Nathan has done it again. This time we skipped bleaching his hair and just applied the dye, a rich royal blue. The result is a lovely steel blue shade with hints of pure blue and teal at the edges.

He is very happy with it. Now he thinks I should dye my hair. I told him I’d consider it after I’m no longer interviewing.


My Sister

A couple of months ago, Mica announced that she had a sister named Sunflower.

This surprised us, as the rest of the family thought we’d have heard of such an event. But Mica likes stories, and so at first we thought this was just another vignette. We didn’t realize that we were at the beginning of an ongoing Sunflower saga.

Sunflower, it turns out, lives far far away with her mother and father. (The implications of the relationships involved don’t seem to worry Mica.) She has been a variety of ages already: a baby, a girl, a big person (e.g., old enough to drive), and most recently I was told that Sunflower has a baby of her own. She also has a dog, whose name changes with time but is never recognizable.

In fact Sunflower’s defining characteristic, and the one which Mica mentions most often, is that she has everything. This often comes up just after I say that we don’t have something — cake, for example. “My sister has cake,” Mica will tell me. “My sister has everything she needs!”

Lately Sunflower has been mentioned less frequently, but she still comes up, and her role in Mica’s mind might be changing a little. For example, Mica got a flu shot recently — and two days later, she told me that the red, sore spot on her leg was there because her sister had kicked her. She didn’t seem particularly upset by this, but it was an interesting choice of stories.

But my favorite part about Sunflower is how she lives in all the other stories in Mica’s life. Right now we are working, together, through a long story about Sunflower and Jack (of beanstalk fame), who are currently in the Land of the Giants together. I tell — usually with ideas and prompting from Mica — a short piece of this each night, as a bribe/distraction so she’ll let me brush her teeth.

Rock Collection

We’ve been building an informal rock collection for a while now — it includes gifts, a few purchased stones, and lots of treasures found on beaches. After our last lake trip, with rock interest at a new high, I decided to order a box to store and organize the collection. It isn’t a fancy box, but it holds a lot of stones and gives them the great pleasure of arranging and rearranging and labeling their specimens.

Mica loves it too, which is problematic, since “organization” is not high on her list of life skills. She does love moving things around, though.

Ape Cave: The Next Level

Our family has been to Ape Cave several times, and it’s always been a neat experience. The lower cave is a pretty easy hike down to the dead end and back up again, with lots of time to savor the intense quiet and darkness. We headed up again recently, on a gorgeous fall day, to experience the mountain and the cave again.

This time, Dave suggested, we should do the upper cave, which is longer and more challenging. He has a friend who used to do it with his own kids, and Dave was confident that the boys were big and capable enough to handle the challenge. I was sure they were. Privately I was less excited about the prospect of doing a harder path with Mica, but I’d brought a backpack to carry her in, so when the boys seemed game for a more challenging climb, I went along with it.

We geared up in the parking lot and made our way down into the cave in the early afternoon. As usual, the transition from daylight and forest to a black underground filled with the sound of dripping water was eerie. But we all had lights, and we turned away from our usual path, heading instead toward the upper cave and adventure.

To say that the upper cave is more challenging than the lower cave is a bit of an understatement. There were occasional smooth sections, where even Mica could walk (carefully), but much of the route was over great piles of boulders, jagged chunks of basalt fallen in from the ceiling. Usually there was plenty of room, and it was just a matter of clambering over stones, but occasionally the tunnel would narrow and we’d need to slide through a smaller gap. (I think I noticed these especially, as I had Mica on my back. She got a couple accidental taps to her head.) And three times we ran up against a true wall, a six-foot vertical ascension which required teamwork to get the family over. People experienced in bouldering probably wouldn’t have been daunted; only Dave seemed to fall into that category for us.

There were neat stone formations and a “window” midway that opened into the daylight; we saw a mouse at one point; and both boys, despite scraping their knees, proved themselves very good climbers. Nevertheless I can’t help but think of the experience with a touch of anxiety. Also I had sore muscles for three days afterwards.

But we made it, and even have a triumphal picture at the exit to prove it. We came out in the evening, and had to hustle to hike back to the parking lot before it became truly dark. The real question is, will we ever do that again? For me, it’s out of the question until Mica is old enough to carry her own weight. Then we can talk about it.

Most Likely To Succeed

Last winter I watched an educational documentary called Most Likely To Succeed, and it became my favorite educational documentary ever. It was so well done, so thoughtful and yet inspiring, that I decided to help organize a screening in Portland.

More than eight months later, with a great deal of help, and with lots of new experiences under my belt, we’re only a week away from the screening. We have a panel lined up for a post-film discussion and a bunch of local innovative schools showing up to table. It could be, should be, a really great evening.

The screening has been dominating my life for the last month, but there are only a few more things for me to do at this point; mostly the die has already been cast, and we can only wait and see how many people show up. I am extremely nervous. But the film was delivered yesterday, and I just watched it again, and it is still thoughtful and inspiring. I still want to share it with others.

One week…


The evening before Ryan’s birthday, I was cleaning up the kitchen after some epic cupcake-making while Nathan beat butter and sugar together for the frosting. Suddenly I heard a crash and whir, the unmistakable sounds of a beater mishap.

Nathan, ever enterprising, had decided to automate the beating by propping the hand-held mixer up on a jar. This would have worked brilliantly except that the beater unfortunately vibrates, and it took all of ten seconds to knock over the jar.

I experienced just a moment of automatic mess-frustration before the humor of it dominated. Dave and I both started to laugh. Let’s face it — if we’d never tried that exact trick, it’s certainly the sort of thing we would have done.


Ryan really, really wanted a birthday party this year, with all his friends from school. So I arranged for five of his closest friends to come down on the Sunday before his birthday, so we could all hang out at the park together.

This worked well except that, since we nearly always go to the park on weekdays (one of the benefits of homeschooling), I completely underestimated how many people would be there. Parties, too; six other parties were in progress by the time we arrived, so that tables were in short supply.

But that turned out not to matter much. The kids were happy to eat cake anywhere, and mainly what they wanted to do was play, long and hard.

(Since I failed to realize that someone had changed the settings on my camera, most of the pictures were washed out. Trust me, things were not as sedate as these two pictures imply.)

In fact Ryan’s only complaint after his birthday was over was that he hadn’t gotten a computer game. He’d convinced himself that it was routine for us to give computer games as gifts and had been banking on it, even going so far as to agonize over which one he wanted. The fact that he did receive money for his birthday and spent it on video games failed to appease him.

From our perspective, he gained valuable experience in dealing with disappointment.

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