Monday, December 12, 2011

Day 5 and 6

Monday morning started early for the group.  We were heading to the Capital to have our group picture made and then off on a tour of the Capital from Rep Flores's office!!  Let me just say one thing...I have never been through so many security checks as I did that day.  Those people are serious!!!  Most of the boys in the group had on cowboy boots (hey, we are from Texas) and it set the alarms off every time.  Derrick, who has metal plates in his face, never set them off.  I, who literally stripped down each time, set them off every time.  Nice!!!

Aren't we cute!!!

The Capital is an amazing place.  Underground tunnels and all.  We got to see where the Senate meets, got to see the amazing statues of The Presidents, and we got to see where the President's lay in state after they pass away.  That part gave me chills!

This is President Reagan.  You can't really see it but there is a small 
thin layer of the Berlin War at the top part of the base. Awesome!!

After we finished at the Capital, we gave the kids one last chance to explore!! Randi and I decided to ditch the boys and head out to some of the places we wanted to really see!!! Our first stop was the Library of Congress!! We made a wrong turn and ended up at an annex of the Library.  We were a little confused because this building was plain and boring and we had heard wonderful things about the beauty of the library.  The information desk set us straight but told us there was a neat little exhibit down the hall.  We are so glad we went!!  It was an exhibit on "I Love Lucy".  It talked all about the show.  Randi and I are both fans and thought is was great!!

After Lucy...we headed over to the real Library of Congress and let me just say...WOW!  It is beautiful!!  Something worth seeing.  We also got to see Jefferson's Library.  While I didn't know half of the titles, you have to give the man props for an extensive collection.  He has a quote that I live by, "I can not live without books"....yep...that's me too!!

The ceiling at the Library of Congress

After our ohh's and ahh's, we headed over to the Supreme Court!! We thought we would just get the quick little tour and be on our way.  However, this was an experience I will never forget.  First of all, the steps leading to the Supreme Court are incredible.  You really get a tingle when you look at them. We started looking at the history exhibit when a docent said that if we wanted to see the Court Room then we should head upstairs. They were about to have a lecture in there.  It turned out to be another docent explaining the history of the Supreme Court.  Normally they don't let people in the court room except for once or twice a day.  It was really cool.  The docent was great.  She explained the history, the procedures, what the significance of everyone little think.  It was AMAZING!!  The whole time I kept wanting for the guards to tell us to get out!!

 The oval staircase

Pictures are not allowed in the courtroom.  When our talk was over, they allowed us to photograph it from out side.  One of the things we learned was that no pictures have ever been taken in the courtroom.  They have sketch artist who preside over the cases.  Very cool.  We also learned the each of the Justices have particular jobs for the building.  The newest Justice is in charge of the cafeteria and must also get coffee and answer the doors during there meetings. Too funny!!!

Our day was winding down and we were to meet the kids at the Castle and then head over to the Hard Rock Cafe for our final dinner.  We all enjoyed each others company that night.  Good food, good friends, and a great organization.  We headed back to the Center and gave them directions for the airport and told them to be ready to leave at 5 AM!! (That would be 4 am Texas time!)  Then the adults went to bed at 9 pm.  We were exhausted!!!

Day 6

The alarm went off way too early.  There wasn't a sound on the bus that morning as we headed to the airport.  Security was easy and soon we were heading home to Texas.  I bet out of the 31 of us on this trip, 25 took a nap on the plane!  5 days of full steam ahead will wear a person out!!  We landed safely, gladly handed the kids back to their families, said our thanks and goodbyes and headed home.

I have worked with kids for many many years and I can honestly say this was one of the best behaved and eager groups I have ever had the privileged of chaperoning!!   I hope they had as much fun as I did and I hope they learned a few things along the way.

For my friends who don't know about 4-H, I will say this....4-H kids are an awesome bunch.  They work hard to achieve their goals and appreciate they opportunities they are given.  The parents are always willing to lend a hand and the staff is absolutely incredible!!  I am blessed to be part of this group and hope that one day my boys will get to share this adventure as well.

