art, books, unschooling

so much goodness

We’ve started some new classes: a ninja skills class where the kids do hanging and swinging and running up walls and an outdoor education class where we all learn about animals, plants, tool making, tracking and survival skills. They’ve been a lot of fun so far in both. Gavin has made progress in ninja class on hanging onto bars longer and swinging from bar to bar. Lilah has made progress in running up the curved wall to reach the top and swinging on 10 foot diameter wheels to the next huge wheel in recent weeks.

They’ve both learned about how to make stone tools, how to construct the kindling and wood for a fire, how to listen and look to the sky to navigate and how to be good stewards of the land in our outdoor ed. class. We are beginning on making bow drill kits which will allow the kids to start a fire more easily in the winter months.

We went to an amazing dance performance called Traces including a piece by David Charon and a piece by Ann Carlson, which opened my world up a little bit. At the end, the cast welcomed kids onto the stage for popcorn and dancing. Lilah is up there on the stage, thinking about dancing, which she eventually did. It was really special for the kids.

We’ve gotten out for quite a few hikes. One of the most recent was mainly to pick elderberries and the kids were a huge help spotting and picking them and in one case carrying them across a log eight feet above a stream! I made some elderberry syrup for the coming cool months. It’s this amazing magenta color.

We took a quick trip back to California so Chris could speak at a conference there. The kids did lots of bodyboarding and we found some shells and some critters. We found a spot where there were hundreds of washed up sea urchin spines right at the edge of the water, washing in and out. That was exciting. Lilah and I spotted something we initially thought was trash, stuck between rocks in a tide pool. It turned out to be a spiral shark egg case. We looked it up and it belongs to a horn shark. I wish I had gotten a picture of it but I was too worried about getting it back where it belonged once we realized what it was.

Then we met my parents and went to a beach with them for an evening and then spent the following day at the Monterey Bay aquarium, an amazing place. It was really a lot of fun and special to be able to go to the ocean with my parents.

We went on a trail nearby to an abandoned mine town called Bonanza, which interestingly has a lot of buildings still intact even though it’s on a ski resort’s land. We went in a few and resolved to come back (but probably next year because skiing will begin anytime now) because there was so much to explore.

 

We’ve been doing lots of reading as usual. Sometimes in cloaks.

Gavin’s been working hard on designs in TinkerCad for a 3D printer that will be on it’s way soon. He is so excited to work with it!

We’ve been hanging out with friends as much as we can fit in. Gavin plays online a lot with his buddies and Lilah does occasionally. We also meet them at pumpkin patches and museums and up the canyons for fall festivals and so much more.  Most weeks we host a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for the kids and their friends at our house. Chris runs the game and does a fantastic job and I play and try to support the kids and Chris as they figure out how to navigate the game’s challenges. They are slowly but steadily getting more competent and comfortable in their roles as both character and player. It’s so fun to watch!

I’ve been painting some and will have two paintings in an Autumn/Spooky themed show at a local vegan tattoo shop next week. I’m a bit nervous and also feeling proud of my minor accomplishment.

Life is beautiful.

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mountain outing

Me and Lilah and my sister went up to the Uintahs for a hike today.

It was beautiful, cooler and so fun to be together. We passed ten lakes on our way and took a few minutes to enjoy several. There were still some flowers in bloom though it’s looking a bit like fall already up there.

We spotted a frog and a salamander and tried out “the elevator”, our old nickname for a floating island of grass, moss and dirt on one of the lakes. We walked out on it and enjoyed it sinking and spraying and moving as we walked.

I also made good use of the opportunity to try out my macro lens some more. Here are a few of my favorite pictures taken with it from the day.

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Southern California

We took a week and made a trip to California, to visit the ocean.

On the way we stopped and explored Zzyxz, an old mineral springs spa town which has been taken over by a school for wildlife research but still has some abandoned buildings to roam. It was so incredibly hot, but still worth a short detour. The bath house was there, with an outdoor pool and some window frames looking away toward the mountains.

Here Gavin is “swimming” in the pool.

Nearby is a lodging house with tiny rooms in a long row. We found the whole area fascinating.

We also spotted some bighorn sheep along the road there.

The tide wasn’t super low for tidepooling when we were at the beach but we looked in them anyway and found a bunch of creatures roaming. We saw anemones, an urchin, a few ochre stars, mussels, barnacles of several types, hermit crabs, bigger crabs, fish, sea hares ranging from the size of a finger to the size of a melon, periwinkle and moon snails, a keyhole limpet, and some serpula.

