Friday, February 24, 2012

President's Week at the Stewyurt

This week we mostly "took off" from schooling as that is what most other kids seemed to be doing.  Some call it "ski week" and we did ski on Tuesday.  We also somehow did quite a bit as the kids' blogs indicate.  It reminds me of the "Learn Nothing Day" that famous homeschooler Sandra Dodd ironically promotes.

In addition to ultimate, Eli is trying to decide whether to play baseball again this season after a two-year hiatus.  He misses it and loves the game, but is worried he has "fallen behind" skill-wise and could let down his teammates.  We'll go check out a practice tomorrow.  What do you think he should do?  It is fun to see him getting excited about things: ultimate, skiing, bb guns.

Sophia and Grace are filling our home with kindness and art: Sophia with her knitting and Grace with her watercolors.  Their continued dedication to the animal kingdom is inspiring.  They are both reading voraciously.

I am so thankful for my children and the time to be with them. 

The school vacation time has meant visitors!  Hip hip hooray :)  Even more, Juliana has had a nice stretch of no work.  Unfortunately, sometimes we are having so much fun that we forget to take pictures, but here are a few:

 One of the twins does not belong.  Can you tell which one?

Spring is visiting (and has been almost all winter), but promises to leave for a while so we can get some more rain here and snow in the mountains.

A number of you have expressed concern about the horrible accident we witnessed that Ju blogged about yesterday.  It was awful to see first hand life becoming no more so suddenly.  Moments before, a red Mustang sped by us in the passing lane.  I barely gave it any notice.  Then that.  Though it was terrible and nurse Juliana was one of the first on the scene, the kids and I were able to avoid seeing too much gory detail.  But we did see someone dead.  It is so much worse for the victims and their families; our prayers go out to them.  Drive safely!



Me and my friend just recently joined a high school ultimate team. The other day I went to try it out. It was pretty fun and since my dad plays it I was able to keep up with the rest of the kids pretty well. I have a good forehand but my backhand needs a little work. I am also pretty good at catching the disc but I have trouble getting open.


Creative Writing: Lilly (Chapter 7)

In 2 hours they were in town. Caroline decided it was time for Lilly's bathroom break.  She walked over to a nearby bush and gently lifted Lilly out of her backpack.  Caroline gasped, laying on the ground was a trampled on, hand written sign reading:

She was going home.

To be continued...


Complete story so far:


I am finally done with my sweater. Yesterday we all gathered around the couch and watched me knit the last stitch if my sweater.

It hangs loose on me (because I want it to fit a while.)
I learned a few new techniques. For those of you interested, here they are: triple needle bind off, picking up stitches, and ribbing.

I LOVE it. It isn't itchy, it is soft, warm, and very cozy.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Five vehicles involved in fatal wreck on Highway 49

We are okay, but coming home on 49 from school today we observed this accident just a couple seconds ahead of us. The mustang was coming to a stop and it's driver had already died on the road. She had no pulse when I checked. She was so still, and damaged that we did not even attempt CPR. We couldn't move the other driver from her vehicle, it was so badly damaged. The door was crushed in. But she was conscious and talking. Many stopped to help. Prayers for all involved.

Five vehicles involved in fatal wreck on Highway 49

Driver of red Mustang came into oncoming traffic, officer says
By Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor

Courtesy Diane Felt

One woman is dead, another injured and the occupants of three other vehicles very shaken up after an early evening wreck on Highway 49 near Joeger Road.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Abe Cho, at about 4 p.m. Thursday the driver of a red Ford Mustang traveled into oncoming traffic, striking a tan Infiniti, and continued to swerve out of control, coming once again into the opposing lane of traffic. The Mustang collided with a black Nissan Altima and then proceeded to strike two additional vehicles.

The driver of the Mustang was ejected from her vehicle and died at the scene, Cho said. She was the lone occupant of her vehicle. The woman driving the Altima was transported by ambulance to Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

“I was one of the first hit, by a car flying in the air,” said Grass Valley resident Tammy Saling, who was driving a Chevrolet Silverado four-wheel drive pickup truck. She said she saw a car come across the center lane, hitting another car, and then it flipped in the air and struck her vehicle.

