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Monday, April 16, 2018

April's Adventures

It's already mid-April, and we've seen some signs of spring while out exploring new haunts and returning to some old favorites.

Henry had some one-on-one time with both Scott and I last weekend. Saturday I took him to Room and Board for one of their in-store events, celebrating Japanese culture and the Cherry Blossom Festival. We ate candy sushi, enjoyed storytime, bounced and climbed on bunk beds, and had an anime caricature done. After, we enjoyed "monster" pizzas together at &Pizza, which might have been his favorite part, after the bunk bed bouncing.


This last week I headed solo to Fairfax, Virginia, to meet one of my culinary inspirations, Giada DeLaurentis, at her book signing. She was about 40 minutes late and drove by the EPIC line with some embarrassment. In her defense, there was a ton of traffic considering the signing was on a weekday from 5-7pm. I waited two hours in line with lots of friendly people, and finally made it up, blubbered thanks for her recipes that I used for Easter, and it was over in a flash. As most brushes with celebrities are!

During a two-day trend of warm weather days (40s on Monday, 80s on Friday and Saturday!) I took the kids to Claude Moore Farm, a living history farm and US National Park. Henry wasn't particularly thrilled at this idea of a morning out, but quickly changed his mind when told that picking up sticks for the fires was extremely helpful. I was also not sure what to expect out of the re-enactment actors (?) but it turns out, they were very friendly with varying levels of sticking to the script, which I found comical.
One of the people we met was a tobacco farmer and the others, a mother/daughter duo, "Faith" and "Silence" who were tending to their home's 1,000 chores for the spring day. They encourage help and participation from modern-day civilians like hauling wood, finding their stored potatoes, sweeping, and pulling weeds. Henry is at that awesome age where he enjoys these activities with gusto, and had a field day. The mother and daughter did a great job talking to him about their historical lives and questioning his 21st century way of life. I think he's just beginning to understand the historical timeline, so it was pretty funny to watch.
On our way home I made a spontaneous turn for a picnic lunch along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, one of my favorite drives, as it parallels the Potomac on the Virginia side, so you get a great view of DC. The daffodils are in full bloom everywhere, and this particular patch, near Dolly Madison park and a boat harbor, offered a great spot to enjoy the kids' lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
Henry has started his first season of t-ball and it's probably his most favorite thing next to Star Wars. He is confident and proud of every catch and hit and like most parents would say, it's a total joy to watch him on the field. Their first game is this week and I'm sure hilarity will ensue.
After two wonderful days of spring, winter descended again and I gave it the finger and took Henry out to the Anacostia River Festival while Scott stayed home with a sick Josephine. I think the cold, wet, and windy weather kept quite a few people home that day, so we had most all activities to ourselves. However, Henry's favorite was easily fishing. He comes from a long line of fisherman (hah, see what I did there?) on both sides of the family and I can assure them all, his cast is pretty darn good. We didn't catch anything, but he stood sentinel with frozen fingers and purple lips by the time we were done!

The season is shaping up to be pretty great.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Playing Catch Up

Time flies when you're having fun! In the last month, we've had new adventures, visited some old favorites and had some west coast visitors :)

Thanks to my favorite source for ideas around the city, we made our way to the American Indian Museum which has a really great kid space (ImagiNATIONS) that Henry has talked about weekly ever since. They built igloos, rode in kayaks, and played in traditional houses of indigenous people.

We also met friends at the Children's Science Center in Fairfax, VA, where Henry loved learning about coding for robots (much to Scott's delight), powering solar fans, creating tornados, and making slime. Both kids also got a spontaneous high five from the Easter Bunny while we had some snacks next to his burrow (hollow? lair?) which was surprisingly mellow.

