A Family Update Containing Almost Nothing Concerning COVID 19

April 3, 2020

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
― John F. Kennedy (Commencement Address at Yale University, June 11 1962)



One morning recently, I offered to fix Ivy’s hair. A few minutes later, she slipped quietly out the back door with her hair brush, en route to Jeff’s office. Hey Ivy, I said when she came back, _I_ could have fixed your hair for you! “How in hell would YOU put pig tails in my hair?” my daughter asked suspiciously. “I fink Papa’s better!”

Distraught at being excluded from a late-night rehearsal at the theatre: “It would have been MUCH FUNNER if you had let me go! I CAN stay up late. I wish people understanded me and didn’t tell me the wrong thing! Nobody likes me.”

Finishing a game: “I have technically winned!”

“...what does “L” make? [lion, lake, leopard...] ...What does “R” make? […rattlesnake, ringer, rider…] …So what does “7” make?”

“I’m not getting dressed! ...cuz I’m a kitty, and kitties don’t wear clothes. Meow!”

According to Ivy, the townspeople in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” ought to have known when the boy was ACTUALLY telling the truth about the wolf because “that last time he WAS!” The story, pointedly told by me after a series of Untruths from my youngest, obviously affected Ivy because afterward she went to her room and sobbed bitterly, unknown thoughts swimming through her complicated little head. Meanwhile, the dripping highlighter marker that was leaking all over the floor “was NOT wet, and did NOT have water in it at ALL!!” Sometimes it’s difficult to be five years old.

“When I take big gulps of water, I chew through each gulp every time!”

After sitting on crossed legs for too long, Ivy grimaced at the pins and needles: “Why do sometimes your feet get fizzy?”

“This picture is of two robots! This is the baby robot, an’ it’s standing on a log, and this is the favver [father] robot - and the movver [mother] I forgot to make!”

Explaining Go Fish and trying to comfort her sister: “Ewiza, this is not a talent game! I’m not even talented. I just won two times because I got so many cards! I’m not even GOOD at it.”

Noticing Ben’s new haircut: “Ben, you look like a DUDE!”

“I did NOT draw on my face, acuz I know it’s bad to draw on my face! I was just working on my picture in the bedroom, an’ the pen somehow just GOT on my face.”

“I was tryin’ to draw a bird, an it came out as a car!”

Banana muffins baking, and Ivy lies on the floor next to the oven: “I’m just going to stay in here and SNIFF dem!”

Costume #1 of the day - Ivy covered with scarves: “I’m Tiny Statue of Liberty!” Costume #2, also consisting of lots and lots of scarves: “Now I’m Tiny Voldemort!”

“I wuv you more than you can believe!”

“I’m a super cute space alien who’s jumping around and is all fiddly!”

To Jem: “you’re gonna be a man when you grow up! Cuz you’re not a she. But _I’m_ gonna be a girl!”

“Oooooh, that’s so TEMPTIN’, an’ I wish I could reach up there and taste them! Except that I can’t reach them. An’ I want everyone to be able to have some later…except I _could_ eat them all!”

Ivy, you look so grown up and cute! “I do not look grown up! Grown up people are NOT cute.”

Protesting a shower of kisses: “...I am NOT a food!”

When questioned about why she had just gone out to Jeff’s office: “I knew he was in a meeting so I just gave him a package and leaved, and I didn’t make any sounds.”

An ode to the paved road,: “Hello, pavement, I like you, and I like riding my old bike on you that’s not old because I just got it.”

Me: Ivy, that is SUCH a beautiful shirt! A hundred percent cotton, and so cute!
Ivy: I like cotton, but I HATE that shirt.
Me: Well, then keep it for night time! You won’t see it while you’re sleeping.
Ivy: That won’t work, cuz I NEVER sleep.


Ivy: …These are my reins!
Eliza: …An’ I’m the horse!
Ivy: …An’ we’re goin’ to Ithaca!


Eliza: I know that gods probably aren’t real, but I really WANT to believe they are, and MAYBE they exist Way Up There, soo...

