Sunday, December 29, 2013

Glitter, flour, war paint and gluten; What is your New Years Resolution?

I swear I didn't mean for the title to Rhyme.  But I'm going with it because its AWESOME.

Christmas has come and gone.  As I'm sitting here typing, I have several Christmas stickers glued to various parts of my body, belated gifts from my 3 year old son Jimmy.  My house looks like a glitter, pipe cleaner, powdered sugar, and cheap-plastic-toy hurricane has blown through.  We baked cookies, decorated gingerbread, and made about 14 glitter-Popsicle stick-pipe cleaner Christmas ornaments.  We wrapped over 40 gifts.  On top of that, since "Santa" came, the state of our family room is akin to the Caterpillar room in Sunnyside Daycare in "Toy Story 3," right after the tots blew through.

Resolution 1: No more toys that contain more than 10 pieces allowed.  Seriously, tinker toys, batman playset, AND 20-piece race-car toy all on the same day? WHAT WAS I (er, I mean Santa) THINKING?!  There are now about 346,789,008 pieces of various play sets strewn about the house.
cute glitter tornado pic :)
Not my house, but a reasonable substitute image!

Resolution 2:  No unsupervised arts and crafts sessions lasting longer than .5 milliseconds

My son just went to bed looking like an Indian warrior, after having a bit too much fun with his new "Paint Pens".


He received the paint pens as a gift, which, in my haste, I hid less than 9 feet off the ground.  After an extended period of the well know eerie quiet, AKA  "Why isn't there a chaotic din shaking the walls of my house anymore?!" I found him at the top of the stairs, painting his hands, arms, face, and of course, the walls.  "Look mommy! I'm painting!"  Are they really that innocent or is it just an innate survival mechanism to save them from the wrath of stressed-out mommies?


Resolution 3:  At least pretend I remember that I'm trying to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet
Cookies at every turn, Cake. Those addicting marshmallow Santas. Chocolate. Sour Patch Kid Candy Canes (I mean really, who could resist?), Ginger Bread, ICING.  Oh my.

Christmas = GLUTEN!   The day after Christmas, exhausted yet hungry, I consumed a no less than 5 Panera bagels, plus about 6 caffeinated beverages.  Despite the ridiculous levels of caffeine coursing through my system, I passed out at 8:30 pm, in my sons bed, mid-way through 'Curious George Flies a Kite".  The next day, after waking up at 10, I was lethargic, grumpy and felt like I had the flu... or shall I say 'glu'.  HA. sorry.

Feeling much better after eating only romaine, carrots, hummus, strawberries and apples for 24 hours (and of course sharing a small bottle of Patron silver with my best friend who came into town), my poor little guy actually came down with the real flu, despite having a flu shot.   We are talking the whole shebang; walking explosive snot factory, several accidents of the 'messy' nature, fever, barking cough, middle-of-the-night wake up screaming sessions, headaches.  Luckily, he is already getting better, (note the stickers and paint fiasco from earlier this evening).   One amazing redeeming result? He actually took a nap; 3 hours.  First nap in 6 months! Hallelujah!   So, the current status of my life is:  snot, glitter, wrapping paper, broken toys and ornaments, screaming (but adorable) feverish toddlers, and feeling like a train-wreck both inside and out.  I have always loved Christmas, but I'm still trying to get used to this new Christmas reality; Christmas through the eyes of a mother.  Good lord its a lot of work.  Christmas vacation?! I think I'd rather be back at work.  The end of the year has left me a bit frazzled, if you haven't picked up on that yet.

So back to the point of this post!  I want to hear your resolutions.   Extreme, small and in-between.   Post in comments section!  Other resolution ideas I have?  Try harder to be in the present, without freaking out over the small stuff.  Like craft explosions, snot, and a few too many carbs.

Merry Christymas and of course a Happy gluten-free 2014!





Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Layout! Please send feedback!

Hello to my fabulous followers! I changed the layout of my blog; let me know what you think! I'd love to hear your feedback.   Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Pajama Eaters, Snack Bags, and a very Candy Christmas!

How do I know I feeling better??  I've been at the sewing machine for about 3 hours a day for the last week. I am passionate about sewing; its by far my favorite hobby.  Nothings beats creating something with your own two hands, that you can look of and feel proud of!

Unfortunately, every time I looked at my quarter-finished, cutout pattern of my "Pajama Eater" project over the year, (link goes to "Sew Fearless' " original blog post and free!! pattern.  She has tons of amazing projects, check it out!)  I felt not proud, but guilty;  I had originally planned to make it for my son LAST Christmas.  By Spring,  I completely forgot about it... until I found the scraps last night in a drawer!  With my wonderful new-found energy, I finished it up in about 3 hours.  (The project probably took about 6-7 hours total, including the work last year).

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is one of  Jimmy's Christmas present this year, a "Pajama Eater".  It is part stuffed animal and part practical accessory... kids "feed" their pajamas too it in the morning instead of throwing them on the floor! Thus it is the perfect gift for a mom with toddlers... practical and adorable!

Feed me your jammies!!

Jimmy will be able to open the zipper to stuff his PJ's in (and see the cute "roadway" flannel fabric inside his mouth), and then shut it to keep the jammies nice and snug in its "tummy".

Love the teeth. 

 I can't wait to see his face when he opens this one; I promise to post a pic :)

Projects part two:

Many of you know I make reusable/foodsafe sandwich and snack bags.   I started making them after buying one at a consignment in Reston, and bemoaning the fact that I only had one, which was covered with basketballs (Jimmys style, not mine!).  I've made at least 20 at this point and have finally perfected the pattern.  I'd be happy to share the pattern with anyone who's interested!

I had a bit of a drought over the past few months of illness however, but I'm back!  In the past 2 days I've made 5.  Mostly Christmas presents, but some will be for sale at three little monkeys consignment in Sterling, VA.  So if you're interested, head on buy! They sell kid styles.  I also make 'grown up/mommy' styles, like the black/white number shown below.  Under the way-more-awesomer 'very hungry caterpillar' bag.  Yes, yes I did almost cry tears of joy when I found that fabric online.

If anyone wants a bag and can't get to the shop, or wants a particular color/style, just let me know! I'd be happy to ship =D



The only other thing I'd like to say this evening is Have a Very Candy Christmas!! To stave off a severe depression brought on my horrendous NFL hometeam, the Washington Redskins, I went a little nuts with the Christmas decorating this year, and the theme is "Candy" (as it is every year, of course. There is simply no other theme that could possibly compete with "Candy") .  Here are a few pics, including my cupcake and gumdrop centerpiece and gum drop mini tree.  Of course, I also covered the entire christmas tree in both fake and real candy.   For the tree, I made a garland out of hard candy peppermints (tied ends together with ribbon), and then proceeded to shower it with candy canes, lollipops, and other candy (both real and fake).  I'll try to add some closeups of the various candied christmas tree components soon. 

The candy theme has definitely made the short, cold days more bearable... although it also has contributed to a constant craving for sugar.  Whoops, there goes my anti-inflammatory diet...

