Now that our #Odyssey2014 trip has been over for a few days (I hope you've followed along on Facebook, but maybe I'll repost those updates here on the blog), I've had a chance to process it a little more. Here are some of the things I learned (or am still mulling over) from this experience, in no particular order:
I have a lot of respect for single parents. All I could think about on the way to Vermont was that I would have help (in the form of my spouse and our extended family) once I got there. All I could think about on the way home was that I would have help at home. Even knowing that help lay ahead of me, the road trip wasn't easy for me (I really hate driving!) or the kids. But we did our best and did pretty well for the most part. I apologized a lot, so there's that. :) You'd think that I spend almost all of every day with these kids I'd be better at it by now, but there is really something knowing that Brendan will be home at the end of the day and on the weekends that gives me the strength to push through sometimes.
My children are amazing individuals. I had challenges with each one during our trip (and sometimes the fault lay with me), but each one did so well. Ryan and Morgan helped with planning and navigating, Morgan assisted Sean in the back seat of the car when he needed it (not often), everyone was self-entertained for the most part at events they weren't especially happy to go to (ahem, kettlebell competition). Seeing them in their aunt's wedding, all calm and composed and looking sharp in their fancy clothes, was just amazing. I am grateful for all of the adults and older kids who talked to them and got to know them as individuals, who went out of their way to help me, who cared enough to make peanut allergy accommodations, who involved them in what they were doing. This is the way to forge relationships with children, and I haven't met a child yet who hasn't responded favorably to being treated as an individual worthy of respect by other adults. I hope one day they can appreciate how fortunate they are, to have so many wonderful caring adults in their lives.
I am glad to have been able to travel to kettlebell competitions, but I am worried about my ability to do that in the future due to time and expense. There's only one a year in GA at this time, and I'd like to do at least two or three a year to keep up my training. So I need to buckle down and save up some money to fuel this habit I've developed. :)
As hard as it was to schedule time off and arrange things to get out of town for a block of time, we need to do more of it. I loved seeing parts of the country I haven't seen any or much of, and getting to Canada (however briefly) was great, too. (Apparently I need to become independently wealthy to sustain both this new travel goal and my kettlebell habit!) We are desperate to get out west next year to see my grandmother and family out there.
Deep breathing techniques work well in stressful traffic and/or parenting situations. Yay, kettlebells and yoga! And The Beatles' "Across the Universe!" Basically, yay to me for being a badass hippie!
I am definitely more extroverted than I used to be. I loved seeing all the people we got to visit with on our trip SO MUCH. I am very motivated to find better ways to stay in touch with friends and family who live outside my immediate area. I also missed my local friends/chosen family a whole whole bunch. I found myself talking about our homeschool group and CFK quite a bit over the trip, and every time, I got this warm achy feeling because of all the wonderful people I know here in Kennesaw and how I missed them. My challenge as a new extrovertish person is how to balance my time and also how to cultivate deeper relationships because doing so requires time and shared experiences and semi-regular interaction, I think. And of course I have my very closest people to keep close, too.
I learned that I do not know how to work a regular gym. Thank goodness there were free weights for deadlifts and kettlebells for goblet squats, because hardly any of those machines made any kind of sense to me. :)
I used the driving time to ponder a lot about where I want to go along certain career paths that are before me. Yes, I think I have some actual career goals now, for the first time in over a decade! This is exciting and interesting, and obviously poses a logistical challenge because in case you haven't noticed, I have a jam packed schedule. Having a career path (or two or three as it happens) is important to me because I am dedicated to making sure I have some things I am doing and can do once the kids are launched. I am halfway through, see. Ryan is 12, and I've got 12 more years until Sean is launched (to just go by the somewhat arbitrary age of 18--this can be +/- a year I guess). I haven't been idle in this area for the last few years, and I will be doing what I can to build on some foundations I've got in place now so that I am not feeling at loose ends as my career as homeschooling mom/chauffeur draws to an end.
I saw a lot of homes on this journey: two of my old homes, homes of friends and family, etc. Each one inspired me to improve our own home. I thought a lot about Wildhaven and how we can work more dedicatedly to fixing up our fixer-upper. Budget is a concern, but we have a lot of things we can do pretty immediately to spruce up the place. Even if we can't turn the back porch into a four season room yet, we can at least make some progress on decluttering and turning some unused space into more livable space. Immediate projects include creating a crafting/sewing area for Morgan, getting rid of toys that the older kids have outgrown, and figuring out what to do with the weeds, I mean, yard. Those modest goals will do for now. It is overwhelming, but I know if I chip away at it, we will see some progress quickly.
Audiobooks are the greatest invention known to man. I say this as someone who used to be a big audiobook skeptic. We finished the last two books of the Kane Trilogy by Rick Riordan, heard Geraldine McCaughrean's Hercules and Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (and I always paused that book at toll booths, lest some culturally unacceptable language assault some poor innocent toll booth worker!), and started, wait for it . . . Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters! To hear my kids laughing at Peabody brandishing her parasol at bad guys and arguing with Emerson is a joy. Each book brings new discussions and terminology into the family lexicon. Every once in a while, I need to change over to music, which feeds the soul in different ways, and the kids hate it. But we used effective communication and mutual problem-solving techniques to work out an acceptable plan. Yay, PD!
I've got other things I'll be thinking about in the future, but I'll end with one final musing:
There's no place like home. But I'm not convinced "home" is necessarily geographically fixed. I mean, it is of course. Wildhaven is our home. But home is also a state of mind. I felt at home as long as I was with people who loved and understood me. And I was, every second. Realizing this helped me appreciate being in the moment during the trip (something I have a hard time doing), because no matter who I was with or what I happened to be doing, I felt happy and content and loved. In other words, at home.