Skip to content

Category: Exploring and Learning

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.

Comments closed

Mom/Son Weekend

Busy week with my little man while Daddy and Elise were down in NC with grandma.

Our first full weekend day we headed to a local company’s family fun day because I saw they had a portable climbing wall, and Harlan has been asking to go climbing lately. He didn’t make it to the top his first couple attempts, but he got more confident and then he couldn’t be stopped. He ingratiated himself with the guys running the wall and they let him go up and down, up and down, for several hours, encouraging him and even racing him up a couple times.

After that we headed to the library for Science Saturday. The biggest hit was the vinegar and baking soda pumpkin volcano.

From there we made a pit stop at home waiting for dusk and then headed to a corn maze that was having an after-dark glow stick/flashlight walk. Harlan got us through the maze pretty quickly on instinct, or maybe just luck. That conveniently left plenty of time for jumping from hay bale to hay bale, which was not a farm-approved activity, but was a huge hit with the more daring kids.

After some sleep, the fun continued with Superhero Sunday at which the county arranged for a bunch of rescue and construction vehicles to set up at the park for kids to explore.

From there we headed to the family fun day sponsored by the local train museum at which the only photo I took was a blurry model train, but it was a good time.

Monday it was back to school and then to the dentist for a filling. Definitely not fun, but Harlan did great.

We also enjoyed multiple trips down to the bay, which was particularly high.

Comments closed

Halfway Through Summer

Since we’re now (more than) halfway through the summer, I’m going to do a summer compilation roundup here and then post-date a couple earlier posts on specific events.

So first, this happened:

Did this happen really fast?!

On his fourth quarter report card, his teacher wrote: “Harlan continues to excel and show great potential in the classroom. His accuracy when reading is at 98% according to the Oral Reading Assessment. He tested above average on the Numeracy Assessment, and he really shows talent in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math area. Please continue to speak with Harlan about slowing down to review his work when he completes it in order to prevent simple mistakes, and thinking about his actions before he acts.”

School has long been forgotten now though. Every time we drive by the building I remind him that he will be going back, but three months is a long time when you’re six. He has adapted easily to summer. He quickly took advantage of getting to stay up later (Moooom, the sun is still up, I should be too!), and we’ve kept busy with a variety of activities.

Elise has had a harder time with summer. She was used to Harlan already being at school when she woke up (or maybe waking up just in time to walk him to the bus stop), and having him going to the daycare facility with her seemed to throw her off. Or maybe it was losing most of her class who moved up into the 3-4 year old room at the start of summer. And also perhaps that Eric has been out of town a fair bit this summer, which has thrown off her usual routine of morning daddy snuggles. For the first time in her life she was clingy at drop off… for a month. It was tough and unexpected when we signed Harlan up for summer camp in the youth center next door to the preschool center. He has enjoyed seeing old friends and has happily headed off each morning while she’s been the reluctant one (a reversal from their usual roles). They have had some fun dress up days at camp (most of which I have not photographed because it’s hard enough just to get them out the door, let alone record visual evidence):

Of course we’ve also spent some time down at the beach. Elise is completely fearless in the water, which is nerve wracking for me, but she has a great time. There aren’t as many pictures as last year because I spend my time expecting at any second to have to jump in and yank her out from under the water. Even when she does go under she’s completely nonplussed though. I don’t even want to think about how much of the bay she has consumed.

Both kids have also been taking swim classes. It’s a slow-moving class at the rec center, which is just fine with Harlan, who is perfectly happy never to put his head in the water. Elise can’t take classes on her own until she’s 3, so she’s in the parent/child class. Unlike Harlan, she is thrilled to hurl herself into the pool, and on the first day entirely unprompted was doing a pretty good doggy paddle.

Comments closed

Ohio Trip

We recently went to visit my college friend, Katie, and her family in Ohio. As usual, it was a wonderful trip. Of course, we had to stop and play on the way there:

Our first day we visited the Great Lakes Science Center, which was fantastic. The kids got worn out before we were able to see it all. Harlan and the dads also toured the steamship William G. Mather (a restored 618-foot Great Lakes freighter built in 1925) while the girls played in the special exhibit- Tapescape. Tapescape is nearly 75 miles of packing tape that they wrapped (and wrapped and wrapped) around metal scaffolding. You could climb up and through and slide down. And it was strong enough to hold adults too- I tested it. Several times. 🙂 As you can also see in the photos, Harlan and Elise each have their own “Flat Stanley” they brought along with them. At the end of the summer they are each going to present to their summer camp class where they went with their flat person over the summer.

