Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our trip to DC

For Spring Break Jeff and I took the children back to see my parents in Washington DC. They've lived there for 5 years and we still have never been back to visit so we were all very exited to see them as well as my youngest sister Michelle and her husband Reese who we haven't seen since their wedding. My sister Angela and her husband Robert flew back too so it was a great mini-reunion.

Day 1 - We pulled the kids out early from school to pack up and leave. All the children instructed Jeff and I exactly when to pick them up so they would be sure to be done with lunch but not be in their next class:) Driving into LAX was smooth though our flight was delayed 1 1/2 hours (story of our life). So we hung out with all the people going to Hawaii and waited.

Our flight was long and uneventful. Ashey didn't want to watch the TV, listen to music or do anything to keep herself occupied. After we ate $10.00 turkey sandwiches (our only dinner option) at last she fell asleep. We arrived at my parents at 3:00am in pouring rain. Good sports that they were my Dad was up waiting for us and my mom woke up to greet us. We talked until 4:30am and then went to bed.

Day 2 - After lots of sleeping in we rolled out of bed and got ready excited to get out of the house and see some of the city. My Dad doesn't really like driving in the city so we made a deal that if he drove in with us we would take him to dinner. He agreed and off we went.

We got in town at 4:30 and checked out the mall. We couldn't help but be drawn to the Washington monument first. It's height dominates the skyline and having never been there before we were naturally drawn to it. My Dad informed us the reason why it was lighter on the bottom and darker on the top was because the construction was interrupted during the civil war and by then the same materials weren't available. Interesting.









From there we checked out the World Ward II memorial. It was very nicely done with friezes, fountains, and a back wall of gold stars representing the 400,000 American solders who died. One star represents 100 solders.






Lincoln memorial was next along with a million stairs. A "temple" to remember his role in preserving the union. By the end of the week we had more powerfully learned our history to appreciate the respect and admiration of the population for both Lincoln and Washington as well as the founding fathers and all those who fought in America's wars.





Next we went to the Korean War memorial which is one that Jeff's dad fought in. It was almost eery and seemed to transform you to the battle front. As we were there these ambassadors from Korea were placing a floral wreath on the memorial.



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We went back to meet our freezing parents who were waiting on a bench for us while we explored and then went to find parking for dinner. We decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe but once we put our name in we realized that we would have quite a wait. We happened to plan our visit right during everyone else's spring break as well so we had large school groups to compete with along with all the other customers on a Friday night. We ended up waiting 1 1/2 hours for dinner looking at Michal Jacksons "Beat It" jacket, Marvin Gaye's suit and Elvis's DEA sweat outfit.

Once we realized how long the wait was I asked them if there was somewhere to sit. "No." they replied. Are you kidding? There was not one seat outside or inside for umpteen people waiting 1 to 2 hours to be seated. So we sat right down on the stairs in the middle of the restaurant.


Once we got to our table they served us quickly but it was still about 11:00pm before we got home that night. Since the kids were still on California time it didn't bother them a bit:)


Day 3 - Since we wore our parents out the first day we ventured out on our own about 11:30. (We are still having a hard time adjusting to the time change). Well the Cherry Blossom festival parade was going on so the exits were closed and parking was crazy but thankfully Jeff found a good spot anyways.

We first went the Air and Space museum which was crowded with rockets, moon landers, space flight as well as early airplaine info up to modern day plane info. We went and saw an IMAX movie on fligh and the kids picked up free posters of the phases of the moon for the rest of the year (they each had to grab one).




Since we were limited on time we raced over to the Natural History museum before it closed even thought we didn't get to see everything.

Here we saw the most interesting animal displays. I liked that they displayed them with a plane background so that the features of the animal stood out more. They pair varied animal specimens with each other for more contrast as well.


Here's the fossils, dinosaurs and all the periods of life.



Our favorite display was this globe that had various movie/demonstrations. We saw one on the currents and plate technonics we all agreed that this was one of our favorites.


Upstairs we saw the hope diamond and a whole bunch of monsterous precious and semi-precious stones. We were tired out for the day at this point so I vowed that if I ever came back I would start with the second floor first to see everything I missed.



We were glad to come home and have dinner with my parents and Michelle and Reese and dessert with Angela once they picked her up at the airport.

