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.

art, unschooling

a few memorable moments from midsummer

We watched a quail family wandering nearby

and deer visiting

spotted tiny pumpkins and melon flowers, growing apples

picked apricots to give to Grandma

went to the library and came home with an armful each

played badminton

met friends at the waterpark

found this flower in the yard and wondered what kind it was

brought friends home for air-conditioned playtime

helped clean our old house to get it ready to sell

found that squirrels love apricots and honeydew tendrils, researched deterrents, found that predator urine may keep them away, or not

made cat memes


watched our grapes get bigger

saw a new kind of dragonfly

read so many books

went hiking with friends and on our own

made popsicles

tried blueberry lemonade

made a new Magic The Gathering deck with dad, then tested it

Gavin went to several teen/tween night games, where the kids organize things like capture the flag and go do it without adult supervision

went to Disneyland with Grandpa

visited the beach

went on a quick whale watching trip and saw a tangled humpback that the rescue team was working with and a non tangled humpback diving and breaching

celebrated Gavin’s 12th birthday with cupcakes, board games, Legos, and lasagna

sold a house

went to a friends play (The Three Musketeers)

went to a friends aerial acrobatics performance

(Lilah requested aerial lessons immediately upon hearing we were going)

found a new favorite graphic novel series (5 Worlds by Mark Siegel)

tried out some printmaking with a Tinkercrate set

built some new moving Lego machines and watched them wheel themselves around


Life is full of goodness.




art, books, unschooling

a trip to Joshua Tree & San Diego

We left Utah for a week and visited Joshua Tree National Park, a barely visited place for Chris and I; a new place to the kids.

There was climbing



Lilah took this one:

Gavin took this one:

There was lizard spotting, oasis hiking. The palm trees in the far right of the picture are at the 49 Palms Oasis, at the end of our hike.

The frogs were singing when we arrived at the oasis and there were birds settling in the for the night. We hiked back in the twilight and at the end, the moonlight.

We stopped at a free air art gallery of Noah Purifoy’s work near Joshua Tree, preserved since the artist’s death, to look at a huge variety of art made with things used and thrown away. Toilets, metal trays and tires were some of the most used objects in his creations.


Between Joshua Tree Park and San Diego we stopped through the Anza Borrego desert preserve to see wildflowers in bloom. We were a bit early for the full effect but it was still amazing.

In San Diego we visited tide pools nearby

and the beach.

We made forts out of driftwood

and watched sandpipers and cormorants

and played in the water


and collected shells.

While tidepooling we spotted lots of snails of various kinds

and hermit crabs and bigger crabs, and fish, tiny and medium, one itty bitty sea star, lots of sea grass and kelp, tops, a few cowrys, a shrimp, mussels and barnacles, a huge keyhole limpet,


lots of sea hares

and several nudibranchs of the Spanish Shawl variety plus one other I think was a Red Sponge nudibranch.

We saw a few seals swimming about offshore and then in La Jolla we visited their pupping beach and there were so many mom and baby pairs, swimming and sunning and enjoying life.

It was a lovely trip. We finished listening to Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan while driving.

When we got home were greeted by spring weather! The tree over our deck has burst into blooms and smells lovely and is bringing bees and butterflies to visit. There are so many visible buds and we’ve been eating outside every evening.


art, poetry, unschooling

around home

The kids have been doing some chores.


They’ve been playing MineCraft and Gavin has been researching how to learn Java (programming language) so he can make mods for MineCraft.

Gavin worked on his book and Lilah began a comic book about two cats.


We biked to the park and then Gavin went home for the foam swords and they battled.

We drove down to a raspberry farm where you can pick your own berries and pay by the pound to meet with friends and pick raspberries. We ended up with lots of yummy berries and Lilah decided that she likes raspberries after trying them. We all agreed that they tasted much better than what we can find in the grocery store.

One afternoon we biked our furthest trip with the kids yet, out to a park with giant cat sculptures.


We played a round of Above and Below, Gavin’s new game.

