When we got back in the car, I turned on "The Cool Zone" by Judy Blume. It is a story told from 1st and 3rd grader perspective. The kids listened quietly and then asked for it again. There is a piece about bully, that part they asked me to skip on the second listening.
At some point, 6 yo went on a little rant about davening. I explained that davening has three parts: praise, requests and thanks. I asked the kids to think about the parts of davening that they know and tell me which tefila reflects which part.
Eventually, we got to Richmond. As we were driving towards downtown, 2 yo exclaimed: "We're in Virginia!" Note to my friends who are considering car DVD players: your kids will miss all the opportunities to look around and remember landmarks. When 2 yo plays with a steering wheel at the park and I ask her, where is she driving, she says, New York. She obviously remembers our trip from 5 weeks ago, and seeing the same road and the same landmarks reinforces those memories.
The boys rolled into the house and went straight for the playroom, where they pulled out Mousetrap, marble run and Risk. After dinner, there was a chance to feed the bunny some treats, which meant opening the cage and sticking the hands in with little offerings. To my surprise, 2 yo went for it. Then, when the bunny was brought out of the cage, the kids lined up on the couch to hold the bunny. 8 yo went first, but the bunny did not last long in his lap before hopping away. Next was 6 yo, who snuggled with the bunny. There, the bunny stayed a bit longer. 2 yo happily patted it.
Next morning, we drove out for DC. I was planning on showing the boys one Smithsonian. We got there quickly. I chose to park in the garage, since I figured that all day's activities are free. First we walked to the Museum of Natural History. My bag was poked and prodded with a rod and we went in through metal detectors. Of course, we started with dinosaurs. I told boys that they have to hold hands, and they complied. 2 yo kept bouncing in and out of the stroller. There is a fossil lab, where one can see paleontologists examining fossils. The microscope is hooked up to a monitor, so whatever the scientist sees, you see. There was also a discovery room, which was very kid-friendly. They boys looked under a microscope, checked out x-rays, looked at collections of eggs and beetles and toys from around the word, touched a skeleton, read some books, played with puppets. 2 yo chose one box and slowly examined every piece in it. I got her a large shell and we listened to the sea.
I was ready to leave the museum, but there was a thunderstorm going on, so we just sat on the floor with the school groups and ate lunch. Before you picture an idyll of some kind, it was far from it. I was tense. 2 yo needed a nap. 6 yo needed to run and touch and press. There was too much spilled yogurt, not enough napkins and not a garbage can in sight. Besides, with all the people coming and going, I was worried that we will get stepped on.
Finally, lunch was over, but the rain wasn't, so we headed to another floor. This one contained meteorites, minerals, jewels, diamonds. I was not paying so much attention there until we came to Chile mine exhibit. There, the story of the trapped miners played out with full force. I put a lot of emphasis on how amazing it was that all came out alive.
The rain had stopped and we walked out to the sculpture garden. In the middle of it there was a fountain with a duck ramp. 6 yo REALLY wanted to go up the duck ramp. hey also found two ducks swimming in the fountain.
Next I took kids to the center of the mall. There was some construction going on, but I showed how you look to the left and see Capitol and to the right is the Washington Monument. The boys wanted to get closer to the monument, so we walked there. They ran every grassy block, while I paced myself. I also told them how in high school I went all the way to the top, but it cannot be done now. At some point, 2 yo dozed off in the stroller. The boys got up close to Washington Monument, as close as you can get, which is a row of flags. 8 yo told me it's the tallest obelisk in the world. I was thinking how Egyptian obelisks lasted for thousands of years, and our national symbol might crumble after a bit over a century. While we were next to the monument, I made the boys look for the other landmark--the White House. 6 yo spotted it first. We walked half a block closer. At this point, 6 yo sat down on the ground and declared himself to be too sleepy to walk. I gave everyone water and we proceeded to the garage. 8 yo remarked how everything is so close together. I was wondering about concrete planters running around the perimeter of a lot of buildings. They were smack in the middle of sidewalks. I was thinking how we have a culture of fear now.
Once we loaded into the car, we proceeded to Baltimore. It was supposed to take one hour; it took two. The traffic was atrocious. I was studying really run-down neighborhoods within a few miles of the Capitol. 8 yo asked why licence plates say taxation without representation. I explained about the District of Columbia and how it is not a state, so people do not have a voice in where their taxes should go. Inwardly, I was thinking about how many millions those planters cost. How much does it cost to maintain them? How much for all extra security? Howe much for free museums? And why can't some of the money trickle out to the rest of the city?
We stayed with a Chabad couple for Shabbos. That was a learning experience, too. How many of you would just go to another city to be put up with random people? They turned out to be very nice and put with with my kids who were crawling out of their skin after those two hours in traffic.
At some point during Shabbos, after nice shabbos groups, playing on a tire swing, and enjoying a generous kiddush, 8 yo remarked that he would like to live in Baltimore. 6 yo got hold of Follow Your Nose, a book about Donald Duck and his nephews. It is about them going camping, getting lost and using their senses to get out. First time I read it to him, that's the message I got. On the third reading, on Shabbos evening, he decided to make it into a logical game of figuring out by textual clues who is Dewey, Huey and Loiue. Moreover, he continued with this on every page.
One more thing: on the drive back we started listening to Tiger, Tiger. It is about two tiger cubs captured in the jungle and brought to Rome, one to fight gladiators and another to become Caesar's daughter's pet. If I knew what was this book about, I probably would not have picked it. It was bloody and gory, it did not mince words and was on a pretty high level. The boys sat there, spellbound,as the guts of gladiators glistened on hot Roman sand.
I will never understand why bullies are scary, but gore is not.
Also, whenever someone from the back seat would yell, hey look at this! I would say that I cannot look, but they need to describe it to me.