Saturday, June 30, 2012

Where To Begin?

I feel overwhelmed at the volume on vacation recapping I need to do, but I must begin before I start forgetting the details!

We were blessed to be given guest passes to go to Washington D.C., and although I was very excited to go (my first time!) and excited to see my dear friend Debbie in her new-ish hometown, I had no idea what I was in for!  It was so very amazing, some of it there are no words for.  There is no way that any of these pictures will capture what we saw with our own eyes.  I think it is a place every person should see, if at all possible.  On day 2, Brenna said, "In 2 days I understand more about history than I understood all year!"  I'm very much not a history buff.  History always seemed like a string of dates I had to memorize, never really connected with it.  But now?  Fascinated.  Humbled.  Awed.

The deal with "guest passes" for the airlines is that you fly stand-by.  We were extraordinarily blessed to get out (all 5 of us!) on the first flight we listed for.  Off we went, for our great adventure!

Day One:

We began at a place I had high on my list to see:  Georgetown Cupcakes!  We went to the less-congested Bethesda branch, and it was amazing.  A couple gals in line let us in on a very happy surprise:  if you follow them on facebook or twitter, they post a daily "secret flavor".  If you go in an ask for that flavor, it's yours for free!  Well, delight of all delights, that day the secret flavor was Chocolate Salted Caramel.  Oh, yes.

can you see it? chocolate cupcake, caramel filling, salted caramel icing, caramel drizzle.

After our fill of cupcakes, we headed off to start touring.  First stop was the Iwo Jima Memorial, also known as the Marine Corps War Memorial.

This was absolutely stunning.  The craftmanship was spectacular.  The size of it shocked me.  Pictures cannot capture the details and emotion that this memorial contain.

Our next stop was "Surfside" for lunch...YUM!

After being fueled and cooled, we headed out to see Arlington National Cemetery.

this is the tiniest sliver of the white gravestones.  it was somber and humbling to view these perfectly aligned graves, row after row, in each direction.

these are the graves of President Kennedy, his wife, his stillborn baby and a baby that lived a couple days.  if you look closely at the stone circle above the gravemarkers, you can see the eternal flame.

in the background you can see the Washington Monument. along the wall behind us is a series of well-known quotes by President Kennedy.

one of the moving parts of this, is that this sign, this cemetery, is respected.  there are whispered conversations, quiet comments, but for the most part people walk through, taking pictures, reading signs, paying respects.

these older graves were fascinating to read.  there was a time when there were no standardized headstones, like the rows of white ones in the earlier pictures.  now there are sections of the cemetery where families can choose to have private headstones, as long as they fit within certain guidelines.  but these older markers really are stunning to see.

this is inside Robert E. Lee's house at Arlington.  it is being rennovated, so the furnishings were gone, but still fascinating to see.  the guides there are incredibly knowledgable and do a great job of telling the stories that make this house come to life.

2 identical mantels in the main living were designed and purchased by Robert E. Lee himself!

beautiful replicas of the Civil War uniforms.

Robert E. Lee

Lee's handwritten farewell address, after his resignation.

this is looking out over Washington from the main living area of Lee's house.

this is a touching summation of how many of President Washington's artifacts were saved after the U.S. Army took over Arlington.

0ne of many sobering views.

this is the Memorial Amphitheater, all marble, dedication in 1920.  they have 3 memorial services each year: on Memorial Day, Easter, and Veteran's Day.  this view is the inside, on the other side of the center stage is the Tomb of the Unknown.

the ending of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown.  this ceremony is silent, respectful, and very moving.

the guard walks a precise cadence of 90 steps per minute.  he takes 21 steps down the black mat you can see on the edge of the picture, turns and pauses for exactly 21 seconds facing East. he then turns and takes 21 steps the other direction. the "21" symbolizes the highest military honor, the 21-gun salute.
"Known But To God"

the front view of the Memorial Amphitheater, with The Tomb of the Unknown in front.

We toured 3 other Memorials this same day, but I'm too tired to keep going.  More of day 1 another time!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Massive Download

I can't believe how little I has made it from my mind onto this blog.  I keep trying.  8.5 days of school left.  8.5 days until va-caaaaaaaa-tion!  Ready?  Uh, no, not in the sense that I am prepared.  But ready?  Uh, yes.

So I'm going to do a massive download of life, list style.  'Tis the season for lists!

1.  Alex's birthday was so much fun this year.  We bought him a certificate to go indoor skydiving.  He loved it so much.  He really wants to sky dive for real, and I've told him he must be old enough to do it without parental consent and he must be able to pay for it himself, and he mustn't tell me until it's over. 

that's the face of pure joy!

right after finishing their flights

17? I can barely absorb that.

2.  A few days after this fun event, we experienced another fun event.  Well, fun in a different sort of way.  Flying high in a different sort of way.

