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Planning a Trip - Then and Now - Mo's Journal
February 2nd, 2011
07:39 am

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Planning a Trip - Then and Now
I'm planning a family vacation to Washington, DC for later this month. It's reminding me of the first time I ever planned a vacation. That was also a family trip and also to DC. I co-planned it with my brother Joel. He was 10 and I was 9 and we planned it for our then family of 7. The other children were 7, 5, and almost 2.

Our dad gave us one of the Frommer budget travel guides: Washington on Five Dollars a Day and set us to work on planning. One of my father's maxims was "Planning a trip is half the fun" and we took it to heart and had lots of fun. We also planned a really good vacation! We did everything but choose the hotel and the route to get to DC. We read over all the options, decided on activities, had rainy day and sunny day excursions that we could interchange, had some times when "big kids" did one thing with one parent while "little kids" did something else with the other parent, and truly considered everyone's preferences.

Well, except maybe our parents' preferences :-). They totally indulged us and let us do what we thought would be fun, even when it involved going to a kitschy museum they would not otherwise have been caught dead in. It wasn't until years later that I realized how mortified my parents were to go to the Washington Wax Museum and have a family picture taken with the wax sculpture of then President Johnson.

They indulged us in our budding geekery, too. Joel had read about some research into using algae as a food staple at the Smithsonian (which is a research institution as well as a museum). He thought it would be great to get a tour of the lab and talk to the scientists, but the article had said the lab wasn't open to the public. Well, our dad said "Let's try" and we had a Dad-and-Big-Kids Outing to that lab. We just went in and he, with great confidence, said, "Hello, I'm Dr. Rosenberg from the Institute of Living. My children are interested in your work. Could you give us a tour?" And they did! At the end they asked what the Institute of Living was and he said it was a psychiatric hospital and the biologists all scratched their heads, wondering why they just gave us that tour.

I haven't followed their lead in lots of things my parents did, but this is an area where I think they excelled as parents and I've tried to emulate them. They instilled a love of travel and adventure in me, and I've tried to pass that on to my kids, too. And when I've found myself in kitschy museums - from San Francisco to Niagara Falls to London - I've gotten in the spirit of the thing and enjoyed it.

A family of origin story from that first trip to DC I've told before but is worth repeating:

We spent a lot of time in the Smithsonian museums on that trip. We were all in the Hall of Minerals of the Natural History Museum when my parents noticed that my sister Kayo (age 5) was holding a small rock that looked suspiciously like one of the large rocks on display on a pedestal. Mom and Dad did the parental interrogation bit ("Where did you get the rock?" "I found it" "No, really. Where did you get the rock?" "I found it." "You'd better tell me the truth." "I found it.") but she didn't crack. They weren't sure they believed her, but thought it best to just give up at that point.

Only my brother Hart (age 7) kept pestering her: "Let me see your rock."
"No! It's mine."
"Just for a minute."
"No! It's mine."
"Come on. Let me see your rock."
"No! It's mine."

Finally she got so frustrated that, in that amazingly loud and clear voice that small children use only when saying something you wish were not overheard, she said, "Oh go chip your own!"

We left quickly and after that whenever you caught someone lying in my family you said, "Oh go chip your own!"


This time we're staying in a hotel near DuPont Circle (I get to choose hotels now). We're going to do a DC by Night tour, a tour of the Capitol, the Newseum, and spend a lot of time at the Smithsonian. Nobody will chip any rocks, I hope.

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From:fgherman
Date:February 2nd, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
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Make sure all the rock picks are left in Park Slope.
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From:mofic
Date:February 2nd, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
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Now why didn't my parents think of that?
From:fantasyenabler
Date:February 2nd, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
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Hee. :) That was great.
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From:mofic
Date:February 2nd, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
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It's a good story.
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From:barb_krasnoff
Date:February 2nd, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC)
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I'll be interested in finding out what you think of the Newseum. Jim and I went there a couple of years ago, and we were very disappointed -- we felt it was glitzy and hi-tech, but didn't have as much real information and substance as we would have liked.

On the other hand, the Library of Congress blew us away. As did the Folger Library.
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From:mofic
Date:February 2nd, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
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I love both LC and the Folger Library. None of us have ever been to the Newseum and we have heard mixed reviews and are interested to see what we think. I'll report back!
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From:taffimai
Date:February 2nd, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
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If you're staying near DuPont, you might consider the Phillips Collection. It's right in the neighborhood and I love their collection. You're also close to Bet Mispachah if you're there on Friday night and want to check the the local LGBT shul.
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From:mofic
Date:February 2nd, 2011 08:38 pm (UTC)
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I have been to the local gay shul, albeit a long time ago. I don't know the Phillips Collection - thanks for the rec.
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From:talktooloose
Date:February 2nd, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
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That's great. My brother, his brother-in-law, and the three sons they have between them decided to do a baseball trip last summer, going from city to city and seeing a major league game in each.

Both dads and the oldest of the boys are too unorganized and ADD to have put it together, and the youngest child is too young. Thank goodness, my 15 year old nephew was on hand. He booked all hotels and baseball games and made an actual, working itinerary. He has long since learned that if he wants things to actually happen in his family, he better make them happen.
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From:mofic
Date:February 5th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
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It's good there's at least one person in the family who can plan!
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From:neotoma
Date:February 3rd, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
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I will always recommend the Natural History Museum -- I contributed to the Hyperbolic Crochet Community Reef that is in the newly redone Sant Ocean Hall. There are a few surprises, like the bull mummy in the Ancient History wing, and the Stellar Sea Cow skeleton in the Osteology hall that I think are well worth looking for.

You should eat at least one time at Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian. The food is amazing -- it consistently gets great reviews from the foodies.

And don't miss out on Millenium Stage -- there is a free performance every day at 6pm at the Kennedy Center. Go to Foggy Bottom Metro and take the free red shuttle there and back.

I'm rather fond of the National Postal Museum, too. It's right beside Union Station, and since it is part of the Smithsonian, absolutely free.

And since you're going to be in Dupont Circle, I recommend eating at Teaism at least once.
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From:mofic
Date:February 5th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the recs! It's only three days, so we probably won't do them all...
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From:realpestilence
Date:February 3rd, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
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I'd love to see the Smithsonian. I hope you have a lot of fun on your trip!
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From:mofic
Date:February 5th, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I love the Smithsonian. I worked for the Federal Reserve for years and spent a lot of time in DC, so I got to know most of the Smithsonian museums well.
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From:stirsmn
Date:February 5th, 2011 04:41 am (UTC)
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Jealous of so much in there.

Have a GREAT trip!
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From:mofic
Date:February 5th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Jealous of so much in there.

I know. In so many ways we got the good years. If things had been different, we could have given to you what they gave to us even after they weren't able to give anymore.

I will say that whenever I find myself thinking "I don't want to have to do this again - I've done it for years" about any of Zara's stuff, from school things to hosting a sleepover party last week to listening to her adventures at midnight last night, I think of you and do it with a smile on my face. And find I get into in and enjoy it, even with the third kid.
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