Thursday, October 20, 2016

Resident Tourists: Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Henry and I have hit up our second Smithsonian Museum-the Museum of Natural History, which I was pretty excited about, knowing how much Henry would enjoy the dinosaur and insect exhibits.

Like our other visits, we took the metro (first wrong exit experience, but no big deal, hopped back on after realizing my error) and made the short walk inside. The beauty of going midweek, like anything, is the lack of crowds that really add to the enjoyment of experiencing the exhibits. And once again, we only scratched the surface when it came to the volume of exhibits and attractions to see. Easily the highlight of the trip was the butterfly atrium where you can walk in and be surrounded by hundreds of butterflies--so many you have to watch where you step and be evaluated by staff member in a decontamination room before exiting. My photos don't do it any justice--it's definitely something to experience first hand. While we weren't lucky enough to have any land on us, we watched plenty of these small and large creatures land on other unknowing attendees' derrieres, backs, and shoulders.

The insect exhibit is pretty awesome too-they have several tarantula feeding times and allow people to hold a variety of bugs. This is where I fail as a mom because I want to be brave and show Henry how cool it is be able to hold caterpillars and hissing cockroaches--except I really don't WANT to hold a cockroach, hissing or otherwise! And I certainly will never hold or feed a tarantula. He's going to have to get that example from his dad. But, I wasn't a total failure because I am just selective about what I'm willing to hold-caterpillar...sure. Not nearly as threatening or sinister as the others! There was actually a great selection of other insects to view as well-varieties of beetles, spiders, camouflaging 'leaf' bugs (really need to brush up on my insect vernacular), and even crabs and scorpions.

We also walked through the mummies exhibit which fascinated Henry--I can't wait to explore that one a bit more with him.

On our walk home, we spotted this squirrel going to town on these pumpkins. #MoPumpkinsMoProblems
A belly shot for anyone who is interested--I'll be 9 months next week and will finally see a doctor and hopefully get a c-section date scheduled. I've had two strangers ask me if I am having a we'll what's in the cards sooner rather than later!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Resident Tourists: Washington Monument and The Mall's Memorials

Scott gets to see quite a bit of the city and its buildings by nature of his job, so on the weekends when he's home, we've started taking advantage of the sightseeing normally reserved for tourists-which I think I'll probably feel like for a few more weeks. However, I have started not waiting for the appropriate time to cross the street when it's clear and safe (and when Henry's not with me-no "do as I say, not as I do" conversations) which makes me feel a bit more like a local.

This last weekend, we visited the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Korean War Memorial. Walking up to the Lincoln Memorial, a young girl was singing the "Star Spangled Banner" in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, and it was quite moving to behold these sights with a live version of the anthem in the background.

It's actually really nice to see that tourists-both Americans and international-are so respectful of these memorials and monuments--quietly observing as well as preserving them for the future.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Week two and what we've been up to

Other than just getting settled into our new place, and Scott into his new job, Henry and I have been off adventuring each day, some days more exciting than others of course.

We have visited several parks that are in walking distance from our house--Lincoln Park (many visits), Stanton Park, a local elementary school's park, and a greenbelt that someone dropped a toddler climbing structure and playhouse onto that's near the Eastern Market. I can't get over the greenery here--everything is so well, watered...probably from the abundant moisture in the air. Fall is my favorite season and getting to fully embrace it this year has been dreamy.

Wearing that hat with pride! May not be making friends as fast, but whatevs.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
It's been 18 years (OMG) since I first visited D.C. as an eighth grader, and while I don't remember the details of the Smithsonians, I do recall being amazed by what they housed. So far, Henry and I have visited the Air and Space Museum twice, and I can't wait to take him to Natural History. The kid loves space and planets and planes and the fact that it requires the subway to get there is icing on his cupcake.

Walking, walking, walking
I'm SO glad I brought our stroller out here because we are doing a lot of walking--to the store, to the subway, to the park--and I'm pretty sure Henry thinks every walk is just another opportunity to collect sticks, rocks, and acorns- a new favorite. So in an effort to make it to our destinations same day, he's been put back in the BOB and everyone is happier because of it. We can go farther faster, and the city is actually really stroller friendly, and frankly, it's such an awesome way to take in the sights and scenery. He's also a big fan of bombing the bricked and pot-holed sidewalks on his balance bike if we need to go anywhere!

