~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ percolator

a long and winding hodge podge of learning and living that i have decided to stop editing and move on from… read at your own risk (warning! verbosity ahead!), and probably pour yourself a cup of tea first.

science fair! i had the privilege of being the science fair mentor for quinn’s 5th grade class. his teacher had a very clear plan and it made it very easy to guide the kids through the process of gathering their data. they worked in groups to build worm compost bins, and then ran experiments based on, in most cases, food preferences of the worms. quinn’s group chose to compare the worms’ preference for raw potato to cooked potato, by adding equal amounts of each food at the start of the 4 weeks, and weighing what was left of each type after each week passed.

after i got done doing science with the kids one afternoon, i had a great conversation with quinn’s teacher. i opted quinn out of the state smarter balanced testing this year. it’s a matter of filling out a form, and since the detriments to quinn seemed to be outweighing the benefits, i filled out the form. his teacher had emailed me about another test called oaks science, that he will take as a 5th grader, and letting me know that if we wanted to try to opt out of the OAKS, it required a religious or learning disability reason and apparently involves a great deal of writing on the parents’ part.

this is all aside from star testing which actually provides some insight on specific skills; in quinn’s case the insights are limited based on how far out of range he scores. he still takes a star test at the beginning and end of the year.

i had emailed her back explaining our reasoning for the SB opt out was that Q was showing signs of stress last year and that all the rest of my misgivings about standardized testing aside, that particular test doesn’t even seem like it offers teachers any feedback on how to help kids learn. i have seen the results for the past two years, which aren’t returned until fall (when quinn wlil be a 6th grader with a different set of teachers) and seemed fairly useless to me.

i asked her what her take on the OAKS was, whether it was like SB, whether she felt some other way about SB, acknowledging that i’m not the teacher, and want to know if i am missing some truly helpful aspect of it. i said i’m happy to write something though i could prove neither religious nor learning disability for quinn.

she eased any potential worries about the science test, said she thinks he should take it because it’s far less involved… 40 science questions with definite answers, not open-ended essays. she doesn’t think it will stress him out the same way the other one did, she sees that he gets hung up on writing answers, he percolates in his mind and it takes him a while to start writing. i loved that she has such an accurate observation of him, and also that she phrases it in such positive terms; she says she is fascinated by his differences. if she saw any sign that he was experiencing stress from the science test, she would “find a glitch” and that would be that.

she ended up sharing her own dislike of the sb tests, is glad i’m opting quinn out of them, encouraged us to opt out all the way through high school, and even finds the star only so useful for his level. she feels what he might really benefit from is tag testing, and even moreso, pre-sat testing when he gets to middle school. she told me she thinks i will really need to advocate for him over there, because she feels he really needs more tag programming and isn’t getting it. i’m so glad i shared my reasoning for opting out, because i think it freed her to share her take on things, and it turns out she is a pretty incredible ally in terms of seeing clearly what is needed with this boy’s education.

we planned what he will do during testing week, and while there were several good options for students opting out, we agreed the best was for him to do an independent project. she liked the concept of genius hour that google uses to foster ingenuity, and she felt quinn could handle an open-ended project on a topic of his choice. she wanted it to entail some sort of end product that he could then share with the class (a presentation, animation, essay, artwork, etc.)

she was also supportive about us going to new york for a week, saying he will learn a lot from traveling!

“percolating” is such a perfect word to describe quinn’s thinking process, especially when it comes to getting ready to write something. he does most of his work inside his head, then it comes pouring out in the eleventh hour, spilling onto the page in a form that requires little editing. what wonderful images and memories the word “percolator” brings to mind: from recent fourth of july camping trips, enjoying breakfast around the campfire, to long ago visits with aunt margie and uncle george in their cabin in the adirondacks. again, it’s amazing to find someone who has the capacity to observe such things about my kid so thoroughly in spite of the fact that he is “number 27” out of 30 kids in her room. seen, known, valued for who he is; sense of belonging, connection. see also: educational priorities.

this story has been percolating along, about a page every few weeks or so…

mapping was a big topic covered in recent weeks. quinn’s imaginary land of canith has realistic longitude and latitude lines, a legend, and all the physical features of a map that you could want!

his tag class also included some compass and map work. another week involved animal tracks. one week, they worked outside and made miniature shelters. at the end the instructor let them all destroy their structures, but quinn had built his off to one side by a rock and said he was the only kid who decided to leave his up in case a squirrel needed a place to hide.

i picked quinn up from school one afternoon, and he was his usual one-word answer, surly after school self, which i’ve come to think of as “feed me” and so i didn’t start asking a bunch of questions (i’ve learned to wait until later for the most part). he was coming from a dad day and therefore no lunch leftovers to eat, but i had a tangerine. i did ask if he had remembered to bring his state book home (because when i was in class for science fair on thursday, his teacher had mentioned he still needed to finish it up). he said no. then when i asked if we should go back in for it, he provided self-defeated answers, “no, we can’t, because…” and “it’s raining” and “we’ll get hypothermia.” in the meantime, i had showed him the pack of brightly colored paper i had picked up (including martian green and cosmic orange) for making more of the origami octahedron project he liked doing the previous week at school. i had gotten a smile out of him with the martian conversation (because he read it aloud and then i said oh, like marTEEans, from martia?) but he was still mopey, so i re-parked and started peeling the tangerine, and then handed him a slice, calling it a marTEEan orange power pack, and said it would protect him from hypothermia as we returned to the mother ship… and also from scurvy. and by then he was laughing and walking in the rain into the school to get his stuff. and he said they were cosmic orange power packs, duh.

so, handling moody tweens is easy. just be a goofball. and provide snacks.

in his homework folder, he had a handwritten note from a friend saying to please bring himself and his family to go bowling at 3:30. (no bumpers). no date was specified, so i asked quinn, and he was pretty sure it meant the following day, saturday. luckily, i had background info that this boy’s dad is a fb friend of mine and rich’s due to being in one flew over the cuckoo’s nest with rich, so i did some parental fact checking, and sure enough, it was legit. the response i got was, “i had no idea the Quinn he was talking about was your Quinn!”

our two families got along quite well, and the boys are a lot alike. two smarty pants stick figures.

after bowling, we had dinner with rich’s mom and some friends, which was fun and fancy. quinn did well with the fancy factor (napkin in the lap, multiple forks and spoons and courses). he is fun to be around, which i’m glad i can say about my ten year old. here he is at home the next day eating the leftovers of his herb chicken, still painstakingly scrubbing his sprig of rosemary and slice of lemon over each bite before consuming.

it’s been a time of ups and downs with friendships for quinn. while nothing major has taken place, i get the sense that things are shifting a bit for him and he is finding that he values certain things in friends, some of which he hasn’t quite found yet. one friend he has thought of as a best friend named another boy as his best friend while he and quinn were playing one day. i had a chat with quinn after overhearing that, deciding to risk bringing up a touchy subject rather than let it go untalked about. it did definitely come up on his radar, though he didn’t give it any energy with the friend. he got his feelings about it out with me, and though it didn’t feel great, he also realized it didn’t have to mean anything terrible, either.

we talked more about what he values in a friend. one thing he likes about the bowling friend (he’s going to need a pseudonym soon, i can tell) is that, “he understands what i’m saying.” i probed further to find out that what he means by that is, the vocabulary and language quinn uses are understood and do not need further explanation with this boy, do not need to be simplified or defined. they keep up with each other. they have a compatible sense of humor in that they both like word play, and they can get pretty complicated with their discussion topics without needing to slow down.

there’s a lot going on in social development. some intriguing correspondence from a female karate friend inspired quinn to respond in cursive to her letter. i’m glad to find that: he is eager to fill me on the details and let me read both his and her notes; that he seems to have a sense of the appropriate level of friendship at this age level and kept it all in friend terms; and that he writes with good reciprocity, both sharing some of his ideas but also asking her likes and favorites.

i just wanted to mention/appreciate that i love my dojo. sifu and mrs. todd have been so supportive of working with quinn in the limited time they have with him (to date his dad has remained insistent that he cannot bring him to class during his week) and they’ll even refuse to charge me full price for quinn since he is there only half of the time. meanwhile, they work hard to catch him up on his techniques when he is around, and they see who he is and what his strengths are, and emphasize those while helping him in areas where he is not as strong. they recognize things like perfectionism (they ease up the test pressure and focus on the fun), they recognize his desire to one day teach, and his cognitive abilities to retain all the details about each move of each technique, and they put him to work helping other students. i talked with them about how i feel he will become less tolerant of his dad’s refusal to bring him to activities, as he becomes a teen, and sifu was in agreement that time would come. it’s what i hope for with everyone who enters quinn’s life in any meaningful way, that the focus will be on quinn and what is best for quinn, that quinn will be seen and known and valued for who he is, and that the connection is alive and foremost between him and anyone in a teaching capacity. (once again, see educational priorities.)

they constantly express how happy they are that we’re a part of the dojo, so i know the feeling is mutual!

he has been reading up on egyptian mythology, and requesting books on hieroglyph translation! he also read riordan’s greek heroes tome, now that he has read pretty much everything else the man has written.

cats are sacred in egyptian culture, right? this one expects to be worshipped… the past few months she often helps quinn fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.

one morning the day of his music lesson, i got him up a half hour early and he played a full third of the drum section of his book… he has much better focus in the morning. we have had some discussion about how he may need to work at the bells harder (the snare drum just comes so easily to him) but that it will be just as rewarding or even more so to get better at the bells, since he will have to work harder. i’m trying to do things to keep practice fun for him, and continue to help him when he gets stuck in perfectionism mode. rich helps by furthering his musical education, putting beatles cds on the stereo. i mix up what instruments we play (recorder, guitar, piano, miscellaneous percussion), rename his tunes, play along with him on a drum, piano, or recorder, and inform him of silly lyrics trivia.

quinn and i went to the talent show at his school, because his friend (of the bowling invite) was in a skit and also playing his guitar in the show. we ended up sitting right in front of his friend’s family and that was cool and random. he came to sit with us and they got to chat. after we left i was musing with quinn about the band they’ll form together, and quinn thinks they need more players, “like maybe a flute and a trumpet?”

we try to fit in a few of the “art fridays” classes offered through the visual arts center, and the one called mayan metalsmithing caught quinn’s eye this session. he loved the owl image he saw in one drawing, and ended up borrowing from that idea to make a very intricate pyramid with symbols representing four elements and other details. he certainly had fun using this new and different medium for creating.

we had a fabulous family visit in new york, complete with lots of learning about: wizard chess, drums, winter olympics sports, shelter building practice, plane de-icers, and the origami yoda series his cousins had out from the library.

