It has been a long, long time since I’ve written here. Life has been carrying on in new directions, good ones and hard ones. We’ve had a bunch more birthdays, several trips and many days of time together with loved ones.
Lilah met a fox.
Gavin got his driver license.
Chris & I celebrated twenty years married.
We got close to some sea lions.
We bought a house and sold a house.
We enjoyed some very precious visits from family we don’t get to see often.
We did some swimming and boogie boarding in the ocean.
Lilah and I started learning lyra as well as continuing with aerial silks.
This week, Lilah’s been working on playing music, drawing and making a costume, usually supervised by a kitty.
Gavin’s been working on a writing class, making a costume and writing a story for a dungeons and dragons character.
We made ghillie suits to camouflage us while getting close to animals and playing stealth games in our outdoor survival class. Here’s Gavin hiding in plain sight under his ghillie and then unveiling himself and the whole class hiding and then standing.
We took an amble to see some colored leaves in the canyon.
Sometimes when one of them takes out the trash, the other goes along to continue chatting together. They like each other. They care about each other’s opinions.
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.
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.
We took a little over a week to explore part of Florida.
It’s cold at home and much warmer there which was a nice reprieve. The kids had never been to Florida and Chris was traveling to Sri Lanka for a work retreat. It is so incredibly hard to be left behind when he travels internationally because I love traveling and have always wanted to travel more of the world and have had not any opportunity to do so in twenty years. It’s also hard because I also become a single parent for that time and have to be on duty 24/7 with all the needs of the kids and household. I’m lucky to be in a relationship where we are partners and do our best to share the load for most things so it’s a big deal when he’s away. And to be completely open, being a “stay at home mom” is hard. So hard! I love it and want to do it and am so lucky to be able to choose to but there is no validation, respect, appreciation, recognition for all the things you do, or all the progress you make or the things you really try hard at or excel at. It feels so lonely and so unseen and so endless. There’s no time off or work hours or bonuses or kudos. I miss when I had people who “saw” what I did and how well (or not) I did it. There’s a tiny bit of that from other moms and friends, family and my partner but it’s simply not the same. And our culture has no other value system for accomplishments, time spent, effort that what is there in school or work. Anyway, that’s a whole other post about my personal experience with the isolation of being a full time parent and home educator, how difficult it is and how I struggle and make do.
So, to keep myself from going mad, we went to Florida while Chris was away. He made it easier on me by getting us a great place to stay and flying out with us to get us settled in. We stayed in Cape Coral which we learned is the burrowing owl capitol of the world! Whoa! Gavin’s face lit up when I told him that. We looked around but had no luck but it so happened the Burrowing Owl festival was going on while we were there. Of course we had to go. The festival itself was fun, sort of like a fair. They had some rescued owls of different types and a butterfly pavilion.
Here are some pictures Gavin took of the owls at the festival:
Gavin says they’re an albino pygmy owl, a great horned owl and a barred owl.
But they also had a bus tour to see burrowing owls! We signed up and went with twenty other much older folks to see owls. We learned that in Cape Coral, they mark burrows. So, just like that, our owl spotting opened up! We stopped at several burrows and some were occupied, some weren’t and some the owls were inside and not visible as it was warm and the middle of the day. We learned that CC owls are the only ones who dig their burrows as the sand is soft enough there. In other places they use other animals’ old burrows. They were pretty cute little owls! There was usually one out guarding the entry to the burrow though at one burrow we saw both. After our tour we took our own tours and found many owls including a pair only two houses down from where we were staying! Wow! They are nearly invisible so without some serious location help or the markers they put around each we likely never would have spotted any even though there were thousands of active owl burrows in Cape Coral.
We went to the beach and the beach and the beach. Fort Myers beach was warm and shallow and the kids had a lot of fun paddling around there.
Sanibel Island was beautiful and there were lots of shells to discover but it was quite crowded and hard to find parking.
Lovers Key was amazingly gorgeous though we got attacked by tiny biting insects at dusk. If you go, do not stay till dusk and do not stop at the washing station! We spotted osprey nests and enjoyed the beautiful white sand and turquoise water. Here’s our picnic spot:
And here some shots from the beach:
We headed to the Everglades twice. Once we walked and once we biked the paths. There were so many birds and fish and turtles and alligators! We saw tiny baby alligators hanging around their moms and big ones submerged so they looked like rocks in the canals and big ones sunning themselves on the side of the path. We saw blue herons and white herons and night herons and ibis and spoonbills and wood storks and anhingas and hawks and tiny diving herons. We spotted a pair of nesting anhingas with babies. It was beautiful. The kids loved biking there and it was fun to yell, “Stop, there’s an alligator!”
We headed to Manasota Key to look for sharks teeth. We found so many! It was really fun figuring out how and where to look for them and then picking them up. We found tiny ones and pretty good sized ones and some were black, some were golden brown and black and some were almost bluish or orangish tinted in places. It was also an excellent place for shelling! Lilah loved looking at the shells for treasures. Gavin spent several hours looking for all the butterfly clam shells he could find in different colors. He theorized that they are different colors in different places. We even spotted some butterfly clams alive in the sand and we watched them bury themselves back up after getting washed off by the waves.
Here’s Gavin searching for butterfly clamshells:
And hunting for sharks teeth:
We admired the patterns of the coral on this big hunk:
Here’s some of our haul of treasures from the beaches:
Lilah learned the names of a bunch of shells we’d never encountered before.
