June 10, 2014: We’re Baaaaack!

Did you miss us?? Well, wait no more, because we’re baaaaack! And we had a fantastic time on our trip! It was so very much needed and so very much appreciated! So, without further ado, let me share some of the highlights…

Wednesday, we just traveled all day. It was long and relatively uneventful. About the only thing noteworthy was that TSA apparently stole my sunblock, and the airline broke our stroller. But no real harm done either way—sunblock is easily replaceable (though it was $15 sunblock—ouch!), and the stroller was old and had done its time, really. (Don’t ask me why TSA stole my sunblock. All I know is that I’m 100% sure I put it in the suitcase, and it wasn’t there when I unpacked. TSA is the only one who could’ve been in my suitcase, so apparently someone there had a pressing need for sunblock. Oddly, they didn’t leave one of those “TSA Search” notices in or on my bag. The only way I even knew they’d been in it is that the darn sunblock was gone.)

As luck would have it, the next day we had plans to spend the day with Chris’s friend from college and her family. And what do you know? When we mentioned that we needed to find a Target to go buy a new stroller, they announced, “We have one we never use anymore because our kids are too big for it. Would you like it?” Well, sure!!! Saved us $50, so we were very excited to get it! Thursday was also the one rainy day of our trip, so it was nice that we had plans to just visit at their house anyway. Theo and their kids traipsed around the backyard in the rain, picking mulberries, and had a grand time. And we adults enjoyed the dry house with Sam, who is far too smart to be slopping around in the rain. 😉

On Friday, we had to drive to Williamsburg in the evening, but we had the early part of the day free. So we headed into Washington DC to explore the National Mall. It was a nice day—not too hot or humid, and not terribly crowded. We just stayed outside and walked to most of the monuments, rather than trying to go in any museums or buildings. With only part of one day to spend there, it seemed the easiest and best idea. And it worked out well—Theo never minds wandering around outside, and we really enjoyed the monuments and sights. Our favorite, hands down, was the World War II memorial, which wasn’t there when either of us went to Washington DC for our eighth grade trips. It is just awe-inspiring. All of the monuments are, really, but there is something incredibly sobering about the WWII memorial. It really left a lump in my throat, and Chris was rather speechless, too. I tried to put my finger on why but really couldn’t. The only thing I could think of was that one of the groups that Hitler targeted was people with developmental disabilities. Since that is obviously a part of our lives, I think it was particularly poignant to me to see a memorial to people who fought to end that kind of horrible discrimination and genocide. I have great sympathy for all of the groups Hitler targeted, as I think pretty much any feeling person does, but the people like Sam…well, that really hits close to home.

Anyway, see it. If you go to Washington DC, see the WWII memorial. It’s amazing. You won’t regret it.

We arrived at our condo in Williamsburg in the evening, and I was immediately in heaven! Two spacious bedrooms and bathrooms with a nice living area, in a quiet, kid-friendly complex in a lush setting—what more could we ask for?! The complex offered a lot of family-friendly activities and amenities, like a game room and two kid-friendly swimming pools, one with waterslides. So much fun!! Theo wasn’t a fan of the big waterslide (he hates getting water poured over his head), but Sam was a fearless little turkey who was furious with me for not letting him go on it! (It was way too big for him. I did let him go on the tiny waterslide, though, and he LOVED that!) And both boys enjoyed swimming and splashing in the pools. Theo was miffed, though, that the complex didn’t allow kids younger than 16 to use the hot tub. He wanted to change the sign so that it didn’t say “16 and up,” and when I told him that changing the sign didn’t change the rule itself, he announced, “Fine, then I will take it to Congress and get them to change the rule!” Okay, my boy…you take it to Congress. Way to shoot for the top!! (He later tried to alter the rule book, because apparently he doesn’t believe me that simply scribbling out the rule doesn’t change it. Oh, Theo…)

We spent our week in Williamsburg exploring in the mornings and doing more relaxing things in the afternoons. We had a lot we wanted to do, but we didn’t want to burn out. So we planned one activity a day and left the afternoons/evenings free for relaxing at the condo, going in the pool, ambling around Williamsburg at leisure, etc.

We visited Colonial Williamsburg, which is basically a re-creation of the city in Colonial times. There are demonstrations and exhibits and all kinds of things to see and do. I was surprised by how much Theo actually retained—as Theo often does, he appeared to be off in Theo Land, floating around in his own brain somewhere. But then when one of the docents would ask him something, he’d actually answer with an appropriate response, showing that clearly he was taking it in. It was very cool to see that he’s now old enough to actually get something from our travels, rather than just being dragged around to a bunch of things he won’t remember.

