~thankful thursday~ gratitude garland

 

11/29/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

At noon today, Rich and I were standing in the frosty back yard again, noticing how incredibly low the sun was in the sky at the apex of its climb for the day. This is routinely a thing which I lament; my fear, dread, and dislike of cold darkness have been foregone conclusions for all the years of my life. But without winter, would the sunlight linger at such acute angles to the ground on which I stand? Would it illuminate the webs, and then the frost, with such iridescent rainbow vividness?

Developing the gratitude gaze is a little bit like getting in the beachcombing zone. Once you learn how to see the fossil, agate, or shell you’re looking for, even if you go longer stretches between seeing them, you have your eyes focused just the right way to eventually see the next one. Once I started seeing rainbow spider webs, I knew how to see them, and started seeing more of them. Once I started to seek out the blessings in my life to start stringing them on my strand of popcorn and cranberries, I kept seeing more and more of them, and the strand just grew and grew.

I feel less like I need to rush through winter and cling to the coming of spring to keep me from succumbing to the darkness. The buds of spring give way to butterflies, the bursting blooms of summer give way to webs which give way to frosty fallen leaves. At all of these moments, there are qualities to admire and beauty to savor. This gratitude practice has helped me start to trust in it.

True, the angle of the sun this time of year increases the length of the shadows. But it also means there are afternoon sun rays beamed at just the right angle to produce a rainbow in the spider web, something that would not be the case in the height of summer. It means the morning sun creeps up gently enough to set the frosty grass aglow.

Looking into the long shadows is not always a deep dive into darkness. I am grateful for back yard walks with my husband today, and grateful that so many stories about shadows end up being stories about light.

11/30/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

The hummingbirds were nestled all snug in their hummingbird-down sleeping bags. It was cold in the Land of Gratitude.

Inside the dragon house, the wood stove had been stoked by the husband person, the kitties were snuggled on laps, naps had been taken, and we had eaten another Thanksgiving meal that couldn’t be beat (and I don’t mean nachos!).

shadows and light

Tying off the end of this strand of my gratitude garland across my corner of the web, I looked back to try to see where the other end was knotted, but it reached out so far behind me that all I could feel was a little tug on my soul.

please

As I simmered in my slow cooker, I could feel my molecules starting to align into a new arrangement, just the first hint of the influence of a month-long Quest causing the molecules in solution to align with an almost magnetic inner compass bearing calibrated to a true north called gratitude.

thank you

It’s full of shadows here in my slower cooker, but I am doing my best caterpillar soup meltdown meditation, spending the dark season doing the building and gleaning and restoring in anticipation of the promise of soaring in sunshine among bountiful blooms in seasons to come. This chrysalis of mine got its name from the Greek word for gold, and although that name might refer to the droplets of gold meticulously painted onto the outside of the monarch’s container of transformation, I think maybe it could also have something to do with what’s developing within, waiting to emerge and unfurl its wings with the daffodils and cherry blossoms, come spring.

I am grateful I don’t need to tie up every metaphor I used this month into one cohesive final chapter. I am grateful that I do not need to get an A in gratitude. B is for Butterflies, after all.

 

12/2/19

~30 days of gratitude~ Epilogue

Rich cried himself to sleep last night because, “nothing to read.” As I climbed into bed, I handed him a blue shop towel, and told him a story about how the Gratitude fairy will come back next November, even though she needs to hibernate for the winter now.

I am grateful for laughter and love.

I am writing this epilogue just to declare that there is no way in the world that I would be able to write four years of daily November gratitude posts without this guy’s support and encouragement. There is no way. I asked him last night if he ever felt I revealed too much about our life on the internet, and he just chuckled and said, “well, that ship has sailed.” He never gave me so much as a disapproving look or held me back in any way. Instead, when I talked about something else besides him during the first week of the first year, I remember him lamenting, “I was a one-hit wonder!” He makes me laugh and keep writing.

It is early morning and I am sitting on the couch, having been invited here by my son who is up extra early on Monday morning after a well-rested long weekend. He is reading his book and we are snuggled under fuzzy blankets by the wood stove. The page has turned, and it is December, though I’m still feeling grateful, my garland of popcorn and cranberries strung in a prominent place in my heart to remind me how.

I am turning to writing other writings that have been on the back burner for the month. If anyone wants to read more of my writing throughout the year, and not just in November, I have a blog that I post on roughly once a week, though the subject is not limited to gratitude. A lot of times I end up posting photo rainbows or updates about Quinn for his Grammy, the origin story for many a mommy blog; it is definitely not a food blog, though nachos do get mentioned occasionally. Oh, and the November gratitude posts are all archived there as well, for easy binge-reading when next November seems like a long time to wait. A few years ago I started a facebook page for my blog, and have been posting there consistently so that people who prefer to follow along that way (vs. the three of us who still use blog feed readers) can do so. If you have any trouble finding where to like/follow it, let me know and I will send you an invite.

A final thank you to all of you lovelies who have joined in and encouraged this crazy habit of mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

~thankful thursday~ butterfly effect

 

11/21/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

When the frost covering my windshield called for me to dig up my ice scraper this morning, Quinn said, “Ooh! Can I help?” And I felt so grateful sitting in the driver’s seat, sipping my coffee, while he did his detail-oriented scraping.

Riding on a school bus full of seventh graders headed East on Highway 20 this morning, I felt grateful (I realize that sounds far-fetched, but it’s true). Quinn and his friend played chopsticks, coconuts, and I Spy, requiring nothing more than their hands and voices to be entertained indefinitely. The tree-filtered sunlight projected the smiley faces drawn on the frosty bus windows across the gray seat backs, and they danced and smiled and stretched larger as we drove along.

A Newport grad gave us a campus tour, and then we watched the women’s basketball team be amazing. Quinn’s sound sensory overload in the basketball arena quickly dissipated when I distracted him with my Sudoku app. Watching his awesome teachers handle everything so capably, I felt very grateful. I feel especially grateful for teachers like the one who shared with Quinn her own story of growing up in two households, and how jazzed she was when she got to her college dorm and had all of her things in one place at long last. He is with others more and more, and with me less and less, so it makes me feel good that others care enough to relate to him on such a meaningful level. The boy, all the kids, the teachers, the grad, the team, all made me feel optimistic about the future.

After my day of chaperoning, I was grateful to check a very big item off the to-do list, and Quinn now has a passport application pending. A swim lesson and a karate class later (grateful for these instructors as well), and now we have eaten our nachos and are toasting with kitties by the wood stove. We have eaten nachos an undisclosed number of other times this week already, and I am grateful that my dudes never complain about having them no matter how November it gets around here.

 

11/22/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

One of the best things that ever happened to me happened during the cold, frosty, dark part of the year. I was a single mama having just debuted a schedule including two father-son overnights per week. One of those nights of the week featured a yoga class to which I signed up, and there was a handsome man in the yoga class, and we went on our first date on the shortest day of that year, seven years and eleven months ago.

