Taking care

There was coolmathgames.com this morning.  And some My Little Pony watching and then afterward, playing.

They built with the marble maze some more.

Lilah made a card for her friend.  Gavin built with Legos.

I went on a long walk along the river by myself.  The kids didn’t want to go and I needed to get some exercise.  There were lots of birds enjoying the cool weather.

After lunch we listened to some John Coltrane from the Ken Burns Jazz collection while reading Ponyo.

I read some more of The Wizard of Oz.

In the evening we went to our family scouts group where the kids are working on computer coding.  Both of them had fun solving puzzles and Gavin was working on creating his own game at the end.  They really enjoyed it and I’m going to try to help find more opportunities for similar exploration.

We spent a good portion of the next day exploring the Jordan River parkway south of us, watching ducks, testing out new playgrounds, crossing bridges.


We saw a group of ducks take off and then later floating down the stream.  I pointed out to the kids that they looked like they were going fast.  Gavin answered that they were going fast because of the current.  A bit later we stopped at a pond and Lilah was putting a stick in the water.  Gavin asked her if she could tell how deep the water was.  I love taking them outdoors and watching them test things out and figure out how the forces of nature work by trying things rather than being told about things.

When we got home they played with Legos.  Gavin built a car for my phone.  First we tried just putting the phone on some wheels, but it rolled right off, so Gavin set out to make a phone holder on wheels.  Two minutes later it was complete. Wheeee!

There was reading at the pediatricians office, waiting for a vaccination.


At bedtime, after I left the room, Gavin came out and told me “Lilah needs help.  She’s sad.”  She’d been quietly crying.  I went in and climbed on Lilah’s bed and held her.  She cried and cried.  I asked her if she was just sad or if she was sad about something.  She didn’t answer.  So after a while she began to calm down and I told her that she could let me know when she was ready for me to go.  Eventually she told me that she’d been sad because I “did not very much funny stuff”, meaning when I was cuddling with her at bedtime she felt I wasn’t playful enough and she was sad because she felt I was more playful with her brother, and then she said that I could go.  So I told her I could do more funny stuff tomorrow if she reminded me and told her I loved her and left. I am grateful that Gavin let me know what was happening.  He doesn’t usually need to take care of his sister but when he does he does a good job.  I am grateful that I was able to just be with Lilah through her upset and eventually that she was able to put her sadness into words.

In the morning there was perler bead building.


3-D style, this time.  Gavin wanted to make something for a friend who likes minecraft so we made a minecraft style box with 6 pieces that fit together into a cube.  Lilah worked on a capital B for her friend.

Lilah made a necklace and crown for her stuffed bird.

Gavin’s friend came over and they played Tsuro while Lilah and I made macaroons.


Lilah tried out the keyboard, then walked away, then came back.  I think we’ll be hearing some music in the next few days!




Stories and Castles

There was marble maze building.  Castles, this time.  There was lots of negotiation for different colored pieces and special pieces.  “Why do you really need it?”  “I just do.  For going down to the bottom the faster way.”  “I deserve it.”  I don’t think we use that word much around here and I’m guessing they don’t have a good grasp of it’s meaning.  We should explore that.


I invited the kids to write stories with me today as it’s been awhile since we’ve done any writing aside from notes and the occasional list.  Lilah chose to use one of our And Then… story starter cards.

Gavin chose to write a collaborative story with me, each of us writing a sentence and passing it to the other.

I was impressed that we were able to enjoy the process for the most part.  Even though we don’t do a lot of writing and it’s difficult for both kids, it’s getting easier as we relax about it.  Lilah gets frustrated because she doesn’t know how to spell things.  Gavin gets frustrated because he has trouble thinking at the speed and in the patterns necessary for writing.  Today we wrote and it was okay and sometimes even fun.  I’m calling that a win.

There was more marble maze building and lego building and a game of Magic the Gathering.  Both kids decided to try shuffling for the first time.

I read the first three chapters of The Wizard Of Oz to the kids.

