Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the vacation diary: day three

I'm not going to lie.  I've been lazier than I was on Monday.  Lazy is my one truly fine-tuned skill, and if I'd turned on the lazy full-force, I would have spent so much unconscious that I couldn't have fully wallowed in the vacation-y goodness of a lazy Monday.  But as you'll read in too much detail in a moment, laziness was the theme of the day.

Day 3 stats:

Wake-up time:  9:15ish  Method:  naturally  General mood:  surprised to find myself awake and mostly alert

Agenda:  The morning hours were wasted on the internet (writing the day 2 diary post, so it wasn't all a waste, right?) and watching bits of sitcom reruns on BET with Jess.  Apparently, I'm allowed to watch BET these days.  I also finished Gilmore Girls season 4, which ends with one of the best and one of the worst moments ever.  I can remember watching this one live and being in agony to have to wait months to see how it all played out.  I won't have to wait as long this time, but Shane does have season 5 right now.  He's promised me that he'll be done by Wednesday, so perhaps I can handle it.  It's actually been long enough since I've seen the series that I can't remember exactly what comes next, so that'll be a nice surprise later.

By the time I had finished GG, Jess had gone to work, so I had to entertain myself.  I watched 300 and saw a whole other side of Gerard Butler--literally and figuratively.  There was more internet-ing, but absolutely nothing productive occurred.  I remembered to check my work email to see what had gone on in my absence.  That's when I learned that the carpet that was supposed to be here still hasn't come in.  So instead of being closed this week while the carpet is replaced, they decided to reopen until next week when the carpet really might be in.  I am experiencing survivor's guilt over not being at work this week because it's crazy there, but I keep telling myself that I've earned the time off.  I put a few movies and books on hold, so when they come in, I may stop by for a little while to see how things are going first hand.

For dinner, I made a fairly giant batch of spaghetti and watched three or four episodes of It's Always Sunny in Philadephia, which I'd never seen before.  It was funny enough.  I think The Daily Show & Colbert Report were reruns, but they were recent, and I hadn't seen them before, so I stayed tuned in for those.  By the time Jess got home Tosh.0 was on.  We have a secret fascination with Daniel Tosh.  I was going to go watch a movie in my room while Jess caught up on some stuff she had DVRed, but we ended up watching the DVRed Emmys instead.  There were some interesting and funny moments, and I was heartbroken by the tribute to all the folks who died this year. 

I did fall asleep with my computer in my lap last night (it was exhausting writing the first sentence of this post since that's all I managed before I fell asleep).

Food consumed:  I had chocolate covered pretzels for breakfast.  I never got around to lunch because I didn't realize when it was lunch-time, but I had plenty of spaghetti.  So I didn't live up to my no-eating promise, but we all knew I wasn't going to.

Bright spot:  It'll prove just how sad my life is, but it was probably when Luke kissed Lorelai.  It's a great moment.

Bedtime:  It was around 1:30 when I fell asleep with the laptop.  I woke up again at 3 and realized that I had fallen asleep that way. 

I'm starting to regret this vacation diary idea since now I have posted proof of just how worthless I am and plan to be for next week or more.  It will get more interesting this weekend when there are cute kiddos and lots of food and birthday celebrations.  So stay tuned for that.

Monday, August 30, 2010

the vacation diary: day two

Day 2 definitely did not disappoint.  I hope it's soon clear from this ongoing diary that the most ambitious plan I have for my time off is to finish knitting a baby hat.  I'm not going anywhere or doing anything, and that's just how I want it.  So this vacation diary thing is probably going to be dead boring.  I don't want to give anyone any false hope.  Lowered expectations, served up daily.  You're welcome.

