~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ scutoid cake, pancakes, and warm butter tortillas

~3-23 to 4-23~

for spring break we had no big plans other than reconnecting a bit with each other.

spring break breakdown:


q went to work with me; listening to lemony snicket audio again; also a sparkle stories installment of the “how to be super” series he hasn’t listened to yet entitled “the dragon within.” i love that he is 12 and still wants to catch up on new installments to stories. he has been a sparkler since he was four! we also went to the bank and i walked him through depositing checks into his savings account including filling out the deposit slip and writing his cursive signature. the lesson also covered speaking to the teller: “i’d like to make a deposit” etc. he is fun. he’s been depositing my checks at the atm as long as he’s been listening to sparkle stories, but when he goes to italy, he may need to make some in-person transactions to exchange money (or maybe it’s all machines, but he’ll be fine with that). it seemed like something everyone should know how to do even if you rarely do it anymore. he gets “scottie saver bucks” when he shows up to do his banking in person, so he can save them for prizes. with him it’s a matter of whether he’ll ever spend any of them. or his real dollars for that matter!

p.s. i love the ability to fact-check myself on my blog. indeed, q has been sparkling since age four.



we baked gooey yummy scutoid cake! we watched the hobbit; he stayed home alone for part of the morning while i went to work. i came home to him reading his calculus book. we did logic puzzles and anagrams all week, some inspired by navigating early (coxswain seat and its pesky silent w!).


he helped me take care of koala and wombat for camp boss, and ruby dog! we started a new favorite habit of playing scrabble dice at dinner. the scrabble dice are now a permanent fixture on the table.


he watched the desolation of smaug, snuggled ruby, drew on graph paper. he had picnics in the bathtub throughout the week.


a math meltdown turned into a hammock therapy session. i am working on instilling the concept of self care. sometimes you need to take a break from homework and visit the trees…

…and peek at the owl pellets! it’s no surprise to me that we have been hosting quinn’s spirit animal in our back yard forest.


pancakes and warm butter tortillas

every time our pancakes visit, there are always striking visible signs of how much all three kids have grown. this time quinn looks like he towers over them. he has clearly grown the most in the past year. it is just so good to watch the 3 of them fall into their play like nothing has happened and no time has passed. the longer they’re together, the more and more comfortable they get, and the more they’ll go in serious pretend play directions.

one thing i was noticing about the girls (a similarity they have with quinn) is they know what they want. they got to our house friday at 4, just when quinn and i were pulling into the driveway. sometime that evening, b asked if i would make pancakes for breakfast the next morning. i said i couldn’t because i had to go to work so early, but that i planned to make them sunday, and she was fine with that. saturday night she was getting ready for bed and looked sideways at me, “mary beth, pancakes tomorrow?” oh yes. then they both helped me make the pancakes. “do you have some chocolate chips for the pancakes?” and i did. and z said she would like hers with blueberries, so we did both. and grandpa had his with chocolate chips and blueberries. they did lots of art as usual, but at one point z asked, “do you have colored pencils?” because she was wanting them instead of markers. b had a little cold when they arrived, and was a lot better after a few days at our house but her appetite was a little low the first day or two. i made pizza friday night that everyone else ate but she wasn’t feeling it. she thought maybe a quesadilla sounded good, but she likes the cheese that is yellow and white, and i only had pepper jack and yellow cheddar. so she settled on “warm buttered tortilla” at which point i said sure! and walked into where her dad was in the living room, “so, fill me in on the preparation of a warm buttered tortilla?” and he laughed. in case you are curious about the recipe, it is:


warm buttered tortilla

spread butter on a tortilla.

microwave for 10 seconds.

by the end of the weekend she had eaten about a whole package of tortillas and she was independently cooking her own warm buttered tortillas.


the girls still have the tendency to be able to get a little wild, but they are so mellow compared to when they were younger. it is really easy for me now to steer them into something indoors-appropriate, which is good because we had rain all weekend. a little novelty goes a long way. i put out graph paper instead of plain, because it was what i found first, and they loved it and dove into making cool pictures on graph paper. later on they had a paper airplane contest going between the 3 of them, and it was very controlled and awesome (they tossed them towards the stairway so nobody would be “impaled” by an airplane, as quinn put it. the girls got SO into the scrabble dice we had on the table that i pulled out a couple of other sets of them i have collected from the thrift store so each one of them could have enough to really spell some things. they played a little bit of minecraft together, but mostly they were very off-screen, playing hide and seek in the house and playing with the game qbitz. when we went to watch their dad’s alumni basketball games, i brought uno and a deck of cards and they played war. at one point they were playing a four-way version with another little girl they had absorbed into their midst.

for rich’s birthday the kids helped me make brownies. they kept it a top secret birthday dessert and would go to the kitchen doorway and announce, “no one is allowed to come in here!”

then they got into playing a pretend dog school game (there was training and giving the dogs treats and taking them on walks involved…) i can see why they adore quinn who is a giant 12 year old but will still crawl around on the floor and play doggy school with them.

more hide and seek. the funniest moments. one time grandpa helped z hide and the others took a half hour to find her. she would wait until she could hear they were in the other room looking and would say the funniest things from her hiding spot and grandpa and i were in stitches. then she had a great hiding spot once while b was counting but before the counting finished, z got tempted by the bubble wrap beside her hiding spot and we kept hearing *pop* giggle… *popoppopop* teehehehe! and of course b found her right away. z’s kryptonite is bubble wrap.

quinn read them the first dog and some of nim’s island at bedtime.

a few times during the visit, quinn went to the other extreme from the little kid pretend play and entered the nerd zone and it was kind of cute. the girls just accept his nerdiness and don’t really seem phased by it at all. he would take a break, “i’m going to go read calculus.” the other book he is reading is about the periodic table called elements. he’d come back from reading some of that, having memorized choice lines about alkali metals or how bananas are radioactive.

academics, culture, and miscellaneous learning

i had a conversation with quinn about the oxford comma when he brought it up, borrowing a tip i learned from a fellow poppy mom. To quote her, because someone else needs this:

“Zombies, or dinosaurs. Whenever you have to describe an abstract concept, pull out zombies or dinosaurs.

“You were so hungry, you were a dinosaur at dinner.” That is super easy for kids to see, feel, and understand and it then makes a REALLY good jumping off point for figurative language. 

Also good for Oxford comma, etc. 

“Go get your brothers, the zombie, and the dinosaur, for dinner.” (There are children, a zombie and a dinosaur.)

“Go get your brothers, the zombie and the dinosaur for dinner” (There are two coming to dinner, the zombie and the dinosaur.)

Passive voice: I am being eaten by zombies. 

If you can add “by zombies”, it’s (almost always) passive voice. 

