pull up a comfortable chair and sit your inner child down for a tea party and a story.
there once was a little girl named mary beth, and she dreamed of one day meeting a handsome man, falling in love, and getting married and living happily ever after. she was a well-rounded child and had many other interests, but when she was thinking about her grown up life, romance and getting married were a big deal to her, and she spent time in between piano lessons, barn chores, and softball practice, writing and illustrating love stories, planning the details of her wedding, making long lists of first-and-middle names for any number of boy-and-girl children, and designing the gown she would one day wear to walk down the aisle. then she’d run off to collect tadpoles in the pond or build a lego kingdom on the living room floor with her brothers.
her dress designing drawings one day took a bit more shape in the form of a nine-and-a-half inch tall bride made of paper and dressed in lace, fabric, beads, yarn, gauze, and crayola marker make-up. her veil was 12 inches long, almost 3 inches longer than her actual height.
introducing: flat bride!
this bride paper doll was dressed, of course, in white, with a few pink yarn accents at the waist, sleeves, and hair. the skirt was gathered at one side, to reveal a lacy layer underneath, and the lace matched that at her neckline and along her sleeves. her brown hair hung long, and she wore white high heeled shoes. i am pretty sure the lacy fabric for the sleeves came straight out of grandma rew’s attic. i can smell the musty, hot mingling of cedar and moth balls as if i am opening the clackety metal latch and peering up those steep, paint-chipped stairs now.
the little girl was probably 9 years old or so when she made this bride doll. we’ll call her “flat bride.” aside from the obvious flatness of her physical features, which coincide with my own lack of cleavage, you’ve heard of flat stanley, right? no relation. but stay tuned for blog updates about her travels around the world, in the style of the flat stanley travels you may have seen or participated in. also, i am currently formulating flat bride’s travel itinerary, so let me know if you’re interested in hosting her! i plan to post candid thoughts about whatever comes to mind as she goes off to see the world and sends back pictures of her adventures. your only jobs as host are to send me pictures of her time with you, and send her on to the next host on her itinerary. you’re also welcome to guest post if you’re so inclined, and supply your own candid thoughts about whatever comes to mind when you have a nine-and-a-half inch tall manifestation of nine-year-old mb’s romance obsession in your hands. come on, it’ll be fun.
flat bride currently resides in oregon. she was unearthed on a trip to new york in 2014, and the grown up mary beth showed it to her grown up practically-fiance, who laughed and laughed. every now and then, when they talk about the wedding they will one day have, he sometimes brings up flat bride, and the folder full of wedding plans tucked away by a little girl long, long ago, in a land far, far away. he seems to imply that there is very little planning left to do. grown up mb overlooks his teasing because he is the most wonderful prince in all the land.
here is an exhaustive list of the contents of the folder in which flat bride was found: a list of wedding guests, the full lyrics to the song the wind beneath my wings, bridesmaid dress design drawings: one each for spring, summer, and autumn, (though not winter; apparently young mb had already ruled out a winter wedding), with notes on the side about throwing birdseed, and a drawing of a very fancy wedding cake with tiers and pillars and bells and icing roses and a bride and groom reaching for one another on top. it’s clear that little girl mary beth would have chosen wedding colors along the same lines as shelby from steel magnolias: “blush and bashful”; or as her mama, m’lynn would drawl, “her colors are pink and pink.” (actually, one of the bridesmaid dresses has written in the margins: “dusty rose and either candy pink or baby pink.” golly, how would i ever have decided between those two shades! pink was definitely my signature color at one time.)
bridesmaid dresses; there are seasonal considerations, after all
flat bride in profile on the oregon coast in springtime
flat bride decides to take a walk down to the intertidal zone
residing in the same folder are two other items. one is a piece of cardboard on which little girl mary beth had copied down chinese characters from her library books. sixty-three of them, to be exact, drawn in a nine-by-seven grid, some of them with translation, and others without. in addition to her foreign language studies, little mb was also studying geology, using the how and why wonder book of rocks and minerals (copyright 1960), most specifically, the “identification chart of major specimens” on the back cover. two carefully traced copies (one colored in, one half-colored) of said chart are with the book, archaeological artifacts of a girl who was suddenly possessed by the need to draw bridesmaid dresses mid-geological-study. and maybe also foreshadowing her future with a man whose parents took him on geological family vacations every summer of his childhood?
maybe you never dreamed of marrying a fairy-tale prince, and most likely even if you did make a 9-inch tall bride doll, you did not keep her forever and ever and find her again in your thirties. maybe you had dreams of marriage, maybe you didn’t. maybe you are married, maybe not. maybe you did marriage, and have closed up shop in your heart, unwilling to run the risk of it being trampled upon again. maybe that’s how you felt a year ago, but this year cautious optimism stirs. maybe you are foregoing the marriage tradition in favor of a less traditional relationship, maybe something that doesn’t fall neatly into one of the relationship status options supplied by facebook. well, this series is about exploring the tangled web of thoughts that arise on this large continuum of a subject, for me, my flat bride hosts who feel like sharing any candid thoughts, and even for unsuspecting people standing near me who i might chance to overhear on this subject.
