A day in the life in Anywhere, USA

We’re parked in a campground outside of Laurel, Mississippi for the day/night on our way to New Orleans.  PARKED instead of camped because, to our pleasant surprise, when we pulled into our camping spot the RV was completely level front to back and side to side!  (Factoid: the camper needs to be level when parked because of the refrigerator.  There’s more science in there – since I don’t know WHY the fridge needs to be level – but I don’t know the details.  Ask Dave.)  Usually we have to level the camper both ways, meaning we put blocks under one set of wheels to level it side to side, and then raise or lower the stabilizers in front to level it front to back.  And since we are only here for the night, and have no plans to leave the campground, we can leave the trailer hooked up to the truck!  Easy peasy!  (Not a regular day in the life)

And looking out the window, this is definitely Anywhere, USA.  Grass, pine trees, deciduous trees (still green!), relatively flat terrain, blue sky, clouds, sun.  Aside from the southern accents and tshirt/short attire, you wouldn’t know you were anywhere other than anywhere (unless you are a botanist or something.  It all looks the same to me).

This has been a theme… Especially driving the highways… “Gosh, this looks like ANYWHERE.  What state are we in again?”  With the exception of Charleston, so far no environment has been too stricking.  Southwest?… It’s ON!

A few tidbits before a day in the life…..

I had a few precious parenting moments just an hour ago when playing outside with Eli.  First, a honeybee flew up his loose shorts.  Helpless yet ready, I just sat and waited.  I wasn’t going to try to get in there and make a shaky situation broken.  I simply looked at my precious boo and wondered if he was going to (too soon) experience what we have all learned to fear.  I’ve got the benedryl and ice cubes, and the warm shoulder to cry on.  Okay, here we go….

10 seconds go by, maybe 20, maybe 30… I’m not sure.  It felt like a long time from out here.  Then, out tumbles the honeybee looking a little drunk or disoriented.  I look at Eli’s face to see if he just hasn’t received the message yet.  But no, he’s just going about his business, and I don’t have to be mom-to-the-rescue today.  Phew.  So many of those moments to come, I’m sure.

The second parenting moment is one that pulls some special strings in my stubborn, rebellious heart…

As some backstory, for those of you who don’t know I have quite the history of rebellion (psychological and emotional mostly) dating back to early childhood.  Stories in my family are infamous about how I would drive my sister crazy with my manipulation and trickery.  One of my favorite pieces of evidence though (not involving my sister, actually) is a home video where my mother is filming, external microphone sitting on the coffee table in front of me.   I’m probably 2 or so.  I reach out and touch it, to which my mom responds, “No, Susan.  Don’t touch that.”  After this boundary is set, I look straight into the camera blank-faced and slowly bring my pointed finger back to the microphone, simultaneously communicating, “What are you going to do about it?” “Are you really serious about this?” and, “But I want to and I’m going to.”

Okay, back to today.

Eli and I are outside eating rasberries.  He had spit one out on the ground and it had sat there for a while.  Eventually I reached down and threw it about 15 feet away.  Well, now that was the only rasberry he wanted to eat.

As soon as I see him thinking about it, I set the boundary.  “No, Eli.  That one is icky.  Garbage.  Here, you can eat these.”  I hold out the container of gorgeous rasberries.  But of course, he gets a few steps closer to the discarded one.  Again, “Eli… That one is icky.  You can’t eat that one.  You can have ANY of these.  Mmmm, rasberries!”  He continues to move closer, so I take his arm and reiterate.  “No, Eli.  Not that one.  You can eat these.”

I’m expecting a meltdown, but instead he is just persistently standing ground.  He looks at me, aggravated and strong.  To my surprise he takes a fresh rasberry out of the package, and for a second I think I’ve made a point.  Then, he firmly drops it on the ground, looks at me, picks it up, and eats it.  Stubborn blank stare.

God, I love this kid.

Okay, a day in the life….

Around 6am or so, Dave’s watch alarm goes off (his quieter “pre-alarm) and usually wakes me up and maybe him too.  He either catches it and gets up or rolls over and is shortly woken up for real by his phone alarm.  Eli sleeps soundly between us, the three of us cozy in our queen size bed.

The mattress sits in a nook at the head of the bed with 2 small windows on either side and some simple storage above the faux headboard.  The cieling is tall enough in the bedroom that we can sit up in bed, and I can stand on the floor too.  Dave has to scrunch just a little.  At the foot of the bed we have a dresser with 6 drawers of storage, and to the side a large double closet with sliding doors.  Under the bed too is more storage.

Dave and I trade off morning alone time.  It probably would have been healthy for us to introduce this schedule LONG ago, but it is being isolated on the road that brought things to a head for us.  Alone time became more critical.

When we’re on schedule, he gets Mondays and Fridays, and I get Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Wednesday is sometimes family time, sometimes whatever we need/want it to be.

See, Dave doesn’t work until 10 or 11am since his client is on pacific time.  Eli usually sleeps until 7 or so as well, so it’s a good opportunity for one of us to exercise, take a solo hike, run errands, or whatever.

