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.

 

Big Trees

Giant Redwoods

Last month we got to go to Calaveras Big Trees State Park for a weekend camping trip. It was as magnificent as I remembered it from when we camped there a few years back (before we were four).

My Boys Camping

The boys had a wonderful time. Our campside was bordered on three sides by very large fallen logs, which created a kind of parkour paradise for all of us. We balanced and climbed on those logs a lot, moving from one to another without touching the ground. There was a sweet little creek behind our campsite and some kind of old building whose purpose we couldn’t fathom.

Chopping Kindling (Yikes!)

Lucas got to try chopping kindling with the ax, with Ian close by—but not too close! It is both exciting and terrifying to see Lucas learning to perform more dangerous tasks, such as chopping wood and lighting fires. It’s good for him, though. He is learning how to be careful, capable, and confident and that is priceless. We all negotiate risk every day of our lives.

Campfire

We had campfire fun, including s’mores, of course.

Fire Sacred Fire

We were joined by our dear friends Mars and NoNo for this trip and it was particularly awesome to have some quantity time with them. Life for the grown-ups has been so busy these last six months or so. In the woods, there are no work emails to check. Amen.

Made Swords

There are, however, plenty of sticks that can instantly become weapons for little boys—especially if you find a random, discarded wire cable that can be dismantled by two quick 9-year-old hands. “Here, Mars, hold this so I can wrap this wire around to make a proper hilt.” The boys were on their best behavior for our friends, and worked hard to limit their sword fighting to slo-mo bashing and movielike derring-do.

NoNo on Giant Sequoia Stump

We hiked through the North Grove of Big Trees state park together. It’s a short, gentle hike, but the kids got tuckered out before we were done nonetheless.

Discovery Stump

This is what they call Discovery Stump. It’s the giant sequoia that was first chopped down to prove to the world that giant sequoias existed—and to make a buck. They used to hold dances on this tree stump; they built a school room on it; they used it as a stage for theatrical performances. Now it’s where park volunteers teach tourists about giant sequoias, California history, logging, how stupid people can be, and forest conservation.

Sequoiadendron gigantum

A living Sequoia Sempervirens. The trail leads past a dozen or so of these magnificent trees.

Resting

Rest stop.

Giant Sequoia Cones

Giant redwood cones.

Wild Yellow Irises

Wild yellow irises.

Mars and Asher

Sweet Uncle Mars and tired Asher in need of lunch.

Lunch!

Mmm, lunch.

Playing Cards with NoNo

There were plenty of card-playing giggles with NoNo.

Playing Cards

Lucas taught Asher how to play War.

We Cooked Our Potatoes in this Stove

Daddy cooked our baked potatoes in a stone oven/grill thing and they were lovely. We had steak and wine and other goodies. Sometimes when camping, it seems like we go from one meal to the next, with little in between. Our kids are always starving, it seems, no matter how much we feed them.

Good-Bye, Campsite

After our friends left, we also had a lovely hike ruined by moodiness and a picnic that made it better, a splash in a creek with butterflies all around, and then we met this awesome bug!

Beetle with Stripes

Birthday Beach Camping

I’m catching up from last month! I guess life has been pretty busy, and pretty good lately.

Old Family Tent "DAD" by Lucas

We went camping for my birthday in May to Wright’s Beach, which is where my family always went for vacation when I was a kid. I love this beach with my whole heart.

Lookout over Wright's Beach

We spent two chilly nights there in Ian’s old family tent. We wandered on the beach, collected small seashells and pebbles, flew kites, and read books. Lucas did a lot of whittling with his new pocket knife, making arrows and spears and assorted sharp and pointy items. The boys bickered a lot, and unfortunately this beach isn’t terribly safe for playing chase with the waves. There are signs posted everywhere saying how Wright’s Beach is one of the deadliest beaches in California. Funny, I don’t remember that tidbit from my childhood, and while I do remember gettting knocked about by the waves, my brother and I always survived. When the ranger came around in her truck to tell us under no circumstances should we allow the boys to touch the water, well, we decided to play by the rules. Still, we had plenty of fun and Daddy’s delicious grilled steak, plus s’mores!