Now his name pops up in my phone as “Rich husband person” with a picture of us being wind-whipped on Agate beach in our wedding attire, the day after we got married, two years and four months ago, and laughing our faces off.

This morning as we wished each other a happy dorkaversary (as we do on the 22nd of any month) he teased that I had probably already run my background check on him by this point in the year, but as you may have noticed, I write things down. According to my documentation, my trusted background checker had not yet reported back on his worthiness as a crush. Soon, she would give me two thumbs up, and our yoga teacher (who would end up officiating our wedding) would pair us up as partners and start assigning us some partner poses that made it somewhat difficult to focus on the breath.

Recently we went on a date to the play Tiny Beautiful Things, an amazing performance we both thoroughly enjoyed, though I basically sobbed my way through it. The play (and the book it is based on) peer into the shadows, much the way I have spent this November, but ultimately the story shines such a warm light out to the world. As we settled into our seats before the show, the woman next to me joked, “I only brought enough tissues for myself.” I reassured her that I had brought some for me, then turned to Rich. “Honey, I hope you brought something.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue shop towel! Of course. Industrial strength.

I’m grateful for his steady, stable presence. So big and strong, yet very flexible – as evidenced by the way he is wrapped right around the pinkies of three granddaughters. We’re a great team, through thick and thin, and even internet swooning.

 

11/23/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

Because religious dogma and personified male deities are subjects I have grappled with in my life, I have taken a long time to embrace the application of the action verb to pray to my personal noun, but when I look at the way I relate to the spirit and energy in the universe, I find that there are a few one-word messages I say to it that are prayers.

Each day as Quinn leans towards me, letting me kiss the top of his head before he lugs his giant red backpack off to middle school, I inhale his cinnamon scalp, then exhale a prayer for his safety as I pull away from the curb. Please.

When I kiss my husband as he goes off to build metal fuel tanks out of fire aboard floating grease tubs: Please.

Each time I think of Mom awaiting the results of her most recent round of medical tests: Please.

I utter many prayers of Please. Prayers of Thanks? I think I spend November intentionally focusing on these, because the scale is usually tipped well over to the Please side of the balance the rest of the year.

My intriguing son. Thank you. My loving husband. Thank you. Mom, Dad, kitties, wood stove fires, library books, coffee, veggies, nachos. Thank you. The way my fairy dog is snuggled under the blanket on my lap, her soul string knotted securely to my heart. Thank you.

It doesn’t seem to matter that my prayers of Thanks are repetitive. Threading gratitude onto a string like popcorn and cranberries, I tend to alternate Rich, Quinn, Rich, Quinn, with some other nuts and berries and cinnamon sticks mixed in at intervals, This still results in a long, festive strand of gratitude garland with which to decorate my dark December interior. November is spent running my fingers over each of these nuggets, like rosary beads, breathing each one in, breathing out like a prayer. Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

11/24/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

Today I am grateful for sleeping in, sunshine, and a breakfast date.

For dog snuggles, for making our home cleaner together, and for a nice chat with Mom.

Mom and I both feel like November has rushed by. When November begins, at least for the past four Novembers, I feel this daunting sense of “30 whole days?!” when I’m committing to doing this gratitude challenge. Then suddenly, it’s day 24! Blink, it’s December.

I told her I still feel like this gratitude thing is good for me, especially at this time of year. It has become my way of intentionally setting the tone for my hardest season, of dwelling on the good of the present moment.  A small change in the initial conditions of my winter might be enough to determine a very different set of outcomes for me, by the time I make it to next spring.

I think someone has already called that the Butterfly Effect…

 

11/25/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

I am grateful for good news and good signs today.

I am grateful for natural beauty that makes me pull over the car and get out to look at it, with my mouth hanging open.

I am grateful for dinners leading up to thanksgiving that I like to think of as “gathering together ghetto”, in which parsnip fries and roasted kalettes are sides to… hot dogs! We’re not trying to create too many leftovers in the early part of this week, after all. Another gathering together ghetto dinner I like is to top Papa Murphy’s faves with fresh organic veggies from the farm! Now you see why I’m not a food blogger.

I am grateful for time to get my turkey and cranberry shopping done today.

I am grateful for karate kid movie nights with my rainbow love.

Popcorn and cranberries, repeat.

11/26/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

I am thankful for my brothers, one of whom is celebrating a birthday today. I feel particularly grateful for their positive role model position in my son’s life. They both take him under their wing for various areas of expertise when they get around him (one for chess and computer stuff, the other for drums). But it’s more that they are nice, caring men being themselves in his general vicinity that I really love. Neither one of them is afraid to be who they are, not afraid of hugs or babies or rolling out a pie crust. Both are wonderful fathers and the most excellent uncles.

None of these are very recent photos, but they are all special ones that I was looking through this evening, feeling the sibling gratitude.

11/27/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

Speaking of rolling out pie crust… I am thankful for a reliable family pie crust recipe. I am grateful for the threats from Rich to wake up in the middle of the night and start eating the chocolate bourbon pecan one that is cooling on the table. Luckily the threats are empty, because I would sleep right through that. I am also thankful I know what to make for dinner when I’ve been in the kitchen long enough for one evening already. It starts with the same letter as November.

I am very grateful that Quinn comes home tomorrow. There is a special kind of gratitude to be felt watching a boy who is growing at an obscenely fast rate eat plate after plate of food, so tomorrow will be the perfect homecoming during which I can heap abundance upon his growth spurt.

I’m not usually grateful for cold hands, but I certainly tend to have them this time of year, and I’ve heard they are useful in making pie. “Cold hands, warm heart,” the saying goes. Last night as I made grilled cheese (it’s still non-leftover meal week!) I thought of how my mom began a tradition of “putting the love in” the sandwiches when we were kids that my brothers and I do for our sons. I like to think of the food I feed to my guys as a love language, and foods like pie, where each molecule of buttery dough is held in my hands before being filled with sweetness, seem like especially good vehicles for conveying food love.

 

11/28/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s been a day full of abundance here at the dragon house. Abundant sleeping in, abundant good food, abundant wood heat, and abundant love.

Today I am feeling very grateful for our parents. Rich got to talk to his Oklahoma Mom and Dad today, and it is nice to hear their updates filtered through him, as well as hear his side of the conversation. He says such nice things about me when he talks to other people, and I really like that about him. I found out that Bob (of the legendary popcorn) has been ninja-reading my gratitude posts. We are very grateful to hear that they are both in good health.

I am also grateful for Rich’s Oregon Mom, to whom I refer as my outlaw-mother, who came and saved me from having to carve the turkey. She is our one local parent of our five parents, and we feel lucky and grateful to get to celebrate holidays with her. I particularly enjoyed watching Quinn sit side by side with her as they laughed hysterically at YouTube videos this evening.

One of the first things that I learned about Rich, even before our first date, was that he has two moms, and that he loves them both very much. I knew he was going to be a good one, from that moment. You want a guy who loves his Mom. And this guy loves both of his!