“her colors are pink and pink”
because, let’s face it. love is as universal a subject as there ever was. and i think somewhere, deep inside us all, is a wish for a happily-forever-after ending. your archetype for that might look slightly different from mine, but i’ll bet it’s not any less vulnerable than a 30-year-old paper doll traveling in a padded envelope. i’ll also bet it’s every bit as resilient, in spite of all the bumps along the journey.
just 23 of my favorite images from the past few busy weeks.
red: seeing the vacation house spring blooms appearing is a happy side effect of living there 2 or 3 seasons longer than we originally anticipated. it has continued to be a haven of beautiful wonders to behold, you gotta love providence.
red: last night quinn tagged along with me on a market training and tour of the farm i work for every other saturday. we were csa customers for years and have toured there several times, but never before in this early spring season. i am so glad i brought my camera along.
orange: the farm stand restaurant is another haven of beauty, with so many details creating a feast for all senses, not just the tongue.
orange: i love to be involved with this farm, because a little part of me will always be homesick for the farm i grew up on, and although it’s 3000 miles away and not a dairy, this farm has a lot of little reminders… an antique manure spreader and a silage chopper, bending like an old dinosaur reaching to munch on some of the nearby vegetation, could easily be spotted at either farm.
yellow: sunset over the apple blossoms at the vacation house.
yellow: another old farm equipment photo for my dad, i love the way there are some vivid yellow lichens growing on the hood, as if to match the truck’s original paint job.
green: farm stand in the afternoon sunlight.
green: reflection ussie.
green: even better reflection, like something out of a dream of mine.
green: i don’t even really need a special lens anymore to see hearts everywhere i go.
green: april showers.
green: lemon balm, a happy surprise growing next to my doorstep at the new dragon house.
blue: lots of happy surprises there, as we discover little secrets in every corner of the yard. my mom was reminding me that i have always loved forget-me-nots, and they were also one of nana’s favorites, which makes them extra special to have around my new home.
blue: opting out of the compost tour, he decided to chill on the flatbed truck and listen to sparkle stories.
blue: see what i mean? love is all over the place.
blue: if you have to do homework, at least you can do it outside on the front porch.
purple (and green!): one of these things is not like the others….
purple (and green!): lilacs of the dragon house. oh so happy about this.
purple (and green): these are in the stone flower bed in front of the dragon house. one more happy surprise!
vacation house… this azalea’s blooms got pinker, though i had been calling it purple. file under: red violet.
pink: vacation house apple blossoms
pink: the earliest rhodie at the dragon house is in full bloom, a lovely vanilla ice cream with a hint of strawberries.
i hope you are taking many moments to enjoy the feast for the senses spring is bringing you, wherever you may be planted!
black: quinn outgrew rich’s son’s karate uniform, and now b pancake fits in it… almost! bringing her to karate was probably the highlight of quinn’s time with the pancakes…
pink: approaching cautiously, we are able to observe the elusive birthday man species in his natural setting (pink-flowered trees, naturally.)
pink: i enjoyed the way the sun shone on the various rosy hues worn by these women on the beach, as well as the universality of women’s behavior, regardless of culture and religion, to flock together, talk incessantly (we’ve got a whole world of problems to solve after all), and take group selfies.
red: woodpecker all fluffed out and preening.
red: the red/purple combo is a favorite of mine. i love the way the neighbor’s red rhodie is intermingling with their lilacs.
orange: more new life springing forth; sister’s chicks glowing in their heat lamp.
yellow: and other yellow birds…
green: tree pose superimposed on a back yard tree. savoring the last weeks we’ll be living at the vacation house, and the favorite spaces and angles of light we’ve grown to love here.
green: these are some of the trees that come with dragon house 2.0…. speaking of angles of light and growing to love a place… oh, it’s getting very exciting. we took our pancakes for a tour while they were visiting… so many memories to be made…
blue: when he was a bun in the oven, some referred to this kid as mini-boo, after my college nickname, boo. there are some who say he is living up to the reputation of being my mini. i think i will end up being his mini before too long, in an epic mother-son role reversal as he surpasses me in size in a few short years. i was just reading back over some seemingly prophetic things he said when he was 3 along those lines:
“quinn yesterday was naked waist-down and splashing in tide pools yet again. (it was super nice and warm, for february). he would get ready to splash through yet another one and first he’d shout “into the heathers of the waters!” and splash in. i have asked him what the heathers of the waters are. last night he said “it’s the heathers of the wind!” oh them, ok. love his made up words/meanings. i think it’s ripples? or something along those lines. i love it.
then he told me “i’m TOO COLD!!!!” so i stripped him and zipped him inside my jacket. he had on only his fleece jacket and was wrapped around me (i hadn’t brought the sling) and he snuggled down. then he looked back up out of my jacket and said, “when i get bigger i will put on a big jacket and when you get little i will put you in it and carry you.” (tucked his head right back in.) i said, “oh wow sweetie, that means a lot to me that you’d do that for me.” and he replied, “yeah, that means a LOT to you!”
after that, while still zipped in my coat: “sing me a quiet song about the indigo girls.” definitely my mini in music preferences.
blue: played with shutter speed one day while raindrops playfully careened off the corrugated porch roof.
blue: i finally got one to stand still enough to be able to see its blue face feathers…
purple: the lilac half of the red/purple combo, right around sunset.
purple: guess who passed his tip test? this purple belt. here’s to perseverance!
herring embryos under microscope; it’s bring your child to work day more often than once a year in my world.
the new hatchlings under my care; tiny eyeballs with tails!
in the body cavities of the adult herring who supplied the gametes for our experiment were many worms of the genus anisakis, which made my former employer (a parasitologist who works down the hall from my current lab) very happy. quinn acted as her personal assistant while she observed and preserved some specimens to identify later through genetics. he’s getting to be legitimately helpful at this age…
anisakis video (click only if you like to watch parasitic worms move!)
pokemon chess; our housemate got quinn 144 or so pokemon figures for his birthday, and he quickly invented a new game, of course.
birthday grace periods are lengthy around our household, so this is how he looked opening his birthday legos (minecraft ender dragon set) from grammy and grampy.
