Saturday, September 26, 2009

A week in the wild

"Is that the baby from Angel's Landing?" A couple asked as we wound between hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park. After just a few days camping and hiking in Utah's parks, it seemed that Luke had become a little celebrity. He had indeed traversed the Angels Landing trail in Zion the previous day and now was being recognized in a park several hours away! It must have been his young age for such a daunting hike and of course his unmistakable cuteness (or cries!) that made him memorable. I loved having a celebrity baby, but it did make me wonder if we were overly ambitious in our hike selection. Were we reckless parents?

My guilt was assuaged the next day when we met a couple who were also hiking with their son. We crossed paths on the most strenuous hike of our trip and they seemed happy and responsible. Maximus was almost exactly Luke's age and we let the two babies greet each other and compare hiking carriers. All things considered, hiking is pretty well-suited to babies. Luke enjoys being outside, new sights to study, and eventually falling asleep in a hiking pack. The real question was, is it reckless for Erik's shoulder muscles? Luke wasn't as comfortable in the backpack carrier and so Erik mostly held him in the much less ergonomic front carrier.

Nonetheless, we continued to explore the park the next day, this time with a watery route. The 'Narrows' trail follows the winding Virgin River as the steep faces of Zion Canyon close in from either side. Soon the river fills the entire base of the canyon and you are forced to wade through it. At times the cold water rose as high as our waists, but Erik held Luke high and dry and didn't slip and fall in (like I quickly did). It seemed that the sounds and sights of water pleased the little munchkin and his smiles, giggles, and gleeful kicks made it clear that this was his favorite hike.

We were visited on the narrows trail by ravens and songbirds overhead and two adult mule deer and a fawn. Because of the narrow river passage and soaring canyon walls, the deer swam through the river right next to us. On another trail we encountered a much smaller and rarer local resident - a tarantula! I expected a tarantula to be a frightening sight, but actually the brown hairy fellow looked rather peaceable and intriguing as he slowly crossed the trail in front of us.

To better enjoy the park and economize, we camped in Zion for our week away. From our campsite we could take in gorgeous vistas and plug in the two essential electric devices that traveled with us -- Luke's shushing machine and a coffeemaker! The little buckaroo took pretty well to camping and very much enjoyed visiting with his grandpa and Aunt Colleen who flew out to join us in Utah. Erik and I agree that Zion is the most majestic part of God's creation that we have yet to see, and we would love to go back one day when Luke can more fully enjoy it and travel the trails on his own two feet!

For more pics from our trip click here. There are a few videos on the last page of that gallery.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Luke lightning -- coming soon?

A sorely undervalued consideration in choosing a baby's name is the nickname-ability factor. Like many other expecting parents, we didn't consciously make this a priority. But we happened to select what I must say is a 5-star name in the nickname-ability department. At home, baby Luke goes by a rainbow of variants, each expressing a different mood or facet of personality, his or ours. Some favorites include Luke-a-duke (energetic, punchy), Luke-osaur (fearsome), Luke-aroo (cute), and Luke-opotamus (heavy, immobile). The adjective 'Lukan' is also useful, as in 'Lukan super smile', 'Lukan swamp gas', 'Lukan laugh', and 'is this the Lukan cup?' (the cup of water Luke backwashed in). I also find that Luke inserts very nicely into songs, such as 'La-la-la-la-la Luke-O!'

I'm not sure if this aspect of his name will serve him quite as well in middle school, but the foundation of fun, creativity and self-esteem that it provides now will surely outweigh any future bumps it might bring. Moreover his Uncle Jack, whose name is a 5+ in nickname-ability, was accepted into a terrific college with an essay about the 53 nicknames that have been posted on his facebook page. Nickname-ability is an investment in a child's higher education!

These days we need to be beefing up our selection of locomotion nicknames as it seems the little man is on the cusp of mobility. For more than a week he has been persistently lifting himself up onto his hands and knees. He rocks forward and backward and has even begun to inch his knees forward too. The hands seem to be the sticking point, perhaps his arms are weaker than his legs or they hold more of his weight? We are watching his efforts closely though, eager to catch his first-ever crawling!

Bittersweetly, I'll be away this weekend on a women's retreat with ladies from our church. It will be refreshing, spiritually, socially and physically I'm sure, but I'll miss my Luke-a-love. He better not do any of that first-time crawling while I'm gone -- maybe Daddy should intervene if he gets too close!