Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Road Trip

When our big summer plans for a road trip to Marfa Tx ended up falling through for multiple reasons we were left scrambling to figure out how we might "make up" for it. Naturally, being the kind of people we are, we ended up waiting until the very last week of summer break to decide where we might want to go. In fact the night before our trip we were still on the fence about whether we were heading up the coast or to the desert. Though the more I thought about it the more I realized I was really craving something a little different. After all, we had seen our fair share of beaches all summer long. I also imagined Arlo would like to see the Grand Canyon for the first time since I was about his age when I visited it first and knew it would be something special he would remember about the summer of 2014.

We packed the car the night before and headed out around 4 in the morning. Our first stop, Williams,  Az. Along Route 66, a half hour drive to the Grand Canyon. Our saving grace: the Hotel Tonight App that helped alert us to what hotels still had vacancies in the area for the night.

The car ride up, though, was rather disastrous. Rex, never one to adjust peacefully to long car rides, managed to fire up every single one of our last nerves till finally we all saw our breaking points. 6 hours of non stop whining & fighting. Elbow to elbow in a cramped backseat made for some pretty trying patience on all of our ends. I know I went through various phases of screaming, begging, threatening - all kinds of desperate tactics that ultimately proved ineffective in the end.

On the bright side, we did find a few kicks on Route 66. For me it came in the form of an adorable old turquoise shop where I took home a beautiful antique necklace. For them, a zip line ride across the strip and a western gun show played out in the streets which they found downright hilarious. We ate Mexican food and passed out in a dingy hotel just before 9:00. Once we finally made it to the Grand Canyon the following morning, I felt, at first, a sense of relief. We had made it to our indented destination. A sensation that lasted about 5 minutes. Maybe. 

See, the last time we visited this state park, it was snowing heavily. Mike and I had just started dating and we took a romantic train ride to the canyon, where, because of the heavy snowfall, the entire hole was covered in a heavy white mist and I could honestly not see much of anything. I wasn't scared then and only remember being mesmerized by it's beauty. This time, the breadth of the canyon, clear as day, made me sick to my stomach upon first glance. I broke out into a cold sweat, followed by a sudden whirl that whipped around inside my body and up through my head making me think I was surely going to faint. That, coupled with the overwhelming sense of anxiety while tending to three (well, ok, two) naturally curious little boys, itching to examine every inch of that damn rim, proved too much for me to take. I was a mess. In tears, ragged and manic. Begging them to pull back, get away, "sit with me!!

"But you're the one who planned this" Mike would remind me a couple times, to no avail. He was right. I knew this, but in the midst of this kind of boiling panic attack, reason slips right out the door and I didn't care why we were there or who's idea it was, I just wanted out.

Finally, I was calm enough to agree to sit in the shade with Leon, Jack and the baby for a bit while Mike took Arlo and Rex down one of the trails. We waited, noticeably tense, with our ice cream cones watching all kinds of wobbly toddlers running reckless along the edge. Tourists heaving their children up onto the edge for an array of photos. People smiling, genuinely interested in studying every inch of that God Awful death drop. The simple sight of which seemed to pain just as much as chasing after my own children. So I sat there in silent horror. Cursing myself for ever concocting such a stupid plan.

When they returned they seemed ready and willing to leave. Apparently the trail they walked was so narrow at one point that the group ahead of them turned back in fear. Mike said both boys had taken note, made the turn, saw the cave, and were suddenly more than ready to get back. A few of the photos of them on this trail, a million foot drop 2 feet away from them on one side is a vision I can surely live without ever reminiscing. Even nearly two weeks later, I skip right past those photos on my camera every time.

Our second stop redeemed the entire tone of our vacation. For me anyway. We made it to Sedona and it was far prettier than I ever imagined. We spent two days there amidst that beautiful red rock landscape and fell in love with the quirky downtown strip full of so many great restaurants, new age centers, and shopping options. We rested, stocked up on small souvenirs (mood rings and rubber band guns) went out for a fancy dinner and hunted down a local skatepark just before sunset. The following day we made the most of hotel swimming, long naps, a jeep tour along the rocks for Arlo and Mike, and later, dinner at a perfectly kitschy alien themed burger joint where we sat in a big black booth under red lights and devoured plates full of Neptune fries and blue planet burgers while eyeing the walls lined from floor to ceiling, with photos of supposed "sightings." All in all it was a city I would gladly return to at the drop of a hat. I love Sedona. And would really like to see it again in the Fall.

Lastly, on route to home, we decided (on a whim, of course) to book one last night in Palm Springs. We found a cute, stylish Hotel thanks again to our trusty hotel app, and spent the last part of our vacation in a hot tub, where Jack was free to roam around the hotel grounds and where Rex learned to swim! Arlo and Mike spent a couple hours at a water park nearby while the boys and I had lunch and lounged around the pool.

Breakfast at The Ace was our last stop. We talked about kindergarten, and what the school year might have in store for them. We took Photo Booth pictures in the lobby before heading home and everyone fell asleep instantly. The last two hours would prove the only silence our car would know the entire trip.

