Family trips are always impossible to plan. Well, the planning part is easy, but sticking to a plan is the hardest part. For instance, our “plan” was to leave our home and be on the road by no later than 8:00 a.m. In reality we didn’t hit the road until much later. There always seems to be something to do at the very last minute. Some minor or major detail that must be attended to or a last minute errand which just has to be ran. As usual Murphy’s Law never fails to rear its unwanted head and turn everything topsy-turvy. To be late is the family curse, what can you do? Que Sera, Sera
A Worthey Vacation: Washington, D. C. 2014
Months earlier we had a family meeting. The wife and I sat our boys down around the dining room table and asked them where they wanted to go and what were some of the things they wanted to do or see while visiting the nation’s capital? Previously, we had given the boys an assignment. List everything you want to do when we visit Washington D.C. So, the boys had either Googled Washington D.C and or YouTube(ed) just about everything young boys could ever think of and therefore already had a pretty good idea of what they wanted to do. The results: Everyone agreed on going to the zoo and our youngest wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History. He’s a fan of the Night at the Museum movies and so there’s that.
The car is packed and ready to go. I am the pilot and Zayd’n is my very capable and oh so prepared co-pilot. He even made a checklist:
- Blanket & Pillow
- Traveling Games
All checked and accounted for. Yup, this kid doesn’t play and is deadly serious when it comes to being organized when embarking on a new adventure.
Meanwhile. Mom is manning the middle seat alongside our oldest twin Ziah. Zion is holding down the backseat. iPads. Check. Fully charged and ready to go. Noise-canceling headphones. Check. Traveling with kids on the Autism spectrum requires considerable forethought and seating arrangements become a very big deal. Snacks. Check. And we’re off.
All together it took us between 10 and 12 hours to arrive at our destination. After not a few bathroom stops and a couple of co-pilot changes we made it in no worse for wear. We pretty much sleepwalked into our hotel accommodations and crashed for a bit. The rest of the day consisted of checking out the pool area and getting our bearings. Later on we drove into Washington, D.C. proper and checked out The National World War II Memorial and viewed the Lincoln Memorial from a late-evening, sun melting into the horizon vantage point. For dinner Tat had found a Groupon for a local pizza joint and so pizza pie all around. We returned to our hotel and slept like tourists should sleep after a long day of driving and sightseeing. Like logs.
We got up and everyone got ready. After a really good breakfast we all piled into our vehicle and headed into Washington D.C. We had thought about using the Metro but decided we wanted mobility on the fly.
Our second day was spent checking one of the coolest museums ever! At least that was the sentiment applied by trio of boys. the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is choked full of interesting stuff. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. More than nine million people come to Washington, D.C. to visit the museum each year. All of the aircraft and spacecraft on display in the Air and Space Museum were actually flown or were used as backup vehicles. The 23 exhibits in the museum house artifacts including airplanes & spacecraft, missiles & rockets, engines, propellers, models, uniforms, instruments, and flight equipment.
While at the museum, tourists can see the Wright Brothers’ original 1903 Flyer, the Apollo Lunar module, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the moon rock, as well as aircraft from World War I, World War II, and Vietnam.
(Information courtesy of wednet.edu Fun Facts)
The boys also really loved the How Things Fly collection. It was not just informative but hands-on and interactive as well. The also wanted to check out The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age. The twins learned about the Wright Brothers at school and wanted to “show us” and teach “the parents” some important facts about early American flight. And so “the teachers became the students” and we let them show us and explain in their own words this critical era of aviation history. Cool beans.
After a couple of hours spent inside the Air & Space Museums we exited, spilling into a too bright sun, treacherous heat and suffocating humidity. We got lucky with our parking and were in our car in very short order with the AC working overtime. Our next stop was the National Museum of Natural History. Once inside the boys headed directly to the Q?rious children’s area. The boys really enjoyed this section of the Museum the most because it was very hands on. The got to learn about Passenger Pigeons, and make Origami representations of the now extinct pigeon. We also attended a workshop where a exhibition assistant taught us about he etymology and genetic variations of butterflies, among other things. We pretty much ended our day by spending the next couple of hours traipsing through the NMofNH exploring the many exhibits, way too mhe64many to hope to see in a single day no less a couple of hours. The highlight for me was the Hope Diamond display. I thought is was kind of ironic and fitting, because there was an almost impenetrable swarm of women surrounding the 67 1/8-carat stone. I literally had to carefully elbow my way to the display case. And then got to see what all the fuss was about. The Hope Diamond sets within a rotating glass case. And as it pirouettes slowly under bright lights the stone refracts and sheds perpetual sunbursts like the many lasers in the epic battle in The Clone Wars.
