~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ composer of his own destiny

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

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

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

 

checking out his new bells!

 

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

  

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

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

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

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

just a boy with harry potter hair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

   

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

 

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

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

 

other posts you may enjoy:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

first day of school pictures!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

music to a mama’s ears!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1/6/10

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

1/17/10

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

i love finding those little time capsules of happiness.

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

and now back to october 2017:

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

 

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

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

 

other posts you may enjoy:

~thankful thursday~ the slightly belated conclusion

11/24/17

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

i am thankful for being able to spend this past week with my boy!

11/25/17

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

i am thankful for babies, new blessings to shower love upon.

11/26/17

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

i am thankful for john denver and radio serenades from my sweetie.

 

11/27/17

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

last night what i originally wanted to say was something about my gratitude for the wonderful friends in my life, but when i read what i had typed about the shining souls i call friends, it was about as interesting to read as a grocery list. that’s when john denver came along and saved me from myself. i just couldn’t do justice to the amazing people in my life or how lucky i feel. i mean, i have all the best ones, and it’s not because i’m very good at being a friend. i have lucked into some amazing connections with people who for some reason put up with my intensity, and i have been careless with more than i have been able to hold onto. even those friendships i have managed to maintain are sorely neglected. and i have squandered some friendships and completely lost touch with some really good ones. the few who seem to persist have really thick skins and are the kind who can tell me, as neil young puts it, when i’m “pissin’ in the wind.” i don’t know what i’d do without my best woman whom i take for granted until i have to dump-process all of my overthinking on her, or my sister friend who “accidentally” cooks too much dinner and feeds my family on a suspiciously regular basis, takes care of my son whenever he’s out of school and i have to work, and meticulously pulled together the details of my all-over-the-place hippie wedding as my wedding boss. i don’t know where i’d be without the lighthouse beam of support my online radical mama friends shined at me 10 years ago when i was lost in darkness, and it’s only logical that many of them have become friends in real life, while my real life friendships often take place mostly online due to time zones and geography. regardless of format, i am so grateful for my friends!

 

 

12/3/17

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

i’m thankful for the sunshine today. i am slowly finishing up my 30 gratitude posts for this year. i wanted to take my time writing a few more of these, and a few busy days have slipped by. still mindful of gratitude during those days, and feeling it especially well during the flood tide of my son’s homecoming on friday, by the time the sun shone today, i was brimming with gratitude. i won’t claim i have done a brilliant job of creating my own light this season, but i have been working on it. a bright sunny day like today does wonders for me. we slept in, ate pumpkin pancakes and drank coffee while the rain finished falling. once the sun came out, i rushed outside and bedded down my dahlias under some leftover straw bales from the wedding. then the three of us took a winding sunday drive along the river to cut ourselves a christmas tree. when we got to the one we would take home, a hawk flew overhead and called out. it was such an easy decision at that point. (i mean, how do other families choose a tree?) the beautiful view out the passenger window, whether it was of cascading water we can’t see when summer foliage is filled out, a rusty bulldozer overgrown with blackberry vines, or cattle grazing in a field, it all looks still more beautiful to me when the winter sun is shining on it. i dug out my mom’s swedish meatball recipe for dinner, and then rich beckoned us outside to gaze at the supermoon (also made possible by the wonderful sun.)  photo credit on a couple of these, including the blinding sunshine on mama’s shoulder, goes to quinn.

