Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Goofing off in Scottsdale

We've been goofing off in Scottsdale, AZ, where we've been hanging out with Steve's parents Donna and John in a fancy time share with swimming pools, jacuzzis, two apartments with kitchens and three TVs. The kids love the pools and TV's, since they have neither at home. The accommodations here have worked out perfectly, since it rained for three days straight. This is quite rare here, and I am glad we waited out the downpour in this spacious time share instead of the RV.
We have spent our time playing games, watching too much TV and preparing big meals in the kitchen, where I can dance a jig if I please instead of bumping into various kids. We also went to a famous music museum, which sounds kind of boring, but was very fascinating, educational and hands-on.

The boys and I went for a hike one day, and on Tuesday, the sun finally decided to make an appearance, and we played in the pool.

Steve and I even got to go on a date! A real date! We went on a hike to Pinnacle Peak, where I didn't feel like going to since it is in the middle of town with lots of hikers and joggers. But once we started hiking, I became enchanted. What a beautiful hike! The dramatic sky really spiced things up a little.
After the hike, we went to an excellent wood fire pizza place with the perfect ambiance for a date (low light, nice music, awesome food). It's amazing how relaxing a meal can be when it's just me and my man! Steve had researched the best restaurant in Scottsdale, and a Gelato place came up. We went there after dinner and stuffed our faces with the best home made Gelato we have ever consumed. We could barely walk out of there with our bellies seeming to drag on the floor!
Then on to see a great movie. I would call this date unforgettable!

Steve's parents had taken the kids to all kind of activities while Steve and I got our alone time, and they had a great time as well. Donna and John live for their grandkids, and it makes my heart so happy to witness the love in their eyes when they interact with my kids. There is something really special about knowing that someone loves my kids as much as I do. It's quite an amazing bond, this love between grandparents and grandkids. We are blessed to have them in our lives.

The other amazing bond I got to witness was with Auntie Jane, Donna's aunt who has been like a mother to her. She is a 92 year old lady who still lives independently and radiates warmth and humor. We visited with her one afternoon, and I wish we could have spent all day with her! She is full of stories and recounted some of them for me. I learned a lot about my husband's Swedish and Norwegian heritage, which is important to me, because this blood flows in my children's veins.
I don't know what it is about old matriarchs that warms my heart so much. These are the women who hold ancient family stories that would be forgotten if it wasn't for them. Their knotted hands with papery skin have nurtured numerous children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, have cooked thousand of meals, have mended uncountable pieces of clothing. Their eyes might have countless wrinkles, but they still shine with a lot of life and wisdom.
I want to be like Auntie Jane when I grow up.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Highlight of our trip today - mountain biking around Bell Rock

I'm in an exercise-and-chocolate-ice-cream-induced state of bliss. Kai, Lukas and I just had a peak experience mountain biking next to Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock, two huge red hills shaped like a bell and, uhm, a courthouse. This was a highlight of our trip so far! The boys kicked my ass, pedaling up and down some really technical mountain biking routes. This was not a sweet little innocent bike ride. This was a ride for hard core bike enthusiasts. I'm talking major rock jumps, steep descents, rocky like hell. So much fun!!! Kai led most of the way, while I kept (or tried to) keep an eye on Lukas in front of me. No chance. They left me in the dust, and I kept hearing their screams of joy ahead of me, a huge smile on my own face, lungs bursting, leg muscles burning, grinning all the way. The scenery was mind-blowing in every direction.

After we got back to the RV, where Steve and Eva were waiting, the three of us bubbled over with stories and endorphins. We made Steve go bike the same route by himself, while we drank a gallon of lemonade, ate sandwiches, and devoured ice-cream. When he got back, he kept marveling, “I can't believe the boys did that!!!” No kidding.

I keep reflecting on the lives of my sons. They have experienced a lot of adventure in their lives so far, pushing their physical boundaries, seeing incredible beauty in nature. Steve and I are both adventurous and have always taken our kids with us. Hiking, canoeing, bicycling, exploring, traveling...
Brandie commented a couple of days ago how much she loves the way we raise our kids, and how it is so different from most people she knows. We “just do it”, even if it means pushing ourselves to do so. It might stretch our own comfort zones or physical abilities, but we do it, because we know we would all miss out otherwise. It's so worth it!
I absolutely adore the fact that my kids can be out in nature, totally engaged in little things, finding adventure as they go, never complaining that they are bored. They don't need TV or video games or organized sports and activities. I love that about them.

Yesterday, we got a fair bit of biking in as well. Although it was a little rainy, we managed just fine! After exploring Sedona by foot, spending some quality time in an excellent bakery, and finding a sweet little RV park with awesome clean, hot showers, we decided to put Eva in the bike trailer and head out to see what we could find. After a quick stop at a visitor center, we decided to bike eight miles roundtrip up to a spectacular little church on a hill, called Church of the Holy Cross.

This is the church as seen from the bottom.
Here is the inside, looking out.
This is the view from the top, right in front of the chapel.

