Archive for the ‘Family Adventures’ Category


August 21, 2014 @ 4:34 pm | Filed under: ,

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Our insanely busy summer is winding down, and soon we’ll be back to just regular busy. Jane took the week off her internship because she landed a short-term gig at a community college bookstore—the very college at which Rose is now taking a Spanish class, though the store is not on campus. Nearby, though, and Scott’s and my taxi powers have not been, er, overtaxed. (Ba dum bump.) And only three doctor visits in the past two weeks: one long scheduled, one unanticipated, and one follow-up. Considering the records we set earlier in the summer, this tally is positively yawnworthy.

(I just peeked at next week’s calendar, and there are NO. APPOINTMENTS. SCHEDULED. Which means somebody will probably break an arm.)

(Not funny, Lissa.)

With Wonderboy back in school and Rose uttering heretofore unuttered phrases like “Here’s my syllabus if you want to take a look” and “I finished my homework” (!), we find ourselves comfortably returning to our high-tide rhythms—with a few innovations this year. I’ve marked out blocks of time (cleverly called Block 1 and Block 2, which has my inner Anne Shirley rolling her eyes in disgust) to focus on Rose and Beanie (1) or Huck and Rilla (2) with some planning and deliberation. That is, I want to make sure we get to the Fun Stuff and the Important Stuff, and I’ve set aside time for the purpose. Four nice chunks of Block 1 and three of Block 2 each week, tucked into specific corners of the day.

Today’s our third day, and so far I’m tickled pink. Yesterday afternoon ended with Huck and Rilla literally climbing on top of me, chanting “More Block 2! More Block 2!” One excellent development is that Rilla and I now have a dedicated time to work on art projects. She picked this toucan painting to start with, and to my amusement I was not merely expected to facilitate her efforts: I was required to undertake a painting of my own. Our works are coming along nicely. Today we put in the skies.

Also chalked in on the schedule is a regular park visit, an extremely important addition in the eyes of my younger children. Huck and Rilla anticipated today’s outing all week long. Finally the appointed hour arrived—and thirty seconds after hitting the playground, all three of us melted into puddles from the fierce heat. Cue general despondency. In times like this, there’s only one thing to be done: find a shady nook under the fringe of pine trees and build ourselves a Roxaboxen. We each made our own little round houses with a nice path connecting them. We’re all in suspense to see what will be left of our realm next week.



Monday 11 August

August 11, 2014 @ 8:27 pm | Filed under: , ,

Oh sure, I can write the date, but that doesn’t mean I can believe it. I’d have laid money we weren’t past the 6th or 7th yet. Blink. WB goes back to school on Thursday (!) and Rose starts a Spanish class at the community college next week (!!). I will probably wake up tomorrow and discover that Huck has enrolled in graduate school.

On the forums for my Phone Photography class, someone (possibly my friend Stephanie Elms?) recommended an app called Timehop that, once connected to your various social media accounts, will compile for you each day a look back at what you posted on this date in years past. Thus it was that I discovered today is four years since we (sans Scott) visited Rocky Ridge Farm, where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote all her books.

rockyridgeIn which we continue the family tradition of being unable to all smile for a photo simultaneously, unless Scott is standing behind the photographer working his magic.

It has been a BIG four years. Three of those girls are taller than I now, and that chubby little side of beef is a long, lean boy. There’s a lot less pink in the laundry these days (nearly all of it Rilla’s).


Here’s what we did this weekend: I was asked to be on a panel at WinkieCon, an annual celebration of the Oz books, which I grew up loving as wildly as I did Little House. You can imagine my delight, then, at encountering none other than Ozma herself.


Is that not the most incredible costume? She nailed it perfectly. In addition to being a talented costumer, Natalie makes wonderful jewelry and art.

And that’s not all. My young Polychrome was tickled to meet this fellow:


After the “Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox” panel there was a booksigning for the authors (Edward Einhorn, Caroline Spector, and me). Look who kept me company at the table!


The convention was a delight for me and my girls, especially Miss Rilla, who dove into a ribbon-hunting quest with considerable verve. She had to seek out attendees with Doctor Who “Companion” ribbons on their badges and ask them to pose for a quick photo; for every five Companion photos she brought back to the game table, she earned a new ribbon for her own badge—starting with Dalek and working her way up through several levels, past Time Lord to a Companion badge of her own. She made a lot of friends that day, let me tell you. 🙂

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One of the highlights of the convention was—I can hardly tell you how fluttery I felt, walking into this room—a collection of Judy Garland’s costumes. Meet Me in St. Louis, The Harvey Girls, Easter Parade—so many treasures there. And we met Judy’s son. Such a nice man. It was quite a day.



If you ever get a chance to go to an Oz convention (especially Winkie Con, which is such a class act), I highly recommend it. Fascinating people, gorgeous books and costumes and handmade wares, really interesting panels—Jane particularly enjoyed “Oz and the American Musical,” which I wish I’d attended myself—and all in a venue MUCH less crowded and overwhelming than, say, Comic-Con. Many thanks to Eric Shanower for the invitation to speak on the panel.

