Christmas in July in Old Town Alexandria, VA

Such a fun and wonderful community event for Alexandria, Christmas in July!  All children want Christmas to be more than just once a year, I want it to be more than once a year.  This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate a midyear Christmas.  The Christmas Attic in Old Town Alexandria is the center of all the activities.  There you can meet and talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus, decorate Christmas ornaments and play loads of fun games for the whole family.  It is a lot of fun to see Santa dressed up in a summer outfit. 
The Christmas Attic isn’t the only store that participates in this mid summer’s Christmas holiday.  There is a list of stores and restaurants that enjoy getting in the spirit of the holiday with Christmas cookie decorating, games, music and lots of holiday cheer.  There are carolers walking around and a band playing Christmas music.  The spirit of the season is definitely captured with this event.  Besides being in the middle of summer you feel like you are walking the historic streets of Old Town Alexandria during the Christmas holiday.  This was the perfect activity to bring your child to.  My daughter thought it was so cool to see Santa in summer clothes and to be able to tell him what she wants for Christmas.  You can’t beat the Christmas spirit and this is a perfect way to have a mid-year celebration!

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From Us... Plus One, A commentary blog by Kelli!

Kelli's blog can be found at 

Being pregnant at the same stage of Kelli, I felt that this blog entry really hit home as it did for a lot of other moms and moms to be!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

the idealist and cocoa puffs.

i've now entered the ninth month of pregnancy. i've experienced almost all that pregnancy has to offer, sans the 'labor and delivery part,' and i have one glaring observation about the whole experience of being pregnant. the best part about being pregnant, of course, is that it will end after nine months. ...oh, and of course, that it will end with a baby. yes, that is important.

however, the worst part about being pregnant, for me, wasn't physical or mental. it wasn't going to work and vomiting in the trash can next to my desk or having an emotional breakdown while walking two blocks to my car in 115 temperatures at 37 weeks. it wasn't the diarrhea or constipation, the crazy, sudden stinging nipple sensations or the inability to wear shoes. it wasn't even the physical exhaustion or the braxton hicks that woke me, sure 'this is the moment of labor... and i'm only 24 weeks!' it wasn't even the mad rush to get everything completed before she arrives, and the crazy midnight assembling of an impossible pack-n-play.

no... the worst part about being pregnant was probably other people.

i know that most people are well-intentioned; in fact, a majority of people are VERY well intentioned. they want to share their knowledge with you. they want to share their birth experience with you, or their medical knowledge with you. they have a need to share what they've learned in books, or through their parents, or on oprah or dr. oz. and it's incredibly REAL and IMPORTANT... to them. the minute my huge belly comes into view, three to five prerequisite questions are asked, after the initial 'so when are you due?' at first, i found it incredibly odd that sometimes perfect strangers would ask such personal questions of me, but now i realize this is just the politics of being a woman about to have a child. the questions range from a variation of the following:

'are you going to breastfeed?' this usually includes a dissertation on how long you should breastfeed.

'have you read ____________ (insert book here, but usually either 'what to expect...,' 'spiritual midwifery,' 'the happiest baby on the block,' and/or any book by penny simkin or dr. spock).

'where are you delivering?' and their inevitable response that what you've chosen is/isn't a good place to deliver and how much they loved/hated their choice.

'are you delivering 'natural' or not?' let's not even bring up the can of worms this answer will open.

'are you going to stay at home or go back to work?' ditto on the can of worms philosophy with this one.

now, these questions seem nice and innocent enough, right? until you are the pregnant woman on the receiving end of them, and every pregnant woman or woman who has kids knows what i'm talking about:

the answers to these questions becomes a political and philosophical MINEFIELD.

who knew that having a baby could stir up so many staunch opinions, ready to be unleashed, with loaded phrases to induce guilt into any (already highly emotional and often scared) pregnant woman. as if making it to 12 weeks (sometimes going weeks without getting the reassurance of listening to a doppler heartbeat) wasn't scary enough, now you have to worry about whether or not that mile you just ran or taste of wine you just had was 'wrong,' due to an onlooker unsoliciting-ly asking you, 'are you sure you should be doing that?

