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Fox on a farm

When Calvin did his first YPT show last year I remember being skeptical when the powers that be warned us about post-show depression. There was entire handout on the topic, warning us to be prepared for irritable, recalcitrant children in the week or two following the production. In my head I giggled a little, but remembering the validity of similar afflictions, like post-holiday ennui, I filled those weeks with activities sure to keep a young mind engaged. 

Having at first inwardly giggled let me tell you, post-production depression is a real thing, and it way outpaces post-holiday ennui. These kids put so much work in the show that it becomes a defining part of their lives for the two plus months they rehearse. During tech week and production weekend, the show really is their lives. And's gone. Just like that this creature they'd been nurturing with all their energy and time has passed away, and the days following such a loss will inevitably be devoted to mourning. Inevitably.

Last year, all the activities I had planned were not enough to ward away the blues, but I know they helped, so this year I focused on a combination of extra activities, and a pointed return to routine. After letting him sleep in for a couple of days I dragged him out of bed and kicked him out the front door to play with the kids at the bus stop. When I set our weekly school calendar (after having taken tech week mostly off) I planned all the subjects in their usual places, but lightened the load a bit in most. And I registered us for two homeschool field trips during the week.

But you know what doesn't care about my kid's depressing week of post-show mourning? The weather. So we didn't make it to the frog catch-and-release field trip because even though frogs don't mind the rain, we do. And our second field trip was almost as much of a bust except that laughter, and our own brand of sarcastic cynicism, is also good medicine. Because Northfork Farms, where were slated to enjoy a morning of reliving the wild west, turned out to be a strange mixture of backwoods zoo, cheap carnival, and run-down roadside tourist trap. We played some "old wild west kids' games", which until I've seen their resources I'll be convinced were games they made up to go along with the cheapest plastic kid toys they could get on clearance last fall. We embarked on the Louis & Clark trail, which was a short walk through a collection of small dioramas in plastic boxes so yellowed by the sun that it was hard to see the "animals" in them (I'm still not sure whether they were taxidermied or merely plastic molds with fake hair glued on, but I'm leaned towards the latter). We went to a saloon (where they ran out of time to give us the snack we'd been promised) and learned that women didn't go to saloons because they didn't (not couldn't...didn't) vote back then. What? We washed our rags at the "Chinese laundry" (a mini lesson so racist I was embarrassed just listening) and panned for a gold piece that later chipped away until it had returned to its original state as a pebble. 

So the trip, while disappointing, turned out to be okay, misleading and offensive lessons aside, simply because it was such an easy target for comedic absurdity. That, and because there was a baby fox. A baby fox who loved people and just wanted to be held. Who wouldn't love holding a baby fox? (And here I'm refraining from touching on how I actually feel about a fox in captivity, or the coati, tiny monkey, and peacock they also had in captivity, all in tiny cages, because that's a big subject for another platform). And then we rode off into the sunset (because that's what they do in the wild west, right?) on a weird oil drum mini-train (because that's what they do in the absurd wild west, right?), and laughed all the way home. And they do say that laughter is the best medicine...for post-show depression.


San Juan Island, an awayschooling family travel log

Monday—travel to San Jaun

Up well before the sun and out the door with its rise. Our flight left at 10:30, but we like to be plenty early. The flight to Seattle was easy and we landed with plenty of time to spare. Plenty enough time for a wine and smoothly stop at an airport bar and some good reading (Moby Dick—I'm finally going to do it!), and we were off to the island on a 10-seater plane. We made it. Aunt Cookie and Unlce Michael picked us up with snacks in teh car. They live ten miles from town, and a beautiful ten miles it is. n our drive home alone we saw black-tailed deer, rabbits, and a fox who waits for people to stop and feed him, so he's this close to you, always. Back at "home" we fed the black-tailed deer, practically by hand. Also an Anna's hummingbird and local sparrows. Their inlet is beautiful—serene and lovely. Our first fun (or second, or even third, if you count the wildlife) was to go right out on the boat to retrieve the crab pots put down earlier in the day. No keeper crabs, but several to put back, which Calvin helped with in great delight. And after that work was done, we took a spin around a rocky island to see the Harbor Seals and sea birds (gulls and Oyster Catchers and a Great Blue Heron). Back on land, a delightful dinner of salmon far surpassing any store bought fish, and after dinner a trip down to the dock with flashlights to view the night aquarium: the sea anemone, shrimp, ghost shrimp, and a fascinating array of zooplankton that call the area around and under their dock home, viewed to best advantage after dark with flashlights. We are exhausted but content.


Up earlier than expected (or later than expected if you consider that it was already eight back at home), and nothing is boring here. The sun rises to reveal wildlife galore on the serene inlet: Blue Herons, gulls, grebes, the hummingbird is back, and the deer want their breakfast. Before anything else this morning, Uncle Michael and Calvin disappeared into the Radio Room (where all his radios are kept) and made contact with the outside world. They did this for a first time last night, and I'm not sure I've seen Calvin so thrilled about something in a while. After that and breakfast, our first order of business today was a hike up Mt. Young—a moderate hike with beautiful views at the top. Then lunch at the northwest end of the island, at the marina in Roche Harbor, a stop to get Calvin a fishing license, and a stroll among the marina boats—not unlike the Lake Michigan boat collections, although skewed to the larger side as a whole. After lunch? A stroll in the woods to a hilarious mausoleum (I'm sorry, I can't hep it: the people were buried in chairs around a table). The stroll and the woods were beautiful. On our way back to the southeast tip of the island we stopped at English Camp National Park, the English encampment from the pig war (which we will learn more about from the American Camp side in a couple of days), where we sighted an Osprey and some enormous Maple trees of a special breed, and then at Lime Kiln State Park, where we found Harbor Porpoises, Harbor Seals, Ravens, and beautiful water views. The day was so beautiful, and our hosts so accommodating, that when we got home we headed right back out on the boat in search of sea lions. And wouldn't you know? We found them exactly where we'd hoped they'd be! Yet the seals from yesterday were not on the island where we'd left them; it's as if the wildlife is on parade expressly for our pleasure. Crab and steak for dinner before collapsing into exhausted sleeps.