Ivy: But, people have gone to the moon, and they didn’t find any gods there, so it’s unlikely.

Eliza: Well, I know that, but maybe there just aren’t gods on the moon!

[arguing ensues, mostly because Eliza is telling Ivy that she is “wrong,” and insisting that Ivy should agree with her. Finally…]

Me: Eliza, personal beliefs are very important to respect, and you shouldn’t try to make somebody agree with you just by accusing them of being Wrong. Arguments about “proving” or “disproving” require evidence. Everyone has beliefs. It’s important to respect why not everyone will share yours!

Eliza: I know that! I wouldn’t try to make anyone believe what I do! …Oh.


Before the lockdown, Eliza was so incredibly full of Excitement for all the things she is doing these days. One day last month she said, “I am SO glad we’re doing this diet, because now I can go out and do stuff and be in a play, even!” [In a future update, there will be details on “this diet” in case you’re curious.]

Describing a girl in her class: “…Oh, she’s the one who interrupts and has great handwriting.”

Describing another classmate: “She’s got hair like grandma Ruth but it’s blond, and she’s got a short body/cute voice.”

“I LOVE music! When you listen to good music, you get to go to a whole different WORLD.”

Good thing I don’t worry about my standing in my children’s eyes: “Mama, I love Kimberly soooo much! She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had and I will NEVER forget her! I hope she never dies, but I will even go to her funeral someday if she does, except I’d be so sad! I love her almost...well, I love her AS much as I love you! She’s just like my mother who I don’t see as often.”

“I really can’t wait until I’m old enough to have babies! Because then I’m going to spend my time...having babies!” Me, listening, silently: [ULP!]

Under the influence of Feeling Better: “I’m interested in EVERYTHING!”

“That haircutter person really changed Ben. He didn’t used to use hair gel or look that way!”



“Money makes me smile!”


So up until The Coronavirus, I hadn’t written an update for many months. Here’s a bit of what was going on in the Amaral Matilsky household up until last week…

Back last September, we embarked on our most ambitious homeschool year yet. The kids each did a class at the Institute of Inquiry, Ben began doing high school level schoolwork, and Jem and Eliza began working on their curriculums as well. This was the first year we bought (with our charter school funds) an actual boxed curriculum for each child. And almost immediately, I realized how to play this State Standards game, and I also realized that I could have saved us thousands of dollars by only buying the books that we needed…but I had to see the materials in action in order to learn this. (The giant boxes arrived with dozens of books, projects, and activities all sorted by grade, which was fun and exciting but definitely not worth the exorbitant price tag).

We continued our schoolwork by “modifying” each curriculum. For Ben, that meant eliminating a third of the busywork right off the bat, and finding alternative ways to study English and US History that weren’t either Completely Boring or Insanely Skewed toward Unnoticed White Privelege/Cultural Appropriation/Complete Propaganda. For Eliza, it meant testing out the literally 30 overwhelming pounds of Reading Materials (they came in a Convenient Tote Bag…and we could barely lift!)…and then realizing that these were absolutely bogus, whereupon she spent the next several months learning to read (so that she is currently reading at a much higher level than her grade), by working hard, reading and writing constantly, and skipping every single incredibly boring exercise in that ridiculous tote bag. For Jem, it meant keeping the Math U See and substituting the “How to Ace ______ in One Big Fat Notebook” series to guide the rest of his studies (plus continuing our daily discussions and practice of Time Management Skills, so help me lord).

Actually, Math U See was the best thing about the curriculum packages. All the kids like this series, the video lessons are clear and helpful, and while we have enough manipulatives to open a small classroom, we have actually USED them for the first time, which makes me feel like I’ve graduated to being an Actual Homeschooling Mom. Now I finally do some of the things that Claire and Aubrey and Kristen and Pamela and Gina and Liz and Laura do!! Better late than never to build up ones skills and self esteem, that’s what I always say…

Despite plenty of whining at various times, all the kids (even Ivy, who works on her handwriting workbook and occasionally submits to reading and music lessons) are noticeably more confident in their studies and their music (Eliza joined the boys in beginning weekly piano lessons, and Jem continues with guitar) simply due to the structure of Doing These Things. It feels really good to know, silly as it is, that we are capable of doing schoolwork PLUS lots of other great stuff besides, in a highly structured but still Very Alternative way.


