Collecting Rocks

by Jessica on July 2, 2015

in Family,Levi,Parenting,Sons

I’m not sure whether I mentioned it previously, but the way the kids and I are selecting fun activities for our summer is from a list we put together from the book The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book.   After we put together our list from the ideas in the Kids Outdoor Adventure Book, I wrote down the activities on index cards and had the kids draw pictures on the cards.  We posted them up to our cork pin board along with ideas we brainstormed for games and day trips we could do together this summer.   At the beginning of each day, depending on which kid is going to spend the morning with me (they are in camp on alternate weeks), the kid who is going to be with me picks a card from the board.   Last week, Annabelle picked “Make Sun Tea and Lemonade Icecubes” which I’ll be sharing later this week.  She and I also met up with friends for a coffee date and we went to the library.  Levi prefers doing different things than his sister, so this week we ended up going on several rock collecting hikes, picking up books at the library about rocks, and setting up a tour of a local rock quarry.   In fact, I’m feeling so excited for his recent passion for rock collecting that I may take him and Annabelle on a day trip to Luray Caverns which is about an hour and a half away.

On our first day of rock collecting, we went to Beaverdam Creek Reservoir, which is owned by Virginia Water and is currently open to the public.  We didn’t find too many variations of rock at the reservoir.  In fact, I’m not quite sure what the rock was that we found on our hike.  It could have been sedimentary rock or simply concrete debris from nearby construction because the reservoir is surrounded by building development on all sides.  At one point, we saw a floating rock which turned out to be a piece of insulation.  It made both me and Levi feel sad to see our local reservoir appear so unhealthy.  We’re hoping to put together a clean up effort to do something about the reservoir’s debris both in the water and around it.


Since we weren’t able to find too many rocks at the Beaverdam Creek Reservoir, Levi felt a bit discouraged.  Luckily, I’d remembered that my friend Anna, who is a CPA at the National Parks and Recreation Association just up the street from the Beaverdam Creek, recommended the walking trails available at the rear of the NPRA office building.  From the first few steps where we saw a gorgeous wetland with healthy plants and several paths, Levi’s spirits lifted.  He was more than a little bit happy when he realized that there were not just rocks at the NPRA trails but that he would be able to climb boulders.  Below are a few photos of the National Parks and Recreation Association trails in Ashburn that I took with my cell phone:



We thought this boulder looked a bit like the top part of a whale.


So many boulders to climb on.  It’s a little boy’s playground back there.



And of course, the branches and sticks were plentiful.  Levi quickly fashioned some sticks into handy swords for an impromptu battle between Peter Pan and Captain Hook.  Lucky me, I always get to be the glorious Captain Hook.  It’s a good thing I don’t mind using a piratey and garbled British accent now and again.

Searching for rocks comes with other things to find too.  We noticed all different bugs and spiders as well as fungi growing on the ground and trees.  I did talk with Levi about not touching or eating mushrooms and fungi when we don’t know whether it is poisonous. 

Back at the car, he gave the Levi seal of approval.


In between our rock collecting outings, we also made time for Levi to have a few playdates.  He got to see a friend from school and play with a neighbor.   He’s also been working on a few other fun projects with Annabelle and me.

But today, it was back to rock collecting.  We started out at the library where I found easy reading books on rocks, rock formation, and identifying different rocks.  I can’t wait to sit down and read through those with him.   But afterwards, I remembered that the library was just down the street from another beautiful park in Loudoun County and so I drove over there.  We noticed this stream and decided it was rich with rocks.



We were both psyched to find a stream that looked healthy and held lots of different rocks.  We picked a few of our favorites to add to his collection and then headed out to pick up Annabelle from cheer camp.  But before we got Annabelle, we made a pit stop at the Donut shop which made this little rock collector very happy.


