Tuesday, December 28, 2010

christmas and, um, more D.C.

On the eve of Christmas Eve, my man watched me spin about the house, pulling my hair out and muttering to myself about the birthday cookies I still hadn't made for my dad and the Christmas gift I still hadn't started for my mom and all the packing and wrapping and shopping we still had yet to do.  He was sprawled on the couch in his boxers, sneezing and coughing and blowing his nose.  Hun, he said, You're never going to get all of that done so why don't you just relax and have fun.  It's Christmas.  And so we did.

The next morning we strapped on our skis, headed out the front door (you know life is good when you can say "front door" and "skis" in the same sentence) and found us a Christmas Tree.

After the full-bodied glory of the Capitol tree, we opted for something a little Charlie Brownish that would fit in our teeny tiny living room and not brush the woodstove.  I cut and hauled our little tree and it felt so good to be outside and bringing something home for my family.  I *almost* felt like I was dragging in a deer.  

Once lit and decorated, Juniper was all about Christmas-tree-worship, pointing and saying, Dah? with her eyebrows raised.

Christmas itself was a small, nuclear affair.  In our minds, we'd already had one Christmas back east with my husband's family, and we'll have a third Christmas this coming weekend on the west coast with my family.  So our Christmas day here at the homestead looked something like this:
Yes, Osa got some T-bone treats in her stocking and Juniper thoroughly enjoyed teasing her and...eventually...feeding her the treats.  Contrary to popular belief, J bug was not that into wrapping paper.  She landed a nice catch of toys and books and clothes and her first sleeping bag, but when it came down to it, she liked the T-bones the best.  (Most likely because they didn't belong to her.  Funny how well she knows that distinction now.)  

I am so sorry but this is, as they say, my party and I'm not done with Washington D.C.
 Now we're getting to the stuff I remember from 25 years ago; but who could possibly forget the Washington monument?  During our stay, it functioned as our landmark, compass, and timepiece (we knew, from there, how long it would take to walk to most places) all in one.  And dang, aren't those ^ clouds pretty?

Whenever Juniper was ready for a nap, we bundled her up and went for a walk.  Hence the ubiquitous blue coat and orange stroller.  Watch for it.  

Also, I remember Lincoln's hands.  Funny what stood out in relief in my ten-year-old mind.      

But nothing stands out in my memory quite like this:
I remember the big, fat phonebook-list of names.  I remember my dad paging through it saying, I went to school with him,...my sister dated him,...I served with him,....  That wall and that book and my dad paging through it brought a soldier's war home to my ten-year-old heart in a way I didn't know was possible.  Even now, I can think of no other  military memorial to war that lists the costs so simply, so poignantly.

:: One lazy Sunday we strolled around Capitol Hill's surrounding neighborhood, laughing at the "Emergency Snow Route" signs and stopping at the Eastern Market for lunch and possible Christmas shopping.
Both of us said we could live in D.C. if we knew it would be for a short time, like 6 months or a year.  A bold statement (and a testament to our capitol city), considering we love living in its polar opposite.   

Whenever Juniper woke up, we would park indoors out of the bristly tidal basin chill, get food, and let J bugs stretch her legs and work her stride.
A long, relaxed, afternoon coffee break at Union Station.
 ^Juniper really hates it when we try to hold her hand, but my man was afraid she would slip and split her head open on the marble floor.^
:: Where's the gopher hole?  Was an oft-repeated question amongst our Wyoming clan.  The metro proved to be a cakewalk, even with our hulky stroller.  The hardest part was figuring out which "gopher hole" to pop out of.
The National Museum of American History...how could you not love it?  Dorothy's ruby slippers, Apollo Ono's ice skates, the actual bar and four bar stools of the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter....
 I remember this museum as a kid.  Most exhibits have changed enormously (and for the better--something in my memory wants to bring up a wax museum of past Presidents...), but I particularly remember seeing the First Lady's inaugural gowns.  And I wanted to see them again.  Juniper had a couple of fussy episodes in D.C.  One was in the National Archives where J bug tested the acoustics of the rotunda while my husband and I took turns between the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence (acoustics were very good, by the way) and the other was in the First Lady's Smithsonian exhibit.  My man's interest in Martha Washington's and Michele Obama's dresses weren't as deep as mine, so he entertained her with the only thing that struck her interest: Laura Bush's sparkly, bright red gown.  I don't remember much about Laura, but thank goodness she chose the libertine color of red (a choice, I learned, influenced by her dressmaker who said she would have the only red dress in the Smithsonian collection).

:: The zoo had just recently re-opened and most big-ticket animals (like elephants) were missing, but June bug got nose-to-nose with a croc, laughed at turtles and beat on the glass wall of the gorilla cage.  
  All enjoyed in the company of the other Capitol Christmas tree kids:
 ^The little girl dressed in black loved Juniper and is singularly responsible for teaching bugs to wave hello and bye-bye.^   

::  Our last night in Washington (drumroll please...)
Check out that handsome feller.  

