On the Beauty and Oddness of This Week

My Lucas #spring #waldorf #sixthgrade #camping #11yearold

My son has gone away. He is with his Waldorf class and two teachers at Steiner College for the week, working with and for the master biodynamic farmer (who probably has an official and better title than the one I’ve just used). The sixth grade kids are farming, fulfilling CSA orders, feeding and caring for animals, and camping out—four nights and five days.

Brave teacher #spring #waldorf #sixthgrade #camping

Sixth grade camping trip.  They are going to have so much fun.  #spring #waldorf #sixthgrade #11yearold #camping

Aren’t they beamish? Aren’t they mighty?

The rain came down in buckets yesterday, day 3. Then it hailed. A little tornado touched down a few miles northeast of here. Let me assure you, we do not get tornadoes here, except for yesterday.

I am amused by my own mixed feelings of worry and delight that this special camping/farming adventure became an honest-to-goodness adventure in weather, a test of endurance in the wet. I worry a little that my son is/was cold and miserable. But I don’t really think that’s what is happening. I believe my son is having a fantastic time. I believe Lucas is out there having the time of his life, actually, being tough, learning how competent and capable he is, working hard, and being silly among all of his friends. I believe they are bonding. Even if the kids have moments of misery or homesickness, I believe this trip will be a highlight of Waldorf primary school, among a whole galaxy of sparkling, magical Waldorf school experiences.

I believe that. I won’t get to know until Friday afternoon, when I pick him up. Until then, I hope, while the rain continues to fall.

I also believe that this is more a test for us parents than a test for our 11- and 12-year-olds. I believe it is meant to prove to us that they are growing up, and can handle more (far more) than we give them credit for. They can handle themselves. They have a solid foundation that we have painstakingly built for them, and from this they are launching themselves. (Whether we’re ready or not.)

What a wonderful thing! What a beautiful, odd thing!

Watching the rare hail come down #spring

So, this little fellow, who only rarely is without his brother, is having a week of only-child status.

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My little scientist

He doesn’t mind too much. He’s had extra attention from mama, and visited with grandparents. Papa even took him to the ice-cream parlor, just the two of them. He can play with all the LEGOs. Plus, the crazy weather gave us the opportunity to collect hailstones in a big bowl and then do color science with food dyes—my little potion-maker!

Having only one child to care for this week has felt odd. And being with this little guy, without big brother around to influence or direct him or make him feel like he has to act older than he is, is beautiful thing, too.

Mama’s Getaway

Well, we’re halfway through summer vacation now. I’ve been struggling a bit lately, and I find my mind turning back to this glorious trip I took last May. We’ll call it mental escapism.

Have you ever given yourself a Mother’s Day gift? I did this year and it was beyond wonderful. I actually took some time away from my family and home to drive half the length of California to visit friends. It was a blitzkrieg trip; I was gone only 54 hours.
Ferns

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When I got to Humboldt county, I found ferns and rhododendrons, misty mornings, and cool evenings. I got to see my friends’ home for the first time, and what a marvelous place it is! They have space for a fruit orchard, backyard chickens, a tire swing, and two wacky dogs. There’s a basketball hoop for their sons and plenty of yard projects for Peggy. Their neighbors are spaced at a good distance as you’d expect for country living, and yet their home is only about 10 minutes from town, where they can get anything they want. Furthermore, their property has one whole edge that’s redwood forest. I can’t imagine a better place to rear boys.

Home away from home

Arcata Yarn and Fabric Shop

Chris had the day off and so we got to hang out together, which we NEVER get to do, and it was wonderful. We did a bit of sight-seeing, visited a yarn shop, had a sushi lunch.

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Chris showed me the Redwood Curtain Theater, which is Chris, Peggy, and Clint’s life’s work and labor of abiding love. I got to see Chris perform the lead role in Skin Deep that night. Great play, great acting.

