In the midst of dressing and feeding the kids multiple times, and cleaning my house for grandma to come babysit, I start to wonder if all of this work is worth a chance at adventure with a friend. Sometimes I decide it’s not worth it and believe that it is better to live in routine and chain myself to the wall of constant care taking. But other times, I see the blue sky out of the jail wall court yard and I decide all of the effort to get to that open sky is worth it. So this morning, I grab my plastic spoon and start digging, or otherwise known as a mom trying to go somewhere while kids and tasks hang around her neck.
Jess calls first thing in the morning and I am hesitant to answer. I’ll be relieved if she cancels, (because then I don’t have to fight the battle of leaving), but I’ll be mad as a hornet if she does cancel (because the majority of me has really been looking forward to a jail break).
“Hey, how is it going there?” She asks.
“Good. Trying to hurry but the kids just got into the paint set while I was digging for my waders in the garage….But I’ll be ready!” I reply.
“OK……Well I’ll be late; my sitter just called and she can’t make it until 11. Should we still go?”
We talk about it for ten minutes. And say things like: “Should we still go? If we only have an hour to fish, is it worth it? What do you think? What do you think?” Neither of us wants to be “Debby the downer” and cancel, even though it seems to be the only reasonable thing to do. After much time wasted questioning, we decide to take the two youngest kids with us, thinking we will throw them in our back packs and the day will be just as fun. It is a crazy idea, but we will never know if it will work until we try it.
Jess says she will pick me up in an hour and shows up in two hours. Since we are bringing the boys, who are both under two years old, it takes 15 minutes to load all of the extra clothes, bags of food to keep them content and other misc. necessities that moms require to entertain toddlers. I notice my neighbors looking over at me and I assume that based off of the amount of junk I am putting in the truck, they think I am leaving my husband.
Grandma pulls in the driveway just in time and we buckle in the toddlers and load up our old yellow labs for the long drive to the mountains. We reach the highway but we still cannot let ourselves get excited about the possibility of adventure because it could still not work out- a screaming kid in the car would alter our plans tremendously.
Miraculously, the babies sleep the entire way to the CDA River. This gives us time to catch up and chat about life without having to wrangle kids or do the ‘one ear listening and other focused on a kid’ dance. It’s almost like we are out to coffee by ourselves, which is worth even just a long drive to nowhere in itself.
We decide to check out a creek we have never been to. The dirt road winds around and curves with the river’s path. We pass a big truck that has fly rods perched underneath their windshield wipers, looking so cool. We drive by in our truck packed to the gills with baby gear and back packs, with lullaby tunes blaring… looking so misplaced.
I stare out at the trout stream to my left, as we have already crossed the CDA River and are headed towards the little fork of the CDA River. I look down into the valley and see a perfect spot that appears to have a road leading to it- it seems too good to be true. Jess slowly meanders her way down into the creek valley and drives through some thick brush and into a section of river rocks. One of the boys starts to scream the second the truck is put into park and we smile, thinking about how we made it to the river just in time!
What happens next is flat out hilarious. It’s a juggling act of: getting waders on, stuffing food in mouths, allowing toddlers to crawl in the dirt, bug spray, sunscreen, sunhats, and double check diapers and gather chew toys for teeters. Followed by loading the babies in the back packs and bouncing our bodies around to keep the boys content, while also trying to put our fly rods together and tie flies on.
I wish I could have videotaped this 20 minute dance and watched in in fast forward motion. The things that a mother does in a day are mind boggling, but when they are addicted to fly fishing and next to a trout stream, they move in a ways most moms would never know they could move.
All we dream of is to get a few casts in the water, just to say we can. The boys are happy in their packs and we start our trek towards the creek, moving half the speed as we normally would. Thankfully, my boots are sturdy and grip the rocks confidently as the water runs through them. I cast once and my son throws himself to the right to see what I am doing…..I have to take a break and tighten the back pack, dig for crackers in my pocket to distract the curious toddler and find a spot on the rocks that is slanted so that he can see over my head.
Jess casts a few times and her little guy starts to cry. My first thought is: “Oh no her fly got hooked on her baby!” But that is not the case, thankfully. We spend about ten minutes soothing him and making sure he has not been bit by a bug. It turns out he was just hungry….And then my guy decides he is still hungry too.
The smartest thing that I have ever done was tie a teething ring to my back pack. My son would throw it down and it would swing and hit my face, and I would give it back to him in the middle of casting. This kept him busy for about fifteen minutes. But the smartest concoction of the day was Jess’ invention of actually tying a bag of crackers to the back pack. What a genius…we are not only re-defining the boundaries of motherhood today, but we are creating new ways of keeping kids entertained!