My Mom and Dad… well, I talk about them a lot already, but I’ll always be very grateful for them. My appreciation for them grows all the time. I don’t know why I was thinking of this today, maybe because Rich and I took a walk through the frosty back yard and walked right by the spot where we gave our wedding toast, but one of the main things Rich and I agreed on wanting to mention during that toast was our parents. For their love, their support, and the wonderful example they have set for us. I’d like to honor them by dedicating this Thanksgiving Day gratitude post to our five wonderful parents!

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ holy coprolites, he’s in seventh grade!

~8-23 to 9-23~

Our end of summer family trip to New York!

The cousins absconded with Quinn and were barely heard from. It was neat how at their current ages (9, 11, 12) they do a lot more talking as they play, so there is less action and a lot of times if you observe them they are just standing or sitting and discussing whatever it is they are playing. On day one they spent time outdoors and began a trend that lasted throughout the week of playing dungeons and dragons (LARPing, in other words). Quinn was dungeon master (i heard later) and uncle t was a dwarf cleric (i think i snorted with laughter at the idea of a 6’6” dwarf.) mario was a human wizard, and luigi was an elf wizard, the only one who had named himself was luigi who was “thomas cloudwhisper”. They are able to do imaginitive play on a level I don’t think Quinn finds in many other kids and it is easy to celebrate the kindred spirits that cousins can be.

bonfire!

They played a lot of Mario video games and minecraft throughout the week. We adults were all pretty slack with the screen time limits, but we did shoo them outside regularly. The boys were content and fell instantly into their usual routine and it was easy to let them be.

They piled themselves in the hammock that had been set up between two of the cherry trees, which was hilarious and slightly nerve-wracking with feet and elbows protruding every which way. Nobody lost an eye, though.

They took a few wagon rides up to visit the apple orchards. On one trip, the boys ran back down to the house together when it was time to head back, which was when i was able to get “the picture.

One evening at sunset, the boys were launching a spinning toy they named the “bisquito”. Whoever caught the thing got to launch it next, so everyone got turns. they were all so playful and they kept looking upward towards the sunset-painted sky, resulting in some of my favorite photos of the trip.

Chicken spiedies and black raspberry ice cream are the quintessential central new york foods, and we ate as much as we could of both.

One evening we played a lively game of scrabble with a double set (twice as many letters) so by the end the board was so overloaded it got a little silly and the boys were spelling off the edge of the board.

Uncle T figured out how to make a minecraft server that the boys can play on from each of their computers, even from thousands of miles away, if they get on at the same time. The kids played minecraft in the evening, i think they like being on the “rew family server” together. They were all reading the stack of minecraft diary of an 8-bit warrior books. Quinn has read 5 of them but they had a few more in the series that he didn’t know about so he got caught up.

We went out to dinner with the whole family and ordered a bunch of pizzas. quinn ordered two dinners- cheeseburger and chicken fingers, and ate most of them, plus some pizza…

Mittens the cat is alll about snuggling in bed with a boy and quite a few times quinn had him in bed with him including the first night we were there and the last night we were there. Mario graciously loaned cousin Quinn his bed tent for the whole week, which was really swell.

The boys filled up their red wagon with fossil rocks in the field grampy had plowed up across the road.

 

 

 

 

First day of seventh grade!

Quinn’s seventh grade schedule looks pretty rad. He starts his day with a lovely person rich and i both admire for her positivity and healthy outlook on life (she is a theater friend) for language arts. He also got his same homeroom teacher as last year, and has her now for social studies as well, which is fabulous. She is the one who said Quinn gets her jokes.

Band now seems to be a foregone conclusion for his schedule, thankfully no more parental marching into the office is needed to arrange it. He is excited to be in the first chair for the percussion section! He is one of three players, one fellow seventh grade boy and a girl who is new to the district who is in eighth grade. He practiced very hard for the audition, which was played on the bells. Their section seems to be a good group, they each have strengths and are happy to share what they know with each other.

The first homework from algebra was spiral-laterals… in which quinn drew sequences of lines according to the algorithm, and discovered that palindromes (at least a subset of palindromes whose inner numbers are lower than the bookends, so 91719 but not 46764) make squares! For math, he also had to create a “myself in numbers” design.

He doesn’t have many classes with friends, but he does have band-lunch-recess-homeroom with Aragorn, a nice section of the day during which they can interact without having consequences for his grades or ability to pay attention in class. Goldberry is in band with them, too, as well as two of the other three girls Quinn says are part of their “friend group”. It seems that 5/7 of the friend group plays in band. Somehow that seems about like my school experience.

There has been zero complaining about homework thus far. He has 100% in 3 classes, the only grades that have turned up yet (science, health, and algebra). I am already seeing some major growth from last year!

 

Doctor

In preparation for his upcoming international travel, Quinn is getting caught up on a few vaccinations I chose to postpone when he was younger. He also needed a tdap booster for entering seventh grade, according to the school nurse. He hadn’t been seen at the new hospital facility yet, so he needed to have a whole well-child exam as well, which included a hemoglobin check. He wanted to watch his finger being pricked, and thought it was cool how the blood droplet got sucked into the cartridge. Then he wanted to watch the vaccine, (this was all based on being very anxious about it) though the nurse had been carefully not showing him the needle. She seemed to roll with his questions about the mechanics of the operation, though you could tell this wasn’t her usual experience (I’m guessing most kids just look away or cling to a parent), and what was in the syringe (“but is it a liquid?”). He watched her administer the shot and kept his muscle relaxed just like she said to do, not flinching at all.

He got home from the doctor and immediately signed on to the Rew family minecraft server and played with his cousins until they had to go get ready for bed (8:30 EST) and quinn had to get ready for karate (5:30 PST). We may institute Minecraft Mondays because i think the cousin connection is so important and even if they are connecting via chat about what kind of barricade to build around their fortress, i think that feels like very meaningful connection to them.

 

Text life

The paleontology camp group text featured a video from remus of her preparing a cup of tea using her microwave to heat the water. Quinn was intrigued by this amazing “life hack” as he called it and asked her for details on how long she microwaved the water for. (insert laughing emoji).

Also in the group text, Lead challenged them to only use names of rocks in place of any curse words, and quickly they came up with “what the fossil?” “’oh, coprolites.” And “holy shale!” (i didn’t suggest schist as an alternate choice!)

Phone reciprocity has seen a small incremental improvement. Often at the beginning of the week, he is better about checking it, and I may hear back from him once or twice, but then later in the week I get crickets until he is back at my house. Reframing as positive encouragement, I let him know that the goal is that by the end of the year he is 7/7 and right now he is 2/7!

 

Miscellaneous

At karate, Quinn helped sifu work with a younger friend who is experiencing some bullying in school, through role play scenarios.

There was Rubik’s cube work this month, and a D and d lego minecraft dungeon that he created and had me play my way through. I am often the test market for his game innovations.

