Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Break DC Vacation, Day 5

Wednesday Christopher felt better, so we figured we were Go with our plans.   Officially, we only had one timed thing on the docket for Wednesday, a Tour of the Capitol at 1...  With possible ice cream afterwards with a girlfriend of mine. 

When we first began plotting this trip, Christopher only requested to see the White House.  Well, they weren't doing Tours in time for our trip. The Trump administration didn't open up tours until this month, to begin this week now that we're home. :(  
Anyway, we had written our Representative Todd Rokita, and our Senator Joe Donnelly.  Since it was the One Request Christopher had, I played the special needs card trying my darndest to get it to happen.  But it didn't.  However, Both of whom had staff responded to us and offer alternatives.  Mr. Rokita's office offered a Capital Tour first, so we took them up on it.  They suggested if we wanted to pop by early and get Gallery Passes we could.  So we figured, we'd swing by our Representative's office for our Passes, then go to lunch, before our Tour.  But since everything in this town takes twice as long as I estimate with regard to travel, it took us an extra long while to climb the hill once we got off the Metro. 

Oh yes, that's right, the Capitol is at the top of a giant hill. 
Or at least, it seems pretty giant when you're walking it.  Oh yes, that's why they call it The Hill.
I'm glad I did a lot of walking to prepare for this trip, I just wish I'd included more incline work. 

When we got to the top of the Hill, we found the Capitol building. 
But, dang, it was cold!  Wind just whips through the city, like Chicago, the kids were freezing, it was like 40 degrees, which was misleading in the sun on a beautiful clear day.  We'd only worn our sweatshirt jackets.  I only happened to snap this picture because I figured I'd get shots of the front when we went on our Tour.  
Turns out it was the closest I got during the whole trip.

Meanwhile, it was nearly 11 by the time we found the Rayburn Building.  

The Rayburn Building was Beautiful.  It has an unusual shape, not one of the giant rectangled office buildings one normally sees in DC, it reminded me of some high fashion clothing brand symbol. 
It had a couple outer courtyards, and a few inner ones.  

The handicapped entrance was next to one of the outer courts, and it was lined with cherry trees. 
The original donation from the Japanese of Cherry trees has literally Blossomed all over the city.  

At least, I think they were cherry trees.  
The sky was the prettiest shade of blue as we walked up that day, cold, but beautiful!

Going through the handicapped entrance saved us a bit of time going through Security going into these buildings. It turns out they don't mess around with Security, they check Everything.  
But once we were checked, we were on our own to find Mr. Rokita's office. 
Everyone in this town wears really nice suits.  Sometimes they are helpful, sometimes not. 

As we were on the hunt, I got this biggest kick out of this janitorial cart. 
Even the Cart has U.S. House of Representatives Seal on it! 

I had almost taken a picture of the Seal on the wall when we walked in, but thought that was going to far.  I liked taking this one much better.  It reminds me of the Butler Toilet Paper dispensers that goodness knows how much money they spent on them.  I will say, I did visit the bathrooms, and they were NOT family friendly.  Getting Jacob changed in there was a pain in the butt, and they are not built for handicapped, or for strollers.  I guess they don't figure many handicapped folks are gonna go to the bathroom while visiting their House member.  

This was cool.  
This was part of the entry way to Mr. Rokita's office. 
I loved how they had the Indiana State Flag side by side with the Indiana Bicentennial Flag. 
On the other side of the doorway was the American Flag.  Each office through the hall and building had the American Flag and the Representative's state flag posted outside.  They were Nice Offices too! When we went in, we were greeted by a couple youngsters, interns would be my guess, and we mentioned our purpose.  As we were chatting, the gal I had written to, Amanda, came out, and introduced herself.  She was tremendously friendly. She gave us our Representative Gallery Passes.  We clarified that we were doing the Capitol led Tour not the Staff led tour.    I didn't know there was difference.  (Next time, remind me Staff Tour!)  I'm not sure we were cool enough for the Staff Tour, but we were still a bit early for our tour time. However, diaper bags, and all the encoutrement for a day downtown (food and liquids) are not allowed in the Capitol.  They told us we were welcome to leave all our stuff in their office, stroller and diaper bag to make the tour easier, so we said we were going to pop out for lunch, and then return to get escorted to the Tour.  One of the interns would escort us through "the tunnels" to hook us with the appropriate Capitol Staff tour member.  That sounded cool, so we were game.  

