Friday, October 16, 2009

Leesburg Has Gone To The Dogs!

Every time I turn around there is some special event for DOGS here in Leesburg.  Sheesh!  You'd think they were part of the family or something.

Not too long ago, the "off leash" dog park opened at Olde Isaak Walton Park in Leesburg (just off Rte 15/King Street on the south side of town, near the Bloom grocery store).  Olde Isaak Walton is a a 21 acre park with a small stream, huge 3 1/2 acre lake, a community center, picnic areas, hiking trails and now an off leash dog park.

The weekend after the official closing of the AV Symington Aquatic Park (aka the Water Park/Outdoor Pool at Ida Lee), they offered a "Dog Swim" with proceeds of the event supporting the non profit organization "Leesburg Dogs" who will use the money to continue its efforts to maintain the existing dog park, and they hope to have even more dog parks in the future.

The Historic Area in Leesburg is even getting in on the action!  On Sunday is the 2009 "Dog Day in Downtown"!    From 12 to 4, part of the streets will be closed off for a "doggie fair" of sorts.  You're encouraged to bring Fido and snoop around.  They will have lots of dog related vendors - doggie boutiques, pet sitters, photographers and trainers - and more.  You'll also be able to find out how to support rescue organizations and perhaps even adopt a dog!

And, this year there's a costume contest for the dogs, with photographers on hand!

The event is rain or shine... and I hope you go and take lots of photos.  My dog is not well behaved enough to go out in public, but what a shame... because she does SO like to get dressed up!

Please, send me your photos and let me know about your experience.

For more information on this event, visit and click on October Events.... and to keep abreast of Loudoun Happenings stay tuned to "LivingInLoCo" here at

For information on our local real estate market, visit

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Leesburg!

Happy Birthday, Leesburg!  Two hundred fifty one years ago today, The Town of Leesburg was created by the Virginia General Assembly.

Leesburg is located just 35 miles outside Washington, DC, in the Virginia Piedmont between the Potomac River and the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountain range.

Originally the town was called George Town, in honor of the king of Great Britain, but was renamed Leesburg for the Lee family of Virginia.  The town's location was near the center of the county, and located at the major crossroads of Carolina Road (which ran north-south) and Leesburg Turnpike (which still runs east-west through the town).  Thus, it was the center of commercial and political activities in the county and was governed by a Board of Trustees until 1813. 

Few people know that the Town of Leesburg served as Capital of the United States, and home to the Federal Archives (including the Declaration of Independence & the Constitution) for a period during the War of 1812.

From 1847 through 1968, the W & OD Railroad ran right through town, with passenger and freight stops on the west side of King Street, bringing in even more commerce to the area.  Today, the trail where the trains ran is owned by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, and is enjoyed by walkers, bicyclists and equestrians.  The park runs from Purcellville straight through to Alexandria.

In 1970, the town's Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Today, Leesburg remains the county seat of perhaps the wealthiest county in all of the US.  It spans nearly 8,000 acres, and is considering adding another 2,200 acres into the town limits.  Today's population is approaching 40,000 and some future propulation estimates go as high as 80,000 should the additional acreage be annexed.

Learn more about the people who call Leesburg Home (CLICK HERE).

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

H1N1 - Vaccinations in the Schools

I applaud the efforts of the Health Department, CDC and public school systems in bringing the FREE H1N1 vaccines to our schools. 

The school has sent home a package, and if I sign the consent form my daughter can receive the immunization for free.  For parents who want their children to have this, and who are financially struggling (that's all of us, right?) or have struggles with finding the time to take their kids to the doctors, this is wonderful.  Their choice seems fairly clear.   (Well, except that any reactions are likely to happen within minutes to hours after receiving the vaccine, and I am just wondering who will be carefully monitoring the kids during this time?  The teacher with 25 students in her class, all of which act weird everyday?)

But many parents have concerns about vaccines of any type.  There are also the kids like my 3 year old that can't have vaccines because of allergic reactions. 

And, then there are the parents like me.  The ones that don't ever get flu shots, as I think it's better for us to build up our immunity naturally.  And, the ones that are worried that the vaccine hasn't been studied enough.  I fall into both categories.

