Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Free White Fish

Remember that movie Free Willy? Where a boy freed a captive killer whale?

This story is kind of like that.

We had this foot-long white koi that was too big for our 55-gallon tank. It was causing a havoc – eating and pulling plants that we spent a small fortune on. And although it had always left the other 5 small goldfish alone, we knew that we would all be happier if it was elsewhere.
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Enter Meadowlark Gardens.

Long time readers know that this was where we got married and we hold annual membership which allows unlimited visits.

There is a lake (see here) at Meadowlark that is filled with turtles and koi and plants to nibble on, so it was a no-brainer for us to call and see if they would accept a donation.

They agreed.

The whole process was easy. We called in the morning and by the afternoon, our fish had a new home.
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We huddled around for one last look.

The release!
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The koi was scared and hid under the plants. We spent some time at the garden and when we stopped by the same spot just before we left, he was gone - must had swam away.
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Some of the koi in the lake are giant.

Hopefully it was a fun experience for the kids, but it definitely was for me! It will be fun to look for our koi each time we visit Meadowlark. I am sure we won’t find it every time, but if we go there enough, I hope to spot it eventually. I am just relieved that we donated the koi to a controlled environment, as oppose to letting it go in the wild. At least we know that it is safe and has food to eat and probably a lot happier.

That same night, I wondered out loud, “I wonder what the white fish is doing now? Hope it’s OK.”

Ha, and I had to laugh. If I feel this way about a FISH, how am I going to deal when my kids go to college???

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After Meadowlark, we went to our favorite pho place for dinner, grabbed some spring rolls next door afterwards, and visited Bluemont Park/Playground for the first time. I thought the park was great - shady, ample seating, themed play structures. The kids seemed to enjoy it too. We didn't get a chance to play in the stream nearby, so I would love to take the kids back there again.
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Monday, August 26, 2013

little moments in dc

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Our most recent trip to the US Botanic Garden was really good. Sure, we got stuck in slow-moving traffic due to the 50th Anniversary of MLK March, but besides that, it was a great day to be out and enjoying the sunshine.
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After strolling in front of the Capitol for a bit, we headed inside to the garden. The kids enjoyed the outdoor Children's Garden the most. I guess that was expected...it was designed for children after all. Anna had the most fun with the water pump and Will just wanted to splash. They also ran through a bamboo forest! Pretty neat. We have been to the Botanic Garden many times, but this time was by far my favorite. The kids showed more curiosity and it was nice that they kept whining to a bare minimum.
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Click here! Same pose, same location, back in 2011.
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I think as they get older, short local outings like this will get easier and better...until I guess when they reach a certain age when they won't want to be dragged around anymore. I am savoring these moments while they last. I have only been doing this parenting gig for 3.5 years, but it's already going too fast.

PS., Here is a tip if you want to visit: on weekends, you can park right in front of building even though the sign reads "Permit Only." We have done it several times and never gotten a ticket.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

summer crafting: s is for snake, heart necklace, TP choo choo train

We have been doing lots of crafty projects lately and here are a couple that I took pictures of.

I showed Anna one of my Pinterest boards and she picked this snake craft immediately. I let the kids pick out their own colors for the body and stripes. Anna picked pink cardstock and pink glitter paint (surprise, surprise). And Will picked navy blue cardstock and yellow paint. Then hubs drew big block-style letter S’s and I cut. I also cut out two small tongues.

After that, Anna finished the snake all on her own. She did a great job stamping and, once it was dried, gluing on the googly eyes and the tongue. Will also stamped the stripes all by himself, but I did the rest after it was dried. Ha, I think he had forgotten all about it by then. Overall, a pretty fun and easy project.
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This recycled straw necklace was an okay project. I gathered some cardstock scraps and, using a craft punch, Anna punched out the hearts. I then use a regular hole punch to punch a hole in the middle of all the hearts. In hindsight, Anna could have helped with cutting the straws, but I went ahead and did that as well. Then I cut a long piece of string/twine and we started stringing.

