Monthly Archives: August 2017

Summer 2017 bucket list


At the beginning of the summer, I set myself a bucket list. Consisting of only six activities, it was not ambitious; it was merely designed to get us out of the house and do something we either had never done before or do rarely, at least once a week for each week that Teddy did not have a camp. Make no mistake: these activities were planned for my sake, not my kids’. They would be perfectly happy playing at home all day every day. I’m the one who needs to get out once a day. Despite this plan being primarily for my own happiness, I did my best to find things I thought the kids would enjoy. This was really in my own best interest; it’s hard to coax Teddy out of the house…for any reason. It requires actual bribery for him to voluntarily go somewhere solely for my sake. So, I mined the archives of, searched my own memory for ideas I’d filed away, and actually asked Teddy. (He kind of missed the point of the assignment, offering ideas for activities…at home. But we did some of those the other days of the week.) I put together my list, posted it on the wall, and checked things off as we did them. And yesterday, I crossed off our final activity!

Summer Bucket List 2017

DC Trails Tour Bus
Every time we walk to Union Station and Teddy sees the hop-on-hop-off tour buses waiting for passengers, he asks if we can join. So when friends invited us to join them, I jumped at the chance. I love this touristy activity. Mike and I toured the city on one of these buses when we first visited DC, and I’ve ridden a trolley with my parents. I enjoy the trivia and seeing the sights without all the walking (since we walk ev-er-y-where), and I figured Teddy would appreciate that part, too. So one beautiful Tuesday morning (we planned carefully around all the projected rainstorms for that week), we boarded an empty bus and found seats at the front, right behind the tour guide. I LOVE being close to the tour guide, whether on walking tours or bus tours (or bike tours! We biked the sights at night when we first moved here). I always ask questions and get to know the guide a bit. (I’ve decided when I retire, I want to be a tour guide.) We opted to stay on the bus the entire tour rather than get off anywhere, and it lasted about two hours. The kids hit their wall for sitting in one place at about the 90 minute mark (and that’s also about when the lovely morning turned unpleasantly hot), but we powered through until we’d reached the stop where we’d started.

Anacostia Pirate Ship Playground
This playground in Anacostia Park has, as you might imagine from the name, a play structure designed to resemble a pirate ship. We’d gone once before a couple years ago for a friend’s birthday party, and every since I’d been determined to go back. Anacostia always feels so far away, since it’s across the river, but getting there turned out to be quite doable. We met the same family whose birthday party we’d attended and another friend, and stayed for nearly four hours. Of course, the kids spent approximately five minutes on the play structure itself and the rest of the time playing in a nearby mud puddle and throwing sticks on the massive green space surrounding the play structure. But everyone had a great time, and it was nice to get outside our Stanton–>Sherwood–>Lincoln–> routine. (The only downside: I hadn’t planned for the mud puddle so two very muddy children rode the bus home…)

National History Museum Butterfly Exhibit
My original plan was to visit the Meadowlark Gardens Butterfly Exhibit, which is something we’ve never done, but we ended up just going to the butterfly exhibit at the National History Museum (on Tuesday, because it’s free), which we rarely do, instead, because we had friends in town and that was an easier adventure. (There’s a joke that if you want to see all the tourists in London on any given day, go see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace at 11 am; now I can say, if you want to see all the tourists AND locals in DC, go to the Natural History Museum on a Tuesday in summer! The place was packed, and we actually ran into another friend in line.) Teddy studied the lifestyle of the monarch butterfly at the end of Kindergarten, and he loves the book gotta go gotta go, which traces the annual migration of monarch butterflies to Mexico, so I thought he’d enjoy the exhibit. When we’ve gone before, he hasn’t lasted more than a couple minutes; all those wings fluttering by can be a bit disconcerting. But this time, he liked it; he even stood still for a couple minutes while a butterfly hung out on his back. Lydia enjoyed the exhibit, too…from my arms. After one butterfly fluttered quite close, she refused to walk on her own.

East Potomac Park Miniature Golf
I love mini golf. I’m terrible at it, but I love it. I think because of how mini golf courses usually incorporate miniature versions of local landmarks as features for each hole. We made a family trip to East Potomac Park a couple weekends ago, and I learned from a plaque at the sixth hole that this course used to do that as well, but they all got renovated out. Teddy also loves miniature golf. And because he has a natural ability for any activity involving a ball, he’s pretty good at it, for a 5-year-old. He doesn’t care about tiny Capitol buildings. Didn’t miss the tiny Thomas Jefferson Memorial that wasn’t there anymore. While I was lamenting its absence, he was checking out the lay of the green. He beat me on more holes than I care to admit. I got a score card, thinking I’d keep track, just for fun. I didn’t even mark scores for the first hole–that’s how depressing mine was. But I still love mini golf. And Lydia had a great time getting a hole in one every time by carrying the ball to the hold and dropping it in.

