unschooling

strung together

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.

 

 

 

 

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unschooling

desert adventures

We ventured south to Arizona and Nevada for a week, stopping at Prescott to explore Watson Lake, Tucson to see an early Real Salt Lake game and Saguaro National Park and in Overton to explore Valley of Fire State Park.

Lake Watson is a bunch of granite boulders all put together this way and that, which they added a dam to one end so it is filled with water. There were so many birds and every few feet was a whole new world of rocks and water. It was very much a shame that we were too early to be able to rent kayaks and paddle boards but it was fun clambering around, bird watching and launching fleets of driftwood into small ponds and larger bays in the lake. We even spotted a few road runners while we were having lunch one afternoon.

One afternoon we drove out to Jerome, a ghost town nearby and we enjoyed exploring there. It was cold and getting dark soon so we didn’t get to see as much as we’d like, which just means someday we can go again and explore further.

Here Chris and the kids are reading about a jailhouse that slid down the hill.

We all brought our fan spirit to Tucson and enjoyed seeing our beloved soccer team, Real Salt Lake trying new configurations and putting new players to the test.

Saguaro National Park was as amazing as the last time we visited. We saw so many cacti and birds and nests and an old mine and petroglyphs.

 

Lilah figured out that she could play the barrel cactus! Each curling spike makes a different noise when you gently tap it.

Valley of Fire was gorgeous! It was also fairly crowded for being a state park in winter but it was fun anyhow. We explored on and off the beaten path. We even got to see quite a few big horned sheep. There were amazing petroglyphs, pretty orange sand to play in, a slot canyon, lizards,

and ravens and songbirds and squirrels, so many colors of rock. We saw white, yellow, purple, pink, orange and red rock, and in some places they are right next to each other! There was an area with waxy looking and feeling rock too. I would like to find out more about that. I wondered what it all looked like when it was wet. I bet the colors are even more vibrant.

The petroglyphs were some of the most distinct and amazing that I’ve encountered. The kids’ favorite glyph was the one known as Mystical Bat Woman, which is the one right in the center of this picture that has sort of clawed looking feet, a skirt and sleeves and two horns or antennae on the head.

Lilah especially loves to play in the sand. She made a sand rabbit:

We saw lots of tracks. Here is a bee making tracks:

We also noticed lots of holes in the ground and speculated about who lives in them. Gavin thought this one looked like a burrowing owl hole, with some debris scattered in front to lure in tasty smaller animals to eat. He did some research about how to identify a burrowing owl’s burrow.

Gavin decided he wanted to try being a photographer on our trip so we have quite a collection of photos that he took with our camera. I’m really looking forward to watching him explore photography more! Here are some of my favorites:

As we were driving away the last time two adult big horned sheep followed by two babies crossed the road right in front of us! Wow! What a special moment!

 

On our way home we stopped at the Hoover Dam which was big, impressive and really expensive to park at, visit the Visitors Center or take a tour. Gavin was interested in taking the tour to see the inner workings of the dam but we didn’t have time on this visit. It’s right next to Las Vegas though so not too far from many of our usual routes.

When we got home, the kids spent some of our settling back in time to play with their lego stop motion animation book. Here’s a video Gavin made one morning:

And here’s one by Lilah:

 

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unschooling

ghost towns

Chris had a day off this week to spend time with his family and friends so we decided to take a day trip to some nearby ghost towns and explore.

We stopped at Homanville first and didn’t find a lot other than some brick foundations and a large cement structure. It was interesting nevertheless, to see the many broken bottles and rusted cans, deer bones, printed bricks, and try to guess where things might have been before the town was swallowed back up by sage brush and sand.

 

Then we went to Eureka, which is not a true ghost town as there are some people still living there but it’s chock full of abandoned historic buildings and fascinations. Especially interesting was Main Street, with the jail, post office, bank and police office.

Next we visited Dividend, in the hills not too far from the other three towns. It has many remnants of buildings and structures and a few still intact. We really had fun exploring the buildings, foundations, peeking in mine shafts, looking at the water towers and even finding some pyrite crystals. On the way home we did some research and found that Dividend was one of the most lucrative mines for silver in the area and had quite a large operation going on for many years by the Tintic Standard mining corporation, also running things in Eureka and probably many nearby mining settlements.

