The Outer Banks, part 4

Happy New Year! The past few weeks were busy for obvious reasons, so I’m putting a twofer out to make up for last week and get ahead for this week. Cheers!

I’m a planner. Sometimes I’d like to do things on the spur of the moment, but generally, I think it’s easier and less stressful to make some basic plans. In this case, it was to figure out what the Outer Banks held, what we wanted to see, and when these places were open. It wouldn’t do to want to go to something only to find it wasn’t open that day, made more precarious by our being there over a holiday/in the shoulder or off-season. One thing that worked out was that all of the Wright Brothers stuff was open on Thanksgiving, so we just waited until then to go see it all. Evie had recently finished her Space unit, which included airplanes, so we were most excited for these sites. One was The Monument to a Century of Flight, which was pretty cool and was outdoors so was always open:

The other was the Wright Brothers National Memorial, which was very cool. They had a monolith because why not, as well as a museum and markers on the various landings to show how far they were able to go that day. It was also the windiest, coldest day of our trip. Considering we were outdoors nearly the whole time, it’s not like this was a “oh of course it was this day” type of thing, but it was definitely chilly.

We also went to the Bodie Island Lighthouse, one of many lighthouses along the Outer Banks.

Oh! And we ate at two different restaurants for Thanksgiving. They were mostly mediocre, but we were able to try some marginally southern takes on the standard fare, so that was fun.

The Outer Banks, part 3

On one of the days, we went to Jockey’s Ridge, which is, I guess, the tallest living sand dune on the East Coast. The view was pretty great and, you know, it was like walking on a sand dune.

We also had a day of mid-60s or so and we were able to spend some time at the beach. How to fit this in here… Ben hated walking on the sand. HAY-TED-IT. James thinks it was the grains of sand because he kept trying to get it off, I think it was also because it was hard to walk on (he still gets nervous when stepping from one thing to another, like grass to cement, or our garage to our driveway, also walking down our driveway). We don’t know for sure because he won’t tell us. The picture above of Jockey’s Ridge? You can’t hear the whining that’s happening or the screaming that will occur in a moment to make James just carry him around. When we tried to get him to walk at the beach: More of the same. Even when James carried him, he was very nervous, and eventually, he just stayed with me on the towels, refusing even to sit on anything but me, while James and Evie went in search of shells. Any type of shell, be they whole or broken.

There are also a surprising number of wildlife refuges, and one we went to had a ton of trails amidst interdunal ponds, which were fine in November, but I’m not sure what they would be like in the heat of summer.

The Outer Banks, part 2

A lot of the stuff we were interested in were actually on Roanoke Island, so we spent the first three days there.

Our first stop was to the Roanoke Island Festival Park, which is a typical interactive, historical site with recreated objects and costumed interpreters with which and whom to interact. It was… a little sad. As in poorly kept; there were only two areas that had any people, the ship and the fort area, which I suppose was accurate, since the other areas were on the Native American side of things and it would have been super whitewashed to have anyone but Native Americans there. (Though they could have had some sort of docent there to answer questions.) But Evie was able to ask a ton of questions of the various people, so she was happy.

The outdoor stuff was about what life was generally like for Native Americans and the first English settlers (so around 1600). There was also a standard indoor museum that had some interactive exhibits and was more exclusive to the (European) history of the area from settlement to more present day, including a short interactive media about the Lost Colony where we were CSI on the case (with Calleigh Duquesne and everything!).

We also went to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, which was a pretty good one. There were sea otters! But most of all, the aquarium has an active sea turtle rescue and recovery program, and guests can see the sea turtles they have at that time and talk to volunteers who talk through what they know about the turtles in their care, to include how they were found, what happened to them (or what might have happened), what’s being done to help them in the long term, and how they’re doing right then. One of the turtles there had accidentally swallowed a fishing hook and that fisherman had called whoever one calls to report that this had happened (it’s illegal to catch sea turtles), so that turtle had surgery to remove the hook and was slowly recovering. There was one that had a super broken shell, which they think was done by a boat, and the vet was monitoring it and trying to determine how best to help it. But that’s not something that grows back or anything, so it’s a little tricky.

Outside the room, there was an interactive sea turtle rescue and recovery thing where kids would take a plastic turtle that had some sort of chip in it and take it to a diagnostic station to run tests and do what needed to be done for recovery and then eventually release it back into the wild. Evie loved it and did it three or four times.

On another day, we went to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Elizabethan Gardens. The former has an indoor exhibit (with the history of the Fort and the same basic theories and stories about the Lost Colony), as well as trails to walk outside.

The former is a sprawling garden that was pretty nice, and had a children’s play area somewhere within. Like I said, it was pretty sprawling.

There was also a living museum type thing, Island Farm, that was very interesting. The front building had some problematic stuff about slavery (“we don’t know how slaves got on the island…” and “slaves here were pretty happy…” and just the general fact that they are, in fact, enslaved people; their identity is not slave), but the rest of it was very interesting and the workers were very kind and knowledgeable.

The Outer Banks, part 1

We took advantage of our access to the armed forces vacation club (which offers steeply discounted rates for various locations) and went to the Outer Banks, NC, over Thanksgiving! We went specifically for Wright Brothers stuff, but we spent a lot of time on Roanoke, experiencing the various history and activities there. We also learned that North America has its own native wine grape (one of two, or something), called the Scuppernong, which is sweet like a Muscadine. We stopped in at a local wine tasting room and most of the blends were with the Scuppernong and they were surprisingly good! Very smooth, without that cloying sweetness or kind of weird finish one can get with sweet wines.

