Saturday, December 24, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #24

For Christmas this year Kenny's parents gave the boys the gift of tickets to several performances at a local children's theatre.  We went to our first show, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, earlier this week.  It was just under an hour long and the boys were enthralled.  This season, the theatre is doing adaptations of some of our favorite children's books so I'm sure the response for subsequent performances will be equally positive.  There are several theatres in the DC area especially for kids including a really wonderful puppet theatre, just one more great thing about living here.

No photos allowed during the show, obviously, so here they are before...

and after.

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #23

After more than a year of Caleb asking, "When can we go in that big building," we finally made it inside the US Capitol.  We scheduled a staff tour through Senator Mike Lee's office after failing miserably with our own Congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton.  I can't figure out why Norton's office was too busy to help us with out request, considering that she is a non-voting member of the House of Representatives, has one of the smallest constituencies in the country, and she and her staff don't have to travel to go home, but we are thrilled that Senator Lee's staff were so accommodating.  Our tour was atypical is that both Kenny and I have given the same tour many times ourselves and so, more than anything, we just needed an escort into the building.  Hannah, our guide, did point out some recent additions and tried to think of things to keep the interest of our boys, but overall we sort of blitzed our way through, bookending our visit with rides on the Capitol Subway System.  And, let's be honest, those few seconds on the trains were the highlight of this adventure for Caleb and Isaac. 

Yes, it is the middle of December and we are walking around without coats.

My favorite statue - King Kamehameha I.  This statue used to be housed in Statuary Hall, but has since been relocated to the new Capitol Visitor's Center.

Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television and one of two statues from the state of Utah.  Several statues line the Capitol Visitor's Center which is a huge, underground building completed in 2008.  Neither Kenny nor I had been inside and it was definitely worth stopping in.

After a stop at the Crypt and the Old Supreme Court Chamber, we headed to the most impressive part of the tour, the Rotunda.  Despite being told that it would take 45 Caleb's standing one on top of the other to reach the ceiling, Caleb was unconvinced that it really was 180 feet from where we stood to the top.  He was. however, impressed by the gigantic paintings of major events in US history that ring the walls.  And, all on his own, pointed out the painting depicting the battle of Yorktown, reminding us that we had been there earlier this year.

Isaac, on the other hand, decided to take a rest from the rigors of touring and take it all in from a more relaxed vantage point.

Kenny just finished this biography of Alexander Hamilton, so he decided it made sense to pose with the statue of the man himself.

This is Ronald Reagan, in case you couldn't tell.  What is most interesting about this statue is that embedded in its base are pieces of the Berlin Wall.

The newest addition to the statues housed in the Capitol is this one of Gerald R. Ford.  I wonder which statue from Michigan was replaced by Mr. Ford's bronze tribute added, apparently, just a few months ago?

From the Rotunda, we moved onto Statuary Hall.  Once upon a time, the vast majority of all the statues in the Capitol were in Statuary Hall.  Packed in, in fact, so that it was impossible to even see many of them.  Over the years, the weight of all that marble and bronze started to take its toll and slowly they moved statues out to other parts of the building to keep the floor from collapsing.  Now there is a much more manageable number in this room that was once the House of Representatives chamber, including this one of Brigham Young.

Hanging out in the fireplace in Statuary Hall.

Our last stop before heading back to the Senate Office Buildings was the Brumidi corridors.  I have always loved this part of the building, but, sadly, these days most of it is completely inaccessible to the public.

Family group shot and proof that I was there too, 
in all my 37 weeks pregnant glory.