i got quinn on friday from school, and took him to his “mayan metalsmithing” art class at the visual arts center. we went home, ate pizza for dinner, and got ourselves packed up.

before the trip, we got to spend the afternoon with rich’s daughter. she had on hgtv show called fixerupper, which was impossible for quinn to pull himself away from. still, he manages to learn things, and while we were waiting in the airport he told me that he wants a fixer-upper and to fund his paleontology research by flipping houses. his exact words were that he would “use the money for more expeditions and plaster”. i encouraged him to learn all the building skills he possibly can from his dad, so he can put them to good use. i think it’s an excellent plan, better than trying to compete for grants. the part he loved the best was taking a “blank” room (his word) and deciding what to do with it and putting all the things in it (he will also have a warehouse… to hold the optional items.)

we took a red-eye flight there as usual. as we were landing in newark, quinn and i were able to see the empire state building and the statue of liberty from the plane. flying to syracuse, quinn spent a long time looking out the window at the view of snowy new york countryside – i can picture him gazing out with his with hands folded in his lap.

i will also be able to picture quinn’s cute upturned face when he finally hugged grammy.  their bond is like nothing else in the world.

after some soup and corn muffins for lunch, the boys began dueling with lightsabers. as soon as that got rowdy, i strongly suggested we go sledding before the snow melted all the way, and we had a fun afternoon sledding, tobogganing, and generally playing in the snow.

we had a picnic dinner, as is the christmas tradition of the rews, and since we haven’t all been there for one since quinn was just shy of 2, we observed the christmas picnic tradition together.

by the time i woke up the next morning, uncle t and grampy had already left for work, and quinn had gotten up and was on the loveseat snuggling with grammy, just the two of them, just chatting. lots of cousin play time happened, and quinn began drawing a game on graph paper in his spare moments. quinn and i talked some about being a person who needs to do some recharging in between being with people, and i see how self-aware he is in this department nowadays.

we had so much fun watching the olympics. we mimicked the vocalizations of the curling athletes and feigned understanding of the subtle intricacies of the sport. we cheered on the men’s bobsled teams who incredibly tied for gold, and reminisced about olympics of yore when germany was still divided into east and west. rich and i had recently learned that the berlin wall has now been down as many days as it had been up, and grampy remembered having written an essay about the berlin wall in his younger days.

quinn got up  before me again the next day, but it was because he had fallen out of bed (from a mattress on the floor, so no biggie) and he immediately went downstairs to grammy, who tucked him into her bed for another 15 minutes so he could have a gentle wake up. my favorite thing is that he doesn’t bother to wake me up, because why would he when there is a perfectly good grammy to go to?

the paper airplane shop began in earnest on this day, and lasted through the rest of the week. mario’s design for an airplane called a scooty was a big hit, and many prototypes were made. the living room was a big mess after a while, but i grabbed a brown paper bag and named it the “airplane garage” at one point, said it was time for the boys to park their airplanes in the garage if they were ready to go outside, and they were, so they did. it got called “the garage” the rest of the week.

luigi made himself a parachute and wanted to do an egg drop, and i encouraged him (he was inspired by quinn’s parachute which he had seen in oregon) and then he and i went up to the barn to drop it off the hay loft, and it worked great! he was so thrilled.

in the world of olympics, it was the day lindsey vonn was doing her downhill skiing and we were screaming our heads off just as though we actually care about skiing.

that afternoon the kids played outside in the 60 degree weather for hours on end: swinging on the tire swing, climbing trees, building shelters, riding bikes, trying to jump on the pogo stick… and generally running around in the breezy mild weather.

before dinner, boys were hanging around the table so i put a pile of place mats and napkins, a stack of plates and a pile of utensils on one end of it and asked who would like to help with setting the table. quinn and schroeder (quinn’s newest cousin) handled the whole thing. quinn made a comment that he can’t refuse because he is a certified technician, and the tone of what he said was so cheerful and positive (instead of “i’m obligated” it was more like “i feel compelled to and proud to do it.”)

quinn did so well with bedtimes and routine, possibly motivated by the fact that he then ended up being the first cousin up every morning to monopolize grammy time.

i got up early and went to see my friend the next morning and when i got home, quinn was playing chess with uncle t (who took the day off wed) and i guess they got a few games in before the other boys woke up.

we all cheered on the olympic short track skaters because… well, because!

then rich and quinn and i went to visit uncle b, and got to see his baby goats (bowie and pixie, boy and girl, so cute!) and then go to his practice space so quinn could see his drums and he could show him some stuff. i took video of each of the beats he showed quinn so i can put them on his computer for him to play back and try to replicate… he had this look of awe listening to uncle b on the drums. he was kind of shy once he got behind the drums himself and it took him a minute to play anything, but he did do the basic rhythm he knows, and then he ad libbed a little bit and it was pretty cool. uncle b said, “he’s got that rew music gene” and seemed proud to have a nephew following in his drumming foorsteps. i am so glad they got that time together. he encouraged quinn to listen to certain drummers, and named several bands who have inspired him… quinn was soaking it all in.

that night i happened upon a scene in which quinn, luigi and mario were trying to make an origami cat using a you tube video, and uncle t was trying to help them. i sat in to try to help as well, but it was a difficult one, and we ended up watching the second half and realizing we should bail. then the boys helped quinn make an easy 5-fold origami yoda they had learned, and then i put quinn to bed.

the next morning at 8:00 i started seeing snowflakes… quinn came downstairs a few minutes after 8 and it was snowing in earnest, and the sound of him gasping… priceless. he told me he never saw it snowing before, only had woken up to snow being already on the ground, so he was feeling the magic. i asked if he wanted to go out right away, but he said no, he wanted to wait until there was some on the ground and then go out and play. it just kept falling and falling all day! 8 hours later there were 6 inches on the ground, and many giant snowballs, snow people, the base of an igloo, and ski tracks. quinn’s snow person had a big base, and tapered to a very small head, and he called it the security guard.

skiing was such an intense emotional experience for him. i found all of my gear from when i was his age (miracle… shoes in attic, skis in barn. poles in cellar…) and we realized the boots fit him fine! so we snapped him into the skis, and he was excited! and then he was frustrated! and then he was angry at me! and then he was angry at skis! and then he was on top of the world again! like that, for the whole time. he was so happy to be doing it (i mean, olympics mania was not lost on the boy) and yet it did not come easily, and he fell and it didn’t feel great, and he didn’t think i was right that falling is an essential part of the learning process with skiing. later on, we had yet another conversation about how sometimes we can be perfectionists…. and i think he is gaining insight about that all the time. so all in all, i am very glad i put him on those skis, and put that good challenge in front of him, and though it was not easy, it was enjoyable and a memory he will love forever.

schroeder came over, and quinn and mario went sledding with him and they had tons of fun. the snow kept falling… then at 4:00, it stopped and the sun came out! so we retired to the indoors for tacos! it was a wonderful, snowy birthday eve.

birthday!

there has been much written on the subject of this day already, a cold and rainy, paper folding, family gathering, peach pie eating, wonderful day of celebrating with his whole family all together on his birthday for the very first time.

in the morning we went to the cider mill and got to see andy and molly. they had been out of town visiting family for spring break, but it was so good to get to see them again. we got apples and donuts and went back to the house for play time until we had to leave for the airport.

quinn used his new birthday present book on star wars origami when he got home to create r2d2 and c3po. he had a frustration at one point and as i was trying to talk him through staying with it and staying calm, he told me, “i’m a perfectionist.” his increasing level-headed awareness of this inner challenge will help him so much in overcoming the associated obstacles!

he has been exploring more game programming using scratch. on one occasion he looked at trying to make a dinosaur bone digging game in scratch, and he played some other peoples’ games about dinosaurs.

he also started making a game called kashyyyk battle. one of the books i gave him for his birthday was about making star wars games in scratch. he read a bunch of it on the plane ride, and it is amazing to me how he started with making the (someone else’s icon design) whale swim across the screen to now googling “how to make gravity in scratch” and implementing all this crazy code and designing these characters himself (drawing individual pixels). yoda has a lightsaber that appears if you press space bar, to kill the clones… it’s a work in progress, but he got gravity working… and he knows exactly what he is going to do, he just needs more time to implement it all.

 

one afternoon, he thought of an idea for a new “story mode” game, after experiencing “scratch – story mode” and given some prior experience with “minecraft – story mode.” he worked in his graph notebook that bears the label “quinn’s games” to develop 3 characters (they bear striking resemblance to quinn himself, and his cousins mario and luigi) and began percolating some ideas about the story line of the game, in which he knew the heroes would encounter at least one dragon.

on time management… i’ve had him start using a white board to plan his time. one non-school friday he woke up just before 9 and he had until 2:30 when he’d leave for his dad’s, so i had him plan out his day in segments of 30 minutes. he got to choose when to have breakfast, lunch, music practice and homework, and then see how many other half hours were left for free choice (a game of bone wars, time to himself, time with me; i gave restrictions on my own time such as needing the time slot before his lunch free for making lunch) and he followed the plan pretty much to the letter and with only a little bit of grumbling/processing and a growing awareness of the passage of time (we used a timer for each 30 minute segment). i haven’t asked him to plan every evening, but some evenings i do bring it up, so he does less leaving things until the last minute or skipping them entirely (music practice is hard to fit in without some intentional planning, with all the karate and trying to get to bed on time and lengthy dinner and bath processes). this seemed like an area that could do with more scaffolding and coaching, and it seems like the right time to get some practice in before middle school.

one small victory in this area was that he got caught up on a whole week of reading summaries in one night. typically, he struggles against writing even one summary, and he is required to write four of them per week. he didn’t write any while we were in new york, believing he did not need to, but found out when he got back that he actually did need to. he set a goal for himself to have it done by wednesday, and worst case scenario friday, so he wouldn’t have to miss any recess to finish it at school. (that would take place after the one week grace period, so the following monday). he got home from karate one night and set to work and got 6 summaries written; not only did he get the back work done, but got himself up to date on his current homework for that week. all without a single mention from me, he just did it.

also in the department of planning ahead, he knows that he wants to do a comparison of the various mythologies he has learned about- greek, roman, egyptian, norse – when he spends his week opted out of testing.

for his karate birthday, i brought mini cupcakes and sifu gave him an amazing gift of throwing knives that quinn has been ogling in sifu’s weapons case for a while now. it’s so neat how he pays attention to what the kids care about. i brought cookies to school for his birthday on the monday he went back, since he had his actual birthday while he was in new york.

hat day ~ guitar and other instruments keep him interested in music even if his principal instrument is causing frustration ~cracking crab

