Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DC Day Seven :: Tours and the trip home

In order to get tours at most places in DC, you have to plan months in advance by writing your congressperson. When Bayley made the trip a few years ago, it was a tedious process. Now it's an online form. But somehow two of our most important tours were scheduled for the day we left.

Our White House tour started the morning. The rain decided to join us, which mean wait in this line - no that line - now this line - was lots of fun. Really should have opted for those umbrellas.

Once inside, we entered the East Room, which served as a staging area for the other rooms. Then we made it to the Green Room where a staffer had a prepared bit about the history of the room (Jefferson found the rug, Jacqueline Kennedy updated the décor). There was a Blue Room, State Dining Room, and a Red Room that had a chess table I fell in love with. And that was it. We were out the door.

We'd planned on looking at the statues on the lawn, but it was raining. Instead we hid inside the Museum of American History to wait until our Capitol tour. I wanted to see Dorothy's ruby shoes, but the kids were kind of museumed out. Until we were walking through early American history and Hayden found -- Crazy King George! He'd played George in a living history exercise at school, so he had to get a photo.

The United States Capitol tour was better than we'd thought! We started by finding our congresswoman's office, and then getting a tour of the building by one of her interns. As we walked through, we realized that you could tour on your own, as they had staffers in place to describe things. We often hung back to listen because our intern was so soft spoken.

There were lots of interesting tidbits - like each state has a statue there, but the only one you can touch is the one of Helen Keller. We got to see where the original supreme court met, as well as the underground tunnels (which Gracie thought must be to avoid the rain.

In the rotunda, we touched the compass star for luck. It has some kind of Masonic significance, but we were ushered out of there too quickly to catch it. If we go back. I'd do the self-paced capitol tour instead.

Wanting to make sure we had plenty of time to catch our flight, we took the Metro back towards the hotel. We found Good Stuff Eatery - home of the toasted marshmallow milkshake. Bayley had a...you get the drill.

Non-stop flights are the only way to go when travelling with kiddos. Really makes things easier. Once we landed the kids were starving, so we hit Dirty Bird. Where Bayley... yep. Again.

Monday, April 28, 2014

DC Day Six :: Back to the city

The line for the National Archives wrapped around the building every time we thought of going. Since this was our final chance to make it inside - and because Hayden wanted to see the Constitution, we got there before it opened. And the line...was only half as long. They had a no picture policy, as most places in DC seem to.

We went to Clyde's for lunch - it was a gamble since I didn't want to pester Gabe for restaurants post-wedding. Luckily, it was delicious. A little fancier than anywhere else we'd been. From there we hopped on Metro and went to the National Zoo.

My online guides gave some good tips for the zoo. The zoo is built on a hill, so we knew to start at the top and head downhill. Because we have a nice zoo, and we'd been to the San Diego zoo last year, the kids were mainly interested in the pandas because we hadn't seen them before. Unfortunately, it was the saddest little exhibit. The pandas hunched in corners staring blankly.

The lions were loud and the birds were plentiful. We explored as the temperature dropped, but luckily a lot of the exhibits have indoor options. Gracie spied a carousel, and this time Bayley decided to join in.

And then it started to smell like rain. I wanted to buy umbrellas, but Jeff pointed out that 1) we're from Oregon and 2) that would cost more than a taxi all the way back to Arlington. So we trekked in the rain to the nearest Metro and headed back to our hotel. Grace was cold, but the boys were unfazed and practiced Metro-surfing on the ride.

We had dinner at Port City Brewing, where Gracie warmed up with mac & cheese and Bayley had a...bacon cheeseburger.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

DC Day Five :: Viewing Virginia

After a celebratory brunch on Sunday, we left the wedding festivities and headed towards Mt. Vernon. On the way we stopped and visited the NRA Museum. I think this was one of Bayley's favorite spots on the trip. He's always been interested in artillery, and this spot highlighted the evolution of arms in America. Of course, he liked the Teddy Roosevelt parts the best. Hayden was much more interested in the big game trophies.

At Mt. Vernon we were able to explore the property before and after our mansion tour. We'd purchased our tickets online, but I didn't realize the time on the ticket wasn't the time for you tour - it is the time you may get in line for your tour. Crazy.

The kids were given a scavenger hunt when we entered, which helped keep us on track and sent us toward things we might have skipped. We got to see the different ways the slaves and landowners were buried, as well as different parts of the estate. We enjoyed a wagon ride around the farm, where they use period tools to do the work, just like it was during Washington's time there. I loved seeing the way the tools were manufactured, as well as the threshing room.

We made our way up towards the main house, walking past many of the outbuildings - bunkhouses, washing rooms, cottages, and slave quarters. There were a couple of surprises -- Mt Vernon isn't white, it's a sandy color, because they put sand on top of the wet paint to give it a stone look like in Europe. And the kitchen was in a separate building. We couldn't take and photos inside. Which was too bad because they had some of the rooms made up beautifully.

Afterwards, we found the blacksmith shop. They were making nails and keys. I think Grace could have stayed there for an hour, trying to figure out how it all worked. We also went through the museum, and Bayley and I watched a short film about Washington's life and Mt. Vernon. I'd love to go back when Grace is Hayden's age and has studied it a bit.