Day 2 stats:

Wake-up time:  6:30 a.m./7:00 a.m./7:14ish a.m.  Method:  two alarms and force of will  General mood:  much less enthusiastic and regretting those four episodes of GG that made the diary writing take so long last night

Agenda:  I didn't make us late for church for once.  It was kind of a big deal.  I made pretty standard nametags for the whole crew (an update of a slew of new nametags may be hitting the internet soon).  It was my last Sunday morning class before I start helping teach 4 year olds, and the discussion got fairly lively right at the end.  Shane got to pick our lunch restaurant in honor of his birthday, and he chose Larry's which got no complaints from me.  We saw the McClanahans, one of my favorite families ever, and I'm starting to feel like I should include a McClanahan-sighting line in my vacation diary since we also saw them at the ball game Friday night, but since I plan on becoming much more hermit-ish, it probably won't pay off for me.

On the way home from Larry's, Jess and I started talking about baby names, mostly because I was thinking about the sibling groups I know whose names all start with the same letter.  I thought it would kill a few minutes on the drive home, and it was definitely amusing.  What I didn't realize at the time was that we would spend most of the afternoon coming up with our favorite and least favorite names.  I think you can learn quite a bit about a person by discovering what names they would give a tiny, defenseless baby.  I may report my psychological analysis of Jess later.

We might not have continued the name conversation for quite so long, but when we arrived home, there was a strong smell of gas in the house.  I called the gas company who sent someone out and advised us to not stay in the house in the meantime.  So we were sitting out on the porch doing nothing for a while and then sat in the house doing nothing while our new friend Willie from CenterPoint made sure we weren't going to die.  I'm happy to report we didn't die, and that the leak on Dee's (our friend who lives in the other half of our duplex) water heater is now fixed.

Jess went into work late, which threw my Sunday nap routine off, so sadly that nap I promised myself Saturday night at 1:30 never materialized.  I had to go and pick Shane up for church because his driver's license expired on Saturday, and he was too lazy get it renewed before his birthday.  On the way to get him, I called Michelle, who I haven't talked to in forever, and caught up a little on them.  I talked to Bird about farm camp and how she's going to sell tickets to Pointer's drama camp performance reenactments.  She has quite the entrepreneurial spirit.  It was kind of big deal that she talked to me on the phone because Bird hates the phone as much as I do. 

My Sunday night nametags were a little more interesting than the a.m. ones, but those pictures will have to wait until Shane emails them to me.  Something in the sermon made me think of the movie 300, which I've never actually seen but always meant to.  This led me to start making a list of movies and/or books I might like to experience while I was on vacation, but I promise I was still listening.  After church and all throughout dinner, I had Josh and Bill giving me movie suggestions of recent movies I might have missed.

Shane had to pick a restaurant again because I was still celebrating his birthday.  We went to 5 Guys mostly because of its proximity to Cold Stone Creamery since Shane had a birthday coupon for a free ice cream treat (I've said this before, but you should totally sign up for the birthday club on their website).

When I dropped Shane off, I went in to borrow 300 and a few other movies he owns that I haven't seen.  Bill called me and started reading off titles of his to see if I wanted to borrow them, so I think he's going to be bring me a couple of suitcases full of movies on Wednesday, so if I actually end up watching any of them, you, imaginary readers, might get some thoughts about them here.

I talked to my moma on the phone when I got home because I had a few birthday weekend plans to inquire about.  The whole clan will gather here in central Arkansas this weekend for a long weekend of birthday celebrating.  It's going to be legendary.

I intended to end day 2 the same way that I had ended day 1, with Gilmore Girls and blogging, and I did make a start on the day 2 post, but I was so sleepy I was nervous that I might fall asleep and let my laptop fall off the bed, so I postponed the day 2 posting until this morning.

Food consumed:  Being on time to church does not include the possibility of breakfast, but Jess and I were so hungry during class that we decided to try the pre-packaged donut stick things that someone brought last week to our breakfast potluck that didn't get eaten.  It wasn't too bad actually.  At Larry's I had slices of almost all my favorites:  spinach and chicken alfredo, loaded baked potato, cheeseburger, and taco.  I never saw any of the honey mustard chicken out, but since I also had a salad and two slices of the best chocolate chip pizza in the world, I don't really think I needed anything else.  At 5 Guys, I've learned about their giant portions and went with the Little Cheeseburger and split a regular order of fries with Shane.  Shane's Coldstone coupon was for an ice cream with only one mix-in, and since I know Shane prefers the multi-ingredient signature creations, I bought his Coffee Lovers Only, and he ordered my chocolate cake batter ice cream with Oreos with the coupon.  Their cake batter ice cream is my absolute favorite, but for some reason I'd never had the chocolate, so I was fairly excited about it.  It didn't start out very batter-y, but the end, I was definitely in love.  Shane and I agreed on the way home that we're not eating at all today, but I'm pretty sure I won't stick to that--and I know he won't.

