Ready for more festive family fun? We’ve been strolling the streets of Old Town, checking out the lights, a few times each week – and I’m completely delighted by them every time. When Steve and I lived here before kids, one of our beloved traditions was a walk through Old Town to check out the décor – the houses there really go all out, but in a super-classy way. We’ve loved being right in the neighborhood this year, and getting to spend the entire month surrounded by all the Christmas joy.
Teddy Bear Tea at Mount Vernon
Another activity I planned – and couldn’t wait for – was a “Teddy Bear Tea Party with Lady Washington” at Mount Vernon. I knew that it would be exactly the sort of thing that Peanut would LOVE, so I snatched up a ticket for her as soon as I learned of the event. And on December 10th, we headed down the Parkway to Mount Vernon to enjoy a girls’ afternoon out!
The tea party was fabulous. I can’t say enough good things about the presentation! They had a seat at the table all ready for Peanut, and she was immediately presented with a plate of gingerbread and a cookie, and a green cup with hot cocoa. While the kids snacked, a musician played holiday tunes on a wooden recorder, and Martha Washington herself (!!!) spun tales and taught proverbs.
After snack and stories, Peanut (and Corduroy, her date to the Teddy Bear Tea) made a pomander ball with an orange and cloves provided by the staff (who had little kits made up in advance – so easy!).
To conclude the party, the kids were all herded into line to meet “Lady Washington” and get their pictures taken. Peanut was first in line and immediately scrambled up Martha’s wide skirts and perched on her lap. (Martha was a bit surprised but recovered quickly.) Peanut then proceeded to tell Martha that she would like a dollhouse for Christmas, while I almost passed out from laughing. She’s terrified of Santa and wouldn’t be caught dead sitting on his lap, but had no hesitation about jumping up onto Martha’s! (Considering last year, $25 bought me a picture of two crying kids and a creepy looking Santa, I thought that $5 for a snack, two crafts, stories, music and a picture of a happy little girl showing off her teddy to the mother of our country was a very good deal, indeed.)
The Secret Garden at the Shakespeare Theatre Company
We had more fun planned the following weekend! Peanut was sick with a stomach flu on Friday, and I got it on Sunday, but on Saturday we were in a sweet illness-free zone – perfect timing for the other fun holiday outing I planned for my girl! She and I slipped out of the house while Nugget napped and headed into D.C. for a performance of The Secret Garden musical at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
I was beyond excited to introduce Peanut to the joys of live theatre! She was pretty pumped, too.
We had great seats in the first row of the mezzanine – a perfect view.
Peanut looked adorably serious studying the playbill! I’d been preparing her by telling her the story and reading her “Babylit” Secret Garden book, and she was excited to see the show. We had a fabulous time.
Christmas Trains at the U.S. Botanic Garden
Since Peanut had a special outing planned just for her on Saturday, Sunday was about Nugget. I couldn’t think of any holiday activity he’d enjoy more than seeing the Christmas trains at the Botanic Garden, so that’s where we went! And look who joined us – Nana was in town! She came down on Thursday evening to provide childcare in a pinch on Friday, and stayed a couple of days to spend time with us, enjoy some D.C. holiday cheer, and absorb all of our germs (sorry, Nana).
At the Botanic Garden, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Christmas train exhibit was extra special this year – in celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service, the trains were wending their way through a specially prepared exhibit of national landmarks, parks and historic places made entirely out of plants – amazing!
Hello there, U.S. Supreme Court!
The regular train chugged along an elevated track running throughout a couple of the rooms of the greenhouse. So cool!
There was a major bottleneck by Arctic Brotherhood Hall. Can you spot the reason for the traffic jam? Hello there, Thomas!
Around the rooms, we spotted a few of our very favorite American places. Like Mount Vernon!
And the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!
More places we hope to visit someday, like Mesa Verde. (The picture makes it hard to tell, but the train has the National Park Service logo on its side – cool.)
John Muir’s house! And one of Thomas’s friends.
It was an absolutely magical exhibit.
The kids both loved it, and they had a blast exploring every inch. The grownups loved it, too – the detail on each of the plant-based replica landmarks was absolutely astounding. I can’t even conceive of how much work must have gone into putting this exhibit together. It was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen.
The crowning glory was a massive Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments from all of the national parks, seashores, historic places and landmarks that were celebrated elsewhere in the exhibit (and more!). Can you spot the Hatteras Light? And another Thomas!
Moving right along to the main event! I had a hectic week at work and was ready to party the following Saturday. Peanut had a special request for Christmas Eve morning – baking gingerbread cookies with Mom. So that’s exactly what we did!
I’m loving how grown up and fun she is lately. She’s finally really and truly out of the toddler stage, and we can do so many cool things together now.
She was really into stirring. The dough might have gotten just a tiny bit overworked. Oh, well!
I’m sorry to say our cookies were not very good, in the end. But we had fun making them, and that’s really all that counts!
After lunch on Christmas Eve, we headed down to the waterfront for one more classic Old Town Christmas activity – watching Santa waterskiing on the Potomac! In all the years I lived in D.C., I never made it to see the waterskiing Santa – crazy, because it’s one of the most beloved holiday events in the D.C. area!
The docks were packed with holiday revelers, waiting for the fun to begin! We didn’t have to wait long before the jetskiing elves zipped out of the marina, followed closely by the Grinch and his dog Max. And then it was time for the big guy!
Santa came out behind a speedboat and three of his reindeer, then peeled back into the marina, dropped off the reindeer and headed back for a solo lap.
The crowd went nuts! It was such a fun, silly, unique and quintessentially D.C. celebration. Another thing we’re going to have to repeat every year!
After nap, we got dolled up for the “festive family celebration” service at our church, during which Nugget shouted “FIRE TRUCK” repeatedly during the otherwise hushed and reverent lighting of the Advent candles. In an auditorium full of babies, it was inevitable that someone was going to shout “FIRE TRUCK,” so I guess he thought it might as well be him! We were basically weeping, we were laughing so hard. After church we headed back for a quiet evening at home, put the kids to bed, and then – Santa came!
The kids gave us a gift on Christmas morning and both slept until SEVEN O’CLOCK. Merry Christmas to Mom and Dad! We were two rested parents, ready to snap pictures and enjoy the day with them! Nugget’s gifts were mostly fire trucks and fire truck-adjacent – like this ride-on fire truck from his Aunt Jenn!
Peanut was spoiled as always – she received the dollhouse and stuffed pony she’d requested, plus lots of books, legos and dress-up clothes – including this Princess Anna ball gown, which is now the nicest article of clothing she owns.
We took it slowly, followed the kids’ lead, read books and played with toys as we opened them, and generally had a lovely day. We didn’t have anywhere to be, since we’d attended church on Christmas Eve. So we stayed in our pajamas and played under the Christmas tree all day, and it was awesome.
And there ends an epic two-part Christmas recap! If you’re still with me, high five! And now, onward to 2017. I’m READY.
Happy, joyful, merry everything to you, my friends! How did you celebrate this year?