Have I mentioned that our Family Health Situation is so very much vastly improved?? A large part of our ability to do all this awesome homeschool stuff came from the incredible improvements in behavioral and other symptoms, especially for Eliza. It is a threat and a promise that I will write more about these health improvements and dietary experiments soon.

For now, I count my very many blessings because it is SO so so much better and actually possible to wrangle Generally Healthy Kids than it is to wrangle sick and incredibly tantrum-prone and obstinate ones.


We had lots of visitors last fall, including Mom and Dad (who gave Jeff and me an awesome combined birthday gift by sending us for an overnight visit to a Spa in desert hot springs. It was a little hard to figure out the Complete Relaxation With Absolutely No Chores thing, but we somehow we both managed).

Aaron flew out to surprise Jeff for Jeff’s birthday, and then stayed for a week (since he and Jeff usually spend most of the day on phone calls between NY and Joshua Tree, this was a very convenient way to mix fun and work!). The two guys then took a whirlwind road trip to a conference up in San Francisco, and fit in a super fun day of renting bikes and riding around the paths near the waterfront.

After a year of mid-life-crisis-lite, I finally turned forty in November. It was great to finally get this ridiculously pent-up-in-my-head anniversary out of the way, and I had multiple celebrations: the aforementioned spa vacation, a date with my husband on the night of, and a girlfriends-thrift-shopping expedition the weekend before, which was super fantastic: my friends picked me out a new wardrobe, which caused me to enter this new decade of my life while dressed Fashionably for the first time in a looooong time.

So there we were, trundling along with our daily activities, homeschooling projects and classes, music, and all that…and then at Thanksgiving we got slammed with the flu. This made its way through our family, and after a week or two, everyone got better except for me.

We had a really awesome trip planned for the week in between Christmas and New Years, when Cousin Nick was coming to visit and we were gonna go mountain biking and hiking and camping in Arizona… I plotted out different destinations for each day, and I figured that at least it would be warmer than here, and maybe we’d get lucky with some unusually warm weather like we’ve had in past winters. Christmas approached…and I was still having pretty intense Walking Pneumonia-type symptoms, and I knew I couldn’t make a camping trip happen, or even consider going at all [insert Jeff’s bad joke about the symptoms being even worse when Camping - In-Tents!] [get it?? He’ll tell it again for you if you didn’t!]. I was coughing, hacking, and generally feeling chilled to the very core of my being.

Jeff decided not to abandon the trip, and he took the kids and Nick on an abbreviated visit to Lost Dutchman State Park, the four days’ of which landed during the coldest week of the year (and even though it was slightly warmer in Phoenix, that did not translate to anything approaching tolerable. The intrepid band built vast amounts of character and not-warm-enough campfires during those four days and three nights, and also got to witness a backcountry rescue-by-helicopter of a base jumper who’d gotten stuck hanging from a cliff by only his parachute. [Moral: if you want to go base jumping, Do Not Be Stupid.]

While everyone was gone, I 1. cleaned our house; 2. had a lovely breakfast with friends; 3. sang for hours and hours and hours; and 4. spent a lot of time in bed with the chills.

Did I mention that just prior to getting the flu I had auditioned for and then got into a musical at Theatre 29, which was followed by me auditioning for and getting into ANOTHER musical that overlapped the first one by three weeks and stretched the total Theatre Time out until the end of February? This was not one of my more brilliant plans, but I couldn’t resist. The crazy schedule meant that I had to learn all the music for “Sister Act” on my own, while rehearsals for “Company B” continued nightly.

