Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Phase One: Check

Renters moved in yesterday. I deactivated my online account with our neighborhood. People are volunteering to take my spot on the HOA and we have fully settled into life as roomies with my parents. It feels GOOD!

I think Chris and I both took a deep breath on Tues. when Chris went over to do One. Last. Chore. and the renters said they would take care of it! Life has resumed as me taking care of kids and Chris working and then calling it a day at the end of it. We have both moved quite a bit in the past 10 years, this being our seventh move since we have known one another, but none have felt this hard. We've never sorted through every little piece we owned and decided whether to keep/donate/toss and that process seems to never end my friend.

Last week we took our first trial run in our Cougar and all went well! By that I mean we were tested and fared well and ended the trip not wanting to move out of the trailer.

Our first night was a midnight hook up which Chris accomplished like a pro. I was able to put kids down to bed while soothing fears that mysterious wild life was out to get us. Too bad they couldn't see the highway right outside of our camper, but maybe there would be monstrous rats that would nibble on their toes? Who knows. The next day dawned bleak and rainy which canceled our plans for biking while Chris worked, but we pulled the day off by snuggling in bed while Chris made his office under the dripping awning.

The next hookup was in a sleet and snow storm in June. That night we headed to my aunt and uncle's house and had a great time till 11pm. We made our way home (me in a skirt and flip flops) while the snow fell. A minute into our drive Austin came down with an incredible headache that ended with us pulled over at a gas station buying IBuProfin and poor Austin curled over the (gross) porcelain throne.

The next couple of days brought sunshine, smiles, bike rides and two house guests in the form of Jen and Matt. This all led up to the wedding when our poor Ollie had a bit of stomach trouble and let loose in his pants during a game of chase outside. This quickly brought an end to our wedding festivities and had us heading back to our abode-on-wheels.

Through all of this the trailer felt like home. The beds were comfortable, the toys and games were played and the space didn't seem confiding. This is all great news as like I said before we are OUT OF OUR HOUSE!



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Up Close and Far Away

There have been two baskets in our basement that have become the dumping ground for toys that aren't quite finished, but are broken to a degree. Binoculars with a broken strap, butterfly nets with tears in them. Plastic pieces that we know go to something around here, but where or what is still a mystery. These baskets have cluttered a piece of my mind since their existence last March when a ton was moved down to the basement in order to make room for our lovely wood floors and yet, it didn't feel like clutter until last weekend when I emptied them.

The slow process of purging, purging, and emptying the house has been an unexpected benefit of this new adventure. Seeing the corners lose their stuff and baskets lay empty has freed my mind in a way that feels like a tense muscle relaxing when you didn't realize you'd been holding it so.

This trip, this lifestyle and freedom seems so close when you look at the calendar, and at the same time so far away. How will the house be completely empty in month? How will I possibly occupy the days when we are living with my parents and need to skidaddle to let my dad and Chris get work done (the two work from home, and soon, from their home). When do we start making reservations at campgrounds? But wait, isn't that what I always do...plan and create timelines when I really do not want timelines and expectations? Every weekend seems to be filled between now and June 23rd, complete with two trips, but at the same time we need to get this clutter out. And so it has started. Eleven bags have found their ways to donation places. Bins have been brought to Childish Things. Trash cans have been filled and filled again. We have a "free" table that sits in front of our house and a makeshift assemblage of stuff that will be garage saled. And the house still seems full. How much stuff do we have?

Piece by piece we are going through our lives and figuring out what is worth keeping. Our house is slowly being compressed to items that hold value instead of just place. So far Chris, the boys and the pups are still on the list :)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

...Annnnd, we have renters. We. Have. Renters. We have...renters. No matter how I say it, it's not making sense in my head. It wasn't even a month ago that we came up with this plan and now our house is rented out. For TWO years! It is absolutely nuts and exciting to think about how we are are going to fill two years of our time. It is absolutely nuts to think about packing up our stuff and moving it into storage. This whole things is crazy and wonderful.

The list goes on and on in my head...fix the faucets, the fireplace, the dining room lights. Stain the window sills. Hire a carpet cleaner. Pack and move some stuff and pack and move some more stuff. Figure out where we are even going to go.