grammy and grampy were featured in his “thankful list” written one night on a page of his journal. i suggested this as an “assignment” because he was a bit stuck on a negative thought spiral concerning one of his classmates. he readily embraced the challenge and quickly had a list of ten items written down… and more importantly, was thoroughly centered and cheerful once again.
the last time we played dungeons and dragons, quinn took me through another dungeon and reminded me that my dragon opalonyx was granted a power of blue fire by the old man of 189 years of age. i have in turn been creating a new dungeon for him that contains a dragon skeleton dig site, and a dragon egg for him to discover. we also obtained a set of story dice we could print on card stock and glue together (they are filled with rice to give them heft). these have been a fun enhancement to our adventures.
we accidentally discovered a defunct series of star wars adventures books and cards that comprise a role play game, somewhat more basic than d and d, but we’ve been able to grab a few of the books and print some of the cards online in spite of this series having been out of print much longer than it was ever in print.
that sam i am
do you like green eggs and ham on dr. seuss’s birthday? he just kept shaking his head while taking bites of his breakfast, saying, “this whole thing is just great.” his school did a whole week of funky socks, hair and hats in honor of the good doctor, but i think i blew his mind with my breakfast surprise.
we had a winner this year! quinn’s red car (built with his dad, since it was a dad week preceding the race, and oh yeah, dad has more power tools than mama) placed first in his division, and also won an award for “sleekest.” he enjoyed his giant almond joy prize!
holding a future pinewood derby champion.
training other kids one of his karate forms during an open mat session… back to working hard on earning his next black tip, and bringing smiles.
drums! i sat in the basement with him and sang “the mighty quinn” along to his drum beat… he was playing a basic 4/4 time standard beat, but when i started singing a song in 3/4 time (the rowing song by patty griffin, one of his favorites), he was able to quickly adapt what he knew so far to come up with a 3 beat rhythm to match the song.
he was telling me one day that he thinks about when he is grown up and that he wants to be a parent “but i also don’t want to do it like you and dada. like, you know, be broken up.” (sad face). i asked, “oh you want to have a partner you stay with?” “yes.” i know i thought a whole lot about those big things as a kid, so it’s not that surprising to me that he goes there. not surprising… and yet, it rather takes my breath away to realize he is tackling such huge concepts. i am glad to be providing a positive example of a “together” relationship with rich that, whether he realizes it yet or not, will probably have some influence on him in his future relationships.
he also recently requests “a sibling” with some frequency. other kids might say “brother or sister” but quinn and his vocabulary choose the word “sibling” instead. it’s a big opportunity for me to offer empathy (i felt the same way about wanting more siblings even though i had two perfectly good ones) and yet not alter reality according to his desires.
i got a sense of how he spent his spring break from a chat with coparent at karate: the highlight was fishing; he is really excited to fish in the lake in the new boat they fixed up together, frog. it’s named after frog girl, quinn tells me, which is a conservation-oriented tale of youth empowerment. they fished 3 times, and the first time caught 7 fish, one of which was a cutthroat trout quinn reeled in himself, the biggest of the lot. the next two times, they had one that got away, and nothing else. coparent says quinn seems to have a certain zen about that, and seems to understand that you have to go fishing a lot and will only sometimes have a good catch.
i also heard about how quinn picked out a totem in an antique store that he simply had to buy (enough that he was willing to use his own money for it) of a bear with a salmon in its mouth. quinn decided, “maybe it’s the fish god!” reverence and gratitude training, courtesy of fishing. they’ve also been having some fly tying fun, with bunny mammoths and woolly buggers.
walk-to-read and walk-to-math were completed for the school year by mid-march, in order to accommodate all the testing the kids have to get done before the end of the school year. i notice quinn seems not only unfazed by testing, but maybe even seems to like proving what he knows. he doesn’t always take tests seriously, and it is interesting to me to realize he seems to have a sense of which tests “matter” and affect his placement (such as for walk-to classes, about which he proudly spoke of having to walk all the way to the other end of the school to the fifth grade rooms). and yet, i have watched him completely hack a test that he was taking, when it was a quiz in his raz kids reading app on the classroom ipad. he went through and answered all 10 comprehension questions “a”; without reading any questions, he then went back and answered all the ones that still had red x’s instead of green check marks “b”; by the time he got to “c” most of the questions were green checks, so the last couple he changed to “d” and in the amount of time he would have needed to answer just a few of the questions by reading them, he had moved on to the next book to read. somehow he seems to have a handle on exactly when he needs to apply himself and take a test seriously, and when a simple hack will do. partly, he seems to like to prove himself, and other times he just wants to get back to the stories. as his mama, i have a few lessons in zen left to learn about all this testing and letting go of my beliefs about how tests can be detrimental. this kid has always been one of my best teachers, though, so i am just holding on for the ride at this point.
my 38th birthday started off a little bit earlier than i might have preferred, but it was for a good reason. i needed to feed my 32 tanks full of larval herring their breakfast, which is a 2-hour process each morning, and i am the sunday fish feeder… and instead of doing that work from 8-10, i decided to do it from 6:30 to 8:30 and go pick up my boy.
rich got up with me at 5:30 (yes, it is true love), and we ate granola and strawberries and drank coffee together, and then i made myself a quart jar full of fresh mint tea (first mint harvest of the spring season from my farm that i brought home the day before) and off i went to work.
the place i work is really quite lovely. i noticed there are these delicate lilies growing along the walk between the lab where i keep my fish and the other labs where i grow their food. lately i’ve been walking in excess of 10,000 steps, just during my work day. it’s keeping me in shape, and the fresh air and flowers are nice.
as soon as i was finished, i drove south to the boat ramp to pick quinn up from his dad. we used to meet at the boat ramp all the time, before we moved from dragon house 1.0. this time i knew we would be heading even farther south and since his dad was doing me a favor by letting me have some of his hours, i had offered to make the drive.
