7 Quick Takes about hiking fails, questions about DC, the smells of the Bible, and the best baby photobomb ever

August 8, 2014 | 74 comments

— 1 —

Greetings from the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina!

(At least I think I’m in the western part of the state. I keep trying to look up my location on a map, but every time I’m interrupted because my one-year-old has found a crayon and is writing on my aunt’s white couch or is pulling a lamp off the table.)

Anyway, it’s absolutely beautiful out here, and my aunt and uncle couldn’t be more gracious and welcoming. They have a little guest house separate from their own house, and it’s the perfect place to pass the time in between my cousin Melissa’s wedding in Raleigh last weekend and my cousin Jason’s wedding in Raleigh this coming weekend.


Taking one-year-olds to evening wedding receptions: NEVER AGAIN. Well, I’ll be doing it again next weekend for my other cousin’s wedding. But then NEVER AGAIN.

— 2 —

I actually suggested that we spend the day hiking yesterday. I know! Me! Hiking!


The final seconds before he realized he hated the wrap with the intensity of a thousand suns.

My perception was that hiking would be a good way to relax and enjoy the outdoors as a family, spending precious moments bonding with the kids and appreciating the beauty of the natural world.

Let’s all take a guess on how it actually turned out. Do you think the best way to describe the experience would be:

A) We relaxed and enjoyed the outdoors as a family, spending precious moments bonding with one another and appreciating the beauty of the natural world.

B) The baby screamed the whole time and made everything so impossible that we had to leave 0.02 miles into the trail.

Alas, internet, it was B — and it wasn’t because he didn’t like the woods. He loved the woods. He loved them so much that all he wanted to do was get down and explore — which was a problem since he’s still not walking and the ground was very muddy.

Any time I tried to hold him — or, heaven forbid, attempt to wrestle him into the baby backpack I just bought for $30 at Wal Mart, which he reacted to as if it were a torture device called the WRAP OF DOOM — he shrieked so loud that I’m pretty sure that all the wildlife scattered for at least 10 miles.

Whoever is keeping the official list of Things that Are Not for Jen, please add Leaving the House with a 1-Year-Old.

— 3 —

I did, however, learn two interesting lessons on our ill-fated trip into the great outdoors:

1. My Vibram Five-Finger shoes made fantastic hiking shoes. They allowed me to grip onto slippery rocks and navigate uneven terrain in a way that I couldn’t have with thick-soled shoes. (Plus, they made me look SO COOL.)


You can laugh about how nerdy I look, but I won’t be able to hear you because I’ll be running up slippery trails like a boss.

2. It turns out that being outside isn’t a categorically negative experience! When I don’t have to face clouds of stinging insects, 100-degree heat, and thorns and cacti that scrape my ankles with every step, I actually kind of like hiking!

— 4 —

Yesterday my aunt and I were strolling around the town square, and we ran into a great young mom she knows from her parish named Deborah McKinney. Deborah sells these amazing essential oils, and she offered to come up here to the house to do an Oils of the Bible class for us.


Deborah would read a passage from the Bible that referenced a certain oil, then pass around a vial containing the oil while she talked about its traditional religious and medicinal uses.

She said that she always uses a mixture containing patchouli oil to help her kids relax at night — and, sure enough, after she massaged it into my little wild man’s feet, he did settle down!


It was a fascinating class, and you can check out the great oils she sells here (scroll down to see them)!

— 5 —

I’ve heard that smell is heavily associated with memory, and have found that to be true countless times when I catch a whiff of something I haven’t smelled in a while, and it immediately transports me back to the place and time when that smell was a regular part of my life.

When I was doing Deborah’s Oils of the Bible class, I realized that smell can also be a powerful way to relate to the experiences of others. For example, at one point she handed me a little bottle of frankincense oil, and I realized, This is what Mary smelled when the Magi came to greet her.

As we went through each oil, it was a surprisingly impactful thought exercise to realize that I was experiencing a scent that would have been familiar to Christ himself. When I whiffed the spikenard, I was rocked by the realization that this is what the room smelled like when Mary, the sister of Martha, anointed Jesus’ feet as described in John 12:3!