Zombies or dinosaurs man, I’m telling you.”

quinn will sit down at the table and then look over at me in the kitchen and say “can i have a fork?” and i think it’s ridiculous he doesn’t notice there’s no fork before he sits down, or just get back up and get one himself. so i give him a hard time for it. i said, “you’re a dork without a fork,” and got him one. and he said, “yes, i’m a forkless dork.”

quinn and i went to the high school play. i have so much love for today’s youth and their natural skepticism for disney’s princess-marries-prince storyline. saturday night the three of us went to othello. quinn has such a grip on shakespearean language, it just doesn’t seem to phase him. goldberry was in the play and rich had several friends in it so we went back to the green room afterwards to say hi to the cast. q had a headache during the first act, so he leaned on me and took a nap and it went away! he was totally fine the rest of the night, and he didn’t even lose track of the plot… he is quull. he just needs to remember to hydrate.

it was a weekend of theatre and half-baked easter celebration. i did plan ahead enough to order him a dino-themed magic card deck. the artists who paint the cards are rad, the dinos have feathers and are colorful – they do their research. quinn also approved heartily. he made me play a game with him sunday night, which completely boggled my mind. but i also did not provide the boy with a sibling, so this is what i have to do. When i say half-baked i’m mostly referring to how i filled his plastic eggs with costco snacks we already had on hand, but quinn and i also dyed easter eggs.

catching up on homework each time he comes home is an ongoing theme, but he is doing a bit better. he had an F in travel hacking last term, as he wasn’t turning in anything. it’s all google-classroom based, and i didn’t know that last term but now i do, and now he is getting caught up. he is also feeling a lot more positive about travel again, and saturday while i was at market he was back on duolingo for the first time in a while. he has goal of “being able to talk with the locals” when he is on his italy trip. the teacher for that class is the one who leads the italy trip, so i’m glad he is turning it around. his teacher is very understanding, “most of them are 8th graders, i’m used to 8th graders.” and i know this because i sell him organic veggies.


he is pushing 5’4″. he is “wah don’t make me do homework” and “please pretty please can i read calculus and learn italian before bedtime?” all rolled into one. he had his first marching band rehearsal and he came home and had several dinners. (he is now having multiple breakfasts, too. oy!)

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ smuggle in a dinosaur

~february 23 through march 23~


The day after quinn’s birthday, as soon as sleepover friends went home we set out for a visit to see/meet our new pancake w. rich had met her on the day she was born, but this would be quinn’s and my first time meeting this new little person, still very brand new at only two days old! Quinn has always liked babies, but i think he has a special even softer spot in his heart for his new niece, born the day before his birthday, and he wasted no time getting her into his arms.

triceratopses and tesseracts

There is a little pisces boy i know who just turned 3 who reminds me so much of quinn. he loves drumming and dinosaurs and is very articulate… when i see him he reminds me a lot of those days. His mom posted a video from his birthday of him opening a present. he gasped, “a triceratops!” then put his little hand out to the side how quinn used to do, “i love triceratopses!!!” studied it some more, found a slot with his finger, “it’s a triceratops so you can put pennies in it!” as his mom elaborated on that, he turned and looked up at the camera with this smile, “it’s for me!”

Quinn and i both watched it over and over. and then we did an anagram of the word “triceratopses” (plural) because, well duh. and i don’t know if it was because we had just re-watched a wrinkle in time that weekend, but one of the first words we found in “triceratopses” was “tesseract.”

he had some poetry homework to catch up on from missing several days of school one week. he was venting about how long the poetry unit had been and how he felt like it was making him hate poetry instead of like it. i told him he should reclaim poetry for his own, and whenever he was assigned to write a poem, smuggle in something he likes, regardless of the assigned topic. we got off on a tangent of smuggling dinosaurs into every poem. To test this idea, he would give me a topic such as “book” and i would say, “the small boy turned to the diplodocus page of his book,” and got him doing it too. all that week i’d ask “did you get a chance to smuggle in any dinos today?”

sand and sea lions

on a wednesday afternoon i picked up quinn from school and took him to the maritime museum. there were tibetan monks visiting, and they were creating a sand mandala all week. They had started creating the mandala on tuesday so by wednesday they had gotten a portion of the work done, and would keep working outward from the center until sunday when it would be swept… it is such a cool concept to me because of the celebration of impermanence, of putting time and effort and love into something in painstaking detail knowing it will all wash away… so much to reflect on there of course. a mystery and a paradox that is central to the human condition, really. i did not know quinn would be so captivated. when we went in, i gave him a tiny bit of background but not much. but he just instinctively knew it was a calm quiet space, he sat down and folded his hands and quietly watched. a woman came over to where we were sitting and watching and showed us where we could make a small mandala of our own and use the tools and get the feel of it… quinn loved making a sand mandala. he was so into it, saying, “we need to do more of this.” and then he was completely fine with brushing it all away at the end! that was the part i was most amazed about, i think. the metal tools for the sand sounded like such a happy sound, and reminded me of frogs. bayou frogs have been vocal the past week so it is starting to feel like spring, but when i said that both quinn and another little girl who was making a mandala thought i meant the wooden musical frogs (she apparently has some at her grandma’s house and quinn has one as well). the monks were all smiling and doing their work but when they’d take a break they were all on their smartphones and ipads. one of them came over to the table the kids were working at and played a video of the dissolution ceremony of the big mandala (another time they did it) to show them the idea of the whole thing, but it was just so funny (to me- the kids were not phased) to have him prop an ipad up and hit play.

something about the calm of those monks, the happy sounds of the metal tools they were using, the beauty and color of the sand, the sun glancing off the bay in through the windows. he didn’t want to leave.


on our way in he had said he wanted to visit the sea lion dock while we were on the bay front, so eventually after an hour went by i suggested a walk to the sea lions and he was ready. so we walked. he held my hand the whole walk to the sea lions, up and down the bayfront and back to the car. i know he doesn’t even really think about it but i just love that he wants to hold my hand.

at the sea lion dock we watched them for a while (there were lots, all sleeping and jockeying for sleeping positions on the floating docks) and we were commenting on their behaviors. one had a strap or collar around its neck looking like it needed to be removed and it didn’t look healthy, and quinn was moderately upset by that (“someone needs to DO something about that”). our other observations were more amusing. one huge sea lion we nicknamed grandpa was situated on the corner of the dock with his face hanging over the edge. he would lift his head enough to breathe but then let his head loll into the water. you could watch him exhaling bubbles into the water as he slept! there were other snorers above water level, whose cheeks/whiskers you could watch as they would shake or flap, and we’d point them out to each other. the way sea lions assert dominance by opening their mouth at each other… sometimes it gets much more heated with barks and bites, but a lot of times it’s, “i open my mouth in your general direction,” and that settles the dispute. we had fun doing behavioral ecology observations.

social studies homework on ancient civilizations

Also this month we played a game from christmas called tiny epic quest, that we hadn’t had a chance to play yet. It is roughly a board game d and d adventure with lots of little props and pieces and spells and quests and goblins. when he was going to school that friday morning i asked him what his best parts of the week were, and he chose making the sand mandala and playing the game.

he spent some time with his birthday present called turing tumble, a fun marble-programming gizmo with an anime workbook full of challenges that build on each otherr in story format. basically a toy made precisely for quinn.

