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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watch Out, Colorado!

After Easter weekend, we had 4 days in Colorado with no definite plans, and made the most of them.

On Monday, we headed to Colorado Springs to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.   The second graders are writing “research papers” about various animals, and our hooligan has giraffes.  By the way, I’m pretty sure they’re using the term “research paper” pretty loosely.  From what I can see, his research included reading one book and one magazine about giraffes, then writing ten notecards.  So I don’t think he’s ready to head off to college.

It’s so cool to feed the giraffes there.  They used to eat pellets of something, but there are so many visitors now that the zoo has them on lettuce leaves. I’m not sure why the little one felt the need for binos when the giraffe was close enough to lick the lenses, but whatever.
It’s an amazing experience, and the giraffes are just so accessible.  If you’re passing through the Springs, the whole zoo is worth the trip.

I didn’t really think about it until we were home and I was looking through the gazillion photos I took (with my purse camera, not my digital SLR, so they’re not the greatest, I know), but the biggest hooligan acted like the life-loving toddler he was a few years ago.  He was diagnosed as ADHD last summer, and it’s been a pretty huge struggle for him since he started preschool 5 years ago.  We’ve been playing around with meds this year, and I think his doctor has it right.

I didn’t realize just how withdrawn from our family he had become, or how reluctant to laugh and goof around.  It was like he was always trying so hard to just behave, he didn’t have time to be a kid. Looking through the photos reminded me how full of life, funny, and adventurous he can be.  I mean, I realized it last week as we all enjoyed our vacation more than we have in years, but it really struck me when I saw the joy in his face.

Here he’s pretending to be a baby owl hatching.  I offered to chew up some food and spit it in his mouth for him, but he declined.  See, I do try to be a good mom.

Ours were the first kids to handle this wolf pelt…the zookeeper said they had just decided to share it with the public.  Hmmmm…wonder if they’re rethinking that decision now?

All of our kids love to take photos, so we gave in and let them…the eldest took this, obviously, since he’s not in it.

She’s all about brave when the animals are bronze. Although she was still wary…it was a 75 degree day and sunny, so one of the statues had the nerve to burn her a little.

Tuesday we took all three to the Denver Museum of Natural History.  That’s not its name anymore, but that’s what we still call it.  They have dinosaurs. And active-duty military get in free…the whole family!

The special exhibit was lizards and snakes, which was actually very fascinating.  This model felt real and weighed the same as an actual whatever-it-was.  Anaconda, maybe?

Following the museum, we had lunch at possibly the cheesiest (or queso-est?) Mexican restaurant in the world…Casa Bonita!  When I was growing up in Oklahoma, Tulsa was fortunate enough to have a Casa Bonita, along with its sister pizza place, Crystal’s.  If you’ve never been to one, hie yourself there post haste.

I read this one in Denver can feed 900 people at once.  Seriously!  It’s designed to be make you feel you’re eating in a Mexican village during a fiesta.  You’ll find a waterfall with real live cliff divers, a strolling mariachi band, gunfighters, and, inexplicably, a stage show involving a man in a gorilla suit.  And that’s without mentioning the old-time photo studio, arcade, cotton candy machine, and gift shop. Here are the hooligans on the bridge behind the waterfall.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, when we arrived, there were 2 other tables of diners, who left soon after our arrival (we have that effect on places), so we were the only people in this cavernous restaurant. It was great!

I almost forgot…they have a little flag on each table that you raise when you want something from your waiter, including fresh hot sopaipillas and honey.  They alone make the trip worthwhile. Like you need another reason, after reading my travelogue!
On Wednesday, my mother-in-law had tickets to take the kids to “How I Became a Pirate.” Apparently it’s such a terrific production, she couldn’t get tickets for us to go with, so the GI Joe and I drowned our sorrows at Sports Authority and Archivers, respectively.

We did take a bit a pity on her, however, by taking the hooligans to the playground at the theater to burn energy before having to sit for the play.  The Arvada Center has a very cool playground with a giant serpent/dragon/creature for climbing and water play (in the summer).  The hooligans loved the playground as well as the play, and the theater appeared to be unharmed.

The grandparents let the kids sleep over on Wednesday, so we had an actual date night.  I think it’s our first since we went to the Army conference in Savannah in February.  And that didn’t really count because we had Army business to attend to every day and evening.  Funny, how the government thinks if they’re paying for the trip, you actually should be training.

So for our long-anticipated free evening, we went to see The Hunger Games.  We both read the book just before it came out, and the movie totally lived up to our expectations.  We were glad we had read it, though, as we felt you wouldn’t get as much out of it if you hadn’t.

Thursday we went to the Colorado Train Museum in Golden, where I forgot to take photos and my kids thought they were melting when it started to sprinkle rain.  You’d think they’d never lived in Washington State and been pruny for weeks on end. Princess Thundercloud grabbed her head and said, “My hair’s gonna get wet and then it will FREAK OUT!”  Unfortunately, that’s true.

I got to meet up with another college roommate for lunch and shopping that afternoon, which was so fun.  We didn’t even buy much (on the off chance either of our husbands is reading this), but had a fabulous time catching up.  The last time I saw her face-to-face my eight-year-old was five months old. I love it when a friendship can pick up right where you left it, and you can still make each other laugh...there aren't many of those in a lifetime!

So, I’m sorry to end up with a lot of babbling, but you probably aren’t even reading it by now, so it doesn’t really matter.  Long story way too long, we had an amazing, fun-filled week in Colorado. We enjoyed our time with family and friends and showing off the area to the hooligans.

If you’re headed there, passing through on a PCS or for a vacation, you’ll be challenged to fit in everything you’ll want to do…good thing we have family and friends to keep giving us a reason to visit!

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