My Favorite Beach Learning How to Light a Fire

Wright's Beach

My Boys

The next day we packed up early and drove five minutes down the coast to Duncan’s Cove, where the beach was more sheltered and the wind wasn’t so bad. We explored and found lots of wildflowers. Lucas found a great rock to jump from onto the sand below. It was quite a drop!

Leaping Off

Happy When Moving

Here we did let Lucas get his feet wet. Asher didn’t let the waves get anywhere near him before he began running for the dry sand.

My Little Trekker

It was cold and windy up on the bluff. The views were amazing and so were the flowers. Asher enjoyed wearing his camelbak.

Seagulls

We picnicked on Portuguese Beach before beginning our drive home. A beach picnic with beautiful seagulls, sandwiches, champagne, and peach pie is tops in my book!

Asher's Wistle

Lucas at Lucas Wharf

This is one of the fun things about Bodega Bay. The Lucas Warf sign photo.

Enjoy Life!

We stopped at the candy and kites store. I enjoy all the flags and spinning things. Ian says I am allowed to be an old woman with flags someday, as long as we make them ourselves.

It was a great weekend and I’m glad I got to show my children this place that’s so special to me. Even if we never go there again, it was delightful to have all those fond childhood memories come flooding back.

And after we came home, I had some fun playing with my seagull photos. Tee hee!

Seagulls High Drama

 

Black Chasm Adventure

The Dragon Helictite: Black Chasm Mascot

We got to go caving last weekend! Thanks to a dear friend who wanted to celebrate her birthday underground, we had a spectacular day. We went to Black Chasm, in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Jackson, California. Ironically, our family went there exactly a year ago.

Black Chasm Formations

The cave is gorgeous and very well lighted so that the rock formations are shown to best effect. This cave has some rare formations called helictites (top photo), which seem to defy gravity because they grow any which way. In the first photo above, you can see the dragon head formation that the cave uses as its mascot; it’s sticking out farthest on the right.

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The trip was fantastic, not only because I adore caves, but because we got to go with some of our very favorite people and celebrate Ritsa’s birthday. Isn’t she cute?

B-day Girl

Ian and T Blue and Headra

We picnicked on goodies and the children got to ramble in the woods a bit. I love how doggedly Asher tags after the bigger boys. He’s every bit as tough as they are, just not quite as fast or sure-footed.

Boys Tromping

Zany Lucas

Asher Love

It was chilly, having snowed the day before. Everywhere we looked the stones were covered with a beautiful carpet of moss, thick and brilliant green. We followed some directions to find the Zen Garden Trail and, I have to say, I’ve never seen anything like it in California. It looked so much like a set from one of the Lord of the Rings movies, as though we suddenly had been transported to New Zealand and should expect orcs to come trundling around the corner at any minute.

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This place was heavenly and perfect for exploring. We rambled up and down boulders and in between huge, monolithic rocks, all draped in lush moss.

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Here we are, minus two beloved photographers who managed to avoid being in most of the pictures. Many thanks to Tate for letting me use some of his photos. Happy Birthday, Ritsa!

More adventures, please, darlings! I love them so!

Adventure Day!

Last weekend we had a marvelous Adventure Day! Featuring … grandparents and SCIENCE! We met up with Ian’s dad, Glen, and his girlfriend, Miriam, and we all drove to San Francisco to visit the Exploratorium and nearby SF sights. If you ever get the chance to go to the Exploratorium, seize it.

So why don’t all exhibits have scientific explanations?
The Exporatorium is about discovering things for yourself. We want to spark your curiosity not just give you facts. That’s why you won’t find explanations at every exhibit. Facts and explanations are important, and you will find them here. But finding things out by experimenting, by playing around, is what science is all about.

So mess about. Explore your hunches. Follow your curiosity. See what happens.”

