Day 45: The Branches continued. . .

Today we continued with our tour of the Branches of Government. We had to be up and out early for our 8:30 tour of the White House. (We were through it and back by 9:30.) It took as long to go through security as it did to go through the House. You get to see the first floor of the East wing. We saw the Green, Red, Blue and Yellow rooms, the dining room, the library and the china room.


Our next stop was the Supreme Court. They are not in session, so not even a chance to see any action. We watched a short video (there is always a film). Then we sat in on a 30 minute talk about how the Supreme court works, but we got to sit in the courtroom. We spent a few minutes looking at the displays. I think Shayna enjoyed the special exhibit on Sandra Day O’Conner since she has read about her.


Our afternoon activity was the National Museum of African American History. How did we get tickets? We logged onto the website this morning before we left and got same day online tickets. No problem! Or just really good luck!

We spent almost 3 hours at the museum and still did not get to all of the displays. We made it through most of the historical exhibits. This museum visit officially begins the transition to our “unit” on Civil War and Civil Rights. It was a lot of information on a lot of issues. But it provided a thorough overview/introduction. As we start heading south on Monday we will be able to focus on specific highlights within those topics.


Day 44: Seeing it in Action!

On Monday we settled into our unit in Washington DC. For those who know the area, we are at Pennsylvia Ave SE and 13th St. SE. Another cute, comfortable place with washing machine and a parking space – phew! But mosquitoes – ugh! We followed our usual routine, filled up with gas (so we are set to go when we leave), did some marketing, did some laundry and made dinner, salmon and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Tuesday was our first day of seeing the sites. We are just 2 blocks from the subway and only 2 stops away from the Capital area. We had a 1:00 capital tour, so we decided to stop in to Ted Lieu’s office to see if we could get House/Senate gallery passes to use while in the Capital.

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The staff were so nice. We spent a few minutes talking with them about their jobs and they let us see Mr. Lieu’s office. Our chat with the staff helped Shayna understand how Congressional work actually happens. They offered to escort us through the staff tunnels to the Capital when we were ready – that was really cool!

But first, we had some time so we went over to the Library of Congress. Shayna and I have decided that it is the most impressive building we have seen so far. Beautiful!! While we waited for a tour, we viewed an exhibit on the Gershwins and another exhibit on Bob Hope and the history of comedy in politics. The exhibit is a little dated and could definitely be updated with recent events!! (Go Kimmel!).

We greatly enjoyed the tour which focused in the architecture of the building (built by Italians). We saw a couple of the prized possessions – the Gutenberg bible and the first map that has Amerika on it. We saw the great reading room – gorgeous!


Afterward, we had just a few minutes to check out the children’s reading room – I had to drag Shayna away! Maybe we can get back there sometime this week to hang out a bit.

After our escort into the Capital we were able to start our tour a little early. Another informative tour on the history of the Capital and how it has expanded, while getting to see the multitude of statues – 2 from every state. One room – the original House, looks more like a storage room for statues.

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You are not allowed to bring in any food or water into these building so by the time we were done with the tour we were starving- went to the cafe for lunch. Then we became curious  about where the Senators and Reps eat – we did not see that part of the Capital (but we could smell it!) They obviously have separate dining areas for them. Do they have to pay for their food or are we feeding them?

We ate quickly because we were anxious to get to the galleries to see some action. We made it to the House Gallery just around 3:00 and saw about 10 people in the Gallery, debating some amendments to a Bill. Within 30 minutes, the room started to fill up as all of the Representatives were coming in for a called vote on the amendments and the Bill HR 2824 – funding for maternal child health home visits. Ok, I felt like a political groupy – one of the first Representatives we saw was John Lewis – that was so exciting. I just kept looking over at him to see what he was doing – he just sat in his seat, waiting for each vote, and chatted as people came by to greet him. Then we watched Ted Lieu wander around talking to people on both sides of the room. He seemed to be networking. He is so dedicated to his job! Shayna noticed that the right side of the room looked very different from the left side of the room. (The right side of the room was also very loud while someone from the left side was presenting their amendment – the right side was quite rude, and the acting Chairman – not Paul Ryan – kept having to call for order.). We also kept a lookout for Adam Schiff and finally saw him – it was like the Oscars for me. I obviously have been watching too much MSNBC – although not lately – no access here!

We witnessed three different votes, 2 on the amendments and then the last one on the Bill.  From what we could figure out, the Bill provides funding for health home visits, but to receive funds grantees must be assessed every 3 years and show improvement and states must provide matching funds. The amendments were to remove the requirement of matching funds. Both amendments lost. It was quite dramatic watching the numbers fluctuate.  We did notice on the final vote on the Bill it was super close and it almost lost  and in the last few seconds you could see people changing their votes to get it to pass. Very curious – if they did not support it initially why change their vote at the last second – to be on record as supporting the Bill? To be in step with the Party? – hmm? I felt defeated watching this one Bill pass, maybe my imagination, but sensing some arrogance on the part of the right side knowing they have control of it all. Not sure how the Democrats keep pushing forward knowing they are continually outnumbered.

After the vote the room quickly cleared out, so we moved on to the Senate. Sorry, no pictures, obviously no cameras allowed. When we got to the Senate Gallery no one was there but a few Runners, the stenographers, the front of the room staffers and the President. Not sure what we were waiting for, but we waited. Then Cory Booker came in – Cool! He read a statement of record on calling for pulling together support for Puerto Rico ASAP. We could not see him because his seat was below where we were sitting (and they are very strict in the Gallery – no standing, moving, talking, etc.) But we heard him live! After he left Senator Stabenow from Michigan gave her statement. We planned to go back on Friday for the big vote, but those plans have changed! But we are keeping track of the Senate’s daily schedule to see if there will be any votes this week where we could see everyone.

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Day 42: Half way!

We hit the halfway point of our travels. Good time to take a break! We had a lovely morning with my cousin Greg, his wife Wendy and their daughter Lilah. They actually live just a 7 minute walk from where we were staying. We had a delicious brunch and lots of time to chat. Shayna really wanted to see the Philadelphia zoo, which is the oldest zoo in the country, (opened 1874) so I took the girls while Greg and Wendy had some down/catch up time.


Despite the 90 degree heat, the girls and I had a nice time. Some of the animals were actually out and about.


We were able to see most of the animals in just a couple hours. You definitely could identify some of the original enclosures that were made of stone. Not sure if they actually kept the animals contained back in the day.

The next day was a travel day. We had intended to go to an Underground Railroad museum before leaving town, but double checked just before we left and realized it was not open on Mondays. We were so disappointed. Bad planning on my part. However, the smart planning came with our move to Washington DC. In Philadelphia we studied the formation of the US government and in Washington we will get to see it action.