The time came to drive back and find our new hotel and drop off the rental car. We'd decided to stay in Crystal City because it was on the Metro, and right by the airport. The one thing we hadn't counted on? Crystal City shuts down hard in the evenings. It's really just a giant complex of office building and hotels. The businesses cater to that crowd, so finding a restaurant served to be harder than you'd think in an area packed with them. But we did find a Mexican place, where Bayley ordered...a bacon cheeseburger.

Another thing that proved how spoiled we are in the PNW? The beer selection could be counted on one hand. One hand. Every place out here has a dozen taps, plus bottles.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wedding Day!

The big day finally arrived! Gracie had been waiting to wear her flower girl dress for 'my whole life', so she wanted to get into it as soon as possible. I worried about food landing on the pale ivory gown, so she wore her coat over it for most of the day.

The girls headed to the bridal suite to get their glam on. Gracie twirled around the room, telling everyone how beautiful they looked. The boys had lunch and helped one another with ties and cufflinks - or so I've been told.

The boys did a great job in their role as junior groomsmen, and the little girls were flowerless flower girls. They got their own mini-bouquets instead.

After the ceremony, the pictures began. Hayden was happy to hold Hudson in the shot with the nieces and nephews. We'd thought Bayley might hold Clara, but she was more interested in Uncle Gabe.

After pictures at the church, we all hopped on a shuttle bus and went out to Wolftrap for some location shots. It had rained the day before, so we weren't sure if things would work out there, but it was lovely. Only hard to stand on the grass in heels without sinking.

Friday, April 25, 2014

DC Day Four :: And the Wedding Festivities Begin!

If the sky's awake, then we're awake. We trekked out in search of Astro Doughnuts, which had recently topped our hometown Voodoo Doughnuts in a poll somewhere. We are completely biased, and yet I'm thinking whoever made that poll was too. Voodoo is awesome!

 Whenever we explore a city, we like to take the kids up high so they can see where they've been. Unfortunately, the Washington Monument hadn't reopened yet, but we had another great option - the Old Post Office Tower. Getting to the top is a two-step process, in an elevator that had seen many things. The views were awesome, and there were guides explaining the history and helping to find all the place's we'd been, and point us towards places we'd yet to see. The only downside? It closed for remodeling shortly after we'd visited. Apparently Trump bought the place, and rumor is he'll turn it into a hotel...and likely charge for those trips to the tower.

We hit the National Air and Space Museum next. I'd expected the boys to really enjoy this one, but they preferred the more hands-on experiences at Evergreen Air & Space. And I thought they only liked that place for the water park. There was lots to see and do, but once they'd walked through the space shuttle, they were pretty much done.

We had an early lunch at Elephant & Castle, which had been Gabe-approved. Hayden was happy to fill himself up with fish and chips, while Bayley had another bacon cheeseburger. The kid had a bacon cheeseburger at almost every place we went.

And let it be known that while Hayden has the same sweatshirt on in every picture, he did in fact bathe and change his clothes every day. Ahem.

Jeff took Metro to pick up our rental car for our drive to Reston for the wedding festivities. The kids and I walked back to our hotel, so I made them stop for an obligatory photo at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and again on the National Mall with the Capitol in the background. They were really missing Dad at this point.

We made it back to our hotel and were ready when Jeff arrived with the car. We headed downstairs like a bunch of pack mules and loaded the car down for the drive. Which was much easier than expected. Thank goodness for whomever invented GPS directions!

DC Day 4.5 :: Rehearsal Time

We found our hotel and unpacked...to find that someone had forgotten to check the closet before we left DC. The dress from hell was still in the city! Now, given my relationship with the dress, I was fine with, except Gracie's flower girl dress and dress coat were also there. I felt horrible. And oh-so grateful when Jeff volunteered to go back into town and get the stuff I'd left behind. Someone ought to marry that guy.

We met up with the rest of the family at the rehearsal. Gracie & Natalie are always happy to see each other, but I think Grace was extra happy after spending so much time with the boys. After a quick run-through, everyone headed to Maureen's parents house for dinner. And a Hudson cuddle. Yes, the tiniest member of our crew made the trip!

After the rehearsal, PopPop was ready for bed and so was Gracie Mae. We had adjoining rooms, so they went to sleep in one room while the boys had some kind of Pokémon-fest. Jeff went on his recon mission, and everyone else found there way to McCormick & Schmick's. Yes, we found the Oregon-based chain in Virginia.

I was stressed from having forgot the dress and sending Jeff into the yawning maw of DC Friday night traffic. And so, my brother's medicated me...with beer. I do believe I had a good time, though I have no recollection of taking this photo of my mother doing tequila shots with my brother and his buddies! Too funny!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

DC Day Three:: All restaurants should be Gabe-Approved

Our tour at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing started bright and early. They didn't allow pictures. Or give out free samples. Hayden couldn't stomach the smell of the ink, so he didn't even do the whole tour.