He is still a lover of cartoons; Strange Planet is a new favorite, and he really liked this one that I texted him:

Somewhere between the end of summer and the beginning of school, I taught him the game Taboo. He is incredibly fun with word games, and our first round of Taboo was hilarious. We have continued laughing about some of his ways of getting me to say the word on the card, such as “lots of wood plants” for forest.

baby tending.

bathroom mopping

He got his hands on a piano at a friend’s house and picked out some favorite tunes:

 

Skills and tools

He is reading the newest rick riordan book trials of apollo (tyrant’s tomb) but when i asked one day if he was reading any books he said, “no, because right now i’m writing books.” he has been working on his “eternal elements” book which is sort of a d and d spinoff. he is typing it in a google doc. He feels he is faster at typing than handwriting, and it appeals more to his inner perfectionist who likes spelling, grammar, and neatness to all be good. Way to use technology as a tool, buddy.

We are also having good talks about organization and executive function skills. note taking; hearing teachers’ instructions (or not); checking the “done/submit/turn in” boxes in google classroom; putting his papers into the binder, or bringing it home thursday nights to do that the night before binder checks; he likes the notetaking set up for social studies because it is in google slides and he has no trouble keeping up; i suggested he remember that for classes he is having trouble keeping up in, and request to do it that way; he threw down the word “advocating” in one conversation and i’m just so proud. He is using his very basic $5 planner (no clutter or quotes or word searches or puzzles in the margins, just dates with lines for writing items. he has not missed a day or even a subject yet… i got it on a whim to give him the option to use it in addition to or instead of the school Avid binder and his homeroom teacher is letting him use it instead, with his four color pen – he is all about the four color pen. I think he is all about the planner just because he had a choice. Buy-in seems key with executive function, and he is starting to be bought-in on the school organization at last. The binder he has been keeping impeccably organized since he was 8? It holds Pokemon cards.

On the executive functioning topic, I learned about Seth Perler on a Tilt parenting podcast I listened to recently, and he seems to have a lot of resources and tips. A lot of it felt like validation of the adaptations we’re already making: uncluttered planners, extra scaffolding on tasks that are hard to execute, then “gradual release of responsibilities,”  and how we have to celebrate the microprogress that is made, helping identify priorities (he has daily plan templates available online), posted visual routines, web browser optimization/bookmarking, creating a sacred study space (we’ve always called it finding a successful spot after his 4th grade teacher’s phrasing), and tricking yourself into executing a non-preferred task (maybe by making it a game!). He also uses the same phrase we do, about how the only way you can eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and extends this metaphor in many ways in his speaking about tackling tasks. One thing I identified from the podcast that I want to work on doing better as a parent is giving more wait time after asking questions. The more I learn about it, the more I think processing speed plays an important role in Quinn’s struggles and Seth Perler’s coaching on waiting – longer than you think you need to wait – when listening to their answers, gave me a lot of food for thought.

He had a lot of catch up to do over the last weekend of this month but he did it cheerfully and fairly efficiently. I am encouraging him to apply some strategies to get things done more efficiently and result in more of the free time he so values. I think he’s almost to the point where he might be able to start generalizing skills he learns in one household to the other one… almost.

 

~thankful thursday~wonder woman and spider webs

11/14/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

I’m feeling very grateful for my gainful employment tonight as I sign Quinn up for another big traveling adventure. It is a lot of fun to watch him becoming more and more himself, to find out what he loves and what experiences he asks for, and this travel buff situation is really a fun thing to learn about him. I’m so excited for how these trips will broaden his horizons. The photos are from our trip to New York in August (when he asked if we would be passing through O’Hare and its C terminal dinosaur – see it?) and his time in the painted hills this summer at paleontology camp (taken by his instructor, I wasn’t there). He is basically the most interesting person in the world, so I’m feeling pretty grateful to get to be his mama.

11/15/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

I’m so grateful I don’t need to get an A in gratitude. I’m not taking this class for a grade! Happy Friday, friends.

 

11/16/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

I am grateful for the comforts of home after a day of hustle and bustle at farmer’s market. Nachos, a hot bath, a wood stove fire, a kitty curled up in a round basket, and another one stretched luxuriously on a cushion. A long session was held for brainstorming creatures originating from various permutations of elements for the video game Quinn is designing on graph paper. Some of the ideas popped into mind without effort: water-air-magic was obviously a rainbow, while fire-air-magic was immediately a dragon. Fire-water-nature took us a few minutes to think of, until we thought of hydrothermal vents. Sometimes we thought of the being (a phoenix must be included!) before we placed it in its elemental category (fire-air-magic-nature). I think it’s going to be a cool game, including angler fish (fire-water), salmon (water-nature), flying fish (air-water-fire-nature), geysers (water-fire-air-magic), narwhals (water-nature-magic), and the northern lights (air-nature-magic). I can’t wait to see how a sandstorm (fire-air-nature), a hot air balloon (fire-air-magic), a giant squid (water-fire-magic-nature), and a lily pad (air-water-nature) will interact.

A little air-nature-magic being told me that unstructured time with loved ones is a grateful way to spend a Saturday.

11/17/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

If there is a rainbow connection, I think gratitude might be a key element of its composition. I know that writing these gratitude posts brings the lovers and dreamers out to visit, and four years in, I love how it starts to feel like a little reunion of kindreds. The sweetest people tell me my gratitude posts are their favorite thing to read in November, that they make them both laugh and cry; this makes me cry, too, and we all laugh, and feel grateful in groups. I am grateful for these connections.

I’ve been weaving a web to intentionally capture gratitude and it’s working. Each year I remark on the way gratitude creates feedback loops of even more things to be grateful for and begets more gratitude. Even on days when I’m having trouble accessing gratitude, a Memory pops up and shows me a younger Quinn, or my handsome fire-builder, or a post about my parents’ farm, where I might already be lingering in spirit on that day, and this whisper of oxygen onto the smoldering coals rekindles the gratitude fire. The Ghost of Gratitude Past is a comforting companion, carrying a time capsule full of love letters to the world mailed to my future self, reverberating forward through time in ever widening ripples.

My own linear experience is like a bead of dew sliding along one strand of the web, and doesn’t even take into consideration the vast array of intersections in the rest of the web. As I obsessively took photos of spider webs this fall, I noticed how my clip art concept of a spider web really differed from the actual evolution and artistry of real spider webs. I walked outside each sunny afternoon for weeks with my camera and positioned myself to look closely, to see incremental changes in details of the webs. Sometimes evidence of a projectile clobbering one section could be seen in the form of a hole; sometimes the repair work to shore up such a hole could be seen the next day. Sometimes the tension would change so that some strands moved closer together, while other strands moved farther apart, creating more space between them. Some sections contained regular rectangles of repetition, while others carried more whimsical triangles and hexagons and trapezoids. Some looked like cat whiskers, areas where strands had become joined in criss-crossing unions so that it was no longer possible to follow one strand on its own without following the strand of its partner, their stories now intertwined. The strands separated and converged. They were brand new and taut, or having experienced more storms, would swing a saggy sway. They all connected back to center one way or another, from where the spiral originated. Sometimes a foundational support strand got taken out, and the whole web wobbled to one side, re-stabilizing in a whole new orientation. Sometimes this meant the sunlight could bounce off the strands at a new angle and the strands bent the light into a rainbow.

