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out and about on our own

The kids got new bikes from the bike collective that gets used bikes, fixes them up and sells them or offers them to community outreach programs. The kids are now each the proud owner of a new-to-them Diamondback! Thanks so much to my sister for helping us narrow down the choices and for traveling out to check out the bikes with us! One has road tires and one has mountain tires and they are both so thrilled to be able to ride faster and with more ease. It’s been really fun taking them out as they enjoy it so much and we can go much farther and faster. We rode about seven miles with my sister this week.

We took a drive to Fish Springs to look for ghost town remnants and see the Wild Refuge (as it’s termed on a sign on the way there). As a bonus we got to drive past the geode beds, where Lilah dearly wants to go soon, and through some groups of wild horses which are amazing creatures to watch. Sometimes they come fairly close.

We didn’t see any of the old houses in the area so we’ll have to check again. We did see several blue herons, egrets, lots of redwing blackbirds and yellow headed blackbirds as well as ducks and swallows. It was a fun place to bird watch! We did spot fish in the pools as well.

We drove down to Chicken Rock. I’m not sure why it’s called that because it certainly didn’t look chicken-like. You can see it off in the background here, a bunch of tall rock pieces jumbled together.

But we went to find some abandoned farm buildings and we certainly did. One was still mostly standing though it was more of a trapezoid shape than a rectangle.  Gavin and I had a conversation about whether or not it used to be straight angles and how a building shape could change over time.

Nearby there were some huge old willows overlooking a pond. There were so many birds and we even spotted six big frogs. I used my telephoto lens to get a close up of a few guys or gals. I think they were northern leopard frogs. We found some yellow flowered violets (I’ve only ever seen white or purple) on our travels as well as some old and decrepit cattle enclosures and some big feathers.

On the way home we listened to our audiobooks, stopped to check out a few tempting spots and saw a big hawk dive straight into a juniper tree and emerge a second or two later chased by two ravens. The kids guessed the hawk was after the raven’s nest in the tree.

We are making plans to go hunt some fossils and some geodes and possibly obsidian in the near future. We are enjoying making the most out of our free days and the spring weather to go places we’ve never ventured out to before as well as enjoying time at home, gardening, reading, playing online with friends, watching the spring flowers bloom.

 

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Florida

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.

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Spring!

We’ve been biking,

visiting our new neighborhood library,

playing with friends,

baking pumpkin bread,

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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,

reading,

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.

Life and life learning is good.

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our newest biker

Lilah’s now moving on two wheels!

Gavin learned to ride a bike several years ago through a rather grueling process where I would squat and run behind him while holding his bike up while he practiced peddling and balancing. I tried holding the front instead and it didn’t give him the control and independence he needed to progress. It was scary for him, though less scary than trying without me holding the bike. It took several weeks of that and he got it and has been happily biking since. I have at least once or twice referred to that process as the worst part of parenting because of the amazingly awful pain of running while squatting and holding up a bike with a biker who’s going at good speed. It’s seriously not a good time, though of course worth it for the fun of the kid being able to ride.

Lilah has been riding on training wheels for years and last summer I thought she was ready to ride without them and we tried a few times the same way but it was hard and scary and neither of us were very motivated to keep going.

The weather has just turned the corner on warm enough here to want to be out and so I decided to ask if she’d like to try a different approach that my sister who is practically on a bike most of the time suggested. Lilah kept her feet off the pedals and just pushed along and balanced. She was comfortable with it because she could stop whenever and go as slow or fast as she wanted. It was tough going up hills and not very practical at first even on flat ground but she really started practicing going down a gentle hill at the park by us. Today she begged to go “balance biking” and so we all went and halfway through she started putting her feet on the pedals and going!

She’s so proud and I’m so excited about bike trips together and I’m thrilled that we figured out a less scary way for her to get the hang of it!

Woohoo!

Biking and picnics here we come! Gavin asked me to take this picture of his “proud my sister can ride a bike face.”

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another full week

We visited the Treehouse Museum.  There was flag designing, castle play, illuminated manuscript making, a sword in the stone, and much more.

We went to the library, enjoyed reading in their inviting kids lounges and brought an armload of books home, most of which were read that very day!

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We found a new playground and tried it out thoroughly.

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Lilah and I baked Toffee Cinnamon Bars and then we watched Song of the Sea, a new favorite movie.