On my mornings I usually do a couch-to-5k workout and one of my “7 minute workout challenge” series (recommend!).  Other times I’ll do a solo walk/hike, maybe a meditation if I can sit still long enough.  Dave (rocking adulthood more than me) seems to get more done in the camper while I am exercising for 45 minutes than I get done in an entire day!  Maybe we should switch roles…..

If it’s Dave’s morning, I sleep in with Eli.  Eli wakes up slowly by rolling over and grabbing his empty bottle (he drank it at some point last night) and saying, “Hi!”  I usually stay in bed with him for about 20 minutes or so, singing good morning songs and spotting him while he runs around the mattress opening and closing the storage above, playing with our headlamps (which we use to get to bed if it’s dark), or putting his bottles in the shelf above.  He loves the balance challenges and is almost always in good spirits when he wakes up.

We eventually emerge from the bedroom, walking down the first step onto the small landing where the bathroom is (sink and shower on one side, water closet on the other), and then three steps down into the main living area.

Depending on the weather, it can be cold.  We rarely use the heat, so if it’s 53 outside, it’s 53 in here.  During the day sometimes we buckle and turn the heat on to bring it up to 64 or so, but mostly we’ve been lucky with warm weather.  I’m traumatized anyways…. Once we turned the heat on and the remnants of a mouse den (tiny pieces of paper towels) flew up throught the vent.  I am not easily disgusted, but I was horrified at the propect of millions of mouse etc. molecules filling my lungs.


Eli’s usually ready for breakfast right away, but he’ll play with his toys until I pull him away.  His sign for hungry, thirsty, again, and more is “more.”  To make this sign, bring and hold all your fingertips together on each hand and then bring the two together a few times.  When a toddler does it it’s super cute.  And I don’t mind that he uses it for everything.  We eventually figure out what he wants.  It’s just nice that he can tell us something 🙂

We sit him in his “high chair,” which is one of those hook-over-the-table kinds.  The others were simply too big for the RV, even the chair-top ones.  Eli’s favorite breakfast is watermellon and little smokies, but since the “new” (and obvious) research I finally bit the bullet and stopped buying them.  Now he eats scrambled eggs, cantaloup, and watermellon.

Sometimes we change his clothes, but honestly this has never been very important to me.  I’ll keep him in the same clothes for days unless they are clearly dirty with food or something.

Likewise, we bathe him about once a month, maybe less.  He smells good to me, so….  So bathtime is definitely not a part of the daily routine, for any of us actually.  Dave and I generally only shower after exercise, so… 2-3 times a week 🙂

After breakfast, Eli plays with his toys which are stored in one of those colorful toy shelf box things.  The main living space conveniently makes this easy to monitor.  The kitchen area faces the living room and dining areas.  Living in a camper with a toddler has many perks.  The most obvious being that he can’t leave my sight.

We read books, play with legos, or push various music-making buttons on his brilliantly designed devices.  This goes on for anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.   Eventually, Eli will take a nap (also not scheduled, but always happens).  He might take one nap or two, usually 1-2.5 hours or so.

Eli has always been relatively easy to put to sleep.  Especially since we couldn’t breastfeed after 4 weeks, he’s used to bottles and flying solo on that front.  When he’s tired, I lay him down on the bed, hand him the bottle, and simply leave and shut the sliding door.  If I’ve timed it right, he just goes to sleep.  If not, I have one cranky kid for the rest of the afternoon 🙂

Eli’s naptime is like a caged freedom: I can do whatever I want as long as it’s in the camper.  And with Dave working all day, that also limits noise and conversation.  So I’m usually putzing on my phone, writing blog posts, coloring, doing dishes and house work, or avoiding dishes and housework with the activities listed above.

Lunch happens after naptime and usually consists of some sort of beef or chicken with mushrooms and maybe a grain or fruit.  I’m not much of a cook, so I stick to what I know and that is always simple.  Eli would probably eat more if I prepared more delicious menu items (he eats more when we go out to eat), but I just haven’t gotten it together enough to manage that.  Sometimes I think parenting would be easier if I had gotten this whole adult thing down first….

It feels like I spend an unresasonable amount of time during the day doing dishes and straightening up clutter – which was also true in our house.  Despite being in a 300 square-foot space instead of an 1800 square-foot one, I face the same challenges.   Though to be fair, it wouldn’t suprise me if we used about 300 square feet of the house and the rest just sat storing crap.

In the afternoon, I either stay at the campground with Eli, take a hike with Eli somewhere in the area, venture to the grocery store, or do something touristy.  For me, outings are somewhat of an ordeal.  Staying at the campground is sometimes isolating and lonely, but going out can be stressful.  More often than not, Eli happily and quietly rides in the carrier like a silent-but-heavy passenger.  And I get to endlessly kiss him on the head while he rides 🙂

When the three of us go out together as a family, I feel the freedom in my bones!  Another set of hands, another perspective, another back, another everything!  I can walk away, look away, sneak away…. it’s great!

