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.
We found a frozen waterfall in the hills in our neighborhood. It was lovely. We might go hunt other frozen waterfalls now that we’ve had a taste.
We’ve been working in the elf workshop, dreaming up and hammering together gifts for friends and family.
We’ve been going on walks, nearby and a little further out, with and without Juniper the cat.
We’ve been reading a lot. Gavin is working his way through The 13th Paladin series and Lilah has been working on reading the Snow Like Ashes series. I’m trying a few books at Gavin’s suggestion and keeping up with my library books in digital format. We’re listening to The Trials of Morrigan Crow series in the car, refreshing our memory of the first two in preparation for listening to the newest one.
The kids spent an hour on a walk one day coming up with a plan for a video game that was food themed. Lilah created a kingdom inside with an Alice In Wonderland focus and Gavin was working on a Pizza Factory basement level. It was so creative and fun and they put a lot of experience and thought into it together, just for fun. I was struck by how in this case, computers and games inspired creativity for them rather than stifled it.
We baked spritz cookies, vegan and gluten free for the first time. The kid enjoyed watching the shapes that come out of the strangely decorated plates and Lilah helped decorate them. I had to adjust the recipe on the spot as it just wasn’t working, not coming out properly, or holding together as well as not sticking to the baking sheet but with the addition of a bit of aquafaba they were working like they should.
The kids have both been working on their typing through a program called TTRS which is fairly enjoyable and they are making good progress! It’s a good thing to work on while at home more than usual.
Gavin is working on learning about the code language Java. He’s trying out Codecademy.com this time. Right now he’s working on running a lemonade stand in his course.
Lilah’s been spending a lot of time drawing. Here’s one of her latest creations.
We went snowshoeing in the mountains. There hasn’t been enough snow lower yet to do much snow play but we went up higher and found some nice fresh white stuff coming down and enough already there to play in. We found some cozy spots under the pines and spruces that felt like hideouts and wove between the trees and the stream where the kids enjoyed pushing bits of snow into the water and watching them tumble and very slowly dissolve. We spotted some rabbit and squirrel tracks along the way. Another day we went again with my parents and sister and Dave. There were fewer squirrels spotted but we did find a snowwoman.
We played the card game B.S. with they kids, where you bluff and call others bluffs. We ended up playing about 6 games because they enjoyed it so much. It was fun and we all laughed a lot.
On the winter solstice we took a walk and decorated some trees with dried orange ornaments that we’ll take down later.
We celebrated the holidays on Zoom this year due to the corona virus pandemic. It’s gotten worse here in Utah during the colder months and the holidays so getting together in person and inside is just not a smart move. So, we had a call with the local crew Christmas Eve, the Johnston family on Christmas and the Reynolds the day after. It was so good to see faces and hear voices of loved ones but so unsatisfying when I really want to be there and be able to hug people. We made a big batch of spritz cookies and molasses cookies and delivered them to my sister and my parents earlier to munch on while wrapping and unwrapping and zooming. We took a socially distanced walk in the hills with my sister, Dave and my dad after the calls on Christmas evening and looked out over the city, watched the sun set and the stars appear.
Gavin and Lilah are so tall now that Gavin is less than an inch shy of me. It’s a really weird but good experience to look at your kids grown as big as you. Gavin and I are sharing a flannel shirt we like. It’s weird to think that they will have grown so much during these months (years) of isolation that when we are able to see people again there will be a huge difference in their sizes.
We headed out to Utah Lake to see the ice there. It gets windy enough that often there are ice pushes, where ice is broken into shards and blown up toward or onto the shore in drifts and piles. It made for some beautiful textures! We walked out on the ice where it was thick and solid and we saw some raccoon prints in the ice. We discovered that rocks skidding across the ice there makes lovely exciting sounds too. When it gets colder the whole lake freezes and you can walk all the way across. Maybe we’ll get that chance sometime.
I’m anxious to tie dye and ice dye again. We didn’t do much this last season because of my knee injury so I am really looking forward to playing with the colors this spring. I’m working on listing the rest of the items we have already made in our Etsy shop PossibleOctopus so we will have room for more come warmer weather.
We are working on a new time organization method for our family, where we each set goals for the week and then check in about how we’re doing on those. We are hoping to help the kids practice taking responsibility for their own time, projects and goals more by giving them support in practicing those things. So far we’ve only just begun but it is exciting to hear about what things the kids want to accomplish or spend time doing.
The world is not puddle wonderful but icy wonderful here, at the moment.
