Saturday, June 27, 2009

Washington D.C. Day 2 (May 9, 2009)

We had slept well through the night after a long first day of sight-seeing.  We were excited about today's adventures with our anticipated highlight of touring the White House.  We had been warned that we could bring nothing into the White House except for our car keys and cell phone; no cameras, backpacks, purses, bags, etc.  Since we would have all those things with us because we were staying outside the city, we had asked about possible storage places because there was no option at the White House.  "Some people store their things in the lockers at the National Portrait Gallery, or ask at a nearby hotel offering to pay," we were told.

Armed with this information we left the home of our friends after breakfast and began our trek into the city.  Our tour of the White House was at noon and we were to check-in with security at least fifteen minutes before but we wanted to be there a half hour prior.  We decided, then, to tour the National Portrait Gallery for a bit before making our way to the White House for our tour.  Plans settled, we got off at the correct Metro stop and began walking toward the museum.  We arrived about 10am, right at opening, or so we thought.

The National Portrait Gallery didn't open until 11am.  So now what? Not sure now where we would store our things for the White House tour, we put off the decision until later and decided to walk south to the National Archives 

and see our nation's founding documents.  Fortunately there wasn't a long line and we were able to move along inside in a short time and see:

The Declaration of Independence:

The Constitution of the United States:

The Bill of Rights:

But now we needed to hurry in order to make it all the way back to the White House in time.  It isn't terribly far block wise, but having to wait at each intersection due to traffic takes longer than walking without interruption.  We had no idea what to do yet with our bags and as time fleeted, we began to rush, get agitated, and short tempered.  With no other foreseeable options, David said he would stay and hold the bags and the kids and I could tour. 

At the gate with security, the personnel mentioned that "it would only take about 20 minutes and then the kids and I could come back and David could go in and the kids could do it twice." In my mind that was the plan, so the kids and I marched off.  By the time we got through the various security check points, it was at least 10-15 minutes before we even walked inside the White House doors.  It is a self-guided tour and we could only see a few rooms.  It was nice, and the neatest thing was walking out the front doors and down the steps at the end of the tour. We took a moment a the bottom of the steps to look back, marveling that we are at the White House.  We saw a butterfly window cling in a second story window and imagined that must be one of the President's daughters room.  It gave the house a personal touch.

Then I went in to hurry mode.  I wanted David to be able to have a chance to tour the White House.  I began at a face pace walking back, encouraging the children behind me to "spit spot, let's hurry," but we could not go in a straight line back to where David was because police had sections blocked off.  We ended up walking completely around the big ellipse (from left to right) you see in this picture from the Washington Monument:

David was waiting at the street just south of the White House on the right in the picture by those trees.  We couldn't walk straight on that street, so instead, ignorant of any other way I kept marching the kids around the ellipse (the top of the ellipse was closed off too).  We were hot, tired, cranky, hungry (by now it was close to 12:30 or later and we hadn't eaten since breakfast), and I was getting madder by the minute as I had nothing on me - no cell phone, id, money, nothing.  I had left that all with David not anticipating walking a marathon after the tour. By the time we made it back to David about 45 minutes later, we were simply spent. We were ready to sit, eat, and, frankly, I wanted to just cry and throw in the towel.

But off we walked back towards the National Portrait Gallery to a Subway we had seen earlier. It was a beautiful respite. We all sat down in the cool air conditioning, ate delicious subs, chips, and drank lemonade or pop, refilling to our thirst's content.  Upon entering the building, the kids immediately sat down at a table and when I told them to each pick a bag of chips they said, "we each get our own?!" with big, amazed eyes as we usually always make them share (an older couple sitting at a table who were the only other customers at the time got a big chuckle out of the kid's reaction).  But not this time, we wanted them to eat and satisfy their hunger.  As our tummies filled, and our feet were rested, tackling an afternoon of sight seeing didn't seem so daunting anymore.

We made our way to Ford's Theatre

for our scheduled timed tour we had procured earlier in the day when we arrived in the city. We had to stand in line and wait in the hot afternoon sun before our timed tour was allowed to enter, but it was worth it!  Inside we sat in the air-conditioned theatre and the park ranger gave an outstanding presentation (about 20 minutes or so) on the events of that fateful night. We all could feel like we were there. It was a definite highlight of our trip for many in our family.

