2 Types of Weather in Arizona...

REALLY HOT, and a little less hot. Seriously. At least in Phoenix, where we took a VACATION! Like a real-get on a plane-packed bags-rent a car-explore a lot-eat and drink too much-legit VACATION. Can you tell I'm excited about it?? I was so looking forward to this trip for months, since we booked flights, and it was the best week! Lets start from the beginning...

Ruby has two AMAZING sets of grandparents. Her first real vacation (and flight!) was in January of 2017, to the Florida Keys, with her Nanee and Hop, and it was great, except she was 10 months old, still breastfeeding, and not walking. So not the easiest of trips, but Nanee and Hop have that honored spot in her baby book of her FIRST trip. We'll go again this January 2018, and I'm really excited for that trip too... I've already decided to take photos with the same people in the same places/positions, so we can see the difference a year makes. But... I'm getting ahead of myself (as usual), and Ruby took her second real vacation to visit her other grandmother (her grandfather had to stay in MD for work...) in Arizona!

I've posted before about Mimi and Robby and Aunties, but this post will contain LOTS of Mimi stories, memories and photos... because that is what happens when you have awesome grandparents!!

For various reasons, I never had a close relationship with my grandparents, on either side. It really stinks, and I'm fortunate enough to know my Grandpa and his wife, Pat, now as an adult, but we never went on vacations with them, or anything like that. Ruby is lucky enough to do that with both sets of grandparents, and it makes my heart sing for those relationships she is building, that I never had as a child.

Anyway... we headed to Phoenix on Thursday 10/26/17, and our Nanee gave us a ride to BWI, so we could save a bit of money and not have to park at the airport. We had almost a 5 hour flight, leaving Baltimore at 1:10pm and arriving in Phoenix around 3:30pm... and Ruby had not napped. We flew Southwest, and Ruby went free as a lap child (since she can only do that until March...then we have to pay for her. Age 1-2 is a combination of best age ever, and worst age ever. Know what I mean?). We barely made our flight, due to long luggage checking lines, and the attendant didn't know how to print Ruby's boarding pass, but we made it! Here is how we flew:

Checked the carseat, and a HUGE bag of all of our stuff.

Carried on: a backpack for each of us adults.

Brock's backpack had the electronics including Ruby's iPad (yes... my 20 month old has an iPad nicer than mine) and her headphones, and some snacks. My backpack had the following:

Snacks for Ruby (baby food pouches, fruit snacks, lara bars)

Snacks for adults (RX bars, cliff bars)

Change of clothes for Ruby

Diapers

Wipes

Markers, stamps, and pad to color

Matchbox cars

Toy train

Stuffed Elmo doll

5 mini-books

1 present from her best friend Haley (a book!)

Water paint book (you fill the paint brush with water, and paint the pages of the pad. They dry, then you can paint again!)

Treasure troll "baby doll"

I did a LOT of research on flying with a toddler, and tried a bit of everything. She was pretty good for the first hour, playing with Elmo, doll, and the train, and by 2:30 EST, I knew she needed a nap, so I stood up with her, and sort of rocked/bounced her until she settled, and then she slept for a good 60 minutes, and then dozed off an on for another 30 or so. Thank goodness! Then she mostly played with her iPad with her Papa using different apps. More on that in a future blog post, hopefully!

We got to Phoenix, rented our car, and made our way to Mimi's house! It was the best... Ruby was so excited to see Mimi and explore! She was SO tired though, and was in bed, asleep by 6:30 AZ time (I'm never sure which time zone they are in...). We were worried about an early wake up, and we were right: she was up the next morning at 3:22am (6:22am EST). That was a long day, but then she was OK the rest of the trip with the time change!

We had the BEST week!! Auntie Belle flew in from Madison, WI for a long weekend (Auntie Gabby had too many classes... and we sure did miss her!) and Ruby had a blast playing with one of her best Aunties ever!

We went to the aquarium, which had a lot of neat stuff for younger kiddos including an interactive exhibit of the Colorado River.

We went to Out of Africa, fed the giraffe, and saw lots of really awesome animals.

We went to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale... which is a MUST do if you have little ones and vacation in the area (or live there!) There are several playgrounds, and a large, intricate model train yard, which are free to play and see. There is a small train, $2/per rider, under 3 is free (that was Ruby's favorite) and a carousel (also $2/rider), and it was teeming with young kids and parents.

Ruby, Mimi, and Angie went shopping at the mall, rode the train and carousel there, and had dinner out (with Frosties for dessert!).