Mini Candy Tree
Cupcake and Candy Centerpiece. Apologize for the lighting.  It looks sooo much yummier in real life :(

My favorite drool-worthy pic, a blue gum drop ornament

Monday, December 16, 2013

Just an awesome pic to share

I found this on Reddit.com.  It simultaneously cracked me up and made me feel totally awesome.  Great inspiration for anyone with Autoimmune disease!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Verdict is in: The Best Indoor/Rainy Day Play Businesses in Ashburn and Sterling

In the past two years, there has been an absolute explosion of indoor kid-friendly play places.  It is a gold mine for parents... but the endless choices are, at least to me, a bit overwhelming.  I hope you find this review helpful when you're trying to make up your mind on a cold or rainy afternoon coming soon to a town near you.   Included in this review are the newest option, "Monkey Joes" of Ashburn, tried and true "Chuck E Cheese", the original-indoor-posh-playspace of Ashburn, "Chibis", "Sport Bounce of Loudoun", and a surprise at the end.

Monkey Joes, Ashburn, VA
Today, Jimmy and I tried out Monkey Joes of Ashburn for the first time-- and loved it!  Its a fabulous combination of all of the aformentioned options; guess thats the luck of the latecomer!  There are token-machines and ticket-spittting games like Chuck E Cheese, 5 large and awesome bounce houses (our favorite being a giant Pirate Ship- you know me, of course I had to try it too!), and an enclosed baby/toddler play area plus adult comfy area, like Chibis.  The very soft baby/toddler area is great- it has a moving (and still soft) train ride, several climbing options, and walls full of engaging activities little ones.  It even has a free mock-up of one of the more popular video game, designed for tots, so cute.  The 'adult' area was, of course, my favorite - it offers 2 public computers, a large TV tuned to (not too loud) news, and comfortable adult-friendly chairs. There is also coffee for sale!. Unlike Sport Bounces "adult lounge", it is open and in the middle of the facility, so you can actually keep an eye on your kids.  Also unlike Sport Bounce, it doesn't have 2 very comfortable and inviting looking chairs that actually yell at you to insert money every 10 seconds (they are massage chairs... but you can't sit in them unless you pay, or want to be yelled at to insert money.  Ugh.  Once, suffering from back pain, and frustrated, I resorted to unplugging one of the chairs.)  So if you want a nice combination of indoor playspace plus games/tokens/prizes (though not nearly to the level of Chuck E Cheese), Monkey Joes is a fabulous option.

First, we played some of the games.  The offering is paltry compared to Chuck E Cheese, and they are more expensive (2 - 4 tokens per game, unlike 1 for all Chuck E Cheese games).  The games also have much shorter play time.  For example, there is a skee-ball-esque game in which you have to try to throw balls into a milk jug.  You get 4 balls, that's it, for 2 tokens (50 cents).  At Chuck E Cheese, you get 10 balls for Skee Ball, and also 10 for basketball- for 25 cents token.  However, the tickets are generous.  There is also a game thats entire job seems to be handing out ticket jackpots.  After playing games for about 30 minutes total, we scored over 300 tickets. Note: do not play the 'claw' or 'prize' games (of which there are 3).  You won't win anything. All we got was a single tootsie roll after shelling out at least 6 tokens.

Jimmy showing off his tickets from the "smack the weasel" game @ Monkey Joes.
Monkey Joes Pirate Ship outside view
The best part about Monkey Joes though, is the bounce options.  They are the highest quality available, and offer much more than just boucning; slides, obstacles, climbing apparatus, ect.  I think I saw just one 'generic' moonbounc in the whole place.  Here is Jimmy going down the coolest and fastest slide at Monkey Joes, on the "Pirate Ship", with its extra-wide, and extra slick! slide.  Monkey Joes is also exceptionally clean.  There are hand-sanitizer canisters lining the walls, and I saw broom and lysol-armed staff constantly making their rounds. One random cool feature is the kid-sized toilets and sinks in the bathroom.  Adorable! and convenient. 
Of course, we will always love Chuck E Cheese, with its mesmerizing excitement, colors, sounds, and activity.  The problem with Chuck E Cheese, is that was can't leave without spending at least $50 on tokens, food, and extras.  But it definitely wins for the most kid friendly video games and ride-ons.  A bonus is the free playground in the back (At the Sterling location at least).  Unfortunately, if your kid is doing something at Chuck E Cheese, he is spending money.  I'd say 25 cents every 2 minutes, on average.  It is also perpetually noisy and crowded.  One thing I like about Chuck E. Cheese though, is they DO offer beer and wine... probably to get us to shell out more dough! They must know some casino tricks. 

Jimmy on his favorite ride, the monster truck that goes 'way up', and lasts for at least 2 minutes. 


Another ride-on truck, this time with a friend!
Chibis, Ashburn, VA 
Chibis is also a lot of fun, for kids under 3.  The website says '6 and under,' but I think any child over the age of 4.5 would become bored quickly.  It is relatively small compared with the other facilities, and not as many play options.  However, there are definite draws:  there is a HUGE baby play area, which is kept extremely clean.  There is also a massive indoor McDonalds-type playground (but nicer and cleaner than Mcdonalds!) Additionally, they have a play kitchen, a quiet-play area with doll houses and trains, and a few other random climbing toys next to the large playground.  Jimmy loves the trains in the 'quiet play' area, but honestly, we could do that at home, or even Toys R Us! I always find myself thinking "you are not burning enough of your "crazy toddler" energy in here! Go run around! Mommy wants you to actually NAP later!"  The adult area and snack bar is also very nice, and clean.  The food is cheap healthy (unlike every other aforementioned location), and there is gourmet COFFEE! They also have a nice adult sitting area/eating area.  However, just like Sport Bounce, it is not in view of most play areas.. which just doesn't work if your kid is under 3.  I usually just sit in the play kitchen area...thankfully there are some adult sized chairs and a sofa.  Another bonus: although the entry fee is a bit pricey, 10 or 11 bucks, once you pay, that's it!  No enticing video games or ride-ons.


View of  playground and 'play kitchen' adult sitting area at Chibis
Sport Bounce of Loudoun - Ashburn VA
We went to Sport Bounce once, for a birthday party.  It is jam packed with massive bouncing apparatus.  The slide pictured below is amazing, scary even for a 32 year old woman.  I screamed (loudly) the entire way down.

However, the set-up is crowded and not very comfortable.  It is basically a massive warehouse, which I suppose is necessary to fit all the bounce houses.  In the middle they have 3 birthday party areas, they obviously do a lot of parties... but if you're not there for a party, there is literally no where to sit... unless you go to the 'lounge' mentioned in the introduction.  Small, snack and coffee machines, a few chairs, and the 2 annoying massage chars.  And no view of your children.  Jimmy likes bouncing, but not for more than 15 minutes.  He spent the rest of his time on the cool kid-sized train ride, which is fun, but why on earth does it only fit one kid at a time?  It is huge, and could easily fit more cars.  There are no attendents (its self-propelled), so parents are left in charge of stopping the ride.  This means that your child might end up waiting 10 minutes for someone elses 'darling' to be done.  I timed Jimmys rides to 90 seconds.  In my opinion, Sports Bounce is a mediocre and uncomfortable place to spend a rainy afternoon.  We will not be going back unless we're invited for a birthday.  At least we will have a place to sit (for 30 minutes anyway). However, if your kid likes to jump, there is no better option.  The place is literally packed full of bounce houses! 