Lilah and I headed to her gymnastics class and Gavin played Magic the Gathering, testing out a new deck he built with Dad.

After that we hurried through dinner and then headed up the mountains to the Ice Castles in Midway, Utah.


This is the last night they are open as it’s been unseasonably warm and the ice is melting.  It was beautiful and though the kids were tired they had a wonderful time exploring with us and my sister and my parents.  They both said their favorite part was going down the ice slide.  Lilah and I got our pants wet sitting on this ice thrown with ice triangle decorations behind our heads.



Wizards, Origami and the joy of Movement

There were games of Wildcraft, a cooperative herbology game.

We listened to the beginning of the third Harry Potter book in the car.

We went up to Red Butte Garden again, for a shorter visit this time.

The chickadees were flitting everywhere and the squirrels were doing acrobatics.  The snowdrops were dropping open.


The kids loved exploring the paths and finding new ways around.  They ended the visit by rolling down the long hill near the entrance, always a favorite activity.


Lilah played with her paper dolls.


Gavin got out the marble maze and invited Lilah to join in.

There was some tag around the house.

Lilah and I worked on origami with her paper and books from the holidays.


In the evening we went to a special short performance by the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera Company.  It was wonderful and we even got to sit by some friends we ran into by chance.  Lilah loved the opera bits.

Gavin sat next to his buddy and they were both pretty still throughout the performance.  It started at the kids’ bedtime, really, so Gavin especially was tired as his internal clock gets him up at 6 or earlier most days.

Lilah was bouncing, kneeling, clapping with the rest of the audience, swaying.  She just can’t keep still.  I’ve slowly come to understand that movement is part of how she listens and thinks.  She reads on her back, swirling her feet around.  She tells stories while running around the table.  It’s part of who she is.  She had such a hard time in school last year with that.  We ask her to be still when we are concerned about it and she tries hard, but then she’s involved in whatever is going on and her body starts moving.  I’m so glad we can let her move as she needs now, rather than constantly cajoling and pleading and what occasionally happened at school last year, threatening her to be a statue.

She didn’t bother anyone aside from me occasionally worrying (because that’s what’s expected rather than because I actually thought there was a problem).  A few times I reached over and asked her to sit down a bit so she wasn’t blocking others’ view and she would sit down and then look at me, to check if I was upset with her.  I am glad to be in a place where I am smiling back when she checks.

Here’s a picture Lilah drew and cut of a bird about to eat a fish (sticker).



Antelope Island

This afternoon the kids and my parents and I took a drive to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.  It was cold and beautiful.


We saw a flock of red-winged blackbirds, a chukar, white capped sparrows, a magpie, a pair of owls, many bison, a coyote, and a rabbit in just a few hours.  We even saw a pair of bison right on the side of the road.


We explored an old ranch.  The kids practiced their calf-roping skills and Gavin spent several minutes trying to help a smaller boy figure out how to use the rope.

We explored old farm machinery including checking out a sheep shearing area.

They tried rowing a boat…. on land.


Both of them were really paying attention as my parents described how the lake used to be much fuller but because of the lack of rain and snow in recent years it’s incredibly low now.  Lilah wished for lots of rain to raise the lake.

We watched the bison move across the hill to a water trough through the scope.

The kids had to be coaxed into the car with hot cocoa, they were enjoying themselves so much.  We’ll have to go back soon.

The mountains almost looked like clouds in the distance.




Magnification, Plants & Flowers

We went to Red Butte Gardens and saw a few flowers, lots of trees and birds and old nests and snow and snowdrops and icy ponds and fish.


There have been many games of Magic the Gathering.


As always, there’s been some Lego building.

Gavin has been practicing using his magicians set.  “Now, don’t look while I get it preparated.”  “I think you mean prepared.”  “Yeah, prepared.  Don’t look.”


We’ve been using the new microscope pretty much every day.  We’ve looked at onion skin, carrot slices, pistachios, metal, sand dollar shells….  “Mama, look!  I’ve got the pistachio shell in focus!  Do you wanna see?”

