An Unusual Defense

An unusual defense… for me, anyway.

I have proudly and confidently defended our choice to homeschool for nine years. I love just about everything about homeschool. The flexibility, the freedom, the relational strengths, the trust, the scheduling freedom, the extracurricular freedom, etc. etc. etc.

But I’ve never been anti public school.

How can I be? I know and love teachers. I know and love students. And the majority of my country believes in and support the public school system. You know… the PEOPLE in my country. My neighbors and friends.

Sure, I prefer homeschool and I love that I have the freedom to pursue it.

A friend of mine just spent months defending her choice to begin homeschooling. Goodness…. so many naysayers! And here I am today… about to defend our family’s probable choice to send most of our kids to public school next year. Reminds me of feeding babies: Somebody will say you’re doing it wrong no matter what you do. I just can’t win that game, so I’m not playing it.

Support each other. Believe in each other.

“If you love homeschool so much, why are you sending kids to public school next year?”

Short Answer: Because I need help.
Long Answer: My health has been in continual decline and we’ve exhausted every other avenue for help reducing our stress load. Even though I am experiencing a sort of grief at even the thought of an era ending… I am sagging with relief. Maybe this will help. Maybe this will be successful. Maybe we’ll be matched up with amazing, skillful, invested teachers who can pour some new life into our family.

Somebody I love said that they couldn’t celebrate with me, because they don’t like what public school stands for.
Right now, it’s standing for hope. Celebrate that. Either that, or come help five days a week.
I believe in community support. Organized community support. Government sponsored community support. It’s me. I’m the community. I’m a voter. I voted for this. And I hope that this will be a boon to our family and not a battle. Cuz friends… I haven’t got battle left in me. I get up when I fall, but I’m not swinging punches any more. Call me a hugger. Let’s lean on each other and hug instead.

Anna has been developing her natural artistic skills with her free time.


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Surgery Trip 2021

Daniel has a major surgery planned for the end of April on the east coast.
We live on the west coast.
Brian and Daniel will be gone for over two weeks and will return with Daniel in a toe-to-waist cast and with a plate and screws in his bones.
After over a month of uncomfortable recovery, I’ll fly him all the way back to get the gross cast off and bring him home again to begin rehab.
I’ll be very happy when July is here and this is behind us.

Daniel in spring 2019 when he was in stretch casts.

So, I’m doing what any mother like me would do in these circumstances:
I’m making endless lists that basically comprise, “How do I make this less shitty?”

Kittens make life better!

What things would you put on these lists?
Please share!
I’ll start typing up the ideas!

Surviving Major Surgery – Family Version

Surgery & Travel Survival: Child
Cute face masks
Electric toy drill
LCD Tablet (we have one already – should bring it)
Water beads. Daniel can’t get his cast wet, but he loves water.
A clock radio
Padding and blankets and pillows
Extending list on Amazon
Surgery & Travel Survival: Parent
Solo Parenting and Shut In Survival – Kids are ages 8, 8, 11, 12, 14
Easy food ideas:
Chicken Taquitos

Learning shows:

Cool crafts:

Chore relief ideas:
Buy a stack of paper plates
Lengthy Recovery: Family – Kids are ages 8, 8, 11, 12, 14
Favorite movies and TV Shows
Feel-good snacks
Afterward: Fun Summer Plans
Beach Trip

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What a Year! – August

This month, we replaced the furnace filters (only worth telling you, because we replaced them less than two months later and they were disgusting! Why? Forest fires.). Brian and most of the kids also went on a driving marathon to John Day, Oregon for stargazing and sightseeing. Brian took the kids backpacking overnight, I went to the beach with the girls, Silver Star was hiked, Maggie and Carrie had regular phone calls with their new best friend River, and our A/C needed serviced on a 100 degree day.

Look! I have photographic proof!

Brian and I took a stab (a whack?) at cutting some of the brambles down to size. Nothing like extensive blackberry brambles to make us wish we owned a tractor!

The mighty blackberry killer!

The mighty blackberry bramble!

I even got away for a day to visit one of Brian’s special haunts:

I carried a hiking backpack and spent a day exploring Siouxon Creek trail… listening to self help podcasts and journaling and napping!

Setting out!

Journaling and letting the sweat dry.

I took Anna to get her hair trimmed. She has beautiful, thick, wavy hair. The ends were pretty damaged (it’s been growing out for a long time) and we got to visit a proper hair salon for a trim!



In the fancy chair.

All fresh!

Out to a thai restaurant together! Mother-daughter dates are my favorite.

Filled and sealed!

