We flew to St. Louis so Chris could go to a conference and a work meet up. The rest of us explored some of the city.
The old buildings and big parks were beautiful. The city was very friendly and relaxed feeling. We went to the science center, planetarium and the zoo, all in a huge park together.
When Chris had a free day we all went to the city museum which was by far our favorite place, a huge building converted into art and an endless playground, much of it made of recycled building or factory materials. It had so many fascinating details as well as climbing and sliding opportunities everywhere. Even the birds enjoy it!
It truly was amazing and the kids were quite sad that we couldn’t go again while we were there.
Chris and I got to go meet with a bunch of his coworkers in the evenings and that was really fun! He works with great people.
We flew home, went to nature class and then drove down to St. George to meet my parents and sister for a few days down there.
We hiked a lot, went to a botanical garden, explored the ruins of an old mining town and the museum there and celebrated Chris’ birthday. There was an old charcoal kiln to see, along with a fascinating mining town museum. We found a hike that had a section where you hold on to a rope mounted above to traverse a big rock with footholds, some of them made by native peoples ages ago. It was very challenging but fun.
We ended our trip to Southern Utah with some dinosaur footprint spotting. There are so many in the area you probably walk past them all over but this one was marked for us just next to the trail.
We had a lovely family party for Gavin last week, a nice day at home on his actual birthday playing games (like TimeLine!) and relaxing and a party with friends at Willard Bay this weekend.
He wanted to swim and especially, to try the floating inflatable playground with his friends, so that’s what we did. It was a beautiful day and the water was warm. The kids and some adults enjoyed the playground and then we all chatted in the shade or played in the water until the beautiful sunset came, and then the mosquitoes arrived so we left.
There was a huge slide the kids enjoyed, a swing, a trampoline and various other structures all joined together floating out in the water. They had to swim out so here are a bunch of the kids jumping in to go out to play!
Here they are playing on the playground.
We got chocolate, vanilla and lemon cupcakes and we brought a sundried tomato, artichoke heart, basil pesto pasta salad to share and it was well appreciated.
Gavin was so thrilled to just get to spend time with friends and it was fun for family to get to see the crew together. I wish I had gotten a picture of him and one of his friends out floating for hours in the middle of the lake together in the late afternoon for hours but I was too busy paddle boarding. My mom, Meara and Chris got some kayaking and paddle boarding in too. So fun!
He’s fourteen now! It’s shocking (to me) and totally expected at the same time. He still loves Lego, and builds the neatest unique spaceships and other things regularly. He loves Zelda: Breath of the Wild on his new switch game system that he saved up for all on his own this summer. He loves board and card games and cannot get enough, especially anything “futuristic” or “space themed”. He tries to meet friends online as often as possible to play MineCraft or RoBlox with them. When they can get together in person they swim or chat or fight with boffer weapons. His favorite color is blue violet, favorite food is lasagna, favorite flower is lavendar, favorite animal is owl. He reads like mad and is currently inhaling a series he started on his birthday called Space Runners. He’s an amazing, wonderful person and I am so grateful to get to spend a lot of time with him, learning together and enjoying life together, appreciating each other.
Such good memories to look back on and so much fun and discovery yet to come for him and for us with him! What a journey!
There are so many moments in each day, some notable, some not. Sometimes I ponder my own memories from childhood; what I remember, how it was important or not important but still remembered. I wonder what my kids will remember of their experiences. I hope they will remember love, connection, wonder, delight, comfort, strength. I hope they will remember kissing their cats goodnight, singing silly made up words to songs we know, hugs when they are sad or scared, the excitement of spotting elusive animals and plants, the smell of sunshine in pine trees. I hope Lilah will remember how we go into the public bathroom stall together (her choice) and make funny faces or do dances or pretend our toothbrushes are hairbrushes, microphones, carrots to entertain each other while we wait. I hope Gavin will remember cuddling in our bed and looking at cute and funny animal videos together, having waterfights in the backyard and playing hammock swing tag with Lilah (one of them is on the swing, one is in the hammock nearby and they try to tag each other. I hope Gavin will remember the time he tried black olives thinking they were mushrooms and discovered he loves olives. I hope both of them will remember becoming other people in other worlds and times for a few hours while they read a fantastic book.