 

The kids spent a bunch of time bodyboarding and wading and Chris and I got in a bit too. One afternoon we spotted a small bunch of dolphins off shore.

I had a lot of fun trying out my new macro lens that attaches to my phone! It was tricky to use on tidepools because it needs to be so close the subject so I mostly used it on dry or recently washed up items. These are a lobster tail, a crystalline iceplant seedpod, kelp, driftwood, seaweed. I really enjoyed messing about with it and am looking forward to doing much more. Thanks, Mama and Daddy!

Several nights, Chris and I got to take night walks on the beach as there was one a block from the place we stayed. It was lovely. We watched the waves and the birds.

On the way out of town we stopped at a sculpture garden to see “Bunny Henge.”

Farewell for now, Ocean. We’ll see you soon.

On our drives, we listened to the first two books in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, and began Rivals, Frenemies Who Changed the World by Scott McCormick.

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summer mountains

In the past month we’ve been trying to squeeze in a lot of mountain time. It’s been so hot here in the valley and cooler in the canyons, plus there’s more wildflowers, wildlife and cleaner air.

We’ve been up in City Creek Canyon and Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood and all the way over to Ophir Canyon with friends and on our own.

Yesterday we went up in the Uintahs, a little further from home for the first trip of the season and it was so lovely! There was a short rainstorm so we sheltered under some pines. The flowers were blooming everywhere and the kids and I are enjoying saying hello to the ones we already know and using iNaturalist app to identify and observe things we don’t know the names of. We only had a little over an hour yesterday so we’re planning to go back next week and spend some more time up there.

We took the path around the lakes, further from the other hikers, and got to see some fish hiding under logs in the water and lots of birds.

There were so many dragon and damsel flies and the heartleaf arnica, columbine, monkshood, corn lily, paintbrush, fireweed, yarrow, elephant head, shooting star, white bog orchids, pearly everlasting, western bluebell, wild geranium and penstemon were all plentifully blooming along with others I don’t yet know. I love learning to identify flowers and plants! It’s so fun to be able to call them by name.

We spotted several fungi types and were able to identify a few of those too.

I had the amazing experience of finding a hidden bird nest on the ground, totally obscured by the flowers and plants growing near the lake. I was stepping toward the water when a bird flew out from right in front of my feet, so, figuring there had to be a reason the bird stayed with me so close for so long, I carefully looked through the plants in front of me, hoping I had not stepped on eggs. A foot or so away, I found a nest hiding so well, it would be impossible to find unless you saw the bird going in or out. There were three or four tiny babies inside, hoping for food. Such a thrill! We identified the mom as a White Crowned Sparrow but the babies were just pink lumpy creatures with beaks and tiny whispers of down.

I’d hoped to find the nest again the next week and see how they were growing. So we went back and we did find them! They had changed a lot in 6 days!

We also spotted a boreal chorus frog. I saw it leaping and was able to catch it so the kids could see it too. Lilah held it for a while and we listened to the tiny noises it made.

The kids spotted a beaver dam across the lake from the frog.

I can’t wait to go back into the summer mountains. They are so beautiful and exciting and full of life.

 

 

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Gavin’s birthday

We had a lovely family party for Gavin last week, a nice day at home on his actual birthday playing games (like TimeLine!) and relaxing and a party with friends at Willard Bay this weekend.

He wanted to swim and especially, to try the floating inflatable playground with his friends, so that’s what we did. It was a beautiful day and the water was warm. The kids and some adults enjoyed the playground and then we all chatted in the shade or played in the water until the beautiful sunset came, and then the mosquitoes arrived so we left.

There was a huge slide the kids enjoyed, a swing, a trampoline and various other structures all joined together floating out in the water. They had to swim out so here are a bunch of the kids jumping in to go out to play!

 

Here they playing on the playground.

We got chocolate, vanilla and lemon cupcakes and we brought a sundried tomato, artichoke heart, basil pesto pasta salad to share and it was well appreciated.

Gavin was so thrilled to just get to spend time with friends and it was fun for family to get to see the crew together. I wish I had gotten a picture of him and one of his friends out floating for hours in the middle of the lake together in the late afternoon for hours but I was too busy paddle boarding. My mom, Meara and Chris got some kayaking and paddle boarding in too. So fun!