Lilah went to gymnastics class and practiced her skipping on the beam and cartwheel dismount with help from her coach.

We brought in a small paper wasp nest and checked it out under the microscope.  It was interesting to see the back, where it was attached with a small protruding spot of wasp nest material.


We visited the art museum and enjoyed looking at paintings up close and then farther away.

The kids used magnetic letters to write a message about things they cherish.  (Owls and cats.  I added my own addition in the top corner: love.)  They signed their names too, but we pulled names off before we left.

They loved trying out a typewriter and looking at the Alice in Wonderland art and books.

I asked Lilah to make the same face as this ceramic sculpture had.  It was titled Breathless.

We talked about how some art represents abstract concepts with visual “stand-ins”, like a sculpture of morning we visited has a man lifting a cloth, a rooster crowing, a trumpet being blown all on top of a cloud.  I talked about the phrase “the veil of night” and Gavin informed me he didn’t like that phrase.  I told him that’s fine, but other people do sometimes use that visual concept; night as a curtain of darkness keeping the sun from shining through.  He was NOT impressed, as it’s very unscientific.

We admired a canvas filled with triangles of bright colors that looks haphazard at first glance but is actually very carefully planned out in fascinating patterns.  I pointed out a few and then the kids took over.  They hypothesized the artist began in the center since there is a simpler pattern in the very middle with only two repeating colors.


They worked on making flowers with wire and paint from Lilah’s craft kit.  We looked at some pictures of real flowers to figure out what parts they were working on and what other parts are and are for.

We went to a plant store and picked out some succulents and a large rubber tree for our living room.  The kids weighed in on what they liked and each picked a succulent.  Gavin is keen on the idea of having a plant in their bedroom, which almost never gets sunlight.  I told him I love the idea but we need to do some planning before jumping in.  Gavin pulled the wagon around the store while Lilah helped by carrying our basket of tiny plants.  They both liked looking at the fountains, the cacti, the sculptures and the plants.  Gavin asked why the plant signs often had two names on them so I explained latin plant names and common names.  They enjoy helping and I enjoy giving them opportunities to help.

As we walked out the door, an employee listened to me telling Gavin that if he thought he could manage the wagon out to the car that would be great, but if he needed help, to let me know so I could help or take over.  He graciously commented on the kids helping so much, my intent to let them help and how much they must be learning at the plant store.  It made me feel really great.  When we got home, Gavin asked what the Latin name of our new plant (a rubber plant) was… so I looked it up!  Ficus Elastica.  That’s a pretty great Latin name to start off with.  Here are the new succulents with the cactus Gavin chose on the right and the small two-tone that Lilah chose on the left.



Cuttlefish and Number Games

We went to the aquarium.  We saw lots of animals and tested out some new displays.  We spent quite a bit of time with the cuttlefish, observing them.  They are fascinating creatures, very curious.  They come right up to the glass to observe us and one even sort of puffed water at us several times.  We wondered aloud what the tube like part under their head does and I promised to check it out at home.  Later I found it helps to propel them through the water, along with their fin.  They can change color and release ink.  From watching them for awhile, it seems to me to be the spots on their skin that change color, not the underlying skin itself.  We know they like to cover themselves in sand and hide on the bottom of the tank, but today we only spotted swimming cuttlefish.  We also saw the Gentoo penguins, lots of sharks and unicorn fish and jellyfish.

We listened to Harry Potter on the way to and from the aquarium and Gavin asked to watch the movie so we started that when we got home.

The three of us played a Magic the Gathering draft. Lilah and I were on a team since drafting is so complicated that I don’t think she could do it on her own.  She was disappointed but ended up enjoying it and then leaving partway through the game, which is about right for her attention span.

Lilah read me an Elephant and Piggie book: My New Friend Is So Fun.

Gavin and I played Rat-a-tat-Cat and he won with only 4 total.  I had 7.

