Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Capitol - Day 3

The National Zoo was a bust...I'm not gonna lie. The only time it rained was Wednesday morning - when we were at the zoo. It wasn't a downpour, but it was enough to make it unpleasant. Fortunately, the zoo had an event recently and white tents were set up everywhere. So we had plenty of shelter. In addition to the rain, we learned that the kids really weren't that interested anyway...after the fact, of course! But we spent a couple of hours there and had a good learning experience.

Because of the rain, we were planning to just skip Arlington Cemetery and the Jefferson Memorial and head home. We had lunch in Arlington and watched the clouds open up to blue skies. So we asked the kids what they wanted to do. Karen and I were tired...but we didn't want to leave DC on a soggy note from the zoo. So we decided to postpone Arlington Cemetery for a day trip (we weren't really prepared to know what we wanted to do there anyway) and we headed to the Jefferson Memorial.

I had never been there before. It's one of those monuments that looks really cool but is just out of the way...aka not on the National Mall. But I'm so glad we went. The kids really wanted to go because they feel like they know Thomas Jefferson really well. It's kinda cute.

Here is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. Peter can't see but everyone else is genuinely happy--after three days...can you believe that? They really were great considering all the walking we did. In fact, they seemed more energized Wednesday afternoon than they had the rest of the trip (with the exception of Tuesday night...they really had fun that night). So did we.
Here's a unique view of the Washington Monument as we walked around the Jefferson Memorial. I love shots like this.
Like I mentioned before, everything is so big in Washington DC. Seeing our kids next to these massive columns really illustrated that.
There are various quotes throughout the memorial. This one happened to be Mark's favorite of the group. If you want to read it, you'll probably have to click on it to enlarge the picture.
Again, watching our kids walk up and down the steps really illustrates the size of these memorials.
This picture was taken by Mark. Not bad, huh? :)
And here are most of the kids with Thomas Jefferson. I'm so glad we live where we do. Our kids are being exposed to some great historical sites. Hopefully, it will make the events of the founding of this nation more real to them. It's important for them to know that this country was founded by good men inspired by God. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are holy documents.
Three days was just right. Maybe more for the parents than for the kids. It was a great experience for us and a lot of fun. I forgot to mention that during day two, I was taking a picture of the kids in front of the Spirit of St. Louis (the picture is the the previous post). After I took the picture, an Asian woman approached me with her camera. She pointed towards the plane and I assumed she wanted me to take her picture with the plane in the background. As I was getting ready to take the picture, she wrapped her arms around our kids and pulled them in close. It was so funny...and very sweet. Our kids ended up being in several Asian tourist photographs during the trip. I'm assuming they were all Chinese. I'm sure some hearts ache due to the laws of their land. I'm glad they were able to see what real freedom is all about.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Capitol - Day 2

This might very well have been the longest day EVER for our family. It was certainly a good day...a very good day. But it was LONG. We were amazed the kids were still so active at 10:30PM. I don't believe we've ever kept all of them up that late. We left the hotel at 9AM and got back a little before 11PM.

As I've been thinking about our trip to DC this week, it occurred to me how big everything is there. Everything is "larger than life." The buildings...the statues...and the Air and Space Museum is no exception. The exhibits they have of satellites and rockets and planes...even the IMAX theater. Our kids look so small next to them.
Museums are an interesting thing. Sometimes people race from one exhibit to the next. Sometimes you hear something like, "Hey, come here! Take a look at this!" Children like to feel and see. Adults like to read. There is so much to take in. While it was fun to go for the kids and watch their excitement build, it would also be nice to go back to these museums without little kids to read and learn. On several occasions, Karen and I both commented how nice it will be a few years from now when all of our kids can use their own strength sufficiently to get around. We would say that after hours of carrying either Eliza or Luke (occasionally Peter) around the museums...or the miles and miles of walking!

