Friday, April 20, 2012

"I'm glad we're here together in our nation's capital." **

Or:  A disjointed, rambling, slightly salty tale of the efforts of parents with small children to have time away together. 

Rob and I enjoyed a little getaway this past weekend.  Since we could not take a honeymoon, this is just the second time in our married lives that we've gone on a trip alone together.  The last time was 12 years ago, when Francie was a baby and we went to Colonial Williamsburg for a few days.

This June is our 15th anniversary,  and we've added 5 more children in the past 12 years, so we figured the time was ripe to try it again.  We decided on Washington, DC for this go-'round.  Do you think we might be history buffs?

Actually, we wanted a place that was interesting, but also within comfortable driving distance. That way we could maximize our time away while not being too inaccessible in the case of an emergency return.

As the wise Shakespeare once said, "the course of vacation never did run smooth."  He did say that, didn't he?  Because he totally nailed it.

I divvied up the kids with different suckers relatives, because if anyone knows how they can gang up on a person, it's me. Divide and conquer is a good motto if you ever need people to watch a largish brood of tiny Vikings.  I also made obsessively long and detailed childcare lists, and Rob made reservations at a hotel down near the monuments.

Then Fiver came home from school with pain in his ear that made him sob all the way home on the bus.  This child has not had an ear infection in 7 years.  SEVEN. YEARS.

He had no fever and no other complaints aside from the ear, so I called Rob to report the fly in our ointment.  He brought home an otoscope to check the fly's ear, which was full of fluid but not infected.  Rob suspected allergies were to blame for the fluid and resulting pain, so we got him hopped up on allergy meds and ibuprofen.

We were in that limbo where there was no guarantee that it would not turn into an infection, but also nothing much that could be done at the moment.  That's one of the most annoying parental limbos.

He stayed home from school the next day, Thursday, and we were supposed to leave on Friday afternoon.  I spent most of the day Thursday going back and forth between cancelling and staying the course.  If we didn't cancel by Thursday afternoon, and we didn't end up going after all, then we would still be charged for that room.  But I didn't think I could comfortably make that call on Fiver's health until Friday morning.

By Thursday night we had decided to cancel the reservation, but if he felt better and went to school on Friday morning, then we would hop back on the internet and hope that we could make the same reservation all over again.

Long story getting incredibly long, Fiver woke up Friday feeling great.  He went off to school and we made our reservation.  Again.

We left all the instructions for the kids, had to pry some crying children off of us at the door (never fun), and then hit the road to DC.

Where we promptly sat in traffic which we learned was due to an accident that had shut down the highway.  An accident, we came to find out later, that involved a tractor trailer, a van, and a car full of Rob's patients, one of whom was a 3 year old who was airlifted to the hospital. They are all doing well now, thank God.

We finally made it down to DC and checked in, when I got a call from my sister, who was watching the little girls.  All I could really hear was my sweet little baby screaming bloody murder.  This is the baby who cries once a day, tops, and she was screaming like someone was sticking red hot pokers into her.

I was trying to remember any tips or tricks for soothing her for my poor sister, but she is so low maintenance that I couldn't think of any good ones.  And then, as I was wracking my brain, my sister discovered that Mopsy had thrown up.   Fan-DANG-tastic.

To my sister's credit, she calmly hung up the phone to deal with everything, but I was done in.  I was annoyed, tired, sad that my kids were unhappy and sick, and just not feeling the vacation vibe at all.   And I had even packed insensible, frivolous underwear - the kind not made out of six yards of serviceable cotton - so you know I was looking forward to this trip!

Is that too much?  Too private?  Well good, now you know how I felt when 6 different people came up to me and asked me if we were going on this trip specifically to try for #7.  One person even asked if this was our se* weekend (no weird searches, thank you, internet).

Really, folks?  Really?!   Sheesh!  And they say that I should get a hobby . . .

(Although, as Rob said, that's a sweet deal. If we got to go away for a weekend every time I got pregnant we might have about 12 kids right now.)   

Rob wanted to check  out the monuments lit up at night, and I, in my ungracious pissiness, grabbed my coat and said, "Fine. Whatever. Let's go."  Can you see what kind of awesome company I was?

I have to admit that the monuments were beautiful at night; I think I might like them best that way.  It was also interesting to see people whose lives in no way resemble mine.  People who were out jogging along the Mall at 8:30 at night, or dressed up in sparkly tops and high heels headed down to the Metro station.

The next morning we ate breakfast in the hotel, and then started on our plans for the day.  We also got a funny text from my brother, who had Fiver and Sally, telling us that everyone was having a great time, but how did they get our kids to sleep until past 10 in the morning?   Hahahahahaha.  Ha.  Nothing short of drugging them will accomplish that.

We've been to DC enough to know that there is no way we would be able to see or do everything in one day, and we made our peace with that.  We settled on the game plan:  see the stuff that we always bypass because the kids have no patience to see it or because it is inappropriate.

For us, that meant three things:  The National Gallery of Art, The Holocaust Museum, and a movie.
It was a good thing that we kept our sightseeing goals to a minimum because we ended up spending three hours in each museum.