Bright spot:  Very difficult to choose today as things like food and funny nieces and good Bible discussions all make me quite happy, but I'm going to go with the hours Jess and I wasted talking and laughing over the baby names.  

Bedtime:  I know, based on the number of Gilmore Girl episodes I saw last night that it was after 10 when I fell asleep, possibly even after 11, but Jess wasn't home yet, and I didn't look at the clock, so I'm not quite sure.  It was definitely earlier than it might have been if that nap had gone as planned.

Here's a sneak peek at what I hope to be able to report to you later about day 3:  finding a missing knitting needle, maybe a trip to the library to pick up some books, grocery shopping (or I'll actually keep my no eating promise because there's nothing here worth eating), and if we're all lucky, another blog.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the vacation diary: day one

Been missing me?

I'd like to be able to tell you about what's been keeping me from you, my faithful imaginary readers, but I've made a solemn vow not to talk about work, so sorry.

But I started my longest vacation in seven years today.  And I'm going to log the exciting events of the whole vacation for you here.  You're welcome.

Day 1 stats:
Wake-up time:  10:00 a.m.  Method:  alarm  General mood:  relishing that lazy vacation feeling and giddy that the internet at home is fixed after abandoning me for ten long, agonizing days

Agenda:  Item one this morning was some interneting.  After making sure that my world still made sense and wishing Shane an official facebook birthday, I ate some breakfast and watched an episode of The Nanny.  I'm not exactly proud of that, but you're getting the unvarnished reality of my life here.  If it helps, I didn't set out to watch The Nanny.  Jess was watching a show on the DVR, and when she turned it off, that's what was on.

After a shower, a purposeful decision not to iron clothes, and a fruitful hunt for my mp3 player and a fruitless one for the cord to plug it in so I could get rid of the Christmas music, I headed in to work.  I know that going to work seems to fly in the face of being on vacation, but we're hip-deep in a renovation process, that at this stage requires us to pack up everything in our work room.  My deadline to have my desk cleaned out and packed was Friday before leaving on vacation, and I can say with a clear conscience that I met the deadline, but some of the common areas were still in quite a state, and I was in quite a state worrying about when or how or if they'd get sorted out.  So I went and spent a few hours sorting.

At some point in the day I realized I didn't have my phone, but I've finally memorized Shane's phone number for just these sort of no-phone emergencies, so I could still call him to arrange traveling plans.  We drove to the Beeb for Robyn's birthday dinner, which was as delightful as you might expect.  To be clear, today is Shane's birthday, and Rob's is tomorrow, so we celebrated them both a bit.  Small children were adorable, food was amazing, as usual, and my family is quite, quite nice.  Good stuff, and definitely first day of vacation worthy.

Once I got home, I used four episodes of Gilmore Girls season 4 to distract me as I typed this up.  So officially it's day 2 of vacation as I'm wrapping up here, but I'm going to consider it a success.

Food consumed:  Breakfast was a pudding cup.  I ate a leftover sugar cookie so that we could throw the box away while I was cleaning up at work (and somehow skipped lunch for the 2nd day in a row).  MacMac fed us tater tot casserole, green beans, and corn.  Alicia brought frog eye salad--something I can't explain but is phenomenal in the extreme.  We had banana pudding for Robyn and mandarin orange cake for Shane.  They were both spectacular.  I drank a large amount of tea.

Bright spot:  My sweet Grams telling me about the ironing she has done this week and telling me that she'd love me whether I made her a cake or not.

