Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mommy's Big Adventure

Another "first" has occurred in my life as a mother. I have spent just about an entire week away from Munchkin. It's the longest I've ever been away from him and the longest he's spent with DD on his own.

The reason for my absence is that I'm in Salt Lake City. My close friend here had surgery to help fix a shatter elbow (snowboarding didn't work out too well for her), and I flew down to help her care for her 3- and 2-year-old daughters.

Not only is it the first time I've been away from Munchkin for so long, but it's been a trip of a lot of firsts for me. It's the first time I've flown by myself (and the first time I've been on a plane since 9/11). It's the first time I've been to Salt Lake. It's the first time I've seen the Great Salt Lake. It's the first time I've eaten real street tacos and the first time I've participated in a Pioneer Day celebration.

I was a little unsure about traveling to Salt Lake City since I've never been here and I've never really had any desire to go. Since I'm not Mormon, I felt the City had nothing to offer me as a tourist. Of course I was wrong about that. There are many different cultures here and all have something to offer.

I was also leery about being in a desert area in the middle of summer. We tried it last year when we traveled to Twin Falls, Idaho, in 105+ degree weather. Not our best vacation by far. However, Utah has exceed my expectations in weather and climate.

This trip overall has been a learning experience in a lot of ways. I really miss DD and Munchkin, but it feels good to know I can still be adventurous on my own. To the horror of my friend, I rode the city bus from the airport to her house. It was the most convenient option for the commute, in my mind, plus it was good to know I could be self sufficient in travel. I have also learned the navigation of the area and explored a bit by car on my own.

I also have learned more about myself while caring for someone elses children. First off, it's not nearly as mentally exhausting as caring for your own child. In that sense, it's been a good break from being home. Also, it takes a lot more patience to raise someone elses children by their methods or standards. Most of all though, I've learned Munchkin is a lightweight and my muscles are sore from packing around girls that outweigh him by five pounds!

I feel like I do my best to be open minded, but it's hard when you have lived in the same area all your life and the majority of your vacations are to similar places (Seattle and Portland). Traveling to Salt Lake City has really taken me beyond my comfort zone, but in a good way. I was shocked and stunned to find that SLC has a dim sum restaurant (Hong Kong Tea House). I took my friend to eat dim sum on Sunday and she really thought it was a neat experience. On the other hand, it didn't surprise me that a lot of stores and businesses are closed on Sundays, for religious reasons.

Each day has been a new adventure. My friend gave me a quick tour of Hill Air Force base and we had dinner there with her husband. He gave me a tour of the fire station he works at (another first). We toured downtown Salt Lake, visiting the Gateway mall, driving by the Temple and the state capitol building. I got to see the Naval base where she worked and the hospitals where her daughters were born. I was treated by my friend's neighbors to a meal at the Chuck A-Rama, a unique Utah experience in itself. I took the girls to see part of the Ogden Pioneer Day parade and got to see the Wiener Mobile (again, a first). We ate at Arctic Circle and had fry sauce, in the city where it all started. And today, I ate street tacos in downtown Ogden. Exciting not only because of my love of tacos, but because they were only two for $1.

I did do a little bit of research to learn more about the Mormon faith. I also learned they have a heritage park called "This Is the Place," named so because those are the supposed words Brigham Young used to declare this area as the place to settle. I was having trouble seeing why this would be the place, but I took a drive after a recent thunderstorm and caught a glimpse of why. The brief rain left the surrounding sage brush covered mountains a bright green. I stood at the edge of the Great Salt Lake and looked at the mountains on one side and the sunset on the other. I drove through a mix of farming and residential areas that reminded me of my grandparent's home in central Washington. For a split second I felt like I could belong here.

Tomorrow I head home. I'm not looking forward to the flight, because I seem to have developed some motion sickness tendencies as I've gotten older. I can't wait to see Munchkin and DD. My phone conversations with Munchkin make him sound so small and fragile. I miss them and can't wait to get home, but I've had a good time playing the accidental tourist.

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