So, this is how Representatives eat... at Subway. 
The building had a cafeteria downstairs, and a subway on the 1st floor.  
We walked right by the subway, and realizing a. we were hungry, b. we just didn't have the energy to dart down the street to the Cafeteria at the American Indian Smithsonian (which was suggested, but became clear it was too far away from us).  The Cafeteria was supposed to be themed for different tribes, which sounded way cool, but not realistic to make Chris walk a lot when he had been sick the day prior.  He hadn't had a fever since Tuesday noon, so we figured we were ok, but we thought we'd go easy on him.  He ate a kids meal turkey sandwich which we took as a good sign.  
Then we went back upstairs for our Escort. 

Our Escort was an Intern named Jesus, who didn't know Indiana at all.  He was from Puerto Rico, and was a student doing a semester for a Poli Sci degree.  Ah ha.   
See, here I thought, all the Indiana employees would be from Indiana.  
No they weren't.  But they are smart, kind, enthusiastic and willing to escort a family of Hoosiers into the Capitol.  He didn't have to do that.  It was pretty classy of him.  We even got a little bit of history while we walked.  For example, JFK set the Cornerstone to the Rayburn building that we were walking in, photos of the process decorate the tunnel.  

This is the Ceiling of the branch of the Cannon tunnel where we enter Security, or go down to Cannon building.  I thought it was beautiful.   Apparently, Cannon had a rotunda above.  This was simple brick, but beautiful.  

Jacob follows our guide down the Cannon Tunnel path. 
The sides of the wall on one side are decorated with art from a National Congressional Art Competition.  The winners from each state get their paintings lining the wall of the Congressional tunnel. It's really cool.  

There's a point where the tunnels meet the Capitol.  
Jesus says it's the best view.  On cloudy days though, he's been barely able to see the statue. 
The Statue atop the Capitol is called Freedom.  

He took us to Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitors Center. 
He told us they named it Emancipation Hall for all the people we know who really built the Capitol, and most of D.C.   There are Statues lining the Hall, as well as the Rotunda. Each State contributes a statue for display, maybe even more than one.  But we're not allowed to touch them. 

There's only one statue in Exhibition hall that begs to be touched. 
Jesus told us the 'little child' is the only one that can be touched. 
It was a statue of Helen Keller, and she had a quotation on the base, and it was translated into braille. 
I took Chris over to touch it, while we were waiting in line for our tour film to begin.  
The movie is shown to a hundred people or so, then they break us down  into tour groups of 20 or so, give us headphones, so we can hear our guide, while a number of groups go through the building and get a tour all at the same time.  

The first room we saw was the Crypt.  
This room is under the Rotunda.  

This mark is the cross section of D.C.  
Originally Washington D.C was a giant square, but Virginia gave back part of that in Arlington. If it had remained square, this would have been the cross section the point at which the lines intersected.  If you were to take the diamond shape that is Washington DC and draw cross sectioning lines, this point exactly, would be where they intersect. This cross section is where the quadrants meet. 
Math. Cool.
Underneath this mark was where the founding fathers wanted to bury George Washington. 
He disagreed, and put it in his will he wanted to be in Mount Vernon. 
He didn't want the Capitol to be a worship place for Washington, he wanted it to be the center of Government.  Smart guy.  He didn't want political parties either. Very Smart Guy.
So the crypt remained empty.  There were some statues around the room, I recognized Robert E. Lee and Ceasar Rodney. I didn't catch if they were buried there, or if their statues were just on display.  
I don't think anyone is actually buried here.

This was a shot down the hall under the side of the Representatives. 
The halls from the crypt looked really neat.  But we were on the Representative side most of our tour.  I didn't get to see the Senate side until later... but we'll get to that.

Then we got to go upstairs into the Rotunda.  
For some reason though, our headsets didn't really work upstairs, so we missed a lot of the tour information.  But I was content to take photos. 

This was my view of the Rotunda. 
Eric was working on a panorama view, and I had tried a 360 view, but that didn't work, so I just went with the old faithful video.  
My favorite point is the end with the Declaration of Independence signing and statue!  

Check out who the boys found!   
What's your name man? 
Alexander Hamilton! 

The kids thought that finding a statue of Alexander Hamilton was the bees knees!
The kids were so into Hamilton that all over town they asked what this or that had to do with Hamilton. It got to the point, that I think we need to go to New York next.  

We tried to hear what they were saying, but we couldn't catch much. 
So the kids got kind of bored.  
I didn't. I was hypnotized by the size of the paintings, and the beauty of the rotunda. 

Before we left the Rotunda, I stepped away, and got as near to center as I could, 
to make a picture of the painting at the top of the Rotunda.  
It's called 'The Apotheosis of Washington' by Constantino Brumidi.

Washington laid the cornerstone for the original Capitol, which the British burned down most of during the war of 1812 in 1814.  
As we stood there, a group that had been in the film with us, all in wheelchair scooters, pulled to the side, and broke out signs and started yelling.  They were all wearing shirts that said "We have Homes, we are not Homeless!"  No one had a clue that they were planning on staging a Demonstration.  But when it broke out, they just started yelling.  They were apparently
So we were quickly ushered out to the next room.  
It was pink. 

