Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Colorado is for family reunions - Clark Edition

After we said goodbye to the Senges and the Avenue Hotel, we hopped in our car for a rainy drive to the greater Denver area to visit with all the Clarks. Our first stop was to my cousin's house, who had graciously offered to host a little get-together for anyone who was able to come by.

The lovely hostess and I, in a flattering soft-focus. 
As soon as we arrived, one of my aunts asked what Ivy had in her cheeks, and another asked if she had the mumps. Oh, aunties. And Ivy scored a giant bowl of ice cream from another of my aunts, plus a cookie! She was thrilled.


I was so glad to see everyone, and so glad that I actually got to visit and chat with each of them. And the girls were so glad to have some little cousins around to play with! And I even remembered to take a photo with my Grandpa before we left.

The next morning we went over to my Grandma's house to spend the day with her. She had lots of fun things for the girls to play with, like tri-ominos. Grandma spent some time teaching Alice to fold down the corner of each page of an old telephone book to make a door stop like the one she had in her office. It kept her busy for a good long while...



 She also had an Omnichord that Ivy thought was pretty cool...


Grandma took us to lunch at Larkburger, which we loved. Really delicious food with a simple menu and a simple store. Kind of the same idea and set-up as Chipotle, but with yummy burgers. My Grandma likes them because they offer adorable tiny burgers that are just the right size for a light lunch (in addition to full-size burgers, too!). I would love to see them expand out of Colorado!

After lunch, we headed to the Butterfly Pavilion.  We arrived just in time to see them release some new butterflies for their first flights. I was expecting them to open a box and a fountain of butterflies to erupt into the sky. Instead, the girl would reach into a box, carefully retrieve a butterfly and hold it (I think by the wings? She must have been wearing special gloves?), tell us a thing or two about it, and then toss it into the air. It was neat to see, but rather unceremonious!



They had between 700-1000 butterflies in their enclosed rainforest, which did not include any of the plants that the butterflies liked to eat or lay their eggs on. Apparently, if they furnished the butterflies' favorite food, the butterflies would devour them entirely. I must not have heard what they actually do feed the butterflies. There were little feeders all over, though...
The girls were tired and restless, but I was absolutely enamored. There were butterflies there that I have never, ever seen, and I have certainly never seen such large butterflies, or so many. One of my favorites were the blue morpho. This is not a great photo, and this guy is a little ragged, but their backs are the most beautiful iridescent blue. The undersides of their wings - what you can see from below, or as they flap and fly - are much more nondescript, but as they fly along you see these amazing flashes of blue. 

 I also found that I liked the swallowtail butterflies, with the more elaborate wing line. They just looked so beautiful fluttering around. I could have stayed there all day!

The oils on our skin can damage the butterflies, so we aren't supposed to touch, but no one told that to the butterflies who were delighting us all by landing on peoples' hair and clothes. 

After they made sure we weren't harboring any stowaway butterflies, we headed over to the Crawl-A-See-Em (it took me a minute, too) to visit Rosie, the famous tarantula. I think Ivy would have held the giant spider, she seemed pretty excited to see it through the window, but she wasn't old enough and that was probably a good idea (for the spider). Alice definitely did not want to hold it, but I gathered up my courage and set a good example for her.

 I am not a fan of spiders, especially enormous ones, but I know there was no danger so I went for it. And I wasn't even scared! She is a desert tarantula and liked my warm hands, so she stopped to take a rest there. Her legs felt like little q-tips tapping along. I was told not to pet her, because the hairs on her legs are so sensitive that even the softest touch would feel like someone holding us down and tickling us. So I just held my hands open nice and flat for her, since I also learned that her fangs have enough venom to give a bite that feels like a bee sting. And I did not want to get bit by a tarantula.
Her handler gave her a little tap on the leg and she walked right back into his hands. And then I got a sticker to commemorate the occasion.

This is a different tarantula. Probably not as nice as Rosie.
 I'm not sure we saw the whole museum, which was really intimate and accessible, but the girls were getting ornery so we took them to the little play area and interactive exhibit room.
 



 Then we said goodbye to Grandma and headed home for a quick nap.
 And because I rarely get to see my kids sleeping up close and in person, I almost always take photos when I can.


 After a nice little nap, we headed to Downtown Denver to meet my Aunt and Uncle for drinks and dinner at some of their favorite spots.
 Prost Brewing has a nice little tasting room with some great German-style beers (and pretzels!).


The girls colored and we sampled the wares. Note how Fun Ivy is reaching for the baby beers, instead of the coloring books. I think that photo sums it up for these two...

When we got too hungry, we took a walk down the street and over a bridge to a favorite pizza joint.
 But first we had to pass this sculpture that looked like a glowing pile of innards...
Protos Pizza was delicious. The girls were really behaving well for being out so past their bedtime, so we let them share some ice cream for dessert. Ivy's favorite!
 And then we walked back over the bridge.
The next day, we met my cousin at Dinosaur Ridge. Sadly, her kids were in school so Alice and Ivy didn't have any little ones to keep them occupied. We skipped the museum and headed straight for the "hike" up the paved road, stopping along the way to check out all the fossils and tracks. The rock strata here was part of a long "dinosaur freeway" in the shoreline sediments of the Western Interior Seaway.

But first, we enjoyed a field full of prairie dogs! Our Colorado family makes fun of people like us, but we don't have those adorable little vermin where we come from!


We were also excited to spot a real-life reptile slithering into the rocks. He's hard to see, but he's a squiggle right in the middle of that crack in the rock.

 It was SO COOL to see real dinosaur tracks. I loved how they shaded them so you could really make them out.
 
There was a little spot at the base of the rock that you could actually climb up, so Alice climbed up to perch in a little hole and take a photo with some dino tracks

The girls had a fun time playing with my cousin's sweet dog, Pumpkin, and fighting over who got to hold my cousin's hand or the dog's leash, or my cousin's hand AND the dog leash...


My IronWoman cousin got Alice to run up the hill while Pumpkin waited patiently, and then Alice would call her to come and she would take off as fast as her short little legs would carry her.
Pumpkin, waiting patiently.
 Around the backside of the hill, there was a section where you could see the underside of the dinosaur's footprints, where the weight of the dino made the soft ground bulge out. Super cool.

We had lunch after the hike, and I got some lap snugs from Pumpkin, which was extra nice because I was missing my own furry babies. Then we headed off to my Aunt's house for a short little visit.  But first, we made a quick stop so we could try our first Dunkin' Donuts coffee and donut. Jon hypothesized that it was going to taste like comfort, like the thing you miss when you move away from home. And you know, meh. I understand that the insides are more like a Starbucks than the donut shops I'm familiar with, so I could totally see having a nice, reliable spot to hang out with your coffee and donut (or lunch?) and your laptop.

At my aunt's, we walked down to the park around the corner from her house and played until Alice needed to use the bathroom...
And then we went back to her house and played outside, and with her collection of kids toys. We even got to see the bunny that lives in the trees outside.


And then we headed back to our home base at my aunt and uncle's house and another of my cousins brought her three kids over for dinner. Alice and Ivy had lots of fun playing with the bigger girls!

My aunt and uncle have the sweetest dog who was feeling a bit under the weather while we were there and the crowd of galloping children didn't help. She tried to tuck herself out of the way...

And the next morning, we said goodbye to my aunt and uncle, and to Colorado, and hit the road. After a bumpy ride home, I was extra glad to jam out the back door. We love using the air stairs and grabbing seats in the back when we fly Southwest! 

Air stairs!
So thanks for the good times, Colorado - and family! Hope we can get back soon!