Riding the Capitol Subway back to the Hart building.  We had a great tour, just the right length for our little posse.  So, now we've been to that "big building" and we can cross one more thing off our not to miss in DC list.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Colored Lights

On Monday we went to the LDS Temple to see the Christmas lights.  They put up over 500,000 and it is a beautiful display.  It was a perfect evening to go with temperatures in the low 50s as compared to last year when it was barely above 20 degrees.
They also have a nativity scene with a recording in the background continuously telling the story of Jesus' birth from the New Testament.  The boys were mostly interested in "riding" the camel.
 Isaac made us promise he could ride on a real camel someday.  I have no doubt we'll be able to make good on that promise.  Though, having ridden a camel myself, I can vouch for them being not all that comfortable.
 After going inside the Visitor's Center to look around at more Christmas decorations, we decided we had seen what we came for and headed back outside to go home.  There is a nightly musical performance during the festival of lights, but we were pretty sure we couldn't talk the boys into sitting through an hour of Suzuki flutes.
 Our last stop before piling into the car was to take a picture of Isaac and his favorite tree.  There are five more pictures just like this in front of other trees.  He just couldn't decide which he liked the best.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Mother of Invention

This weekend, our church congregation had our annual Christmas party.  The highlight of this party for the adults is always when the children file on stage, dressed in the characters of the nativity, and sing about the the birth of Jesus.  The highlight for the children is a visit from Santa Claus.

This year, Caleb was assigned the role of Joseph.  Caleb loves to dress up...for Halloween.  Otherwise, he is not very keen on the idea.  I convinced him that he only needed to don his robe and sash for 10 minutes and then he would be all done for a whole year.  He finally acquiesced, but not before Isaac became wise to the fact that he was not included in any of these discussions.  You see, Isaac, at 3 years old, was not old enough to be included in the nativity play.  When he realized there would be no dressing up for him, he was distraught.  "Who can I be, Mommy?" he asked over and over.  I work with the children's program so I decided since he is just weeks away from legally being old enough, it couldn't hurt for him to participate.  But all the major and minor roles had already been was the morning of the performance after all, when we finally got around to this conversation.  So, I suggested he be a sheep.  We hadn't assigned any sheep, and everyone knows those shepherds did not show up at the stable without their sheep in tow.  His face lit up.  "I'm going to be a sheep, I'm going to be a sheep!"  He yelled as he jumped and danced around.  Then he stopped in his tracks, looked at me and said, "but, where's my costume?"  WHERE INDEED!

I spent the next few hours pulling the seams out of an old white pillowcase, dismantling a throw pillow that long ago was replaced with a newer model, hot gluing batting (and my fingers on more than one occasion), and sewing ties and elastic in strategic places.  Finally, just seconds before he went on, I made an elastic headband with felt ears.  It was barely tacked together and he was under strict instructions not to touch it -- he didn't.  And, or so I was told by several in attendance, his sheep was the hit of the show.  Most of all, however, he was delighted to be included and that is the best outcome of all.

Later, Santa showed up and the boys told him what they wanted him to bring them.  Luckily, they have not changed their heart's desires in months, so they are going to be pleased next Sunday morning when Santa has left them exactly what they're expecting.  What a clever elf he is!

 The shepherds and their lone sheep
 Mary and Joseph
 Our Joseph and his brother the sheep
 Caleb and Santa
 Isaac and Santa

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Family Pictures 2011

Our gorgeous and talented friend Nancy took our pictures again this year.  I just don't know how we're going to survive overseas without her talents at our beck and call.  Isaac was looking at the camera about 50% of the time, but that is better than in year's past, so we'll take what we can get.  Here is just a sampling of her great work.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #22

This weekend we took in two of Washington's annual holiday events.  First, we headed to Zoo Lights at the National Zoo, which we did last year as well, but the boys are bigger this year and, I think, had more fun.
 Can you see them in this picture?  Caleb is on the left and Isaac is on the right.  They are each holding a stuffed, miniature walrus that we "won" for filling out some surveys.

 Isaac was desperate to have his picture taken over and over again.  And, since he was cooperating, not his normal modus operandi, I was happy to oblige.

In between the lights we visited the small mammals, the reptile house and the great apes.  Not surprisingly, most of the animals were sleeping, but we did see a fair amount of snakes and lizards doing their nocturnal thing.

 The National Zoo is built on a hill with the main entrance at the top.  So, you walk down the whole way and then have to trudge back up to exit.  This photo was taken before Caleb realized that fact. 
Isaac again, happily posing.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, we went to DAR Constitution Hall to see/hear the US Army Band "Pershing's Own" perform their annual Holiday concert.  It was a free concert and lots of fun and something we have never done before.  The boys happily bounced and clapped along with the music before both drifted off to the lilting sounds of "O Holy Night."  We woke them when Santa Claus came, though, never want to miss an opportunity to see the big guy himself.  We didn't have great seats, but we were unwilling to arrive an hour early to compete with the busloads of retirees who attended the concert just for a better view.

