Monday, July 9, 2018

Visiting and Touring Washington, D.C. with kids

After having spent 22 years in Washington, D.C. we get asked often to help people plan a trip to D.C. ... and I love doing it!  Of course, so much depends on each person's interests, ages and number of kids, and budget, but here's my generic "how to plan a trip to D.C." for an average family.

Of course there are 1 million hotels in DC, and so much of it depends on your budget and how much you're willing to put up with traveling on the metro or in cabs. So I'm gonna give you my ideal situation for tourists and then you can go from there. 

Use the address of 1400 Constitution Ave. as your central orientation point. It's pretty much in the middle of all of the museums and monuments. 

When we travel as a family, I actually like to stay in downtown business areas, because there's often a lot of fast food and deli type places and it becomes easier to eat less expensively.   My kids like fast food, so when I am looking at hotels, I also look to make sure that there's a McDonald's and Starbucks close to the hotel where we are staying. Even if we don't go there, it just makes it easier to have that option.

So that being said, one of my favorite hotels when we visit  is a Marriott Courtyard at 900 F St.   My other favorite hotel, a little further away, is a Hampton Inn which is close to the White House at 1729 H St.

 But honestly, as long as you stay within a couple miles of 1400 Constitution Ave. NW., you're going to be well-suited.  Normally I would also recommend that you only stay in hotels that are north of Independence Avenue. But several areas have been re-developed that are south of there (like near the baseball stadium) and so they're probably very safe now, I'm just not as familiar with those areas.    But so long as it's a namebrand hotel, you probably can't go wrong. 

You can get cheaper hotels the further out you go from downtown, but then your daily costs will increase because you'll either take the Metro ($5 pp) or park and have to feed the meter every couple hours or take a taxi.  

You may also want to consider renting an apartment through or airbnb.  You are EASILY safe with an apartment on Capitol Hill that is: north of E Street, SW; west of 13th Street, and south of E Street, NW. There are LOTS of other safe areas of course, but they are further removed from downtown which is going to just cost you money and time. 

Check out either the fodors or the frommers website - one of them has a section on a 3 day or 5 day itinerary that you may find helpful.

All the Smithsonian museums are free (and there are a bunch of them) - their website has a nice overview and several of them are located near each other on the Mall so you can hit one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Most museums close at 5pm.    There's also another branch of the Smithsonian air and space Museum it's located about 35 minutes outside of DC near Dulles Airport called the Udvar Hazy Center.   It's worth the trip if your kids are really airflight crazy,  or if you're flying into or out of Dulles.   But if neither of those situations applied, then they'll be happy with the air and space Museum downtown. 

Monuments - too many to list, I like going to the monuments in the late afternoon or after dinner if possible since the museums close at 5pm anyway.

I could see this as being a nice itinerary for an average family who has a few days and wants to make the most of their time. You can also look at the websites for each and find out when their presentations/special activities are. This list is arranged by location so you don't waste time trying to get back and forth across town.

Day 1
Capitol Hill
Capitol Visitors Center
Botanic Gardens
Lunch at a hot dog stand
Museum of the American Indian
Air & Space

Day 2
National Gallery of Art
National Archives
Lunch in the Penn Quarter neighborhood
Natural History Museum (a kid fave)
Smithsonian Castle 

Day 3 
American History Museum (a kid fave)
Lunch in the food court of the Ronald Reagan Building
White House
Washington Monument

Day 4
take an XL Uber or Lyft all the way down to the FDR Memorial
walk or Uber/Lyft to the Lincoln Memorial
Vietnam Veterans Wall
Reflecting Pool
Constitution Gardens
Uber/Lyft home
there aren't a lot of good places to eat on this day - definitely bring snacks and or be prepared to eat hot dogs

I use yelp to find cheap and good places to eat when we travel.  After I map out a rough itinerary for the day, I use an address of where I think we'll be around 1pm (after the worst of the lunch rush) and then we eat there.

Happy family friendly travels!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Visiting and Touring Cities as a Family with Kids

Our family travels so often to other cities for 2-3-4 days at a time that we've developed a nice little system. Here's how we plan:

  1. Order a paper map of the city.
  2. Do some preliminary research on the city.  Identify one major landmark/activity per day that we are there. Plot those major activities on a map. Look at their website for unique events or weird closing times.
  3. Identify supplemental activities in the same part of the city as the major activity.
  4. Sketch out a rough itinerary.
  5. Find possible lunch/dinner options for each day.  Use Yelp to find fast casual options in the same area where our activities are that day. Remember that we like to sit down for lunch if possible to rest. A fancy dinner or evening activity would make a cheaper stand up lunch okay though.
  6. Remember that we get TOO tired if we start early and end late.  So if we are doing an evening activity, then plan for a later start in the morning.
  7. Finalize itinerary, order tickets in advance wherever possible. Consider whether public transportation is more trouble than it's worth.  We've often found that we can use a ride share service like Uber/Lyft for the same cost as 4 of us on public transportation, but of course time and traffic are a consideration.

This system has generally served us well whether it's Seattle or Paris, NYC or Aspen. Happy family friendly travel planning!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Over the past two years, I've taken on more work but still somehow manage to carve out 8 hours a month to be an assistant in the girls Atrium.  At this point, they are both in Level III of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and it's Beezus' last year as it ends at age 12.  The lead catechist this year is a woman in her early seventies.  She was a middle grades teacher for 35+ years and has been a Catechist nearly that long. I very much enjoy her company and would love to be friends.