Pinching myself that this is our neighborhood. And I'm told Halloween is off the hook! So happy to hear that!

I can't believe I'm going to publicly admit this, but I drove for the third time in fourteen days today--and on TWO highways no less--to go to Trader Joe's. (If it isn't abundantly clear that I am a brand/store slave, be it known now.) It's a total trip for me every time we walk down the street and the Capitol pops into view, or in today's case, drive next to the Washington Monument, across the Potomac, and can see the White House and Lincoln Memorial out the window, and I love that Henry is genuinely excited by it as well. I have a feeling the surprise and delight won't go away during our time here.

Also, driving today had me like:

I was only honked at once, and rerouted three times en route (those roundabouts!) BUT, I did do my research first and found the TJ's that had parking, so that was a win.

I've now been to three grocery stores-Safeway, Harris Teeter, and Trader Joe's. The two former are like any mainstream grocery store out west, though I don't know if I have picked the wrong days or times to go, but they seem to constantly be restocking (like, heavily). Maybe it's the demand of the large population? In my feeble brain I thought the bulk of that was done during the graveyard shift.

In closing, we ended our week as any new residents should--with an inaugural visit to the local cupcakery. It was no Patty's Cakes but Henry enjoyed his treat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Early Observations

Having been in DC for almost two weeks now, I've started noticing certain patterns when it comes to observing the population and its habits. I am sure at the conclusion of our time here I'll laugh at some of these, but because everything is so new and different compared to where we came from, they stand out as obvious now, so this little list could be fun to laugh (or cringe) at later.

  1. We are DEEP in Hilary country-lots of yard signs, with a small smattering of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. (Fun fact-while Scott was driving across America and searching for radio stations, middle American radio was evangelizing for Trump. Not surprising geographically speaking, but still an interesting observation coming from what I feel is somewhat more of a split region.)
  2. I continue to be impressed by the greenery around me. I've been so desensitized to the drought that walking by front gardens and beautiful lawns is so refreshing. I know I speak for every Californian when I say, I really hope it rains there again. 
  3. There are a lot of dog owners here, and they are pretty responsible about walking said dogs as well as picking up after them (a gripe I've lamented about many times with SIGNAGE while I still lived at home with my parents and as a homeowner myself.) I probably see about 25 people walking their dogs every day from my living room window and being outside or at the park, and in 12 days, only one in those 300 people did not pick up after their canine. Of course that was the one in the parkway so ughh, but still good odds.
  4. Speaking of people walking, everyone here does-to the metro, to the store, to school and work. What I'm surprised by is that unless they are moms they generally all have earbuds in, and are surprised when I make eye contact to say hello. I am of the mind that when you are sharing sidewalk space it's nice to acknowledge one another with just a smile, but perhaps it's so common and that the sidewalks are practically highways themselves, that people just don't do it? I'm not giving up on this one-I WILL get you to smile or accept my greeting!
  5. Two words: The architecture. (I apologize in advance that everything I likely write about will be in comparison to Fullerton. While I wasn't born there, I consider it my city and know it so well, that it will continue to be my benchmark for comparison-this is both a good and bad thing!) Anyway, I love me some Fullerton architecture-we've got craftsman, Mediterranean bungalows, sprawling ranch homes--really an eclectic mix. But we don't have these (Victorian?) townhouse row-style houses and living in another historic district, my eyes have not tired taking in the homes and buildings we're surrounded by. I need to find at least one home and garden tour while we are here.
  6. One similarity I've found slightly humorous are the sounds--I can occasionally hear trains running at night which reminds me of Fullerton and the comforting hum they provide, as well as helicopters. The helicopters fly quite low here--I haven't figured out if they are police helicopters or a higher power, and while the frequency isn't the same, they are low and loud. Overall it's just generally louder. Our home is set back from the sidewalk but when people walk by and the windows are closed, it sounds like they are on our doorstep. My guess is because the buildings are so tall that the sound is bouncing off the walls and amplifying.
  7. Along the same lines are emergency vehicles and the frequency at which they run. Living off Commonwealth in Fullerton, I was used to hearing fire, ambulance, and police sirens each day, but here, it's multiple times a day and down every street; not just main roads. I'm guessing it's just due to the dense population and higher demand for services, but still surprising.
  8. I'll end on the fact that I'm glad we live in an age of smart phones when it comes to navigation. Previously while traveling it was pretty obvious when you were a tourist with your giant map unfolded in front of you. Now, I can blend in more easily as a tourist with my map and GPS concealed in my phone. It's really just this guy that gives me away as more tourist than resident still:

Monday, October 3, 2016

My First Trip to Target

Our new home is smaller than our last, but with a different arrangement of rooms and as such, I didn't bring (or already have) every little thing knowing we could replace and replenish items with a quick Target run after moving in.