Thank you to the all the kids, especially the Heart Attacks, to Monique for making our lives a little brighter, to Drs. Chris and Randi Boleman for being awesome co-chaparones and a new set of friends. Thanks to the parents for trusting us with their children.  A huge thank you to my family for watching over my kiddos while we were gone.  And to Derrick for letting me hang with him during "work".  I hope I get to do this again because there is still so much more to see. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 4

Day 4 was going to be an awesome day...full of fun and new things....little did we know....!!!  We started the morning by teaching the kiddos had to do DC's bus system and metro!!  I am not a huge fan of public transportation but I was game.  All I can say is "thank goodness Randi had her hand sanitizer!!" We didn't have any problems and we didn't lose anyone and we didn't fall onto the ...a good day!!!

We headed to the National Cathedral first. It is so beautiful.  Sadly, the Cathedral was hit hard by the earthquake and most of it was under construction.  We wander around and let the kids get a feel of it all while hearing beautiful music.  One of the coolest things about the Cathedral is that Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, are buried there.  We couldn't see exactly where they where but you could be in the area and that was enough for me!!!

 One of the iron gates on the front doors.

After the Cathedral, we let the kids loose on the mall and the adults headed for the museums.  Our first stop was American History Museum.  I wanted to see Dorothy's slippers and Fonzi's jacket.  I love Pop Culture!!!!  I know lots of useless trivia and I was ready to learn more.  Dorothy's slippers were cool...but a little faded.  Fonzi's jacket was in storage and in it's place was Farrah Fawcett's swimsuit, which made D very HAPPY!!!

 There's no place like home!!

 Michael's hat!

  Made D's day!

Archie and Edith's chairs

There was a great Presidents exhibit and one of the best parts for me was some of the First Lady's gown throughout time.  Derrick didn't really care for this part but I had to look at Farrah so he could just get over it!!!

 Michelle Obama's dress

 Nancy Reagan's Dress

Soon I began hearing my name being called.  So we headed over to the Natural History Museum.  I know it wasn't the dinosaurs calling it had to be this.....

The Hope Diamond.  It is amazing!!!  Randi Boleman is modeling it for us.  Derrick and Chris had to wipe the drool off our faces!!!

These are sapphires and I am pretty sure they are on my Christmas list!!

This museum had really good things.  The ocean exhibit, the mammal exhibit, mummies, and bugs.  I could have wandered for hours.  As we headed out the door to head to the National Archives...we were greeted with this.... He is from "Night at the Museum" We called him "Dum Dum".  Love it!!!

The National Archives is a very interesting and quiet place.  The Magna Carta, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence are all housed hear.  It is heavily guarded and very dim because bright lights damage the old papers. We were just finishing up with our tours and getting ready to go wait for the kids when Randi got a phone call that one of our 4-Her's had been hurt.

Now, I want to remind you people that I do not exercise. Ever. So when Randi said let's go...we took off running with Derrick and Chris right behind us.  We are all protective of our kids but when some person you have never really met gives you their child into safe take that job VERY seriously.  It seems several of our kids had found an outdoor ice skating rink.  Being Texas kids, this was a wonder to them.  Sadly, one of the girls fell and hit her elbow and knee pretty bad.  Because it was an ice rink and their rules are a little different, they had to take her to the hospital to get her checked out.  So Derrick and I loaded up with her in the ambulance.   She had never been to DC, never been in an ambulance, and never been in the was a night of first for her.  Our paramedics were awesome.  They were telling us about the crazies in DC, drove us right by the White House (they could get closer than normal people) and took us to George Washington Hospital.  Since she was missing out on some history by going to the ER...we gave her a quiz as to why George Washington Hospital was important.....Anyone??  It is where Reagan was taken after his assassination attempt.