M, Our New Little Buddy

Perspective Drawing

Lucas Bighead Optics Beaming Up

Xylophone Love

Wheat, Mice, and Eagles

Science Officer Asher

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Plankton of San Francisco Bay

Mimi and Lucas Asher Climbing the Tree

G.G. and Mimi

Lucas and Golden Gate

Asher on the Rocks Bascha Climbing

G.G. and Mimi

Day of the Dead and Apple Hill

Gold Country

I conned Ian into taking Monday, November 1st off work. Lucas’s school is not in session the day after Halloween. Some clever administrator or teacher realized that it’s not wise to try to keep kids under control after a late night and sugary treats. We pulled Asher out of preschool for the day and took a little drive.

We were determined to squeeze a bit more fun out of our weekend. We were celebrating Day of the Dead, in our own way, and Lucas’s half birthday. He is now officially 8 and a half years old. Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day has never been a holiday in our two families, but since it marks Lucas’s half birthday, it has come to hold a special place in our year.

Bryant Cemetery, Established 1848 Headstone from the 1800s

We decided that a trip to Apple Hill would be the perfect seasonal family outing, and with a little research, Ian found a very nice old cemetery to visit in gold country, Near Latrobe, California. Bryant Cemetery was established in 1848.

We wandered about and read the headstones, wondering about the lives of the pioneers who came out west and lived in California during the gold rush and the years following. We saw that many families’ were buried together, and that the people often died young. We tried to put into perspective for Lucas how long ago that was: no cars, people used horses and carts to travel, they would have carried water from rivers and streams, and so on.

Pretending to Be a Dead Person

This is Asher pretending to be a dead person.

Bryant Cemetery, Established 1848

The cemetery was small and quiet, shaded with beautiful valley oak trees. Some were dropping giant acorns quite near us!

Cemetery Oak

This oak looked like it had quite a story to tell! We enjoyed our exploration and contemplation … until we got hungry.

Then we headed for lunch in Placerville and from there up to High Hill Ranch in Apple Hill. It’s a pretty big farm, with lots of room for the kids to run about. (I wish their pony rides weren’t $6 a ride, though! We opted to skip them.)

We shopped for yummy apples and came home with a big bag full of Fujis, Jona Golds, Galas, and Golden Delicious.

Arkansas Black Apples Close-Up

I don’t remember ever seeing these Arkansas Black apples before. They were so beautiful!

Sitting atop the "Water Canon"

There is a fish pond at High Hill Ranch; you can pay to fish for trout, which you can clearly see in the water. Poor Lucas! His parents are too cheap. The kids loved sitting on this water cannon that spilled water into the pond.

First Caramel Apple

We also bought caramel apples for the boys to eat—Asher’s first. He never made it to the apple, I’m afraid. Mama and Daddy ate apple pie. Mmm…

Hill Rolling

Lucas took the opportunity to somersault and roll down the grassy hillside. Monday is a great day to go—no big crowds!

Then we drove a bit more around Apple Hill, looking at the farms and orchards full of fruit and nut trees. We stopped at Bill’s Apples and Felice’s Dolls, where they have a spectacular flower garden. (They claim 3000 chrysanthemums!) It was a beautiful final stop, for some of us were getting moody. Perhaps that caramel apple sugar rush wore off?

Marigolds

Canada Geese Mums More Mums Tongues

Happy half birthday, my sweet son. I am so pleased we had this gorgeous Family Day all together.

First Overnight

My baby left this morning wearing Ian’s 20-year-old backpack covered in European country patches. It was stuffed with his gear and bigger than him.

“I feel like the tortoise who won the race. No wonder he went slowly!” Lucas said, staggering under its weight.

He’s off with his third-grade class for a first-ever overnight camping trip. They are going to Full Belly Farm, an organic farm in Capay (which must be really close to the farm we went to last weekend). The whole class will be sleeping in tents. It’s going to be awesome.

I am so proud of Lucas. Today, I truly feel that the time does fly by. Wasn’t it only a few months ago that I was holding his hand as we marched for the first time into the Kindergarten?