with 2/3 of 6th grade behind him, he attended his 3rd dance (glow in the dark theme).

pie!!! lots of little blueberry pies. i dropped quinn off at the dojo on pi day (march 14th) for jump tag and pi day pie fest.

a dear friend commented on quinn’s birthday post that he might like the book navigating early by clare vanderpool so i immediately requested the audio book from our library. he loved it, finished listening to it before i had gotten to the halfway point, so continued to listen again along with me as i caught up. It’s a book that takes place in maine in 1945 about 13 year old boys, friendship, mothers and sons, and brothers. There is hiking on the appalachian trail, boat building and rowing, and fly fishing. It is also a book about pi, which coincidentally made it a wonderful book to happen to be listening to on 3/14. One of the boys in the book knows pi in colors and textures and reads the digits of pi like a story. He is not only a synesthete, but has other quirks of sensory, intellectual, and emotional intensity that remind me of someone i know who also likes numbers. sock seams and shaking water out of his face; in a metaphor for his friend’s ability to be irrationally stuck on an idea, the narrator likens his brain to a lobster in a lobster trap; literal interpretations and sureness of being right; jelly bean sorting to organize his neurons in emotionally or intellectually puzzling situations. highly recommend.

executive function skills

he remembered at 7:15am on the last day of 6 week term, after completing 2 missing assignments (for days on end) and getting up to speed on how to do his upcoming math homework, that he also had an art project to finish and hand in first period that day. doh!

one day he was getting up to speed on graphing linear equations, y= b+ mx; he knew what all the variables meant and understood what recursive functions are and how to find the ordered pairs that solve this equation and how to graph ordered pairs and find the y intercept. and yet… was getting stuck on how to do it. He did not stay stuck for long. however I spent quite a bit of energy trying to convince him that graph paper would be a good thing to use for his homework this time since it is all graphing which is what graph paper was invented for. one feels one is stating the obvious sometimes. he finally came around. again, the culprit was stuckness. having used blank paper all year for math homework he was in a groove and reluctant to change, but in the end realized it’s ok to change your way and adapt to what is happening in real time. increasing flexibility one millimeter at a time!

i distinctly recall feeling thankful for spring break on the horizon!


~summer shorts~ weaving childhood

This past year has been very transitional for Quinn and for me as a parent. At age ten when he began fifth grade, he was one of the big kids in school. For Christmas I gave him practical, useful gifts – a music stand, a hanger to hold his karate belts. In June, I gathered his friends for a party to commemorate the end of elementary school and to ensure he would have peers to connect with in the big new world of middle school.

last day of 6th grade

At Christmas during sixth grade, with his first year of middle school almost halfway completed, I gave him legos and toys. Anything to lighten up the gravity of the middle school transition and recall the playfulness of childhood. On the last day of school, I gathered him to myself and we made books together, layering repurposed paper from art projects spanning his toddler years, creating journals to chronicle our summer adventures. I anchored him in the embrace of his grandparents to begin the summer, in all the time available before his next adventure launched.

The shuttle of his childhood weft is traversing so quickly back and forth between parent and peers, home and experiences. The warp fibers have all been tenderly and securely strung across the sturdy frame of attachment, their presence now a matter of fact he trusts in without having to think about it. Because the loom is built from good wood and its workings are well oiled, the heddles raise and lower the warp fibers so he doesn’t have to climb up over and duck down under each one, but just moves forward with confidence, his progress unimpeded.

His growing tapestry is both strong and beautiful, and the brightly colored patterns emerging are a delight to my soul. The base colors are lush, suggesting mossy evergreen forests, ferns on riverbanks, farm fields, and oceanic depths across the entire spectrum of green. The layers of stone in gray and brown and tan as he digs more deeply into his interests form outcroppings that offset all the greens. Bright, musical turquoises and golds and reds weave in imaginative zigs and zags. Belts of white, yellow, orange, purple and blue have appeared at regular intervals, solid and sure. The geometric symmetry and complexity of patterns suggests a creativity unbounded by the limits of rational numbers. A red violet tracer strand is an unbroken constant, enfolded into the mix. The growing fabric lays evenly, balanced as a body of water between two shores. The weave is even and neither too loose nor too tight, ensuring the blanket of his childhood will drape comfortably about his shoulders as he wraps it about himself later in life.

~rainbow mondays~ june blooms

















~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ unrivaled unraveling

~1-23-19 to 2-23-19~


winter wonderings

Quinn took three classes at Winter Wonderings at OSU this year, and finally got to enroll in one of the Minecraft modules. He also took manual chess programming and Oregon geology. Rich drove him to his class one Saturday while I worked farmer’s market; so grateful for his stepdad presence in Quinn’s life.

he was excited about an idea he had for his next minecraft tag class. he wanted to plant all the different species of trees, and one thing he has figured out how to do is how to plant a giant spruce tree (you plant a 2×2 area of spruce but then let one of the saplings grow, apparently) and then when it’s fully grown, he planned to mine into the trunk, creating a spiral staircase that ends up in a watchtower up at the top.

social and cultural

nestled among the progeny of camp boss

the second middle school dance took place, with a theme of midnight in Paris. He came out afterwards with his scarf and said he was the only one who attempted to dress French. “it was a semi-formal!” i had no idea. obviously a lot of other kids didn’t know what semi formal meant; he was not the only one in jeans. he had a great time, and danced all night again. otherwise, that day was a Friday and so, the usual 3 dinners and a bath.

saturday afternoon quinn binge watched naruto and rich and i napped. then we ate leftovers and went to the little mermaid. quinn had seen it with school, but he wanted to go again. he tried to prepare me for different parts “this part gets a little sad, but it gets better again later on.” he wasn’t the only one; the 3 year old girl seated in front of us breathily whispered to her mom, “it’s ariel!!!!”

quinn’s female friend who will henceforth go by the pseudonym goldberry has become friends with the whole fellowship and has been eating at the same lunch table… goldberry was in the little mermaid cast, and quinn said hi to her afterwards in the green room. this month he asked, “do you think goldberry and i will ever actually go on a date?” she was back in his group in science, and he seemed really happy about that. they were working on green home design. then later in the month, she confided in him that she is gay. he dealt with some disappointment about it not looking like they’d ever date, but also felt honored she had been comfortable enough in their friendship to know she could say this to him and trusted that he would be a good friend to her. he also seemed to appreciate that i had experienced the same thing a time or two in my life.

other social engagements this month included a sleepover at aragorn’s where there was much playing of the game go as well as video games. Rich, quinn and i attended the valentine’s dance performance. we also drove quinn and aragorn to and from their penultimate winter wonderings, and rich and i had a nice lunch and went shopping for fun chopsticks while we waited for them. as we headed home for a birthday sleepover, we got to listen to them singing every word of take on me (every bit as popular in grade 6 this year as it was in 1985 just after a-ha released it – in fact the marching band has chosen it for their song list to memorize for this year). We of the front seats of the car strained not to laugh out loud when aragorn asked, “are you guys familiar with the band nirvana?”