We headed to Classic Center for some roller skating. The kids practiced skating in a crouch, stopping, turning and jumping.  I practiced not hitting small kids veering wildly on scooters while trying to enjoy skating.  Next time I think we’ll go earlier and avoid the crowds.

Lilah played some Spanish games with number and color words.  They’d forgotten many of the ones they had learned already but they came back fast.  In one of the games she has to spell the words so the visual learning kicks in there.

We got out the Math Dice and Gavin taught me how to play.  It was fun to practice our addition and multiplication.  He’s so good with numbers!


Lilah performed a Chapstick experiment wherein she tried all of her chapsticks together, layer upon layer.  It was hilarious and I told her she smelled like a candy shop.  She’s still a bit sticky.


The kids played Carcassonne with my sister while I went for a short hike and then they played with Legos and jumped on the beanbag.


There was a soccer game in the hallway.


There’s always more fun to be had.  I keep learning that particular lesson, over and over!  It’s a good one.


Sunken Cities, Lego Cities, Evolution

Over the past week or so the kids have been playing Spore every morning lately.  So, the rest of the time the kids conversation is including evolution, mutation, tribes and herds.   (It’s a computer game where you start as a tiny sea-dwelling organism and slowly evolve and become a land-dweller.  You get to choose the changes, like type of eyeballs, type of feet, size of torso…, as you slowly level up and your creature changes and develops.)  Usually both of them are leaning together, planning what changes to make next, where to take their creature in search of food, shelter or allies.  Here’s Lilah in a rare moment without Gavin’s sage advice on hand.


Gavin built a Lego version of Carcassonne, complete with four civilizations, Japan, China, Vikings and Rome.  It has a volcano and a temple, four cities and a river that goes to the sea.  I’m impressed by his building, his creativity and his interest in geography, history and game mechanics.


We finished reading Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop and are continuing Prairie School.

We looked at a bunch of slides with the new microscope as well as some feathers from our parakeet.

Lilah went to gymnastics.  She even went up to the high bar, the one up higher than my head, swung herself around and up and did her “mermaids” on that bar before swinging down and dismounting.  I was impressed.


Gavin and Dad played civilization.

We built my new single-serving puzzle.

Lilah’s had a cough for weeks and the air has been really bad here so we’ve been staying in quite a bit.  Yesterday and today the air is finally clear again thanks to some rain and snow.

The kids have been playing with their Hero Factory modular robot toys.


Here’s a snippet of one of their stories:

G: “I’m following you Earth Leader. All right, Sandstone. Look this is the tricky part of getting down.”

L: “Yeah but remember Kai is good at climbing.”

G: “Yeah he’s good at climbing things but not slippery things like vines.”

 “‘Let’s go to the new city of Earthler which I’ve never seen’, Kai admitted.”
L: “Look, she’s fireproof and waterproof!”
We talked about sales tax because Gavin has been doing chores to earn money and is interested in spending it on a new Bionicle figure.  We discussed how much sales tax is, why it exists and what its for in general and specifically here in Utah.  Then we began talking about when it started and got into the Boston tea party and representation of the people in governments.  It was a pretty great bunch of discussions!
We picked up our Spanish practice again, going over food words, animal words and I learned how to say, “You are so sweet my teeth hurt.”
Gavin finished knitting his hat on the loom.
Gavin asked recently about Atlantis, if it’s real or not. So I explained that actually there are plenty if cities that have sunk for different reasons and we don’t know if Atlantis is one of those.  Afterward we looked at some great photos of sunken cities and read the brief descriptions of where they are, when they sank and if they know why.  It’s been something that has interested me since I was a kid, so it’s fun to see Gavin interested as well.  I’m glad to know and be able to pass on that there are infinite mysteries left in history, biology, physics just waiting to be discovered and puzzled over.
We went the the Museum of Natural Curiosity and climbed and read and spun and wondered and built and laughed.  My favorite part this time was watching the kids dress up as pirates and put on a play.