“look out, snack shelf, because here comes winter storm quinn!” we had to laugh that winter storm quinn came and hit new york the week after we visited.

we celebrated st. patty’s with our local family. corned beef, green jello, plasma cars, and all the usual fixings!

quinn’s class took a 3 day field trip to outdoor school at the local omsi site known as camp grey. i chaperoned for two out of three days, so i got to photo document as well.

on day 1, the topics were marine mammals and birds. after stretching out a rope and visualizing the actual lengths of various marine mammals, from sea otter to blue whale, the kids got to cycle through stations, checking out bones, retrieving “food” out of water using different tools to represent baleen (strainer) and teeth (chopsticks), donning a blubber glove to see how much warmer it makes the water feel, dropping slinkies from their ears to the ground to test out echolocation, and designing their own marine mammal based on the adaptations they’d learned about. after lunch, they hiked to the jetty and did some great bird watching, spying an osprey nest, many cormorants, and a few other species, in addition to some harbor seals.

on day 2, our group went on a nice long hike to the beach! to warm up our brains before we left, we did an exercise using a crumpled up piece of paper to represent a watershed. the kids drew waterways where they seemed likely to exist based on the paper’s “topography”, and then the leader used a squirt bottle to demonstrate how the water would flow around the watershed. the hike involved some plant identification, a fun game of tag to represent the food web, and a fair amount of free time to explore and play.

and one certified cursive signature writing technician!

pi day!

quinn had his half-purple belt test! he tested alongside two of his peers who were receiving their green belts, so it was a pretty intense and thorough test, in which each kid was truly taken to their edge and made it back safely. each kid also had a chance to showcase the areas in which he shines, and while the other boys were both very strong in sparring, quinn’s talent for memorizing forms and for understanding theory were also displayed.

origami!

the science fair event was held at quinn’s school. i appreciated quinn’s teacher’s approach once again in that her class did a group effort sandwich board and a nice bulletin board, and skipped the individual displays (aside from worm bins! the actual experiment!)

it was a nice opportunity to talk with his teacher about him, whereas my usual capacity as a classroom mentor or field trip chaperone doesn’t often allow for that. she is looking ahead to middle school and said that she will recommend him for the 7-8 accelerated math class beginning in the fall. even better, she knew more about the teacher than i do, and said “i want him to have her right away.” this bodes very well, coming from this wonderful teacher with whom i feel very lucky he has gotten to spend fifth grade.

i also got to hear about how she feels quinn “thinks so outside of the box” and uses language in “ways i’ve never heard from other students.” she told me, “sometimes i put quinn’s assignment  on the bottom of the pile to save it for last, it’s like dessert!

i looked over at quinn, who was listening in, and said, “it’s story ice cream in a bowl.” and he smiled.

~rainbow mondays~ delphinious

it’s the merry month of may, with flowers brought to you by april showers, and the most likely month of the year in which rainbow mondays will take place on tuesdays.

red: there is now more light reaching the leaves of our little japanese maple tree, because sometimes my husband participates in unauthorized dangerous activities while i am away at farmer’s market on saturdays. he built his bridge and walked out on it with his chain-saw-on-a-pole to saw a few limbs off of this cedar. always trying to let more light into our lives, that guy.

red: red-legged friend in my rainbow garden

orange: california poppies with forget me nots and herb robert flowers.

orange: this bee thinks comfrey flowers are the bee’s knees. you could see her orange saddle bags a little more in some other angles, but i had to choose this shot because i love how she has dived into this flower with such abandon. busy bees are certainly an apt mascot for this busy month!

yellow: the golden chain tree has bloomed its curtains of flowers.

yellow: mustard-covered fields viewed from the passenger’s seat.

green: i got to play assistant chef to the guy in the trex shirt, as he arranged plates of lemon-filled crepes with strawberries, sliced moro oranges, and whipped cream.

green: a bayou friend sipping from the newly bloomed twinberry flowers.

green: rich and i are both fascinated with the dramatic stages of budding and blooming on this chinese snowball tree. one of my favorite stages is when the flowers are still green, on their way to becoming snowballs!

blue: speaking of snow, several fields full of white flowers threw us for a loop under the warm blue sky of may when we drove through the valley. we saw signs for radish seed nearby, and i think radish flowers are white. otherwise, it could be some sort of fun flowering cover crop.

blue: also on our valley drive, we stopped at a favorite place to rest and found the wild delphinium in full bloom.

blue: it was good to immerse myself briefly in their setting; cool, blue, blossoming right where they are meant to be. their name, synonymous with the effortless, gliding grace of a spirit friend of mine, reminds me of my word of the year, streamline. a timely reminder, that i am unfurling my petals right where i need to be, too.

purple: i am grateful today for my husband’s way of knowing when i need a little aromatherapy (when he steers our walking path past the lilacs in bloom), or therapy behind the lens of my camera (making possible this here rainbow post), or simply need to be hugged for a long time and told i am loved.

~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

~rainbow mondays~ winter wishes, spring sunbeams

 

~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

embarrassing

long after today, i predict that the fragrance of lemongrass will bring me back to taking quinn to buy his first deoderant and my concurrent realization that i should really try to curtail my telling of such stories in public. and yet, i want to remember his assessment that, “i expected it not to be fun to buy deoderant, but it turned out that it was fun, because it’s like a scavenger hunt and you’re looking for your favorite one!”

in his case, that was refreshing lemongrass.

even as he’s educating me on exactly how i fall into the unpopular category (a subject on which he seems to have sprouted encyclopedic knowledge overnight upon turning 11), he is still clasping my hand as we walk down the corridor of his school after i mentored his class for science fair. he’s clear that he is not interested in being popular, nor are his friends, and even seems aware of how these social constructs are largely illusions not worth striving to attain. before climbing into his dad’s jeep, he slides me the index card on which his password is printed for logging into his middle school course registration. i may be embarrassingly unpopular, but i’m dependable, and he trusts me.

several years ago, grammy helped quinn make some soap for me as a christmas present. he added some fragrance to the heart-shaped little soaps, some lavender and some lemongrass. he chose what he felt i’d like best from grammy’s array of essential oil options. ever since then, he has loved lemongrass as a fragrance, maybe because of how it reminds him of the fresh squeezed lemonade he loves to buy at the farmer’s market, but probably because of that special time making soap with grammy.

my favorite scent also comes from my grandmother, my mom’s mom, nana. i am the image of her projected forward through time, i’ve been told all my life; also my expressions and mannerisms liken me to her, and even though she died when i was four, my connection to her has remained strong in my consciousness. i asked my mom recently about the (embarrassingly unpopular) subject of night sweats, and whether this odd temperature experience (traditionally, i am cold, not hot or sweaty) may be an early indication of menopause, she set my mind at ease about her comparatively graceful and smooth transition through the hormonal changes, nicely compressed into a two year period near age 50. my sense of relief quickly dissolved when she went on, “nana, on the other hand, had about a forty-year menopause!” so, you know, i can see that i have a lot to look forward to in the next decade or three.

rainbow polaroid photo credit: nana, 1980

the cherry almond scent of nana’s hand lotion will never fail to make me feel like her soft hands are enfolding mine, sharing the excess with me. i like the way that scent is a time capsule of nana memory, and my own deoderant includes that identical almond fragrance. i make my own, and here is all the tutorial i can stand to type: coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch, and essential oils. right now it only has to be ph-balanced for a polar bear (arctic fox?) since i’m working in a freezer and have ceased to sweat, but it worked pretty well before that, too.

and don’t even get me started on maine wood spice. swoon!

a pirate looks at 40

i’ve been spending hours each day in a walk-in freezer, straddling two different lab jobs which is marginally better than a lapse in funding. the arctic cod eggs in my care are beginning to hatch, and the spring equinox felt like an auspicious occasion for their entrance. when i emerge each day from 2 degrees celsius, i am grateful to retain the use of my extremities and to be useful and efficient.

at the dragon house, we’re excited about the return of longer daylight hours, so we can take our after work bayou walks. my birthday blossoms are in bloom, it’s the season of trout lilies and trilliums!

as life seasons go, i am ready to fully embrace my 40s. as i embark on a new decade, i would like to write more, complain less about not having time to write, and streamline….

streamline is my word for 2018, by the way, but i never had time in january to write about it. i’ve been doing a terrible job of implementing it in certain areas, but making some headway in others. in the physical realm of streamlining stuff, i have donated lots of books and other unneeded items, and created more physical space, which i’m realizing i value more than even books. my goal is to have my household reflect those values one day, but it may be a work in progress for some time. in the cyber realm i’ve unsubscribed from any email subscriptions i receive and promptly delete; i figured there might be around 10, but i stopped counting at 50 and i do a lot less deleting these days. i kept a small handful of subscriptions i actually click on and read, and this streamlining effort allows time for that.

in a more metaphysical sense, streamlining is a term that makes me think of the ways i spend my life energy, and ways i could conserve it more efficiently. dolphins have been friends of my spirit for more than half my life now, and provide the perfect mascot for becoming more streamlined. some of the definitions of the word focus on how the motion of the fluid around the object is smooth, or the condition of being free from turbulence; however the more i think about it, the less it has to do with the status of the flow of life around me, and more to do with shaping myself in such a way that i present less resistance to the flow.

2017 was such a momentous year, that my only resolution for 2018 was to have a very mellow year, one in which i can take moments to reflect on the year just past. so far, 2018 has been intense in its own ways, with little time for reflection, but with spring, often comes more energy for me, and i anticipate a flurry of wedding and family visit catch-up posts soon. in fact, my intent is to carve out some time for that as a birthday present to myself!

i expected turning 40 to feel like a bigger deal, a little more biblical in proportions. you know, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights… take a walk in the desert for 40 days and nights, hike up mount sinai for 40 days and nights, etc. it turns out that 40 may just be a biblical way of saying, “umpteen,” and not necessarily a numerical value. which seems to more accurately describe how old i feel. a vague, abstract, age that is not quite eleventy-seven and not that much older than my teens, yet with a sense that a lot of years have gone by. and i’ve developed the ability to nap on cue (40 winks?), which i think is a good sign that i’m ready for my 40s.

in other areas of cultural significance, 40 is the highest number ever counted to on sesame street.

a glance back at four decades…

1988: when i turned 10, i had a birthday party with all of my friends. i was allowed to get my hair permed and start growing it out. my favorite color up to that point was pink. i was into art and music. i was counted on for my work around the farm. i had one of my favorite teachers of all time for fifth grade.