Our third day was filled with the sights and sounds of a more natural and wild world. If you haven’t been the Smithsonian’s National Zoo you are definitely missing out. This zoo has whole lot going on in the way of animals. When we first arrived we walked through the Kids’ Farm entrance and got a chance to see the more familiar domestic farm animals, there were cows, pigs and donkeys and some really adorable alpacas.
Soon enough though we found ourselves walking about the main zoo areas and taking in the sights and sounds of the some of the 1,800 animals and over 300 species. Although we enjoyed seeing all of the animals we really enjoyed the Elephant Trail were we got to see the magnificent Asian elephants. We also walked through Elephant House area, here we got to see a couple of really active pachyderms living it up at the watering hole. Over the years our family has visited many elephant exhibits (Busch Gardens, The Detroit Zoo and even the San Diego Zoo) and these were hands down the most active elephants we have ever seen. The elephants were frolicking! Have you seen elephants frolic? It is a sight to behold! One minute the elephants were lolling around in the water and then they were shooting sprays of water out of their multifunctional trunks. For those who don’t know our youngest son loves the Wild Kratts and having watched an episode all about elephants he had a lot of “creature features” to share with us. Zayd’n said, “Did you know elephants are the largest land animals?” And added, “Did you know elephants have 40,000 muscles in their trunks?” Yes, our youngest loves animals and he really enjoys watching the Wild Kratts.
Moving on. Our other favorite was the Asia exhibit which housed the tigers. When we arrived the tigers were not on display yet because zoo staff were fixing one their toys which was attached to a big tree. Later, when the young tigers were released into the exhibit two of them ran straight to the now repaired toy. But one of the young tigers was not interested in toys. This one stood at the edge of the water barrier and intently watched the people. Now, immediately the wife and looked at each other and shared a laugh because this reminded us of Katt Williams and his monologue about The Tiger (NSFW) in San Francisco. In the end not humans or tigers were hurt and we continued our tour of the zoo. Our last stop at the zoo was the Asian Trail Giant Panda exhibit. Maybe the stars were aligned or perhaps it was just luck but we got to see some very active pandas. We’ve been to the San Diego Zoo twice and each visit to the giant panda exhibit was a small disappointment because we only got short glimpses of the pandas.
At the National Zoological Park we got to see the parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, as well as a very active Bao Bao, the female baby panda. If you want to learn and see these awesome creatures without having to go anywhere then check out the Giant Panda Cam. Wee ended our sightseeing with a visit to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial located in West Potomac Park and located southwest of the National Mall.
Come evening my wife and I treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner at Georgia Brown’s, but our boys weren’t in the new food exploration mood so they opted for Wendy’s . I’ll say this, the food is killa’ and the Kentucky Lemonade is deliciously potent and wondrously demonic.
Originally we had only planned to stay three days but found we needed to add an extra day to fit in a few more sights. Our fourth day id Washington, D. C. was perhaps the hottest day of our visit. First on the list was seeing The White House. Although we got an early start by the time we reached 1600 Pennsylvania Drive the sun was already at full power. We were literally steaming.
Autism travels as well:
This was also the day Zion became feeling a bit anxious and started to shutdown. Dealing with a child on the Autism spectrum can be difficult but when the combination of fatigue, physical discomfort and homesickness collide the results are less than ideal. For the rest of the day we were on pins and needles and trying valiantly to steam the slow slide into a full blown meltdown. By the time we reached the House of Representatives Zion succumb to his anxieties, he had his moment and we had to take a timeout to allow him time to regroup and process. As parents of high functioning kids with autism we have to be doubly aware and in tune with our boys. And to a larger degree, I believe all parents of special needs children can attest to this, we learn to recognize the signs. We learn out of necessity to decipher the moods which can precede or signal a total meltdown. In Zion’s case he needed a catharsis and so he cried and voiced his concerns. He wanted to go home and he wanted to go home right now. He hated the heat and the sweating, which we all did. But in his mind he was unable to get past his personal discomfort for the greater good. But he also needed something else. He needed his parents. He needed us to understand and to reassure. Zion is not the hugs and kisses type so he also needed his space. And so this was Dad and son time, time spent walking and talking it out, this is time spent addressing the irrationality of autism. We know autism is here to stay, for it isn’t a condition which can be outgrown or out run. It is there inhabiting his DNA. Autism is threaded throughout his thought process. How it riddles his emotions with holes big enough to drive a freight train through and constricts his focus. In the end we got through it, as we always do no worse for wear.
We finished our day with an early dinner at the Shake Shack located inside of the world famous Union Station were we ate as a family eating burgers and fries. We took in sustenance not only from our food but also from quality time spent together. As we finished up Zayd’n sweet talked one of the girls at the counter into giving him a refill of soda. We meandered to our car and hit the road which would lead us back home, and in the end we made safe and sound.
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