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Just Ask

Something that we’ve tried to get into the twins’ minds is that those who ask usually get.  Actually, those who ask sometimes get, and those who don’t ask rarely get.  Therefore, we make them spell it out — admit aloud what they want — whether that is another cookie or a trip to the beach.  It’s not an easy thing to do most of the time.  It is hard to ask for what you want.

But, I mean, the worst anyone can say is no, right?

We’re lucky that the majority of the things the twins have asked for have been experiential.  It would have sucked big time if they were toy hoarders mostly because we don’t have the means to finance an army of Barbie dolls.  Their experience requests have ranged from highly do-able to not a chance in hell.  Hang out at the Apple store for the afternoon — I can do that for you.  Meet Princess Kate — we may have some problems making that happen.

I allowed both of them to vote in the last presidential election (the one where the Wolvog showed his belly instead of his nipples).  Meaning, I let one vote, erased their answer, let the next one vote, erased their answer, and finally cast the vote that we saved on the machine.  And since then, they have been deeply interested in all things governmental.  They asked for a letter from the President as their birthday gift last year, and some fabulous adults made that happen (there is nothing like seeing your childrens’ faces when there is a knock at the door and someone hand delivers a letter from the White House).  And then, after this past meeting to discuss the Affordable Care Act, the twins asked if there was any chance that they could see the White House too.  They told me that going there was what they wanted more than anything in life; to see where the President worked.

“I don’t know,” I said, thinking that this might be up there with the ChickieNob’s request to hang out with Princess Kate after her wedding.

“Could you just ask?” The Wolvog questioned.

So I just asked.  And the person I asked said yes.  So she set up two tours of the White House for the twins and my parents — one of the East Wing which we went to over spring break and one of the West Wing that we went to last week.  All because we just asked.


A few weeks ago, the ChickieNob was talking with Josh while he tied his shoes and she started absentmindedly doing this bizarre walk in the front hallway.  She sort of half-squatted and lurched around with her arms sort of outstretched and her fingers curled.  She told us that it was her zombie walk, and Josh had her add in a raspy delivered, “brains!”  I saw her do the zombie walk at random points in the house maybe three times after that.

And then we went to the White House.

My parents, Josh, the Wolvog, and the intern who was walking us through the East Wing had all passed into the blue room from the green room.  I was walking behind the ChickieNob when I saw her squat down and do the walk between the two rooms and then turn around to grin at me.  I didn’t comment on it until we were home and I said, “I noticed you doing the zombie walk in the White House today.”

And instead of looking bashful, instead of looking contrite, instead of giving me any sort of nod that perhaps zombie-walking wasn’t appropriate for the space, she just looked at me with pride and said, “did you see how low I got?”

My friend told her that the move was probably caught on film by a camera in the room, and she was delighted at the idea of someone viewing the tapes and getting to see her excellent zombie walk.


The East Wing was fun, but the West Wing blew their little minds.  First of all, it had to be at night when S could bring us around.  So at an hour when we’d normally be getting ready for bed, we dressed up and drove downtown.  We got there a bit early, so we sat outside enjoying the warm night, and the twins ran around in a circle in front of the Executive Office Building.

It was night time and very quiet — all the frenetic energy from the daytime dissipated from the building.  We couldn’t go into the Situation Room (much to the Wolvog’s disappointment, since he heard that it was “filled with computers”) but we peeked into the Navy Mess and headed upstairs where S took us out into the Rose Garden at night.  She framed the shot we often see of the President speaking on the lawn, and then continued to talk to my parents as we walked back inside so she missed the ChickieNob crouch down once again beside me and zombie walk between the Rose Garden and the Cabinet Room. (“I did it,” the ChickieNob whispered to me, “I reached my goal of zombie walking on both sides of the White House.”  Everyone should have goals.)

It was emotional to look into the Oval Office and see the Resolute desk (my brother seemed cranky that I marveled more at remembering John-John playing underneath than focusing on all the Presidents who had sat behind it).  I hadn’t gotten to see into the Oval Office when I was there a few weeks ago because the President was working, but now the two doors were open between the Oval Office and the Roosevelt Room, and you could see the small distance between the chair I sat in and the chair he sits in while bring briefed (which still held the impression of his body in the leather).  We tried to explain to the twins about how they were standing inside history; that the White House is this living, working, well-used museum of American history.  But I don’t think they could comprehend the enormity of that even if they loved being in that space.

Which is to say that they are neither impressed nor jaded right now: all is as they think it should be.  In their world, it’s a given that if you want to go to the White House, you ask and go to the White House.  They thought it was cool and kept saying, “it’s amazing.”  But they bring the same level of excitement to a trip to the Baltimore Aquarium.  Everything in this world is so. damn. interesting. (And every important building needs a good old-fashioned zombie walk.)

I hope they’re able to hold onto that world view for a very long time.

Of course, the ChickieNob asked the best question of the evening: “why did the President get a pet dog instead of a pet squab?”  Why didn’t he?  I mean, of all the pets in the world, why would he opt for the most common instead of using his immense power to bring a small, domesticated pigeon into his home?  Why not indeed?


We couldn’t take photographs in either the East Wing or the West Wing, though S brought us outside the front door of the West Wing beneath the seal so we could take a family picture and a few of the twins.  And then the Wolvog turned the camera on me and the whole world tilted somewhat to the side.

Then we got in the car and drove back home, the twins falling asleep a few minutes into the ride.  The next morning we had a school field trip to the facility where they make and package school lunches, and that was equally as exciting and wondrous as the White House so it couldn’t be missed.