Saling’s truck was hit first in the front, and then in the rear, she said. Although she doesn’t remember clearly what vehicle hit her, there were red remnants stuck in her vehicle, and a piece of the Mustang landed in the bed of her truck. Saling said when she stopped her vehicle, “I saw both the red and the black car just demolished, and a lady lying on the ground dead, I think.”

Allison Crawford of Auburn was one of the first to stop at the scene, where she used her CPR training to help stabilize the Altima driver’s head while help was on the way. As first responders helped extricate the woman from her vehicle, Crawford kept up a conservation with her, “just hoping she survived and pulled through.”

Crawford said the woman was alone in her vehicle, which was full of groceries.

The driver and passenger of the Inifiniti, John and Linda Wood, were driving home to Nevada City when the Mustang, which they said was fishtailing out of control, came toward them.

“I did an evasive maneuver,” John Wood said. “Luckily, it just went down the side.”

The couple was traveling with their 2-year-old Boxer mix, Willow, who was in the backseat. The window on her side was broken out, and after the collision she started climbing to the front of the car, between the door and the headrest, to get to her owners.

“She’s really shaken up,” Linda Wood said as she sat on the roadside, patting her still-trembling dog.

The couple said they were not injured in the wreck, although, John Wood said, “I think my blood pressure is up.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nevada County Science Fair, Here We Come!

Wish them luck!




Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Cyclops Mole: Life in a Harsh Climate

World X is much like our earth except for its extreme daily temperature swings. Either one of these extremes (-10º F and 160º F) would kill most earth creatures, let alone both of the extremes in one day. Some animals however have found ways to thrive in these harsh conditions.
The creature best adapted to it’s harsh environment is Subterrianious corrosivicus, commonly known as a cyclops mole. The cyclops mole avoids the extreme temperatures by going under ground. It burrows through the soil on the surface of Planet X using its retractable shovel-like claws. When it reaches bedrock,it strokes the rock with its four-fingered hand. This action opens thousands of tiny acid glands, releasing a 1 mm thick layer of sticky acid on the rock thus the name, Subterrianious corrosivicus. After about 10 minutes, the acid has eaten away about 2 ft of rock. Over time, Subterrianious corrosivicus will create an extensive tunnel system. Since it is pitch black in these tunnels, it uses antennae (some are over 1 foot long) to paint a 360º picture of its surroundings. Becase Subterrianious corrosivicus only goes to the surface for short occasional trips to get water, it has no need for more than one primitive eye.
Subterrianious corrosivicus would die if it weren’t for a small worm-like creature that lives in the trillions within the bedrock of Planet X. These little creatures called Bore Worms bore through the rock using small amounts of acid. When the cyclops mole corrodes the rock thousands of them are exposed. Subterrianious corrosivicus then licks the worms and and its own acid off the rock. The worms are then crushed against the roof of the cyclops mole’s mouth releasing their acid. The worms’ acid, along with its own, is absorbed by its large sponge-like tongue. This acid is concentrated in acid sacs in its wrists for later use. After their acid has been used, the worm’s crushed body is swallowed for food.
Getting water on Planet X can be very tricky for the cyclops mole and other inhabitants of Planet X. During the night, all surface water is ice or snow which is impossible to drink and the temperature is below zero. As the sun rises, the ice melts and and evaporates (sometimes during the hotter parts of the year snow turns directly to vapor). By this point Planet X is completely covered in clouds that block out the sun. Because of this Planet X begins darkening cooling off creating night in the middle of the day. Then it starts to rain filling river beds, dry pond beds, and streams. Now all the creatures of Planet X including the cyclops mole come out of hiding to drink before night falls. Subterrianious corrosivicus can even store about a liter of water in its sponge-like tounge for later use.
During the final hours of the day when Subterrianious corrosivicus and other animals come out to drink, others come out to feed. When water softens the soil of Planet X’s river beds a five inch long flounder like organism wiggles out of the softened soil in the hundreds. The schools of these flounders then swim down the river looking for prey such as a Cyclops Mole. When it finds its prey, the flounders latch onto it with their backward facing barbed hooks that cover their body. The flounder-like fish then begin eating into their prey. When the flounder-like fish eat their fill, the fertile females will lay their eggs in the quarry’s dying body. The body of the unfortunate creature will keep the eggs warm until the morning when the snow melts, upon which point the babies will hatch and burrow into soil of the river bed. The flounders often have trouble catching Cyclops Moles because their antennae can sense vibrations in the water from hundreds of feet away. Even if the fish do catch Subterrianious corrosivicus the antennae make it hard to find a place to grab on.
Even though Planet X is a tough place to live, Subterrianious corrosivicus has found a way to survive by by burrowing underground using its acidic hands and shovel like claws to escape Planet X’s extreme temperatures. The cyclops mole is preyed on by a small fish and eats an even smaller worm that is crucial to its survival.

