We are enjoying the first few snowfalls of the season.

Here is the very neat advent calendar that Gavin and Chris built:



We’ve been biking,

visiting our new neighborhood library,

playing with friends,

baking pumpkin bread,


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,


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.


This Week

I’m still working on writing about all the holiday fun but I’d better get something up about now before I am further behind!

The three of us went to the hot springs with our unschool friends and enjoyed the cold air and the warm water, a few raindrops, lots of steam. It was relaxing and the kids were okay in the warm pool this time, enjoying some pool noodles to paddle around with. On our drive we listened to the end of Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin. It’s such a beautiful, rich story. I highly recommend reading this one and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon to anyone, at any age. Next we’ll be listening to the the third in the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Gavin is particularly enjoying the stories about animal societies and heroes.


We spent quite a bit of time sorting Legos and trying to find pieces for a few sets that we are putting away to make room to display new sets. The kids enjoy the process but need a lot of assistance from me because we have so many little pieces. We’ve made a lot of progress and are trying a new storage system, keeping the tiniest pieces in smaller drawers to find more easily. We’ve rediscovered some treasured bits and inspired some new building fun in the process.

We went grocery shopping and then went to the Indian convenience store where the kids helped pick out some snacks and some lentils and beans. Then we visited the library and picked out some new books. I picked a few, each kid picked a few and we came home and read. And when it was bedtime they were still reading.

We started a new puzzle, a holiday gift to the kids. It’s a puzzle of our neighborhood with our house in the middle! It’s very challenging but so, so fun to piece together the streets we drive on and the condos we pass and the traintracks near our house.


We scheduled a trip to Southern Utah, to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to volunteer taking care of the animals there. We will help with cats, bunnies and parrots this trip. I’ve been dreaming of going there for years and am so excited to go and take the kids too! We watched a video today in preparation for volunteering to learn about expectations and safety.

I also shared this video of a dog unwrapping his gift with the kids:

They loved it as much as I thought they would. Life is good.



Sunken Cities, Lego Cities, Evolution

Over the past week or so the kids have been playing Spore every morning lately.  So, the rest of the time the kids conversation is including evolution, mutation, tribes and herds.   (It’s a computer game where you start as a tiny sea-dwelling organism and slowly evolve and become a land-dweller.  You get to choose the changes, like type of eyeballs, type of feet, size of torso…, as you slowly level up and your creature changes and develops.)  Usually both of them are leaning together, planning what changes to make next, where to take their creature in search of food, shelter or allies.  Here’s Lilah in a rare moment without Gavin’s sage advice on hand.


Gavin built a Lego version of Carcassonne, complete with four civilizations, Japan, China, Vikings and Rome.  It has a volcano and a temple, four cities and a river that goes to the sea.  I’m impressed by his building, his creativity and his interest in geography, history and game mechanics.


We finished reading Madame Pamplemousse and the Enchanted Sweet Shop and are continuing Prairie School.

We looked at a bunch of slides with the new microscope as well as some feathers from our parakeet.

Lilah went to gymnastics.  She even went up to the high bar, the one up higher than my head, swung herself around and up and did her “mermaids” on that bar before swinging down and dismounting.  I was impressed.


Gavin and Dad played civilization.

We built my new single-serving puzzle.

Lilah’s had a cough for weeks and the air has been really bad here so we’ve been staying in quite a bit.  Yesterday and today the air is finally clear again thanks to some rain and snow.

The kids have been playing with their Hero Factory modular robot toys.


Here’s a snippet of one of their stories:

G: “I’m following you Earth Leader. All right, Sandstone. Look this is the tricky part of getting down.”

L: “Yeah but remember Kai is good at climbing.”

G: “Yeah he’s good at climbing things but not slippery things like vines.”

 “‘Let’s go to the new city of Earthler which I’ve never seen’, Kai admitted.”
L: “Look, she’s fireproof and waterproof!”
We talked about sales tax because Gavin has been doing chores to earn money and is interested in spending it on a new Bionicle figure.  We discussed how much sales tax is, why it exists and what its for in general and specifically here in Utah.  Then we began talking about when it started and got into the Boston tea party and representation of the people in governments.  It was a pretty great bunch of discussions!
We picked up our Spanish practice again, going over food words, animal words and I learned how to say, “You are so sweet my teeth hurt.”
Gavin finished knitting his hat on the loom.
Gavin asked recently about Atlantis, if it’s real or not. So I explained that actually there are plenty if cities that have sunk for different reasons and we don’t know if Atlantis is one of those.  Afterward we looked at some great photos of sunken cities and read the brief descriptions of where they are, when they sank and if they know why.  It’s been something that has interested me since I was a kid, so it’s fun to see Gavin interested as well.  I’m glad to know and be able to pass on that there are infinite mysteries left in history, biology, physics just waiting to be discovered and puzzled over.
We went the the Museum of Natural Curiosity and climbed and read and spun and wondered and built and laughed.  My favorite part this time was watching the kids dress up as pirates and put on a play.