Bedtime:  It's 1:32 as I type this sentence, and I'll be finished in a moment.  The proofing and posting will take a few minutes, and I'm not exactly sure how much is left in "The Reigning Lorelai," the episode I'm watching now.  So I'm going to estimate 1:56 exactly, a bit late for someone who has to get up in less than five hours, but I'm on vacation.  I can take naps.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

some stuff about dreams

I've been on a mostly successful multi-alarm system for a few years now.  I set first alarm for thirty minutes before I want to get up.  If I get up at first alarm time, I can do things like eat a normal breakfast or spend time on the internet without making myself late, but I never actually get up at first alarm time unless I'm really worried about something.  Second alarm sounds at the time that I really should get up and start getting ready if I want to look semi-decent.  Third alarm is my last chance to show up at work remotely on time with ironed clothes but possibly wet hair.  Sometimes I cut out either first or third alarm and rely on only two.  And though the whole system defies logic, it works for me.  Nearly every morning, my sleep-hazed brain is still capable of hearing each alarm, turning it off and recognizing what it means for my morning.  Very occasionally I turn off first alarm in my sleep which throws off the count, but the subsequent alarms still function to get me out of bed eventually.  And typically I love knowing that I'm getting my last 30 minutes of sleep.  I'm great at going back to sleep after the alarm and treasuring that last bit of sleep.  It used to be the best part of my morning.

But lately--since the time that we moved--that blissful last half-hour of sleep has been plagued by dreams.  I usually don't even remember if I have dreamed, much less any pertinent details, so it's really thrown off my morning routine to wake up with the memory of these uniformly unpleasant dreams.  There have probably only been a couple that were truly nightmarish, but most or all tend to leave me feeling tired or unsettled or disgruntled in some way.  Sometimes it's just that I wake up for what has to be the final time without resolving whatever is going on.  When I wake up in the middle of a dream, I always still feel what I've been feeling there, and that can be awful.  I have a sorta-recurring dream where I need to talk to my moma or need her help for something, but she avoids me and is mean to me. It's not always the exact same scenario, but it follows that theme and is always really intense.  I wake up from that one either really mad at her for how she's treated me or just broken-hearted that she won't help me.  It takes hours to shake off that feeling, and I've spent many a grouchy morning at work snapping and growling at everyone because my dream moma was ugly to me.  (For the record, my moma hates that I have these dreams and will sometimes even apologize to me for them because she's just that sweet and precious in real life--not at all like my dream moma.)

Sometimes if I'm dreaming at first or second alarm, I can rouse up enough to turn it off and fall back asleep fast enough to get back into the same dream, or at least it feels that way.  It's all fairly weird, new territory for me, so I've spent lots of my best thinking time [Do you know, imaginary readers, that I do my best thinking in the shower?  It's true.] recalling details and marveling at how nothing in my dreams is ever normal. Often the more I try to grasp what happened the more the details slip away from me, so that by the end of my shower, I let go of trying to remember the what, but the feelings that the dream evokes are much harder to shake and therefore catch the blame for most of my morning moods. 

The actual details of this morning's dream just wouldn't go away though.  I spent my entire hair-washing process time (which is considerable) remembering random snippets and trying to decipher why my subconscious had pieced together such an odd series of events.  Even many hours later, I can still remember most of the weirdness.  Let me give you an unvarnished glimpse into my dream life:

*******Rambling blogger's note:  I began to confuse myself with the details of the dream versus the background info I was throwing in on the real people, so I color-coded.  Factual background info is now in green, and all the normal blue text is the random dream stuff.  Almost none of it has any basis in fact.*******