The anticipation of this class trip was hard on him. Lucas was pretty nervous and asked me more than once, “Do I have to go?” He cried and worried. It’s so hard to find the right balance between being compassionate about his emotional turmoil and being encouraging yet firm. No, I’m not going to let him skip this amazing class trip because he’s afraid of it. He is ready, even if he doesn’t know it yet. Does that make me mean? That’s mothering for you—I’m part Mom, part Sensei.

I just kept telling him how much fun he was going to have, how busy he and his classmates would be, and how it’s OK to feel nervous about things. “You’ll be fine! Lots of people will be there to take care of you,” I told him. I also know that Lucas is a wonderful caregiver, and so we role-played how he would act if he found one of his classmates was having a hard time and feeling sad and homesick. He came up with wonderful strategies for making that friend feel better. I think that made him feel empowered and competent.

I made sure Lucas has both phone numbers so he can call home if he needs to. The teachers said that would be fine. We packed a little lavender-scented pillow I made him for Valentine’s Day; something he can sleep with if he’s feeling homesick.

My Boys' Valentine Pillow Sachets from Mommy

The worry he has been feeling the last couple of days seemed this morning to have been outstripped by his excitement. He happily trudged out the door—no tears, no bargaining, no hesitation. Just an 8 1/2-year-old boy with places to go and friends to meet.

Courage is being afraid and doing the right thing anyway. This trip seems to me to have just the right degree of challenge, the right ratio of fear to reward. And of course, it has everything to do with their third-grade curriculum, studying gardening and grains.

Gardening and Grains Lesson Book, Third Grade: Corn

Gardening and Grains Lesson Book, Third Grade: Wheat

(These are partial-page scans from his Gardening and Grains lesson book. My scanner isn’t big enough to capture the whole page.)

I love this Waldorf curriculum. I love that my son gets to spend a day and a night on a working farm that is using sustainable practices and raising sheep for wool. I love that he knows where his food comes from. I love that part of school for him is fresh air and sunshine, digging in the mud and planting seeds, and swimming in a pond. I love that his physical and spiritual development are carefully considered in addition to his academic aptitude and achievement; that the health and unity of the class as a whole is considered. I love that he is challenged with tasks that are a trifle scary and difficult, and supported while he faces his fears and overcomes obstacles. I feel he is being nourished every day by these qualities and so many more that I can’t even put into words.

I’m just so full of gratitude, and hoping he has a wonderful time.

Visit to Capay Organics

We get a CSA delivery of organic vegetables and fruits from Farm Fresh to You every other week. It’s a wonderful service and I highly recommend it. The box of beautiful, delicious food comes to my door. Over the two years we have been customers, we have expanded our palates to include veggies we never ate before. I think this alone is a marvelous gift.

Capay Organics has open-house, farm tour days every month or so, and we decided to visit them yesterday.

Capay Organics

We had a little picnic lunch (deli sandwiches we picked up in Woodland) with this as our view.

Hens The Piggy

The farm has a few critters: hens, a sleeping pig, and a couple of goats.

Stripy Pumpkins

Visitors were invited to choose a pumpkin or two from the pumpkin patch.

Picking Pumpkins

It was quite warm but lovely. We rode on a flatbed truck, sitting on hay bales, out to the pumpkin patch. Little Asher opted to wear Daddy’s hat.

Riding on the Flatbed Trailer Asher in Daddy's Hat, Bare Field Behind Gourd

Farmer Thaddeus answered questions about the farm, like how they keep down weeds, how they decide what to grow, and where the water comes from.

Young Orchard

We saw fruit trees of all types, including these young citrus trees. Lots of figs, olives, and stone fruits. It was great to see where our food is coming from. Asher now says, “This is where we get ALL our food.”

California Central Valley

On the way home, I shot photos out my passenger window and we all took turns telling made-up stories. This was my favorite part of the day.

