Saturday, June 25, 2016
this was our final day of vacation, and really a travel day home, but we weren't in any hurry, so we decided to make one final stop, since we were so close. but before we went there, we had to go somewhere else. everyday as we traveled to the metro station, we passed krispy kreme donuts, and since the boys had never been there, dad just had to make a stop to get some fresh warm donuts. the kids loved watching them come down the "assembly line" and "get saucy" as quinton called it (the icing is poured all over them to glaze them). a delicious start to the day!
then we went to mount vernon, since we were staying literally a few miles from it. and boy were we so glad we did! it was a little bit of a shock to the system to pay for entry after doing so much free stuff through the week, but you can tell that they put the admission price to good use, as the home and grounds and museum were in incredible condition, and truly made for a great experience.
they have mount vernon set up as it might have been after george washington's presidency, when he had returned to his home along the patomac river. as a visitor you get to tour the home, as well as many of the outbuildings, with a working blacksmith and so much more.
they also do a great job of explaining washington's relationship with slavery as an institution and with his slaves in particular, demonstrating that he wasn't without his significant faults. the grounds are full of folks in clothing from the time period, and acting as if it were 1799, engaging visitors in conversation, and sharing interesting historical information and stories from the life of washington.
the gardens are also fabulous, and worth taking the time to check out. furthermore, we were able to visit washington's tomb.
we learned about the boy, the general, the president, and the man who was george washington, perhaps the greatest american of all time. but what impressed my children, more than anything, was the case containing george washington's dentures.
then we headed home on roads which were also being traveled, apparently, by half of the eastern seaboard, and we sat in traffic for the better portion of the day. we finally made it home, exhausted, but blessed by a rich week, full of learning, discovery, awe, inspiration, adventure, and love.
Friday, June 24, 2016
for our last day in the city, we had some time to kill before our appointment in the national archives, so we began in the east building of the national gallery of art. while the boys thought this might be boring at first, they ended up loving the art museum, and were amazed at the size of some of the paintings, the realism in others, and the incredible color, creativity, and diversity throughout. the museum really captivated their attention. we didn't see the whole museum, by any means, but the impressionist rooms won my heart, as always. i am always stopped in my tracks by van gogh, and i just can't stop gawking. we were very glad we took the time to go to the art museum.
when the time for our appointment arrived, we headed over to the national archives so that we could get a look at several important documents.
first, we saw an original copy of the magna carta (700 years old!) in beautiful latin script. then we made it to the rotunda where we were able to see the declaration of independence, the constitution, and the bill of rights. for me, it was sacred space. even as a gen x-er who is not a patriot in the traditional nation-worship, "my-country-can-do-no-wrong" kind of way, the moment was awe-inspiring. even as citizen who is so tired of politics as we know it; who is fed up with the games of government, and who is less-than-hopeful about the charlatan who would be president and make our nation hate again, i was still overwhelmed with a sense of both history and hope. i don't know if we can see our way through this mess with things remaining as they are, but the american experiment has been so wildly successful, that nothing in the future will exist except as a progeny of it. the declaration, as an act of courage and defiance; the constitution as a philosophical document of equality and dignity; and the bill of rights, as an expression of personal liberties are the holy trinity of the american experience, and whatever shape our government grows into, will always be formed by the documents in that rotunda. it was awe-inspiring to be there; to see them with my own eyes; to think about the lives of the men who dared to write and sign them; to consider how i am living my life with conviction, and with a clarity about the dignity and rights of every person, regardless of religion, color, creed, sexuality, or political opinions.
speaking of politics, this might be a good time to mention that everywhere you turn in washington you see numerous flags. there are flags everywhere! and so we couldn't help but be constantly confronted with the fact that every flag we saw (all 50 around the washington monument, just to give you an example), were flying at half-mast. it was a brutal reminder of the terrible attack in orlando florida earlier in the week, and the way that personal liberties can be abused when we don't use them to benefit one another, and when we are scared of people who aren't like us. this is not the america the founding fathers had in mind. they were carving out a space that was open to differences, open to all. they believed in this radical idea that all people are created equal, and had the God-given right to life. not the right to be scared for their lives because they are different. the right to live. the right to freedom. and the right to pursue happiness. that is america. i couldn't help but wonder that if jefferson and franklin and madison and monroe and others somehow showed up today, we would have some 'splainin' to do.
