The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

After our meal at the food truck, we took off for our next destination, which happened to be the reason Lauren wanted to visit D.C.: The Air and Space Museum! We didn’t have very far to walk to get to it from the Holocaust Museum. As we entered, we were nervous about Mitchell’s Swiss Army knife (yes, this is the third post about Monday, March 6, so we still had the knife). Terry thought he would see if the museum allowed it. As soon as Terry emptied his pockets at security, a stout looking guard came over and told Terry, “Follow me.” Terry hadn’t even gotten his things from the x-ray belt! The guard led him to the door, opened it, and said, “Get out. We don’t allow any of that in here.” Fortunately, Terry was able to stash it outside somewhere and re-enter. I was holding his cell phone, keys, and billfold, hoping he could get back inside. It was at that moment that I felt a tinge of hatred for our nation’s capital. It might have also been the extreme fatigue setting in, too.

There was no coat check at this museum, which meant we were stuck carrying them because it was warm inside. Lauren instantly honed in on a tour that was about to start which took you through the highlights of the museum. She and Mitchell went on that tour while Terry, Leslie, Laci, Matt and I went on our own “Basham style tour”, meaning, we just went to the places that interested us, and we went quickly. This was not the favorite museum for the younger ones and *cough cough*me*cough cough*. I visited this museum when I was 18, and that was enough. I am not a math or science person, and this museum is all about math and science. They have engines hanging from the ceiling. Engines. That is about as interesting to me as if they had a display of paint drying. But Lauren loved it, so we found things to love, too. Here are a few photos of our day:

I really did love seeing the actual Spirit of St. Louis, the plane in which Charles Lindbergh flew the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic. This was here when I was a teenager, so it felt like seeing an old friend.

Still taking turns taking pics! Here is Terry with this famous aircraft. They also had several of the Lindbergh’s things, such as clothing and flight instruments, etc.

We enjoyed seeing the display area about Amelia Earhart. They had several of her personal artifacts.

There was a neat section about Jimmy Doolittle, who not only served our country valiantly in World War II, but he competed in races, and won, in his early career.  I didn’t know airplane races even existed. Pretty interesting.

This little hideaway was in the Jimmy Doolittle area.

Matthew loved the Space Shuttle we got to walk through. Here he is standing next to an astronaut as he is working. This was a very small exhibit, and nothing was hands-on, so that made it less exciting.

I just liked this huge hot air balloon.

Laci is inserting herself into a serious conversation about navigation.

They have an old airplane from the 60’s that you can walk through. The cabin was huge and the seats were padded and comfy, with lots of legroom! It’s amazing people used have such luxury when flying coach. And just look at a typical meal you could enjoy on a long flight! Thos were the days. *sigh*

As we were leaving, I got this photo of Lauren and Mitchell with a display of one the ladies featured in the movie Hidden Figures, which Lauren saw and loved.

Lauren happily reported that the tour of the museum was amazing. Mitchell was mildly entertained. Lauren enjoyed hearing the little-known facts about all sorts of flying machinery. In fact, she decided to forego visiting the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History with us a few days later so she could go back alone to the Air and Space Museum. I think she would go yet again if she had the chance. I was disappointed that the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the first Atomic bomb, is no longer featured at this particular museum. It’s now at one located in Chantilly, Virginia. I enjoyed seeing that when I came as a teenager and wanted to show the kids.

Terry took the three youngest kids on a three-minute flight simulator machine that let the kids do the driving. It even flipped upside down! They got to “shoot” at enemy targets and steer their “plane”. I could hear their squeals of delight ten feet away. It was definitely the highlight for them. It only lasted three minutes, but they thought it had to have been ten minutes.

We were able to retrieve Mitchell’s knife, for the last time that day, and begin the two mile walk back to the car. We had had a very fun and eventful first day in D.C.

Next up: the White House! *insert excited shriek here*

See you soon!

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

After warming up and getting a snack at the cafe next door to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, we went to the Holocaust Museum nearby. This was Lauren’s senior trip, so we let her choose most of the stops we made, and this is one she wanted to see. I must admit that I did not. I have a good imagination and have done a substantial amount of reading on WWII and the holocaust. So much so, that I did not feel I needed this trip. I’m too sensitive! But, I roused my courage and went in.

We were pleased that Mitch’s knife passed security here, so that was less thing to worry about. I was also happy that they had a coat check available! It was cold outside, but muggy inside the museum. It was nice to check my coat, as well as the kids’ coats, to free up my hands.

