Staving Off Summertime Boredom

Those who don’t have children may not quite understand why the prospect of summer break causes some of us to break out in a nervous sweat. Parents in DC who choose to send their kids to camp for the entire summer are looking at spending a small fortune even if they choose the most affordable camps and are somehow able to forego aftercare services. Most parents try to carve out a mixture of camp, vacation time, grandparent duty, play dates and whatever else they can come up with. The flexibility of my job is helpful during this time, but I certainly can’t stay home all summer so there’s always some creativity involved in figuring it all out.

This year, I’m staying home with my kids for the first two weeks of summer and then they will start camp at their school. I will attempt to work while they are home, relying on friends and neighbors to watch them during appointments. While this is stressful, the other difficult piece is trying to keep them entertained and away from screens for at least a decent portion of the day. It’s been exactly one week since the boys’ summer break started and they’re bored. Frankly, so is mom. I love being out and about too and so I’ve been brushing up on our favorite summertime places to visit.

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Summer is a great time to pretend to be a tourist and catch up on all the museums.

Now, I try to take advantage of all that DC offers and I spend a good amount of time exploring, but I, too, lament how there’s still so much that we haven’t done. I haven’t taken a nighttime tour of the monuments, haven’t taken a tour of the Capitol building or the White House, haven’t climbed to the top of the Washington Monument. I could go on, but the list of things to do in this area is seemingly endless, so why not try to check off a few during summer? We recently spent the afternoon at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Virginia. We hadn’t been in years. Neither kid really remembered it. Mount Vernon has spectacular views of the Potomac, gorgeous gardens and details that absolutely fascinated my children like an outhouse with multiple seats for group bathroom trips.

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Meticulously maintained gardens at Mount Vernon.

Though I enjoy exploring new spots, there are a few tried and true places that always please and one of those is Yards Park. I’m going to admit here that it’s really me who loves Yards Park the most. My kids always ending up having a good time, but sometimes they want to go to a real pool. But the wading pool here is SO much easier for me. I don’t have to get in (which means I don’t have to get into a bathing suit and get wet!) if I don’t want to; I can supervise from the cool shade. The park is gorgeous with beautiful river views. There are clean bathrooms close by. There’s a lot of kid-friendly food options like Nando’s Peri Peri, Potbelly’s and sometimes food trucks. And I can bribe them to get out of the pool with a cone from Ice Cream Jubilee.

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Lovely Yards Park with its wading pool, waterfall and fountains is always a hit.

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The very cool pedestrian bridge at Yard’s Park with river views.

Another popular summertime option is sporting events. A baseball game at Nats Park is an absolute must! Even non-sports people like myself enjoy the beautiful setting and killer food. We have tickets to see DC United this weekend as well. I’ll be looking forward to future soccer games at what is sure to be the gorgeous new stadium at Buzzard Point.

Nats Park

Nats Park is always a great night, even for someone like myself who doesn’t follow sports at all.

Even though summertime can be expensive and stressful, it’s still a great time to chill out, sleep in a bit and explore. It’s an opportunity to connect with my kids and let them decompress from the craziness of the school year. I am so grateful to live in an area with a plethora of fun activities at our fingertips. I vow to relax myself, forget my to-do list for the time being and try to create some unforgettable summer memories for my kids.


Celebrating the Love of DC Pride

Washington DC’s annual Pride Celebration is always a special time in the city. The first Pride Festival was held in 1975 so there’s a rich history here of celebrating DC’s LGBTQ community. This year, I attended the Pride Parade along with my best friend and two sons. We left with such warm feelings of love and peace. There were marchers holding signs of solidarity and support that brought tears to my eyes. It was an emotional and happy day, and I was grateful to experience it with my children.

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DC Pride

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The boys with all their swag.

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Peace Corps marches in the Pride Parade every year with volunteers carrying flags to represent all of the countries where Peace Corps is currently working. Go Peace Corps!

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Then I woke up the next day to the news of the mass shooting in Orlando. This horrific event was even more difficult to process after the previous day’s experience. To be present in a crowd of joyful people emanating love and peace is amazingly life affirming. I left the parade feeling so hopeful for humanity’s capacity for love and the progress we are making towards understanding and not just acceptance, but celebration, of one another. But the shooting was a grave reminder that this spirit of inclusion and love for diversity does not exist in every part of this country or within every American’s heart. And it has left me with a growing feeling of dread, scared of just how much hate is lurking out there and how easy it could be for powerful people to stoke that hatred and perpetuate more violence.

On the day of the parade, I was struck by the sign held by this man representing the Latino GLBT History Project. It says “Mr. Trump, I’m not a criminal nor a drug dealer…I’m a Mexican American GAY man fighting for our HUMAN RIGHTS and our LGBT community”. It was a reminder that in spite of all the strides that have been made, there is still plenty more work to be done to protect the human rights of all groups. The Orlando massacre once again made that heartbreakingly clear and made this man’s message even more poignant and urgent knowing that many of the victims were also both gay and Latino.

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Everyone wants to figure out what we can do to prevent these awful shootings. The causes of these mass shootings are complex and require equally complex, multi-faceted solutions, but it’s clear that we’re having a hard time figuring out what exactly those solutions should be. Resist access to guns? Improve mental health services? Battle racism and prejudice? Reign in radical religious groups? We clearly can’t agree what would work or how to go about doing these things.

