10/11/2011, Puerto Rico
Click here to see the September 2011 photos from Puerto Rico
Scott Leonard with Zoe Alexander
10/04/2011, Puerto Rico
When was the last time you played hide-and-seek? Or built a sand castle? Imagine your daily calendar as follows: snorkel, read the morning paper, email office and clients, build sand castle, conference call, play hide-and-seek. That's my work/life balance.
It's easier than I thought to mix work and family. And, as our lives are much simpler - no after-school commitments, TV, or play dates - we have more time to spend together. After dinner we take walks along the beach.
Technology has really liberated me in how I approach a work/life balance. My office on the boat resembles a little nook at the Mac store. I am connected to the California office via my iMac, iPad and iPhone. Being connected this way enables me to handle the boat and the kids while being available to the office. This multi-tasking energizes me because it keeps my contact with the business lean and focused and I am able to participate in most of the boys' daily activities. Our days are structured around their school, which starts promptly at 8:00 AM. Jake and Griffin have Math first, so I sit between them, read the Wall Street Journal on my iPad, have coffee, and help them when needed.
A big part of our days are spent at the family table, either with school or meals; and it is where the Leonard family multi-tasks best. We eat most meals together, so we use that time to review school assignments. Many of the boys' assignments provide discussion sections, so Mandi and I lead the discussion topics, and the boys bounce ideas off of us as well as each other. This process has helped build critical thinking skills in the boys - a valuable skill to encourage at any age. The "round-table" nature of these discussions also really helps ensure that they grasp the material.
We have always been an active family, and discovered that morning exercise helps the boys sit through school. That job has fallen to me. Also, during the school day, we try and take a recess to expend some more energy. Again, my job. And it's a win-win because I get to exercise with the boys. Yeah, I could drink coffee and greet the day in front of a screen, but this routine brings harmony to the day. Some of the activities we enjoy are walking around the local towns, kayaking, stand up paddleboard, Pilates on the boat, swimming, snorkeling and water polo.
One of the best parts of our trip- and it is by design - is that there are so few life distractions that we just spend time together. I love walking down the beach at night, holding hands with my boys. Or when we sail at night and one of the boys can't sleep, we watch the stars and contemplate life on other planets. And, after we put the boys to sleep, Mandi and I have time to be together to talk. Sounds simple, but we rarely did that on land- we were either too busy or too tired. Striking a work/family balance involves navigating each day by what is truly important, and being able to wear many hats. You'd be surprised how efficient balance is if you take time to think it through. Trust me, it's worth it.
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Medical Training with MedAire
While planning our three year, sailing adventure on a fifty foot catamaran, my husband Scott and I felt we had all our bases covered: boat-check, home schooling-check, route-check, provisioning-check, electronics-check, but, unfortunately, when it came to our medical care solution there was a big, fat hole. This made me, a mother of three very active boys ages 5, 9, and 11, not to mention being married to an extremely injury prone husband, incredibly nervous; nervous to the point of rethinking our entire plan. Was fulfilling our dream of sailing the world for three years worth putting our family's wellbeing in jeopardy?
Then, in walks MedAire. While frantically searching the net last winter for some sort of solution we stumbled across MedAire's website. It seemed too good to be true. Not only do they provide the medical kits needed for a trip such as ours, but training to go along with it. The best part, doctors are ready to assist anywhere, at any time via satellite phone to MedAire's 7/24 call center, MedLink. An added bonus, they keep all of our medical as well as important travel information, copies of passports, birth certificates, in their database for easy access. This will allow us an extra layer of security as we travel between different countries.
On July 28th, a day after our family arrived in Ft Lauderdale to start outfitting our boat with the final necessities for the voyage, Scott and I began a three-day intensive training session that ended in an additional half day of training with our three boys. Renee Kempf, our instructor, began with a general overview of what we were to expect during the next few days. Then, we moved to an overview of basic anatomy and a description of the major systems of our bodies. Even my EMT husband admitted he learned a lot. Renee was patient and is obviously an extremely knowledgeable as well as a gifted trainer. We went over CPR and acted out real life scenarios such as, Scott is unconscious on the front deck so what should we do? While one of the boys raises MedLink on the satellite phone for assistance, I check to see if he is breathing and then administer CPR. No pulse? Then maybe we need the defibrillator. He regains consciousness, then it would help to administer oxygen, and so on. We covered inserting IVs, suturing (pigs feet, darn I didn't get to practice on Scott), burn treatment, fevers, food poisoning, bites and stings from dangerous and not so dangerous animals, breaks, sprains, spinal injuries, tourniquets, rashes, and much more. All of this training comes with the knowledge that we will have doctors and experts available to us 24/7 for advice and guidance.