We’ve been baking and reading. We’ve made about 6 batches of cookies since we’ve been keeping ourselves to ourselves. So far: peanut butter cookies with chocolate tops, spicy hot chocolate cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cranberry chocolate cookies, macaroons. Mmmmmm.
We’ve been playing badminton in the yard
Looking for early flowers and signs of spring
We’ve been visiting our sit spots from our cancelled nature classes and walking and visiting our sit spots in our own yard.
Gavin started some new chemistry experiments which I’ll write about separately soon.
Lilah has been drawing and making videos and working on her doodle crate projects. Here are a lantern and a finger knitted dragon.
They’ve been telling collaborative stories.
Gavin and Chris printed a mask. It got a little warped so they are planning to try again.
We started a family D&D night.
Chris started an adult D&D game by message service.
We’ve been doing some yoga, hula hooping and Just Dance on the wii, trying to stay active.
The kids and I have been practicing our fox walking skills and tracking skills. One afternoon at the cemetery we fox walked carefully enough to get within about twenty feet of a bunch of deer.
We’ve been visiting some of our most secret wild spots and trails so we can enjoy sun and birds and fresh air but not with virus risks.
We looked up on our walk and saw this nest! A hawk flew from it right overhead and it was beautiful. The nest was probably about 3-4 feet across. Huge!
We even found some pretty neat fossils on one excursion!
We have had video calls with my parents and sister and chatted for a couple of hours. Those were really great, not as great as actually hanging out in the same room but still fun.
I’ve been taking my tea out to the porch or deck to enjoy the birds and sun and spring air. I’ve been using iNaturalist and guide books and internet sites to identify plants and animals on our adventures. I’m still finding things to admire wherever I am.
We’ve been baking. Brownies, cinnamon cake, cookies with two colors of dough. YUM.
Lilah’s been playing her ukelele and writing songs. I adore seeing her play and create and enjoy.
They started their own spur of the moment Dungeons and Dragons style game with Lego dragons as characters. Here are their supply lists:
The supply lists read: (Gavin) 1 medium pack, 1 ruby, 1 bag of herbs 2 loaves of fresh bread, 1 cat, 1 awesome sword, 2 gun parts, 1 gun, 1 owl hunter. (Lilah) 2 medical packs, 2 rubies, 2 bags of herbs, 4 loaves of fresh bread, 2 cats!!!, 1 sword, 1 owl, 2 gun parts, awesome bow and quiver of ice arrows.
We saw Black Violin, a musical group that was amazing! The group has two classically trained violinists, a drummer and a DJ and they play everything from classical pieces done over in new ways to contemporary music done in more classical overtones. It was energetic and fun.
We’re listening again to The Thirteenth Child series by Patricia Wrede. It’s such a wonderful story, a personal exploration and growth story with a female protagonist who does things her own way and learns that there are always multiple ways of looking at things.
Gavin’s been going on his own to the library several times to get books on MineCraft building.
We celebrated my Dad’s birthday and tried to help him come up with ideas for a deck or patio.
Lilah’s been drawing, drawing, drawing. Here are an owl, Lilah’s version of herself as good (cat) and evil (cat), and a cat. I’m proud and happy to know that she has thoroughly learned that if she tries drawing something and it doesn’t come out the way she likes, she can just try and again and practice instead of getting incredibly upset by her first attempt.
The kids got out their hexbug sets and built an epic track for their bugs.
Gavin saved up and bought himself a copy of MineCraft Story Mode, a game based on the MineCraft world where he gets to work through big adventures.
It’s been snowing and springing, both so we’ve been trimming some plants, planting some beets and carrots in between shoveling snow. Gavin swept the deck on one of the warmer days so it’s clear for swinging and lounging.
We’ve been talking about garden plans this year. Gavin wants to try garlic again and Lilah wants lettuce. I’ve never grown either so we’ll see what happens!
Lilah began asking for egg hunts several weeks ago so we pulled down our plastic eggs and have had several hunts. Yesterday it was warm and dry enough to hide and hunt outside so Gavin set up a hunt with 60 or 70 eggs for us to find.
We went to an RSL soccer game with my parents. It was an awful game for our team, but fun anyway.
We spent a full Saturday with Gavin’s Odyssey of the Mind team, who have been preparing for months and months for the state competition where they competed in their problem, a skit they put together, designed and performed which met certain criteria and solved certain problems and in spontaneous problems where they work together to come up with solutions to puzzles/problems on the fly. Here’s Gavin in his costume, designed and put together by the team:
He is a soldier in a Star Wars world. Here is Gavin putting together part of his team’s set:
They had a lot of fun and it was great to watch all their work over the last several months come together!