And so almost every day I miss having help.  And I knew I would.  I started grieving the loss of spontaneity and alone time before I was even pregnant, knowing my time was finite.  Now it’s magnified.  It’s just Dave and I, so during the day it’s just me.  And Dave sleeps through almost anything, so it’s often just me at night too.   Diapers, bottles, meals, playtime.  It’s amazing and fun and draining and lonely and mind-numbing and mesmerizing and all of the things (never all at once, but definitely all in their own times).

Back to the day….

If Eli and I are playing at the campground, we have a “play yard” which is a glorified pet gate.  But Eli is still small enough that it does the trick when properly positioned.  He can play outside and in eyesight without running away.

So while the days are going on, Dave is working out of the camper at his desk station right on the sidelines of the main living area.  Eli often comes to his chair and requests a hug with a big, “Hi!”  Dave sometimes breaks for cuddles or booboos, but for the most part sticks to his schedule.  When he has calls, Eli and I try to make ourselves scarce, but sometimes it’s hard.  So we’re all within 7 feet of each other most of the day.

Dinner is the simplest of simples.  Especially as Dave and I try to eat more healthily, and since I know almost nothing about cooking, we usually eat salad and baked chicken.  Cutting vegetables and throwing something in the oven on a cookie sheet, I can do.

Busy until anywhere from 7-8pm, Eli and I often do dinner on our own (certainly Eli does) and then more playtime after that until it’s time for bed.   Like naptime, if I “get it right,” he’s down and out, though he often wants to cuddle more at bedtime and doesn’t fall asleep unless one of us is with him.  He likes to nuzzle up and wrap my hair around his fingers so making a clean escape can be Houdini-inspired.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s super cute and I love to cuddle with him, but sometimes after 10 hours of non-stop parenting I just want him to go the f- to sleep.

When Eli’s alseep, Dave and I check-in, eat, watch a show on his computer monitor, make upcoming travel plans, and/or go to sleep.  Our quality time has become the biggest struggle.  Both tired and wired from long days apart, we just want to numb out.

And forget a nightlife.  I’m not willing to just randomly have a stranger watch Eli.  In the camper or at their house?… I can’t decide which is worse.

We sightsee on Saturdays, and we travel on Sundays.

And we do it all in our little home, complete with small fridge, oven, stovetop, double sink, pantry, microwave, dining table, loveseat, recliner, queen bed, corner shower, flushing toilet (I dreamed of a composting toilet but it’s a big project to install), dresser, ample storage, and good open floor space for Eli to play.  And yes, we even got a satellite.  Ironic, since we’ve never (while together) had cable.

In some ways, we’re doing this whole “seeing the country” thing as low key as possible.  We don’t always “see stuff,” and we go at a reasonable pace.  If we were flying duo instead of trio we would likely have a bursting night life, but who knows….  Maybe we’d still be exhausted!

On travel days, we pack up everything loose in the camper so it doesn’t fall over when we tow (cutting boards, soaps, plants, etc.).  Dave does most of the stuff outside (electric, water, stabilizers) while I’m getting things ready inside (switches, windows, slides, Eli and his snacks).  Then together we get the truck hooked up to the camper, and I dump the tanks (ew) while Dave either checks the tire pressure or some other technical task better left out of my hands 🙂

We drive 250 miles or less to our next destination, Eli usually agreeable enough about the matter.   I travel between the front and back seat as his moods fluctuate, and his “Music Together” CD is like an instant sedative.

We land where we land, set up shop and do it all over again!

Definitely a work in progress…. We’re ironing out the wrinkles, finding ways to thrive under these unique circumstances as individuals and as a family, and trying to make the best use of our time, space, and resources.

And, dreamers that we are, we’re already obsessing over what we might want to do when we get back to Madison as far as work, living situations, when to try for the next little shmoo.  Dave and I both have a tendency to stay up into the night looking at properties for sale in Madison.  There are worse habits.  🙂

One of our challenges is, after all, living in the present and being grateful for what’s right here.  Can we do both?  ARE we doing both?  Have we broken out of old habits or are we just living the same lives in a new space?

I think we are definitely changing, slowly but surely.  Relying more on one another is forcing us to do that.  We have to work together, and talk more, and if we want something done WE have to do it.  And if we are frustrated or sad there is no where to hide.  Freedom or prison? When the dust clears, I can see it: this trip is making us better, stronger, wiser, more aware, and more flexible.

So there you have it!  A (sort of) day in the life.  Now, let’s see if I can find some chocolate.

3 Responses to A day in the life in Anywhere, USA

  1. Mom

    Laughed out loud at the raspberry story……love his spirit and learned to love yours 🙂 Momxxox

  2. Dad

    So did I, lol at the raspberry. It’s almost as though he got the pun. I love that he’s got some feisty mixing in with all that sweetness. Glad too that he wasn’t so sweet the bee wanted a bite. And yeah, Madison real estate!

  3. Linda Lenzke

    Susan, I thoroughly enjoyed your (sort of) day in the life, on the road chronicle. You are making memories together and creating a family history that is uniquely yours that you will most likely relish in the retelling for years to come. Though everyday may not be as simple and sweetly mundane as these, they will still be worthy of savoring. Thank you for sharing your journey. I’ll check-in again.

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