the archives is more than just the rotunda: they have a great museum section about the three main documents, but they also have all kinds of other archives stored there, and some interesting exhibits detailing how they do the storage, not just of paper media, but audio and digital and so forth, and the way it has all changed through the years. fascinating stuff. we ate lunch at the cafe there, then walked across the mall to the air and space museum. now to be fair, we were starting to come down with a case of "museum overload," and our feet were feeling the effects of walking so many miles, but i will confess that this was my least favorite museum by far. anyone who knows me knows that i'm not particularly interested in motors and engines and things that go vroom, and so forth, so this museum was never going to be my favorite. but the kids enjoyed it, and we all were impressed with the wright brothers' original airplane.
from there we took the metro north to the national portrait gallery, because caedmon wanted to see the hall of presidential portraits. we thought this might be a quick stop, but we were wrong...this place was awesome! this gorgeous historical building (lincoln held one of his inaugural balls here!), houses both a portrait museum, and an art gallery (with folk art, contemporary art, and more). this place held the kids' attention as much as anything had all week, even though we were all tired. by the end of this day, we had walked 40 miles in 4 days!
we took the metro back to virginia (we loved the metro! it was so easy to use, and both employees and washington residents were always kind and quick to help when we looked confused!).
we ate dinner at noodles company, then went to bed for the last night of our vacation, with one more place to visit in the morning before heading home.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
after so much walking the day before (14 miles!) we slept in a bit on day 4, and got off to a late start. we began the day with a trip to the white house.
we didn't have tickets to go inside, but we were able to stand at the front and wave at the first family. it is an impressive looking edifice, with even more impressive security. Shannon and the boys went in the white house visitor center, to learn more about the white house and see some old presidential ephemera and pieces, while i stayed outside with the stroller. while waiting, i made plans to head over to the old post office pavilion, where you used to be able to go up into the clock tower for a great view of washington. however, when we got there we found out that good ol' donald trump has bought it, and is turning into a hotel, so no more clock tower for the public. thanks for making our nation's capital not quite as great, donald.
after that we went to lunch at the ronald reagan international trade center food court, and then walked to the smithsonian sculpture garden.
finally, we headed into the american history museum, which caedmon had been not-so-patiently waiting for. caedmon, who is heading into 4th grade, loves anything to do with presidents,
and was so excited to see as much as possible about george washington at the museum. he was quite satisfied as we got to see his sword, a military uniform, and much more. there was a also a fantastic statue of our revolutionary war hero and first president which represented washington as almost a kind of greek god.
it is a cool statue which is meant to inspire awe at the general who helped win our independence, but, more than that, the statue has a very significant element: he is handing over his sword. here is an epic hero, the giver of american freedom, giving away his sword. he is relinquishing his power, which is what truly makes washington - at least in my mind - not just a great american figure, but a truly heroic human being. having won a revolution, he didn't cling to his power. he didn't succumb to a lust for even more power, or give into the temptations of pride and ego. he let it go for the common good. we would all so so well to have such humility. our trip to washington d.c. inspired me to want to be that kind of leader.
at the american history museum, we also saw other items, like the hat lincoln was wearing the night he was shot, dorothy's ruby slippers from the wizard of oz, julia child's kitchen, and many more.
after the museum, we went over to the washington monument, and sat for awhile, just enjoying the late afternoon breeze.
we left the city, ate at five guys (which quinton kept calling five mans), and then headed back home for the night, where the kids watched a movie.
a couple more notes: at this point we had walked some 35 miles on this vacation so far! except for quin, who just rode like a royal in his chariot. don't ask me why, but he would often assume a meditative pose while riding, much to the amusement of passersby. they would laugh, and he would love the attention.