 

12/25/17

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

unable to find the newspaper clipping that my dad saved for me over a decade ago, that held a christmas story (or maybe it was a reader’s digest?) i have been saving this post, and hoping to unearth it somewhere. in the meantime, a miraculous rose has been blooming outside my front window, and is still going strong as of this writing, even after enduring a fairly hard frost this past week. its juxtaposition with the rainbow twinkle lights bordering the window is a perfect date stamp on a photo of the brave little blossom.

when my dad gave me that story, i remember that it was lovely. i remember that it made me feel good, both the story’s content, and the fact that my dad had thought of me when he read it. in return, i painted him a rose, in watercolor, that christmas, and it still hangs up in the living room of mom and dad’s home.

i did find a legend about a christmas rose when i typed my vague search terms into google, about a young shepherd’s daughter named madelon, who was ashamed to go and see the baby king lying in the manger without a proper gift to present. her tears falling in the snow resulted in the growth of a rose right there at her feet, and she presented this miraculous rose to the child she had so longed to see.

i have friends who have lost a dad this year. i have friends who have lost a mom this year. i am thinking that it’s not the content of the newspaper clipping story that matters here, and though i cannot share for sure whether it was that story, i feel i can share what really matters, which is that it is a connection i will always have between roses, my dad, and me. roses have other significance for me as well, but this little miracle rose in particular, blooming right on through the month of december, seems to point to the dad-christmas rose connection strongly.

photo from christmas day!

i hope that my friends who have lost parents this year let their tears fall openly on what must be a terribly confusing day full of both joy and grief, and that some gift of healing results from their falling tears upon the earth.

i am grateful for my dad, and for my mom, and for roses and miracles today.

1/22/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

i think it’s high time i write a gratitude post for day 30. i’m sure my topic won’t surprise anyone too much… no, it’s not nachos! i’m thankful for my husband of six months (!) today. since i have left quite a gap between posts, i have forgotten all the other things i said back in november, so i am not too worried about making sure this 30th gratitude is original.

on december 22 rich and i celebrated being together for 6 years; on january 10th i realized it was yet another dorkaversary, the occasion being 1.5 years since we got engaged! so we decided the next night would be date night, to celebrate (it would have been date night anyway.)

one other milestone has been reached (when i announce these things to rich i like to tell him we’ve reached a new level in our relationship)… the brisket from the wedding is all out of the freezer! we ate up the last of the brisket burritos (and brisket omelettes for breakfast), so that is a big deal.

on a recent saturday morning waking up well before dawn, we noticed a star shining brightly out the window, so we turned the lights back off and looked out at it, sitting side by side on the edge of the bed. we saw a few shooting stars, so we called it another star date (we also spent several night sessions lying on a tarp in our front yard during the geminid meteor shower in december). i finished getting dressed in the semi-darkness, but it wasn’t until 12:30 near the end of my shift at farmer’s market that i realized i had put one of my layers of clothing on inside out.

yesterday, we observed the eve of our six month dorkaversary with all day dates: breakfast, football and movie rental dates, as well as a quick trip to the beach to reenact some of our day-after-the-wedding shenanigans. then we got into a fight. we think it’s our second one. the first one was about rinsing the eggs (don’t ask) but this time he provoked me with, “i’m so lucky you’re my wife.” it was all downhill from there, as we duked it out over, “no, i’m the lucky one!”

it’s not that we agree on everything, but we can hear each other out on anything.

and then we have a good laugh.

rich has a bone in his left arm that was set the wrong way when he broke it as a child. he opted to not have it re-broken (can you blame him?) and so his left hand is naturally oriented palm downward. when we were planning our wedding ceremony, we decided that instead of one of us having both hands in either the bottom or top orientation, we’d each have one upturned palm, and one palm downward, when we joined hands. i don’t know that anyone noticed this, but it felt very symbolic. we both give, we both receive, we balance. yin and yang, masculine and feminine seem to be out of balance in so many instances in the world. it is such a comfort to me that this is not the case with us. i’ve got a guy who’s so secure in himself that he isn’t even bothered by me gushing about him on the internet.

i’m definitely luckier.

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~ winter holidays and spring awakenings

this rainbow monday is so last year… about time to share some holiday memories!

 

rainbow stocking hand sewn by camp boss, rainbow twinkly lights, and a rainbow veggies tray were all part of our holidays. it is good to remind myself of this, as my impression of this holiday season was that i did the bare minimum (did not bake a single cookie or send any cards) but i did do some festive things.