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Photos now, commentary later

July 28, 2014 @ 6:31 pm | Filed under: ,

I’m wiped out. 🙂



Chris Gugliotti of Thicklebit fame

Lunch with Jock


Zander and Scott pretending they have a mean bone in their bodies

Entertaining ourselves with selfies while waiting for Stampylongnose to come onstage

The girls’ turn

Couldn’t leave this guy out

He’s finally here!

Back at Chris’s table, and this time we remembered to get a group pic

Whew, time to relax

A quick Monday morning post before the day is upon me

July 7, 2014 @ 7:00 am | Filed under:

And when I say “upon me,” I mean sitting on me in a squashing manner, because that’s what’s on the calendar today. So far, this has been a summer exceedingly full of running around.

Huck’s poor infected finger had been doing better, so it seemed, after he started antibiotics the week before last. By this weekend the antibiotics were done and the infection most certainly was not. Again I’ll spare you the ugly details. Of course it was a holiday weekend. We spoke to the on-call doctor at our practice on Saturday and he instructed us to take Huck to the ER at Children’s.



A dose of Versed, several shots of Lidocaine, and one fingernail-removal later, and I had a very stoned little boy waving his mummified hand in immense delight, inquiring of everyone who passed: “Why can’t I feeeeeeel it?”

Happy to report the finger is looking MUCH better this morning. Healing at last, I think. And yes, the irony of the On Tide Mill Lane parallel is not lost on me. Very happy my boy’s infected finger occurred in 2014, not 1814.

Wednesday, I think?

June 25, 2014 @ 7:29 pm | Filed under:


Huck has an infected finger. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say they’re gory, and I’ve added a new and entirely unwanted skill (pus drainage) to my maternal repertoire. We spent much of yesterday at the doctor, he’s now on antibiotics, and, proving there’s lemonade to be made even from a festering lemon, the two of us got to sit cuddled up until midnight watching Minecraft videos together. If I’m a little punchy today, you’ll understand.

Did manage to squeeze in some fun yesterday before the unfortunate appendage went from alarming to horrific: a bit of geocaching with the younger three at a lovely park we don’t visit often. At least, the first cache was at the park; the second one was at the dead end of a neighborhood street a couple of blocks away, a somewhat grimier location than expected. To Huck’s disgruntlement I wouldn’t let him touch anything, which means Rilla got the fun of the cache grab. WB doesn’t care who makes the find as long as he gets his turn at holding the phone/compass.

Today was piano and repaired hearing-aid fetching (happy is its owner, who can hear again) and finger-soaking and general collapsing, and nary a book did we read. But if you need to know how to lure zombies into an iron golem trap, Huck and I are your man.

Eowyn For the Win

May 29, 2014 @ 4:34 pm | Filed under: , ,


Rose put up some NO TRESPASSING signs outside her house in the Minecraft world the kids and I share. My favorite was the addendum: NONE OF THIS NONSENSE.

Well, of course I couldn’t resist a throwdown like that. A LITTLE NONSENSE NOW AND THEN, I wrote back, when she wasn’t looking, IS RELISHED BY THE WISEST MEN.

And her reply, proving the student has surpassed the teacher: I AM NO MAN.

That’s my girl.

Day at the Beach

May 22, 2014 @ 6:41 pm | Filed under: ,

A dear old friend, two lively girls, a lovely gray day, beach frisbee, sand sculptures, geocaching, Dippin Dots: pretty much a perfect day.



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Beth Malone and Lissa Brannon, a long way from Loretto Heights



There’s a mysterious world under the pier.

Camels and Elephants

December 27, 2013 @ 8:44 pm | Filed under: , ,

Scenes from our Christmas Day…

We took a drive north to Julian and stopped off to wave hello to the camels—an occasional tradition ever since the time shortly after we moved to California when we were enjoying a country drive and eight-year-old Rose exclaimed, “I just saw a camel!” We all thought it must have been a cow or a horse, but a rather indignant (and who wouldn’t be, accused of confusing camels with cows?) Rose insisted she knew a camel when she saw one. A few yards later, a large sign proclaimed OASIS CAMEL DAIRY. We apologized to Rose for our skepticism, turned the car around, and gawked. And now we go back every couple of years to gawk anew.


While we were there I took about fifty pictures of the six kids balancing on an old rail. Seemed an apt representation of our lives: precariously balanced, a bit off-kilter, and full of laughter.




Among Rilla’s presents from my parents was an adorable sewing kit. Pre-cut felt animal shapes for her to stitch and stuff, plus loads of embellishments. She worked all Christmas evening on this button-eyed elephant.




Not pictured: the moment Huck dazzled us with a sudden leap into real reading! First there was the “DO NOT BLOCK HORSE TRAIL” sign in the roadside pulloff where we were, in fact, blocking the horse trail while hastily scooping a carsick Rilla out of the minivan. (Too late.) Then, back at home, Rose was playing her new Wii game with the dialogue set to Japanese (verbal) with English subtitles. And Huck sat there and read the subtitles out loud. So that’s #6 over the bridge. What a journey!

