Our trip to Denver was a reminder to me that no matter how much I plan, there will be moments when things fall apart. Luke throwing a tantrum on a filthy museum floor, Eleanor teething late at night in a hotel room, Luke throwing up in the backseat without an extra pair of pants. Do each of these episodes represent personal failures as a parent? As a trip-planner? As a sleep-habit former? As a disciplinarian? I have so much to learn in all of these areas, but enjoying a trip with our terrific twosome, especially one when Erik is occupied with work, requires embracing an imperfect experience. Moving on from each spectacular disaster with optimism, while remaining watchful for the critical evacuation moment. Leaving before our team status goes to red.
The trip also reinforced what I already knew to be true. My Luke is a home-body, at least for now. Each morning when I was ready to go, Luke and I would both be at our wit’s end after a string of reprimands because the only ‘toys’ that he found interesting in our hotel room were off-limits (the phone, hairdryer, and his sister). So I would think, finally, we can go somewhere fun and Luke and I can have some positive interaction, and Ellie can take her morning nap in the car. But each time I told Luke about the fun place we were going (dinosaur skeletons, a stream to splash in, trains, etc.) he would reply in a panic, “No Mommy! Luke stay Luke’s room! Stay Luke’s room!” No matter the enticement, he always preferred to stay in the hotel room.
So once I made peace with Luke’s lack of enthusiasm and the likelihood of a few disaster moments, we enjoyed a number of fun Denver outings. Our home-away-from-home was the Denver Botanic Gardens. We visited several times, making a habit of al fresco lunches overlooking the lily pond.
No high chairs there, so Ellie’s strap-on baby seat was just the ticket.
These lunches may have been the highlight of my time in Denver sans Erik. The food was well-priced and tasty, the ambiance very relaxed, and the garden views were lovely! My one cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice.
Their kids’ garden was so much fun. Both kids loved splashing around in the man-made wading stream. Luke enjoyed watching their little wooden boats bump over rocks, disappear under the footbridge, and pop out on the other side. It was a nice family destination after Erik’s conference since it stays open until 9 pm. Plus on hot August afternoons, their garage parking kept our car delightfully cool. I bought an individual membership for myself on our first visit, and got my money’s worth over the course of the trip. Now I’m wondering if we could make it back for their Corn Maze, Blossoms of Light, or summer concerts before it expires!
The Denver Children’s Museum was probably Luke’s trip highlight. He was awed by the genuine fire truck that they had inside for kids to climb on, and enjoyed their train room and toddler zone. They even had an area called ‘the pond’ geared toward babies Eleanor’s age! A guaranteed hit with the preschool set.
We had to stop in at the Museum of Nature and Science since our Explora membership got us in for free. Once inside, I wished we could have stayed for longer since they had much more to see than I’d imagined for Luke’s age. But it was quite crowded with adults which made it a little difficult for him to experience. Better to plan this one for a weekday?
On our way up to Denver we stopped at the Pueblo Zoo to break up the drive. It wasn’t a particularly impressive zoo, but it was a pleasant stop and our ABQ Zoo membership got us in at half-price. They had some darling gibbon monkeys swinging around and a fantastic lion exhibit. Watch out Luke, don’t pet him!
Ella-belle was less impressed by the lions, but she did love getting out of the car seat and being held.
We saved the Mount Evans Scenic Byway for Erik’s day off. What a spectacular treasure it was! But I’m running out of kiddo nap time so I’ll save that day for its own post.
There were many enticing Denver destinations we didn’t visit, but as a solo parent with a home-body Luke-boy, choosing a few winners and repeating the Gardens several times seemed to maximize our fun and minimize the chaos. I wonder when Erik’s next business trip to Denver is?