It makes me wish someone would do a Smells of the Rosary collection, where you could use a difference scent for each mystery, like myrrh for the Crucifixion, or frankincense for the Nativity. I bet some clever person could come up with all sorts of scents that would bring us into each mystery in a new way.

— 6 —

The DC book tour trip is final! I’ll be all over the greater DC area from September 25 – 29! Final details are still coming together, so I’ll wait to post the schedule until everything’s set.

In the meantime, it looks like I might have a few pockets of free time to check out the city. Since I won’t have a ton of space in the schedule, what are the top three things I should try to see while I’m in DC?

— 7 —

After I put up all those pictures of the Edel Gathering, someone pointed out a wonderful little detail that I’d missed in one of the pictures. Notice anything special about this one?


Let me zoom in…


How precious is that?

Have a great weekend, everyone!



  1. Abigail Benjamin

    If you have your son with you, the best place for young boys is the National Building Museum. They have an amazing playroom with all the best construction play stuff.

    You should see the Lincoln Memorial at night.

    Also, the National Basilica is a must see. Do you have a book signing in their book shop yet? It’s a gem.

    One of my most favorite places to pray is at the National Gallery of Art. Their collection of religious paintings in the pre-Renaissance exhibit is intense.

    • Susan

      I also love The National Builders museum.

    • Rosie

      I second the Shrine (and also the Franciscan monastery down the street from it because the gardens are gorgeous) and the National Gallery if you’re into art. So excited for you to be in our neck of the woods!

    • Gina

      The other best place is the Air & Space Museum — kids AND adults love it. Except maybe the baby is still a little young to really enjoy it!

      Cannot wait to see you live and in person!!

  2. Nichole

    I whole heartily agree with Abigail. At the Lincoln Memotrial you can walk down by the reflecting pool to the WWII memorial.

    There is a hop on bus if you want to get around. Very touristy, but convenient.

  3. Jennifer Buckley

    The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a must see for sure. They have 2 stores on site as well as a cafeteria and dozens of small chapels niched out for education, prayer, and observation. It’s a spectacular place to visit and it’s quite likely you will run into groups of religious or even Newt Gingrich like our family did. It sits on the campus of CUA which also houses a beautiful monastery that is worth checking out. If you get even more free time, a 35 min drive south to my neck of the woods (Stafford) will bring you to the most amazing military history museum: The Marine Corps Museum. If the kids are coming, wow, it’s very interactive, engaging, and super informative. You will leave a changed person. Can’t wait to see where you will be. I look forwarding to the opportunity to meet you. God Bless.

  4. Mary

    I love love love that Oils of the Bible/Rosary idea! Oh my goodness. I want to do it right now!

  5. Lisa R.


    The Basilica National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a must-see. I would make it #1 on the list.

    I like seeing the monuments at night – Lincoln and Jefferson in particular.

    My new favorite monument is the WW2 memorial. Please go see it ~ especially if you have a personal connection to anyone who served during WW2.

    Also, why are you coming to town when I’ll be gone to parents’ weekend at our daughter’s college??? Oh well ~ I’ll have to catch you another time! 🙂

  6. JoAnna

    Three words: LIBRARY. OF. CONGRESS. Trust me, you won’t regret it. A must for any book-lover.

  7. Rita @ Open Window

    SO excited that you are coming to D.C.! Are you coming with children or without? I definitely second the visit to the Shrine, and there’s a JPII Center right there, and also a Franciscan Center. But there’s so much to see on the Mall, you can’t go wrong. And no scorpio

    • Rita @ Open Window

      Ah, that’ll teach me to type one-handed with a 4-year-old on my lap. I was saying we have no scorpions, though I am sure I could think of some greater asset if I weren’t trying to explain why I haven’t made Chinese dumplings for breakfast.

  8. Erin

    Funny, the little chap’s eye was the first thing I noticed when you first posted the pics. Thought it was so cute.

  9. Stefanie

    Another vote here for the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception!

  10. Caroline M

    I’d have to say that if you go to any of the war memorials it should be the Korean. Not only because that war tends to be forgotten, but because it is really awesome and creepy. It’s right next to the Vietnam memorial. I also second the recommendation to see the memorials at night. It’s all lit up and stunning.

