I put visiting the cherry blossoms in Washington DC on my spring fun list. I have many memories from making this trip three years ago — before the toddler! before Covid! — just walking amid the snowball blossoms, and seeing them silhouetted against the bright March sky.
This past Saturday was the only day that was going to work. Cherry blossom experts predicted the peak would be March 22-25. Next weekend is more problematic. Sunday tends to be church and activities, plus it was a lot chillier. So I was watching the bloomcam that’s on the top of the DC Mandarin Oriental like a fiend, seeing whether the blossoms would be out. A handful of 70 degree days last week meant that many were!
So we decided to go. It was not the world’s easiest trip. We hit traffic and the toddler screamed for quite a while because he was having trouble going down for a nap in his carseat (and, it turns out, may have been getting sick — he vomited all over me and him on Sunday late afternoon. Yikes…). We stopped at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum first, and while it was fun to see the rockets, half the museum was closed for renovations. The 7-year-old just could not stop complaining about the walk down to the Tidal Basin and the 2-year-old had to be carried much of the way (he doesn’t do well in the stroller). On the way home our van’s tire air indicator started blinking alarmingly, and so we had to stop at a gas station and use the air machine.
But the blossoms were indeed beautiful! Even if they weren’t quite at peak puffy gorgeousness yet, a great many were out, and because we were a day or two early the crowds weren’t too intense. I’m glad we went — remembering self and all that.
Anyway, the point of this post: Obviously this trip had to be planned into our family’s weekend schedule. Very few things can ever happen spur of the moment — hence my stalking of the bloom cam. With five kids and their stuff, we always have activities or friend get togethers that need to be built into the model. We needed a day where we had open space within a few days of the peak forecast. We had a limited window to get down to DC after the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby in the AM and before the Air & Space museum closed. Much of my life has to be meticulously planned to hit windows like this.
Theoretically, planning seems like it would be in opposition to spontaneity. There is planning things out, and then there is being open to what comes. These are different personality types! There are those of us who like to structure things, and those of us who dwell in possibility, or however you want to characterize it.
But I think the two tend to work hand in hand. We have spontaneous fun experiences because we have plans. For instance, because I planned the DC trip, with two anchors in it (Air & Space museum + cherry blossoms) we were there on the Mall, where a lot more interesting stuff happens than at our house. We all got to pick snacks from the dozens of food trucks lined up near the Smithsonian museums. It’s always an adventure to be able to pick freely between snow cones, Mexican food, falafels, and so forth! Then we walked past an agricultural exhibit and got to stop and see some really tricked out tractors and other farm machinery. This was incredibly exciting for certain members of the family (the toddler called one combine harvester a lawn mower, which I guess is true in a way…). We had no idea that would be there but it was certainly a bonus.
Now I suppose it would have been possible to plan a DC trip that didn’t allow for any spontaneity, but that’s not my style. (An upside of driving is we had the flexibility to leave when we wanted). Or perhaps seven people would have just wound up spontaneously somewhere fascinating without any planning whatsoever, though that tends not to happen in my life. Maybe in someone’s? It’s probably more possible if there’s only one of you.
In my case, having a reasonably thought through plan for the weekend increases the chances that we can do stuff other than kid sports and lessons. When we do our planned adventures, we tend to experience some spontaneous fun along the way that helps keep life interesting. So I tend to think the two aren’t really in opposition. They can work together to create memories.
In other news: This weekend’s baking project was vegan banana chocolate chip muffins. They turned out pretty well!