Our kids have gotten to do and see and receive some pretty amazing things considering they are only seven, and every single moment has been either because someone noted how much an interaction would mean to them and made it happen, or because they asked and received.

Though the ChickieNob dreamily announced at the seder table that her wish for this upcoming birthday is to meet the real Harry Potter, meaning, not Daniel Radcliffe.  She wants the real deal, the boy who lived himself.  Er…


1 Corey Feldman { 04.25.12 at 10:07 am }

I haven’t been inside in years, though I pass it all the time. Its pretty amazing. What a wonderful opportunity for the twins.

2 lostintranslation { 04.25.12 at 10:09 am }

I’m so glad they asked, and that you asked! What a great experience.

I always need to kick myself in the butt for getting over that threshold and ask things. Thanks for the reminder 😉

3 It Is What It Is { 04.25.12 at 10:24 am }

There are a handful of useful sayings, the meaning of which is pretty evident, that I’ve taught my son and one is one we use in sales training, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. My son, now 5, has gotten all sorts of things just by politely asking.

So cool that using it resulted in your twins getting an experience of their young lives. Cool, indeed, mama!

4 loribeth { 04.25.12 at 10:42 am }

I’ve read that one reason why there is a pay gap between the sexes is that men ask for what they think they’re worth; women don’t. We need to ask more often for what we want & what we need. As you said, the worst that can happen is someone says no.

I hope someday the twins realize how lucky they are — I am jealous!! (But good luck on that Harry Potter thing, lol…)

5 Becky { 04.25.12 at 11:26 am }

Something to think about…actually verbalizing what you want. There’s so much to be said for just putting that out into the universe. Because, as you said, so often it will find it’s way to you. I think this is something I’m going to start to talk more about with my boys. Thanks for the lesson 🙂

6 Mina { 04.25.12 at 11:51 am }

I am planning to teach this lesson to my children too, I already am, but the words coming out of George’s mouth match his Volcan salute (incomprehensible). I have learned this lesson the hard way, I hope my children will have an easier time with it.

7 magpie { 04.25.12 at 1:35 pm }

What a wonderful experience, zombie walking through the White House! You have lucky children and you’re teaching them well.

8 sass { 04.25.12 at 2:01 pm }

That is such a wonderful lesson…but somehow a hard one to carry into adulthood, at least for me. I love the creative, wonderful things children will dream up, and how they are uninhibited enough to ask for them.

Just this morning, at my egg retrieval, the anesthesiologist remarked that I’m probably one of those people who never wants to bother anyone with anything. (I had just given her a choice of arms for the IV.) It’s true though…somewhere along the way I lost whatever it is that lets a person voice what they want.

What a great lesson to learn and relearn.

PS I’m feeling an opportunity for you to capture some wonderful zombie walks on video. 🙂 Zombie walks all over the world!

9 Emily @ablanket2keep { 04.25.12 at 2:25 pm }

I love how she met her goal of zombie walking in the White House! I bet whoever was watching the screens was smiling. I bet it made their day. I need to remember to ask more often.

10 Pale { 04.25.12 at 5:27 pm }

What a great story.

I have been thinking a lot about “just ask” this week … why it is that some of us seem to have been programmed to expect people to read our minds instead … why “asking” seems so impossibly hard sometimes, but then … not asking isn’t very compatible with having expectations of any kind. When I think about all the crankiness and hurt feelings that could be left out by asking directly instead …

I am on a biography kick lately and have been reading about Grant and Lincoln (thought I’d read the book that Spielberg’s upcoming biopic is based on, for one …). I am big on historical places … the intangible vibe of a place. I know what you mean about standing inside history. I really wanted to attend the 150th anniversary of Shiloh … where they were going to light the battlefield park up with 24,000 candles … one for each casualty (can we even comprehend that statitistic? 911 X 12?). I thought it would be an amazing photo op for my mad photography skilz. Alas, it was beyond impractical to make an 11 hour road trip on a tight turnaround. Oh well. I hope Nat Geo sent someone ….

11 Queenie { 04.25.12 at 5:37 pm }

Ah, there is such an important lesson in this post.

12 a { 04.25.12 at 10:38 pm }

Just ask. Interesting concept – what would you do with a toy hoarder? My girl is always wishing for stuff – if I told her that she could ask for it and see what happens, I would be eternally plagued by requests. She does ask for stuff she really wants – the rest of the time, I suspect she’s testing the waters.

What an incredible experience for all of you! It would be pretty amazing to stand inside history like that…but then again, it’s just a building (albeit a building full of cool stuff).

13 Justine { 04.25.12 at 11:07 pm }

So interesting … when I think back to my own childhood, a time and place and family in which children were still “seen and not heard.” Sometimes I wonder how that shaped the person I am today … whether I would be more vocal, less in-my-own-head, if my parents had encouraged me to ask.

And yet I remember my father, who never asked anyone for directions, saying “preguntando se llega a Roma” (asking gets you to Rome). It’s a good lesson. Your twins are very lucky to have learned it so young.

14 Mali { 04.25.12 at 11:17 pm }

I love the “just ask” concept. But even more, I love that you’re teaching them this. “But, I mean, the worst anyone can say is no, right?” That’s what I struggle with, but I’m determined to overcome (even at my advanced years, I still have goals!). Thanks for reminding me of this.

15 Anat { 04.27.12 at 1:16 pm }

What a beautiful picture of you!

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