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Category: Toddler Years (2-3)

2019, A year in review.

Two thousand and nineteen… what a year. I’m almost not sure I want to re-live it to write about it, but lets see if we can pull together some of the good things that happened during the previous twelve months.


We are a snow-loving family (well, most of us). The first meaningful snowfall occurred on the fourteenth of January when five and a half inches of snow fell overnight. Another inch fell over the next day, and the kids had a lot of fun sledding and building things. We recently acquired a snow mold that makes penguins, and I had plans to leave the little guys on our neighbors’ front porches, but after being caught by one neighbor while crouching near his porch and finding out that another was in Florida for the season, my antics were short-lived. After the first day it warmed up just enough to melt just the top layer of snow on the sled run we cleared in the woods behind our house. Of course it refroze and made the hill very slick. Elise volunteered to sled down the hill first on day two and down she went. Fast. Really fast. Not to worry, though, as Amanda had piled some snow at the bottom of the hill to stop any wayward sleds… Elise hit that pile of snow, went airborne, narrowly missed a tree, and stopped just short of a large fallen tree. Expecting the worst, I started down the hill only to be met with a smiling, laughing little girl ready to go again.

In our continuing efforts to go green, we purchased an electric car in January, and have enjoyed being able to preheat the car in the garage on cold days, the quiet rides, and essentially using our home solar power generation to charge the car.

  • Elise, just in from the cold outside, with a big smile on her face.
  • Harlan hiding behind a green sled.
  • Eric, covered in snow.


The weather was warming up and with that Harlan wanted to join me on my search and rescue training. March saw him both hiding from a tracking dog and flanking an air-scent dog while searching for a “missing” subject.

Harlan also enjoyed participating in a Destination Imagination team at his school (in the kindergarten to 2nd grade noncompetitive division).


Boy was April a busy month for us! First, we went over to Chincoteague to watch NASA launch an Antares rocket! We spent a few days down there and visited the refuge. Renting bicycles seemed to be the best way to roam around the area, and so with Harlan and Eric on a tandem and Elise being pulled by Amanda, we visited a lighthouse, and rode all the way to the end of the peninsula where the public programs were being held. We camped the first couple of nights and then moved over to an inn, just in time for the rain to come.

At the end of the month, my sister Amy got married and we all went down to celebrate. Personally, I think it was all an excuse to get me dressed up.


Harlan had been complaining for awhile that he hadn’t lost any teeth, insisting he might be the last first grader in his entire school not to have lost a tooth. Finally, around the middle of the month he had a loose top tooth, which he yanked out on his own without any hesitation, leaving a nice gap in his smile.

We also ventured up to Ohio for the Memorial Day weekend. The kids had a ball at the various museums we visited and, of course, playing with their friend Jessie.


Harlan continued to lose teeth, making up for his perceived slow start. He also bid farewell to First Grade with good grades and maybe a few fond memories (except for all that reading and writing!).

Elise finally figured out that while I may be “Daddy” I’m not really a parent. I’m amazed it took her this long to realize.

We also took a trip to visit Grandma in June. The kids had a lot of fun picking blueberries and generally goofing around.

  • Elise bowing out of Aiki class.


July started by the kids participating in the neighborhood Fourth of July parade. This has become an annual event with the kids decorating their bikes and carts and doing a few laps behind the fire truck. Despite lots of pedaling experience, Elise had an issue with her (lack of) use of the brakes, opting instead for using a bush as a stopping mechanism. While she, as usual, was nonplussed, Amanda (who was close enough to see, but not to stop it) will never be the same.

We also went camping atop Apple Orchard Mountain. The trip was actually part of the APRS Golden Packet event, an amateur radio exercise to link up stations along the Appalachian Trail. That trip was really awesome, though, as the summit is the highest for several hundred miles around and our camping site was pretty much in the middle of a wildflower meadow.

Speaking of camping, we started started our New England Road Trip this month!

  • Looking out of the tent window, lots of trees and the moon.
  • lots of butterflies
  • Apple Orchard Mountain sign
  • Amanda, Eric, and Elise hiking down the mountain with another mountain in view.


August was pretty much limited to our New England Road Trip. We made it up to Maine and spent as much time hiking around as possible. Elise did very well with her hiking and Harlan did well with his navigation. They both ate a lot of wild blueberries and enjoyed two weeks of camping.


School started back just after Labor Day here in Maryland. Harlan started Second Grade while Elise moved up to The Jungle class in preschool. After our busy summer, September was just left for recovery and getting back into a routine.


Everyone needs a break in the middle of October, right? Team E (Eric and Elise) took a week and went to Grandma’s house to visit and do some exploring while Harlan and Amanda did some playing of their own. We met up at the end of our respective breaks to attend the North Carolina State Fair.


With the Fall colors popping, we ventured out to Shenandoah National Park to see the show for ourselves.