I decided to buy some long-term storage food to keep in our basement. To make the rice and oatmeal and other foods last 20-30 years, I sealed it up in Mylar bags with oxygen-absorbing packets.

I only did a few buckets… which doesn’t go far with a large family… but… well, I’m pleased with it.

Finished and on a shelf.

Anna started playing with the paranormal setting on the camera that allows you to have shadows that don’t match the subject. Pretty sure I didn’t pick out the best photos, but these are fun.

Most of the summer we had a neighbor boy at our house a few days a week. Here, they’re all playing with the bubble machine. Anna got some cool artistic bubble photos while it was running.

John Day time!

Their first stop was a cool (but really hot) location called The Blue Basin.

Anna took pictures for me, so I could see where they went!

An eerie landscape.

They took a break at the Cant Ranch where Daniel found a sprinkler to cool off in.

Wet kid!

Then they found a campsite on the John Day river, and played a bit in the water before sunset.

Ready for stargazing!

The next morning, after watching the Perseids Meteor Shower, they visited the Painted Hills in Oregon before making the long drive home.

Pretty cool and beautiful and strange!

Our beach trip!

The intrepid adventurers!

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What a Year! – July

The Mellingers came to celebrate summer and Independence Day at our house. It was sunny and special and the kids had a blast.

Balloon popping game!

Man-made shade.

The girls are so cute!!!

Cute kids!

A rare sighting of the cute preteen Jordan! Also, a sneezing Brian! haha

My hair continues it’s various renditions.

On the night of the 4th of July – I checked on Daniel after dark and he was still awake and wanted to know what the noises were. So, I picked him up and he experienced his first after-dark fireworks. The new neighbors bought some ENORMOUS fireworks that went off in the sky over us in huge flowers. Daniel was so excited and enamored. He’s been asking about that ever since!!! In fact – I think he’s learned all his months now, because he’s counting months until fireworks again.

Anna has been working more on photography… learning about framing, focus, background blur, some of the camera settings and so forth. The little raised flower beds we put in the front yard were a good location for most of these!

I made patches for the kid/teen sized hiking backpacks!

For Anna’s 13th birthday, we gave Anna and one of her best friends an envelope of cash and a few hours at Walmart followed by a big purchase in the ice cream aisle. Then she stayed at her friend’s house for a few nights. We’ve been quarantined except for immediate neighbors and a few intermittent visits with family, so this was an especially big deal. Also, it was a great hit.

Two teenagers (teenagers!) with birthday money and the whole of Walmart.

A special few hours spent with a dear friend while the teens shopped.

Coco is big enough, he’s starting to look like a cat!

Our many blueberry plants were weeded and mulched this year and watered and…. we got so many wonderful berries! I enjoyed many quiet hours out in the sunshine, picking blueberries. Sometimes Jordan would join me and throw grass and watch the chickens, but he’s pretty naughty outside, so usually I was alone. Our thornless blackberries (which we planted in 2018, I think?) are doing wonderfully and produced some of their first berries this year! They weren’t amazing in flavor and had big seeds…. but I’m still hoping that we’ll love them. And they ARE completely thornless!

Our blueberries did wonderfully this year!

Brian keeps the backpacking gear in his office and Coco discovered an empty backpack one day…. and returned daily for awhile after! Funny kitty.


I know I have more pictures somewhere…. but Brian successfully led a whole troop of kids up Siouxan Creek for an overnight backpacking trip! He slept in his hammock (I think for the first time) and they got rained on overnight, which stressed Brian so much that he dreamed he had to hike all the kids out in the dark most of the night. Poor guy. It was a hit with the kids, though, I think. We learned a bit about what to pack (more food, swimsuits too). My dad and brother-in-law went also! Really nice to share a favorite spot with them.

Daniel was seen up at the Casey Eye Institute and the doctor did not push for a surgery to correct/strengthen/stabilize Daniel’s lazy eye. He IS still using both his eyes up close and will sometimes use them together at a distance. His last doctor was leaning towards a surgery… so this was good news. It was going to be a difficult decision for us. While lifelong improved vision by having both eyes working well together is very important… so is avoiding trauma and allowing for as much pain-free, doctor-free, hospital-free time to develop as a person. He doesn’t have a background of a stable home to lean on to get through medical stuff. Anyway – glad the doctor is not even recommending surgery at this point.

Ooh! I found more pictures from the hike!

Siouxan Creek

Wet clothes!

Making a dam! Too bad denim basically never dries.

Good times!

We had no idea there would be fires here in September…. still hoping these woods and paths are intact!

