I had grand plans to visit multiple national parks this year. My kid is in the 4th grade and, as part of an effort to get Every Kid in a Park, 4th graders get their vehicle in for free. It is, as my son says, "Boss."
This was also the year that my kids (ever so thankfully and PRAISE the LORD!) switched from a year round schedule to a traditional one. People told me I would desperately miss the track system. People told me to be careful what I wished for. People were wrong. I've loved every second of the traditional year and am SO excited that my kids are getting out in early June and aren't going back until mid August. More than 7 weeks of summer? Yes, please!
But, with the absence of those pesky and disruptive year round breaks (okay, okay, the January one sure was nice because I got to go to San Diego to thaw out), came the absence of the ability to visit all the parks I'd planned to see. Sure, we still have summer, but our summer plans are already shaped.
With spring break looming, we decided to jaunt down to Arizona and see the sights and the grandest of canyons.
We spent the first full day of our visit just hanging around in Arizona. Driving in new places, soaking in new sights, experiencing new destinations.
Then we drove through places like this, which seemed like we had put ourselves directly into the Cars movie.
Perhaps Radiator Springs was just around the bend in the road. If our boys saw something they deemed an adventure, we let them get out and explore it. They scampered up this big boulder in no time flat. Their father went after them. I stayed in the car with the crying baby who does not understand his own inability to climb.
It was a relaxing time of, "You want a mocha from McDonald's?" "Yeah, I could go for one of those right now." And, "Hey, can we pull over and look at that?" "Sure!"
On Sunday we took the boys to see Bearizona Wildlife Park in Williams, AZ. Everyone absolutely loved it.
The first part of our trip was driving through the wildlife without fences or barriers. The animals just walked beside you or lounged just off the road. It was incredible. We saw bears, wolves, burros, bighorn sheep, and so much more.
This burro stuck his head right up to the car window. Garrett pleaded for his dad to pet the guy but we weren't sure that was something we were allowed to do. So Troy tried to make it move along while I rattled a plastic bag to continue attracting it. We work well that way, me undoing all his hard work. It's payback for when I clean the house and he builds a pile on the counter only moments later.
After the amazing drive through portion, they have a small zoo. We watched a fun bird show and then visited the various animals. One of our favorite parts was watching this little guy show off for us. He kept swimming up to the glass where Will was standing, pushing off, doing a flip, and then coming back to do it again.
They also had a petting zoo, foxes, javelinas, a jaguar, and so much more. It was really a fun place to see and I highly recommend it if you're ever in the Williams area.
The rest of our trip was spent visiting the Grand Canyon. We got our 4th grader his free pass and off we went.
I'd been to the canyon once, as a nine-year-old, but I was the only one in my family who had seen it. The pictures simply do not do it justice. I would snap a shot, glance at my phone, glance back at the canyon, and shake my head. You simply cannot capture the grandeur.
We want to shelter them, to get them to adulthood in one piece and as unscathed as humanly possible, but what is life if not to be lived and lived fully? What is exploration without adventure?
So many men I have been blessed with. They will grow up and leave me (well, except for the tallest one, I hope) and forge lives of their own. But I want them to say of their mother that she instilled a great faith in them, that she taught them to experience life and not to sit on the sidelines, afraid to live, and that she gave them an opportunity to blaze their own trails.
I am learning, slowly and by the grace of God, that it takes a dedicated person to mother only the wild man. This trip gave me a glimpse into what is required of me. It is allowing them to satisfy their craving for scrambling up the face of a rock just because it is there. It is accepting their passionate plea to climb to the very edge of a canyon just to say they looked down. It is taking their outstretched hand because there is just a small amount of fear and mama would never let them fall. It is knowing that the world needs a few good men, a few brave men, a few wild men and that those good, brave and wild must first be boys of endless curiosity.
I have learned to let them sit on the edge.
It was a good trip.