It is mind boggling to think about fitting our lives into approx. 340 sq. feet. Laying in bed we guess our room is about 160 sq. feet. So, we get two of those. In a month, my perspective has changed and I think that looks like a lot.

Yeah, we've got this.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

2 weeks and 6 days

Twenty days is what it took for Chris and I to solidify a huge life change. One that creeped up on us and then shoved itself into our face wrapped in a pretty bow so much so that there was no desire to say "No". 

One month ago we were under contract on a sweet little farm house. A house I have been eyeing for 10 months. One that was much too much when it first went on the market and we watched as it slowly dropped in price, went into foreclosure, came back on the market, had two other people wanting it, and finally ended up in our name some how. This house screamed "home" at me, at Chris, and our boys were excited too. However, the house came with flaws. Dated septic systems, an illegal second home, well water next to a fracking zone...the list went on. So much that after meeting with the Town of Erie, Boulder County, and with ourselves, we decided to back out. It felt painful to say no, but it was the responsible and right choice. 

That night, while licking our wounds and talking in bed I turned to Chris and said, "Do you need to be in Colorado to do your job?" 

"No"

"How about we pack this life up and travel for a year?"

"Yes!"

Since then we have had the plan approved by Chris' work, had an intense lesson in fifth wheels, pull behinds, trucks, RV's, slide outs, and hitches. We found a fifth wheel and truck across the country where Chris happened to be headed for a work trip, pulled all our money from the banks and made a purchase.

And here we are. Proud owners of a fifth wheel, truck, van, jeep, camper, pop up and house. The work has begun on downsizing. Selling. Donating, Trashing. We have tons to get rid of and lots to learn, but we have an estimated departure date of Sept. 21st and huge smiles on our faces. 

Let the adventure begin, who knows what the next 20 days have in store.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thoughts on Success

Scene: Talking with the boys about options when they grow up.
Me: If you grew up to be like Daddy, what would you do?
Austin: Go to work, drive trucks, have meetings
Me: If you grew up to be like Mommy, what would you do?
Oliver: Hang out with my friends.

This little conversation happened a while ago, and though it makes me smile and I laughed as we were talking about it, it sticks with me. Right now, I'm OK with this being the answer, but I can't be sure that when the boys are 10 and 12, they will be able to answer that question the same way, so I wanted to take a moment and capture what is going on in this life of ours in this sparse online diary.

I am happy. I stay at home with the boys. I drive them to swim practice and soccer practice and tball practice. We carpool, I volunteer in their classes. We lay around the house for down time and have excursions to the library, museums, coffee shops (lots of coffee shops). We play video games and argue about what we will watch on Netflix and then head outside to ride bikes or see what friends are home. I do laundry (once every two weeks). I cook dinner (two times per week). I clean (when the dog hair is tumbling across the floor). There are other things outside of the home that I do such as volunteer with the Dreamers, help out on the HOA, coordinate volunteers for their school, but most of my time is spent with and for the boys. And that's good.

This week I have been taking a class in mediation. I don't know if it will lead anywhere, but right now, it is FUN. I leave the house at 7:45 and I don't come home for 10 hours. During that time I barely speak about the kids besides to say I am a mom. I listen to lectures, role play in mediation, solve problems, and share in the successes of others (a girl just passed the Colorado Bar exam today). It has been six years since I have felt this kind of enthusiasm and motivation to engage with adults, to collaborate and work with, and one of the most satisfying parts of this class, is feeling a sense of accomplishment and value that doesn't really occur that much when you stay at home.

Recently I was out to dinner with a couple of friends and my sister, and we were having a conversation about my upcoming class. I was thinking out loud of what careers I could look into as a result of this class and I vaguely compared mediation to counseling as that is what people who work in mediation will do and so I have picked it up as a reference point. I was not saying that mediation is counseling, but that the two careers are meeting with people in high stress situations and are trying to help find a resolution to their pain or hardship. One friend we were with recently just earned her Masters in counseling. The comments I was making was in an effort to recognize that I didn't want to go as far as counseling or take on that much in schooling, so a step before that level of commitment would be mediation. I have no idea if our friend found my comparison to be offensive, but my sister did as she later pointed out to me that our friend had just spent 3 years working towards this degree and it would be presumptuous of me to compare myself to that level. I agree (even though as far as I know, our friend wasn't offended, I wouldn't have minded if she had felt that way). The point being that she has worked her butt off and has been validated for those efforts in the form of an MS. And I think to myself, what a neat little system we have here. EXCEPT when the job being done isn't easily evaluated or have an authority figure.