Here are a few moments and hours strung together here that are memorable for me from the last weeks:
We went up to Idaho for my Grandmother’s memorial service and spent some good and fun time with family, enjoying their company and remembering my Grandma. I have so many special memories of time spent with her. A few that come the quickest are: her love of crosswords and reading, Christmas baking projects with help from overeager grandkids (me!), her weavings and her helping me with weaving and beading projects, her laugh, her beautiful white curly hair. While we were in Idaho, Lilah showed off her crafting skills and Gavin thoroughly enjoyed playing long complicated games with family. The drive was beautiful, with fields in bloom, golden and looking like they were aglow with light.
I painted a scene of the glowing fields from our drive for my dad.
Lilah wanted to go to the park and try going down the hills in our wagon. Why not?
Gavin went to a dear friend’s birthday celebration and we made plans for more time together soon.
We harvested some of the first garden bounty. Lilah’s most excited about strawberries and lemon cucumbers. Gavin’s most excited about spaghetti squash and eggplant. I am excited about all of it!
Lilah has spent hours taking her cat out in the yard on leash and harness.
We have a quail family with seven chicks strolling through most mornings and evenings and a pigeon nesting under the deck. There are dragonflies buzzing overhead every time I go out to the garden and hummingbirds zooming about. In the yard today I spotted orioles, hummingbirds, house finches, goldfinches, robins, a woodpecker, and some chickadees.
There’s been a lot of this:
We visited a local ghost town called Ophir with friends. It was a mining town and has equipment, tailings, interesting old buildings and so much to explore. They mined gold, silver and other things and we found a bunch of pyrite nuggets and some chrysocolla in the tailings.
We’ve been trying to deal with ants in the house. Ugh! They come in every summer and look for water and sugary foods. Cinnamon and vinegar do pretty well at dealing with small incursions but not larger ones. We finally hired a company who uses pet and people safe, environmentally friendly treatments to try and get it under control.
Gavin been going to a nature camp a few hours every morning this week with a good friend as well as a Harry Potter camp called O.W.L. camp put on by the county library. He had a wonderful time at both and came home as a Gryffindor, very pleased. He told us he received points for his house for having purple hair.
Lilah and I finally made it to the cat cafe, where you can enjoy coffee, tea, and cats for company, most of whom are available to adopt. It was delightful and we successfully left without bringing any cats home.
We signed up for the local library’s summer reading program. It involves a lot of reading. The kids completed it in about a week and are now doing extras. I’m so grateful that both kids love reading and will do it for love and research, not because of prizes promised.
All four of us have been playing Magic the Gathering, including a draft with the newest set of cards which Chris got for Father’s Day.
The kids hauled out a bunch of large blocks, two chairs, several scarves, the mini-trampoline, a balance beam, a few soccer balls and some other items and set up a cat themed obstacle course game for themselves. It was awesome!
We hiked up in the mountains and saw so many wildflowers! Also, we spotted deer, a moose with two very young… I need to look up what a young moose is called… calves, a weasel or a marten, and lots of chipmunks.
We spotted bunches of wild forget-me-nots. Here are some with a paintbrush flower. Perfection! Enjoying the connections between people and moments and nature and choosing how to weave your own life experience and story is a wonderful adventure.
We’ve been gardening. We planted an area with nothing growing, we’ve watched our carrots and beets sprout up and the strawberries start to flower. We planted lettuce and a whole bunch of flower seeds of lots of kinds. It’s fun to go to the garden store with the kids because just like the toy aisle, they are excited about everything we come across. We came home the last time with some early planting veggies, columbine, catmint, tri-colored ice plant, yarrow and phlox, purple and red pansies and seeds for chocolate colored sunflowers.
We got to go see Hamilton, which the kids both loved and have been talking about and singing about since. It was entertaining for them and even though it was three hours of sitting they really enjoyed it.
We drove out to an old mining site, Mammoth Mine near Eureka, for a rock hounding trip. We found a group that does field trips and has permission to go many places that we otherwise couldn’t because of private property concerns. So we dug through mine tailings piles and found some amazing rocks! It was really fun and rewarding! I found a book about rocks and minerals at the library and they’ve been reading through that ever since, making connections about their finds and experience at the mine site. Also, you never know what you might come across out there in the desert. We found two abandoned police cars stuffed with all sorts of things, a fridge, a couple of old fake holiday trees and a bunch of other interesting dumped junk.
We went to the aviary and saw lots of birds. We watched a peacock displaying it’s feathers and shaking them to attract a female. We watched the golden eagles staring at the crows flying over and cawing. We saw a wetland plover on a nest and Lilah spotted a chick hiding under a pheasant. Lilah collected a peacock feather and even though it wasn’t one of the biggest ones she was very pleased. One of the barn owls came right over to watch us when we were very still and seemed quite curious. Gavin collected one of their feathers from the grass in front of the enclosure.