They’ve played My Little Pony Life, Puerto Rico, Magic the Gathering, Carcassonne, and Candy Land together in the mornings.

We got out some instruments and played music.  Lilah made a rug on a square loom with stretchy loops for her dollhouse.

Lilah and I practiced for her upcoming gymnastics meet.  She’s working on her beam routine at the moment.

Gavin and I biked to a playground while Lilah and Chris walked.   Gavin’s really enjoying biking and Lilah’s so close to being able to go on her own but it hurts so much to run in the crouch that it takes to support her that I haven’t gotten around to doing it with her recently.  I think that might be my least favorite part of parenting; running in a crouch while holding a bike with a nervous kid on it.  Incredible pain.  Still very much worth it though.

We took a very short walk up on Bonneville Shoreline Trail to play Ingress, stopped at a playground on the way there and then picked up a friend afterward and came home to play elaborate storylines filled with queens, invisibility cloaks, potions and special royal bathrooms.

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We did some cooking and talked about how to add fractions like 3/4 and 1/8.  We drew pictures to figure it out on the whiteboard.

They did some building with Gavin’s physics set.

Chris and the kids went to Spiral Scouts and tried playing different instruments.  Gavin’s favorite was the ukelele and Lilah’s was the didgeridoo.

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There was roller skating down the hall, crashing (kids were fortunately not hurt enough to stop skating back and forth) and sometime soon we’ll get to work together to patch up a small hole in the wall. There’s a lengthly list of home repairs and maintenance that needs doing… at some point soon I should knock a few things off with the kids help.

We finished Little House in the Big Woods and immediately began Little House on the Prairie.  They are very much enjoying those stories.

We took a trip up the canyon and visited Hidden Falls.

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Here they are looking at the waterfall.

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The kids loved it and afterward when I asked them if they wanted to climb further and find the top of the fall they said yes so we hiked up further and discovered the stream and the pines and the top of the fall.

It had snowed and so the kids ate quite a bit of “fresh snow” on the way.  We saw squirrels and old dead trees tattooed underneath the bark with squiggly lines from beetles and butterflies, orange, white, yellow.

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On the logs, the kids noticed there were different sized squiggles and wondered if they start small and grow or if they were different beetles.  We talked about climbing safely in steep places and how to cross streams on log bridges.  It was beautiful!  On the way down we spotted a “cave” made by a huge boulder perching on top of several other boulders and decided to check that out.

Here’s the view from inside.

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They each wrote a letter to Grandma & Grandpa.  It was stressful for Gavin but the results were good.  His handwriting and spelling are both much improved but how he feels about writing hasn’t changed.

And, after much asking and wishing for weeks, we made it to the skating rink.  When we arrived they had a mist over the rink and were flashing strobe lights with the main lights off which made Lilah a bit nervous.  But she ended up enjoying it and then they turned the lights back on and the music back down and we had a wonderful time.  They can do tricks like turning around that I can’t now.  Here they are dancing and doing tricks in the center of the rink.

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Out & about

Up to Red Butte Garden.

Lilah took along a pen and notepad and drew some observations and fascinations.

Exploring.  Enjoying.

Off to Kingsbury Hall to take in American Tall Tales by the youth theatre group.  It was a fun performance and we sat on the second level for the first time, which the kids were excited about.  My favorite part was that they included part of Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett, a tall tale we’ve read many times in Steven Kellogg’s book, where a little girl is more powerful than all her brothers and sets off to find challenges in the wild.

A haircut for Gavin. “When it’s long it bothers me during soccer.”

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Over to the Leonardo museum with friends, playing with electricity, motion, giant blocks, goo, and a green screen.

Biking to the park.

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We pulled out our pvc pipes that we used once upon a time to build a Magic Treehouse fort for Gavin’s birthday party years ago.  They’ve been asking about fort building and this was perfect for some building fun.

Enjoying a fort.

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Visiting the cat sculpture park.

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On a hike we’ve never tried before.

Enjoying each other.

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To the botanical center.

Magic playing.

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Digging rows and planting carrots.  Finding the first roly poly of the year.

Playground with friends.

In between we cuddled and cried and snuggled and built and played Pandemic and practiced gymnastics and finished Island of the Blue Dolphins and began Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder and listened to Harry Potter and picked flowers and played with modeling clay and ate huge sticks of celery like bunnies.

Things are good.

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