Friday, January 24, 2020

How We Survived Washington D.C. with Kids

We have officially reached a new chapter in our lives. Our babiest is 3 and she gets to remain the babiest forever. This means that the actual baby stage of raising kids is behind us. And that Amber will forever be treated like the perfect little princess that she is.

 And this also means that we have just a tiny bit more freedom to travel!

This past Christmas we went out to PA to spend time with family. And since we were already going to be all the way out East, we couldn't resist a trip into Washington DC, which served as the kids' Christmas present.

This was not our first traveling experience with all five babes so we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting ourselves into. But Derek and I both walked away having gleaned wisdom on what to expect on such adventures in the future. It only seems like the friendly things to do to pass along some of that wisdom:

Plan, plan, plan

I am not a planner. In a perfect world of my own making, we would fly by the seat of our pants all day every day. Thankfully, my other half is significantly wiser and is a thorough planner. While my pants may work just fine as a guide if we had all the time in the world and no weary, little feet, a plan is truly your survival guide with kids.

So Derek planned out our time, where we would visit, where we would park, and how to get to each of these places. He scheduled a tour of the Capitol building (the White House is "closed" over Christmas and New Years, FYI) and knew ahead of time what to expect while there (no food or drink!). He had all the places we wanted to hit the most mapped out, with bonus things ready in case we were up for it.

Here's the thing about planning: it has to be flexible! More on that in a sec.

AirBnB will save you

Here's why: 
You'll actually get sleep because you won't all be shoved into the same tiny room.
You'll pay way less for way more.

We really hate sleeping in a hotel. As nice as a pool is (and sometimes we are willing to suffer the hotel thing just for that), sleeping 7 in one room is a nightmare. And to pay for a suite... well an AirBnB is much more economical. 

Ours was fantastic! We had an entire house to ourselves and plenty of space for all! Kitchen. Laundry. Disney+. And it cost the same as a hotel room. So you're welcome for that advice.

So will Uber

We hadn't intended to use Uber but have you ever been to DC? So.Much.Walking! By the end of the day, the littles (and the grownups) just didn't have it in them to walk all the way back to the van. We spent roughly the amount on Uber that we would have on the metro. But we got picked up where ever we wanted and brought directly to our van in record time. 

We ended up calling an Uber 3 times and every time they were super nice and professional. So much safer and less stressful than dragging the kids through the metro system in the dark of night! Which, by the way, begins around 4 in the middle of the winter.

A stroller is a MUST

You probably are aware that DC involves a lot of walking. But let me just tell you, it's more than a lot. It's more than you think. It's always more. Praise the Lord, my MIL had a double stroller that we could plop our littlest two into. And our coats and snacks and water bottles. And bags for throw-up because we happened to need those...

Throw out your expectations

We have learned this over and over since becoming parents. Things will never go as planned with kids. So we went into our trip to DC having already thrown out most of our expectations. Derek had his plan but we knew it was simply a guideline to keep our sanity. Otherwise, it was completely throw-out-able. Flexible enough to be totally different when all was said and done.

Our trip actually went mostly as planned, except...

Get rid of the rest of your expectations

We did a fraction of what we had hoped to do. In spite of PERFECT weather the entire time, there simply wasn't any way to fit everything in. And by everything, I mean the very few things we were determined to get to. 

DC cannot be done in two days. 5 kids or no kids. Can't be done.

So we were very selective about where we went, and still didn't manage all the places. I realized that I had been viewing this as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but when I let go of that, I could let go of the rest of my expectations. Even if it was the only time we'll ever go as a whole family, I had to recognize that we weren't missing out. Quite the contrary. The entire adventure was purely gift, unmet expectations and all. And that's the perfect segue into...

Treasure your people more than the places

It would have been so easy to lose it on my kids on multiple occasions while we walked (and walked) around DC. I could have ruined the fun for us all by dwelling on the handful of things I had really wanted to do but we simply couldn't make happen. If Derek or I had started grouching about sore feet or gave in to any sort of complaining, the whole trip could have been an utter disaster. But, by the grace of God and the help of each other, we were able to (for the most part!) savor the moments with our littles. Invest in their hearts and souls more than their academic knowledge of all things DC. 

Our kids won't likely remember all the things we saw, did, and learned (I already forget half of it!), but we believe they'll be able to look back on this trip with better memories than the statues and paintings in the Capitol or the pretty First Ladies dresses or the details of the flag of Fort Henry. They'll remember being loved and treasured while learning what it means to honor and respect our great country and those who made it worthy of those things.

That was our ultimate goal, anyway, and I pray it was accomplished!

Go ahead and use this wisdom for your next trip to Washington D.C. or anywhere for that matter. Where have you traveled with kids lately?


Sunday, February 10, 2019

Verbuary Challenge: Day6&7

Guys, I don't have time for this! I have commissioned work that has to be done and I'm sitting here writing flash fiction.