Anime/ramen birthday party! the characters of naruto eat their favorite food, ramen, with chopsticks, so the boys all dined accordingly. They ate lemon cupcakes in the conventional manner. We celebrated with aragorn, legolas, and legolas’s little brother. A good time was had by all, and the boy turned 12.

fine dining

We met rich’s mom for her birthday at the noodle cafe. quinn ordered shrimp tempura and udon noodle soup. he ate the tail on the first one and then said, “oh, you’re not supposed to?”

“it’s fine to eat it but was it chewy?”

he said, “yeah, it was hard to get through it.” the noodles there are amazing and big and homemade. for the first few he’d pull an individual noodle out of the broth onto his plate and cut it into bite size lengths with his fork and stab each one to convey it to his mouth. then he switched to getting one end into his mouth and sucking it in. we were laughing about how he doesn’t get out much. he kept getting distracted by the tv on the opposite end of the room showing cool aquarium fish. and then he would talk about his advanced theory on some topic… then he’d know absolutely nothing about a topic (government shutdown) so we’d explain it to him. it was fun. he asked if we could come back to the noodle cafe again sometime because he really liked the shrimp and noodles. and the crab and cheese wonton appetizers.


quinn is being taken to karate by his dad on occasion, which is a big win in the department of self advocating.

One night i had no idea he would be there, so i walked in for my class to see him working with sifu, which was a pleasant surprise. i got a nice big hug and a short check in and observed that he was still wearing the same yoda socks he left in days earlier. grubby, but happy.

He had his half-blue belt test this month. he did well and got to show off his analytical side as usual, and he is doing better all the time with sparring. he still gets put on the floor in a headlock, but we talked more about the one kid who does that to him every time, about how he really doesn’t do karate when he spars, he just tackles. and how that shows a lack of skill on one level. i was able to point out some specific moves quinn made that were especially showing his strengths like his speed (he was getting punched a bit by one kid, but then got off a really fast punch to the kid’s face (and it was well within the expected range of control, he wasn’t mean or malicious but he was getting a good shot in, and both he and the other boy knew it.) and when headlock/tackle boy got quinn wrapped up, well, quinn wrapped him up right back… neither one of them were getting off the floor… it felt less one-sided than usual.

he did very well on his techniques and forms as he usually does. if someone forgot a technique, sifu would often have quinn demonstrate. he also reacted really well on action/reaction testing.

Over the longer term, it is easy to see so much growth in coordination- things like keeping his hands in fight position when he kicks… he used to always drop his hands and now almost always maintains hand position.

The ceremonial kick was still a struggle. when he talked about it later it sounded to me like he actually doesn’t believe he is flinching or feel himself flinching. i think the way he experiences it may actually be that he is doing his absolute best not to flinch, and he can’t control it. In other areas he is still figuring out how to be consistently aware of his body and i have a hunch it’s in the same category. i don’t think quinn is trying to be defiant or noncompliant, or that he is *not trying not to flinch… i think he truly believes he *is not flinching.

the awesome thing was once he told me his take on that, he moved on and wasn’t obsessed or stuck on it or disappointed with the one thing that didn’t go well, he was happy with other things, and was able to feel good.

we also had a great discussion of goals he has for his karate. he could articulate exactly what a setback it is to not be going to class during his dad’s weeks. he told me he had been discussing it with his dad, and had asked him to take him to at least one class each week so he can go a faster pace and still try for his goal.

after the belt test he grabbed two more pieces of pizza and his graph paper, pencil, and ruler/protractor/circle stencil/triangle tools, and sat at the table drawing an elaborate graph papery something. he would not tell me what it was, just that he *needed to do that at 9:30pm after a 2 hour belt test, before he could let his brain go to bed. intense!!!

we both attended a weekend karate seminar with sifu z at our dojo, which is a pretty big deal for our little town. sifu z is a 9th degree black belt from LA and we’ve been at his seminars before, but only in bigger dojos. we were worn out by the end, and learned a ton. quinn did a great job with his partners, who are both kids he can often goof off with, but they stayed on task. he was very animated on the way home, saying, “at one point we had three black belts helping us! sifu todd, sifu z, and mr martinez!” and then listed all the black belts in order of what degree (how many stripes) and then was rattling off facts about how the different lineages of kenpo pracitioners relate to one another. knowledge he has picked up by absorbing and listening to everything.

sifu todd had told sifu z’s 6 year old that if he behaved throughout the whole seminar, he would get out a balloon for him and he could take 6 tries at popping it on the ceiling fan (our sifu knows how to motivate each individual child). at the end of the seminar, he did as he had promised, and inflated a giant red balloon and the boy started launching it at the ceiling fan trying to pop it. i watched from behind quinn, who was sitting on the bench watching very intently, with his fingers stuck in his ears. Quinn has come so far with tolerating sensory input, but it’s moments like that when i realize sensory intensity is still such a big deal for him. things like popping balloons, he can now deal with emotionally (he isn’t grieving the death of the balloon anymore if it’s not his balloon) however he still wants nothing to do with hearing it pop.

executive function literature

i finally managed to get my hands on the book misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses in gifted children and adults through interlibrary loan. it’s something i should have read 6 or 7 or 11 years ago. i think i remember my therapist telling me about the book, back in the 6-7 years ago time frame, and it would have helped me sort through my is-this-asperger’s quagmire. had i been gainfully employed at the time, i may have just bought it, but that was part of the quagmire and all.

i also enjoyed another book called differently wired, written by the host of the tilt parenting podcast. both the book and the podcast i would recommend to anyone else with a person in their lives who doesn’t quite fit into the neurotypical mold.

finally, an audio book on processing speed called bright kids who can’t keep up has been on while i’ve been analyzing lab data. i have only been passively absorbing some of the soundbytes from it, but some of the things standing out are examples like your kid not remembering a party invite until it’s the last minute; or staying on the edge of the playground deciding what to do and meanwhile all their time goes by… there are lots of glimpses of how processing speed could easily be part of quinn’s package.