1998: when i turned 20, i was on a tiny island called rum cay in the bahamas which i reached via schooner! this was during my sophomore year of college, the spring term of which i spent on a semester-at-sea. the title of this post is also the title of a jimmy buffett song i first heard at that time, half my life ago: “mother mother ocean, i have heard you call; wanted to sail upon your waters since i was three feet tall.”

2008: when i turned 30, i was mama to a beautiful one year old boy. i was looking for jobs on the oregon coast so we could relocate here, and spending the rest of my time being a mama and busing around portland with my little guy, managing to work part time sequencing dolphin dna with him strapped to my back. within months i was moving, with a restraining order in my hand, my baby helping me keep my integrity as my compass bearing and my course set resolutely to onward and upward.

 

perusing the hieroglyphic dictionary

hexahexaflexagon!

2018: now i am 40. i am married to the most wonderful man in the world. i’ve grown my son to age eleven and 5’1” tall, and we really like spending time together, currently studying such fascinating subjects as hieroglyphics and hexaflexagons. though i’ve become paradoxically both more cynical and more hopeful as time has passed, the bottom line is that i’m filled with gratitude each night as i climb into bed.

 

~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ anthropomorphization of vegetables

lifelong holidays learning!

 

one saturday rich was working so i brought quinn to farmer’s market with me. i parked him in front of my display that i was building and had him put bundles of broccoli raab into a rainbow arch around the basket where the bell peppers would be going, and he got right on that. then after he finished that job, i showed him that the cauliflower would be going in a big basket, but kind of cascading out of it onto the cloth, and he was like “great! i can make a cauliflower cascade!” and just kept following my instructions and being legitimately helpful. he likes all the people i work with, and they all like him, so i would ultimately look around for him and he’d be helping someone else doing things. he helped put up the price signs and someone would tell him “cipollini, those are the flat onions.” and give him hints so he could learn what things were (he knows a lot but the farm has a LOT of veggies and some of them are hard to differentiate if you don’t know that, say, parsnips have an innie belly button and parsley root have an outie! actually he knows those two… and one of his favorites is romanesco! but some of the other turnips and roots and shallots… less so.) if he started needing my attention more than i could handle while i was helping customers check out, i would send him on a task. i had him fetch some empty totes and build me a side table and cover it with a piece of fabric so people could set their basket/bag on it while checking out. then i sent him to buy himself a pastry and get rich a cinnamon roll, it’s only about 100 yards away and in line of sight of numerous people who would throw themselves in front of a bus to protect quinn, but still… it is not lost on me that he is getting big and independent. then he went and picked up my coffee for me, including adding the milk “and about 3 blups of honey and 3 shakes of cinnamon.” i let him buy a honey stick and a small honey bear even though we have 4 gallons of honey at home. his final task was to figure out how many apples for his lunches he could buy with the money he had left over. he entertained himself really well reading his book, drawing in his minecraft journal (a graph paper composition book) and then he ate most of my lunch from the german food vendor, which was really yummy meatballs and mushroom sauce. he loved it and said he wanted me to figure out how to make mushroom sauce.

he brought home some interesting and unique vegetables like the cutest tiny jalapeno pepper… he and my friend rachel found it together, and were chatting (i heard later) about its cuteness and describing its attributes, and then he came over to me with it and asked me with a grin, “how do you feel about anthropomorphization?” and then giggled uncontrollably. i love how he knows what will make me laugh or surprise me or catch me off guard. he gets my humor, it’s almost like he’s related to me.

he was my farmer’s market elf when he was a toddler, and he is still my farmer’s market elf now as a big kid.  at the end of the market day, i tasked him with sorting the baskets by shape and fitting them onto the cart, a job we both have the right kind of brain for.

another day i brought him with me again, since the first time had gone so well, and he was very taken up with a project, so he helped a bit less, but was still delightful to have along. “i’ve just created a new runic language. if you want to take the oath to join my tribe, you can be allowed to learn the language!” again with the graph paper. i should buy stock in graph paper.

when we got home, i took a bath while he read and then we had leftovers and got ready to go to a play. the addam’s family was fun, and it’s entertaining to watch quinn watch a play. he gets so sucked into the plot but at the same time he can analyze what’s going on back stage, on how they made a certain effect: “i think the lever was just a prop, and they made the chains move from behind the panel” was discussed at intermission. he memorized his favorite lines “wednesday is growing up, before you know it, she’ll be thursday!” and so on. after the play he got a hug from his theatre camp counselor, who was a member of the cast. i love how he reads through the program now and finds all the people he knows…. it’s a small town after all.

 

in december, i had quinn for the very beginning and very end of the month, for christmas. this is our second year of doing a two-week swap around the holidays (we used this trick last summer as well) which has worked out very well. it is one of the things that i am proud of after the years of toughing it out with a difficult coparent, that on topics we once couldn’t handle negotiating at all, we have become rather flexible and win-win about the process. the biggest winner, of course, is quinn, who gets the best holidays in either household (solstice there, christmas here).

the one drawback on this end is that he misses a large chunk of the season of advent at our house, which has always been something he really savors. the anticipation and expectancy of the coming holiday has always been my favorite part of christmas time as well. this year we made the most of our one week of advent together, feeling a little more settled into dragon house 2.0 for our second christmas in residence here.

on that sunday, we slept in and had pumpkin pancakes. rich’s mom had given me a form that makes the pancakes into christmas shapes just the day before, so i figured i’d use it right away. we already had his playmobil and lego advent calendars out, sparkle advent stories and color-in calendar in use. since this day was turning out to be glorious, we figured we should get the tree now, while he could help pick it out and decorate it (as opposed to last year’s tree which we put up on december 23rd).

we took a drive to get our tree, and it’s out past where we camp in the summer, so on the way back we stopped at the campsite to see the river. at the tree farm, we walked up the hill, rich with his chainsaw in hand, and the three of us walked and pointed out trees of the right height. we told quinn that it needed to be not much taller than rich so he was looking back and forth between rich and the trees. then he got to one and it was the first one where he commented “ooh this one looks nice.” just then i heard a hawk screech and looked up to try to find the hawk, then started taking pictures of it flying over our heads. rich asked right then, “which tree should we get?” i said, “i think the hawk just told us.” and quinn said, “yes, this one!” so it was decided. i had quinn hold my camera while i held the tree and rich sawed it. quinn’s documentation is mixed into the photos above. then we carried our tree down the hill and took it home with us!

quinn got in his bed and spent the rest of the entire day reading calvin and hobbes.

i made my mom’s swedish meatball recipe but added mushroom soup to the gravy to make it mushroom sauce for quinn. also since he’s reading norse mythology i pointed out the connection there, and told him we have norwegian ancestry, but he said, “mom, magnus chase takes place in boston.”

after dinner rich went outside and then stuck his head in the door and said we should come outside and to bring my camera. so we went out to look at the supermoon. quinn went back inside because i sent him to check if his bathtub was full, and it was, so he didn’t come back outside. instead he read his trials of apollo book in the tub.

on monday morning taking quinn to school, i realized that i haven’t been at school much to pick him up or drop him off, it had been 3 weeks without me going there… his dad had him, then i had him for the thanksgiving week off, then dad had him again. so i’ll have him for drop offs and pick ups this single week in december, and then i won’t do it again until january! i was remarking on that as we walked up to the school, and i decided to be a dork and squeezed his hand more firmly and said, “so i’m going to do a really good job taking you to school this week! don’t you feel like you’re being taken to school well?” and he played along swinging our hands and we giggled the whole way there.

we spent monday evening putting on the lights, garland, and decorations!

he chose to finish waking up the next morning beside the tree.

and whooooosh! it was christmas. lots of fun presents were opened, and a modest family gathering revolved around playing risk and parcheesi.

in the department of books, he received wizardology, a minecraft book, 365 days of wonder (mr. browne’s precepts), and the mother-son journal called between mom and me. i wasn’t sure how his presents would be received this year… i felt as though i gave him a few that were organizational tools disguised as presents (a mallet holder, a music stand, and a karate belt display hanger). i thought he would like the book of precepts, having read and watched wonder in the early days of fifth grade, but i was not sure he would embrace the mama-son journal. then to top it off, he got a shirt, a hat and a scarf… clothes! but he was delighted with every single gift, and expressed his gratitude.

it turned out that he was very into the journal, and was excited to start working on it with me. i’m pleased he sees it as more than another writing assignment, and instead as a way for us to connect through writing. he does like to write, even if it isn’t his easiest subject, and opts to write for his own creative purposes frequently. one night at bedtime he was torn between reading his book (the second in rick riordan’s kane chronicles), writing in the mama/son journal, and drawing “because i just thought of a book series i want to write and a movie i want to make” with 5 minutes until lights out. the flood of ideas right at the time he needs to fall asleep is epic as ever!

i told him about thumbnail sketches and had him do a few for the movie script, then put down a jot list of reminders for the book series so he’d remember his idea, and we filled out our “guidelines” pages in the journal. “people who are close to us are allowed to know about it” is one of the guidelines, so i don’t have to keep it a secret. it’s a pretty good format. we decided how we’d keep track of where we are with a special bookmark (and when he misspelled special we added a guideline that we will correct each other’s spelling because i asked if he wanted me to correct him on things or let them go and he wants the spelling “100% perfect.”) the bookmark will need to be made but will have a green owl stamp on the left and a purple dolphin stamp on the right. and our address with “return to” on it, but written in pencil, so it can be updated as needed.

we still often lean on the “dolphin story” during bedtimes like these for relaxing and emptying his busy brain, but he shared that lately his best strategy to calm down alllll the thoughts, is to choose one thing to really focus on. at bedtime he will name it out loud “i’m working on the next chapter of my mage novel in my head tonight” and then he can drift off.

something dragon-related is happening here… on graph paper.

he and i played risk again, and he beat me as usual. then he became inspired to work on programming a risk game in scratch, on his piper computer. he started out by drawing a world map (divided into the proper territories for risk) out of shapes in the background, but realized he would need to start again and make each territory a sprite that could behave independently (attack, defend, be conquered). he did further research on the scratch website and played someone else’s versions of risk on scratch, a wwii version and a napoleon version, which he then plans to study for how to code his own. as he was playing, he ended up with the world atlas in his lap, studying flags of european countries. when i talk about using the screen as a tool (for learning/creating/accomplishing goals), rather than simply a platform of consumption, this is what i mean.

we talked a bit about his progress in khan academy, where he is going through the 6th grade math curriculum at school. he is plugging along, and he was explaining his latest lesson on calculating volume of a rectangular prism. we got to chatting about finding volume of spheres, pyramids, cylindrical prisms, and such, and he was having so much fun that we developed a math problem for calculating the volume of goods able to be carried by an oregon trail conestoga wagon.

brain surgery (still going strong with lunch-making!)

is it wrong to tell your child you will only buy them tangerines for their lunches if they write it on the shopping list in cursive?

one night we were driving to karate for open mat, and he let out a gigantic sigh. “hey buddy, keep breathing.” he said, “it’s just… the paper mill.” (we have one in our town…) “it makes me upset because it’s destroying the earth.”

what do you even say?

other worries he carries are… less worrisome.

