One of my very best friends from high school came to visit me in Maryland this past week. She works at a Title I school as a long-term substitute so she planned her visit around her spring break and DC's famous Cherry Blossom Festival. Unfortunately for her, the weather was extremely uncooperative this year and therefore she was unable to see any of the beautiful white and pink blossoms we were hoping for. However, despite the snow, rain, clouds, and wind, we were still able to accomplish a TON of site-seeing and she totally gave this old pregnant lady a run for her money (not to mention poor little Axton!). We had a blast touring the east coast with her. Here are some of the super fun things we got to do!
Robyn flew in on Friday, the 21st. Our first night together was spent in Baltimore at the National Aquarium. During the winter months, they have a discounted entry fee for their Fridays After Five special. However, the 28th was the last discounted Friday night until they start it back up in the fall.
We parked in Little Italy, where I always park when I venture into Baltimore, and walked through Pier 5 and up to the Aquarium. It was a last minute decision to go, so we didn't buy tickets online. However, the line wasn't too bad and we were able to get in by 6pm (we had arrived at 5pm). The last time we came to the Aquarium, Axton was just a little tyke that I had carried around in a baby carrier the whole time. I was excited to see how well he liked everything now that he was older and noticed what was going on around him.
....Little did I know, that the National Aquarium was soon to become my worst nightmare. Since I had him in a baby carrier last time, I had forgotten they don't allow strollers inside the aquarium. This meant that I was either pushing my big belly through huge crowds of people just to keep up with my maniac child who was deliberately squeezing into the tiniest spaces possible so I couldn't reach him, or it meant that I was holding him on top of my belly while he screamed his head off and kicked everyone near me. It was the most embarrassed I've ever been with Axton, and there were several times I had to grind my teeth together to keep from completely losing my cool. He was tired, he was over-stimulated and over-excited, and he is stubborn and independent. I had nothing I could strap him into and he refused to hold my hand or be held. It was just a recipe for disaster! And then, on top of all this!! I forgot my camera battery out in the car, so I couldn't even get any cool shots of the jelly fish or the dolphins. Luckily Robyn had her camera, so all of the following pictures of the aquarium are from her.
The little stinker himself
Well, we survived the night and Axton promptly fell asleep as soon as he was put in his carseat. The next day I had a senior session in downtown Ellicott City so Robyn and I made sure we arrived early so we could do some exploring together. We walked just past the B&O Railroad Museum to get some lunch at Old Mill Bakery Cafe. I had never been there before but both of us were blown away by their food and the cute, welcoming atmosphere! Robyn ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and it was so thick I couldn't put my mouth over the whole thing (she let me try some...it was soo yummy!). We both also got donuts and they are officially THEE best donut I have ever ever put in my mouth. It was like cake....but gooier and donut-y. Seriously. I would recommend that place to anyone heading to Ellicott City for their donuts alone! On our walk back to meet up with my client, we watched the Mad Hatter and his giant bubble display!
Monday we drove the hour and a half to Gettysburg, PA. We walked around the museum and visitor center, watched a movie on the Civil War and what the Battle of Gettysburg meant for the war, and then we followed the map's self-guided auto tour, driving around the park and stopping at all the sites that looked interesting. It was freeeeezing cold this day - so bitterly windy and biting - so we only actually got out of the car if something looked super exciting. I had Robyn drive so I could sit in the back with Axton and take pictures through the window!
On Tuesday I had an appointment with my midwife and then an ultrasound scheduled, both of which are down towards Annapolis. We got to see my beautiful healthy baby boy, who is growing just as fast as Axton did, and I marveled at his cute little face and how it looked different than Axton's did when he was all squished up inside of me just two short years ago.
In the picture, his arm is up by his face on the left side, and you can see the outline of his eyelid next to his wrist.
We parked in downtown Annapolis just as the snow started to come down. We walked around the State Capitol and then ventured down to Chick & Ruth's Delly for lunch. Last November when I visited Annapolis with my dad, we had wanted to eat there but the line extended all the way out of the restaurant and down the sidewalk, so we didn't go in then. This time, though, the Delly was quite empty thanks to the unexpected blizzard that had started to pour out of the sky. I ordered the St Johnnies Burger, fries, and the Moose Tracks milkshake.
