For the Girl with Rocks in Her Head

Finds for two rock hounds.
Finds for two rock hounds.
When I was a little girl, my big brother gave me a beautiful book about rocks, minerals and gemstones. He inscribed the inside of the book: “For the girl with rocks in her head.”

At that time I had a large rock collection. When I was growing up, we lived along a dirt road. The road cut on each side was deep, and almost anywhere you looked along the road you could find outcroppings of quartz or rose quartz. I was constantly bringing home new rocks—beautiful ones, shiny ones, rocks that had neat shapes. I even had my own rock tumbler, which leaked out all over the living room carpet and generated an interesting response from my mom to my “scientific” pursuits.

Apparently the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Our daughter has been captivated by a particular issue of National Geographic Kids magazine that featured gemstones. This has led to her adding a rock collection to her collection of precious pinecones. We have read the gemstone article in that magazine repeatedly.

For one of our day trips during Spring Break, we decided to explore Cave of the Mounds National Landmark. We took the tour through the cave and received many cave kisses along the way (water drips on our head from above)—we saw fossils, interesting cave formations, and underground rivers and ponds. Then we bought a bag of sand and stones and rinsed it in the sluice to see what gems we could recover. We found amethyst, pyrite, quartz, rose quartz and many other delights. After that we learned how to use a ratchet and cracked open a geode to reveal the crystals inside. We hiked the trails and saw some of the first flowers of spring, talked to one of the gardeners, and in general had an amazing time exploring and discovering all about the world around us.

I was reminded of a trip with my parents to a cave in Tennessee that had an underground lake—I have a vague recollection of lights on the lake and a boat trip on the underground lake.

The staff at Cave of the Mounds was terrific, spending time with the guests, doing a great job answering questions and helping people explore and learn. We have an amazing treasure in our backyard, and I highly recommend visiting.

Even on Easter my daughter was collecting pinecones and looking at rocks while on her Easter egg hunt—I think it’s wonderful that the natural world holds this kind of pull over candy for her.

I’m so glad that she has rocks in her head.

© 2014 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.


Alfa_Romeo from Hot Who wouldn't want to make this car go.
Alfa_Romeo from Hot Who wouldn’t want to make this car go.

This weekend I pulled ten dollars out of my daughter’s piggy bank and told her we could go to the store where she could shop for something for herself. We walked up and down toy aisles repeatedly in search of the ten dollar miracle. My daughter quickly learned that ten dollars doesn’t go very far, and that if you want something special, you will need to save for it. However, saving wasn’t on the agenda, because the money was burning a hole in her pocket.

So she finally chose a 97-cent Hot Wheels car and a nine-dollar starter track. I had really expected something Monster High- or possibly Barbie-related, but she went for the Hot Wheels, and I am so glad. Because for the rest of the afternoon she spent her time sprawled out on the living room floor configuring and reconfiguring her track. Continue reading “Z…Z…Zoom!”

Awesome Mom?

Awesome Mom herself
Awesome Mom herself
During our weekday morning routine, I was helping my daughter comb her hair, attempting to fight with the mess that the “tangle monster” had left us during the night.

“Never fear. Awesome Mom is here!” I struck a super hero pose, wielding the comb.

“You’re not Awesome Mom. You’re Funny Mom.” Continue reading “Awesome Mom?”

All Hallows Eve

laughing witchI think Halloween may be my daughter’s favorite holiday. Dress up is certainly one of her favorite activities, and from the moment we started looking at costumes and imagining what she could become on Halloween, her eyes have sparkled at the thought.

The house is decorated. The candy has been purchased and hidden safely away. The costume has arrived bit by bit and has been assembled and inspected. Now, all she has to do is await her favorite night, when the princess will be escorted by the royal coachman (Dad) from door to door to collect oodles of sugary goodies that we will never consume. (We still haven’t finished last years’ candy collection.) Continue reading “All Hallows Eve”

A Passion for Math

Good math education encourages students to ask and explore deep questions
Good math education encourages students to ask and explore deep questions
I have a confession to make. When I was in fifth grade, I was kicked out of the gifted program at school because I wasn’t very good at complex multiplication and long division problems. Oh, I could tell you how to solve them. I could even teach my friends. But I could work one of those problems five times and come up with five different answers, not a single one correct.

You see, careless errors were the bane of my existence. They still are. They always will be.

Last week, my husband, daughter and I attended Family Math Night for parents of first-graders at my daughter’s elementary school. I attended with some trepidation, remembering some of my early math experiences and knowing some of the homework horror stories I have heard from parents of students in other school systems. Continue reading “A Passion for Math”


IMG_0135I’ve had reason recently to think a lot about extended family and its importance in a child’s life. My parents relocated from their childhood haunts before I was born, so when I grew up, I was growing up away from extended family—far from aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas. Although there were trips to see them periodically, and letters back and forth, particularly between my grandmas and me, the closeness in the relationships was limited by the distances between us.

Even with that limitation, the letters and contacts I had with my grandparents, particularly my Grandmas, were always delightful, and when I look at the relationship our daughter has with her Grandma and Papa, who are close by, I am in awe. Even the relationship she has with her Grandpa Arduengo, who is many miles away, is amazing, thanks in part to technology that brings them closer. What is it about Grandparents, particularly Grandmas, that they are the very embodiment of unconditional love? Why, when my daughter was two and just beginning to talk, was the sentence “Let’s go to Grandma’s” greeted by squeals of delight and “Oh good, hugs!” Continue reading “Grandparents”

Broken Window Panes

photo of pebblesMy daughter’s head is full of rocks. And so are her pockets. She often comes home with pockets full of rocks collected from the playground or side of the road. Most of the time I find this charming—until my bare foot finds a pointy one in the living room carpet or I find a handful collected at the bottom of our washing machine.

When I was her age, I had a rock collection. We lived along a dirt road, and often I found pieces of rose or smoky quartz sticking out from the road cut alongside the drainage ditch. Everyone in my family knew I was crazy about pretty rocks. My brother gave me a coffee table book titled Gemstones and wrote in the front cover that it was “for the girl with rocks in her head”.

Recently as I watched my daughter fascinated with her own rocks, I remembered a visit from one of my adult cousins and her husband, who is a geologist. Continue reading “Broken Window Panes”