We walked across the street and saw:

Inside we saw:

We then decided to end the day with touring the National Portrait Gallery.  This was one of my favorite things.  I loved all the history pictures, and the portraits of the presidents. We all enjoyed this sculpture of President George H.W. Bush in a horseshoe throwing pose:

Abby also had fun posing with another sculpture:
There had been an activity for families earlier in the day.  It was an  "I Spy" paper which the children enjoyed doing even though it was too late to turn it in for a prize upon completion:
I have other pictures of the day, but I won't share those here.  They'll be in a scrapbook, so next time you visit, and you care to see more, ask and I'll be happy to show them to you. 

Book Posts

A fair warning to my dearest readers.

As I continue to blog about our trip to Washington D.C., know that those posts are going to be extra long.  I'm having fun writing about our trip and including the details.  This will help me when I begin to scrapbook the trip.  Feel free, as always, to move along and not read if it doesn't interest you.  Feel free also to curl up to your computer with your favorite beverage and take time to enjoy reading about our trip.

Freedom to choose is a great blessing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Last Week

Last week we went to the CCA Symposium in Sussex, WI.  David enjoyed the conference, the kids enjoyed the pool, I enjoyed visiting with many friends, and we all enjoyed Kopps.

Originally we had planned to simply drive down for the conference and return Friday night once it was complete.  But our good friends had a baby and asked us to be the sponsors. Baptism was planned for Sunday in Chicago.  We were so close, and the people of David's congregation were gracious enough to allow him the Sunday off on short notice, so we went!

We were able to see our dear friends, worship with them, and praise our Heavenly Father that He made Joseph his own through the waters of Holy Baptism.

Aren't they a lovely family!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Washington D.C. Day 1 Afternoon

We had collapsed on the park benches by the hotdog stand. Hot, tired, grumpy, and hungry. The look on the kids' faces told me I had better get my own grumpiness under control in order to help them get through theirs, or the afternoon would deteriorate fast into a resentful, awful time, instead of enjoying more of what D.C. had to offer.  The lemonade, hotdog and chips did help, but the sitting helped the most...............until we got up to go again.

But up again we did, and began a somewhat leisurely walk down Constitution Avenue. We had a bit of time to kill before our turn to tour the Washington Monument.  We walked to the base of The Ellipse (the big circle in the block south of the White House) and took a few fun pictures.

The kids sank down to the sidewalk taking every opportunity to rest their tired legs and feet when we weren't walking (see the Washington Monument in the background?).
See my shoes?  They're my Birkenstocks.  I wore them because I didn't think we would be walking that much today, only some walking interspersed throughout with riding a trolly.  For whatever reason they were rubbing my heal the wrong way and blisters were developing.

We then walked on over to the Washington Monument, awaiting our turn, enjoying the nice big stone benches. When it was our turn, we went through security and were taken up in the elevator to the viewing floor.  It was a nice clear day, so we were able to see for quite a distance in each direction.

View to the North - The Ellipse (at the bottom of which we took the previous pictures), and the White House:

Here is a closer view of the White House and the White House Christmas tree (to the right of the dirt path that bisects the ellipse):

View to the South - The Jefferson Memorial (which we never got to) sitting at the edge of the Tidal Basin with the Potomac River behind to the right and the Washington Channel behind to the left:

View to the West - WWII Memorial (the round circle with water near the bottom of the picture), the reflecting pool, and the Lincoln Memorial at the top of the reflecting pool, the Potomac River behind the Lincoln Memorial:

View to the East- The Capital at the end of The Mall (the big grassy area), various Smithsonian museums lining either side of the Mall:

Once we were all done seeing and taking pictures (we could stay as long as we wanted, which was nice, we didn't feel rushed at all), we waited for our turn to take the elevator back down to the ground.  During the descent, the elevator went slower than the ascent.  The operator spoke to us about the Washington Monument and at two points during the decent, slowed down the elevator and two "windows" on each side slide open allowing us to see the inside of the Washington Monument.  We could see plaques on the wall and were told these are from each of the fifty states.  It was really neat and I really wanted to get pictures.  But, I hadn't been prepared for such a treat and by the time I got my camera out and snapped a few, they all were of the elevator and not so clear of the plaques on the wall.  Oh well.  Nathan said this was one of his favorite things to do on our trip.