I'm claiming it as a warm up to the multiple articles I need to finish tooonight. I have to be done after these two for today. Got it? I know you're all disappointed.

These two shorts are both using characters from my WIP (work in progress). Enjoy a glimpse into the world of Marie and Nastia.


As she watched the dancers, each so poised, fluid, perfect, something was forming in the pit of her stomach.

She focused on her dearest friend who had a gift for ballet that exceeded everyone's in the room. Her love of dance made her face shine even after a long and arduous practice. Even after a hard and painful life. She admired her in all the ways.

But as she sat on the sidelines of the ballet life, jealousy began to take hold. And mixed with how much she loved her best friend was flecks of hate borne of envy. And in this moment, she let that feeling boil up from deep within and fester for a little too long.


"A lift?" Her heart fluttered. "Am I ready for that?"

"I think so. But there's really only one way to know for sure." Marie took a step toward the door and called, "Hey Jake, we need your help in here!"

Nastia's anxiety at the thought of practicing a lift was thrust into full on panic when she realized Jake would be doing the lifting. "Marie, really, I just don't..."

"How may I be of service?" Jake asked with a goofy grin and some crumbs tumbling off his chin onto his shirt. He took another bite of his turkey sandwich.

Marie turned to Nastia without responding to her brother. "Jake helps me all the time with lifts. I know he doesn't really look like it, but he's actually really strong."

"Hey!" Jake feigned offense.

Marie rolled her eyes and Nastia felt her cheeks flush.

Taking Jake's sandwich out of his hand, Marie pulled him further into the room and began to explain to both of them what they were going to do. Nastia's palms were clammy and her heart was racing. She was going to be lifted. She was going to be lifted by Jake.

When everyone was situated according to Marie's specifications, Jake looked at Nastia and smiled. "Marie is right," he said. "I really am strong. And I've lifted her a million times."

At Marie's impatient urging, Jake stood behind Nastia and placed his hands on her hips. Her breath caught but she willed herself to let it out slowly and focus. She followed Marie's direction, lifting into second position on pointe, then feeling herself leave the ground. For the first time she really was floating, free of the chains of earth. But she wasn't alone as she soared above reality. Jake was there. Jake was keeping her safe.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Verbuary Challenge: Day5

The word prompt was "fountain" and since I was struggling with coming up with something, I sought the help of my Bigs. The following stories were inspired by their creative minds:

Fountain (inspired by Jack)

He kept drinking and drinking and wouldn't stop. He'd drink so much that he'd have to run to the bathroom and go pee. Then he'd book it right back to the fountain and drink some more.

I was thirsty. All I needed was a sip. But he was so fast about doing his business that before I could even finish my step forward, he'd be shoving me back so he could get some more.

Finally, I asked him what his deal was. His answer was simple: "It's just so good."

Then he transformed into a fish before my eyes. I took him home and kept him as a pet.

After I got a drink, of course.

Fountain (inspired by Marie)

The most beautiful fountain any eyes have ever beheld was handcrafted by God Himself. Adam and Eve and all the animals of the Garden would gather around it every morning at dawn and worship the God who created them.

The water was crystal clear. It even sparkled in the morning sun. When Eve held her hand under the flow that cascaded down three full tiers, the water was so soft and so perfectly temperatured that it was like she was running her hand along the lion's mane (which she often did).

Yahweh would meet them there and they'd sing and chat and laugh together before heading out for their morning walk.

In the evenings, the moon would light up the fountain, giving it a fantastic glow like no earthly light could give it. Adam, Eve, and Yahweh would sit along the rock edge and recap the day, taking sips from the delectable water. Various animals would join them, lapping up some water then nuxxling or curling up in Yahweh's lap.

It was all perfect. Until it wasn't.

The evening after Eve gave in to the serpent's temptation, she and Adam didn't join Yahweh at the fountain. From a nearby thicket, they watched Yahweh greet each of his animal creations. His face was downcast as he snuggled a koala bear in his arms. Did He know somehow? It scared the couple while breaking their hearts. They ached to join Him at the fountain but they no longer belonged.

When they were cast out of the beautiful garden, just before the angel guards held up their flaming swords, Adam and Eve saw Yahweh running his hand under the fountain water, tears flowing freely. He looked at them and in that moment the fountain dried up and the garden vanished from view, waiting silently for the Savior to return.

Find my writing IG @thewriterslifeforme

Monday, February 4, 2019

Verbuary Challenge: Day4

Sometimes the words flow with little to no effort. Other times I have an annoying head cold and zero inspiration. But I managed to muddle through two completely unrelated scenes using the word prompt "Audience."

The first came from my staring out the window. The second has its roots somewhere in my work-in-progress novel. Enjoy!


The snow was heavy and wet, melting into muddy sludge under each footfall. Fog rose from the ground surrounding the stark bare trees, giving the whole scene a thick eeriness.

