Three times Steve and I had planned to take Cooper and Katie to Legoland -- spring break 2008 (California), June 2009 (England) and July 2009 (California).
All three trips were canceled. We didn't dwell on the missed opportunities -- Cooper and Katie didn't even know about one of them.
About a month ago I decided that we would try one more time. After Steve passed away, I felt strongly that the three of us needed a change of scenery and routine (though we don't yet know what our new routine is exactly). Legoland seemed the ideal choice.
Even though we'd be going without Steve, I knew he would approve.
We left Saturday (just as I was recovering from H1N1 flu) and returned late Tuesday. We had a wonderful vacation together.
(The trip wasn't without trouble. I left my wallet at home and required a heroic rescue from Layne, who delivered my driver's license and credit card just in enough time for us to make the flight. The rental car's GPS device didn't work. Nothing like a little drama to make you appreciate everything that goes well!)
We spent two full days at Legoland -- roller coasters, playgrounds, shows, exhibits built entirely of Legos, an aquarium. We also spent some time at the beach, watching the sun set over the Pacific and chasing waves. (You can see more photos here and here.)
The folks at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa treated us very well. I had worked with them earlier this year, making sure that they could accommodate Steve's special needs. They were gracious when we had to cancel at the last minute and so welcoming when I contacted them again after Steve passed away. When we arrived the first night, they had milk and cookies waiting for us plus stuffed animals for Cooper and Katie and park passes for the three of us.
We spoiled ourselves with a few room service meals. In fact, when we ate breakfast downstairs one day, Cooper was exasperated. "Why do we have to leave our room to eat?!" I explained that most people leave their rooms to eat and that room service is a wonderful luxury.
It was nice to be so spoiled for a couple of days.
Leaving town didn't mean that we left behind our sadness over Steve's death. We talked about him frequently. I thought of him just about every moment -- how much he would have loved riding Coastersaurus or watching Katie dance or watching Cooper build a car of Legos or just resting in the hotel room after a full day at the park.
On the drive from the airport to the hotel, I felt a slight moment of panic. I was in a faraway city with our children, driving in the dark -- without Steve. He wasn't there to drive or navigate from the passenger seat. He wasn't there to help take bags out of the car or admire the view from our balcony.
Flying home was especially difficult, too. We'd escaped reality for just a few days. Going home again would be another reminder of our most tragic loss.
Despite the bittersweet emotions, I am proud of the three of us -- setting out on adventure, solving problems together, making new memories and doing our best to honor Steve.