Port Discovery
The same friend who gave us complimentary tickets for the bus tour has been urging us to come with her to Port Discovery, an amazing indoor playland in Baltimore. We finally put a date on the calendar and made it happen last month. It was amazing. If we lived in Baltimore, we’d definitely have a membership. In the center towers a three-story playground, and around the perimeter are themed rooms, such as a diner, a water room, and an Egyptian room. The kids loved it. I feel like we barely spent any time in any one room because we wanted to see everything.

Kids in Canal
This is a weekly summer program run by Capitol Riverfront. Every week features a different form of entertainment. We went to was Mad Science. The scientist demonstrated the power of air in various ways, including shooting confetti out of an air gun. Unfortunately, he was competing with a shallow water feature under his stage, which Teddy splashed around in for about half the program. But the confetti got my little mad scientist’s attention, and from there, he was enthralled. Next week is Carousel Puppets; Teddy will be back in school, but I may take Lydia.


40 books for turning 40


One of my goals for the year is to read 40 books in honor of turning 40. I just finished number 36, so I’ll probably finish closer to 60. But I thought I’d pause to share my top five from the first 20.

Generally, I read anything and everything. When I started this, I had a couple books in mind that I wanted to read, but all year, I’ve been keeping note of books people recommend, from podcasts, my pastor, and blog posts.

  1. I Am Pilgrim. I say I read anything, but I generally don’t read thrillers. I read so many Dean Koontz novels in my 20s that I was having nightmares. (Couple that with watching all the CSIs and my world was looking pretty dark.) But a journalist wrote that this book was the best thriller they’d ever read. That was pretty strong praise, so I decided to give it a try. And I was hooked within the first 10 pages. I effectively got nothing else accomplished for two days. Could not put it down.
  2. In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption. For the transracial adoption community, this should be the bible. In this book, Rhonda Roorda interviews black Americans from all walks of life about their thoughts on transracial adoption. More importantly, she asks what advice they have for white parents adopting black children. I highlighted half this book. So much valuable insight for me as an adoptive mom and such an important read for those considering adopting a child of another race. One piece of advice that struck me was to ensure we have objects in our home that represent our kids’ heritage. Mike and I have made tremendous effort to expose our kids to their cultures in various ways, but I look around our house, and nothing screams “African American” or “Kenyan”. Since reading this book, I’m working to change that.
  3. Born a Crime. Trevor Noah is hilarious. I watched a couple episodes of The Daily Show after he took over, and I was unimpressed, but since reading his book, I’ve started watching again. Once you read a memoir, you feel like you know the author, so I find the show more enjoyable because I loved his book. His stories from his childhood in South Africa are fascinating and funny, and threaded throughout are profound insights that made me pause. He alternates between those stories and South African history, and since I’m not well versed in that, I learned a great deal in addition to being entertained, which, for me, is the best kind of book.
  4. Bird by Bird. I would never have thought reading about the writing process would be enjoyable, but my favorite author (Jodi Picoult) raves about Anne Lamott, so when I saw this book in one of those neighborhood Little Libraries (I’m fortunate to have several within walking or running distance), I picked it up. I’ve been wanting to get back into a regular writing habit, and this book had so many helpful tidbits shared in such an engaging style. I read this book while sitting on the beach in Mexico (you know you’re a nerd when…) and was excited to get home to try out a few of her tips. One such piece of advice was not to be afraid of “shitty first drafts”. Just get down what’s in your head without editing or crossing out anything and come back later to revise. If you’re editing as you go, you might never get past the first line.
  5. The Nest. Reads promoted by theskimm always sound so interesting, and this one was available at the library. (My library card is well loved. A book not available at the library has to come really highly recommended for me to buy it.) All the characters are equally enjoyably annoying. There’s no one perfect one that you’re rooting for. You’re just along for the ride to see how it all turns out.

Putting together this post made me realize I’m not as discriminating as I think I am. I do not feel obligated to finish every book I start. In fact, if I’m not hooked within the first 20 or 30 pages, unless the book has been recommended to me, I move on. There are way too many awesome books out there to waste my time forcing my way through one that doesn’t have my interest. However, there’s a substantial drop in enjoyment from #5 to what might have been #6. I continued reading books so long as I didn’t hate them.  But I want to be reading books I enjoy as much as I enjoyed these five. So I might be ditching more in the future.