But it is so worth doing these kinds of trips now. It's fun to spend time with our kids. And they enjoyed this trip as well.
The Air and Space Museum is very hands-on. And the museum has the latest technologies...I have a feeling our youngest kids are going to grow up without a keyboard.
They learned about flight. They learned about lift and thrust and drag and weight. There was one exhibit that was really fascinating. There was a tube blowing air with a beach ball globe above it. No matter which direction you pointed the tube, the globe stayed in the air.
The kids got a real feel for how a plane flies. James tested his pilot skills at this station.
We went to the IMAX and watched Hubble 3D. It was the first 3D movie any of us watched. I've never been interested in 3D and still don't get all the hype. But the theater only shows movies in we got a taste of it. And it was really enjoyable. The kids got a kick out of the 3D illusion. They spent half the movie trying to touch the astronauts and Hubble telescope. We learned fascinating things about Orion's Nebula and how it is a nursery for new stars and solar systems. I got a new perspective of space. I think it will be a posting in my personal blog.
At lunch time, we decided to take a break, grab a bite to eat, and head over to the Capitol. And the 100% chance of rain for the day? It turned out to be a misting for about 3 minutes. The rest of the day was partly cloudy skies and lots of sunshine. Because of the 100% chance of rain, we left the sunscreen and hats in the van. Oops!
Turns out, when you go to the Capitol, the back of it is what faces the National Mall. So after a healthy hike, the friendly security guards directed us to the front of the Capitol. But then the front of the Capitol isn't the "entrance." Once you hike around the Capitol, you have to walk a block away from the Capitol to go underneath the ground and into the entrance. Oh, and I learned why it's called "Capitol Hill." Ya, while we were walking around the Capitol...we were also hiking up quite a decent incline. Boy, was it a long walk. We were resting often wherever we could find shade. The kids were slowing down. The stroller was getting heavier. And we were tired (and only about half way around the Capitol). So imagine the humor as we were resting under a large tree to hear Peter exclaim, "Look! I found an ant!" He was so excited. And it was so cute. And such a good reminder of how wonderful kids are.
So the picture below is the front of the Capitol. I don't think I had ever seen the front of the Capitol before. I had always seen it from the Mall. From the front of the Capitol, you can see the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court building. It's a beautiful plaza.
We got passes from our Representative a week ago and toured the House Gallery - the picture below. So we didn't see the original Capitol building (the center part) or the Senate. And it was really probably the best option for our family. The Capitol tour includes a 13-minute film and then a 30-minute guided tour. You can't tour the Capitol on your own. While our kids are well-behaved...they're still very young and get restless easily. We had to go through several security checkpoints and nothing was allowed inside. I mean nothing. There was a cute elderly couple sitting near the restroom enjoying an apple. A security guard walked up, put on latex gloves, and abruptly confiscated the apple. He threw it in the trash and then threw his latex gloves in the trash. I felt awkward for the couple. We went through two different metal detectors at two different times. James set the first detector off and had the guards scratching their heads. He had no belt. And James assured them he had no metal in his pockets. But it turned out that James had a fake penny about 3 inches in diameter that Grandma Christensen had given to him when we visited Lincoln's Tomb in Illinois. He brought it with him because we were going to the Lincoln Memorial that day. It was cute and the guards got a kick out of it. No cameras allowed inside we have no pictures to share.
After our visit to the Capitol, we headed back to the Air and Space Museum. We walked past the Botanical Gardens and it set a nice foreground for yet another picture of the Capitol.
Back at the Air and Space museum, there were a few other exhibits the kids wanted to check out. While we were walking around, we saw the Spirit of St. Louis and had to take a picture.

Luke has been begging to go to Chuck E Cheese for weeks now (more like a month or's the first thing I hear from his mouth every day I walk in the door after I come home from work). So we left DC for dinner and treated Luke to Chuck E Cheese. That part of the day was probably the most exhausting part! But the kids absolutely loved it and got plenty of play time. We headed back to DC around 8PM. We've read that the memorials are beautiful at night. And since the rain had held off all day and the kids were well energized after such a kid-friendly dinner, we decided to make a night of it. And it is true - the memorials are breath-taking at night. Do you like Peter's little salute below?
At the WWII Memorial, the kids all found the state where they were born and we took their picture. They were all cute...but this one of Peter and Luke was especially adorable.
The fountain at the WWII Memorial is absolutely beautiful. Just above Anya and James' head, you can see the Lincoln Memorial. It's about a mile away. But talk about a fun walk! I hope this memory stays with the kids for a long time.
We still had the stairs to climb, but here we are at the base. Did you know there is an elevator inside the Memorial? And there is a visitor center with a ton of information?!?! I had no idea. The elevator was a life-saver since we had the stroller. And I wish we had more time to read everything in the visitor center. The entrance is on the south side next time you're in the area and visit the Lincoln Memorial.
Another cute picture.
Complete family pictures during family vacations are few and far between. We almost missed Eliza's head in this one because she was starting to sink down in the stroller. But we are all here.
"Larger than life." This man certainly was. And I love how these statues and memorials are so HUGE. These men that we honor in reverence and remember with awe impacted all of humanity. Abraham Lincoln lived his life so he could be close to the Spirit of God and be inspired to lead this nation and set an example for the world. He was more than just a man...he was a spiritual giant among men. And the inscription above him speaks truth. This memorial certainly is a temple. And I loved the spirit that can be felt there...especially at night.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Capitol - Day 1