yes, people become experts at being pregnant even if they've never done it. i remember the first-time-shock of a super skinny, 20-something, biracial hipster waitress with hand and armband tattoos eying me when i was obviously pregnant, as i had ordered a cup of coffee in her ultra-cool, super-organic, all-local farmer's market restaurant. she actually had the nerve to pause and ask me, 'now wait... are you sure? can you even have coffee when you are pregnant?'

this, from a young woman who likely believed that labor and delivery happened exactly the way you see it on Grey's Anatomy.

and i'll admit it. i used to be 'that' girl. i was the marathon-running, vegetarian coolio who bought organic, chemical-free, dye-free, fragrance-free soap and used only sulfate-free laundry detergent crafted from the urine of indigenous island folk who spoke only in tongue clicks. i bought recycled toilet paper, and balked at people who had the audacity to eat fast food. i continued to run several miles a week until just a few weeks ago, and i was certainly not going to be one of the women who got swollen feet in the last few weeks, because i was doing everything right.

and now, in this last month it isn't unusual for me to have a dinner that consists of two hot dogs and cocoa puffs. to top it off, most friday nights i beg my husband for a dinner of mcnuggets and fries, and eat EVERY LAST BITE of them, because i can't fathom the idea of having to cook, and i just want to be 'not hungry' and 'not hungry NOW.' at present time i haven't washed my hair in 4 days and i consistently wear my husband's t-shirts and shoes. my feet are the size of a bee-stinging victim's, and i resort to coffee on a regular basis. i've even had a few nights where i indulged in a 1/2 glass of *gasp* wine. ...and not the non-alcoholic kind of my early pregnancy.

it's not that i've reached a point of all hell breaking loose and a total disregard for pregnancy safety, it's just that i've reached a point where i've become way less idealistic and way more practical. i can't be idealistic all of the time; it's too much in pregnancy. the pressure is incredibly intense, even for me: a well-adjusted, 'older' woman with a stubborn streak and high self-assurance. a pregnant mother has so much weighing on her, with what she 'can' and 'cannot' eat, and do, and plan.

she is supposed to lay a certain way in bed every night to sleep, in order to give her baby the best blood flow. she supposed to walk as much as possible, and sitting on the couch at night is frowned upon, because it 'causes the pelvis to relax and narrow, rather than open.' she is supposed to still get up every morning, even with night after night of shitty sleep due to nausea, or peeing ten times, or horrible back and hip pain, and still get to work on time. she is supposed to drive in rush-hour traffic as if it doesn't matter that her stomach is precariously close to the steering wheel. she is supposed to have high-quality, protein packed, perfectly balanced meals and her practitioner will require her to spend a few days tracking what she eats to ensure it meets a certain standard. she will be hounded at medical appointments to go over said food diary. she will be asked if she wants to have genetic testing performed (or be told it is required because she is 35 or older) and she will be dammed by some if she does and dammed by others if she doesn't. she will have to consider the horrible dangers of vaccinations versus the lifesaving and communal benefits they offer, and will again be dammed by someone because she chooses to vaccinate or not.

let's not even approach breastfeeding in one single blog entry, for sanity's sake.

the biggest and most heated topic is the choice of how to birth: 'natural' (the wording even offers the subtle assumption that birthing any other way than vaginally is inferior) or 'medicated' or even worse yet, the dreaded 'c-section.'

and all the while, she has to keep her composure, smile, and try to entertain the endless conversations that inevitably (and endlessly) occur regarding all of these topics, all because when you are pregnant and get together with a group of women, this is what you talk about. and nothing polarizes a group of women like the discussions surrounding these topics. nothing else offers more unsolicited opinions and superiority/inferiority complexes like these topics.

it's exhausting. and in my pre-pregnancy naivety, i thought it was so simple.