The tickets were free, but we had to go obtain them. The gentleman who gave us our tickets recommended that we start in a special kids’ section. This area surveyed the life of “Daniel”, a young boy who was taken to a concentration camp with his father and separated from his mother and younger sister. He would never see them again. He and his father did survive, but they lost everything precious to them.  Before they were taken to the concentration camp, they were taken to a ghetto, sort of a prison that resembled the low-income projects that I have visited in Chicago. This entire section has audio of a boy’s voice playing, reading entries from Daniel’s journal. I was already wanting to cry, and we had barely gotten started on the four-floor museum! As we left, there was a place for kids to draw a card about how they felt about the holocaust, or about Daniel. Matthew drew this:

The directions were, “How did Daniel’s story make you feel? Draw or write it.” Matt drew the broken heart, then I labeled it and dated it. We could have left it there in a special display, but I wanted to keep it. The girls wrote something that they wanted to leave.

From here, we took elevators up to the top floor and worked our way downstairs. As we got on the elevator, we were told to take an “Identification Card”, which told us the fate of one of the prisoners. If you were a woman, you got a female, men got a male card. I got the ID of an older woman who disappeared. She probably died at the hand of the Nazis, but no one ever found out for sure. Matthew got a 12-year-old boy who was gassed. I didn’t tell him.

The top floor tells how Hitler came into power. There is a 14-minute film telling how he worked his way up from a nobody to Chancellor of Germany. It is disturbing and sad. There is a large photo, taller than a person, of two Nazi guards walking with a German shepherd dog. One of them looked very young. It was hard to believe that such normal looking people could be capable of such cruelty and hate. The museum was filled with people in this section, so many that I felt claustrophobic. I was also worried about losing the children in the crowd. The stuffy, muggy feeling of the museum was more apparent there as well. I wasn’t sure if the room was really that humid or if it was my mind making me feel that way because of the depression and grief I was feeling. Anyway, due to the crowd, we shuffled our way out without seeing many displays. I had to sort of tune out a lot of the displays. Some of them were maps, which don’t interest me very much, and some were equipment of the time. I moved passed those pretty quickly. There was a display that showed that the Nazis not only targeted Jews but also Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals.

The longer I walked the halls, the more oppressed I felt. As I said, I am sensitive. Getting out of there became my number one goal. And as I felt this longing, I felt an even greater sympathy for the Jews who only wanted to get out, to go home, but could not. By God’s grace, that could have been I! I took only a few photos, because again, how do you treat such a place? It seemed to be more than a tour that you gawk at, it felt like one long funeral. I wouldn’t take photos at a funeral. Yet, it was a tour. They want people to walk through, to see the exhibits, and even to capture the memory of them. I felt that I could take a few tasteful photos to share.

These photographs are photos taken from Jewish photographers’ studios after the owners were carried off to concentration camps. The photos are of Jews. There are no names, just faces. There are portraits of families, happy and comfortable; women, smiling with anticipation of a bright future; men dapper dressed, ready to face the world. The photos capture a moment in time, a happy moment before the Third Reich ripped into the lives of so many innocent people. The photos are three-stories high in this section.

These are shoes worn by Jews. They were taken from their feet before they were led in to be killed. The caption on the wall says, “We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses, We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers, From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam, And because we are only made from fabric and leather, And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.”

The warmth and humidity of the room mingled with the smell of the ancient, worn leather made me feel quite nauseated. A headache formed above my eyes. I could not stand here long. Next door to this exhibit, was the same type of setup that you see in the photo above, only it was piles of human hair taken from the Jews. I could not pause, I could not even hesitate, or I would have been physically ill.

We saw a replica of a boxcar that transported the Jews to camps. We saw a large diorama-style carving of the process by which the Jews were killed. We saw a gate that said in German, “work will make you free”, which once stood at the entrance of a labor camp. What a lie it was! They worked them until they died, the only freedom they would have would be through death.

This room was a memorial room where you could light a candle in honor of the deceased. An interesting feature of this exhibit is the verse printed on the wall. Here is a close up:

It is Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” My husband commented that it is one of the strongest condemnations of Israel in the Bible. Israel had a conditional covenant, an “if-then” covenant. If they followed God, then blessings came; if not, then cursing. Surely one can make the connection that the holocaust was God’s judgment upon His wayward people? It struck me as an odd choice to have in this museum. Truly God has blinded some people to the truth (John 12:40). This room was lovely and cool, a refreshing break in an otherwise bleak tour.