And then there was the hiking, the learning activities, the beach, the chickens, and whatever other kinds of trouble we could get into. Finally stringing up the 150-foot zip line Amanda purchased for our backyard was also a highlight of the month.


The end of November and beginning of December is birthday season for our household. Elise turned four while Harlan turned eight. They each had parties with their friends and had a good time.

Elise also had her preschool holiday program where she sang her heart out to “Crabs for Christmas”.

And for the first time in years, we stayed home for Christmas. No traveling or schedules. Just relaxing at home.

Just after Christmas we had friends come to visit for a few days. It’s always fun to catch up with those that we haven’t seen in a while and let the kids play together. We ended up the Smithsonian’s National Zoo where, in the chilly rain, we made a pretty good tour of the animals (admittedly with a focus on the indoor ones)


Assorted Fall Activities

Time for a catch-all blog post for September through today so I can feel officially caught up.

Of course there’s the neighborhood beach…

A hike at the Chestnut Land Trust is always a hit, especially pulling the floating platform across the river.

One recent Saturday we had just left the Smithsonian Educational Research Center from learning about microbes when Eric got a call-out to search for a missing elderly person. Since we were in one car, we all drove over to the search area and dropped him off. Then the kids and I decided to visit Oxon Cove Park and Farm since it was just up the road. We were the only ones there when we arrived and they enjoyed running around to see all the animals.

Native American Heritage Day at Jefferson Patterson Park was this Saturday. Both kids enjoyed the archery. Elise had fun painting with paint made from local rock/clay. Harlan made beads with clay that they fired in a campfire. He also enjoyed using the stone and wood tools. They both crushed a bunch of acorns using rocks. Thanks to the clay they both managed to get dirty just in time for the afternoon activity, which was Science Saturday at the library learning about soil. Yes, we showed up pre-soiled. 🙂

Other randomness:

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We made a last-minute decision to join a friend for a drive out to Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park to see the Fall colors. It was a bit chilly- Harlan acquired a park sweatshirt from the gift shop due to not dressing appropriately for the weather. We also were far from the only people to decide it would be a good day to see the fall colors, so it was kinda crowded. All in all a nice trip though.

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We accumulated a number of pumpkins this year, including making a special trip to a local pumpkin patch for Harlan to pick out pumpkins for a school project

His project was to decorate a pumpkin to look like a book character and write a report on the book. He chose a book out of the My Weird School series. I helped with making the shirt while he enjoyed drilling holes in the pumpkin for the pipe cleaner hair. Elise, who was watching, was quite distraught when we dismembered an action figure to get the arms and legs to stick onto the small gourd Harlan picked out to recreate Striker Smith from the book.

Oh, and we trick-or-treated. Elise wore a hand-me-down skunk costume from her cousin Vaughn and Harlan donned a dinosaur costume we acquired earlier in the year from his Destination Imagination project. Neither of them particularly cared what they wore, just that they ended up with a bucket full of candy.

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North Carolina State Fair 2019

We spent an enjoyable family weekend in Raleigh, including a trip to the State Fair. We enjoyed the lumberjack show and exploring the exhibits. I thought the giant animatronic Smokey the Bear who would greet you by name was way creepier than the kids did. We ate corn on the cob, three of us went up in the ferris wheel, saw lots of animals, examined giant produce, and generally had a nice time.

Saturday we checked out some local parks, hiking around Lake Johnson and even paddle boating at Pullen Park. Elise insisted on paddling even after I told her from looking at Harlan I could see she would be too short to reach the pedals. She insisted she could do it and she did. She had to hold herself up on her arms and push herself forward to get her feet on the pedals, but she stuck with it for a good 10 minutes. Don’t tell that kid she can’t do something.

Unfortunately Daddy didn’t join us for the Marbles Children’s Museum, but the kids had a fantastic time. It’s definitely on our list for a return visit, especially since we only spent a few hours there since we had to drive back home. There was lots to see and do and plenty of imaginative play. The theme of the last room we went in was banking. It included an armored car to play in, which apparently Harlan robbed because I turned around when I heard a thud and saw him getting tackled by two other kids dressed up in security vests. All in good fun.

We made the drive in the electric car, stopping once to charge on the way down and twice on the way back (since we didn’t have a full charge starting out from Raleigh). The kids found their favorite charging stop in Richmond- across the street from a fast food restaurant with a giant play area.

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Daddy-Daughter Week 2019

Years ago, Harlan and I went on a father-son weekend when he was three years old. I figured it was about time Elise and I (Team E) did something just the two of us. Our trip destination was North Carolina to visit Grandma and take advantage of her house’s central location to fun! And fun we did have.

Pungo National Wildlife Refuge

First up was a trip to the Pungo National Wildlife Refuge to look for bears! We ended up seeing four bears, five deer, and a very health snake. No animals were harmed during our outing; the picture of the snake actually crawled under our car while we had stopped to observe it. The bears we observed from a safe distance, too. The first was a momma bear with two cubs. Mom walked out in the roadway ahead of us to let us know they were there and then directed her kids across a canal and along a trail away from us.

