Taking advantage of the overlap between my husband’s last spring break and my maternity leave, we went on our first vacation ever as just our own little family this week, renting a cabin up in the mountains. It’s been a bit cold for us desert rats, but overall really great. So my seven quick takes this week are from our trip!
I’m lucky my husband is a logistics master 🙂 He found the cabin online, he contacted the owner and scheduled the rental, he bought and packed all the food for the trip, and he calmed me down and gave me specific tasks to complete when I melted down in the overwhelming mess of packing everything for the kids and worrying that I’d forget something essential.
The drive from Phoenix to Payson is gorgeous. I had forgotten just how beautiful the Sonoran desert can be, especially in the spring time when wildflowers are popping their vibrant heads up in every corner and the mountains are shaded green among the saguaros. And Payson itself, perched just below the Mogollan Rim with the high pine-covered, snow-topped ridges behind it, is breath-taking even when the deciduous trees are bare. It has been reminding me that, despite all the brokenness in the world, there is still quite a bit of beauty in it as well.
The simplest things are full of wonder and joy to a child. The boys have spent hours throwing rocks and pinecones into the water, digging in the dirt, and lugging sticks and logs across the yard. It is that pleasure in the everyday and elemental that I strive to hold on to as an adult, now that the cares of life are capable of dulling my senses entirely to the beauty of the small and mundane.
(Limerick is wondering, in this picture, why he can no longer see the other pinecone he threw into the water. It took him a few trials to understand how the moving water carries the floating pinecones away – what a good way to begin understanding the physics of the natural world!)
A two-year-old in a hoodie is one of the most adorable things in the world, especially when he sticks both hands in his pockets and wanders aimlessly around giving things sideways glances…
A baby who happily lies there watching her brothers play, gazing at the interplay of sun and shade, observing the trees stark against the blue sky, is also high on the adorableness scale. As long as it isn’t too cold and windy, she’s quite content to just take it all in.
Time away from normal routines and away from all the other people we normally see during the week seems to have brought Rondel and Limerick even closer together as brothers. They’ve begun to play much more interactively, instead of just in parallel: they deliberately make sounds or movements that they know will make the other one laugh; they make plans for digging or building and help each other with them; they prefer playing with each other to playing alone; they fight, but are figuring out how to make up and keep going together. They follow each other around, entertain each other, and generally fall apart laughing at each other most of the day. And one of the nights here we found them both snuggled up in the same bed ❤
I realized how beautiful it is to watch a child explore the natural world, in his own way, at his own pace: running, jumping, climbing, digging, building with sticks, baking mud cookies, collecting pinecones, or throwing rocks into the river.
It all began when Rondel hung an apple ornament on my parents’ Christmas tree (we don’t have space for one, so we are vicariously enjoying theirs and stopped by to help decorate it!).
Limerick noticed this apple, hanging alone on its branch, and found an apple of his own. Diligently, despite the slippery nature of pine branches (especially ones that are already supporting ornaments), he attempted to hook his apple right next to his brother’s, and finally succeeded. He was so proud of himself!
It’s those little things that show me how much Limerick loves and looks up to his big brother. He wants to be like him, to do the things he does, to be with him – even to the point of hanging his little apple on the same branch as Rondel’s big apple. This is the spirit that causes him to greet Rondel with a hug the moment we pick him up from his Sunday School class, or look to Rondel for a reaction whenever he says something silly, hoping to elicit a laugh from his big brother.
When they hit each other, take each other’s toys, and knock down each other’s towers, and the screams and cries fill the air, I don’t despair of their love and future relationship, because I can remember these other things, the moments of appreciation for and enjoyment of each other, that are woven in the very fabric of their lives. With that backdrop, the conflict itself can become a source of greater strength and depth in their relationship, a thread essential to the tapestry of their growing characters.
Most of our park outings involve a snack; I’m not sure if it’s actually needed, but it’s become a habit and I don’t feel like poking the bear by trying to change it!
Anyway, the boys were being pretty adorable the other day during their snack:
I’m not sure why, but they couldn’t stop laughing about something! It was one of those moments that makes all the hard days worth it, when we are all just enjoying being with each other without anything special going on at all.
Rondel has a rudimentary understanding of the concept of “best friends” from watching the Pixar Cars movie, where Mater and Lightning are best friends despite the major differences in their personalities and experiences. The other day, this conversation took place between him and his daddy on the topic:
R: Lightning McQueen and Mater are best friends!
D: Yeah! Do you have a best friend?
R: You do!
D: Is your best friend Mommy?
R: No, your best friend is [Limerick]!
What’s fun for me (and also really rewarding) is to watch this play out in everyday life. When Limerick went down for his nap the day before yesterday, Rondel came up to me with a sad expression on his face, asking where he was because he wanted him. When I told them it was bedtime yesterday because they were acting tired, Rondel declared he wasn’t tired and began a huge list of all the things he was doing instead of acting tired, about five of which included Limerick. When they were showering off after the beach yesterday, Rondel started bopping Limerick with one of his floaties and then stuck his belly out so Limerick could bop him back with the other floaty. And when Rondel was crying hysterically in the car earlier today (because we only had cold water for him instead of ice water – he was really tired), he was only able to calm himself down when I asked him if he could try to calm down for Limerick, since the crying was starting to scare Limerick. He really loves his little brother, in a caring and self-denying way as well as in a playful companion way.
When I read the quote about a new sibling being one of the best gifts you can give to your child, I look at the relationship between Rondel and Limerick and feel that in this case at least it is very, very true. Rondel has matured in so many ways through being an older brother, and had so many happy experiences as well. I have no doubt that our new baby will only expand and deepen the friendship and joy within our family, especially since the boys are already anticipating his or her arrival with great excitement and periodically hug my belly as proxy for hugging the baby, and I am looking forward to watching those relationships unfold as well. And for now, I will enjoy the closeness between my boys and pray that it stays that way for years to come.