In February my mother’s side of the family had a family reunion in Sedona. My Uncle Mark and Aunt Lynda have a beautiful home there. I have another uncle & aunt that live in the Phoenix area, and I have a cousin that lives in the Phoenix area with his family.
My mother comes from a family of 9 children. One of her sisters passed away many years ago, my Aunt Karen, and her son is the cousin of mine that lives in Arizona with his wife and children. And, sadly, another of my mother’s sisters passed last year, my Aunt Mimi. Our family was getting together to not only visit, you can imagine how hard it is to get a majority together with 9 siblings and their families scattered throughout the US (and one family in England), but to also scatter some of my aunt’s ashes by Cathedral Rock in Sedona.
When John and I first heard of the plans for our family reunion in Arizona we both decided we wanted to figure out how to make it work for us to attend. John had never been to Sedona and I wanted to share that beauty with him and the girls. I have wonderful memories of Arizona as I grew up going out there quite frequently to visit family, but I hadn’t been to Arizona for ten years and hadn’t been to Sedona in almost 20 years (ouch, typing that out made me feel old). It was also important for me to introduce my girls to some of the family members that they probably won’t see very often. We booked flights and a rental van a few months in advance and awaited our trip.
This was our first big trip together as a family of four. It was also Lyra’s first plane ride. Lucy accompanied me when she was just 8 weeks old on a quick trip to Kentucky so she had already been, though I’m sure she doesn’t remember. My mom arranged her flights to go out with us, though she had to fly back earlier than we did so she didn’t go home with us. It was really nice having an extra adult to help us with the girls in the airport, though I have to say, both girls did really well. On our first flight (we had a layover in Chicago), Lucy would not sit still and though she was relatively happy the whole time, it was a challenge getting her to stay happy in our little row of seats. Thankfully she slept the whole second flight which was the longer one. Lyra was fascinated with the whole plane ride and was a champ, even though she couldn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep on the second flight, she remained in good spirits. We got to Phoenix late at night and took a shuttle to the hotel we had booked for the night and immediately collapsed in the bed.
In the morning, John took the hotel shuttle to the rental car place to grab our minivan and drove it back to our hotel. After everyone got ready for the day and ate, we hopped in our rental van and started making our way north. The drive was beautiful. The beauty of Arizona is so unlike the beauty on the east coast, we loved the drive because it offered the most beautiful vistas as we climbed higher and higher in elevation. Our ears also kept popping every 1,000 feet. We decided to go to Flagstaff first and then back track a little to Sedona. As we got closer to Flagstaff we started seeing SNOW on the ground! We aren’t guaranteed to see snow each year where we live in North Carolina, and even if we do, it’s just for a day or two, so this was so exciting to us and the girls. Our first stop once we got to Flagstaff was Target, of course. We decided to get a couple toys for the girls to play with for the trip as well as a movie. We then ate lunch up there before driving back down to Sedona.
the drive up to Flagstaff
My uncle lives in the Oak Creek part of Sedona (if anyone is familiar with that area) and his home has huge windows along the back of the house that perfectly overlook Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. His home was so lovely and he had everything set up so nicely for our stay. Lyra was in one of the guest rooms with my mom and John, Lucy, and I were set up in another room. My aunt and uncle had a stocked mini fridge and coffee pot in our room as well as basket of snack food items – they really made it feel like such a nice retreat.
The other family members that were coming into Arizona were staying in Phoenix the first day so it was just us with my aunt and uncle that day. After relaxing and playing outside in their yard we cleaned up for dinner. John told me he’d stay at the house with the girls so I could go out to an adult dinner with my mom, aunt, and uncle. It was so nice. We are at a stage right now where going out to eat with the girls is just more of a hassle than anything, mostly with Lucy, so getting to go to a restaurant feels more like a chore than something fun. I was so grateful for that chance to catch up with my uncle and to really enjoy a meal. (Thank you, John!) We went to Javelina Cantina where we had a nice window table. The restaurant really does have a family of javelinas living outside so we were able to watch them at the restaurant, it was really neat.