The kids played No Stress Chess.

We tie dyed some more things, pillow cases, a dress for Lilah, t shirt for Gavin, some sheets for Chris and I and a tablecloth for picnics and camping!

All four of went to a picnic at the park with our local unschooling group. There was baseball, soccer, a parachute, a playground, Pokemon Go, tree climbing, and so much more.

On my birthday evening we hiked up to Cecret Lake. The kids were interested in the wrongly spelled name. They climbed the rocks on the way up and we spotted a hawk eating its dinner about ten feet from the trail. At the top we spotted a bunch of salamanders in the lake and watched the sun set. It was beautiful.

We went to a concert in a park and the kids danced and danced. I wish I had pictures but it was dark so I don’t.

We went on a walk up City Creek Canyon nearby. Lilah and I dipped our feet in the water. The kids tossed rocks and tried to splash across the stream. We saw a little snake swimming and then a bigger snake with something in its’ mouth. When we got closer we saw it was swallowing a fish! It moved it’s mouth and a minute later the fish was just a lump in it’s belly and it was off to do other things.

On the way down we spotted a coyote up on a hill. It spotted us too and we looked at each other for thirty seconds or so until it trotted off, over the crest and out of sight.

We went to a Renaissance Faire, got dressed up and saw a jousting session, armored fighting, horseback gymnastics and we even petted some goats and pigs. We are looking forward to going again next year.

The kids have been reading a lot of Shel Silverstein poetry and many graphic novels. At bedtime Chris is reading Eragon and the Harry Potter series to them. Gavin has been doing research on Skylanders, a video game that he’s interested in both on the internet and by checking library books on the game out and has recently started doing many chores to save up to purchase some of them soon.

Today we went to the water park for a last visit of the summer and are getting ready to head to northern California to see grandparents and the beach this weekend. I can’t wait!


art, unschooling

Lucin & the Sun Tunnels

A few weeks ago we were in need of some bigger adventures. So we headed out west, into Nevada and the desert to visit a ghost town and a massive land art piece on the state border.

It was a rainy morning and the dirt roads were quite an adventure, even though they were drying when we arrived at our turn off the highway.


Well, we thought it was our turn off.  In discovering it wasn’t the road we were looking for we also discovered an old mining building to explore.  We spotted several lizards, big and small and had fun checking out the ruins.

Then we got back on the road and headed toward Lucin, a tiny ghost town. We explored a bit and saw the pond, a few houses, a concrete structure others say was a phone booth, a big hunk of rock that was mined out there called variscite and lots of paraphernalia. We all decided we’d like to do more ghost town exploring.

Further along we came upon a few sculptures that people visiting the Sun Tunnels have made or brought. One was made of Legos partially and the other was a structure that could be used as a shelter. It was a long walk from the road, past many lizards and several prickly pear plants.


After our fill of those, we ended up at the Sun Tunnels, a massive land artform created between 1973-76 by Nancy Holt.


Those tunnels are huge! They have holes in the tops to represent constellations and are aligned so that the rising sun can be viewed in the center of the tunnels during summer and winter solstices. It’s a fascinating experience to be both out in the middle of the desert and presented with a human-made structure. The light play inside and on the tunnels is beautiful.

The kids liked exploring from inside and outside. So did I!

Those lizards have it pretty good out there.

art, unschooling


They began by building with train tracks.  A whole village filled the floor!


I read from Wise Child to them over breakfast.

Then there was K’nex play and stuffed animal adventures.

Gavin read from The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem to us; Sea Story.


We made self portraits from tangram blocks.

Then we drew self portraits and added crayon, paint, oil pastels.

There was tumbling practice.


After lunch we headed off to The Museum of Natural Curiosity where we climbed, directed water through pipes and hoses, tested structures in earthquakes, played music, measured our heart rates, built with giant blocks, played on a zipline and on swings.

We came home, ate together and watched an episode of The Cosmos, which fascinated both kids and spurred all sorts of questions at bedtime.