by Stephanie Pletka
Have you ever driven your kids to school or taken the same path to work everyday, like a rut in the road, you sort of fall asleep at the “Wheel of Life?” Coffee, PJ’s, Carpool, Repeat. Once upon a time, before kids, my husband and I were skinny. We ran triathlons, traveled the world at a moments notice, drank wine for dinner and slept-in on Saturdays.
No schedules, no compromises, or cars with sliding doors. The garage was clean and the laundry room was empty. Fast forward 12 years, 4 kids later, and those pants that use to lie on the laundry room floor, won’t fit my ARM! Compromises are negotiated with precision, like a bet at the races, a Vegas Show-down of who gets what, when, how and how long. Wine has been substituted for cool aid and fast cars were traded in for lift gates and dvd players.
After years of life taking over: schools, homework, deadlines, 101 ways to cook chicken and driving in a 5 mile radius on a daily basis, wishing my car miles would convert to air miles, I decided I wanted more for my life. It had become a colorful canvas that had faded over time. It felt Blah. I was surrounded by great friends and activities, but I felt like a Google Car was driving me around, needing little interaction from me. It was time for a “shake up.” How did we change our lives, you ask. Go on a diet? Adopt a child? Change jobs? Take golf lessons? No, great ideas, but no.
I sat down with my husband, a software consultant who spends a majority of his day on conference calls and programming, was also ready for a change. We realized we were doing life with EYES WIDE SHUT. So, we got crazy and pulled our kids out of the best school in town, decided to homeschool, locked up the house and hit the road for the great unknown. Yes, that’s it. No more, living life with our eyes closed. We were INTENTIONALLY taking a 1 year adventure to see life with a different set of eyes. You have only one life to live, why not skip, run, twirl, hike, bike, frog jump and cartwheel to the end.
I once heard someone say they had homeschooled and I thought, “Poor mom, that sounds AWFUL.” And who would want to stay home with their kids all day? I mean, really! I’m not a teacher and to be honest, I was questioning my ability to pull off such a task. After all, it WAS my children’s education we were placing on the table. I began to justify: I was in Beta Club and on the Math Team. Ok, the math team kindly asked me to leave, but BETA was legit. My husband was Valedictorian; that has to count for something. In the end, I realized, we’re ALL teaching our kids along the way. We’re just making it official. So we bought a curriculum, enrolled the kids in a Classical Education program, met with teachers who agreed to send us homework assignments on the road and the adventure began.
They had a paper due, math assignments and a 3 minute persuasive speech to be uploaded to Youtube each week. Wherever my husband took a consulting job, we rented a house and traveled with him, taking advantage of all the resources America had to offer: from hiking the Grand Canyon and biking the Golden Gate Bridge, to Sailing Lake Michigan, enjoying the Beaches of California, touring the White House, visiting the Statue of Liberty and attending re-enactments of the War, while Abraham Lincoln recited: Four Score and Seven Years Ago.
The United States is packed full of education, and what an experience for the kids to see the various cultures and geography. It wasn’t easy. There were tears, trying to keep up with papers and writing speeches. I think they cried too. While learning new math assignments and studying Latin, our lives changed on this one year journey. It was more amazing than we ever expected.
They didn’t just learn that the White House was burned to the ground by the British Army 14 years after it was built. They didn’t only memorize a 16 minute history song that starts with the Ming Dynasty and ends with the 44th President or walk 1.3 miles to the bottom of Carlsbad Cavern viewing the most incredible stalagmites in the world; or that the Statue of Liberty wears a size 17 shoe.
It was more than THEM being great travelers, suit case packers and airplane flyers. We began to like each other. I mean, we loved each other before, but we really began to really LIKE each other. The kids began to encourage one another, whereas before, they sided with friends, made fun of one another in public, butt head, turd face. Stuff you’re used to hearing from boys, but when you see one kid humiliated, while another puts his arm around him and tells him life is going to be ok, “I’ll take that option, thank you.
Life tends to work against us. Dinner together was few and far between. Life became: I need this, I want that, my friends are doing it, pa-LEASE Mom, that’s embarrassing. Attitudes began to show their ugly selves, entitlement began to peek it’s nasty head in the smallest of ways, like a small volcanic eruption with lava flowing slow enough that behaviors weren’t blatantly obvious, yet pieces of our lives were suffering.
As we plucked ourselves from everyday life, it brought a closeness we weren’t expecting. We held on to one another, stepping into unfamiliar territories. Visiting 35 states and driving over 18k miles, in 8 months, heart issues began to rise. The pre-teen began spending time with the littles, teaching the 5 year old to read, giving them advice and in return the younger ones began to give the older ones respect they longed for.
Selfishness fell by the wayside, as responsibilities and team efforts began to grow. Mom and dad became the “Go To’s” for advice, sounding boards and scenarios. Dinner surrounded itself with Topics of Discussion, World News, Life Scenarios, The Peaks and Valleys of the Day. Of course, on an extended trip, real life infiltrates vacation. We had to live out of hotels for some weeks, sleeping in one room, while listening to kids farting, snoring and talking in their sleep. One kid still slips a booger from the back seat and tries to eat it every now then, while one child will only sit in one area of the car that he can GUARANTEE is clean. I don’t blame him. We have names for the different areas of the car: And everyone wants the “Clean Boy’s spot.
Epic Fails / Great Success
When change is in order, you’ll meet resistance. Weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. Life is not perfect and situations will have epic fails, but you learn from them. I lost the 12 year old at Pier 39 in San Francisco. He biked ahead of us, then biked back looking for us. Apparently we were too slow and old to keep up. 1 hour later, he calls from a bar to say: Mom where are you? There goes hope for my “Best Mom” Oscar. Your parenting skills will be tested.
I forgot to “Hit Send” on my bill-pay software, the day we left Atlanta and accidentally didn’t pay my bills for the month of March. When I got home, my hot water had been cut off. You try to explain to the Natural Gas Guy what happened, as they look at you with a dead stare, blinking occasionally.
As you embark on this new chapter of your life, how would you choose to “Shake it Up?” Be Intentional, with your Health, Your Spouse, Your Kids. Don’t let life’s journey become a daily grind. getting from point A to B, never realizing how you got there. The Journey is the Oooey, Gooey, Juicy Goodness in the Middle. Smell those Roses. Invest in your future. So when it comes time to google that chicken recipe or get in shape to wear that “Smaller” item lying on your laundry room floor, choose it with “Courageous” Intention so you can skip, run, twirl, hike, bike, frog jump and cartwheel to the end., Here’s to living the Best Version of You!