We took a quick trip to the California coast, to MacKerricher beach near Fort Bragg. It was lovely. We had a series of unfortunate events at the beginning but nothing that lasted or caused big problems: our car was making weird noises before we left so we decided not to risk driving it so far and rented one for the trip, we couldn’t find the small propane tanks for our camp stove the first night and had to drive all over, asking, we forgot to close the stopper on the cooler so had a few damp items when we arrived. It was frustrating but we solved the issues and enjoyed our time there. We found tidepools and waves and seals and acorn woodpeckers. We made towers and fires and sand drawings. We walked and climbed and sat and talked.
Here the kids are trying to direct the waves into the blowhole beneath us.
Doesn’t this anemone with snails look surprised?
A week or so later we headed up a local canyon called South Willow to camp with my parents and sister and her boyfriend. We celebrated Lilah’s upcoming birthday and went on a few hikes and chatted and enjoyed the warm and cool fall weather. There were some wild turkeys hanging out around the camp which was fun.
In the past little while we’ve started our school year again. We are doing Making Tracks again, a nature and survival skills class. Here Lilah is working on making cordage.
And here Gavin is explaining to friends the steps to holding and twisting the material.
Here’s some of the cordage we were working on up closer.
We are reading books and discussing them with the help of Brave Writer. Lilah is doing art, on her own, with Makercrate and through classes on Skillshare.com. Gavin is working on improving his driving, engineering with Eurekacrate, his own projects and classes on Skillshare. We are using Brilliant.org for math this year as well as games, logic puzzles and Khan Academy.
We are also going adventuring, picking raspberries, playing with the cats, tie dyeing, doing aerial silks, baking, gardening, hosting D&D at our house, and getting together with friends as well as playing and chatting with them online regularly. Whew! Here’s one of our latest batch of ice dye/tie dye that I particularly like.
Chris has done an outstanding job of running D&D. We all enjoy it so much! He puts so much effort into it: researching and planning story and encounters, creating magical items for each character, printing days and days on our 3D printer to create the players’ characters as well as all the creatures and beings we come across, finding music and sound effects to heighten the experience. He even has scented candles to set the mood. Think leather and pine, not vanilla jasmine. The kids LOVE getting together and playing their characters and just goofing around. It’s been so wonderful! Here’s one of the creatures we’ll be fighting in the game soon. Chris printed it and I painted it with his advice.
It’s been a weird and hard few years with the pandemic and managing both our own safety as well as trying to maneuver through relationships with other families some of whom have very different outlooks and practices during the pandemic. I think we are finally finding what our new baseline looks like, which is quite different than it used to be but not what I stayed up at night worrying over either. We have found a group of families who are operating under the same set of understandings about the virus that we are and are getting together with them and limiting our time with others but still trying to maintain friendships. The kids have really struggled with this, as have I but we are finding ways to show people we care about them even when we cannot do things the way we all really wish we could by getting together wherever without masks.
Here we are adventuring in the Uintahs where we found a few rainstorms and sheltered under the pines and found many colored mushrooms. Lilah and I tried some handstands and bridges and I admired the way the fallen pine needles made swirling patterns in the quiet stream, following the patterns of the water.
We went to Alaska! It was something my parents had wanted to do with us for years and had been postponed due to my dad’s cancer and postponed due to covid travel restrictions and dangers so I sighed out a huge breath of relief and thankfulness when we stepped on board the ship.
We traveled from Juneau to Sitka, stopping to kayak and hike and ride in zodiacs. We saw glaciers up close and calving. The colors of the ice were astonishing. The sound of the ice breaking and falling was amazing.
We saw lots of wildlife: humpback whales and orcas, birds of many kinds, seals, sea lions, sea otters, bears, moose, deer, and water creatures like anemones, seastars, hermit crabs, periwinkles, sculpin as well as beautiful, intriguing and sometimes dangerous plants and fungi.
We were always busy, with morning stretch class and meals, watching whales out on the deck, going on excursions and listening to naturalist presentations. We even got to do several hikes and one very exciting bushwhack hike!
I tried using a gopro video/still handheld camera for underwater video and it was a fun first spin. I’m excited to keep at it and improve. Maybe next time I’ll try it without trying to steer a paddleboard on the ocean currents at the same time, or maybe not.
The kids got to try driving the zodiac around the big ship.
We had a family celebration at our house, complete with a chocolate cake with raspberry and chocolate frosting made by Lilah, our household baker, decorations my sister helped me pick out and put up, and family fun out in the fresh air. We had his favorite, lasagna for dinner.
He’s surpassed me in height just in the last month or so. He’s learning how to drive. He’s good at making hash browns. He has a laugh you can hear across a house. He’s practicing lego builds like the Lego Masters show. He’s playing Rainbow Six Siege, MineCraft Dungeons, Magic the Gathering, Beyond the Sun. He loves his friends, games of all kinds, fries, cats, sci-fi, steampunk, costumes. He’s got plans to build a shield that has moving parts, to build a new MTG deck, to get his driver license and go see his friends, to create and print creatures and blocks with the 3D printer. He is an amazing kid and it’s so fun to watch him go!
We had a party with friends at a fun center with laser tag, go carts, bumper cars, climbing walls, mini golf and more. The kids spent most of the time doing go karts, laser tag and climbing. They had so much fun! It was a lovely night to get together and play after not nearly enough of that for the past year. It was a really great night and the kids are so kind, supportive and enthusiastic about their friendships. It’s beautiful.
Happy Birthday, Gavin! We can’t wait to find out what adventures await you this year!