quinn and i had some time to ourselves before rich’s son’s alumni basketball game started (yes that’s right, first pancake visit in a year! lucky birthday girl!). quinn and i made a pit stop for a mexican mocha, a soy milk, and two homemade maple bars, then headed to one of our favorite beaches to enjoy our treats.
quinn gave me “a yard of fluffy purple fabric. i didn’t know what to get you and dada told me to think of things you like and put them together. i thought of sewing, whales, dolphins and purple. when i put them together, i thought of purple fabric! they had one that was not fluffy, and one that was fluffy, so i picked the fluffy one.” i may have to make a fluffy stuffie dolphin or whale out of my yard of purple flannel!
the beach offered up some birthday treasures.
the basketball games were fun to watch, and rich’s son’s team won the alumni tournament again, as they often seem to do. quinn and the pancakes got to eat cheet-ohs and cheer for the red team and play on the playground together in between games.
i consider this rocketship with red violet curtains to be part of my birthday present from b pancake.
when we got home, i got to work making my chocolate mousse, a dessert i used to watch my friend effortlessly make in a blender. it took me some effort, and i was concerned it would not set, but it turned out just fine in the end! it was a very d-i-y birthday in some ways, but this year i just faced that challenge head on and came up with some good ideas, like mousse.
the second good idea was given to me by my housemate, who mentioned a roll-your-own spring roll party she had once attended, which sounded brilliant to me, especially for an early spring-born girl’s birthday. and now that i’ve done this, i think it shall become birthday tradition, because they were soooo tasty!
these were my ingredients:
wasabi arugula (new variety! inspiring lots of creative sushi/veggie wrap ideas)
sprouts (been on a sprouting spree the past few weeks! it’s a spring thing.)
speaking of sprouts, quinn objects to eating sprouts (or even trying them) on the basis of “i feel like i’m interfering with nature.” he gave me the example of eating the peas from the plant but not the plant itself, before he articulated his nature-interference postulate.
he apparently has no objection to eating chicken. (far be it from me to point out the irony to a growing boy who needs the protein!)
birthday flowers from pancakes!
i got a few other fun presents….
dolphins, post-its, and music, so very me. how wonderful to feel known and loved.
bart patiently awaiting his turn in the bag
after my afternoon fish feed (which only took me a half hour), i passed a pair of deer coming home. there were so many little treasures strewn throughout the day like this, though none of them were out of the ordinary, all combined they made for an extraordinary day.
i had a nice evening with family, watching the pancakes play with gears, and having them request that i take another picture of them each time they made an improvement to their designs. i think i was unconscious before my head even touched the pillow that night, and off to a peaceful, albeit exhausted, sleep.
it’s an overdue, overstuffed rainbow of eggs and flower buds and all things symbolic of springing forth new life! hurray for spring!
psst! rubber bands were a fun, accidental discovery for using what we had on hand for egg dying!
pink: sunrise on sunrader
red: easter cake we were forced to eat by our housemate… it’s a hard life here at the vacation house, but somehow we find a way to carry on.
red: quinn declared this random organic design on the egg he dyed purple and red for rich to be “a perfect suncatcher!”
red: this is the situation in our basement right now.
red: blossom bonanza!
orange: more sunrise goodness.
orange: blossoming oregon grape on the roadside
orange: i confess, i purposely use glass jars and shiny spoons for egg dying, to enhance photographic potential! this year i managed to time it during an afternoon sunny spell as well. by a big window. contrived for the best possible color and reflection fun!
yellow: not sure if this is the same species of bird that visited bernie (a lesser goldfinch, that is), but i’m definitely feeling the bird.
yellow: it’s violet season!
green: pear blossoms… when we arrived in vacation land, the pears were small and not yet ripe, and it looks like we will nearly close the circle on the pear’s annual cycle before we depart vacation land.
green: norma, the neighborhood blossom tree.
green: happy belated st. patrick’s day! it’s not all sunshine and easter eggs around here.
green: st. patty’s jello. we had fun declaring its different flavors (bertie bott’s style): mmm, this bite tastes like kiwi! um, i think i just got grass clippings! ack, that bite was sticker bushes!
green: the young paleontologist displays a rare green dinosaur egg! (a wrinkly-shelled gift from my sister’s elderly laying hen!)
blue: shiny sunset beach date walk
blue: wispy sky with rainbow sundog during my commute to work.
blue: bart supervising the egg dying
blue: checking the blue egg for color saturation
blue: photo play time
purple: violets lurking around every corner…
…in spite of the obvious challenges brought on by spring time.
purple: so much new life!
purple: first azalea bloom, the brave pioneer, forging ahead into this season of abundance!
christmas happened! it was a big day for legos, pokemon, and games… why does it feel weird to be posting this in the middle of march? ah, well. this post concerns the time from december 23 through february 23, spanning both christmas and birthday, so it’s no wonder i have been too busy to keep things up to date!
the board game risk was a special request and rich got it for quinn for christmas. we all played that very day and haven’t played again since, but world domination is truly right up his alley, as he suspected.
bart wants in on the lego fun.
in anticipation of christmas, i convinced quinn that we should clean up the lego area and we worked together to achieve the above state of “ready for more legos”. thank goodness i had the presence of mind to keep all of the legos out of the storage garage when we began our long vacation… in the foreground, you can see the stack of veggie trays we’ve accumulated from thrift stores that make sorting through lego pieces a lot easier when you’re looking for that certain one, and provide a way of keeping them just ever so slightly up off the floor. (in theory.)
