Happily, I can report that yes, we did! We did not pull each other's hair out; we had no difficulty finding fun things to do; the TV was not turned on once (except when AJ was playing with the buttons) and it was awesome to spend so much time with AJ and to witness the pace at which she is maturing and developing.
We chose to stay for a week at a small resort community in the mountains of the East Kootenays.
|I enjoyed this view during a solo bike excursion|
We had a relaxed 5 hour drive, following the speed limit and stopping for lunch, to reach our destination. AJ handled the drive quite well, fussing only when she had to go to sleep in her car seat. We stayed in a time share condo that had a full kitchen and laundry, which allowed us to settle in and make ourselves at home.
We rode our bikes out for the first time in three years. AJ got to ride in her new chariot, a gift from my dad. He always said that he wanted to buy her sports equipment, so we are going to honour that wish.
|Mr. Turtle actually pulled the chariot: I'm posing|
|Mush daddy, mush!|
We did a short hike to the top of the "hoodoos", i.e. clay cliff formations which ended in a beautiful view. Afterwards Mr. Turtle and I admitted to each other and we were preoccupied throughout the hike by thoughts of cougar attacks, bear attacks, AJ toddling off a precipice, etc. Ah, parenthood. I found that I had a lot of these intrusive thoughts for the first few days. I think being in an unfamiliar place put my mothering instincts on high alert. I also slept much lighter and more restlessly throughout the trip, although not for any reason I could identify. But as the days went on I did relax more, and preoccupation with danger slowly faded too. Beautiful views and picnics helped.
|I'm not imagining us plummeting to our deaths over the edge, really I'm not.|
Back in the frontier days, the East Kootenays were opened up by railway (further west, my maternal grandfather worked for the CPR and was granted his land as a result). Trains still run, but fewer than there used to be. Now many of the old railway tracks are being converted to recreational trails, which is awesome. We rode the North Star Rails to Trails. It is paved and perfect for the chariot, although we were turned back by snow after about 8km. But it was just as well as we had to go uphill to return.
During picnic break at a scenic spot, AJ practiced walking. The big news is that in the past week she has decided she likes walking and wants to do it. She still hangs onto our hands or furniture, but she has discovered her sense of adventure.
AJ thoroughly enjoyed our trip, and loved having new places to explore. A favourite part of the condo was the gas fireplace. She called it "cookies" for a while - I guess the fake charred logs looked like baked goods? We detached the seat part of our highchair to use as a booster, and she loved having her own armchair.
Perhaps because she was in a new place, AJ was extra attached to her "kitteez" this week, especially one of them, which she often insisted on bringing with her. Here the Kitteez are going for a ride in daddy's shoes.
AJ was very receptive to learning new things this week, and we had some fun with this. For example when she was happy to see her kitty, she would stuff its nose in her mouth. If she wanted to crawl somewhere, she had gotten into the habit of carrying it in her mouth like a dog. While rather cute we agreed this was more than a bit gross, especially since Kitty gets dragged through pretty much everything. So we told her to give kitty kisses instead of big bites. And it worked! Now she gives kitty little baby kisses (and us too when we are lucky). I also showed her how to "feed kitties milk" by dipping their heads in a cup and making slurping noises. Then how to pour milk by pouring from an (empty) coffee cream container. Immediately she started doing the action herself.
I guess I must spend a lot of time wiping things up, because AJ now wants to help. She takes a Kleenex and wipes her nose and mouth, and wipes her table too. She spent about 10 minutes dusting one of the end tables.
|I must be showing a good example, though from the amount of dust in our house, you might not think so.|
AJ learned "No" this week. She still says it quite gently, but will swat away whatever it is she's refusing if you don't get the message. She uses the softer "nah-nah" for something she knows she shouldn't do (like play with the knobs on the air conditioning unit) but really wants to do anyway. She will approach forbidden object and say "nah-nah" but in the tone of voice you might use when contemplating a tub of chocolate ice cream. On the other hand, sometimes she will mutter "na-na" and move on to the next attraction. So her senses of individuality and self-regulation seem quite in synch for the moment.
On a more poignant note: AJ has also started saying "No" to cuddles sometimes. Sigh. I know later in life I'll be glad that she has this skill.
AJ has more words than I can keep track of. New ones this week were "grups" (grapes) and "piders" (spider). No, we were not overrun with spiders (shudder) but AJ is currently into a series of Moonjinmedia books of updated nursery rhymes, one of which is Little Miss Muffet. Every page features a riff on the nursery rhyme and a friendly spider in a top hat. So we have great fun reading "Along came a....." AJ fills in "Piders!" "Boops" were a significant part of our holiday and read them all at least 5 times a day.
On our final day we cycled in a nearby small city which we both really liked, and would gladly return to. We ended the day by going to a German restaurant on the highway. In a way, this restaurant symbolized the spectrum of emotions I felt on this trip. You see, the East Kootenays is very familiar to me in some ways but new to me in others. It is familiar because I drove through it with my parents umpteen times as a child, teen and young adult on our way to our vacation home further west. All the landmarks bring back memories of those times. But in those days we never stopped and explored: we were always on our way through. So the memories Mr. Turtle, AJ and I made exploring on this holiday are all fresh and belong just to us. It's an interesting combination.
I thought a lot about my dad on this trip. It was inevitable as we were doing many of the activities that he particularly liked. I would imagine myself telling him about the hikes we took, the trails we cycled, and suggesting that he and my mom should try them on their next trip to BC: only to remember that this is impossible now. That made me sad, even as I enjoyed each experience with AJ and Mr. Turtle. But I also found as the days went by that the sad feelings and thoughts were replaced by a sense of gratitude: my dad and mom enjoyed outdoor activities throughout their lives together, and we are enjoying them now. It didn't totally take away the sadness, but the awareness gave me a feeling of peace too.
Back to the restaurant: Since it was on the highway, it was a very familiar landmark, but I had never been inside. I think I was almost afraid to go in finally because what if, after all those years, it was a disappointment? But it was not. It had the kind of cozy yet communal layout which I particularly like in restaurants. We had our own little space, but we could also see everyone else (and be seen). I'm sure there were tourists like ourselves there, but there were also local families gathered together to celebrate. A deep peaceful buzz of conversation surrounded me, people of all generations shared food together, and I felt like I rested beside a river that ran through past, present and future and promised to nourish all our lives together. Mr. Turtle and AJ went off to explore, and I took it all in and realized that one of the best things about our vacation was that I had been able to live in the moment. I like our daily life, work and chores and all. But it's easy to be perpetually busy preparing for the Next Thing and not take the time to absorb the amazing reality of the present. Mr. Turtle and I share a life together; between us, we share another (still) tiny human's life. For all the half-understood forces that surround and influence us, the currents that could catch and sweep us away, still we are, miraculously, and blessedly, here.
The restaurant had only one high chair, so AJ had to sit on a booster on a real chair. It was adorable to see her at the table like a big girl. She also eats with a spoon now, more or less successfully, and she made short work of her cup of lentil soup.
In summary: Family vacation was a great success, and I hope to keep processing and learning from the deep feelings and thoughts that I had a chance to experience.
Happy spring to everyone.