Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Arizona: Hot Times and Big Change

Just under a week into our journey, we arrived at our first scheduled destination: Phoenix, AZ. Our time there would be chill, other than the temps measuring over 100º our entire visit! The crux of this stop was to connect with family--Andres' dad (Tony) and his wife (Linda) and grandma (Conchita), who lives just one block from Tony & Linda. We also took the opportunity to dial in and cozy up the camper a bit. I made some curtains (thank you, Eva, for the use of the sewing machine!), set up a little altar on the front dash for protection on our travels, and placed tidbits here and there to make the place more ours. Conchita, Eva (friend/neighbor/caregiver to Conchita), Tony & Linda all speak fluent Spanish and it’s what’s spoken in both households much of the time. Kavi was riveted by the different sounds and started repeating many of the single words and short phrases. He seemed particularly fond of ‘adios’. 
Due to the heat (up to 119º!!), we looked for places and ways to keep cool. And to be able to hang with a toddler and a senior simultaneously--the two have very different mobility needs. Barnes & Noble ended up being the most popular spot for us as we could take it easy with grandma looking at interesting books and Kavi was engaged with the Lego table and kids books--and it was easy to walk him around in the stroller to nap, then enjoy the cool air and wi-fi in the store once he was asleep. One of the bookstores was in a big mall that had misters set up along the entire back length behind the stores with lots of cushy lounge chairs and tables to sit and enjoy the spray. Amidst this set-up, there was an area with multiple small fountains of water that people were invited to walk through/play in. And there was a fro-yo (frozen yogurt) store just behind that--perfect set up for keeping cool, entertaining a wee one and offering all of us a little treat!

Our day with Conchita
One of the days Tony and his wife, Linda, offered to play with Kavi for a few hours and give us some time to be with Conchita--a great way for everyone to get special time. The three of us did a little shopping, ran a couple errands and had a yummy lunch while the three of them played with Kavi's trucks, napped the little dude and went to the Railroad Museum (a pretty cool spot we took Kavi to on our last visit to Phoenix). Upon returning to Conchita's, we checked in with Tony, who said they were having a good time together and Andres and I should take time to ourselves, that they would feed Kavi dinner and even put him to bed. Sweet!!! We hadn't had a date night in over a year! And only twice before has anyone else put Kavi to bed (both times sweet sister Luna from Laughing Heart, who Kavi adores!), so this was a special offer indeed! Funny enough, we had a little space of waffling, both out of concern for Kavi and Tony(nighttime/sleep have been a challenge for us and it's a time Kavi can get pretty emotional), as well as just not being sure what to do with ourselves with this unexpected freedom!

For a moment, we considered running our typical agenda of pulling out our computers and working. Sheesh! We agreed we ought at least go to dinner first and engage one another as a couple for a bit--not just as parents and work partners. Having a child can be (and is, for us) quite challenging on a relationship, taking so much time and energy that it's easy to feel drained before getting around to feeding the relationship that brought that child into physical existence! Anyhow, that's for another blog post that I hope to get around to at some point. Back to the date. We settled on the restaurant in the nearby Whole Foods both for the ease of it and because they had wi-fi. We figured we would tend to a little work while having a casual dinner, then drive to a lovely overlook somewhere to enjoy couple time. On our way to dinner, we ended up in such engrossing conversation, that we sat in the car for at least half an hour before going in. It continued throughout much of the meal, connecting us more deeply, reminding us of why we chose each other to begin with. There were so many things that had been going unsaid, stuffed down, pushed aside--as it often didn't feel the right time to bring certain things up that we felt the other might balk at, shut down, get defensive, etc. And neither of us feeling the energy to fight! But having this time together somehow allowed it all to come out more easefully, more calmly, more lovingly. And to be received. No shutting down, no defensiveness, no fighting. And two lighter, more connected hearts at the end of it. Thank you, Tony and Linda for loving up Kavi and giving us such a gift! Tony even slept with Kavi that night and didn't end his shift til 5am the next morn--go grandpa!            
An early morning Kavi-led selfie sesh--unknowingly our final nursing time

