Southwestern Leanings

A year ago I did not know how to spell Albuquerque. I would never have imagined myself living in the Southwest. I held firmly to the fact that Chicago was the best city in the world, and there was no better place to live. (And yes, I would have said that even in the -20 degree wind chill!)

After 9 months of living in New Mexico, I think I am beginning to become “enchanted.” Instead of heading to the beach town of New Buffalo for family time with our beloved Lake Michigan (one year later proves that Ethan’s clown shoes were a fashion predictor), we went west to Arizona this Memorial Day weekend. Our first stop was at the Petrified Forest National Park.

Walking the rim of the Painted Desert

Walking the rim of the Painted Desert

Back up after exploring the badlands on the Blue Mesa Trail

Back up after exploring the badlands on the Blue Mesa Trail

Erosion revealed this desert shrub's root that was longer than Connor

Erosion revealed this desert shrub’s root that was longer than Connor

225 million year old tree petrified into marble-like rock. Triassic forest is right down Ethan's alley.

225 million year old tree petrified into marble-like rock. Triassic forest is right down Ethan’s alley.

Then we spent time at the Grand Canyon.

The boys perfected their camera skills. This is Connor's.

The boys perfected their camera skills. This is Connor’s.

Sign at Lookout Studio on the Canyon. Amen!

Sign at Lookout Studio on the Canyon. Amen!

We ended our trip in Sedona.

Cathedral Rock trail

Cathedral Rock trail

Sunset at the airport mesa overlook, thanks to Ethan's camera work.

Sunset at the airport mesa overlook, thanks to Ethan’s camera work.

For the boys, the beauty may have been lost. They thought the best parts of the trip were 1) the hotel pool, 2) watching a movie, and 3) eating frozen yogurt. We could have done all those anywhere! However, I like to think that mere exposure will one day reap benefits and that the memories will be sweet for them, too. Connor was our adventurer forging ahead on trails and urging us down the canyon. Ethan, our true city boy, thought we did entirely too much hiking, but he did enjoy the science behind it all. There are so many pictures of me pointing while talking in Ethan’s ear or reading the various signs because I could not resist the urge to make him soak in nature and every educational tidbit possible.

Besides these amazing sites, I found myself just staring in awe out the car window during the long drive across our new state. The beauty of nature speaks for itself and though we missed service on Sunday we had “church” all weekend long.

It has come to the point that my heart has expanded for this beautiful region of the country. Mike and I were recently talking about possible job leads in the Chicagoland suburbs and came to the conclusion that rather than jump at the opportunity to go back, we felt the desire to stay. WHAT?!?! (In case you do not know, Nordstom’s half-yearly sale for women and kids is happening right now. And there is not a single Nordstom in the Land of Enchantment. And here I am not shopping but lathering sunscreen on my browned skin.) We still miss the innovative culinary scene. We still miss the skyline, lake and architecture. We miss being driving distance from family. We still miss it all. Nothing can replace what we miss most: the friends I could do the ugly cry with all last summer and the community that never let us alone but became our long-reaching roots in the harsh desert.

Yet had we not been forced into moving to the Southwest, our lives would have been missing something. We would not have had our horizons expanded to appreciate this area, this job that allows for unparalleled family time, this slowing down and savoring of life, these new friendships, and this gradual disappearance of Mike’s pasty white skin. 🙂

While we were having dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Flagstaff, Ethan wanted to order chicken fingers off the kids’ menu. We seemed like mean tyrants to him when we told him to order off the main menu. He whined and protested but eventually relented. It is not that we enjoy his whining protestations or want to deprive him of his desires. Rather, we want him to be able to enjoy Japanese food at a Japanese restaurant and not commit the crime of ordering chicken fingers there. After many tasty mouthfuls, he said he wanted to come back to that particular restaurant just so he could order and eat the mussels, gyoza and tofu fried rice again. Of course we made him try tapas at a Spanish place the next night because life is too short not to expand the palate. We are proud of the adventurous eating of Ethan even though he may still prefer those fried fowl strips. We are being forced off our regular menus, and we are finding that we are delighting in every bite that life has to offer us now. We trust that despite our preferences He leads us in love, and we appreciate the challenge He gives us to be adventurous with life and expand our palates considerably. Who knew that this could become home sweet home? He did.

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