Quinn’s math class started geometry (he was thrilled). on his homework, he was calculating area of a parallelogram and said, “whenever i see a parallelogram, i think sandcrawler, from the jawas.” (is it okay if i’m a little disappointed he doesn’t need to slay monsters anymore to get his homework done? it was so brief. he is impressing me with some observable work ethic improvements.)

on to trapezoids, one problem gave him the area of 160, and the height of 8 and base2 of 30, but he had to solve for base1. this stumped him briefly, as he had so far been calculating area from b1 b2 and h. i said, “they give you…” and restated the values listed, “so you basically solve for x.” i continued rambling about how i thought he should write down the steps and he interrupted me “10.” then it took until the next night’s homework session to get the steps written down, though he had solved it in 2.5 seconds. there was no fretting or fighting though, just time wasting and lollygagging now. less stressful these days. this same month was when he had to determine the surface area of the pyramid of Giza but got sidetracked on the fact that the base length was a fibonacci number.

he had an A in math at the halfway point through sixth grade! most of his grades were good, though he would have had more A marks if notebook grades were not factored in (his math teacher being an exception – she overlooked his incomplete notes given he had clearly absorbed the material). he will need to work on note-taking skills more. executive functions include things like note-taking, and while some kids might just start writing down what teachers say or write on the board and develop the skill without direct step-by-step instructions, i think quinn is a guy who needs more steps spelled out such as, “if i am writing it on the board, you should write it in your notebook,” or “make sure you write down xyz notes during class today,” and most likely beginning the sentence with the name “quinn” would help it take effect. other contributing factors for him might be that it takes him extra time to write anything down, and i think he has trouble dividing his attention between listening and writing; he is absorbing all the information without taking notes, and acing his exams, so there’s that. he will continue to find his balance of effort required to learn the material vs effort required to achieve a certain grade; he has no problem learning material without taking notes, but notes are often part of the grade.

one social studies assignment had been due on friday but he “thought”‘ he could get more time to do it monday. i told him i’d rather he got it done at home because if it had been due it made more sense to get it handed in asap, and also i am encouraging him to get a grip on his notebook, so focusing his class time on that seemed wise.

they did mayan and aztec civilizations and had moved on to inca, and i remember loving the quipu knot tying code system of the incas. their assignment was to make up their own code system analogous to quipu, so basically if you have 1 knot it means A, double knot means B, etc. he did the project completely backwards. he tied knots in some yarn, “i just did what felt right,” and then he was in a position of having to reverse-engineer a code that would result in his randomly tied knots to make them stand for something meaningful.

so it was a very good thing we tackled it at home because he was stuck (how could he not be) and i encouraged him to start from where he was, and write down how many knots he had of each kind (single, double, triple knots) and then we’d decide how to reverse it. we did come up with a system, and between choosing letters to represent what he had already tied, plus adding in a few more knots or untying a few that were extra, we made it work. he is such a funny guy. this is where the executive function comes into play (or fails to) and in one of the books i am reading they use executive function interchangeably with “judgment” and say how in gifted kids judgment can lag behind intellect. he is the poster child.

somewhere buried in a homework episode about tying and untying knots to reverse engineer a solution is a metaphor for parenting.

in between busy weekend and busy school days, he has read 3 books (warriors and 2 books from the diary of an 8-bit warrior minecraft series; none of them terribly difficult but he is just as insatiably absorbing literature as ever….)

another stuck moment occurred on a math homework question: give an example of a real world application where one would need the exact area of a circle, as in, the area expressed in terms of π instead of a decimal approximation… photos were placed beside the question, one of which depicted a round skylight window. i am not sure how or why quinn would or should know why it would be necessary to calculate exact area of a circle, and i personally do not know how an area of, say, 4π  square feet is ever useful in practical application, so i was little help, but i encouraged him not to overthink it, and notice the image clue of the window. i asked what it made him think of… “a hobbit house!” and he wrote down, “to build a round door in a hobbit house,” and moved on. yay for avoiding stuckness!

his whole math class failed a test, so she gave them all a retake, and quinn worked on it thursday with everyone else, got 1-6 (out of 28 questions) done, but got stuck on 7. on friday he finally figured out 7, but got stuck on 8. i found this all out monday, with prodding and interrogation. “well, let’s go over the types of questions so you can get it finished tomorrow.” it turned out that he could reproduce the problems 7 and 8 verbatim (drawings and everything) and we sat there until he could tell me how to do them (i said i would help but not tell him how, since they were test questions) and he finally got it. he was just so convinced he “couldn’t” so therefore he could not. he just lost confidence again.

we discussed a couple things i think we can also file under executive function skills.

  1. if you struggled through problem 7 and went home that night knowing you would have the next day in class to finish the test, but went back to it with no extra preparation, you probably struggled just as much! next time, go home and figure it out or ask someone to help you figure it out. you have to believe you have the skills and were taught the things you need, and that you can find them out with a little bit of effort.
  2. if you don’t know how to do #7, skip it and come back to it after you finish the rest of the questions. when i was helping him prepare for the next attempt at finishing it, i asked him what other types of questions were left and he hadn’t even turned the page, so he didn’t know. now he hopefully will be less stuck on doing the questions in order every time. i asked him if he was open to going out of order if he was truly stuck, and he was honest and said he did prefer to go in order, but that now that we’ve talked about it he feels like he sees the benefit of skipping and coming back in this type of scenario, to save time.

one car conversation launched from quinn telling me he is going to drop out of accelerated math. his teacher told him they would either have to take the state test at the end of the year, or take her own test of the material, which was not going to be any easier than the state test. he had planned on opting out of state testing forever, but he also did not fancy the idea of taking her test, at least not the way she so threateningly advertised it. our conversation centered on talking him down from dropping out (he may have learned to look for extreme “solutions” somewhere); providing reasoning such as that the other math level teachers may have the same requirement so leaving his current level may not solve the issue; discussing how his current teacher’s communication style can sometimes feed his anxiety (and when i reworded what she said, re-framing the end of year testing as a choice he could make, simply providing reasoning that she needs to see how far they have come this year and what level they should be pursuing next school year, rather than making it sound so daunting and threatening, he admitted that didn’t sound as bad); and speaking of how the state smarter balanced testing works and why it is stressful for him, and how we can work on coping strategies if he does decide to try that one again this year. my understanding is that the sb test keeps presenting the student with more and more incrementally difficult problems until it eventually stumps them, and thereby determines the extent of their knowledge by measuring an “end point” of sorts. “but i’m a perfectionist and it causes me an unrivaled amount of stress!” said quinn. i love that he realizes why this bugs him, but also that he can carry on a conversation with me about why it doesn’t need to be a source of anxiety for him, since we agree the scores mean very little to us (we measure learning differently), that if he goes in knowing there will be some too-tough problems, he can head off that stress.

on being differently wired

during another car chat after school one day, quinn and i had another installment in our ongoing conversation about his learning style and his particular challenges and strengths in school, which i believe is helping him develop the language to talk about it all. he was telling me something about naruto and one character was said to have “an IQ of over 200!” and after he was done telling me about it, i asked him if he ever wondered about his own IQ.

“no…. yeah, actually.”

i asked him more about it and he asked, “can you give me an IQ test?”

“no, it’s a pretty involved test, so it just takes some planning… and i’m not sure if you can have one at school or not, but maybe.”


i was trying to convey with my tone, “if we were interested and wanted to pursue it, we could,” not stating that we were going to pursue it yet… just seeing where he stood and how he felt about it all.  delving more into what he believed would be beneficial about knowing his IQ, he told me he wasn’t sure other than knowing he would like to know.

“well, i think those tests usually say other things about how you learn and what your intellectual abilities/strengths/challenges are. people have all different combinations, say even if you have high IQ, you could have lower processing speed, or someone could have high math ability but low verbal ability, or different things like that.” i was intending to give non-specific examples but he picked right up on processing speed.