    If you didn’t have the one year old, I would recommend the Holocaust museum. It’s something everyone should see once in their lives. So if you’re ever in the area again…. I’m kicking myself because I lived there until May, so I just missed you! Hope you enjoy DC!

  11. Paula

    To see in D.C.? Tough one.
    National Museum of Art

    Nearby is National Archives (I’d go straight to the founding documents, but if you see a line outside, you have to decide if you have that time to spare!)

    National Museum of the American Indian (appeals to me as a southwestern U.S. gal)

    WWII, Vietnam Wall, Korean Memorial (if you’ve never been). Pre-study the symbolism for the WWII memorial so you get the full impact.

    I agree with Rita; if you like to visit beautiful Cathedrals, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is gorgeous. You’d have to drive there.

    Finally, Mount Vernon in Alexandria. The museum inside is so well done, it can take all day to see everything you want to see, and the outdoor grounds, on a nice day are pretty special, transporting you to the 18th century. Nice restaurant attached to the museum (not to be confused with their Food Court, which is not bad either). Best gift shops in the entire world.

    • Paula

      Oh, I forgot the Holocaust Museum. Not an easy visit and it, too, would take a good half day to do properly. Others may disagree, but I wouldn’t take young kids there, if you happen to be traveling with children.

    • Mary Ellen

      Mount Vernon is a good suggestion.

  12. Emily B

    Another vote for the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Also a night drive around DC is cool…seeing all of the monuments and Arlington National Cemetery in the dark under the lights is impressive. Also, you should see the Smithsonian museum of your choice. Many people love the 2 Air and Space museums. I’m more a fan of The American history museum with Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Julia Childs kitchen. For outdoor beauty there is Great Falls Park…one in VA and one in MD.

  13. Sara

    Just wanted to mention that you can take the metro to the Shrine. It’s on the red line at the Brookland/CUA stop. The nearby Franciscan Monastery is definitely worth a visit too. And if you’re in the CUA neighborhood, Menomale is a good pizza place.

    The Cathedral of St. Matthew in Dupont Circle is also really beautiful. Hope you enjoy the trip!

  14. Katie

    I too love that picture, I saw it when I was going through the great pics you posted … I also love that it’s a photo of you all taking a photo! That doesn’t happen often! Have fun in NC – it’s beautiful here this time of year!!!

  15. Susan

    I am hoping that you’re already booked to do a signing at the Bascillica. If not, you should go there. The following two places are really close.

    The Franciscan Monastery is the BEST. They have recreated all the important site of the Holy Land just for people that would not like to take a long plane trip to the other side of the world. Everything there is beautiful and extremely well done.

    The John Paul II Shrine is a great little hidden gem, too. Its brand new and had some amazing exhibits.

    With your dad’s background, I would also recommend the Air and Space Museum.

  16. Caitlin

    I am so excited that you are coming to DC!

    The whole area around the Basilica is a mecca of Catholic awesomeness. I cantor at the Shrine, and my husband and I both graduated from CUA. We’d be happy to show you around! ALthough if you are looking for a reprieve from 1-year-old craziness, we can’t offer that. 🙂

    Agreed- pick a Smithsonian you are interested in and check it out. Free and fun. And the night tour of the monuments is a great suggestion too, because it is QUITE a bit of walking if you go on foot.

  17. Connie Rossini

    I wish I could have attended that essential oils class with you. Wouldn’t something like that make a great homeschool lesson? Using our five senses. The kids would love it (and probably spill oil all over the furniture…). Blessings on your continued book promotion. I’ve just started promoting my new book as well.

  18. Tammy

    My fav thing to do in DC is to go to the Paul’s Authentic French Bakery (the one at 801 Pennsylvania NW…near the Archives) …there you will find the coolest European styled wooden highchairs for your tot—> here


    Then after you eat pastries and drink coffee, you go across the street to the National Gallery of Art where you will find Italian art including the only Da Vinci in the Americas. The museum is free and the food isnt expensive

  19. Tammy

    FTR, I dont know the guy who has that tumblr site, but it was the only photo I could find of those cool high chairs online and since cool high chairs are SO SELDOM a goal of traveling parents, I figured it would be fun.

    I would love to come have lunch with you in DC.

  20. Liesl

    I’m so excited you are coming to DC!

    You definitely need to go to the Basilica. Catholic gorgeousness!