Hopefully we can learn more about putting together a rock collection display, how to identify the rocks we find and how to polish our rocks.   I think we’ll start with the website Kids Love Rocks and go from there.  I’d love to hear any feedback other rock collectors, young and old, might have for us.   It has actually been an unexpected fun thing to do.  I’m glad Levi picked it.


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Baseball Game June 2015

by Jessica on June 30, 2015

in Annabelle,Family,Levi,Parenting

We are so lucky.  My friend Shelley recently came into Nationals tickets.  Lots of Nationals tickets.  And she invited us.  So we said yes.  Of course we said yes!  It was such a treat and for this baseball loving mama, it was a night full of fun!  We ate hotdogs and Matt and I drank beer, and we cheered for good plays and booed when the ump called something that didn’t sit right with us.

Matt grew up going to Spring training games with his parents and brother.  In fact, he has quite a collection of foul balls and broken bats that are signed by major league players, managers, and coaches.  We’re hoping to add to our collection, but nowadays it isn’t always so easy to catch a player as they leave the park.  Most of the players zoom out of the park without stopping to say hello to the fans.  But we’ll keep hoping. Annabelle has her heart set on getting a Nationals player to sign a foul ball or home run ball for her.  Looks like we have a few more pro baseball games ahead of us . . .






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Summer Journals

by Jessica on June 30, 2015

in Annabelle,Levi,Parenting

As many days as I remember to do it, I ask the kids to pull out their notebooks and journal for 5-10 minutes.  I have found journal prompts via googling “easy journal prompts kindergarten through third grade.”  So far the most responsive Levi has been was when I asked him to make a list of who he wanted to invite to his upcoming birthday party and what he wants to receive for his birthday.  He forgets that he is practicing writing his letters and he forgets that he is sounding out words.  Annabelle’s most responsive journal entry was also connected to listing what she wants for her birthday.  Regardless of what the content is that interests the kids, I am trying to get them to enjoy pulling out their journals to jot down their thoughts, so it doesn’t bother me too much that they are more passionate about journaling about things they want then things they want to do.  I am crossing my fingers that that will change this summer though.

And to be honest, I enjoy journaling right along with them.  My favorite entry so far was when I asked them to write about what animal they would most want to be.  Levi said he wanted to be a human so he could play with Legos.  Annabelle wanted to be a dolphin so she could swim and relax.  I don’t know where I cam up with this but I wrote down that I wanted to be a lion with wings.  I reasoned that I would want wings so I would be able to fly over DC traffic and I’d be a powerful lion to protect my kiddos and provide some good food for them.

No matter the day, journaling seems to be one of the more worthwhile things we do.   Would love ideas from other parents and teachers of elementary aged kids who are journaling this summer.  My ideal is to engage the kids so they want to do the writing and they forget about the fact that they’re doing it.



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Annabelle loves to cook.  Which is a wonderful thing.  I hate to cook so it’s a win-win for me.  Annabelle knows her way around the kitchen.

Last week, Annabelle decided to make us smoothies.  I was all like, “Let’s look up a recipe on the internet.”  And she was all like, “Step aside Mom, I know what I’m doing.”

She pulled her ingredients from the freezer and fridge and I helped her get down the sugar.

Then she proceeded to make us smoothies.  Here’s her recipe:


And here she is making smoothies.




And Levi forced a smile because I did the bad photographer thing and said, “Hey guys, could you smile a little?”  And Levi did that.  Yes, what you see below is what he did.




Voila.  Smoothies are made.

Thank you God for giving me a child who likes to cook.  Things are looking good for me when I’m an old lady.

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Summer 2015

by Jessica on June 22, 2015

in Annabelle,Family,Humor,Levi,Parenting

We made it!  Summer vacation has arrived!  Woo hoo!

Now what?

On our first day of vacation, I didn’t have too much planned.  So we met our friends at the pool.