"What a real E.T. might look like
by Eli

From my window

At driveway's entrance, I see the goat kids are vexing their mothers by going out the small crack between the gate and post, to stand on the wrong side. Mamas can't fit through. And babies won't go further without them. So they call to each other. And Rosie barks in alarm from inside her own fence. I consider going out to herd them back when I see a child in black cape, with a tall scythe/ spear/ lance? appear, pushing babes back through the crack, fussing for them to go. He has a new haircut. He had seen from up the hill. Our neighbor Caleb. On duty even when he isn't. Love him. And his costumes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reader submission

Thank you to Mary Valente for sharing this wonderful poem in response to my last blog entry.  I appreciate that our words are being read and considered and, even better, that caring and thoughtful ideas and perspective come back in return.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, .......


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Observations and Joey's Journal

I would like to share these observations I have made about the human experience as I live and school in close quarters with my family:

-Unheeded advice often leads to frustration and discontent for both giver and recipient. 

-Taking responsibility is powerful for you and your relationships.

-While contentment is strongly influenced by who and what surrounds you, its ultimate source is your own attitude.


At this point, I'm conflicted whether to stop and say nothing more, or to go on and elaborate with some of what has inspired these observations.  On one hand, I've always liked keeping a journal, and this space is my journal this year.  My journal has always been a powerful place for me to codify and clarify my thoughts.  But it has always been completely personal.  This year, my journal is public.  This feels a bit strange.  I am concerned that I will be judged or boring or both.  Despite this, I will go on.  But know that what follows was not written to be read or judged.  It is like a first draft or a preliminary sketch--not a final draft.  It is not a call for help or comfort (or, ironically, for advice).  It is just my thoughts, put down to help me understand my experience and shared to provide the interested reader (perhaps me in the future!) with some further perspective and meaning.
.  .  .
I got to speak with Mark Simon today, which is always refreshing.  He told me that he recently emailed Eli with some advice and humor in relation to his Bar Mitzvah.  We agreed that Eli probably understood the humor.  We were less sure how the advice would be received.

Before even speaking with Mark today, I had been reflecting how, as "teacher/dad", I find myself giving lots of advice (or, similarly, instructions).  Generally, I think it is pretty good: Do your studies, Clean up after yourself, Be on time, Care for the animals, Treat each other with respect, Listen.  I'm usually heard.  I think my students/kids even usually listen and care.  But how well is the advice really internalized?  Remember Polonius in Hamlet with his tired: "Never a borrower nor a lender be"?  Or the parents in Charlie Brown: "Blah blah blah..."?

Often what I have to offer seems unwelcome and/or I have to repeat it.  This is frustrating for all involved--but not necessarily more frustrating than not giving the advice/ instruction at all and seeing things messy and undone!  For example, when I hold back from reminding Eli to practice his trumpet (or feed his dog, or clear his dishes off the table, or whatever), my blood boils while he fiddles his iPod instead. Later he is frustrated when he can't play a song well (or he receives some other natural or artificial punishment for not getting his work done).  Or, even worse, I get  blamed for how it has turned out because I took him away from school where he would surely be getting better at trumpet (see earlier blog entry: "Melancholy").

With this in mind, I thought about titling this journal entry "Frustration." But after starting to write, I don't really feel all that frustrated any more.  (Plus, on the heels of my "Melancholy" entry, I thought that might be a bit much--especially for some of our more compassionate readers).  While the frustration I describe is present, to distill the extent of my feelings that way would be inadequate. 

