October 23, 2009

A day trip to Sedona

I have the greatest husband in the world. An old college room mate called a few months ago to tell me that she would be within a day's drive and would like to meet me at a halfway point. My husband took a day off of work to homeschool our kids so I could go to meet her. He sacrificed one of his few vacation days (as he just started a new job five months ago). I left on Wednesday evening and returned on Thursday evening.
One thing about driving from Phoenix to Sedona is that getting out of Phoenix is roughly half of the driving time, especially in rush hour traffic which is not nearly as bad as Chicago rush hour traffic. Really! Also, Arizona is an awesome place to drive because a lot of the highways have a 75 mile/hour limit once you leave the city. However, there are no road lights, so once night falls, 75 feels pretty fast. It also means that you see nothing except what your headlights illuminate in front of you. So when I drove into Sedona at 7 p.m at night, I didn't see any mountains. Inky blackness extended beyond all the shops, galleries, hotels/motels/inns/resorts and restaurants. Sedona could have been one big valley as far as I was concerned.
However, this is what I woke up to:

Isn't it breathtaking?! The mountains seemed to form layer upon layer. You would get past one layer and find a whole new set of mountains. We got to "rock and roll on a very bad road" to see the ruins of an Native American pueblo built into an awesome cave. There are so many trails to hike that I could spend a week there and still not have explored them all. However, if I had formed my opinion based on what I had seen in the dark, I would have passed it off as merely a tourist trap (which it also is) and missed the glory and splendor that God created. It also made me wonder, however, if the residents of Sedona, the people who wake up to these views 365 days a year ever say to themselves, "Oh yeah. Another beautiful day to look at mountains (yawn). BORING!", or even "Mountains? What mountains?" I mean, really, if you had an awesome view to look at every day of your life, wouldn't it become ordinary and commonplace? Would it lose the luster? You might have to go to Detroit, Michigan (which I did visit once and was not impressed) or Rockford, Illinois (in which I lived for three rotten, no good years) to be able to renew your sense of wonder at your hometown and really appreciate it. At this point, I will leave you develop all the emotional and spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from this insightful insight.

My girlfriend and I had fun chatting about all sorts of stuff, taking a couple of hikes, and shopping, which, because I wasn't hunting for something in particular and because it didn't involve noisy malls, it didn't inspire anymore stanzas to the Malls--How do I hate thee? poem. We had lunch at a western themed restaurant with a fabulous view, too. I think it was the same one at which our family ate when we visited Sedona almost five years ago. I also had a vision for what to do to fill up the shelf high above the dry sink: buy a few, funky, tall, glass vases of different colors and shapes and put one of those rope lights behind them to turn on at night. However, I won't be buying them from the shop in Sedona which inspired my vision, considering one of them was about 1/3 of the cost of a small car.
All in all, it was a wonderful, lovely day in which not one conversation was interrupted by a child's need/scream/question/comment. Thank you, Eric. You are my knight in shining armor!

October 14, 2009

A trip up Pass Mountain

One of the many highlights of my in-laws trip was an early morning hike with my two daughters and niece up Pass mountain, part of the Usery Mountain range. Pass mountain has really cool, cream colored "scar" running near the top. It is volcanic tuff--rock formed by ash. It glows orange in the evening when the sun is setting. Our goal was not to make it to the top of the mountain, but to see the Wind Cave, a section of the mountain carved out by the wind. Actually, you can go on, but there was a sign that said that the path became very dangerous and I really didn't feel like doing something dangerous with pre-teen girls.

We started our journey in the wee hours of the morning. I woke my neice and daughters up a little after six a.m. and loaded up the camelbacks, some fruit, cheese snacks and stuff we might need on the trial, like bandaids and hand sanitizer. I also remembered the camera. Woo Hoo!. With one extra long stop at Dunkin' Donuts for sugar and carbs and a bathroom break, we started on the trail somewhere around 7 a.m. Part of the delay is that I had to return a second time because the donuts that M and I had chosen were so horrible tasting, I had to return them. What is the point of consuming a thousand calories in fat and sugar if you don't enjoy it? I wouldn't recommend that particular Dunkin' Donuts to people. Note that in the first picture, the girls are wearing jackets. Yes, sixty degrees IS cold if you are in Arizona.