Once we reached the bottom, we found a free bench and sat down to decide what else we wanted to see that day.  We all decided on seeing a museum and picked the Air and Space Museum, so off we began walking (the recurring theme of this vacation) down Jefferson Avenue.  Once we reached the Smithsonian Castle (about half-way there), we stopped for a snack, some french fries and water. It really is amazing how that little bit of food can help make the children (and the parents) less grumpy!  We finally made it to the Air and Space Museum, but Hannah hadn't finished her water yet.  She wouldn't be allowed to take it in, so we waited for her to finish.

As she was drinking, David and I wondered what were all those tents for on The Mall.  We had seen them from the Washington Monument (the Smithsonian Castle is on the bottom right of the picture - the castle-looking building ;-) and the Air and Space Museum is the one that looks like four parallel lines just to the top of the circle building):

but now, close up, it looked like something we might be able to walk through.  David walked across the street to take a look.  He then motioned for us to follow (thank goodness I had been watching for such a motion) and boy oh boy were we in for a treat!

It was tents full of servicemen and displays as it was some sort of appreciation week for them. As we walked through the tents, we saw and talked to many different service men from the various branches of the military.  Sam drove a tank (video game style) while Nathan was the gunner, they picked up free posters, bags, calendars, and pens, were able to hold all of the various weapons and talk to the men who use them.

One whole tent was dedicated to the Special Operations guys.  Inside were the men who, in some way, helped in these operations, ready and willing to answer any and all of our questions. Only a couple of times were we told, "I'm sorry ma'am I can't tell you that."  One fascinating discussion for David and I was with an Air Force parachutist.  He was standing there with all his equipment and explained how it worked, some of the training, and other things that go along with his job.  We talked with him for about 20 minutes or so. Standing just beside him at the same table were the pilots.  Every serviceman we talked to was very respectful, helpful, and willing to talk to us, answer any question, and let the boys hold any and everything (even assuring this Mom that, "he can't hurt it ma'am."), and planting seeds of, "we'll see you in a few years, young man," into the boys ears.

We also were able to walk through a mobil mess hall which feeds 800 soldiers three meals a day in the field.  The serviceman inside was one of the operators and told us how everything worked - it was a fascinating set-up.  We were also able to walk through a field hospital and talk to a surgeon inside who explained how they treat injured soldiers,  from decontamination to surgery, again very fascinating!

Outside of these tents there were tanks, and helicopters and artillery, all of which we were able to climb inside, touch, look at, and ask questions of the men who use these to protect our country.  As you can imagine this fascinated the boys (both young and old) and the rest of us. Here is a servicemen explaining to the boys and other interested parties how to fire this artillery. (See how captivated Nathan is!)

Hold the string like this:
Await the call of fire and then pull like this:
Then he let anyone try, telling adults that if they couldn't do it they had to drop and give him 10.  Of course Nathan and Sam had to try:

First Nathan:

Then Sam:

Neither were able to pull it to fire, but they learned a good lesson in how hard it was and sure had fun trying. They also got to sit in a helicopter and Sam wanted me to be the pilot:

They climbed in the backs of tanks, and inside this:

It was simply a wonderful experience and one we we were lucky to have happened to run across and we're so glad we did.  We learned so much and looking back I wish I had taken more pictures.  But I was so fascinated with talking to the men and learning from them, I forgot to take any pictures. By the time we finished walking through, it was 5:00p.m. and we decided it had been a long, but great first day of sight seeing.  We walked back to a Metro Stop, rode back to the end of the line, got into our van, and drove back to the Wolf's where we had a delicious supper, some good chatting, and then a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First day in D.C.

We went to Washington D.C. a day earlier than originally planned in order for us to ride one of the trolleys all around town, enabling us to get our surroundings for future days of exploration. Friday morning we were up early and left the Wolf's shortly after breakfast ready for a fun first day of seeing the nation's capital.

Since we opted to stay with friends outside the city, we planned to rely heavily on D.C.'s public transportation.  We drove to the last station on the orange line, parked the van, and made our way to the train.  The kids were all excited about riding a train and peppered us with all sorts of questions. We arrived at the Smithsonian stop, got out and walked up to the heart of Washington D.C.  The first question we answered was, "Are we in Washington D.C.?"