In place of simplifying, I'll try a more holistic approach.  This requires some background:

This year, Juliana and I took a leap.  We are following a dream.  We are responding to our own observations about life and heeding the advice of all those who keep telling us: "it goes by so fast." We've slowed down and the dream is good.  I have time to write and read and ski and travel and be.  But as I've said many times, it is still life with all of its accompanying wrinkles.  Once the novelty and excitement of "living the dream" passes, we still are inhabitants of our bodies, involved in our relationships with all of their complications, interacting with the unpredictable. 

Furthermore, there are the kids.  This wasn't their dream, necessarily.  They have been dragged along, following with varying degrees of resistance, acceptance, enthusiasm, and neutrality.  Really, this is always the way it is for kids.  Early in life, they follow along with their parents.  Eventually they begin to individuate and start making their own decisions.  My kids are just starting that process of individuation.  They are just figuring out who they are and what they want.  They aren't sure our dream is theirs.

Eli, in particular, is at a place of uncertainty.  This presents a challenge for all of us.  I love that kid.  I believe deeply in his abilities and heart.  Yet he has not learned (or often chooses not) to take responsibility.  So I end up in the position of giving the advice I have been describing.

I'll indulge in considering another example involving the young man: lets say we have a plan to ski tomorrow.  The night before, Eli is given the advice/ reminder to prepare himself for the morning.  He sighs heavily and may or may not do it.  In the morning, he ends up rushing and apologizing and getting frustrated with himself.  We are late.  I have some choices: 1) remind him some more or help him, 2) leave him behind, 3) just stand by and let us be late.  All of these are a bummer for me and him: 1) we are both annoyed by what has become nagging and/or he is "enabled" by my help and more likely to continue the behavior, 2) we both have a less good day--he is at home, I ski alone, 3) I'm mad at him for making us late and he feels bad about it.  It should be noted that I have tried all of these options more than once.  I dream of a new possibility: 4) he takes responsibility. 

I don't want to be unnecessarily hard on my children.  But it also seems there are some basic rules of engagement--responsibilities--that must be followed (consider the list from above that started with "Do your studies").  I understand change is gradual.  Though "it goes by so fast", growing up also takes time.  I think growth is what we are striving for here.  And some of the change needs to come from me, too: let it go, let them fail, don't be overly attached to outcome.  But it isn't always that simple as often their potential failure effects others--like me (as I tried to illustrate in the ski departure example). 

I hope they will learn (and at this moment, I refer in particular to Eli).  I hope I can find the balance to support them while also letting them be.  Ultimately, their mistakes lead to their own frustration and their own desire to change.  But we're in this together, so often the challenges are mine--the whole family's--to share. 

Everything around us is so perfect as we "live the dream".  I have time to write and reflect.  We talk.  I think I can sound my advice and still find a place of ease when it is not heeded.  Though it can come with frustration, I appreciate the opportunity our interaction brings to for us all to question our habits and methods and to grow.
 .   .   .
P. S. I started these reflections by clarifying that they were just a sketch of my thoughts and not intended as writing to be read, per se.  I also said I was not seeking help or support.  These statements are true.  But if you have read this far, I am curious about your related thoughts and experiences.  With the busyness of most folks' lives, I realize there is not lots of time for written reflection, but I'm interested, should you want to share.

Dead Poet's Society

Last night we watched Dead Poet's Society. It is about a group of boys at an all boys school who all have problems, some of these problems worse than others. They all deal with them in a different way. One boy loves acting but his father wouldn't allow him to do any plays and is forcing him into medical school. Because he was so sad and angry, he ended up committing suicide. His father was trying to find someone to blame. The father wanted to blame the boy's English teacher. One of the boys stood up to the dad and headmaster and was expelled.

The boy who committed suicide helped no one with this act even if he did end his own pain. He hurt himself, his dad, his mom, his friends, and he got one of his friends and his English teacher expelled.

Lilly continues

Chapter 5 (2/13/12)
Caroline knew she would not let her mother get her. Caroline would be forced to get away from this woman. So, she snarfed down her hardy breakfast, put Lilly in her backpack, and stepped outside. It was a gloomy looking day. Grey clouds filled the sky and a light mist was falling. Then Lilly began baaaaing. She did not like the rain, that was for sure.