I take comfort in my strong belief that there is a capacity for love and goodness within everyone. I know that when people do hateful things it’s because they are scared or hurting themselves. At the ripe old age of 6 years old, my son wisely proclaimed that everyone has good inside of them but some people just can’t find it. Maybe we can help people find their goodness by loving them, even when they seem entirely unworthy of our love. It’s so difficult to do but what if we take example from Mother Teresa and tell everyone, including those with hate in their hearts, “I see you too”. There doesn’t seem to be any other choice.

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Williamsburg Weekend Getaway

As much as I love DC, there are times when you gotta get out of the city and recharge the batteries. Another one of the huge benefits of living in this area is its central location. There are so many great destinations within a few hours drive of DC. You can easily get to other fun cities like Annapolis and Baltimore, the beach towns of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore or the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. When my two best friends from college were planning a weekend getaway to celebrate my 40th birthday, they racked their brains for a nearby destination that we hadn’t already visited numerous times. They decided on Williamsburg, VA since none of us had been since we were children, and we all share a love of history and architecture.

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Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum where actors portray the daily life of the 18th century inhabitants.

My childhood memories of Williamsburg were pretty hazy so I was newly impressed by the perfectly preserved architecture, quaint streets and the dedication to maintaining period details. It was also a perfect time of year to admire the magnificent flower and vegetable gardens. As we walked through the streets, we would occasionally catch the wafting, sweet scent of honeysuckle.

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Typical colonial architecture

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No girls weekend would be complete without a little pampering so of course I made a trip to the hotel spa with impressive gardens of its own.

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Trellised entrance to the spa.

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Yet another beautiful garden on the spa grounds.

We were able to rent bikes to better explore the colonial area. Since this was not the height of the season with hordes of people milling around, it was a fun and easy way to get around.

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Our preferred mode of transportation.

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Love the colors of this stately entrance.

Of course, I can’t forget the food. There are taverns within the colonial area serving traditional period food and drink. We were able to enjoy refreshments on the beautiful garden patio at Chowning’s Tavern. Because of the glowing Yelp reviews, we ventured out of the colonial area to a quirky restaurant called Food for Thought¬†featuring Southern comfort food where I had some pretty delicious ribs. We also enjoyed traditional French cuisine at the Blue Talon Bistro in the adjacent Merchants Square shopping district where we indulged in some of our favorite desserts like creme brulee, chocolate mousse and an interesting burnt sugar ice cream. Our breakfast within the Williamsburg Lodge was also phenomenal. A hearty Eggs Benedict with perfectly poached eggs and buttery, homemade English muffins filled me up for the day.

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Exceptionally good eggs benedict.

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The inviting vine covered trellis on the patio at Chowning’s Tavern.

Williamsburg proved to be a truly memorable location to celebrate a huge milestone with two of the most important people in my life. There’s nothing quite like enjoying time with friends who know and love me so well. I fell in love with these peacock plates at Chowning’s Tavern and decided to pick up a couple as a momento of this very special weekend.

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My peacock plates.




Following the “Beach” Balls Underground

I will freely admit that one of the biggest draws of seeing the current “Raise/Raze” exhibit at the Dupont Underground was just to get inside the underground space. There’s been a lot of buzz of the use of these abandoned trolley tracks as a public art space and I was excited to see it for myself. Tickets to the exhibit were sold out within 24 hours so I clearly was not alone.

“Raise/Raze” is constructed from the thousands of plastic balls used in last year’s very popular “Beach” exhibit at the Building Museum. The balls were re-purposed for this exhibit in another interactive display allowing visitors to create blocks and build structures with the balls. The intentional lighting and shadows create opportunities for some great pictures.

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The black hole within the glowing white balls.

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Entering the Raise/Raze exhibit.

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My somewhat somber underground selfie.

Ironically and completely by chance, earlier that day I also visited the National Building Museum on a field trip with my son’s school. Last year, I took my boys to experience the “Beach” installation at the Building Museum which was essentially a huge ball pit mimicking a beach scene. We had so much fun! I literally had to drag them out of the “water”. Seeing the balls in their new space today was that much more compelling after being reminded of that unique experience. I love that both exhibits were interactive which allows patrons to connect more authentically with the artwork. And the contrast between the balls in a light and airy beach scene and now literally in a dark, underground passage was striking.

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A decidedly more lighthearted selfie playing with the kids at the “Beach”.

The National Building Museum is an amazing space in its own right, filled with tons of light and soaring, majestic ceilings. Pretty much the opposite of being underground.

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On this trip to the museum, my son was learning how to plan a city to make it the most livable and accessible for its residents. He and his classmates learned about the different uses of buildings, i.e. residential, commercial, industrial, etc. They then each built their own structure and figured out the best location in the town for their building based on its purpose and the needs of the people living in the space.

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The city map displaying some of the awesome creative structures built by elementary students.

It struck me how much the kids’ lesson demonstrated an ongoing theme of the use of public spaces in creating viable cities. The “Beach” and “Raise/Raze” installations specifically demonstrate the real world necessity of art in such spaces for building community, raising awareness and exploring important themes of our collective well-being.