“yeah, like how my processing speed makes me need more time to think of what to write, or to take a test, but i can easily do the test, and understand the material,” and he listed some of his own quirks. and it was cool to hear him talk about his particular spice blend.

then he said, “i feel different, and i know i am, but sometimes i would like to know for sure.”

more talk about what it means to be gifted and how it’s not that someone is better or worse, it’s a difference, and it can come with things that are beneficial and others that are challenges, but it’s real and true about him. we talked about how sometimes it is nice to know and be able to name things and for example say to a teacher, “i get stuck. i really have a hard time getting unstuck sometimes. i’m stuck right now and can’t figure out how to start this assignment….” and using his teachers as a resource, once you know this Thing is something about you that maybe not everyone experiences, and being able to see yourself starting to have that experience again and call it what it is and go to your resources (teacher, peers, book, google classroom, etc.) to help you with unsticking, not just stay stuck. or, “hey i sometimes struggle with processing speed, so i need more time to finish my test,” might be something worth knowing about your learning and be able to articulate it to someone who when they hear those words will understand what they mean. i explained that sometimes tests can be beneficial if they help identify areas that can be solved or improved for the way a person learns, if that person isn’t able to just go and ask for what he needs and has to prove it to teachers that they must give more test time (or whatever the accommodation may be), but that tests are not always needed if one can self-advocate.

on the topic of identification of gifted students it turns out quinn has quite an opinion about it and feels that some kids get missed who should be in tag, and that a lot of the kids who are being missed are also being labeled other things. he said, “i’m not sure i want to have slow processing speed identified by a test or if it is, to have that told to my teachers, because a lot of people get labeled things like that and end up getting stuck in special ed.” i did not want to jump to a conclusion about what he meant by that so i asked if he knows any kids in special ed, and he said not really but he knows of one kid, (we’ll call her), “silvana. she is in special ed but the times that i have met her or been around her, i could just tell she was like me. i think when you’re like me, you can tell when other people are the same way, and i felt that with her. she may not be able to speak the same or show off what is inside her the same way i can or others can, but i just *know she is every bit as smart as others, probably a lot smarter.”

i melted into a contented mama puddle, hearing him say that. silvana (not her real name) is a dear sweet child who indeed is in special ed, does have language and learning disabilities. however, i see what he sees in her; she has been on numerous field trips with quinn’s class over the years, when i have been along as chaperone. i just love that while so many would assume that she is unable to understand, he sees right through that.

he seems to realize that gifted isn’t necessarily an easy path, it comes with its own obstacles, and not everyone who is gifted is recognized as such, and recognizing struggles sometimes means you get treated like you’re anything but gifted… and just discussing how gifted is its own special need, too. he is also seeming to appreciate having a vocabulary for his path and a way to articulate what it is like to be him in a learning environment.

i told him that for some kids, special ed is exactly what they need, in order to learn in a way that suits them. i agreed it would not be the best setting for him to learn in, and what his special needs require is maybe more time on tests, help with stuckness, etc., but also acceleration of material so he does keep moving forward with his learning. i wanted to give him perspective on how being placed in special ed isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it is the right thing.

it was a really nice chat, and he seemed to feel validated by it all, and latching onto some of the language and ways of articulating needs and solutions to challenges.

~summer shorts~ circle geometry

The circle of life encompasses all, yet sometimes seems to have a frustratingly small diameter. Walking towards the Chelsea Rose to buy some salmon, my eyes glanced at each plaque lining the bay front, those on the many benches donated in memoriam, as well as the tiles cemented into the sidewalk, defiant attempts at permanence in the face of so much that is fleeting. Many of these engraved names, these painfully abbreviated circumferences, are now familiar to me, not just from walking these blocks, but from hearing them spoken by the voices of many friends or family members i have come to know, who loved and lost the men bearing these names to the sea.

I watched the vividly coral-colored meat parting from the bones willingly and swiftly, the recently living swimmer who would nourish our bodies that night smothered in butter and fresh herbs, and I pondered the difficult geometry of mortality. A floating rectangle beneath me swayed gently, seagulls plunged past on arcs of summer breeze, snatching scraps washed from the working fishing boats docked on this bright monday. Diesel engines and fish processing plants of the town i call home laid a familiar background scent-scape i scarcely registered.

At the beach with my parents an hour earlier, i had picked up a tiny sand dollar, mostly intact, and handed it to my mom. She took a closer look before putting it into her pocket like humans since the beginning of time have known to do, as though bringing back essential minerals within the shell to sustain life ashore. As though. A circle of a shell, remnant of a living being. Its five petals radiating from the center reminded me of the vibrant five-petaled impatiens I had planted before mom’s visit, knowing she always saw their five petals as representing our five-person nuclear family. This floral impression etched in a now-vacant vessel. It crossed my mind how a sand dollar is a little bit reminiscent of the shape of a breast. Life-giving circle. Mostly intact. Flowers, shells, breasts, all fulfill their roles in nature, and yet all are so ephemeral.

Mom recalled visits to jones beach with aunt margie and uncle george, or to oyster bay. She also remembered going to rockaway beach with her mom and dad, “because you could get there by train.” “my earliest memories….” she trailed off, reliving the beaches of New York, where she was taken from the time she was no more than a year old.

Then i was the baby in the memory. “i remember standing in the ocean holding you when you were three months old and telling you, ‘this is a very special place.’ That the water felt cold on my toes but the air was clean and lovely to breathe, that the sound of the water and the birds was so beautiful. I never imagined you would end up living here and all the ocean-related things you would end up doing.”

Then nobody was a baby anymore and we were here, now, 70 and 41, farther around the circle than it seemed like we should be, but sitting side by side on a sunny, deserted beach on a monday gazing at the pacific ocean, its horizon a circle whose extent we could never hope to measure. But we have learned to trust that its diameter is  exactly the right length.

~summer shorts~ striking out

a scrap of green t-shirt sleeve, followed by the brim of a floppy, khaki hat wobble out from near the front of the line of campers, the one glimpse i’ve caught of quinn on his very first sleepaway camp experience. the t.a. and videographer is bringing up the rear behind the six campers attending Paleontology Explorers: Oregon, and after they take a few steps, the camera pans over the white tufts of beargrass flocking a stark high elevation flatland studded with snags spearing the sapphire sky, an inverted green bunting of young conifer triangles painted across its mid-section.

he is up front behind the leader, hopefully too out of breath to be talking her ear off. the group is already cohesive, one entity moving with brisk purpose in an intentional direction toward a common goal. the sense of anticipation, ownership, and belonging seem palpable, even through the filtered lens of an instagram feed. the one other boy on the trip, D from L.A., is at quinn’s heels, the four young women comprising the rest of the group of six campers marching along in step. i think i spot the one he first introduced himself to, R from california, who, like quinn, has a dinosaur pillowcase. shedding her NASA sweatshirt as they team-carried gear to the van, she revealed her next layer of a harry potter t-shirt. As quinn and D carried either end of a duffel, i overheard a snippet of conversation about “ender pearls,” and i felt it all sinking in – these were quinn’s people. this was him finding a few more of his tribe. The other ones for whom dinosaurs were not something they grew out of, nor got over. the other ones who may possibly be more proud of achieving a grade point average of 3.14 than one of 4.0. the other ones who might see HGTV through the lens of house flipping to afford more expeditions and more plaster. the other ones whose bed stickers may have been classified at age 6 into jurassic and cretaceous species. The other ones whose parents stood around awkwardly at camp drop-off trying not to let on how relieved they were that our kids are finally finding one another.

somewhere in the eastern cascades, a boy is laying his head on his dinosaur pillowcase, among a pack of campers each with their own heads on their own dinosaur pillowcases, out in a big world doing his thing.