....I'm gonna be honest with you, I didn't think it was all that great. I'd much rather try someplace else in Annapolis before going there again. I know they have their 6 lb shakes and 3 lb sandwiches and all, but I guess I'd rather eat a quarter of a pound of really delicious food than eat an outrageous amount of mediocre food. Also, we sat right in front of where they made our food and so we always had the attention of about 4 different waiters at any given moment (yes, I know that comes with having a cute kid, but still...) and one of them was quite rude when Axton began to pour salt all over his side of the table. I was in the middle of handling the situation when she yelled at him in the tone of voice that one should only use on their OWN child, not someone else's child, and especially not a paying customer's child. The other waitresses tried to smooth over her response but my impression of the place and its service had already been made. Anyway, sorry to be negative, just wanting to be honest for anyone else who hasn't been there before!
Before Robyn had flown out to Maryland, she had arranged for us to tour the Pentagon, the Capitol, and the White house. It was very last minute when we heard back about exactly when our tours were going to be, but we were flexible and made it work as much as we could. Wednesday morning we got up super early for our tour of the Pentagon. We drove our car to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and parked our car in the mall parking lot for $1 an hour. Then we walked to the metro and rode it one stop to the Pentagon. I was extremely nervous that we would have another National Aquarium experience on our hands since I wasn't allowed to bring anything with me into the Pentagon: no snacks, no strollers, no electronics, nothing. If Axton was cranky, there would be nothing I could do to stop it.
Here is an absolutely horrifying picture of me at the Pentagon. Not only am I wearing pigtails like a 2nd-grader, but I also look like I haven't slept in about 14.5 years (which, at the time, didn't feel entirely inaccurate).
Axton, Robyn, and I were the only white Americans on our tour. Everyone else was a foreign diplomat on probably some important business and it made me immediately even more self-conscious of my could-be-crazy-almost-two-year-old. Surprisingly, though, Axton was a complete gem during the tour. The hardest part was the fact that I had to carry his 26 pound body around the entire mile-long trip. But he was interested enough in the photos of planes and boats, and all the men in their important hats and uniforms were kind and happy to see Axton pointing and laughing at the things he found amusing.
At this point, we trekked back to our car at the mall. We had our tour with the capitol in one hour - what we should have done was simply taken the metro into the capitol, but I knew Axton needed to nap and wouldn't make it happily through another 2 hours of touring if he didn't. So, I strapped him in his carseat and he, once again, promptly fell asleep. So far, our plan was working out. That is, until we couldn't find a single place to park around the capitol. We drove and drove until we were officially 10 minutes late for meeting our tour guide and our hearts were practically pounding out of our chests. Finally, after one more red light and one more wrong turn and the clock continuing to tick by, and Axton still fast asleep in the back, I threw in the towel and just told Robyn to get out and go to the tour herself - I could go back anytime, while she could not. She did so without hesitating, ripped off her seatbelt, and within seconds was sprinting down the street to the capitol.
It took me another 30 minutes to find a parking spot, one at a meter that did not take cards. I used up all my coins, and relaxed in the car while Axton napped and Robyn toured. When she finished (she got to hear Joe Biden speak in the Gallery!), we tried once again to fight all the traffic but gave up after 20 minutes and just ate at a nearby Whole Foods Market (terrible, terrible experience, I tell you. Also a place I will never again eat at). We made up for it by getting Gelatto....and I wish I could tell you where it was but I most certainly cannot because quite frankly I'm sure we were lost at this point.
We ventured into DC once again the very next day for our tour of the White House. I thought I was beating the system because we decided to just pre-purchase a place in a parking garage, rather than trying to drive around and find a parking spot on the street. And our plan probably would have worked great except for the fact that I could NOT, for the life of me, find the darn parking garage!! I finally pulled into what I THOUGHT was the place, only to have the guy at the window tell me that, while he owned both parking garages, I was at the wrong one and he wouldn't honor my pre-paid ticket unless I was at the right parking garage. Once again, I found myself yelling at Robyn to "Just GO! Go, and tell them I'm coming!" and once again she did as she was told, jumping out of her seat and sprinting down the street in the direction of the White House.