We had an egg hunt party with a big bunch of friends. The kids hid the eggs and then later found eachother’s eggs, opened them and enjoyed their spoils. We put balloons in the ones we brought and there was a whole half hour of balloon music, as the kids blew them up and then slowly or quickly let the air come out and made loud, weird and awful sounds. So fun!
Lilah has been doing silk aerial classes for a while now and sometimes Gavin joins in. She loves it! They give the kids a lot of freedom to play and enjoy but also support to learn new moves. She was recently invited to participate in a several month long prep class to prepare a routine to perform for an audience and she turned it down. Sometimes I wonder if she will regret not taking opportunities like those later on but I am happy that she feels comfortable with herself and us enough to say, no, I like to have fun but not to compete.
We started getting the local newspaper delivered. Mostly it’s me reading it, but Gavin will sometimes look at an article or two. We felt it was a good time to have a more neutral source of news than online news available in the house and especially about local issues that we can connect with more easily. The kids have been very much enjoying the crosswords, sudoku (which they learned to love from Grandpa) and comics. Most of our recent lunches have seen them both working on crosswords or sudoku at the table.
We’re at a new bend in our unschooling journey, trying to re calibrate how much to stay home, go out, meet with friends, do as a family. It seems every season we have to balance these things again, and after years I’ve come to see this as an ongoing process not an end goal I still haven’t mastered. We are trying a few new group meet ups and trying some new activities on our own and trying to find that sweet spot where we get enough time with other people as well as enough time to do the important work of being at home. The current plan is aim for two days a week at home, one just at our house and one to take trips or adventures as a family, two days for meet ups and friend gatherings and one day that can go either way.
All of us went to a science night at the library. They showed us a whole lot of really great experiments including this fire tornado. Lilah built a leprechaun trap for St. Patrick’s Day. We did not snare any leprechauns.
We spent several afternoons walking and scooting along the Jordan River Parkway, spotting birds and muskrats, watching the river.
Both kids worked on sewing a gift for a friend who is turning two.
The kids and I are very interested in wild foraging so I have been slowly trying to find resources to help us learn about what can be eaten or used and how. It’s slow going to find good sources. Gavin in particular is interested in mushroom hunting which I’ve never done.
I’ve been talking about and watching videos about brain development, adolescence and emotions and their purpose with the kids quite a bit, working on being more self aware and having strategies for dealing with hard moments. They are both growing so much in their understanding of the world and themselves.
Gavin’s been talking about and beginning work on designing a Lego set that could be voted on by fans and if supported enough, eventually could become a Lego set sold by the company. He was thinking about a Ranger’s Apprentice set or a Hayao Miyazaki movie set.
All four of us went to the Holi celebration Festival of Colors near us, with Indian food, colored powder to throw at others, into the air, music, yoga. We also enjoyed seeing the llamas and peacocks who live next to the temple.
Three of us went cross country skiing. It was the kids’ first time and they loved it even though we were only out for an hour and a half and spent most of our time on the flat trails. They asked to go again the next day! It’s expensive and we already had plans but I’m hoping to go again at the same place (with lots of flat areas and rentals right there) before they close for the season. It’s been years and years since I’d gone and it was really fun to go again and to introduce the kids to it. Their favorite part was a tiny hill that they could go up in a few strides and then slide down. They did that ten or twenty times at the end of our ski before turning in our gear and heading home.
We spotted the first butterflies of the season this week! An orange beauty and a black beauty!
Gavin searched for new computer games to play. He’s interested in other things like Plants vs. Zombies or MineCraft. He loves to play Civilization so maybe we’ll look for games in that vein.
We tried a new recipe for peanut butter chocolate bars few days ago. It’s not quite what we hoped for so we tried another today. It was the right taste but a little too gooey, so next time we’ll try it with more crushed rice crispy cereal in it.
Lilah put the harness on Luna and then on Star. Neither of them liked it much. She read more of her book about clicker training cats.
We walked to the library in the rain to return a handful of books and check out several new armfuls of books plus a dvd called The Secret Lives of Cats.
A deer left a gift in our backyard, an antler was sitting by the rose bush today. We did a bit of research and found it’s shedding season, when the deer lose their antlers for the year and begin to grow new ones.
We all watched a video of a bald eagle chick hatching.
