We got to the station and got our farecard and actually ran up the escalator (interesting with a preschooler) and ran onto a train. Mind you, I had almost turned us around when, while fiddling with the aforementioned farecard machine, they kept saying "ATTENTION RIDERS: Metro Center is closed due to a suspicious package on the tracks." So we hop on the train and are immediately greeted with a Metro policeman complete with AK-47 or some other scary looking gun. It was an effort to hide my apprehension from Elisabeth, but she was so completely consumed with the Metro train experience that I think I would have had to actually pass out from a panic attack before she noticed.
(I know, you're wondering when we actually get to the photo essay part of this rambling dialog. Patience, grasshopper)
We got a nice seat next to the window. And she took me quite literally when I told her to say bye bye to the cars because we were getting ready to go underground. After 30 seconds of loudly saying bye bye to the cars (and either smiles, chuckles, or glares from other metro riders), we went underground. And I took my first picture (I'm really not good at taking a lot of pictures, unlike my better parenting counterpart. So this is quite an accomplishment for me! This is a picture of Elisabeth saying, and I quote, "I 'tink' I see the river! and cars up above us! I really tink so!" She doesn't quite get the idea of a tunnel.
We Metroed down to Smithsonian station, which spits you out on the mall. It was cold. And windy. We immediately abandoned plans to walk down to the Potomac Tidal Basin to see all of the cherry trees. It would be all we could do to walk to the National History Museum without freezing! I saw a bunch of fellow Tampanians (? - better than Tampons I suppose) in full Buccaneers gear. My blood has clearly thickened because Elisabeth and I were just in fleeces and looked as warm as the Tampa folks (ah, better) all in winter hats, mittens and heavy coats. Anyway, it was here that I took two more pictures. I tried to explain to Elisabeth what the Washington Monument and Capital Building are, but all she could do was yell "POOOOOFA DE SNOOOOOOZE" Does anyone know where this comes from? She learned it at preschool and says it whenever someone takes a picture. She gets reeeeeeeally mad when I say it. She says, "I don't want you to say that! That is what I say." So whenever you see her next, yell "poofa de snooze" and see if she reacts. Here are our two obligatory shots from the National Mall. She is probably too small for you to even see.
We quickly found the Natural History Museum. Elisabeth has been stomping around the house like a T-Rex for weeks, so she was pretty excited to go see one. The Natural History Museum was excellent. Lots of fun things for kids to see. The dinosaurs made quite an impression on her. She immediately spotted a T-Rex, which kind of surprised me because in a room full of dinosaurs I'm not actually sure that I could pick out a T-Rex.
I tried to explain the concept of fossils. We find a lot of deer carcasses in the flood plain behind our house, so I thought she might be able to understand fossils. The problem is, a "really really long time" to her is like 24 hours. So thousands of years seemed just, well, unfathomable. They had a scientist on display (like one of the animals, really) working on some fossils. I told Elisabeth that she could be a scientist if she wanted when she grew up. She very indignatly told me that she doesn't want to be a scientist. She already picked her career out of the Richard Scarry book, and that she was going to be a fisherman. Or a tug boat driver. In a sort of "so stop asking!" tone of voice. Fine - make the big bucks as a fisherman. We don't really want you to leave home anyway.
Here's a picture of Elisabeth with a stegosaurus. At this point she was getting really irritated with me and the camera, so the picture taking actually slowed down if that's possible.
After we went through the dinosaur exhibit, we went through the mammal exhibit. She flat out refused to have her picture taken anywhere in the mammals, but thoroughly enjoyed looking at all of them. They have a lot of exhibits for the kids, where they can flip levers and push buttons and make stuff happen. She loved this and had to battle it out with several hundred elementary school students to do it. She's scrappy though and won out most of the time.
As we walked through the mammal exhibit, I heard an elementary kid ask his teacher, "Ms. so and so, what is a mammal?" And her answer, my friends, is why we lag behind other nations on educational tests. She said, "uh.... it is an animal that eats other animals." Really? Glad to know that. So then what's a carnivore? And how do they differ? I guess the hawks in my backyard are mammals. I took note of the school's name and won't ever be sending my kids there. Woodlawn Elementary is now off the list, as is Nysmith School for the Gifted (I heard a 5th grade math teacher tell the kids that division by zero is zero. It made my math loving skin crawl).
After the mammal exhibit, we had to make a choice - to see the butterfly exhibit or move on and see rocket ships. The decision was easy, as Elisabeth really, REALLY wanted to see rocket ships. So off we went to the Air and Space Museum. On the way, I saw some cherry trees in bloom. Cherry blossom season is absolutely my favorite time of the year in DC, so I told her I wanted to take her picture. As evidenced from this picture, she was clearly not pleased with posing for a picture, but I told her we weren't seeing a single rocket ship until she said poofa de snooze. If you can see it, make sure you fully appreciate the sneer on her face. I expect many more of these sorts of looks in her teen years.
We finally got to the air and space museum where she was completely devastated to find out that (a) we weren't actually going to outer space and (b) we weren't even allowed to climb into the rocket ships. The Air and Space museum very quickly lost its interest so we headed off to find lunch. We ate quickly so that we'd have enough time to experience a tiny bit of the Cherry Blossom Festival - in the form of a merry go round. Here's a picture of Elisabeth on her horse, which she creatively named "Curious George."
Then we walked the rest of the way to the Smithsonian Metro station and got on a train back towards Vienna. She still refuses to believe that we live in Vienna, Virginia. I don't know the source of this resistance. We got back to the car around 12:30 and to Doug's office to pick up Charlotte by 12:50. All in all, it took us about an hour to get down to the museum and about an hour to get back. Not too bad. It would be much faster if we just drove downtown, but parking would be difficult and half the fun was the Metro ride (at least for Elisabeth, I was still sketched out by the AK-47).