By the time I finally found the right parking garage, it was 15 minutes after the "supposed" arrival time for my ticket and tour. I (as kindly and gently as possible) took the sleeping Axton out of his carseat, throwing a juice box and applesauce pouch into each of my coat pockets, and began to sprint in the direction I saw Robyn running. That poor kid!! One minute he was sound asleep in the back, the next he was bouncing up and down on my belly (once again, no strollers were allowed on the tour), the cold air quickly waking him up. I shoved the straw in his mouth, told him it was juice, and he did the best he could to suck it down as I, in all my pregnant glory, ran down the streets.
I finally met up with Robyn and she, a little out of breath herself, informed me that there had been no need to rush and that as long as we had a ticket, we were free to stand in line and wait with the rest of the folks for our tour. I was both relieved to hear we hadn't missed it and a little annoyed I had made my heart rate and blood pressure sky rocket for no reason. Axton, on the other hand, was happy with his applesauce and the attention he was getting from the family in front of us.
Again, I've got to be honest, here. I was a little disappointed with the tour of the White House. After giving them my social security number, birthday, and other important information and having a background check done on me, I was expecting to see a bit more than a library and some other old furniture in a tiny wing where nothing important ever happened anymore. It took us about 25 minutes to walk through the entire tour, and we read all the signs and saw all the rooms and had to wrangle up a two-year-old. The most impressive part was the fact that the security guard took pity on my pregnant self and let me use a non-public bathroom when there was no one watching.
After the tour, we got back in the car and drove to the next "parking garage" I had made reservations with, down by the Nationals Stadium. But instead of a garage, we found ourselves pulling up to an empty lot with a tiny lock and chain around the gates. When I looked at my reservation again, I read at the bottom, "If the gate is locked, unlock it with the following code." My eyes grew wide and my stomach dropped as I looked up and down the streets, and then back again at the empty lot in front of me. There was no way I was going to leave my car in the middle of this completely empty and completely ghetto parking lot. I reversed out of there as quick as I could, and just started to drive, hoping to find anything better than that to park at.
We ended up finding free public parking just down the street! It was behind a huge construction zone and there were 5 billion bull-dozers and other construction equipment going up and down in front of it, but at least we weren't the only parked car in the lot and I just had a much better feeling about the place. We also had to walk farther to get where we were meeting our friend, but at least I could use a stroller this time.
We met up with my good friend Sam at Blue Jacket, just down the street from the Nationals Stadium. Their food was divine and well-worth the adventures of getting there, as was the company. It is always a joy to see this sweet girl.
I ordered their chicken salad sandwich and their homemade tater tots....so good!
Attempt number one at a four-person selfie. They are harder than they look!
We slept about 5 hours that night before waking up at 5am to leave for our tour of the Statue of Liberty. I was absolutely terrified that they wouldn't let me take the stroller onto the ferry and I would be stuck touring New York City without a stroller or snacks for Axton (because they also wouldn't allow backpacks). That night I had nightmares about it, that's how worried I was!
We left, drove the 3 1/2 hours to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, paid $25 in tolls, and finally boarded the ferry -- no one said anything about his ginormous diaper bag being stuffed full of food and no one cared about my stroller. I was so relieved. I felt like anything could happen to me that day and I would be able to handle it now that I had a stroller and no longer had to carry Axton with me like I had the last two days in DC.
We got on the ferry for our 9am tour and sailed on over to Ellis Island. Axton, of course, loved riding the boat and wanted to be out in the front open area so he could watch the water, even though it was quite chilly and windy out there. Once we arrived at the Ellis Island Museum, I told Robyn she would get more out of the experience if she just took her time and enjoyed it, while I kept Axton occupied in the "kids area." It rained for a bit when we got outside to take the ferry over to the Statue, but it wasn't bad at all. Robyn had tickets to the pedestal (we tried to get her a ticket to the crown, but they sell out about 6 weeks in advance), while I just had tickets to the grounds (since I had Axton and the stroller and all). While Robyn ventured up to the pedestal, Axton and I walked the path around the statue and ate some snacks. It was a peaceful and relaxing time, and I was happy to just let Axton wander for a bit.