Fun story from dinner:
I ordered a margarita, because no kids!, and the waitress didn’t want to serve me because I didn’t have my ID and she said I looked young. Even though my mom and uncle were right there with me she said she didn’t feel comfortable serving me. I asked her if I could have my husband take a picture of my ID and text it to me and she said that would work. So I had to call John while there and have him give me a picture of my ID so I could get a drink. I think because Sedona is mostly populated by retirees that it is hard to guess the age of anyone under the age of 40.
Anyway, we had a lovely dinner – I had veggie fajitas that were delicious and I brought most of them back for John to eat – the portions were HUGE. After the day of traveling and big day driving around, we all slept well that night.
In the morning we asked my uncle to take us to the Buddhist Stupa. We had a small wishlist of things we wanted to do in Arizona and this was at the top of the list. There aren’t that many stupas in the USA and there aren’t any in North Carolina or anywhere near us. John and I identify strongly with most Buddhist ideologies so we really wanted to be able to visit this sacred place. (Here’s a good ole wiki page if you’re curious about what a stupa is, it is different than a Buddhist temple or monastery) I wore Lucy in the ergo and Lyra walked. We explained to her that we were going to a sacred place and we needed to be reverent. Lyra did really well, even telling my mom “shh! We need to be quiet so people can pray!” She surprised us with her reverence which is pretty hard for a three year old, but I think even she could feel how sacred that place was. The stupa was magical. That word sounds so trite, but I can’t think of another word. The energy there was palpable and awe-inspiring. We all split up at different points to walk the grounds and meditate, my mom and John were able to circumambulate the stupa. I wanted to as well but Lucy was starting to squirm a lot in the ergo so I took her further up the grounds to let her out on one of the hiking paths to get some energy out. I knew as soon as we got there that we would visit again during our stay so I knew I’d have my chance to walk around the stupa eventually.
After seeing the stupa, my uncle took us on a driving tour of Sedona, pointing out all the famous red rock formations and the vortexes. (What’s a vortex? Try here!) We stopped a few times to get out and explore and take pictures. When we went up to Airport Vortex, the view of all of Sedona was incredible and pictures just don’t do it justice at all. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to hike up to the peak of any of the vortexes because the girls are a bit too little to make those hikes.
Another thing that was on my wishlist other than the stupa and seeing the vortexes was to buy some Navajo turquoise jewelry. My uncle took us to a place where he knew some of the families that sold their own jewelry so we wouldn’t be getting ripped off and we picked out some things. I ended up getting some simple stud earrings and a plain turquoise band. Lyra got a necklace and bracelet as well as a dream catcher for her room. After our busy morning we met up at a restaurant with two of my aunts and their husbands for lunch. It was so wonderful to get to see them and hang out. After our lunch we all went back to my uncle’s house to hang out.
My mom and aunts told John and I that we could go out for a date while they watched the girls at the house. My uncle let us take his jeep out to town for our date which was really fun. Our first stop was to go back to the stupa. I was able to do my circumambulation and then we both hiked a long time around the grounds, John wanted to make his own rock stack (there were many throughout the grounds, pictured above if you don’t know what I mean), and we just sat and enjoyed the energy of the stupa. We then went to a new age shop that had a lot of crystals amongst other things. We browsed forever in that store because it had so many wonderful things. We really wanted to get a beautiful singing bowl that John found but we didn’t have a lot of room to take back things in our suitcases so ended up just getting a small magnet and I got an amethyst bracelet. We drove around looking at all the town had and stopped in a small natural grocery to get a few things for the house to make smoothies. Then we found a wonderful, small little restaurant called Taste of Marrakech that used organic, local ingredients and had an amazing meal with some homemade kombucha. It was a great day date. When we got back to my uncles house we put the girls to bed and hung out with our family. That evening we were able to go outside and enjoy the dark sky – it’s so trippy to be able to see the Milky Way galaxy. We just laid outside looking up at the stars forever.
Some more photos from the Stupa later in the day when it was just John and me.
