Sunday, May 22, 2011


The week has flown by... We arrived home from DC on Tuesday, I spent Wednesday catching up in my office, and Thursday morning I had my wisdom teeth removed.

Saturday was the first baseball game for the boys... I made it to Will's, but I had to come home and go to bed before Josh's. Here they are before leaving the house!

Last Day

Our last day in DC was fantastic! We left the hotel, packed and ready to head back to Mississippi. We left everything in the car and entered our metro station for the last time.

We made a quick stop to get a close look at the white house. Ironically, the President was in Memphis while we were peeping through his gate!

The first lady's kitchen garden was so nicely organized. They even have a beehive for pollination! I joked that she probably never came out there to weed, but it turns out that she does!

After the white house, we went back to the American history museum... We had only seen 1 out of 3 floors previously, and Hannah couldn't wait to see the first ladies exhibit! Here she is with Mrs. Obama's inauguration gown.

There were several great exhibits... One showed the history of a particular house over the course of more than a century. I love this WW2 poster, and I am including the pictures of the accompanying kitchen.

In the exhibit about transportation through the ages, the kids reenacted our metro debacle for a photo!

In the hands on lab, Will created a marble moving contraption while the girls and I spoke with the scientist about the evils of sugar.

Before leaving, we saw Julia Child's kitchen, and we went back to see Kermit one last time!

We finished our DC trip with a fly-by tour of the archives. If we go back, we will definitely spend more time looking at the exhibits and maybe even researching relatives! I don't have any pictures, because photography is prohibited. We made it back to the metro and then to our car... Just in time to leave DC during rush hour!

We drove until after midnight, and then stopped for a short rest. We woke early, anxious to leave the "not so super 8" and finished our journey home... Just in time for baseball practice!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I was feeling a little brave this morning, so we decided to take the car to church and Mt. Vernon. Driving into town was not a problem... Parking was the challenge! We circled and circled the blocks surrounding the church, and then we found a small parking lot right behind the church! Thankfully, Josh Bullock had saved us some seats, because we ended up walking in just as the service was starting.

The service at Capitol Hill Baptist was an absolute blessing. Pastor Dever preached on Psalm 80, and he really preached it! The music was great as well, and I was very thankful for the service.

After church, we walked over to Union Station so the kids could see the beautiful building. Last time we were at the Union Station metro, sewers in a hurry and didn't have time to go upstairs and appreciate the architecture. We walked back to the car (it was a beautiful day!) and left for Mt. Vernon.

Our time at Mt. Vernon began with our National Treasure tour! Unfortunately, there are no tunnels and secret passages at Mt. Vernon. However, we got to see George Washington's basement and ice house! These were the two parts of Mt. Vernon that Hollywood melded together to make the tunnel. Also, the GW stone is based off a cornerstone that has LW for Lawrence, George's older half brother.

The home and extensive grounds were gorgeous. I am adding George Washington and family to my list of people I want to learn about this summer... It always interests me to learn about generations of families. In the mid 1800's, the family home had fallen into complete disrepair and was sold to a ladies group for historic preservation. Over the years, the ladies group has worked hard to recreate the home just as it was in the late 1700's.

We approached the house from the carriage entrance. The original house included only the center section. Through the years, the roof was raised, and wings were added to both sides. I didn't get them in the picture, but the main house has flanker buildings connected with covered arched walkways.

We entered the home through the door on the left side and came into the formal dining room. The two windows above the door are faux windows, and there for the sake of symmetry only. Inside, the room was two stories tall and beautiful.

The home was designed like many plantation homes of this time period, and had the entry way in the center with staircase, and rooms off to the side top and bottom. Interestingly, mounted on the wall in his entry way is the key to the Bastille, given to Washington as a gift from a French friend. Upstairs, George Washington's bedchamber was just as it was when he passed away.

The most spectacular part was the view of the river from the porch! After "settin' a spell," we toured the outbuildings and spent an hour or two in the museum. This was definitely worth the drive, and we were glad we took the time to include it in our plan!

