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!


  1. WOW!! You are the best tour guide ever through a vacation that already happened! You've got some incredible pictures!--except that horrible one of the three girls. I nearly cried over the one of Pinkie--so precious--I could just eat him up! I would also love the one of me and Thumb if I hadn't already sweated all of my makeup off. I think you told all my favorite stories from that day. Didn't we have so much fun!!!!!!!

  2. We had just as much fun as it sounds like we did! I loved reliving it again through your telling and the pictures. Good times!

  3. This morning at work I looked down and there was a moth on my shirt. I panicked and forgot everything that I learned at the Smithsonian about butterflies. I just flicked it off. I checked on it, and thankfully it could still fly. But I had to do the thumb shimmy for the rest of my shift.


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