It has been about an hour and we have casted only a handful of times, but Jess is grinning incessantly. She is in her element. It was only four years ago that I saw the same fly fisher woman reeling in a massive rainbow trout in Alaska on the big Ku river. I basically learned how to fly fish by just watching her graceful casting. Her adventurous spirit made all the women around her feel like they could do anything. She was a guide for a sport fishing lodge in Alaska, taking guests out into wild Alaska and doing what most men her age would never dream of doing- fishing next to grizzlies and being dropped off in the middle of no-where with a load of guests to help them catch fish! I was privileged to spend a whole summer in Iliamna with her at the lodge, and part of me will always be trying to get back to that place of Alaskan adventures.
Somehow, seeing her with her baby on her back and her fly rod in her hand answers a question that was always in our minds as expecting mothers: Can we still be ourselves and be mothers? So here we are…out on the river, trying out this idea of ‘moms who fly fish’ and praying it is a success.
We decide to walk up stream around a corner that cuts sharply to the right. A truck drives by on the road above and slows down to watch us and then honks while driving off. I think to myself, how funny we probably look from that angle and I’m sure they were thinking,
“What kind of moms take their babies fly fishing?”
“Only the best ones”, I tell myself, feeling really superior at the time.
A snake darts out in front of me and we try to show the boys but they don’t care, they are a tough crowd- only entertained by mud and food at this age. Still, we take the time to point out the nature around us, thinking we are imbedding ideas into their brains of fishing with their moms.[Side note: I also tell my son all the time that I can’t wait for him to fly me to different rivers to fish with him someday, that way he will try to live up to my expectations. No joke…and when I say it out loud it is really twisted and pathetic.]
We come to a sandy hill that is piled next to the creek. My back is killing me, but I don’t want to seem like a wussy so I say,
“Maybe we should let the boys play in the sand?”
I watch the toddlers while Jess fishes for a bit and then we trade. As long as we have food, the boys stay on the sand hill, but if not entertained they start crawling towards the water or try to stuff fistfuls of sand in their mouths. The mosquitoes come out and so it also turns into a game of ‘bop the weasel’ as I try to keep the boys protected from the bugs. We both caught a cut throat trout; our old yellow labs were more excited than our kids.
Someone regretfully checks the time and calls the day as we both have stupid commitments to attend to that evening. We think about the old days of fishing until 2 am in the Alaskan sunset, with no cell phones or plans. The boys start to kick around more and it reminds me that they are tired of being in the back pack (they are so selfish) and we need to head back to the truck.
It seems immoral to leave the river before the summer night has set in. We take our time and look up stream at the tempting runs that we missed and silently map out future expeditions. As I stare out at the stream before heading back to the trail, my son grabs a handful of my hair and yanks on it. I can’t take it anymore! I pull him out of his back pack and end up carrying him in front of me the rest of the way!
On our way out, we back the truck up through the brush and realize that we cannot back up the way we came in. I get out and see that our tire has missed a side channel by an inch; it would have rocked our car almost sideways in the road if we had not missed it. Jess goes into stealth-guide mode and we figure out how to get the truck out. We high five and say that we are so glad we did not get stranded or had to call our husbands to come bail us out. Woman power! Well more like God-power, because it really was strange that we did not go into the pit of doom and suffer serious humiliation.
Needless to say, we tested the waters today to see just how much we can do with toddlers strapped to our backs. We did not know what to expect because there is not a handbook for moms that says,
“You can take your kids into the woods and fly fish”.
The longer I am a mother the more I realize that there is so much more creative room to move with the time we have with our children. This little trek opened up the doors of possibilities, of a large playground called The Outdoors, which is free and entertaining.
Sometimes we get so carried away with our PTA meetings, social functions and keeping to the jailed cells of a schedule that we forget to allow parts of ourselves to carry into our parenting- even if it is in the smallest ways. When mom’s hide away, trying to only be the parent and not allowing their kids to see their weird hobbies and wacky ways, it is isolating and eventually leads to some built up anger towards their children. Be the weird person you were before kids, no matter how awkward it ends up being! Go on a random adventure!
Looking at these pictures from that day, I laugh so hard because not only was it so much fun, but also it is just so different from what other moms that I know usually do! I love it! I am still hauling my kids to fish to this day! It could be why my back hates me as I age, but my heart is usually pretty happy.
I’m thankful to have a friend that is strange like me and willing to take awkward risks in order to fan the flame of adventure that continues to dwell in her heart! She is one cool chick. And today is her birthday!!! Happy Birthday, Jess!
May this little story encourage moms to get out of their comfort zones of staying at home and try out new, creative possibilities of adventure!