The next day we went to Jamestown Settlement, which is a re-creation of the first English settlement in the U.S. (It’s about a mile away from the original site.) It was so cool. It was one of our favorite things of the trip because it was so totally hands-on and kid-friendly! Kids could pretty much touch and try everything, so Theo was in heaven. (Sam mostly just toddled around, which is his favorite thing to do at the moment anyway.) Theo has recently developed a big interested in weapons, much to my chagrin…I’m really not a gun person. But I do know that he’s a little boy, and little kids (boys in particular) tend to go through a phase of being interested in weapons, so I’m going with the flow, to some extent. (Theo tends to be a bit obsessive about his interests, so there’s been a lot of gun talk lately, which isn’t my favorite thing.) So anyway, at Jamestown there were demonstrations of cannons and muskets and rifles and such, and I decided to let him participate. It’s history, and I appreciate history and understand that my son is into what many kids are into. So, I suppose I’m okay with muskets and cannons. Semiautomatic weapons and handguns? Yeah, not so much. Won’t be letting him participate in anything with those. 😉 But we can do Revolutionary War weapons….

Anyway, Theo was elated to get to participate in a musket activity, hold a real sword, touch a cannon, try on armor, etc. I let him pick out a souvenir at the gift shop, and of course he asked for a toy gun. We compromised, and he got a blunt wooden sword, which is now his prized possession. 😉 (Oddly, TSA didn’t take that out of the suitcase. Apparently they’re more interested in sunblock than weapons!)

Jamestown also had replicas of the ships the Colonists sailed over on, and Theo spent a long time exploring those with me and Chris (taking turns with Sam). And he enjoyed the Indian settlement, too. I think I turned a few shades of red when he was making conversation with one of the docents and abruptly announced, “My mom had an operation to get Sam out of her tummy!” Ah well, I’d rather he talk about that delivery than the other one, I suppose!

The next day we went to the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. It was awesome! It’s a nature/wildlife museum with animals, gardens, aquariums, geology exhibits, and even a dinosaur exhibit. And as if all that weren’t cool enough, there were fighter planes flying overhead, since it was right near Langley Air Force Base!

The following day we drove down to a petting farm in Virginia Beach to meet one of the Rockin’ Moms. (You’ll probably recall that I’ve often mentioned the Rockin’ Moms—my favorite online DS group.) Lauren’s daughter, Ellie, is just two weeks older than Sam, and they were so cute together! Lauren and her husband recently adopted Cameron, who does not have DS, and at 16 months he is pretty much the same size as Ellie and Sam. 🙂 The three little kids were adorable together, and Theo had a ball with the animals. They had tiny baby goats that were adorable, as well as baby bunnies born that day, lots of peacocks, turkeys and other fowl, and even a couple of ponies.

Funny story: I was a little bit starstruck about Lauren’s husband, who is a Navy F-18 pilot. I love fighter jets, and the F-18 is one of my favorites. Chris jokingly said, “It’s a really good thing he’s not coming with her, or you’d talk the poor man’s ear off about his job!” Which is probably very true. Anyway, I had told Chris all about how Lauren’s husband is a fighter pilot and won the Navy Pilot of the Year in 2013 for having landed an F-18 safely when the landing gear failed to come down. I thought that was very cool. Lauren later mentioned her friend who is currently on the International Space Station (he went up two weeks ago, I believe), and after she left, Chris said, “Why didn’t you tell me she had a friend at the International Space Station?! How could you not remember to tell me that?!” I said, “I don’t know—I told you about her husband…” and Chris said, “Yeah, but the Space Station?! That’s so cool! I would’ve prepared more if I had known!” Not sure what he means by “prepared”—was he going to interrogate Lauren about her friend, much as I probably would’ve interrogated her husband about his job? Ha! Anyway, I thought it was funny that we were both starstruck, but clearly about different things.

Starstruck-edness aside, we had a wonderful time meeting Lauren and Ellie and Cam! It was such a treat to meet one of my Rockin’ Mom pals in person! And as if it wasn’t cool enough to meet one Rockin’ Mom, I got to meet two! On our last night in DC before flying home, we were able to meet up with Troy and her son, Tobin. Tobin is about six weeks younger than Sam and cute as a button! Theo was very bummed that Troy’s other four kids were busy and weren’t able to meet up with us, but he had fun at the park anyway. And Sam was rather droopy and not overly playful, but we were still glad to meet another friend! (Sam ended up coming down with croup later that night, so I guess that explains the droopiness….)