Wind Cave trail is a 1.6 mile trail with an 800 foot elevation gain. We started out with what looked like a dry river bed on one side. The reason it looked like a river bed is that it was a lower area and had a high concentration of Palo Verde trees whereas we were surrounded by various cati and scrub brushes on the other side of the path. In Arizona, trees don't shed their leaves in the fall, they shed them in the summer, when drought conditions do not give them enough water to be able to photosynthesize. Also, most trees have small leaves in the desert to minimize transpiration, which is the trees breathing out moisture with the carbon dioxide. As we passed by palo verde trees, I saw tiny, cute leaf buds emerging from the stems. It took us about an hour to climb to the wind cave. The fact that it is a cave should tell you that we didn't reach the summit of the moutain. There were a couple of times when the path turned sharply and we started going the wrong way. Fortunately, the wrong way soon became impassible, which caused us to look around for the real trail. A few times, we walked over large bolders that served as a bridge over a little crevice in the path. With the way they were tumbled together in just the right way to support each other, I wondered if this was engineered by the park service or an act of God designed to help hikers. The wind cave is part of the tuff, so that when we approaced the cave, we got to see the it up close and personal. There were bits of granite "marbles" embedded in the tuff as well as large tracts of...lichen. We made it to the wind cave in about an hour. We spent some time resting in the cave. Basically, it is an indentation carved out by the wind. We didn't stay long because there was some evidence of a bee hive formed in one of the crevices, which made at least one of the girls nervous. We ate the cheese and started walking down. Even though we carried camelbacks, which hold at least 64 ounces of fluid, one of the children had gone through most of her water on the way up. Therefore, I had to share some of my water on the way down. It took us about 45 minutes to get down, mainly because we took fewer breaks. By that time, the kid's camelbacks were all drained, which meant a stop at the potty before heading back home. We were home by 9:45 a.m., ready to go to bed, or at least rest ;-). The hike was made possible by Nana and Poppa, who had brought my boys with them for a sleep over the previous night. Otherwise, the hike would have been a bit more daunting, especially with a four year old. I think I will wait another year, or maybe wait until I have another adult, to go on this trail with my youngest.

The only thing that I was hoping to see was a little more wildlife. With cooler temperatures and the early morning hours,theoretically, we should have seen a lot more animals. However, with four chatty females acting as an early warning system for the animals, the only thing we really saw were birds, other hikers, and one baby rabbit. However, the rainbow made up for the lack of fauna. It "rained" that morning, and by "rained" I mean that water fell from the sky, though very little of it actually touched the earth. Seeing the rainbow as we started our descent was very inspiring. It was as if God were blessing our hike that morning. It must have worked, too, because, for once, my youngest daughter did not cry and whine at all about being too tired to go on. It was definitely an awesome hike!

October 11, 2009

What I did on my Facebook Vacation:

When I moved from Illinois to Arizona, I was just getting into Facebook. That is to say, I would be on it about a once a night and maybe skip some days. When I moved to Arizona, however, Facebook became my primary lifeline to my friends back home, whom I was sorely missing. I started checking Facebook multiple times a day. I started viewing my day as what would make a good Facebook status. I started spending a LOT of time commenting and reading and taking quizzes of all kinds. I knew I was spending too much time on Facebook when my kids started developing a daily mantra of “Momma’s on Facebook again.” or “When are you going to get off of Facebook so we can play, Momma?.” Ouch! However, just like an alcoholic starts having a hard time saying “no” to alcohol, I started having a hard time walking away from FB. I HAD to get my daily, I mean, hourly, fix. Finally, God basically told me that I had to cut WAY back or else He would have me shut it down. Therefore, I took a two week vacation from Facebook. I planned the time carefully because family was visiting us for one whole week. That was the highlight of my two week FB fast. What else happened? Here are more highlights, in random order:

