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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What a Year! – May 2020

I was still successfully exercising regularly – maybe 5 times a week… walking, jogging, doing home workouts and taekwondo via zoom.

Our house is so pretty from the road of an evening.

We were finding a lot of comic relief and smiles-by-cuteness as Coco grew and became a mobile little kitten with a funny spiky black tail.

Able to get in and out of a box and run around a bit!

Soooo funny when he ran and raced and played with Captain.

Friends for life, I think.


Daniel LOVES the kitten so much, but needs constant supervision for obvious reasons.

Not that Coco has ever minded.

I don’t remember if this was a sick day or a depressed day, but a kitten sleeping on my neck… I remember that feeling nice.

At some point, the beard had to go.

And it went out with….. images that maybe I want to forget. hahaha

Our Taekwondo instructor was able to get our postponed March testing completed via zoom! That makes the three of us yellow belts. Haven’t had a testing since, but I’m getting good workouts and still have plenty to work on anyway. I wonder if we’ll ever have in person classes? Maggie and Carrie dropped out a bit after testing… zoom classes were not very successful for many of the kids.

Oh! I got high test score out of those testing!

At some point, the weather got nice enough that we all finally were able to REALLY go outside for longer. Daniel doesn’t walk yet, so going out in the wet grass is tricky. Jordan sits down everywhere, so the mud and standing water in our yard is a bit tricky too. That and PICA, but usually the PICA isn’t too bad early in the spring when he’s not bored. But the weather was warmer and we all started getting outside. Brian even wanted to grill something… we don’t own a grill… but he found enough bits of concrete to build one!

Jordan has outgrown his old wheelchair!

Outside time!

Soooooo much grass.

It works!!!

Maggie found and enjoyed SO MANY snakes this year. We gave her a 1-2 day limit each snake before they had to be released. These Rubber Boas are so calm/placid, that Maggie often wore them as bracelets for several hours while she played or did schoolwork!

I’m not sure…. maybe a magic wand pointed at me?

And I made chocolate mint lip balm!

Our plum trees…

At a local park…

In the forest behind our house.

In pandemic news, I think… this month the toilet paper was running out everywhere and hand sanitizer and maybe beans and rice. I think New York was maybe having a crush of cases?

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What a Year! – April

April was a fog of kitten-induced fatigue and worry, a bit of homeschool and the hope of the sunshine… even as we navigated the uncertainty and unspoken weight of fear that came with the arrival of the Coronavirus. At some point… maybe in April but maybe not until May – Brian and I were able to articulate how heavy the stress was that was due to the virus. We were distracted and we were busy and we’re used to being home anyway… but still it affected us. Acknowledging it gave us permission to be gentle with ourselves. Didn’t fix it, but it was something.

Coco was the last surviving kitten of an unfortunate litter at a friend’s house nearby. They bottle fed him to keep him alive for a week and then I took over. After just a few days of being awake at night and struggling with constipation and worrying about his fragile tiny self that always measured a good week or more behind other kitten’s weight at his age…. I was very grateful that kittens don’t take very long to grow up.:

In April, a tiny (premature, probably) kitten joined our family for bottle feeding!

Trying to be a big kitty and stand up.

My best snuggle buddy.

Helping the girls with school!

Sooooooo much baby napping.

Somehow, he managed to get up on TOP of the hot water bottle in a sock…. and passed out happily there.

When Coco was too big to live in his little box, we set him up in the big bathtub. Daniel was (still is) enamored with the kitten. For awhile, he wanted his forearm crutches… because then it was like he had four legs, “just like the kitten!” He’s also fond of saying, “When the kitten bigger, THEN Daniel hold it!?”

Helping me make fun things with leather.

No way he’d fit in there now!

Unusual markings! Pink and black skin (mostly black) with mostly white hair. His tail is dark!

Also this month… Maggie and Carrie did something really creative that was pretty disturbing… they made dummies and left them around the house!

I finished my first leather journal cover! I didn’t stamp it or anything and the fit was too tight… and the stitching – TOOK FOREVER. But, it looked and felt good in my hands!

Daniel’s 7th birthday!!! Happy birthday, big little man!

Daniel helping me cook.

Brian’s quarantine mustache and beard got a little out of control.

A look around the “farm:”

Fruit trees were mulched! Lost a cherry tree and two more cherry trees aren’t doing well, but the plums and apples still look good.

We still have a bunch of chickens!

Getting some early spring sunshine whenever it came and watering the vegetable starts I’d purchased.

Ta-da! Our raised garden.


Is it any wonder that we chuckle when we see Anna carrying her dog in the doggie front pack?

His favorite place.


A kitten clock that’s plugged in! What could be better?


Because we couldn’t get to his orthopedist, we consulted via the internet a couple times to try and make a new plan.

Telehealth appointment

Photos for his orthopedist.

More grooming at the neighbor’s house.

Blueberries look hopeful for a good year! Endless weeding going on.

And I’ll leave off my April photos with the leather coasters I was burning with a cheap woodburning tool. It seemed impossible to keep the temperature stable, but I still liked the effect of the uneven burning. (I also tried with Brian’s soldering iron, which had a slightly more predictable temperature, but wasn’t as hot/dark as the wood burner.)

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