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~black and white wednesday~ love letter with no words




~rainbow mondays~ april may



















~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

a photo study documenting the colors of the spectrum: the balance points between light reflected and light absorbed

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ more cowbell

~12-23-18 to 1-23-19~

we had family visiting on christmas eve. rich’s mom, daughter and son-in-law came, and his mom made dinner for us all. it was fun to impart messages of non-worry and support to my pregnant step-daughter, and encourage her to refrain from consulting the dreaded google about that sore hip or that swollen foot. she had a cold she had been trying to shake for months, and i told her that it was a good sign for her baby, that during pregnancy your immune system is dialed down to accommodate the baby, and that was just what it was doing (accommodating the baby, instead of fighting off the cold particularly efficiently). i know there is a metaphor in there for life, parenting, and everything.

quinn had a good time catching up with the family. that night, he slept in his sleeping bag on the living room floor. everyone came back christmas morning for pancakes and bacon and presents.

quinn fits right into the christmas model of the rew family, with whom he has only spent one christmas when he was not quite two years old. the rews take their time, take turns (in order!) opening presents, and time is also taken to pass around, explore and savor a present, and for expressing thanks. this can take an entire day, with breaks taken for meals, and back in the day, barn chores. rich’s family gets it done in a half hour. quinn took 15 minutes unwrapping rich’s mom’s present, a cool calendar, because he was reading the comics in which it was wrapped. it’s the way that he has always been, in fact, we would often spread just a few presents out over a period of several days when he was younger.

i approached this christmas a bit the opposite of last christmas, when it came to quinn. last year, when he was in 5th grade, a big fish in a small pond, maturing… i gave him practical gifts and not as many toys. this year he is swimming hard into the middle school current, and everything is so serious all the time that i felt like this christmas should be as playful and fun as possible. he got lego sets, a game, a rubik’s cube, a bunch of books he wanted (minecraft guides, life of fred trigonometry, a role play game book four against darkness, hexaflexagons by martin gardner, harry potter y la piedra filosofal for continuing to practice his spanish, and to be extra playful: p is for pterodactyl, the worst alphabet book ever, because it had a dinosaur on the cover and it makes me happy to think of his struggle against silent letters as an early reader. i had fun reminding him about how i had to really play up how funny i thought those silent letters were, to get him to lighten up about them. he can laugh about it now, but he would get so frustrated each time he encountered another offending letter!

rich has been working on a boat called the pegasus, and the skipper had given him a hat and a hoodie printed with the boat logo. when he wore it home, i noted that there was a picture of the mythological winged horse on the boat, and we both remarked how quinn would appreciate it. a few days later rich came home with a hoodie in size (adult) medium for quinn. when he opened it on christmas morning, quinn realized the reason for it (aside from it being the boat rich is working on). quinn smiled knowingly and rich joked, “isn’t it from some chinese mythology or something?” and quinn hilariously downplayed his encyclopedic mythological knowledge saying, “i think it’s greek” and i laughed. “you think?” litotes much? and then we got to hear him tell how poseiden and medusa fell in love but decided to go on a date in athena’s palace, and athena cursed medusa and her sisters to punish medusa for the offense, and then (he included more details i am unable to regurgitate…) when medusa was killed, her three unborn children were released, and one of them was pegasus, god of the winged horses. and everyone agreed, that sounded 100% correct.

he wanted to read each book, look at each lego set, open each yu-gi-oh card expansion pack and read every single card. there were so many good, funny moments. one of the first stocking presents he opened was a bright green cowbell and he shouted, “more cowbell!” and everyone laughed and talked about christopher walken but quinn said, “it’s from the trials of apollo.”



he was 3/4 done with the lego sets by the next morning, and he had opened every book and finished at least one. he had specifically asked for jurassic park legos and was very happy with them. after building each set he went about recombining dinosaur parts and making “hybrid” species (complete with imagined backstory of how rare/common they are, their habitat and diet, etc.)

grammy and grampy gave him a model strandbeest (a wind-powered automaton beach-walker that quinn learned about and was fascinated with a few years ago when he watched theo jansen’s ted talk.) once again, he recounted amazing facts to the live studio audience about the original strandbeests and how the inventor wanted them to exist in the wild so he would add features like a “brain” made from a water bottle that somehow helped them sense the water’s edge and keep them from going into the water.

rich and i were visited by a gray bunny rabbit on solstice in the yard, and it kept returning to visit each evening, including on christmas eve and christmas day, when quinn got to see it as well. we called it full moon solstice bunny. it was gone again a few days later, but we felt its magical appearance was a gift. rabbits are often said to be symbolic of creativity and fertility. with our time off to indulge in creative pursuits, and our anticipation of new family members, this meaning certainly applied. a creature at the mercy of the elements, rabbits are able to make use of mere blades of grass to sustain life, so this bunny in our yard was surrounded by abundance. whereas they can seem afraid and skittish, this one was approachable and less fearful than most. i think bunnies can symbolize overcoming fear and anxiety. with so many predators (eagle, hawk, owl, coyote, bobcat) it is no wonder that rabbit could succumb to fears, but focusing on abundance brings more abundance, whereas giving power to fear can instead bring fear to reality. i am going to go out on a limb and say bunnies are a good mascot for the law of attraction, and manifesting abundance. turning anxiety around, rabbits can be seen as very alert and perceptive to their surroundings, and this gray bunny made me think of how perception can give us flexibility to process the gray areas of life. finally, the softness and vulnerability of rabbit are a great lesson in embracing the softer side of our natures, being open and approachable, being vulnerable enough to put our fears out there can sometimes bring us closer together.

q and i had a fun day of yu-gi-oh (he slaughtered me) and laying around with our laptops (yugioh on netflix and coding a game on scratch). one evening i opened up the martin gardner hexaflexagons book to a random page and found a game called hex, and had dryly mentioned that i was sure he would hate this book, “here i’ve just arbitrarily opened to a game involving hexagons. sounds awful.” he replied, deadpan, “oh man, yeah, i will hate that.” at lunch the next day he brought the book to me and said, “i know we’ll hate it, but will you read to me about hex?” i did, and then we printed out a hex game board from the internet, and picked out green and yellow buttons as game pieces… and he proceeded to clobber me over and over again. the kid is good at math strategy! sheesh. he is seeing things i may be able to see with time, but he’s just already got a handle an 11 by 11 grid of hexagons.

already, that book has proven to be fun and he hasn’t even really read it. martin gardner wrote a column in scientific american for many years on recreational math, and vi hart talks about him a lot, especially in her hexaflexagon videos. i figured quinn would appreciate reading directly from the source. gardner’s columns are collected into a pile of books, so i got him the first one. it’s intended for an audience of adults, but i was reading to him concerning proofs from game theory on how the hex game works, and he was posing really good questions, obviously with no trouble grasping the concepts, seeing new angles, and taking it further in his mind.