We made sushi and the kids did a ninja course with friends.
Chris read Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk to the kids.
We’ve been working on getting the garden area ready for raised boxes by digging and tilling and pulling out rocks, boulders and so much glass. Here’s some of the various “buried treasure” we’ve unearthed:
I did a huge amount of research about covers to keep the deer out of our raised garden beds. Also, we ordered SO MUCH DIRT to fill our new boxes. The kids were amazed dirt costs so much.
We made brownies and played Race For the Galaxy.
Gavin and his friends swapped MineCraft videos to watch, places to download mods and ideas for making their own character skins.
We played outside with cut bamboo.
We watched the deer visit, rest and munch in the yard.
experimenting in MineCraft with new buildings and animals and researching how to make machinery that functions in the game,
loving the kitten,
painting Lilah’s wolf mask from her Doodle Crate gift,
building with Legos (Gavin’s been doing a lot of research and then designing and building. Here he has built a house with a hinging wall that opens, and four poster bed, book shelf, lamp and dresser inside. The next day he added another level with a balcony.)
We’ve been puzzling,
spending more time with friends,
waiting in terribly long lines to participate in the caucuses in our state,
watching flowers begin to bloom in our neighborhood.
Lilah asked me about Hindi after we talked about languages other than English and how a language with different characters works and we’ve made a plan to do some learning in that area.
We went to a Hindu temple in our vicinity for a celebration of Holi, a Hindu spring festival which involves throwing and wiping colored powder on each other. It was so much fun and the kids loved it! I have fond memories of the Holi celebrations I took part in in India many years ago and it was so satisfying to share with my family. We’ll definitely go again!
At my parents house we dyed eggs and hunted eggs and enjoyed each others’ company on Easter.
We listened to Rolling Thunder In The Mountains by Scott O’Dell in the car and enjoyed that quite a bit and I’ve been reading The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle to them, a chapter here, a chapter there. It’s one that’s new to me as well as the kids, which is fun.
We went to the hot springs for a soak and a swim. It was rainy today and when we got into the pool it began to hail! We’d brought an umbrella and so we huddled under that in the warm water and enjoyed watching the hail stones plop and splash in the water and make bubbles. After the hail let up the kids went into the cooler pool and there was lots of splashing and chasing and floating on pool noodles.
The kids played with mixing up some gooey substances with their latest Tinker Crate.
Here’s a post about mid-late December of last year.
Grandma picked up the kids for a candle making date at her house!
They played Settlers of Cataan, and then they made up new rules and played it again,
We had friends over.
We watched the kitten climb the holiday tree.
We worked on top secret holiday projects (the kids made bath fizzes, choosing from our essential oils collection after smelling all of them, the ones I use to make my own deodorant and perfume, which I thought was both interesting and sweet: jasmine, sweet orange, lemongrass.
The kids made dried flowers/leaves mandala sun-catchers. Lilah made stationery sets with adorable pictures, mostly of cats.
We made orange and peppermint flavored chocolates in molds of owls, hearts and castles. Gavin worked on his book, and gave a few coupons for copies when it’s ready.
Chris and the kids picked out projects to make on raspberry pi computers. They put together and coded an own-cloud and a motion-triggered camera to take pictures of pets. It was really fun watching them working together on them, eagerly reviewing options, typing, proof-reading, problem solving.
We sledded with my sister
and shoveled lots of snow.
We went to an animation presentation at the library with friends.
We read. (Yes, we do a bunch of this and yes, it’s worth mentioning several times in the same post.)
They worked on Mad Libs, chatting about adjectives and nouns while giggling.
We visited a trampoline park, the first time since Lilah broke a leg when she was five. They were careful and safe and had a wonderful time and were never still enough to get a clear picture of.
Here is a project I worked on for a holiday gift for Chris: an embroidered version of Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle:
We celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day, longest night of the year. We lit and used candles instead of electric lights, made pomander balls out of clementines and cloves, made a lasagna for dinner and had a little dance party in our warm house.
We celebrated Christmas (early) with my parents and sister and baked cookies covered in red hots and enjoyed each other.
We celebrated Christmas (late) with Chris’ parents and read books and played games and enjoyed each other.
There was much, much more goodness, but this is a bit of what we were up to.