Anna had trouble with the actual stinging because the string wasn’t stiff enough so I helped with that…but she handed me the pieces to string one by one. A good way to learn about patterns, I suppose. Later she had fun wearing the necklace. If you do this project with your little one, definitely use a stiffer material for the string.
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We made this choo choo train because Anna said she wanted to make a train. So I did a search and found this idea. Anna picked out the paint colors with one input from Will. She then painted the toilet paper rolls, while Will dabbed a little. Once the rolls were dried, I punched out some wheels using a circle punch and she helped with gluing them on.

After that, it was all hubs.
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He linked the cars together using paper clips and secured a clothespin for the steam pipe. Then came my favorite part - the smoke traveling behind the train. I was just going to stretch out a cotton ball and call it a day. But hubs went a step further and inserted a paper clip (unfolded) into the stretched cotton ball to make sure the “smoke” stayed up. As I took the following picture, I was like, wow, it looks good! Haha.
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Overall I have enjoyed all these crafts. Anna is definitely getting better as we do more crafts together. She will do an activity without getting frustrated and actually follows through. Big success!

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

pictures, lots of pictures, no words

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

local parks 'round the 'hood

This summer has been awesome for me and I am going to miss it so much when it is over. I am loving the extra days I get to spend with the kids and taking them on simple adventures. It's the best! And so good for my Mama soul.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to take them on faraway adventures, I am weary in driving more than 20 minutes with the kids on my own in the morning. Why? Because Will falls asleep easily in the car and even if he conks out for just 5 minutes, he fights his afternoon nap. I know other Moms would agree with me that you just don't mess with that. So to avoid that, we stay close. It's okay, though, because there are plenty of parks within 2 miles of our house.

We went to Glyndon Park after storytime at the library one day. We had a picnic lunch (fried chicken & biscuits) with my parents and the kids had fun climbing, sliding, and swinging. It has two play structures - one for bigger kids and one for little ones. And a sandbox! Lots of space to roam around and most of the park is shady.
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This is the play structure for little kids.park2
The bigger play structure is in the background in these pictures.

Meadow Lane Park isn't our favorite, but it is close to home. On top of small play structures and a few swing sets, there is a huge variety of big plastic toys that people donated (mostly old and half broken...). There is also a sandbox. We came here for a picnic lunch as well, although the kids never eat as well out as they do at home. I definitely think this park is for little kids (ages 2-5), but even though my kids are at the perfect age, I don't think we will come here often. It's not the cleanest park.
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During the entire time we were there, Anna was mostly glued to this blue car. She really loved it and we think it is because of the siren on top.

The Branch Road Tot Lot is a place I have driven by many many times, but never stopped. It is a super small playground, as you can see from the picture below. We went there Monday morning while the weather was still cool and spent about 40 mintues there. It is shady, CLEAN, and well-maintained. The kids liked the seasaw the best, but Anna later told me that she didn't like the park because "it is for small kids and I am a big kid."
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Then we went to Vienna Town Green to walk around. In all my years of living in this area, I had never been. It's a pretty area with a great big lawn (they host summer concerts here), walking trails, and flowers to admire. When we got there, the sprinklers were on so I encouraged the kids to stand at one particular spot so they could get sprayed. They were timid at first, but ended up loving it. :)
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Although I don't think the summer flew by, it's sad to think that there are only 3 weekends left before Anna returns to school. I am holding on to every last bit of it!!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Our Weekend: Green Spring Gardens, Mosaic District, "Rainbow Park", Toilet Paper Tree

A couple of years ago, when I visited Green Spring Gardens for the first time, I walked on the main path and took a bunch of flower pictures with my big camera. It was a pretty garden with a children's section, a gazebo, a large grassy area, benches to sit on, and, of course, lots of flowers. It was free and not too far from home, but nothing really special. I never went back again. Until this Saturday.