11/18/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

Today I am feeling grateful for the convenience of a grocery store two minutes from home where I rarely shop unless I am one ingredient short for the meal I want to make. Lately I am finding myself there more frequently, what with my giant gangly son eating an average of three dinners per night. Tonight it was five dinners. (Send casseroles!) I needed more tortillas and some ricotta cheese for the lasagna. He also ate pasta, a sandwich, and some pancakes, in addition to the lasagna and two burritos. I am grateful that he has now taken on the role of silverware put-away-er, since that job was never going to get done by me, and he apparently started to care that there were never forks in the drawer, only in the drainer. He also does a fine job baking, and I am looking forward to baking pies with him soon. Thankful for the kid in my kitchen.

 

11/19/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

I had a stressful day. I came home tonight to my Wonder Woman bucket full of the very best popcorn in the world, made by Rich. It probably looks like he acts this way during November just so he gets swooned over on the internet, but he is actually this wonderful all year round and I’m just so grateful for him.

 

11/20/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

Today I am grateful for clear skies, sunlight and starlight; for fresh starts; and for sandwich hugs.

~thankful thursday~ fall crops and late bloomers

11/7/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

Today I am grateful for a sunny estuary walk during my lunch break and the way the sunshine reflected so brightly off the bay that I had to squint my eyes. I am grateful for my husband who never seems to tire of walking around our yard with me, remarking on the angle of the sun, the way the light falls on a certain plant, tree, or object, the antics of the hummingbirds, or the antics of the cats looking out the window to spy on us. I am grateful to have farmed out the task of teaching my son to swim to a trusted mama friend, since I’m just a former lifeguard/swim team member/SCUBA certified marine biologist and couldn’t get him there. I am grateful for the good book I sat beside the pool reading, and for the window through which I could see a square of the pink-red-orange sunset sky while he worked at coordinating his limbs and breath. I am grateful I have one more night, this night, to spend with my kid at home before he goes to his dad’s. I am grateful for so much light today, a respite from contemplating the shadows.

 

11/8/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

I am grateful for date night. Live music, shepherd’s pie with cheese and hot sauce, and the very best company. Together we will sail into the mystic.

 

11/9/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

Today I am grateful for fresh veggies and favorable market conditions. While summer is an exhilarating rush of conversation fragments, fall proceeds at a more deliberate pace. The fleeting fruits of summer, the heirloom tomatoes with muscular sun-tanned shoulders that must be eaten immediately, the intoxicatingly fragrant basil that will wilt if you forget about it for a day or two, have been replaced by the sturdy parsnips and rutabagas, the stout kabochas and butternuts, friends who can cope with a little neglect while you are also moving at a slower, more ponderous fall pace, with perhaps more frequent nacho nights inserted in the weekly menu. This is not a competition between summer and fall crops, and if it was, it would easily be won by the sungolds and shishitos, sweet corn and charentais, the succulent fruits that accumulate the most summer sunshine into their cells, and these fickle friends are preserved in my chest freezer to see me through until they can be fresh again. But each year my appreciation grows for the sustaining roots and sturdy kales, the pie pumpkins made to have and to hold and to store and to keep us fed through the long winter. Today I participated in another of my favorite mindfulness practices, one concerning impermanence, like sand painting but with squashes, already scattered and but a memory. Tomorrow I will fill the slow cooker with leek and potato, celeriac and parsley root, and some imaginal cells to remind me that next summer will unfurl its colorful wings in time.

 

11/10/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

Today I am grateful for getting to sit in my trusty Adirondack chair in the sunny backyard, by the wedding trees, talking to my mom on the phone. I am grateful for Rich sweeping the whole house (just one way that he sweeps me off my feet) and doing my laundry for me while I was catching up with Mom. I am grateful for a Sunday drive date along the Bay Road to pick up movies, and grateful for a moon date, again in the back yard, again with Rich, who called me to come outside and watch the nearly full moon rising over the ridge. I am grateful for the moon itself, bringing light to the darkness. I am grateful for a day with minimal agenda and maximum fresh air. Time to ladle up two bowls of gratitude soup from the slow cooker, slice some warm bread, and pop in a movie.

 

11/11/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

It was my Mom’s birthday one month ago, and I was leaving on a visit to go and see her for her birthday (I got there the next morning.) I am so grateful for my Mom. She was the subject of the 3rd gratitude post ever, and has been mentioned numerous other times, but I think I’ve been over how I feel about repeating my gratitudes: kitties, wood stove fires, and nachos, oh my! I’m still grateful, so they bear repeating!

Mom has had a rough year, health-wise, and as the darkness starts to wrap around us for the season, the horizon is finally starting to lighten up for her. The health stuff is her story to tell, not mine, but what is mine is my concern for her, and my difficulty being so far away when things are hard on her.

One thing about my Mom that I am more grateful for all the time, is that she is willing to be vulnerable about her feelings. Without knowing to appreciate it, I think I absorbed a lot of the wisdom of that as I grew up. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and there is something so refreshing about that to me. When I have raw feelings, she is one of the first go-to people I know I can say them to; she’s not intimidated by them. I think she knows I can handle hearing about hers as well. She didn’t unload them on us as kids – her parent/child boundaries were good, and she never asked for us to take care of her emotions. However, now that we’re both grown-ups, I think we both appreciate each other as sounding board. Our chat the other day ranged from B vitamins to systematic executive functioning scaffolding removal to coparenting challenges to sewing projects, but all with attention paid to the emotional landscape.

Mom is also an intrepid learner, and that includes topics such as looking inward to see how she can grow as a person. I witnessed some amazing butterfly-level transformation in her this year in that realm. I felt lucky to be included in the inspiring conversation.

She is the best Grammy, and no heartstring pluck can compare to the ones I experience when I see Quinn enfolded in her arms each time they are reunited.

 

11/12/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

I started typing this one month ago, but it seems fitting, so I finished typing it today.

My ears popped. I opened my eyes to see the horizon through the window of the seat in front of me. Above it pink, below it, what my eyes told me was ocean. Sunrise, coming in for a landing in Newark. The way I remember New Jersey is from the waters around Cape May, 20 years ago. On this day it would just be a layover on my way to New York. I remembered a butterfly landing on the deck of a schooner off the Cape, wondering whether it was off course or had intended to fly so far out over the ocean.

Migrations. I was flying back again in October where I had just been in August. The blue part of the world below the horizon resolved itself into land in addition to ocean, smokestacks and urban clutter, orderly chaos from so high up. Land, sea, sky, the edge of everything, the convergence of elements. We flew towards the eastern horizon until the sun stabbed spears of red light up over the horizon, its rising accelerated at exactly the air speed velocity of our plane. The quickened sunrise cast a pink glow throughout the upright seat backs and tray tables as we prepared for arrival.

