Thursday, August 16, 2018

The craziness that is training in DC after home leave

So to the kids and I, our time in DC was much more relaxing as we had no doctor appointments to rush off to and lots of museums to it was more like home leave to us. For Richard though, he had six weeks of training at the State Department education facility. Given we were migrating from a winter bidding cycle (aka moving in December/January like we previously had) to a summer bidding cycle (aka arriving in July) we ended up with this block of time that needed to be filled. Typically it is extremely hard to get enough time for Richard was actually lucky and was signed up for a number of courses he had been wanting to take for a long time.

As I mentioned in the previous post, Mason flew into DC the day after Clarissa, Isa Lei and I drove up from Charleston. We had some visa paperwork and vaccination stuff that needed to be done that required Mason to be in DC with us. It also gave Mason some time to visit with my parents/brother & his family. One afternoon, after his arrival we went to our favorite Smithsonian museum...the Natural History Museum. This one gets hit every time we are in DC! They had a special narwhal exhibit....who doesn't love sea unicorns?!?! So since it was new, that was the only thing I took pictures of. Mason who had been thinking he was getting tall, quickly realized he was small potatoes in relation to a narwhal tusk!

Clarissa reading up (and then telling me....ha ha, see how I snuck some summer reading in!) how the narwhal tusk never stops growing!! That is a fun fact!

The following weekend was the Memorial Day holiday. My mom, sister-in-law, niece and nephew came over for some lunch. We had planned to do the parade but the weather forecast wasn't looking too nice so we opted to walk from our apartment to the Iwo Jima memorial and Netherlands Carillon. None of them had been to the Memorial and due to the holiday we got to hear the bells playing live in the Carillon. On our way, we passed a little hidden statue of King David, his wife Haggit, and their child Adoniyya. It is called 'The Family' and given my sister-in-law is a church youth minister I thought she might like it....Clarissa is blocking 'the child'.

This shot was my mom with her grandkids (less one grown one in Illinois), but the youngest wanted her mommy in the happens!

On our way back, we stopped at the a cool little pocket park playground I knew about to break up the walk for the kids. Clarissa loved finally having cousins her own age to play with!

As luck would have it, some of my/my brother's cousins from St. Louis were in the area for a vacation. We met up for some lunch one day and then hung out on the boardwalk. It was great seeing them and catching up. We let my sister-in-law (aka the 'out-law') take the cousins photo.....

Mason has gotten into collecting the special quarters series (really tricky and slow when you live overseas), as well as, collecting pennies. So given there are no mints you can tour in DC, the next best thing is you can go tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and see how money is made! You can head downtown super early in the morning, stand in line, and hope to get tickets for some point later in the day OR you can book group tickets in advance. I went with the group ticket option, unfortunately due to all the snow days in the DC area my nephew was still in school that day and my sister-in-law had to work. The rest of us went and had fun though!

Don't know why, but now I am humming "If I had a million dollars" by Barenaked Ladies again....

Our motley crew....

Since my brother and niece were cheating, Clarissa and I decided to cheat too!

Possibly the most interesting thing we learned was that $2 bills are still in production! Who knew! So the DC location prints $20, $2 and another denomination. The Texas location prints the other denominations. The main thought going through my head besides $$$$$$$, was if I worked here I would have so many paper cuts!

Great picture of Mason and my parents (now taller than my mom). There's my brother photobombing in the back.....sigh, little brothers!!  Afterwards, we headed to lunch!

So after doing a number to transits through DC, we have seen a lot of what there is in the nearby area. So for this trip, we expanded our horizons! We discovered that Hershey, Pennsylvania was a little less than 2.5 hours away. After doing many 3-4 hour trips slowly around Fiji due to villages and cows (National Speed Limit is also 80 km/hr....aka 50 mph)....2.5 hrs via freeway....easy! So one rainy Sunday we went to the Hershey Chocolate World! We did the free was a bit lame (all an old theme park ride) but we splurged on the 'Create-Your-Own-Candy Bar'.....and that was amazing! We got decked up like good ole factory workers (best part was the kid size aprons!).

