We woke up bright and early our first morning in Virginia - with sights on the National Mall. After loading our seven kids + four adults into two matching mini-vans - we headed into the City. I wish I had a recording of Anna's voice and James' excitement as we came 'round the bend and down the hill looking into DC. As soon as they saw the Washington Monument they literally started screaming in delight.
They quickly pointed out the monuments they recognized - the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial, and of course the Wash. Monument - reading those books prior to visiting was such a good idea! (Total snaps to Deonne for coming up with that!)
First stop - the National Archives. I don't know what it is about these ancient pieces of paper - but I get goosebumps every time I see them. The kids were so patient as we waited in line to see them - and I honestly think they enjoyed getting a close look at them. Anna, of course, wanted to read everything she could - and didn't really like the feeling of being rushed by the other tourists wanting to catch a glimpse - but she did okay. We ended up distracting her with the less-popular display in the Archives of women in history. It was pretty cool - one, to see my kid taking such a keen interest in American history - but two, to see her actually reading all these documents on her own. She never ceases to amaze me.
Next up - the Museum of National History. There was SO much cool stuff to look at and to see. Anna and James had a ball - looking at things like the Hope Diamond, gemstones, the exhibit about the Chilean miners (complete with the rescue pod they dropped down the hole to pull the miners out), the creepy-crawly bugs, the dinosaur bones... you name it - they loved it.
We stopped mid-way and had lunch at the museum where I had to laugh. It's so nice that the Smithsonians don't charge admission and all - but they sure get you in the food line. $75 to feed our family of five - and we didn't eat that much or anything that great. Word to the wise - pack a picnic lunch. Lesson learned.
Moving on - Sara's husband Ashton needed to get back - so we parted ways - and headed out to the Mall. Again, I wish I could have recorded the kids' reactions to actually being on the National Mall and seeing the things they'd read about in books.
We couldn't decide what we wanted to do - but shortly realized we were within close proximity to the carousel - so headed that way for a short go-round. The kids loved it. I loved watching them go 'round. Especially that each and every time they came around the corner they searched for me - and when our eyes met - they lit up and waved and smiled and screamed 'Mommy!' There's nothing sweeter.
Next stop - the Museum of American History. I was kind of worried that our kids might be getting tired out (we missed the usual rest/nap time - thankfully Jack took a quick catnap in the stroller) - but pushed on anyway. I'm so glad we did.
Anna and I both thoroughly enjoyed the First Ladies exhibit - where we oohed and aahed over the First Ladies gowns. I'll never get over my infatuation with Jackie Kennedy. Her style, her grace, her awesome clothes... I heart her. Anna loved it as well, as did James - Jack - notsomuch. Deonne had to keep wheeling him around and around in the stroller to keep him distracted and occupied.
The Old Glory display was as amazing as I remember it being - but it was especially cool to see it through the eyes of the kids...squatting down to their level to see just how big that flag is. They'd read a good bit about Old Glory in a book D brought back from a trip to Philadelphia - so they were well versed in its' history. After we exited the display - we ran into a girl who was 'Bringing History To Life' - as in - portraying the part of the woman who actually sewed this all important flag. She was so sweet, and patient, and amazing in that she not only answered James' 1400 questions, but remained in character the entire time.
After that - we popped upstairs to see some icons of American History - including Dorothy's Shoes, Julia Child's kitchen, and one of the original Dumbo elephants from Disneyland.
Here's where Jack let us know he'd had enough. He really REALLY wanted to get into Dumbo and go for a ride - and that red velvet rope was NOT going to stop him. It's so hard to disappoint a two-year old. Even harder to reason with one.
So we decided it was probably time to head back when we stumbled upon the transportation section of the museum.
Here's where Jack perked up and let us know he was having a fabulous time. He pointed to all of the trains - saying 'choo choo' and making that up and down arm gesture like he's pulling a train whistle. He wanted to see all of it. ALL of it - the trains, the cars, anything and everything with wheels.
I'm so glad we finally found something he was interested in seeing!
Then, as we got ready to head for home (as it was nearing 5pm by this time), the proverbial 'bottom' fell out of the sky and we were caught by what can only be described as a monsoon. Thankfully we could sit and have a snack in the lobby of the museum before walking back to the parking garage. We ended up making it in a perfectly timed break in clouds - so not one drop of rain fell on us. After we were all buckled in - we took a brief driving tour of the capital area - up as close and personal as we could get to the Capital, the Botanical Garden, houses for the senators and representatives, and Supreme Court.
We finally headed for home - and the only real excitement with that was that we somehow got lost (still don't understand what happened to Mr. GPS) and ended up in some weird area off the highway with barricades and gates that in the pouring down rain seemed like some sort of secret service/weird laboratory entrance. to this day I don't know where we were - thankfully we made it out - and home to Sara's house - where we enjoyed another lovely evening together.