I actually think I actually already had H1N1:  See "H1N1:It's in Loudoun- Party Anyone?"  At the time of that posting, I was not planning on my kids getting the vaccine, even if it was ready in time.  But, since then, I keep hearing stories of kids - friends of friends of mine - dying from this flu.  Dying.  Kids.  I keep asking "Was the kid healthy BEFORE they got sick?  Did they have underlying issues?" and my friends look at me like I am trying to decide if I care about the kid dying.  OF COURSE I CARE.   My heart is grieving for those parents.  I think no parent should ever have to bury a child.  Ever. Including me.

Since I can not take back their pain, I am just trying to assess the risk here; the risk for my kids.  I really don't know what to do.  I would rather have my kids be exposed and build up immunity naturally.  I CAN'T let the youngest have the shot (or nasal mist, I don't think).  But, should I let my first grader?  I would never forgive myself if she died and I could have prevented it.

The info sent home from the school is not helpful.  It says they are probably offering either mist (a live attenuated vaccine) or shots (inactivated vaccine).  Both require two doses, a month apart. The nasal mist does not include Thimerosal.  Both have risks, and "rarely" cause death.  (Rarely?  Seriously?  Isn't that the same odds if they get the Flu?)

Better yet, it says if your kid does get really sick or die from it, your liabilities are legally limited; but they set up a federal fund to pay for the medical costs associated with a bad reaction.  I am not even sure what I should think about that.

What are you going to do?  On Facebook and Twitter, I posted this question and the answers I got included thoughts like:
-They'd never get my daughter to have the shot!  Maybe the nasal mist.
-There are concerns about the nasal mist.
-Don't want my kid to be the guinea pig.
-My kids are getting them; ASAP.
-I don't know which is worse, leaning towards allowing the vaccine...I have friends who's kids have gotten H1N1, and it is bad in Tennesee.
-My daughter's getting the vaccine (if the scratch test goes well), and she's even allergic to eggs! (Note: they have cautions if you have life threatening allergies to eggs.)
-Suggestions for researching the topic on other sites (listed below).
-Concerns about it being based in "egg", sometimes from people who don't like that concept, other times b/c of parents whose kids are allergic to eggs.
-Concerns because some use fetal tissue in the vaccines - I didn't know that, by the way (but this person indicated you can ask for the "ethical" version).
-Concerns about it being based in mercury (if it is, I didn't see that information anywhere).
-Responses that indvidiual doctors and nurses have responded, well, with just as much of a divided response as anyone else.

Of course, I also got comments from some comments with parents who aren't that educated or have been misinformed and said things that were just plain silly (those are the only ones that concern me).  But, of the educated adults, it's pretty divided.

And, then there was the reaction from my husband "Don't you dare let them give that to Rachael.  I've watched the whole thing on the news every morning and I think they rushed it.  I am not letting my kids have it."  While my husband gets a vote, it may not be the deciding one.  I will completely override him if I become convinced that it is better for my children.  Oh the other hand, he normally defers these judgements entirely to me, and doesn't even have an opinion most times.  This time, he has a strong opinion.  I have to seriously consider that.

I want to hear what you're planning to do, and why.  Please, share your thoughts. 

Important Update:  I got my hands on another pamphlet floating around, "A Guide For Parents." It is from the CDC, Virginia Department of Health, and Dept of Health and Human Services.  It says that the antiviral meds that can treat this disease are most effective if started within the first 2 days of coming down with H1N1.   So, my typical "you must be sick for 3 days before we go to the doctor" theory is going out the window.  I think I will be one of those freaky parents who rush their kids to the doctor's office for testing at the first sign of every sniffle, and I will insist my children get the medicine and not wait and see if they can fight it on their own.  That is not the kind of mom I like to be, but these are my babies here.

