hearts and brains

This week we’ve been making a lot of Valentines Day preparations.

We built a heart shaped box for Lilah and decorated it and decorated a MineCraft creeper box for Gavin. Lots of hot glue was used to make the heart box and we all helped paint different shades of green squares onto Gavin’s creeper box.

Gavin made Valentines to hand out to friends


and so did Lilah. She made fortune tellers, decorating each corner, and making up several fortunes to include:  you will laugh and will not stop, you will fall in love with a cat and a cat will fall in love with you, you will become a king/queen, you will turn into an icicle, you will transform into a cat, you will eat a lot of candy and not get sick, you will fly on a balloon, you will get eaten by a tiger.

We’ve been talking a lot about the government and elections and how things work, who some of the people in our local government are and some in our federal government and how they got to those roles. We all participated in a Utah March for Refugees to demonstrate our support of refugees and our local city’s stance on people coming here from other countries.


We went ice skating.

Lilah was so fascinated by sign making for protests/marches that she made her own sign a few weeks back. It reads, “Cat’s are better then dooog’s.”


We’ve been hanging out at home, playing, too.


We had a pirate themed play day at our house with friends including dressing up, a scavenger hunt, treasure finding and lots of other play. **Photo of all the kids dressed up by my friend, Teri.**

Gavin made his own hunt for the little ones after finishing up the one I prepared for the group and they were so happy.

We’ve been reading The Wolfling by Sterling North. The kids are really enjoying it.

We spotted cedar waxwings in our yard and watched them eating berries from the mountain ash and apple remains and juniper berries along with the robins and starlings.

The kids are rereading the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi on their own and together.

We went on a Valentine delivery run about town and the kids put Valentines for friends we don’t see often into their mailboxes.

We spotted bulb shoots coming up outside our kitchen windows and were very excited to see them and keep watching to find out what kinds they are and watch them grow!

We went to an aquarium with lots of opportunities to feed animals and the kids enjoyed it but I was not happy to see their really small enclosures and think of all the stress that being handled all day must cause the animals. We all decided after talking afterward not to go back. Feeding the parakeets was really fun though.

We’ve been watching the big hawk that sits on a post near our yard.


We went to a Valentines Day party with lots of unschooling friends and the kids loved roaming about in groups, especially enjoying the bouncy balls that Gavin’s Valentines had on them.

I’ve been painting sometimes in the evenings. I am so thrilled to be making and motivated by the challenge of trying a new medium: acrylic paint.

We roller skated and the kids played arcade games, trading in their tickets for a best friends forever necklace that splits into two necklaces. They put them on immediately. They really are best friends and I’m so grateful for their enjoyment of each other.


We went up to the Veteran’s Medical Center to give out Valentines to veterans. The kids were not comfortable giving them to people so I handed them out and then when we were done the kids covered the chairs in the waiting room with Valentines and candy.

We went to the park with friends and climbed trees and explored and hung on bars and talked.

The kids have been spending quite a bit of time playing Roblox and MineCraft on the computer together and separately but next to each other. Even when they playing different games they are chatting about things together.

We went to play at a friends’ house. The kids played all afternoon and the moms worked on craft projects. I’m trying needle felting for the first time ever. It’s pretty fun and I think the kids and I will try making some little critters together.




November was full of fun. We spent more time inside this month as it’s been getting cold. I miss the time outside but the cozy indoor activities are really fun too.


A check up at the veterinarian’s office.  All is good. The kids helped comfort Luna in the exam room.

Aquarium visit. The kids were excited to see some carnivorous plants!



Lots of reading.

Lots of drawing (lots of cats).

Playing games.

Building with circuits.




Enjoying the International Peace Gardens.


Out and about with friends.


Feeding and watching bird visitors and a bit of snow!


Lots of cooperative story telling/playing.

I love these kids!


gardening and other physical explorations

The three of us went to the garden store and picked out vegetables for our garden and some pansies for our porch. Gavin chose some red and orange pansies and Lilah chose some dusky purple.

We finished reading Little House on the Prairie. We don’t have a copy of Farmer Boy (next in the series) at the moment so we started Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald in the mean time.

Lilah went to gymnastics class where they are preparing for their meet.


We planted the pansies in little pots to brighten our porch and a geranium inside by the window.

We visited the Leonardo again.

Our Harry Potter listening in the car came to a finish as we just listened to the end of the last book so I’m looking for some new series I think the kids would enjoy hearing in the car.

Gavin began his spring outdoor soccer, practicing with his team. Lilah and I watched, did cartwheels and practiced her gymnastics routines and played with our own soccer ball.

Gavin came across a recipe for soft pretzels and asked if we could make them together. He read down the recipe to make sure we had everything we needed and decided with my help, that we did.