 

 

rainbow moon!

rainbow work-in-progress for a certain pokemon fan with an upcoming birthday…

 

this elf received many tools and methods of organizing his possessions disguised as gifts, and did so quite graciously considering there were few toys. ahhh, he’s growing up.

red: this hummingbird boy appears to be growing up, too. some early glimpses of his future plumage.

 

red: i had the privilege of doing photography for a friend’s wedding in the darkest days of the year… a challenge i wasn’t sure i was equal to, but i did my best. i took many bad photos, but a few good ones in spite of the dim lighting of december. truly, the day was kissed by more than it’s fair share of sunshine for this time of year, so i couldn’t have been luckier.

orange: the sunset that day, from the wedding venue.

orange: such a nice couple, who for some reason remind me of us.

orange: snapdragon soaking in the sun

orange: new year’s day dew drops in the winter garden

yellow: spring is coming in january this year… dandelions and honey bees already!

yellow: primroses are blooming, too!

yellow: more from the wedding, yellow roses of friendship

 

 

green: also a pleasing number of green flowers…

 

green: speaking of weddings, our sacred little wedding grove is looking lovely in the winter sun. i still have so much of our wedding to share here, and am happy to think of using the months during which i was planning a wedding in 2017, to revel in some memories in 2018.

green: after realizing we had visiting eagles in the bayou, we started taking more regular walks down there again.

green: eagles of the bayou.

green: both rich and i are fond of the glowing golden chain tree.

blue: this is how much freezing weather we have had this winter.

blue: the morning of my friend’s wedding, i took some photos near the venue. what a gorgeous day!

blue: more venue view.

blue: i was pretty stunned i caught this image while little d was walking by my shoot of the wedding rings. the bride’s grandma’s mirror provided a great surface on which to rest the bride’s other grandma’s diamond. little d, though he didn’t carry the rings, was essentially playing the role of ring bearer in the wedding procession.

blue: that blue sky!

purple: one final snap of the wedding flowers… delightful lavender roses.

purple: more accurately, violet! and it seems that spring is springing!

~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

other posts you may enjoy:

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ in the path of totality

we got to keep grammy and grampy for the longest period surrounding the wedding, which enabled quinn to have some one-on-one time with them after the rest of the crowd had ebbed. grampy and quinn played several games, including risk, the game of paleontology, and parcheesi.

this also meant that grammy and grampy got to see the dress rehearsal of quinn’s performance near the end of his two-week theatre camp, and i know that they and he were all thrilled about that. it was nice that their departure coincided with the high of performing, somewhat mitigating the more difficult parts of the transition back to normal.

the theme of this year’s theatre camp performances centered around the upcoming solar eclipse. some of the storylines (each of the 5 groups of kids wrote and performed a separate skit) were set in different geographic locations, and some incorporated historical eclipse events through devices such as time travel. quinn’s group’s setting was present-day oregon, so they were up first!

a few tourists arrived in oregon for the eclipse event, and were treated to a tour of the small coastal town of newlincolnwaldport, including introductions to the local blueberry farmer, boxed water seller, tree vendor, and salmon farmer. soon, they were settling in for the main event, but the skies were full of clouds, rain, and fog. everyone wished on the solar eclipse for it to stop raining and be sunny instead!

they got their wish! and had wonderful viewing opportunities for the eclipse. however, the next day they were so parched (the blueberries looked like raisins, the boxed water had all evaporated, the salmon had cooked) that they wanted to figure out how to get the rain back. it’s not oregon without the rain. they wondered if there was anything they could do.

“well…” one character said. “i might know. my brother’s girlfriend’s sister’s cousin’s step-dad’s mom knows this guru temple guy who lives on the shore of the lighthouse.”

