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.


Eagle Eye & Camouflage

In our nature classes we’ve practice using wide angle vision like animals do to observe ourselves and what’s around us more fully. One way we’ve done it is in a game where one person (the eagle) closes their eyes and counts to 100 while everyone else hides in plain sight. Then the eagle looks for people, using wide angle vision. After they have found all the hiders that they can, they hold up a number of fingers and finally tell everyone still unseen to come out. The closest person who remained unspotted AND who saw the number wins and is the eagle for the next round.

This year in our class we increased the difficulty by adding camouflage into the equation. The kids painted themselves with mud, sand, leaves, sticks. I did too. I enjoy participating even while the other parents preferred to sit and watch. It’s more fun for me to join in! The kids are getting good at holding still, and at hiding with the environment. In one picture below, it looks just like an empty landscape at first glance but there are at least five kids standing up from their hiding spots. If the picture was taken while they were hiding, they would probably be completely invisible.


snow days

We’ve been snowshoeing and cross country skiing, most recently with my sister and Mom!

We’ve been sledding.

We celebrated the New Year with Chris’ parents who came all the way out to see us!

We’ve gotten back into the ninja class and our nature classes. Here we have Gavin doing the spider jump/climb, Gavin running up the curved wall, Gavin swinging on the giant wheel, then Lilah swinging from the smaller wheels, Lilah doing the spider jump/climb up to the bar at the top, Lilah hanging upside down.

It’s been snowy and cold out but still beautiful. I have been enjoying getting out, even though it’s hard to get motivated to get out the door unless we’ve made plans. So we’ve made lots of plans to get out!

We’ve been tracking animals by looking at prints in the snow. Here are tracks from a rabbit, tunnels from a vole, another vole track that looks like it just leaped into the snow and made a print of itself before tunneling away, a deer print and a squirrel print.


We’ve been reading The Complete Farside and the Wings of Fire books.

We’ve been looking at the golden ratio in nature and drawing it with our compasses.

Gavin’s been working on setting up a raspberry pi with camera on his 3D printer so he can watch and adjust it remotely.

Lilah’s been drawing a portrait of her new Dungeons and Dragons character, a deer ranger character.

I’ve been dreaming of sunshine and warmth but enjoying the sparkling snow and the quiet of winter.



fresh air & surprises

We went for a walk up the canyon a few minutes away and beyond the usual enjoyments like blackberry flowers, birdsong, fresh air and tossing sticks and rocks into the creek, we discovered something new this time.

As we were leaving we went down to the creek in a different spot and spotted a swing across the water. Lilah crossed the logs and swung, and then we spotted a rope hanging from a tree right in the middle of the creek. So we tried that one too.

We left happy, making plans to return soon.


Moose Cabin

We had the opportunity to spend a few days in the mountains at the cabin of my parents’ friends. (Thank you, Mama & Daddy!) It was pure loveliness!

There were games of all kinds.


We played inside


and we played outside.

The kids spent hours! on the swing outside.

We saw a family of moose on our hike up to Dog Lake, ambling down as we were ambling up.



It was wonderful to be in the cooler air, to hear the birds and squirrels, to be more conscious of nature, to slow down for a bit.




Up to the mountains

I’m still working on another post about the last several weeks, but here’s a story about today. After some card games (war and speed) and some Playmobil play and some puzzling this morning, we headed up to Storm Mountain for a hike.  It’s been awhile, partly because we’ve been busy with soccer and gymnastics and partly because it’s been raining almost every day lately.


The kids were getting into arguments before we left but as is almost always the case, once outside there was no conflict.  They love going on hikes where there are a) rocks to climb and b) water to play in, so Storm Mountain is always enjoyed even though the short hike up to the stream is steep.  We saw flowers and new growth on trees and shrubs.  We saw birds who frequent the stream.  The kids tried drawing with rocks on other rocks and enjoyed the different colors and textures they could make.  Lilah found bunches of what she called ladybugs but were different varieties of red beetles some with dozens of spots, some with none.


We spotted a snake by the stream and many striped spiders.  I was thrilled to watch Lilah excitedly discovering and interacting with ladybugs, roly poly bugs and was even moving closer to see a spider.  When she was three she got stung by an insect and was terrified of anything that wasn’t a butterfly for years.  She calmed down about it after that but was still wary, even last summer.  Today, she was friendly with those beetles.

They were discussing what kinds of trees were on the path (they remembered maple and pine but not scrub oak) and I gave them a refresher on what stinging nettle looks like because there’s a bunch of it up there.  We found itty bitty male pine cones that had fallen and we admired new patterns in the trail from all the rain lately.

They climbed and drew and dug in the dirt and picked dandelions.  I sparked an interest for the kids today in natural art by arranging dandelion tops on a rock crack and later on the kids were excited to try their hand at it.

On the way down the trail, the kids tried to hide and camouflage themselves.  Fortunately for me, they were wearing purple and blue so I found them and found them again.  Lilah was also showing interest in tracking and leaving signs of what’s ahead or behind, possibly picked up from some books we’ve been reading lately.  So, we made a cairn and we put certain rocks this way or that way to show, “I’m going ahead” or “the trail goes left”.  It’s so good to get into nature.  I love it but it’s so easy to forget or not make time for that.  Maybe a scheduled hike day each week is in order.

As an added bonus, we got to listen to Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling on our way up and down in the car.  They are hilarious and captivating, O my Best Beloved.



We did some reading about and then had quite a bit of conversation about Michael Brown, the young African American man who was shot and killed by a Caucasian police officer and the lack of indictment decision yesterday.  I shared what I could find about facts as well as that there are multiple different stories.  It’s such a crucial concept to grasp that there are sides and different perspectives and more often than not they can all be “right” or “real” or “accurate”.  We talked about cultural privilege, who has it, what it means and the responsibility of caring for others.  I hope that talking about these things when they’re young means they’ll be more attuned to how they fit into the cultural world we all create together when they grow.

We finished reading Matilda!

Lilah and I met her friend at school and then we came home to play.  While we were gone Gavin worked on computer coding.


Gavin and I looked at pictures from Rosetta and Philae of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko while the two girls did yoga together.

All three played together, dressing up and making up a story with queens, ninjas, frogs, cats and countless other elements.  After they exhausted that play they got out the hexbugs and made tracks for them to climb and race and scurry around on.  Almost all of our bugs were out of batteries so I used up the last six of our batteries and they scurried around like mad with full batteries.

Lilah’s friend brought some of her hexbug pieces over to play and Gavin accidentally broke one as they are really tough to get together and apart the more you use them.  For me as a parent it was one of those awkward situations where I felt badly about it but didn’t want to make it into a bigger deal than the kids made it.  So later after talking with Chris we decided to offer to replace it, if that friend and her parents decided they’d like that.  We’ve often had our kids toys broken or messed up by friends and we figure that’s part of playing and learning how to share and it’s never been an issue but we wanted to make sure we cover our friendship bases, but not in an overly formal way that makes us less valuable friends (who can break each other’s things and go with the flow).

After Lilah’s friend went home, we noticed the pine cones we’d collected last week had opened and the seeds inside shake out.  The kids call them helicopter seeds because they twirl as they fall.



There is something so satisfying about being able to explore things over time, to notice changes, to come back and see what you saw last time and notice things that were there before but you didn’t see them.