    Walking around the mall and seeing all the monuments is always fun, especially when the weather is nice! My favorite is the WWII memorial.

    I love going to Mount Vernon. It’s about 15 miles outside of DC but it is gorgeous and has great views.

    If you like little shops and walking around town streets – Old Town Alexandria is a great area for shopping and food. Shirlington is also a fun little stretch of town.

    • Gina

      Seconded. Old Town Alexandria and Shirlington are two of my favorite spots, though they’re both a bit pricey, especially the latter. (Note: Shirlington is mostly restaurants, while Old Town is more a blend of restaurants and shops.) And Mount Vernon is also very nice, though IIRC, the indoor parts, especially the little restaurant and gift shop, aren’t exactly optimal for babies. 🙂 But there’s lots of space outside to run around in.

  21. Laura

    I think the rosary oil class would be wonderful! Also, can’t help with your DC trip, but should you plan a big book signing tour to Chicago, I could help with that one (hint hint). I spotted the little one’s eye right away, too. So cute!

  22. Jill

    DC is great!
    Agreeing w/the National Shrine, Franciscan Monastery, and JP2 Shrine/Museum.

    I’d add that a recent trip took me to the Supreme Court. I think the “docent led talk” is pretty amazing. Only takes about 30 min plus waiting in line but it’s amazing to sit in the Supreme Court and reflect on our country.

    One other fun (but not free) museum is the Newseum. Super cool to look up old newspaper articles and see artifacts from new stories. It’s a gem!

    • Deborah

      I used Young Living’s oils on her child, which are completely safe for children of all ages when applied to the bottom of the feet. I’ve used these oils consistently with my children as have many others, with no problem, including peppermint on my toddlers feet to bring down fevers. There are three different models of Aromatherapy and everyone is welcome to choose which one they agree with, but I choose the French model, which is pro- ingestion of absolutely pure oils. YL operates under that model.

  23. Angie

    I would love a “smells of the rosary” collection. I am VERY excited about an upcoming Baptism where I am blessed to be Godmother to another of my close friend’s babies, and I have to admit that the smell of the oil of the Chrism brings such a whirlwind of beautiful memories – RCIA, my own children’s Baptisms, many happy times!

  24. Kristin

    The Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle is a spectacularly beautiful church and the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Washington. It was built in the late 1800s and is the church where the funeral mass of our only Catholic president,JFK, was celebrated. Pope Saint John Paul II said mass there in 1979. Well worth a visit.

  25. Jenny

    Hahahahaha oh my poor long suffering daughter…she was such a trooper in her Ergo all weekend!

  26. LisaM

    The Holocaust museum is one of my favorite museums- so much to see and so many different stories- and it’s free! Also, the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land is such a great place to visit- really pretty grounds and beautiful inside the church (it’s close to the Nat’l shrine, too). And Old Town Alexandria has so many great restaurants that I wish I could eat there every night until I’ve tried them all!

  27. Rachel L.

    I REALLY hope that you used a carrier oil, especially on the kids! Patchouli is safe for kids, but I’m always super cautious because there are so many unsafe ones. It should always be used diluted though!

    • Deborah

      Rachel, the oil I used on him, Young Living’s Peace and Calming, does not have to be diluted when used on the bottom of the feet. Many parents use it in this manner with no problem.

  28. Elizabeth

    I so can empathize with you on the journeys and social events best planned! There were a number of outings that were cut a tad short simply because they needed to be. Amazingly, though they remember none of it! 😉

  29. Catholic Lawyer Mama

    Re: 3 — Maybe you could get the toddler a pair of five-finger shoes for his hands? I mean, since he likes crawling in shoes so much, right? 😉

    • Charity

      Oh gosh, the thought of this is killing me. You are genius!

  30. Claire Rebecca

    Only 3! That’s hard…I’d have to say the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (yes, it’s a long name) should definitely be #1 – and not just because I’ll be at college right next door. The National Botanical Gardens are beautiful. And my favorite museum is the Newseum. Just a note on that one – it’s not really for kids under 13 and the food is delicious, but expensive.

  31. Megan

    I really lol’d at the baby’s hatred of the backpack. I tried a sling when our baby was little and she would stretch away from me and look freaked out.