One lesser known alternative is the Claude Moore Rec Center 'Open Play', which is held Fridays October - March I believe.  The cons- it is open 4 hours per week - 8am - 12pm Fridays only.  Children have to be under 5 years old, which is fine since everyone else is in school.  I believe they make exceptions for teacher work days though.  The bonuses- It is $5 per child.  There are 2 moonbounces, toddler basketballs, big inflatable balls, and cool skate-board like thingies that can be hooked together. We figured out how to make a train ride, and did it every week.  Once, we had 8 cars with at least 10 kids riding around.  Tons of fun! We went most Friday last winter, and will be going back this year as well.*  

*I haven't actually called to see if this program will continue, so before heading out in the fall, you might want to call them: 571-258-3600.

Our self-made 'choo choo train' at Claude Moore Rec Centers "Open Play" 

One bonus about Claude Moore is that there is a very nice, very little known, toddler friendly playground in the back.  It has a nice, clean, covered picnic area as well.  Perfect for fall or winter days when it warms up in the afternoon--- just in time for "Open Play" to end!.  You can't see it from the road, which I believe explains why we hardly have company.  It is connected to the pre-school, so every once in awhile, you will be joined by a small class.  However, the playground is open to the public, even during preschool hours.  Double bonus: it's free.
Jimmy being eaten by a cute caterpillar at Claude Moore Rec Centers playground. 
So when the inevitable cold rains and chilly weather makes its unwelcome presence this year (I am VERY MUCH an outdoor/summer girl),  I will be taking Jimmy to Monkey Joes  (unless of course it is between 8-12 pm on a Friday.).  I will be saving Chuck E Cheese for 'special occasions', when I have a few extra bucks in my pocket.  Chibis will be reserved for those inevitable days where I didn't get any sleep and am too exhausted to join in the fun.  It's quiet (at least it is after 1pm), relatively calm, comfortable, and they sell gourmet coffee.   If they open any new facilities (although I don't know how many more the local economy can take! I mean really!), we will be trying those out as well.

Also, please let me know if you have any other favorite indoor play businesses that you think I've unfairly left off this list!  As usual, please post all comments in the 'comments' section below the blog.  No emails please.  To follow me, enter your email in the 'follow by email' box in the upper right hand corner.  You will get a confirmation email from "FeedBurner", and need to click a link in the email in order to activate the feed.  You will NOT receive any spam, nor will your email address be used for any other purposes besides following my blog. 

Until next time.... goodnight Ashburn and Sterling!  I'm off to bed.  I had a little too much fun at Monkey Joes, and I'm freaking tired.


Got kids? Check out my new childrens book on Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Deliciousness! So much effective deliciousness.

It has been about 2 months since I started my anti inflammatory diet.  Two very difficult months!  I have to admit, avoiding sugar (sugar!?) and wheat gluten takes an extrodinary amount of will power.  Will power which I do not possess.  That is why I regularly eat sugar and wheat gluten.  I probably eat something on the "no no" list (ice cream sandwiches, french toast, donuts) about twice a week.  I have to admit that the days following my "cheating" I feel pretty crappy.  Not from guilt.... I feel no shame!  I just feel tired, run-down, and in pain.  But hey, most of the time I don't cheat.  An occasional chips ahoy isn't going to kill me, but it sure doesn't improve my chances.  I ain't perfect though, just trying to do my best.

I was proud of this creation (below)!  It is basically vegetable soup/minestrone.  I made a broth using water leftover from wilting kale to saute it.  I added trimmings from kelp, onions, tomatoes, garlic and carrots to the broth while it simmered.  That night, I also dumped in the extra tomato juice I strained from my garden tomatoes while making pizza sauce (ended up with a gallon of sauce!! :) For tons more recipes/tips, check out my deliciousness pinterest page!

Tonight, I added a cup of gluten free macaroni, a can of kidney beans, a can of corn, and the leftover sauteed kale/onion/carroy/sweet potatoes I had made the night before.  Spices included turmeric, salt, and pepper.  You don't need anything else... the combination of all the vegetables makes it fabulous!

"PFM's minestrone-ish soup"  I could eat a gallon of this!

I am a thin person, and this diet is so healthy its hard not to lose weight.  I have to eat A LOT, and OFTEN! I usually pack in nuts and dried fruit between meals twice a day.  I got tired of all the jars/bags in my pantry and made "PFM's anti-inflammatory snack of awesomeness": 


Om nom nom nom

Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, soy nuts, peanuts, dried blueberries/cranberries/raisins/plums, and some banana chips.  

This is a delicious concoction my friend made this "Goddess Lentil sautee" for my for lunch during a playdate.  Yes, lunch and playdate (with 3 very young children running around screaming.)  While engaging in stimulating conversation at the same time.  She is a super-mama! (or shall I say... Goddess??) I don't have the recipe, but it included a goddess dressing.. I think hummus and avocado? with lentils, and tomatoes/cilantro/lemon garnish.  Yes, she added a garnish.  GODDESS!  It was fabulous and I still crave it. 

Goddess Lentil Sautee

Healthy "taco salad":
Fill a bowl with baby spinach
In a seperate bowl, mix mashed avocado with plain hummus
Spoon mixture on top of spinach, and top with plain greek yogurt
Top with corn or other gluten free chips (favorite is 'near east multigrain' chips, made with corn, quinoa and chickpeas)
hummus
My favorite hummus, hands down!



So yes, the diet is definitely working!  My pain and fatigue levels are dramatically down.  I am using 2 apps to track everything:  Docs Diet Diary, where you can track what/when you ate, and follow your symptoms, and "how are you feeling", which actually graphs how you've felt (scale 1-10).  I love 'how are you feeling!'.  It can apply to any mental or pain condition, and its simple, quick, and effective.   The diet tracker is useful, but I wish it also had graph/analysis functions.  I've discovered that 1) supplements don't seem to make much of a difference *except fish oil.), it really is 'what you eat', and 2) Sugar and Gluten really do affect your energy/inflammation levels.  Its not just hype!

The hookworms (HOOKWORMS?? you say? Read this next.) are around the 'teenager' stage right now, and since I only have 5, I can't attribute any of the postivie changes to them yet.  Once I have a larger, mature, dose, I will be able to analyze that data as well.  Keep coming back to track "Potomac Falls Mama's hookworm and anti-inflammatory saga" over the coming months ; ) Given the story so far, its bound to bring on new, hilarious adventures.

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to follow me by entering your email in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, where it says "follow by email".

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Got me some germs. Lets throw some crazy natural stuff at them.