our motto of the trip deserves a little explanation. when the kids were younger, we would often say, "you get what you get, and you don't throw a fit!" it was a memorable phrase that we used more often than i care to admit. which is probably why, on this trip, on the drive down to washington, when i said, "it is what it is" quinton added, "and you don't throw an 'is'!" and so that became the motto of our whole vacation:
it is what it is and you don't throw an is.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
welcome to day 3 of our vacation (for those just joining in....this was last week, i'm only just blogging about it now). strap on your seat belts because today was a whirlwind of walking and seeing the sites.
we got up and took the metro to arlington national cemetery, where we walked to jfk's tomb,
and then the tomb of the unknown soldier where the boys were impressed by the changing of the guard.
we also got to witness a wreath ceremony, and the playing of taps.
the day was gorgeous, and it was pretty amazing to take in all this color - the bright crayon-blue sky, and the gorgeous green grass punctuated by so many rows of little white stones, so symmetrical, so linear, so stunning.
from arlington we walked to the iwo jima memorial, which took our breath away. we have seen pictures of it several times, but we never expected it to be that big!
once again, we felt full of awe, just as we did at arlington, at the scope of war, the fury and the frenzy; and the terrible cost.
from there we took a very long walk (two themes of the day: 1. being in awe, and 2. tons of walking), across the bridge over the patomac river into washington d.c. we arrived on the backside of the lincoln memorial, so we walked around to the front, and up the steps to see him seated as if a king on his throne, a king of freedom, a king taken before his time. once again we were filled with awe.
from there we went to the vietnam memorial, that walkway with panel after panel after panel full of tiny little names of people who died in one war. neither the kids nor shannon or i could wrap our heads around the scope of it: the sheer number of human lives. it is more than the mind can compute, and far more than the heart can take. so much life. so much death. we were in so much awe.
by then it was well after noon, and the kids were complaining about food (come to think of it, when were they not complaining about food?), so we found a hot dog stand on the side of the road, where $25 got us 5 hot dogs. from there we trekked across the mall to the korean war memorial, which i had never seen before, with its lifelike statutes of soldiers.
we decided to walk from there down to the new martin luther king jr. memorial, speaking of kings who were taken before their time. i loved the symbolism of the way it appears that he is stepping forward out of the rock, as if the rock had been cut and he was emerging. very cool.
we continued around the water to the fdr memorial, which was quite different and fascinating. i have never known much about fdr, but the quotes carved in the stone punctuated by waterfalls was enough to make me want to know more about this president. i was inspired about what it means to be a human who loves other people; what it means to be an american.
of course we continued around the tidal basin (more walking!) to the jefferson memorial. even though i had done quite a bit of touring washington when i was a sixteen year old working in silver spring md, i had never been down to see this impressive structure, and i loved it. there was something regal and even sacred about it. some of his quotes are carved into the walls around the strong center statute, and one of them caught my eye, particularly in light of a current presidential candidate who would remove certain groups of people based on religious beliefs: "no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry....or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men should be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion..." awesome.
from there we finished walking around the water, back up towards the mall, and over to the metro, which we rode over to union station, where we had a treat and dunkin' donuts and met Shannon's cousin. we walked from there over to 2nd street where we met Deanne's boyfriend (who works nearby) for dinner at toscana italian restaurant. dinner was fantastic, and it was nice to sit for awhile.
but don't worry, the walking wasn't over yet! we walked to the steps of the capital for a free outdoor concert by the celtic aire, part of the air force band, and they were really excellent. it was particularly awesome to sit looking up at the dome of the capital, with its statue of freedom, and the sun setting behind us, while the band sang a stirring version of the national anthem.
if you want to hear the great sounds of celtic aire, you can click here.
we finally headed back to union station, and the metro ride home. when it was all said and done, we had walked over 14 miles (well, everyone but quinton, who rode 14 miles). we were completely wiped out physically, and emotionally exhausted from so much movement in our spirits. a full and awesome day.