So, as I am learning my way around this new city and it's shopping opportunities, I knew I had to familiarize myself with the local Target. The closest one to us is about 5 miles away, and while I entertained the idea of going as a family (i.e., Scott driving), I knew I had to put on my big girl pants and figure out navigating this city on my own.

Sunday seemed like a good day since there would be an absence of working traffic (and we really needed more than one container of handsoap), so I set out late afternoon on the journey. There is no denying that driving is different here. The streets are in grids which feels normal, but then they are bisected by diagonal ones as well which totally throws off my internal compass and really makes me scrutinize which signals and signs apply to me.

I found Target without too many issues thanks to my GPS which I'm pretty sure will be my crutch this entire stay, and realized upon arriving at my destination, is that we are no longer in the land of parking lots anymore. People schlep to and from stores (also, BYOB--bring your own bags!) and if they drive, have to hoof it from wherever they score a parking spot. (Subtheme: California is the land of convenience.) While the traffic wasn't too bad on the streets, people were home enjoying their Sundays and hence the closest parking spot I found was about a half mile away. Normally I don't mind walking but being pregnant and tired from unpacking and knowing what was on my list, I knew I had to be strategic about what I would ultimately be buying. I briefly considered just going home since I really shouldn't be lifting or carrying anything but I'd come all the way and needed to get through the list.

And, oh this list. Things that are really best carried in a shopping cart from the checkout to one's car:

  • Hamper
  • Kitchen trash can
  • Bathroom trash can 
  • Cat litter (thank goodness for lightweight varieties...I could still see the wagging finger of certain friends and family though for carting this one!)
  • Cat food
  • Shower curtain liner
  • Shower curtains
  • Toilet paper
  • Kleenex
  • Peanut butter
  • Handsoap
  • Candle
  • A jack-o-lantern trick or treat candy holder for Henry (because by now, I highly doubted I'd be returning before Halloween*)
Target realization number two came upon entering the store, which is part of a mall-like building including a Bed Bath and Beyond, Sports Authority, and other large stores. I realized how lucky I had it in Fullerton (or So Cal, really) to take my pick of the Targets I'd like to visit, because they are not all created equal. 

The store was multi-level and I'm learning that alcohol is separated from everything else and you pay for it separately...haven't figured out why yet. Here, you were suggested to do self-check out if you had no alcohol and the line was crazy long, likely because those self-check out kiosks are THE WORST and never work properly. So, I ignored the worker and stayed in line for a human being to ring me up. Plus, other people were doing it and if Scott has taught me anything it's that I don't have to always follow the rules. 

After successfully arranging my purchases to make the hike back to the car, I wish I had been able to take a picture of myself, as I saw my reflection in store windows and really knew I looked idiotic. I put all of the trash cans in the hamper along with the tp Kleenex, and remembered one shopping bag and made everything else fit inside that, as well as the trick-or-treat pumpkin. All that remained was holding the litter and of course, my purse.

I made it home in one piece, going a different route--the one that required no more than two turns--took a little longer but it took me right next to the Washington Monument and adjacent to the Capitol Building. It's surreal to think that driving by those landmarks is our new normal now, and I really look forward to visiting them and explaining their significance to Henry as we adventure into our new city.  Also, I don't foresee that "quick Target runs" are a thing here unless you live across the street and are really going in for just a pack of gum. With my reduced visits maybe this will actually be a financial win!

*So I realize how elitist I sound that I will only shop at Target for certain items--clearly they are available at other stores, and I will now be either buying them online or of course, patronizing these other drug stores even though it feels so wrong.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Waking up in Washington, D.C.

Today is October 1, and after a week apart, our family is again under the same roof, waking up in Washington D.C. for the next year or two. More on that in a minute.