There was some coolmathgames.com time and then an episode of Wildcratts exploring Dolphin language and then, of course, legos.


I offered to help them start Gavin’s new crystal growing kit, but they wanted to play with legos first so I instead snaked our bathroom sink.  I despise plumbing but still prefer to do it myself instead of paying someone if possible.  This particular problem only took about twenty minutes of effort and now the sink is working well again so I’m feeling pleased.

They decided to work on some beading… taking apart some old necklaces and making new things.

We opened a packet of Pop Rocks and sprinkled them in a cup of water; watched them bubble and pop and dissolve.  The kids didn’t want to eat them but were fascinated to watch and listen to them release their gasses.  We talked about carbon dioxide gas and then we ended up talking about the artificial coloring in the water from the candy and how there are natural sources of color for foods too.

Gavin taught Lilah how to play Battleship with Chris’ old set.  “Tell me if F-6 is a hit and then put a red peg on the ship if it is.”


I went to the store to get some supplies for lasagna and some non-residue shampoo for me while the kids played Harry Potter Chess/legos/maze making.

When I got home they were ready to work on the crystal growing kit so Gavin read the instructions, measured out the water and stirred the crystal powder to dissolve it.

He placed the rocks and I poured it over them.  Then we examined it closely.


Then he had to read the clock and figure out what time it would be in an hour when he is supposed to sprinkle an additional pinch of crystal powder on each rock.  It took him a bit, but he got it.

They played some more Chess, this time with the Harry Potter Chess set, while they waited for the second phase of crystal preparation.



After that they worked on some more window art painting.


And then Lilah requested I read some more of Madame Pamplemousse to them before dinner and bed and snuggles and singing.



We are home and back to our routine (if I can call our go-with-the-flow days routine) after a wonderful visit with family in Washington over Christmas filled with jokes, hugs, games of all varieties and lots of good food.  I asked Lilah if she was happy to be home and she said, “Yes, because my green bean bag is at home and I LOVE it!”  It was one of her solstice gifts from Chris and I and it is indeed well loved thus far.


This morning Lilah slept in after being a bit sick still and a long, long drive back from Washington Saturday- Sunday.  Gavin and I started making pancakes and then when she woke up she helped too.

They played with their new lego set and their old lego sets.  They acted out some scenes from Harry Potter and used various lego people parts to make a Dumbledore.

Lilah got out her window suncatcher set and we peeled off the butterfly she made before we left to put on our window.


It looks very bright with the snow coating everything gray and white outside.


While I went outside and shoveled snow from our steps and sidewalk, the kids played No Stress Chess together – a variation on chess where each player draws a card before playing each turn that tells her/him which piece to move (and also illustrates the way each piece moves).  It makes the game more accessible and more random and they both seem to be really enjoying it.


After several games, the chess game evolved.  Animals were added, with new powers.  There was a borrower who borrowed things.  There was a story-teller.  I love watching them create together.


Gavin played with his Praxinoscope animation kit.  It spins and the pictures go around and if you look through the opening on the side it looks like a moving animation of the individual images.  In Gavin’s words: “It has a mirror that reflects the pictures from the flat part.  The (view piece) is rectangular so it blocks out the other pictures and you only see one.”

IMG_3002We read some poems by Liliane Moore and Sudeep Sen.

The kids set up Lilah’s new Wildcraft game, a cooperative game about herbs, particularly healing herbs and started a game but didn’t get far before dinner time.

I read some more of a new book called Madame Pamplemousse and Her Incredible Edibles by Rupert Kingfisher.  I thought it would be perfect for Lilah and got it for the trip to Washington and we’re in the middle of it, having started reading it up there.  It is charming and empowering story of a girl who likes to cook.




I’m skipping blogging about some days here and there due to holiday bustle but today was a little bit quieter than it has been.

The kids played on the computer and built lego settings for their story telling.

After breakfast they helped fold clothes, pick up and vacuum to get the house ready for friends later.

Gavin pulled out his lego Hero Factory pieces and built some new “guys”.  One of them was named Huge Foot.

Lilah asked me to read The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman to her.


We took a trip to pick up a gift that we hadn’t already brought home and admired the fountains at the City Creek Center while we did.

The kids worked on some math sheets.  Gavin has forgotten many of his memorized math facts.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I think we’ll practice a bit here and there if he is willing.  The concepts he’s picked up, though, those are still there.  He did some reading from Where On Earth (his kids atlas) to me.  He still tends to skip words and tumble over himself because his brain reads faster than his mouth. At least that’s my guess.