(and that, my friends, is rural coastal oregon in a nutshell! kudos to the young counselors who wrote these plays and their wit!)

enter quinn, aka voss-not-the-water, aka guru temple guy. “hello children!” who gave the desperate oregonians the secret to bringing back the rain. after he demonstrated the rain dance and taught them the mantra “rain my one my own,” they all joined in with the guru temple guy and then they got the “rain people” (the audience!) to snap along to help generate more rain dance energy. it worked, thanks to the unified power of the oregonians!

quinn did not do a lot of gardening this summer, but he listened to me talk about whatever flowers were blooming in my rainbow terrace garden, and is seen here contemplating a gladiolus. he also became a certified trampoline sweeping technician.

   

he spent some time with the family of camp boss (aka wedding boss) during the days when i made my re-entry into the world of employment, including a little time at the lake.

there always seems to be a dance party going on whenever i arrive at the house of camp boss, and in this case, some air guitar and quinn beating a drumbeat on a rubbermaid tote. his little flower jars from the wedding are pictured here holding a zinnia and a bachelor button.

while he was with his dad this summer, quinn climbed up to the summit of south sister in the cascade range! he is standing at 10,363 feet in this picture.

he brought back a game they had made together; a role play game with ships on a board that is basically a big nautical chart, with lots of strategy. always making games, playing games, and loving games, this boy.

he was also with his dad for the day of the solar eclipse on august 21, and lucky for us, our geographic location coincided with the path of totality. i was home alone playing with my makeshift camera setup (with taped-on solar filter courtesy of the free newspaper insert), rich was looking at it through his welding hood (actually his employers provided the filter glasses for him to use) and quinn was watching it all happen through his filtered eclipse glasses.

since i’m a lifelong learner, too, i’m sharing my snazzy camera situation, my accidental eclipse rainbow picture (shot with my phone) and my favorite of the crescent-shaped eclipse shadows. i was rather ho-hum leading up to the day of the eclipse, and unconcerned whether it would be cloudy and impossible to view, but my mind was completely blown, and i would now make some effort to be in the path of totality if i could make it happen. in 7 more years, i believe a total solar eclipse will be visible from upstate new york. i realize it’s a little early to plan a trip for when quinn is 17, but i think it would be fun!

the eclipse, in sequential order! after the first few shots, i think i got the settings worked out pretty well. it was a great day for viewing celestial phenomena on the oregon coast, to top off a month full of summer learning.

 

other posts you may enjoy:

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ portal to the overworld

he’s a certified car vacuuming technician from way back. (apart from normal you’re-part-of-the-household chores that are not money-earners, there are above-and-beyond chores that do provide that opportunity. running the shop-vac around the car is one of them, and motivated by a new deck of pokemon cards, the lad did a fabulously thorough job on my car, which was long overdue for a cleaning.

 

this is the mandala he copied from his original drawing onto his green prayer flag for our wedding! the “seed” in the middle is a letter q.

we are attending a weapons class at our dojo on wednesday nights for a few months, and one night a special guest showed us some bo staff moves. they are similar to what we have been learning with eskrima sticks, and just as fun.

making the most of summer low tides! it was a crabby sort of day.

we pondered these bones for a while, so quinn could decide what animal he thought they came from, and give evidence to support his conclusion. i love his gestures here as he works through his reasoning.

this hearkens back to the days of toddler eating, with many items each in separate receptacles, except that one bowl is all mixed up salad! i’m noticing a definite increase in quinn’s openness and initiative on trying new foods, such as a doubling of his approved vegetable list (carrots- both orange and purple, and broccoli, are still favorites. a rekindled love for cauliflower and romanesco (another brassica cousin) and a brand new love for green beans, all of the above eaten raw, dipped in ranch, has developed this summer. he has also asked me for tastes of whatever i’m eating from time to time, even things like biscuits and gravy (he likes biscuits with jam but has never been into the gravy) and huevos rancheros, two of my standard breakfasts for the adults in the household.

post-haircut trim photos with a particularly photogenic boy beside one of our redwoods.

quinn’s fourth of july camping was abbreviated to just one overnight this year, but we made the most of our short time.