My son infected me with another cold.  This 2 days after my husband was in the ER for stepping on a pitchfork.  Yes, my compost pile pitchfork.  Yes, gross.  It went in 2 inches- through his shoe.



Yes.  Ouch.  He can't walk, or do much of anything for 10 days, so with the whole family sick, our home resembles a very disheveled medical field hospital.

Ever the optimist, I'm trying to compat the germs the al-natural way.  Today, I googled 'natural antibiotics' and proceeded to consume:
1 Grapefruit
1 cup of pomegranate Keffir
2 TB wildflower honey
1 TB apple cider vinegar, yuck, mix with water next time girlie!
2 capsules chinese skullcap (natural antiinflammatory and antibiotic)
2 cups green tea.  Also some *cough* green tea ice hagen daz ice cream.  Hey, its got green tea in it, it counts!!

Extra Yumminess:
This weekend, I bought a 3 pound local organic chicken, and today I butterflied and roasted it with potatoes, using the fabulous cooks illustrated method.  DELICIOUS!  Not exactly anti inflammatory, but I'm learning to cook more whole, natural foods.. that Jimmy likes!


Nom Nom Nom!

Bonus:  I threw all of the chicken bones and some of the fat into a pot with carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, kelp powder, onions and salt, and made the most delicious home made chicken stock ever.  Can't wait to make soup :)

Critically important note to my followers!!: DO NOT under any circumstances ever add chia seeds to yogurt.  Chia seeds blow up like gelatinous globs when in contact with moisture.  I'm assuming this is why the 'chia pet' was so successful.  I took one bite and it tasted like globby, disgusting tapioca pudding, in a bad, bad, bad way.  

   

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rainy Day? Explain it by taking your kids to Loudoun Waters FREE childrens museum!

August 2013 has not been very Augusty... April like weather, with a LOT of rain.  Jimmy has been asking lots of questions like "Who is making the rain come down?" and "Where does rain come from?" He has a book on the water cycle, and we've explained it a billion times, but he still wanted to know who, exactly, was making the rain.  Then an idea popped into my head.. of course!  The Loudoun Water plant has a childrens exhibit, best of all, its free!  I visited once before he was born, and remembered a lot of interesting, hands on fun for kids.  So on a rainy afternoon, I packed him into the car and off we went.

First, we said hi to all of the beautiful fishies.  The 2 fish tanks at the museum are filled with 'reclaimed' water; as are the faucets and toilets in the facility.


Hi Fishies!


 For older kids and adults, there is a large exhibit on the first floor that explains the entire process of reclaiming and cleaning Loudouns water supply.  Jimmy enjoyed the model Loudoun Water facility, which shows the potomac river, aquaries, and all of the cleaning and processing facilities.  He also loved the "Whats under the ground" display, which showed cross-sections of all of the different pipes buried in our ground; electric, phone; cable; sewage (it was a nice 'pee pee' yellow color haha, reclaimed water, fresh water, and a few others.  He, of course, liked the 'pee pee' water the best.  Wonderful side note; after that exhibit,  he was practically begging me to go to the potty!


You can see the model (circular object in background, and part of the large display, in the background. 

Upstairs, kids can explore a home, stripped to show the water pipes and appliances in the home.  Again, the potty was his favorite.  He followed the pipe from the potty all the way out to the sewer line.


"i can't believe we're talking about pottys so much today.  Mom made me point to the potty, so here it is!"

 The largest display, upstairs, follows the water from its first entrance to the facility from a sewer line, all the way to nice, fresh, potable water (ending with a fish tank).  Each step has interactive visual displays, buttons, and demonstrations of the filtration processess, which the kids can spin.  In this picture, he is pushing the 'grit cleanser' button for the 40th time.  It shows how rocks and debris are literally spun out of the water.  I think the staff was getting annoyed, because it sounds like a dirt devil on steroids.

"VROOOOOOOOOM!!!" 



My favorite exhibit teaches kids about how THEY and corporations use water in their daily lives.  There is a game where kids can guesss things like "How many gallons of water does it take to grow beans for one cup of coffee? (35), or how many gallons of water does it take to produce one car? (32,000!).  There are flaps they can lift.  He liked the coffee cup the best.  Shocking.... my husband only drinks 3 cups a day.  I think I'm raising a coffee fiend.   There is also an educational exhibit on dangerous chemicals (bleach, paint, cleaners, ect.), and exactly what happens when you pour them down the drain..  Basically, the plant can only do so much, and things like this can't really be removed from the water supply.  So before you clean your potty with bleach, imagine drinking it again in a few minutes.  Blech!

Last of all, there was a wonderful video on the water cycle, and how water affects different climates (from rain forest to desert).  There, of course, was a big fat button on the wall to start the video, so we watched it 4 times.   Jimmy LOVED it.  I was surprised and happy he was so interested!  Here is me proud of my little scientist, enthralled with the water cycle knowledge he was absorbing. 
Jimmy totally into learning about rain, clouds, dirt, and deserts. 


Here's a screenshot of one of the film:

There is a huge indoor and outdoor picnic area, with vending machines as well.  So you can definitely pack a lunch.  Here's my little guy enjoying a Rice Krispie treat :) 

The best part of the day was that when we left, Jimmy asked "mommy, can you play a water song?' (He often requests random songs on the radio.  I said "umm, sure!" and put on Pandora.  I almost crashed when "in the sea" came on.  The lyrics were about waves crashing in the Ocean.  One line was "I dreamed this song for you."  Coincidence? Maybe, but it was a fabulous finishing touch to the outing.  

On the way home, we stopped at a local park (Ashburn/"Dinosaur" Park), for some real life water experience. We hiked and threw rocks in the stream.  Jimmy blew my mind by proudly explaining how the stream water would turn into clouds soon to make rain, and how all of the tree roots he was tripping over let the trees 'drink' water.  He wasn't the only proud one :)  Well, until he jumped into the stream up to his knees, in some brand new sneakers.  Sigh.   You can take a 3 year old to a Water Museum, but you can't make him think.  



Loudoun Water is located at 44865 Loudoun Water Way, Ashburn, VA 20146

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 17- lil buddies

Because more people greet me with "So, how is that alternative therapy thing going?" these days rather than a simple "hello", I thought an update was in order :)

I'm heading into 'week 3', when they actually attach to the inner wall of the intestines.  I have noticed some mild side effects... intermittent stomach ache 'all over' my abdomen, bloating (sometimes my stomach looks like a picture of a starving child), and fatigue.  The fatigue is the hardest to deal with, obviously, because that was one of thes reason I'm doing this in the first place!  So I've been trying to take it easy and remind myself that this is temporary.  However, the doctors did warn me about possible 'extreme' fatigue,   SO, I guess all in all, I'm doing well, and happy with the results!  My allergies also got worse this week... another common yet 'backwards' side effect; allergies eventually will disappear with therapy.  So no, I'm not 'cured' yet, it will be at least 3 months before I know if they've 'worked'. 