142,857, a fun cyclic number i grabbed from facebook for him to puzzle over.

we also discussed his life of fred journey. i asked if he knows what’s next after trig and he said, “yes, calculus.” and i said, “are you planning to go right on to read calculus after trig?” he did not hesitate: “yes.” i said, “ok, but i think when you’re done reading them you might want to go back and do some of the exercises to make sure you know the Procedures to do the problems,” (practice) and he said he plans to. he doesn’t plan to start back at the beginning with fractions, but just with the later books, starting with beginning algebra. he thinks he has the lower level stuff down now, and he can go from there. but his plan is to read the calculus book, and then start doing the beginning algebra problems in his math journal, and work his way on up through geometry, trig, calc, after that. i’ve told him the good things i’ve heard of the math teachers at the high school; the one married to the teacher quinn has had for theatre workshops (she teaches drama and is also the tag teacher up there) is said to allow kids to keep learning on beyond calculus if they are capable, and will hold class for as small a group as needed. i wanted to give him a little bit to look forward to and make sure he is still thirsty to learn this stuff the way he has been. he seems to know that he does his best learning at home, and isn’t looking at school as his primary place of learning. therefore dreading anything about school (as he has sometimes felt with his current math class) doesn’t get automatically linked (for him) with dreading anything to do with learning. i think they are essentially two separate things in his mind. strangely, i think this compartmentalization is a good thing in his case. one can ask why one might attend school if one learns best at home, and it’s certainly an open discussion in my mind.

at least i get to facilitate project-based interest-driven learning on breaks. over this break he worked on a card-based role play survival game with dinosaurs. i steered him into generating dinosaur artwork for the cards. check out his resulting drawings!

we had some outside time before break was over!

he had an emotional meltdown  in the car coming home from karate one night. he was feeling criticized, wanting to quit school, life, not wanting to grow up. i helped him name it overwhelm. i gave him a visualization of drawers in his mind, having him picture what the drawers look like and what they are made from, right down to the details of the handles. i said, “sometimes all of your little drawers have their contents tucked inside and are neatly closed, and it’s peaceful. sometimes though, too many things are out of their drawers trying to be dealt with at once, and that is what overwhelmed feels like, and so now i want you to take karate, put it in its drawer, and close the drawer.” i waited to let him do it, and had him visualize closing each topic (school, friends, etc.) in its drawer. we talked about taking them out one at a time the next day, when we’d be able to look at them on their own, and they wouldn’t seem nearly as overwhelming.

another topic we discussed this month had to do with control and compliance and relating to adults as a pre-teen who is used to being in charge of his own person. i don’t remember exactly how it came up, but some adult in his life had expected compliance from him and he had felt it was undeserved. i felt it best to explain why i think he was having a reaction to such a thing. i told him that because i have mostly not required compliance from him based solely on the premise “i’m the mom, i’m older than you, and therefore i’m in charge,” he is used to making the choice to comply with my requests (which are almost always accompanied by information and reasoning) rather than have compliance extracted from him by an adult. if he gives me his respect, it is because i have earned it and he has chosen to give it to me, not because i’ve demanded it. but i explained that most other adults operate in a different way from that, and insist on compliance and believe children owe them that because they are older. since i’ve done it differently i may have put him in a position where he notices it a heck of a lot more than other kids, who are conditioned to the other way, and that may be hard for him on some level. however, i also hope he can see it as an advantage in that he knows his own mind, and knows that when he complies he is doing so by choice, because he has decided he can trust this adult and what they are instructing him to do. on the other hand, he also has the strength to question or defy when he knows or suspects an instruction is unjust or incorrect, and the wherewithall to ask for information about why a command is being issued, rather than blindly following. it’s been my goal to raise a critical thinker, not a blind follower. i think he could see the pros and cons, and the perspective was helpful in alleviating his disgruntled feelings of the moment.

his new haircut makes him look taller yet again. though he is legitimately taller! i measured him xmas day at 5’2 ¾”!

this month marked the first call home from the principal, concerning quinn’s reasonable response to an unprovoked shove/hit by a kid with a neighboring locker. ahh, middle school milestones.

one saturday while i worked farmer’s market, rich and quinn did firewood work together. rich had me look in the back of his truck when i got home and he was starting to unload the wood, and said that quinn had been the one to stack it into the back, though he waited for quinn to “offer” to do this. rich started setting wood in the truck and quinn said, “i’ll climb in the back!” quinn talked alllll about minecraft to rich, and i think stacking firewood appeals to quinn because it’s real life minecraft block stacking. he would stack it ever so evenly like puzzle pieces and then fill in the spaces with smaller pieces. rich said there was twice as much wood in the same amount of space he usually fills because quinn was analyzing how to fit more pieces in the same space. he would ask rich for certain sizes “i need a big one for the base” and rich would be a joker and hand him a “big one” that was a tiny twig. rich commented on quinn’s story telling (or minecraft details) and the way quinn occasionally trails off in conversation; he would be left in the middle of a sentence and would look over like, where did he go? i know that speaking style very well.

we had a mellow, sleeping-in sunday with pumpkin pancakes. quinn and i figured out how to play multiplayer minecraft together on both our laptops, which was hilarious. we held a librarian hostage, installed purple and green stained glass windows, and tamed wolves to be our pet dogs.

the librarian traded with us for enchanted books. i am not sure why he was still willing to trade us when we had commandeered his house and held him captive, but i guess he’s just cool like that.

he finally got a larger size (but exactly the same brand and color, his requirement) backpack, and i was delighted to find his collection of wedding detritus from his step-sister’s wedding over a year ago in the pocket, along with the other treasures (petrified orange!!).

he had math and language arts homework that took him hours even though it was 2 math problems and 3 google slides… but he got it done, and then had a bath and he ate a million pounds of food (he had eaten all the meals and then while we were working on the logic puzzle before bed he pounded 4 fig newmans. this was the evening that he broke google with his logic question.

i got quinn to school ready for his math test that monday, prepared to talk to his spanish teacher about making up a quiz he had missed before break, and ready for his social studies test. he is a long string bean in a green hoodie.

i showed quinn a photo from when he was 4 and fell asleep on the happy spot foot stool. he wanted to re-create it. i’m not sure this has anything to do with lifelong learning, but certainly gives a sense of scale of just how much he has physically grown!