I see my friends, old colleagues, and my sister succeeding in their careers. I hear their grumbles over lower raises, and being looked over in a meeting while at the same time I celebrate their successes and bonuses and degrees earned. I support Chris in career changes and tactics used in meetings and am (VERY) happy when he achieves raises and bonuses. I discuss the kid's successes and achievements with people and we celebrate with ice cream and extra stories at bedtime. I am happy for them all. And yet, not having any measurable success of my own and feeling like it might be embarrassing or a put down to compare myself to my friends doesn't feel all that good.

To stay at home, you need to find your own success and I'm not talking about feeling great when you have finally finished every piece of laundry in the house. I need (and I think it's safe to say that many stay at homers need) to find peace in the monotony. To understand people are not going to come give you a pat on the back when your kid learns to swim as that isn't your success, it's your kid's. To understand your success is that you created an environment where your kid had access to the pool, the time to learn it, and the confidence to try, and to know that that won't be acknowledged by most. I need (and I have) a partner that understands this and is amazing at communicating how happy he is, or grateful for the life that we have created for ourselves, and that feels good. To stay at home, you need to feel successful when that success is not measurable.

So, back to this class...it has been such an incredible experience, or a gift to myself, to see that I still have the desire to be beneficial to this world around me. That I enjoy when my thoughts are valued outside of parenting and that my vocabulary has not disappeared with my paychecks. And I think to the future, and I try to think about what that might look like, and I have to think that this part of me, the happiness that resides in being involved in things outside of our family will have to have some attention as the kids get older and aren't with me the majority of the time. And yet I am also so happy that this little test has shown me that no matter how much fun I have conversing and being with adults, there is nowhere I'd rather be at this moment then with the kids. I never pictured myself as staying at home, and yet I know without a doubt that there is nothing else I could do. For these few years, my place is at home, Chris is my sounding board, and the quality time with the kids is my paycheck. And that feels like success.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Amigos

When the police force of Nicaragua make an equivalent of $5/day you come here expecting that people will be asking for money. In Mexico, Dominican Republic and Belize we were constantly sought out by the locals that were selling goods on the beach, on the streets, or kids coming to sing to us in exchange for a dollar or two. Here, it has been surprising, but I've been asked for a handout only once, in a market by a man who looked like he severely needed it. There are no women walking the beach, only the fisherman heading out every morning at 5:30, some in paddled boats, to sell fish at their markets for 30C ($7.50).

Yesterday afternoon the little girl who lives here came to play in the pool with the kids and I and my dad took the opportunity to go for a long walk. When he came back we looked down the beach and he had two small shadows in the shape of some local children. We laughed as he tends to be a magnet for the small folk, but were a bit more surprised when they followed him up the 56 steps to our house. They were asking for money which I think my dad agreed to, but then they saw the fun in the pool. Eyes got big, and you could see the excitement and disappointment in them as they were in their clothes and covered in sand. I showed them the outdoor shower and that was all it took, they were sopping wet and diving in by the time I got back to the pool, a surprising play date took place! Snacks of cookies and apples, goggles for all, a rousing game of bumper tube and diving for matchbox cars occupied us for the next hour all while communicating in broken languages and laughter. Adrianna was then called home, our two wanted to head to the beach and I was water logged so we called it a day. My dad took the four boys down to the beach where Carlos (9) and Mario (11) caught crabs for our two and at the end of it sent them on their way with 100C ($4). They were THRILLED. They jumped, they ran, they passed the bill back and forth. 20 yards away they turned with huge smiles and yelled MANANA!!

The day seemed fun, spontaneous, and yet, so normal. And how can that be? I'm quite sure I would be pretty put off if in a couple years Austin came home telling me he met a man who doesn't speak English (or any man for that matter), but he went to his house, had snacks, played in his pool and then received money for the day.