Apparently, this room used to be the original Hall for the House of Representatives. 
This was where they met before they got too big, and needed a large room. 
It's pink, with gold trim.  
Real gold trim. 

These gold flowers in the Statuary Hall was beautiful.  

Lining the walls are a bunch of statues.  Like I said, each state sends a statue, some are displayed in the Rotunda or elsewhere, but most of them line the walls here.  As we were trying to listen to our guide, we got distracted by some other goings on.  

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, gives an Interview. 
I'm sure if you look closely on an interview given on 3/21/17 at about 1:30-2, you'd see a bunch of folks in bright blue jackets milling about behind him.  We didn't know who it was by the back of his head, it took until he turned around and dashed down the hall for us to get it.  Although the tons of Secret Service guys could've been a big clue.  

Turns out his office is just right off the Statuary room, since he's like the grand high poobah of Representatives.   So we kind of got to see the Speaker of the House speaking. Kind of.

The Police clear us out of the Rotunda.
Initially they just herded us out of the room, letting the protesters protest, but limiting the number of people in the Rotunda.  But apparently, after we were ushered out, things escalated, and they were arrested.  Then came the real fun.  Our group made a mad dash down the stairs, and we were rushing to keep up with them. But Chris was slow going.  We'd been bringing up the rear all morning.  With the rush, he started to cough.  It got worse and worse through the dash out the Hall, until on our way back to the Visitors Center, Chris started to gag and I could hear he was gonna puke. 

A Tour Guide in a red jacket went dashing past, just as Chris started gagging.  I saw the red, and yelled, "Help!  Where is the nearest bathroom?!"   He looked at us, and looked around at the mass insanity, and said, Follow me!  So we did, he dashed us through the Crypt room, and down the Senate hallway to a very nice men's room.  And I sent Chris in.  I had seen a man's back as I opened the door for Chris, so I waited outside the door.   The gentleman came out, and asked if I needed to go in.  He popped back in and checked for me, said, one more guy and I can go in.  So I did.  Chris had held it in, but saved it all for the bathroom.  He just got a little on the sleeve of his jacket.  Thank Goodness.
It wasn't until later, that I really looked at the Senate's Hall. This hall was not part of the tour, we just got lucky seeing it because of Chris puking. It was actually quite gorgeous.  I was not taking pictures, I was on Full Mom duty.
One kind gentleman came into the bathroom while I was holding Chris's hair and asked if he could have water.  Recall, that as tourists we were not allowed to have any water.  Chris had already asked once, but we weren't allowed, and all our stuff was in the other building if we'd wanted to.  I didn't even have my oils! So I said yes, and this kind gentleman brought us a cool bottle of water within a minute.  Chris clung to that thing for the next hour, just sipping.
They escorted us towards the nurse's office and we found Eric and the littler boys.  They had been shuttled in the opposite direction and told to wait for us by the nurse's station, and that's where we found them.  Waiting semi-sweetly.
I tell you, this town is Crazy.  But there are some Truly Nice People.
Crazy drivers, way stressful traffic, but the people are so very kind.
We sat there for a few minutes, letting Chris calm down, taking a bathroom break.  There was a water fountain by the bathroom, so at least we could get sips from that.  Jake thought that was great fun.  
Chris decided he wanted to try to go to the Gallery.  We didn't know how else to describe it other than the Room Where it Happens that they see on TV when they see things getting voted upon.  
The galleries are upstairs, viewing what goes on in House or Senate room while votes happen. 
We were lucky, we got to see them Actually Voting!  They were voting on the Health Care Bill.  The Republicans were trying to undo ObamaCare, and had the Dems were fighting it.   We weren't allowed to take phones or cameras, and they fought Chris on his water until they really looked at him, and heard that we'd gotten it after he puked.  Apparently, water may be allowed for 'medical reasons' so they let him in.  But we just sat there, after much waiting in various lines, watching the plan of the country at work.  Way to go Founding Fathers!
The Representatives have seats in benches kind of like pews, and the voting is a box, where we'd get a prayer card if we were at church, but each Representative slides a card in, pushes a button for his vote, and slide card to set it.  Very high tech.  But it doesn't look high tech at first glance. So cool.  So voting actually only takes them a few seconds, but they get up move around, chat with each other.  These guys mingle full time.  And at the end, a guy up front Slams a Gavel.  That was the coolest, I got chills. 
The kids watched.  They had a vague understanding that these were our guys, voting.  There's a board, where each Rep's vote is recorded.  So we could see that Mr. Rokita voted No against the Dem motion to make any amendments to the proposed bill, and then we watched as he voted Yes to renegotiate the Health Care Bill.   We got to witness HR Bill 1101 get passed.  There was one more vote, but Jake was toast.  Apparently, Jake was thirsty.  So we hightailed it out.  Initially they were disinclined to let us out via the tunnels, but we said that's the way we'd come, and our stuff was still at Rayburn.    Once the let me in through the doors, I knew exactly where to go, so there wasn't a problem.  We found our way back to Rep. Rokita's office, and when Amanda asked how our tour went, I gave her an earful.  I told her how the headsets didn't really work, not that it mattered because after the protesters broke out we got ushered out, and Chris puked.  Makes for a great story.   While we were telling it, Representative Rokita walked in from the other room!  He beat us back.  Though in all truth, we are not fast.  So he invited us into his office.  It turns out he lives near some friends here in town, and his kids go to the Catholic church/school down the way.  I thought that was kind of cool.  He even posed for pictures with us.  

We got the assistants to take pictures with our cameras for us.  
And their have their own camera, same model as mine, that his staff his uses.  
I felt so swanky, posing with our Representative.  

I didn't vote for our President, but I did vote for this guy!

And it's kind of cool that we did.  

Jacob was toast, he was thirsty and wouldn't put his cup down. 
Chris was toast, and stood up only long enough to take pictures.  
Sam and Jake wanted to play with everything in his office. 
Luckily, he has kids, so he knows how crazy it can be.  
He was so down to earth, it was an honor to meet him. 
His staff was so kind to us, before and especially after hearing of the drama. 

Afterwards, we headed out, straight to the Metro.  
I snapped this picture from the middle of the street in a crosswalk.  
Totally stopping traffic (though there was really only one car stopped at a light) for my art. 

I have a couple friends that live in the DC area.  One friend, Angel, works at the DoT.  She's a lawyer there.  The original plan was to dinner with her.  But she suggested that we swing by her work, because there's a fantastic little ice cream shoppe nearby the kids would love.  They were stoked about Ice Cream before the tour. It sounded Perfect to us all.  But by the time we left, we were Exhausted, Sore, Chris had puked, and felt weak, and a hot mess.   It was clear, we needed to just go home.  It was almost 4 when we left, that's the beginning of the rush  hour on the Metro.  So we just hopped on and headed home. I wrote to try to bump it to tomorrow... until Angel suggested drinks after we put the kids to bed.  Drinks, on a week night, like a grown up, Heck Yes!

I call this - Toast. 
He was so done. 
Chris curled up on my side, and fell asleep on the half hour ride back to our apartment. 
He was too tired even for ice cream.  

They were toast too.  
They didn't make it home before dozing either too. 
Kind of adorable actually. 

Dinner at the Silver Diner. 

When we arrived in town, Eric spotted this diner on our path. So we thought cheeseburgers might be a good choice for Chris who is always up for a cheeseburger.  And I was ok with a greasy spoon.  We'd had subs for dinner, and hadn't gone out the day before.  So we went.  Only this diner, isn't like any other greasy diner we'd ever been to.  This diner is a local, organic place.  Sure, they had cheeseburgers, but they were Fancy.  I got one with grilled onions, bbq, and bacon.  But it was Phenomenal!  Sam got macaroni, not from a box, and steamed edamame for a kids meal.  Jake got blueberry pancakes made with coconut and quinoa.  He said, I want Coconut pancakes and by gum he ate most of it.  We all ate it up, except Chris, who didn't have as much an appetite as we thought he would.  Perhaps he's not feeling as well as we thought he was in the morning.  Puking and not eating a cheeseburger, that's practically go to a doctor worthy for him.  We suggested it, scoped out a nearby clinic, but he didn't want to.  He just wanted to go home and go to bed.  So they did. 

By the time we got home, it was time for me to go out for a drink with Angel. We went to this fancy bar, Matchbox, in this outdoor mall down the street, the Mosaic.  It was really nice to catch up.  I hadn't seen her since the days I worked at the Mill.  In the mean time, she'd gone to law school, got a job in DC, a house, and gotten engaged.  There was a lot of great catching up to do! We chatted for hours.  I wish I'd remembered to take a picture of us.   I was so tired too, but it was so good to talk to her.  I've missed her.   It was so good to get together with a friend who remembers me from back in the days when I had a brain, could make sentences, and do things.   
Even though I was going to try hard not to spend the evening talking about my kids, I did it anyway.   I love them so, they are my pride and joy.  And it was just the little break I needed to remind me how Good I have it, even exhausted,  from a day of puking in the Capitol, I'm very Blessed.  I came home and crashed, feeling Blessed.