“something that has been worrying me ever since the end of 4th grade is, if a fly is flying inside of a train car, is it still going the same speed, or is it going faster because of how fast the train is going?”

i gave him the “it depends” answer based on what frame of reference we are measuring velocity with respect to, the ground or the train itself, we discussed some high school physics definitions, and talked about how the math works, depending on whether the fly is flying in the same direction as the train is traveling, or the opposite direction. oh yeah, and mentioned that this was the type of question that inspired albert einstein to develop his special theory of relativity, bringing a big paradigm shift to the field of physics.

i came across a podcast called brains on that had an episode entitled the flies on the bus that further addressed his “worry”. he listened to it, and then proceeded to choose a few more of the brains on podcasts to listen to next (they’re great, i think the segment called “um” is my favorite name for a radio show segment ever) and his first pick was farts smarts; understanding the gas we pass. so you know, it’s rare, but sometimes he does act exactly his age.

i love finding new audio for him to explore, he is soothed by it. he can be overstimulated through his ears (with sound, water, etc), and yet that is also the sensory pathway that is easiest to reach him to help restore calm in him. it is not lost on me that my sound-sensitive one who used to flip out over the use of the coffee grinder or vacuum cleaner, is the kid driven to take up drumming. within the problem are the seeds to the solution, sometimes.  i wonder how many other sensory channels this can be said for, in other kids with sensory differences.

we had the delightful opportunity to offer quinn a chance to go to a winter wonderings 6-week saturday class on a nearby college campus, and be a poppy in a field of other poppies. he got signed up at the very last minute, based on his initial lukewarm response to the pamphlet that was sent home from school (you’re pre-approved!), and my uncertainty whether my coparent would drive him the 45 minutes to it on his 3 saturdays, and especially since we knew going into it that we’d miss the final week due to our upcoming trip. given that this was such a cool opportunity, though, i jumped on his last minute enthusiasm for signing up, and we made it happen. the clincher was really him getting on the phone and advocating for himself with his dad, which is an ongoing theme, and worthwhile lesson. i called the head of the program and although quinn’s top class choice of minecraft ancient civilizations was full, he was excited to try the outdoor survival skills class. i got him in just one day before he was set to attend the first one! and the first one went very well!

wake-up time with lisa kitty, a boy folded up in child’s pose on the couch, and another yoga pose of unknown identity while reading calvin and hobbes. (he’s pretty perpetually reading calvin and hobbes!)

 

these months in music: “there needs to be a way to write in the music for it to go in a circle.” like his insightful observation of “fourth person point of view,” quinn grasps yet another concept (the musical repeat, and the need for its notation in sheet music) before being taught the formal lesson.

now that we’ve been doing lessons and practice for a while, it is becoming trickier to keep him motivated to practice. writing his own songs definitely helps, and playing along with the practice cds, or with me on another instrument, is helpful. but sometimes it is as simple as me renaming “clair de la luna” as “luna lovegood” and he smiles and tries to play it. he has also arrived at the space where he cannot instantly memorize the entire (8-measure) song (of repetitive half and quarter notes), and must actually fail at the first attempt, and absorb the imperfection and go on to try again. even now, each song (now with 16 measures and more variation in quarter notes) may only take 3 or 4 tries to master, but that was the first high hurdle for him in his musical education. his perfectionism can be a huge stumbling block. after he mastered luna lovegood, he tried the next one… felt like he had failed, and had to be talked into trying again. i used the “be goofy” trick again and sang him the lyrics to “down by the station” which include the word “pufferbellies.” finally, he worked through the page of luna lovegood and pufferbellies, with the added bonus lyrics learned as well, and i think he is in a better place to keep learning increasingly difficult pieces.

back in december we also attended quinn’s school concert, and a good time was had by all.

karate practice in the sun!

 

 

this is the happy face i want to see after a long day of learning… there is one pretty spectacular title teacher at his school, and even though there is no tag program at school this year, she has her ways of reaching them all, including the way she made sure his pamphlet for winter wonderings came home, but also her time in the classroom is always something quinn looks forward to. he got so excited about learning origami after her lesson on making an octahedron! he was so on fire that i heard about it after school, on the day she introduced the project, when he had only reached the halfway point of his finished octahedron. describing it, he told me, “it has 6 vertices!” and other fancy geometry jargon. by the next afternoon, he was bringing it home completed, feeling accomplished, with a big smile on his face.

eleven ~ the time of returning

 

cue the soundtrack… the eleven by the grateful dead is the only song i know that has a time signature of eleven beats per measure! also, i liked that this version was recorded on 8-23-68, quinn’s half birthday, 50 years ago! if we add my age and his together right now, we get 50! oh the number fun to be had on birthdays….

 

eleven is such a delightfully large, odd, indivisible, palindromic, prime number! but i’ve had a thing for the number eleven for a while now. my young synesthete sees 1 and therefore also 11 in the color red, but for me it’s got a red violet hue.

 

the eleven

High green chilly winds and windy vines
In loops around the twisted shafts of lavender,
They’re crawling to the sun.
Underfoot the ground is patched
With arms of ivy wrapped around the manzanita,
Stark and shiny in the breeze.
Wonder who will water all the children of the garden
When they sigh about the barren lack of rain and
Droop so hungry neath the sky.
William Tell has stretched his bow till it won’t stretch
No furthermore and/or it may require a change that hasn’t come before.
No more time to tell how, this is the season of what,
Now is the time of returning with our thought
Jewels polished and gleaming.
Now is the time past believing the child has relinquished the rein,
Now is the test of the boomerang tossed in the night of redeeming.
Seven faced marble eyed transitory dream doll,
Six proud walkers on the jingle bell rainbow,
Five men writing with fingers of gold,
Four men tracking down the great white sperm whale,
Three girls waiting in a foreign dominion
Riding in the whale belly, fade away in moonlight,
Sink beneath the waters to the coral sands below.
Songwriters: Philip Lesh / Robert C. Hunter

 

now is the time of returning… back from another revolution around the sun… to our other homeland of new york… to seeing my child at an age of my own childhood that i remember more vividly than the ones he has been before… now is the time of returning with our thought jewels polished and gleaming!

the more i mull over these lyrics, the more appropriate for a birthday they seem… now is the time past believing the child has relinquished the rein… at first glance this line suggests passing beyond a point of no return, an ending to the innocence of childhood, but upon further reflection, it seems to get beyond assumptions that growing up means the child has gone away, and instead a realization of the child’s intactness in spite of added years. he’s still there galloping along, and we’re past believing he has relinquished the rein.

we might do another double take with the initially despairing thought of wonder(ing) who will water all the children of the garden, but bringing that thought back around to its beginning once more, we might realize it is wonder who will water all the children of the garden. simple yet profound in the layers of meaning. seeing quinn’s delight in the falling snow, hearing him gasp on the morning he awoke to see it falling, and watching his gleeful play assured me that wonder is still watering his garden.

arriving at this age that already seems pre-packaged with extra attitude and a side of, “mom, why do you have to be so embarrassing?” it is easy to feel like childhood may be approaching an ending, but there is so much childhood still inside this kid, and truly in all of us troubled grown ups as well, so much wonder and joy and spunk. yet, this season of what brings new levels of flexibility, awareness, and resilience (evidence of all of these i can already see, mere days into his time as an eleven year old) that shine like thought jewels polished and gleaming, ensuring this will be his best year yet. it may require a change that hasn’t come before, but already i see him rising to the challenges and responding with an ever-expanding consciousness.

i like the word indivisible, concerning eleven’s numerical properties. i think it’s resonating for me given how far quinn has come in his ability to roll with changes and handle emotions, and i think he’s well equipped with tools to keep his spirit whole and intact. indivisible.

for his birthday, i bundled up my stick figure in a hodge podge of hand-me-downs and rapidly serged old pieces of fleece, and stuck him on the cross country skis i used when i was his age. (now is the time of returning…) with olympics mania running rampant through the rew house, he was very excited to try, but he has yet to embrace the concept that falling down a lot is a required part of the skiing process. he did say, however, that if he wins an olympic medal for skiing one day, he’ll tell them to thank me.

 

it was special for the whole family to get to celebrate the birthday of this particular boy together, for the first time ever!

he is startlingly tall, standing with his grampy. this is all going according to his plan to avenge his mama by becoming taller than his uncles… 6’7″, here he comes.

he opened one birthday present early in the day, because i had an inkling the cousins would get a lot of fun out of using this gift together. there has been a simultaneous bi-coastal dive into origami among the cousins, between their reading origami yoda books and his learning octahedron folding in school. much of the rainy, windy birthday was spent inside, folding colored paper into dinosaurs, yodas, and more octahedra! the entire week produced several large bags full of paper airplanes, and many empty rolls of tape, so the grand finale of origami paper and books was a fitting culmination.

make-your-own-birthday-decorations. we kept it low key, and the kids provided all that was needed in the way of birthday decor.

snow – his birthday (eve) wish come true!

so much good quality time with family made his birthday all the more wonderful. homemade pizza for dinner, time with his aunts, uncles, grammy, and grampy, and playing with his cousins… the simple joys were all he needed.

given his arrival at the age at which harry potter first stepped aboard the hogwarts express, a harry potter theme ran throughout his birthday week, including a gift of some sheet music from the movie soundtrack to play on his bells, and a tournament of wizard chess games played against his uncle t. i love the way this boy makes connections in unique ways with each individual member of his extended family.

high green chilly winds and windy vines… now is the time of returning…

this past year it has finally occurred to me that his time of birth, 3:14, has numerical significance. yep, my baby was born at pi o’clock. and he is nerdy enough to find that quull. we also ate pie for his birthday, homemade peach pie to be exact, a gift of summer made by his grammy’s loving hands, and delivered across the kitchen with flaming candles by his uncle b, accompanied by a chorus of voices of cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents.

 

turn it up to eleven!

uncle b also showed him a thing or two on his drum set, much to quinn’s delight! he’s a proud walker on the jingle bell rainbow… (i hadn’t noticed the rainbow lyric in this song until this writing, but… of course!) not only has he progressed well with jingling his bells with mallets in the past several months, he has begun to learn drum rolls and paradiddles! again, watching him connect with my brother on this level made me so very happy.

a very happy, snowy, indivisible, jingle bell rainbow, eleventh birthday to my favorite boy!