So the first part of the dream that I remember is being at a wedding, which was in a big basketball-type arena.  There are chairs down on the floor but folks are also sitting in the stands--a set-up remarkably similar to Harding graduation.  I don't know if we were actually in the GAC.  There's no place attached to the first part of the dream, though I am at Harding later.  I think I was there with Robyn, maybe some other Peeps.  It is the wedding of a girl named Natalie, whose time at Harding overlapped with mine.  Her older sister Shannon was a good friend of mine and her cousin Amy is a Peep.  Natalie did get married within the last couple of years, but I haven't seen her since Amy's wedding back in 2003.  Anyway in the dream it's Natalie's second wedding and, for reasons that donn't make sense even within the dream, they reenact her first wedding, which was a double-wedding with her sister Shannon.  I can't remember if Dream Ellen had been at the first double wedding, but I knew what was going on and certainly thought it odd to bring up the first wedding.  Fairly early on in the ceremony, the raised platform where the wedding part is standing rises up higher, and wedding guests are encouraged to move closer if they want a better view.  I think this is where I lost Robyn and the other folks who had been with me because they're not in the rest of the dream.

I wonder if I woke up a little somewhere in here and then went back to sleep and into the dream.  That usually has the effect of changing up people and places without making it seem weird to Dream Ellen.  The next thing I remember clearly is that it's still a double wedding, but instead of it being Shannon and Natalie's wedding now, it's for this girl Becky, not Peep Becky of Beckypalooza fame, but a girl with whom I attended elementary school and junior high and her younger sister Stephanie.  I haven't seen or thought of either of them in almost fifteen years so I have no idea if they're already married or not, but there they were in my dream, getting married.  I haven't mentioned them at all, but there are grooms, of course.  I know in the first double wedding bit, Shannon was remarrying her real-life husband, but I can't remember any of the other grooms, and I think even in the dream I don't know any of them.

At some point in the ceremony, there's a performance by the 6th grade band that is under the direction of the younger sister, though at that point in the dream, it's not actually Stephanie, but it has turned into another girl from old school days named Linda (who I also haven't talked to in years, but her sister Christy is my fb friend and currently engaged, so maybe that's how she showed up).  They play one song called "Sweet As," which apparently is one of Dream Ellen's favorite songs, and it is quite a talented sixth grade band, as it turns out.  Incidentally the band is seated on some of the bleachers that have moved up closer to the platform where the wedding is happening.  I think that they're going to play another song, and for some reason Linda starts talking to me about the T-shaped seating arrangement of the band and how great it is for their sound, and I argue with her about it because the French horns aren't part of the T, and as it turns out the band doesn't play another song because they're changing out of their uniforms there on the bleachers.

And at that point the wedding part of the dream is just gone though I don't remember the ceremony ending, and when I walk out of the gym--or whatever that original wedding venue room has morphed into, I'm in Becky's house, and we're talking about how she didn't want to get married in the first place, but she did it to make her mother happy.  Her other sister Katie is running around and is still the same age that she was when Becky and I were in junior high though Katie would be in her mid-twenties by now, and Becky's mom is washing dishes and nagging Becky to be more excited about the wedding.  Also in this part of the dream Becky is wearing a vinyl Catwoman-ish type suit--though without the ears.  I don't want to mixed up in the their drama, so I make my excuses and leave, though when I walk out of the house, it's onto this tree-house deck, and at first I think I'm going to have to climb down, but there's a spiral staircase I use instead.

And when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I'm on the Harding campus of my college days.  I'm leaving the student center and heading in the direction of the front lawn when I notice lots of faculty members dressed up, and I realize that it's the day of some formal dinner that I know about because my cousin Mac (cousin, scholar, theologian, and #1 blog fan to you, imaginary readers) is attending.  As I'm thinking this, I see Mac and his wife Jenni walking towards the building.  I want to tell them how nice they look, but they're still very far away, and I'm not dressed appropriately to go mingling among the faculty in the their finery, so I get out my phone to text Mac, and about that time someone yells something super-loud about looking sexy.  In the dream, I know immediately that the person is yelling at Mac, and I see that it is Ashley, who was a friend of mine (and Becky's) all through elementary, junior high, and high school.  She looks exactly like she did in high school although almost everyone else in the dream is their current age.  She's also wearing her prom dress from our junior year, and if you expect me to know how I remember what her prom dress looked like fourteen years ago, you're so, so wrong.  Anyway when I see her, Dream Ellen remembers that her husband is now on faculty at Harding and that she and Mac have this complicated history, wherein she's always liked him and flirted with him and tried to get something going there, and he's always hated her but has been forced to be polite to her for my sake.  Let me reiterate, lest it be insulting to either Ashley or Mac, that this imagined history is completely false, and I'm fairly certain Mac and Ashley have never met.  But after she yells that, everyone is shocked and horrified, but no one else seems to realize who did the yelling, and about that time Mac and I make eye contact.  I'm terrified that he's going to think it was me, so I immediately start texting him about what really happened, but before I can finish it, I wake up to realize that I've slept past second alarm and didn't set third.