He started out writing his book in pencil and was doing really well but then began to slow down, as he became frustrated by mistakes and time and the constraints of paper. I asked if he’d like to type the rest and he was enthusiastically for it. We’ve been avoiding this as hand writing is one of those things that I believe is a handy thing to feel confident at and has slowly, slowly been getting easier as the trauma of trying to write in school fades. However, it was getting to the point in his book project where he wasn’t feeling good about the book project but obviously wanted to keep going. Problems like, he doesn’t like the mess it makes when he needs to erase and he decides, paragraphs in, that he wants to add character descriptions in the beginning and similarly change the tense from past to present all add up to he feels overwhelmed and unable to continue on paper. So, I typed up what he’d written, letter for letter, all mistakes included and he began fixing things and adding to it and the last two days I’ve heard, “Mama, can I work on my book?” and “I think I want to work on the next part.” Wow! What a difference that is from the way it was before, when he had an idea to write about and was so excited and started and then got so mad and frustrated that he would cry and yell and tell me he “couldn’t” and “was too scared”! I’m enjoying his excitement and perseverance and I’m enjoying feeling proud of myself for asking and answering the question, “How can I help him succeed?” I don’t care if he chooses to stop because he wants to, but I certainly do care if he chooses to stop because he doesn’t know how to or feel comfortable proceeding even though he wants to go on. I think we’ve turned a corner.
Yesterday, in the middle of writing he decided he needed to make a map of the area in his story and then used that in his writing. He asked what a good name for a capitol city would be and Lilah suggested Capitol Reef and he thought that sounded good so long as it was by water.
We also discussed how many words are on a page and how that can be different based on so many things, paper size, letter size, margins, etc. He’s still deciding how he wants to lay it out.
We’ve been drawing (cats, kittens, occasional porcupine or Invader Zim)
enjoying lots of time playing with friends,
going to see Art Dog, a play at our neighborhood theatre with my sister and parents,
putting up the holiday tree,
swimming. The kids are getting better each time we go and they ask to go to the pool so they can “practice their swimming” and then they do! Gavin is getting better at moving his arms smoothly and kicking with his legs close together. Lilah is getting better at turning her head to breathe while she’s moving. It’s amazing to see what learning a new skill can look like when it’s accomplished all on their own interest, planning and work. They are really enjoying their progress as well as ownership of their process.
There was a twilight hike for me,
chocolate bark making (and subsequent eating),
pop up card making (she pulled out our pop up card book, pored over it, and then asked for materials and away she went),
cooking (red lentil dal),
working on rehanging our basement door (It’s finished now and I am relieved and proud!),
ice skating for the first time for the kids and the first time in at least ten years for me,
knitting for me.
Our days have been full to the brim with goodness. There is so much to see, learn and share. We’re never lacking for things to do or ideas of things to pursue.
We spent most of our day with other unschoolers at a Halloween Carnival at the park! There were lunch and treats, crafts and games, running and exploring, costumes and friend making. It was lovely!
Our cookies were a hit and the kids made lantern jars and decorated masks. They raked leaves and played in the trees and by the stream. Lilah hula hooped and I painted her whiskers and nose and Gavin helped a bunch of younger kids try to get a ball down from a tree with a giant branch. For me, it’s the moments where kids of all ages come together in some spontaneous purpose or play that really make my heart full at our gatherings. There’s just something so special about it!
Gavin hit it off with several other kids around his own age and that was huge for him and for me as he’s been struggling with getting through that first barrier of introductions moving into play and fun. I think he’s at a hard age to make new friends. Anyway, he made several today and I’m so excited for him! I think he’ll feel so much better about going to events if he’s friends with more of the kids in the group already!
On Halloween we went over to my parents’ house where we carved jack-o-lanterns.
Then we dressed up and went out trick or treating around their neighborhood, ending at their house! After that the kids picked out a few pieces of candy to eat and picked out all their milk chocolate for Grandma and we headed home. The Great Pumpkin came and took their leftover candy and left Gavin a Minecraft toy and Lilah a pony toy.
This year, Gavin dressed up as a ranger from the beloved series Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan and Lilah dressed up as a cat. Chris and I dressed up as Vikings.
While we were out trick or treating we came to a house where there was a still figure sitting on the porch who began to move and make spooky noises as we approached. This kids stopped immediately. We told them that it was okay if they wanted to go up and trick or treat. They said they didn’t want to; they were scared. So we walked to the next house. After that Chris and I were talking about how great it is that they don’t feel obligated to do things they are scared of and feel fine saying so. I mean, I do want them to be able and willing to do scary things if they want to or need to, but otherwise, it’s good to recognize that something is uncomfortable and feel okay saying that and stopping whatever it is. Seems like an appropriate thing to talk about around Halloween.