~rainbow mondays~ snow colors

 

it’s been a whirlwind week of fun with family in new york, and i have the rainbow to prove it. here is one of quinn’s hand-crafted birthday decorations, a rainbow octahedron, complete with barney the origami allosaurus, hanging in the rew kitchen!

we’ll start with white, the most abundant color in this rainbow. the goal of this trip to new york was to get quinn there to experience some snow, a goal he has held for several years. it was a little touch and go for a few days, after the leftover snow we enjoyed on day one had given way to 60 degree weather, but on his birthday eve, quinn’s birthday wish came true. he woke up to falling flakes.

white: by the time he had rolled his last snowball into his igloo  base, a good 6 inches had accumulated.

white: making the most of the aforementioned leftovers, the day of our arrival.

white: fancy ice formations

 

white: birthday eve snowman construction, while the snow continued to fall.

white: amazing how quickly it accumulates.

white: hard at work on his “security guard” at the top of the driveway.

white: after sledding his heart out, he certainly slept well that night!

white: one of the biggest kids of all is the one i’m married to…

 

white: winter wonderland!

white: and then… the storm was over and the sun came out! good thing we enjoyed it while it lasted!

red: playing near grampy’s barn on the day of our arrival with his cousins.

red: it was that certain kind of snow that sculpts itself into formations as it slides off the edge of the barn roof…

red: ida red and northern spy at the local cider mill where we got fresh warm donuts and got to see our foster cousins “andy and molly.” though these two sweeties are back with their mom, they will always be a part of our family.

orange: a happy boy riding downhill on a vintage sled.

golden-brown: the local herd visiting the lower field.

yellow: black-eyed susan stems at sunset.

yellow: sunset over the leftover snow on our first day.

yellow: golden glow on the windowpanes.

yellow: the last light of day casting the walnut tree’s shadow on the porch windows.

 

yellow: sunset on sparkly icicles.

green: shelter building on a much warmer day with cousins and newest foster cousin. this was our first meeting of this cousin, who shall be called schroeder (not his real name), for his attraction to the piano.

green: sawing limbs for the shelter.

green: wake up snuggle with grammy.

green: everyone loves to snuggle with her…

blue: confused geese, not sure which way to go on such a warm day between snow storms.

blue: the rainbows on the old harvestore silo have always made me happy.

 

purple: i let the other kids do most of the sledding and snow playing, but i did go down the hill once or twice.

 

purple: then i sat around taking photos of snowflakes and icicles and sunsets while i supervised the shenanigans.

pink-purple-golden sky at the end of a snowy day.

maybe i’ll just call it red violet.

 

~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~ composer of his own destiny

when i was looking back through photos of quinn from 2010 for my previous lifelong learning post, which my hilarious husband said i should have titled two months to read, i found this little drummer boy…

which seemed like a great way to start off this month of lifelong learning, during which quinn took his first music lessons!

this is just before his first lesson, after receiving his new drum pad and bell kit. i can’t help but notice he still likes to march in a circle around the drum, as he was doing with the tinker toys can, and numerous other unpictured objects throughout his life.

 

checking out his new bells!

 

first lesson! it also happened to be halloween that day, so he has on his charizard costume. he is having his lessons with the same teacher he has for music during school, and this also happens to be someone rich and i know from the theatre community. he’s a great guy, and seems to appreciate quinn. he had a straightforward plan to suggest for getting him started (including the idea of the snare/mallet percussion starter book and kit). quinn gets to learn snare drum alongside bells, so that he is learning how to read the music for both, and familiarize with the extremes of what a percussionist might delve into, or specialize in later on. when we talked beforehand, quinn was very much interested in drums and rhythm, but was open to the idea of reading notes and playing mallet percussion as well. i told him stories about the girl in my high school band who played mallets, who also played everything all the rest of the percussionists could play, but who got the really special jobs like playing the chimes for the christmas concert, and the steel drums when we played the little mermaid medley. i always admired her versatility, and i think she got to play some of the best parts because of it! he seemed like he liked the idea of being versatile like that.

  

not too long after his first lesson, quinn had composed his first song, entitled bird song. he was nervous about naming it that, because he felt there may be copyright issues, given that he knew of another song by that name (my little dead head). i assured him that if he wasn’t planning on selling it to anyone yet, he could name it whatever he wanted for now. he relaxed.

he was completely overjoyed that his very own mama had a plain sheet of staff paper already in her possession, and ran off to make “i think about 10 copies should be good for starters.” it is love. he spent some serious time between practicing, then writing his song, playing it, looking at a star wars book of songs i happened to have on hand, then just playing around with no music in front of him. making musical sounds.

one awesome aspect of his musicality is how he ties in emotion, he really has a sense of how certain pieces will make a person feel, and asked me how bird song made me feel when i heard him play it. i told him i felt a little melancholy when i heard it (it was in a minor key) and he was delighted because he had been going for expressing “epic sadness.”

this photo was taken belatedly, but quinn made a linocut stamp of an apple to decorate a birthday card for grammy the previous month, so i wanted to make sure and include this image somewhere. we must have art in our lives!

just a boy with harry potter hair.

parent-teacher conferences were held during this month and it was the first real face-to-face i had with quinn’s teacher, because i really coasted through the first part of the school year and had yet to volunteer in the classroom. i was delighted with our conference. she seemed equally delighted with quinn, and her main commentary had to do with hoping she will be able to keep him challenged. she is thrilled about his love of the fantasy genre, because she feels it is the genre with the most potential for finding books on his reading level and also with appropriate content for his age and interests. because, his star test results indicate that:

“quinn would be best served by instructional materials prepared at a ninth grade level.”

i love his teacher even more for understanding how that test score is to be taken with huge grains of salt, that its usefulness is limited, that while it is true that his level is high, a person reading at that level should be tested using… a test prepared for someone at that level, not the grade 5 level, and she had already determined she would test him only the required beginning and end of year times, and refrain from having him test at intervals throughout the school year with the rest of the class. hurray for less testing, and especially hurray for a teacher with mindfulness of the limitations of testing.

she generally seems very experienced, has great ideas for helping quinn with things like time management and awareness (she felt that just letting him know about how long an assignment might be expected to take, helped him keep it close to the time, rather than dragging on and succumbing to overthinking; that she picked up this observation in a few short weeks was telling as well.) she seemed to be pleased about having him as a student, and optimistic about a good school year. i feel we got really lucky, and it makes so much sense that quinn wanted to keep all options open and let the universe put him in the right classroom for him for this year.

in early november, quinn spent nearly an entire weekend typing a novel inside of a book inside of a minecraft world. it is an epic adventure, and i need to transcribe it from the minecraft book so it can be read by the world. we discussed that it may make more sense for him to type future novels into a document instead, so he does not monopolize my computer for entire weekends.

he had a theatre workshop on veteran’s day and he had a blast. parents were invited in the afternoon to watch the skits they put together, which was very impromptu because the plot was dictated by whatever the kids wrote, separately, on index cards labeled who, what, where, when, why and quinn’s group had criteria something like: who: pregnant lady with mood swings, where: in a hospital, when: during world war ii, and i cannot recall the what and why… quinn’s character was steve, a wounded soldier. he was off to one side being wounded, and any time he would say a line, the rest of the cast would chorus, “no, steve!” or “shut up, steve!” and he got many laughs. the pregnant woman did pretty well, in a sitcom sense, of being moody and in labor, and then another girl her same size was the baby, which provided great physical comedy to have the “mom” oohing and ahhing her new baby on her lap. then there was drama over who the actual father was, and that was a bit confused in the dialogue but funny, and finally, quinn-steve chimed in, “can i be the father?” “NO, STEVE!” and that was the end of the play. ridiculously funny for throwing it together in 40 minutes. he obviously had fun, because then they were allowed to leave if parents were present (which i was) but they could also play one more game since there were still 15 minutes left, and of course, he wanted to play the game.

quinn’s class took a field trip to see the movie wonder, and i finally got to do something helpful for his class, and went along as a chaperone. holy moly, i had no idea i should have brought a box of tissues with me. the kids had read the book in preparation for seeing this wonderful movie with its profound and multi-faceted and in-depth discussion of differences and universals and bullying and kindness.

later in the month, quinn attended a seminar with sifu diaz, our sifu’s seventh degree black belt sifu. last time they met, they both had ponytails, and this time they both had haircuts. sifu diaz is very good with the kids, and it’s great to get a different perspective on the same techniques. i always love doing that when learning yoga and feel i learn more when i can see it from different teachers’ persepectives, so the same goes for karate.

 

we got to have ruby over thanksgiving break, when i had quinn home for the week. our days were game-filled and puppy-enhanced.

   

tinker crate! quinn received an awesome present from aunt lau, a tinker crate subscription. the first box in our subscription was a make-your-own spin-art machine! obviously, quinn had fun, both building and wiring up his machine, and then making some art!

 

we had a mellow thanksgiving at our home, with rich’s mom and daughter and son-in-law, and ruby and quinn. quinn helped with pie baking as usual, and was entirely responsible for the apple slicing for the apple pie. we also had pumpkin and pecan pies, and a whole bunch of other food, though i was aiming for low-key and low-waste this time around, and i think i accomplished my goal.

it’s hard to keep up with quinn’s literary journey these days. he is rapidly devouring the entire body of work written by rick riordan. he is getting caught up on the trials of apollo, and simultaneously demolishing the first two books in the magnus chase series. as a follow-up to that, he has of course decided to study norse mythology in greater detail, just as he did with percy jackson and greek mythology, and introduced me to the ice cow goddess audhumla, my new spirit animal. some quick-read minecraft fan fiction gets inserted into the book pile as well. i bet we are in the running for most frequent flier miles on the inter-library loan system for our local public library, and 4 out of 5 librarians at our branch are on a first name basis with quinn. this kid loves to read!

 

~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ a new era

as summer days dwindled, quinn could be found alternately picking up books from two awesome series, the wings of fire by tui sutherland (a series about young dragons which he started years ago, but had a few recently published titles to catch up on) and gregor the overlander by suzanne collins. he spent early summer on collins’ series the hunger games, much to mama’s consternation (i would have put that one off a bit longer but he felt sure he was ready) and i can tell he loved both of her series. gregor the overlander is definitely less edgy in ways that give mamas of sensitive children pause, but still quite pithy and substantial in its content.

