The Traveling End of The Beginning

Dear Family,

After Cape Cod we spent the weekend with our good friend Juan and his lovely family in New Hampshire, where we were treated to wonderful company, sunny days and cool nights, and a visit to the local biodynamic farm where all sorts of awesome animals and vegetables are raised for meat, eggs, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and an extensive CSA. In order to entice you to live there forever, there is a farm cafe where one can order omelettes and hash browns cooked in ghee, with a side of yogurt produced entirely onsite. It was amazing to eat at a restaurant serving Real Food!! And equally Very Stressful. In fact, I won't revisit the two mornings spent wrangling hungry children throughout the long, expensive process of Appearing In Public At Mealtime. The company and food and decor were fantastic. But I am temporarily cured of restaurants.

Watching the kids play was heartmeltingly worth the drive through Boston Friday rush-hour traffic (thanks to a wrong turn facilitated by GPS). It was definitely tempting to move to NH, although of course there's the Winter Problem...but it was time to move on.

And then it rained. Overnight and through morning packing-up, then for part of the drive to Albany, enormous big boatloads of rain soaked the entire process. All through a grocery shopping expedition, and on into the night, it kept raining on our little caravan. We stayed at a pit-type RV park. Then next morning it rained some more, as we hauled our soaking stuff through more soaking rain.

And so we arrived at Wellesley Island State Park exhausted, damp, and a bit apprehensive concerning our upcoming cross-country travel plans.

But the sun came out on the afternoon we arrived, and pretty much stayed out for rest of our stay. Which was two weeks in one place, camping with various members of the Matilsky clan, visiting with many dear friends, and exploring the Thousand Islands, Amaral Matilsky style.

Here's our style:

First, we spend an enormous amount of time at our campsite's picnic table. WHY is it again that we don't eat tortilla chips, marshmallows, hot dogs, and peanut butter sandwiches?? Perhaps it's because we are certifiably crazy, and instead we attempt to eat three full meals per day composed of Super Nutrient Dense whole foods, balancing micro- and macronutrients by including pastured/grass fed/organic meats, organic vegetables and fruits, gluten-free and carefully prepared starches (like white rice, potatoes, plantains, etc.), and fermented or raw dairy and vegetables...while EXCLUDING sugar, commercially prepared grain products, industrial seed ("vegetable") oils, and pasteurized milk.

(It's actually super simple. To Identify Junk Food, we need answer only one single question: is this food convenient to prepare, serve, and/or eat? If so, then it's definitely crap, and should never be consumed. Conversely, to identify Real, Healthy Food, we just ensure that it takes approximately 2.5 hours per day to cook, 1.25 hrs to clean up, and maybe a half-hour per day (on average) to procure - not to mention about 2 hrs per day to actually eat. This way, we can provide our family with the most time-consuming, expensive meals for our kids to complain about, and grow up to resent us for ("That's right, Therapist: my mother was too busy to play games with me because she was always cooking and telling me how bad it is to eat vegetable oil!!"))

Second, we spend a ton of time chasing Ivy to keep her safe (approximately 10 hours per day), cleaning up various messes and washing laundry and fiddling with our Systems (solar, water, trash disposal, toilet, etc), getting children ready for bed and showered and tick-checked and toothbrushed, plus the thousand and ten tasks that all take seven times longer when you're trying to do them while also chasing Ivy.

Basically, this means that nearly 99% of the time in any given day is spoken for and can keep two adults scurrying around the campsite until far into the night.

But this is what we do with that ~1% that remains of our days: we live it up! We hang out with fantastic grandparents and uncles and aunties. We go swimming. We learn about stuff. We laugh at ridiculous, humorous, exhausting, monotonous, annoying, and crazy things. We photograph smiles for posterity, and delete everything else. We try things. We ride bikes and scooters - and kayaks! We eat sourdough campsite crepes and argue over how to pronounce "crepe". We read out loud. We help each other. We make things. We sing and write and read. We make new friends and love the old. We go for a boat ride on the St. Laurence river: Ben and Eliza, sitting sophisticated up front; Jem sitting on Jeffs lap, helping to captain; Ivy, sitting on my lap, wearing her teeny baby life jacket, singing a wordless baby song; everybody's hair blowing in the breeze while we skim over the water through a little moment of paradise.

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Any health improvements thus far? Well, it's hard to tell, because we've swapped indoor living for a shit ton of variables plus a healthy serving of Stress.

There's one thing for sure: after a super awful winter, followed by a Definitely Challenging Spring, Eliza's tantrums have receded dramatically since Outdoor Living: only two in nearly eight weeks.

Jem reports "much fewer boogers," and Jeff's sinuses are somewhat better, along with his facial skin. Also, some of Jeff's many and various symptom episodes are showing quicker recovery times.

Camping is great for a naked, developing baby. Ivy has gone from a trepidatious toddler to a curly-haired speed demon. When we got to Wellesley island, she couldn't navigate the steep hill down to the water. By the middle of the second week, she could stagger down just fine. It's amazing to watch her determination. Humans have to fall SO MANY TIMES in order to learn to walk really well!

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Quick practical exercise: try to come up with something entertaining to do in a car (i.e. a podcast or an activity) that appeals to ages 1-12. Before you even start to wrack your brain, I'll tell you: it cannot possibly be found because it doesn't exist.

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Our baby Jem turned nine last week. His gifts mostly included his membership in this adventure that is so far suiting him just fine: fishing, kayaking, playing, bike riding, adventuring in general...Jem likes camping "a lot". No oven for a birthday cake, so we made an enormous pot of popcorn and sang happy birthday with Uncle Matt and Michelle.

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Song by Eliza: "I wish we could camp right here, and never have to drive, I like this place but I miss Ithaca, and wish we could be there."

Eliza, convinced to go into the water on a super warm afternoon: "Ah, now I'm pouring water over my hot body!"

A logical rationale: "I put that shirt on so that I'd look so cute!"

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Eliza's Report from Wellesley Island:

There's lots of oak trees here. And maples. There's a big ocean, and across the ocean is Canada and I was at Canada one day (when I was coming back from a castle). There are rocks here, and sand, and a little bit of grass but not on the beach. The water is nice and clean.

Ila came to visit, and Maya and Ella came, and we sometimes see a Canada boat, and we did an egg hunt and a scavenger hunt. There's nice smooth paths and there's no rocks on the path, and lots of trees that are beautiful but you can't climb them because the campsite doesn't want you to because you might hurt yourself.

I have new sparkly flower shoes with pretend flowers on them. The flowers are like blooming in the sky.

David and Donna and Aunty Theeny left yesterday. Kristen and Jeff and Jesse and Lucas came today. They are from Ithaca.

I love the world of Wellesley island. And there's nice fallen leaves on the path. It's fun being next to Grandma and Grandpa. It's fun camping!

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Jeff and I have each separately had this thought (he while watching our van drive up; I while cleaning off the picnic table by dumping water downhill over it): We Can Imagine Living Outside Indefinitely.

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And now we begin our journey west. Wish us luck! Soon you'll get to hear whether we still want to live outside after actually Traveling A Whole Lot More Often than Every Two Weeks...and also, the rain.

Love from central New York,
Sarabeth