you ask for directions. Maybe this is part of the reason that Fetoko is such a magical place.

Fetoko Island is 2.4 acres, and has a permanent population of 5: Ben and Lisa, along with their two dogs, Higgs and Boson, and their cat Penzini. The seasonal population can climb as high as 20 from July through October, when they host a constant stream of visitors and friends. And their legendary beach dance parties bring hundreds of locals to Fetoko.

brianna rob travel tonga private island beach resort mandala travel

First, a bit about Ben and Lisa, since they are the core of Fetoko and the main ingredients for making it magical. This couple set sail from the Bay Area in California in 2001 on Waking Dream, their 42-foot Cooper. Three years later, they arrived in Tonga … and never left. Ben and Lisa lived on Waking Dream for 5 years here in Vava’u before moving to Fetoko Island. They started Regatta Vava’u to bring more yachties to Tonga, built and ran what is now the most popular waterfront restaurant, opened up a cart safari business, and also started up a powered kayak tour business. Ben built dozens of cyclone-safe yacht moorings in the harbors, along with several docks, roads, and trails in Vava’u.

brianna rob travel tonga private island beach resort mandala travel

Then they were given an island. Pretty cool, huh? That’s what happens if you share a lot of yourself with the community around you. Of course, it’s technically owned by the royal family, like all land in Tonga — Ben and Lisa have a 99-year lease from the government to live on Fetoko. This year, they finished building their one-of-a-kind restaurant, as well as the first part of their eco-resort. Mandala Resort is a place to come chill. To listen to the wind in the trees. To watch the sunset from the strip of beach. To have dance parties til dawn. To eat good food and listen to good stories. It’s got this energy to it, this hum of giving and learning and loving. It draws awesome people who want to give and learn and love.brianna rob travel tonga private island beach resort mandala travel

Rob and I have settled into our “glamping” lifestyle on Fetoko seamlessly: our giant tent and queen-sized inflatable mattress are bigger than the interior of most of the sailboats we’ve lived aboard. The dogs feel like our own. Rob and Ben bustle around fixing things, and making plans to build the next set of fales — the unique accommodations that Mandala Resort rents to tourists. (Check out this tree house.) Lisa and I hang out in the open-air kitchen making papaya cake and curries for ourselves and any guests. We take the boat into town a few times a week to get produce, say hi the locals in Neiafu, and get a new perspective.

private island resort mandala brianna randall rob roberts travel tonga beach

Once the tourism and yachting season dies down next month, Rob and I will help them fix up Waking Dream. We plan to move aboard for a few months, to have a floating base as we help out Ben and Lisa, as well as the other locals who have become our friends these past 2 months. But no matter where we roam here in Vava’u during the upcoming summer, we know that we will always return to Fetoko, the place — and people — that feel like home.

private island brianna randall rob roberts sail tonga travel beach

You are all with us.

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Family and Friends, Reflections on Life

Roberts family

We just changed the clocks back again. Every time we gain another hour, I feel a tangible stretch in my connection back home. Our next time change — in just a couple of weeks — will span an entire 25 hours. We’ll lose a whole day as we cross the International Dateline near Tonga, and I’ll be ever further from the daily routine of my loved ones in the States.

I’m approaching the outer limits of time spent away from my family. I can feel that time accumulating in my bones and in my breast, weighing heavy as I dive down to see tropical coral and exotic fish. I’m curious how the weight will change as more months pass — will I just wake up one morning and declare that I simply must fly home? Will I grow used to the separation and learn to live with the weight more easily?

the family

After five months out, everything back home is captured in a lovely rosy glow. A glow that purposefully enhances the good and fuzzes out any ickiness. I can picture our neighborhood, my parents’ kitchen, my sister and her big dog walking by the creek, our king-sized bed that’s bigger than the boat we’re now living on. I miss it all. But I’m not ready to go back yet.

I think about my friends and my family every single day. You are all with us out here: under the water, counting the minutes until the passage is complete, marveling at colors and stars and sharks, bemoaning the rocking stove, exclaiming at the number of sharks, laughing at the absurdness of floating a small boat across a giant s ea, changing the clocks back surely but slowly as that small boat keeps sailing west.

travel south pacific island rob brianna dateline

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