The road goes ever on and on…

September 13, 2013 @ 7:47 pm | Filed under: , , ,


Sent this picture to Alice the other day because I knew it would get her the way it got me. She pointed out that four out of five of these girls are in college now. Well, almost! Jane moves in next week.

She was barely a month old when I decided I wanted to homeschool her. I’d been poking around the AOL parenting boards (having obtained my first modem and my first baby within six weeks of each other) and stumbled upon the Home Education Magazine boards. Before long I was devouring back issues of Growing Without Schooling and amassing a collection of Holt and Gatto books. Sandra Dodd and Pam Sarooshian were among the moms-of-youngish-kids enthusing about unschooling there, using the word in the broad Holtian sense, living and learning outside school. By the time Jane was six months old, Scott was on board, with reservations. Those dissolved over the next year or two, as we talked and talked and read and read (well, I read and talked, he mostly listened). Really, the notion had me at hello.

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It felt right for us, and it kept on feeling righter and righter, all these past eighteen years. When Jane was five, finally finished with her cancer treatments, an early and voracious reader, addicted to the Magic Tree House books, I hung a sheet of butcher paper the length of our hallway and we pasted little copies of the book covers in the pertinent time periods. We still have that timeline, now ripped here and there and crammed with tidbits. It was on the wall in this house until last year; it comes and goes as the urge hits us. There in large wobbly letters are young Jane’s notations: “Golden Age of Pirates,” “Charlemagne,” “King Alfred BURNED THE CAKES!!!”


Back up to when she was—around four? Alice will remember—we’re in an educational supply shop, Alice, her small girls (two of them on the slide above), Jane, probably a couple of babies. We’re browsing at a placemat spin rack. I put a few in my cart: planets, U.S. map, presidents. On the next aisle, I drop something else in and discover a placemat I hadn’t selected: the periodic table of the elements. Seems a bit early for that. I put it back. But a minute later, I glance in the cart and there it is again. I’m perplexed. “Did you put this in?” I ask my wee daughter. She nods. I’m taking it out to return it to the rack, we have enough in the cart already, and she bursts out earnestly: “But Mommy! I need to learn about the EE-laments!”

(Sold. We still have that placemat.)

One year I was speaking at a homeschooling conference, and the teenaged daughter of my boothmate took Jane—around age six, I think—to the drinking fountain. She reported back that when Jane saw the water arc out of the spout, she exclaimed over getting to drink a rainbow. Took a drink. Frowned, puzzled. “Funny. I always thought rainbows would be crunchy.”


She so often surprised me with the knowledge she’d absorbed from I knew not where. Scooping something out of water one day (had the baby dropped Cheerios into Jane’s cup? it was something like that), she remarked that her fingers were like a whale’s baleen. I didn’t know what baleen meant, but luckily I had Jane to enlighten me.

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The year she was eight, we read our way through a tower of America-themed historical fiction. Witch of Blackbird Pond, Moccasin Trail, By the Great Horn Spoon, Understood Betsy, whole bunch of others. That was a fabulous year. We were in our big house in Virginia then, with the propane fireplace you flipped on with a switch. That thing drew me like a magnet. I’d stand there toasting myself, reading aloud while the snow fell heavy on the hills and the juncos hopped beneath the feeder, and Jane lolled on the sofa with Beanie banging dents into my cedar chest with Wedgits—the first in a line of toddlers to bash away at that spot. Its entire surface is pockmarked with enthusiasm and glee. Sort of the best-loved-doll of furniture.


Project Feederwatch. Journey North Mystery Class. Shakespeare Club. Piano Guild. Film Club. Living Earth School—a nature camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains where Jane learned to make fires, to eat violets and chickweed. She had sold all the kids on our street on the virtues of chickweed for iron and violets for vitamin C, and they’d comb our yard, nibbling weeds until their teeth were green. I delivered a hasty lecture about pesticide and lawn fertilizer, and extracted a promise that the kids would only eat from our lawn, because I couldn’t be sure the others were chemical-free.

And that weed book! I blogged about this years ago: “Two summers ago I wanted to know what was growing in our unlandscaped side yard, so I checked a book on weeds out of the library. I glanced at it but decided this book was too dry to make it worth the effort and tossed it onto the kitchen table. The next day I returned it to the library. The next day, then-7-year-old Jane summoned me with an anguished wail. ‘Mommy, where’s that great book I was reading? The one about weeds? It was SO interesting!’ She’d found it lying on the table and naturally assumed that it was meant for her. I admitted I’d returned it, and she was crushed. I had to promise to schedule a special trip to re-check it out.”


Through high tide and low tide, we’ve learned a million things together. And now she’s heading off to go on learning somewhere else, and I couldn’t be more grateful, and more excited for all the adventures she has ahead of her.