I'll admit it. I'm a self-professed dork. I love history and government and the events that made us who we are as Americans today. And every time I go to Washington, I am in awe of those big white buildings. The places where laws and decisions are made that govern who we are. The monuments dedicated to the founding fathers. The ancient pieces of paper that define us.
When my cousin invited us (several times) to visit her at her home just outside DC, we knew we wanted to go. Of course we wanted to visit with family, let the kids play with cousins in their age bracket, and I'll say it - I wanted my kids to have a chance to know MY family, hear stories of MY childhood from someone other than me. But we also wanted to do some sight-seeing. To take our kids on the tour of the city.
I was a bit skeptical of how it would all play out. The drive up there with three kids was daunting to say the least, as was the whole sightseeing issue. When Deonne goes on vacation - he GOES on vacation. His mantra is 'I can sleep at home' and professes to see anything and everything he possibly can while in a new city. So I had a feeling he'd want to drag our kids from one end of the Mall to the other - taking in as many things as possible. I'm not opposed to it - but did wonder just how well our kids would do.
In advance of the trip, we visited the local library and checked out every kid book about DC we could get our hands on - some fiction, some about the monuments, some about history - but all focusing on American history.
We talked about the founding fathers, the monuments that were erected in their honor, and the important buildings that govern us such as the capital and the supreme court, and what Anna thought was the ultimate destination - the White House.
We packed our things and loaded our car with enough provisions and games and movies to last us a month - we would NOT end up like the Donner party - and devised our scheme on the best time to leave. Some good friends suggested that when they take long trips with their children - they leave early in the morning. Like, insanely early in the morning. Basically transporting pajama-clad children to carseats while still asleep so that they could continue to sleep for a few hours en route.
It sounded like a great idea - and we knew Jack would go right back to sleep with no problem. He's still cruising around in that big fluffy carseat that sort of reclines, so he would be comfortable with his favorite blanket and stuffed animal. It was the bigger kids that gave me angst - they're in booster seats that sit straight up - and completely uncomfortable for long trips. What's a girl to do?
Well (if any legal authorities are reading this - close your eyes) - we decided to forgo traditional restraints and adopt the traveling sentiments of our parents. We ditched the booster seats by stacking them in the unused second row chair, thus freeing up the entire back bench, where we made one bed for Anna and another for James on the floor. Oh, we padded them in properly with pillows and blankets, and you know what? It worked wonderfully. We pulled each kid out of bed around 4:30 in the morning, had them sit on the potty, then tucked them into their respective nests in the van. And they slept. For about three hours or so - stirring around 8:00 am when we stopped for breakfast. After which, booster seats were properly installed and we were merrily on our (legal) way.
So the first destination stop on our way North was just shy of Springfield (where my cousin lives) to the boyhood home of George Washington. It was a neat museum, a historical garden, some interesting artifacts and such to peruse through - but the best part - loads and loads and loads of room for little legs to run. And run. And run.
After fully expending as much energy as we possibly could - we enjoyed a nice lunch downtown at a little deli (the name of which escapes me) and then resumed our trek for another hour or so into Springfield.
It was so wonderful to see Sara and her four (yes, four) girls. The kids got along so well - hit it off right away - and played their little hearts out. Sara and I started catching up - hearing about what was going on and who did what and did you hear about - and so on - lovely conversation to say the least.
And thus ends Day One of our adventure.....