during a bike ride to the jetty we encountered a helicopter flying crazy loops dangerously close to the bridge, and realized, “they ain’t from around here.” it turned out it was the film crew for the new tv spinoff of the deadliest catch, capturing the departure of the lady law, a local crab boat (a friend’s husband was on board, and rich has worked on that boat with his welding torch; just to give a sense of the small town we’re talking about here).
i got quinn his own journal just before new year’s day, and made him some writing prompt cards to choose from on days he can’t think of what to write. he loves it! he decided to write his own ideas mostly, and has filled quite a few pages. writing at bedtime seems to be a calming activity for him. he also got a karate journal so he can keep track of his karate accomplishments and practices. his writing has come such a long way during this school year.
quinn helped me play with my own new years’ day project. i spent the day with my exact-o knife, cutting out some new bokeh shapes for my camera. he was especially fond of the lego guys and dragons, shown here.
some of quinn’s recent photography work. i was feeling pretty crappy the day he took this photo, and bart had crawled into my lap (he’s a healing kitty). quinn spends weeks at a time not thinking about photography, but every now and then will just *need* my camera, or my phone, quick! here are a few of his other recent shots:
movie studio update! it is about time for another long-awaited stop motion movie, don’t you think? here are some “making of” images, and you can watch the newest movie below!
arctic 2 quest for the crystals by quinn’s movie studio; grab your popcorn!
lots of reading, snuggling, drawing, studying, building of lego dragons. he drew a really cool band of musicians for himself on graph paper with many different instruments. it’s no wonder he’s into music as i’m always making up songs to sing him, like good morning boopaloo (nobody knows that song but him and me) and the grubby song, which is reserved for bath time inspiration.
in other personal hygiene news this month, the tooth fairy came, in spite of the fact that the tooth was not just lost, but also lost. quinn lost his special 21st tooth (most of your kids have 20, but quinn always had 21!) and the extra tooth came out in some mysterious way during his school day and was never found. the tooth fairy must have known it was a big deal to him to lose that one, so she wrote him a special letter, left him some glittery one dollar bills, and some bigger kid toothbrushes and tooth flossers shaped like animals. also, here’s a gratuitous baby photo.
he got a new karate bag and sparring gear. as a purple belt he moved up in sparring level and now needs to wear extra padding to practice. i got him a pair of prescription sports glasses and am so glad i did! i don’t think his regular glasses would still be intact in just a few months of advanced sparring, and i like that his eyes are protected… quinn has gotten very good at folding his karate uniform and keeping his gear in good shape. the uniform folding has also helped him with his newly adopted chore of doing his own laundry. he is now a pro, and i think he takes pride in knowing how to do it all by himself.
we did a simple machines project in his classroom, as part of the local school science fair. i acted as “science fair mentor” every friday afternoon, and then hung out at the huge science fair exhibition night (held at my place of work) and got to greet the kids coming and going as they showed off their work to their parents.
of course, he’s no stranger to using simple machines in his creative endeavors. (shown here on the movie set, constructing pulley mechanisms to lift his helicopters off the ice and lower them down for a landing.)
jan 23-feb 23
same wonderful posture as his mama, sigh. same need for paper and pencil to always be within reach, grin.
we consciously made an effort to be in the wild whenever possible.
sometimes he brings up a topic from calvin and hobbes that i recognize, such as, “when you look at your reflection in a puddle, do you ever wonder whether you’re actually the reflection, and your reflection is really you?” (while we walked to the wind chimes and took pictures of cherry blossoms.)
on his first tip test as a purple belt, quinn, and many other of the students in the advanced (purple through brown belt) class, did not fully earn their tips. (each increment of curriculum earns you a “tip” which is a band of black or red tape on the end of your belt to mark progress.) it takes longer to earn tips as an advanced student; the purple curriculum is simply that much harder than yellow, orange and white, during which quinn always advanced another tip any time he tested. this time, he got “half a tip” as he calls it, which meant he got tape on the other end of his belt, showing that he had indeed been working hard and had learned a lot this round, and would probably get there in the next testing cycle.
he was really upset and stomped off the mat after class, and in my opinion, his dad fueled the upset, both before the test by building up his expectations of advancing, and afterwards by encouraging quinn to quit if he wanted to and claiming that the teacher engaged in “shaming” of the kids.
and this is one more way in which i feel that leaving my son’s strong will intact is a favor that i have done him. he ultimately didn’t want to quit, and once he calmed down enough, he was making magic cards of his karate instructor, “because he’s a black belt!” he knew what he wanted, and had the presence of mind to realize quitting might feel good temporarily, but getting a black belt was his goal, and quitting would make that impossible. he was ready to understand that testing will take longer from here on out. i reminded him that he set a very specific goal to be a green belt by the time he is 11 years old, and helped him realize he was still very much on track to meet that goal, even if purple and blue belt tips take several cycles apiece to earn. he bounced right back to his regular smile-bringer self. even if highly tempting negative choices are presented by someone quinn loves and looks up to, he follows his own internal compass.
during a two-day break from school (i like to call them “can’t afford to keep the lights on days”) quinn attended a theatre workshop for 3rd-8th graders for a whole afternoon. i wanted him to check it out to see if he will want to sign up for week-long theatre day camp this summer, which i was thinking he might enjoy. when i dropped him off, i wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for me to leave right away, but he didn’t even look back once he saw an older boy he knows and likes from karate. when i came to pick him up, he didn’t want to leave, and kept playing the game that was going on, even after his group finished their improvisation performance (pictured on the left). the pictures are awful but you can see his face all lit up nonetheless. he is definitely going to sign up for theatre camp, he says.
i also signed him up for an extracurricular art class on a friday afternoon – he learned to make paper bird masks and use paper folding to add shape and texture to the mask. we have a piece made by the teacher of that class, which is why i knew he’d love it. (the dragon that hangs in our dragon house and was a prop in the first play we got to watch rich perform in after we first met him: the woman who fell from the sky.) once again on drop-off, he saw a friend (from both ols and karate) and i was not needed.
