2 Moms. 5 kids. 1 van. 3 weeks. 3000 miles. Are we amazing or are we crazy? You decide.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Washington

This post is really long, as it covers all three days in Washington.

In Washington, we stayed at the Capitol KOA. Their website had promised a shuttle to the nearest Metro station. What they neglected to inform us was that the shuttle stopped running Sep 1st. The nice young man behind the counter when I checked in assured me the metro station was 15 minutes away. He lied. Even accounting for morning traffic, it was more like 30 minutes, 45 in the morning traffic. However we finally made it, and rode the Metro into Washington, DC.

For some reason, our nearest and dearest thought that by the time we reached Washington, we might be a bit tired. Us? Tired? My parents, AtlMom’s husband, father, and mother-in-law were going to meet us in Washington. The theory was that they would be able to give us a break, and we could divide and conquer a bit more, since there is so much in Washington to see. It also helped us to tailor events to our age ranges. On M’s must-see list was the Spy Museum. We thought that might be a little above J’s head, but the carousel on the Mall would be right up his alley (and way to Un-cool for M)

AtlDad stayed in the campground with us. We met Jaxgrandparents at the metro stop. Our first stop was the National Archives, which was to be the culmination of all this History. As we went in, I informed M that he was NOT to try and steal the Declaration, even if there was a map on the back! The Charters of Freedom were pretty awesome. We also got to see a copy of the Magna Charta – one of only four in existence. 1215. Think about that. 1215. Almost 800 years old. What was interesting was that the ink on the Magna Charta was a lot less faded than the ink on the Declaration.
There was also a very neat exhibit called “From Schoolhouse to White House”, about the education of our Presidents. We got to see Jimmy Carter’s 4th grade Geography test, among other things.

For lunch we went to an International Food Court in the Old Post Office. A great choice, as everyone could find something they liked. (I tried to get M to be adventurous, and not order a hamburger. He came back with a Polish Sausage. “It’s not a hotdog, Mom!”) After lunch it was off to the Museum of Natural History. Here the extra adults really came in handy, as each one could follow a child to their first interest. M wanted to see the dinosaurs, C wanted to see the bugs, and P wanted to see the jewels (including the Hope Diamond). Guess which child I followed? P and I also got to touch a piece of Mars.

My father is a truly hospitable person, and one of his favorite things to do is to feed people. And to feed them well. We ate that night at McCormick and Schmick’s, a fabulous seafood restaurant. They also make a heavenly chocolate flourless cake – very truffle like in texture. Then it was off to the Metro station and back to the campground.


Our second day we had decided to see the monuments and memorials. The Jax crew is usually up and about earlier than the Atl crew. We now had two cars, thanks to AtlGrandad. So JaxMom and kids took the van, and AtlDad and Grandad took A and J in grandad’s car a bit later. AtlMom took a well-deserved rest day, and stayed at the campground. Because the Jefferson Memorial was a bit further away, we got trolley tickets rather than walking. I thought that Lincoln and Washington would get to me more, but at the Jefferson, I got all choked up. I think it was the story that he was built facing the oval office, and one of the Presidents actually had some trees cut down, so that each man who sat in the oval office, could see the Jefferson Memorial, and remember the ideals that he fought for. “I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” I especially like the quotes from Jefferson that were on the four sides of the Memorial.

We then took the trolley to the Lincoln Memorial. The Atl crew called just as we were finishing up with Lincoln, and they met us at the Washington Memorial. You have to get timed tickets to go up to the top. We had thought that there would be some exhibits at the bottom, like there were at the Jefferson. After going through security, we realized that the only thing there was an elevator. My mother immediately turned around. My daughter decided that she would go with her grandmother. Although I was a bit uncertain about this, I bravely climbed aboard the elevator. They squished us in like sardines. And then the thing went up, and up, and up. There was time for the guard operating the elevator to give a complete dissertation in the time it took for the elevator to reach the top! I couldn’t really pay attention to what he was saying, because not only were my fears acting up, so were M’s. (Remember the bridge in Boston?) He started shaking about halfway up. I put my arm around him and told him that he did not have to get out of the elevator. (Inside cheering “Yea! I don’t have to get out of the elevator either!”) Then the guard informed the group that after they were ready to go down they should walk down one flight of stairs and pick up the elevator there. I knew that there was no way we were getting off that elevator. I looked at the guard with my most piteous look, and asked if we could please stay on the elevator. He looked at M (still shaking) and told us that was fine. I think the trip down took longer.
So C is the only one from Jax who actually looked out the windows at the top of the Washington Monument. Although I told M that he could say with perfect truth that he had been to the top of the Washington Monument.
After lunch, M and Jaxgrandad went off to the Spy Museum, where because M was 12, he could participate in a program called Operation Spy. You don’t read about spies, you ARE the Spy.
The drivers of the trolleys had been full of fun facts about Washington, so Jaxgrandmother and I decided to take P and C on the whole tour. We got a great tour of Washington. There are two trolley loops, the red line and the green line. The red line takes you around the central part of Washington. The green line goes up toward the National Cathedral, and comes back down through Embassy Row and Georgetown. Jaxgrandmother took P and C off to the Spy Museum, and I took the green line tour. Although the trolley tours had not been on our original itinerary, it was one of the best things I did in Washington. My driver Bob gets big kudos, as he could drive down Embassy Row and tell us each Embassy as we passed it.
When I met up with my Jax crew again, the Atl crew had gone back to the campground. The Jax crew was staying in town that night, as we had 9:00 AM tickets for a tour of the White House, and it would have been very difficult to get there on time from the campground.
Jaxgrandad had found this fabulous Greek/Lebanese/Middle eastern restaurant. They served very small portions, which is just how we like it, so then we can all get a taste of everything, and order lots of dishes to try. My elder son decided he wanted to try rabbit. Not to be outdone, my younger decided that that was what he wanted to. My daughter (who had already placed her order for lamb) was not able to handle this. P doesn’t really burst into tears, she just overflows. So I didn’t realize she was upset for a few minutes. When I realized what was bothering her, I tried to talk to her reasonably.
P: They’re (sob) going to (sob) kill (sob, sob) the bunnies!
JaxMom: Well, honey, all life lives at the expense of every other life. They’re going to kill the lamb too.
P: I’m (sob) never (sob) eating meat (sob sob) EVER again! (great big huge sob)
I told her that that was certainly her choice, but she had to let everyone else make their own choice.
She did not eat the lamb.
She has not eaten meat since.
She’s pretty firm about it, and I’ll be interested to see if it lasts.

