Tag Archives: smithsonian

A 21st Century Adventure!


This post is weeks overdue, but the craziness of life has left me scrambling for an hour of solitude and silence to sit and blog. In the absence of either, I find myself stealing free moments, a bite at time, so as to try and catch up on recording the events of our life that occurred weeks ago.

In the week leading up to Mother’s day we had our annual all-school field trip with 21st Century Cyber Charter School. Despite the million reasons why we shouldn’t attend this year (ie: multiple kids in crisis) we decided to press forward , especially for Molly’s sake, given this is her senior year and final 21CCCS field trip.

Our cyber school offers multiple field trips and outings throughout the school year and across the state for their students that are spread all the way from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, but the event of the year rolls around every May when everyone comes together for one huge, school-wide adventure. Past trips have included the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Annapolis, Mt. Vernon, Gettysburg, etc. This year’s end of the year field trip was to Washington D.C. Buses were sent to the four corners of the state to pick up 21cccs families and shuttle them to D.C. for the day.

We had originally reserved eight spots on the Pittsburgh bus, but on Thursday morning we found our numbers down to four. Rather than miss out when some of the kids weren’t able to come, Toby decided to stay home with those who weren’t up for the trip and I enjoyed a rare, easy-breezy day with the O3- Grace, Molly and Rusty.

And it was a gift….

Such a gift!

We left the house at 3:30 am to drive to Monroeville and catch the chartered bus to Washington D.C. with the other 21cccs families.

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The size of our group warranted 2 buses and we found ourselves traveling with our good friends, the Hudaks.

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The day ended up being my Mother’s Day gift to me.

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We loved the t-shirts for this year’s field trip!

It was a treat having some special one-on-one time with my “non-squeaky wheels”…those kids who find themselves setting aside their wants for the more pressing needs of our hurting kids.


For 18 hours they had me all to themselves and I reveled in the treat of being able to enjoy the joys of motherhood with none of the work. It truly was like a day off from real life as I enjoyed the company of my oldest kids and our dear friends, had hours of quiet reflection, looking out the window as someone else drove us the 5 hours there and back to Washington D.C., and a day of fun in one of my all-time favorite cities.

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Our large school group was split into two groups. We were visiting two Smithsonian museums with half the group beginning at the Air and Space Museum and half visiting the National Building Museum.

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We started our day at the Air and Space Museum:

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At noon all the 21st Century families and staff came together on the grass of the Mall and enjoyed a picnic lunch.

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Molly enjoyed catching up with friends from across the state,

As well as getting to spend some time with her learning coach, Mr. Winterode… an all-time favorite teacher of both my girls!

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After lunch on the Mall we walked over to our second location,

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The National Building Museum:

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It was a LONG day, but in a season of many LONG days, it was a gift to have an easy/fun/non-drama sort of long day!

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I love our cyber school!

Taking to the Sky


While in Virginia the boys and I sought out things to do near Fairfax. We heard tale of an “out of this world” museum only 20 minutes from George Mason University (where Rusty was spending the week attending a 3D programing camp.) After a little bit of research I knew this had to be one of our day trips for the week. The reviews were incredible and the pictures were amazing, and when we learned that the cost was FREE we knew where we were headed next…

To the Steven F. Udvar- Hazy Center!


Opened in 2003, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center serves as a partner facility to the National Air and Space Museum. The two locations together attract 8 million visitors per year, making the National Air and Space complex the most popular museum in the United States.


For aviation enthusiasts young and old, the Udvar-Hazy Center is just plain cool. The expansive museum consists of two hangars—the Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar—which have dozens of aircraft and spacecraft suspended from their ceilings. Some of the most notable include the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery. A more recently added hangar, the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, is where scientists and engineers work to restore artifacts from the Air and Space museum’s massive collection.


We arrived soon just as the doors opened. As we stepped into the museum we stopped first at the information desk with hopes of getting a map to guide us through the massive museum. Upon seeing the two boys, the volunteers told us about a fun aeronautic scavenger hunt they offer children, making their time at the museum even more interactive and engaging.


The boys jumped to the challenge, especially when they heard they would earn a special souvenir if they could track down all the airplanes on the sheet and record their unique animal themed names.


With the scavenger hunt paper in hand we began our search…


Working our way through the various sections of the museum that highlight different time periods and themes in aviation.