I took my kids in for a regular checkup and discussed it with our doctor, she strongly encourages the vaccine.  Since my kids are healthy, she recommended the nasal mist.  I asked her "what if" and asked her about the effectiveness of the antivirals.  She reiterated that they MUST BE STARTED within 2-3 days of getting sick to ensure effectiveness!!!  This is critical and not being widely discussed.  Please, spread the word!  At her practice, if you come in with flu like symptoms they will test you - the initial test can be done in 8 minutes in their office.  They send a second specimen to the CDC for confirmation and study, but if the initial test comes back positive, they give the antivirals immediately.  It's a 5 day course. As your doctor about their policy.

I told her I typically have a "you must be sick 3 days" policy before we go to the doctors.  She chuckled a little and said that is normally why she likes me, but warned "Don't be messing around like that this year.  This is something to take very seriously. Whether or not they have the shots, if your kids get a fever bring them in immediately."

Then, I watched a doctors show on afternoon TV.  Consistent with everything else I've learned, the major differences between a cold and flu are that with a flu, you have a fever, muscle/joint aches a dry cough (not post nasal drip cough) and maybe tummy problems.  It is nearly impossible to know if you have the seasonal flu or H1N1 without testing.

Ironically, at the end of the day I decided we'd forgoe the shots and monitor carefully, and do lots and lots of preventative stuff.  My husband came home and said he thought about it and maybe the kids should get the vaccines.  I looked puzzled and told him I had been leaning towards not doing the vaccines.  He laughed and said, whatever you decide I will back you 100%.  What is a parent to do?  It's a tough call this year.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, remember we're all just trying to do what we hope and believe is right for our children. Even if we disagree with each other, I respect your thoughts, and I pray for the safety and well being of your children and those you love. Please do the same for me.

If you are undecided, these are the resources the school provided:

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Waters Edge, Grand Opening Tonight!

Now I have another reason to wish I was just a bit younger. 

My church has a new Saturday night program called Waters Edge,  targeted for the 20-30 something crowd

The Grand Opening is TONIGHT AT 6:30.

It's a coffee house atmosphere with live music for young adults to hang out, meet others, and hear a short message.  Featuring a local barista, local bands and a comfortable, casual atmosphere, I bet it will be a huge hit.

If I try to get in tonight, do you think they'll card me? lol

Learn more:

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Trying To Lead

I was a Girl Scout for a short time as a child.  My leaders, while they tried and their hearts were in the right place, didn't create much opportunity. 

My first leader was a nice lady, our meetings were afterschool at her house.  She had a special needs son who was there and no one to help her manage him or her other daughter during our meetings.  We did a lot of coloring.  That's really all I remember. 

My second leader was a single mom who kept missing meetings because of her work schedule.  Eventually, she had meetings on Saturday mornings, but I could only meet every OTHER weekend because I went to my dads on alternating weekends.  So, I dropped out.

It was quite a disappointment.  I did a lot of the stuff to get badges (on my own), and I wanted to be a good little Girl Scout.

Committed to making sure my daughter had a better experience, when Rachael entered Kindergarten, I stepped up and offered to be a co-leader.  I had no idea what I was in for!  OH, THE FORMS!.... It's a paperwork blizzard!... and they refer to things like A130, B240... huh?  What's that?  They didn't tell us exactly what to do and the program for earning "petals" was not very structured. ("Daisies" are the K & 1st grade level of Girl Scouts, and they earn petals to complete a flower as they complete the main goals.) As I tried to learn things, the rules were changing.  It seemed "Daisies" were an exception to everything.  It was so frustrating.

One of my closest friends is a leader, and has been for a long time.  I asked her how she could stand it.  She said she does it because she loved it, not for her daughter.  I just didn't get that at all.  I was doing it for my daughter.

But, then, something amazing happened.  I was in the grocery store and one of my girls saw me.  She was so excited.... and came running to me, yelling, hugging, bragging to the entire store.  Then it happened again when I was at school for something, and then it kept happening.  One day I came home and there was a banner on my lawn that said "The Best Girl Scout Leader Lives Here".  Then, they started giving me presents - pictures, trinkets, homemade poppyseed bread.  Let me tell you.... it's all worth it.  Every single silly GS rule, every lettered and numbered form. 

Being a leader is a heart melting feeling.  Who needs drugs with a high like that?