Lately, I have been wanting to visit parks around the area. So on Saturday, I went again with the family...and realized that I had missed the biggest attraction of all - a short trail into the woods...to a nice little creek!
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After Anna and Will redeemed their pack of sunflowers seeds from completing the library summer reading program at the horticulture center/visitor center, we walked a loop around the garden and spent most of our time wading in the creek and throwing rocks. In the summer, we live in our sandals so it was no problem for us to just walk right in. It was very picturesque and we all enjoyed cooling our feet in the water.
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I was surprised at how clean the water was and it was just nice to be able to step into it. I haven't found many (any?) places that like around me so Green Spring Gardens has definitely moved up on my list of places to take the kids. Maybe we will go again when the leaves change color?
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In the horticulture center/visitor center, there was a library with a children's section, full of picture books and puzzles. Sooooo niiiiice for little kids.

Then on Saturday night, we went to Mosaic District to hang out. The weather was so good for a summer night. We had already gone to the spray area many times this summer, but I recently found out that there was another water play on the other side. It was basically structures with flowing water and rocks. At first they just played around it, but it wasn't long before they got on top of it. Usually we are strict with the kids' bedtime, but we let them stay out late, probably because I didn't want to leave either.
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Sunday we went to Clemenjontri in the morning.
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And then we just stayed in for the rest of the day.  Anna and I up-cycled some toilet paper rolls and made trees.  Super easy craft.  Just paint the toilet paper rolls brown, cut the tree shape (I used green cardstock), and decorate with foam stickers.  She was happy with her work!
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

another visit to another nature center (Huntley Meadows)

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Huntley Meadows Park was a new-to-us place that we visited this past weekend. It was another one-of-those-places-I-would-never-have-thought-to-go-if-it-wasn't-for-kids, but it actually turned out to be a cool little place to visit. Like Hidden Oaks, it is a nature center (with interactive exhibits, books, etc), but it also has some short trails and a half-mile boardwalk along the wetlands, where wildlife can be found. We went on a good day - not hot - so it was nice to be outside enjoying nature.

From the parking lot, it was a short 5-minute walk through the shady forest to the nature center/visitor center, where the kids pushed some buttons and ran around.  Then we walked another 10 minutes (more shades) to the boardwalk.
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We weren't sure what we would see once we got on the boardwalk, but we found some turtles lounging on a log immediately.  Then as we walked more and looked closer, we saw a bunch of fishes, tadpoles, more turtles, and dragonflies.  We also heard and saw different species of birds.  We were not disappointed. Hubs said we should go back again with our big camera.
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Later we came across the observation tower where we took a rest...
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and this was our view.
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Overall, Huntley Meadows was a great place for our little family to get out and get some exercise. The boardwalk was really fun to walk on and to look for creatures. I will say that hubs and I probably enjoyed it more than the kids, but in the end, they were in good spirits and only wanted to be carried because they were tired. If you have little kids and live in the area, it's a good way to spend 1 to 2 hours. I highly recommend it!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Hidden Oaks Nature Center!

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The weather has been very un-August-like and I am loving it. Breezy, sunny, and high in the 70s/low 80s. Not at all hot and sticky, but just a lot of fun in the sun.

Last Friday on my normal day off, I took the kids to Hidden Oaks Nature Center. It was only 15 minutes away and small enough for me to handle the kids on my own. Inside the nature center, there were live animals (we saw turtles, a toad, and snakes), interactive exhibits, a tree loft for the kiddos to climb, small library, and blocks + toys. Outside of the nature center, there was an outdoor play space (picture above), with a little pond. Overall, a very nice place to spend a morning for ages 2-5! Maybe even a little bit older kids might like it too?
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Now what Anna loved the most - which she old me herself - was redeeming the goodies for completing the library summer reading program. That plastic bug and the purple magnifying glass made her SO HAPPY during the entire trip.  Little kids find amusement in such littlest things.  :)
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Before we left, we went to the playground nearby for a spin on the swings.
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Before I had kids, I would never think of visiting places like Hidden Oaks.  But now that I have two little ones, I love finding these type of places - close to home, fun and educational, and cost nothing.  It gives us something to do in the morning before going home for lunch and nap.  I will be scoping out more little kids-friendly destinations nearby and blogging about them here.  Maybe other Moms like me will find them useful!

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