At the pool, I did my usual cannonball and splashed Annabelle and her friend.  Which they loved.  I then received a splash in my direction, which I totally deserved.  And we played a variation on tag that pretty much adds up to mom pretending to be a shark and trying to catch them.  They love getting caught because the shark tickles them to gobble them up and then swims away.  Sometimes they hop on the shark’s back and go for a swim around the pool. Ah, pool days.  The best.

And then my friend Sara told me that she’d created a plan for her summer vacation.   She’d sat her kids down earlier that morning to ask them what they wanted to do for the summer.  And then they’d made a plan and something of a schedule.

Which made me start to wonder . . . what the heck am I going to do with my kids when we don’t go to the pool?

At home that night,  I asked the kids to turn off the t.v. so we could talk for a few a minutes.  I asked them exactly what Sara had asked her kids a few hours earlier: “What do you want to do with your summer?”  Not surprising–both Annabelle and Levi had lots of ideas about how they saw summer unfold.  I asked Annabelle to write everything down and she did.  I helped with spelling.  I asked them to tell me about any issues that they had for the summer or anything they felt worried about.  We listed them.  I listed a couple too.  I told them I needed my running time in the morning and that that would mean they’d either have to bike or run with me or that we’d have to go to the gym.  They chose the gym.

Levi rolled his eyes a little bit during our little chat on summer vacation but then I brought up things like how much gaming time and t.v. time they both thought was fair this summer.  That caught his attention.  He loves gaming but I’m not really a big fan of training my 5 year old to be an all day gamer.   They both thought that 2 hours sounded good.  I said okay even though I think that adds up to a lot of time in front of an electronic device.  So I asked them if it seemed fair to limit electronic time to before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.  They said fine.

We talked about fun things we could do together to break out of summer boredom spells.  We made a list (click here to see our ideas).  I also asked them what they thought our day should look like.  And we came up with this:


We’re a few days in on our summer vacation and I plan to keep the blog updated with how things go.   On days when I’m working, our babysitter fills in for me to guide the kids along.   On weeks when neither of the kids have camp, we’re planning a couple of day trips which they selected from a  list I gave them.

And yes, Mommy shark will still be taking her little minnows to the pool, but we’ll be doing a few other things too this summer.

Until next time,

Mommy Shark, aka Jessica

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Levi’s Fly Up from Junior Kindergarten

by Jessica 12 June 2015 Humor

My baby graduated preschool yesterday.  Let me rephrase.  Levi, my youngest, graduated from junior kindergarten yesterday.  Which means that I am sending my youngest off to kindergarten next year.   Cue tears, tissues, and feeling proud and sad all at the same time. But for Levi, it was just another day.  He sat quietly and [...]

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Annabelle’s End of Year Gymnastics Demonstration

by Jessica 12 June 2015 Annabelle

And then on Wednesday, Annabelle had her end of the year gymnastics demonstration.  For the first time all year, parents were invited to sit on a gymnastics practice to see what their children had been learning at practice.  We got to see our girls work on the bars, the mat, and the balance beams.  And [...]

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Levi’s Last Soccer Game

by Jessica 12 June 2015 Humor

This time of year seems to be full of lots of lasts.  The first of the bunch was Levi’s last soccer game for the season and Matt’s last game as his coach.   Personally I got to see the first game, a game at mid-season, and Levi’s last game since his games were always held [...]

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Interview with Levi (about his mom)

by Jessica 6 June 2015 Family

1. What is something mom always says to you?  Sometimes she says no.2. What makes mom happy?   My laugh.3. What makes mom sad?  When me and Annabelle are sad.4. How does your mom make you laugh?  Saying funny things.5. What was your mom like as a child?  She was like Barbie.6. How old is [...]

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Interview with Annabelle (about her mom)

by Jessica 6 June 2015 Annabelle

1. What is something mom always says to you?  You’re a sweety pie. 2. What makes mom happy?  When the house is not messy. 3. What makes mom sad?  When her children are sad. 4. How does your mom make you laugh?  By making jokes. 5. What was your mom like as a child?  Sweet. [...]

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