Cold War Aviation:

After World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union began competing for primacy in a global struggle pitting democracy against communism. Tensions between the two superpowers led to such confrontations as the Berlin blockade, the downing of an American U-2 spy plane, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Hot” wars erupted in Korea and Vietnam.

Aerial reconnaissance played an important role in this struggle. To supersede its U-2 spy plane, Lockheed developed the top-secret, stealthy SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft, one of which is displayed here. The Cold War ended with the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and relations between the former adversaries began to warm.

SR-71 and Space Shuttle Enterprise

Commercial Aviation:

Flying was new and daring in the early years of the 20th century. Traveling by airplane was rare. Airlines, airliners, airports, air routes—none of these existed. But by century’s end, you could travel to almost anywhere in America by air in a matter of hours. Commercial aviation is now both a commonplace and an essential aspect of modern life. It has revolutionized the world.

Some of the aircraft that marked important points in the evolution of air transportation are on display here: a Junkers Ju 52/3m, a popular German airliner of the 1930s; a Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the first pressurized airliner; the Boeing 367-80 Dash 80, the prototype for the Boeing 707, America’s first commercial jet airliner; and an Air France Concorde, the first supersonic airliner.


Destination Moon:

The National Air and Space Museum holds approximately 17,000 space artifacts in its collection. More than 3,500 of those stem from the historic Apollo Moon landing effort, with 400 objects related specifically to the first successful lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Lunar Module Eagle and became the first humans to step foot on the lunar surface while astronaut Michael Collins orbited above inside the Command Module, Columbia.

The tour and the display of Armstrong’s spacesuit help to set the stage for the unveiling of a completely reimagined permanent gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Destination Moon, scheduled to open in 2021,  will present the exhilarating story of one of the greatest adventures in human history, the exploration of the Moon. It begins with ancient dreams of lunar flight, takes the visitor through the Moon race of the 1960s and 1970s, and ends with what is happening now.


Space Shuttle Discovery:


Discovery was the third Space Shuttle orbiter vehicle to fly in space. It entered service in 1984 and retired from spaceflight as the oldest and most accomplished orbiter, the champion of the shuttle fleet. Discovery flew on 39 Earth-orbital missions, spent a total of 365 days in space, and traveled almost 240 million kilometers (150 million miles)–more than the other orbiters. It shuttled 184 men and women into space and back, many of whom flew more than once, for a record-setting total crew count of 251.


Because Discovery flew every kind of mission the Space Shuttle was meant to fly, it embodies well the 30-year history of U.S. human spaceflight from 1981 to 2011. Named for renowned sailing ships of exploration, Discovery is preserved as intact as possible as it last flew in 2011 on the 133rd Space Shuttle mission.


NASA transferred Discovery to the Smithsonian in April 2012 after a delivery flight over the nation’s capital.


Early Flight:

Early Flight celebrates the first decade of flight by evoking the atmosphere of an aviation exhibition from that period: the fictitious Smithsonian Aeronautical Exposition of 1913. The gaily decorated gallery is crammed with fabric-covered aerial vehicles, some fanciful, most real, along with trade show–style exhibits featuring cutting-edge technology of the day.

Gracing the gallery is a rare 1894 Lilienthal glider, along with Samuel P. Langley’s Aerodrome #5 and Quarter-Scale Aerodrome, powered, unmanned vehicles that successfully flew in 1896 and 1903. Early Flight also features the most original and complete of the Museum’s three Wright airplanes, the 1909 Wright Military Flyer, the world’s first military airplane. Other treasures include a Curtiss Model D “Headless Pusher,” an Ecker Flying Boat, and a Blériot XI monoplane.


Interwar Military Aviation:

The airplane emerged from World War I recognized widely for its potential as a military weapon. In the United States, Army pilots and Navy and Marine aviators worked to realize their different visions of the airplane’s ultimate role in American defense.

These advocates faced institutional resistance and meager budgets. They also faced the danger of pushing the capabilities of a rapidly developing technology during regular operations, combat in foreign lands, and public flights that presented their visions to everyday Americans. Innovations in doctrine, organization, and technology resulted in the air forces that would fight World War II on a global scale.

The Museum’s collection of 1920s and 1930s military aircraft contains many one-of-a-kind and sole-surviving aircraft.


