Days 13 & 14: Drifter's Hamburgers + The Views

The girls and I tried Drifter's Hamburgers after our girls' night out tonight. Dustin told me the burgers tasted just like In-n-Out, and I'm all about that. On top of that, Claire is all about cheeseburgers, and Avery loves fries, so, in theory, it is a match made in heaven.

First things first, a bathroom stop. Definitely nothing special.

The details were weird. The building was all New Mexico ghetto, and the artwork was 'let's pretend we're at the beach!' Which. I'm all about pretending to be at the beach. I just can't blame them for that, but you tell me:

The view was pretty good. It pretty much usually is in Colorado Springs. Should that be it's own day? You know, something like, 'You can always get a good view here! Even at Panda Express! Or Costco!" (I'm not even joking about either of those locations, so yes, I'm going to add it right now as Day 14.)

This is before she sprayed hand sanitizer IN HER EYES.

This is after:

I probably shouldn't share it, but at the same time, this is my life.

This weird, NON-atmosphere restaurant makes it on the list of things to like here strictly for the burgers. If I could go to In-n-Out, it absolutely wouldn't make the cut. I like the red palm trees and non-sticky tables AND chocolate shakes at the real In-n-Out too much, but since it's over a day's drive to the real deal, this is it.

Claire wasn't worried about the differences, and she wasn't worried about Avery's stinging eyes either. She went to town on that burger and ignored Avery completely. Avery didn't even start eating til Claire had finished her cheeseburger.

Also, hello little bunny. Because, Colorado.


Day 9, 10, 11, & 12: Butterfly Pavilion + More

Saturday morning we hit the road at 8:45, only 45 minutes later than we had planned, but the thing is, I almost couldn't make myself do another day of getting myself ready PLUS 3 other little people. The pull of a lazy Saturday was very, very strong. Maybe we would eat a big breakfast of waffles and peanut butter and then lounge on the porch swing while the kids played in the yard with water and dirt. . .

Buuu-uut, I'm glad we went. The butterfly pavilion is just north of Denver and has been on my list for awhile now. I checked out the website after beginning my 365 days pledge, and lucky me! It was 5 dollar day on Saturday, so why not?

Our kids are the perfect age for this activity. They were excited by the bugs, and the tarantula was fascinating. They loved seeing the small sea creatures and touching the starfish and the horseshoe crab. The small exhibits were grouped in threes with a little platform between them, so even Blake could climb a few stairs to peer in at eye level. All of that was almost enough on its on, but then the butterflies!

Butterflies are magical. It can be exciting just to spot one on a clear spring day, but to meander through a small jungle filled with them was like a dream for these little ones.

After we had followed the misty path once through, we found a butterfly chart and identified a few that we had already seen, but the search was on for a peacock butterfly. I'm not sure when it happened, but Claire pretty much loves peacocks. We traced our way back through the paths. We found a turtle sunbathing on a rock by a pond. We found numerous owl butterflies that were infinitely more interesting now that we knew their name. We found a zebra butterfly, but we couldn't see a peacock butterfly anywhere.

I felt a little annoyed that we couldn't see ALL the butterflies that they had on the chart because I knew Claire would be so disappointed if we couldn't find that peacock butterfly. It's what she would remember from the day, you know?

Do you see those two butterflies in the forefront? They were spinning around and around each other, so we said they were two sisters playing, but Avery decided they were fighting. It might just be the way she views the world right now. She can be confrontational. :) The kids were following them for awhile, but here they are noticing the turtle on the rock.

We rounded the bend to the most crowded butterfly cluster, searching, searching . . . Then, BAM, Claire pointed while talking in a very high-voice, "Mom! Mom! There's a peacock butterfly!!!"

                                          And there it is!!

I love that she was the one who found it.

I don't think I would take every single guest who visited us here to the Butterfly Pavilion, but at the very end of the day, Claire reached out for my hand and looked up at me with a grin on her face, "Thanks for taking me to the Butterfly Mavilion, Mom." So, it was worth it for us.

And the runner-ups:

#10 - We have a Cafe Rio in Denver. I like that. It's pretty delicious. I like to order the shredded pork burrito, enchilada-style, and then I pull out the pork only and eat it on chips for awhile before I eat the burrito. I don't know. It's just something I do.

