Week 29-  March 27 - April 2 Week: Capitol Capers

Happy Easter!   The tour of churches took a special turn this week.  My friend David Palmer and I got up at 4:30 Easter morning to drive into D.C. for a sunrise service hosted by a local Four Square church on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  It was so meaningful to start the main week of our D.C. experience hearing choruses of “He is risen” and “Hallelujah” resounding across the reflecting pool.  Our country truly is the greatest experiment in freedom and human rights ever, and it was reassuring to enjoy our freedom to worship in the Capitol City. 

We got back out of the city in time to join the rest of our two families in the Palmer’s home church later in the morning.  Being with friends for Easter was yet another blessing on this trip.  As an added bonus, another Minnesota family, the Magnesses, mutual friends of both of ours joined us, driving up from their vacation spot in Williamsburg, for Easter dinner in the afternoon.  The moms hid plastic eggs filled with candy for a kids’ Easter egg hunt after dinner! 

We started the school week driving from Leesburg to pick up the orange Metro line into town.  It took a little time to learn how to program the fare tickets and commuter parking card, but the Kirkwoods were finally ready to hit D.C.!  This first day that the whole family went into town was rainy, so it worked great to use the Metro to get around and stay dry.  

After our arrival, lunch at Union Station, and a run through the Postal Museum, we made it to the National Archives.  There was a significant wait as this is the height of spring break season plus the Cherry Festival.  (We have been so spoiled this year, rarely finding any attraction crowded.)  The wait was worth it, not only to view the original U.S. founding documents, but also for the interactive, multimedia, public archive exhibits.  Examining the Constitution in the main rotunda, we noticed that only twelve of the thirteen states had signed it.  It turns out Rhode Island was afraid of possibly losing some of its own state control and declined the signing. 

Touring D.C. with kids is an interesting proposition.  Brenda and I are absolutely thrilled being in the Nation’s Capitol as the details of history jump out from every corner.  Unfortunately, I doubt the kids will remember many of the details…  to them, there is just so much old stuff all around.  Instead, we are hoping and praying that moments and impressions from family discussions at the sights are what will stick in their minds.  Here are few: 

-At Mount Vernon, the result of George Washington’s diligence, leadership, and faith, are evident everywhere (from getting up before the sun every morning, to how he treated his staff, and to his eventual freeing of all of his slaves).  Following his example would do all of us good. 

-After visiting the different war memorials, we discussed love of, and loyalty to, our country.  Our generation often doesn’t show the same sense of duty to our country as, say, my dad’s.  The kids were interested to hear that their Grandpa actually felt sheepish that he wasn’t serving the country earlier in WWII until he too was drafted.  We looked at the 50,000+ names on the Vietnam Vets memorial and discussed how each name represented family and friends that were deeply affected by each sacrifice. 

-As we stopped our bikes in front of the Supreme Court, we discussed our three branch system of government.   We talked about how we believe that the judicial branch is currently out of control.  We had learned earlier in the day that the judicial branch was originally to be the weakest branch serving the legislative and executive branches.  Judges now seem to be arrogantly taking control of our government and lawmaking.  Ironically, the euthanizing of Terry Schiavo was completed that day… 

-The Library of Congress stood in marked contrast with most other government buildings we toured.  Whereas most other buildings give glory to God , the ornate interior of the LOC screams out how knowledge is the ultimate savior!  Minerva, the third ranking Roman god, and goddess of wisdom and war (a curious combination) is featured prominently in the architecture.  A good portion of the myriad of quotes on the wall tout that man’s knowledge will solve all problems. 

-Finally, after a frenetic, Norm Coleman intern-led tour of the Capitol building (the busiest attraction we experienced in D.C.), we had lunch in the Senate building cafeteria.  It was a good time to review the variety of people we have met and seen on our adventure, and to see that there are so many different ways God can use each person’s individual talents and gifts.  I really want to instill a quiet confidence in the kids that there is no one mold into which they have to fit.  The school classroom environment to which they will return can be very artificial and one-dimensional.  I pray that their broader view of people and life will free them. 

A highlight of our daytime forays into D.C. has been bringing the bikes along on several different days.  The first day we brought them into town with us was a perfect spring Wednesday.  We parked the car across the river in Arlington and rode to the mall area.  With the size of the mall and distance between memorials and monuments, bikes are the way to go if you have the option!  The kids completed the National Mall Junior Ranger program which informatively led us between memorials, a full day activity. 

Our Saturday morning Whitehouse tour topped off the week of tours.  When I visited D.C. as a kid, there were general public tours which basically meant that you were herded through some rooms in a continuous line.  Since 9/11, the only way to tour is to arrange it through your Senator’s office months in advance.  This also includes providing personal information for background checks. 

These requirements mean that fewer people tour the building.  We arrived at our time early in the morning, and it felt almost like we were personally invited.  A couple of large groups went by us during our tour, but we enjoyed quite a leisurely time there.  (The tour is self–guided and you can take as much time as you like.)  I was surprised that after entering through the East Wing, we got to see many of the rooms in the central building.  The staff literally rolls up the edges of carpeting in each room where the morning-only tours go.  By afternoon, all rooms are returned to normal for daily business.  A staff member in each room is available to answer questions.  One of the rooms we went through was set up for a news conference to be held that afternoon.  We also walked by the big, open staircase that leads to the second and third floor family residence. 

It was a tiring week as it takes us forty-five minutes to make it into town.  As we have throughout the trip, we listen to CD episodes of Focus on the Family’s radio drama, “Adventures in Odyssey” when we take day trips in the van.  The Palmers are also fans and had a whole new assortment of episodes, a treat to enjoy during the commute times to our own adventures in our Odyssey.  

For me, every day we come over the Memorial Bridge to the D.C. area, it is exhilarating just to be in such a significant place.