Bye-bye wisdom teeth. hello altered-awareness.  "I'm not tired at all!  I'm 6' 2.25 inches.  My cheeks aren't numb anymore.  Why are you laughing at me?  When can we go home?  Are my cheeks puffy?"  This kid talked and talked and talked as soon as he woke up.

 He asked me to take him straight to school, because "other than the gauze in my mouth and I can't talk right, I'm totally fine."  Mmm-hmm.  They encouraged me to get the pain meds on board right away so he would "sleep and relax".  Uh, not so much.  He did not sleep a wink.  Allll day. 

3.  Sisters.  They make me smile.

4.  Brenna's last band concert.  Ever.  I will miss her flute-y toots. 

5.  When 3 out of 5 Carlson's are sick with plugged noses and ears, why not go breathe in some salty air to cleanse the sinuses?

6.  I'm learning so much about anxiety issues.  Reading about it, studying it.  I realized something silly about it this week.  I have been craving....craving!....feeling my heart beat hard and sweating hard.  I've missed it so much.  I've been walking, and I know that is something and that it helps the anxiety.  But I wanted so badly to feel that feeling of working hard.  I found an intriguing workout circuit on Pinterest (yes, Pinterest), and knew that it would work all the spots on me that desperately need to be worked.  And so now I've done it 2 days in a row.  And it makes my pulse pound and I sweat.  And then when I was done with the little workout?  My heart stopped pounding and went back to its nice regular, gentle rhythm.  And the silly thing I realized?  I have been fearful of feeling that feeling again, since going through my issues in December.  That horrible pulse-pounding felt so out of control, and I hated it.  And somewhere inside of me I decided to avoid that feeling, even though I didn't realize it.  But the craving won, and I got to do yet another "ha-ha!!" at anxiety.  Because that pulse-pounding on my terms?  Felt great!  And now my muscles hurt in such a good way.  Love it.

7.  And speaking of Pinterest, I also have been swooning over lots of crafty ideas I've found.  I made this over the weekend, and it's a big hit:

Fun to have in an area we all walk by several times a day.  The "I love you because..." is under the glass, and using a dry-erase marker, we can write little notes on top of the glass.  I'm excited to see what pops up on here!

8.  And my poor blender is pathetic on its good day, when it's well-rested.  But after a few days of making countless smoothies and milkshakes and even an attempt at blending pizza, it has reached a new level of pathetic-ness.

So how sweet is this???  My son went to the store today and brought me home this:

My own Magic Bullet, with a thank you card thanking me for taking care of him!  My heart is full indeed.  And I will now be a smoothie-making maniac, making him the perfect drink "in just 10 seconds!".  Completely unexpected gifts are sure sweet.

And now I'm done.  For now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stuffing Rocks At My Husbands Face

A couple weeks ago we abandoned responsibilities for the afternoon and decided to go find some quiet and water and fun.  And it was all that, mostly.

This is where Brad and I lived for the first two years of our marriage.  There was once a house there, and now it is just a plot of grass with a couple benches.  I was a bit sad to see that in person.  I would have loved to have a piece of wood from that house or something.  It feels a bit...empty.

And this is the apple tree we loved so much.  We would sit on the deck and watch the momma deer bring her baby down every Spring to eat apples.  Sweet memories...

After walking around on this emptiness and reminiscing a bit, we got on with having some fun. 

The girls worked on mastering the art of skipping rocks...

The boys talked about life and skipped rocks...

Beth found a creature to love...

And me?  I stuffed a rock into my sweet husband's face.

"Stuffing rocks" is a thing Brad has done forever, and taught me years ago.  It involves a long, oblong rock, thrown up high into the air so that it stays vertical while spinning.  If you do it just right, the rock enters the water with a perfect thwup and makes no splash.  It's as addictive as skipping rocks.

At one time, I was fairly accomplished at this.  I could wow Brad every now and then with my stuffing abilities.

But apparently I'm past my prime.

On this day, I threw my arm back, rock positioned perfectly in my hand, and in a swift motion (that left my shoulder sore the next day) swung the rock up, up, up, and behind me over my opposite shoulder.  I heard an "uhhh..." groan, and turned around to see Brad holding his cheek and staring at me.  Yeah, that rock traveled in the opposite direction of the water and in all the area of that vast, empty beach, managed to hit my husband square in the cheek.  He didn't even have time to see it coming.

I have officially retired as a rock stuffer, for fear my children may be my next accidental target.  Or, worse, someone else's child.

And when I got home and looked through the pictures, I can see my form has suffered over the years.  Clearly, looking at this picture and seeing Brad's swollen cheek, I have no business even holding a rock, much less throwing one...

I am happy to report that Brad's face was only minimally sore.  All's well that ends well, as long as one learns her lesson in the end.  And I have.