I am currently witnessing some life changing events in my own life and in that of a friend.
My best friend is getting ready to hike the Pacific Crest Trail over the summer. She had been living in Manhattan and she quit her job almost on a whim, moved all her stuff back here (her hometown,) leaves this week with her sister for the Mexican border where they'll take off on the trail and—assuming they complete it—she'll return in October to find an apartment and job here and start life anew, with a huge, awesome experience behind her and a brand new outlook on life.
But while she's away, I get to borrow her vacuum.
I haven't owned a vacuum in many years. I had a few and they were inexpensive and always ended up clogged with animal hair to the point of cardiac arrest. I finally gave up and decided that we'd only have broom sweepable floors, which was true for the two and a half years we were away from this house. Upon our return to downtown living, we ripped up almost all the remaining carpet in the house, painted the concrete floors in our bedrooms and laid wood and painted the dining room. That leaves one room (the upstairs bedroom which is now a library of sorts) that is carpeted and a lot of rugs. For some reason, when thinking about rugs, I never thought about vacuums. So I've been living for years just vacuuming with my shoes (Birkenstock clogs work really well for this job,) by scooting my toes along the carpets in little tiny sections at a time and collecting small piles of fur to be thrown away by hand. Um, that is a little time consuming and stupid. But vacuums are so expensive and since my experience was of them breaking after short term use, it didn't really seem worth the money.
But now! Now I am a vacuuming maniac with my newly borrowed Dyson DC01 multi-floor sweeping machine! I couldn't believe how easy it was to get up all the dog hair on the rug, then move effortlessly to the wood floor and back to the rug again. Tonight I took it upstairs and attacked the totally nasty carpet up there, and I swear, it looks brand new! The dogs aren't even allowed upstairs but the carpet was still disgustingly hairy and dirty. My kids also tend to bring a lot of “nature” with them everywhere they go, so along with the fur were bits of grass and bark and pinecones and feathers... and all the tiny debris they leave behind. (Walnut shells! Anja has a thing about walnut shells and they collect and release so much dirt!) I love it. I feel like I have a new piece of high-tech artillery in the battle against my filthy house. I am a new person. Having this vacuum has completely changed me.
So, let's recap: Best Friend is hiking a 2,000+ mile trail through west coast wilderness over the course of 5 months, taking nothing but what she can carry on her back. I am borrowing a cleaning apparatus. Equally life-changing events.
What the heck is wrong with me? Who even am I?! How did this happen???? When I was young and single and childless, I wanted to take a long hike. I walked everywhere for transportation and I wanted to really walk SOMEWHERE for a change. For some reason I thought it would be realistic to walk to Kentucky. (From mid-north Indiana.) I totally could have done it, but I was unprepared and it was kind of an unrealistic thing to think of since I was completely broke as well. But I also had no idea that such trails existed. I guess I knew about the Appalachian Trail, but it never occurred to me to actually hike it. That was something other people did—maybe you had to be specially invited. An Eagle Scout or something, I don't know. In any case, the thought never crossed my mind to actually hike the Appalachian Trail, and looking back I really wish someone had suggested that to me at some point in my life. Because now I know that these things exist and that regular people can hike them for any amount of time or distance, and I am kicking myself for not doing that in my younger years!
When we were engaged, Martin and I looked into WWOOFing as something that we really, really wanted to do. We waited till we were married and looked into farms considering it for the first summer after our December wedding, but by February I was pregnant with Anja and was barfing so much I couldn't even handle my part-time desk job. My first pregnancy was definitely not one of glowing athleticism and goddess like capabilities. Working on a farm or any place else during those months would have been absolute torture. (Not to mention it became unrealistic after a job change and other responsibilities taken on as we built our family.) We talked about doing it once Anja was born, but for a million silly reasons, it didn't happen. Now looking back, I wish it had.
This is not to say that we've had no adventures. We have! They have mostly been small adventures, but we've taken some fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants road trips with and without kids, stopping in at state forests and waterways and getting stuck in snowstorms in the mountains of West Virginia (in March) and wondering for real if we were going to make it home. We lived in a tiny cabin and functioned in a pretty old-fashioned way for almost a year. We don't have what I would consider a boring life. But we also aren't packing up our kids and tent and hitting the trail for five months.
Of course, birthing children is a pretty big adventure, and then there's the whole added bonus of actually raising them.
