An increasingly tired Mama, the U.S. Botanic Garden

Here we are again. The final week of summer break. The public schools have resumed-some weeks ago- or will tomorrow, and we are limping towards yet another opportunity for vacation and family time: Labor Day. Which is, if you think about it, an exceedingly accurate moniker for what many parents will continue to do over this long weekend: labor.

I, myself, have had approximately no minutes away from my children except for last, glorious Friday, and honestly feel that I could use a few. Or one million. 

I am tired. Pooped. Behind. And not remotely interested in any further discussions of Minecraft, butts, penises, or who prompted the pinching and who deserved the punch. Ya both did and ya probably both do, you hear me you summer-strangled heathens?

On the heels of Sunday's delightful time with Cirque du Soleil, we spent most of Monday at the U.S. Botanic Garden which is roughly kitty-corner to the Capitol. We found easy parking on Pennsylvania Avenue, walked through the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial which is, thankfully, fully wrapped under renovation cloths (it needs work!), and over to the Botanic Garden's entrance on Maryland Ave, SW.

 the Root sculpture in front of the Botanic Garden. See the Capitol peeking out in the background?

the Root sculpture in front of the Botanic Garden. See the Capitol peeking out in the background?

I'd read about the USBG's Junior Botanist program and figured the boys would love it. They did, and for good reason. 

I exchanged my drivers license for a Jr. Botanist backpack filled with all manner of exploration supplies-magnifying glass, ruler, bottles of scents, a spray bottle, fossils-and a packet of thoughtfully designed adventure pamphlets. We grabbed pencils and headed in.

Each pamphlet corresponded to a room in the Garden, and each took twenty or thirty minutes to complete as the kids had to read, explore, draw, sniff, guess, record, and so forth. There were also interactive journals for both inside and outside gardens and rooms. 

We spent nearly five hours, including a brief, delicious lunch break at the American Indian Museum (truly, it was delicious; I had tamales, Jack had buffalo chili, and Ol a bison burger) down the street, completing the program at which point I remembered to get my license back and the boys received the Junior Botanist badges they'd earned.

 the American Indian Museum

the American Indian Museum

If they now complete their Botany At Home packet, they can mail in their completed work to receive both a certificate AND an invitation to the USBG's greenhouses which are not open to the public but for a day each year. 

*Clockwise from top left: a Pitcher plant, the Wollemi Pine (first discovered in 1978), two different types of orchid, a golden barrel cactus, and a beautiful plant whose name I haven't the foggiest.

This fun, super-educational, engaging program is FREE as is most everything via the Smithsonian, and I enthusiastically recommend participating.

*Full disclosure: I will say that it may be wise to NOT do both the Jr. Botanist work AND the journals on the same day. By the time we left, Oliver was crying, Jack was sweating and pissy, and I was frantic, had blisters, and my eyes were spinning.

That said, it's a really beautiful place, the staff is amazingly nice and informed, and the programming is terrific. Both kids want to return pronto.