North Carolina Aquarium

The next day saw us heading east towards the beach. Our first stop was at the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo. I used to come here often on school field trips. They have updated the exhibits a bit since then, though.

We stopped for a late lunch at Sam and Omie’s where we ate our food and then had a little dessert.

That is some yummy banana pudding!

Party at the house…

Elise then wanted to host a party at Grandma’s house. Aunt Amy and Uncle Eddie, along with the neighbors Charlie and Cecil came over and we had hot dogs on the grill. Everyone had a fun time just sitting around chatting it up.

Uncle Fred’s 90th birthday

Great Uncle Fred turned 90 years old while we were in town. A surprise birthday party was planned for him and so Elise, Mom, and I attended. It was also attended by many Davenport and Forbes relatives and friends that I hadn’t seen in many years. Particularly special to me was that Elise got to meet Elise (whichever way you want to spin that).

A few years ago Great Uncle Jim met a lady named Clem (her middle name was Charlotte, which will become important soon enough). Aunt Clem’s mother’s name was Elise and so when Uncle Jim and Aunt Clem had a daughter they named her Elise. Elise then had a daughter of which she named Charlotte. Charlotte had a daughter of which she named Elise! I digress. At the party, my Elise got the opportunity to meet Elise #2 and I’m not sure which was happier. Both of them got into a friendly, funny argument over “no, I’m Elise!”.

The next thing…

After a week of activities we met Amanda and Harlan at the State Fair for a weekend of fun. Elise says she’s ready to do the trip again.

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First Day of School

Harlan begrudgingly started second grade this year. Elise moved up into the 3-4-year-old classroom (named The Jungle, thus the safari hat she decided to don for her first day).

Since I’m late posting this, here are also some pictures from Harlan’s school’s fundraiser run the third week of school. He opted for an easy-to-spot hairdo for the run.

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NE Road Trip 2019 – Day Fifteen

Last day of our trip and a long drive ahead.  Today started as many of our travel days have: wake up, eat something, pack up sleeping bags and pads, move tent contents to car, take down tent, pack it into the back of the car last.  We’ve done this so much that we’re almost on auto pilot.

Our drive home was supposed to take five and a half hours.  Add a couple of hours when you have kids.  Construction on the Interstate also slowed things a bit.  We arrived home just after 6PM.

Since we left two weeks ago we’ve covered 2,230 road miles, nine states, and two national parks.  I didn’t record our miles hiked but I’d say quite a few.  The kids did a really good job scaling mountains and I’m very proud of their “I can do it” attitudes!

So what’s the next adventure?  Only time will tell.

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NE Road Trip 2019 – Day Fourteen

Today is waterfall day!  Basically this is Amanda’s only reason for coming on vacation.

First up was a hike to Raymondskill Falls.  Hard packed trails greeted us and made the hike easy.  The falls were active and full.  Elise spotted a snake attempting to sun itself on a stick.  All-in-all, a nice waterfall to visit.

Next was a stop at the Dingmans Falls Visitor Center.  The kids started their Junior Ranger program.  We then walked down the boardwalk-like path to see both Silver Thread Falls and Dingmans Falls.  These, too, were very pretty.

After lunch we went up to the Pocono Environmental Education Center.  There are many hiking trails here and Amanda chose the Tumbling Waters Trail to hike while I fought off a migraine in the car.

We were all fairly tired by the time we got back to the tent.  Amanda read a bit and then we were all asleep.

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NE Road Trip 2019 – Day Thirteen

Oh boy, another travel day.  This time we were headed to Dingmans in Pennsylvania.  What was supposed to be a three-hour trip took longer due to several iterations of road constructions.

Overnight the skies opened up and rained down water in great quantities.  It was a calming noise for those of us on the bottom bunks.  Apparently the top bunks were quite loud.

Upon arrival at Dingmans the weather radio was squawking about a line of severe thunderstorms heading our way.  The tent went up and we put the rain cover on it for the first time since Camden Hills.  As we headed out for supper the storms hit dropping a lot of rain.

Word from Maine is that similar conditions are occurring there as well.  Looks like we left just in the nick of time.

Did I mention the rainbow?  At supper, just after the downpour, a teacher at a table behind us very excitedly began pointing out the window and inviting the kids to “come and see”.  A double rainbow had formed in the sky just minutes after the downpour ended.  The wait staff was quite confused when most of their customers got up and walked out.  I informed them that we’d be back shortly.  At one point they even came out to see what all the fuss was about.  I was busily explaining the physics behind rainbows, light, and whatnot that I forgot about our food coming.  That left Amanda alone at a table for four with lots of food and no guests!

Showers were had by all when we returned to camp and then Mom (Amanda) read the rest of a book to the kids.  It wasn’t long before little snores were heard from all the sleeping bags.

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