Arrivals. The butterflies are arriving in their wintering grounds, but it would be slightly amiss to call it their homeland. The ones arriving in Mexico now have never tasted that air until now, though they somehow knew how to get there. They are the concentric circles, the tree rings, containing the previous three generations of monarchs who flew North last spring and summer, living, reproducing, and dying in three-week intervals, brief flaming orange wings barely a flicker of existence before their lives funneled into the lives of their offspring, their own flame extinguished. The overwintering super generation are the great grandchildren of the monarchs who left there last spring headed North. Like their great grandparents, they will live eight times as long as their parents, the one generation in four who will fly over the whole migratory path, and not just a fraction of it.

I have flown a lot this year, thousands of miles, so perhaps it makes sense that monarchs have become my mascot for this gratitude season. The timing of our August visit to New York happened to coincide ever so well with a peak of their travel through the neighborhood. The October trip I took solo, and I saw one single monarch, a late migrant. Warming in the colorful tree canopy when I got near, it fluttered down to the ground and landed on purple clover. After a snack, it rose once again, this time hurtling over the canopy and off to the South, Mexico or bust.

I am grateful for the safety of the flights my family have made this year, the miracle of flight itself, overlapping generations, and late blooming kindred spirits on the wing.

 

11/13/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

I am grateful to live in such a beautiful place, where I can stop before work to see the full moon setting over the ocean, and then stop again after work and see the sun setting over the ocean. Some days I just need to look upon something bigger than all of it.

~thankful thursday~ shadows and butterflies

11/1/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

I am grateful that it is gratitude month! It’s year number four of me NanoPoblano-ing my way through the month of November on the subject of gratitude, and this year I found myself looking forward to November, which is an odd sensation for me, hater of the cold darkness that I am. This is not just because October was haunted house month, aka Exhaustion and Lack of Free Time month, and November means haunted house season is at its end. It’s also because the best cure for autumn exhaustion and ennui that I have found is a daily bowl of thankful soup. (Haha, just kidding. A plate of gratitude nachos is what we eat at our house.)

I am grateful for the way the band boosters haunted house showed me the generous side of this community. I met and got to know some wonderful people throughout the past few months. Whether it was watching a team of guys build the whole structure to plan on a Thursday, for free, then having the lead builder walk up and insist on paying for his ticket, handing my child over to the moms who do know how to apply makeup each night he participated, or having a football parent hand me a big donation check, this whole experience really made me feel grateful for this community.

Last night was the final haunted house for the season and I am still processing the toughest moment of the whole experience for me. I sold a ticket to an adult sized male child. I counted back his change, and as he turned to get in line, I noticed he had on a large backpack made of the same authentic looking materials as the fatigues he was wearing. I said aloud to my ticket booth teammate that I was concerned about his backpack, and kept my eyes glued to him while he joined the end of the line of 50 or so people, set his backpack on the ground, unzipped it, and pulled out a gun.

I flew out of the booth and over to where he stood, inches from him though he had quickly tucked the rifle back into the pack, and as he had showed it to some teens across the rope from him, I had noticed an orange tip. The situation de-escalated quickly, though the teen seemed unable to understand why I wouldn’t allow him to enter the haunted house with his backpack. “It’s just an airsoft rifle. I won’t take it out in there.”

Though there are many things that unsettled me about this experience, about the common sense gaps of this apparently harmless kid, who concluded that it would be a good choice to brandish a non-lethal but extremely realistic and not completely harmless weapon on public fairgrounds at a school function, I also learned a lot. I know I fancied myself a person who would step up to help in a real gun situation, which as a mom in our current day and age, you know I have imagined a time or two. In that moment, the shape of a gun was being pulled from a bag, and I was in flight towards it, the various disarms, blocks, and strikes I know flashing through my mind, simultaneous with the knowledge that I do NOT know all I would need to safely disarm an active shooter. (How grateful I am that this was not that scenario cannot be really expressed in words.) I now know that I am actually that type of person, not just in imagination. Even though this situation was a false alarm, for the seconds it took me to react, it was all too real.

I’m a little bummed to start off the gratitude challenge with being grateful for this new, albeit heavy, self-knowledge. I almost want to change topics, but one thing I have learned with mindfulness practices is that I should really handle what’s foremost in my mind right now, to stay as human as I can, as whole and integrated as I can.

I also wonder if this is the point of the gratitude challenge. We’re heading into the lengthening darkness, and yet we have a choice how we perceive the passage of the dark, wet, months as well as how we process difficult events and experiences. I think it is all part of choosing a thought process shaped by gratitude, even when peering into the shadows.

 

11/2/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

In August Rich and I visited the corner of my parents’ farm where the migrating monarchs were a kaleidoscope of wings wheeling among a rainbow of tall flowers. I took a million photos, journaled descriptive language, and vowed to myself that “as summer floats south on the wings of the magical creatures we witnessed, I will reserve a part of my heart as a sanctuary for the butterflies of summer.”

Dwelling on gratitude as the days grow very dark and cold is, to me, a bit like keeping the habitat open for the butterflies, holding space for what needs to take root to foster their ability to thrive. It doesn’t mean I can ever keep the clouds from passing over that habitat, or stop the clock on the passage of the seasons. What I can do is watch the clouds passing over, trusting they are not here to stay. Contemplating darkness doesn’t mean it will become a permanent condition. And indeed, I seemed to have launched this round of gratitude posts by delving into the shadows. While it was summer, I watched the butterflies alight on each flower, pausing to drink in sweetness, lifting upward on the next air current. While it’s winter, it takes all my courage to descend into the dark, but I trust that I will emerge next spring transformed by whatever develops in the darkness.

The caterpillar entering the chrysalis is of course not an activity/metaphor of fall and winter. Still, there is something about how they go inward and turn into caterpillar soup (caterpillar nachos don’t sound any more appetizing) that resonates in autumn. The chrysalis is a slow cooker of broth seasoned with imaginal cells, those bits of the crawling being that code for the dream of flying it has always known as its destiny. A little trust in the process, a little rearrangement of the molten materials, and out comes a winged creature.

It may take more years of this practice before I can truly feel thankful for darkness, or the meltdown it initiates in me. Simmering in my slow cooker today, I’m grateful for memories of summer, excellent walks with my husband, and butterflies.

