As you, dear reader, peruse this blog today, I am not only celebrating my 38th birthday but also nursing a terrible sunburn. Apparently, 50 SPF sunscreen requires more than one application on a very pale skinned person who spends hours in the sun.
Wait, let me explain.
A few months ago, I started a new job and while I wanted a spectacular summer vacation, I don’t have much vacation time yet. So, instead of something grand, I settled on a small trip for myself and my boys, part mini summer vacay and part pre birthday celebration.
My birthday falls right after the long Memorial Day weekend, so I figured the extra day off of work was a great excuse to get out-of-town. My initial plan, after much research, was to take my boys to a cabin at Devil’s Den State Park, which is in Northwest Arkansas and about three hours from our home.
However, at the last moment, my 15-year-old, Isaiah, hurt his foot so badly that he could not walk. Although I believe it was a deliberate attempt to get out of a weekend in the woods with no cell phone service, reluctantly, I left him at home. My loving partner bailed on us too; being a native Chicagoan, he isn’t keen about one on one time with nature. Oh well, their loss! My 9-year-old side kick, Caleb, was more than happy to tag along for an adventure.
So, last Saturday, Caleb and I went on our way, off to the woods for some serious R & R. Even though I have lived in Arkansas all of my life and have been surrounded by the beauty of lush green pine trees, a multitude of tranquil lakes and the glorious splendor of the Arkansas River, I was in no way prepared for the beauty that awaited us at Devil’s Den. This was my first adult trip to one of the many state parks operated by the parks department and now I wonder why I waited so long.
Devils Den State Park is located on the edge of the Ozark Mountains, in the Lee Creek Valley with hundreds of acres preserved for camp sites. The park was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and still has many artifacts from that time. Words can not even begin to describe the beauty of this magnificent place. There are eighteen cabins and over one hundred camp sites, all tucked away in the foothills of the mountains.
Let me clear up one thing: I do NOT camp. As a child, I was forced on many miserable camping trips that were the worst experiences of my life. Seriously. Only to be topped two years ago by Caleb’s Cub Scout camping trip that involved breaking camp at 2 a.m., in the rain. But, that is another blog for another day. Also, I will not swim in anything other than a swimming pool. I. Do. Not. Like. Snakes and rivers, lakes, streams and creeks are full of them.
Therefore, for this trip, I scouted a park that had fully stocked cabins with Jacuzzi bathtubs and offered a very large swimming pool with water slides! When we pulled up to the cabin, I am pretty sure that I nearly cried. It was ideal! Caleb was so excited when we opened the front door to a huge 4 room cabin, complete with fireplace, full kitchen, enormous windows overlooking the woods and a flat screen with DirecTV. (We do love our tv at my house).
We spent three days in the crystal blue swimming pool where Caleb fearlessly went down the water slide at least 200 times. I don’t know that I have ever appreciated nature as much as I did this past weekend. On Saturday, the sky was perfectly cloudless and a deep aquamarine color. While I floated on my back in the pool, I was able to watch, through the branches of the towering trees, the eagles soar near the top of the emerald covered mountain. The sheer peace and contentment was something that I haven’t felt in a long time.
Most importantly, Caleb and I spent three unhurried days together. He made friends with other kids, as the park was full with other Memorial weekend vacationers. We ate hot dogs from the grill, we made Smores, we took walks after dark, we journeyed to the Scenic Overlook for sweeping views of the mountain.
We saw deer, gophers and even two snakes! We walked out to the gorgeous waterfall, and I was brave enough to let Caleb climb the rocks leading up to the fall. (Only because I saw that other people were safely doing it and because it isn’t a huge waterfall). I bought him every single stuffed animal that he asked for at the Visitor’s Center: Mouser the mouse, Batty the bat, Snakey the snake and Owley the owl. Caleb keeps it simple.
The realization that Caleb won’t be young forever is a bit hard for me to accept. He is my baby and sadly, someday he will become Isaiah’s age and won’t want to hang out with Mom. I rushed through Isaiah’s early years so I try to cherish every single moment now. As I celebrate being 38 years old, I now have the wisdom of knowing that it isn’t about how much money we spend but how we spend our time together. Or as my Dad says “Life is all about the memories that you create.”
It wasn’t the Caribbean cruise that I have wanted to take, or Disney World or anything remotely extravagant. But, it was the perfect way to wind down, relax, enjoy ourselves and have irreplaceable Mama/Son time.
Notes for next year though: use my newfound birthday wisdom to reapply sunscreen every two hours.
What are your summer vacation plans?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Margie Bryant of Arkansas, USA. She can be found on Twitter @TheHunnyB.
Photo credit to the author.