We were chatting today about parenting decisions, and I commented that I had a few parenting convictions that have held true over the test of time. I thought I might write them down to see if they still hold true in another few years. There are so very many things that I do wrong as a mother, but these few hold true.

1. Minimal screen time
We held fast to this one until this past summer, at ages almost 10 and almost 12.  We had less childcare this summer and more screen time was an easy babysitter.  They were at swim team every morning and softball three nights a week, so I rationalized it that they needed some time being still. This advice came to me from a mother friend with older kids, Sue W.  I can't find her blog anymore, but I am forever grateful.  We're going to pull the reins back in on this one though with some rules that will apply to all the family.

2. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for religious education
We chose our neighborhood in Colorado so that we could get to a parish with CGS within 30 minutes.  That's how important this method of instruction is to me. And now that I'm training to be a Catechist, it's even more beautiful. 

3. Free range experiences
Ramona was riding her bike solo around our neighborhood starting at age 8; they both rode their bikes to the grocery store this past summer; and Beezus rides her bike 1.3 miles to school every day (and home again).  Two days a week she also rides her bike a mile further after school to go to clarinet lessons.  She's not necessarily happy about it, but I know in my gut that she needs this freedom and this responsibility.  She also needs the experience of the physical activity to help reset her mind during the transition from home to school and back again.

4. Buying secondhand
This has been difficult to sustain as they've gotten older and as we've moved to a less transient area.  Nonetheless, we still try to hit up the thrift store before we head to the mall or to Target.

All of these except number 3 have been in place since the girls were very young.  I hope I can hang onto them forever, but I also know that things have to change sometimes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Slowing Down

Wow ... you want to have a profound experience?  Try realizing that all your calendars aren't syncing on the same day that you stumble across your old blog.  What incredible perspective to realize how far I have come and how the issues I work on today are largely the same as years ago.

It's been a season of self reflection and self work here at the TSM house.  Ramona is now 10 (and Beezus is 12) and Ramona and I both have these great big hearts that make it so challenging to live in this world. Mr. Q continues to be a rock star in my book and one of the hardest working men I know.  With our busy work and volunteering schedules, we have set aside 45 minutes every week to just talk.  It's been incredibly life giving to our relationship. Beezus has transitioned so nicely and easily to middle school.  Only a couple hiccups and she is figuring out how she handles her hiccups.  She often has a minor, brief temper tantrum and then carries on. 

After 5 weeks of a supremely busy travel time for Mr.Q, for me, and for our family, life is very slow with only some family travel for the next couple months.  My goal during this time is to also slow down - when I feel like speeding up, that is the time I most need to slow down.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Deep in the throes of post vacation blues here.  We've had such a lovely 17 days of vacation and the girls are off again tomorrow.  We've spent time at home, time at gymnastics camp, time at work, family time, 1 on 1 time, time in NYC and on Long Island.  We've entertained guests a couple times and have been entertained ourselves.

We are jumping into the deep end this week.  Mr. Quimby is already traveling for work and we've got a steady calendar of work travel over the next few months.

I lost my temper with the girls tonight - one of them snuck up on the other, pinched her, and scared the beejeesus out of her so badly that she screamed so loudly that I thought a "bad guy" was in the house.  I lost it and then recovered approximately 2 minutes later and we had all made amends 20 minutes after that.  But still, I hate that after being calm and present and in the moment for 17 days I finally lost it today.

Tomorrow will be a tough day.  I need to get some work done and the girls will be home all day.  I'll structure the day here and there; an hour of tv, an hour of an activity together, an hour of activity separately.  I wish there was a scavenger hunt I could make up that would take them around the neighborhood on a day like tomorrow.  Sunny but cold, but not too cold for a bike ride.

Melancholy.  It seems the perfect end to 17 days of good.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Resolutions 2016 Edition

I LOVE New Year Resolutions.  Here are mine:

1. Be more organized with time at work and structure what I do during my days in the office and my couple hours here at home so I'm not dragging files back and forth with me.

2. Figure out our photo/scrapbook situation.  I think I need to start with December 2015 and start making digital scrapbooks or photobooks (there's a digital scrapbooking group that meets nearby monthly).  But then I need to start with, ahem, 2008 and make paper scrapbooks from 2008-2015 using the small warehouse that I have in the basement.

3. Cook meals from scratch 3x per week.  Reheating frozen chicken nuggets and adding a green vegetable does not count.

4. Blog 2x per week.  I love blogging, no reason I don't do it more.

5. Keep working out 3x per week.  Eat less of those damn Little Debbie snack cakes so that I might actually lose weight.  Maybe run a 5K - in the early summer and again in the fall.  It's brutal to run here on cold days, and I just don't have it in me so I'm fine to just go back to my work out group and not run a 5K until the summer.  But it's also brutal to run in the summer (not because of the heat, because of the sun!) so I really have to run at night.

6. No more tv during the day.  I've developed a bad habit of turning it on if I'm at home but it always just leads to more!

Do you have any resolutions ?!?!

Monday, November 30, 2015

"a very nice family"

Today at Mass, an elderly woman sat near us whom I haven't seen before.

During the recessional hymn, she tapped me on the shoulder and said to me: "What a very nice family you have."  Tears sprung to my eyes and I said: "Oh thank you so much for saying that.  We try so hard."

Oh my goodness, and we do try so very hard.  We do.
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