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Adventures in Ashburn

What began in France moved to Washington, DC and then the suburbs. Let the adventures in Ashburn continue.

Friday, January 02, 2015

A decade (almost)

As it is officially 2015, and this blog got it's start in 2005, it will be turning ten this year. When I think about the last ten years and how tumultuously, terrifically, different now is than then, it makes me curious about what I'll be writing about ten years from now. However, we can't live in the past and the future is a ways off, so I'm sticking right here. 

Right now, I am getting sweet kisses from Raleigh. 

Upstairs, RJ is taking a nap with HGTV on in the background (recovering from gallbladder surgery and pneumonia). 

I'm thinking about resolutions while I type my first blogpost from my phone (both odd and behind the times?). 

My only goal this year is to end the year grateful and happy for the year that passed. Of course, any good goal should have some sub goals; so let's call those my resolutions. 

1. Focus on saving more so we can travel more. 

The cruise last summer was relaxing - as were visits to family. But we have a lot more family, friends, national parks, and countries on our bucket list. 

2. Find even more ways to like my job. 

Making the course packs this year and having the students write letters to scientists was awesome and already more successful than I imagined. It's time to not just hone in on making those great, but adding to the ways that will make science education exciting. 

3. Donate, upcycle, and/or recycle more stuff than we "get" this year.  

We already recycle more each week than we throw in the trash (about 50% more!), but that can go beyond packaging and grocery related items to clothing, books, movies, and all the random stuff. 

4. Have more parties. 

There was a time when I was hosting some kind of social gathering at home two or three times a month. Socializing with friends is incredibly important; it takes a village to be a grown up too!

5. Remember (daily?) that me time is not a waste of time. 

I love creating magnificent meals, but dread the time it takes to cook and clean up so much I talk myself out of it. I pretend (that's what it is!) that I don't have time to take a walk or sit on a park bench or just play MarioKart until I blast my records. I avoid cleaning up the house and putting away laundry. But, the fact is, spending time on things for me is good for my whole family. And while dishes aren't really a thing for me, a clean sink is, and clothes in a closet make it easier to get ready for work, and yoga on Thursday nights makes the weekend more relaxing, and even science says sitting on a park bench for ten minutes a day will lower your blood pressure. Grading papers, checking email, skimming Facebook, watching reruns of TV I don't like are a waste if I don't end smiling. 

6. Give more rubs. 

At least that's what Raleigh would type if he had thumbs. :)

Happy New Year!

Love always, Heather

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Summer To-Do List

As I sit here on this gorgeous Saturday avoiding the sun (details on that in a moment), it occurs to me that summer is quickly slipping through my fingers and I have only accomplished one of my big ticket items for the summer! To prioritize my time, I thought I'd make a list of the remaining things I'd like to accomplish.


  • Clean out the two spare room closets to get everything into one closet (with room to spare). Goodness knows I do not need probably more than a quarter of the items in there.
  • Sell the random items that are actually still worth something at a garage sale or online to earn $1750. That's a random numeric goal, but I think it is fairly attainable.
  • Finish putting pictures in all the frames on the stairwell.
  • Clean out my bedroom closet so as to no longer have a wide assortment of clothing that doesn't fit or I don't wear clogging it up.
  • Use the VHS to DVD converter to complete the transition to DVD home videos.
  • Donate as much of the clothing, old VHS tapes, books, and sundries as possible.
  • Complete the first of two blog-to-book projects.
  • Spend five minutes each day with God alone.
  • Actually learn physics in a respectable enough way that I know some level of higher physics than what I teach my 8th graders.
  • Lose 20 pounds. I lost over 50 pounds between last June and last October, only gaining about ten back during surgery recovery in March, so feeling confident about this fitness goal.
  • Be able to keep up with the girls on core workouts. I'm restricting myself to the core here, because last summer I truly had to face the fact that despite whatever brilliant plans I had, I am almost or literally double some of their ages. They can keep sprinting faster than me; it's respectable that I finish at all.
  • Read two books a week; including some nonfiction.
  • Sleep 8 hours a night or until I wake up naturally, whichever is more appropriate for the day's itinerary.
  • Save up the gas and eating out money associated with my full-time job to pad the savings account to a respectable amount.
  • Enjoy planned vacations with no guilt about the fact that some of these things aren't finished yet.


I'll make my goal end-date Labor Day weekend, though I officially go back to work before then for professional development, coaching responsibilities, and other training. I think these goals are going to help me stay physically, mentally, financially, intellectually, and spiritually healthy this summer.

