I was starting to wonder if my praise of care.com had been premature. We had been back in Arizona since October 30th, and as of last weekend I had only worked for 3 families...and only one of those on a regular basis. Then last Saturday, I received a response to an application. I spoke on the phone with the perspective clients and made plans to drive to their home for an in person meet and greet the following day. During our phone call the mother shared that their home was located on a 325 acre off grid ranch, but I don't think I truly knew what to anticipate.
The last 3.5 miles leading to the property are unpaved. It was a rough go for my low riding car. I wondered if maybe I was in over my head. My car begrudgingly made it to their tree lined drive. There were stables to the right and the drive wrapped around a garden area and deposited us (Truman and I) in front of the house. I got out of the car and looked around. Nothing but land and sky for miles and miles.
The clients were pleasant folks with great boys. The kind of boys you'd want your daughters to marry. We talked business while the boys took Truman on a tour of the property. They were looking for someone to occupy their 7 year old from 2:30 to 4:30 on Monday and Tuesday afternoons. I was relieved to find out they had adjusted their needs so that I would only have to drive to the boys' bus stop keeping my car on paved surfaces only, but I am glad I had the opportunity to visit their land.
Once we got the business talk out of the way it was time for me to get the grand tour. The property has a wall of solar panels that capture power for substantial battery bank. They explained if that is depleted or a stretch of cloudy days roll through, they rely on a generator for back up power. No grid electric reaches the property at this time. Heat is provided by both a pellet stove and a wood burning stove each respectively at opposite ends of the house. They use a well for water and a septic system for water waste. There were several areas of barren vegetation (due to winter) that are fully functional garden areas in summer. These are irrigated using their gray water waste. And those trees lining the drive...fruit bearing. I was surprised when I got in my car to leave it was already 1pm. I had arrived shortly after 10am. Time seemed to disappear.
Fast forward to Tuesday...this is the day that my current regular client and my new client will overlap. Brian is on Truman duty. When I leave both my boys are enjoying an afternoon siesta. My first stop is a town called Snowflake. There I pick up the little boy from the new family. We head back to Show Low where we will pick up the little girls I have been watching week days since mid November.
We get back to Show Low with a half hour to spare, so we head to the car wash. Our car has not been washed since our family outing to Tortilla Flats back in June! I ordered the works...a cleaning inside and out. Kids are not kind to cars. I should have known better than to have the car washed inside and out...I was just asking for what happened later that afternoon.
We stop to pick up the girls and head for the local McDonald's indoor playland. On Tuesday afternoons we have about 30 minutes to kill before we have to drive back to the boy's bus stop drop off. What happens in the next two hours is a series of lessons in babysitting. First fail...the little boy's cell phone makes it's way into the playland undetected. There it is subsequently left by said boy. A 25 mile drive later and he realizes he does not have his phone. I will not see this family again until the following Monday. Though I was lucky enough to avoid an additional 50 mile round trip to Snowflake, I did have to stop and retrieve the phone from the McDonald's after dropping off the girls. Note to all sitters: Check all children for personal electronics before entering a public place. Keep all children's electronics secured in your vehicle when entering a public place.
Remember that bus stop where I drop off the little boy...the one I mentioned a few paragraphs back. That will now come into play. It is about 5 miles off the beaten path and though it is paved it drives a bit like a roller coaster set up at local fair. Lots of curves and ups and downs. This is when it would a. have been good to know before hand if one of your passengers is prone to car sickness and b. with said knowledge would have been good to be prepared with grocery bags (ie. barf bags) available for use in such occasions. I was not equipped with this information that sad day and was sorely unprepared. The older little girl is indeed prone to car sickness and a McDonald's snack size m&m mcflurry accompanied by a ride on the bus stop road were too much for her little stomach to bear. There was no place to pull over fast enough once I was aware of what was coming. She proceeded to throw up all over herself and the back seat of the car. My only saving grace that day was a pack of scented baby wipes. We cleaned up the best we could with the wipes and then began the ride home...windows open to reduce the stench. My car now contains of stash of bags and wipes. If and when they are needed in the future...I will not be unprepared.
Oh the stench! Big kid throw up is no joke.
Wednesdays are playgroup. Everywhere we have been I have found a way to allow Truman to socialize with other children. This stop is no different. It has been made easy as the local hospital offers playgroups daily in different locations around the area. Our favorite is the Wednesday group because it is held at the local McDonald's playland. It appeared this week one Mom was holding a business meeting of her own and I was curious as to what home based product she was selling. I caught her on the way out and asked. This was my introduction to the world of essential oils. She handed me a little sample of a product called On Guard. It smelled like Christmas in a bottle and wiped that awful smell right out of my car. Turns out she was also yet another prospective client from care.com. During our brief chat the connection was made that I was on her list to call for a "mom's helper" position she needed filled. We made an appointment for Thursday morning.
Their home is located not far from where we live about half way between us and the town of Show Low. It was off a road I passed daily, but had never ventured on. The directions stated I would need to travel on unpaved roads. What I found unique was that the main road was paved, but all the developments were unpaved, though they still had street names and stop signs. My various jobs now take me in about a 50 mile radius. The landscape is gorgeous. Endless dessert highlands, colorful rock formations, and a backdrop of majestic mountains. It makes the amount of driving I do bearable.
My interview went well. Talking to Julie was more like talking to a friend than interviewing for a position to watch her children. I usually share our unique life choice during my initial face to face meet with any new family. It helps me ease perspective clients into the idea that I am temporary. As I told her about our last year her eyes lit up. She said she had all sorts of questions. You see, her home business is growing, it requires travel nationally, her husband hates his job, their house is on the market, and they are looking at travel trailers so that they can live a "wandering life".
Julie teaches classes about homeopathic use of essential oils at a local small business called The Mountainclan Outfitters. Though I couldn't attend the Thursday night class, I decided to drop in and check out the store Friday morning. The owners were amazing and the store was stocked with camping gear the caliber and price of any REI. After being displaced from a job with the federal goverment, Darin, his wife, and two children moved to Show Low and opened this small business. Their home is attached to the back of the store. In order to help their business succeed they will have to do traveling sales as well. And how do they hope to travel...? That's right folks, in a camper!
I love meeting new people and for me...this lifestyle has afforded such an amazing opportunity for human interaction. The best part is when I connect with the like minded individuals who have the same vision. A simpler existence. A less cluttered way of life. A life full of more experience and less stuff.
This has a point...I promise. This all has a point.
Fate showed her hand this week, as she has so many times before, and showed me a light on our path less taken. After 3 months of diligence and persistence, I have been able to fill my weekdays with child care jobs. Not being afraid to reach out and make a human connection granted me a solution to my car's odor problem, a job, and a new friend. And finally, sharing our story in passing made me realize we are not alone in our quest. All of which have led to a renewed sense of passion toward the life we have chosen.
Finally, we reached our one year anniversary of being on the road this past week. There were many times we wondered if we might be crazy. I'm sure many of you wondered the same thing. There were many times we thought we might fail. Raise your hands if you thought we'd be back in Pittsburgh within a week, a month, three months? I'm sure there were bets placed regarding our sanity as well as our success. It's been a journey of trial and error. Our path has morphed to meet our family's needs. And through it all, we have done it together!
Paying it Forward:
Please check out the follow sites...
mydoterra.com/azdoterra (for information regarding essential oils)
www.mountainclanoutfitters.com (backcountry camping gear galore...they ship nationwide)