Mimi's house has a pool, and while it was HOT in the day, it got down in the 60's at night, so the pool was quite chilly. Didn't stop Ruby: she swam almost every day! (Usually in a swimsuit/diaper... but this day she just got out of control, and Mimi though it would be easier to strip her down...and the photo is too cute!)

And we spent Halloween in AZ, so we carved a pumpkin...

...and went trick-or-treating...dressed as Elmo!

Mimi wanted Ruby to have choices... so she bought Ruby 3 halloween costumes, and Ruby chose the Elmo. I personally liked the elephant the best, but hey: I wasn't the one dressing up!

We took a little family drive down to Saguaro National Park, about 1 hr 45 min south. It was BEAUTIFUL... a must see if you have time. AZ has three national parks, and I suspect Auntie Belle will be shocked to read this, but Saguaro was my favorite. All of the giant saguaro sacti towering in the mountainous desert, and the many different types of other desert plants were just so different and unique from other national parks I've ever been to, it was really amazing. I would love to go back one day and hike a bit.

Unfortunately, we took a toddler to a park where there are sharp plants, African Killer Bees, rattlesnakes, and scorpions, so needless to say, we didn't venture far from the visitor center.

Mimi offered to keep Ruby for a night while Brock and I ventured north to explore the other two national parks in AZ. We have visited 28 of the 59 parks so far, so we are almost halfway! On Sunday 10/28, we got up at 2am and drove due north the 3 hours and 45 minutes to be at Grand Canyon National Park for sunrise. It was incredible. As we drove into the park, and it was finally light enough to see our surroundings, we were both sort of surprised at the landscape: pine trees and an aspen here or there dotted the landscape, and we both expected it to be all desert. It was beautiful, and the smell of pine made us miss Washington. Sunrise at the Grand Canyon was full of color, and the richness of the scenery can only be experienced in person. No words of photos would make a reader understand how majestical it was.

Next we went and had breakfast, and then headed out for a bit of a hike. Bright Angel Trail was easily accessible, so we started the trek down into the canyon, probably around 9:15am. Entirely shaded at that point in the day, we went the full 3 miles down to the second bathroom/water stop, and seeing as we were unprepared with food, decided to turn around and hike UP for 3 more miles. Their signs said "down is optional, up is mandatory" ... it was a good hike, and being inside the canyon is a totally different feeling than being on top looking down.

Looking down, I felt large, like the whole world was below me, and I could see it all. Being down in the canyon made me feel tiny, and invisible, and the views were different too... I was IN the view, instead of looking at it, if that makes sense. If you're able to, I definitely recommend a bit of a hike into the canyon, but the full 6 miles we did was certainly physically demanding!

We drove an hour or so to Flagstaff, and spent the night there, in a hotel, not a camper or tent...like I said, a REAL VACATION! Dinner at this cool brewery, and walking around downtown was fun, but we were in bed and asleep at 7pm. Thats what happens when you get up at 2am!

Next we headed east, to Petrified Forest National Park. We made a quick pit stop, because WHY NOT?! And now the song will be stuck in my head again, for the next week....

We also drove 5 miles off the highway to see the Meteor Hole, apparently the biggest known in the world (I think...) but when we got there and found out it was $18, we turned around without seeing it. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS to see a hole in the ground? No way.

Petrified Forest National Park was fascinating. Worth an hour or two of your time, but not much more, I'd say, because it is sort of all the same. It takes maybe 45 minutes to drive the park, and another hour to walk one of the paved trails to see the petrified wood. It would be beautiful at sunrise or sunset though!

Then we headed back to Phoenix, and our Mimi and Ruby D. She had a blast with her Mimi, but she sure was glad to see Mama and Papa! We ended up eating TWICE at this local joint: Los Dos Molinos. WOW. Amazing food, and those were quite the margaritas...

What a perfect week! Lots of time to relax, enjoy our kid and our Mimi (and Auntie Belle!), and eat well. We got to do lots of exploring, which was perfect so Brock didn't get bored. Arizona is a beautiful state, and I can't wait to go back again! Maybe next time we can go in March, when we are sick of the cold weather in VA, because like I said... it was HOT there! Probably 85-90 each day... felt weird to trick or treat with shorts on! We also got to cross of another capital from our list!

Ruby did great on the plane ride home too, a little shorter (about 4 hours)... iPad playing, coloring, playing with her trains, and a good 60 minute nap. It helped that it wasn't a full flight, so we had a seat for Ruby too, more wiggle room.

She sure did love looking at all the activity at the airport prior to boarding, and Mama didn't mind the snuggles on the way home either.

Thank you Mimi for EVERYTHING on this trip! We had a blast, and can't wait to do it again.


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