Monday, October 3, 2016

B is for Butterflies

I knew what our B date would be almost as soon as we arrived in Colorado. We lived in temporary housing until we closed on our own home. I kept seeing signs marked "Butterfly Pavilion" as I drove along the highway. Jeannene and I both remarked that it would be fun to check it out soon. We had some great memories of the butterflies at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens (B is for Botanical) and Epcot.

Expecting it to be solely butterflies, and lots of them, I confidently planned our date at the Butterfly Pavilion. I mean, what an innocuous name, right? When Jeannene affirmed that she would be done with working from home yesterday by 2:30 or so and we could do our B date, I went to the website to check the hours. I was a little surprised to see the term "invertebrate zoo" and dismayed to think I may be confronted with snakes, not remembering that they are, in fact, vertebrates.

We arrived at the Butterfly Pavilion hungry and stopped by the hot dog stand out front, planning to share a burger before going in to see the flutterbies. After we'd ordered and paid, we discovered that not only was the grill not on, but there wasn't even any propane for it. Not wanting to waste our butterfly time waiting for a propane tank to arrive, we canceled our order, subbed some chips, and headed inside.

The first thing we encountered, in the Crawl-A-See-Um, was a young man with an abundantly overflowing bun, holding Rosie the tarantula and inviting folks to visit with her. My wife, who is terribly afraid of spiders and bugs, shivered a bit, but did not leave the room. I told her I'd be happy to go with her out from the bug and arachnid area. I was so impressed with her decision to stay, and even get up close, so that Elijah could see the creatures in the room. She showed him the Goliath beetle, tarantulas, walking sticks, and all kinds of other creepy-crawlies that I know horrified her. She did not show any of this creeped-out-ness to our boy, though, wanting him to come to his own conclusions about bugs. I'm not sure I could have been so generous, had it been snakes, instead. I'm with Indiana Jones on that matter. One of our big boys, Boot, takes after me on the snake thing. The other is, like Jeannene, appalled by any sort of bug or spider. It'll be interesting to see where Elijah falls, but I definitely agree that he should be able to come to that place without being unduly influenced by his mamas.

When we got to the bees, she was on more comfortable ground. I'd been thinking, "Oh, man, I tried to plan a great butterfly date and it ended up being a BUG date! Poor Jeannene." But she remained perfectly sanguine. The bees were familiar territory, as her dad had been a beekeeper and she had lots of experience with them. I was especially surprised when she was prepared to take Elijah to see Rosie. I wasn't sure I was prepared for a close encounter with a tarantula and I knew she was probably freaking inside. Luckily for the moms, you have to be 3 years or older to visit with Rosie.

The next room, Water's Edge, was easier for both of us, with lobsters, starfish, crabs, and other aquatic creatures. We even saw a kind of jellyfish we'd never seen before. We'd just been enjoying the jellies at the Vancouver Aquarium, so it was cool to see another sort.

While in there, we heard an announcement that they'd be doing a butterfly release shortly, so we hurried to the tropical butterfly habitat. What a delight! Butterflies flittered everywhere. Elijah noticed them right away and began pointing to them. We've learned that when he points, it's wise to look. He has sharp eyes and seems to enjoy showing us things we might not otherwise notice. The volunteer who did the release spoke with us about the various kinds of butterflies we saw and taught us a lot about butterfly development and life. I had no idea that there are some butterflies who live up to a year!

After exhausting our interest in the butterflies (and the lovely flowers upon which they feed), we moved on to the final room, where we declined to dig for mealworms (I did plenty of that when we had a turtle). Elijah can do that when he's older, though. We enjoyed checking out the exhibits, then made our way through the gift shop. Elijah got very excited about the butterfly toys, so we let him chose which one he liked best. He chose a blue one, although a green variety was a strong contender. I found a lovely butterfly ring to be my rain check animal treasure hunt prize. We then went outdoors to stroll around the (seasonally depleted) gardens. All in all, a very fun date!

A is for Animal Treasure Hunt

For our current round of alphabet dating, Jeannene got to go first. I had no clue what we were going to do, just that I needed to wear comfortable shoes. I'd guessed a few things, including "animals," but she said none of them were right. On the morning of our A date, she told me I'd need to choose a crayon to take with me and that I might also want a back-up crayon, in case I broke one. That really got me puzzling! I was trying to think of ways either grave rubbings or bark rubbings could be an A date. One of my friends suggested that perhaps it was "ancestors." That would certainly fit with grave rubbings. Not, perhaps, our particular ancestors, who are mostly buried in the Midwest. Someone's ancestors, though.