I am sorry to report that I don't have photos of this adventure but just picture 4 hours in a DC hospital and think of a 19 day old pickle smell and you too can relive this!!  However, the staff was wonderful and our sweet 4-Her was a trooper.  She had x-rays and they put her in a sling until she could get home to see her doctor.  (She is doing great now....not as serious as we expected!!) She also got to experience her first cab ride. We got back to the 4-H center and we all trashed.  Day 5 was a big day and we needed to rest up!!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 3

We were up bright and early this morning to head over to Arlington Cemetery.  We swung by McD's to have breakfast and then off we go.  Sadly, our schedule was a little confused and the Cemetery doesn't open until 8 we sat in the bus for 45 minutes.  But our bus driver decided to start early on the questions and points and things got loud and very funny.  By the time the doors opened, Team Heart Attack was in the lead.

We were heading to the Tomb of the unknown soldier first thing and four of our kids had been chosen to lay a wreath. If you have never been to Arlington is put it on your bucket list.  It is a very peaceful and comforting place. I worried about 27 teenagers being quiet and respectful but they were incredible. They were in awe just as much as the rest of us.

 So beautiful!!

 The four that were chosen to lay the wreath...So serious!

Each of the adults chose a 4-Her from their group to lay the wreath.  Let me tell you...these kids were terrified.  The soldiers are very serious and this is so very important!  The girls were shaking!!

This soldier was in charge for the day.  He was loud and tough and scary while walking to them but as soon as he reached the kids and took off his glasses...he was so laid back. He wanted to know how they were, where they were from etc...I think it put the kids at ease!!

What a wonderful experience for all of us.  I was moved to tears several times throughout the day.  We also got to see JFK's eternal flame, the shuttle memorial, and the Memorial for woman in the military!  On a side note, in the past there have been trolley's that would take you around the cemetery but as of a few weeks ago they stopped those trolleys.  So you had to walk everywhere. It is a HUGE place and since we had to dress up, I wore heels.  Let's just say that I wasn't a very happy camper at the end of it all!!!  

We headed to the Air Force Memorial and then to the Iwa Jima Memorial.  The kids loved these.  The Air Force is get a pain in your neck looking up at it!!  Iwa Jima was incredible.  We were going to quiz the kids on this one and so they took off and study everything about it!  They read the plaques, the brochure, asked the ranger and even googled it!! This competition was a great way to get the kids interested in what we were seeing.

Our evening plans consisted of dinner at Old Ebbitt's Grill where the kids had to really dress up and use their manners.  They did great even when so of the food was different.  After dinner, we headed over to The Kennedy Center to see a play called Sheer Madness.  It was great.  It is a murder mystery that got the kids involved!!  Plus, we were on the first two roles!!! 

 The view from the balcony at the Kennedy Center....I did not see this
 because once again I had worn very high heels and my feet said NO!

 Kennedy Center

 The Crew styling!!!

 The Crew being silly!!

Doesn't D look handsome?

We ended the evening with a quick look at a few of the Memorial's that were lit up at night and then called it a night.  I believe we all crashed that night!!! 

Day 4 is on the way.......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Washington DC Trip ~ Day 1 and 2

For those of you who got to sit down to a bountiful Thanksgiving suck!  I got McDonald's. I gave up stuffing myself for a free trip to Washington but still.  I wanted mashed potatoes, dressing and rolls.  Thursday morning was the day we left to head to Houston to gather the 27 teenagers we were taking to DC.  We got up and headed to my sisters to drop off a few last minute items (she and my Mom split parenting duties while we were gone.)  Thanksgiving for my family was being held at her house and it smelled really good.  We had to leave when my brother in law pulled out the amazing tenderloin.  I think Derrick nearly cried.

We got to Houston and checked into the hotel and gathered the kids who were from all over the state. These 4-Her's earned the privilege to go on this trip by having the best record book in their category.  We had 12 boys and 15 girls ranging in ages from 15 to this point I was thinking that I must be crazy. We were very fortunate to have two other awesome chaperones with us....Drs. Chris and Randi Boleman....yes...we took the head of 4-H with us....we are not STUPID.  Any hopes the kids had of acting shot down on Thursday night!!!