Here are some cylindric stone pieces we found lots of in one corner of a foundation:

Are they testing materials for ore? Are they used in the refining process? Are they remains of some game or recreation activity? Are they rubbish left from some processing or other? I don’t know.

Here is Lilah spying on Chris through one of the pipes that go through the ceiling, letting spots of light into the otherwise dark interior of this cement building:

On our way home we stopped briefly at Thistle, a ghost town due to flooding. Here’s what we found:

I’ve been itching to go visit more ghost towns and we were all so pleased that Chris could join us for this particular excursion. We’ll definitely be doing more ghost town adventures as well as rock hounding adventures which the kids are quite excited about.

After a full day of adventuring we had a lovely dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant and then we were off into bed and dreams.

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unschooling

ghost towns

Today we headed out on a ghost town adventure.

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I did some research and picked a few closer ghost towns, packed water, snacks, lunch and we were off. We drove out first to Mercur, Utah. It was a mining town as many Utah towns were. When we got there though, it was gated off and there was no entry. Boo! We noticed some fencing up a hill a little way our side of the gated area so we walked up to check that out. We found lots of remnants of people spending time there, a nest in the fence, lots of exciting rocks and lots of deer bones. A little further up we saw a fresh deer leg, thigh chewed off the bone. I think the big cats must have taken the rest off to eat privately. Lilah was thrilled to find some purple glass and pottery shards scattered about.

After that we headed down and found the Mercur cemetery.

There were quite a few fenced gravesites and several that were just roughly indicated by rock borders. Most of the headstones were gone or in terrible shape.

Next we headed out to find West Dip, nearby. We had much better luck there but it has been used for dumping and graffiti and lots of shooting practice unfortunately. It was still fascinating and the kids were definitely interested in the trash as well as the old town remains but I was put off by hundreds of shell casings and food and drink refuse everywhere. My favorite part there was the sage brush growing on the roof of the building remnants. We saw a few lizards and some swarming crows but we saw no one else today aside on our explorations. The kids decided it would be hot and hard to live in a place like Mercur or West Dip.

As we drove out we saw something off the road and stopped to check it out. It turned out to be a mine shaft, going down further than light would go in the afternoon. The kids were fascinated and we crawled out on the (very solid) grate to get a good look.

Then we headed toward Utah Lake to find Mosida, another ghost town. When we got there it was gone. Nothing left at all. They are farming and building condos there. It was disappointing but did teach us that ghost towns are few, precious and fleeting and that we need to find more updated resources before driving hours to find nothing left. I did manage to find a great site and I think I’ll be cross checking any other info with that from now on.

I can’t wait to head out again, but the kids want to go rockhounding and ghost town adventuring in one go, so that will be our next challenge. I’ve heard Topaz Mountain/and Topaz Internment Camp (where Japanese were taken during World War II) are still a great place to explore…

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art, unschooling

Lucin & the Sun Tunnels

A few weeks ago we were in need of some bigger adventures. So we headed out west, into Nevada and the desert to visit a ghost town and a massive land art piece on the state border.

It was a rainy morning and the dirt roads were quite an adventure, even though they were drying when we arrived at our turn off the highway.

 

Well, we thought it was our turn off.  In discovering it wasn’t the road we were looking for we also discovered an old mining building to explore.  We spotted several lizards, big and small and had fun checking out the ruins.

Then we got back on the road and headed toward Lucin, a tiny ghost town. We explored a bit and saw the pond, a few houses, a concrete structure others say was a phone booth, a big hunk of rock that was mined out there called variscite and lots of paraphernalia. We all decided we’d like to do more ghost town exploring.

Further along we came upon a few sculptures that people visiting the Sun Tunnels have made or brought. One was made of Legos partially and the other was a structure that could be used as a shelter. It was a long walk from the road, past many lizards and several prickly pear plants.

 

After our fill of those, we ended up at the Sun Tunnels, a massive land artform created between 1973-76 by Nancy Holt.

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Those tunnels are huge! They have holes in the tops to represent constellations and are aligned so that the rising sun can be viewed in the center of the tunnels during summer and winter solstices. It’s a fascinating experience to be both out in the middle of the desert and presented with a human-made structure. The light play inside and on the tunnels is beautiful.

The kids liked exploring from inside and outside. So did I!

Those lizards have it pretty good out there.

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