Monday, June 19, 2006

Pilgrimage accomplished... :)

We did it! We found the naked mole rat colony at the National Zoo. If you look carefully at the picture you can see a mole rat behind Rufus in the picture above...

It was pretty hot today, so we decided to take an early taxi to the zoo, to save our energy & patience. C & I managed to slide by the pandas for photo ops on the way to the small mammal house, which was a thrill for us. They are so amazing... B was pretty focused on finding the mole rats, although he enjoyed seeing the other small mammals, like the tamarinds, meerkats, & prairie dogs. We got there just as the naked mole rats were being fed, so got to see them wake up & begin to get active. They scooted along at quite a clip in their clear tubes, & went backwards as quickly as they went forwards, resulting in quite a lot of hilarity when we looked at the photos later- most of them were of empty tubes! Watching them crawl over each-other in a tube was a hoot, too, as was watching them haul the food around in their teeth. B had done a research poster on naked mole rats in 3rd grade, so he kept a running commentary of facts. He was just fascinated with them in living colour & I was glad we made the trip to see them. They were pretty darn cool :)

We made a trip through the invertabrates & reptile houses, but with the heat & all these days of unaccustomed walking, we were ready for lunch by 11:30. We stopped by the gift shop after lunch... we have begun referring to this vacation as the "gift shop tour of Washinton DC" :) We've found that we can tempt B into just about any museum as long as there's a gift shop... however, once he's in the gift shop he's really quite selective, & if there's nothing of interest to be found, he just takes it in stride & moves on. I feel very lucky! The cries of "buy this for me" were pretty thick in some of the shops & pretty obnoxious as well... We did find something worth buying, though, in the zoo shop:

This is Rufus' new friend, Genki (Japanese for "spirited"). Once we saw this naked-mole-rat stuffie we knew he was coming home with us... B has already created a pokemon based on him, with a name, sound, & "attacks" (all defensive & most of the healing type :). B did note that the ears aren't right (naked mole rats have ear-holes, but no flappy bits) but that didn't deter him from adopting the little guy...

We took the Metro back to the hotel. B & C had a nice swim, then played pokemon cards for a while. We had reservations for a tour of the Bureau of Engraving, but B & I were too pooped to go, so C went on his own & B & I watched Kim Possible in our room... C came back with all sorts of interesting facts about how paper money is made. We had dinner here at the hotel & B had his calmest meal outside our room yet... hard to know if it was all the down-time this afternoon or if Genki was a good distraction. B charmed the socks off our waiter with thanks & complementing his service, & decided that he wanted the ice cream course that came with his kids' meal, rather than deciding to take off for the room as soon as he finished his main course. He was falling asleep by 7:10, so C played another pokemon game with him to keep him up, in the interest of B waking up a reasonable hour in the morning (rather than 4:00 am)...

During the day, while trudging through the zoo & trying to distracting myself from the heat, I got thinking about what is necessary to have a successful outing with B... I think that the most important thing is a big smile on my face. The kind of smile that says "whatever my kid is doing, it's all right with me... he's fine & so am I." People do stare when B gets ticcing, & I have to admit that it can be everything from disturbing to embarassing, but we really have no right dragging this kid out into public if we're going to be embarrassed... & he has every right to be out in public... ergo, we just have to smile & keep going. Other important things are to be rested ourselves, because we don't need 3 of us with short tempers. That's just no fun. Keeping distractions that have worked before in mind- & being prepared to cook up new ones- is really important. Speaking Japanese has been a big help this trip. Remembering phrases B is not as familiar with & using them, getting him to try to remember what they mean, as well as saying familiar things to each other... these have proven to be very helpful while in elevators & restaurants when B gets overwhelmed & starts to tic loudly. Keeping compassion in mind has been helpful to me, too. When I have been overheated & crabby, it's been very helpful to remember that B is feeling similarly, so that I don't say things that make B feel worse. Making sure that we have plenty of down-time has been essential for B to recharge & be ready for the next challenges. This is basically true for me, too... I have been very grateful to C for his patience with both B & me at times. Neither of us travels well... but the rewards of this trip are pretty obvious. B has been fully engaged with at least one sight or activity at every place we've visited. We've seen sights that he's been able to relate to things he's learned at school or at home. It's definitely been worth it.

Tomorrow we'll go to the Museum of American History, & the one or both of the Asian art museums (depending on B's patience). We've promised a trip to the gift shops... but it's the intangibles that we'll really carry home with us... :)


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