For the most part, my day-to-day is spent at home with my funny children. I am never bored. Ever. I more have the problem of not having enough time in one day (or seven) to do all that I need/want to get done. This is partly because a big chunk of every weekday is devoted to homeschooling, and partly because my time is taken up by very minuscule interruptions. For example, let's say the dishes are backing up. (always.) I start to wash the dishes. Mid-first-plate I hear, “I HAVE TO GO POTTY SUPER BADLY!” from Elka, who doesn't like to be alone in the bathroom. So I go stand in the bathroom with her while she fulfills her need, then go back to my plate, which I have to rewash because I put it back in the dirty dishes when I left to attend to Elka. So, I am back to washing the plate and almost have it totally rinsed when I hear, SPLASH-CLUNK-SCREAM. Spilled drink! Plate goes back to the dirty pile before it's totally rinsed because I have to hurry to clean the spill before animals or people expand the mess. Wipe, wipe, wipe, spray, wipe. Back to the plate! This time I get it done completely and I'm washing the glass that just fell on the floor so that I can refill it and give it back to the allegedly still thirsty child. Wash-wash-wash. “CAN I HAVE SOME ORANGE JUICE?” “OH ME TOO” “CAN I HAVE SOME MILK? NO, ORANGE JUICE! NO.. MILK! NO......... WATER!” So, I hurry and wash all the dirty glasses and give them their ordered drinks. Two more spills. Rinse cups, refill. “I DROPPED MY CRAYON AND BRYNJA IS EATING IT!!!” “SUBTRACTION IS HORRID!” “WHY CANT WE JUST DO SCIENCE ALL DAY?!?” “I HAVE TO GO POTTY REALLY SUPER BADLY AGAIN! OOPS! I DROPPED MY MILK!”
My children always speak in Caps Lock.
That example is just a snippet of the day-to-day normal occurrences. Always spills, always shouting, always asking for more drinks or food. Always (especially since Ingrid is potty training and really excited about it—It is so cute—she says “I have to go potty on the BIG potty!” and then I put her on it and she giggles and says, “I am so proud!”) someone needing to use the bathroom either with assistance in the routine, or assistance in coaxing another family member out of the bathroom for the sake of privacy. But then there are the other things that happen. Falling off bikes. Getting completely covered in mud. Arguments over anything you can possibly think of. Not liking the shoes Mama chose for the day. Getting touched by the dog. Sneaking up to your sisters' loft bed sans diaper and peeing. Sneaking onto the desk upstairs and falling off. Letting one of the parakeets out of the cage.
All these things make for not one moment of dullness in any given day! And I like it that way. And also on any given day, I will think to myself, “They are going to grow up and even though it will be good when they don't drop their glass of water on the floor four times in one meal, they also won't be this little and cute and silly forever.”
Watching Perkins prepare in these last few days before her big hike is definitely prompting a little adventure craving in my heart. I consider from all angles how realistic it would be to do even a week-long trip with the kids someplace. I start thinking of road trips we could take and looking up state parks and campgrounds. And a little part of me is bummed that I didn't know about these kinds of opportunities when I was in a better position to take advantage of them, nor did I know that they wouldn't always be a realistic possibility for us, even if it's just for a span of time. During our engagement I don't think either of us could have imagined a time when the thought of going on a road trip would be so logistically impossible or stressful. Where we used to pack a cooler full of snacks and hit the highway with nothing but a change of clothes, toothbrushes and a good CD collection, now we have to consider four other humans with much needier needs. So, for the most part, instead of jumping on the highway to find adventure, we go walking at familiar historic sites and local state parks. We ride our bikes to coffee shops and go to local shows and events. When we do take road trips, instead of packing more CDs, we bring extra packages of baby wipes. Someday the girls won't be this little. They'll get bigger and we'll be more able to go on bigger, longer adventures with them, without diapers, sippy cups, stuffed animals and so many changes of clothes because of inevitable messes and wetness, and changes of shoes for the same reasons. Someday we'll be more free to jump on the highway and go. But when that time comes, I won't have this special time any more.
I can't say that I regret not doing the things we talked about doing in our younger years, but I do hope that we'll have the chance to at least have a taste of them later in our life, when our kids are bigger. Parenting definitely doesn't compare to hiking under the wild sky on a trip that only a small percentage of the population would dare to take. But for now I'm ok with being on a different kind of adventure.