Chapter 6 (2/16/12)

Caroline got to work immediately. She found that there were ample palm leaves. So she gathered six wide palm leaves. Next, she got out the roll of string. She then started poking holes in the leaves. Then, she took Lilly out of the bag. In 5 minutes, she had a rain coat for Lilly.

They walked on.

To be continued...


Placer County Museum

Yesterday our family went to the Placer County Museum. It had real gold, old fashioned telephones, telegraphs, a video about route 40 becoming interstate 80, old shoes of young school boys, old pedicure sets, hand painted dinner plates, etc.

One of my favorite exhibits was the old fashion communication: holding a telegraph and an old fashioned telephone. They worked and had translations. Also, you were allowed to use it. We had lots of fun sending messages on it.

I recommend that museum.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Skiing (continued)

Eli and I had an excellent ski day on Tuesday at Squaw Valley--we went "bell to bell" all over the mountain on about 8" of new snow.  It feels good to be a bit sore today.  I love skiing.  The things that make it less desirable--the packing and unpacking, herding the kids, the expense, the long travel times--are significantly minimized this year.  Costs are way down with the early-season purchase of passes, the kids are able to take care of themselves for the most part, and using the Stewyurt as home base really simplifies the travel and packing.  Those of you who like to ski, winter is finally arriving (albeit in fits and spurts).  They are calling for some more snow this week.  Come join the fun! 

I'm so inspired that I was able to negotiate a compromise in the final hour for our ski team logo (image below).  Shirts will be on their way for ski team members and fans.  If you want one, let me know ASAP.


Monday, February 13, 2012

When does fierce become sassy?

I'm home again!

Saw fields of wild mustard flower and white plum blooms busting out, a couple rainbows, and bright sun through dark clouds driving back. Got almost 50 MPG. I'm getting better driving efficiently? I kind of like the drive, I have to say.

I had opportunity to observe an interaction that's got me thinking. Our unsupervised goats got to dancing on the hood of our car during forage time, and Joe insisted one of our daughters return them to their fenced pasture. Out-time needs to be supervised now, with the advent of this new caprine trick. Said daughter was frustrated at the perceived loss of goat and girl freedom, and spoke for this forcefully, and dramatically, without backing down. At some point I started to become uncomfortable. I appreciate hearing my daughters speaking up for themselves, what they believe is right, and for others. We coach them on this, and celebrate it most times. We've tried to be thoughtful about encouraging our children's original ideas.

But when does fierce become sassy, or become sassing your parents, as folks say down South?

I thank Joey for one particular development in my character. He speaks with confidence and certainty about what he needs and wants. I have learned to do that more myself, to have my needs (and certainly ideas and dreams) heard. I was more meek before I met and loved him. Have I also also become sassy?

What do others say about modeling assertiveness?

Creative Writing Updates and More

To make reading easier, we have put our creative writing projects into single documents.  We will provide a link here in the blog when there are updates (like now).

Grace's creative writing project, "Lilly", has been updated:

As has Sophia's, "The Talking Power":

In other news updates, we have decided not to print "Stewyurt Ski Team" shirts as we could not agree on a design that we all considered shirt-worthy.  If there are readers out there who would like a shirt, let us know and perhaps we can get enough to make an order.  We will be skiing tomorrow in some new snow; looks like less than we hoped for though.   It has been the driest year at Donner Summit EVER to date (Average: over 220" have fallen to date, 89" on the ground.  This year: 69" fallen, 12" on ground).
The kids on top of Sugar Bowl during a recent ski (and school) day

Eli's has purchased his new BB gun (with his own money), but it will not be available for use for a while.  He will use the next month(s) or so as a waiting period: opportunity to actively demonstrate that he is ready for the responsibility of possession.  I am hopeful that he will use the time to be thoughtful about his judgement and actions and that once/if he earns possession of the gun, he will rise to the occasion with a new level of maturity.