Tomorrow is our last day! A person could spend weeks here and still not take it all in!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


This morning we left for the subway at 8:30, and it was a good thing! The subway trains don't run as frequently on the weekends, and so we barely made it to our Arlington tour by 10:00. We chose to do another DC by Foot tour, and Chris was our tour guide again!

I was so thankful for this tour, because the guide put life to things that just can't be found in a self-guided tour. For instance, Robert E. Lee's home is in the middle of Arlington cemetery. Why? Because during the civil war, the government would only accept property taxes from homeowners. General Lee was off fighting the war, and it wouldn't have been appropriate for Mrs. Lee to pay the taxes in the midst of the Union army. Although they had made many (rejected) attempts to pay via couriers, the house was repossessed by the Union government.

The decision was made to turn the land into a cemetery, and the man who was in charge was rather spiteful... He resented Lee for joining the Confederates, and took a little revenge by burying the first people in Mrs. Lee's rose garden. Eventually it was given back to the Lee family... But the property was already a cemetery. There are some confederates buried there, and their graves are marked by a pointed gravestone... Reportedly, because no rebel would want a Yankee to sit on his grave!

We saw many graves to note, and we were overwhelmed by the number of servicemen who have sacrificed for our country. We saw the Kennedy graves, and I realized that I know almost nothing about JFK, other than his assassination. (We are only up to WW2 in history!). I really liked this quote near his grave.

I also really liked this inspiring quote from Robert Kennedy's grave, just a few feet away from his brother's:

Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

We also got to witness the changing of the guard and a wreath laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier. The soldier guarding the tomb strides in groups of 21, with 21 second pauses between turns. This is to represent the honor of a 21 gun salute.

As the soldier played taps during the wreath laying ceremony, I was moved to tears. I was so thankful to have grandparents make it home safely from wars, and it struck me just how special it was that Pepa was buried with taps and a 21 gun salute.

On the metro back to DC, we once again were reminded that trains run less frequently on the weekends...we camped out and watched the digital board countdown about 30 minutes until our train arrived!

We went back to Chinatown, this time to have Chinese food!

After lunch, we decided it would probably be faster to walk across downtown rather than take the metro! This gave us a good excuse to enjoy a cup of coffee as we walked (since there is no drink on the metro!!). This afternoon was the Museum of American History...

Absolutely our favorite so far!

Hannah enjoyed the exhibit with antique instruments. Sarah's favorite part was seeing the original Kermit and Dorothy's ruby slippers. If it hadn't been a little crowded, Will would have stayed and continued to be President indefinitely.

My two favorite parts were the president exhibit and the exhibit about all of the American wars. Here are Sarah and Will wrestling their belongings away from a pillaging redcoat!

We only had 2 hours, and so we only got to see one out of 3 floors! I could have stayed 2 days in there, so we are going back on Monday to continue exploring the other floors!

Tomorrow, it's church at Capitol Hill Baptist and Mt. Vernon!


We had gotten our feet wet, and now we were experts and ready to tackle the city... In a competent manner!

Halfway through March I called our Senator's office to schedule a tour of the Capitol. They told me to arrive at 10:40, and I THOUGHT that meant we would meet someone from our Senator's office or maybe get to see the house in session.

Because I thought we were on a time schedule, we rushed out of our hotel room, with lunches packed for the day. In the city,you have to allow a lot more time for transit...especially if you don't have the timing of the trains down pat.

We found the Capitol building, and a long line outside the visitor's center. I called the Senator's office, and they said we were in the right place. We got to the front of the line and ready to go through security. The security guard said I couldn't take my re-usable water bottle inside, even though it was empty. We had to go outside and throw it in the trash can... They wouldn't even let us set it on the ground in a corner beside the trash can! We went back through the security line... And this time we got stopped in the bag check for our lunch of protein bars and peanut butter crackers. We had to go BACK outside, throw our lunch in the trash, and go BACK through security check. We made it!! Rushing to the counter, the lady told us that we should just get in line for a public tour, since we had no letter of confirmation or anything.

It dawned on me all at once... Why in the world had we rushed like crazy and thrown away our lunch?? We were in the public tour line, and it seemed to make no difference what time we had arrived. Frustrated that we had wasted our lunch, we went on with the tour.

