Trip to D.C.

This week, we went on our first full-family airplane trip!  We traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to visit Claire and Molly’s uncle and aunt Tim and Cindy as well as our long-time friend Andrea.  This trip was Kit’s idea so that the girls could get to know their one and only uncle and aunt, and she hopes to make it a regular visit to keep the girls in touch.  This goes with Kit’s philosophy that it is worth the effort and hassle to keep in touch with your family.  I was a little hesitant at the idea of taking an exhausting and potentially frustrating trip right in the middle of the busiest time of year, but I know Kit was right to get us all out there.
This was Molly’s first airplane flight ever.  It was also Molly’s first ever trip outside of Texas.  It was also Molly and Claire’s first visit to states of Maryland and Virginia and the territory (?) of Washington D.C.
The flight went surprisingly well.  We thought it might be tough for Molly to sit more or less still in a seat for three hours, and to not scream and cry when she inevitably got frustrated by sitting there so long.  But she actually seemed to enjoy the flight quite a lot.   She seemed to enjoy the novelty of the airplane experience.  She browsed in-flight magazines and catalogs from the seat in front of her.  Then she collected all the duplicate in-flight magazines and catalogs from the adorning seats.  Then she stacked them all on the seat next to herself just so.  Don’t even think about touching those magazines!  Don’t so much as look at them!  Any disturbing of the in-flight magazine stack immediately caused a shrieking protest from Molly.  But she always settled right back down once you … left … the … damn … magazines … alone.
Claire also enjoyed the flight.  One favorite activity was playing with some reading flashcards.  After she tired of reading the flashcards, Claire invented her own “game” with the cards, a game which was completely arbitrary and impossible to win until the she basically just agreed to let you win.  To be fair, she let her opponent use the same arbitrary and impossible rules against her when it was their turn.  So… impossible and arbitrary?  Yes.  Unfair?  No.
(Jeez… We’re still on the airplane out to DC, and this is already getting long.  Got to pick up the pace…)
We actually flew into Baltimore, where the rental car company offered us a free upgrade to a minivan.  So we drove around Maryland, DC, and Virginia in a Chrysler minivan with Massachusetts plates.  It was almost like we had somehow transformed into a different family.
Approaching Tim’s house in Arlington, Virginia, Claire told us to tell Tim she was shy and did not want to talk.  But on entering their house, Claire almost immediately repudiated this tact and started chatting up her uncle who looked kind of like her dad.
The next morning, Tim took us to the National Museum of Natural History to see a butterfly exhibit.  The girls liked the butterflies, but Claire loved the mummies and the other Egyptian artifacts around the corner, past the insects, which Claire quickly bypassed because she was creeped out.  Claire was fascinated that the Egyptian mummies were real people from long ago.  She was a little bit surprised that mummies were actually real, perhaps thinking they fell into the not-so-real realm of fairies and ghosts. Kit got Claire a kids’ book about ancient Egypt from the museum store before we left, and it quickly turned into Claire’s favorite new book.  Claire also loved the animal skeletons, especially the monkeys since those are her class mascot at school.  And she loved the gems, rubies, and diamonds exhibit.  She also liked the dinosaurs a lot.  Basically, Claire loved the National Museum of Natural History, as did we all.  Molly liked the museum too, most of all when we let her out of the stroller to walk around on her own.  She seemed to like the skeletons best of all.

The girls admiring a “please touch” gemstone.
Me and Molly with Uncle Tim in the butterfly house.

Skeletons = fun

Playing it cool by the monkeys
The next day, Kit, Claire, Molly, and I headed out to see our college friend Andrea in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Andrea is providing foster care for two girls, ages 4 and 12, who we had not yet met.  Claire and the younger girl, Caitlin, hit it off nicely.  They were pretty quickly dancing and singing around the house.  They made a few trips into the bathroom together to say “bathroom words” in the one place where that was okay.  So were heard them in there yelling words like “toilet” and “diarrhea” over and over and giggling wildly.  The bathroom words were probably what sealed their friendship more than anything.  Claire and Caitlin settled down and drew pictures together.  Molly played with Caitlin’s mega-blocks and generally hung out.  We eventually walked down to the neighborhood park, where the girls played themselves nearly to exhaustion, Claire showing off her new monkey-bar skills to the younger Caitlin.  Molly had the best time of all, throwing herself down the twisty slide in as many odd and dangerous ways as possible, but walking away okay as usual. After the park, it was getting late and time to head back to Tim’s house.  Claire knew she was having to say goodbye to a great new friend, and she said to Caitlin, “I hope I see you again some day”, looking down glumly at the ground.  I nearly wept.

Claire and Caitlin drawing together.

For lunch, Molly pulled up a chair for herself
and refused a taller chair or a lap to sit on.
Molly at the park in her vaguely superhero outfit.

Sad goodbyes with Caitlin.

Back a Tim’s, Claire and Molly settled into more fun with their aunt and uncle.  Claire loved to hang out in Tim’s basement with Tim.  She kept him cornered down there for an hour at a time, chatting him up and playing with the exercise equipment down there.  When I went down to see what they were up to, they were sitting on exercise balls talking.  Tim, who has never really known a 6-year-old girl, as far as I know, explained that they were “just talking about Fancy Nancy and stuff like that.”  Claire also loved the chin-up bar in the basement.  She would hang from it and swing like a monkey.

Molly was kept close at hand the whole time at Tim’s house to keep her from provoking Tim’s two sweet but large and energetic dogs, as well as the general watch to “keep Molly’s body safe” as we are always like to do.  Plus Molly generally needed to sleep during most of the hours actually in Tim’s house.  She did like to play in the guest room bed and eat apples, though.
Molly enjoying the guest room.
So it was a great visit, if only for two full days in town.  It was tough to say goodbye, especially for Claire, who had grown quite attached to her aunt and uncle and their super fun house and city.  But Claire had also been sorely missing her teddy bear, who she decided to leave at home so she would not lose him.  When we got home, Claire spent a lot of time cuddling with and talking to her teddy and other stuffed animals, which was the first time she had shown so much interest in them.  I am glad she had her teddy or else she would have likely been crying over the fine friends she left behind in DC.

The morning after we got home, we had the national news on the television.  A reporter was covering something political from Washington DC, live, with the Washington Monument in the background.  Claire immediately recognized the setting and ecstatically said, “Hey!  Look!  She’s in Washington!”  Yes, besides meeting some great people and having a really fun time on her trip, Claire also got to see a true famous place.  And mummies.  You can’t do much better than that!

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