To back up for a hot second, this blog has been on an extended hiatus for about three years. To bring everyone who isn't already in the know up to speed, not much has changed in those three years other than welcoming a son, expecting a second child this Thanksgiving, and yes, moving from our house in Fullerton, California to Washington, D.C. Details, details.

So, the move. To quote Rogers and Hammerstein, let's start at the very beginning. Back in March of this year, Scott and I sat on our respective couches one evening and he pitched the idea of applying for a job with the government. Naturally this could be very local or...not. At the time I was working for the City of Fullerton so I had a fleeting thought it may have been a local municipality. Alas, he was thinking the heart of our nation. Sure, I said, thinking we'd have the better part of a year to really hash this idea out. Well, come May, Scott was taking assessment tests and phone interviews were being held, and by July and August things were getting really real. Parents and friends were told of the idea and our late night hashing took place a lot sooner than I anticipated. When he formally accepted the position and we flew out on a whirlwind, 2-day, 18-stop recon mission to Baltimore and DC to find our home in early September, reality was staring me in the face.

The recon trip was really the eye-opener experience for me, as everything had been theoretical up until that point--sure, it sounded like an exciting adventure. Sure, it was only going to be for a year or two, of course we could do that. But, mom guilt sets in hard and I really was questioning my decision wondering if I was being selfish taking our son away from his grandparents, whom he his extremely close to, other family, and his friends and activities that are as predictable as the sun rising each day. And I came to the conclusion that ultimately, yes, he will miss family and friends and they will miss him. But he is three and adaptable and while he's a creature of habit this will be a growing experience for him as much as it is Scott and me.

So, more tears were shed because I hate disappointing anyone (Mom, Dad, my in-laws specifically) and because of the of the other huge part of this move-being 32 weeks pregnant and having a baby outside of my sweet little comfort zone of St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton and not having a doctor yet identified out here (goal numero uno this week.)

We packed up our duplex in Fullerton which is being rented while we are away, purged/donated/stored many items since we have moved from a 2 bed/1 bath 1100 square foot home to a 2 bed/2 bath 850 square foot condo in DC. On Monday, September 26, Scott packed up our Subaru and two cats at about 5 a.m. PST (because I know I will be mentally straddling two time zones while here), and began the nearly 3,000 mile journey cross country. That story is a post in itself and I really hope I can persuade him to chronicle it. I'll tempt you by saying as I type this at 8 a.m. our car is being detailed outside the condo from the felines on the epic journey.

Scott arrived on Thursday, September 29, after four days driving, and Henry and I flew out on Friday, September 30. Saying goodbye to my parents Thursday night and Scott's parents on Friday at the airport was really hard. Just walking through security and the gate and boarding the airplane was tough because of the constant streaming from my eyes. I knew I would be sad but I didn't realize it would be a constant cry. Now Henry? He was fine. He was stoked to be on the plane. I about lost it with some unknowing passengers though when I realized while boarding that the airlines had not sat us together but rather in middle seats a row apart. I asked a rather sweet, grandmotherly looking woman to swap with me and she defied stereotypes flat out refusing. However, a really nice young guy did (because what option was there really?) and I am so grateful for his willingness to do so. Might have had something to do with the emotionally unstable woman practically pleading with him.

Henry was a champ on the plane and we arrived safely from hot So Cal temperatures to drizzly 60 degree weather here in DC at 9 p.m. (EST) on Friday night. Somehow Scott navigated us home from Ronald Reagan airport (I seriously have no idea how I am going to drive here with five-way stops, one way streets, about 769 highway routes, traffic circles with five entries...that will take practice.)

Last night Scott and I unpacked the kitchen and some other essential boxes knowing today will be the majority of our getting settled. Tomorrow I want to walk the neighborhood and get a better lay of the land (and one way streets) before he starts his new job on Monday and Henry and I have our first full day weekday here together.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Loving Fullerton

The upcoming LOVE FULLERTON event has inspired me to think about the reasons why I personally love Fullerton. While May 17 will surely be a day of kindness and giving, it’s a reminder that this day of community should be a year round movement. It’s fairly simple really, to be kind and care for those around you, particularly when you love where you live.

