The following was inspired by our first two weeks of day care visits.
“This is where the children play,” the woman said cheerily.
She gestured toward the flat bed of a pickup truck. The edge was surrounded by a makeshift wooden fence that looked like it had been made out of old orange crates.
“Oh, this shouldn’t be here,” she said and hastily moved a ball of barbed wire out of our path. “We use that to keep our cows in the pasture. And to keep out the… well, you know.”
We really didn’t know.
“I assure you we don’t let the children play with it.”
My wife and I looked wearily at the truck bed. In one corner there was a bag of mostly broken crayons. In another an ExerSaucer covered in tiny plastic frogs and giraffes.
The woman must have noticed our concern, because then she launched into the defensive: “I know what you’re thinking. This doesn’t look very exciting.”
Actually that wasn’t what we were thinking at all.
“But when we take this puppy out on the open road, the ExerSaucer starts bouncing all around and the crayons are rolling this way and that, and the kids just love it.”
“You drive it around?” my wife asked weakly.
“Just on the dirt roads,” the woman said firmly. “I treat these babies just like I treated my own.”
Treated? I thought.
“I guess all that’s left is for me to show you my state certifications. They’re up on the wall of our play kitchen. I am required by law to tell you that we also let the children play with these real kitchen utensils—spoons, a cheese grater, butter knives, serrated knives, a cleaver, and the oven. Oh but don’t worry, the oven only works half the time.”
Our dear friend Beau graduated from the FBI Academy last week, and we were delighted to spend a few days in Washington DC celebrating with him. This was my first trip to DC and Steven’s first in at least 25 years, so we had a lot to see.
We spent the first couple of days at Quantico, and Beau took us on a tour of the base where he’s been living, and we got to walk through Hogan’s Alley, eat in the cafeteria, and see a few of the familiar sites that Clarice Starling first introduced to us. Special Agent Beau has requested that we not post any pictures on the world wide web, so let me just say that it was an absolute thrill to be in the room for his graduation ceremony. The FBI director gave a speech and swore in the class and I was so impressed and humbled by the talent and sacrifice and tremendous leadership in that room. The FBI asks so many fundamental things of their agents that I’ve always wished were general principles of every work place. Responsibility. Integrity. Reputation. Accountability. Joy and balance and morality. There was an opening and closing prayer and a call to the parents and family members with small children to let the kiddos make as much noise as they wanted, because the agents missed that noise the most. It was an incredible ceremony and I left feeling inspired. If there’s anything I can do to help the FBI, sign me up. I’m officially on board.
After a couple of days with Beau and Hailey and their families, we made our way back into the city and caught our first metro ride from the airport. Washington DC has it figured out. Why don’t all airports have stops on the metro? It’s genius. The metro was cheap, easy, clean, and everyone who worked there was super friendly and helpful. I was so impressed and thankful, because we walked A LOT and Nino and I were TIRED. Steven found us a great hotel that used to be a post office in the Penn Quarter and it was worth every penny. There was a metro stop on one corner, and we were across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and a block from Chinatown. We got in about noon on Friday and I took a quick nap in the hotel while Steven went out and found us some coffee and snacks before we started exploring. Have I mentioned how nice it is to travel with Steven? The man takes care of everything. I’m the most spoiled wife in the universe.
The weather was really nice, if a little chilly, on Friday so we decided to see how much we could see on foot since it was supposed to rain on Saturday. We walked down to the White House,
and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building,
ran into the Treasury,
got kicked out of a park,
hovered near the Washington monument,
explored the Smithsonian Museum of American History,
and then stopped in the National Portrait Gallery,
and Art Museum
before heading back to the Penn Quarter for our 5pm dinner reservations at Zaytinya. Zaytinya is essentially Mediterranean tapas and the best food ever. Super fresh hummus, falafel, mussels, pitas, and pilaf. It was all so delicious, but small enough that I had room for dessert! It was the perfect meal.
On Saturday we got up bright and early to greet the rain and Steven went out again to find us some breakfast. We were only a few blocks from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, so we started there and spent a good 3 hours exploring and learning and taking a zillion pictures.
The main dinosaur room was closed (of course!) but they had lots of other really neat exhibits.
My Titanic-loving heart was thrilled to see the Hope Diamond and Steven loved all the skeletons.
I learned that there’s an animal called a jumping mouse, which is just my worst nightmare. Steven loved the little skeletons, but my favorite were the sea turtles.
They also had a huge exhibit on mammals and humans and evolution, etc. It was pretty cool, and they had a photo booth where you could see what you would look like way back when. Who wears it better?
By the time we were done in the museum my feet were DYING and we had about 1,000 things left on our wish list for the day, so we decided to make the most of metro and headed down to the Capitol.
Beau and Hailey had shared a list of restaurant recommendations from friends in his class, so we ended up at Good Stuff Eatery for lunch. It was amazing. I was so hungry, I ate my cookie first, but had plenty of room to scarf down everything I ordered… and some of Steven’s too.
Nino and I were fading fast, so we decided to stick around the area and start making some cuts to our must-see list. Luckily the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare library were right down the street, so we got to explore both of those buildings without my feet giving up in disgust.
The Shakespeare library wasn’t open for tours as they were between exhibits (of course) but we did get to see the Folger Theatre, which is a mini version of an Elizabethan theater and take pictures with the cool sculptures in the front. I also learned that there are three Library of Congress buildings, and they’re all enormous. We went into the Jefferson building and got to see the Gutenberg bible and Jefferson’s personal collection.
The building was gorgeous and quiet and majestic and oh so fancy. There’s also a Madison building and an Adams building, but we got down there too late to see those. It was starting to rain again so we briefly stopped by the Supreme Court and waved hi and goodbye to the under construction Capitol building and bid adieu to Capitol Hill.
After all that walking, and consulting our map, we realized that the metro, sadly, would not drop us off right in front of the Lincoln Memorial, so missed out on that corner of the National Mall this trip. Instead, we took the metro back to Chinatown and caught a vigil mass before figuring out what to do for dinner. Feeling completely overwhelmed by options (and aching feet), Nino and I decided that what we really wanted was more falafel, so we settled on Zorba’s Cafe in Dupont Circle and headed down to that neighborhood. Dinner was delicious and easy and cozy and we walked around the neighborhood for a bit before heading back to the Penn Quarter to see what all the fuss about Shake Shack was all about. I got some frozen custard and was unimpressed. Tell me, Shake Shack lovers – what should I have ordered?
We got up somewhat early on Sunday and took the metro to the airport for our flight back to KC. We had a direct flight on the way back and it was easy and blissful and Steven slept and I fell headlong into the adventures of the Branch family in Where’d You Go, Bernadette? We touched down in KC before noon, got a quick lunch and did some shopping at Legends and made it back home before 4. It was the perfect babymoon.
Now that I’ve been there, I get it. I only spent two days in the city and saw maybe .1% of it, but I understand now why so many people I went to college with ended up in DC after they graduated. More than New York, or Chicago or New Orleans, DC seems like a really friendly, welcoming, surprisingly affordable city for young professionals. I felt totally comfortable the entire time I was there (minus one night of pregnancy-induced anxiety) and was impressed with how easy it was to get around. It really ended up being one of the cheapest vacations we’ve ever taken, even with flights and hotel rooms because we were able to use public transportation or walk everywhere and didn’t have to pay for a single museum. DC gets this anxious traveler’s seal of approval. I can’t wait to go back.
Adventures in Pregnancy, Week 23: Anxiety Dreams
Confession: I’m a horrible traveler. I hate to say it, because people my age are supposed to be gaga for travel. I want to see the world! I want to have adventures! I want to be easy going and carefree and curious and spend my money to see new things. I have never fit into that. Traveling stresses. me. out. The packing and the money and the contingencies and the getting from point a to point b and the carrying around luggage and the not having appropriate footwear or layers or umbrellas or plane snacks or proper hydration gives me serious anxiety. The details always feel like too much work. Details are for work. Simplicity is for everything else.
Pregnancy brain has made details even more elusive to me. Thank goodness my job runs on a semester schedule and there are certain things that are done at certain times, 3 times a year. That’s the kind of structure I can handle in my current state of fog. So packing for this trip was an intense exercise in patience and survival… for Steven. God bless him.
I had been stressing about packing a week before we left. Tuesday night I kept us up until after midnight, packing and unpacking and repacking and trying everything on because of course, nothing fits the same way every day, even my maternity clothes. We were set to hit daily mass at 7:15 Wednesday morning before driving to KC to catch our first flight. So after a way too late bedtime on Tuesday, I spent the night fitfully dreaming about hot water heaters dripping next to ancient radiators. In my dream, once the hot water heater dripped enough to form a puddle, the radiator would explode, and so would our house. I woke up in a cold sweat several times, after blowing up at least 8 houses. Finally at 6am, I gave up and decided to be awake for the rest of the day.
On Wednesday night, after a very easy day of travel and a wonderful dinner at a karaoke bar with everyone, I had a dream where I kept accidentally drinking cans of beer because I forgot I was pregnant. Each time I would finish one I would remember and then panic and then the next thing I knew, I had finished another one. At the end of the dream I had missed my flight back home because I forgot to get up and leave the party. Again, I gave up on sleeping at 6 a.m.
On Friday, it finally came to a head. After three nights of fitful sleep and a full day of walking around in the wrong shoes (always the wrong shoes) and being both too hot and too cold (I can never get the layers right), I broke down in tears because I wanted Steven to go to Shake Shack to get me a second dinner, but I was too afraid for him to go outside at night without me and I was too afraid to go with him. We were in a fancy enough hotel that they didn’t have vending machines and I was starving and exhausted and in a full on crazy fit. After attempting to console me for several minutes I finally blubbered, “I’m not very good at traveling.” Steven’s response? “Well…. you’re not the best.” Then he figured out that we had (expensive) cans of coke in our mini-fridge and dug out the plane snacks that I had packed and forgotten about and I finally calmed down enough to sleep through the night.