She could see through the forest of trees and brambles, but felt blinded by the fuzzy endlessness. Everything looked exactly the same as a mile or two or seven ago.

The cold wet was seeping through her muddy shoes, sending chill to her bones. Where was she going? What was she doing? Why was she out here? She couldn't remember.

Losing her footing on the slushy snow, she grasped onto a prickly stem and cried out. Her voice reverberated off the soggy trees and died in the wet soil. Soaked through her clothes, she remained crumpled on the ground, weeping, oblivious to her audience waiting silently in the distance.

Audience #2

She pulls on her ballet slippers, the ribbon silky soft between her fingers. With deep breaths she attempts to calm her rapidly beating heart. Maybe this is the most important performance of her career, but it isn't a different dance. She's performed it a million times before, on stage, back stage, in her dreams.

Standing, she glimpses herself in the mirror and smooths out a flyaway. Ballerinas flutter about her, adjusting costumes, touching up makeup, talking and laughing. Everything is exactly as it should be. Exactly as it always is on performance night.

Her pulse slows and steadies. The regular backstage chaos is comforting. She closes her eyes, living the moves in her mind.

The sound of her name jolts her to reality, and she quickly moves into position. Just like every performance over the last three years, she sets her shoulders, lifts her chin, and shoves down the growing ache of knowing he won't be in the audience. Not tonight. Maybe not ever again.

She sweeps out onto the stage with her fellow dancers. The tap tap tapping of her pointe shoes is so familiar. The fluidity of her arms, her legs, her whole body comes from living this life every moment of her waking hours (and often the sleeping ones) for more than a decade.

But it's been in the last three years, the years he's been locked behind bars in a foreign land, that she became this. She is a ballerina. Her whole existence is wrapped up in this fact. And it shows through her pristine performance.

Sporadic cheers pop up from the audience on her sixth or seventh turn. Three, four, five more turns and she finishes with the air of effortlessness. The whole crowd erupts.

She knows he's not out there. She knows he's sitting cold and alone in a dank cell on the other side of the world. But she dances for him. Not for the stuffy important people in the box seating who came to see her. Not for the fans who will clamber for a picture with her after the performance. Not even for the God who gave her the gift but won't let him enjoy it. No. She dances for him alone.

The curtain falls on another ballet. Another perfect performance. Another day gone.

Find my writing IG @thewriterslifeforme

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Verbuary Challenge: Day3


Photo by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia on Unsplash

It's like someone is holding my heart outside of my chest, and with the gentle care of an adolescent monkey. All my insides are screaming for the sweet release of my heart's safe return.

But there's no guarantee of that. It's my baby in there fighting for his life while I'm out here in this cold, depressive room cluttered with cold empty chairs. It's all so cold. Life is so cold.

Pacing back and forth furiously, I glare at the ER doors as I pass, willing them to open. I need to know what's happening. I need someone, anyone, to tell me that my child, the fruit of my loins, the light of my life and whole purpose for being is going to be just fine.

My husband comes flying through the entrance and grabs me, pulling me so tight my breath is caught. I don't want him to let go.

He doesn't even ask me if there's been an update. He can tell by the look on my face and the trembling of my hands. I immediately go back to pacing, moaning like I'm the one suffering from a gunshot wound. The husband goes to the nurse at the desk and speaks in hushed, intense tones with no success.

There is no update. And no, we can't go back there. Please sit down and wait.

I clench my fists and my brain feels like it's going to explode with the effort to keep from screaming til my voice breaks.

Another family walks in to the waiting area, looks of concern but not hysteria. A child coughs. Really? A cough? Maybe a fever? MY CHILD IS DYING IN THERE!

That was us once. We brought our tiny boy in for a high fever and lethargy. We thought we knew fear then. And we thought now that he's grown we could relax a little.

He's a teacher for goodness sake. Fresh off the college presses. Barely wet his man feet in the pool of inner city public school when we're called with the words: your son has been shot. Not at school. Not in some decrepit alley where he didn't belong. Not even at the local convenient. Right inside his very own apartment where he still had boxes waiting for me to help him unpack.

He welcomed his shooter in. A child from his 7th grade class. The one he'd been reaching out to, attempting to invest good. But the kid had a gun. Not for my baby, but for himself. My grown man cub attempted to save his life as the child went to pull the trigger on himself. He shot my boy. Then he killed himself.

I find the tiniest bit of comfort in the very back of my mind, thankful that I'm not that family. I have hope of that update. I desperately need the update right this very second, but without it there's still hope that this will all go away. Without the update I can imagine him walking out those swinging doors in all his lanky adultness, goofy grin and all. Without the update...

The doors swing wide. The moment I've been pleading for and dreading all at once has finally arrived.

I crumble to the floor.

Find my writing IG @thewriterslifeforme
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