It was the first Andres & I slept in the same bed (and without a baby!!) in many months. We decided to use the opportunity to create a bigger shift for our family. Time to wean. We were already down to only bedtime and morning wake-up feeds and though I had night-weaned many months prior, Kavi would still wake several times a night, usually asking for milk (and he wouldn't take a bottle or drink what he called "refrigerator milk"). This was a big decision for me as I hadn't known the last time I nursed him it would be the last time. Nor did he. That felt sad. However, I had been talking to him for a couple weeks about "mama milk" coming to an end as it was always my plan to wean at some point in the travels. I just expected I'd know it was about to happen. But here we were with a great set-up and Kavi hadn't made a big fuss about bedtime or wake-up without me (though it was earlier than usual). I was certain this change was going to be best for our family (for all of our sleep!), even if it was difficult for either/both Kavi and I temporarily. I'll keep the story brief, though I feel like I could write at length and perhaps at some point I'll take on a detailed account. Kavi was pleased to see me in the morn and did not mention milk. We played quietly together til the household awoke, then had a pretty quiet day between home and the bookstore. I shared with him a few times throughout the day that we were done with mama milk and we would have a special ceremony together in the evening. I asked if he was ok with that and each time he smiled sweetly and said, "yeah". Of course, I couldn't know what his level of understanding was around my sharing. That evening, we had a simple ceremony to acknowledge that nursing was complete and we were moving into a new space in our relationship. Greater independence for each of us, though we would still be strongly connected. I gave him a little gift to remind him of our connection and we blew out a candle together. It was incredibly touching and he was so present and loving. Then papa took over to shower him and go through bedtime routine without me, to keep things simpler in case Kavi suddenly wanted to nurse (this was how he'd gotten to sleep for a little over two years!). As the two of them walked from Conchita's to Tony's, I watched til they were out of sight. And my heart was breaking. It felt like a break-up. And I suppose it was, of a sort. I hadn't anticipated so much emotion, especially as there had been so many times I felt done with that part of motherhood over the previous few months. Yet, there it was. Another big contrast coming up  in my mama journey. Seems parenthood is chock full of 'em! 

