For Camp Sweatshop this week, we decided to teach the girls to... well... sweat. And sweat we did, because we took them to downtown D.C. for the Fourth of July where it was 97 degrees and sunny. Oh so sunny.

You might not assume this about me based on the pessimistic and cynical outlook I wear over my body like a blanket, but deep down I have a nationalist gene. I love my country and what it stands for and I get really, really excited about the Fourth of July. There's just something so wonderful about being in D.C. on Independence Day. I can't really describe it. I can't wait to take the kids to these historical places that I only read about in books when I was growing up and I almost always try to turn whatever the event we're at into
some kind of educational opportunity that I'm sure they'll complain about when they're teenagers.

But you know what? I don't care. This is an awesome city and they can talk trash about me later, they're going to learn some history now. One day they can inflict the same kind of torture on their children.

One of my favorite things is to go downtown super early (if you get there before the birds come up, you can generally find a parking space and if you drive, you can bring things like lunch coolers and camp chairs and store them in your trunk until you need them) and sit on the steps of the national archives where they read the Declaration of Independence.

This was my view as we enjoyed the morning sun.

Not bad, huh?

The Dormouse's view was slightly different.

Perhaps we should have let her sleep in a little longer.

Thomas Jefferson was there to greet us. He asked what colony we were from, which confused The Dormouse, (apparently I need to have her attend a geography summer boot camp),

then he reprimanded us when the field band played our state anthem and we did not stand up. Note to self: find out what your state anthem is because this is the only state anthem I know - which is actually not a state anthem, but it should be.

The girls got to put their own signatures on a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence.

The Caterpillar needed a little bit of help.

The Continental Color Guard and Fife and Drum Corps played The Star Spangled Banner,

while this awesome ASL interpreter signed it.

I didn't get a picture of the baritone that sang it, but he pretty much didn't need a microphone. Never got his name and he's not listed on the website. Somebody's gonna be pissed. I also was inexplicably excited to see Maureen Bunyan as the emcee. The KoH and I argued about this but the Interweb confirms that she is indeed in her 60s. So if you believe the interweb, what that means is: she looks better at 60 than I ever did in my entire life. And that's kind of depressing.

Then came the reading, which was done by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, a Congressman from Missouri and some local charter school marketing director. If that doesn't prove that America is indeed a melting pot, I simply do not know what does.

Thomas Jefferson seems to have shaved a few years off his age from the first photo I took of him, doesn't he? Also: real hair.

Benjamin Franklin:

I'd have taken a photo of John Adams, but he was so short, I couldn't get anything but his bald spot. Poor John Adams. (He was actually the best of the readers.)

David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, gave a speech about the history of the copy of the Declaration of Independence that resides at the Archives. He was interesting and surprisingly funny. He talked about the location of the copy over the years and he was even brave enough to admit to all the conspiracy theorists that the Declaration hasn't always remained at the Archives. There was that time in 2004 when treasure hunter, Nicolas Cage stole the copy right out from under their noses during a party. But he gave it back after reading the map on the back and now it's where it belongs and they will be twice as vigilant now to make sure this never happens again.

Ferriero also talked about the Tiny Declaration contest, in which people were challenged to tweet the Declaration of Independence in one hundred and forty characters or less. Some of my favorites:

Don't tax me, bro.

Dear George, it's not you. It's U.S.

England: You're not the boss of me.

Self-evdnt truths: All created = w/inalienable rts: Life, Lib, Prsuit of :-). Govt frm ppl. L8r King!

Bye George, we've got it.

All peeps are equal. Sick and tired of your tyrannical BS. Seeking independence. Your permission requested, not required.

The Archives also hosted the opportunity to don a three-corner hat and "air your grievances" this amused me to no end and I'm really disappointed we had to miss it. But we had to make our way to the parade.

But first we stopped to relieve ourselves at the fountain.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

We fast forwarded through the parade, meaning we started at the beginning and walked backwards toward the end of it. This is the only way to watch a parade as far as I'm concerned. You get to see most of the floats and stuff and if you get to the end before the last group has started marching, you also get to see some pretty funny people half dressed and/or looking completely out of sorts, like these Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima Reenactment Float who were just hanging around, leaning on the flag and talking on mobile phones.

The Navy was looking pretty snazzy.

But that's probably because Madeline came to join the fray.

Not really sure what these period bicyclists had to do with declaring our independence in 1776. I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't come around for another hundred years or so.

Finally, we made our way past the end of the parade and to the Capitol lawn, where we planned to stake out a shady spot, eat lunch and let the girls nap. But it turns out, it's been a few years since I've tried to do the Capitol Fourth concert, because at 11:00 am, we walked up to the Capitol to find security gates, which were closed... until 3:00 pm. The last time I went to this concert was before September 11, 2001, and there were not security checkpoints or closed grounds. You just could go find a spot on the lawn anytime you wanted and sleep there all afternoon. I feel like the terrorists have won.

So we did what any red blooded American would do: we got in line.

It was horribly hot and we kept slathering sunscreen on the girls. The people next to us had brought a sheet and fashioned a tent out of their spot in line to keep out of the sun. They shared some of their shade with The Dormouse and The Caterpillar so they could avoid looking like lobsters at the end of the day. And then they spent the next four hours being regaled by The Dormouse's stories, movie reviews, songs and television show updates.

Sometimes people are really nice.

And patient.

Oh so patient.

Once they finally opened the gates, we found a nice spot in the shade under the steps of the Capitol building,

and a mere five hours later, watched the sun set while listening to Gladys Knight (rocked the house), Darius Rucker (love me some Hootie), John Schneider (surprisingly good), David Archuleta (meh), Lang Lang (didn't know who he was before this but he played my favorite Rachmaninoff), and the National Symphony Orchestra (always a fan).

And then finished our celebration the way every good American should:

by blowing stuff up.