(subtitle: "you've all been wondering what it's really like to spend a year in sublets and traveling with kids")
Earlier this year, we had a houseguest for two weeks. Ilona is one of the physicians from the San Diego residency program where Jeremy first started out. She came to Denver for a rotation and she and I got to know each other better during the evening hours while J. was at work.
We usually ended up talking about travel because Ilona has been pretty much everywhere. In fact, once her residency is complete next June, she and her husband hope to buy a conversion van and spend a full year traveling around and finding the best rock climbing sites. We also talked a lot about our respective plans for a post-residency "year of fun" and she remembered an article that she read once that listed three different categories of fun. (The article was originally about rock-climbing, but she adapted it for my sake.)
• First: you have the kind of fun that involves sitting on a beach and sipping margaritas. It's relaxing, there is no stress whatsoever, but chances are it will not be a very memorable time.
• Second is the kind of adventure that involves a little planning and a little flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and that will probably include a lot of amazing views and interesting people, but might come at the price of a bit of traveler's stomach bugs and/or a stolen wallet or something. You might get stranded in a village with no ATM when there is a national bus strike, but hey, you'll learn some Swahili. There will be moments along the way when you start to think "why are we doing this," but by the end you will feel that it has been worthwhile and there will be tons of great memories.
• Third and finally, there is the kind of fun that only appeals to a certain few. It involves a lot of risk to your personal well-being and maybe includes sky-diving, and you may or may not return alive and with all of your limbs still attached. If you manage to live through it, "You gotta live a little, know what I mean?" becomes one of your signature phrases.
We are aiming for that #2 category of fun, and hoping to skip #3 altogether. And so, it should not come as a surprise that I have already had a few "why am I doing this, again?" moments. Most recently, the "moment" has stretched over the course of an entire week. It probably has something to do with the fact that we are moving in a couple of days and we are now in the middle of the packing and cleaning and planning that is necessary for such things. Jeremy has to work the day we move and that makes things more complicated. Mostly, I hope we can exit this place without doing any more significant damage to the property.
When you are living in someone else's home, everything is complicated to begin with: if you break a bowl, you have to think about replacing it rather than convincing yourself that you never liked it to begin with (this is my usual mode of action and, yes, it usually works.). You also have to deal with the crayon marks on the wall immediately instead of waiting until they fade on their own (this doesn't work, but no one can say I don't try). But then you might make it all worse by all that scrubbing and leave bright yellow streaks on one portion of the living room wall. (and yes, I have tried the Magic Eraser thing. It made it worse and I think it stripped off the paint). Also: if you hate their can opener or can't find the colander, you're kind of out of luck. You can buy replacements, but that's kind of silly isn't it.
And here's another thing that happens if you have to move every few months: you have to get to know a new neighborhood every few weeks. Find out where to buy groceries, where to go to church, which ones are the crazy neighbors you'll be wanting to stay far, far away from---that sort of thing.
At least, in just over a week, we start homeschooling L. I mean, what could be stressful about that? Not the fact that we have never done this before and we will be attempting it in a teensy tiny apartment (that doesn't have room for a couch in the living area). As if it won't be enough of a challenge to keep the other two hooligans occupied (don't worry; I intend to put all pens, markers, crayons and scissors into a safe at our next place), we also will not have access to our library of children's books nor our craft supplies, all of which we left behind in storage in Colorado. So, for instance, if we need construction paper for any reason, all we have to do is google a Staples or whatever, map out how to get there on Hopstop, haul three kids on the subway and go buy it. Cake.
There are plenty of things that are easier for us this year and keeping things simple and living out of suitcases is not all bad. For instance, I will not miss the seasonal shifting-the-summer-clothes-to-boxes-to-make-room-for-the-fall-ones routine. I won't have to do spring cleaning (or much cleaning at all, really) for an entire year. I won't be thinking about decorating or redecorating a house for a full year which leaves plenty of time to read books or do something else that is more fun. We don't have to go stand in the bitter cold at 7am waiting for the school bus (yay, yippee, hooray!). And no raking leaves or shoveling snow.
As far as the kids are concerned, so far it is has been 100% awesome. Those grins you see in the photo down below---those are totally real. They pretty much never want to leave New York. And after every shift, when I ask J. how was work, he says, "Great! I love my job!" Every single time.
Still, right now, the #2 kind of fun is feeling a little more like this than like this. And we're not even to the India part yet.
At least it's guaranteed to be, um, memorable.