For the first time since we said good-bye in August, I got to hug my sister.
For one blissful week, Mikaela and I were in the same state.
For seven blissful mornings, we woke up in the same time zone.
For nearly 168 hours, we couldn't stop smiling, and together with Mama, Sarah, and Joel, couldn't stop laughing either! (Thanks for the entertaining game of Uno Dare, Joel!)
Scroll through these pictures and tell me if you've ever seen a happier bunch!
Coffee is wonderful when you're not sure what time zone you're in and the plane you've just flown in on but were not supposed to disembark from is grounded with steering troubles. A side trip to St. Louis wasn't in the original plan, but it is now!
We're faking it pretty well here, but our fingers are about to fall off from frostbite awaiting our train in DC in ten degree weather!
Sarah and Mama, happy to have a seat on the Metro after an exhausting travel day!
Could our smiles be any bigger?
Throw some cupcakes in, and the smiles just might grow.
Then add some adorable pandas, with whom we absolutely fell in love! We accidentally saw a bison on our way to the pandas, but that was entirely unintended. The pandas were our sole mission at the National Zoo!
Why, you ask?
Well, did you know Bao Bao, the baby, is the most coo-worthy critter in the world?
Did you know four women could stand for an hour in front of panda bears and still wish they had two more hours to spend?
Did you further know there is a 24 hour panda cam on the National Zoo website so you never have to be without your daily dose of panda?
(As I've enjoyed informing people, we did accidentally see a bison at the zoo, but other than that we went straight to the pandas!)
Up next, the National Cathedral at sunset.
Washington DC aglow.
Mama caught this amazing photo! The cathedral was an amazing, beautiful place. We were even gifted with hearing a casual rehearsal for the evening concert, and medieval instruments resonating through the sanctuary held us completely captive!
Aren't they the cutest couple?
On Saturday, Joel finally got to join us, and we went to a Sight and Sound musical production of Moses in Lancaster, PA. Phenomenal is too small a word to describe it.
Comparing it even to a New York Broadway musical, Sarah still informs me this was better. We cried and laughed. We were awed by the massive production at the same time that our hearts were touched by the depth of a single moment brought to life and the power of God's work through Moses.
Afterwards, we were able to meet up with a long-time friend, Leah, who lives nearby! Lunch and an afternoon together was an unexpected delight!
Over the next few days, various girly activities occupied our time, beginning with helping Mikaela organize, clean, and shop for maternity clothes:
Auntie's dinner date...need I say more?
Face masks with the requisite "creepy ladies" picture!
And tea with the queen but of course!
On our last night in Maryland, we had a "jam" session in Joel and Mikaela's living room. Mikaela and I were on violin, Sarah on piano, and Joel on guitar or penny whistle. Hymns and fiddle music were the order of the evening, and we had so much fun--it felt like we had never been apart!
To top off the festivities, we had a soda-testing party. Yes, that's chai cola and coffee soda, but our favorite was the butterscotch root beer. Yummy!
On our final day together, we took reams of pictures,
fulfilled our desire to actually go up in the Washington Monument,
and took more pictures from the top! Notice the helicopter in front of the White House in the top photo?
In our last minutes together, Sarah, Mikaela, and I ran down to the Gallery of Art and saw treasures such as these: the ballerina by Degas, and the only painting by Da Vinci in North America.
My favorite photo from the trip, this picture captures the best-friendship we have together. And though saying good bye was difficult, not one of us regret that we had the chance to hug good bye in person in the first place.
Mama, Sarah, and I caught our flight home, which stopped in the same airport as before, and, just like before, our plane was grounded with mechanical problems. At this point, and after such a week, laughter was our only logical response, and the rest of the plane could only stare at us in confusion. But at last we landed safely on Northwest soil to hugs and love from our families.
"Real life" started bright and early the next morning for me in the form of teaching, but the real memories, blessings, and love from my time with Mikaela and Joel were all the energy I needed!