Aerobatic Flight

In 1908, Wilbur Wright flew the first public exhibitions of a Wright Flyer in France. It wasn’t long before aviation meets began thrilling crowds of spectators with races; altitude records; climbing and diving; and dramatic turns. Developing aerobatic maneuvers helped the military improve fighter tactics and aircraft technology. Today, aerobatic flight remains an exhilarating type of flying in which a pilot performs precision maneuvers. Civilian pilots fly aerobatics for fun, competition, or air show performance. Military pilots use aerobatic flight for combat tactics. Millions of spectators watch aerobatic demonstrations each year at air shows. Aircraft used for aerobatics range from barnstormer-style biplanes to the latest military fighter jets.



While tracking down the planes on their scavenger hunt sheet we made sure to take advantage of the interactive booths scattered throughout the museum that allowed the boys to get “hands on” with the science of flight.

How Things Fly:

How does an airplane stay aloft? How can something as insubstantial as air support all that weight? Why do you become “weightless” in space? How can you propel yourself there, with no air to push against? These and many other questions are answered in How Things Fly, a gallery devoted to explaining the basic principles that allow aircraft and spacecraft to fly.

The emphasis here is “hands-on.” Dozens of exhibits invite you to push, pull, press, lift, slide, handle, touch, twist, turn, spin, bend, and balance. Here you can discover for yourself answers to things you’ve always wondered about flight. You can explore the nature of gravity and air; how wings work; supersonic flight; aircraft and rocket propulsion; flying in space; and more.


From there we headed up to the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower, where we enjoyed a bird’s eye, 360-degree view of the planes landing and taking off at Washington Dulles International Airport.


It was pretty spectacular!

Our day concluded with the boys turning in their completed scavenger hunt sheets and being awarded a prize for their efforts.


What an amazing place!

Pictures don’t do justice to the sheer size and scope of this incredible museum.

We give this Washington D.C. site two thumbs up!

If you are in the area: check it out!

Vintage Pittsburgh


vintage pittsburgh

After a fun night at the Home Free Concert the festivities continued into the following day with a girls’ trip down to the Heinz History Center for the sixth annual Vintage Pittsburgh retro fair.

Gracie put the event on the calendar as soon as she heard about it and invited Molly and I to join her. It was advertised as such:

“Find incredible vintage clothing, accessories, home décor, vinyl records, and much more from dozens of local vendors. Get refreshed at Shop ‘Til You Drop Soda Fountain, grab a bite from local food tables, and experience six floors of History Center exhibits.

Plus – find vintage inspiration, explore 1920s fashion, and maybe even learn a retro dance or two in the History Center’s newest exhibition, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.”

The event had the added advantage of a discounted admission price to the Heinz History Center as part of the event.

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We arrived and found crowds of vintage-loving, like-minded folks pouring through the museum. It was a VERY popular place on Saturday.

We arrived and found each level of the museum boasting various products for sale… everything from antique home décor, to jewelry, to vintage clothing. There was something for all of us to enjoy.

We started the day at the top floor where the majority of the vendors were set up and we worked our way downward over the course of the day.

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We began our stroll through the vendors with a stop at a silk screening booth where visitors could silk screen a “Vintage Pittsburgh” poster for free, or silk screen a “Vintage Pittsburgh” canvas bag for $5.00.

Molly went for the poster,

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While Grace chose to silk screen a bag.

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They were quite charming!

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Then we began shopping. I enjoyed strolling around the home décor to get ideas and inspiration while the girls went straight to the clothing racks. Both my girls love vintage clothing, although the styles they are drawn to are very different. The Vintage Pittsburgh event offered clothes that appealed to them both.

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With arms loaded with fabric treasures we headed for the dressing rooms where I settled in for the duration. They both tried on a lot of fun outfits but in the end settled on one favorite outfit each that they purchased with their Pretzel Factory “dough.”

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Molly’s new dress:

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Gracie’s new romper for summer:

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She was drawn to the fact that it looks like a skirt but is actually shorts.

Once we were shopped out we began working our way downstairs stopping on the fourth floor to play with some vintage toys.

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It was like my childhood had been laid out on the table…Oh, the feels!!