The National Gallery of Art was fantastic, of course.  It was wonderful to go from gallery to gallery, finding one treasure of art after another.  Rob saw his beloved Dutch masters, I got to see my favorite American landscapes and portraiture, and we were both in love with the Renaissance religious art.  

From the NGA, we went to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. If we hadn't had timed tickets, maybe we should have tried to do the art museum after the Holocaust museum, just to remind ourselves that beauty still exists in the world. 

It was easily the most quiet, most devastating and affecting museum I've ever seen.  I don't know that I heard anyone speak above a whisper besides the museum guides.

Each floor is a different permanent exhibit, and you start at the top of the museum and work your way down.  It is arranged around a central atrium, and you have to cross a glass lined breezeway to get from one part of the exhibit to another.

The light is a welcome change after the darkness of the floor, but it is also a cruel reminder.  Each pane of glass in the breezeways is covered with names.  One breezeway contains the names of entire towns that vanished during the Holocaust, and another contains the first names of victims.  Because our children have very old, Biblical names, I found all of them up on the glass and shuddered.

I know this might sound like a real downer of a day, but it really wasn't.  I am glad I got the chance to see it all, despite spending most of the afternoon crying.

Later that night, we went into Georgetown to see The Hunger Games.  As Rob darkly quipped, "what's better than following the Holocaust museum with a movie about kids trying to kill each other?"  But we had to cram it all in somehow.

The next morning, we had the pleasure of attending Mass at America's Church: the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.   It was so nice to sit together during a whole Mass, and we even got to sing in Latin, which makes Rob so happy.

We visited all the chapels of Our Lady, and then hit the bookstore, where we could have easily spent another few hours.  But it was time to head home, gather all the chicks, and get them back to the nest.

Of course, they all ended up having a wonderful time in their different locations.  Treats were applied liberally, they got completely spoiled by various relatives, and they are already trying to finagle some more "sleep over" time for themselves.

And now I have got to get back into the swing of things.  I still have the suitcases sitting out, although at least they are empty, and I have been trying to post this for nearly four days.  I am still on vacation time apparently.

We are so, so thankful to GeeGee and Pop, Aunt JuJu, and Uncle JB and Aunt J, who gave up their weekends to our kids while we were away.  You guys are the best!  In another 12 years, we can just bribe Francie to keep an eye on her siblings for the weekend.  I'm sure nothing can go wrong with that plan, right?

PS:  Who can name the movie where I got the line for the title?

PS2: It turns out that the baby was crying because she was overtired.  My sister put her to bed where she promptly went to sleep and woke up the next morning like a new girl.  And Mopsy threw up because she ate too much junk.



  1. Wow! I love you guys. Why didn't God put us right next door?

    We went to Williamsburg for our honeymoon and DC was the next vacation ( though I lost my husband one whole day to Gettysburg -- well he wasn't lost, but I had no clue...).

    I think the monuments must be seen at night...Iwo jima at night breaks my heart. And the Dutch painters...can they do Our Blessed Mother or what? Oh my.

    I wish I had been there, (you wouldn't mind?), but I really wish it wasn't all in DC because I have a bad taste in my mouth for that place any more. It's like watching rats take over Central Park.

    I'm glad the kids survived. They always do. If only we knew the outcome in advance...

    Happy weekend, friend!

  2. I'm so glad you got to get away. Even if it didn't start the way you wanted. I have no idea what movie the quote is from. I have never been to D.C. and I long to go! I would want plenty of time to read every last bit of information at the monuments and museums and so on.

    Lily wants to sleep over with the friends who watched her last summer when we went to L.A. I told her to tell Travis to take me to CA again! :)

  3. Oh Lord, what a way to start a vacation. Kudos to the 2 of you for making the trip happen anyway. I'd have bailed and been crabby about it all weekend.
    And yes, people DO need to get a hobby!
    You're only the second person I know who uses the word "salty." Thanks to my daughter (the other one), I know what it means. I may not use it, however, lest I cause her any embarrassment that I know how to use a cool word.

  4. GeeGee10:59 AM

    I only wish you had more time to spend alone with Rob. One and a half days is just enough time to relax enough so that you don't feel compelled to cut each other's meat and veggies into bite-size pieces...
    We all had a great time with our various charges. I know Fiver and Sally had great lego/eating out/nail polish(Sally) time, and the little girls were perfectly happy with JuJu; Francie was busy with play practice all day Saturday, and Bun...we had a blast with Bun. We did cool gardening stuff, and Bun enjoyed the nursery (especially the "pinkish-reddish" plant which he subsequently potted and watered). Pop enjoyed their time digging together,especially when Bun looked at him and said,"Pop, I just love you." I especially loved our bedtime ritual: the bath, toothbrushing, and snuggling together in bed chatting and falling to sleep listening to Bun's favorite song on his Ipod playlist: Tantum Ergo...can you beat it!He cracks me up! I am looking forward to sleepovers with each of my grandchildren- the one-on-one time was priceless!
    And really, Aimee, what is wrong with people these days! Who would question your reason for a little anniversary trip with such inappropriate suggestions? Have we totally lost all sense of decorum in this society?


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