 

11/3/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

I am grateful for the extra hour today, as long as I don’t think about what it means about the brevity of daylight during upcoming evenings. I used it to catch up on a seriously backlogged grocery list. I left my son to his homework. He is rising to the executive functioning occasion so majestically right now, planning his work and then actually following the plan, setting his own timers and hearing them go off. I wandered off to re-stock baking powder and vanilla and all the autumn baking needs. As I watched the fragrant curry powder, cumin, and coriander fill the paper bags in the bulk spice section, I pondered the soap opera phrase about sand through the hourglass. I remembered back to when Quinn was mostly unsuccessful at joining any preschools, due to his refusal to adhere to anyone’s agenda but his own. As one group moved obediently to snack time while Quinn persisted in pressing playdough through his garlic press, unable to move on just because someone suggested it was cleanup time, I mused how these moments of three-year-old parenting were moving more like playdough through the garlic press than sand through the hourglass. Fast forward to now, and time seems to be moving more like the zesty chipotle, the flaky oregano, rushing out of their jars in great dollops and clumps.

Tonight, I decided I hadn’t used my extra hour yet and took a bath. Winning at daylight savings, and feeling grateful.

 

11/4/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

By day four of the gratitude month, gratitude starts to become the predominant lens through which I view my day. It becomes easier to really taste the layers of flavor in that gulp of coffee rather than just pour it down the hatch. It is a joy to be able to take the overflowing compost container outside to the pile before work, because the daylight has shifted to the before-work segment of the day. Seeing memories pop up about “cracking the homework whip” just one year ago makes the progress I’m seeing in my kid seem even more sweet, having retired my whip some time ago. A Roy Orbison serenade and a wood stove fire started out my Monday just right, and it has stayed right all day. Before and after work hugs are bookends to contain my internal pages, regulate my breathing, keep my overthinking in check. The boy has decided on a night off from homework after a long day of testing, and is diving into the next book after Ender’s Game. The man is sipping whiskey and reclining. The kitties are basking in the glow of the wood stove. And I am playing with words, one of my favorite things to do.

 

11/5/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

Quinn and I drove to school, gray sweatshirts the unanimous clothing choice of the gray dawn commute. He was probably imagining his into a flash suit, deeply engrossed in Ender’s world. I was imagining the silver-gray Arctic cod I would be measuring all morning. As I pulled into work, the sun was partially obscured behind the sleek blue-gray clouds, like the still-sleeping eye of a great blue whale, buoyed along on a slim layer of pink krill. Before I could park, the whale had plunged below the surface, taking the krill with it, and all was back to gray and smooth and placid.

I am usually more of a rainbow type of gal than an appreciator of gray, but as I look around for ways to be thankful for what is, my appreciation of this subtle hue family grows. The photo I did get (not the sky whale) was from the afternoon; still gray, but I notice there is usually some silver, gold, or even pink hiding along the edges of the grays, whether in muted skyscapes or the flashing sides of tiny fish, and so much texture and nuance. I think it is a worthy cause, this consideration of the gray areas. Today I am grateful for new perspectives.

 

11/6/19

~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

I learned that the monarch butterflies on their overwintering grounds are called The Souls.

A soul cannot be assigned to an organ system or even to the body at all, though it seems to be tied to it by the most infinitesimally thin heartstring.

You can’t point at your soul, but you can feel a tug on the string every so often. Like when I walked into the break room at work earlier this week to find a pile of donated Halloween candy on the table, m&ms and milky ways. My Nana, who died when I was 4, always had m&ms and milky ways for my older brother and I to choose from (he usually chose a milky way and I usually chose m&ms) when we would visit. Tug tug. This time I chose a milky way.

She is always with me, within me like rings of a tree, like if you look at us in cross section, each of us might be made of concentric circles holding inside the generations that have come before.

You can’t really point at gratitude either, but you can feel it. I spend November blabbing all about it, trying to point at it with words, but they are approximations at best (still, a worthy pastime that keeps me out of trouble). The more I contemplate it, what it is and what it means, the less it is about each discrete item I’m thankful for, and the more it is an awareness of being swaddled in a blanket of blessings, a coating of live butterflies surrounding my tree, encrusting its bark with all the joy of flight, the hope of survival through another winter, the optimism with which I look at the next generational ring growing outward from me, and from the source that is also my source.

~rainbow mondays~ roots

         

   

 

~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~ habitat

               

~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

~summer shorts~ summer flutters by

My eyelids flutter closed. I slip back into august again, and i am walking beside my husband through the low cut hay field lined with goldenrod hedgerows. our bearing is eastward to the orchard that is farthest away from the farmhouse i grew up in. we know we will visit it by wagon ride the next day, but by walking there we arrive with more stealth on the scene of a kaleidoscope of wings wheeling among a rainbow of tall flowers.

Here in the sodden soil, goldenrod is joined by joe-pye weed, its flowers like so much rose colored ball fringe festooned atop stems as tall as i am. Queen anne’s lace and boneset knit an ecru border around the drier edges while sedges and rushes wade into the wetter patches of earth. A katydid catapults itself on a short but powerful flight, its four wings extended, pellucid green against the summer sky, before collapsing back into its origami leaf disguise and landing on a sedge. Vervain sends up tall purple spears of flowers and jewelweed’s orange cornucopias bob in the zephyr breeze. Asters have only just begun to bloom, but soon will partner with the goldenrod to robe the whole landscape in the colors of royalty.

Monarchs paint the brightest brush strokes across the air currents for right now. Pairs chasing one another, loners darting across distances that seem far too large for such small creatures to traverse, yet our eyes only take in a small fraction of the distance they will cover. Still more of them appear, even as the ones i last laid eyes on hurtle towards the horizon. our eyes follow the flight paths of so many individuals we lose count.

Thorns of a black raspberry rake across the skin of my whole knee leaving an angry scrape. Abruptly I return to reality, where summer is ending, where the beautiful winged beings are leaving for many months. The pain in my knee reminds me of the ache in my heart. Summer is going, going, gone.

My eyes flutter open again and it is September 22 upon this spinning earth that is poised to tip itself into autumn, to let rain and leaves succumb to the gravity of fall and start coming down. My knee is healed, but my heart is still tender. I make a vow to myself as summer floats south on the wings of the magical creatures we witnessed, to reserve a part of my heart as a sanctuary for the butterflies of summer.

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ resilience and reciprocity

An actual week of down time

Late july… TAG program had finished, nobody was visiting, the dojo was closed, it wasn’t time for theatre camp yet, and the only thing quinn had that week was 2 afternoon swim lessons. it was some much needed down time. We got to do things like family boating and have the family of camp boss came over to bounce. q binge listened to audio books to catch up on the wings of fire series- i took him to the library to get a few books (actual ones with pages) and it reminded him of series he wants to continue.

pancakes

our pancakes visited! they seem like they are getting so big… until i see them next to quinn! He truly grew so very tall this past year. We all went to Arr place for breakfast, and then played at the big pirate ship playground. We flew kites at the beach, and went home for spaghetti dinner. Quinn is still branching out little by little with foods, and instead of his normal plain noodles with only parmesan on top, requested his noodles “lightly stained” with sauce.