Gavin’s been working in learning to drive! He took the written test at the DMV and got his learner permit and we have been practicing since then. He’s getting more comfortable with driving in town and is working up toward freeway driving.
We started weaving some baskets with rope and hemp twine in our nature class. At the last class of the year we played capture the flag and the kids went through the creek and into the bushes and trees trying to sneak into bases and tag each other. It was a lot of fun.
We’ve rebuilt our garden boxes so they are higher and filled them with dirt and got a new drip irrigation system put in. The kids hauled most of the dirt up from the driveway to the garden in carts with wheels, bumping them up and down the stairs. We’ve gotten most of them planted now and are growing beets, radishes, chard, kale, cilantro, rattlesnake beans, purple peas, lemon cucumbers, tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers and hot peppers, eggplant and we put in some asparagus for next year and some artichokes. I am so excited to see how they do with the new set up!
The hummingbirds and orioles have arrived and are so fun to watch and listen to in the yard and at the feeder.
Lilah and I have started going to aerial silks classes. Lilah, after a year away. Me, for the first time. It is HARD! Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever tried but I really like trying! I have wondered a few times if I’m crazy, starting silks in my forties, but though I need to be more cautious and work harder than my younger classmates, I am enjoying it and making progress. This week after about a month of classes I have begun to be able to climb the silk, getting three consecutive “steps” up and pulling myself into a straddle hip wrap!
Gavin’s been working on MineCraft coding. He’s made a few items for the game and worked on making skins for them.
We’re infusing some honey with lilac blossoms, turning it over and watching the blossoms slowly rise to the top. I think lavender honey sounds good for our next project.
The weather’s been all over the place the last few weeks as winter thinks about moving over for spring and then thinks again. Gavin’s been working on designing some Lego ships with moving parts. He spends time working on a concept, sifting through all of our loose bits to find the right pieces and fitting them together and reworking things when they don’t work the way he wanted the first time.
He really wants to be able to write MineCraft mods and create texture packs so this week I challenged him to find a tutorial or class to learn about that. He found one and seems to be enjoying it so far. Computer programming is something he definitely can imagine himself doing later on.
Lilah’s been baking cakes. Vegan and gluten free baking is tricky and I’m seriously impressed with her efforts. She’s baking a cake a week these days and she’s learning about how things get weird when you forget an ingredient (cake without sugar!) and how it helps to try a recipe several times with different adjustments to tinker with it and get it closer to what you were hoping for than the initial attempt. She’s having a lot of fun and creating confidence and pride in her abilities and creativity. She isn’t afraid to leave the recipe behind! Very fun and impressive! We’ve had chocolate cake with chocolate orange frosting, vanilla cake with vanilla lemon frosting, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting so far. Mmmmmmm.
We’ve been reading together and discussing, working on developing written response skills. I’ve been painting a bit and I’m trying to get comfortable with meditation and work my flexibility and strength back from my long time off of my right leg. We’re rebuilding some of our garden boxes to be deeper and a bit smaller. I can’t wait to get started planting! I’ve started a few seeds inside. We’ll see if the cats leave them alone long enough to sprout.
We’ve been going on walks near and far and doing a bit of hanging out with friends outside. We’ve been doing some closet cleaning and some kitten exercising.
Chris and I went away overnight, leaving the kids home together to see if they would feel confident being home alone together over a longer stint. We had a lovely overnight with hiking in Southern Utah and a relaxed drive through every kind of weather and the kids worked together to feel safe and connected, eating together and reminding each other of tasks. They chose to spend most of their time on their computers, playing with friends but took breaks to care for themselves and our cats and bird. I’m impressed by their responsibility and teamwork and proud of them. I think they feel the same.
We headed down last month for a long weekend. My sister and Dave met us there. We explored rainbow canyons, hoodoos, slot canyons and big slickrock domes that curve down to sandy paths between smooth and curving walls of yellow silica sandstone. It happened to be Valentines Day while we were there and a place with pink, red, orange, yellow and white rock seemed like a perfect place to celebrate love. Lilah spent some time making sand art with all the various hues of sand she found. We squeezed and climbed our way through several slot canyons. We sheltered in a little alcove from a sudden rainstorm. It was good to explore together.
We spotted desert bighorn sheep, a zebra tail lizard, some birds and tracked bees, lizards, birds and we think, a fox.
We started on the trails and then explored out and beyond which is where most of us feel the most at home. It was beautiful, all the swirling different colors of rock and the carved shapes. We chatted about which rock formations would be good for bathtubs and cat beds and where a nice hot tub spot would be. We decided that the rock colors were probably flavored. Grape, lemon, strawberry. Mmmmmm.
We ended the trip the same way we ended the last one here, deciding we should return again to explore more.
On our drive we listened to some more of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. We’re enjoying the story. I am particularly enjoying following the story of a dragon who believes in peace, kindness and negotiations instead of fighting to the death.
Gavin is working on building a custom designed hovertank made with Lego after some weight lifting. Lilah is putting together ingredients for a chocolate cake with chocolate orange frosting while singing. Later we will read more of and talk about the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH during our tea party with cake.
Far South of home, in Organ Pipe National Monument, it is warm and the cactus are soaking up the sunshine. So, we headed down to do the same with my parents for a camping trip. It was lovely to be outside and not freezing, to be able to more easily spend time safely with my parents and to enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern Arizona.
We hiked and chatted and ate cold s’mores (because we couldn’t have a fire there).
We read and watched birds and walked miles each day to and from the bathrooms. The campground had one set of bathrooms open one day, the other the next so sometimes it was only a short walk but other days it was a bit farther and with multiple trips, we racked up the miles!