THERE IS MORE SNOW IN THE FORECAST THIS WEEKEND and we also had a pretty big storm at the end of March, so big that it delayed flights for family coming in to visit us and see the sights. WHERE ARE YOU SPRING?!?! (That being said, we continue to geek out over snow despite the fact that I am done with the cold and mostly kids + jackets + hand warmers + gloves etc., etc.) Said kids? They LOVE it.
The snowstorm just created further excitement and anticipation for the arrival of a beloved grandma and aunt who was able to see the sights for the first time, participate in a march, and spend oodles of time bonding with the kiddos.
During spring break, I took the kids to the Beauvoir National Cathedral Elementary School which has the most epic playground I've ever read/seen/been to (and this is from a former Parks and Recreation Commissioner). First, you can't beat the backdrop of the magnificently gothic National Cathedral, with a terraced playground of rope bridges, mazes, giant wooded and laddered climbing structures and a legit zip line. Did I mention the sand boxes, swings, soccer field, playhouses, and three story slide? #PrivateSchool. It's actually really well maintained and so nice of the facility to allow the plebeians to play after school hours and on holidays.

For Easter, we stayed local and enjoyed a massive egg hunt at Lincoln Park where Jo learned real quick how egg hunts work and filled her basket leaving no prisoners. We enjoyed lawn games, an Easter dog (?) and bunny, farm animals, face painting, and a great time with our neighbors roaming the park.
Later that day we dyed Star Wars eggs in anticipation of the rabbit's arrival that night.
Said bunny came, and the children were joyous.
Later that day we hopped the fence to the local elementary school and played on their fabulous playground with other miscreant families and Cookie Monster.
More recently, the cherry blossoms have bloomed! It was really special to see them last year and this year, even more so. There is so much anticipation leading up to the "peak bloom" that events and committees must be in a constant tizzy waiting for it. We went earlier this week, and while it was a little rainy and cold, we still enjoyed their beauty. Today, I sat in traffic along the National Mall and took them in, in all their glory, along with 10,000 visitors under blue skies.
While things may are overall enjoyable here, most of our days have been taken up by lengthy walks in our neighborhood searching for our dear cat, Oliver, who escaped last Thursday. He's been gone a week and we are missing him dearly. Our hope is that someone sees him after seeing the many posters plastering the neighborhood, the social media pleas, and contacts us or the Humane Society, or of course, he finds his way home. I've been touched by the tips and leads that have come in on Facebook, texts, phone calls, and even FaceTime calls. This neighborhood has rallied to find him and I'm so grateful that there's such a large group of eyes on the lookout for our big boy.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Out and About

Spring is on the horizon here and we can see signs on it poking through the ground and budding on the trees. I'm definitely ready to thaw out and see the blooms burst.

This last week we visited storytime at the Hirshhorn for the first time and it was AMAZING! The leaders were patient, encouraging, and so attentive to the 20 or so kids in attendance. They easily integrated appropriate works (it is a modern art museum after all) into book choices for the kids along with several applied crafts after reading. And then they supplied a parent handout to further incorporate ideas from the lesson of the day for exploration and discussion at home. We will definitely return and I highly recommend to any visitors with kids.

I felt like a woman liberated a few days later when Scott and I escaped for a night of bar hopping (yes, more than one location-wild woman here) downtown. We enjoyed drinks and charcuterie at the W Hotel's rooftop POV Terrace, with views of the monument, Treasury Building, and White House. Then we hopped over to Off the Record inside the Hay-Adams, a must-visit (at least, so I've been told by neighbor locals) where we shared a table with a few lobbyists and overheard some very interesting name-dropping. Drinks and the company were perfect, and really, just a nice time to be out and about in DC with a buzz of energy and activity while our babes were watched by our angel neighbor and friend back home.
This weekend we also finally made our way down to the District's Wharf, which is in the southwest quadrant. It's a newly developed area with a beautiful pier, trendy restaurants, hotels, and boutique shops. I can see how it will be mighty popular come the warmer months. We went for an early St. Patrick's Day fest and enjoyed the authentic music, pierside swings, and Ben and Jerry's ice cream, as one does when it's 45 degrees outside.

Sunday, we continued the St. Patty's celebration while watching the National St. Patrick's Day Parade down Constitution Ave. It had it's fair share of celebratory bagpipes, public safety officers, and dancing, but in my heart of hearts, nothing will ever top the Fullerton Founders Day Parade of 2015 :)
After the parade we checked an item off that's been on Henry and my own bucket list for a while-the Old Post Office Tower. From the 270-foot observation deck you can see most all of DC's landmarks-the Washington Monument, White House, Capitol, Pentagon Smithsonians, Supreme Court, and Lincoln Memorial. We even could see the intersection of part of the parade route. For those who may visit, it's an easy 10 minute venture and directly across the street from the Federal Triangle Metro stop.
Twas a great weekend to get outside, see new sights, and enjoy the city.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Resident Tourist: Newseum

While I frequent museums with the kids each week, I rarely have an opportunity to read anything beyond the headlines in the exhibits. It's been on my personal bucket list for a while to get to a few museums solo before our time here comes to an end, and high on that list was the Newseum.

