My vacation in handcuffs

So we took the family to Washington, D.C. and this happened.

the middle one did it

“That’s him, officer! The pitiful-looking one with the puppy dog face!”

Though this is not a real police lineup, there were several times during the week when I wished he were in police custody so that the rest of us could enjoy our vacation in peace. At the attraction where this picture was taken, his aunt bought him a set of toy handcuffs. For the rest of the day, including the duration of our visit to the Air and Space Museum, he handcuffed me to random objects. He could have done us all a favor by handcuffing Buster to the stroller, but Buster’s wrists are too small to really pinch painfully in toy handcuffs. And it’s no fun wielding the authority vested in shackles if you can’t cause pain with it.

Buster spent the bulk of his vacation chasing Big Brother and screaming for the latter’s toy handcuffs. Buster can bust out one hell of a shriek when a brother doesn’t surrender the toy he wants. I’m sure some fellow hotel guests can back me up on this. But his parents did a pretty good job of keeping the high notes contained within normal waking hours. Those kids you heard yelling in the halls all night were a totally separate group of poorly raised children.

New Baby did an admirable job of keeping himself quiet at night. The long days of touring the city made him sleep hard, followed by some hard waking up in the morning. None of us boys in the family wake up easily, and by the looks of things, New Baby will be no exception.


“Oh my God! Where am I?”

always morning

“What time is it?”

morning still

“I did what last night?”

glorious morning

“Oh man! Could I ever use a milk toddy right now.”

After finishing the difficult work of waking up in the mornings, we spent our days seeing the sights, some familiar, some new. But for all the things we saw, the best part of this trip was discovering that D.C. has some pretty decent pizza.

I am a northeast native, living in a Midwestern world. The people here have learned not to speak to me of pizza unless they wish to unleash the condescending snob within. I can find merit in all things Midwestern, except pizza. It hurts my heart whenever I hear Big Brother say, “I love Domino’s pizza.” If he only knew.

It never occurred to me that D.C. would be the first step in his education. Who knew they’d have pizza reminiscent of the northeast? All of us, even picky little Buster, ate and ate and ate many delicious slices. And nobody’s mouth found a leisure moment to blaspheme the holy meals with talk of Domino’s. There is hope for us yet.

After my traditional confrontation with one of the conscientious workers inside a subway booth, it was time to come home. I guess I won’t have to worry about overdosing on pizza again for a while.

After carting three kids around the big city for a week, the wife and I could sure use a vacation.


History, trains, dinosaurs, trains, airplanes, and mostly trains

My three-year-old son likes our local historical museum quite a lot, but it is nothing that can prepare a boy for a visit to the various museums of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Nor is it anything that can prepare the dad of a three-year-old boy for the adventure of taking his son to those behemoths.

Archie Bunker’s chair and assorted other cultural artifacts. To a three-year-old, this is one big blah, blah, blah exhibit.

The Smithsonian American History Museum is famous for its many exhibits that hold no appeal to the three-year-old boy. Many of the displays include a panel of text, describing the item and its importance to our culture. I read the first line of several of these descriptions before I was dragged around the corner to see if there were any toys or displays with buttons to push hiding there. I wish the museum would find writers who could explain an exhibit in five words or less. That would be a great boon to every tourist parent.

The saving grace of the American History Museum was the area with the locomotive engines. To a little boy, the world is composed of trains, trucks, and diggers, but mostly trains. While the rest of the museum was a blur of verbose descriptions, fattened with wasteful prepositions, conjunctions, and articles to vex the skidding parent, the train area was a wonderland that needed no words. There were huge hulks with wheels and metal on tracks; who needs a placard to tell them that is the most glorious combination on Earth? Nobody endeavored to drag Daddy away from the trains.

This is the meaning of life.

The Natural History Museum holds dinosaur skeletons. My son enjoyed the dinosaurs, if you only count the first two we saw. After that, they lost their charm. He quickly formed the conclusion that their most prominent characteristics were that they were big and they were dead. Judging by these criteria, the skeletons all turned out to be pretty much the same.

Dinosaur-on-dinosaur violence was an issue that was left unaddressed for too long by the dinosaurs. This display depicts a sad chapter in the demise of dinosaur culture.

It was the human remains that interested him the most. He wanted to know what happened to that guy, whereas the demise of each of the dinosaurs was less intriguing. Based on the many dioramas of various dinosaurs attacking one another, I think he just assumed that they ate each other up until the final tyrannosaurus died of loneliness.

He was also fascinated, and creeped out, by a time-lapse image of a woman posing as a colonial era matron. I might have inadvertently led him to believe that she was a witch, but that wasn’t completely my fault. They buried this colonial lady in a lead coffin; so what did they expect ignorant fathers of future generations would blurt out when they didn’t have time to read the entire description? “I bet she was a witch,” is exactly what our forefathers should have expected me to say. Of course, I meant that she must have been falsely accused of being a witch, but I doubt my boy inferred the distinction. He held my hand as he stared at her changing image, cautioning me not to get too close.

Playing with a nondescript, toy airplane while countless real aircraft sit unappreciated in their quiet, historic nooks.

In the Air and Space Museum, my son went straight for the places where he could push a button or move a lever. He might not have known what the lever did, or why he should take such unbounded pleasure in pulling it, but who cared? It was enough to know that it was a lever, and levers are meant to be pulled with glee by the hands of little bodies. I watched a lot of really fantastic lever-pulling and button-pushing in that museum. Somebody told me there were vintage aircraft in the building as well, but I must have missed that part.

Each day, we rode the metro back to our hotel, and that was the very best part of all. The many museums we visited were a wonderful excuse to ride the train back and forth. But even if they weren’t there, we would have had to ride the train into town every day to watch the grass grow on the mall.