by Ashley Weeks Cart
We were married 5 years ago today.
It’s easy to recap the highlights: cross-country moves, the purple valley, buying a house, gaining 2 dogs, losing one, and of course two incredible daughters. But when we get into the nitty gritty, therein lies the meat of us.
The morning: The slightly less exhausted of the two of us (i.e. the loser) gets out of bed and heads downstairs to make a pot of life giving coffee, to let the dogs out, and to feed them. It’s different with only one… If we’re really motivated this is when we let the chickens out, maybe give them some water. The short walk to the coop provides a calm reminder of Cartwheel Farm’s beauty. I appreciate it. I know you do, too. When we come back inside, surely a child is awake. We clean up the poop, literally, that comes with it and welcome the smiles of a happy Kaki before she starts pulling Sunny’s hair, or dumping her clothes on the ground, or putting shoes in the toilet. The morning routine continues with childish fits, and choosing outfits. The bathroom door never closes as everyone is in and out for their various needs. A single bathroom family knows so much more about one another, I wonder how the girls will do in middle school. Kaki cries to not wear that sweater, Sunny mopes to the kitchen. Lists of things that needed to be packed for the day have been forgotten, so there’s a somewhat frantic search for a nap sheet, diapers, or one of our wallets… ok, you’re not the one who misplaces a wallet. Somehow we pile in the car and roll down the dirt road. The windows may or may not work but we’re together… how great that we’re together.
Lunch time: Or should I say Nap Preparation Time, because by the time lunch time rolls around I’m ready for a nap, and I’m REALLY ready for the kids to nap. We grab dinner’s leftovers, get the kids to eat them, at least partially, and then force nap time. Damn do we love nap time. Oh lord help us if one of them naps any earlier. Somehow even a 3 minute car nap ruins any chances of what would otherwise be 1-2 hours respite. The utter devastation that comes with looking in the backseat at 11:15am and seeing a sleeping Kaki…
Dinner time: One entertains the kids, while the other piles something together. Mac and Cheese is always a temptation, and those nights where it takes 10 minutes to make dinner and 10 to clean it up are special. But usually, it’s the better part of an hour and it’s a 50/50 shot that making dinner will be easier than watching the munchkins. They draw, they play, they giggle, they pretend that they’re on airplanes, and jump on pillows, before they throw, bite, pull, and cry. Right about when we’re ready to lock them in their rooms is when the food comes off the stove. We’d probably save some time if we just put Kaki’s food directly on the floor. In the very least we’d save some dishes (and we both LOVE doing dishes), but for whatever reason we serve the food the way you’re supposed to. With plates and silverware. Juice or milk is usually spilled. The food isn’t quite how we wanted, but it’ll do and mostly we just want to sit for a minute… which is nice but that’s about all we get before bed time.
Bed time: Baths are great. The kids are happy, clean, and generally easy when they’re in the tub, but after they’re out, terrorist negotiations begin. Which PJs to wear. Where’s the right toothpaste, the right floss, please share the stool (again, the bathroom door never closes), rub my back, play with my hair. Read a story. Not that story… it just keeps going. By 10:30 they’re usually both asleep, which is good because we need to sleep too… since they’ll be waking up at 2. and 4:30. I spend just as many nights on their beds, as I do on ours.
And yet, it’s the stuff dreams are made of. And not just the hallucinations we suffer in sleep deprivation – no, no. I mean that in the cheesiest most sincere way possible: Our life is so awesome that “livin’ the dream” is often used by others to describe our setup.
When we lost Ursa, the void was – and continues to be – bigger than we anticipated and oh how I know it will be huge as the kids learn to take more and better care of themselves. Will I miss wiping ass? Probably not, but I will miss Kaki’s sad face and her two full fists clenching her crotch, as she declares “diaper wet” – of course. I already do.
These 5 years have been exhausting. The days are long, and the years short. I know our future will be just as full of day to day bullshit (though, hopefully less actual fecal matter) and you’re the one I want to shovel with. Together we’ll tackle school, adolescence, dating, more chickens, dogs, and maybe llamas. Together we’ll fix up this old house, build more crafts, care for dependents, and photograph it all. Together we’ll laugh, cry, and play as we teach our children to do the same while respecting one another and themselves. And together we’ll overcome the challenges we know about, and those we don’t – because together we can. Together we will.
And nature willing, when we reach our 50th anniversary we can look back on those sleepless nights, those bedtime routines, those nap times, those mornings, as the times that define us. We’ll see them clearly as the days we guided our children into adulthood, as the days that forced us to put others before ourselves, and as the days that put the meat on the body of our lives.
Having a family is nothing novel, but having the strength, luck, and love to keep it together is our life and experiencing it with you is a dream come true.