Why the sudden slide into being a total-self health nut? Well, the same reason I'm avoiding the sun. Last June, I went to the doctor for a little help losing weight - knowing it was important for my long term well-being. During a scan, they spotted some suspicious nodules in my thyroid that after a few months of biopsies and a surgery at Johns Hopkins turned out to be - incredibly small - cancer masses. I had the rest of my thyroid taken out at the end of June this year as a prophylactic measure to make sure the cancer could not recur and potentially spread.

After getting the all clear from the surgeon with tons of encouragement that it was really over, and it hadn't spread and really couldn't (since it is in a medical waste center somewhere, and not my neck); I am relieved. I am grateful for the prayers and love everyone has given me. I am so lucky that my doctor decided to be aggressive about such small spots instead of just letting it go for another year until I might get another scan. I feel blessed by God to have survived this with the help of my incredible husband and the few others I told. And I also feel like staying healthy. I am motivated to be as healthy as is reasonably possible for someone who truly hates running for the sake of running and loves cake.

I am happy - elated! - and blessed to be as healthy as I am today. If all I do this summer is maintain that, I'll have done my job.

Love always, ~Heather


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Friday, May 30, 2014

Note to Future Self

Dear Future Self,

Hello there! Do you still remember when you had crazy curly hair, drove an adorable Focus, and were making an inordinate amount of rice noodle dinners? Anyway, that's the time frame we're talking about from here.

This is also roughly the end of your third year teaching in the States. You just got your SOL test results back and they were pretty good. Some of the classes even earned fun prizes! Here's where I want you to take note....

If you ever feel like, as a parent, you have the right to undermine a teacher and the overall school test results by having your sweet, little spawn not take the SOL then you darn well better be ready to deal with the consequences. Especially if your child is sort of prickish (which, if a teacher or series of other adults tell you, you'd do well to believe) and has been boasting about how he doesn't have to take the tests to anyone and everyone who will listen. When the teacher says they don't get to enjoy the class prize, suck it up and realize you did something super stupid.

That's right, Future Self, as a parent you will have the right to do a LOT of things. However, they will NOT all be in the best interest of your children. Think things through. Recognize potential consequences. Forgive yourself if you miss one or two and make a mistake, but don't make the same mistake twice.

Your kid(s) are resilient. They are strong. They are in some (many?) ways like you and RJ. They will survive some stress, disappointment, or other unpleasant events. Be there for them. Understand when they go to another reasonable adult instead of you (they are teenagers). Try desperately to not under or over estimate them.

You're probably doing just fine; but a little reminder from Current Me is sitting here waiting just in case. Good luck. I have no idea how splendid or rough it is for you right now, but don't forget you've always wanted to change the world and revolutionize education. Oh, and make more rice noodles. So good. :)

Love always, (2014) Heather

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Reading List

More for me than all of you, I am drawn to share my most recent reading list.

Identical by Ellen Hopkins - Written entirely in free verse poetry, this book wins the award for thoroughly surprising me at the climax. I haven't been blown away by a book on both an emotional and intellectual level in a long time; it makes me really respect the author and how she approached this book.

Looking for Alaska by John Green - I wasn't surprised by this book as much as I was entranced. Having previously read An Abundance of Katherines, I was expecting it to be much funnier; but I enjoyed it anyway.

Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead - I will be the first to admit this isn't classic literature, but for reasons beyond me I find one or two of the characters captivating enough to keep me reading into book four of this six part series. It is definitely teenage melodrama, but fun and fast to read with some interesting twists.

Speaker of the Dead by Orson Scott Card - I rarely read more than a page of a prologue because I would much rather read the book and am afraid of spoilers or hints; but when this one said it was meant to be the first book in the Ender series, I read it with different eyes. I enjoyed and was challenged by Ender's Game a week or two ago and so sought this out to see what else happened in this universe. I was pleased to see both renewed and fresh themes. It reminded me of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, but less graphic and more invested in building multiple characters.

The Giver by Lois Lowry - I avoided this book from the time it first came out and was touted at my elementary school book fairs because of the creepy looking guy on the cover and because I kept confusing it with Gary Paulsen's The Winter Room; which I read maybe one or two chapters of and could never continue. As the book went on the author seemed to either have run out of time or lost their voice ... I can't explain how I feel about this one yet except to say that it is bewildering. Tone and structure are well employed and then ... nevermind. I can't say anything else without giving it away. It's considered dystopian (which I learned tonight is apparently the opposite of utopian) but to me it just seems like a more bearable version of postmodern literature. Am going to try the next book in the "series" (same time frame, different place and characters) to see if my theory about the actual writing pans out when compared to other pieces by the same author.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green just became available for me through the digital library and then I've got more to read about vampires to wrap up that series (though killing off one of my two favorite characters is only forcing my hand with one more book ... five and six depend on good writing).