1. I had a fabulous time with my wonderful father-in-law and his wife, who is a dear, sweet lady, and my fun loving niece. The highlights of the stay was spending time with Kathy, hiking up Wind Cave Trail in the Usury mountains with my girls and niece, having alone time with the boys, dinner with in-laws sans kids, and playing Bananagrams.
2. I started making a Thanksgiving wreath using an embroidery hoop and many different colored ribbon. I finished it tonight watching a pre-recorded episode of “FlashForward” which I have not decided if I like or not. Too much cheesy dialogue. Too much like “Lost.” And is Joseph Fiennes really that gruff-voiced or is he intentionally whiskey-voiced to add to the gloomy ambience and keep reminding us that his character is a recovering alcoholic?
3. I played with my kids more—really. I also paid attention to them more and talked with them more.
4. My husband and I talked more. Any more information is really none of your business.
5. I read about making paper mache, which we are going to need in order to make two different Halloween costumes for the kids.
6. I finished one blog and wrote a second one.
7. I found my book _Waltzing Australia_ under a pile of kid's books and read another chapter in it. Well, technically, one of my kid's found it for me.
8. I read other people’s blogs.
9. I prepared more for the homeschooling week and found ways to make history come alive, mainly by impromptu acting.
10. I planned trips to take with my niece and children.
11. I shopped for the kid’s Halloween costumes, though that wasn’t all joy and bliss as my last blog will testify.
12. I slept more. It’s boring, but much needed.
13. I wrote a blog for “RealFolksUnited” about why I homeschool. I was inspired after reading that President Obama plans to increase the number of hours in a school day AND extend the year in the hopes that our children will become smarter than all the other world’s kids in spite of the fact that we already log in more hours per year of school than the children in countries who spank us in test scores. Every problem is a nail and the government is the hammer, apparently. Or is it a sickle? I know, it’s both! (Tongue in cheek humor, here. For those of you who support President Obama, keep in mind that at least I am not hyping an energy drink with a cocaine theme).
14. I started investigating things to do in Sedona for the one day that I will be there with an old college roommate.
15. I searched for potential camping places for my daughter, who wants to camp and fish as well as wrack my braid for a free weekend in which to take her.
16. I called a couple of people I normally would only facebook. BTW, can "facebook" be used as a verb now?
17. I baked a little more. It was in the 80's last week. Woo hoo for cooler weather! (please refrain from nasty comments from those of you in northern climes, I can't help it that I live in the desert!)

The one thing I wish I could post as an activity is that I spent a lot more time with God, both in prayer and in His word. However, I was a little sporadic in that area. One week was totally awesome and the next week was bad. Therefore, I can't blame FB for problems in that area, at least.

In general, I did not experience any withdrawal symptoms from Facebooking activities, though I was a little worried that one or two of my pregnant friends would give birth while I was taking the vacation and thus miss the announcement. Unfortunately for them, they didn't. Girls, you can now go into labor! I'm back! :-). I did miss all the little updates on my friends lives, but I will have to go on with my life with a blank spot in my computer generated memory. And I will be only going on FB occasionally during the week, because I don't want to status my life away.

October 9, 2009

Malls--How do I hate thee?

I am preparing for Halloween. I hate spending money on something that is used once or maybe twice, if I can find it the next year, so I try to create a costume from clothing that the kids can use after they go trick or treating. The problem is that to accomplish this, I usually need to find clothing of a specific color and PLAIN--i.e., free of all embellishments, patterns and egotistical phrases. Ay, there's the rub! To try and accomplish this feat, I decided to go to the mall with all four children in tow because, after all, malls have the highest concentration of stores and, theoretically, I should be able to find what I need in ONE store? The end result is usually me needing the remainder of the day in quiet solitude to recover. Returning today from the latest venture in frustration, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem, "How Do I Love Thee?," inspired me to write one of a contradictory theme.

Malls, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the height and depth and breadth
of all my senses, which are constantly assaulted
by loud music from the numerous stores and halls
and gaudy displays of women and men
in provocative clothing and/or poses.
I hate thee for the TVs that are strewn about the mall
and congregating in the food court showing music videos
of women wearing a preponderance of tight, glossy leather,
or bikinis, promoting them as everyday, casual clothes.
I hate thee for the multitude of total crap
that you try to convince me and my children to buy,
useless trifles packaged appealingly
and appealing to our egos and vanity,
stirring up in us ingratitude for God's many blessings.
I hate thee with a hatred that re-emerges
every time I step through your doors
trying to find what I need and instead
being offered what you think I should have.
And, if I could choose, I would shop always
in the quiet and solitude of the internet
until God brings me home in a heaven free of malls.

I realize that I may sound a bit puritannical in this poem; however, it is actually quite appropriate since we are studying the Pilgrims now (tee hee). You also need to know that shopping is not enjoyable for me. I am not the stereotypical woman who views shopping as therapy. I hunt for what I need and get frustrated when I can't find it. And the more specific an item, the harder it is to find. Plus, being highly visual and very auditory based person, I have just realized that the mall totally overwhelmes my senses. I feel the same way as I do when all four children try to talk to me at once, or at a party when there are two interesting conversations going on within earshot. Finally, my children usualy devolve into whining, wild things at the mall if I spend too much time there, which continues past our time at the mall.

In an attempt to end this on a positive note, my kids are dressing up as Black Beauty, a princess (but not Princess Buttercup), a cowboy (because he really wants an excuse for me to buy him boots) and a pterydactyl. The horse and pterydactyl will involve the kids learning about paper mache. I am looking forward to the whole process and its imperfect finished product. I just hope that the horse and pterydactly are moderately recognizable.