in school, quinn’s teacher is happy with his grades but feels he could accomplish more than he does. they get along well, and he isn’t being harsh on quinn about it. from quinn’s side of things, he has mentioned that the math review (one of the things he accomplishes very little on, daily, but not because he lacks the ability to do so) is “hard” for him, and i think the way in which it is hard is that is under-challenges him. he also seems very unwilling to perform the tasks involved in showing and explaining one’s work in math lessons. instead of writing the expected reflection paragraph explaining how he solved the problem in step-by-step manner, he one day wrote, “i am very very very quick and good at math.” which is, truly, a type of reflection, just not what is expected. i recently learned that his favorite class at school is “walk to math” at first because of the multiplication, but now “because of decimals! and even better, we get to do rounding and adding and subtracting decimals!” yippee skippy! since walk to math placement is based on test scores, i can tell he feels more adequately challenged by the material, hence his love for decimals.
also in the department of school challenges, quinn is working on some social struggles. there has apparently been an ongoing dynamic with a few of the boys in his class that has been hard for him to shake, and he finally spoke up about it just recently. he had been getting kicked in the knees under the school lunch table by the same two boys every day, and there had also been some pushing and shoving, as well as general bugging/taunting by the boys.
i do everything i can to help quinn speak the language of nonviolent communication, including refraining from labels and judgments, and sticking to the facts in a situation. instead of calling it “being mean” or “bullying”, i feel it’s much more useful to say what was actually done and said, and encourage him to explain what went on in those terms. it makes it easier to move on and find solutions, and harder to get stuck in victim mentality.
i wish i was not the only parent who felt that way. when quinn says, “he kicked me” and i ask “and what happened next” or “and what did you do/say” or “did you ask him to stop?” we can get somewhere. some of this is a matter of quinn taking a while to grasp (because he’s not wired to intuitively grasp social nuance with the same command he has of, say, decimals) things like, “other kids say things just to get a reaction sometimes,” or “i don’t want to be kicked/taunted and it’s okay for me to say that or get help to make it stop.” these are not “givens” in his mind like they might be for other kids. these areas needing extra social scaffolding are more and more spread out all the time, but they remind me of having to spell out for quinn when someone was (good-naturedly) teasing, how to recognize when someone who isn’t familiar with his chosen conversation topic is ready to move on to another subject rather than continue to listen to quinn’s treatise on the subject, or when it’s best to keep your honest opinion of store-bought vs. homemade waffles inside your own head.
still, i think a meeting with quinn’s teacher and my coparent was beneficial, because teacher made my coparent aware (as i already suspected) that quinn does retaliate physically when he is hurt, and is sometimes the one who initiates a physical interaction. this has been an ongoing conversation now for several weeks, and definitely feels like progress is haltingly being made, albeit in a week-on (regroup and progress), week-off (fanning the flame on the neuroses) sort of rhythm.
my mom bestowed a bit of wisdom on me after her years of teaching first and then third grade. i may butcher her words, but the gist is that in first grade, kids are still playing side by side. in third grade, they are now interested in being friends, having friends, exploring friendship… “but they are the worst friends you would ever want to have!” she would say, lovingly. the work of being a third grader is learning how to have, and be, a friend, and they’re just not good at it right now. i am trying, in my own way, to give quinn a piece of that helpful insight from grammy, in that, i think these boys are being doofuses (or doofi) but it may be because they admire and like quinn, and want to be his friend, but have no idea how to go about being a friend yet.
one lazy afternoon, we sat around looking at a big book of animals that belongs to our housemate, and hippos were a hot topic of conversation. apparently, more people are killed by hippos each year than any other animal. quinn flipped through the book and found many other animals to comment on, and we mused about rhinos and pufferfish and other animals and how they’d fare against a hippo (either in a fight or in a race). then asked me for some blank comic strip pages so he could make a comic strip about a race among various different animals. it took several heats of one-on-one animal races, but in the end (spoiler alert!) the hippo won.
magic cards are a new interest, and we bought a few, but he is pretty happy to make his own right now, more than anything.
i can’t remember which came first, the magic card or the egg, but close to when he made the above card, we re-watched the ted talk by jack horner about making a chickensaurus that quinn used as part of his “dinosaurs are birds” presentation at ols.
he also made these awesome pokemon cards of our family. i love the details he paid attention to in deciding on our special attack powers. quintuple blast! watch out, or mama dragon will wise flower you!
sometimes it’s easier to absorb the words you’re reading if your foot is strumming a guitar…
i mentioned in the piper post the ongoing work of emotional development… when he asked for the sledgehammer to “solve” a challenge he was facing with his piper, i recommended listening to stories to help him get centered. at dinner a half hour later i asked him if the story time had helped, and he calmly told me with a smile, “yes, and i think it was the right thing! because the story that came on was the day when martin and sylvia were feeling grumpy.”
one of the boys from school has told him when he wears a ponytail, “you look like a girl.” i am working with him on realizing that what matters is how he feels about himself. i also told him i think that other kids might be jealous and wish they could grow long hair, or have been told things like that by people close to them so they don’t know any better. he is strong in spirit, so i am confident he can handle the taunts and know that he doesn’t have to give them any power over him.
also, i told him who he and his ponytail remind me of:
“imagine all the people sharing all the world…. yoo-hoo-oou, you may say i’m a dreamer, but i’m not the only one…” ~john lennon
my young man has that kind of ability to imagine. i will end by sharing a vision he regaled me with during a meal (i can’t even remember now which one it was, but it wasn’t dessert! that part was all in his vivid imagination.)