A non-Smithsonian venture, the Newseum celebrates all that has to do with the first Amendment-freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. I had intended to be gone a few hours on Sunday and be able to see the National Archives as well, but instead, spent over three hours moving at my own pace through the six levels of this amazing museum.

With my communications background, I found much of the content fascinating. Some highlights: the front of the museum has a front page from every state represented, as well as most major countries inside. I choked up no less than five times in the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery. Many images were quite iconic but others I had never seen and/or known the backstory and was moved to tears learning more about the stories and context of the images. And, I was impressed to see an image from the Orange County Register among the collection.

The Newseum also has a fully-functional television studio that has hosted President Obama and regularly featured ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, among other broadcast notables. Pretty cool to stand inside those walls. And, on the lighter side, they also have an interactive exhibit where you can pretend to be a newscaster. Of course I did that, too.

Other exhibits took a look at the Civil Rights movement the past fifty years, and how student protests have continued to be main forms of free speech. 

Exhibits also focused on the accessibility of news. Standing on either side of the Berlin wall and looking at maps as to how much freedom of the press actually existed in Berlin at that time and now, globally, was sobering. 
The museum had an amazing 9/11 gallery reflecting a timeline of events that day, journalists' stories and videos of capturing the events as they happened, and an antenna that used to reside atop World Trade Center. Their discretely placed tissue boxes were much appreciated.
Other highlights of the visit included an entire gallery dedicated to front page stories spanning three centuries. Headlines included Napoleon returning to France to the Titanic's sinking and both royal weddings of the last 30 years. It was fascinating to read (those in modern English anyway), along with exhibits on war reporting, women in news, and how the FBI is fighting modern terrorism in a pre and post 9/11 world. There's also an amazing panoramic exhibit on the top floor, flanking Pennsylvania Ave, with picture perfect views and a detailed timeline of the headlines that made it "America's Main Street."

Being non-Smithsonian the cost is around $25 for adults, but the first weekend of the month is free for Bank of America customers (credit cards, bank cards, even my Alaska Airline's credit card applied!) but it's definitely worth the money. And Wolfgang Puck's restaurant is next door and also the supplier of the cafeteria, where I had lunch. Win win!

Monday, March 5, 2018

February

Well, February came and went with nary a post...oops! The kids and I were having too much fun surprising family and friends with a trip to California!

And by surprising, I do mean in Darth Vader masks of course.


There were plenty of dart gun fights...

Playing the back of Grandpa's truck, wagon rides, games of smash ball, and wine...lots of wine...

We made a trip to the beach and pier...

And also just hung out at home. Some of us were repeat visitors to the cracker drawer.

We visited the Great Park (which I hadn't even done as a resident) and rode in the balloon. Henry has developed my love for photos in goofy signs and requested the one below in the earthworm (maybe?) cutout...

We met up with missed friends!

And had plenty of playtime on the pirate raft, swing set, and bikes.

My in-laws even treated me to a fabulous cooking class at PREP Kitchen Essentials (highly recommend to OC locals!) and while it's never enough, we spent time with aunts, uncles, and cousins.



We even made it to Irvine Park for some railroad fun...


Not pictured-a surprise baby shower appearance, a rare dinner date with my best friend, visits to our house, playdates, a few lunches with friends... and then coming home to our favorite guy. It really was a perfect February <3 p="">

Friday, January 26, 2018

January

As January inches closer to February, I want to be sure to recap our activities before either I forget or iPhone shouts at me to add more storage.

We had another overnight dusting of snow mid-month and it really doesn't take much white stuff to excite these two.


We've also revisited the Natural History Museum since Jo has been able to walk, which is an entirely new experience. We went through the butterfly garden and she had to be stopped from grabbing/slapping/stepping on all of them-generally frowned upon behavior. Henry is still an eager participant in all tarantula feedings.