    I love the sound of that Oils of the Bible class. It sounds lovely.

  32. Donna

    If she has a smells of the Bible collection, I might get that. Sounds like a fun time you had! I bought some spikenard once when I was going through my Mary Magdalene Da Vinci Code gnostic phase before eventually becoming Catholic. I tiny bottle–2 in. high, cost me $30 plus shipping over 10 years ago. So yes–it was costly! An unusual scent–redolent of desert, dust, masculine sweat, and a hint of death. Or maybe my oil’s gone bad.

    • Deborah

      Donna, email me at debinblackmtn@outlook.com and I’ll send you info and answer any questions you have : ) Spikenard is my favorite and yes it just smells like that!

  33. Patricia

    While in DC (my old stomping grounds)…definitely visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (don’t forget the crypt church downstairs!)…the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land (tour the crypts!)…(the Basilica & Monastery are just a few blocks away from each other) & attend Sunday morning Divine Liturgy at Holy Transfiguration Greek Melkite Catholic Church in nearby McLean, VA…an amazingly beautiful, reverent & ancient Liturgy in a very diverse & vibrant parish! God bless & enjoy DC!

  34. SH

    In DC, you should really go eat Ethiopian food. There are many great places, you can’t really go wrong.

  35. Laura the Ringmistress

    I love the FiveFingers too. Which model are those? My ugly but comfortable Bikilas are dying and I got some SeeYas but they’re just not the same.

    Okay, back to writing my own Quick Takes. Saturday is looming.

  36. The other Becky

    Definitely the Shrine for one, and the Franciscan monastery is so close you could count them together as one thing, but give them plenty of time.For the second (only three altogether?) it partly depends on how many kids you have with you and the ages. The National building museum is good for most any ages of boys, but I found it somewhat boring. Air and space is the most popular museum for good reasons. The National Art gallery has beautiful rooms with plenty of space for kids to move around while you look at the art. When I had little kids we would go to the gift shop first, and I would let them pick out a postcard to buy, then we would go to the museum and find their painting or sculpture.
    For the third: my house!

  37. Joel Whitaker

    1. National Shrine (the Basilica)
    2. Franciscan Monatery
    3. US Capitol
    4. Smithsonian NationalMuseum of American History
    5. White House

    This beingg your first trip to DC, take one of the tour buses.

  38. Rakhi @ The Pitter Patter Diaries

    I am so in love with your idea of the sensory Rosary. SO IN LOVE. Between smells and songs, it’s a virtual minefield of memories. What a profound thought about the fact that these smells would be the same things that people in the midst of these amazing events, and Jesus Himself, would have smelled. So profound. That mountain air is good for you, even if it was only .2 miles.

    I’ve never been super outdoorsy, but I loved hiking in the mountains when my mom lived in Oregon. There is something that is so peaceful and cathartic about the mountain air. It could be the mountain version of the bends, but I’m gonna say it is clarity. 🙂

    Out of curiosity, will you ever be in Michigan for your book tour?

  39. Eko

    Love the lil’ peek-eye!
    Is there a teeny hole in your Vibram shoes!? Return for new if so!

  40. Janet

    The neat thing about DC is that there are so many totally free things to do! I grew up near DC, and it was an incredible shock to me to travel and find out I had to PAY to get into museums and such. The key mental shift to make is, you can leave any time you like– you don’t have to feel like you “got your money’s worth” for the admissions price. Also, you can go and come back later, no problem.

    So… your list has way more than three things on it, but I’d also add the National Zoo. Again, totally free, and with real pandas! It’s basically perched on the side of Rock Creek, so it’s very hilly– be ready for that. Also, pro-tip: get somebody to drop you off; or drive, and be there at least 30 minutes before it opens (i.e. before 9:30 SHARP!). That’s the only way you’ll ever get a parking spot anywhere near the zoo itself. Parking is $22, entrance is free. Super best choice: driver drops you all off at the top of the hill (main entrance, off Connecticut Ave), then drives around to the bottom of the hill (off Beach Dr/Harvard St) and parks in lot D. You meet up via cellphone. The petting zoo and some picnic tables are right by lot D; leave some lunch in a cooler in the car, walk downhill with the kids seeing the sights (DON’T try to do everything), then you end up with petting zoo and food, high-five and drive away with your SuperMom cape flying.