As we were getting close to the end, I passed by the greatest part of the whole place: The Wall of Rescuers! I have read Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place, and eagerly searched for her name, and guess what? I found it!

There were thousands of names listed by country. People of all walks of life who sacrificed their own lives and comfort to spare the lives of others. What heroes! I couldn’t help but let a few tears fall in their honor. I also gave silent thanks to God for His mercy to me. He sent Christ to be my Rescuer! I was doomed for Hell, like all of mankind, but He stooped down to save me! I’m so undeserving, so unworthy, so vile and wicked, yet, He loves me anyway. This was the highlight of the museum.

Now that I had let the tears begin, there was no stopping them, especially at the last exhibit. It was a video of survivors sharing how they managed to live: a kind German female guard in a concentration camp, tying the shoes of a Jewish teen and physically carrying her feverish body out of her cell to avoid her being taken away and killed; a mother, taking her grandson from her daughter with an excuse and telling the guards that the boy was her son, because she knew that her daughter and grandson would die if she didn’t intervene. Her final words to her other daughter were “Look after your sister, tell her I did it for her” (once she realized her son had been killed with her mother). And there were more, many, many more. I quickly went through the five or six kleenexes that I had tucked in my purse, so with a stuffy nose and mascara trailing beneath my eyes, I implored my family to leave. They acquiesced. A few of them were crying, too. As we went to retrieve our coats from the coat check, we noticed a desk where a holocaust survivor was sitting, available to answer questions or discuss the holocaust with any who wanted to do so. I would have loved to stop to speak to her, but what could I say? I was barely able to form words on the subject anymore.

My head was pounding by the time we left the museum. As soon as I stepped outdoors, I inhaled the crisp, chilly air, felt the breeze against my cheeks, and thanked God for America.

We then found a food truck to grab a drink for me so I could take some medicine for my head. We decided to eat lunch there, too, since this was one item on Lauren’s bucket list. We all got a hot dog or a pretzel and a drink. We sat on a bench by the street and enjoyed our meal. Matthew even got to feed a few crumbs to these tiny birds that came very close. They must be used to getting fed by strangers.

She can now cross off “eat at a food truck” from her list!

The next stop would be Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Join me next week for another installment of our D.C. adventure!


On March 2, 2017, our family rose before dawn, loaded up the van, and left on the longest vacation we’ve ever taken. We have been blessed to visit many interesting sites over the years, but they have always been in connection with ministry or visiting relatives. We have never gone so far away for so long before.

Lauren, our senior, had said several years ago, that if given the opportunity to go on a “senior trip”, she would choose Washington, D.C. When we lived in Arkansas, this seemed like a big request. When we moved even farther west, it became an even bigger one! Our goal had been to take her last summer, but we had to tell her no due to the lack of time and funds. We encouraged her to pray and to wait on the Lord. The Lord answered us in an amazing way. No sooner had we decided not to go when some friends graciously offered us the use of their time-share in the D.C. area. This would save us a lot of money. The only requirement being that we needed to be flexible on when we could go. As a homeschooling family, this was something we could do. Terry and I saved as much money as we could, and continued to bring it to the Lord in prayer. A six-day vacancy opened up in the time-share for March 5-10, so we took that as the Lord’s leading as when we should go.

As we mapped out our plan, we realized that we would be in the area of many interesting places. Since we were already traveling over 1,200 miles just to get to D.C., why not make the most use of our time out east? So we did! We were able to arrange a trip to Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and Lexington, Virginia, in addition to D.C. I would like to share some of the highlights of this trip with you, and perhaps encourage you to see a few of these places, also.

We drove about fourteen hours the first day of our journey, and seven then next day. We arrived in Gettysburg to a lovely hotel (it really saved us money to be going during the off-peak season, which again, was the Lord’s doing). The hotel property backed up against an old cemetery, which the history lover in me found to be quite exciting.

The next day, we headed out early to tour Gettysburg. I read The Killer Angels at the end of last year, which really gave me a better understanding of those three days in July of 1863 and made the visit even more enthralling for me.

First, we headed to the visitor’s center. The battlefield can be toured for free, but the museum charges admission. As we were walking into the museum, an elderly couple passed us as they were leaving. The gentleman stopped Terry and said, “Hey, they didn’t take our tickets for the museum inside, would you like to have them? I don’t know if they will work, but you could give it a shot.” Terry thanked him and we went inside. He showed the admissions lady the tickets and she said they were for the wrong time. We thought, oh well, it won’t work. She proceeded to change the time on them and issue us the remaining five that we needed. That gentleman saved us $30! What a blessing from the Lord.