With the kids gathered together, we began to LECTURES.  We told them the do's and don't's and what would get you sent home quickly (bomb jokes and gun gestures).  We divided the kids up into 4 teams so that it would be easier to do head counts.  My team (the best of course) decided on the name Heart Attacks. Derrick had the BruCrew, Chris had SWAG, and Randi had the 12's.  We decided a little competition upon the groups would add to the was a monster in the making but more on that later.

We sent everyone off to bed because we had an early flight.

Day 2

Do you know how long it takes to get 31 people through check in and security?  Let's just say that Continental is not real fond of us.  Some of the kids had never flown before and security really terrified them...especially the few who got the honor of the pat down.  Ah...memories!!!

A few of the kids chilling!

The Bus

The flight was long and cramped but no one threw up or got stuck in the bathroom so that makes it a good flight for me. Dillon's Bus Company would be our ride for the first few days and Monique was our bus driver.  Little did we know that Monique would truly make this a memorable trip.  We loaded up and headed straight for the sights.  Our first stop was the Mall area. This has the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, The Vietnam Memorial, WWII, the Korean, and the MLK Memorial.  We have the kids two and a half hours to see these sights.  I was so excited.  DC is truly an amazing place.  D  and I headed straight for Lincoln.  I was awestruck...He is majestic looking and gave me a moment of wonder...then I wanted him to stand up and talk to me like he did in Night of the Museum 2.  That is when D said we had to pooper!!  


Our next stop was the Vietnam Wall. It truly is a sight.  To see all those names just breaks your heart and to see families huddle together holding on to each other as they pencil rub their loved ones name....devastating. I cannot imagine the grief. A somber moment for all.

We went to the Korean Memorial after that.  I love how this one was created.  It is a scene straight out of the war.  Rain slickered men looking out for the enemy.  Each face shows a different emotion. My favorite part was the wall.  Actual faces from soldiers were etched into the granite...beautiful!!

 Korean Memorial

 Me at the Wall

We wondered to the WWII, which is beautiful.  It is the coolest thing to see at night.

 Derrick giving the "gig 'em" sign under the Texas wreath.

And finally, we head to the new Martin Luther King Memorial.  It hasn't been open very long and it was very crowd.  It is an impressive sight.  Families were all trying to take their Christmas card picture in front of it.  Women were sighing, grown men crying.  Very cool!

Our first test was next....could we get all 27 teenagers back on the bus and not lose anyone?  Yes, we did.  Whew!!  Then the madness began.  Monique, our bus driver, heard us talking about our little competition and decided to join in!!  The point of the competition was to earn the most points by the end of the trip.  They could get points for anything...they could also get them taken away.  Monique has been in the DC are for over  30 years and knew quite a bit of trivia.  So the games began.  We asked questions about the sights they had seen and interesting facts they had seen.  It was great.  

It was dark by this time but that didn't stop us.  We headed over to the Jefferson Memorial and then onto the FDR memorial.  The Jefferson is a sight to see at night.  It also has a great view of the Washington Monument, which we couldn't visit because of the damage done to it by the earthquake.

I loved the FDR Memorial but some of the lights were out in the area and it was very dark and you couldn't see some of the important scenes.  Plus dark and lonely corners are never a good mix with teenagers!!!

By this point of the day, we were all dragging.  So we headed over to Union Station and let the kids find dinner and do some shopping.  The adults headed to a nice quiet sit down dinner and tried to determine if we would survive the week...don't get me wrong...the kids are great...we were just exhausted.  We had a great dinner and people watched and then discovered Crumbs....a cupcake bakery...OMGosh...INCREDIBLE. D got a Cinnamon Roll Cupcake and I had the Dolce De Leche one.  HEAVEN!!! 

Full, tired and sore, we got to the National 4-H Conference Center and passed out room keys.  Sent everyone off to bed and prayed that they all listened! Ha!. We all had bunk beds....It has been a very long time since I slept in a bunk bed but I didn't seem to have any trouble!!!

Stay tuned............