The next morning, we had a fabulous breakfast at the hotel (much better than I had been giving them out at the campground). P had actually served some sausage gravy until her brother reminded her that it had meat in it. We made it to the White House with lots of time to spare, and since it was a self-guided tour, they let us go ahead on in. My favorite story from the White House brochure.
In 1835, Andrew Jackson received a strange gift: a huge cheddar cheese, 4 feet round and 2 feet thick, weighing 1400 pounds. It sat in the EntranceHall for two years while it cured. Jackson invited the public to visit and eat the cheese on Washington’s Birthday, 1837. Within two hours, the cheese was gone (but the smell remained!)
We had a little bit of time after the White House, and Jaxgrandad decided that Tea at the Willard Hotel would be nice. As early as 1818 this corner was the site of a hotel, which was extensively remodeled and expanded by the Willard brothers in the 1850s. President and Mrs. Lincoln lived here before they moved into the White House, and a copy of their bill is displayed in the hotel's gallery. Julia Ward Howe wrote the words to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," a tribute to Lincoln, while she was a guest at the Willard. The term "lobbyist" originated here, first used by Ulysses S. Grant to describe the political wheelers and dealers who frequented the hotel's lobby after they learned that Grant was often to be found there, enjoying his cigar and a brandy.
We had a lovely tea, and watched all the bigwigs come and go. Next we were meeting AtlGrandad and A, who were joining us for our tour of the Capitol. When my father had first proposed the tour of the Capitol, I was not sure I wanted to go. (I wanted my kids to go, though). I am really glad we did the tour. We started out at Ander Crenshaw's office (one of FL's Representatives). The kids all got to sit at his desk. Our guide showed us all the architectural features of the Capitol, and the frieze around the dome (which shows scenes from American History) was a great review for the kids, as it covered just about everything we had done. We actually got to watch a vote taken in the House of Representatives. The kids liked watching all the little red and green marks appear before each representative’s name. I think they got more out of it than I would have expected them to.
We then went to the Air and Space Museum, and met up with AtlMom and Dad, and J. AtlMom and I snuck off to the cafĂ© to have some caffeine and grease, while the grandparents followed the kids. The Museum of American History is closed for refurbishment, but a few of the items are on exhibit at the Air and Space as Treasures of the American Past. I made sure the kids all went through, and we saw Lincoln’s hat, Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, and Frank Gilbreth’s watch. (If you don’t know who that is, go read Cheaper by the Dozen) C was most impressed with George Washington’s coat and sword. I think M was most impressed with Lewis and Clark’s compass. That was the only exhibit I saw, as I was pretty much done. I did visit the gift shop and got sucked in by the bookstore (and got some great books for JaxDad to read when he gets back). I did resist the temptation to go to the lower floor of the gift shop, which was the toy floor. JaxGrandmother (who had C in tow) was not quite as resistant. The next time I saw C, he was wearing a bright orange space suit. He hasn’t taken it off since.
JaxGrandparents once again took us to a spectacular place for dinner – this time the top of the Washington Hotel. We could look out over the White House (and see the snipers), and we had a fabulous sunset. The sky changed color ever couple of minutes, until it was purply black. Washington was a great place to end the tour. Lots of things there sort of reviewed the History we had studied along the way, and we showed the kids just how all that History had ended up, and what it was that our forefathers were fighting for. We couldn’t have done it without the extra adult help in Washington, so a big Thank-You to all the relatives that came along.
On Friday we packed the car and drove back to our aunt’s house in Kinston. On Saturday, we each took our respective cars home. As we approached Jax, M cried out “I recognize that skyline! It’s not Philly, it’s not Boston, It’s not Washington, it’s JACKSONVILLE!” I think we were all glad to finally sleep in our own beds that night.
We had a fabulous tour, and someone asked me if I would do it again. “Of course!” was my reply. Maybe not anytime soon, but I think next year we’re studying the Civil War. Hmmmmmm.

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