The anti-inflammatory diet is going great!  I feel more energy after I eat, where in the past I've felt groggy.  I have focused on cutting WAY back on wheat gluten and carbs, and eating more fruits, vegetables and legumes (hmm, I suppose that could the real cause of the bloating).  My heartburn is GONE!! It used to be daily, severe, and a pain in the ass... er esophagus.  But it's gone!  I believe its due to my replacement of coffee for green tea, and my replacement of twinkies/donuts/[insert junk here] with fruit.   Unfortunately, I have several boxes of tagamet, zantac, and other expensive OTC meds sitting on my shelf unused (any takers? )  Also unfortunately, I haven't noticed any improvement in inflammation!!.  I started this diet before the therapy on purpose... the help with the side effects.  Because they do seem 'not too bad', it could be working, but I'm the only research subject here, so I guess I'll never know! (Or at least not for awhile). The arthritis in my feet has never been worse, in fact there have been days when I literally can't walk without a limp. Inflammation is also a side effect.  Prednisone is actually recommended the first few months of therapy, but because prednisone turns me into a raging, screaming, bi-polar lunatic, thats not really an option for me ; )

 

Besides the side effects, I've never felt healthier, or eaten such delicious, fresh food in my life!  My favorite meal is gluten-free whole grain bread with fresh garden tomatoes (like an entire tomato, so I can't fit it into my mouth), basil, hummus, Tabasco sauce, oregano, and red wine vinegar.  Sometimes I throw some chia seeds on top for good luck.  Here is one of my delicious creations.  I've also tried them with kelp powder.  Oh dear. 


If anyone has any good kelp powder recipes, I'm all ears.  I tried mixing it into some gluten free mac-and-cheese and presenting it to my 3 year old son, Jimmy, and he looked at me like I was crazy.  I have to admit that it did look and taste awful.  It was pale green, mushy, and reminded me of ' the Futurama episode in which 'Soylent Green' was served.

   

Being that Mac-and-Cheese is his favorite food, it was a major mommy-fail on my part, and I still have pangs of guilt remembering the look on his face, which seemed to say  "Mommy, what have you done to my delicious mac & cheese! You are ruining my hopes and dreams! Also, you are a terrible mother.  And you suck at driving."

Oh, one more positive... my unquenchable yearning for donuts and skittles is gone.   I just don't crave sugar or fatty baked goods anymore, its wonderful!  Also, I've never been a fan of dark chocolate, preferring milk chocolate (ideally covering peanut butter or holiday-shaped marshmallows), but it is delicious and satisfying and more than enough sugar to satisfy my cravings.  I never expected that.  

However, of all of the things in my life right now, I think the coolest and most interesting is that random acquaintances now know me as 'hook worm girl'.  I suppose it sounds weird, but I'm proud of my 'lil buddies, and yes, I'm proud of my bravery (or craziness, whatever it is ; ) 

So, thats my update.  I hope all of you are healthy, happy, parasite-free, and madly enjoying your delicious gluten.   Mmmmmmm, gluten *slobber*. 


*All photo credits to Fox Broadcasting... except the delicious sandwich.  mmmmmm sandwich.  Ok one more. 




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tin foil shoes, too much math, and flat ginger ale.

My husband is a technogeek.  He only interacts with silicon and wires, and prefers to shield himself from the rays of human eye contact.  He can make or fix anything, he is truly the MacGyver of the future.  Tonight, when I walked in the door, I noticed he bought himself some awesome new sneakers, online of course:


Now, he will look more like a robot, and fit in with his silicon brethren..

Unfortunately for me, my semi-human husband had to work late tonight; building servers, duh.  What ensued was a horrific and deeply unskilled attempt at me to ship someone a shirt that I sold on Ebay.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  Well, its not, NOOBS!! 

In order to save $1.23, I decided to forgo my general priority shipping methods (we have a stock of about 100 free priority shipping boxes of varying shape and size, btw), and do a basic ground shipping method.  "It's easy!" Husband said.  "You can make a box out of anything!" he said. 

I searched for a normal box, which in any normal amazon-reliant household (I'm talking an average of 2 boxes a day coming to our door), so that I wouldn't have to 'make' anything at all.  I dug through the basement, garage, and finally, the recycling bins.  I found something I thought would be suitable; a nice shiny white piece of cardboard that once held a large picture frame.  "All this needs is some packing tape and a few folds in the right places!!" My hopelessly optimisic mind thought.  "It'll be done in a jiffy!" 

Packing tape has destroyed my soul.  I spent 45 minutes mangling, folding, cutting, and beating the beautiful shiny cardboard into submission.  Using a box cutter, cause, you know, it was a BOX! perfect!, I made kindergartenesque, horribly uneven lines to outline my box.  Focusing on the next step before completing this one, which seems to be a severe medical condition of mine, I proceeded to drop the box cutter on my big toe.  I let out a sound which made my cat scramble out of the room, claws scratching the floor in panic.  After 5 minutes of moaning on my part, she came to my 'aide' with a meow and tried to get me to pet her.  THANKS CAT.  WHY DON'T YOU EVER PET ME!? 

It took me 20 more minutes to tape the box.  Packing tape is the most maddening material I have ever encountered.  It stuck to everything; itself, my hand, the counter, the floor, all while forcing every edge of itself to whatever surface it encountered, so not only could I not pick it back up, I couldn't even freaking see it.  

This is what my 'box' looked like after 65 minutes of assembly. 
                                      

I noticed that the left side of the box was an full inch higher than the right, and that most of the edges didn't fit together.  "All it needs is a little more tape!!!" I thought, beginning to panic as I saw my evening melting away in geometric hell.  

After a barrage of  intense force, groans, and curses, I finally bent the box to my will; stuffed the stupid shirt inside, and breathed a sigh of relief.  I tried to take a picture of it from a side which laid flat, but found that none of them did.  Not bottom, top, or any of the sides.  I think there are too many sides.  Yes, I had the foresight to take pictures during the process.  The knowledge of hilarious failure is strong with this one.

I began to panic as I noticed the almost empty roll of packing tape lay on the counter... my original shipping weight was 13 ounces.  After some overly complicated weighing procedures with my bathroom scale and smartphone (cause I ain't smart), I determined that it was probably about 11 ounces.  PHEW!  I shoved the damn thing in the mail box and poured myself a glass of flat ginger ale, with a 'moderate' (most of the glass) splash of blackberry wine.  I needed relief.  I needed to write this down.  Looking forward to my drink and writing with joyful mania, I headed to the garage where my husband is working on a computer-tinkering project, because that's where our fastest and biggest computer lives.  I began composing this post in my mind before I put the glass down on the desk, another example of beginning a task before finishing the first one.  So now the question for my husband is this: do microprocessors still work after being drowned in ginger ale and blackberry wine? Because I smothered your microprocessors with ginger ale and blackberry wine.

My 32nd birthday is in 27 minutes, and I feel like a hopelessly useless human being, who happens to be in a lot of pain (my toe really freaking hurts).  May tomorrow be better than the last 73 minutes of my life! At least 32 is an even number; it will be easier on my brain.  That hurts too.