We made our way across the John Phillip Sousa bridge to check out the Anacostia Park Playground after the snow melted. Henry loves a good river to throw sticks into and playground with fireman's pole, so win win for him.

Most of my adventuring ideas come from the blog KidFriendlyDC, and the author suggested a visit to River Farm. The temperatures were right and so we made our way to Alexandria, quite close to Mount Vernon, to check out the farm. It wasn't a barnyard animal type farm but more expansive gardens and lawns. It's also the headquarters for the American Horticulture Society. 

They have an awesome children's area with pirate ship, forts, playhouses, and general romping and exploring area. And another river (Potomac this time) for Henry to throw sticks into.



I of course attended the Women's March again this year and was blown away by the participation. It wasn't as large as last year (guessing because DC was not the headquarters), but that being said, I was also able to make my way up to the Lincoln Memorial and look out across the expanse of men, women, and children and frozen reflecting pool. It was a pretty amazing feeling to hear the empowering speeches from men and women, and watch from the steps that carry so much history.

We also made another visit this week to the National Building Museum. If anyone ever reads this and comes to DC with kids, I highly recommend. It's not a Smithsonian so there is an admission fee, but it's a great hands-on museum for kids, has interesting exhibits for adults, and a beautiful atrium for running around. Like the Natural History, it was the first time we've been back since Josephine could walk so it was great to see her able to enjoy it as well.

We've also had some mellow days at and around the house-perfecting our BMX-riding prep, storytime at our favorite book store, and pre-bedtime silliness :)



Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Darn Good Birthday

As of Thursday, January 11, the last three weeks of DC temperatures have been at or below freezing. SO DARN COLD! We've all had the most awful colds, flu, stomach viruses--on repeat no less--and forced indoors for the temperatures. Yet, it was like the all mighty Mother Nature knew we needed some slack and the temps rose into the low 60s on Thursday and nearly 70 yesterday, just in time for my birthday. Temperatures have dropped dramatically back into the 30s today with snow flurries, so I find it quite interesting that both this year and last, January 12 has been a random winter day we've been able to enjoy-and that we did yesterday.

Scott took the day off so we could have an entire family day together. Birthdays are a big deal for me-I realize not everyone feels the same way, and as such, I've taken matters into my own hands and plan my own so that expectations are managed. Really it's a day that I want to take full advantage of-from morning to night-and not be idle.

We started out our day at Pinstripes Bowling in Georgetown. I had taken the kids previously but it was the first time we had bowled as a family and what great fun it was. We had the entire alley to ourselves and the kids enjoyed waffles and the adults, beer.

 
After bowling we walked down to the Georgetown waterfront which has been on my bucket list for a while. We were treated to a really cool phenomenon-the temperatures rose so suddenly from the previous three weeks that the Potomac was still frozen, but a combination of steam was coming off and fog from above made for an eerie sight. We watched the seagulls skid to landings on the slightly thawing river and simply enjoyed being outside. Rain was scheduled for the entire day, but (again, thanks Mother Nature!) it rained only overnight and the forecast moved the showers to evening. On our drive home, we even got to see Julia Child's DC home.

After our Georgetown jaunt, 3/4 of us headed home for naps. I took advantage of the opportunity for some solo time and jogged to the Capitol during a beautiful break in the clouds. I made some phone calls and even caught my mailman during his delivery to inquire and receive a much anticipated package from my parents (thanks mom and dad!), and to discover it was his birthday too. (We have the WORST mail service out here. Another post for another day, but basically there are a handful of awesome USPS workers out here and if our particular mailman, Adrian, is not delivering mail but supervising at the facility, we may not see certain packages for days...or ever.) So, it was great to be able to wish him a happy day too.

After returning, the kids and I were also treated to a genuine bike messenger flower delivery-super cool points on that one!

That night, we headed back to northwest and took in a performance at the Kennedy Center, as Scott hasn't been yet. The Millenium Stage has free performances every single night of the year with varying entertainment, so you're always guaranteed something cool and interesting. We were treated to a Congolese soul and funk band and all got to dance. We capped off the night with burgers, beer, and grilled cheese nearby and then brownies at home. Combined with thoughtful messages and calls from friends and family, it was probably one of my best birthdays in a few years. Also, Henry's enthusiasm for my "day long party" was pretty contagious :)