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When we had visited all of the “Vintage Pittsburgh” booths we ended our day with a tour of Heinz History Center’s newest exhibit…

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It was such a perfect fit for the “Vintage Pittsburgh” event and a great way to end our fun journey into the past.

“American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, the first comprehensive exhibition about America’s most colorful and complex constitutional hiccup, will make its final stop on a nationwide tour at the Heinz History Center beginning on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Created by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa., the 9,000-square-foot exhibit brings the story of Prohibition vividly to life – from the dawn of the temperance movement, through the Roaring ’20s, and up to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment.

Visitors can learn to dance the Charleston (a popular Prohibition-era dance craze),

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track down rumrunners in a custom-built video game, and pose for a mugshot beside a lineup of some of the era’s most notorious gangsters like Al Capone and Meyer Lansky.

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The Smithsonian-affiliated History Center will also display a model of a Prohibition-era “rum runner” motorboat, on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.”

It was a fascinating and fun exhibit that sparked some great conversation, not to mention the fact it offered us some great photo opportunities!

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What a fun date with my two favorite flappers!

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The Smithsonian


On the final day in Washington DC we dedicated our day to visiting some of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian Institution is composed of 17 separate collections with 11 being located along the National Mall where we were spending the day. We knew we only had about 7 hours to site-see so we chose the 4 museums/collections we thought the kids would enjoy the most.

"Where to go first??"

“Where to go first??”

We began our day by walking the perimeter of the National Mall, enjoying the architecture and gardens of each of the museum buildings.

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We began the day at the National Museum of American History. Here the kids enjoyed seeing the original American flag that inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s kitchen, the dresses and china of the First Ladies, a display on the history of war, and another exhibit on the history of transportation.

Tyler seeing if his riveting skills could match Rosie's.

Tyler seeing if his riveting skills could match Rosie’s.

Ozzie's favorite exhibit

Ozzie’s favorite exhibit

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Ozzie making friends…

Gracie making friends at the train station. Nice hats, ladies!

Gracie making friends at the train station. Nice hats, ladies!

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Next we walked to the National Museum of Natural History. Here the kids really enjoyed the live bug zoo, the bones room, and the gems and minerals exhibit where we were able to see the Hope diamond.

What a beautiful building!!

What a beautiful building!!

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The Bones exhibit

The Bones exhibit

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The Gems and Minerals room was a favorite stop...

The Gems and Minerals room was a favorite stop…

The Hope Diamond.

The Hope Diamond.

Gracie and I really enjoyed the National Geographic Photography exhibit.


Our third stop was the sculpture garden. Here the large works of art were showcased in beautiful gardens.

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Rusty standing by the artwork of David Smith, an artist he studied and wrote a paper about this past year.

Rusty standing by the artwork of David Smith, an artist he studied and wrote a paper about this past year.

A sculpture in the garden that invites guest to "take a seat."

A sculpture in the garden that invites guest to “take a seat.”

Our final stop of the day was the National Air and Space Museum. This stop was made at Ozzie’s request but it ended up being our favorite stop. It seemed to have the most to offer with fewer people and more interactive exhibits for kids. The sheer size of the building and the full size aircraft hanging from the ceilings was awe-inspiring.

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Can you spot Ozzie?

Can you spot Ozzie?

Toby and Tyler touring the spacecraft.

Toby and Tyler touring the spacecraft.

The Wright brothers and the McCleery brothers...

The Wright brothers and the McCleery brothers…

The girls posing next to plane of one of their historical heroes... Amelia Earhart!

The girls posing next to plane of one of their historical heroes… Amelia Earhart!

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The size of all the planes was awe-inspiring!

The size of all the planes was awe-inspiring!

What do you think...could Molly have made it as a stewardess?

What do you think…could Molly have made it as a stewardess?

Here are the qualifications:

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The kids especially enjoyed this museum because of the familiar scenes filmed here from one of their favorite movies, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”

Remember this staircase from the movie?

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The even sell the infamous Einstein bobble head dolls. 🙂

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It was an amazing day. What a wealth of knowledge can be found at the Smithsonian Institute,

free of charge,

for the public to enjoy!

Our only regret is that we didn’t have an entire week to devote to touring each of these national treasures.

We ended our day with short jaunt over to Georgetown to sample some tasty cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcakes…

the home of the TLC show, DC Cupcakes.

Stay tuned for pictures from this sweet excursion.