We weeded the garden, dug out tree roots and planted the strawberries that Lilah insisted we grow this year, and plant first. She was disappointed that we only had a few plants so I shared that trying something new in the garden is always an experiment.


They found worms and trash and roots and lots and lots of weeds. Gavin dug and dug and dug with the new kid sized shovel we got.

Lilah asked me why I was rubbing the roots of the strawberries so I explained that the roots need to expand into their new home and if they are a little more flexible, it helps.


We mixed up the pretzel dough and kneaded and rolled snakes and shaped pretzels. Then they played with Hero Factory characters until the dough was ready to go.

We slipped the pretzels into the bath, hoping they wouldn’t fall apart, like happened in our last attempt. They actually held up pretty well. I think the difference was popping them in the freezer right before boiling.

After a “tea time” with pretzels and green tea we headed off to the roller skating rink.

The kids practiced their tricks, I practiced my decidedly less exciting ones. Lilah was skating and noticed a girl about her size with covered head and long clothes (very colorfully styled hijab)and stared, then smiled. The girl had her roller skates untied and was falling. So Lilah stopped and tied her skates for her. I was very proud and happy to see her in that small moment of connection. She told me later that she’d expected the girl spoke another language but was surprised when she spoke English and so we talked about how there are lots of people here who are not exactly like us but still speak English (and have a lot more in common too.) (Photo is very fuzzy because of bad lighting and pictures while moving.)


Off to the park we went when we got home to practice Lilah’s floor routine and for a few kicks of the soccer ball before dinner. I read a chapter of Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald to them while they finished up dinner, then a chapter of The Ranger’s Apprentice series in the bedroom before cuddles and songs and dreams.



Cuttlefish and Number Games

We went to the aquarium.  We saw lots of animals and tested out some new displays.  We spent quite a bit of time with the cuttlefish, observing them.  They are fascinating creatures, very curious.  They come right up to the glass to observe us and one even sort of puffed water at us several times.  We wondered aloud what the tube like part under their head does and I promised to check it out at home.  Later I found it helps to propel them through the water, along with their fin.  They can change color and release ink.  From watching them for awhile, it seems to me to be the spots on their skin that change color, not the underlying skin itself.  We know they like to cover themselves in sand and hide on the bottom of the tank, but today we only spotted swimming cuttlefish.  We also saw the Gentoo penguins, lots of sharks and unicorn fish and jellyfish.

We listened to Harry Potter on the way to and from the aquarium and Gavin asked to watch the movie so we started that when we got home.

The three of us played a Magic the Gathering draft. Lilah and I were on a team since drafting is so complicated that I don’t think she could do it on her own.  She was disappointed but ended up enjoying it and then leaving partway through the game, which is about right for her attention span.

Lilah read me an Elephant and Piggie book: My New Friend Is So Fun.

Gavin and I played Rat-a-tat-Cat and he won with only 4 total.  I had 7.

We headed to Classic Center for some roller skating. The kids practiced skating in a crouch, stopping, turning and jumping.  I practiced not hitting small kids veering wildly on scooters while trying to enjoy skating.  Next time I think we’ll go earlier and avoid the crowds.

Lilah played some Spanish games with number and color words.  They’d forgotten many of the ones they had learned already but they came back fast.  In one of the games she has to spell the words so the visual learning kicks in there.

We got out the Math Dice and Gavin taught me how to play.  It was fun to practice our addition and multiplication.  He’s so good with numbers!


Lilah performed a Chapstick experiment wherein she tried all of her chapsticks together, layer upon layer.  It was hilarious and I told her she smelled like a candy shop.  She’s still a bit sticky.


The kids played Carcassonne with my sister while I went for a short hike and then they played with Legos and jumped on the beanbag.


There was a soccer game in the hallway.


There’s always more fun to be had.  I keep learning that particular lesson, over and over!  It’s a good one.



There was more perler bead making, this time they began making pieces to be made into a garland later.


I printed out a few math worksheets for both kids and left them on the table, telling them they could work on them if they wanted to, if it sounded fun.  They both did some during lunch time and then Gavin helped Lilah with hers a bit later on as well.  She would be in first grade this year but is more at a second grade level in math and it makes me happy to be able to meet her where she is with material and interests.


We went roller skating at the other place with the slippery floor and ramps!

When we got home it was time to pick Gavin’s friend up for play time.  They played Connect 4, Chess, The Hobbit lego game, and they built a marble maze.

Gavin was thrilled to see his friend who was over today as it’s been a while since they last played and they have been friends since they were five.  It’s always great to get the two together as they have a long history of fun.