With that, I will give you my very unofficial Top 10 Fantastic Things About Fullerton, in no particular order. 1. The food. Fullerton is a foodie’s paradise. In my head, I’m a West Coast Contessa, and admittedly, Fullerton is not the Hamptons, but we do have gourmet restaurants and specialty stores catering to all palates. We boast established and expanding restaurateurs and those just beginning, knowing the demographics of a city that loves independently owned eateries. I’ll never forgive Frati Gelato for moving to Napa, but am grateful for the extra pounds I sentimentally sport thanks to their fine dessert.

2. The people. Fullerton is a town of givers and doers. The sheer number of service organizations that exist just to lend a helping hand is humbling. Nearly every weekend there is a fundraiser happening somewhere to support the arts, education, humanity, or conservation. This town is full of people with big hearts. Members of the community genuinely care about its future. They voice their opinions when opposed to an issue and rejoice with favorable news. The community is committed to keeping Fullerton a great place to live, work, and play.

3. The parks. I’d be remiss not to mention the recreational green space our city offers. Fullerton’s parks and recreational trails are to be envied--approximately 26 miles of them. The trails offer something for equestrians, joggers, mountain bikers, walkers, hikers, and stroller brigades. Fullerton’s trails are famous among the outdoors crowd, with biking clubs meeting to enjoy the famous Fullerton Loop, or MOMS groups planning weekly outings at one of more than 50 parks. If I sound like Leslie Knope, it’s because I love her and I love our parks.

4. The housing. The housing in Fullerton is one of the main attractors for property owners and investors. Most famous are the vintage homes, surrounding the downtown. Charming Spanish bungalows and craftsman homes dating from the early 1900s make for great starter homes and investment properties. Further into the hills you can find sprawling ranches with horse property, and for those that are seeking an urban vibe, live/work spaces near the Transportation Center downtown. The city is continuing to see development too, with new condos and townhomes selling in the south. Fullerton is diverse, desirable, and offers something for everyone.

5. The education. Fullerton is known as “The Education Community,” with five colleges and universities as well as top-notch public and private institutions. The Fullerton Public Library offers programming for babies through seniors. Education is paramount in the city, and it’s evident that residents continue to want learn.

6. The shopping. It’s a no-brainer to support the local economy, and Fullerton’s retail stores offer unique gifts, apparel, and accessories. Vintage stores dot the downtown, as well as hip designer boutiques. You can even find something for that person who has everything.

7. The history. Fullertonians love their history and preservation. Walking any number of vintage neighborhoods, you’ll find local landmark homes. The Fullerton Public Library has a top-notch local history room where homeowners can seek out stories of their home’s past, as well as research any number of events from years gone by. Fullerton Heritage, a volunteer non-profit organization, champions preservation efforts, including the recent restoration of the Amerige Brothers Realty Office.

8. The nightlife. Let me be clear, “nightlife” in the context of my life means from 6-9 p.m. Many moons ago, I left the house at 9 p.m. to begin an evening on the town. Yet, Fullerton has options for even the grandest of grandmas. While there is a young crowd whose nights span two days, even those of us with human accessories can enjoy an evening out, complete with libations and adult conversations. The monthly Artwalk is a family-friendly affair, as well as the downtown Farmers Market which runs April-October. Both offer wine, and the latter beer, so if you don’t stay up until 2 a.m./have a 3 a.m. human alarm clock, you too can still enjoy the evening!

9. The diversity.Fullerton’s population mimics much of the United States-it’s citizens come from a variety of cultures and bring that influence to schools, businesses, and neighborhoods. Cultures learn from one another and ultimately create a unifying bond among residents.

10. The events. This community loves its Independence Day festival, New Year’s Eve celebration, and honoring our veterans. The summer concert series at the Sports Complex is anticipated year long, and packed even on the hottest of nights. The previously mentioned Farmers Market brings the community together each week for socializing and camaraderie. Fullerton embodies the family-friendly atmosphere Fullerton is known for, and remind neighbors why they love living in this city.

No city is perfect, and certainly there are improvements to be made (ahem, parking), but most commonly you’ll hear visitors and residents alike declare how small-town the city feels, though it spans just over 22 square miles. And while the Love Fullerton event will draw out many help improve and beautify parts of the city, the concept should never end. We cannot expect a Utopia, but we can remember in the most heated situations that our common concern is where we call home-Fullerton.

Full disclosure: I did previously work at the Chamber of Commerce, I currently serve on the Parks and Recreation Commission, but the Barefoot Contessa does not know who I am...yet.