Monday, April 22, 2013

Cupcakes at the Park

A few years ago we were invited to a birthday party that our Brazilian friends threw for their young daughter.

When we arrived at the park, it became clear to me that all the family had brought was a birthday cake.  Having recently browsed the world of party blogs and being very well versed in the art of party throwing, my heart started to race.  Where were the pennant banners?  Where were the party games?  And where were the personalized water bottle wrappers?!

Did they not know that this was going to be a disaster?  Was it my cultural imperative to pull them over to the side and help them throw together some games before guests started to arrive?

But I just bit my tongue and waited for imminent doom.

But it didn't come.  Instead, there were races and laughter and the adults chatted while the children played at the park.

So in the wake of a crazy March, this year we took a page from our Brazilian friend's book and did a party at the park for Gigi's 3rd birthday.  Just oodles of cupcakes made by many helping hands, water bottles (sans special wrappers), string cheese and veggie straws, and nothing more.  A few good snacks and a lot of good people = a really good time.

The incredible weather and a beautiful park didn't hurt either.

It was perfect.  Happy 3rd birthday sweet girl!


March felt like a series of adventures, with a few minutes to catch our breath in between unpacking half  of the house from the last trip and packing up the other half of the house for the next.  

When my sister friend Lindsay said that she would be flying from Hawaii to DC with her youngest son Makana to visit our other sister Amanda in March, we said, "yes, we're in!".  If you remember from a few months ago, Amanda and Josh are there for a semester as Josh is interning for Senator Lee from Utah.  That's how we scored tickets to President Obama's Inauguration.  Now, two months later, we were on the road again, this time to see Linds and Makana as well.  

On Friday night we stayed in Arlington, VA at my graduate school girlfriend Katherine's house.  She and her dog Pumpkin made us feel very welcome.  We cooked them dinner and dessert, and stayed up late talking.  Of course I didn't get any photos of that night, but we loved catching up with old friends.

The next morning we met up with the clan at Josh and Amanda's rented basement studio.  It was a sweet reunion since we hadn't seen Linds since she and her family moved to Hawaii last summer.  After lunch and an adventure navigating the metro with strollers, we arrived at Union Station and walked to the National Mall.  Here are Josh, Amanda and Lindsay, ready to take on the city.

Our first stop was the Capitol building.  As an intern, one of Josh's jobs is to give tours and he was quite the brainiac.  Although it was Saturday and we could not go inside, Josh gave us a brief walk n' talk about American history, and Washington DC.  

The goal that afternoon was to make it from one end of the National Mall to the other.  We did it, but it was a long haul, considering that every few minutes we were stopping for something or another with the kiddos.  The kids did very well, but I'm pretty sure that our very slow pace was an eye opener for Josh and Amanda, who are used to a stroller and diaper-bag free existence.  (Hanging out with us probably causes people all the time to think twice before starting a family anytime in the near future).

The carousel on the mall!  The cherry blossoms!  After living in Japan nearly ten years ago we have a love for sakura and especially o-hanami, the picnics under the trees that give spring an official welcome.  We were too early for most of the Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival events, and the trees around the Tidal Basin weren't in bloom, but every once in a while we found a tree blossoming ahead of the curve.

My favorite photo of Lindsay and Amanda.  And below, my favorite photo of our family.  When I look at these photos from this trip, all I can think is, "love, love, love".  So much love.  So much fun.

Above are some of the Asian kites flying in front of the Capital Building, as part of the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The day we spent at the mall was a particularly beautiful day, and although we found the winds whipping down the mall very cold, there were a lot of sports enthusiasts playing pick up games in the grass.  

At one moment I noticed that all three kids were asleep at the same time.  Victory!

The Fantastic Four on the way to the Lincoln Memorial.  I love this image.

The Lincoln Memorial, looking back at the Washington Monument.

On Sunday we went to church in the morning, which was really great.  After church we decided it would be nice to take a driving tour of a few must-sees in DC.  We started with the National Cathedral - beautiful, but closed.  Bummer.  Then Georgetown, which was an absolute driving disaster.  Then the Iwojima statue, and then Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon.

We spent the most time at Arlington National Cemetery.  It was moving to see the endless rows of identical headstones.  Life is so, so precious.

For dinner we found one of my new all-time favorite restaurants, ever.  We were a little high strung after an afternoon of DC traffic, and it was exactly what we needed - "Busboys and Poets" in Arlington (there are other locations around the DC area as well).  At the end of the meal, every one of us said, "That was the best ___ I've ever had".  The service, atmosphere and food were all absolutely top notch.  Do yourself a favor and go there the next time you're in Washington.  They even have open mic night and a book club, if you're into that sort of thing.

After dinner, it was family hang out time in our hotel room.  Since we had more space than Josh and Amanda's basement studio, everyone partied at our place until late.  We were going to watch a movie, but we were too happy talking and catching up.  Gigi and Makana stayed up late playing with stickers and giving hugs.

On Monday morning we packed up half of our house to put back into our car and checked out of the hotel, much to Gigi's disappointment.  She is a real hotel enthusiast.  

Then it was pancake party time at the basement studio...

...and on to the Capital Building to meet with Josh for our private tour.  

This is the flight of stairs the President descends with his family on Inauguration Day.  The small balcony straight ahead is where Presidents are sworn in, and that's the national mall in the back.  It was unreal to be there, so up close and personal, and to have a private tourguide showing us the behind-the-scenes features.

Josh earned himself a break.  At one point I needed to feed a fussy Orion, and Lindsay had to change Makana's nasty diaper.  We found a quiet hallway off the beaten path, and took a family break.  Josh and Amanda were so lovely and patient with our pace.  

Josh taught us about the Italian painter who was hired to do the beautiful art under the dome of the Capital Building.  He even took us via special tram over to the senate building where he works.  We stood at a rostrum where people say important things and work on changing important laws.  We spoke into the microphone.  Who might have stood there before us?

And finally, it was back to Union Station for dinner.  

After dinner, it was lots of hugs and blowing kisses to our friends and this beautiful city.  Linds, Mams and Josh, we miss you already.  Thank you for a wonderful weekend and we hope to see you again soon!