December 28, 2011

National Marine Corps Museum

Today was a day I've waited over 5 months for...  We toured the National Marine Corps Museum as a family.  It's one of those things you are always meaning to do, you know, sight see in your own city.  When visiting a far off land, you cram so much into a short vacation in order to see it all but not when it is literally in your own backyard.  Oh, no, that's when it gets put off til next week, then the next and so forth.  We only had to travel the 2 miles up the road from our house to the museum but I was determined to get us out of the house to sight see this Christmas Vacation.

Although the museum is fantastic, the location stinks.  Sure, it is here at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, but not to many tourists from the city will venture down here to see it.  Picture this...

You enter this gigantic atrium and look up to see this...

The entire atruim has this glass ceiling with several aircraft haning above.  The kids were in awe of the entire space. During the day you can see the tippy top of the museum from the highway and at night the lights shine bright up into the night's breath taking!

Next, you're guided through the history of the Marine Corps, starting with "Making A Marine." The famous yellow footsteps start your journey through time.
Your brain is overloaded with the sights and sounds of boot camp.  There are two telephone booth size displays you can enter to listen to what grunts hear from drill instructors, one for males and one for females. The entire museum is laid out in such a way that you just stroll through each period of time, reading, looking and learning, so's wonderful. 

There are display cases everywhere, vehicles, and aircraft but also life size, walk through displays.  Making the visitors feel as part of the history was apparent.

Some display areas had doors closing off the area from the rest of the museum.  Below, is the Korea War.  The room was small but ice cold.  Marine figures were "talking" to one another about the conditions of the cold weather.  We truly felt transported back in time!

The kids did not like the Vietnam display walk through room because the helicopter vibrated making them uneasy. I loved it...I felt like I was in a operational helicopter about to disembark to fight the enemy.

Being that we are located so close to Walter Reed Hospital, there was a children's section where they could draw pictures and letters to send to recovering service men and women.  Of course my kids aren't old enough to draw something well enough that strangers can read and interpret the message but they had fun coloring anyway.

The museum designers wanted to make learning fun and a family affair so there were several stations throughout each historical time period with uniforms we could try on.

Today was truly a fun filled day. Olivia told us that the museum was not scary for little boys (Justin was pointing at everything clearly enjoying himself) but scary for little girls (she was not a fan of the loud noises and guns not behind glass) but it is ok because Daddy was there for protection! She understands everything was pretend but that did not comfort her when the floor of the helicopter was vibrating and the speakers were playing sounds of disembarking!!

Now to just go back without any kids so I can actually read the writing on the wall, all the stories about heroism and courage.  I was inspired today to continue feeding my love of history and learn more... since I was also humbled by how little I actually remember about history!

December 6, 2011

Christmas Traditions

 Before we had kids, we never really thought about blending our Christmas Traditions.  Every year, even after our first two kids were born, we traveled back to our parents homes to celebrate like old times.  This year is different.  With Little Guy being so tiny, we're staying put for the holidays.  So, we are now blending our childhood traditions.

Ryan grew up with artificial trees (I can't call them fake since technically they are in the shape of a tree just not living). I grew up with real trees (or as Ryan would say, recently cut down trees). He let me have my real tree since I'm willing to fork over big bucks for a great artificial tree on sale after the holidays.  See our real tree in the far right window of the house...beautiful!

I lived in Germany for a few years as a kid and every year we took part in the local traditions, like Advent Calenders.  Our good neighbor's here in VA are from Germany and  asked if we would let them get the kids Advent Calenders.  Of course I said yes since I was planning on getting them some myself.  It was extra special this year because the tradition was explained to them by Germans and I got it on video.  J-Man is super excited to open his calender every day, as is his big sister.
Update: Another German tradition is a visit from St. Nicolas on December 6th, who leaves treats and toys in children's boots.  Our home was visited this year and we were all pleasantly surprised.

Ryan's parents own this super ugly, green avocado colored, paper mache angel from the 1970s that they continue to use every year as their tree topper.  Ryan would fight with his sister as to who would get to put the angel up, so his parents came up with, "One for show and one for keeps."  Meaning, one child would put the angel up for show, it would come back down and the other child would put it back on the tree for keeps. Brilliant!! It switches every year so each child can put the angel on and there are no fights as to who's turn it is that year.  We're going to have to do some serious calculations to figure out a way for all three of our kids to put the angel on and make it fun!

As far back as I can remember, my sister and I made Christmas cookies with our dad.  Mom was never involved other than taking our pictures.  This is something I'm continuing with my kids, although Ryan takes the pictures now.  Justin got to help this year and I can't wait for Liam to help in a few more years.

The kids get to decorate the tree every year, with the help from mom and dad in the form of moving ornaments around the tree to even them out since they seem to get clustered at the bottom of the tree. This is something I always did and our kids enjoy putting the ornaments on so much I have to fight them off of the ornament box so they don't break anything!

This year the kids will open a new family game each and we'll play them both on Christmas Eve.  We'll leave carrots out for the reindeer, and Daddy will read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in to the kids right before bed.  Watching Olivia this year and Justin as well is such a blessing.  Seeing the excitement in their eyes and joy on their faces is just wonderful.  Some say you can spoil a child, but not at this time of year!

One family tradition that is brand new is Mr. Pop-In-Kins.  He's a special Elf who pops in and out of the house watching the children's behavior.  He then reports back to Santa on Christmas Eve with any and all naughty and nice acts the kids displayed.  Olivia and Justin enjoy searching for him every morning.  Watch out...he can't be touched or he loses his magic and must report back to the North Pole immediately to have it restored.
Merry Christmas!