#11 - Ikea is also in Denver. It's less than an hour drive from our doorstep to Ikea. Claire and Avery are old enough to go to the kid place, whatever it's called, and I love to browse the showroom. A couple of kid chairs were on the list, but of course, we bought hand towels, straws, and train tracks as well because it's too easy to buy stuff there. This time we also sampled some Swedish Fish, but only Claire liked them.

#12 - Castle Rock Outlets. We hit the outlets almost every time we go to or from Denver. Just to see if we need anything. Haha.


Days 7 & 8: Sunny Day at Ivywild School

I didn't always know it, but having a handful of unique places to eat baked goods or grab some hot chocolate is pretty important to me. I'm not talking about Dunkin' Donuts here, although I have been known to enjoy the Dunkin' from time to time. For me, it's not completely about the delicious eats even. It's the atmosphere. Is that lame? Well, I don't care, because I found one, and it's got it all - atmosphere and deliciousness PLUS room for rowdy kids.

Enter Ivywild School. It's even got preservation, history, and upcycling on it's side. It is really, truly an old school re-purposed to be a bakery, coffee shop, brewery, fresh market, and cool Colorado t-shirt . . . place. It's a capital 'C' Cool place. The Principal offers libations. See?

These kids might just be waiting their turn in line. Hope they're not in trouble! ;)

I love when the details matter. I love that the 'bakery windows' are real, re-purposed windows:

Avery ordered a piece of the chocolate cake once. As far as cake goes, it's a winner on flavor, but doesn't it look pretty as well?

I felt a little bit french today buying a fresh baguette out of a basket. It's not so bad feeling a little bit french. I liked it very much.

I learned that Blake, Avery, and I should share this very large cinnamon roll with an excessive amount of cream cheese frosting on top. This is as far as the three of us got:

I now realize that the pictures below are slightly crooked, so I want you to imagine the scene of a 5-year-old girl talking to you relentlessly, always requiring a response, while an almost two-year-old boy begs to be held, and all you want to do is take a pretty picture to remind yourself of the good things.

I still think those rows of bottles of water and glasses and stacks of pretty linens is very lovely, crooked or not.

The hot chocolate isn't sweet. It reminds me of a thick bowl of chocolate I ordered at a french restaurant in Seattle. It was served it with a bowl of cream so you can soften the bitterness just a bit. This beautiful cup of chocolate isn't quite so dramatic, but if you order one, don't expect Swiss Miss is all I'm saying.

We hung out on the large patio out front with 5 kids running around and no one else to be annoyed. The sun beat down on our backs and faces so that I was reminded of another perk of living here. Did you know that Colorado Springs boasts 300 days of sun? I've just now come to believe that is a good thing. I missed the cozy nature of the low-hanging clouds of Seattle for a little too long, but sunny days are pretty awesome. I don't think I can write an entire post about it, so I'm adding it as a day of it's own here.

The kids played hide-and-seek under the tables and just ran and giggled. That outside patio allowed us moms to enjoy the sound of our own voices for a solid 2 hours. Miracles do happen.

We looked out at this ever-changing sky:

Do you see that weird tractor just kicking it in that equally strange field in front of the school? (Hello, 1998 - 'kicking it'.) Well, we played on that, too, and picked dandelions.

Goodbye, Ivywild. I am enchanted by your lovely name, wood floors, baguettes, and thick frosting. I will most definitely see you again soon.


Day 6: Spring is Here and Taxes are Due

On April 15th, I was basking in the spring sunlight streaming through our front window. For a brief moment, I lounged on the couch and sneaked a few more words from my most recent book, I Capture the Castle. Suddenly! I mean, suddenly! Dustin rushed out the front door from his home office letting the storm door slam shut behind him. 

I don't know why, but I didn't follow. I should have. 

While I relaxed in the rare stillness, Dustin reveled in Colorado's wildness. He had been working at his desk and glanced out the window at the towering Ponderosa Pine that basically blocks our house from a street view. He later said it looked like it was snowing from ONE branch of that large tree. His curiosity, as always, got the better of him and he had to know . . . 