Looking at our map trying to decide where best to go get on a tour bus and what we wanted to do, David commented that, this isn't far away pointing to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  He suggested that we skip the tour bus and simply walk around all the monuments for the day.  Okay, off we went.  First stop, the Washington Monument.

We were told that the tickets are free but are required for going up to the viewing floor, and that the tickets are gone right away.  As we walked closer I suggested we at least look to see if there might be tickets available for sometime that day.  We were in luck, there were three times that afternoon we were able to choose from.  We picked one, received our tickets, took a quick picture:

and then walked toward the WWII Memorial.

It was quite neat.

We found the wreath with Minnesota.

And then we began walking to the Lincoln Memorial.  Either side of the reflecting pool are tree lined paths.  It was quite pretty and provided nice shade for the walk.

There were all sorts of school groups, and band and choirs performing on the steps in front.

We walked by them all and up the steps to see Mr. Lincoln sitting in his chair.

One of the neat things for the kids was seeing where we had already been as we walked down the steps.

The kids were getting hungry and thirsty but we convinced them to see two more monuments first.  Of course that meant more walking, and some complaining was heard.  Off to the Korean Memorial first:

Then walk back to the other side of Lincoln's Memorial to see the Vietnam Memorial.

By this time we were all hot, tired, and hungry.  We found a hotdog stand and ate lunch, resting our legs and feet on the park benches.  It felt good to sit down, and drink water.  We were refreshed a bit and were ready (well sort of) for more walking and sight seeing the rest of the afternoon.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

On May 4th, we loaded up the truck and we moved to Beverly.

Okay maybe not, but we did load up the van and we drove to Indiana and it did happen on May 4th.  The start of our two week vacation that would involve family, friends, lots of sight-seeing, lots of walking, and lots of good memories.

First we stayed with my mom for a couple of days.

At the time she was watching this little guy, Thomas Wayne.

He was two months old and he was only the same size my Nathan was when he was born!  But boy oh boy did my kids want to take turns holding him.  They did, but only after I had my fill of holding the sweet little boy!

On Wednesday the 6th, my sister, Margie, came over for awhile before we left my mom's and headed north to Indianapolis to visit another sister.  

Lynn is the manager of a DSW and we first scoured out some good deals (hey we needed comfy walking shoes for D.C. right?) before she treated us to supper at my friend RPW's favorite restaurant, Skyline Chili. It was delicious!  My kids enjoyed playing with her two grand babies.
The next morning we left Indy shortly after breakfast and drove all the way to Manassas, VA where we invaded the Wolf family and set up base camp for our D.C. trip.

Four days into vacation and we've spent two of them driving, with five kids, no tv/dvd player, no hand-held electronic games, no i-pods, and to the surprise of some, we enjoy it this way!  We had many people offer to loan us their tv/dvd player, because we would need that with kids and such a long trip.  But that isn't us.  We enjoy listening to music, or books on tape, or I'll read a book out-loud.  This trip was no different.

For Christmas my sister (Lynn) and her husband gave us a B&N gift certificate.  With it we purchased, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" on CD.  We had been telling our two oldest to read this great book, but both always had some excuse.  Now we had them captive, so-to-speak, and could help them learn how good the book really is.  They enjoyed it as did the other three.  Our 9 year old son laughed and laughed at Tom's antics.  They all requested we buy Huck Finn now to listen too.

Besides that, I finished our read aloud of "Little House on the Prairie."  Unfortunately I finished it the first day of traveling (not remembering we were so far along already) and had forgotten to pack the next book in the series.  I also had forgotten to pack anything for me to read myself - oops.  But Hannah and Ellie had brought along some of the history books I wanted them to read for their WWII study.  So I grabbed the Albert Marrin book, "Hitler," and began to read to myself at one point during the drive to my mom's.  But David wanted to listen, so that became our read aloud.  The little ones didn't listen as much, but Hannah and Ellie did.  The Albert Marrin book, "Stalin - Russia's Man of Steel" is also very good and David and I each read that ourselves at various points during the trip.

In the next few days I plan to highlight our sightseeing in D.C.  We had simply a wonderful time, and saw so many things, met some wonderful people, and put over 3000 miles on our Odyssey.