 

i like watching quinn’s way with the younger kids. he has a gentleness and patience for helping koala, and is quite obviously enjoying himself and laughing throughout such play times, not seeming to be in any hurry to go off and play with anyone closer to his age. i enjoy seeing him stay in the present moment with a toddler.

he does spend plenty of time playing with his cohort, especially his buddy panda. he got his yearly immersion in the creek, splashing up to the “rapids” with the big kids and walter, the dog.

a lot of time was spent with all of the kids playing games together, including quite a few rounds of what time is it mr. fox and mother may i. we also had a good time setting off fireworks, and there was a fair amount of play in the play kitchen, including a restaurant that featured punch cards (leaves) which, when punched 3 times, got the card holder their next meal free.

then quinn was at his dad’s for two weeks, and when he returned, it was almost time for the wedding, and all of our family to start arriving! quinn also began his two-week theatre camp session during this time period, though none of that is pictured in this post. i think theatre camp provided the lad a bit of “normal” and routine in the midst of quite a bit of departure-from-routine at home. it was wonderful departure, and he was happy to be a part of it, but he also seemed pleased to be doing his second year of theatre camp, feeling like more of a veteran camper. i was impressed that he had specific counselors he requested when he was given the option, and loved who he picked. he ended up in a great group, and in next month’s post, there will be photo documentation of the performance!

during his two weeks away, a friend had helped me get our new trampoline put together, so before i even got the car turned around in the driveway, he had jumped out and run down to try it out. he also seemed approving of the play kitchen i had brought about with paint and an old computer desk. the “rainbow restaurant” made use of quinn’s old play kitchen utensils and pans.

first, the pancakes arrived! i admire how little time it takes for them to run off and play, picking up where they left off many months ago. i would put a caption on this photo of their picnic on the trampoline reading, “why eat real dinner when you can eat pretend dinner on the trampoline?” because it truly was hard to captivate their interest in visiting the parental area for feedings or other items on the personal care agenda.

next, we added mario and luigi into the mix! the pancakes had never met quinn’s cousins, but they still wasted no time getting down to the business of playing. it was a wonderfully compatible group, with great imaginations and creativity in abundance. as the oldest, and the mutual acquaintance of all children present, quinn naturally fell into somewhat of a leadership role. i know there was a ton of minecraft-centered pretend play, quite a bit of lego pirate ship activity and whenever a kid needed a bit of down time, piles of rainbow artwork were generated, or a small person could be found curled up with a book. after all the festivities were over, quinn told me how they had divided up the four lego pirate ships so that everyone had a ship to use (quinn and mario shared one) and gave me a little tour. they each provisioned their ships in their own way. b pancake’s had lots of supplies (food, hats, books, spare beards) and was decorated with flowers. some of the ships had more crew, while others were focused more on weapons and gear. it was fun to watch them get lost in their imaginations!

they never seemed to mind the lack of space in quinn’s room, they just made it work. and played and played and played! it helped that there was plenty of space outside for running around. bubbles were also a popular activity throughout the week.

five children i love very much!

the child clan adopted 6 more children when wedding boss hosted our whole family for a get together picnic two days before the wedding. it was a lovely summer evening for our east coast and west coast and oklahoma families to meet!

this is what rehearsal dinner looked like at the kid’s table.

and this is what my son looked like while i was having my hair crown-braided and putting on my wedding dress! when i finally remembered i should see to his hygiene and clothing situation, rich’s son had already prompted quinn and taken care of everything, right down to the ponytail and glasses. it was not the first, nor the last time that day that i got a little choked up.

trying to show the wedding from the perspective of quinn is made possible only because of my wonderful photographer friend, because i was quite focused on marrying the guy up front, and could not have even told you where quinn (or anyone) was sitting, or with whom. the beauty of getting married in our own backyard, was that he felt comfortable. he sat with his cousins and aunt and followed along with the ceremony. the only feedback i got from him was that he never imagined it would be our yoga teacher “telling the story!” and that was much to his delight. he likes her a lot, and i like it a lot that he thought of it all as a story, something i know he loves!