Kavi did great that night in going to sleep for papa. And he went into a rage in the morning upon waking. I relieved papa from his overnight post and went to soften things with Kavi. This was the most upset I had witnessed him to date. I stayed calm, told him I understood he was upset and that I was there for him, though I wouldn't allow him to hurt me. Mostly I stayed quiet and present, giving him a bit of physical space until he would allow me to get close without wanting to attack. This went on for maybe ten minutes and just like that, he did a 180. I asked if he wanted to go cook eggs together and he cheerily agreed. The rest of the day was sweet between us and that was the biggest emoting he's had so far (though this topic would weave in here and there as our travels continued). Wow, what a milestone! My prayer from here is that he continues to feel my support as strongly even though we've separated a bit, that he cultivates trust in his own abilities to calm and comfort his fires and fears, and that he begins to sleep more easefully through the nights. 
The rest of the visit was low-key, a slow rhythm of keeping cool in the heat while connecting with each other in the mundane moments of our daily routines. The usual family time: simple, sweet and sometimes saucy. Before bidding farewell, we did one last round of shopping to stock up on goodies and Andres made a big batch of kim chee. Then we were mobile again. 
Best group photo we could manage! :-) Linda, Tony, Conchita, Andres, Kavi & me
First stop, Sedona! A great place to land for the Summer Solstice/Full Moon (on the same day!) with it's vast open sky and red rock hugging in on all sides. We drove straight to the river to cool down and get in some movement. We found a lovely spot along Oak Creek Canyon (a gorgeous area!), where we met a lovely family: Chelsea, Michael and their toddler son, Talon. We all made the short hike to the water together. The papas and babes got right into the water while the mamas connected and set up a cozy spot where we all ended up hanging for a bit.Turns out they were in the process of fixing up a trailer they recently bought and were going on the road soon and would also be on the lookout for their community/land/home--what a coincidence! We shared stories and snacks (they had a delicious homemade, chilled basil watermelon juice) until it was time to go. We said goodbye, with the possibility of a visit on our return trip--would be fun to see where we all our in our journeys at that point.
on hike to Oak Creek Canyon river spot
We three drove just up the road and found a place to hike for a bit amongst the rocks. Kavi was really testing out his balance, attempting ever more challenging climbing endeavors. We saw a few lizards, some tadpoles in a puddle and enjoyed the changing light/shadow play in the bottom of a canyon. At some point I asked Kavi how to say hello in Spanish (we had been practicing a few words since leaving grandma's). His response, "hello in Spanish". Uh huh. We retraced our steps to climb out of the canyon and make our way to a camping spot.
The sun was setting as we drove across town and down the remote forest road where Andres had discovered we could pull over on the side of the road and camp just about anywhere--such a find!! We were alone out there, with just the light from the stars (and a handful of lights in a distant neighborhood). And only the sounds of the crickets. A sweet spot indeed.
Kavi woke us earrrrllllyy in the morn. After a few attempts to get him back to sleep, I gave in and we watched the sun rise from our loft bed. Kavi asked, "what's that?" and I tuned into a sound he had noticed. Hmmmm, sounded like a pressurized gas hose being turned on and off. I went outside to look around and found the source. Hot air balloons!! There were five of them at varying distances, coming up over the far-off rocks and headed our way. I scooped Kavi up and we walked up the road to get a closer look. So fun to see the colorful vessels gently floating up, then descending til nearly touching the earth before taking flight again. We were so close that at times it felt as though we could jump right on! The sky parade floated on by and off into the distance, with two big-eyed spectators following on foot.
When we made it back to the camper, we did a quick breakfast and pack-up so we could get out for a hike before the intense heat set in. A short drive later landed us at Fay Canyon. We hiked a few miles and experienced a thunder storm with a bit of rain halfway through while perched on a big rock, enjoying a snack. What a beauty filled morning!
Fay Canyon
Our rock perch
fun texture
Datura or "Devil's Trumpet"
We went for lunch and ice cold drinks, then found our camping spot for the night--this time in a well-shaded RV park on a creek. We all napped, chilled, hung out in the water, enjoyed the thunder storm, yummy dinner, then early to bed (we were all a bit cranky from lack of sleep). Early bedtime was a fortunate decision as the next morning Kavi was up at 4am! I ultimately ended up strolling him around the campground and finally got him back to sleep around 5am. Back at the camper, I laid down, tossed and turned a bit, then fell into slumber. For 15 minutes! Then Kavi was up and at 'em. Whoa. Time to surrender. So we played and hung out til papa was up and could take over to let me sleep a bit more. So thankful we have one another in support in this big work! Again, we were all a bit cranky--and it was a beautiful day, which ultimately helped shift our states. Once on the road, Kavi fell right to sleep and we enjoyed a gorgeous drive. 
Andres and his homemade kim chee
Kavi chillin' in Oak Creek
Hey, that's papa's beer!! (As Kavi says, "behr-wah") Gotta watch where you set those bottles down!
When Kavi woke, we pulled over in a random, desolate spot to eat and walk around a bit.
Then it was back to driving--long, straight stretches, miles of distant red rock with flat expanses of low, shrubby flora. For some time, we could see storms in the distance. Several of them. Then very suddenly, we were in the midst of it. Big rain, thunder,lightening--it was exhilarating! We were still sticking to back roads and highways and this round of driving we made in the moment decisions to take a different road than the Google map was suggesting, to see what it offered. We drove til near sunset, where we pulled off on a random gravel road leading into a forest in a small town called Ganado. Tucked deep in the trees away from the highway noise, we found a lovely spot with lots of little wild flowers and little paths winding here and there. We did a little trash pickup (seems many folks used the area for hanging out/partying and left their garbage behind) while watching the sun set, then quietly went about our nighttime routine. Our final night in Arizona. The following day we would greet New Mexico.
Final AZ sunset

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