Before we headed out, Jeannene said, "Would you like to know what you're going to do?" I said, "If you want to tell me. Otherwise, I'll find out when we get there." She said she'd go ahead and tell me, producing a clipboard and handing it to me. On the clipboard, were pictures of animals whose names started with the letter A. By each one, I was to check it off when I'd found it, then write what I liked about it. If I found all the animals, I'd get a prize! I was really impressed that she'd taken the time to research what animals were at the Denver Zoo and create my treasure hunt. Since it was a treasure hunt, "animals" alone was, technically, not the date, too, so she was free to tell me I had guessed wrong on that!

We'd been to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with friends shortly after we arrived in Colorado, but not yet to the Denver Zoo. So, we tucked Elijah, our 10-month-old, into his car seat and struck out for the zoo! We had a wonderful time visiting all the animals. We couldn't find the Arctic Fox or the Asian Small-Clawed Otters. Jeannene was anxious that we not run out of time, as she wanted me to be able to complete my treasure hunt and get my prize, which was sweet. I was less concerned, though, about the prize than about seeing everything we could see. We had purchased a zoo membership when we arrived, so I knew we could come back, but it was fun to make the whole circuit of the zoo.

My favorite things were, as always, the big cats.
 I think Jeannene and Elijah were probably most impressed with the gorillas.
I can't wait to take my mom to the zoo when she comes to visit! Over lunch (a hot dog on a bench near the place where Elijah got to touch a tortoise), we did some research and discovered that the Arctic Fox was no longer resident in the zoo. So, I got to cross that one off my list without losing any points. I didn't think we'd be able actually to see the Asian Black Bear, as it was resting in its cave when we got to the area. However, when we doubled back, there it was! Yay!

We didn't think we'd find the otters at all, either, but discovered that they live in a building in the elephant area. So, we returned to that section of the zoo.
Jeannene was pretty sure we wouldn't be able to find them, as neither of us remembered any kind of display we hadn't seen or a building we hadn't entered. However, sure enough, there was a building we'd thought, for some reason, was only for staff. Inside were the otters, as well as a Fishing Cat, which was such fun to see in person! I'd seen a PBS special on them and found them delightful.

Jeannene informed me that, since I had succeeded in finding all the animals (except the missing fox), my prize was getting to choose anything in the gift shop I wanted. We discovered, though, that the gift shop at the Denver Zoo is primarily geared toward kids. Much of the merchandise is more souvenir-y than anything. So, Jeannene said, "If there's nothing you really want, you can take a rain check." So, that's what I did. Elijah almost got a really cute fox onesie, but it was quite pricey, so we left it behind, taking with us only terrific memories, loads of pictures, and bottles of water for the ride home.

The ABCs of Frolicking

My wife, Jeannene, and I have been together nearly 15 1/2 years and married almost that long, although legally, only 2 1/2 years. About 8 years ago, we realized we were in a smidge of a rut with dates, tending to go out to dinner and, occasionally, dinner and a movie. I decided to try alphabet dating, wherein we split up the alphabet & each choose 13 dates. Jeannene quickly agreed. We try to keep things secret until the last possible moment, just to add a bit more playfulness.

Since I came up with it, I went first. We were living in Cleveland at the time. I'd been wanting to try an Ethiopian restaurant called Empress Taytu, so I decided our first alphabet date would be A is for African Food. We had a delicious meal, my wife's first time to have Ethiopian food. Afterward, we sprung for the coffee ritual. We were taken to another table, where one of the staff members talked to us about the tradition of the coffee ceremony in her culture, explaining each element as she went. She educated us about the coffee as she roasted and hand-ground it. It was so cool.

Jeannene was up next with our B date, which she planned to be Bus and Baseball. We caught the bus into downtown Cleveland's Tower City for an Indians game. The date turned out to be Bus, Baseball, and Bobbleheads, as they were giving out Asdrubal Cabrera bobble heads when we arrived.

On we went, through all kinds of fun adventures, culminating in Zoo. It was such a delight that we started all over and have alphabet dated on and off over the years. We've done D is for Decoupage & Daiquiris, F is for Fall Getaway Weekend at Oglebay in WV, B is for Bowling, L is for Lord of the Rings Marathon, V is for Victorian Tea (Jeannene prepared a beautiful table full of nibbles, complete with lace, china, and 3 different kinds of tea). We always meant to blog about it---or at least keep track! This time around, we're finally doing it! We'd love to invite you to follow our frolics and hope you get inspiration---or at least enjoy reading about our adventures.