My melancholy has mostly passed and I appreciate those of you who checked in about it.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Melancholy Reflections

When I was in high school, I'll admit that there were two albums I bought almost exclusively for the jacket art: Madonna's Like a Virgin and Whitney Houston (self-titled, pictured).  It was nice to see last weekend that Madonna is still rockin' out.  But today Whitney Houston died.  Her life was troubled, but my lasting impression of her is from my youth: she was beautiful and her voice was incredible.  Listening and watching her sing "The Greatest Love of All" is candy for the eyes and ears.  It is hard to know that she had such a difficult life (especially when it all seemed so promising) and more troubling to learn that she is dead; life is so fleeting and impermanent.

My feeling of sorrow about Whitney adds to some other feelings I have been harboring recently.  Usually when I report in these bytes, I am fairly positive.  I like to think that is generally my nature and certainly this year has given me ample opportunity for positive experience.  But even when everything is great--a year-long vacation, time with the kids, being away from it all--there are low points.   Yesterday I was feeling a low.  It was a good day: we skied in the morning, had dinner together, and went to services for Tu B'Shvat (the Jewish new year for trees).  But Eli was frustrated by his day on the snow because he was snowboarding for the first time and it wasn't easy;  Juliana was feeling down about her work; Sophia and Grace were tired; the kids scored lower on a math assessment than they would have liked. 

When things don't go right and you are the "events organizer" and teacher, you feel--and often are--responsible.  Sometimes you are blamed directly.  I am always concerned about everyone's fun and academic progress.  I want it to be right and am thoughtful and intentional about making it so.  But yesterday it suddenly was wrong and I was to blame:  How could I have taken them away from their schools and friends?  And I'm not teaching math right!

I want my family to experience enjoyment and enrichment.  It is hard when those experiences aren't appreciated; it feels thankless sometimes.  Yesterday was an example of that.  When things go wrong and it isn't about me, it still often ends up feeling that way.

The good news is, today Anne and Adam came to visit.  We were honored that they made the trip here with their three young ones.  What is more, they were able to settle in for the afternoon and we all had a nice time.  I know I felt better for the visit.

This year has been so special on so many levels (even when there is melancholy) as we have come to better know and experience this place and each other.  But I miss the support, love, fun, perspective and normalcy of regular proximity to our people in the Bay Area.


Why it is Okay for Me to Get a BB Gun

Some people think I shouldn't get a better BB gun, but I disagree.

First of all, though some people may think it is more dangerous that the one I have now, I don't think that is true. The gun I am getting is very accurate and has a scope making it less likely to hit something I don't want to. Also, even though it shoots about twice as fast as the one I have now, people who have the gun say it doesn't shoot fast enough to badly hurt even a small animal.

Others are worried about the danger of me or them losing an eye. Though the danger does exist, we have a set of rules that will be taped to on to the stock of my gun. One is "never shoot towards something man made or living." Another is "always wear safety goggles when shooting."

In the past, I have shown bad judgement regarding my BB gun (shooting a glass table). But that was 3 years ago. That was a long time ago and I can show better judgment.

Even though some people disagree, I think getting a BB gun would be fine.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

garden day

new shoots on what look like dead sticks

I sometimes miss my own bed.
Medieval hair.

Naomi with oak leaves.

We let Rosie sleep inside last night. She's been seeming sad lately, seeming to miss us. I don't forgive her chicken killing, but I still feel responsible for treating her as a member of the family. I might have accepted her limitations.

5% of the time, she is overcome by her impulses and gets herself in trouble. That may be true of me too.

She hasn't written me off these months I've rejected her, and continues to make significant eye contact, continues to seek my company and approval. I appreciate that.

Today I am home alone, and enjoying it. A moment of quiet before back to work this weekend. I can't quite get enough of this place. I'm looking forward to our next projects: a green house and Spring honeybee swarms. I bought a hive with a gorgeous copper roof. Now to assemble it all.

I read the book Honeybee Democracy recently. The author investigated how bees make the decision to swarm, and how they agree on a location for a new hive. The science was super elegant. It inspired me to try baiting for some feral swarms this spring using optimal cavity volume, entrance size and orientation etc.. Should be exciting!

The goats have been making spicy wild delicious milk. They are released to forage most days. They eat pine needles and oak leaves right off the tree, dancing on their back hooves to reach.