To whomever is getting my shirt, I pledge my full and complete apologies. Oh, and please don't give me bad feedback.


*I noticed I have some new followers now that I don't even KNOW!! YAY! Welcome to my crazy life.   Btw, if anyone wants to follow, its easy.  Just type your email in the upper right hand corner where it says 'follow by email'.  It goes through feedburner- you won't get any junk, promise.  Also, please leave comments below and don't send me emails.  I like to keep em all in one place.  Thanks!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Homeopathic Day Six

Its been 6 days on my anti-inflammatory diet!  Its going great, although its not easy.  I tell myself that this is a hobby and not something I have to be perfect at (because as you will see below, I'm very, very not haha).

Breakfast:
Belvita whole grain biscuits
1/2 cup red grapes
tea

lunch:
wilted kale, tomato basil salad, 1/2 hard boiled egg, wild rice, asparagus and avocado
jasmine green tea

snack:
One giant donut with chocolate frosting.  WHOOPS.  Man, I was hungry.  Don't think I had enough protein at lunch lol

dinner went better ; )
squash blossoms stuffed with jalepeno, wheat germ, fresh basil, and cheese
tomato basil salad with navy beans, chia seeds, apple cider and balsamic vinegar, and tumeric
black cherries and blueberries
1/2 cup plain unsweetened kefir

supplements: Omega 3, green tea extract, chinese skullcap

Major Note!! My lil buddy treatment is ready to go! Unfortunately Im on antibiotics for a sinus infection, which makes the lil buddies sleepy, so I have to hold off for a few days :(  I'm going to take extra iron for a few days to stave off any anemia from the lil dudes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Going all Homeopathic on her ass- Day 1

* Note:  by "Her" I am referring to my colorful array of autoimmune diseases and fibromyalgia.

If you've read any of my prior posts, you will know that I take *a lot* of medication for my conditions, including some that can cause cancer, blindness, and severe birth defects.  However, I still feel like crap pretty much every day.   I have decided to supplement my drug cocktail with well-researched homeopathic treatment plan including 1) An anti-inflammatory diet and 2)another alternative therapy.

So, while I "eagerly" (no, not really) await my first buddy treatment, I have decided to begin another homeopathic treatment, an anti-inflammatory diet.  Surprisingly, this is the harder treatment for me.  Reason being, I am addicted to donuts.  and sour patch kids.  Oh, and chips ahoy (especially the reeses kind!).  First, second and third on the list of 'most inflammation causing foods' is hydrogenated oil, sugar, and refined carbs.  DOH!!! Not cool.  The idea of the diet is basic: eat foods rich in anti-inflammatory chemicals, and you won't have to take as much medicine.  Let me note that I have no desire or intention to lose weight, in fact I could stand to gain a few pounds, and the sole purpose of this is to STOP FEELING LIKE CRAP! If you want more info, check out this article.  Actually, there is a lot of yummy stuff; tons of spices, olive oil, salmon, mangoes... not too shabby.  Being that I am certifiably insane, I have become a bit obsessed with this, and made several trips to natural food stores and online supplement shops.  My cupboard now resembles that of a sophomore Womens Studies major at Sarah Lawrence.   Anyway, what follows is what I have consumed over the course of the day.  We'll see how many days I actually last! Asterisks follow the 'super-duper anti-inflammatory' foods

1/2 cup red grapes*
1/2 cup blueberries*
1/4 cup yogurt with flax* and chia* seeds (yes, exactly like the 'chia pet')
Tea*

Olive Oil* pan-fried Cod* with ginger*, tumeric*, rice vinegar, honey, and soy sauce
steamed bell peppers and green beans
basmati rice
Spinach*
Tea*

One chocolate brownie with peanut butter.  Oops.
1/2 cup almonds

6 small beets*
1/2 cup seaweed* salad with chia* and flax*
roasted sweet potatoes* and carrots with oregano* and thyme*

I also consumed the following supplements: Vitamins C, D, and Bs, and Chinese skullcap.  (I also have grape-seed and green-tea extract coming in the mail!  In addition to kelp powder.)

It all tasted pretty good, ESPECIALLY the brownie :).  Only issue is that I haven't eaten this much fiber since I went on a crazy-vegetable diet when trying to lose weight to cram myself into an impulsively bought, incorrectly sized dress for my wedding (8 years ago).  I went out for ice cream the first night of the honeymoon and never looked back! :)  Anyway, I have a stomache-ache.

Join me next week! (or maybe 2) for an excited account of the welcoming of some new 'lil buddies into my life, and more (exciting I know) lists of what I ate!



Saturday, July 6, 2013

The "bad card"

Dealing with the neverending stream of prescriptions and medication changes that come with chronic illness, and the often extreme side effects.  

I'll start on a positive note:  I am happily married, I have an unbelievably gorgeous and bright son, My husband and I are both successful and happily employed; we don't have to worry about money.  I'm told I'm "pretty" and am a size 2.  I have a beautiful home that backs to a forest with a sprawling deck, and I live in a great community, surrounded by family and friends.  I used to say "Nothing bad has ever happened to me".  My life was even-keeled and always going in a positive direction.  I knew it would change some day, and it did.  About 8 years ago, I was finally handed a "bad" card.  My health, both physical and mental, took a sheer nose-dive.

I have had anxiety since the age of 7, but it was manageable until I got sick, at which point it became debilitating as an adult.  Additionally, I never once had a suicidal thought until I could no longer get out of bed, or brush my teeth... or care for my son due to extreme pain and fatigue. I have suffered from severe depression off and on since becoming diagnosed with my hodge-podge of diseases. But, I've learned how to breathe, and was trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT),  amazing and powerful tools that I can only wish I had access to as a scared child!  However, the more frustrating, and often painful, wrench in my life is my physical health:

I suffer from a variety of autoimmune diseases and Fibromyalgia, whose single purpose in existence seem to be to make the sufferer feel like 'crap'.  I have constant severe and constant pain, and debilitating fatigue.  To treat my physical problems, doctors have prescribed me, over the course of 7 years, at least 40 different medications.  Forty.  Different medications.  Currently, I am on a relatively stable list of 5 medication which are helping to control my symptoms, and my brain is relatively used to.  But it never lasts.  About every 3 months, one of my 6 trillion doctors either recommends a new medication, the cessation of an old one, or a dosage change.  In addition to my mental and physical problems, I was also blessed with extreme drug sensitivity.  Part of the reason I've tried so many medications is because I cannot tolerate most of them due to their unintended psychoactive effects, or other severe and crappy side effects.  Just to name a few of the most severe instances, I have become full-blown manic on at least 3 occasions thanks to immunosuppresant medications.  I have gotten serotonin syndrome at least 4 times (when my current drug cocktail interacts to increase serotonin to unsafe levels; serotonin is increased in a surprisingly huge list of drugs, not just SSRIs).  I have been unable to get out of bed due to sudden deep depressions.  I have been suicidal on multiple occasions,  and could list other similar but less extreme experiences.  Some of this is certainly normal given my history of anxiety and depression, but in the severe instances, each one is directly attributable to a recent medication change.