The view from inside the dome was spectacular. After seeing the dome, we went to a room where congress met until the mid-1800's. I loved seeing the oil lamps mounted on the columns. The room is now home to statues from different states. Jefferson Davis represents Mississippi in the room.

Well, after those two rooms, we turned in our headsets and were through with our tour. Yep. On the bright side, we got to use the tunnel through to the library of congress and by-pass security there!

The library of congress is the most beautiful building I have ever been in! It is truly awesome. We got to see a Gutenberg Bible, Thomas Jefferson's library, and a great exhibit called "Creating the United Staes" featuring primary source documents from history.

Look at this mosaic ceiling!! Of course, the natural light and bright colors definitely added to the beauty! We went upstairs and got to view the reading room. We didn't get to find the President's book of Secrets, though!

After the library of congress, we decided to check out the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. We walked down the mall several blocks to the museum, and then we stopped for a pretzel break before entering.

We spent 4 hours in the museum! The kids enjoyed the first room, a hands on room all about flight. Sarah is flying a small cessna (sp?) plane!

Over and over we agreed how exciting it was to see the ACTUAL whatever it was... We got to see the ACTUAL plane flown by the Wright brothers!

After shutting down the museum, we made our way to Chinatown! The archway was beautiful, and you can see the Starbucks (with Chinese lettering!) on the corner in the background.

At the metro station, we avoided eye contact with some weirdos with microphones while waiting on our friends. One of the guys looked like Mr. T, they were all dressed in black robes, and they had a picture of Jesus with devil horns. Welcome to the big city... Our friends, Josh and Smitha Bullock, arrived, and we enjoyed a nice dinner together.

Back at the hotel, the kids swam for a little while before bed...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Subway debacle

On our way home from the Lincoln memorial, we knew we would be a little pressed for time. It turned out that the Lincoln memorial was 15 minutes away from the nearest metro, and I began to worry that we might miss the hotel shuttle.

We trekked to the metro and went downstairs. Sarah had the only working card! We couldn't figure it out, and the station manager had to fix our cards. Turns out, you can't just walk through the opening after someone swipes their card. You have to swipe hour card on the way in and out of each station!

We made it to our first station and then had to change trains in order to make it to our final stop. Late in the evening, there is more and more time between trains. As we began to approach our next train, it was just beginning to allow passengers to board.

We all took off running, and Sarah and Will hopped on the metro. I thought Hannah was in front of me, but as I stepped onto the metro while the doors were closing, I saw her standing behind me on the platform! In a split second, her face paled and I saw an expression of pure panic.

I had no choice. I stood there and let the doors sandwich me, while grabbing out for Hannah. I was trying unsuccessfully to pry open the doors, and a gentleman came to our aid. He worked to pry open the doors, and the driver released the door mechanism, allowing me to come fully into the train, dragging Hannah in with me.

The young man who came to our aid was from Connecticut, of all places! Such kindness from a Yankee, lol! Everyone here has been very kind and helpful, willing to offer help or advice whenever we ask! We enjoyed chatting with him about his work at the Capitol during the commute. After he exited the train, we developed a plan for what to do in case we got separated on the metro!

At our stop, we were exiting the metro about 10:35. I knew we would either catch the bus or have to wait almost a full half hour in a deserted parking lot for the next shuttle. The kids shared my anxiety, and we commenced to run up the never-ending escalator.

When we arrived at the top, we spotted our shuttle in the exit lane of the parking lot, just waiting for a green light!! We ran, waving arms and yelling, across the middle of the medical center parking area. Our driver saw us and waited...phew! We made it! (Our driver told us that he waited an extra 5 minutes before heading to the exit, because he was a little worried about us!)

My legs were a little wobbly until bedtime! I don't know if it was from our near disaster, or from running up the escalator!

More than monuments

After fighting traffic for what seemed like ages, we found our way to our DC hotel. Wow, what a treat!! We are living life well at the Mariott Bethesda! Soon after checking in, it was time to learn the metro. We took the shuttle to the nearby metro station, and the driver told us they would shuttle every 30 minutes until 11:00pm.

