Thursday, August 22, 2013

DC for a Day

While driving back from our trip to Montana--somewhere in the middle of Wyoming--my sister called me.  She had managed to book a non-stop flight to DC the next day, so that she could be there for my mom's hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee.  She called Ernie to tell him she was coming, and he insisted she call me to see if I could make it.  Knowing that our childcare situation is considerably different, she didn't expect that I would be able to make it, but asked anyway.  I told her we would talk about it and I would get back to her.  I didn't have any idea how we could make it work, since Tim had to return to work (although he did luckily have the next day off) and we had no one to watch the girls.

For any of you who don't know, my amazing mother is going through the process of being selected to be a Federal Judge for the state of Montana.  She was chosen from a fairly large group by Senator Baucus and later given the stamp of approval by President Obama.  She has spent countless hours filling out background checks and such for the FBI and on this occasion was called to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee with three other Federal Judge nominees.  The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote her through, and then she has to be voted through by the whole Senate.  Needless to say, I am EXTREMELY proud of my mother.  She has worked so hard and done so well in her career and she deserves this appointment.  I am so glad that my daughters have a Nana like her to look up to!

All that aside, we had discussed when my Mom and Ernie were visiting in June that maybe we could come out to DC for this hearing.  It was later decided that that wasn't really necessary and I had sort of forgotten about it.  I guess at some point my mom watched a podcast of a similar hearing and told my sister about how all the nominees had their families with them at the hearing and even introduced them in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Although I know she didn't intend to make my sister feel bad, Jess said it was like a knife to the heart.  ;)  Later Jess told Ernie that she would look in to trying to fly out for a quick trip.

Thus the phone call in the middle of Wyoming.

After dinner that night Tim expressed that he thought we should try to find a way for me to go, and started brainstorming some ideas.  We needed someone to watch the girls for a day and didn't know who could do it at the last minute.  God must have wanted me to go on this trip because he certainly worked things out just right.  It occurred to me as we were giving the girls a bath that Tina (Gigi) was working part-time and could just possibly have that day of the week off.  Bonus:  Grandpa and Gigi live about 15 minutes from the airport!  I texted Tina, guessing that the answer would be "no".  Lo and behold, she did have that day, and the next one, off!  She had just made plans with a friend, but was willing to move them and watch the girls.  My sister and I did some quick talking and booking over the phone and all of a sudden . . . I had a spot on a non-stop flight to DC leaving the next morning at 11!!

As I started to pack (while still unpacking!) my mind was reeling.  I couldn't believe I was actually going to DC!  I have rarely traveled alone and certainly have never done anything last-minute like this.  It felt completely crazy.

I felt a little guilty about hauling the girls off for a couple of days again.  They were so glad to see their toys when we got home.  But at least they were just going to be at Grandpa and Gigi's.  We got them up early the next morning, packed them up and soon we were on the road to Denver.  We dropped a car off at Grandpa and Gigi's house and then Tim and the girls drove me to the airport.  We had a little breakfast together there and then said our goodbyes.  It wasn't easy to leave my girls, but I knew the time away would be good for me.

Tim and the girls stayed at Grandpa and Gigi's that night and Tim went to work from there the next morning.  His commute was about the same as from home . . . it really all couldn't have worked out better.

My flight was uneventful, which is a good thing, and my sister and I met at the airport in DC.  She had booked a shuttle and we spent an agonizing hour and a half or so riding through traffic in DC trying to get to our hotel.  Ernie had made reservations for dinner and we needed to be to the hotel in time to change quickly and get to dinner.

Remember, my mom DID NOT know we were coming!

We FINALLY got to the hotel and went to the front desk to check-in.  I glanced over and saw that Mom and Ernie were sitting in some chairs just to the side of the front desk, having drinks.  Fortunately, my mom was blocked by a pillar so she couldn't see us yet.  Ernie came over briefly and then went back to sit with her.

Surprising my mom was one of the most special moments of my life so far, I think.  She was just sitting in her chair having a drink and then we walked up.  Jess casually asked Ernie what time it was and my mom looked up.  The look on her face was priceless!  I'm not sure I'll ever forget it.  She jumped out of her chair and with tears in her eyes cried out, "What are you doing here?!"  She hugged us both and we tried not to cry . . . too much.  It was just such a happy moment.

Jess and I hurried to our room to change and freshen up a bit and then we headed out for dinner.  We had a lovely dinner of Italian with Senator Baucus' wife and then later the Senator himself.  I still couldn't quite believe that I was in DC!

The next morning my mom had to be at one of the Senate buildings pretty early to prepare for the hearing.  Jess went with her and Ernie and I met them there later, after breakfast.  There was one nominee for one of the districts of DC that had to go first by herself.  It was interesting to listen to as the Senators questioned her, because she is a fairly controversial candidate.  Finally it was time for my mom's group and they were finished in just about 15 minutes.  Thankfully, there isn't really anything controversial about my mom's appointment, so she's a pretty easy choice.  It's true that all of the other nominees had their spouses and children and some even more there, so I was glad that we were able to be there for my mom.

We had a nice, quiet lunch afterwards and then walked through a couple of neat hotels and over to the White House.  Honestly, I couldn't believe how small the White House is!  They make it look so big in pictures.  We were fortunate because I believe just about a week later there was much tighter security and you couldn't get nearly as close to the White House as we did.

By this time we were pretty sick of our suits and heals (it was hot and humid!) so we walked back to our hotel and changed.  Afterward we walked quite a ways along the "Mall", seeing most of the major monuments.  It was pretty incredible.  Some of them were very sobering, especially the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.  The overwhelming number of names written on the Vietnam War Memorial is staggering.  Each one of those men was a son, brother, husband, dad.  It didn't seem right to take pictures of it, honestly, but here are some pictures of the other monuments and memorials:

Outside the Lincoln Memorial.  There were a lot of people there.

I think this one was my favorite.  So neat.
Of course, it is much grander in person.

A view of the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool from the Lincoln Memorial.
Someday I want to see this view at night!

Ducks in the Reflecting Pool.

The Korean War Memorial.

The faces are so lifelike.

The World War II Memorial.

There is a pillar for each state.

The Washington Monument is under construction due to storm damage.
The whole thing is covered in blue scaffolding.

That was about the extent of my trip.  After our afternoon walking around we went back to the hotel lobby for drinks and then headed off to dinner.  After dinner Jess and I left for the airport and before I knew it I was on a plane headed for home.  It was a crazy fun, crazy quick trip.  I was there for a little under 30 hours!  I feel so blessed to have been able to be there for my mom, though.  She makes me so proud.  I liked what I saw of Washington DC and look forward to going back someday to see even more!

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