We also visited the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. We also didn’t have time to explore all of that because we wanted to see an animal show at the library that afternoon, but it was an enjoyable quick trip (although we didn’t have much luck spotting many animals in the outdoor enclosures- too hot I think).

We also spent a nice afternoon at a park along Lake Erie.

And of course we played outside and ate ice cream. There’s always lots of ice cream with Katie, Joe, and Jessie!



Comments closed

Father’s Day

We had an outdoorsy Father’s Day this year, heading to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary to complete our first Maryland State Park Quest Challenge and then to Fort Washington Park.

The most exciting part (as measured by what the kids are still talking about) was on the way there when we stopped to move a snapping turtle out of the middle of the road.

Exploring Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, identifying trees and looking for animals habitats:

Exploring Fort Washington Park, including the fort itself and a lighthouse:

Comments closed

Sugarloaf Mountain

One happy bunch of hikers!We decided to take advantage of nice weather today to go for a family hike. After first going by Great Falls and discovering we were not the only people who had that idea, we headed over to Sugarloaf Mountain. It was an excellent choice! Harlan, who chose a hiking outfit entirely of camouflage, particularly enjoyed the steepest section of the ascent where he got to scramble over rocks.


Elise’s favorite part was without a doubt crawling around at the summit. She was shoeless and just so happy and determined. She crawled over the rocks and around the rocks and picked up sticks and crumpled leaves in her fists (and tried to eat more than one pebble). She also charmed many a passerby with her joy.

20161030_145707 20161030_154956 20161030_145131








Both kids were also good sports with taking pictures, although they continued to try to do their best to never look at the camera and smile at the same time. Even so, I managed to catch one:

20161030_142248They also both think selfies are hysterical, so we took on of those too:

20161030_143355While Harlan, Elise, and I played, Eric set up his new hiking radio and made some contacts from the summit. Then we all enjoyed the hike back down the mountain. It’s a popular place, and I can see why. It’s a wonderful family hike with enough of a challenge to be fun for the kids and a variety of trails so you can easily make your hike as long or as short as you want. Plus, you have a sense of accomplishment at making it to the top (even if it isn’t exactly all that high as mountains go).




Spooky Science

My little skeletons playing at the Inner Harbor outside the Science Center.

They had Harlan at glow in the dark slime, so we headed to Baltimore to the MD Science Center’s Spooky Science event Saturday. In addition to the slime, there was lots of fun to be had. First Harlan enjoyed decorating a pumpkin with pipe cleaners and yarn, attached via drilled holes and hammered nails (no ordinary jack-o-lantern!).

Pounding nails and sticking pipe cleaners into a pumpkin
Pounding nails and sticking pipe cleaners into a pumpkin

Then we watched pumpkins get thrown off the roof because… well, gravity.

Waiting for the pumpkin drop
Waiting for the pumpkin drop

Then Harlan tried his hand at launching little plastic pumpkins and orange ping pong balls with a catapult. Elise enjoyed the show!

Watching Harlan launch little plastic pumpkins using a catapult
Watching Harlan launch little plastic pumpkins using a catapult

Comments closed

Trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains

Hiking with Daddy
Hiking with Daddy

This was the first trip to the Appalachian Trail for Elise so Harlan had to show her the ropes. Twice a year we go over to Meadow Mountain, near Love, Virginia, to do maintenance along the Appalachian Trail. This includes clearing downed trees, trimming back the vegetation away from the sides of the trail, updating blazes, and verifying the cartographic data I’ve been collecting over the years.

This year Amanda, Harlan, and Elise decided to stay on the sidelines while Jerry, Etta, Jordan, and I worked the trail. Jordan and I hiked in on the fire road that led directly to the Mau-Hau shelter where we did an inspection of the area and then worked our way back over Meadow Mountain to Reed’s Gap.  Once maintenance was complete we went back to the cabin and enjoyed a nice meal.