Laptop repair

quinn made it through last school year using my old laptop, but by the end he was limping along with a cracked screen which would cause glitches (it is touch screen so the cracked area would act like it was the place being touched instead of wherever you were navigating with the actual mouse). after a tiny bit of research i spent $20 on a new screen/digitizer and one evening we took it apart, and the next morning we finished putting it back together! and turned it on! and it worked! It is hard to overstate how pleased we were with ourselves! It now acts as just a standard screen and no longer does touchscreen, so there might be a loose connection but the touch screen feature is not necessary. just the fact that it runs and didn’t completely get broken beyond repair by my repair is a win. Hurray for a second year of school with this laptop (fingers crossed) for $20!

Here he is putting in the last screw, whooping when it actually turned on, and then testing minecraft to enjoy the lack of glitches!

it’s been kind of nice that his laptop was under the weather. i didn’t rush to fix it for summer and i think he spent more time unplugged because of it. he used it some when it wasn’t acting up, but would eventually lose patience with glitches and do off screen playing.

reciprocity

he has days where he is not always up for conversation and will just silent treatment me. not in a mean way, it just seems he is inside there percolating. fixing the laptop screen was a fun activity together and we had a couple of good nights at karate, as he has been learning his green belt techniques, so it’s not all surliness. sifu was joking with him, “who is this person named quinn, we used to have a student named quinn a long time ago but he hasn’t been here in a long time,” and quinn was a little quiet then too, and at the end as we were leaving and sifu was concluding, “it’s just that i missed you and i’m glad you’re here.” Quinn was still quiet so i said, “and i missed you too, sifu.” i think our theme for 7th grade might be reciprocity… it covers the need for reliable two-way communication on the phone that lau and i talked about on the florida beach over smoothie bowls (memories!) and i have established is an area i want to see growth in; and reciprocity also covers being polite and, well, reciprocal in conversations (even if he didn’t feel like saying “i missed you too” then i still want him to say something that acknowledges the other person has spoken.

We had a reciprocity conversation in the car soon after that and i explained my thoughts on the phone and conversational aspects and said it’s my goal for him for 7th grade (like kitchen lunch making skills were a focus in 5th grade). he understood and seemed cheerful about it all. he hadn’t checked his phone since the previous morning, and he pulled it out to check and had messages from aragorn. he and aragorn are forming their band, naming it “the poets” and the song they want to learn right now is seven nation army  (the white stripes). i know come as you are (anyone here familiar with the band nirvana?) is also on their list to learn.

sneakers and the perception of coolness

another interesting topic arose around shoe buying… he wanted the same exact pair (saucony raptor) of running shoes as last year (still resists change as a general rule), but since he can’t (all i can find is a size 14) i looked up some other saucony and found a cool looking black pair with “slime” lime green accents, totally his color. i showed him, and he seemed to like them, but then he told me he wasn’t that excited about shoe buying because he’d still be uncool. Hold up, what? He explained, it’s the middle school thing where you have to have the In Brand of things and it’s all some kids talk about… so i asked what brand was cool last year, and he said it was Nike. i said, “well here’s the thing. i wear nikes because my feet are narrow. your feet are wide, so they might be wrong for your feet. but if you want to get nikes we can try, but i want you to try them on at the store first.” he was sort of relieved, “you mean they’re not too expensive?” and i said, “a lot of nikes are too expensive, but there are some i can afford, you would have to choose from those.” as we scrolled through them online so he saw the $8000 air jordans and the $75 dollar air pegasus (the ones i get). so a spinoff conversation happened about perceived coolness, how it changes later on into wanting to be set apart from others instead of being just like everyone else… and how it’s normal to want to do what others are doing in middle school, but that i wanted him to weigh his own likes and preferences and comfort above what others would think or like. Why be cool when you can be quull?

The next day he tried on nikes, they felt bad (too tight around his ankle) and the store only had black/white (no good colors). So he tried on saucony again. he said they felt exactly right like his old ones, and wanted to order the quull slime green ones. so i did. size 9 for those keeping score at home.

Theatre camp

q loved theatre camp as usual. they did a lot of who/what/where/when/why improvisation skits for the first few days and the first day he was a narrator, something to do with a bank guarding a cat shaped cake, and a rat came to try to steal it but it was not stolen in the end? The second day he told me, “i was a goldfish that was being carried in a sock, and really didn’t have any lines.” then we went up to middle school for registration and saw another kid who had just been at theatre camp as well who shouted across the parking lot, “hey goldfish in a sock!”

In quinn’s theatre camp performance this year, he was a battle-weary nutcracker toy who came to life with his gang of other animated toys (a ballerina on whom he had a crush, a teddy bear who liked to give him hugs when he would have war flashbacks, and a jack in the box) who all together came to life to try and save the toy shop from the evils of online shopping. the oscar may have to go to the girl who would enter each conversation the toys were having with, “did i hear you say….” and tried to entice them, in her “creepy house lady” automaton voice, to buy from her company spamazon, “which in no way was meant to resemble a copyrighted billion-dollar corporation” oh, how i love theatre kids. The icing on the cake was the spamazon emblem with, instead of an orange smiling arrow, an orange frowny face arrow.

q’s costume really accentuated his height- he wore a light blue soldier costume, with a very tall faux fur hat on his head – he looked impossibly tall. He did well with his role, and i love that they managed to feature him drumming in one scene where they did a talent show and his talent was drumming (just as the ballerina doll was an actual ballet student and got to showcase her moves). In the 2:00 show quinn had a small tom-tom type of drum, and the other toys danced while he drummed. In the 6:00 show, his entrance with the drum was late, and i heard his voice side stage call “on with the show!” and he came out carrying the helmet of the spamazon creepy lady and drummed on that. afterwards, he told me the drum had been completely missing, and so he improvised and grabbed that and carried on. I asked if someone was off stage helping him problem solve that… nope! I am SO proud of his ability to stay cool when things don’t go perfectly (he was downright cheerful about it and laughed it off) and that resilience right there is me getting my money’s worth on theatre camp.

Quinn told me that he met two girls r and e, and was happy to see his friend c with whom he has attended every theatre camp so far, but who goes to a different school, and the four of them played settlers of catan in between the 2:00 and 6:00 performances. goldberry was also attending this session, and played a hilariously emo teen character in one of the other groups. As usual, some of the youth screenwriting impressed me with the level of humor, worldliness, and existential depth.

we left for portland after the 6:00 performance and woke up to snuggles with our 6 month old (!) w pancake. She is the squishiest girl. Then it was time to head for the airport for our trip to new york!

On the planes and in the airport, quinn looked at his d and d players manual, looking like such a teen with his devices all plugged in charging and sipping a soy steamer. he also read his warriors book (he is about 6 books into the 25 or so there are in the series). On the long flight he turned on the map on his seat screen and obsessively updated me on our flight speed over the ground and amount of time to our destination. He asked if we would be getting our connecting flight in “the airport with the dinosaur” aka chicago o’hare, which was going to be the case on our return journey. The flight there went through boston, where we ate burgers for dinner.

We didn’t arrive at grammy and grampy’s house until after midnight, so you’ll have to stay tuned for next month’s lifelong learner installment to find out what happens next!