Looking back, I am always thankful for these kinds of vacations. Regardless of the effort it takes to get us there, and in spite of plenty of moments where Mike and I both feel completely overwhelmed, frustrated and beside ourselves, it's always worth it in the end because for me it's always about the experience. The good, the bad, the everything. Even when that includes far more tears and trials than seems fair.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Month Three

And somehow sweeter with each passing day.

Constant smiles. And happy eyes. Growing wider whenever one of your brothers come near. You listen, enchanted as they sing to you their school house songs, hold you propped on pillows piled upon my bed, kiss the top of your head and squeeze you tight in frequent bouts throughout the day. Their well intended strongholds that come in spite of my incessant pleads and warnings to be gentle. They love you fiercely. Tenderly. Like a house full of older brothers should. Staking claim as your valiant protectors, though none of them were there to intervene when you rolled off the couch that chaotic monday morning, and landed flat onto those hard wood floors.

Sometimes the intensity of certain brothers though can be too much. In the midst of a tantrum, where my voice might rise to meet the moment, your bottom lip curls into the most heartbreaking pout I've ever known. As sad as it makes me, it's one thing I hope I never forget. My fourth born baby, so incredibly affected by the ways of this house. Happy when we are happy. Sad when we are not.

Teaching us things daily. How to slow down, to read books in bed, and nap in the afternoon. To find joy again in the simplest things, and love in the quietest of ways.

A blessing. From the moment you wake till the hour in your cradle. And all the many unmarked moments in between.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


We are home now. From a somewhat spontaneous six day road trip that took us up to Arizona and back down to Palm Springs for one last hurah before the boys begin school tomorrow. We left last Monday morning, having only decided our choice of destination the night before. With not a single hotel booked in advance along the way. I can't say that it's a method I would choose again, but it was an experience. As much as it was exhausting, we all had a great time.

I have so much to share here. All of my posts and photos piling up seeing that I haven't had much spare time to invest in putting them together in any kind of decent order. But with the boys back in school  my schedule opens up and I will once again have a few hours to myself where I am looking forward to sharing all that I've had sitting on the shelf for the past few weeks. For now though, I'm off to stock up on remaining school supplies, catch up on laundry, clean the house, get to the grocery store and see to it that these kids get the rest they need before their first day. Leon starts kindergarten. And as lots of you know, there's a whole other post in itself.

With love,

Monday, July 28, 2014

Around Here

We are reveling in the last weeks of the summer season. Filling our days with skate parks and beach bonfires, picnics, parks, pools and the company of so many friends we tend to miss out on the rest of the year, once routine kicks in and our schedules start to cling to calendars and deadlines.

The blog here has been fairly quiet. Partly because, like I mentioned before, The Ma Books is young and in need of more attention to see to it that it grows respectively into the initial vision I had of it from the start, which takes time. Time and effort. Both of which I have very little to lend to anything outside of the basic needs of the house and these kids, but, I do miss it here. I worry about not documenting certain things. Not enough anyway. But I also know that constant "documenting" can start to feel overwhelming too.

Mostly though I'm enjoying the slower days, early mornings when they all rush down the stairs for breakfast with dad and it's just me and the baby, in my arms, for a solid hour or two. He wakes happily and falls asleep the same way. He doesn't fuss, ever, and is incredibly strong in that little body of his, determined to hold his head high, reach for the rattle, show us his voice. All the while proving a  patient, sweet soul with those big, heavy eyebrows expressing a rare sense of doubt here and there when something new peaks his interest. He reminds me a lot of the kind of baby Arlo was. Easy, bright, with a joyful demeanor, only possibly a little wiser. Not so much out to impress. If that can even be said of a baby not yet three months old. The way certain babies seem as if they were here before. An old soul as they say. As much as that poor title's been worn out. . .

The older boys, as usual, are wearing themselves into delirium, daily. Pushing themselves, their energy, their bodies, skills, and brains to the limit with each new waking day. Taking full advantage of the absence of naps and expectations, letting time simply float around them, the way a child's summer should probably be. Hours seeking spontaneous endeavors. Be it hounding the neighbor for another ice cream cone, or piling the planks of wood tossed in the trash, to aid in the construction of a new (usually disspointing) skateboarding trick. Each of them touting slight sunburns, sweaty faced and filthy footed. Dreading the days they know to be inching towards an impeding school date. All the regular ways of the clock back in full swing. Rules, routine and readiness and those God awful early bedtimes.

For now though, we delight in the moment.
Day by day, endlessly thankful for all that is good, slow, and right in our life.

Stuck ON


For those of you who haven't seen this yet. Watch.
This little girl is incredible. I was not familiar with the singer, Sia prior to this video, and didn't give the song much thought hearing it on the radio, but the visual here, it's got me hooked.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Notes on Camping

Recently I had quite a few people requesting that I offer up some kind of post about camping with young children. Typically, I tend to shy away from that kind of thing on here only because I always feel silly taking the voice of authority on just about anything. It's just not my thing. However I figured it wouldn't hurt to share some of the tips and mindset we keep to ensure that camping as a large family is always more fun than stress.

