Washington, D.C.

April 10-17, 2017
Fort Belvoir, Virginia

Before we left on this adventure, Sunny had a few things that she definitely wanted to see: The Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and the Big Spike.

BOOM…Big Spike!

On our first day in the D.C. area we explored Mt. Vernon with Jack and Aunt Amanda.  I had visited this place as a teenager, but I didn’t remember how expansive it was. We interacted with farm animals, learned about Washington’s cutting edge farming techniques, explored the houses and cemetery of the enslaved people, saw George and Martha’s gravesite, learned how to salt-cure fish in a barrel, and meandered through 2 extensive museums.

The girls with George & Martha.
We got to see some very cute lambs & piglets.
We hung around for hours on an unseasonably hot day for our chance to tour the home just before closing time. I made a big deal about telling the girls when we were in the bedroom where Washington died, and later realized that it was the wrong room. “Oops..nevermind! NOW we are in his bedroom…”
Our D.C. exploration day 1 started with the METRO!! (the girls have been ecstatic about the chance to ride a train on this trip) which dropped us in the beautiful Union Station.
When we walked out to find our double decker bus tour, we discovered it was raining.  The upside was that no one else was sitting up top, so we got free rain ponchos & the best seats on the bus – top front row! Double bonus: it only rained for about 2 more minutes, and the rest of the day was beautiful.
Lady Liberty and her pedestal, the Capitol Building.  The only thing higher than the tip of her head in the city is Washington’s Monument.
Enjoying the views from the reflecting pool.
The Lincoln Memorial was the backdrop for our lunch.
Sunny was bursting with excitement to go inside and see Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln’s view
Just an awesome dad, showing his daughters the world.
Korean War Memorial – one is always watching you approach, no matter which way you walk to it.
“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
555 feet of stone – the colors mismatched half-way up like a scar from the Civil War that interrupted its construction
“So girls, this is where Obama lived the past 8 years…”
The fact that we spent the day before filling our heads with knowledge about George Washington’s amazing life made his monument feel even more meaningful.
Jefferson instructed those in D.C. that if they ever built a memorial for him he wanted to be able to see every president that followed in the years to come. So his memorial is across the mall, opposite the White House. His statue looks across the lawns into the windows of the Oval Office.
Day 2 in D.C.: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Coral was thrilled to find an exhibit that featured her very favorite aminal.
We took a “Highlight Tour” from Greg and learned so much about some fantastic exhibits in the museum. The girls were so full of questions that I had to tell them to stop holding up the tour.
Our group is looking at the last-ever passenger pigeon, Martha, in the background. But I was feeling more amazed by these other crazy giant birds…
The skeleton room was fascinating….
There are hundreds of animals on display that were brought back from Africa by Theodore Roosevelt. After his presidency, he took a large hunting party there with the intention of adding to the Smithsonian’s collection. Our guide acknowledged that this could be seen as controversial, but they are still displaying and studying many of the specimens that he brought back.
I appreciated that many of the displays were in interesting and unusual poses.
Picnic lunch in front of the Museum of Natural History.
An interesting art piece featuring the preamble to the Constitution. (We were also able to catch a peek of the actual Constitution & Declaration of Independence at the National Archives. Both girls expressed disappointment that John Hancock’s name wasn’t written larger on the Declaration.)
Learning art appreciation from Dad.
“What do you see in this one?”
On the modern art level

Brad’s brother is stationed at a military base in Virginia very near D.C., so we were able to utilize a military campground on the base where he lives with his family.  We had a beautiful campsite right on the Potomac River. So this destination was another wonderful, busy blend of exploring a new place as well as spending time with people we love.

Sweet cousin love.
Both girls were very excited for the chance to get makeovers in Aunt Amanda’s studio! #makeup.just.for.fun
We enjoyed a neighborhood egg hunt with Jack. Sunny was airborne for much of it, per usual.
The girls had so much fun playing with their cousin Jack this week!
Cute cousins with their bounty, and an Easter Bunny who has perhaps seen better days?
Watermelon, bubbles, and hot dogs on the grill…what else could these girls ask for?!
Popping bubbles with cousins & friends! Entertainment for days…
Apparently there are so many foxes on Fort Belvoir that they are a nuisance. But now I actually know what the fox says!!
There were multiple Osprey nests in our campground, so we watched these bird couples tending their nests from our camper all week.
Exploring the Spring Festival at Fort Myer.  There were crafts, games, hayrides, live musicians, and opportunities to dance with the Easter Bunny.  Hunting Easter Eggs in a pile of hay was a first for me.  Afterwards Coral said, “Now I see why it would be hard to find a needle in a haystack, Mom!”
These Caisson horses are tasked with pulling the wagons that hold the caskets for military funerals at Arlington Cemetery. The have to be either all black or all white, and the teams of 6 always match. The barns were open for the Spring Festival so that families could come inside to meet the horses. They were some of the most beautiful horses I’d ever seen!
Brad’s brother Tyler works in Arlington, coordinating and leading the military funerals. He walked us around the grounds, telling us about his duties and the history of the place.
We also walked by General Lee’s mansion and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The other FitzGeralds joined us for an Easter dinner on our final night.
Happy Easter Pie!

I realized mid-way through Easter Day that it was the first Easter in 34 years that I didn’t go to church.  While the pews of local churches were being filled to overflowing, I was walking into a grocery store in jorts and a wolf t-shirt.  In reflecting on this I was reminded that the people in Jesus’ day that were especially concerned with doing all the exactly right religious things were called Pharisees, and a big part of this adventure for us has been a celebration of experiencing our spirituality in new ways.  So instead of being part of a big Easter church service or putting on new white shoes this year, we each did some art inspired by the resurrection, listened to a little bit of Rob Bell, and ate strawberry pie.  Whether you believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead or not, you cannot deny that something deep inside of you longs for the story arc of resurrection to be true and real and palpable in your life.  For destroyed things to be restored..like a phoenix, or countless other tales, legends and myths from humanity’s history that use this recurring theme.

As for me, I choose in between all of my doubts to believe the insanity that a rebellious Jewish teacher was murdered but didn’t stay dead.  And as that continues to inspire and inform the way I live my life, I joyfully celebrated resurrection Sunday in a different way this year, feeling certain that my life right now is ripe with renewal and opportunity for rebirth.

Sunset over the Potomac from our campsite on Fort Belvoir.

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