So the big story of the night--appearing in speeches from Nancy Pelosi to the Deputy Undersecretary of the somethingorother (we attended 2 whoop-la parties before the lighting and one after)--was how when Wyoming first stepped up to volunteer the tree, nobody was sure if the least populated state would be able to come up with 5,000 ornaments.  Well, holy cow if the good people of Wyoming didn't pump out 17,000 handmade ornaments to decorate the Capitol tree as well as the 70-some companion trees.  

As I mentioned before, bugs slept through it--military band and all.  
But at the post-lighting whoop-la, June bug woke up and partied with her new friends.  Here she is, super excited about a toy train circling the botanical gardens:   

I hope you all had a joyful Christmas holiday!  Tomorrow we are off again (I KNOW) for our annual family clamming on the west coast. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

D.C. part 2

J bug's still sick--snotty and endearingly clingy--but no longer feverish.  We have a shit-ton of snow, but haven't been able to play in it yet--soon, soon.  And we are so incredibly behind on Christmas, it's seriously laughable.

And so, regardless of the above, I'm taking you back to Washington.  I have more photos and I'm not done until I'm done.

Our tour of the White House was early early in the morn and even though we'd had a full background check three months prior, still we were allowed NO BAGS, CAMERAS, PURSES, etc. etc.  Which for us meant: no diaper bag, no camera.  So we stuffed some old disposables we needed to use up anyway into our pockets and my man brought his camera phone (because, oddly, you are allowed to bring a cell phone but not a camera...but NO PHOTOS inside).

^Waiting to go through security to enter the White House.^
We waited a long time and it was COLD.  (Oh yeah, did I mention?  After that downpour, DC got So COLD!  We kept joking to the locals, We're from Wyoming, we're not used to this kind of cold.  Which was generally followed by looks of extreme confusion.  Yeah, okay, when it's -40 it's a bit too cold, but normally in Wyoming you throw on a jacket, hat and scarf and voila!  Warm.  But in DC...holy tidal basin wind and humidity.  That kind of cold just crawls right under your coat, into your bones and burrows down in your marrow.  And stays.  Plus, we thought it was going to be warm (the weather report said 30's to 50's, duh!) and didn't bring good winter jackets.)

The guards outside the White House were kind of a-holes, but the closer we got the nicer they became so that by the time we were inside, those secret service agents stationed about every room were the friendliest, happiest people in Washington.  It's all about job satisfaction.  If I was a secret service agent, I'd want to be stationed in the White House's Green Room too.

The White House was fantastic and--I know this will shock you--hasn't changed much in 25 years.  Except this time, I kept imagining Sasha and Malia ripping down the hallways in their socks seeing how far they could slide.  That's what I'd do if I were them.  And the partitioned-off hallway to the West Wing also took on a deeper meaning for me this time, versus when I was ten.  Also, every room had at least one Christmas tree and the whole mansion (or at least, the part we got to see) was richly, lavishly decorated.  My mom probably would have hyperventilated at the Christmas decor.  (Sorry, mom.  No photos inside.)  

Through the entire White House tour, Juniper slept like a rag doll dangling from my shoulder sling.  
Afterwards, we went back to our hotel, picked up a diaper bag and the stroller (I was so, so glad I decided to bring that big hulk of a stroller because Juniper stayed warm and snug-as-a-bug) and hit the Mall.

June bugs napped through the Hirshhorn,

and awoke while we warmed up in the greenhouses of the Botanical gardens...    

But the Natural History Museum was just her thing.
J bug was ready to get up and go and put her new land-legs to some use.
^She especially loved pressing buttons at the multi-media stands.^  

Something we didn't need to go all the way to the Smithsonian to learn:

The best part was seeing a little light of recognition brighten her eyes and put a smile on her face when we saw stuffed, real-life versions of Zebra! and Elephant! and Lion! and Giraffe! and Bear!  All animals from her favorite books.  I don't think she realized they were so big.
We closed the place down, but had so much fun we went back the next day.  Plus, I still wanted to see the Hope Diamond.
  ^ The insect exhibit was perfect-height for one-year-olds.  She loved it. ^

Every night in our hotel, we let Juniper run around naked and go crazy (which usually involves clenching a shoe insole in her mouth).  A perfect ending to our days.

No, I'm not done!  There are still more parts to come....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

D.C. part 1

Whew.  We've been home for three days now, recovering from travel and nursing a cold caught on the last leg of our journey.  