    And if the weather is yucky that day– SKIP IT. There is no shade at all, and no way to get out of the rain. The food they sell is overpriced and horrible, don’t even consider buying lunch there. The park is stroller-friendly, but parts of the trail are pretty steep. It’s also pretty excited-kid-friendly, as you might imagine. There is a metro stop nearby, but it’ll be quite an uphill hike with a one-year-old; I wouldn’t recommend it.

    • elizabethe

      zoo pro tip. the zoo grounds open at 6 AM so you can see any animals in outside exhibits.

      even more pro tip. sometimes the buildings are unlocked earlier than ten. try the doors.

      that having been said. all things together, i wouldn’t waste time on the dc zoo if you have very limited time (no offense) It’s free, yes, but most city zoos are as good and many are much better than the DC zoo. It’s getting there, but not there yet.

      • Janet

        Sadly, I agree that the Zoo is not super-awesome, but “merely” fun and free. I’m trying to think what I’d do with a high-energy 1-year-old who won’t tolerate being restricted in movement or in a pack. Library of Congress? Um, no. 3-hour Byzantine liturgy? Um, no. Three-mile walk around the Mall? Um, no. Three-quarter-mile walk downhill, on pavement, stopping at a lot of animal exhibits? Yep. Don’t get me wrong; I love all of the things people have mentioned… when I’m on my own. But a one-year-old really cramps your style. (He’ll grow out of it… you’ll miss it when he does…)

        • elizabethe

          Yes, agree 100%. I haven’t been to any museums except the natural history museum since I had my first baby. lol!

          Jen, if you do have the baby with you and you go to the zoo, make sure to take him to the small mammal house.

          Franciscan monastery and the Shrine are also fine to take a baby to. The Monastery has a beautiful outside space, just don’t do the tour or go during Mass and you’ll be fine. The Shrine is also great to take a baby to even if you have to let him loose and follow him around. There are plenty of parents doing just that, even during Mass.

          Natural History museum also fine with a baby.

  41. Michelle

    I LOVE that picture! That sweet baby peeking out was the best! 🙂

  42. Emily (Jeffily)

    My husband and I just got back from Washington, D.C.! We saw some flyers in the Catholic Information Center that you would be there at the end of September. I have no advice for DC’ing it with kids, but I second what everyone else said about the Basilica, Mount Vernon, and the Air and Space Museum. I really liked the American History Museum, the Capitol, the National Archives, and the Library of Congress. So many neat and free things in DC! Also, I’m all about the smells of the rosary collection, that sounds so wonderful!

  43. elizabethe

    Apologies for the long comment. I LOVE questions like this. I should be a travel planner.

    First to note: the mall is great, but keep in mind it is ENORMOUS (don’t know if you’ve ever been). It is hard to fathom just how large it is and how far apart everything is if you have never been there. There are also very limited eating options. Just walking from one thing to another or from the metro stop to the thing you want to do will take a long time. There is also no metro stop on the Monument side of the Mall (West of the Washington Monument), so plan carefully if you decide to go to the Mall.

    Second, driving in D.C. for the uninitiated is very very stressful and confusing. More so than most other cities because of all these weird street configurations. Just add extra time for driving.

    Top three Mall things to do:
    Lincoln Memorial and nearby war memorials.
    Natural History Museum (be warned, the dinosaur exhibit is closed for renovation for the next 5 years or something, though I think some bones will be on display elsewhere). This is one of the best Natural History Museums in the country, IMO. Go in the late afternoon or evening (sometimes there are extended hours) to miss crowds.
    Freer/Sackler Galleries. Wonderful collection of American art. Right next to the Smithsonian metro stop. This is my favorite art gallery. They also have a small collection of Biblical manuscripts.

    If you go to the museum side of the mall and you are stuck on the mall to eat, the best place to eat is the cafeteria in the American Indian museum. It is expensive but super good food and also quiet nice to sit in. the museum itself is not a particularly good museum in terms of actually learning things about Native American history but it’s a pleasant place to breeze through and doesn’t require a huge time commitment.

    Top three non-Mall things to do.