The next day was the official family reunion day. Five of the nine kids in my mom’s family were there and 2 more were represented by their children (my cousins) and then we had my Aunt Mimi’s ashes. It was a lot of fun catching up with everyone and watching my girls interact with everybody. Lyra took an immediate liking to her second cousin (my cousin’s son) Ben. She was enamored with him and he was so sweet to play with her and read to her. And later Ben’s older sister, Liz, played with Lyra and she was in seventh heaven. She adores older kids. We ate a lot of yummy food and played games outside.
The last full day of our trip, the next morning, everyone woke up early and we met up at a restaurant to eat breakfast before heading out to Cathedral Rock to spread my Aunt Mimi’s ashes. Unfortunately it was raining that morning so our short hike to the creek was a little treacherous, but there was still a very sweet and calming spirit in the air. A few of the siblings said some words and my uncle spread the ashes in the water. It was such a beautiful spot. I didn’t get any pictures because it was raining and it was also a solemn affair, but I wish I had. Next time we get out there I’m planning on visiting this spot again.
Later in the day after going back to my uncle’s house, John had to do some work so he suggested I go out with my mom and aunt while he stayed at the house to do some grading and watch the girls. So I went with my mom and Aunt Beckie to a lovely outdoor shopping center and we browsed all of the shops and had a great late lunch before heading back to the house. In the evening we got back together with everyone still in town at a restaurant my aunt picked out specifically for our little family, it was called Piccazo’s Healthy Italian Kitchen. This restaurant had so many plant-based options so we had fun creating our own pizza that we could eat. It was really easy to eat plant-based in Sedona and Piccazo’s was a great restaurant to end with, stuffing ourselves with yummy pizza (my favorite!).
Early the next morning we said our goodbyes and got in our van to travel back down to Phoenix to drop my mom off at the airport. She had an early afternoon flight, while we were taking a red eye later that night. Once we dropped mom off, we found a restaurant in Tempe to have some lunch and it was walking distance to Tempe Town Lake so we walked over to the Tempe Beach park and let the girls run around. We contemplated renting a boat but in the end we didn’t want to fork over the money for the rental since we weren’t going to be on the lake for that long. There were a lot of people out enjoying the nice weather and it was nice to stretch our legs before heading to the airport. Once we finished with the park we walked back to our van and drove around looking at Arizona State University and the surrounding area. Then we headed back to return the van and head over to the airport. Once we got to the airport we had to wait an hour before we could check in so we walked around the area we could and then checked-in. Once we checked-in we found our gate and took turns walking to find some food we could eat for dinner then we settled in at our gate, putting a movie on for the girls to watch.
Our flight didn’t leave until 11PM so we had a lot of time to kill. Once it was around bedtime I took Lucy to the nursing room to nurse her down to sleep. The room was in a super quiet part of the airport and no one was around. So once Lu had nursed down I texted John to tell him to bring our stuff and Lyra so we could all chill in this room. We closed the door and set up a movie for Lyra and we were able to just relax for the next few hours before boarding. (FYI – we were prepared to vacate should another family need the room but no one came in) Lyra ended up falling asleep on one of the little tables, which amused us. When it came time to board, we just lugged on our luggage and sleeping babes to the very back of the plane where they thankfully stayed asleep and slept the whole flight and we were able to snooze too. We did have a layover and at this time Lyra was awake, but Lucy was in and out of sleep on me in the ergo. Our second flight was super short and Lyra was awake but enamored with the movie options so she chose to watch something with her headphones and Lu fell asleep again. We got back to RDU in the morning, found our car, and headed home. It was such a peaceful trip back and it made me want to only travel on red eyes, especially if the girls are with us.
All in all, it was such an amazing trip. John and I kept talking about how good it felt for our souls. The energy in Sedona is truly something else. It feels different and it felt like we could all just breathe easier and really relax even though we had a one year old and a three year old with us. If you’re into healing vortexes and crystals and stupas and hiking and all that good stuff, it’s a definite recommend. It’s a recommend even if you’re not because the beauty you’re surrounded by is just unreal. We can’t wait to go back!