Day 4 - Today was Sunday so we got to hang out and watch General Conference at my parent's house. We even got to sleep in again because conference didn't start until 12:00pm in Virginia. Between sessions we ran over to Mannassas battlefield park and checked out one of the civil war battlefields.

We saw a diarama showing the battle and the outcome. (The south won this one) And then we walked outside to see the cannon's positioned as they would've during the battle and saw a demonstration of how to load a black powder gun.



There was a reproduction of the farmhouse that was there and ended up being shot up at the end of the battle. The only civilian casualty was and old woman who lived in the house and refused to go.


Here is a memorial dedicated "to the Patriots that fell at Bull Run"


This statue cracked me up. This is Stonewall Jackson obviously in idealized form. Look at his muscles, his muscles have muscles and so does his horse. You can see his muscles through his clothes and even through his gloves and boots! Someone must have thought he was a pretty strong guy I guess.



After a quick walk around the battlefield we raced back to catch the second session of conference and to eat a nice early Easter ham dinner with my whole family. Robert had flown in by this point so now we were up to 11 of us with the kids relegated to the coffee table;).

Day 5 - Monday dawned cloudy and we knew it was going to rain but we weren't going to let rain waste a day in town. Today we ventured out to see Mount Vernon which was George Washington's farm.




We started out in a visitor's center looking at a model of his house (you can see how excited Jacob is at this point) and going in to watch a movie about George Washington's life. I learned a lot about him that I never knew. He had a lot in life (marrying the wealthiest widdow in Virginia helped that) and he sacrificed a lot. Did you know that he didn't have any children of his own and that he had about 8 sets of dentures in his life after all his teeth had to be pulled. (We saw one of his sets of dentures and they looked like the most uncomfortable things to wear).


The society that bought Mount Vernon has kept it up very well and it was interesting to walk through not only the house but the stables (which still smelled of horses), the slave quarters, the kitchen and scullery, and even to the crypt where George and his wife are buried. (He refused to be buried in the crypt at the capital building that was made just for him.)



Here is a sample of some of the beautiful gardens. Did you know that George above all considered himself simply as a farmer, reguardless of his political and military carreer.



Here's one view of the slave quarters. 10 beds to house 20 or so slaves (and this was considered a nice facility) Did you know that George Washington emacipated his slaves after his wife's death and wished there was a way to end the need for slaves.



Here is the scullery where you could perform all your poultry plucking needs. Yum.



There is a beautiful view of the Potomic from the back of the house. Too bad these kids are in the way...


Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house so I can't show you the actual bed where he died, his bright green dining room with the "farming implements" on the ceiling that we found out later are actually masonic symbols and all the other cool stuff inside. So here's an outside view of the back of the house.



At this point the kids were starving, so we fed them and then we went inside to the educational center where we learned even more about Washington. Very interesting. Did you know that most of the battles that George Washington faught in he lost.
They wanted George to be a king but her refused and wanted a government of the people.



After we were done at mount Vernon we went back to my parents, ate dinner and then packed up to drive the 2 hours to Williamsburg. We found a $40.00 a night hotel and decided to spend the night so we would be bright and early the next day.

Day 6- We ate our free continental breakfast and headed over to the Williamsburg visitor's center to watch another introductory movie. This one was in the guinness world book for being the longest running original film. I guess it showed it's age because Taylor fell asleep 1/2 way through the movie. He told me at the end "It's OK mom I already learned about that war." As for me again I understood a lot more about the revolutionary war.

The first building we toured was the capital building which used to be the orginal capitol of Virginia. Our guide was very animated and was interesting to listen to. I never realized that the house of Burgess was a group of men elected by the people. They were on one side of the capitol and the men appointed by the Kind were on the other side and there was a bridge that connected the two sides where they would meet together. The governor was the only one appointed by the king who wasn't an American.


What impressed me the most were the prayer pillows beneath the seats for their regular prayers and the fact that when they were confused on what to do about the actions of those in Boston during the tea party they set aside a day of "humiliation, fasting and prayer." which helped people become united in starting the move towards splitting from England.



Then we went on to the governer's palace. Not as impressive as Mount Vernon but was still nice. One thing that stood out was all the weapons on the walls. I guess it was the way they decorated. They were all functioning swords, rifles, pistols and knives and once the governor was run out of town the weapons were taken off the walls and passed around to be used.