The kids have been playing games together every morning: Phantom Society, Istanbul, Above and Below and lots more. They sometimes follow the rules and sometimes take new directions together.
We tried making horchata for the first time. It’s one of Lilah’s favorite things and we wanted to try making it ourselves. We soaked cinnamon sticks, blanched and toasted almonds and rice overnight, blended and strained it, added a touch of maple syrup for sweetness and then chilled it. It was delicious.
We went out owl hunting and didn’t find any but have researched some other places to try. We did see some pronghorn antelope close on our owl hunt though.
We’ve been enjoying chive flowers… very strong flavor!
Gavin built a huge, three tiered race track out of Lego for his toy cars. I didn’t get a picture of the finished track before it got smashed, unfortunately but it was really amazing! Here it is in progress:
Gavin recently ordered a kit to make your own chewing gum. He made cherry and grape flavors. It was a sticky process!
We’ve been working on terracing a hill in our yard with huge cement blocks, lots of dirt and lots of sweat. Gavin’s been helping bring up blocks as they have to come up a lot of stairs from street level, one by one. Lilah’s been helping spread out the dirt that I’ve carted up and dumped. We all picked out some flowers for the lowest level which is all done and planted them together.
Lilah’s been fort building and today Gavin got in on it too.
She’s also been sewing some pouches for holding precious things for herself and everyone else in the house.
Gavin and Lilah have been working on designing some nature based Lego creations for a contest by a local arboretum. He’s started a barn owl and a park with trees. She finished an orange pansy.
Lilah made some origami pinwheels on the fly, her own creation with no instructions or guidance. They even spin when she blows on them!
There’s a brand new women’s professional soccer team in town and we are fans! Go Royals! We’ve been to several games now and it’s so great for both kids to see women out there doing amazing things. Lilah’s favorite player is the goal keeper Abby Smith who we get to see up close from our seats often.
Both kids have been interested in dying their hair for a while now. This week they asked again so we picked out some colors and went for it. Gavin chose aquamarine and Lilah chose purple. We just did a test strand of Lilah’s so far but we’ve got plans to do the rest soon. Gavin’s came out great!
We’ve also been doing a lot of hanging out with friends. Since the weather has been lovely we’ve been meeting in parks and wild areas lately. It’s such a great feeling to be out in the sun, surrounded by plants and animals and smell those lovely earthy spring smells. All the better to do it with friends!
Lilah’s been wanting to make an ears and tail set for a while. This week we took the plunge. We visited the craft store, a very dangerous place if you like crafting and knickknacks. We bought furry fabric, pink fabric, hooks, and headbands.
The next day we fired up the scissors and glue gun and made wolf ears and tail.
We celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom and dad and sister. The kids made and bought beautiful things to give me but what I really care about is that I get to have them in my life. As I venture through my own motherhood journey, I have learned and am learning more about what it takes to be a parent, all the love and excitement and fear and time involved and have so much more understanding and appreciation of my own mom. It’s not an easy thing, but oh, so full of joy.
We got to have our annual Snowball fight with flower snowballs, since they were ripe. It’s very dear to all our hearts and the kids desperately want us to have our own “Snowball Tree”.
Here’s Gavin’s finished owl Lego sculpture:
We got together with friends to look at bacteria we grew in cultures from our bodies and houses with microscopes. We took samples from our hands, our cheeks, our toes, our sink, a cat’s paw pads, a moldy strawberry. It was fascinating to see what grew up close! Some of the bacteria were smooth looking, some furry, some were much smaller and bigger.
We went out to see birds near the Great Salt Lake. It was a really lovely afternoon!
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!
We headed up to Idaho, right outside of Stanley, to meet family and friends at a campground to watch the eclipse. We also got to check out lots of fun things to do while the moon was not in front of the sun. One favorite activity was learning to play Balderdash. Players make up definitions for obscure words, acronymns, movies, dates and then the made up definitions are given along with the real one, and everyone guesses which is the correct definition. It was really fun!
Chris and Gavin rafted and kayaked the Salmon River. It was Gavin’s first time rafting and he loved it! It was Chris’ first time kayaking a river and he loved it too. I didn’t go because Lilah had a negative experience recently on a rafting ride, getting too wet and cold and scared and firmly told us she didn’t want to raft. So, we listened to her wishes and hope that someday, maybe soon, she’ll be ready to brave the raft too.