Another view from the top.
This is looking down on the mansion of the guy who invented laser eye surgery.  He has a great view and all, but people who visit the chapel all stare down at it, some with binoculars.  You can't sunbathe naked there!

I am deeply spiritual, but I don't go to churches. Nature is my church. Sitting with my family in this little chapel on the hill, however, I felt moved to tears. It felt holy, sitting there with my arms around my kids, who all sat silently, without being told to do so. A hushed silence settled over us as we sat all alone, looking at the flickering candles people had lit, looking out the huge windows to see beautiful red rock mountains around us. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I said a prayer for Lukas' heart aneurysm to heal, for love and light to descend on earth, for people to wake up out of their trance so we can all survive on this earth.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Natural pools, explosive bathroom incident in the desert, and more hiking and fun

Tuesday:  Steve woke up barfing into the RV toilet, which hopefully was just dehydration and not the stomach flu. We shall see if the rest of us get it. He got over it very fast, and by noon, he was ready to hike. So we explored Oak Creek close to Sedona, where Bradley, Steve and the boys bouldered and climbed, and Brandie, Eva and I relaxed by the water, knitted, talked and painted our nails. This sounds very, very stereotypical gender-roley, doesn't it? But I assure you, all three of us girls are tomboys to the n-th degree, and we can hang with the tough boys any day. We just felt like being girly...

This is were the boys bouldered.
Lukas turned out to be a talented boulder-dude.  I'm not surprised - this kid has climbed everything ever since he could barely  walk!
The guys even jumped into the (very cold, snow-melt) water.

Brandie enjoyed painting Eva's nails, and Eva loved getting her nails painted.
That night, we found a wild place to camp. I made a typo in the previous post, where I wrote we don't want to camp wild. We do, we do! Camping wild means we have no electricity, no water, and no sewer, but instead we get to faraway places with no other people around. We have the generator and a pretty big water storage tank, plus a toilet that can be emptied at a campground in a couple of days. Brandie and Bradley pull their home built trailer around, where they sleep and store stuff.

Bradley peaking out at the sunrise in his sleeping quarters.
In the mornings, the kids like to sit up in the sleeping loft, play with legos, and dress up (in Eva's case).
Wednesday:  When we woke up yesterday, Steve opened the blinds on the little lookout window in our RV loft and said, “Oh, no, it's all cloudy”. Panicked, I scrambled out of my sleeping bag and checked the sky, which was cloudless and perfect and pink from the sunrise. Funny jokester, is my man. He knows that the whole reason for this road trip is to find the sun, and stay in it. Who cares about natural beauty, quality family time, or educational opportunities? It's all about the sun, folks.
So when we woke up today with some real clouds in the sky, I panicked again and checked the weather on my smart phone, which miraculously gets service out in the boonies in our wild camping spot. The weather forecast threatens rain for several days, starting in a couple of days. Outrage!!! What is the guy in charge of the weather THINKING??? The Sahlin's are on a six week road trip, and rain was not supposed to be in the picture! C'mon!!!
We had a fun day anyway, clouds and all. We hiked for seven miles with Brandie and Bradley to a magical place called Beaver Creek. It's a spot up a canyon with boulders and pools and a bubbling brook. We spent most of the day there, climbing around, lunching, napping, knitting, making yucca plants into cordage, doing a little yoga, talking, laughing and enjoying each other and the scenery.

I love the Sycamore trees - they look like ghosts...
These were some of the natural pools.

Life is bliss, it really is...
Here is another knitting picture... I am so glad Brandie is as obsessed with it as I am!
There were a bunch of caves to explore.
Steve and Eva in the background.
Too bad we look so unhappy, right?
Here is what happens when you camp wild and don't shower or wash your hair for a week.
Steve and Bradley making cordage out of Yucca fibers.  Male bonding at its best.
The Sahlin family, happy as can be.
Guess who carried Eva most of the way? Head mule Steve, of course, never complaining, ever cheerful, ready to take on the burdens of the world, or the burden of his little child, who is not so little anymore and weighs a ton, if you ask me. Whenever I lug that kid around, my arms and back are sore the next day. I keep saying, “Who needs to join a gym when you have a three year old?” The little princess fell asleep on Steve's back on the return hike, and when I caught up with them, I marveled at how she could possibly have fallen asleep, all curled in on herself and folded up on her Daddy's back.

Look at that kid!  Look at that Dad!
Also on the way back Lukas had a little... explosive bathroom incident, shall we say, and there was nothing to wipe with. In the Pacific Northwest, we have lots of natural toilet paper (Mullein leaves, Thimbleberry leaves, moss), but here in the desert? Kai, upon seeing Lukas' dilemma, suggested helpfully, “Cactus?” Hmpf.

We said goodbye to our dear friends Brandie and Bradley, since they had to head back home for work, and since poor Brandie had been fighting a nasty cold and possibly strep throat. But does that girl every complain? No! Cheerful and beautiful as ever, she just hiked along with the rest of us, spreading her good vibes around like magic fairy dust. I wish I could be more like her, but I tend to whine and sniffle instead.

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