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bits and bobs

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.

I’m so grateful for all of it.

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still

Sometimes it seems like time has been paused for a really long time. So many things have been paused while things keep moving along, full speed ahead. We’re still going on adventures, around the house, around the city and state. I haven’t updated in a long time. It’s been hard lately, worrying about getting sick, passing illness along to others, risks and responsibility. We’ve been doing some things and foregoing others as we think is right but it’s hard to be living under that cloud that covid has been hanging over our heads for so long now.

Halloween came and went. We did some carving at Grandma and Grandpas and we went trick or treating with friends this year, which was really fun.

Lilah has been drawing a lot and writing stories. Gavin’s been working on 3-d printing, engineering projects and coding projects.

We’ve been getting outside for classes, walks, adventures of all sorts. I have learned to start a fire from friction with a bow drill kit I made, transfer it to a nest of kindling and blow until it ignites. There’s been lots of hikes, tree climbing, trap setting (or trying; it’s so, so hard!), and some snowy adventures.

Gavin built us a beautiful advent calendar of his own design with Lego to count down to the winter solstice. Lilah drew pictures of her friends to give them for the holidays and I’m hoping she will do one of the four of us soon! Gavin printed some really neat geometric ornaments to give.

Our winter solstice hike near home to decorate a tree with orange slice ornaments for the birds was good.

We went up to Lakewood for Christmas this year, masked, vaxxed and testing twice a day. It was so good to be with family, but hard that it can’t be as easy as it used to be. We missed those who couldn’t be there.

We got home just in time for a visit with Chris’s parents. We talked and played games and on New Year’s Eve we went to Evermore, a fantasy park with quests and costumed characters. It was cold but fun.

Here’s another new year already! I look forward to the many more good moments it will bring. Juniper and I are enjoying watching the lettuce grow in my new Aerogarden hydroponic grower and she already taste tested it. I’m still waiting.

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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!

We watched the rain transform the desert and just as quickly disappear.

I took pictures of plants and used iNaturalist to identify them. I tried to take some of birds too and got a few but the funniest moment was when I got a picture of half of a birds beak with an almond in it, after the bird almost completely avoided my shutter.

We found old mines and beautiful rocks.

We joked and snacked and admired the big views and the details.

Life is good.

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December

We found a frozen waterfall in the hills in our neighborhood. It was lovely. We might go hunt other frozen waterfalls now that we’ve had a taste.

We’ve been working in the elf workshop, dreaming up and hammering together gifts for friends and family.

We’ve been going on walks, nearby and a little further out, with and without Juniper the cat.

We’ve been reading a lot. Gavin is working his way through The 13th Paladin series and Lilah has been working on reading the Snow Like Ashes series. I’m trying a few books at Gavin’s suggestion and keeping up with my library books in digital format. We’re listening to The Trials of Morrigan Crow series in the car, refreshing our memory of the first two in preparation for listening to the newest one.

The kids spent an hour on a walk one day coming up with a plan for a video game that was food themed. Lilah created a kingdom inside with an Alice In Wonderland focus and Gavin was working on a Pizza Factory basement level. It was so creative and fun and they put a lot of experience and thought into it together, just for fun. I was struck by how in this case, computers and games inspired creativity for them rather than stifled it.

We baked spritz cookies, vegan and gluten free for the first time. The kid enjoyed watching the shapes that come out of the strangely decorated plates and Lilah helped decorate them. I had to adjust the recipe on the spot as it just wasn’t working, not coming out properly, or holding together as well as not sticking to the baking sheet but with the addition of a bit of aquafaba they were working like they should.

The kids have both been working on their typing through a program called TTRS which is fairly enjoyable and they are making good progress! It’s a good thing to work on while at home more than usual.

Gavin is working on learning about the code language Java. He’s trying out Codecademy.com this time. Right now he’s working on running a lemonade stand in his course.

Lilah’s been spending a lot of time drawing. Here’s one of her latest creations.

We went snowshoeing in the mountains. There hasn’t been enough snow lower yet to do much snow play but we went up higher and found some nice fresh white stuff coming down and enough already there to play in. We found some cozy spots under the pines and spruces that felt like hideouts and wove between the trees and the stream where the kids enjoyed pushing bits of snow into the water and watching them tumble and very slowly dissolve. We spotted some rabbit and squirrel tracks along the way. Another day we went again with my parents and sister and Dave. There were fewer squirrels spotted but we did find a snowwoman.

We played the card game B.S. with they kids, where you bluff and call others bluffs. We ended up playing about 6 games because they enjoyed it so much. It was fun and we all laughed a lot.

On the winter solstice we took a walk and decorated some trees with dried orange ornaments that we’ll take down later.

We celebrated the holidays on Zoom this year due to the corona virus pandemic. It’s gotten worse here in Utah during the colder months and the holidays so getting together in person and inside is just not a smart move. So, we had a call with the local crew Christmas Eve, the Johnston family on Christmas and the Reynolds the day after. It was so good to see faces and hear voices of loved ones but so unsatisfying when I really want to be there and be able to hug people. We made a big batch of spritz cookies and molasses cookies and delivered them to my sister and my parents earlier to munch on while wrapping and unwrapping and zooming. We took a socially distanced walk in the hills with my sister, Dave and my dad after the calls on Christmas evening and looked out over the city, watched the sun set and the stars appear.

Gavin and Lilah are so tall now that Gavin is less than an inch shy of me. It’s a really weird but good experience to look at your kids grown as big as you. Gavin and I are sharing a flannel shirt we like. It’s weird to think that they will have grown so much during these months (years) of isolation that when we are able to see people again there will be a huge difference in their sizes.

We headed out to Utah Lake to see the ice there. It gets windy enough that often there are ice pushes, where ice is broken into shards and blown up toward or onto the shore in drifts and piles. It made for some beautiful textures! We walked out on the ice where it was thick and solid and we saw some raccoon prints in the ice. We discovered that rocks skidding across the ice there makes lovely exciting sounds too. When it gets colder the whole lake freezes and you can walk all the way across. Maybe we’ll get that chance sometime.

I’m anxious to tie dye and ice dye again. We didn’t do much this last season because of my knee injury so I am really looking forward to playing with the colors this spring. I’m working on listing the rest of the items we have already made in our Etsy shop PossibleOctopus so we will have room for more come warmer weather.

We are working on a new time organization method for our family, where we each set goals for the week and then check in about how we’re doing on those. We are hoping to help the kids practice taking responsibility for their own time, projects and goals more by giving them support in practicing those things. So far we’ve only just begun but it is exciting to hear about what things the kids want to accomplish or spend time doing.

The world is not puddle wonderful but icy wonderful here, at the moment.

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to see the sea

We drove out to Mendocino with my parents to visit the ocean. We stayed in two cabins next to each other on a natural preserve, filled with trees, ponds, plants and animals. It was lovely and we spent a bit of time exploring the preserve, but what we really wanted to spend most of our time doing was going to the beaches.

We explored several different spots nearby, each with their own attractions.

One day we watched a whole lot of jellyfish drifting and spinning in the water from high bluffs.

We scrambled up and down bluffs, played in the sand, sat and watched the waves and the seals, went looking in the pools.

In the tidepools we spotted sculpin, sea urchins, crabs of several kinds including one munching on a squid, anemones of several kinds, ochre stars, snails of many types, bat stars, six-rayed stars, a leather star, a sea lemon nudibranch.