We passed a bunch of mini golf places while driving so that was on Gavin’s wish list. He chose a pirate themed place and we went there one afternoon and enjoyed the course. They had an old smugglers ship turned into a hole which was pretty neat. They even had alligators we could feed. So, of course we did! We put the kibble between pins on a fishing pole and lowered it down and the alligators caught it and ate it. It was fascinating to watch. They looked like they didn’t even notice but then suddenly would jump and catch the food. They hung onto the end of the string for a while after catching the food too. I wondered how many golf balls they’ve eaten. No pictures were taken of the feeding because there was too much fencing in the way to get a decent shot.
I did a lot of yoga to stretch, strengthen and relax my body and mind. It helped ease my intense feelings a bit and felt good.
There were lots of little lizards living by our place, running up the trees and in the trash cans and on the windows. They were fun to watch. One evening we spotted a bunny grazing at the side of our place in the evening. The kids enjoyed watching it munching and then bounding away.
It was really fun to be in very different climates and biomes than we usually enjoy at home. It was fun for me to remember trips to Florida to visit my grandparents a long time ago.
While driving around lately we’ve listened to Hellen Keller’s autobiography: The Story Of My Life, Changeling by Molly Harper, The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert. Now we are listening again to Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi in preparation for the second book coming soon.
Lilah is already talking about our next trip to Florida! I’m not sure we’ll go again soon as there are so many other places to explore but it was a good week.
We tripped up to Oregon to go to our first unschool conference and see friends and the ocean.
The conference had so many fun activities but was kind of hard for us introverts to make connections without knowing anyone beforehand. Lilah spent most of her time in the art room, drawing, painting, making a masquerade mask, a leather gauntlet and bracelet. Gavin spent most of his in the game room. Gavin did a self defense workshop. Chris and I got in a few hours of listening to panels and speakers as well as accompanying the kids. Most of the speaking was geared toward new or prospective unschool parents, which was bit disappointing. It was so nice to be surrounded by educationally like minded families. Lilah was delighted to see many other kids sporting tails and ears and both fit right in with their candy colored hair. It seemed to me that if we went again, we’d do well to find friends to go with or wait until the kids are teens in desperate need of other teen group connections.
Seeing friends was fun. The kids picked up right where they left off, playing games, petting cats, swimming and putting on impromptu performances at the open air amphitheater in the Rose Garden. Chris made a new friend at the garden.
The ocean was lovely. I terribly awfully wish we lived near it. It’s my happy place, along with many other nature scapes. We dug in the sand and watched birds and crabs and spotted animals in tide pools. We also found a local shipwreck that is now part of the beach scenery at Fort Stevens.
During all of our driving hours we listened to The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and got a good start on a new favorite: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.
Chris went to a work retreat for a week in Italy so the rest of us drove to California and spent the week in San Clemente so I didn’t spend that time writhing in the throes of jealousy.
The beach was a short walk away from where we stayed and we spent many hours there. The kids built forts out of sand, driftwood and whatever else they found. I did a little tidepool exploration but the tides weren’t the best during daylight hours and the kids weren’t wanting to do that much with me anyway. The kids tried boogie boarding and Gavin loved it. He watched other people and he tried some different things and figured out some pointers about how to accomplish what he wanted. By the second afternoon he was coasting in with the waves, lying on the board. Lilah was a bit cold and scared and so she let the board trail around behind her and tried kneeling on it in the very very edge of the wet sand as opposed to going out into the surf like Gavin.
Lilah enjoyed looking for shells and she found quite a few including a nice abalone. She was very pleased to find different kinds and knows quite a few of their names.
We drove to a few other beaches and explored different areas. Crystal Cove park was a really fun area with rocks and empty sandy beach right next to each other.
One day we took a ferry to Catalina Island and went on a semi-submersible boat tour that got us up close and personal with fish. It was amazing! I wished I had done more research about what to do on Catalina because we would have loved to explore further and to be able to kayak or paddle board there but without planning ahead and with only one adult, it just wasn’t to be on this trip. We did go mini-golfing which was fun, including lots of “cheating” as named and done by Lilah, happily done and happily accepted by the rest of us. We took 45 minutes to see the museum there, showing lots of historical pictures and artifacts from Catalina as well as an exhibit by Dale Chihuly, who makes amazing glass pieces. My favorite though was his paintings which looked to me like blueprints for his glass and they included graceful shapes and colors and painted footprints. I always enjoy seeing physical evidence of the artist in the art.
I have it so easy compared to all the solo parents out there. The trip was hard, reminding me of how long it takes to get ready when it’s only me doing it, how the kids always need things at the same time when they are tired and out of sorts and I need to be preparing dinner at the same moment. I desperately missed my partner in life, planning, fun, relaxation and clean up.
We noticed different patterns in the sand, how the color of the water changes, hermit crabs in their pools. We noticed egrets and pelicans fishing and floating. We noticed so many anemones and mussels and lots of tiny fish in the rocky areas. We noticed trees and plants near the water and further away. The kids particularly like palm trees because they are a novelty… there are none in Utah. They decided the palms look like fireworks.
We played Dragon Farkle at our home away from home and the kids played MineCraft while I did some yoga every morning.
We saw this parking meter and all agreed it was a great face.
On our last day, I collected some things and started on a seaside mandala and then Lilah joined me. It was fun to plan and collect and create. Gavin read a book while we worked on that and then we started the long journey home.
We spent most of the drive out and back listening to the Tuesdays at the Castle series by Jessica Day George. We are really enjoying it. Each book so far has a day of the week, in order, title so the kids spent several minutes coming up with possibilities for the two remaining days that don’t already have titles.
It’s good to be home and back together again as a family.
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.