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We stopped for some photos of this guy, who was very friendly, and visited the neighbor’s horse too.

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On the second day Chris and Peggy and I drove up to Trinidad for a couple of hours, just to look around. Such a cute town, with million-dollar properties up for sale. Ha!

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It was such a great visit. But, right on time, I kissed my friends goodbye and left for home and drove six hours. It was even kind of nice to just drive by myself.

Happy to be home

I found this poster on the front door when I got home. What’s more, I was given a very thoughtful Mother’s Day gift: my family had prepared a section of the garden for planting, and amended the soil and everything. They took me to the plant nursery the next day for plants and then helped plant them in the new shade garden. It was the best Mother’s Day present ever.

Easter Surprise: Påsk Ris

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A mazillion years ago, when Ian lived in Sweden and I was visiting at Easter time, we saw everywhere in Upsala bare branches decorated with colorful feathers. We wondered, is this sympathetic magic? If the Swedish people decorate bare branches with feathers, are they invoking the coming of springtime? Of course, at Easter time, the ice and snow still holds sway, and warm days are still several months away. (As I type this it’s currently 27 degrees F there.)

“The Easter tree, or “påsk ris”, can be seen all over the country this time of year. Outside shop entrances, in peoples’ living rooms, outdoors in the neighbours’ gardens.”

I’ve had these bare branches in a vase in my home for a couple of months now. They held hearts on Valentine’s Day and they’ve lingered through the month of March. I’m pretty sure they’ve poked everyone in the eye at least once. I’m also sure that my Ian has wished I would take them away.

But, NO! I had a secret plan, you see. I wanted us to make him a påsk ris as a surprise. Because once, a mazillion years ago after we came home from Europe, I made one of these to decorate our very first apartment together at Easter time, and it was sweet and lovely and back then life was uncomplicated …

So anyway, Lucas, Asher and I made a påsk ris to surprise Daddy.

Materials

  • colorful craft feathers
  • branches
  • glue gun

Tutorial

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Get out your low temperature glue gun and your patience and start gluing feathers on. That’s it. It takes a good long while and maybe an extra pair of hands to hold the feather in the warm glue until it sets.

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But you can get funny photos while you’re doing it.

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And then you can surprise people you live with and people who visit, and they’ll say, “What the heck is that?”

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And then you can explain that the symbolism of the Easter tree is not about bringing on the spring, or sweeping out winter, or even about Easter witches—which is a Swedish thing! Really.

“But, apparently the Easter tree has a completely different origin and symbolism. It comes from the 1600’s. Swedish people in the 1600’s used to take twigs and sticks and beat each other with them on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering of Jesus. In the 1800’s and 1900’s, they started to be decorated and became a symbolic decoration for Easter.” —from Watching the Swedes

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Our Autumn Equinox Celebration

Equinox Apple-Picking #apples #orchard #autumn #fall #family #seasonal. #traditions

Apple Tree, Autumn Equinox

What a lovely weekend! It had just the right amount of “home” and “away” time, although our laundry piles might beg to differ. We hopped in the car on Saturday and drove up to the foothills to Apple Hill, where we enjoyed gorgeous scenery featuring vineyards, Christmas tree farms, and orchards full of apple trees laden with fruit.

Apple Orchard, Autumn Equinox

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We found a “you-pick” farm and picked apples for the first time.

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Aren’t they pretty hanging on the tree?

Apple Song

The autumn lights are twinkling,
The evening breezes chill.
The ripening apples fall from trees
Upon the apple hill.

The daylight has turned golden,
The air is fresh and clear.
The apples sweet have fallen
For you to eat, my dear. The days are getting shorter,
The nights becoming long.
The farmer harvests apples.
He sings this apple song.

(Yep, I wrote this for our Autumn Equinox & Michaelmas Festival E-Book.)

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Ian had a bit of a height advantage over the rest of us. He was a good sport and carried our heavy bucket, too.