This is shortly before he fell in the river
This is shortly before he fell in the river.

Sunday is traditionally our day to wander over to the Wye River and explore the shoreline, cross the swinging bridge, and just goof off before heading for home.  The river was higher than it was in the Fall and Harlan, who fell in last October, was warned against falling in this time.  That lasted a good twenty minutes before splash!  At least he knew where not to fall in and, in this case, it was less than a foot deep.

Looking out at the world
Looking out at the world

Harlan is generally cautious when he goes exploring but that doesn’t stop him from finding some really great places to explore.  He’s also become a pretty good rock climber!  Elise has been watching and will, no doubt, be catching up to her big brother soon.

Speaking of Elise, she enjoyed being outside, watching the river, and hiking along the trail.  I’m hoping by next Spring she’ll be able to put some mileage under her own feet instead of being carried.

Below are some pictures from the trail:

Picture of Amanda on the Wye River
Amanda on the Wye River

Sitting on a rock... with a little help from Mommy
Sitting on a rock… with a little help from Mommy

Picture of Harlan and Dad watching the Wye River.
Harlan and Dad watching the Wye River.

Climbing on tnhe rocks... no help needed
Climbing on the rocks… no help needed

My little super man
My little super man

A view from the top of Meadow Mountain.
A view from the top of Meadow Mountain.






Picture of the Christensen Family at the AT Wye River crossing.
The Christensen Family at the AT Wye River crossing

Comments closed

A weekend in DC: U. S. Botanical Garden & National Zoological Park

Harlan admires the tulips at the National Botanical Garden
Admiring the tulips

Harlan spent the weekend with his parents and grandparents visiting places all kids (and adults!) should see.  We started with the United States Botanical Garden on Saturday and ended with the National Zoological Park on Sunday.  Here is a bit about our journey exploring these places.

The United States Botanical Garden, located at the east side of the National Mall near the American Indian Museum, is a large collection of plants from around the world conveniently brought together in this one location.  Harlan enjoyed looking at the plants in the jungle area but really enjoyed the kids’ garden that was in an open area within the confines of the building.  Along with a little house kids could play in was a hand pump well and watering cans that could be filled from the well and used to water the plants.  Harlan enjoyed watering the tulips that surrounded the walkways.

Harlan watering the flowers.
Harlan watering the flowers.

There was also a bamboo forest that he ran through a couple of times and a tunnel of vines that was quite entertaining.  Neither of these were as much fun as spreading water around, though.

We didn’t spend too much time exploring as we didn’t get into the city until later in the afternoon due to Harlan’s morning swim lesson.

Harlan watches the Sitatungas
Harlan watches the Sitatungas

We spent Sunday at the National Zoological Park which is located in the northern part of D.C.  Exploring this park will definitely take a few more visits as there are many animals that I’m sure Harlan would like to visit again.

We started with the sitatunga which live on the Central African continent.  They were quite lively and Harlan enjoyed watching them walk around and climb atop a termite mound.  We later saw elephants and pandas and other animals.  He was almost asleep when we got to the turtles.  These could not be missed and Harlan woke right up to watch the turtles not only nap on a nearby log but swim right next to where we were standing!  Most turtles that Harlan gets to see are way too skiddish to view this closely.  If Harlan was a bit older I believe he would have made notes and taking pictures.

Harlan on the Conservation Carousel
Harlan on the Conservation Carousel

After the turtles was a special treat: a ride on the Conservation Carousel which is solar-powered and exhibits over fifty endangered species that are being actively studied at the zoo.  This was Harlan’s first time on a carousel but he did a great job selecting which animal he would like to ride, a California seal, and then holding on with both hands and enjoying the trip.  I suspect this the first of many carousel rides.

After the carousel ride we made a quick trip to see the tigers and lions and then made the mile long walk back to the Metro station to take the train back to our hotel in Silver Spring.

The weather, this weekend, was great for being outdoors and Harlan dutifully spent as much time out in the sunshine playing, exploring, and generally having fun.  There will be more adventures in the coming weeks and months.

Additional photos from the Botanical Garden and the Zoo can be found on our Flickr account.