This morning started almost as early as yesterday, but I have hope that we may adjust to the time, probably just before heading home. This morning all three guys went out for a fishing adventure (Calvin caught 5 king salmon, but all just too small to keep), while I sat and watched the inlet wake up before Aunt Cookie and I went for a walk to the beach where the driftwood is the size of a mast head (reading Moby Dick, remember?) and covers the entire shore, then up a grassland hill and through a forest of still more sizeable trees. After a companionable lunch together, our family of three went into town to the whale museum there. It was a thrilling stop, especially since we are reading Moby Dick, and I believe the artifacts from Melville era American whaling vessels may have delighted Calvin as much if not more than the bleached bones suspended from the ceiling. On our way back we spotted a bald eagle in a pine near the road where we stop every day to visit the fox we now refer to as Tommy. And after a relaxed happy hour at home it was back to town for Thai dinner (yum!), and before bed another go at the ham radio. Those two, Uncle Michael and Calvin, are now referring to themselves, and each other, as hamsters.


Our final full day on the island. It started out like yesterday with the guys out on the boat, only this time their efforts yielded not even a thing to throw back, only the hope of later crabbing success in the pots they put down. And again Aunt Cookie and I hiked, this time to the top of the hill that is big enough to have its own name: Mt. Finlayson. Lunch was a calm affair at home, and then we shoved off to see the last of the island parks: American Camp, South Beach, and Cattle Point. At American Camp (vast, coastal grassland with more rugged, debris strewn seashore) Calvin proudly earned his Junior Ranger Badge by learning about the Pig War and exploring the park in great detail. At South Beach (more coastal grassland but made largely barren due to an overabundance of rabbits) we observed Surf Scoters diving en masse for their food while Calvin combed for rocks and constructed with the smaller pieces of wood. And at Cattle Point Glacier Learning Center we observed glacial striation on the exposed rocky outcrop, which we also enjoyed climbing upon. Back at home a boat ride out to the crab pots yielded the promise of a fresh dungeness crab dinner! So Calvin was able to participate in the entire process from dropping the pots through collecting them, killing, cleaning, and cooking the crab, and finally to cracking and eating it. For our final night we took another trip to the night aquarium (back to the dock with flashlights), another hour on the ham radio, and music and dancing late into the night. 

Tomorrow we leave the island for peninsula. I have no doubt that our adventure will be as exciting there, but it is hard to leave our time here with family and all the enriching experiences they so lovingly provided. I have always referred to these trips as our fall awayschooling adventures, but when we left for this one I had no idea how great the learning part of the adventure would be. For Calvin especially the time on the sea alone has been wholly new and enriching, a time submerged in a new vernacular and a new way of living, plus the radio time, the American history time, and all the physical activity. I call it science, history, ecology, and even art. Plus the reading—this really was a great time to tackle Moby Dick together. 

To be continued in our travel log on the Olympic Peninsula...


Viking bread

Our week was all about Vikings, and since our homeschool gathering was cancelled for the afternoon, we had some free time on our hands to spend in the kitchen baking like Vikings. Or maybe not exactly like Vikings; we didn't have to grind our own flour, and there was no raping or pillaging. But our Story of the World book suggested a recipe that looked suspiciously like any old bread recipe sans yeast, and while I'm not sure how that really brings us closer to the Vikings (again, no raping or pillaging, and where's my dragon boat? I want to speak to Thor!), it was a fun afternoon in the kitchen. Our very modern kitchen.

Oh, and did I mention that Calvin did this one all by himself? Truly all by himself. Of course it helped my sanity that the bread went into a cold oven. There's a first time for everything.

Oddly I have no after pictures, but without yeast the after looked a whole lot like the before.


Back to reality with a bang

There's nothing like hitting the ground running after a relaxing vacation. Of course that should be the time to do it, when your energy has been replenished, your mind rested, and your soul reinvigorated. Sounds great, doesn't it? We got home Thursday, started the laundry, and headed out for a makeup swim lesson. Friday was a doctor appointment, then a wedding an hour away. Then Saturday we made the same drive again to go to the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival. Because the Renaissance was such a big deal here in mid Michigan. Of course.

It was a timely trip, though, since we're in the middle of a several week unit study of Italy, including the Italian Renaissance. The Mid Michigan Renaissance resembles something more like an English Renaissance, mind you, if not something more current and commercially sinister, but knights, ladies, and pirates are knights, ladies, and pirates nonetheless. Calvin went in pirate garb, in fact, complete with his Pirate's Cove hat we picked up last week. We got stopped twice in the festival by people wanting to know where we found a Pirate's Cove in the festival grounds. It was amusing.

If nothing says Renaissance like dust, soup in a bread bowl, camel rides, lazy tortoises, shopping, and lots of hilarity and fun? Then I'd say they're doing it right. Otherwise, they should rethink their business plan.

***as a side note, you may recognize Calvin's "pirate" costume for the "Martin the Warior" costume he got from his Nonnie for his birthday, it's just doing double duty right now.


Trojan Horse