I admit, there was so much to learn, last year I felt like I was just following along.  This year, I'm (at least trying) to really lead.  We're off to a great start.

We had our registration meeting as a potluck dinner at a local park.  We have an agenda; a strategy; and a great group.  I lost a few girls who moved, but most of my troop returned (maybe I did do something right last year?).  And, we're adding a couple new girls.

In October, we have 2 troop meetings, a SHARE fundraiser (to provide scholarships for those that need it), a leader meeting, and an outing to a Pumpkin Patch/Petting Zoo.  Most month's have a calendar that looks pretty much like that.... and there is paperwork to do for everything... and emails, and calls... and my girls will squeal when they feed the animals, and giggle while they decorate their pumpkins, and hug me at least twice each time I see them.

If you're ready to volunteer, as a leader or even in a lesser capacity, go to the national web site, to find opportunities in your area.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Kind of People Live In Leesburg?

So, what kind of people live in Leesburg? 

The following Leesburg Statistics were printed in the September Guide To Loudoun and were based on information from The Town of Leesburg Economic Development Department, the U.S. Census Beareu, the Bureau of Labor, the American Community Survey and the Loudoun County Department of Economic Developement.

1980:  8,357
1990: 16,202
2000: 28,311
2008: 38,206 (Esimate)

2000 Census: 10,325
2008: 13,828 (Estimate)

Racial and Ethnic Distribution
White 78.5%
Black: 9.6%
Hispanic: 9.9%
Asian: 5.1%
Other: 4.2%
Bi-or Multi-racial: 2.6%

Age Distribution
19 and under: 29.8%
20-44: 43.7%
25-64: 5.9%
Median age: 32.3

Educational Attainment
HS Grad or higher: 92.4%
Bach Degree or higher: 51.7%
Grad/Prof degree: 16.9%


In a nutshell, it's mostly well educated, younger families with lots of kids.  (Thus the continual political and public focus on our school system, which is reportedly one of the highest ranked in the nation.)

While median income levels were not offered in this article, Loudoun County remains the county with the highest median income in the entire country for two years in a row... competing for many years with Fairfax County for that title.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What You Don't Know Until You Move In

I've posted before about how much I love my neighborhood.... and I REALLY REALLY do.

When we chose the place, we picked it like all other buyers pick homes.  General area, conveniences, value, home style and condition... and it had a lot of kids, we could tell when we saw them in the neighborhood and we saw all the basketball hoops on the streets (which are actually prohibited by our HOA, by the way).  So, we bought.

I continually become overwhelmed, though, as things happen and I have opportunities to realize how truly wonderful my neighborhood is.

Recently, a man in our neighborhood passed away.  I didn't know him.  He had 2 boys in elementary school, but they are older than my kids and my kids don't know them.  I learned through the grapevine that the boys were staying with their grandparents, also in our neighborhood.  We don't know them either.  I asked "what about the mom?".  It turns out she died 5 years ago.

Yeah... let that sink in for a little bit.

Many of us reached out to those that know the family better and asked if there was something, anything, we could do.  We begged to help somehow. 

After some brainstorming we came up with a plan.  Twice a week, every week for the next three months, we would alternate cooking and bringing them dinner.  We would put together a list of stay at home moms or others with flexible schedules who might be able to help grandma get the kids to and from activities, or to run necessary weekday errands, as she doesn't drive and her husband is still working until the end of the year.

We had so many volunteers, we had to turn away offers of help.

We simply have the most wonderful community here.  I feel so blessed to live here, and can't imagine a better place to bring up my children.

We don't have much turnover here, but it is worth waiting to find a home that comes available in this neighborhood.  If you'd like more information about Ashton Downs, don't hesitate to contact me.


Update:   Today, October 8th is my turn! I've stressed and stressed (really, does it matter that much?). I didn't know what to bring. I finally settled on a simple chicken pot pie recipe (see pic). Mmmm... They smell so good.