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We picked 14 pounds of Fujis! Turns out we picked a few that weren’t quite ripe, but they should ripen nicely at home in a paper bag. I guess it’s a little early in the season.

Pretty Goats

We stopped at another farm that was having a little festival. We visited the farm animals.

Lucas, a Little Tall for the Hay Maze

And the kids had a great time in this hay maze. Asher was so fast I never captured a photo of him.

Zinnias Growing by a Barn

Empress Plums

Then we went to a big market at Boa Vista orchards, which is a year-round ranch market. I bought some produce for the week.

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At home, Lucas helped me gather clippings from our garden to make our annual Autumn Equinox Wreath. I have a tutorial here, if you’d like to try making one yourself.

Finished Autumn Equinox Wreath, 2012

Here’s our finished wreath. I think it turned out very nice. We don’t have much fall color here in Northern California yet. Our trees don’t change colors until mid- to late October, and the colors are best and brightest in late November. So, we make do.

Equinox apple, pancetta, chevre, pecaan, baby greens pizza, eaten outdoors with good, good friends. Happy equinox, darlings! Blessings of the season on all. Xo #autumn #equinox #food #love #seasonal #apples #home #gourmet

Soon after we finished this, some dear friends came over and we feasted on an Equinox Apple Pizza of our own concoction. It featured apple slices, caramelized onions, pancetta, baby greens, chevre goat cheese, pecans, and for a light sauce, a drizzle of olive oil and a drizzle balsamic blue cheese walnut salad dressing. It was sublime!

So, now we have a bunch of apples to make into apple sauce, and I’m hoping some apple butter, too. I understand we can make it in the crock pot. We love kitchen science.

We hope your equinox was every bit as nice as ours. (Please leave a comment and tell me how you spent the first days of autumn!) Blessings of the season to you and your loved ones!

Santa Cruz, We Love You

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I guess this is vacation post 2. After our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium last Saturday, we visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Sunday. We had a bunch of fun, riding rides and getting to hang out with Danny some more. Lucas was big enough this time to ride even on …

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the GIANT DIPPER!

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He thought it was awesome. He is ready for more.

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We all enjoyed the skytram. (Don’t know its official name.) Here is Danny waving at us. xo

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My only ride was the carousel and I got to sit on a white pony right next to my beamish boy. I love this carousel. It’s very beautiful. Lucas managed to throw the brass ring into the clown’s mouth! Lucas also did the bumper cars and the haunted house, which was his first, I think. He said it wasn’t scary at all.

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We didn’t ride this thingy, but it was pretty.

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At first Asher wasn’t interested in riding anything, but we found the kiddie rides, like this Cave Train Adventure, and he went with Ian and Lucas.

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Pretty little engine. I have a fondness for trains, thanks to Lucas’s young childhood obsession with them. It’s funny how Asher never took to them.

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There was plenty of togetherness and horsing around. We ate crummy Boardwalk food for a mere $55. Ugh!

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Then we spent an hour or so playing in the waves on the beach. Lucas swam and Asher played in the sand a lot. It was a beautiful day and lots of people were enjoying the water and the beach. The bay was filled with lovely sailboats, and the sounds of Boardwalk merriment drifted over to the water’s edge. I got to put my toes in Mama Ocean, which is my great love and privilege. I must touch the water. It’s a personal law.

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So much sun and sea and adventure! A perfect way to end the summer. It’s nice to break away together and do those special things. As important as rhythm and consistency and a firm, foundational family life is, it’s also important to have experiences, move outside of normal, and go wild, to enter into a place of magic and discovery—because we’re not just here this earth to be steady, rhythmical, safe, and constant. We’re also here to take big bites, to reach, to dive deep and swim on the tides, and to fly on the breezes of opportunity.

Visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Last weekend we got to visit one of my favorite places on earth, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We were invited to stay with Ian’s brother Danny in Capitola for the weekend and we jumped at the chance. Saturday, bright and early, we drove down to Monterey to show the kids the aquarium. If you’ve never been there, you really must put this place on your bucket list—especially if you never intend to become a certified scuba diver. After you see it and the glorious sea life it holds, you might just change your mind about that.

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This was Asher’s first visit to the aquarium. Lucas was here once before, when he was three.

A Sense of Wonder

This time, both kids were into it.

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The exhibits are outstanding, well lighted, and beautiful. There’s lots of wonderful interactive things for the kids to do, including a wall-size touch screen that taught us about plankton. It looked like something out of a sci-fi movie.

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There are nooks and crannies where only children can go, like into a little cavelike space, where Asher was on the other side of a tank.

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The places to touch creatures and feel their various textures are a delight. This time, none of the rays came close enough to touch. They may have gotten wise to all the eager hands.

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We learned about the habitats that are created when human beings build at the water’s edge. We learned about the deep ocean fish, their endangered status, and got a card to show us what seafood to avoid and what seafood to buy because it’s sustainably raised or sustainably caught. I’m afraid the “good” list is shrinking. Our pocket guide list is specific to the west coast, but you can visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium website for a seafood watch pocket guide or app. They even have a substitutions list, in case your favorite recipes call for seafood that is on the “avoid” list. Since we got home, I’ve spent some time watching their webcam at the Outer Bay exhibit. It’s fun to see the turtles swimming past the camera.

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The aquarium rescues sea birds and rehabilitates them for a lovely Sandy Shore and Aviary exhibit. This is a snowy plover.

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Man, I miss diving!

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A highlight for me this trip was seeing this Giant Pacific Octopus change from red to pale white when he moved over to the white wall. I’ve held small octopuses in my hands before on dives, but never anything this large. This fellow is magnificent!

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My favorite by far are the jellies. (These are sea nettles.) Lovely spacy music plays in this exhibit and you can watch these creatures gently float around—I feel I could watch for hours, if little hands didn’t pull me away to the next amazing sight. The only thing I regret is missing the sea horses exhibit. I don’t know how we did that! The sea otters exhibit is temporarily closed, but we got to see some wild otters floating in the bay!

I’ve restrained myself to sharing only these few photos. It was tough to do because I truly love this place and I think it is the best, most educational zoo/aquarium I’ve ever been to. It sings to me in the way the kelp sways to and fro with the currents, in the way that the touch pools offer learning experiences that few people will ever get in the wild, and in the way that the public is gently encouraged to care about our oceans and the life within them.

It was a wonderful day. We rounded it out with Mediterranean lunch and a wander through the older part of Monterey. We went home and Ian cooked us a delicious dinner.

I’m so grateful to Danny and his family for letting us visit. It was such a treat!

Camping Bliss

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We had a beautiful time camping with Lucas’s fifth grade class last the other weekend. We went to D. L. Bliss State Park on Lake Tahoe. Everything about the weekend was lovely.

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I was so taken with the beauty of this place. We are definitely coming here again. We hiked on Saturday along the lake and were treated to views like this. Asher, Ian, and I hiked almost four miles, which was impressive for our 5-year-old.

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All along our hike we were treated with exquisite sites: bleached, dead manzanita branches and glittering green and gold leaves of living manzanita; vanilla-scented Jeffrey pine trees; sparkling lake waters in tiny coves;

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sparkling lake waters in tiny coves (I could have spent my whole day here!);

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a trickle of a waterfall and a wet crossing;

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and wildflowers and gorgeous evergreens at every turn.

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This is Asher along the hike—after a snack of trail mix and a little rest, he was ready for more.

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The waters of Lake Tahoe truly are blue. Clean. Pure. Inspiring blue. With shallow bits of aquamarine to take your breath away.

