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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Cheeto-Eating Squirrel

For Spring Break this year, Grandpa and Grandma took our lucky crew to Phoenix. It was beautiful. Warm, dry, a perfect place to forget our dreary Illinois winter blues. 
The kids did a little better than normal on this trip. Some things were easier, some things were still tough. The airplane rides to and from Arizona went well, except that Ella is super sensitive to air pressure changes, so that was torture for her. I had packed a bag of chewy snacks for each kiddo that they pulled out from their backpacks to help deal with taking off and landing ear pops. They also had backpacks full of interesting, entertaining activities. Which they mostly forgot about because we had TV's at each seat on the plane! TV always wins. 

The big boys were mad because Neurotic Mommy makes each kid wear some kind of identifier with their name and "special needs" or "allergies" listed along with my cell phone number. I explained to them that this year they'd all be wearing cool dog tags, and they must keep the necklace on during the entire journey to and from Arizona, just in case someone needed to know more information about them in case of emergency. Once in Arizona, they could take the dog tags off for the whole stay. I got a lot of eye rolls and sighs, but whatev. You never know what might happen, and better safe than sorry.

Some things were still the same as other years on this vacation. Alex or I had to hold Aidan's hand when we walked anywhere, especially in the airport. He's in his own little world. With all the distractions and crowds, it's easy for Aidan to lose us. He got so caught up in stepping in a pattern on the airport floor tiles that he forgot to watch where the rest of the family was going. So I held his hand and steered him through the airport while he tapped his way across the tiles in a dance only he knew the steps to.

At the hotel, we only had a few skirmishes compared to other years. It's hard every time we travel for the older boys to adapt to things that are different from home. Namely the fact that they have to share rooms, and sometimes a bed, with a brother. They complain that every brother kicks, snores, and grinds his teeth. They have to process the fact that on a vacation, things aren't like at home. Things are different and that's ok. It's part of the exciting adventure of traveling. One night Aidan and Jonah shared a bed and slept in the same room with Ben. The next night Aidan was in Ben's bed. The next two nights, Aidan escaped his big brothers and slept on a couch with Dad next to him on another couch. That made everyone happier. Except Dad, who would have preferred a bed. But we worked through it.

Aidan didn't have anxiety this trip like he has on previous travels. He didn't refuse to leave the hotel room like he has other years. The only time he had anxiety was when we went on a desert tour. We got to ride in this awesome, massive, red Hummer. We could stand up on the drive, once we got to the desert. But instead, Ella, Aidan and I sat in the farthest back seat, trying not to completely freak out. The Hummer felt like it would surely tip over as we drove up and down steep desert hills. It was terrifying. I had a rollerball of Lavender oil with me that I rolled onto all our wrists and we took big whiffs in an attempt to not have heart attacks. This wasn't such a fun time for Aidan.

Searching for turquoise
The desert tour did have other awesome aspects. We got to hunt for turquoise and gems. We saw all kind of cacti. The tour guide was full of interesting stories about all things desert-y. On the ride home, Jonah was sitting next to Aidan and in his sweet big brother way asked Aidan what he had learned on our desert adventure. Aidan answered immediately "That squirrels love Cheetos." Hm. Not the answer any of us was expecting, but a perfect Aidan Answer.

When we stopped at some ancient Indian ruins to explore, there had been a squirrel. The tour guide said he loved Cheetos, so we got a bag out of the Hummer and the kids got to take turns giving the little beggar some Cheetos. Aidan and Ella got a huge kick out of this. Apparently it was the highlight of the desert for Aidan.
The Cheeto-eating desert squirrel
The pool was, of course, the favorite activity of the trip. We couldn't get the kids out of the water once they got in. Ben and Jonah guilt-tripped me into going down the water slide, then stood at the bottom laughing hysterically as I screamed in terror the ENTIRE way down. They love to mock their poor old Mama. So glad I can amuse them.
The one down side of the trip was that Jonah and I got sick. Jonah bounced back after one day, but it took me a bit longer. I had to stay home the day the crew went to the ghost mining town of Superstition Mountains. That was a big bummer. But they told me all about it and had a great time. On the up side, I got to spend part of a whole day laying around not taking care of anyone while I healed. That was a first!

One of my favorite memories of this trip was one evening after we had dragged the kids out of the pool and made them put on nice clothes in preparation for dinner at a restaurant. We all ended up on our upstairs balcony, chatting and laughing together so easily. No one fought. No one was irritable or grumpy. No one was angry or frustrated. We just sat and talked, told jokes and laughed. It was easy and lovely. I loved being in our family at that moment. We don't often have pure happiness as a family, so when we do I cherish that time. 

I love to travel. Even though some aspects of travel are hard for my kids, I love taking trips with them and helping them learn about the world. We just help them work through all the difficult things they run into when they're not home. Someday I hope they all love to travel as much as I do. It's such a gift to see the world and to realize how much bigger life is than just us in our little corner.

I love that each trip gives our family more memories. Things like the Cheeto-eating squirrel that Aidan so adored. And all the pounds of stones, gems, volcanic rocks, and turquoise that our rock-hoarders got to collect and bring home. Families are made for making memories, and we're so blessed to be able to take trips with Grandma and Grandpa and make new memories every year.

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