” i am eating an ice cream cone, 5 scoops high! and watching 3 movies!” when asked what flavors, he told me two of the scoops were vanilla, two were strawberry and one was caramel. it took him the whole first movie to eat the first two scoops, a second movie was watched while the third and fourth scoops were polished off, and the last movie was the shortest, and is only one scoop long.
i hope you have a day filled with imagination ice cream.
i discovered piper’s toolbox thanks to an instagram post by a mama blogging friend, just in time for it to be the perfect birthday present for my delightfully geeky young man. there are plenty of blog posts covering the background and technical details of this amazing kit for aspiring young computer geeks, so i will just briefly say that this brilliant concept began as a kickstarter campaign and deserves all the success and recognition it has received.
why do i say it’s brilliant? why, because they agree with me, of course! the young people behind piper feel that passive consumption of electronics is not going to do kids any favors when it comes to solving the engineering problems of tomorrow that they will face; the problems we don’t know about yet, so we can’t teach them the solutions, we have to teach them instead how to innovate their own. as a mama who wishes her son to see electronics as a tool to help him create, this kit takes my desire to a new level.
i’ve listed examples of ways i encourage quinn to use technology as a tool, including stop motion animation, studying computer programming and math on khan academy, writing stories and game rules and making game cards. these activities all deviate from passive consumption by making the device and the software perform as tools that help us achieve a creative goal. the thing is, these activities are all still heavily dependent on software someone else designed, and a device that was made in a factory somewhere far away.
piper gives a kid a blueprint, and everything they need to assemble their own very real computer.
no reading is required, as the blueprint takes a page out of lego’s book and includes fully detailed schematic drawings…
…and comes with a screwdriver…
and all the parts you need. based on raspberry pi‘s brilliant technology, indeed, including one of these tiny, yet fully-equipped machines in the piper kit, as well as a power supply, screen, cute red mouse, and tiny green speaker, and various connect-y bits and buttons, piper invites your child to peek inside what’s really going on inside their electronics and learn to expand on them.
that’s the raspberry pi, about the size of his hand. we had a great discussion about why the pi might not be housed inside the box that you build in step one, because that box doesn’t have any air holes. “oh yeah, because electronics probably need air, because of the fire that keeps them going.”
i’m lucky to have grown up beside a computer geek, and my brother has fielded many of my computer questions from afar. moreso than that, what i have learned from him about open source software and about assembling one’s own hardware has really empowered me to tinker and continue on a learning path in what can be to many people an intimidating field. it’s all stuff that can be learned, it just takes a learner who is not fearful of making mistakes. making mistakes (and then fixing them in the next iteration) is what engineering is all about.
after not even 24 hours had passed, quinn’s piper was built, wired and booting up. i witnessed (but did not get on camera) the look of pure wonder and pride when the screen powered on. the screen that he had installed and wired and screwed pieces of wood and hinges onto by his very own self.
upon start up, piper drops you inside a minecraft game that guides you through several levels of tinkering. the premise of the game is that you have to get a disabled, defunct bit of technology (a robot sent into space decades earlier) to work and perform tasks. i think. it’s not like i actually played the game! this was parent hands-off time…
one of the many skills our kids will need in the predicted world of mostly-STEM careers they will inhabit, is the ability to collaborate to solve problems. the day of his birthday party, quinn and his two friends were all over it, pitching in to hold wires together to make the robot go, and troubleshooting and brainstorming out loud for the next step.
there’s also a need for self-reliance. after his buddies left and he lost his crew of people to touch different colored wires together to make his robot go forward and jump, he figured out how to wire up buttons in very short order, to do the same job as his friends had been doing. the goal is to empower kids to believe they can build electronics, that it is a medium in which they, too, can create, and piper achieves this beautifully.
i can’t say enough good about this amazing educational tool. aside from the way piper encourages tinkering and problem-solving in young engineers, it is also a very interesting personality revealer. my boy has a tendency to sometimes think he already has the information, and so he found himself unscrewing and re-assembling parts quite a few times during the process, having jumped the gun before he really knew the plans throroughly. not necessarily a problem, but something to know about oneself. he can also sometimes struggle in dealing with setbacks and frustrations, such as the one time he stormed into the kitchen asking me for a sledgehammer, and it has really been a great teacher for him in so many more ways than just the obvious tech-y ones. he worked through all of those issues and when he was writing a thankful list the other night, his piper made the top ten. it’s clear to me that as he uses it and expands upon it, more opportunities for him to come up with emotionally appropriate responses to real challenges will arise.
because he has, and will continue to, use it extensively. although the piperbot minecraft game launches on startup, you can then plug in a usb keyboard (not included but you have one lying around already, right?) and head over to the main menu of the raspbian operating system and find pre-installed software for accomplishing those aforementioned creative goals: programming, word processing, drawing. minecraft pi is (according to q) almost the same as the standard minecraft he has played with friends, except with more materials in the inventory, and is also included on the software list. but that’s not where it ends… the software is all open source, so quinn, once he learns further programming skills (enabled by programs like scratch and sonic pi, on his piper) will be able to adapt and borrow code and come up with new and fabulous ways of creating with technology that haven’t even been tried yet. you know, like hacking a pottery kiln, or a piano, or (duh) a robot, or, you know, a new pancreas or a wheelchair controlled by eye movement for a friend or family member.
as a side note, i observed on the piper forums (where i went to learn how to get to the main menu via keyboard and troubleshoot the wifi connection issue we were having) how the emotional iq revealing power of piper is not restricted to the children using this tool. parents posting in the forum sometimes displayed an extreme lack of emotional resilience in the face of a challenge, which to me only increases the evidence for the need for this type of learning; the expectation that something will “work” just out of the box without any tinkering necessary, misses the point of this tool entirely, and it’s interesting to see how quickly parents could lose sight of the goals when challenges arise. some could also use some nuance in communicating articulately the exact problem they are facing (“it doesn’t work” is so often not elaborated upon in the forums, it’s kind of creepy! come on, grown ups! represent!) if we want our kids to engage in outside-the-box-thinking, and embrace a platform for creativity rather than consumption, shouldn’t we set an example?