We're exhausted. I hardly have the energy to post...but if we didn't post each day, one post would be crazy long. So we made the short drive to Washington DC today. They called for rain in the afternoon. But there wasn't a single drop until after we got back to the hotel in the evening.

We started the day at the Museum of Natural History. And I knew it would be a good day when we found an open parking spot on the street right in front of the building! Free parking, free admission to the museum...our tax dollars at work! :)
We rushed through the various exhibits and still managed to spend nearly 3 hours here. We saw how the oceans work and what lives there, crystals and gems, dinosaurs, mammals, lots of models and bones and more bones and a real mummy. Anya especially liked the Hope Diamond that was on display.
Our stomachs started to growl before we could get through all the exhibits. So we walked outside to the car and enjoyed a little picnic on the National Mall. It was picturesque.

And since we hadn't done enough walking already, we decided to do a little more. Actually, Eliza was confined to the stroller for most of the day. So any chance she had to walk, she took advantage.
And she wasn't afraid to play chicken with a large group of school girls three times her size! She went head on and made them clear a path for her. Anya finally pulled Eliza back. It was really cute...and gave the school girls a good laugh.
After the picnic, we went back inside to finish a couple more exhibits.
Mark was especially excited to see a real mummy. But our 3-hour limit for the free parking spot was about to we had to rush out.
Then we found another free parking spot right between the Washington Monument and the White House. And still no rain. It was such a good day! :)
After we got this shot of the kids in front of the White House, a group of Asian tourists were awestruck at the number of children we had. They saw four and their eyes were huge. Then they saw another....and then one more. They were speechless (probably due to the fact that they spoke no English). They showed us their cameras and asked for permission to take pictures. Eliza was in most of them. One lady tried to lasso as many of our kids as she could to have her picture taken. Peter wasn't too thrilled about it. But Eliza was trapped in her stroller. And Luke put on his best face. It was really kind of cute. And very sweet. Our kids will be in some strangers photo albums for years to come.
It's always a fun challenge to get 6 kids under the age of 11 to cooperate and be photogenic all at the same time. So, while there weren't many, we got as many pictures as we could with all of them.

It's so rewarding to see our kids enjoying these kinds of experiences. We don't have an opportunity to go on any exotic vacations. But that's ok. Because we find as many opportunities around us as we can to enjoy together as a family. And we've been blessed to live in such a historic setting the past 3 years. Our kids enjoy the little things in life...probably because Karen and I have learned to enjoy the little things in life. But being in the Nation's Capitol is certainly no small thing. And we're soaking in as much as we can.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rip Van Luke

In case you're illiterate like me, Rip Van Winkle is a fictitious character who slept for 20 years. Maybe this is why toddlers don't remember their childhood. Karen and I captured Luke in various sleeping arrangements over the course of a year: from March 2009 - June 2010.

I'm sure all toddlers go through this phase. Luke slept when he was tired of eating.
He slept when we took him on hikes.

Luke slept just for the sake of sleeping.

How in the world could this even be comfortable?

He slept when he waited for a diaper change.
And he slept when he was waiting for someone to open the fridge.

Luke slept and he slept and he slept. But this is the child who refused to take naps. :) He probably didn't want to miss out on anything. He hasn't done this for about a year. I suppose he has grown out of this phase. It was fun while it lasted.