I did not have high hopes for this Saturday past. Iz needed to get up too early for a Girl Scout campout, and our usual three hours of Leelo help was not to be, as Babysitter A was celebrating her birthday on some island in the torrid zone. No sleeping in, no help with Leelo. No reason for expecting much, if you're a grump like me.
Turns out low expectations pay off: we ended up having one of the loveliest family days in memory. (I am not sure if it was because of or despite our oldest child's absence.)
Leelo and Mali at the Conservatory of Flowers
We dropped Iz off with her troop then headed for the local cafe, which is the same place we have breakfast every Saturday, Pinky. But thanks to our new approach of bringing activities like dot-to-dots and matching cards for Leelo, our boy was happy and calm for the whole meal, and was satisfied with one croissant instead of two.
He also went to a new level with his food tolerance by not just kissing the orange pieces the cafe so thoughtfully provides on each plate, but by placing it inside his mouth. He didn't eat any orange, but still, progress. Any progress with tolerance is good. (Supervisor M thinks that we should have him eating those damn oranges within two weeks, and then we can start mixing in something new; I am thinking chicken nuggets so he can get some concentrated protein missing from his diet.)
Once breakfast wound down the kids wound up, and we needed to leave. I proposed to Seymour that we not go home -- we had the whole day open, so why not do what I've heard some families do: be spontaneous! He looked momentarily confused: What is this 'spontaneous'? but then agreed, why not.
We decided to hit Golden Gate park to see what Leelo and Mali thought of Strybing Arboretum, because what is more family-friendly than a huge rambling fenced trail-ridden series of gardens with no entrance fee?
The kids loved it, as did we. They enjoyed following the many meandering paths through all of the different biomes and plant varieties. Seymour and I enjoyed geeking out over all the various varietals. (I am particularly fond of the giant yucca in the succulents garden, and the meadows in the California garden.) Leelo especially loved sitting on the many benches, because he could make a routine out of visiting them. Neither child tried to jump in the ponds or fountains, and Leelo even threw pieces of his beloved croissant to a pond turtle before wolfing down the rest himself! (Must tell Supervisor M: feeding animals is an incredibly strong reinforcer for Leelo.)
We left the Arboretum and followed the beat of live Afro-Cuban music to the de Young Museum, where Leelo and Mali went cuckoo over the Garden of Enchantment's Fog Bog, enjoyed but did not succeed in jumping into the lily pond, and clambered happily all over Andy Goldsworthy's Fautline installation. Unfortunately, the de Young was a pricey risk for kids who might end up screaming and having to leave after five minutes, so we didn't go inside.
Seymour spent much of his de Young time looking longingly at the living roof of Cal Academy across the way, and wanting to clone himself so that he could work there and at his current post.
But then he remembered the amazingness of the job he already has, and the very cool orchid segment his team filmed did at the Conservatory of Flowers last year. Off we trotted to the Conservatory's corner of the park
There were Morris Dancers outside The Conservatory! Music-loving Leelo was so mesmerized that he sat still for several numbers, and asked for "More Music!" after each one.
The Conservatory was full of treats both floral and faunal. The kids enjoyed its maze-like pathways, and Leelo again got to stim-sit on many benches. Seymour and got to have a second wave of botanical geeking out, mostly over the physical diversity of the orchids and the size of the pitcher plants. And then we found the bbutterfly exhibit! It was a perfect last place to take two children who had spent a good long time walking in the sun. The Conservatory had a nominal entrance fee, especially for kids (Leelo was $1.50, Mali was free).
All that walking meant that we needed to visit the Outer Richmond for the next installment of Boba Challenge. Category: Earl Grey Milk Tea, large pearls. Result: Tapioca Express San Mateo smacked down Quickly Outer Richmond!
A long day. A long, wonderful day.
A day in which we had many minor miracles, not the least of which was our two on-the-cusp potty trainers staying clean and dry. Thanks to the strategically placed toilets throughout the park, all bodily functions were directed into the proper, flushable receptacles! Leelo even peed in a urinal! (Neither Seymour nor I commented on this until we were in the car on the way home, lest we unleach a jinx).
A final "Can you believe it?" happened on the way home. Leelo did some spontaneous imaginative play with a toy car, making "vrroom vroom" sounds and yelling "You're flying!" as he piloted the car through the air. I think he really enjoyed our day.
The Arboretum was such a splendid experience that I think we local special needs parents need to organize a Saturday or Sunday brunch there. The path access means we can include our kids in wheelchairs, the fenced perimeter means that our bolters should be safe, the free means that everyone can get in. My only concerns are pond- or fountain jumpers and families with multiple bolters, but I think that with enough advance notice we can provide babysitters to ensure those children's safety. We can also meet in the California or Redwood Forest corners, away from the water and in the shade.
We could have an outing with all of our children, and all of our families. Imagine.