and then, because of the getting married at home factor again, he could disappear to his room for some quiet time as needed. once again, i only knew this because of the photos!

this will be one of my favorite photos of all time, forever.

these are among my favorites as well. quinn had to be patient and smile for a bunch of photos, but then it was back to play time.

my boy has become very self-sufficient, and got all of his needs met, almost entirely without me that day. he was sailing in a sea of interchangeable parental units and grandparents and could raft up to any one of them at any moment. he also had a great group of kids to absorb himself into.

the next morning, we all ate pancakes under the big reception tent. i can’t remember who told me that there was a lego wedding reenactment at one point, and the kids seemed to gravitate towards special wedding areas like the loveseat rich and i sat on for the reception, and the “wedding trees” and ceremony area.

the kids played all day… straw bales were now fair game for climbing and walking on, and the “wedding trees” became known as “the portal to the overworld” in the ongoing minecraft game.

popcorn and quesadillas with mario. i noticed that quinn spent special one-on-one time with each of the kids.

he also spent time with my best woman, and noted he does not have far to go before he will exceed her height!

quinn set up his own tent beside mario and luigi’s on the last night of their stay with us so he could join in the camp out. since rich and i were driving my best woman to the airport that evening, quinn got to spend quality time with just their family, and ended up having a great time going bowling!

i felt theatre camp was again a welcome distraction and anchor to routine for quinn, so that the many goodbyes after such a lovely week of visitors weighed less heavily on him.

this was not an average month of lifelong learning, but a month of lifelong learning it certainly was! it was a month in which many lessons were undoubtedly learned in the department of relationships with family and friends, and some that mama may not have had any way of documenting or even knowing about. summer learning provides a great opportunity to step away from the academics and focus on the things that matter most in our lives; loving our people and savoring our time together with them.

other posts you may enjoy:

star date 95577.75

today we celebrate our six year anniversary! one thing about the shortest, coldest days of the year that warms my heart, is that i found the love of my life during this part of the year. if there is anything symbolic of the return of the sun to my life, it is his love for me.

it’s been a big year for us! we went from happy fiances to happily married as the earth made its way this time around the sun. and now we are an old married couple! just like that.

we still like to have fun. on a recent morning, as we were wooing each other in the reverse strip tease of going-to-work morning readiness, i flipped my hair (think conditioner commercial… he was doing it with his long tresses, too, in my defense) and also accidentally tossed my (solid rock) pendant up in an arc past my face. we then laughed and joked about having nearly chipped a tooth flaunting my beauty. it isn’t easy being pretty!

photos from the day before our wedding!

we spent a recent span of weeknights going out on nightly “star dates” to watch the geminid meteor shower, because we had freakishly clear weather for our part of the world, coinciding with the shower’s peak viewing nights. by the last night, we had improved our setup from standing up and craning our necks, to lying down on a tarp/sheet with a fleece blanket on us. we saw lots of meteors! appropriately, he popped in the movie stardust, just before we went out for the star date on the peak night of viewing.

we also went to star wars the last jedi, and that’s all i’ll say about that! and we saw some live music. actually, it was quinn’s school christmas concert, and it was delightful to hear children’s voices singing, “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go!” my son is getting so tall he looked to me like a stick figure wearing pants that were paradoxically both too short and too big to stay up around his waist.

he has been away for two weeks, and came home today to celebrate christmas! we are so happy he’ll be home. it’s a great anniversary present.