At least this one didn't leave me any lingering, terrible feelings--though I did sort of feel like I needed to apologize to all the players for putting them into such ridiculous scenarios, but I was late to work with truly heinous-looking hair.  All this dreaming is about to make me give up on the multi-alarm system, and that's a tragedy I may not be able to endure.

Monday, August 9, 2010

how i spent my summer vacation, part two (or maybe three)

How I spent my summer is a long, hot unpleasant story about work and Summer Reading Club and work and no-fun-ness.  But there was that one blessed week in May that was great enough to keep me going through most of it.  And I've had a couple or three delightfully stellar weekends to refresh me along the way.  Here's some photographic evidence of the good stuff to take all of our minds off the bad stuff that kept me from blogging.

I've been threatening to blog about my Kentucky/Virginia/DC vacation all summer, and I did dump a bunch of cute pictures I'd taken of the kids once.  Today I dump some photos taken while doing the touristy junk.  I've got another post's worth of pictures of the National Zoo that I'll save for another day.  I don't have any pictures of the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center, located out near the Dulles Airport, which we visited on the Monday of our trip.  We had a good time there, saw lots of planes including the Enola Gay, and posed for cute pictures.  But my camera was at home.  My moma has pictures of it, but I haven't procured any copies of those yet.  The next day we went into DC for the standard monument/Smithsonian tour.  Michelle and the girls have done this tour with everyone who's come to visit, so my moma and the Popster, Joshua's family, and I had all done/seen most of it at least once, but Shane had never been, so we all agreed that he needed to.  So after some picnic lunch packing and some Metro station parking drama, we were on the Metro, charming other passengers with the adorableness of our kiddos.  People who ride the Metro at 10 am are much more pleasant than those that you encounter on the ride back.  Just sayin'.

So we started with my pal Lincoln.

This is the best picture I've ever taken at the Lincoln Memorial, probably because it's the best camera I've ever had while there, and because I've finally learned that it's worth it to take the time to figure out how to not get strangers in your pictures.
Speaking of strangers, right after I took this picture and did a little bragging to the girls that I had memorized this speech in the sixth grade and could still say the whole thing, a pleasant young couple asked me to take their picture in front of Abe.  I agreed, but in the camera hand-off process, I dropped their camera on the stone tiles.  The camera still functioned when I picked it up, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't just right.  Pleasant young couple with your charming accents, if you're reading this--I still feel completely mortified and contrite and horrified that I might have broken your nice camera. 

All the kiddos had seen Abe at least once before (at least three or four times for Pointer and Bird), so after a quick hello, they escaped the crowds and waited for everyone out near the steps. 
I had walked down the first set of steps to look back up at them and take most of these pictures, and because of the distance and the general glare and haze going on atmospherically at that time, I didn't have much of an idea what I was getting.  I was glad to have a couple I thought were decent, and I sometimes like the natural expressions you get from unposed photos. 
So when I saw all three of my girls sitting there being adorable, I thought I'd get something really special.  Obviously I did.  I actually ordered a print of this one because of it's spectacular horribleness.  It's sheer awkward perfection.
This was more of what I had in mind.  The captions I could write for this.  And these days with the healthy dose of five-year-old boy orneriness he's packing around, this is a pleasant distance to be from Pinkie. 

I turned from the fam to get this one of the Washington Monument.  The wind had the reflecting pool kicked up (plus it was gross and muddy-looking) so I didn't even try to get the monument in the pool.  The sky was especially ominous at this moment, and it did rain on us a little later, but nothing too serious.