We live in a land where coffee is always only a block away. At most. Downtown DC has not realized this key to productivity yet. We were committed, and finally found an underwhelming source at Potbelly. Where, we also found a giant roach. We live in a roach-free land. And so the kids thought it was someone's pet that had run away... Lake Woebegone has nothing on us!

Gracie had spied the Carousel at Smithsonian Castle during our trolley ride, and we got there as soon as it opened. Gracie wanted Jeff to ride with her, so I got to take pictures. And may have had an altercation with a twit whose mouth worked faster than her brain. Bayley was embarrassed. Ah well. There are certain words I do not tolerate being used in front of my children, even if they aren't directed at us.

The Museum of Natural History came next. An African Elephant greeted us in the rotunda, and really set the tone for the visit. Gracie loved the animals and dinosaur fossils. I made sure I saw the Hope Diamond. We'd planned on doing the butterfly pavilion, but the wait was ridiculous and the kids were hungry.

One of the most raved about places in all the online DC with kids guides is Mitisam, the restaurant inside the National Museum of the American Indian. Well, it's a really expensive cafeteria. Poorly laid out and impossible to go through as a family. I had to pay four separate times. Since there was a crowd and only one station to pay...yeah. These guides were really letting me down!

While the cafeteria was craptastic, the museum was awesome. After the first floor, Hayden was tired and decided to laze about in the lobby. Which meant the rest of us had to rush through. Definitely a museum I'd love to see again.

The US Botanic Gardens is right next door. We had lovely weather, so took our time moseying on over there. The boys weren't as into it as we girls. Everything was so colorful and lovely, with a slower pace and fewer crowds than everywhere else we'd been that day.

We checked back at the hotel, and with Uncle Gabe. Apparently we should not be allowed to choose our own restaurants. We took the Metro up to Capitol City Brewing. Now, we go to a lot of breweries and such with our kiddos, so when they declared this the best one ever, I knew Uncle Gabe knew what he was doing. It may have had more to do with the unlimited soft pretzels, but a win is a win.

Since it was such a nice night, we decided to walk back to the hotel. The National Mall is much less crowed at night, plus the monuments are all lit up. It's hard to get good pictures, but much easier to find things - like our state at the National World War II Memorial.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DC Day Two :: Let's See EVERYTHING!

We woke up ready to tackle the day and did breakfast at our hotel. Bayley ate a mountainous plate of bacon. Hey, that's what vacations are for, right?

We planned this trip so that we could pack in as much as possible in a short time. There is just so much to see and do, you can't possibly work it all in, but we tried! We started the morning with a walk to the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Only, it was too windy to see our reflections.

On the way to Union Station to catch the trolley, we paused to take a picture with the cherry trees. Bayley even got extra credit for sharing the picture with his teacher!

The trolley took us to the opposite end of the National Mall so that we could (mostly) walk back and explore the monuments as we went. It was a great way to get a lay of the land and gauge distances for our other excursions.

The Jefferson Memorial was great. A ranger was there explaining the thought process behind the placement (so that the statue of Jefferson was in sight of the White House). The boys read to us the quotes carved into the walls, which became something we did at most monuments. It forced the boys to slow down and think about why a monument existed in the first place.

We walked through the FDR Memorial, which worked through his life and had some great quotes. And the waterfalls are lovely and calming. It leads into the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. By this point, the kids were done with walking. But we had to make it to the Lincoln Memorial.

I could have sat on those steps all day, just people watching. But my minions were tired and hungry. Not the best combo. We hopped back on the trolley, and let it take us towards the National Portrait Gallery. But first, we wanted to check out Shake Shack. We'd heard great things, and they were on all the lists of what to do in DC. We really wanted to like it. But can't say it's something we'd repeat.

Hayden's class is studying American History, and the National Portrait Gallery takes you through history one president at a time. I could have stayed there for hours. But most of the exhibits didn't hold the kids interest. Bayley decided Teddy Roosevelt was the coolest president we've ever had, and you can't really argue that. His exhibit had many of his hunting rifles, which really intrigued Bayley. Maybe we'll hit the NRA Museum when we're in Virginia.

The trolley took us back to our hotel, and on the way Hayden fell asleep. We didn't realize he'd crossed from resting to passed out until the trolley stopped and he rolled onto the floor!

Since our pick for lunch went sideways, we opted to take Gabe's advice for dinner and went to R.F.D. Real food! Great beer! Just what we needed after a long day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

DC Bound!

It's finally time! We've made it to Washington DC to celebrate Uncle Gabe & Aunt Maureen's wedding. The kids were expert travelers - honestly, they were better behaved than most adults on our plane. We even got in early...and waited on the tarmac for over an hour for a gate. Yikes.

With instructions from Uncle Gabe, we braved the Metro to get from the airport to our hotel. Thanks to his suggestion to stay 'to the right' we had no trouble. Even with suitcases.

Gabe & Maureen were nice enough to meet us for dinner out first night. It was so helpful to have guides for our first foray into the city. And having them with us meant I got to be in a picture at Bartholdi Fountain. We had dinner at Tortilla Coast, and after a couple of margaritas I really started to enjoy the trip.