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Category: Harlan Marshall

A quick trip to Hatteras Island

Whew, what a Spring and Summer it has been. We were ready to get out of the house, if only for a week, and enjoy some fun in the sun. So what could be better for social distancing than going to the beach where everyone can have their own little piece of sand and water!

Eric was already in North Carolina so the longer trip was for Amanda and the kids. Everyone met on Friday afternoon and we checked into our motel and pretty much fell asleep. The fun stuff would have to wait until Saturday. Island time being what it is, there was no big rush to get out and do stuff, though, right?

Well, I can tell you that swimming was a big hit. I’m not sure it mattered whether or not it was in the pool or in the sound (maybe there was some splashing around in the ocean, too?) but getting wet on the hot days was always welcome.

  • Elise and Harlan on a Boogie Board in the Pamlico Sound.
  • Elise and Harlan playing on a Boogie Board in the Pamlico Sound.
  • Elise in the swimming pool, wearing goggles, smiling.
  • Harlan in the swimming pool, with goggles, and a pool noodle nearby.
  • Elise and Eric floating on their backs in the pool.
  • Elise, with her face in the water, and Harlan, holding on to the side of the pool, enjoying themselves in the water.
  • Harlan wading in the Pamlico Sound.
  • Elise walking at the water's edge in the sand.
  • Elise walking at the water's edge in the sand.
  • Elise walking down the beach, alone.

And then there were the walks on the beach…

  • Eric holds Harlan up at the beach.

And there were a couple rounds of miniature golfing and go-carts…

And then the other, miscellaneous things that you don’t really plan to do but end up doing anyway…

We had a lot of fun, not sure we were ready to leave, but this place was booked up so, us without a tent, we had to leave. Hopefully we’ll be back soon.

I C E C R E A M !
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29 Caches on the 29th

Geocaching logo

Geocaching is an odd “sport”, if you will. It’s all about the numbers and then again, it’s all about the experiences. Today was a little bit of both.

The 29th of February is a special day for Geocachers. Those that are looking to put a find on every day of the year must wait four years for this day to come around so events are held, new caches are released, and general nonsense happens. Harlan had recently become interested in Geocaching, once again, and because he is now able to manage his own account and sign the log himself, we decided to maybe dip our toe back into the Geocaching world.

I thought it would be fun to try to find 29 caches on the 29th of February! That’s not necessarily a lot of finds but with two little kids in the back of the car, especially one that yells at you if you even consider trying to help buckle her in, this might be more of a challenge than one might think. Usually when one is out trying to do a numbers run they try to find a lot of park and grab (P&G) caches (basically a cache that you don’t really have to look for very hard and you can just drive up to, get out, sign the log, and move on to the next one quickly). I figured that Elise wouldn’t stand for this and the getting in and out of the car really wouldn’t make things fast so I went the entire opposite direction: we went for a hike. Yep, a numbers run included the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center with trails galore and the Beverly Triton Nature Park, again with lots of trails. This got the kids out of the car and we covered lots of distance looking for some really neat hides!

This isn’t to say we didn’t do some P&G caches as well. We actually did several of those on the way home after the sun had set and the kids were getting pretty tired. But that was okay, too. I’m happy to report that we ended the evening with 29 finds, along with a few DNFs. The kids had fun, which was important, and we were all able to get out and get some fresh air. So what’s on the agenda for next weekend? Maybe just one park and not the road trip… 🙂

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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)


Christmas Morning 2019

Ahh yes, we probably all remember what it’s like to go to try sleep on Christmas Eve. You don’t really want to sleep but you know if you don’t Santa won’t come. Then you wake up in the middle of the night and you’re not sure if it’s too early to get up and check to see if he’s come or not. What you really need is one of those “a delivery has been made” notifications. Alas, technology has not kept up with demand on this front. And then you might have an obstacle waiting for you just outside your door…

Harlan was slowed, making it out of his room, on Christmas morning.

Lets just say that we heard the thump of a body hitting cardboard a fraction of a second after the jingle bells on the door knob went off. The bucket of “snow balls” also made a nice sound as they rained down on top of him and cascaded down the staircase. Ahh yes, Santa had come after all!

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Birthdays- 4 and 8!

Both kids wanted birthday parties with their friends this year, so we scheduled parties for either side of Thanksgiving and made it happen.

We outsourced Elise’s party to The Polymath Place, a neat little center where they have tutoring, classes, workshops, summer camps, and a kids theater program. They said they would plan activities along any theme and Elise suggested “rainbow superhero.” We invited her whole preschool class and got seven little girls and one little boy from her class plus some other friends from outside of daycare. The kids were all amazing. They decorated superhero masks; did superhero poses and played Duck, Duck, Goose (but using silly superhero names they made up); colored and baked Shrinky Dinks; and made marshmallow shooters (and fired them at the parents). We bought a rainbow cake and added superhero figures on top. Elise donned a rainbow skirt and superhero cape for the occasion. All in all, a fun time.

Harlan really wanted to have friends over to play for his birthday, so he invited all the boys from his class (because girls, totally not cool), our bus stop crew, and a couple other friends. I lost track, but we probably had about a dozen kids. I kept from planning so much this year, but I decided the kids needed an activity to keep them busy on arrival, so I bought 100 little plastic wheels and axels, a box of straws, 30 plastic propellers, and a box of rubber bands. We already had a huge box of popsicle sticks, tape, markers, and glue guns, so I wrote out some basic instructions on how to make cars and rubberband helicopters, and the kids took it from there. They were great helping each other and patiently waiting for the glue gun. As they finished their cars we raced them down a cardboard ramp. They rolled, they crashed, the boys cheered, there would be numerous claims of being the winner, and then they’d do it again, adding in the kids as they finished their cars. Some of them also managed to make rubber band helicopters and launch them off the front porch, but most opted for decorating or racing their vehicle creations until we headed outside. A couple parents got into it too and made propeller-powered cars. When the kids had mostly finished their vehicles Harlan led the charge outside to the backyard. Apparently he’d been talking up our new zip line at school, so most of the kids were pretty excited to get to try it out. I had bought a harness instead of just the seat for some added safety, which also meant added time to get everybody on and off, but they kids were patient and another mom stepped in and helped Eric strap them each in and send them down. After that the kids easily entertained themselves with a backyard Nerf gun battle. In addition to arming themselves with ammo and guns, they raided the dress up box and were geared up in all manner of outfits. They ran out of military-style helmets quickly, but others happily donned a safari hat, astronaut helmet, storm trooper mask, etc. and charged into battle.

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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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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.

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