So, in order to prevent my premature death and other severe consequences of my physical health, I seem to be trapped on a medication-induced-crazy-coaster.  I want OFF!  But I am trapped.  Without my medications (which I've tried) I am bedridden and end up depressed anyway because of the pure suckage of being bedridden.  With them, I am a wild mix of emotions, mood swings and irritability.  Sometimes, I forget who I really am.  I take time every day to meditate and remind myself of my goals and beliefs- breathe.  think carefully before you speak (to avoid snapping), live in the moment, take it one day at a time.  But there's only so much my meagerly powered cognitive forces can do when up against a brain on a drug-fueled crazy spree.

I have to admit I'm getting a little desperate and hopeless, like I said, its been 7 years.  My physical health is just getting worse, and with the new symptoms come new drugs and more side effects..  I have decided that my goal for this year is to try homeopathic treatments; I am the newest guinea pig in an experimental (but highly researched) autoimmune treatment involving parasites.   I am also attempting to start a anti-inflammatory diet, which sucks because donuts is my favorite food group.  I am crossing my fingers that there are calmer, healthier, and happier waters ahead.  And believe me, so is my husband!

Six Months Later: Update!

Wow, looking back at this, I hardly recognize myself.  I kept my promises and have tried several drug free and experimental treatments for both depression (TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), and parasitic  therapy for my Autoimmune disease.

The TMS was intense: it is for "difficult to treat" depression only, and I had to have treatments 5 days a week for 5 weeks, then 4 weeks of tapering.  My depression scores went from "severe" (like go to the hospital NOW) to "None".  NONE.  Its mind-boggling.  I am tapering off my anti-depressant medication, while at the same time experiencing a long-lost, beloved emotion called "Joy."  It is truly wonderful, and I highly recommed it to anyone who has had no luck with drugs (I had tried over 12 different drugs and several therapists with few results).  TMS is now covered by many insurance plans and is FDA approved for the treatment of depression and anxiety.  Google TMS depression for more information.

The parasite therapy is actually not as intense!  It is a relatively new, experimental treatment for autoimmune diseases (especially Crohns, Ulcerative Colitis and MS), and severe allergies.  However, it is well researched and most patients go into remission within 3 months.  I am still going through treatment, but I have already noticed some amazing results.  My allergies are gone; they used to be a nightmare.  I no longer need to take celebrex in order to move my joints without pain, and I am down to 1/2 of my original dose of immunosuppresant medication!  I am confident that I will also go into full remission.   Here is my most recent post on the therapy.

Along with the therapy, I have also begun an anti-inflammatory diet, attempting to be as gluten-free as possible, while eating as many veggies and fruits as I can.  I am not perfect; I still love donuts and pizza rolls on occasion, but on the days that I stick to my diet, there is a noticible shift in my levels of pain and (especially) fatigue.  I go by Dr. Weils food pyramid, which I found on Google. Its easy to read and helps me remember what to eat and what to avoid.  Also see my full blog post on the diet.

2014 is looking pretty damn good!  Check back for possible announcements from my husband and I.... yup! I feel well enough to try to have another baby.  Awesomeness!

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to follow me by entering your email in the upper left-hand corner of the blog, where it says "follow by email".

Got kids? Check out my new childrens book on Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lessons in Truth from a Three Year Old


The number 3 has a profound and spiritual significance in almost every culture.  The 'trinity' or triad, is a symbol of the unity of body, mind and spirit.  


If I was in charge, the symbol of unity would be THIRTY.   Around the time I turned 30, I came to a certain understanding with myself.  Meaning, I decided I'm not the dorky, clumsy lack-wit I always imagined myself to be, but  I'm also not the perfect genius snowflake that I also always imagined myself to be.  I know what makes me happy (people, sewing, and donuts in that order), and what makes me sad.  Anyway, this isn't about me, its about the maniacal bipolar exploding Mento-in-Pepsi that I call my 3 year old son, Jimmy.   He is only 2 years and 10 months (but he has always been an overachiever).

Tonight, Jimmy was pleasant and sweet after I picked him up.  We found a package on the doorstep and played "guess what’s in the box"... a dragon? candy? a HOUSE?! It was a pair of $3 size 4T jean shorts.  He actually said "Oh boy! Thank you mommy, for buying me these!" I was mid back-pat for what an amazing child I've raised when all hell broke loose.  Three or four tantrums later, I decided to distract him with an art project (hey, I'm a first time mom, what do I know!)

Much of the following hour is a blur, but I had a moment of clarity as I was frantically rinsing sparkly blue plaster-of-paris out of my eyes and nose, as he sat on the floor playing with the jars of messy paint and dozens of popsicle sticks he had scattered around himself.  At the time, he was singing about Lightning Mcqueen at the top of his lungs.  My child was completely oblivious to the chaos surrounding him.  Literally.  This afternoon, 3 people died in the Boston Marathon terrorist attack.  Even if I tried to explain what happened, he wouldn't be able to comprehend it.  While watching "Star Wars" earlier, he had said the words "Mommy, what does Yoda mean?" In the sweetest, most innocent voice he had.  How could you not know what Yoda means!?

He doesn't know.  He doesn't know the terror, stress, fear; but also the immense joy, beauty, and peace that come with being 30.

It took both of us to get him to bed tonight.  Daddy held him over his shoulder (where he let out a cute toddler fart [I'm assuming 'cute toddler fart' will all too soon turn into 'gross boy fart'], and tickled him while I put his pajamas on.  By "put his pajamas on", I mean "hurled myself aimlessly at the arms and legs of what may have well been a panicked, flailing, cat who was trying to avoid a suppository."

Before bed, I tried my best to explain that he should listen to Mommy and Daddy and not throw tantrums (like I said, I'm first time mom.  I know nothing.)  I told him that Mommy and Daddy just want him to be safe.  Like movie script, he replied (blowing my mind):

"But Mommy, I just want to climb the table!", while proceeding to attempt to climb on his nightstand.

"No, honey, you could fall and break your neck! Please don't climb on the furniture"

He then grabbed my pants leg, and said "Mommy I'm taking you to jail!" while pulling me out of the room.  I played along, pretending to go to jail, pretending he had power over me (which is all he really wants).  I let him immerse himself in the joy of pretend-play; but I could only watch, from the outside.

I don't know.




Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Top 3 Toddler-Friendly Destinations in Loudoun

*apologies for the wonky background color...

Loudoun County is a mothers dream.  On top of the fabulous schools and employment options, it is a gorgeous place to live, and full of educational, fun, and high-quality activities for children.  

1) Loudoun County Government Sponsored Activites. 