We headed over to the Korean War Memorial next.  This was brand new when I first visited DC in 1996, and I remember it being one of my favorites.  None of the Hawkins DC Tours returning customers had been to it, and they'd gone down the other side of the pool to look at Vietnam and hadn't back-tracked to Korea, so we all went to see it this time.  There were buses and buses of veterans at all the war memorials on the day that we were there, including several Korea vets wandering around the memorial at the same time we were. 

My favorite part of the Korean Memorial is the wall of faces you can see over on the left side of the picture, but for some reason I didn't get a good picture of it this time. 

You can get an idea about the wall from this angle.  It's filled with images of different military folks who supported the ground troops that the statues represent.  I wondered if I'd see Hawkeye or Radar or someone, but I didn't.
I know we've already covered Lincoln, but I snapped this one of his house (and further proof of the threatening sky) as we passed from Korea to Vietnam.  I didn't take any pictures of Vietnam.  I've been there twice, and each time I'm struck by the overwhelming solemnness that surrounds the spot.  All the other monuments and memorials are noisy, but when you dip down the little slope as the wall begins, it goes completely silent.  Even our rowdy kids got still and quiet as we passed through.  And as we passed along, I was struck by the vignettes of people whose connection to this wall of names makes it a solemn place.  There was an elderly couple in wheel chairs having their picture made with a certain section of the wall.  I can only imagine that it was their son they came to honor.  A bit further on a lady was doing a relief rubbing of a name, and the wind was whipping the paper practically out of her hand.  A man with another group noticed her struggle and walked over and held the paper steady for her.  No words exchanged, except perhaps a soft "thank you" when she'd finished the rubbing.  It was impossible to get to the end without tears in my eyes, and my closest connection to Vietnam was walking ahead of me, my living, breathing Popster, who never talks about it but carries some shrapnel and jumps easily when you sneak up on him.  I can't imagine what that experience is like for him.  But I also don't ask.
After the Handful quieted so well through the reverent silence of the Vietnam Memorial, we went down to the reflecting pool to feed the ducks.  I was too busy oohing and ahhing over the tiny baby ducks we saw to record any photographic evidence for you, imaginary readers, but the detour did provide one more angle for Washington and the sky.
I saw the WWII Memorial for the first time last summer when I visited Michelle's crew.  It's lovely, with so many interesting parts.  Each of those columns going round has the name of a state or territory.  The day that we were there in May, I was collecting brochures from all the Memorials, so Michelle and I walked over to the kiosk to pick one up.  The tour buses full of veterans were loading and unloading from this area, so we were having to navigate carefully through the throng.  We noticed as we passed a tour group of middle school-aged kids having their photo taken with some uniformed servicemen.  As we were coming back by with the brochure, lots of the kids were still grouped around them talking and asking questions and generally being polite and respectful and delightful young people.  Michelle asked, "Doesn't that just make you want to cry?" I responded, "Not as much as that," and gestured to the grouping I'd just noticed where some of the kids from the same group were now having their photos taken with the WWII vets milling around.  Perfect.
I'm pretty sure I took a picture of this quote the last time I was here also.  Apparently I'm a fan.
In case you can't read this:  "Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln, one the eighteenth century father and the other the nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us:  a nation conceived in liberty and justice."  Washington was just behind me when I took this.  I'm still mad at that lady for standing there.

You can reserve tickets online to go up in the Washington Monument, if you don't want to go wait in line early in the morning, but when we were there in May the reserve tickets were sold out until something like October, so we didn't go up.  I think my moma and I are the only ones who have been up in it, and it's the only thing left in DC that Bird cares about doing, but standing in line for tickets is no fun at all, so we passed it by.
This is as close I've gotten to the White House in my past two trips, but since it's the one thing I found most disappointing in my 1996 DC trip, I'm not that keen on going back.

When Joshua's crew did their first round of monument tours back in the fall, they also went to the Museum of Natural History, but only saw the first floor, where the animals are, so this time our tour coordinator (and best sister-in-law in the world) wanted to go back for the minerals and gems and skeletons and bugs on the second floor.
Here are some kids who have already had their legs walked off with a giant amethyst.
I don't know if we hit this at the right time or if the lady with the bug cart is usually hanging out here, but the girls all held caterpillars.
I'm pretty sure there was an entomological homeschool lesson going on here.

I actually missed getting a photo of Ring holding her caterpillar, but she stayed their the longest checking things out.
And Bird has had enough bugs, so it was on to the butterfly exhibit.  They have a live butterfly enclosure set up, and you have to get tickets to go in.  As soon as we got into the bug area, tour-guide Susan went and snagged our tickets, so we could hop into line and wait only a few minutes.
This is maybe my favorite picture from the whole stinking vacation.  That little Thumb was crazy about his Aunt Michelle the whole trip, but especially while she let him hold her ticket in line and while were checking out the butterflies.  Before we could enter, we had to go into this little foyer area and get our instructions about how to watch our step and move slowly and all that jazz.  Then we went into the very humid enclosure.
Within a minute I had butterflies landing on me because I was being so still trying to get good photos of other butterflies.  Michelle showed the kids one on my back and told them all that one might land on them if they were really quiet and still.  Instantly the four fingers went statue-still, but Thumb (who had been grossed out and scared by bugs all day) immediately started doing a full-body shimmy in Aunt Michelle's arms.  If being still brought butterflies near, he wanted no part of it. 

This one was amazing in person.
And of course, I loved the orange ones.

But this one was probably the most spectacular.  When it flew, it was so bright and perfect.

 On the way out of the enclosure, we had to stop in a holding area with a wall of mirrors to check our clothing and bags and such for hitchhiking butterflies, but none of us had any stowaways.  

After the Natural History Museum, we went over to American History, which I had just visited last summer.  We all went to see the Star-Spangled Banner, which you can't photograph, and we all went to see the First Lady exhibit, but we quickly got separated, and I spent more time trying to find everyone else than thinking about photos.  Next the kiddos went down to the Technology and Innovation area where they have some hands-on exhibits, but I had a date with Abe.  
Last summer when I was there, it was the end of a very long day, and Pointer and Bird, troopers though they are, were exhausted.  There was a giant line to go through the Abraham Lincoln exhibit, and I just didn't have the heart to put them through the line-waiting, so we skipped it.  But as I understood it, it was a temporary exhibit in honor of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday last year, so I grieved that I had missed what was surely my only chance to see it.  So when we arrived on this day, and I saw on a poster that it was still there, I knew I couldn't miss it again.  Michelle went with me, and we made our way at a kid-free pace through the whole thing, reading every sign and soaking in all the heroic goodness of my favorite President.  I didn't take a single photo, but it was maybe the best part of my day.  I think my favorite part might have been the two life masks.  The first one was made in 1860 just a few days after Lincoln got the Republican nomination.  The artist also did his hands, but his right hand was still swollen from all the hand-shaking at the convention, so his two hands look completely different.  The second life mask was done in 1865 a couple of months before his assassination.  The difference that those five years made in his face was incredible.  The Presidency ages you plain and simple.  You can see that with the living Presidents by comparing photos, but Lincoln's face was ravaged by the stress and trials of his years as President.  It was amazing.  And if you follow those two links you can see photos of what I'm talking about.  In fact, you should follow the link and look at all 32 pages of the online edition of the Lincoln exhibition.  He's so worth it.

Meanwhile downstairs, the Handful were trying out the various hands-on science-y things. 

We ended up staying here until they kicked us out, and then made the long, crowded Metro trek back to Virginia.  It was a long, exhausting, wonderful day.  The most ambitious thing we did the following day was eat at Cheesecake Factory.  That practically deserves a post all its own, but I'll spare you the glorious details.  Here's one highlight of that meal:  I left my purse at the restaurant and didn't realize it until after midnight when I went looking for my phone to set my alarm.  The happy ending is that purse, phone and I were reunited safe and sound the next morning. 

Stay tuned for one final post about that long ago vacation:  zoo day!