There was so much to see in Willaimsburg we could'nt hope to see it all in one day. But since one day was all we had we did the best we could. There were so many people there (spring break again) that we had to wait in lines to go into anything, once your inside you are given a tour instead of walking right through on your own. It was nice but took longer to see things.

We also got to hear a demonstration about gun making and watch a women pour a pewter spoon.




We took a tour of the armory which featured a section of real Revelutionary war period guns. (We actually enjoyed this tour more just to get out of the cold.) We were freezing by this point and we suspect we saw a few snow flakes at one point of the day.


As we got to the downtown area they were doing live performances in the street. These were interesting but it blocked us from going into some of the last buildings that we wanted to check out. It was OK though I think the kids were done by this point.



After buying a couple of souveniers we started off on the 2 hour drive home. Jeff and the kids and I hit an outback that night for dinner since we were tired of hamburgers by this point. The food was great but I missed our California anti-smoking laws.

Day 7 - Today Jeff and I signed up for what we thought was going to be a VIP tour of the capital for the whole family. We were excited that we would be meeting at Ken Calvert's office and have his staff escort us underground to the capital building for the tour.

Jeff and I got to the city a little earlier than the rest so we took a quick look in the Supreme Court building...



and the Library of Congress. This was a big suprise to me. It was magnificent inside a must see that I never realized was a must see.




When we got to Ken Calvert's office all three of the kids had to take a turn in "the chair" (Look how nervous Taylor is picking up the phone).




We started off on our tour with a group of 25 or so but were stopped in the underground tunnel because they had a fire alarm go off in the capitol building. We stayed in that tunnell for over 1 1/2 hours before we were allowed in the capitol then our aid gave us tickets into the introductory movie about the congress and then left us alone. Our "tour" ended up being the same run of the mill mob tour that everyone else gets.

Here's us in our long wait in the tunnel.




It was interesting to hear about the architecture and symbolism in the artwork in the dome. We saw the places where the house of representatives used to meet and check out the unusual accoustics of the building.




All throughout the capitol we noticed various statues. I guess there are two from each state. We found Brigham Young for Utah and King Kameamea from Hawaii to name a couple. And here's the catacombs where they intended to bury George Washington.



If we would've known better we could've requested special passes from the congressman's aide to see the rooms were the congress meets now but at this point all the kids wanted to do was eat lunch. (We were waaay past lunch time).

After lunch most of us went over to the museum of American History to check out things like Dorothy's ruby slippers and the original "Old Glory" flag complete with holes and everything. As we drove over we realized our rental car had a flat tire. So while we were in the museum Jeff was out with the tow guy getting the flat fixed on the completely busy street that we parked on.

We saw exibits on the history of transportation. By the time that Jeff met up with us again the kids were kind of done. We did see Old Glory (very impressive), ran through a tribute to slaves and marveled at a black and white photo of the back of a slave that had recieved lashes (barbaric), and I poked my head in to briefly glance at a display of the dresses worn by past first ladies. The museum was so crowded that all the other exibits had lines just to get into them and no one had the energy or inclination to wait in more lines. After days of go go go I think we had all met our museum max.



On the way home we had to see the white house. It wasn't open for tours but we were able to snap a few pictures of the back of it.



Jeff wanted to see Arlington national cemetary. We got out and took a quick glance but it's so big we'll have to put it on our list of things to do the next time we're back out in DC.

The kids were happy to come back to Grandma and Grandpa's to eat Pizza Hut pizza and root beer. It was our last night all hanging out together.


That night when I closed my eyes all I could see was pushing a double stroller up to buildings with millions of stairs and trying to find a way in (because that's what I had been doing all day:).

Day 8 - This morning Jeff had to fly home to help run Youth Conference. My Dad graciously offered to take Jeff in the morning to the airport and the rest of us slept in. I promised the kids a break today and I think everyone else was ready for a break as well.

We hung out until 1:00 and then all us adults left to go do a session at the temple which is in Maryland. Traffic was heavy so we didn't get there until almost 3:00. In fact we were one minute away from making it to the 3:00 session but due to some miscommunication we missed it and had to wait until 4:00. The temple is the 2nd largest in the world and was beautiful on the outside.

I guess it's a local landmark. The only shame was in how empty it was. I guess weekdays afternoons isn't a very popular time to come.