At a point though, they've eaten their fill and then get up to mischief. I looked up the hill yesterday to see Frida standing on the hood of our car. By the time we got up there, her kids had joined her.

I've felt held hostage by work this week. Eight months ago management abruptly changed my schedule for the worse. I've been making it work with the help of my colleagues, making switches to consolidate my work nights, to minimize the long drives and time away. Managers have decided not to grant my switches anymore. So I'll be driving more, and being away more.
Feeling frustrated by my inability to make this feel fair, and right. Feeling a lack of regard and respect and compassion. Trying to decide if it's a deal breaker.

This at a time when I've really been relishing my work and colleagues.

I've been escaping into George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones book series. I like it, though it's brutal and violent and scary. Main characters keep getting killed off. Best not to get attached. But there are also zombies and mythical wolves and prophesies. I like that.

I've been enjoying dirt-under-your-fingernails, body-ache inducing weeding. We planted the raspberries, grapes and strawberries this week, and I check regularly for signs of Spring-- new shoots on what look like dead sticks.

What signs of Spring are you observing? What books do you recommend? What is worrying you? And what renews your spirit?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

BB Gun: No no

I don't think Eli should get his BB gun because:

#1. He might shoot the animals.

#2. He might shoot someone's eye out.

The only reason I helped pay for this weapon/toy was because otherwise he said he would get a faster and stronger one [Editor's note: he would not have been allowed to get a faster and stronger one].


Bar Mitzvah Bike Ride for the Milo Foundation

As you know, my Bar Mitzvah is coming up. My Bar Mitzvah is important to me because it has been an important tradition for thousands of years and will be a good way for me to connect with my past.

As one of my Bar Mitzvah challenges, in March I am taking a 3-day bike ride with my dad from Auburn to San Rafael (about 180 miles). To make this ride more meaningful, I am raising money for the Milo Foundation. The Milo Foundation is based in San Rafael and helps abandoned dogs and cats find new homes. Our dog Rosie was actually a Milo rescue dog.

I am hoping you will help sponsor this ride in the form of donations to Milo. You can donate money per mile or just a set amount. Donations can be made in the following ways:

1) Donate online at

Click "DONATE" and complete required information. In the Additional Notes box, please type "Eli's Bar Mitzvah".


2) You can send checks made out to "The Milo Foundation" to me.

Thank you.



Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why Eli should not get a BB gun

This entry is dedicated to why Eli should return his BB gun. I have a few reasons, I will share 3 of them.

#1, he may regret ordering this foul object because it could cause hurt to our animals. We let the goats out regularly and the gun can cause wounds to small animals such as kids (baby goats). Also, sometimes he goes into the animal pastures and what if he was shooting a tree trunk and a chicken ran over to the tree and got shot?

Second, Eli might regret not sending this gun back this second because it is hazardous to him. If he was shooting a hard, close, flat, surface, the BB might bounce back into his eye and hurt him or his friends. And, sometimes he shoots straight up. The BB might fall on him and harm him.

Lastly, it will cause conflict. When Grace contributed $20, she made a rule that she can confiscate the gun at any given moment. That definitely will cause conflict. End this discussion.

This gun will cause hurt animals, conflict, and hurting to you, Eli. So turn around and return that gun this second... now.


Friday, February 3, 2012


I recently read a book about a boy who is in a plane crash and is stranded in the woods with nothing but a hatchet. Brian survived 57 days using nothing but his hatchet and the materials around him. He showed ingenuity in many ways.

First of all, Brian was very creative. He made a shelter, fishing spear, a bow, and figured out how to make fire by striking his hatchet against rocks.

Brian also used his intelligence to survive. He was able to find berries by following birds. He learned to spear fish by aiming below them to avoid missing them because of the refracting light.

In the end, Brian was rescued. But he survived for 2 months in the wild using his creativity, ingenuity and intelligence.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Making Balm

Today Mama, Grace, and I made balm (salve).  We decided to make it when the boys were out because they didn't seem interested.  The reason we wated to make our own was because we are traveling to high altitude and it gets mighty dry up there.  Also, it feels good on your face to be greasy.  And the essential oils in there have healing powers.