Here, a handful of tips we lean on.

Excepting Disorganization : The first few camp trips of the season we are typically stressed out because of everything we either forgot or didn't prepare for. Naturally, as the camp weekends become more regular, we get better at what we include in our packing. But still, with this many people it's hard to have everything covered. I try to keep sane by running over the bare essentials, making a pile for each of the boys including things like their shoes, shorts, a few tee shirts, a sweatshirt, a pillow, blankets, and then all the regular stuff I know we all need like flashlights, radio, cooking tools, sunscreen, showering / first aid kit, ect. Once I have that all that packed I try and add things as I go but figure as long as we have the basics covered, anything that's left out is not going to make or break our trip. Also, Embracing the fact that we will never be 100 percent "prepared" makes it that much easier on me for sure. Some people can manage the art of preparedness, and I applaud those that can. But it's not us. Will most likely never be us. And I have come to accept that that's OK too.

Camp Close : Right now we tend to stick to what is familiar. Campsites that are not too far from home and where we know exactly what to expect as far as set up and amenities go. When the boys are all a littler older I assume we will be more up for adventure, hopefully branching out and camping in new and further locations, but for now they are satisfied by the simple facts of being away from home, in the dirt, "roughing" it for a weekend.

Make it A Two Day Affair : Because the baby is new, and the boys still need constant attention while camping, right now two nights feels perfect. When we camp close we will sometimes even just drive down for the night and head home late the following day. Occasionally Mike and Arlo will spend one additional night alone after we've gone back. To hit up the local skate parks or snag some more surf time but for me, I am usually ready for a hot shower and our regular routine after two nights.

Accept That it is Not Going to be "Easy:" A number of people were quite shocked that we were out camping as family when Hayes was just over two weeks old. "Isn't it HARD to camp with a newborn?! It is. In fact, it's very hard. To camp with a newborn, while looking after an ever curious four year old who likes to wander off every chance he gets, in addition to a notoriously neurotic five year old who can find fault with anything from sand in his shoe to the wrong kind of cereal, on top of an eight year old with a non stop need for new adventures making my head spin for a better part of the day. But like I always say, you don't have four children and expect anything in your day to day life to be "easy." Camping as a family of six isn't easy. But that doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment in it because I know it's one of the rare things we can still do as a family that doesn't cost a fortune and keeps them entertained better than anything else we've tried. And, it's nice to be outdoors away from television, ipads, and routine.

No Frills Food: Eventually, I hope to become a better onsite cook and get a little more creative with our meals. But for now we tend to stock up on simple snacks like nuts, cheese, sandwiches, fresh fruit, cereal for breakfast and bbq'd hot dogs wrapped in tortillas and grilled corn on the cob for dinner.

Forget the Toys & Gadgets : I use to be a wreck trying to include all their favorite outdoor toys, coloring books, tools, water guns, and gadgets until I finally realized - just recently - that they actually don't need any of them. That when they don't have those things, they make better use of their surroundings. The dig in the sand, or the dirt and find sticks and rocks in the brush. They sit around a camp fire, climb tress, and run wild with friends on the beach or around neighboring sites. Letting go of the idea of packing all the right toys has been a big deal for me. It means one less thing I have to consider and one less thing they come to expect. Seems these days many of us can get caught up in all the ideas behind what we believe to be our kid's "must have" when really, food shelter and warm clothes is where it all ends on these kinds of weekends. Mind are happy with so much less while camping. And that in itself is a welcoming relief.

RV Campers > Tents : Make a world of difference. Mike and I have never been tent campers. Since our early years as a couple, prior to all these kids, we had an RV we drove everywhere - even to Mexico one summer, and back. Having it now, with a family this size, is a major luxury. It allows us ample space to make food, take naps, recover from the sun and so on. The one we currently use Mike bought for 500 dollars a few years ago, gutting and restoring the bulk of it in a half assed, super cheap restoration that saw bamboo coverings and discarded hardwood floors where we knew it would make for a cozy, but practical place to hang out. One that we are never too concerned about anything getting ruined or broken and therefore an especially easy place to relax. Very recently we also added this new vintage stand alone tent that connects to our VW bus to camp in when we don't want to lug that big RV to certain sites. The tent itself reminds me of an old termite tarp, but we love it because it's tall enough for us to walk around in it and the boys seem to enjoy the variety - sleeping on old military cots we picked up for 10 and 15 dollars at a local flea last month. Both set ups make for a great space to easily enforce naps when they (or I) really need them. The fact of which, above all else, has been our real saving grace for years.

Anyway, there you have it. I ask that you please forgive any current grammatical errors in these new posts. I might find the time to draft a post these days, but can't usually not an hour more to properly edit.

Also, I am sure I left a few things out. Feel free to include anything you might want to share in regards to you and your family's own camp habits.