A brief synopsis of our three weeks of travel because, if nothing else, I want to see it in writing:

*4 hour drive on packed snow & ice to the home in which we would Give Thanks.  3 days there.
*7 1/2 hour drive up to Montana where we would leave Osa (blessedly, Juniper slept for 6 1/2 hours of that).  3 days there.  
*1 1/2 hour drive to airport.
*2 flights to Washington DC.  8 days there.
*40 minute metro ride and 5 1/2 hour drive to Juniper's great-grandparent's house.  5 days there.
*4 hour drive to a town with an airport on snowy/wet roads.  1 night there.
*3 flights back to Montana (12 hours of flights and layovers).
*1 1/2 hour drive to in-laws house to retrieve Osa.  1 night there.
*4 1/2 hour drive back home on some snowy roads...Juniper gave up on me before we made it home.  1 more night in a hotel.
*1 1/2 hour drive on packed snow & ice, then...HOME!!!!!  3 nights there (so far).

Like I said.

Given the above, can I say something about my 14-month old?  She is a rock star.  I mean, yeah, she gave up on me that last day when we should've been able to drive all the way home.  And yeah, she doesn't like being in the car after dark and one evening had her grandpa, nanna and mama all owl-hooting (because she loves that) to keep her from crying on the last leg of that drive.  But all in all, she was a smiling, pointing, clapping, laughing little crowd-pleaser who even won the hearts of the most stiff, jet-set Washington bureaucrats.  (As one woman on our flight put it, "I LIKE that baby!")

::  (Okay, enough about travel.)  After a joyous reunion with Juniper's long-lost father the night before, here's how we started our first morning in DC...
Yep, there I am completely drenched, ready to tour the Capitol building.  The night before (our arrival in DC) was So warm! and that morning was So warm! that, even though the sky was a little gray, I didn't bother with a raincoat.  Well, approximately 3 minutes before entering the Capitol breezeway, a wind came up Capitol Hill, snapped my umbrella in half and was swiftly followed by a downpour.  My husband was carrying Juniper in the front pack and ran.  I was wearing knit pants (which lengthened by six inches with the ten pounds of water) and was tripping all over myself.  Nonetheless, we toured the Capitol building in good cheer.

Being the mother of a daughter I found myself searching for women in the Rotunda (sort of like, Where's Waldo?).  And aside from the baptism of Pocahontas, we found leaders of women's suffrage.  True to form, Juniper slept through it just as she would sleep through the White House the next morning and the Capitol Christmas tree lighting our last night.

I wrote that ^ last night.  Present moment interlude: that little cough we were nursing yesterday turned into Juniper's first-ever fever last night.  Re: 100% breastfeeding all night punctuated by cries of anguish.  This morning she laid upright in my arms and cried.  Now, she is a little more cheerful and playing with her pops.
^ Being our first fever, I'm reading in "The Baby Book" when to call the doctor.  I know, I know, first time parents.  
As I mentioned before, we had an additional "behind the scenes" tour.  

A repeated theme both my man and I found striking: the importance of agriculture to the Founding Fathers.  Over and over we saw depictions of flora and fauna endemic to North America.  It's easy to forget that during their time, North America was mostly a vast wilderness.  Even the Capitol itself was moved to the country (modern day DC) to avoid the corrupting influence of big-city business men.  Ironic to think about that now, when wilderness exists in islands and "farmer" in the last several decades has been reduced to something akin to "garbage man."  But in our nation's Capitol, corn and grapes and such are the foundations of support.  
Part of our "behind the scenes" tour was a visit to the House and Senate elfkin-like mini-metro that runs underground between the House and Senate office buildings and the Capitol building.  Had I not just experienced that downpour, I probably would have poked fun at this.    
While we were in the neighborhood, we took "the tunnel" over to the spectacular Library of Congress.  

So far, I don't remember any of this from my last visit to Washington, 25(!) years ago.  I don't expect Juniper to remember much either.  I, at least, was ten years old...not one.  

I was pretty enamored with the lavishness of the Library of Congress.  It reminded me of the great cathedrals of Europe, except this is all secular and done in the name of our Union.  Yes, you can't help but get all patriotic and proud of our great American experiment while in Washington.  It really helps that the current man in the White House put "We the people" back into We the People....

Of all things, our Tree group ooed and awed over this mosaic's toes.  I'm standing in front, but if you stood to either side, her toes always pointed towards you.  They moved.  We were fascinated by this.  Which I suppose means Wyomingites are easy to entertain.  

Late nights at trendy restaurants (with damned good food, I might add...at one Oaxacan-inspired digs, my man ordered "grasshopper tacos" but alas, they were out of grasshoppers--hard to come by this time of year, I guess) often lead to Juniper's pops going to extra measures to keep her happy before the food arrived.    

A post-supper stroll through the neighborhood:
Okay, okay, bugs is crying again and ready for some mama's milk.  More later.