The boys' favorite part of training was practicing abdominal thrusts used to aid choking victims. Renee had a contraption for training that would propel Nerf like bullets into the air when you accomplished the procedure correctly. Lots of fun! They asked if they could keep the training tool
After three and a half days of Renee's guidance, a peace of mind and a feeling of empowerment came upon me to which there is no comparison. We can do this trip and be safe. I can take care of my husband and kids in an emergency if necessary. We can do this and have experts behind us the whole way. Phew... Thanks Renee and thanks MedAire. I hope I never have to talk with you in the next three years, (well Renee, only if it is to visit for fun) but, if I do, I feel certain we will have the tools, and the expertise of the MedAire staff behind us, to help guide us through any challenge. Boy voyage!
Three Little Birds e-Letter
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10/03/2011, Dominican Republic
It was a relaxing beach day at a small little island just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Picture a typical tourist spot complete with palm trees, vendors, drinks, etc. Mandi and I were sipping some local color known as the Coco Loco. Basically, it's rum poured into a hollowed out coconut with a little coconut milk added - and I mean a little coconut milk. It was perfect.
Then Jake starts complaining that his head itches. This we've heard before. Mandi tells him "It's just dry scalp."
As Jake continues itching, a hat vendor swings by with different types of "Island" hats, some made with palm fronds. The vendor has a routine and keeps putting six different hats onto each of the boys. We thought they were funny looking, and kept laughing- which I suspect must have had led the vendor think he would get a sale. After a while, we were finally able to send him on his way.
Jake again complains about his head. Mandi finally takes a look...
Then she checks Griffin and Luke.
So there we were, distraught by the notion of having to rid the boys - and the boat - of lice. Where do we get medicated shampoo? How do we wash all the bedding on the boat? Is there any more Coco Loco?
Then we notice the hat vendor way down the beach, putting the same hats on another group of people. He is relentless, putting hat after hat on the group. All we can think about is the lice. Unfortunately, in an attempt to get our situation under control and alleviate the boys' discomfort, we didn't get a chance to chase down the hat vendor.
We spent the rest of the day trying to find something to deal with the situation...no luck. We were in full combat mode by the time we got back to the boat. I got out my trimmers and gave each boy a military cut - they looked like official sailors.
Fortunately, we got on the phone with MedLink, part of our MedAire medical provider. Because of the language barrier in the Dominican Republic, and the fact that they have different medical policies and medicines we were at a loss for how to deal with the situation. However, MedAire was able to handle the research for us. We then had to wait until we moved to a new location with a pharmacy where we received a FedEx with the medicated lotion. (An over-night package takes 5 days to arrive in the Dominican Republic). Not sure what we would have done without the help of MedAire. Not only were they able to procure the proper lotion for us, they responded to our multiple emails in a very timely manner. Out and about in the DR, away from the boat, we were away from our satellite phone, but with wi-fi we could email questions and get responses from MedAire.
Then there was the laundry. Washing sheets for three boys on the boat is not easy. Without a nearby laundry facility, we spent an entire day washing all the bed linens, towels and clothes to finally rid the boat of our stowaways.
Now, where is my Coco Loco...
The Calendar Is Set
04/22/2011, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Right now, the boat is in a marina in Fort Lauderdale area. Scott will be moving to the boat in June to oversee the final preparations. The rest of the family will arrive late June - when the boys finish school.
Leg 1: Depart Florida by July 8th, and head to the Dominican Republic, July 24th, were Scott will be the keynote speaker of a conference at the Casa de Campo Resort. This will take us through the Bahamas, Caicos Islands and then to Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, this will end up being a fairly quick trip.
Leg 2: Depart Dominican Republic at the end of July and make our way toward the South Caribbean is a fairly deliberate manner. We will bump around in the South Caribbean until the end of hurricane season, sometime in November.
Leg 3: From November 2011 to May of 2012, we will slowly head back North through the windward a leeward islands, then West to Central America, spending a good amount of time in Belize, then to Panama to get to the Pacific Ocean by early June.