Happy, though slightly sleepy, concert-goers.

On our way back to the car we passed a statue we have driven past many times.  It is of Jose de San Martin, an Argentinian general who was ultimately responsible for the liberation of Argentina, Peru, and Chile from Spain.

This is not the first time a member of our family has posed with a statue dedicated to this man.  Here I am more than 4 years ago in the Plaza San Martin in Lima, Peru.  We have now, apparently, come full circle with our visits to monuments to Jose de San Martin.

The gift of this statue was made the United States by the government of Argentina, hence the fact that San Martin's accomplishments in Chile and Peru are only mentioned as afterthoughts on the commemorative plaque. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Village in Ukraine

Still looking for the perfect cause to give to this season?  Feeling extra generous this year?  Want to do something great for total strangers?  Then I've got the perfect solution.

My sister-in-law, Jessica, is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine.  She lives in a tiny village miles from even the closest train station and hours from the nearest city.  She, like, the rest of her village does not have access to running water and in the winter must melt ice on a wood burning stove for any water she requires.  Despite the hardships she is enduring, she has truly enjoyed her time in Ukraine and has come to love the people with whom she interacts.  Before she finishes her assignment next summer, she is working with the community on one final project that will have a lasting impact on the lives of these villagers -- a solar energy system that will provide the energy necessary to bring potable water to the entire community.

The community has already raised a substantial portion of the funds necessary to accomplish this goal and Jessica is trying to help them procure the remaining amount.  Helpfully, she has set up a website to make it as easy as possible to donate to this great cause.  If you are feeling inclined to contribute, just click on the link below.  There is additional information about the project provided on the site as well as very easy instructions for how to give.  

Thank you for considering making a donation.  
Literally, every little bit makes a big difference!

Monday, December 05, 2011

C is for Christmas Goodies

Need some Christmas goody inspiration?  Dana at MADE is offering up 25 days of sweets and treats you won't want to miss.  Head on over and let the holiday indulgence begin!

And, if your heart is craving a little peppermint, Something Swanky has 27 practically perfect peppermint recipes that look beyond irresistible.  We'll be cooking up some of these this month for sure!

So much deliciousness, so little time.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

We Love Washington, DC, #21

We finally made it to Mount Vernon.
Christmastime is a great time of year to go to Mount Vernon because there is a camel, endless Christmas decorations including a miniature Mount Vernon fabricated in gingerbread and chocolate, and it is the only time of year they open the third floor of the mansion to visitors.  Of course, you can't take photos inside the main residence, so you'll just have to trust me that it is worth a visit or you can click here and see for yourself.  

This was not our first pilgrimage (it is 14 miles from DC, after all) to George Washington's home, but it was Isaac's first time and the only time we have every been during the Christmas season.  

Despite being very chilly, it was a beautifully sunny day and there were very few other visitors to contend with.  In the past we have had to share space with the masses and even though the grounds are extensive, tripping over other tourists, especially when it is blistering hot, can get tedious.  We opted out of exploring everything today and spent the bulk of out time at the mansion and visitor's center.  When the boys are older, we'll go back and make the long trek to the tomb, the wharf, the slave cabins and the 16-sided barn. 

 Our merry band of visitors posing with the Potomac River in the distance.
 The mansion from the back.
 Rolling down the hill, their reward for being so well-behaved 
during the mansion tour.
 They could have done this all day long.
 The obligatory "we were there" photo op.
 Liberty, the National Thanksgiving Turkey.
 Want to know more about Liberty?  Read this.
 Aladdin the camel.
 See those faces peeking through the split-rail fence?  They were just delighted to see and pet Aladdin.
 Why is there a camel at Mount Vernon you ask?
 Mount Vernon in gingerbread.  This was made by a professional chef and required countless hours to produce this very complete replica.
One of the many Christmas trees adorning the visitor's center 
and the man himself. 

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