We went to a nearby lake to hike, paddleboat, kayak and paddle board. There were so many fish, little and big, silver and even some red kokanee. It was our first time on paddle boards and Lilah and I had so much fun! Gavin enjoyed the kayak more and Chris preferred that too.
On one visit we took a speed boat across the lake to hike the other side. We found a lovely waterfall.
There were many natural hot springs near Stanley so we visited one at the edge of the river one evening. The spring was hot! and the river was cold! and every so often you’d find a sweet spot where the two mixed together in the right proportions, but mostly the tops of my legs were hot and my back was cold. It was fun to see how different depths and sizes of pools changed the water temperature. Gavin spent the evening on a huuuge log jam, pulling sticks out, tossing them in the river, finding treasure (fishing floats, beautiful sticks) buried in the hill of wood.
And then there was the eclipse. Incredible! Words can’t describe the experience adequately. We had breakfast and then it was time for the partial eclipse to begin. We passed out glasses and watched the moon ever so slowly cross in front of the sun from the top right edge, slowly, slowly toward the bottom left. It was warming up when the eclipse began but it started getting colder again after maybe a half hour or so and by the time the moon completely eclipsed the sun it was much colder. We checked the time and watched the progress and watched the shadows change from rounded edges to crescent shards as the eclipse got past 90%. It seemed to get murky and strange though it was still quite bright until suddenly the light was gone. It was dark enough to feel like night, though not as complete as night, similar to the darkness between twilight and full night.
We took off our glasses and saw the sun black, it’s corona red around it and surrounded by white shining light that was pointed in several directions, like we draw stars. You could see the corona moving, spitting, exploding. We could see other stars. The animals quieted. The humans did too. It was such an amazing experience it was hard to take it that it was actually happening. And then, 2 minutes and 13 seconds later, a shine, and then a burst of light out from the other side of the moon and then the crescent grew and grew into our usual round sun. The warmth returned, the usual activities of the day returned.
After talking with friends upon our return home, many of them watched the partial eclipse, not realizing how amazing a total eclipse really is, or not realizing the difference between a 98% eclipse and 100%. It made me so glad that we were able to realize what an opportunity we had and grab it. It was utterly amazing.
We listened to much of Patricia Wrede’s Lyra series on our way to and from the campground. It’s a fun series though I wish the narrator was a little more sensitive to context and emotion in the material. We arrived home to love from the cats and the first lemon cucumbers ready for picking, some cherry tomatoes and several squash including a pink banana. I love squash and am so excited about our squash plants this year but it may be quite a challenge to figure out how to store and eat all of it.
The kids harvested a mystery squash, a few cherry tomatoes a pinstripe eggplant (variety chosen by Gavin) and a giant zucchini from the garden. We poked in the boxes and saw so many good things growing and changing.
Dragonflies are zooming over the yard every day around dusk.
Hummingbirds are frequenting our trumpet vine, butterfly bushes and feeder. They visit often when we are out on the deck eating.
We went to a water park with friends, another just the three of us.
We visited another friend’s house for crafting and play time.
Lilah went to gymnastics, working on handstands and vault.
We read sooo many good books.
We had a game night with the scout group at our house. Gavin played Magic the Gathering, Arena of the Planeswalkers. Lilah made up a Pokemon game with stuffed animals who evolved and made loud shrieking and growling noises. Chris and I played Dominion with another group. The deer came into the yard and were admired by our human visitors. It was a fun evening.
Gavin and I (and sometimes Lilah) have been practicing yoga together. He wants to gain strength and flexibility and he likes spending time with me that way. He asked tonight who the first people to do yoga were, so I think we’ll do some researching together to find out more about the beginnings of yoga.
played MineCraft while I patched some holes in walls at the other house in preparation for more painting over there.
We enjoyed lots of recently gifted wonderful things. Gavin built a robotics set,
we worked on a puzzle,
Lilah worked on her latch hook rug set, and her painted bowl kit,
I made deodorant with a bit of help from Lilah,
both kids started on new books: The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin and When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin.
Lilah made cards for all three cats wishing them a happy New Year,
we played Imhotep,
we played Ugly Sweaters,
we stepped outside and saw an owl on the post right outside the house! We took some pictures but it was dark and so they are not the best but it was so exciting! Maybe we’ll get another chance. Gavin remarked upon seeing the owl, “I love our house.” Me too.
We had a curry buffet for dinner and tried some new Indian and Nepali dishes followed by Chris reading Harry Potter and Eragon books at bedtime, cuddles of kids and parents and cats and I sang some songs to finish the night.