We took our tickets and scanned them at the first computer station where we picked what we wanted in our bars. Richard and I opted for dark chocolate (yum), Mason went with white chocolate, and Clarissa went straight milk chocolate. You could also pick add-ins like rice bits, cookie bits, sprinkles on top (both kids added sprinkles). Once done there, you entered production, scanned your ticket, and pulled the magic lever!

You then saw your name/bar up on on the production schedule with everything you had selected to put in it.

A shell that is the chocolate type you picked comes down, then what ever add-ins are dropped into your shell, then all go through the milk chocolate waterfall and get covered in chocolate. Then if you selected sprinkles they are added before the chocolate solidifies. Watch as our bars move through the chocolate waterfall!

You then could watch as your chocolate bar "cooled". That was probably the longest part, during which you headed to another computer to design your cover. You could add icon's, fancy font, resize your name....all kinds of fun stuff!

Once dried, your bar went to the boxing section. It was super neat in that the machine boxed your bar and then laser printed your name onto the box! After it was boxed it moved to a real person who put it in a tin, slipped your cover around it, and handed it to you.

It was pretty neat and we all had one of a kind Hershey's chocolate bars!!

Based on everyone's faces, I think we all had a blast!!

With the ticket package we had gotten we also had a viewing of their 4D movie, while the kids enjoyed it - Richard and I thought it was really cheesy. They did have it so you could text what you were at Hershey celebrating...since it was only a day after, Richard texted we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary....aah how sweet! So during the show, they acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, and other things being celebrated. They also had Hershey, Kiss, and Reese walking around for photos. We didn't run into Hershey but we did the other too!

Later that week, the kids and I did find our way to coin mint in DC. It doesn't do tours (anymore?) but they do have a little shoppette you can buy some things you didn't know you needed! The guy working the shop happened to be a foreign service Mason had fun talking to a grown up who lived survived this lifestyle! Mason ended getting himself a set of uncirculated 2018 coins! On our way back, we had a little impromptu Chinatown photo shoot (because why not?!?).

Mason then headed back to Texas for another month with his dad. Clarissa and I took Richard to the Chesapeake Brewing Company for Father's Day. We picked it because we like the cool mermaid logo and we know Richard enjoys a craft brew from time to time. As luck would have it, on their sign when we walked in, it said they were giving Dad's free pint glasses for Father's Day! Richard collects pint glasses! Score! I do have to say, Annapolis is a very sleepy town on weekends.

So for months now, Clarissa has been wanting to have a lemonade stand. Living overseas on orders with visas and such....earning money is a no-no. We had thought about trying to have a stand at my in-laws, but they live on a quiet street without much another bust. Given her cousin is not much younger than her....I approached my brother/sister-in-law....they have a house on the corner! We decided a weekday when everyone was heading home from work would be perfect. So that afternoon we passed the 'is it time yet' time by having the kids make posters and the lemonade. We had regular and a special lavender mint brew!!

I had sewn Clarissa a money apron for this (and the yard sale) that she proudly wore. She was the money keeper (because she was the oldest of course)!

Once up from her nap, my niece even got in on the action!

They did awesome! Not from volume of sales, but more from tips they got. Working the cute factor while they have it!! We did a few more fun things in DC. I had (another) Groupon for a pottery painting. So Clarissa painted an ice cream bowl for her and Richard to share evening ice cream in (even has a line down the middle so nobody eats too much) and her cousins painted a plate and car. It was fun. I also signed up from some sewing classes for myself (I can now do patio cushions with piping) and Clarissa wanted to take a class too! So she learned how to make a pillow! She really enjoyed it and hopefully I can find some classes in Doha for her to take.

We also spent some time at my parents (though I didn't take pictures of us sitting The kids and I enjoyed our relaxing time in DC (less the construction on our patio from 9am to 4pm everyday....the noise was horrific and ran us out everyday). After this training, we headed back to Charleston for a little bit of vacation time before we head to Doha! Coming soon in another post!

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