Strange of not, I do hope we see the boys again as Austin is already asking for them and $4 seems like a cheap hourly rate for childcare!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Welcome to Nicaragua

We sit. We watch the waves. We take dips in the ocean and pool. We eat and play board games. We read. The boys constantly kidnap Mike to pull him to a hammock, a couch, a bed for another story. "Tell us about Muck the dump truck and Sir Lancelot and Santa." This house has five gathering spaces and one little television tucked away in a bedroom that nobody can understand any show anyway. For the first four days we had no Internet, no phone and all day yesterday we had no power. It's perfect.

The flight down to Nicaragua was one of the easiest I've ever traveled. Security was a breeze, we went to a kid's play place during our layover in Miami, everybody was happy and flights were on time. When we arrived we had a bit of a wait to get through customs and getting the rental car was by far the most patience inducing. We arrived at our hotel around 11:15PM and all went out to dinner. Surprisingly the boys were still doing fine! We slept well, swam in the morning and met a man to follow out to the coast to the beach house.

Driving in Nicaragua is a fun experience for the riders. You can take in the mass of traffic, spot the horses and ox among the cars and buses and get a full feel for the chaos without actually having to navigate through it. Stopped at lights, women walk through with fruit on their heads, men hand out water stored in baggies and even a make shift hardware store was there in the case you needed to purchase a saw at a red light. My dad did a great job of making it through a traffic jam where people would just hop curbs to get into lanes heading the opposite direction and didn't flinch when a bus came within 5 inches of our doors as it bumped over the curb in an effort to make any sort of headway. Semi trucks were inching through and amazingly we felt safe. I've been more nervous heading down I70 when there were only 2 other cars next to me. You feel as if this is the way it's supposed to be. After we left the city of Managua and headed through the fields towards the coast you get an appreciation of the amount of work that goes into maintaining these roads. Miles and miles of cobblestone roads make up the highway. Pavers placed individually by hand and we only came across a few potholes, all marked by cones and workers there to pound a new stone back into place.

We saw farm fields being cut by men and machete's, ox pulling loads of sugar cane? we weren't sure. Horse and buggies making their way from one town to another, a thing that took our car about 2 hours to accomplish. Homes that can only be described as shacks with people who sat outside smiling.

Pulling into our neighborhood we found pigs on the side of the road, chickens pecking at the ground and homes not bigger than 20 feet by 20 feet. They are made out of tin sides and roof, holes in the walls and have big water cisterns in the front that we have seen people bathing from. A scene that would cause an uproar in papers across the US is standard living down here, not 50 yards from where I sit. Then you reach our house. Manicured lawn, a half acre of paradise that is worthy of any magazine. Three buildings, two for bedrooms, one for a kitchen. An outside living and dining room with nothing besides a grass top roof and no walls. A tiled patio and small infinity pool overlooking an amazingly clean and open beach.

This house, this place, this way of life that we get to experience down here (without sounding overly dramatic) is food for my soul. There is quite literally nothing to do other than play games, read, swim and drink a pina colada. The house manager tells us we should just have groceries delivered, that they will keep a tally and we can pay on a weekly basis. There is no laundry on site, so we will send it out. Living like this in the backyard of people living like they are can't but help lend a feeling of intrusion. And yet. And yet catering to homes like this provides an employment that pays and a life out of a shack. The groundskeeper and his family live on this little piece of paradise and spend their day similar to ours, though minus the pool while we are here (though their little girl has come swimming with us). They look out at the ocean, sit with their family, and their three year old plays tag on the lawn with her mom. We haven't really ventured into the town yet as we can't help but feel like simple observers with no real way to communicate. We have found one other person who speaks English and none of us speak Spanish though Oliver is great with his "Hola!"'s. It's a strange feeling that I can't seem to wrap my head around. Simplicity is a life I love, yet if I really lived it, would it be something that I actually enjoy? Does the constant stress of success in the US provide purpose or is a life surrounded by family, quality time and not much else provide happiness? I am quite certain that I am seeing the best of worlds. I love that the past two years my parents have provided this month of nothingness. A complete getaway where quite literally there is nothing to do besides talking to one another, watching the boys create games (currently Ollie is sitting in a toaster box and Austin is trying to pull him around on the tile with a jump rope), learn to swim, to duck waves, to chase birds and giggle. After we have had our fill of rest we will rejoin the world of successful companies, education, friendships we love and dream of the next March :)

Coming up: Trips to market, a volcano, bat cave, and an old underground jail that is now operated by Nicaraguan boy scouts.