This isn't technically a destination, but there is no better resource for childrens  activities.  Loudoun County is rich.   This year, it is listed as the richest county, with the median income at $ 119,000.  What does that mean for us?  Fabulous government-sponsored activities! And I mean Top Notch.  The Community and Recreation Centers are state-of-the art and offer an amazing variety of classes, from Tai-Chi to Cooking.  For kiddos, there are a huge variety of high-quality CHEAP classes.  The prices are magnitudes lower than similar classes offered by the business community.   Toddlers can take art, sports, music, and everything in between.  In addition, they offer regular special activities like moon-bounce parties, balloon parties, carnivals, ect.  My favorite offering is called "Parents Night Out", which entails dropping your kids off for 3.5 hours to have fun with moonbounces, games, and pizza, while you date your spouse; for $15! 


2) Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum


I have lived in Loudoun County for 7 years.  For the first 5.5 years, I drove past a sign for the museum every day on my way home from work, and I was never tempted to go.  A farm museum?! No thanks; couldn't possibly be of interest to a suburban girl like me!  One day, my son and I were exploring Claude Moore Park.  We took a walk by the beautiful lake, and saw some historic buildings in the distance and went exploring.  Beyond the historic buildings, my son spotted some huge tractors, and we were off!  There, we stumbled upon the museum.  It was starting to rain, so I begrudgingly decided to go in.  It quickly became my absolute favorite activity in Loudoun! 

This is a diamond in the ruff of Northern Virginia; and easily one of the best childrens museums in the area.  
The museum is packed full of organized, educational, and imaginative exhibits that teach children about historical farm life while they play.   The best part is the full historic general store, which is an original store that was moved into the museum.  It is large, and full of historic products, pretend food,  a mail room, scales, and cash register.   My son had to be pulled from the store after playing for over an hour.  It is FABULOUS.   
There is an indoor barn where children can collect eggs, dress up like a farmer, milk a cow, and ride/care for pretend horses.  Additionally, there are several high quality child-size tractors with a large open space for playing.  
The main museum is also phenomenal.  It is full of interesting artifacts and information.  In the back of the main museum section, there is another surprise for kids; a replica of a turn-of-the-century kitchen.  It is a hands on exhibit where children can experience what kitchen life was like circa 1920.  
The price is a steal; $3 for kids and $5 for adults.  I have taken my family again and again.  It is perfect for rainy/cold days, as there is plenty of space for running around and playing.  The staff is attentive and considerate.   Outside the museum, you will find a historic town with several original buildings, which is also fabulous   There is also a very nice gift shop with educational toys and locally made products.  On Mondays, Mr "Knick Knack" is there as well!

This is the highest quality childrens museum in the area. I  honestly have no idea why they don't market it as a childrens museum (like on that sign!)  The national childrens museum at the National Harbor is abysmal  and other museums are over an hour away.  You will have a much better time here, and spend less money, while learning about local Loudoun history and farming.  Enjoy!


3) Great Country Farms


Imagine the biggest, coolest backyard in the whole world.  Playgrounds, tube slides, barns, animals, Corn "sand box", giant water tower for hot days... the list goes on!  In addition to the seemingly endless offering of activities, it is working farm that offers pick-your-own everything... Strawberries, asparagus, apples, potatoes... you name it!  I love this place.



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Tags: loudoun county, ashburn, reston, herndon, sterling, toddler friendly activities, indoor activities for kids, children

Friday, March 15, 2013

To Work, or Not to Work; That, Ladies, is the Question!


At Work, At Home, and Online

The Challenges and Growing Influence of Women



PQ: Crushing their challenges, women are taking over the world, in so many ways


As an idealistic, excited, and passionate  JMU grad in 2003, I was ready to take on the world. I wanted it all; career, kids, marriage, and success in all things. Passionate about Neuroscience, I “decided” I would get a PhD, enter academia, get married, and live the dream. If only goals were a guarantee in life. After two years of applications, GRE's and interviews, I received only one offer, from my dead-last choice.. I went through a 3-year period of maddening shame, guilt, and soul-searching; if I was so passionate and driven, why couldn't I make it happen? I worked in a series of uninspiring jobs in which I was horrendously underemployed. Then, I landed on the coolest and most satisfying job I've ever had; as an instructor for the analytic software platform, Palantir. I work with intensely interesting people and challenges daily, and lead the training program for our deployment. While at work, I am almost high with excitement and satisfaction. I am a self-labeled clinical attention-whore, and teaching satisfies my pathological needs. I thrive on helping my students solve hard problems. A life of grant-dependent academia would've been miserable for me, and I thank the gods for my 'failure.' In addition to being a teacher, I am a clinically-obsessed mommy.

My son and I have a rich home life full of friends, adventures, and fun. We make play-doh cookies, blow bubbles, jam on our huge cache of musical instruments, sing songs, and make macaroni and cheese. We take nature walks and feed farm animals. We watch 'Yo Gabba Gabba' and 'Blues Clues', and we read read read. Occasionally, I find myself inspired by my son with ideas for my career as an instructor, and my students inspire my career as a mother. I implemented a trivia game with prizes for my adult students, and I've learned how to ask my son questions in the right way to encourage learning. It's all absolutely fabulous; except when its not. There is simply not. enough. time.

I work three days a week, and am perpetually behind. I want to be perfect, and am yet woefully under-involved. Important correspondence falls through the cracks weekly, and I have to work in a furious caffeine-fueled fervor to stay afloat. At home, I regularly forget to pay bills, miss doctors appointments, and purchase enough milk to get through the week. Sadly, I have failed miserably in my attempt to keep organized, be a fabulous mom, and have a fabulous career. I am perpetually falling short of my goals. My solution? I am learning to let go. Frustrating as it is, my career is just OK, and that is OK with me. I get just enough satisfaction and pride out of my work to be comfortable with my choice to be part-time. It is a never-ending internal struggle, but one in which I am learning more about myself, my son, and my world than I might be if I took another path.  I see my life as a stream, going in many directions, and seeing the world from different angles. I suppose I could be a raging river, rapidly advancing and reaching my destinations with speed and strength, but I prefer the scenic route.

The life of the modern American woman is one of difficult gut-wrenching choice. We are constantly second-guessing our decisions, and often unfairly judged by our peers for the decisions we make, SAHMs, full-time moms, and part time moms alike. Ours is a life of overwhelming responsibility and treading water. Whatever path we decide to take, owning it is the key. Being part time is the best choice for my circumstances, but this is in no way a judgement on anyone else. There are simply too many variables in life for everyone to make the same decision, and we don't. That's why women are taking over the world, in so many ways!

According to the Council of Graduate Schools, more women attend graduate schools than men. Despite continued pay discrimination and glass ceilings at many law firms, the percentage of doctors and lawyers that also happen to be women has also increased by sixfold since the 1970’s.  Women are also rising the ranks of government; 20% of our US Senators are now women as well, bringing splashes of color to a sea of gray and black suits.

However, social media is where we really shine. Behind the not-so-glass screens of our computers, and on no ones schedule but our own, women are influencing and changing communities, movements, brands and commerce at a rate never before seen in history. Through Social Media, our voices are heard. We’re home from work, the kids are asleep, we have all the time in the world; and everyone is listening.

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Got kids? Check out my new childrens book on Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia!