Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ain't too Proud to Beg

It's that time of year again.  No, I'm not talking about Spring.  Nope, I don't mean Easter either.  It's lottery time!  School lottery, that is.  And, I'm not very lucky, so this time of year sends me into a panic.  Truly, luck and I are not well acquainted.  Example: once, I won tickets on the radio to see the Cranberries (remember them) and then the concert was cancelled, true story.  This time last year, I was nervous and anxious and, okay, let's be honest, freaking out, just a little bit.  

Caleb, our 5 year-old and rising Kindergartener, currently attends a great school.  He loves it.  We love it.  It's perfect.  Really.  And, in a perfect world, Isaac, the 3 year-old, would go there too, starting in September.  He would wake up in the morning, gulp down something "nutritious" (like Froot Loops), get dressed, don his back-pack and follow his older brother into their great school.  He'd go to his Pre-School class and come home every day exhausted and babbling about new friends and teachers and songs and stories.  He would love it.  We would love it.  
It would be perfect.  Really.

But, alas.  There are too many kids for whom this school is perfect forcing them to hold a lottery for each precious slot.  Last year, there were 11 spots and over 100 applicants.  Thankfully, Caleb got lucky.  We got lucky.  

It was a miracle.  

I believe in miracles.  They happen in my life all the time.  Caleb getting into this school was a big one.  And we've had others, even bigger ones.  Some we needed, some we didn't expect, some we couldn't imagine our lives without.  
And now, we need another one.

Today I spent hours in the car driving from one end of the city to the other dropping off enrollment forms at schools we would prefer our boys didn't attend.  Fine schools, most of them, but not perfect.  But, if Isaac doesn't get into Caleb's school, we need a back-up plan.  And, since I'd rather they didn't attend separate schools, we submitted applications for Caleb as well.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think we'd have to pull Caleb out of his perfect school, that he loves.  But.  But, we have to be realistic.  It's a lottery, someone has to get in, sure, but several someones won't and that could easily be Isaac.  

It could easily be us.

The lottery isn't until next week, and I can't stop thinking about it.  It's beyond my control, I know that, but still, I can't quiet the contingency plans running through my head.  None of the contingency plans are appealing.  Thinking about them doesn't make me feel better.  The only thing that works is praying.  And I am.  We are.  We need a miracle, and I'm not above begging for one.  It's just one year.  I know that.  And it's just pre-school.  I know that too.  But, he's my baby.  They're my babies, and this school will be perfect for that one year.  And, in the grand scheme of things I know one year of school isn't that big of deal.  In fact, it probably really doesn't matter at all.  But, it matters to us right now. 

Last year, everything worked out just fine and there is every reason to believe things will be fine this year, too.  No matter what happens, things will be fine.  But, I know prayers make a difference, especially when it comes to miracles.  So, for the next week we'll be crossing fingers and toes and clutching rabbits feet and avoiding black cats and begging, praying for a miracle.   

Sunday, March 27, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #13

It's cherry blossom season in DC.   You might not know it though because we've had unseasonably cold temperatures this weekend and are expecting SNOW tomorrow.  Nevertheless, the cherry blossoms are just days away from their peak and the festival named for these delicate pink and white blossoms began in earnest today.  And we were there at the National Building Museum for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day.  It was CRAZY and PACKED and FUN, FUN, FUN!

More people visit Washington, DC, during cherry blossom season than any other time of year.  They come to see the cherry blossom trees given in 1912 to the United States from Japan.  The gift comprised some 3000 trees, the bulk of which were planted around the Tidal Basin.  At this time of year, literally hoards of people descend upon the Tidal Basin to take in the beauty of millions of blooms.  It is a stunning sight and worth seeing, at least once, if you have the opportunity.  We plan to go next week in an effort to miss the weekend madness.

There were thousands of children and parents and strollers milling from one craft booth to another at the festival kick-off today.  The crafts were reminiscent of Japan, for obvious reasons, and fairly easy for even the littlest crafters to handle.  We managed to hit 5 different tables before the crowds and hunger got the better of us.

First, we made kites using foam, acetate, glue (we used lots of glue today), and tissue paper.

See how pretty?

They look even better in the window with the light coming in behind them.

Next, we made windsocks with colored paper bags 
and streamers.

The finished product.

Next up was by far our favorite stop, the Home Depot sponsored "Easter Basket" project.  The boys got to hammer the nails themselves and were giddy at the prospect of tools.  I shudder to think what they would be like with power tools!

We had to wait a few minutes for each project and you can see the little girl to the right in the picture waiting ever so patiently for her turn.  Not every child we encountered was as patient as she.

If I'm really ambitious I might get some grass seed and turn these boxes into live Easter baskets, 
but, that seems highly unlikely.

Then we made shoji screens.  They were a little more complicated so I have no pictures of us in the act, but here is Isaac helpfully modeling his completed project.

Last stop was the junk boats.  These were much harder to make than everything else we attempted and the boys got bored waiting for us to finish all the grown-up steps (read: figure out what the directions meant and try to make our creations look more like boats and less like junk).

The color scheme of the festival is light pink and dark pink with accents of medium pink and the National Building Museum looked like someone dumped an enormous bottle of Pepto-Bismol over everything.  

But, I like pink so I thought everything was just perfect.

Man, we love this city! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

FHE Ethiopian Style

For Family Home Evening this week (remember, we're LDS) we cashed in a Groupon from a very generous friend who couldn't use it 
and took the boys out for Ethiopian food. 

It was a first for them and they LOVED it. 

We talked the waitress into letting us order food for 3 people instead of 4, arguing that combined Caleb and Isaac are just one person. 

Next time we'll order enough for 4.  They acted like it was their first meal in days and ate everything in sight.  Their favorites?  
The lamb, the drumsticks, and the lentils.   

The weather was perfect so we walked around Adams Morgan for a little while after dinner with the goal of going to one of our favorite 
(from the past) ice cream joints.     

Sadly, it wasn't there anymore.  So, we punted with Mickey Ds because in my experience it's just not FHE without dessert.

Am I right or am I right?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We Love Washington, DC #12

My friend Christie has started a wonderful series on her blog called "How-To Tuesday."  Click over and read today's and all other previous posts, you'll learn all sorts of helpful things from Christie and the rest of the "How-To Tuesday" gang.  
Today, I'm offering my first contribution with a post I'm calling:

How To Play Tourist in Your Own Home Town

So, I'm sort of cheating with this offering since it's also part of my regular "We Love Washington, DC" series, but I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone.  Also, I recognize that some cities lend themselves more naturally to this sort of thing, but I know that every locale has something to offer its residents, even those where you've lived for what feels like forever.

Step 1.  Make a plan.  Advance planning is critical, especially if you have young children.  If you are lucky, you live in an area with lots of attractions and lots of resources for figuring out what's happening when and where.  Like this site that I read religiously: KidFriendly DC.  But, even if you live in smaller cities or towns there is usually a calendar of events available at the local library, chamber of commerce or community center listing happenings you probably have never even considered attending, much less knew existed.

Step 2: Decide your route.  We opted for public transportation for our most recent outing because 1) the kids love to ride the Metro; 2) finding parking in DC is often frustrating and always time-consuming; and 3) tourists almost always get around using the Metro, and we were trying to blend in.

Step 3:  Choose age appropriate activities.  Our outing was to the National Postal Museum.  Very kid-friendly, but also interesting for adults, too.  Remember your audience when you make your plan or no one will have fun.  And, talk it up, whatever "it" is.  Even a trip to the local bakery can be exciting if you couch it that way.  In smaller communities, try calling ahead and see if you can get a behind the scenes tour.  Local business owners are often only too happy to let you come behind the counter and check out their operation up close and personal.

Step 4:  Think about timing and proximity.  My kids are good for about 1 - 2 hours at museums.  We know that and have to work around their needs or we would never go anywhere.  Also, they get hungry at lunch time, like every other child on the planet.  The National Postal Museum is across the street from Union Station, which has endless food options, so we planned to end our day with lunch.  And, we told them the plan in advance (i.e 1) Take the metro, 2) Go to the museum, 3) Get lunch) so they were aware of what was coming next.  Communicating with everyone is critical to a successful day of tourism, whether you're at home or on vacation.  Having a plan does not diminish the spontaneity of the trip, in fact, in my experience it actually enhances everyone's level of enjoyment.

Step 5:  Don't forget your camera.  Even if you're not a photographer, "tourist" outings always provide unexpected photo ops, like this one with an enormous statue of Benjamin Franklin.

Step 6: Don't be shy.  There will always be someone willing to take your picture.  Ask them, you'll be glad you did.  Also, ask questions.  The volunteers in places where tourists frequent are usually really knowledgeable and seldom called upon to impart anything other than the way to the bathrooms.  And, if your kids are not always willing to let you read all the signs, this is a great way to find out fun facts you might otherwise miss. 

The next few pictures are of the various modes of transportation employed by the Post Office for mail delivery over the years.  The boys loved the indoor trucks, trains and planes.

Step 7:  Be flexible and have fun.  You never know what undiscovered adventures you're going to happen upon in your touristing, so try everything.  I keep a running list of must see and off the beaten path destinations that I refer to any time we have time for an outing.  It's always a pity when you waste half the morning devising a plan.  

Step 8: Do it.  There is always something to do, you just have to your homework and then go for it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mini-Break Day 3

Last stop on our weekend adventure and the final piece of America's historic triangle was Colonial Williamsburg.  In the brochure they recommend visiting for several days because it is impossible to see everything.  It is true that there is tons to see, but it is also the case that not everything is open every day and that many of the sites can only be viewed as part of a guided tour.  During high season I can imagine it would be nearly impossible to see even a fraction of the open venues.  But, this was not high season and though we were somewhat hampered by our little people, and the fact that much of Colonial Williamsburg is not geared to their age group, we saw A WHOLE LOT.  Both Kenny and I had been before, but didn't remember much of it and really enjoyed our visit.  It was a wonderful end to a jam-packed weekend of fun.
 The Presbyterian meetinghouse.

 The flag before Ireland became part of the UK and necessitated the additional stripes.

 The Capitol.

 The Gaol (jail).

 Duke of Gloucester Street.

 Two boys.

The bindery.

 A moment with horses Agamemnon and Persepolis.

The silversmith.

 The wigmaker.

 The cabinetmaker.

 The printing press.

The milliner.

 The obligatory stockade photo.

The shoemaker who makes shoes, not to be confused with the cobbler who fixes them.

The magazine.
 The apothecary.

 The blacksmith.

 The weaver.
 The court house.

 The Governor's Palace exterior, 


 and gardens.
Spring has arrived in Colonial Williamsburg.

The flowers

were blooming



Hooray for living close to so many exciting places and having the time and means to enjoy them.

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