For Christmas this year, I got new towels, new jammies, some cool soaps, and a demon stomach virus from hell. And you know what I hate most about those sneaky viruses? You never know when they’ll hit. They come out of nowhere, like right in the middle of your much anticipated glass of wine and John Wayne marathon on Christmas Day. One minute, you’re basking in the glow of Christmas lights. The next, you’re puking your guts out over the toilet. And as if that weren’t enough, it lasts. For days. Maybe not the puking. But the general “I can’t lift my head off this pillow” feeling. In short, it sucks, and I was pretty sure it had completely fouled up our Christmas break.

Stomach viruses have always been my Achilles heel. I fully expect one to kill me in my old age. But this one lasted for a particularly long time, which meant after a week, the kids were pretty bored, and frankly, so was I. There are only so many episodes of Outlander that one can watch. (And by the way, if I told you to watch that show and raved about how awesome it was, I retract that statement. I hereby warn you to avoid the last part of the entire season. Just walk away. I might not recover, and I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else being psychologically or emotionally damaged.)

Anyway, I thought the New Year was going to be a bust. But Rob being Rob, he called me up on New Year’s Eve and said, “Let’s go to DC and Annapolis this afternoon.” OK.

It was AWESOME! And by New Year’s Day, my stomach had recovered enough to actually enjoy food again.

We stayed the night in Harrisonburg, Virginia where the kids could swim and we ordered pizza and watched the ball drop. Not bad.   Then we headed into DC for New Year’s Day. We stopped in at the Air and Space Museum Annex out at Dulles Airport and saw Discovery and the Enola Gay. The Enola Gay was high on the priority list for Isaac and me. I have always been a WWII fan, but Isaac loves it too, and we have read several books about the war together as part of our nightly bedtime routine—everything from Navajo Code Talkers to the development of the atomic bomb. It was pretty cool to see in real life.

enola gay

Then we headed up to the American Indian Museum at the Smithsonian. Also cool. Harper Lee had been with her 7th grade class last year and highly recommended it. I found the history of treaties exhibit the most interesting. It was heart-breaking.

clavert house

Afterwards, we drove up to Annapolis and stayed at the Governor Calvert House. Annapolis is a super cool town, and we mostly spent the next two days kicking around and exploring the area and eating good seafood. Part of the kicking around included a tour of the Naval Academy. I know that Rob took us mostly so Harper Lee could see the campus. (It’s our first of many college tours.) But I think I was the one who was most impressed. I LOVED the whole “tradition of excellence” vibe. Hard-core stuff. And a beautiful and impressive campus. The facilities were awesome (Harper and I did a quick lap around the track and then she played around on the soccer field a bit.), and the tomb of John Paul Jones was spectacular.

me and HL- run

Oddly, the thing that stuck with me the most, however, was the 32’ diving platform that ALL students must drop from in order to learn how to abandon ship. It made my stomach lurch just looking at it, and apparently, it’s a kind of rite of passage that makes more than a few plebes weak in the knees. I had dreams about it all night last night.

navy track

On the way home today, we stopped in at the NRA Museum where we saw several absolute works of art. There really were some beautiful pieces. I also saw John Wayne’s costume and eye patch from True Grit as well as the guns from Big Jake. I was pretty psyched. There were several pieces from Clark Gable’s personal collection and guns used by everyone from William Holden to Ronald Colman. It was a movie nerd moment. Big time.

john wayne stuff

I’m writing this as we ride down the Interstate towards home. Now I’m ready for a new semester. The break wasn’t exactly what I had expected, but it all worked out in the end. It was a great way to start a new year. 2016—a whole new year of adventure and possibility.