After reading four books in five days, you'd think I'd be burnt out - but I'm finding that I like escaping into these stories and trying out other worlds. In some ways, the surgery recovery time brought me back to the reading I love. I just need to find a good source for book recommendations. Our school librarian told me the other day how she secretly disliked kids just picking books in a series and reading straight through and only reading those books (she loves all reading, as a note, she just wants them to diversify). However, as I mostly enjoy doing that same thing, I'm not sure I can ask for her book suggestions for awhile.

Do you have any good novels I should read? Obviously, I lean towards young adult fiction, but as long as it reads well, I'll read just about anything. :)

Love always, ~Heather

Afternote: That was my 500th published post! It seems like both a lot and so few at the same time.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dear 2014, Consider the bar set. Love, 2013

2013 was a pretty big year for us.

January. We packed up what seemed like 90% of our stuff (but later we realized was only about 70%) and staged our house in Landsdowne to sell.
Yeah, we have WAY too much stuff.
 February. Lorien and Steve got married in Hawaii! In addition to exploring Oahu we took a side-trip to the Big Island and visited Volcano National Park, thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Our house sold (for more than asking price!) and the builders broke ground on this house in Ashburn.

Dinner cruise! We saw a whale and fireworks over Honolulu.

Overlook on our first morning.

Sunset on the Big Island.

Who knows where? It's all a windblown paradise!

Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

This was also pretty much everywhere.


Plane ride home, very relaxed.
March. Spring break found us driving to south Florida to visit our grandparents; and then rushing back because my commitment to coaching club volleyball insanely involved most of our weekends - including Easter. Oh yeah, and we celebrated our first wedding anniversary!
Grandma & PopPop looking good!

Framing is done for our condo!

This is Easter at Capitol Classic volleyball tournament. I made my players (14s) an Easter Bunny paw prints scavenger hunt that was taped all over the conference center of the Gaylord conference center at National Harbor. They gave me rabbit ears.

April. We closed on the Lansdowne house and moved into a basement in South Riding. Upside: I could walk to work. Downside: we lived near my students and I couldn't go anywhere in my pajamas.
At least it was spacious; even if every inch of the place smelled like curry.

We spent as much time as we could visiting the "dirty house."

Can you name that field?
Hand on Heinz Field, home of the Steelers. Be jealous.
In the locker room. Do NOT step on the logo.

Awesome girls chilling on a statue.
My team helping me with the countdown for days until Travis comes home.

As the days went by, the numbers appeared everywhere.

Even the family got in on the action at A & J's baby shower in Pennsylvania.
 May. Travis got back from Afghanistan! Took my first trip to Pittsburgh with the NVPremier Extreme team. Our house got walls and brick and siding! And we kept living in a basement.
Reunion with Eowyn in Fayetteville.
June. Another month in the basement. I went to my first professional conference (on education) and RJ survived the first month of my really extreme diet.
The Little War Twins play at the Velvet Lounge. Such entertainers!
July. Fourth of July on top of the theater and then we finally got to move in to our new house! It was a busy month of moving everything in and then heading up to Ocean City, New Jersey for a family reunion.

August. Our first family came to visit (which got things put together a bit faster) and we made it possible to park in the garage the night before the new school year (goal accomplished!). RJ also got a giant piece of HD art for the family room wall in celebration of his birthday.

September. School starts and Freedom volleyball season takes off. We make our first mortgage payment on the house and decide it is still worth every penny.

October. I reach the 2/3 mark on the weight-loss mission when I officially hit 50 pounds less than I was in June. RJ discovers the newest member of our family, so in ....

November. Raleigh joins our family! He is introduced to his first bit of extended family as we host Thanksgiving. We see the Little War Twins in concert on Black Friday and then enjoy the rest of the long weekend admiring our house, which thanks to guests is finally "finished" (only 2 boxes in the house!).

December. RJ took me to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra to start off our holiday season. We celebrate together by sharing an awesome advent, slowly opening our presents each week, Christmas Eve with RJ's side, Christmas in our pajamas and then making dinner for our neighbors (despite a serious altercation between Raleigh and their youngest daughter).

Altogether, we have a LOT to be thankful for in 2013. Also, we can definitively say that 2014 has some pretty big shoes to fill.

Love and wishes for a great new year in 2014,

~Heather

P.S. Yes, I will upload pictures from the second half of the year soon. :)

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