On Friday morning, we checked out of our condo and drove three hours west to the Shenandoah Valley, where my aunt and uncle live in a little college town called Lexington. They hadn’t yet met Sam, and they hadn’t seen Theo since he was 3-1/2. My aunt and I are convinced that Theo and my uncle somehow share the same DNA, even though they aren’t blood relations—they are like two peas in a pod! Theo still remembers listening to Sousa marches with my uncle when we last visited, and in fact he recently chose to buy a CD of march music specifically so he could bring it for Aunt Sally and Uncle David to hear!

My uncle loves math, and knowing that Theo is a numbers guy, he decided he was going to teach Theo addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using pennies. I had told Theo this ahead of time, and all week he talked about having to “do pennies” with Uncle David. The two of them ended up spending much of the weekend together, “doing pennies,” listening to march music, and wandering the sculpture garden at my aunt and uncle’s retirement community. The sculpture garden was a big hit with Theo, who is still talking about it. Apparently the head chef at their community creates sculptures in his spare time, so he brought a bunch of them to display at their community. They really are very cool—he uses all manner of metal items to create really interesting sculptures. Every time you look at them, you see something different and interesting. I’m not typically all that much a fan of modern art, but the sculptures were very cool. Evidently Theo agreed, as he spent a lot of time examining them. His favorite was some sort of robot made out of an old 8-track player. (Are we surprised?!)

My aunt and I dumped the kiddos on the menfolk on Saturday night and went out to a lovely dinner, just the two of us! The guys went to Ruby Tuesday and had burgers, and we went to the elegant sit-down restaurant at their community. What a treat! I relish any chance I get to actually read a menu—a rarity when the boys are around! And as it turns out, they had escargot on the menu, which I love! We both had escargot for appetizers, and I had Steak Diane (hi mom!) for my entrée, while my aunt had lamb chops. We split a luscious piece of chocolate cake for dessert. It was heavenly!

Speaking of heaven, Chris is a bad, bad man. Upon arriving in Williamsburg (sorry, I’m backtracking!), I discovered that they had a frozen custard stand. I love frozen custard, but it’s nearly impossible to find in the West. So of course I had to have some! Chris decided to throw caution to the wind with his dairy allergy and have some, too. What do you know? He had no allergic reaction at all. And because he loves frozen custard just as much as I do, he then proceeded to suggest that we have frozen custard every day. And of course I didn’t say no. And now we both have to suck in our gut a bit to button our pants. 🙂

Anyway, back to Lexington! We had one full day there, and we decided to take the boys to Boxerwood Gardens, which is a wonderful place for kids! There’s a botanical garden path, as I recall, though we didn’t do that this year. This time we just stayed in the children’s area, which is pretty much paradise for little kids who like to dig and explore and get good and dirty (which both of my boys do!). Sam dug for dinosaur bones (okay, they were really cow or pig bones!), while Theo set up camp in a treehouse and served us all manner of delights made out of mud and sticks and rocks. Both boys liked playing in the tiny creek, and a good and dirty time was had by all! We also spent plenty of time relaxing at my aunt and uncle’s house, which has the most wonderful patio for sitting and enjoying a nice evening. If Chris and I ever buy a house again, I would love to have something like that….

Our very last day (our flight was scheduled to leave at 4:40 p.m. so we had the morning and early afternoon free in the DC area), we went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We tried to go there when Theo was 3-1/2, and it did not go well—Theo was too young to understand that he couldn’t touch the planes, and it was just a stressful disaster. But this time, it went much better. Theo and I rode a flight simulator, and he enjoyed seeing the planes. And Sam (who had been up with croup the night before) slept on Chris’s back for much of the time, so he was content.

Our flight home was long—there was an aircraft delay, then a delay due to mechanical problems, then a delay on the runway. When we finally staggered off the plane in San Francisco, it was way past the boys’ bedtime, and we had been on the darn plane for almost eight hours. But we survived to tell about it, and we declared it a successful and wonderful vacation! We are now refreshed and ready to tackle work again, having spent a fantastic two weeks with nothing to do but have fun and enjoy our visits with family and friends!

A note about the pictures: I didn’t take our good camera on vacation. I took our little point-and-shoot, which doesn’t take the most excellent of pictures. Also, Theo took over as photographer quite a bit, so a fair number of these were taken by a six-year-old. 🙂 Still, I think they turned out decently—enjoy!

Since the rest of this week will just be back to work and not terribly exciting, I think I’ll skip the blog post for this weekend and just consider this vacation post the weekly post. So, we’ll be back on Sunday, 6/22, with the further adventures of the Small clan. Tune in to read about Theo’s adventures in summer day camp, which he starts next week after wrapping up kindergarten this week!

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