There's an ice cream social at the school tonight, so I opted not to bring dessert, in hopes that the boys will be going. Just in case I am wrong, I bought a cookie and decorating kit - pumpkin shaped sugar cookies with icing, spinkles and such. My kids always liked doing stuff like that, hopefully these boys will, too. It also happens to be International Childrens Day. So, I bought two gift bags and filled them with magic trick "toys".

I imagine these boys are tired of mourning and people sending their sympathies.  They probably just want to be kids again.  I am making a lot of assumptions here.... hopefully I am guessing right. These boys need to figure out what their "new normal" will be.  Sadly, life won't go backwards for them, but it must go forward.  I pray my gifts and efforts are received well.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Demystifying Credit Scores

We interupt our regularly scheduled show for an important announcement from our sponsor: 
Vicky Chrisner, "The Real Estate Whisperer".

Credit scores impact all of our lives.... and not JUST when we're buying a new house. 

On my real estate blog (The Real Estate Whisperer), I've just finished a series of posts on Demystifying Credit Scores.  Please check it out (just click on the colored words above - they will link you right to it!

To look for homes for sale, or to run a Market Snapshot (an automated report prepared personally for you which will give you the sales activity information for your specific neighborhood), or for more real estate related information, check out my main web site at:

AND NOW... Back to our regular programming!

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Soccer, Soccer Everywhere!

If you happen to get up and out early here in Loudoun, you might wonder where everyon's going in such a hurry so early on a Saturday morning.   Let me tell you - Fall Soccer is in full swing, and the traffic is heading to one of the many soccer or other sport fields in the county.

The Loudoun Youth Soccer Association has "teams" starting as young as age 3.  My little Devon is involved.  Each Saturday morning, we head out to the field early.  At this age, they don't play real games, although there is a rumor that at the end of the season they will have a scrimmage of some sort - I can't imagine that, but I'll have my video rolling for sure. 

They have their little uniforms... my son often won't wear his uniform shirt and instead opts for a Spider Man undershirt and a sweat jacket.  Oh well.  We get to the school where they play, and get out onto the field.  It's not just my kid that is a little apprehensive.  They all head onto the field, each one clinging to the legs of an adult - usually one of their parents, but not always. After a few minutes, most of the kids let go and get into the rhythm.... although my Devon refused last week, and we sat on the sidelines and watched the whole time.  I wouldn't let him partake in the team snack at the end of the game, saying it was only for the kids that played.  He cried the whole way home - bet he plays next week!

It's actually a great program.  Everyone is friendly.  I am impressed with the coaching.  At age 3, they are simply getting the kids to learn to move the ball.  They play red light/green light with the ball; they practice little kicks and big kicks, and dribbilng the ball around cones.  They usually all play with their own balls, although last week they did do a few exercises using only one ball for the team.  The kids are never told they're doing anything wrong.  They get positive encouragement the entire time.

At this age, we have one "practice" a week, same time, same place. At older ages the schedule becomes hectic.  One of the girls on our street is in first grade and she has practice on Monday and Wednesdays and a game on Saturday!  The practices are same place/same time, but the game places and times vary.  As it stands, I can't imagine that. 

Being a kid today in Loudoun is nothing like it was when I was growing up.  If we played soccer, it was because two kids bumped into each other and one had a ball.  I don't remember anyone that played on an actual soccer team.  Now, most everyone's into it. 

There are so many opportunities for kids today.  My kids are both in swimming lessons twice a week, and in church activities, and one is in scouts and the other in soccer.  Our schedules simply couldn't take anymore! Dressing and equipping the kids and busing them from place to place every day is a full time job.  Yes, many of these activities take money.  But, there are scholarships available for most.  You'd be surprised how involved your kids can be with very little monetary involvement if you're on a tight budget.

Either way, it is worth it.  My daughter, in first grade, has friends everywhere she goes.  The kids are learning great values in these various activities.  They learn team work, being honest and fair, friendly and helpful, courteous and respectful, how to get along with others, how to support their communities, how to follow directions and even how to lead.  These values will hopefully serve them well throughout their lives.  We all have to learn these values somehow, but in these activities it is much more fun that learning later in life, the hard way.

And, for those of you curious, yeah, I kinda like being a soccer mom!

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