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Lilah is fourteen!

Lilah celebrated her birthday three times. Once with family while camping amid the fall leaves. Once with the four of us and the cats. Finally with her friends over for a playdate and sleepover with her bestie.

We put some crepe paper up around the campsite and a happy birthday banner on the tent and my mom sprinkled rose petals around the benches after dinner. We ate red velvet cupcakes that Lilah had made and she opened some gifts. Then we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.

We spent her birthday morning at home, working on projects then she and I went on a wild walk hunting geocaches together. We found a handful and it was really fun looking for them and leaving our names in the logs. Later we got her favorite for dinner, fried rice, and we watched The Secret of Kells together, a gorgeous animated movie based on Irish scenery and the illustrated manuscripts.

A few days later we had friends over and they played with bamboo in the yard and nerf guns and ate pizza and cupcakes. Then most of them went home while her best friend stayed over and they stayed up very late giggling and playing with the cats and were up early to do more.

She’s gotten taller this year. She adores all animals, loves to be outside, loves to move. She spends a lot of time reading, drawing and listening to music as she goes about her days. She has just become interested in creepy things in the past few months. She has her own colorful style and she is excellent at fake angry glares and giggling. She loves her friends, stories about animals, climbing trees, dressing up and making things. She’s our resident cake baker. She’s such an awesome person and it’s so much fun to see her make her way through life!

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wild adventures

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.

Life and it’s changes are so beautiful!

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Lately

In the past little while we’ve started our school year again. We are doing Making Tracks again, a nature and survival skills class. Here Lilah is working on making cordage.

And here Gavin is explaining to friends the steps to holding and twisting the material.

Here’s some of the cordage we were working on up closer.

We are reading books and discussing them with the help of Brave Writer. Lilah is doing art, on her own, with Makercrate and through classes on Skillshare.com. Gavin is working on improving his driving, engineering with Eurekacrate, his own projects and classes on Skillshare. We are using Brilliant.org for math this year as well as games, logic puzzles and Khan Academy.

We are also going adventuring, picking raspberries, playing with the cats, tie dyeing, doing aerial silks, baking, gardening, hosting D&D at our house, and getting together with friends as well as playing and chatting with them online regularly. Whew! Here’s one of our latest batch of ice dye/tie dye that I particularly like.

Chris has done an outstanding job of running D&D. We all enjoy it so much! He puts so much effort into it: researching and planning story and encounters, creating magical items for each character, printing days and days on our 3D printer to create the players’ characters as well as all the creatures and beings we come across, finding music and sound effects to heighten the experience. He even has scented candles to set the mood. Think leather and pine, not vanilla jasmine. The kids LOVE getting together and playing their characters and just goofing around. It’s been so wonderful! Here’s one of the creatures we’ll be fighting in the game soon. Chris printed it and I painted it with his advice.

It’s been a weird and hard few years with the pandemic and managing both our own safety as well as trying to maneuver through relationships with other families some of whom have very different outlooks and practices during the pandemic. I think we are finally finding what our new baseline looks like, which is quite different than it used to be but not what I stayed up at night worrying over either. We have found a group of families who are operating under the same set of understandings about the virus that we are and are getting together with them and limiting our time with others but still trying to maintain friendships. The kids have really struggled with this, as have I but we are finding ways to show people we care about them even when we cannot do things the way we all really wish we could by getting together wherever without masks.

Here we are adventuring in the Uintahs where we found a few rainstorms and sheltered under the pines and found many colored mushrooms. Lilah and I tried some handstands and bridges and I admired the way the fallen pine needles made swirling patterns in the quiet stream, following the patterns of the water.

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Inside Passage

We went to Alaska! It was something my parents had wanted to do with us for years and had been postponed due to my dad’s cancer and postponed due to covid travel restrictions and dangers so I sighed out a huge breath of relief and thankfulness when we stepped on board the ship.

We traveled from Juneau to Sitka, stopping to kayak and hike and ride in zodiacs. We saw glaciers up close and calving. The colors of the ice were astonishing. The sound of the ice breaking and falling was amazing.

We saw lots of wildlife: humpback whales and orcas, birds of many kinds, seals, sea lions, sea otters, bears, moose, deer, and water creatures like anemones, seastars, hermit crabs, periwinkles, sculpin as well as beautiful, intriguing and sometimes dangerous plants and fungi.

We were always busy, with morning stretch class and meals, watching whales out on the deck, going on excursions and listening to naturalist presentations. We even got to do several hikes and one very exciting bushwhack hike!

I tried using a gopro video/still handheld camera for underwater video and it was a fun first spin. I’m excited to keep at it and improve. Maybe next time I’ll try it without trying to steer a paddleboard on the ocean currents at the same time, or maybe not.

The kids got to try driving the zodiac around the big ship.

It was a beautiful, special time with family.

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A few days in Valley of Fire

We headed down last month for a long weekend. My sister and Dave met us there. We explored rainbow canyons, hoodoos, slot canyons and big slickrock domes that curve down to sandy paths between smooth and curving walls of yellow silica sandstone. It happened to be Valentines Day while we were there and a place with pink, red, orange, yellow and white rock seemed like a perfect place to celebrate love. Lilah spent some time making sand art with all the various hues of sand she found. We squeezed and climbed our way through several slot canyons. We sheltered in a little alcove from a sudden rainstorm. It was good to explore together.

We spotted desert bighorn sheep, a zebra tail lizard, some birds and tracked bees, lizards, birds and we think, a fox.

We started on the trails and then explored out and beyond which is where most of us feel the most at home. It was beautiful, all the swirling different colors of rock and the carved shapes. We chatted about which rock formations would be good for bathtubs and cat beds and where a nice hot tub spot would be. We decided that the rock colors were probably flavored. Grape, lemon, strawberry. Mmmmmm.

We ended the trip the same way we ended the last one here, deciding we should return again to explore more.

On our drive we listened to some more of the Heartstriker series by Rachel Aaron. We’re enjoying the story. I am particularly enjoying following the story of a dragon who believes in peace, kindness and negotiations instead of fighting to the death.

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Cactus in January

Far South of home, in Organ Pipe National Monument, it is warm and the cactus are soaking up the sunshine. So, we headed down to do the same with my parents for a camping trip. It was lovely to be outside and not freezing, to be able to more easily spend time safely with my parents and to enjoy the sights and sounds of Southern Arizona.

We hiked and chatted and ate cold s’mores (because we couldn’t have a fire there).

We read and watched birds and walked miles each day to and from the bathrooms. The campground had one set of bathrooms open one day, the other the next so sometimes it was only a short walk but other days it was a bit farther and with multiple trips, we racked up the miles!