(she typed from her factory-built laptop that booted up windows 8 as soon as she pulled it out of the box… ahem.)
actually, there was even more representation of adults who “get it” in the forums, communicating well and cooperatively helping each other solve the problems their kids couldn’t handle alone, which is yet another reason i think this is a great learning tool that will see continued success. and so without further ado, go forth and geek out!
it’s a magical number. 3 is the magic number, and 9 is the magic number squared! there is so much to love about the number nine and we’ll just try to remain in denial about nine being halfway to eighteen. (gasp!)
nine voyages around the sun for this birthday boy… and just in case you don’t have time to click on those other 8 birthday posts for a long, winding walk down memory lane, i will share a ridiculously cute quinn quote from age 3, the magic number:
“i know a baby. it was me. he was born all day, but then he was not born anymore. he was three. and he had balloons and a red party hat on.”
the post for his third birthday didn’t actually exist until today, when i realized it was the only birthday the blog was missing. there was a gap in time between my original baby posts from myspace and the time when i began blogging here, and although i had transferred over the myspace posts years ago, i intended (and still intend) to fill in the gaps. i have all the photos and many great quotes and stories from those years tucked in bff emails, so i am going to get back to mining those old archives and filling in the missing year or so of posts. because, balloons and a red party hat, and many other treasures to unearth.
but back to nine. this is about all i got to see of him on his actual birthday, last tuesday. one of the side effects of being a child of two households is you get to observe your birthday the weekend before and/or after your actual birthday, though i suppose it’s true for all kids when their birthday falls on a weekday, which is most of the kids on most of their birthdays. on the plus side, he gets multiple days of celebrating, on the minus side, he doesn’t get to spend time with the actual person who carried him around in her womb for 10 months. except for when she brings root beer floats and sugar cookies to school for your whole classroom to share (he had seen packages of sugar cookies at some point during a trip to the grocery store while we were in new york, and logged it away in his memory, hence the very specific request) .
when he got home on friday evening, finally, i fed him rainbow tortellini for dinner. during his previous week with me, he had read aloud from calvin and hobbes about tor-tell-ini (and how much calvin despises it) and after 7 mentions of the word, i let him know that i thought he would actually like tor-tell-ini, explained what it is, and also informed him of how most people like to pronounce it.
he came home very excited about his dad’s present for him of a drum set! he has already started taking beginning drum lessons on youtube, and here is how he explains what he has learned so far:
that night he got to open his birthday present.
saturday morning, he spent building his computer and i went off to farmer’s market to pick up eggs and coffee beans and spinach by my little self while the men stayed home. i came home and frosted the cupcakes (with orders for 3 colors of frosting, of course; his desires are inversely proportional to my effort to maintain simplicity).
we drove around and borrowed the oldest boys from each of our two six-child family friends for the afternoon. quinn was proud to show them his freshly built computer, and they set to work on the game together (minecraft, but with specific wiring missions required to follow the storyline. every so often i’d hear, “go forward!” “well, you’re the one holding the red wires, you do it!”)
these two are my favorite pictures of the day, which feel like they somehow foreshadow the bottomless pits of hunger they will be in a few years as teenagers. their appreciation of the food i provided was so heart-warming.
grazing the veggies, orange slices, and chips and guacamole while quinn arranged his pizza toppings.
after they “decorated” their own pizzas, as quinn likes to say, we let them bake while they got a game of pokemon monopoly underway. from the kitchen i could hear him directing, “okay! 5 1’s, 5 5’s, 5 10’s, 6 20’s…”
i was only able to lure them away from playing by offering food. as they played, i kept hearing “all in favor of (fill in the blank), say i!” and then three voices chorusing, “i!” i know that 3 is not always the magic number when it comes to friend playdates, but in this case, they were peas in a pod. when i called up to say, “all in favor of root beer floats, say i”, there was a similar unanimous vote. after i brought it up, i remembered that friend l had already announced that he was fasting sugar during lent, and that he was only taking breaks from it on sunday (i admired his integrity in saying so, when his camp boss mama wasn’t there to enforce, and told him i would send cupcakes home with him for the next day. he didn’t seem to equate root beer floats with sugar, though, and i wasn’t going to remind him after i had accidentally waved them in front of him. he was so gracious about how much he was enjoying his, that i imagine his heavenly father would have looked favorably and overlooked his oversight anyway.
we had a good cross-cultural discussion about lent (which friend c hadn’t heard of, but friend l was currently observing) but friend c was familiar with mardi gras and easter. it reminded me of ols conversations around holiday times that went something along the lines of, “some people celebrate this way… others do that…” and enjoying our diversity in an inclusive environment.
the boys worked together to place the lego candles, but i had to then borrow a ninth candle from my housemate, having not realized in time that the package only contained eight. party foul! for the cupcakes i followed catherine newman’s recipe entitled “yay it’s wednesday cake! cake” which were tasty and easy to throw together, since i had just read the post and hadn’t bothered to close the tab yet. her chocolate frosting will have to wait for my birthday.
alright, i know i said those other two pictures were my favorite, but this one is, too. quinn laughing while his two buddies duel their chips for the last few bites of guacamole in the bowl. as story jars go, this one is full of frosting, sprinkles, laughter, guacamole, and friendship. a delicious birthday feast!