Axton enjoying the view from the ferry
Inside the museum at Ellis Island
Finally we caught our ferry over to Battery Park, NY. Once again, we were running extremely late for our next stop: the 9/11 Memorial. They seemed to be a bit more lenient on the arrival time, however, so I didn't stress about it too much. They were also much more lenient in their security measures than DC had been, as well. They even let me keep sleeping Axton in the stroller, rather than making me take him out and fold up the stroller to put through the X-Ray belt like most other places do. I was so grateful to them right then.
I think they have done a really beautiful job with this memorial. Last time I went with Adam, we saw these white roses on some of the names but we didn't know the significance of them; I guess I just assumed that the people's family members had put them there. I found out this time, however, that the staff at the memorial put the flowers on the victim's names when it is their birthday. I thought that was so special and really touched me this time.
We stopped for lunch at Shake Shack, one of my favorite burger joints ever. Never pass up a chance to eat at Shake Shack!!
Our last stop for the day was the Empire State Building. I was a little bit worried about squeezing this one in because we had a ferry to catch back to our car on the Jersey side and if we didn't make it there, we just might be stuck in NYC for the night. When Adam and I went to the Empire State Building last June, we waited in lines for at least two hours. I was fully preparing myself for the same thing to happen this time around, and was trying to plan ways to keep Axton occupied in his stroller for that long. However, when we got there, we had hardly ANY lines at all. I swear, it was a blessing from above. We waited maybe a grand total of 20 minutes in lines, and we even went to the 103rd floor this time (last time we only went to the 86th floor). It was such a relief to not have to wait in long lines, not only because it was easier to deal with Axton, but also because we were already starting to cut time short.
It was super windy outside on the 86th floor, of course. And I have to admit, I was completely sick to my stomach the whole time I was out there - watching Axton running around like a mad man and watching him look out over the edge....I just kept envisioning his head squeezing through the fence and going down, down, down. I didn't last long out there with him. I did much better when we went up to the 103rd floor because it was all indoor.
Oh yeah, there's another great story for ya. Notice Axton's space jammies hiding underneath his shirt? Yeah, when he woke up from his nap in the stroller (just in time to eat Shake Shack, of course) he had completely peed through his diaper. The jammies were the only other outfit I had with me, as that was what he had worn on the way to New York. So Axton spent the rest of the day in his space jams. I think he got away with it, though.
At this point, we were okay on time, but couldn't afford any mistakes. Well, my friends, that was our first mistake....because of course we were going to get on the wrong train. Going in the wrong direction. Make that an express train, so it didn't stop as often. Then, since we have the stroller, we have to find hidden elevators to get anywhere down in the subway system....or, in our case, we have to make complete fools of ourselves trying to carry the stroller down the stairs (with Axton in it of course) when the elevator is closed for repairs. We must have looked awfully pathetic because about 5 steps down, two men jumped right up and refused to let us continue on without their help. Good thing they were buff because that kid is heavy.
When we finally got on the right train, we didn't know which stop to get off at, so we just guessed. I think we guessed a few stops too early because then we still had a loooong way to walk to get to the pier. We kept asking people how to get there and they would say, "Just keep going that way."
..Yes, but for how long?? And one person even had to throw in, "And hurry!" as if we weren't anxious enough. Long story short? I was that huge pregnant lady running with the stroller manically bouncing over cracks and curbs, and yet we still missed our ferry.
I thought it was the last one of the night.
I was on the verge of tears when the guy at the ticket counter assured us there was one more coming in a half hour. I about kissed him out of relief and happiness. We got on that ferry, made it back to our car, and I somehow....I have NO idea how....stayed awake while I drove the next 3 1/2 hours home. We pulled into the driveway at 12:30am, 20 hours after beginning our journey.
The next day was a rainy, dreary Saturday and it was all we could do but lounge around in our sweats, watch Safe Haven, and eat cookies. Even Axton couldn't stay awake that day.
I had to drive Robyn to the airport at 5:30am on Sunday morning. Her mom told her, "If this week doesn't put Meghan into labor, I don't know what will!"
I kind of had that thought myself, but if this pregnancy is anything like the last, then I fully expect to be pregnant for quite some time still. Oh the adventures we had!! It was such a crazy, fun week and now I am exhausted and trying to get things back in working order while catching up on my rest! But I love the memories we were able to make and I'm grateful Axton is such an easy-going kid!