The resort itself had some really great amenities. The most important for me was the full kitchen; Evie’s was the pool, which was pretty amazing.

Ben did so well in the pool on the ship to Bermuda, but hated this one. I don’t know if it was a temperature thing or what, though I don’t remember the water on the ship being that much warmer. Maybe it’s just an age thing and the next time we encounter a pool he’ll be more into it.

We planned it so that we could have breakfast and dinner at the room and lunches out, and brought along the slow cooker and a couple casserole dishes to make various breakfast casseroles and chili and pulled pork to use in other dishes. We did the same basic thing last year when we went to Williamsburg and Disneyland, and I really like this routine. Meals can be chaotic/stressful -and expensive -with young kids and I’d rather be in the relative privacy of our rooms as any number of us have meltdowns than out in restaurants.

Dance Recital

Evie had her parent watch day for dance on Wednesday. She’s just doing ballet this season, though I would like her to do others, just for the exposure, and, maybe to have better dance coordination than her parents. We’ll see. I’d also like her to take martial arts of some sorts and I think she still wants to do swimming, so that’s a lot activities.

For this one, her teacher e-mailed a video of her doing the dance so the kids could practice if they wanted, and we took advantage of that while we were away (more on that in the coming weeks). I think that helped her feel a little more comfortable doing the dance so she could enjoy herself more, but the teacher is there doing it with them and she’s already said her favorite part of dance is the recital, so I’m sure it would have been fine, regardless.

The night is made up of a variety of classes, and each does an across the floor routine of a particular dance move so we can see their technique and, hopefully, any improvements during the next recital. Then they do a short choreographed dance. Evie’s was set to whatever song from Polar Express (I have never seen the movie and am just over the line into not caring enough to look up the name).

Afterward, we were able to take pictures of her, and then she gave Ben a million kisses and hugs.

Cox Farms

Cox Farms… wha-… why? We pass by this place, visible from the road, a lot, and it’s only open from September-sometime-maybe-early-October through the first week of November, and Evie would ask to go each time we’d pass by and we kept putting it off because… yeah. I finally noticed the closing date and picked up Evie early from school on the last day to spend a few hours there. It was actually Election Day, which, apparently, is a no school day for Loudoun County schools, so it worked out that she wasn’t missing anything.

We shared mediocre apple cider donuts, tasty kettle corn that we worked our way through for a week, and Evie braved the smell and swarms of wasps to get a small cup of apple cider (because I’m no fool).

Quick note of fun: This is also where I got my most recent experience of that perennial question: “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” from some random lady who sat beside me while I watched Evie play. What follows can be a choose your own adventure if you look at it the right way. In this instance, the two responses that ran through my mind were my go-to: “Southern CA”; and the one I’m not charismatic enough to pull off and retain a “friendly” exchange but which is so very appealing: “Where are you really from?” I went with A, and the rest of the exchange was about her loving kimchee, loving South Korea, having friends from South Korea, loving kimchee, her adopted grandchildren are from China though her daughter was really trying to get South Korean children, and that she loves kimchee. So that happened.

Random November Pictures


Evie’s class has four units and her teacher, Ms. Brittany, has a TEA (Totally Exciting Activity) for each of them, where the kids and parents come together and build something for that unit. The first TEA was for their space unit and we made the lunar module. The kids had already made one in class, so had some ideas of what to do, but it was also to reinforce the process of experimentation (design, test, revise -there might be another step in there…), so if something didn’t go right before, they might recall that and adjust their design this time around. Or the parents might guide it in a different direction.

Evie’s previous design used pipe cleaners as, essentially, springs with which the module could land. For this one, we switched out the springs for straws and marshmallows. It worked about 30 percent of the time. So Evie’s original design might have been better. Or the cardboard base needed to be bigger? Also, eventually, she turned her marshmallow astronaut into an alien.

Random October Pictures

Some of the pictures we’ve gotten of the kids at school:


My mom made most of my costumes growing up, and since she ended up visiting in early October and I wanted to get some lessons on using patterns, I asked Mom to make Evie’s costume this year. Evie had been waffling between a superhero or a princess costume and when Mom said she would make the costume, I pushed her toward the princess costume since that would be the more conducive to a Mom Original. She chose the pink Aurora dress from Sleeping Beauty.

The pattern-reading and costume-making were a little nuts because the pattern was needlessly complicated (in part because they didn’t describe certain steps). We were at JoAnn’s for a couple hours longer than I had expected to be as we chose fabric and tried to figure out just how much we needed. With both kids there. And working on it at home was just as chaotic. But! It turned out great in the end and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the process. I still need a little more practice with reading the patterns themselves, and I still can’t sew a straight line, but I’m more confident about it.

Originally, James and I thought we’d just dress Ben in blue, maybe add a blue hat, and call him Merryweather, but on Halloween I remembered I have a pink sweater and James has a green shirt, so we put those on and called ourselves Merryweather, Fauna, and Flora. Not that anyone could tell, especially since Evie was never really near us, but still. It was a private joy.