Mixing up crystal growing solution with epsom salt:



There was Katamino playing and building.  In Katamino you race against your opponent to fill your box completely without leaving spaces.  You each get a certain set of blocks.  It’s a bit like Tetris but with real blocks.  Plus, you can build animals out of the blocks after your game.  Lilah made a pony with mane and tail.  And then there was Mermaid Island playing, a cooperative game.


They played in their world populated today by Lego creatures and landscapes.  They spend quite a bit of time deciding what kinds of pieces to use for what.  Here I think they are looking for parts for a dog they are going to make.


Gavin and I played Chess.  We finished two games and then Lilah wanted to play with me.  In the game with Lilah there was lots of knocking pieces over on purpose along with explaining how different pieces move.  Gavin’s gotten a whole lot better than last year at anticipating moves and seeing possibilities, but our games are still very lopsided.  I will often point out to him that he’s moving into a dangerous position to help us both enjoy it more and give him a better chance.  I have many fond memories of playing Chess when I was younger and often feeling quite frustrated by my own abilities not being what I wanted them to be.

Gavin requested again that we get No Stress Chess which is a set of cards that levels the playing field by telling you which piece to move every turn.  I definitely think it would be fun to do that with the kids when they are just beginning to get the idea of the game.

Then it was time to go roller skating.  Today the kids both skated on their own for about a half hour before wanting the balance supports the rink offers.  They are doing great but I think they get tired and then prefer the supports because it’s more fun to worry less about falling.  Pretty soon they’ll be zooming around me out on the rink.  They’re getting close!  We like to give high fives as we skate past each other.

After skating we came home and had dinner together and then read another chapter of Searching For Dragons before bed.



There was computer play and Strawberry Shortcake watching.

Gavin rebuilt his Lego game, with new pieces and new directions.  They played with that after he was done setting it up.

Then we began painting the costume again!  Gavin and Lilah set to work painting the entire torso piece blue while I put some more brown on the hair and painted the mask/bandana blue.  We cut and glued some black mesh behind the holes for Gavin to see out of and then painted blue over the exposed bits.

We admired a tomatillo husk from the garden that has weathered and is now just the fibrous bits, like a ball of lace.  It made a beautiful shadow in the autumn sunlight.


Soon the torso piece was ready for us to draw the details on in pencil and begin painting them.

I painted the white, black and dark blue and the kids worked on the gold.

While we were waiting for those to dry we went to the park.


Gavin rode his bike and Lilah and I walked.  We brought some hotwheels to race around.

There was monkey bar crossing and hanging upside down.

We looked at how objects make crisp, clear shadows down low to the ground but vague, soft-edged shadows up higher.

And more car racing.

When we got home it was time to put the finishing touches on the costume.  We added the second coat of gold because it was not very opaque the first time and then I painted the lightning on and did various other touch-ups.  Gavin tried it on and it looks great!  He’s very excited!  I am very happy it’s ready to go!

Lilah put on her skates and played tag with Gavin around the house until dinner was ready.



There was computer play to begin the day.

They got out Lilah’s Lego Creator set that builds either a cat, dog or rabbit and put the rabbit together.  They carefully read the instructions, found the right pieces and negotiated who did which parts of the building.


We worked on Gavin’s costume more after breakfast.

A few more holes were cut and then more paper mache was added.  When we finally finished the paper mache process, Lilah disappeared into their room to read for a while and Gavin designed and built a Lego game.  After breakfast, they played his new game together.  There was lots of giggling and explaining.


Here’s a close-up of the game board, all set up.  As a player, you choose a character who navigates around the board, rolling a dice to decide the outcome of various challenges.



After lunch we practiced some Spanish and then painted a little bit on the parts of the costume that were dry enough and that needed the colors of paint we had in the house already.  Brown for the hair and yellow for the face.


There was more Lego play for the kids while I painted the eyes and eyebrows black on Gavin’s costume.

We happened upon a really fun science video: http://themetapicture.com/refraction-magic/ showing refraction.  We all want to try this out!

Then we headed to the roller skating rink.  It was crowded today because the district has off for UEA weekend, but still plenty of room for us.  The kids started without the supports, then skated with them and afterward, both of them skated free and happy and even begged to stay later to skate more on their own!  They are getting better and better and it’s really fun to watch them enjoy it.  They always like to try things too on the rink, like skating backward or turning around in circles.  Today it was skating in a crouch.  I practiced my slowing and stopping and bringing my skates together and apart without lifting off the ground.


When we got home it was time to paint the eye highlights white while Lilah put on her skates and skated around the living room and then it was dinner time.


Chris headed to the craft store to get lots of blue paint while I read and sang to and cuddled with the kids before bed.