    Shrine of the Immaculate Conception — this has a very large, free, parking lot and a metro stop close by. Absolutely must see for Catholics. They have adoration in the crypt if you can time it with that.

    If you are driving, go to the Franciscan Monastery (it also has a parking lot) and do the tour. It is an awesome place with gorgeous gardens. If you are metro-ing, make sure the walk over is not too much, it’s not really super close to a metro and it’s in a sketchy, though getting better, neighborhood.
    The National Cathedral (not Catholic) — a Gothic style Cathedral with flying buttresses and everything. It’s on beautiful grounds. There’s an admission fee, so check out the website first. There’s also parking underneath.

    If you like architecture also look into the Tudor House and Gardens in Georgetown and/or Dumbarton House in Georgetown.

    If you want to eat at an overpriced (but with good food!) gourmet restaurant in a trendy neighborhood, go to 14th Street in Logan Circle and eat at B Too (Belgian) or Estadio (Spanish Tapas). Beforehand or afterwards have a drink (but don’t eat) at Le Diplomat (French bistro, this place is good solid French bistro food, but it’s way overpriced for what it is. You go for the ambiance). Most of the restaurants on 14th street in Logan circle are solid if you want to try one.

  44. Heather

    “Like a boss” – LOVE IT!!

    And, very cool on the “oils of the bible” class! How would I get something like that done for our mother’s group at church?? I would LOVE to know how! Going to check our her sight right now!!

    • Deborah

      Heather, email me at debinblackmtn@outlook.com and I will give you more info on the Healing Oils of the Bible and the 12 Oils of Sacred Scripture Kit from Young Living. I think that’s a great idea for a mother’s group! I’m also on FB, Deborah McKinney in Black Mountain, NC

  45. Michelle

    I sympathize with you on the one year old. I went to the first family reunion on my mother’s side yesterday and Joey clung to me THE WHOLE TIME ~ ok, well he got down a bit to throw sticks into the blazing fire with me heavily guarding him. “My Kids are Killing Me.” and I’m not going down easily.

    Hopefully, my annoyance wasn’t too obvious since I was also the highlight of the party. “You have 8 kids!” “Hey such and such, would you believe she has 8 kids?!” “I can’t believe you have 8 kids………. I was indeed probably the first and only in the family with 8 experiencing hot flashes while nursing a one year old.

  46. Michelle M

    Another vote for the National Shrine and its crypt, bookstore and gift shop! If you have time for a guided tour of the Library of Congress it is WELL worth it. I was blown away by the Newseum. It has part of the fallen Berlin Wall, part of the top of one of the twin towers destroyed in 9-11 with a gut-wrenching film about it and an amazing exhibit of Pullitzer prize winning photographs that will blow you away, among MANY other interesting exhibits. If you are very short on time, just have someone (I would be MORE THAN HAPPY to be your driver if you need someone) drive you around so you can hop out at the main memorials. You can look at a list of choices and pick your favorites/ most meaningful. And if you have a longer chunk of time, Mount Vernon is fantastic with a newer interactive visitor center that is wonderful for all ages. My husband used to work in an office in the dome of the Capitol, so I think it is an awesome place, but the tours are SLOW and the visitors center is a disappointment, in my opinion. If you only have time for a quick run-through, any of the Smithsonian museums can be quick if you just look as you go (and they are free, so you don’t feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth)! Send me an e-mail if you want….. 🙂

  47. Catherine

    So excited that you’re going to DC! I used to live there – hopefully my sister who’s still there will get to come out and see you. All the suggestions so far have been great. One of my favorite places to go, although a bit off the beaten path, was the National Arboretum. If you have a rental car or access to a taxi it would be easier, since its not easily accessible by Metro. It should be really beautiful when you’re going though, and there’s a seriously amazing Bonsai tree exhibit.