Mid afternoon Lilah and I picked up her friend from school and they started playing with the Hero Factory constructs as soon as we arrived home.  As their chosen characters, they visited the center of Egypt.  They talked loudly and quietly.  They climbed the biggest tree in the world (also known as our holiday tree).


After Lilah’s friend left, it was time for dinner, a quick walk around the neighborhood and then reading some more of Julie of the Wolves, which is still starring in their storytelling play in concepts and setting.



The kids set up a lego restaurant with dishes, tables, customers and a menu.


We watched a crew clean our street and then cover the cracks with tar.  I asked the kids why they thought they cleaned the street first.  Lilah said, “To get rid of the dirt”. Gavin added, “Because it wouldn’t stick with the dirt on it”.  Then we talked about what happens if water from snow gets in cracks in the road and then freezes (and expands).

We worked on some Makit plate designs for holiday gifts.  They will make plates with the designs the kids draw and color.  The ones from years past are some of our favorite plates to use around here!  Gavin drew an owl with wind, tornado, crown and jewels.  Lilah drew several cats.  They both have a particular interest in those animals right now, which is fun.

Gavin and I solved a sudoku puzzle with his Chocolate Fixx set while Lilah was still working on her drawings.

When she finished we played a game of Magic The Gathering.  It’s a very complicated game and not really something Lilah can grasp fully, or even Gavin for that matter, but they enjoy playing it at the stage they are at now and it has so much to think about: math, strategy, order of phases in your turn, lots of new vocabulary, art on the cards.

Lilah and I drove over to her gymnastics class



while Gavin stayed home and built a lego spaceship and watched an episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.




Computer play time was followed by lego play time in the morning.


While I cleaned up in the kitchen they used the magnetic poetry words, letter magnets and various other magnets on the fridge to tell some stories together.


In the afternoon, we went out to our garden to get it ready for winter.  I asked the kids to help since I have a sore tailbone and it’s really too much for me to do the repetitive bending that’s needed to pull out the dead plants and cages and markers.  I was surprised by how willing they were (after I explained I needed help) and though they did things in their own way instead the way I would have done it, they did what was needed and enjoyed it.  I am very grateful they are willing and able helpers and I am glad to give them opportunities to help with important tasks in our lives.

After that was done we pulled up our crop of carrots together.  They loved seeing all the different sizes and shapes and we’ll have some yummy carrots and carrot greens to eat.

We cleaned ourselves and the carrots up and then we did some Spanish together, lessons and then games.

Lilah and I went outside to try the helicopter seeds from pinecones in the breeze.  She tossed them up in handfuls and watched them fly.  It was beautiful fun!

Chris showed the kids a short film he made in college and then they talked about how he made it and what goes into making a movie.   There was a lot of excitement about the idea of making our own movies, writing scripts, filming…  Sounds like a great project for us!



They played with Legos and story told for hours, inspired by their many varied interests.

Lilah decided to try oatmeal for the first time for breakfast and enjoyed it with almond milk and honey.

We finished the puzzle we’ve been working on.


Lilah got out her stickers and played with them.


Gavin worked on a crocodile in flames, titled Sorry Crocodile! made with perler beads.

The kids made quesadillas (with Daiya cheddar as we are vegan) for themselves for lunch and Lilah cut some carrot coins for herself from one of the rainbow carrot bunch, a white one this time.

After lunch they wanted to do more perler bead crafting.  Lilah worked on a heart ornament with color patterns and finished it.  A year ago, it was too frustrating for her to do any kind of pattern in perler beads, with spills and the length of the process so she often gave up so it’s great to see her succeeding with that now.  She was thrilled with the results!  Gavin made an ornament next, with translucent and opaque beads.

We walked over to the park to collect things to try painting and stamping with.  We found pinecones, juniper, some seed balls from the sycamores.  The kids helped me look for some round, smooth rocks for some holiday projects later.  As we walked home, they carried some rocks they’d chosen and they began galloping and clicking their rocks together, pretending they were in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  (In the movie, knights who click the halves of coconuts together imitate the sound of horses hooves as they gallop on foot.)

We got out the paint and paper and began painting.  Lilah painted for a long time and Gavin switched between painting and more perler bead creating.

They admired each others progress and process.  I believe that our unschooling approach is helping all of us be kinder to each other, have more time for each other and generally be happier most of the time.  It’s not that we weren’t striving to be kind before, but there is most time and space for our interests and needs and feelings now, and that leads to being in a better place to appreciate other people and the world.  I am so grateful for kids who encourage each other!


“Mama, can we watch an episode of Cosmos?”  (Cosmos, a Spacetime Odyssey)  This episode was about the age of the Earth and how it’s been interpreted and determined through history.

We read several chapters of Matilda and then there were cuddles and songs and sleep.