The every-weeknight rehearsal schedule was totally grueling, and I will not try to do such a crazy thing again, but my experiences this winter have cemented my love of singing with people! The cast of “Company B” was really wonderful, and it turns out that I was additionally born to be a singing, dancing nun. “Sister Act” was an ambitious show for our tiny theatre, and the cast and crew were equally hard working and talented. The harmonies and choreography were complicated, and another friend had auditioned with me and so we could both carpool, practice together, and bond while participating in one of the funnest things there is to do in this life: sing and dance and play on stage! I LOVE love love to use my brain power toward the shared goal of creating a Fun Show…and I love when that shared goal can help each participant (and hopefully the audience as well) transcend politics and age and other social divides. I love to do something that just feels GOOD.


However, as I mentioned, the rehearsals were Very Very Long. And Nightly. And then, right when Sister Act began its month-long run, auditions were posted for “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe”…and here was a chance to do a show WITH my kids! Against almost all of my better judgement, my children and I showed up at auditions…along with 51 other people (record breaking turnout for a show with very few significant roles)! I got a bit part, Eliza was given a small part in the ensemble, Jem was given a small part onstage and a bigger part backstage...and Ben got the part of Edmund. Which is a lead role, in case you’re not up on your C.S. Lewis.

And thus continued the nightly rehearsals, only this time I drove out to 29 Palms with all my kids…and these continued right on up until the end of tech week, when we pretty much had a show all ready to open, and that’s when the governor announced lockdowns for COVID 19, which has postponed opening night indefinitely.


A Selection of Articles I’ve Found Interesting over the Past Eight Months:

“It’s Just A Beer: Unspoken contracts between men and women”

College Admissions: “It’s madness”

Climate Change may bring back the Megadraught to the Southwestern USA

Americans Can Handle an Open Discussion on Vaccines - a letter by RFK, Jr. “In early May 2019, Politico Magazine published an article written by three of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s relatives, criticizing his advocacy for safe vaccines. After numerous requests, Politico magazine has refused to publish his response.”

Banned words...in food writing? A grammatical and humorous read:

Our skulls are shrinking. “Humans draw 28,000 breaths each day. We sleep for about one-third of our life. Changing our sleeping and breathing habits can transform our physical and mental health. It all begins in our jaw, mouth, and throat anatomy, which shape the path of each breath.”

“It’s all Wrong” - Greta’s impassioned plea:

Food - seeking Sustenance, or obsession?

North Star Teens is so great:

Mayor’s Arts Awards: My Awesome Aunt!

Red meat: Yes? No? Maybe??

A poignant and mature treatise on Beauty written by a very young woman:

A primer concerning one of the world’s most popular foods:

Super sweet comics concerning motherhood:

Yes!! I’ve been saying that it’s a racket for _years_:

Some theories about why we turn our necks so much in western culture, and how this postural quirk impacts our health:

Did you agree to wear a tracking device for the rest of your life, while voluntarily donating all of your data to private companies? No? Think again.

Rebecca Solnit, on Mansplaining:

Vera Rubin on Dark Matter:

Connecticut MD testifies about why vaccines need more safety testing and shouldn’t be mandated for all:

Maybe there is ONE food that’s better not processed at home??

Very useful and enlightening articles about ADHD:

The messy division of Women’s Work

Even when the system so clearly does NOT work for many kids, why do they mostly remain in school?

…Except sometimes they don’t go to school - haha!

Bees, Almonds, and The Great Decline:

Really fascinating article about the disintegration of the American Family, and why this matters for everyone:

Flu Infectivity and the role of Vitamins A and D in immune system function:

Maine Vaccination Law Infringes on Civil Rights

My NBTSC 25-year-anniversary blog post

Leftover Women

A Mongolian Treasure: their microbial heritage, part of the answer of how a dairy-based diet continues to nourish a population that is 95% lactose intolerant:

Drug companies will make a killing from Coronavirus:


And that’s the Amaral Matilsky Cliffs Notes. Sending love, and would love to hear what you’ve been up to,