  48. Charity

    Thank you so much for describing your toddler torment. All my friends seem to have such lovely and cooperative toddlers, so when my little guy (who is very close in age to yours) is doing almost exactly the same things as yours, I keep wondering if it is just me. How come no one else’s kid does this? But now I know I am not alone. It is very comforting to have company with my misery. Restrict his movement? End. Of. The. World. Thinks hiking with a sling is a monumental insult to his very existence? Check. Screams are comparable to tornado siren and require ear protection for all those within range? Check. Favorite past time is smacking across the head when movement is restricted? Check. (Ok, here he may be more like your high maintenance child. Head smacking is fair game for anytime he does not receive what he wants but is unable to communicate because he still isn’t talking yet). Also still not walking yet and must, absolutely MUST, get down and crawl on every filthy disgusting surface we encounter? I have given up and now grab a wipe and sanitizer at the ready so as soon as he has completed his imperial survey of local landmass I can whisk him up and furiously scrub his sucking thumb before he jams it full throttle into his wet gaping maw. Actually now that I think about it, he may be a combo of your number 5 and number 6 children. Please feel free to complain more in future posts. The more detail the better. It really helps.

  49. eclare

    Been nerding around in my new Vibrams a ton this summer, too. My two year old is always certain to inform me that “Them’s not shoes, Mom!”

  50. Mary Ellen

    Everyone already told you my fav DC things.

    1. Shrine
    2. Monuments at Night

    The building museum is good for kids, there is a fee to see the exhibits.
    Air and Space is one of the best Museums on The Mall. The Transportation exhibit at American History is good for children too.

    Georgetown is not Metro accessible, but you can take the circulator or walk on a nice day. Check out the shops, laugh at the line for cupcakes and walk along the waterfront and up to the canal.

    Hope to see you while you are in town.

  51. Anne

    Top four things in DC:
    St. Matthew’s Cathedral
    Drinks at the rooftop bar at the W hotel (Views of the White House)
    U.S. Capitol
    National Gallery of Art

    Also, I LOVE the zoo. Bao Bao, the baby panda, is adorable, and my daughter and I have a relationship with one of the gorillas, Kibibi (we remember when her mother was pregnant with her and have watched her grow up).

    Walking through Georgetown is fun, and Georgetown University is beautiful. Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart has recently been renovated. All of the Smithsonian museums are great–it depends on what you want to see. I love looking at the founding documents at the Archives, and I get a kick out of Julia Child’s kitchen and Dorothy’s red shoes at the Museum of American History. The National Building Museum is beautiful–and it has the best gift shop! It is also near Holy Rosary Church, built by Italian immigrants, with a statue of Christopher Columbus out front. When you go inside, you feel like you’ve gone to Italy–especially if they are having mass in Italian (and they serve espresso at their coffee hour after Sunday Masses).

    FYI: Georgetown Cupcake has a shop in Bethesda–MUCH shorter lines than Georgetown.

    Looking forward to seeing you in my hometown!

  52. LeAnna

    I got to visit DC a couple of years ago when my husband was speaking at a conference. My favourite sites:

    The National Gallery was awesome. It has a great collection that was a pleasure to browse.

    The DAR Museum was great for someone like me who loves folkart and period rooms.

    Taking a tour of the Capitol was really impressive. It gave me a new respect for the American spirit (I’m Canadian).

  53. Sara

    The Shrine and Monastery are a must see. The zoo is great and the grounds open at 9 so you can get there early before the crowds. The parking lots fill up quickly on a nice day. I love the builder museum as well and if the kids need a beautiful space to run around, the national arboretum is amazing but it is only open Friday through Monday. The Jefferson memorial is my favorite memorial to see and there are parking lots available close by along the water so the walking isn’t bad. The botanical gardens are also fun for the kids and adults and they are right next the Capitol so you can see both! And if you are feeling like meeting some amazing people you can stop by the Madonna house right near union station. They are some wonderful people with a great faith! I hope you have a great visit!

  54. Tom Stanley

    In addition to things people have mentioned I really recommend the newly renovated Washington Monument. Tickets are required to go up and can be reserved online before you come to the city for a small fee. The fee is totally worth the convenience of walking right up and picking up your tickets for a designated time. The website to start booking is:


    I checked a couple of your dates and times are available. Tickets generally book out up to a month in advance.

    Several folks have mentioned a Capitol Tour. I highly recommend that as well. This tour also requires tickets which can be booked here:


    The White House tour is nice but you MUST book that through a Senator or Congressman. Contact their office to see if they can get you in.

    I really hope you are doing some signings or speaking engagements in the area that are open to the public while you are in DC. I need a few books and I would love to have the opportunity to meet you.

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