i completed the ever-popular bradley classes. i maintained a meat-minimalist diet throughout pregnancy, and i consistently exercised. i faithfully attended doctor's appointments, went to the chiropractor for back and hip pain to avoid OTC pain relievers, and i read every damn baby book there is. i studied zen buddhism meditation in order to have the most 'natural,' calm, and out-of-hospital birth possible. i was super pregnant woman, and i felt like a goddess.

and then, it happened: life's little (big) lesson.

an unsure midwife and subsequent ultrasound at week 35 revealed the impossible: this baby is breech.

breech means that your options become more limited. depending on where you live, this means 'automatic c-section.' this means a hospital, an invasive procedure, an epidural, no 'natural' laboring hormones, and weeks of recovery while taking more prescription medication in order to cope with the pain while trying to nurse your new child. i had never even considered this might happen to me.

of course, there are underground networks that you can research. i tell my story to people and suddenly i hear there are things i should be doing:

-find a doctor or (better yet!) a midwife who will attend a breech vaginal birth! see if you can have one out of the hospital while you are at it!
-try chiropractic care to get the baby to turn! insurance won't cover it, but it's so worth it at $65-$100 a session!
- try hypnotherapy!
-try acupuncture!
-try moxibustion!
-find a doctor willing to try an external version!

you must, must, must now exhaust these resources. you must not surrender. you must not give in, you must rally against the fate of having a procedure you didn't want. you must not leave any stone unturned. you can even fight it to the end: allow yourself to go into labor, show up at a hospital, and refuse a c-section! you can! fight for your right to labor!

well, you know what?

i'm calling uncle, i'm calling time out, i'm calling BS.

i know i have these options. i know that i can rally until the last minute against what fate is bringing me.

but at 37 weeks, quite frankly, i'm tired. i'm more inclined to surrender than to fight it. this does not make me any less of a mother-to-be.

if she's breech and decides to stay that way.... let her, dammit.

it isn't due to some type of psychodynamic underlying fear that i have that she won't turn. it wasn't because i had coffee, or i ran that 5k at seven months. it wasn't because i had a hot dog or two or because there were nights i just couldn't sleep on my left side anymore. it's not because i haven't relaxed enough or given 'hypnobabies' a chance. it's not because i've failed to try moxibustion or the knee-chest position three times a day.

or it might be all of the above. it doesn't matter.

there comes a magical switch for someone like me during the ninth month of pregnancy, and it goes like this:

i don't care how she gets here. it's no longer my battle and frankly, it's no longer my choice to force. it's her choice, and as long as she gets here safe and happy, i'm the mother of the year because i let it go, and let it happen.

that's the right choice.

and dammit, i RESERVE my right to say these things. i reserve my right to say enough is enough and not feel guilty that i didn't exhaust every option in order to get what i wanted. i reserve the right to bitch about people who piss me off with idealisms that i just can't practically adhere to. and i fully uphold their right to be pissed off and abhorred by my heathen words. that's what makes us parents. we judge, we feel superior and inferior, and we have to live with the choices we make.

in the end, i've lost the ability to argue most points about pregnancy and idealism. it isn't fair, and it isn't productive. and honestly, THANK GOODNESS for this breech reality check. i needed it. the choices women make before, during, and after pregnancy are as intensely personal and sacred as her own religion, politics, and morals. ...and they should all be respected as such. the last thing we should do is alienate someone who is doing what they feel most capable of doing. i believe we are all truly operating at our highest capacity at any given moment, and if that means a dinner of hot dogs and cocoa puffs the night before our scheduled c-section, then dammit...

that's ok.

maybe next week i'll have the organic spinach salad and tofu while reading the buddhacarita.

(or fifty shades of grey. i'm sure it all will eventually have implicit meaning.)

i take a deep breath and shout my rallying cry:


(i would love to give credit for the blog photo, but i have no idea anymore where i found it or how to give it credit. if anyone does, please let me know for i find it smart and hilarious.)

