Our Denver visit is still fresh, and for the past couple of nights as we're drifting off, L and I reminisce about our favorite parts of the trip. It was good to catch up with the "big kids" - Rex and Ronna - but it was heaven to spend 4 days with 3 of our favorite little people: Lexi, Matthew, and Skylee. Now, Skylee is a bit of a newcomer, being only 9 months, but she was everything that was promised: happy, easy going, and the easiest baby since Rex. And amazing blue eyes that were a show stopper everywhere we went.
When we arrived on Thursday early evening, we pulled up to their house and were greeted by Lexi and Matthew running down the driveway with big hugs and excitement to see Mema and Papa. Sweet memory #1. Both of them jumped up for hugs and kisses - an experience that was especially enjoyed by Papa L. We piled back in the car and went out for ice cream. Their downtown area (in Parker) is charming and restored old-timey, with a lovely park in the middle of it. Victorian houses and buildings abound. We sat outside with our ice cream and caught up with Rex and Ronna while the kids chased wild rabbits around on the grass.
The next day, Friday, we'd planned on going to the Denver Zoo. I sat in the back of the SUV with Lexi and we played "I Spy" all the way into Denver. Matthew played here and there, his little voice piping up "I spy somefing..." While L bought the tickets, the rest of us sat in the shade and the kids had a little lunch. Skylee, ever content, sat in her stroller and just looked around. Matthew was on a kick about cotton candy. He wanted cotton candy, when were we going to get cotton candy, is it time for cotton candy, where's the cotton candy... you get the picture. This one note kept getting struck all through the exhibits until we actually came to the blessed cotton candy vendor. The bag that Ronna bought was part pink and part blue. Lexi, taking charge (as usual) started to tell Matthew that she would have the pink part, and Matthew would have... and it was here that she noticed that the blue part was twice the size of the pink. She quickly amended her sentence to say "Well, we'll just share." This girl doesn't miss a trick. Ever.
About halfway through the zoo, the sky darkened, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and it started to rain. We watched as they herded the elephants to shelter, and then began to make our own way out of the zoo. We dropped them off, and went to our hotel to change for dinner. Next on the agenda: dinner out at The Fort restaurant with Rex and Ronna. I promised Lexi that I would be back tomorrow, and that we would for sure spend some time playing with her.
Saturday was slated for the Butterfly Pavilion just outside of Denver. They also had an insect room where you could hold Rosie the Tarantula, and an aquarium room where you could touch starfish, sea urchins, and other small sea creatures. Lexi couldn't stop talking about Rosie the Tarantula. We made our way to the insect room and Lexi got a good look at Rosie. She got red in the face, and then she hid her face. She didn't want to have anything to do with Rosie. Rex held Rosie. Ronna held Rosie. I held Rosie. L held Rosie. We looked at the glassed in beehive and watched bees do their thing. We looked at exotic cockroaches and praying mantis insects, and other types of spiders. Just as we were getting ready to leave, Lexi got her courage up to hold Rosie, and I was so proud of her. I knew that it took bravery for her to do it, but what a wonderful thing it is to conquer your fears and have new experiences! This girl is no shrinking violet.
And then Matthew had to have his turn. Typical boy - he was thoroughly delighted, and laughed all the way through it.
Time for the butterflies. This was my absolute favorite thing that we did. We got there just before they released the newly hatched butterflies. The kids all sat in a circle while the butterfly man told them about the butterflies - what they like to eat, their life span, etc. Meanwhile, hundreds of other butterflies flew around right in front of your nose and overhead and all around. Gorgeous colors everywhere. The plants were green and lush with colorful flowers everywhere. The temperature was about 90 degrees in there - they were trying to replicate a rainforest atmosphere, and they succeeded. It was like being in a steamy Garden of Eden. Besides the plants there was a pond, some fish, turtles, and every so often misters sprayed a fine mist into the air. We were all enchanted. Here is Skylee, who couldn't stop watching all of the butterflies flitting in front of her.
Can you see that little butterfly she's watching?
Lexi and Matthew had a great time running around looking at all of the spectacular species of butterflies from all over the world.
Here is a small sampling of what we saw. It was breathtaking. Unfortunately, some of the most colorful ones were also the most shy, and it was hard to get a picture, but we did our best.
It was a good day, and we headed home full of stories to tell about beautiful butterflies and big hairy spiders that sat in our hand. Rex has loved butterflies since he was Lexi's age, and he enjoyed being surrounded by them as well.
Lexi and I had our time to play that night, and she kept shooing poor Matthew out of her room, saying that we needed to have "girl time." Matthew had to be content to play with Papa L - but it was probably a good trade off.
We got up Sunday and went to church with Rex and the kids. Ronna wasn't feeling well - she had a bad cold that had gotten worse. So, Rex had a real Father's Day morning with us and the kids. After church we headed back to our hotel for a rest. We needed some quiet time as well as the kids, as Colorado seems to kick up allergies in both of us. That, plus the altitude was totally making me feel very tired. I know - I'm a wimp, but it all worked out. About 4:00 we picked up some good eats at Maggiano's and headed over to the party house to have a combination Father's Day/Matthew's birthday dinner. We sat around and gobbled up wonderful Italian food until we could eat no more, and then we let Matthew open his gift - his own Tag reader and book. Now he and Lexi can each read books at the same time. He was very excited about that. We all headed outside to sit in the beautiful twilight. The kids chased rabbits, and rode their bicycle and trike. Lexi finally consented to let L take her picture sitting on her beloved Princess bike.
It was lovely to just sit in the cool air and watch the kids play. It reminded me of childhood summer evenings, running barefoot in the grass, playing until it was dark. We finally had to break the spell and say our goodbyes. Matthew thanked us again for his birthday gift (unprompted I might add!) They each gave us big hugs and I squeezed Skylee's juicy cheeks one last time. It was a combination of being so tired that it was almost hard to think, and yet never wanting our time with them to end. Such is the lot of being a grandparent, I think. It's a mixed gift - mostly full of wonder, giggles, and amazing love for these magical little people, but tempered with a small amount of relief when it's the parents' turn to take over.
And so we're home, back into our curmudgeonly little routines, and yet I can't help dreaming about the next visit. Small hands get big so fast, and juicy cheeks don't last forever. Smiling babies, crooked smiles, and creative imaginations are good mojo. Hoodoo of the best and most magical kind.
PS: For those who left a comment for my dad on my Father's Day post, a heartfelt thank you. He thoroughly enjoyed each one, and it was wonderful for him to see what great and interesting friends you all are. I have been ordered to print it out, complete with all comments, so he can keep it. Again, thank you for making his day very special!