(This picture is obviously taken when there was REAL snow, but that is the huge Ponderosa tree featured in this story.) 

He got so close - less than 5 feet from the tree - with snow still falling, when a large hawk jumped from the branch. Shocked, but no more than Dustin, the hawk risked flight and soared into the blue sky. Dustin watched it go. By this time, Dustin's quick departure had attracted his like-minded daughter, Claire. I watched them from my perch on the sofa. She joined him at the edge of the driveway where he was watching the hawk's flight. His arm swung out to include her in the moment. I knew he was telling her whatever he had just seen, which was this:

Sitting in his front office, he had seen a Swainson's Hawk plucking it's white underbelly feathers. They fell softly like snow all around the base of the tree. He surprised it in it's grooming efforts and on an unexpected Wednesday, he jumped at the chance to view a Swainson Hawk probably just arrived from Argentina. The website I linked to says, "when Swainson's Hawks arrive in Colorado, it means two things: spring is here and taxes are due."

After Dustin discovered what he had witnessed, we laughed and laughed in admiration of this wild state. It was in fact tax day, spring green leaves were bursting everywhere, and blossoms were heavy with spring nectar.

Why does this make it onto my 365 days of discovering and loving Colorado Springs?

#1: It makes me happy how much Dustin loves nature and wildness and Colorado.
#2: I love watching him share his love with our kids. They eat it up.
#3: I feel like we witnessed something great, something rare, and yet, something that was right out our front window. 

All we had to do was look.


Day 5: School Days Drive Through Paradise

We leave the house at 8:00 every weekday morning. That doesn't mean we actually pull out of the driveway at 8:00. It just means that we have taken the first steps onto our carpeted garage steps in an effort to make it to school by 8:30, which as I previously mentioned, doesn't normally happen.

I was originally very worried about a 20-minute school commute. Basically, this means that I travel 160 miles a week just for school. But, it's not so bad. We climb the hill the back way through our neighborhood, and as we round the curve, we see this out the window:

I didn't even get out of the car for any of these pictures. In fact, I didn't stop driving for some of them. I always feel a little thrill run through me as I see this first view of Pike's Peak pictured above.

It's pretty typical for us to see a deer or two along the way, especially while we're still in our neighborhood. On today's drive, an entire herd obliged. Your welcome.

I also never tire of glimpsing Garden of the Gods . This view is from the north side, and it's definitely not the best one, but it's still pretty great. I love seeing the giant red rocks soaring into the sky. They dwarf people, but compared to the mountains they are nestled among, they look like scattered toys.

This picture is just to prove that I am really taking these photos from my car:

And, here we are entering Old Colorado City, which is a post all on it's on for another day, but I think it is just lovely with pink blossoms bobbing in the breeze, spring green leaves, and even the bare winter branches.

That's Cheyenne Mountain in the background. The zoo is ON Cheyenne Mountain. We'll talk about that another day.

The streets narrow and are cramped with cars parked along either side. The houses are small with purple doors and rainbow garlands decorating their porches. We walk Claire to her class, and sometimes we stay to play on the farm at the school, which again will have to be a post all on it's own. Other days, we simply hustle back to the car to return the way we came:

I really like that church up there on the left. It has one of my favorite blossomed trees just out front.

Driving North is when you can really see the view of Garden of the Gods that is just to die for. I don't want to mislead you, though. I did step out of the car for this shot:

Meandering through the streets the back way through our neighborhood, we climb the hill, and then climb some more, until this view of the city spreads itself before us: 

And, even though I would take the mountain view any day, there is something that kind of makes my stomach drop when we get to the top of the hill.

Another 500 feet, and Blodgett Peak is out the driver-side window. I really want to climb this with the kids this summer. Maybe Blodgett Peak will make it on this list all on it's own.

As we go, we listen to books on CD: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, My Father's Dragon, Mercy Watson, and more. The narrators' voices fill our ears with imagination while our eyes take in the beauty of this amazingly beautiful spot on earth. I could drive down the freeway, but you see why I don't, right?

I'll leave you with one last picture of Garden of the Gods to see you off. It will be the first place I take you should you choose to visit.