He’s fourteen now! It’s shocking (to me) and totally expected at the same time. He still loves Lego, and builds the neatest unique spaceships and other things regularly. He loves Zelda: Breath of the Wild on his new switch game system that he saved up for all on his own this summer. He loves board and card games and cannot get enough, especially anything “futuristic” or “space themed”. He tries to meet friends online as often as possible to play MineCraft or RoBlox with them.  When they can get together in person they swim or chat or fight with boffer weapons. His favorite color is blue violet, favorite food is lasagna, favorite flower is lavendar, favorite animal is owl. He reads like mad and is currently inhaling a series he started on his birthday called Space Runners. He’s an amazing, wonderful person and I am so grateful to get to spend a lot of time with him, learning together and enjoying life together, appreciating each other.

 

Such good memories to look back on and so much fun and discovery yet to come for him and for us with him! What a journey!

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a trip for only two of us

Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a few days in Southern Utah, just the two of us.  My parents invited the kids over for those days which I heard was fun for all of them. We are so grateful that they all like each other enough to be able to enjoy it! Thank you so much for the precious gift, Mom and Dad!

We went down to a cabin near Moab and explored Canyonlands, Moab area and got a permit to hike into the Fiery Furnace in Arches.

We saw some petroglyphs and pictographs, an old cowboy camp and an old Native American grain storage structure.

We saw flowers, lizards and sheer rock walls.

 

We explored red rock furnaces and arches and reflecting pools and we enjoyed celebrating 17 years of marriage. I am incredibly lucky to have so much love, fun and partnership in my life with Chris.

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coming and goings

We’ve been reading and gardening and watching birds. In the past few weeks in the yard we’ve spotted hummingbirds, bullocks orioles, ruby crowned kinglets, robins, lazuli buntings, finches, hawks, chickadees, wood peckers and blue gray gnat catchers.

We went to the trampoline park with friends and Lilah made it across the slack line.

We celebrated May Day with friends. Lilah and I made flower crowns.

We’ve been playing games like Hero Realms, 5 Minute Dungeon, Power Grid at home.

We’ve spent Sunday’s with my parents chatting and playing games. So enjoyable to spend time with family.

We went out to some springs in the Tooele desert looking for a ghost town but the road was being dozed so we stopped at the springs instead.

Lilah’s been doing some drawing and practicing French. Gavin’s been practicing German and Manga drawing.

We’ve begun a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for the kids and their friends (and some of us parents too!) at our place. It’s a big project but really fun and so good to see them all enjoying it together. Chris is running the game and has been putting a lot of effort into that planning and preparation with enthusiasm which I appreciate so much! We’ve met twice and the kids have so much fun. They defeated a giant and acquired weapons in this latest session which was a huge excitement!

Lilah started a cross stitch project- her first. It’s going to be a butterfly. She’s enjoying it so far.

We had a lovely Mothers’ Day celebrating with family. Lilah wrote me a poem and Gavin made me magical potions. I also got a picture of the three of us!

Gavin’s been mowing my parents’ lawn for them this season. This is his first go at the grass. He’s been very happy to help and to earn some money. Currently he’s saving for a Nintendo Switch game system to play Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

We are planning some rock hounding trips in the near future, when it’s less rainy.

It’s raining again today, like so many days lately. The kids are playing a made up game where Gavin is creating a character (like in a computer game) with Lilah listing the choices available and explaining how they work.

Gavin: “What are the available iris colors for eyes?”

Lilah: “Pretty much anything you can imagine.”

Gavin: “Okay, how about blue violet with green to contrast? Then I select “next”.”

Lilah: “So, next is body composition, like body shape and size.”

When they finished with this part they started telling a story with Lilah speaking for the world and Gavin speaking for the character he just created!

Lilah: “He tosses the collar that was around his neck for you to look at.”

Gavin: “I look at it.”

Lilah: “It’s one of those collars that’s made you know in the red maze to keep shape shifters from shape shifting.”

Gavin: “Or looks like that?”

Lilah: “No it is and then he turns into a bird, flies over to you, lands next to you and shape shifts back.”

Gavin: “I throw it down, I place it down in a spot where the dragon wouldn’t see, search for any more children.”

Lilah: “Uh, you see the girl again and another boy.”

Gavin: “Where’s the boy?”

Lilah: “The boy is climbing on the dragons back.”

Gavin: “Oh, then I….”

 

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