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We hiked all the way to Emerald Bay, where the Vikingsholm historic site is. As we three were stragglers, we were lucky to meet up with our friends in time to book up the mountain to the road  and then catch rides back to our campsite. Lucas hiked back with friends and a few parents, making a round trip of about seven and a half miles. Along the way, his sandals disintegrated. It didn’t stop him.

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We spent part of Saturday afternoon and Sunday on the shore. The only problem with this place is that dogs aren’t welcome on the trails or beaches, as it’s a state park. We had our little Solstice dog with us and we like taking him camping, but I can see that this is something of a limitation. Thank goodness one of our friends was willing to keep Solstice while we hiked the trail on Saturday!

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We swam in cold water, which didn’t slow the children down a wit and was surprisingly lovely, once I got use to it. The children played in kayaks and rafts. Adults sunbathed and chatted. It was relaxing and wonderful and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.

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And if by chance you are wondering, Where are the photos of Lucas? It was his class camping trip after all. Well, all I can say is he never once sat still long enough for me to take his picture. He was riding his bike, off with friends, hiking, or in the water the whole time. And, for the most part, we tried to give him his space. Here is one of the few I have of him, out in a raft on the lake.

Family Advenure Day

We’re ten weeks into summer vacation now. The boys are enjoying themselves immensely. They drift through the days, adventuring, squabbling, eating, and swimming. They spend one day a week with my mother and one day a week with Ian’s mother. Sometimes they’re with me, sometimes they’re visiting friends. Or friends come to play here. They’ve come to accept summertime chores as something they can’t get out of. Most of the arguments about chores have died away, as we’ve been pretty good about keeping the bar high. We’ve raised our expectations of them and mostly they’re rolling with it. There are plenty of interpersonal arguments to fill the space. Lucas and Asher are presently best friends and worst enemies. Somewhere there is a happy balance between planned activities and unstructured rambling time. We find it and lose it and find it again, week by week.

So, they’re having a great time. I’m really ready for school to start. Two more weeks to go. What is it about August? The heat, the drying up of my garden, the looooong summer. It’s not my favorite month. I seem to always have junk to confront. And yet, there’s plenty of deliciousness to celebrate.

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On Sunday of last week we took an impromptu drive up the hill. The four of us packed the dog and some snacks, and let the car take us somewhere new. We were without a plan and it was a great feeling. We stopped by a little town call Dutch Flat to see what there was to see. It’s a gorgeous little place—very picturesque. I wanted to get some shots of the homes, both because they are beautiful and quaint and also because I feel they will be great references for future paintings, if I ever get good enough. Which I will!

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See what I mean? So simple and beautiful.

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This is the main street. It was hot while we walked around and I looked for someplace to spend a little money to support the local economy, like an ice cream parlor or something. Alas, I couldn’t find anything and I’m not sure how this town survives.

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This is the hotel. It was lovely from the front and from the back, where we were able to peek over the small fence to see the deck and garden.

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Great homes. White picket fences everywhere. Plenty of fruit trees in yards and baskets full of flowers hanging from porches. I’ve rarely seen so many American flags on display.

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Anyway, we continued on our way up the hill and ended up at Donner Lake. The temperature was far more pleasant than at home in the valley. We walked a little through the state park and enjoyed a rest at the edge of the lake. I would love to go camping here.

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Naturally the boys wanted to swim. It was beautiful and very satisfying to say “yes, of course.” Next time, I’d like to rent a canoe and paddle about for a while.

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It was a perfect family adventure day. Just what I needed in August.

Nature Therapy

I love this meadow

A couple of weekends ago, we joined 30 of our best friends for camping in the mountains south of Lake Tahoe at Grover Hot Springs State Park. I got to visit my favorite meadow for some much needed nature therapy. After four solid weeks of difficult work, I was ready for an escape.

Lucas Holding Baby J

It was just the ticket for me, really. We got to be outside in a beautiful alpine forest. We got to hold a wee three-month-old baby (sublime!), and play with friends.

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I got to watch this, and watch my competent 10-year-old son light the campfire.