 

i seem to have a lot of evidence of kitchen helping this month. he offered quite a few times this month to help me by chopping the numerous jewel-toned bell peppers i would bring home from market requiring immediate attention. i have a few ziplock bags full of sliced peppers in my freezer thanks to my sous chef! he also helped with the making of our household specialty of personal peach pies.

we got to have our ruby dog for a short time, which was a wonderful way for us to get grounded in nature and snuggles.

speaking of dogs, i wanted to remember quinn’s pretend play scenario with the children of camp boss one day this summer, which found him in the role of a 10-day old special type of golden retriever called a silver retriever named cedar. i really like the specific details allowed to flourish during the truly free and unencumbered play of summer.

towards the end of summer, i brought him into work with me a bit, having him work on his cursive handwriting (i am determined that my kid will have a signature that is written in cursive) and computer programming. on one of those days, he drew a diagram of how to build two versions of a piston door in minecraft. the narration of his diagram is hard to re-create, because i get a little lost in discussions of sticky pistons, redstone repeators, and hopper droppers!

during this part of the year, wildfires were raging all over the country, and our enjoyment of the red sky colors in our own area is not meant to diminish how awful and scary that was for people living in fire zones. in fact, having just spent a week in glacier national park, rich and i were feeling strong empathy for the region we had just visited so recently. one friday evening after dinner rich and i walked outside on a windless, beautiful evening following a hot day. a minute later, quinn came outside too. we walked around the yard, just remarking on different flowers and birds and the red moon and sights and sounds we noticed.

while i worked market on the saturday of labor day weekend, camp boss took quinn out to the camp site for fish’s birthday party at the river. rich and i joined them in the afternoon, and we had burrito/nachos and chocolate mousse moose cake (complete with moose on top!) it was a wonderful last hurrah of summer on the river.

just days before school would start, quinn had his hair cut short. as he was sitting down for lunch, he told me he wasn’t sure if it was the hair, or starting fifth grade, or what it was, but, “it feels kind of like the beginning of a new era.”

he spent some time by himself in deep thought before school started, and from what he shared of his thoughts, i know he was feeling the mix of pros and cons of heading back to school. i tried to remind him that his learning really belongs to him, and how he wants to approach it is something he has a lot of power to decide. i was trying to reinforce “it’s a new era” in a positive way, in that life is what you make it. i want him to be empowered to direct his life in ways he feels good about; not stay in any situation that isn’t good or healthy for him; but instead, to be solution-oriented when he has a need that isn’t being met, to use his problem solving skills to find a good solution. we talked some about how he can use fifth grade to accomplish goals that he has, in the same vein as our chats about using 4th grade to hone his writing skills. i followed up with him on that and he felt he had really gotten better at writing during 4th grade. it was a good conversation on being conscious of what he wants to do this year and how he can make the most of it.

i had him listen to glennon doyle’s “dear chase” letter about being a good friend in school and being a love warrior. i hoped that perspective might shift his focus from self to others, and keep him from straying into anxiety. he also wanted to hear the version of brandi carlile doing country roads and then rocky mountain high, which he hadn’t heard yet but had been discussed to encourage him to sing his version even though he hadn’t memorized the ending. we had talked about how sometimes singers do different endings to songs – we told him brandi probably does it a different way every time and most likely so did john denver!

the boy is getting a john denver education. i’ve been playing the compilation i got that has brandi’s version on it, and it has other artists doing his other songs… and john himself singing country roads came on the radio yesterday during breakfast and rich turned it up so q could hear the real thing. i can sing “rocky mountain high” and he’ll follow up with “colorado”. quinn had to come hang out at the veggie truck with me one wednesday after school, and one of the women working with me had a puzzle book. we were all trying to solve this word puzzle and the bonus question was to use all the letters to come up with a place name. the other girl asked “what does it mean by place name” and quinn said, “you know, like colorado.” and thus the john denver brainwash may be deemed successful.

i took him to karate for open mat so he could run through his techniques, and then home for burgers, corn and purple french fries. last summer supper. when i asked him what he wanted for breakfast on the first day of school, he said, “oh i don’t know. maybe just something fancy.” we settled on pancakes with two fruit toppings, peach and strawberry.

we came up with a list together of goals/responsibilities for his fifth grade year… he still has all his lego magnets, aka “the instructions” up on the fridge, but a few things have been added over time so this was to make that more formal. he has been helping do his own laundry for a while, and folding up his karate uniform after karate, but those are now on the list, for example. we spelled out when bedtime is (8:30 now, instead of 8, for starting on “bathroom chores” with lights out still at 9 because he wants to be asleep before i go downstairs to bed myself.) we made a plan that this year he takes on making his own lunch, and basically set as a goal that by the end of the year he is doing it independently, but at the beginning of the year with some help. i asked him his thoughts on baths and he figures one every other day is good and his goal is to brush his teeth twice a day.

the lunch making feels timely, because it gives him more control over his lunch contents, which i am optimistically hoping results in him eating more of his lunch, and it is symbolic of taking on more responsibility for himself, in this new era. he liked the idea. i got out a white board and wrote “protein – fruit – veggies – other’ on the top and wrote things on each list that are available in the fridge and pantry right now (for example he had strawberries or melon for fruit options… that way he wouldn’t go looking for apples that aren’t there). for his first day of school lunch, he made cream cheese and jelly tortilla “sushi,” and put strawberries, cauliflower and ranch, and leftover purple french fries and ketchup into his lunch containers. in the morning he packed it all in the box and put in his backpack.

first day of school pictures!

{insert all of the dumbfounded parent comments about how big he has grown and how quickly time has flown}

just some beginning of fifth grade photos… reading on my lap in the car, which is what he does when we arrive at school early on occasion… it’s truly amazing to watch him perform tricky origami folds of his long limbs to determinedly still fit in the space between me and the steering wheel. reading survey “getting to know you” worksheet he brought home from the first week of school… homework! 30 minutes of reading and a two sentence summary is his nightly homework assignment as a big fifth grader… and still going strong in karate!

we went to a fun get-together hosted by my dear friend for all of us who work the farmer’s market together, and quinn loved playing the table hockey game with every single other party-goer, all of whom were adults. then he got out the train set my friend keeps for her grandkids! he also liked eating the fish tacos and the delicious snacks! and carrying on animated conversations with adults, something he has always loved.

more peppers and peaches! such a willing kitchen helper has been a blessing to his mama!

we went to a lady rizo cd release show… rich and i helped usher, but quinn wasn’t allowed to usher as a kid, so he just read and drew in the lobby and then he got to come to the show, which was awesome. quinn loved it, he paid more attention to the drummer than anything else, and during one song was actually air drumming along with the guy. only 2 other kids were at the show, one of them another our living school alum (we know what’s good). we told quinn afterwards that lady rizo’s name is actually amelia, and that she grew up in newport (she talked about that during the show) and that her mom is our friend deborah, who founded theatre camp, and that amelia was in theatre camp as a camper, a counselor, and a leader at one point, and that his leader this year ethan, is amelia’s brother. quinn just nodded and took it all in. imprinting subliminal message about kids from around here being able to do anything – check.

quinn had his next karate belt test, and we now have an orange belt! this was a fun test, the older boy he tested with (who earned his purple belt) has been standing right next to me in belt rank in the adult class, and has really grown on me. they both did well, and such a great crew of friends and classmates showed up to cheer them on and help them earn their belts (by acting as sparring opponents).

we left that very evening after the belt test, to head up to rich’s daughter’s wedding! the pancakes were reunited and happy to be playing together again so soon after the last wedding. quinn had to miss one day of school, but he wasn’t too sad about that. there was much to be done in preparation for the wedding, so i kept feeding snacks and meals to children and adults, and sewing and painting my way down the to-do list. the kids had fun with legos that quinn had brought along, and played hide and seek and lots of pretend games.

   

   

we had a beautiful evening for the rehearsal dinner. i don’t know if anyone else sees a pattern, but i notice a number of instances of b pancake and quinn being quite inseparable. it was a nice group of kids who all played well, including a young girl cousin flower girl and the maid of honor’s son who were both around quinn’s age. there was some mini-golf, and a colossal game of tag. in fact, quinn told me later on, “it was a long and fun day, and we played a long and fun game of a tag.”

fun on the porch swing towards the end of that long and fun day.

the next morning, quinn had pancakes and somewhat reluctantly tried on his suspenders. the kids played legos for a while, but the pancake parents were busy putting finishing touches on the wedding cake, and rich and i thought it would be easier for the kids to run around in a larger space, so we took them back over to the site of the rehearsal dinner the night before (the groom’s parents’ house) for more tag. while the grown ups were making final preparations for the wedding that afternoon, and rich and i were loading things into our truck to transport to the wedding venue, quinn got to try out a onewheel. which was cool, because there’s no way i’ll ever be able to buy him one. wowzers! they are expensive. so it was neat he got to try out such a cool toy.

it was truly a beautiful wedding, and all came together so well. it was a proud moment for rich, who made his daughter laugh as he walked her down the aisle, true to form.

quinn seemed to immerse himself in every experience the wedding provided. he played hard, ate lots of food and cupcakes, filled his candy treat bag up to bursting, and even lined up for the garter toss. he didn’t get a good briefing about what this crazy ritual (which we skipped right over at our wedding, and i never thought to inform him – parenting fail!) was about, so he didn’t realize he was supposed to vacate the area immediately for the bouquet toss, because he’s a boy, to clear the way for girls. and when the bouquet landed on the ground, he ended up being the first one to pick it up to much laughter! the bride re-tossed it and it was then caught by a female. and as i stood across the way, grateful to be married and therefore exempt, and physically providing cover for one of the single bridesmaids who did not wish to participate, i had to chuckle at the confusing tradition and how it must have been perceived by my sweet unsuspecting youth who hasn’t been socialized to think flowers are only for girls. one more social custom to spell out, though i am not even sure where to start with that one!

quoting quinn, who like to quote hobbes, “words fail me.”

fifth grade is turning out to have a concentrated focus on increasing executive functioning skills (paying attention, managing time, prioritizing). one weekend this month, quinn stayed home on a saturday while i worked farmer’s market, and by the time i got home, he hadn’t had a drink of water yet, and crawled into his bed with a headache and slept for the afternoon. (executive function lesson: remember to drink water, even if you’re sucked into a good book.) on sunday around 6:00 he remembered that he was supposed to have been doing homework all weekend (we had discussed on friday breaking it up into smaller chunks and then promptly forgot to do any chunks). after a brief meltdown, “i’ll never get it all done, i can’t possibly do it all in time, i’ll flunk because….” tears, and agony, it all worked out fine. i reminded him that we can only eat an elephant one bite at a time… then i wouldn’t let him look at the whole elephant, just brought him one piece of it at a time (he was copying paragraphs he had already written onto notecards) and he finished one, then had dinner. i had him finish one more while i cleaned up his dishes for him, then gave him 10 minutes to read and when the timer went off he made quick work of the rest. (executive function lesson: eat elephants one bite at a time, manage your time, and don’t let anxiety drive the bus.) we discussed how anxiety is, and how now that he’s done he can see that what looked like a mountain of work really took him no more than 30 minutes total to do, once he got his brain focused. when he was panicking, he couldn’t even remember which cards were already in his “done” folder at school and which ones he still needed to do… but once he was calm of course he could remember.