The escalator going into the subway was the longest one we had ever seen! We figured out tickets, bumbled our way through the electronic turnstile, and managed to figure out which train was heading into DC.

We exited at Union Station, had dinner in the food court, and then rushed to catch our train to the monument tour. Because we were pressed for time, we ordered milkshakes to go and went back below to the subway level. As we rode down the escalator, planning to savor our shakes as we toured the monuments, a lady rushed passed us and chided, "No food or drink on the metro!" Rats! We stood on the platform, furiously slurping milkshakes while waiting for the next train!

We chose a tour called "more than monuments" by a company named DC by Foot. It is a tip-based tour service, and I thought this would be a nice overview/ orientation to the area for our first evening. It turned out to be a great choice. We started out at the Washington monument. In the postcards, you don't ever see the scads of softball games and kickball games going on! I guess the city folks have to have a grassy area to play ball...

Will was fascinated by the color change in the stones. The project ran out of money and sat un-funded for years and years. When work resumed, they used the same stone from the same quarry, but the color was different.

After the Washington monument, we learned about the white house (from a distance). We did not get to see the Obamas out on their balcony, but we got to see the bushes! Hahahaha... I love cheesy tour guide jokes!!

Did you know that the white house is made of sandstone, and was not originally white? It was after the house was burned during the war of 1812 and charred that they decided to whitewash it!

At this point we also got to talk about e Jefferson memorial. Interestingly, it was built with Jefferson directly facing the white house, because he is known for his concerns about government exceeding the intended power and purpose. I am going to learn more about Thomas Jefferson this summer. I think we might have a lot in common.

Next was the WW2 memorial. This was my favorite, and I kept getting teared up. At this point, I was so incredibly thankful for our tour guide, Chris. I would never have gotten the full meaning and significance without his explanations.

There are two main towers on each side, and there are 4 eagles inside to represent the 4 branches of armed services. There are pillars for each state and territory, and each one has an oak wreath on one side and a wheat wreath on the other. The oak leaves symbolize... And the wheat symbolizes... The kids made it a point to locate Mississippi.

The monument is sunken below ground level, so as not to disturb the dialogue between the Lincoln memorial and the Washington monument. It uses water... There are fountains to create a visual effect and also to create a noise filter. There are also calm, reflective bodies of water for contemplation and reflection.
The picture below shows the gold stars which each represent 100 soldiers killed in the war. I am so thankful that both of my grandfathers fought and made it back home!

The most special part of the monument to me was a piece of graffiti left on the back side.

During the war, a man named kilroy had the job of counting rivets on ships. When he finished his count, he would write, "Kilroy was here." All over the world, sailors saw this signature and wondered, "Who in the world is Kilroy?" It eventually became a sort of joke among sailors, and was written on seized towns and goods across the world.

My grandfather enjoyed woodworking as a hobby. I have a stools, a key holder, and several other items made by him during his life. They all have one thing in common: a stamp on the underside or back. The stamp says "George was here," and there is a little picture just like the "graffiti" etched into the monument.

As the our guide recounted this story of Kilroy, memories of Pepa came flooding through my mind...almost simultaneously, I thought about Pepa's gifts of woodwprk and realized that there was a whole side of Pepa that I didn't know... And I wish I had found out about. Misty- eyed, we began our walk to the Vietnam memorial.

I don't know very much about the war in Vietnam, but the number of names on that wall was sobering.

I am not positive, but I think that Scott's dad might have been in Vietnam... And I feel horrible for not knowing! This statue is dedicated to those who survived Vietnam and made it home. They are surrounded by thorn bushes symbolizing the difficulties they faced upon returning.

Our final stop was the Lincoln Memorial. It was completely dark by this time... The monuments are beautiful lit up at night, but my pictures didn't turn out so well!

Hannah's favorite part was speculating about whether or not Robert E Lee's profile is in the back of Lincoln's head. (Facing his home at Arlington house)

Will was impressed by the height of the columns...

Afterwards, they sat on the steps and agreed that they had no choice but to steal the Declaration of Independence... (a little National Treasure joke!)

We finished up our time at the Lincoln memorial with a few silly pictures...