The Washington Plaza, DC

                The Washington Plaza Hotel is a little tiny slice of Miami put in the middle of Washington DC.  The architecture of the hotel is very modern and airy with elegance.  It is light and vibrant with some color which is different and refreshing for being in Washington DC.  Most of the hotels in DC don’t have the resort fell to them and the Washington Plaza definitely does.  The rooms are very spacious with comfortable and fun colors.  There is a huge presidential suite that can be rented for a very large amount of money, but if you are looking to have a Miami experience in DC, and have the money, then it could be worth it!  The big draw to the Washington Plaza Hotel is that there is a beautiful outside pool.  It is very chic and there is pool service from the bar and restaurant.  Most of the hotels in DC, if they have a pool, it is indoor, so this is one of the most appealing features of the hotel. 

                The hotel also offers two tasty restaurants, the International Bar and Ten Thomas Restaurant.  Ten Thomas serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, which for the most part is all reasonably priced.  Some of the entrees may get a little expensive for what the meal is, but most everything is locally grown and the chef prepares everything fresh in a very chic setting.   The food is very tasty and the setting makes a fun day or night out.  The International Bar serves a variety of fun drinks and cocktails and offers a smaller menu that is very affordably priced.  I don’t know if I would say that the hotel is an overall child friendly stay.  There were children in the pool and walking around with families, it is to be expected when you visit Washington DC, but most of the singles laying poolside were not happy when they got splashed.  Though this would not rate as one of the top hotels to take your children, I think it is fine to take children there, my toddler did great, but it is a more mature cliental.  No matter what age you are staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel is an enjoyable experience. 

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The Sculpture Garden

One of Washington DC’s best little secret, especially during the hot summer, is the Sculpture Gardens.  If you have the family out exploring “The Mall” area you need to stop by and explore the Sculpture Gardens.  The abstract sculptures that make up this garden are entertaining and fascinating as it is all set in a very European setting with gardens and long path ways.  And in the middle of everything there is a huge fountain that you are able to cool off by putting your feet in.  The whole scene looks like it comes directly from Paris.  There is a little bistro cafĂ© with beautiful outdoor seating and it is a tossup if the fountain or all of the sculptures are the main attraction!

This is a great place to come and bring the children to enjoy looking at larger than life pieces of art as well as letting them enjoy splashing around in the fountain.  The Sculpture Garden is hidden behind gates and it is almost as if nothing was there until you go in.  It is located down the street from the Natural History Museum.  It is hard to bring children to an art museum, so this is the perfect setting because it is outside where they can run around, the art is so big and exciting that it intrigues even a toddler and if all else fails; the fountain is a great place for them to splash around and cool off.  On top of the good entertainment value for children it is so spread out and enclosed that it makes a very relaxing setting for someone opening up a book or getting a coffee. 

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A Sailabration for the Whole Family!

                The Sailabration in Baltimore this year was an event that was not to be missed!  Fun for the whole family, tall ships from around the world sailed into port, most of them were government or coast guard ships from other countries, and we were all allowed to visit and go on board!  During the day time it was a history and culture lesson in the making.  This was the perfect event to take a child to and have them learn about different countries, cultures and the fundamentals of sailing.  Everyone working and crewing aboard had a special story to tell about how they sailed to Baltimore and the journey that lead them there.   Learning about the journey and experience was just as fun as learning about the boat and seeing all of the fun aspects of a historic tall ship. 

                The evening was none the less of a huge party where each country’s boat would have an elaborate celebration on board.  The boardwalk in Inner Harbor Baltimore was crowded with live music and people celebrating.  The tall ship from Columbia had live salsa music and was going strong into the wee hours of the night.  The tall ship from El Salvador had an elaborate ball and dinner happening, and everything would be watched and spectated, which made it fun for tourists and passer byers.  The Sailabration was truly an event for people of all ages.  There was something fun and entertaining for everyone to do and see.  It was a celebration not only of sailing and tall ships but bringing different countries and cultures together.  It was a great family environment as well as a great party scene!  It was an event that was too good to be missed!  So if you didn’t make it to Baltimore this year, don’t miss out next time! 

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