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The only hard part came on Friday afternoon, when my boys were stung by wasps after moving too close to their hive near the creek. They each received five or six stings, which were very painful. D, a brave 12-year-old girl, ran for help and trundled through the forest to find some, eventually making her way to the road and the ranger station. She brought a ranger who was prepared to give us medical help. Meanwhile, Lucas bore his brother away from the wasps and helped him back to camp. I am very proud of my son for helping his little brother! Honestly, my heart is full to bursting about this. When they arrived at camp, traumatized and sore, there was still a wasp in Asher’s armpit, stinging him. Fortunately, friends had Benadryl on hand and that, with some ice, did the trick. Within 2o minutes or so of resting, they were up and playing again. They are brave, irrepressible boys.

Holding Hands

Everything after that was sweetness and light.

Daddy and Solstice

Our little dog Solstice surprised us with his desire to confront forest creatures in the dead of night, and “boof” at every nighttime sound. Hmm… He is braver than he is smart, I think. Apparently, bravado is just a part of our family.

E, T, and Suki

T and J

It was gooooooood to see some friends out there. Quite a few of us have been having a rough time this summer. I’m so grateful to have these amazing, inspiring people in my life. And I’m grateful that they continue to put one foot in front of the other.

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Ian made us hobo stew (custom dinner for each of us!), which we cooked over the campfire. It was yummy, and I have some notes to make it even better next time.

Potluck Barbarians Party

The second night we had a huge group potluck with TONS of veggies. I totally failed to get photos of everyone. Sorry, darlings. I was determined to relax and didn’t cart my camera around everywhere.

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On Saturday night we had a thunderstorm and it rained and rained. We were cozy and dry in our ancient Coleman 1970s tent. The rain sounded wonderful on the canvas of our tent!

Ivan the Terrified and Luna

We had eight dogs of varying sizes and shapes in attendance. Amazing! These were particularly kooky.

J and L

Some of us traveled six or more hours to join us. I am grateful to them for all the extra effort they expended to share this weekend with us.

J and Oscar

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I got to spend a little time with my easel and oil paints in my beloved meadow, which is what I wanted to do from the moment I first saw it last summer. Plein air painting is hard and delightful. The only thing missing from my painting experience was a tall glass of cold white wine. Next time!

Local Evening Safari

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It’s been a bummer week for me. I’ve worked a lot. I’ve struggled with my current roster of projects and I have lots more work in my future. Last night, my mother-in-law gave us a big break by keeping our kids for dinner, which allowed Ian and me to go on a mini date. We had a lovely sushi dinner. (When I’m feeling beat-up by life, I always want sushi.)

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When we picked up our kids that evening, I just wasn’t ready to go back home. So we drove to Folsom, parked the car and walked over the historic truss bridge and into the old part of town. It was a great opportunity to visit a part of town we don’t often visit and the spontaneity of it felt really good.

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We had great views of the Rainbow Bridge and Lake Natomas. I enjoyed watching the fishing boats move into their nooks for an evening of fishing.

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Along the way we ran into our friends, which was a nice surprise. They were out looking for sticks to make into arrows and wild blackberries—you know, like you do.

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We walked through the main street and stopped in a New Age shop to admire the crystals and gems (Asher is very font of such things). We saw a huge crystal ball made of quartz with a price tag of $3800! Madame Trelawney must be missing it.

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As dusk fell, we looked into glittering shop windows and then popped into Snook’s ice cream and candy shop for a treat. I really didn’t realize that Folsom has nightlife on the weekends. We saw several open wine bars and pubs. A band was setting up to play in the Folsom Hotel bar. We also discovered a cute and cozy coffee shop. I think this means Ian and need to come back another time when we’re alone.

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For an unplanned ramble, it was very fun. We walked back to our car in the dark. Asher was pretty tired by the end, but he never complained once; his steps only got slower and slower as we neared the car. It was a perfect summer night.

 

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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