Notice the netting over the flowers to keep the deer from eating them:)



After the temple we ate a quick meal and then started back on the drive home. It was a lot longer time that I usually leave the kids especially during waking hours but though I worried while I was gone they were fine. They ended up getting their wish I guess a whole day of not moving from the couch.

Day - 9 This was our last day to see the city so all us young folk wanted to make the best of it. Mom and Dad elected to stay home that morning so we were off on our own to go on the metro (thanks for letting us use your metro cards).

The kids loved the trian ride which was a milder version of the subway.


Today we went to take a tour of the national Masonic temple. It was my sister's idea but it was brilliant because it was a very interesting tour that even moved quick enough for the kids to not get bored.

Taylor and I carrying the stroller up 2 million stairs...


The tour guide cleared up some of the myths and misperceptions I had about the masons. Once I learned about some of the masonic symbols I saw them everywhere from the library of congress to the ceiling in Mount Vernon, to the all seeing eye on the dollar bill. They aren't a religious order but a fraternity but they seem like they are trying to use truths from all religions use self mastery, and rely on God to transform themselves from a rough stone to a finished smooth stone. Very interesting.

Here's a painting of George Washington laying the cornerstone for the capitol with all his fellow masons...


The view from the top floor was worth the tour alone. I'll definatley have to bring Jeff back next time. This time I was smart and packed a lunch and as soon as Ashley was complaining I whipped out her sandwich and she was good.



After lunch we got back on the train and went to take a more thurough tour of the library of congress. There were a few museum like displays but more interesting were probably the reading rooms. They were ornate and floor to ceiling with books here's a view of one...

you couldn't get in without a pass but Robert found out that all you had to do was go across the street and apply for a library card and in 5 minutes you would have access to the reading rooms. Sweet. unfortunately they had closed for the day so again it'll have to be on the list for next time.


After we were done here we took the train back to our cars and drove back to my parents for our last meal together.


I think this was my favorite night because we all stayed up until 2:00am talking. We laughed and reminisced about stories from the past (Michelle didn't remember them so she enjoyed hearing about them) and heard new ones from the brother's in law. At the end just us girls (Mom and girls actually) got to talk about life in general, our own trials, triumps and challenges. We aren't really good at talking on the phone and sometimes our communication is sporatic so it was so nice to just talk. I vowed that night to try and be better.

Day - Our last day in DC. I packed up alone (as Jeff was back in California) and hoped I didn't miss anything.

We drove over to Michelle and Reese's place to see Reese's parent's house. We were given a tour of his dad's museum of military uniforms complete with display cases, and lifelike maniquins. We hung out for a little bit and then we had to say goodbye so we could get to the airport in time.

We drove back to my parents for a quick lunch and to pack up our last things and then it was off to the car rental place to haggle for reimbursement for the flat tire (the first guy said it was my resposibility) which they gave us and then off to the airport. The kids were wonderful on the plane ride back. They were quiet, polite and didn't fight once during the almost 6 hour flight. It was a wonderful trip. I came back refreshed, ready for life's challenges feeling more connected to my family.

6 comments:

Kristen said...

Christine, I loved this post!! Thank you for documenting your trip, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Seeing the Hope diamond was amazing...and reading up on everything else, it felt like I was there :)
What a great trip!

Maggiehovey said...

What an awesome vacation. I wish I had connections like that in D.C. I felt like I was there anyway, with your amazing pictures.
My brother's first Youth Conference is this Summer and he gets to go to Nauvoo.
We plan on vacationing to Mount Rushmore. I've never been, so I'm excited for it.

Sarah said...

What a fabulous trip! It just makes me want to go to DC even more. I think we should wait until our kids are your kids ages so they will appreciate and learn from it! Glad you had so much fun!

Costa Rica Baby! said...

WOW!!!
I loved hearing about all the history. What an amazing trip.

Thanks for taking the time to let us in on the adventure. I was struck by the stars representing all the solders that gave up LIFE for FREEDOM.

The Korean war memorial was my FAVORITE. I had to go back and look at your picture a few times.

Great photography by the way.

Heather Anderson said...

WOW, you guys saw A LOT of cool stuff! So, funny that after ALL that Ashley liked loosing her tooth the best;)

Anne Marie said...

Sounds like so much fun! Glad you had a great trip!