we spent a lot of time outside on sunday to help get sleep back on schedule. quinn swept off the trampoline and picked up apples. then he played outside some more with the kids of one of rich’s coworkers who was giving us compost. they picked up chickens and pretended they were on an island and visited the goats. after we got home i jumped on the trampoline with him. he went to sleep pretty easily after the homework got done.

on monday on our way to school he told me about khan academy and how last year he was working on the 4th grade curriculum but this year 6th grade, and he feels like he is going really slowly because he is missing things. he couldn’t remember long division, which he learned back in 2nd grade but didn’t get any practice on for the last two years and was upset about that. i quoted mark twain to him, “i never let my schooling get in the way of my education,” and i have been repeating that to him a lot lately. i told him that now that he had identified a gap in what he was learning, he could look it up, or ask me to show him, or ask his teacher, etc. and then in the 2 remaining minutes before the bell i showed him on a scrap of paper and he remembered right away. divide multiply subtract bring down… he told me a teacher gave him the Dad Mother Sister Brother mnemonic device and i hadn’t heard that one. he inevitably knows more than i do about many topics. sometimes i act merely as the keeper of the list of things he knows, for when he doubts himself.

while he often expresses mixed feelings about school (wanting to go, but also not wanting to go, because of time away from home) he does have fun at school. he is hanging out at recess with a boy he knows from karate and a boy who went to theatre camp, which i’m happy about because i think those two kids, from what i know of them, are wired pretty similarly to quinn.

quinn has been a bit exasperated with his dad that he isn’t bringing him to karate. i’m supportive of quinn in his efforts to keep making his requests and needs known to his dad, and validating his disappointment that he keeps receiving the same no answer, in spite of creative solutions quinn is suggesting. he knows it is holding him back in the pace he can progress, since he misses an entire week every other week, and therefore misses learning a new technique for the time period. in spite of asking to be taken just once during his week (which was what was originally agreed to by dad when we switched dojos), and in spite of offers on my part to provide the transportation, this is still a no. quinn and i have discussed how there are other extracurricular activities to explore, but none of them really like it when you skip a week at a time (play rehearsals, music rehearsals, track practices, etc).

i have been accused of trying to come between him and his son before, in the recent past, at another time when i was encouraging quinn to advocate for himself to get his needs met (which at that point involved staying at my house extra days before the first day of school to ensure he could begin fifth grade minus hitchhiking arthropods on his cranium). my message is never to divide them, but to encourage quinn to be true to himself. this has been a predominant theme throughout my parenting career, and one i still feel good about. he will know when he is older who showed up for him to help him achieve his goals, will have made accurate observations of the people in his life and how their actions and words align, and will have learned a great deal about integrity.

parents need to be sane, sometimes parental needs must come first so that parents can then carry out all the duties and care of their children, but i feel that having to place parental needs above child needs should only be in the department of emergency self care (put on your own oxygen mask first shouldn’t need to be a daily practice! because every day life should have minimal emergencies) and the rest of the time, at least how rich and i see it, the kid needs to have his needs met in a both/and, healthy household where parental and child needs are all being met in a coordinated manner. he is only with us as a child for a brief time in the grand scheme of things. 8 more years?! he’s already 10, it’s crazy brief, and small sacrifices like driving out of our way for a practice or a lesson or a game will be a matter of course for us, as they were for rich with his own kids. quinn has been asking to go to new york during the snowy time of year, and our approach is, how can we give quinn what he’s asking for in a way that works for all of us? when it’s about karate, the conversation should similarly be about quinn getting to his class, “how can we make it work?” not whether it can happen based on adult life.

being isolated at home is going to sit less well with this tween as he becomes a teen. he has started speaking up for himself, and i imagine it will continue to bug him, which may spur him to make choices to constructively change his circumstances to be how he wants them.

more processing on a day shortly thereafter… as he was eating his lunch at 5pm, before karate… (executive function lesson: eat your lunch at lunch time! it’s possible to both eat and talk!) he said his teacher mentioned a tragedy and that “if we knew about it and wanted to talk to her we could, but i just figured i’d come home and ask you.”

music to a mama’s ears!!!!

i told him i was guessing she was talking about las vegas, he said yeah he thought there was a v in the name of the place… i gave him an overview of mass shooting, didn’t really sugar coat but also didn’t lay a lot of emotion or political stuff on him either, just sort of told him the facts and he understood, was dismayed by it, but also asked some good questions and had some insightful thoughts about it all, and it didn’t seem to phase him beyond the conversation.

more processing later that night… at karate he had hard time, which is pretty typical when he first comes back after a week away, or in this case, two weeks away. he remembered his one purple belt technique, but sifu showed him the next one, and he was having a hard time making it work, and no amount of encouragement or being told, “it was hard for me to learn that one too!” really helped. i see it as a perfectionist thing, where he is hard on himself if he doesn’t get it right the first time. i always felt that way, too.

in the car on the way home from karate i asked him what was going on for him, and he said it wasn’t just karate, but also school, and “ever since third grade” when he first received high test scores, he feels like his dad and i have put pressure on him to be really smart and do really well (!) and he feels like in third grade he was smart, but then fourth and fifth grade he feels less and less smart, the more he sees how smart all the other kids in his class are. he was in tears by this point, telling me how stressful it is for him.

i was not trying to be on the defensive, but i wanted him to take a minute and realize that my message to him is always “i love you no matter what” and that i am often, very often, saying things to him about not being so hard on himself, taking things less seriously, don’t expect to be great at it the first time, etc. because i’ve been mindful of the perfectionism and of the backfiring praising dynamic that sets up a kid to feel like they’re not meeting approval if not being praised. i don’t really do the praise thing, not like most parents do. i verbalize what i see him accomplish, or what i see him doing, but i don’t tell him a judgment of it that it’s good or bad or better than someone else’s or he’s smarter or better at stuff, or that his painting is pretty. instead we talk about the content of the painting or the content of what he is writing or storytelling about, how he feels about it, whether he is having fun doing it, rather than about his performance. sure, i tell him “i love that” at times, i let myself experience thrill or wonder or awe at his work, but i do try to go the other direction, and am more likely to ask him what he thinks of his work than to tell him what i think of it… i know other people also praise effort instead of ability, but i try not to really stress that either. it feels like the same thing, where it sets up a kid to need to show effort to meet approval… same cycle. the whole “grit” conversation on social media is beyond me. praise of any aspect of the child is a judgment. my message to him is, “i see you, the actual you in front of me,” not “i deem you worthy of praise.”

i gave him the example from moments before at karate telling him to go easier on himself and realize it’s a tricky technique and there’s nothing wrong with taking a while to get the hang of it (like all of us needed to do with that particular move) and also the example of encouraging him to only take his homework summaries so seriously; to just write whatever comes to mind, not to sweat it, just write “i don’t want to write, i want to keep reading” if it is really holding him back from reading, and that would be perfectly okay with me. my message is never about achieving the best scores or being smart.  and i also said that there are so many ways that intelligence can be expressed, and 99% of those ways cannot be summarized in a test score, or tested at all. i told him how i hear him use words in such beautiful and unique ways that stop me in my tracks and take my breath away, and even if he doesn’t spell those words correctly every time he writes them, he has a way of using them that i have never heard any other kids do. i said that doesn’t necessarily mean he will have the best grade, but it is certainly a way that his intelligence comes out of him. i gave other examples, storytelling, imagination… he was visibly doing better by this time (we were sitting in the car in the driveway in the dark in our karate gear still) and then as we were going in the house he was coming up with examples from his own experience of karate teachers telling him they hadn’t perfected a move they had been doing for 8 years, or 20 years, and i was glad he was drawing on previous experience with others giving him examples that help him with the perfectionist stuff.

it came out of the blue for me that he felt i was putting pressure on him. i asked him later, after our talk, if he still felt that way, and he said no, not about me. he said dada does a little bit when he says things like “you’re smart, you’ll be able to figure it out” and i just sort of nodded and listened. he wasn’t upset for long…

it seemed like soooo much processing was getting done that week in his world… he even brought up the “new era” comment and said part of what he had meant by that was not feeling as smart as he wanted to be; he felt smart in third, but as hard as he tried to stay smart, he felt the other kids were smarter… i told him one reason i have always been pro-homeschooling is that there’s so much less comparison of yourself to other kids… and ability to just be you and not always feel like it’s a competition. but that i believe he can work on focusing on comparing himself less, even in the public school context. at any rate, we worked through things enough that the shadows cast upon this new era have had some light shined on them and are a bit less threatening to him now, i think.

i have been downsizing my book collection, but one parenting book came back out of donate pile because i had scribbled quinn quotes in the front cover:

1/6/10

“something in my tummy told me, harold and the purple crayon”

1/17/10

“it wasn’t a bird, it was just a pile of bird food bugs!”

i love finding those little time capsules of happiness.

just for fun… here is what quinn looked like in january 2010:

and now back to october 2017:

quinn’s halloween costume is made out of organic fabric i still have from earth huggy days and it’s super comfy. he has had several years now of pokemon costumes made by mama, and each time i send him off to celebrate halloween with his dad. it has just been the way the parenting calendar works out, and i’m perfectly ok with it, feeling like i still play a pretty key role and i’m glad he likes the costumes i make for him. i’m sure i won’t be asked for very many more, so i’m savoring it.

 

to round out autumn, we made apple cider in the barn of camp boss (it was a rainy day) and that was fun. the kids bobbed for apples, and though quinn did not bob, he had a great day of playing, and i barely saw him. gratuitous shots of koala instead! before cider, quinn and i visited my farm friends who had to sell veggies in the sideways rain, with the stand set up inside 2 big trucks. we brought them a pot of coffee and quinn picked out veggies for the week – he chose broccoli raab and cauliflower and some things he thought i’d like.

with all its expanded veggie palate, executive function skills, emotional processing, celebrations, accomplishments, goals, self advocacy, and responsibilities, this new era has gotten off to a great start!