May 17, 2016

This is How we Roll

Every year for 5 years I have entered our family in the lottery for White House Easter Egg Roll tickets.  

No luck.

This year we didn't have to hope for a lucky lottery draw, we got lucky with some amazing friends, Jennie and Alan {same name, different husband}.  We were lucky to become friends with them 8 years ago when she became Bridger's vision specialist in Early Intervention services.  We were, again, lucky when she then became Bridger's first Special Ed preschool teacher.  We have been extra lucky to know her son, Max, who, among other challenges, was born without eyes.  We absolutely won the friend lottery with them.

They have been involved with an amazing organization that makes Easter egg hunts possible for visually impaired children.  That organization, Audible Eggs, was founded by elite military bomb technicians who utilized the same technology in creating the large beeping eggs.  Audible Egg partnered with the White House to provide this opportunity so that visually impaired children could also attend the historic annual White House Easter Egg Roll event.

Our friends called us and told us they had passes for our entire family to join the fun.

Lucky us!

It turned out to be the most glorious spring afternoon.  I had the kids skip school and Alan walked down from his work to meet us at the White House gate.

I could tell it was going to be a fun afternoon when we were greeted at the gate by Shaquille O'Neal, who stopped and bent over. . . reeeeally bending over to wheelchair height, to chat with Bridger and then graciously obliged us for a photo.

To give some perspective on size -- I am 5'9", Alan is 6'2". Sadie, who is standing to the left of Shaquille, wears a size 9 women's shoe.  They look like toothpicks compared to his big lug of leather.

We ventured inside, escorted by the one of the Audible Egg founders from the Virginia Beach Bomb Squad.  We watched the performances on the stage, had some delicious healthy snack offerings {all in harmony with Michelle Obama's "Get Moving" platform for children.} Then we looked towards the south lawn of the White House and saw the line of children serpentining around the entire expanse of lawn waiting for their turn in the small area where they have timed entrances to hunt eggs.  I shuddered at the sight of the line.  There was not a chance Bridger would tolerate that line to wait for his turn to hunt. Little did I know, that wasn't in the plan anyway.  

Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that Bridger's new way to protest pictures being taken is to shove his fingers up his nose?  
 Alas, every White House group shot.

Our escort took us to the back of the egg hunt area where we were greeted like VIP's. They had a scheduled entrance time allotment for Audible Egg participants and they closed off one of the two sections to be only for our children hunting eggs.  The children were given baskets and skipped off to find eggs.  Some chickens were really working overtime the past several weeks as I saw tens of thousands of egg cartons stacked in a tent. Eggs were hidden in hay for the older children, obvious ones for Eliza, and large beeping plastic ones for Bridger.  A minute later I heard cheering at the fence next to us. I looked up to see Beyonce, Jay Z and Ivy Blue walking in towards us.  Eliza ran around with Ivy Blue pouncing on eggs and for a brief moment it was just our family and theirs hunting eggs together privately in our little area with crowds cheering at the fence surrounding us.  Unbeknownst to me, the White House staff approached Beyonce and Jay Z shortly after they entered and told them that the area was reserved for our family and told them that they would have to leave.  

That would have explained why Jay Z came up to Alan and I and told us that he thought he probably should be taking our picture.  

When we finished our hunt, the White House Staff came up to us offering the sincerest apology to that disturbance to our egg hunt time.  I looked at the staffer to make sure I was understanding her and asked, 

"You are apologizing to me for allowing Beyonce and Jay Z to hunt eggs with us?"

"Yes," she said, "you are VIP's, too."

"Um. . . apology accepted?" I said, as I laughed.

The kids were presented with darling Lands End commemorative totes and moved on to enjoy the other activities.

The White House has timed group entries for the groups of the day, with the a period between each group that the event is emptied.  It is during this time that we were enjoying all of the fun of the activities without the presence of the crowds.

Bridger and Eliza were excited to have a lawn full of characters all to themselves waiting with their arms outstretched.

I was thoroughly impressed that the White House even provided an accessible lane for the Easter egg roll.  While the other kids raced their rolling eggs down the grass, Bridger had a picket lane to get his chair and egg moving on.

After enjoying some entertainment in a quiet corner for Bridger, we became the entertainment for the White House security.  Specifically, Eliza.

Not content to sit still in the shade like her brother, she skipped around the grass and set off infrared security alarms.  We had a machine gun armed Secret Service officer tucked discreetly in the trees, standing watch over her the entire time we were there. He came out of the trees to us and we had a laugh that we were more nervous of him than he was of Eliza.  We were glad to test out the White House security system that afternoon and find that it was working properly. Can you spy the armed officer and the shadow of his machine gun hidden there watching us?

We also saw security working in force again when the White House was suddenly put on lock down just as we were trying to leave.  There had been a shooting at the Capitol Building and the White House lawn was put on lock down as a precaution.  We found it amusing that we were locked IN the White House.  I claimed dibs on the Lincoln Bedroom should we have to spend the night.

While Alan was wondering around with the other children to kill time on lock down, I found a shady spot for Bridger.  It turned out to be a lucky shady spot, because towards us came the White House canine caretaker walking the First Dog, Bo.  The caretaker brought Bo over to Bridger and they enjoyed getting to know each other for a few minutes before he walked him back into the White House.

We reconnected with Jennie, Alan and Max and exchanged stories of the luck of our day.  The kids said goodbye their dad - including Bridger who always wants to give out lots of love when he is happy.

Alan trotted back up the street to work and the kids and I hopped on the metro back home giggling over the interesting adventures of our day.

For all of the hard things we endure, sometimes we get a really lucky day.  And a lucky day here or there makes all of the hard things worth it.

That's just how we roll. 

For more on the Audible Egg, check out this clip from CNN.