I will start by telling you about essential oils.  First of all, I will tell you how you get the oils out of the plants/fruits.  There is expressing (pressing them out).  There is distilling (warm in water, oil turns into gas and is cooled to oil).  I won't tell you everything but to make a long story short: etc.

Now I'll give away our "secret" (not really) recipie.

1 spoon of Stewbee honey
orange peels
lemon peels
2 cups olive oil/soybean oil
2 squirts lanolin
chunk coco butter
lemon balm
6 t. Stewbee's wax
9 drops essential oil

The balm turned out great and come visit the yurt and you can try it.
By author,
Sophia S.
[with spelling edits by Papa]

Thoughts on Jaunary and Our Ski Team. Your input requested!

I've been noticing this "semester" that homeschooling had taken on more ease for me--and I think for all of us.  There are a lot of reasons for this: we are more distant from the routine of traditional school (its been since June), our traveling and other daily activities have been naturally full of learning, the kids and I are all more used to homeschooling and what to expect from and do each day, we aren't doing a lot of other "activities".  For these and other reasons, it has been a good month.

One of those "other reasons" is that we've finally been able to do some skiing!  Yay!  Today Eli and I went to Squaw Valley and it was great.  They had received just a few inches of new snow overnight (and it snowed most of the day), and it made a difference. Eli is skiing very well and is a capable and fun ski partner.  Sophia and Grace are improving as well and it is a pleasure to spend days with them on the slopes.

As a final note, we are debating about names and logos for our family ski team to emblazon on team shirts and speak of in our family lore.  Please leave a comment if you'd like to give any input.  We are also accepting designs from blog readers, so send them in if you want to be considered.  We will let you know what we decide.  Once a logo and name are chosen, shirts will be available at cost so let me know if you are interested in having one.


P.S. To those of you who receive updates of this blog via email: sorry about so many new entries in one day!

Design 1

Design 2

Design 3

Last-minute ideas???
Design 4

Please leave a comment as to which you suggest we use.

Water Coloring

This last month or so, I have been doing a lot of water-coloring. So I thought I should blog about it. Throughout the blog, photos of my art will be shown.

Some of my paintings, like the ones called Buddy, Ginger, Honey, Proud Rooster, are paintings of animals I know.
 Proud Rooster

Others were from books or a computer.
 Snow Leopard
 Rocky Racoon
 Doe a Deer a Female Deer
 Curious Duck


Hello again

This morning it is a drippy grey.

Someone is playing her piano upstairs and Joey and Eli are driving up to Squaw for a ski.

I've been enjoying working in the garden. Relocating some artichokes and beets to the sunnier, well drained end of the garden. Weeding. Transplanting some lavender and citrus whose feet were too wet. Have been contemplating building a greenhouse, and seed starting. Tomorrow we will purchase wine grapes, more raspberries and 100 strawberry starts for planting in the orchard. Joey has a huge load of soil in the back of the truck, waiting.

Lettuces, cabbages, broccoli and garlic are the only edibles growing at the moment. The chickens and ducks produced 60 eggs while we were away, so our meals have been egg and goat milk focused.

Sophia and Grace and I will make lotion today. We saw a lot of borax mining in Death Valley, and I was reminded of one of its uses in cosmetics. We've saved some of our bees wax too, and can add some comfrey, calendula and lavender flowers. Its a fun easy project, a little like making mayo in the blender.

I've enjoyed my work lately more. I've been doing more labor and delivery, which is rewarding, and exciting. I've enjoyed staying at Gretchen's house between shifts. Her coffee is tops, and her baby Ruby is sweet. Mike carries my bag down to the guest room and seems not to mind my intrusion on his weekends home from an intense trial he's working on now. Our new car got 48 MPG on the drive.

I think about next year some. How I might hold on to this place, the garden and animals, and the sweetness of the way we've opted to do things. I'm going to try to be more present in this time instead. There are options for grad school, or job change, but none of that needs deciding now.


More of Juliana's favorite photos from southwest trip

Juliana's favorite trip photos

Death Valley
We jogged 2 miles up a hiking trail at dusk to find this oasis in the desert. 49 Palms.

Cactus skeleton
Joshua Tree

Grace at Getty