Best Family Burn Ever

I’m still not entirely sure what to say about Burning Man, nor what pictures to show here. My heart is full of love and gratitude. We have endured and celebrated nature, the elements, life, humanity, friendship, silliness, joy. My impressions of Burning Man are swirly and colorful.
Nevada Desert

Nevada desert on the way to the playa

After the One Rainstorm

Sunset after a brief rainstorm

I am so glad we went, and especially glad that we camped with so many wonderful friends. Our campmates were super fun and very patient with our small taggers-on. They helped us look out for the boys, entertain them, and graciously shared their “space yogurts” (yogurt in a tube) and other goodies that were novel and exciting. Two friends even volunteered to babysit one night so Ian and I could have a much-needed date!

Our children were brave in the face of not only a hostile environment but also a Saturnalian one, where grown-ups generally don’t behave as usual, where instead they act silly, dye their hair pink, dress in funny clothes (or none at all), and spend their time playing, adventuring, or lazing about. It was a place where you might gleefully talk with strangers and give a made-up playa name just for the fun of playing at being someone else. Best of all, our boys got to see that play is for everyone, that all human beings need long stretches of time to do nothing, or only what we want to do, and that these moments are crystalline and pure. Climbing, running, jumping, dancing, flying kites, making friends, laughing and telling jokes, creating art, falling in love, being—these are the things that make life worth living.
Climbing

Lucas climbing a pole on top of the Nexus nightclub

Super Fun

Super fun Genesha art car that passed us by one day

Dust Overload Strawberry Shortcake Yummy

A dust-weary Asher, me on the afternoon of the burn, and our dashing Agent Daddy

Fearless Tightrope Walker

Lucas fearlessly walking a tightrope about 10 feet off the ground

"My Parents Take Me to the Weirdest Places"

This tuna art car drove by during one of our family bike outings

Asher's First Kite Flying

Asher’s very first kite-flying experience; hold on tight!

Bocci Ball Mid-Throw

My boys playing boccie ball

Jellyfish Parasol Workshop Exultant Fish Dance with the Salmon of Knowledge

Decorating our parasols like jellyfish; Lucas jumping on a trampoline; Asher dancing with the Salmon of Knowledge

Lucas and Asher also got to see, and we ourselves were reminded, that challenges are worth facing because the rewards are often great. Braving our fears or walking out into the unknown is our task, our surest course to learning who we are and what’s important to us. By purposefully venturing into a desert of nothingness, we fill it with our hopes and dreams and remake ourselves. I watched both of my children, in their own individual ways and according to their ages, encounter their limitations and push past them, gaining confidence and respect along the way.

It was a different kind of Burning Man for me and Ian. Having our kids along was a ton of work and we spent much (most?) of our time making sure that their needs were being met. Keeping two sensitive children safe and happy, hydrated and fed, rested and slathered with sunblock in the desert is pretty much a constant effort. Ian worked ceaselessly to take care of all of us. There was a lot less aimless wandering just to see what there was to see. There were moments I felt despair because I thought I was missing all the fun, but mostly I let that fleeting feeling wash over me and away, and we managed to relax into a new kind of Burning Man experience. We got more sleep this year on the playa than ever before, thanks to the boys’ tuckering out and needing to be home and in bed fairly early. We ate like kings, with lots of fresh produce and barbecued tri-tip dinners. We spent more time near and in camp, which meant time together as a family and with our peeps. We let Burning Man come to us much of the time, and the sweetest folks wandered into our communal shade and spent time with us. Our camp gave out water, drinks, food, advice when it was asked for, a place by the fire, and generally enjoyed that special/sacred hospitality relationship. To all the desert beauties that we met, thank you! You’re my little potato.

Dusted! After the Burn

Lucas is VERY happy to have seen the Man burn this time! Here he is after the burn on Saturday night. I’ve never been in such a whiteout before! For long moments the Burning Man disappeared from view completely, then eerily reappeared through the waves of flying powder.

The truth is we saw a teensy-tiny slice of Burning Man, maybe 1 percent of what was out there. However, what we saw was wonderful. We are tired and a little sad to have to resume normal life now that we are home again. We are loving this breathtaking miracle called running water. My thoughts are dreamy and I feel like I need a rest after my vacation. I feel a creative pulsing in my veins.

All in all, Best Family Burn Ever.

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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.

    © 2003–2018 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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