The museum was filled with interesting exhibits. The younger ones always seem to run ahead to the interactive parts of the museum, so we had to move quickly.

Of course, I had to get a photo with the Confederate flag.

The museum portion of our visit included watching a short film about Gettysburg, seeing the Cyclorama, a 360-degree painting of The Battle of Gettysburg with various sound and visual effects which made it seem like 3D, and the museum itself.

On this trip, we had to take group photos in twos. The person who snapped the first photo then handed the camera off to someone else and we took another with that person in the group. The sun was bright in this photo, but we couldn’t resist snapping a photo with Abe outside the museum.

Group shot, take two.

Next, we loaded up in the van and began our own tour of the battlefield. I visited Vicksburg National Military Park last year. It was a brief trip, but we were able to see it all in about an hour. The Gettysburg battlefield is huge. It took us four hours and we still could have explored it in more detail if we’d had more time. It was bitterly cold the day we were there, with strong blasts of arctic air hitting us in the face, yet we soldiered on and had a great time.

This is the view of Seminary Ridge the direction where Gen. John Reynolds (Union) was looking when he was shot off his horse. He died instantly in the opening moments of the battle.

This seemed like a nice place for a photo.

Cannons were all over the place.

Two Arkansas natives with the Arkansas memorial.

Me with Gen. Longstreet (Confederacy).

It has been debated that, had Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson not died at Chancellorsville, the south would have won the Battle of Gettysburg. Due to Jackson’s death, Longstreet became Lee’s second in command. There is much more to the story of course, so I encourage to read about the battle and about the men behind it.

There are three observation towers at Gettysburg. We ended up climbing roughly 37 flights of stairs. I photographed the view from each of them, but they sort of run together after a while. From these vantage points, you can get the big picture of the battle, with the help of placards that explain what is before you. The wind was quite strong up there, so we didn’t get to enjoy the view long. This was the best group shot of the fifty-five we took (haha).

The Virgina Memorial has this amazing monument to Gen. Robert E. Lee and Traveller.

Lee and Traveller.

Me and Terry on the top of Little Round Top! I was pretty excited!

Little Round Top

More of Little Round Top. It’s the setting for much of The Killer Angels, hence my excitement at seeing it.

The rock formation below is Devil’s Den – Confederate snipers camped out there and shot at the Union who held Little Round Top.

The Confederate’s view of Little Round Top.

The Wheatfield was the site of brutal fighting, 6,000 men died here.

The Trostle House. This served as Major Gen. Dan Sickles headquarters during the war.

The Pennsylvania Memorial is grand and beautiful.

I didn’t realize you could climb to the top of the Pennsylvania Memorial until I heard a faint yell from above. Can you see Mitchell?

There he is!

I had to climb up, too, and get the full experience. Here is the view inside the stairwell.

Lauren and Mitch at the top of the Pennsylvania Memorial.

The wind was so strong at the top of this monument, that my Nikon lens was shaking. It was all I could do to hold it steady. It still did a good job, though. The round disk on the wall has landmarks listed pointing in their general direction. It was a lovely view.

In front of the library on Seminary Ridge.

At Soldier’s National Cemetery.

Unfortunately, we didn’t tour the Soldier’s National Cemetery, where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, until Sunday morning before church. The frigid air drained the battery in my Nikon, so this is the last photo I was able to get with it. The next few are from my iPhone. Even with the full day that we spent at Gettysburg, we didn’t see everything. I do hope to visit again someday. Even if I had seen it all, I don’t think I can ever really get enough.

There was a poem written out in stanzas across part of the cemetery. This portion says, “Your own proud land’s heroic soil, Must be your fitter grave, She claims from war his richest spoil, The ashes of the brave.”

At the church we visited Sunday, I had an interesting conversation with a lady who grew up in Gettysburg. She informed me that the battlefield has really hampered the growth of the town of Gettysburg, after all, it takes up most of the town. As a child, she assumed every town had a battlefield in the middle of it!  Gettysburg is currently about 8,000 in population, which is how many dead they had to bury in July of 1863. She also told me that many people move there just because of the history. Before our trip, my kids liked to joke that “mom wouldn’t be coming home because she would want to live in Gettysburg”. Well, I did come home, but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only person who would want to move to a place just for its history.

We did a lot of walking and climbing at Gettysburg, and everyone got a good dose of history. And just think, this was only the beginning!

Thank you for traveling with me.