They were dry inside the tents!


The end of July was our annual family camping trip! We all go for nearly a week to a lakeside tent camping spot and spend the days swimming and eating and reading. We’ve been reading one Harry Potter book a year and this year, we started The Order of the Phoenix. It was a bit of a rush getting to the campsite this year… I had mistakenly put it on the calendar for the end of August, when it was really at the end of July! Ah! It worked out, though! And thanks, Sherrie, for the cot! I slept really good for camping!

Happy, dusty home for the week!

Cooking is awkward, but it always seems to taste good regardless.

I got to spend a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, and journaling.

There are a few reasons why I love camping… because, it is dirty, it is inconvenient, and it’s really annoying if crows wake me up in the morning.
1. I’m outside. All day. All night. It’s so cathartic.
2. The kids are outside. All day. All night. They seem to expand and relax and play is so much easier.
3. It’s beautiful. Our campsite is not that pretty… tents and dirt and over-trodden ferns, but the lake. And the sky. And the trees. Oh, it’s gorgeous.
4. Swimming. I get stuck in a rut a lot, even when I’m camping, so I make a point to jump in the water at least once a day. AHhhhhhh – it’s so fun! I love it!

Sunrise from our campsite.

Mid-morning… on the first morning, kids were in the water immediately after breakfast!


In the “bathroom” box, getting toothbrushes in the evening.

Sun not even up, but the girls are off and exploring!

Too bad it’s blurry! Jordan’s new wheelchair was great! He preferred to be in his tent, but when he was out, so long as things were outside arms reach, he was safe and comfy.

More dirt means more fun, right? He LOVED it. Yes, he’s happy despite his expression here.

And they’re off!

I don’t remember the story, but I loved the result.

My favorite naturalist.

Daniel begged constantly to roast a marshmallow, despite the fact that he’s not safe with pointy things or fires… and doesn’t eat marshmallows. ha! We gave in a few times anyway.


He loves blowing out any accidental flames or even just cooling it off.

Two of my favorites!

Heading “home!”

Successful and strong adventurers!

See what I mean about dirt? Oh – and he lost a front tooth while we were there!

Loved our Safe Place Bed for Jordan! It was tricky to keep him warm, since he doesn’t get into sleeping bags, but I think it was successful!


Here’s where I sat and wrote letters while keeping an eye on Jordan. He likes to throw rocks at people, so we have to stay pretty far away. He didn’t want to go deep, but I was ready to chase after him into the water if necessary!

Almost ready for bed.

Photo credit: Anna

My parents came and spent a couple days with us!!!

My mom gives the BEST back rubs or scratches!

She and I got to have a really nice and long visit about life, the universe and religion and truth. Was special.

Goodbye for this year!
Photo: Anna

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What a Year! – June

This month, I had some success with my leather crafting. I bought a cheap little carving knife and some basic stamping tools for carving leather. First, I made Brian a little PNW coaster. Then I decided to try a big-to-me project and make him a leather journal cover.

Copying the design I made on the leather coaster.


And stamped and holes punched for stitching!

The pattern was a success…. fits the journal just right.

Snaps fastened, back molded to the journal…. and oiled.

It’s a pretty thing!

I also was commissioned by Brian to replace his hiking backpack’s straps. The original strap-stabilizing-piece was broken.

The brittle plastic originals.

Two plain ones done!

And…. two fancy ones for the top flap!

Coco is growing into a little cat…. still amusing us with his fiery personality.

Coronavirus (COVID19) has us doing things a bit differently. Figuring out how to do it as a family.

At the department store.

Out to lunch.

Out to lunch again! Picnicking in the back of the van.

Staying 6 feet apart makes for some amusing memes.

Backpacking and day hikes were begun for the summer! This trip is a gorgeous day hike up Bells Mountain Trail… a steep tromp up!

This next long set is all from an overnight hike up at Siouxan Creek – up in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It’s an older forest with big hills, beautiful creeks, and seemingly endless trails. We didn’t realize that historic fires would burn late this summer… we’re still waiting to see if this area is damaged, gone, or preserved!

We were grateful that we could still go strawberry picking even during the pandemic!!!

There are always more pictures of this cat.

A big success – Jordan is finally fitted to a new wheelchair!

I sold all our empty beekeeping supplies.

Daniel makes all kinds of cute things with legos.

Daniel’s feet…. without treatment on the left, after treatment on the right. He got a little bit further in stretch-straightening later this year in the fall!

Daniel eats many of his meals orally from the syringe lately!

Looking at ducklings.

Was happy to make it out.

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