 

i’ve been enjoying a chuckle about this particular calvin and hobbes comic shown to me by quinn, and extending the metaphor i’ve been using this season of finding my own inner light. sometimes it is hard to locate the proper muscle. however, i do think rich finds my gluteus maximus to be a source of light, for his part. so there’s that.

snapdragons still blooming, saying something about the tenacity of us dragons. on our anniversary date (observed last night, of course), we reminisced a little about how much we went through in the early days, and how i was so amazed he stuck with me. i’m so happy to be spending my life with him, even after all these years!

other posts you may enjoy:

~tuesday tunes~ rainbow love

when rich and i were deciding on songs for our wedding, we had a lot of fun playing back through our favorite love songs and thinking about what music best suited our story and our celebration. we ended up using 3 songs during our ceremony, and the other two i will talk about later did come from those “oldies” that have been with us for years as part of our soundtrack. the song we ended up starting with, for our parents to walk into the ceremony, was newer to us, only discovered this past year, but so perfectly fitting that we knew it had to be a part of our wedding day.

i had googled “rainbow love songs,” because i’m me, and that was how i discovered this gem from roy orbison, on a lesser-known album called still in love with you, which was apparently considered one of his worst. i guess with roy orbison, you still get amazing when he’s giving his worst, because there is no voice like his. both rich and i love it, and i know my own love for roy’s singing goes back to riding in my dad’s pickup truck and singing along together with roy on the truck’s tape deck. i believe rich has said his dad also appreciated roy’s singing, and it only made sense that this would be the song for our parents’ walk-in. (actually my dad had to wait until song number 2, but don’t worry, that song is great, too!)

when i saw the title rainbow love in my google search results, i knew we’d need to obtain this song, but it was when i finally listened to it that i realized it was a little more than just another song to add to a mix. you really just have to listen to it to understand what i mean, but the song makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a spring day frolicking through a meadow, with its fluttering flutes and melodic orchestral arrangement. then to top it off, roy’s angelic voice sings about finding the love at the end of the rainbow. i love living in a world where you can find still more perfect songs all your life, even ones written in the distant past. (the “video” is not action-packed, but is a convenient way to share it so friends can have a listen.)

I looked behind a silver cloud, I found a pretty rainbow there
I walked out to the rainbow’s end and found a rainbow love
The one that I was looking for, the dream that I was dreaming of
There, down at the rainbow’s end I found a rainbow love

I found my pot of gold, my rainbow love
Just you and all your loving, charming rainbow love
I searched, hoped someday I’d find someone to bring me peace of mind
I found what I’ve been dreaming of when I found my rainbow love

I found my pot of gold, my rainbow love
Just you and all your loving, charming rainbow love
I searched, hoped someday I’d find someone to bring me peace of mind
I found what I’ve been dreaming of when I found my rainbow love

i know that during our wedding, not everyone could have been able to focus on listening to the songs, so i wanted to feature each one here as i share wedding memories. there was so much about that day that fit so perfectly with the rainbow metaphor, and all the color we bring to each others’ lives and why we want to spend our lives together. this song summed it up in such a beautifully simple way.

on our honeymoon, we were served in a diner by a woman named fran who, as we were leaving, told me, “this is the one. this is the end of the rainbow one.” i had not said a single word to her about rainbows, but i had shared that we were on our honeymoon. i’d like to think that something about the way rich and i treat each other comes through to other people, and even this complete stranger in the middle of montana could tell that this is something special, shining through the everyday clouds like a rainbow.

other posts you may enjoy:

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ a june zing!

(a june zing follows a may zing, of course.)

quoting my best woman: “blog binging is so my jam. when it comes to babes like you and mq.” (that’s mighty quinn!) thus encouraged, here is the next installment in the binge session.

the time period for this post represents the height of my neglect of my child during wedding preparations, and it is accordingly brief concerning the documentation of his learning at the time. it also corresponds to the end of his fourth grade school year, the beginning of summer vacation, and there may have been fewer things documented because the “deschooling” period can sometimes be harder to point to and say, “learning,” though i would argue it is super important down time.

hummingbird feeder filling technician has been keeping busy this time of year.

 

nothing like a little stilt walking to work on gross motor coordination. if he isn’t going to ride a bike, there are other ways to practice balance and getting all of one’s limbs to work together.

for their final field trip of the year, our kids went to a minor league baseball game. it was lots of fun!

an invention!

in the final days of school, the fourth grade egg drop was carried out, and the school principal dropped each kid’s design off the school roof. quinn’s egg received a minor crack, but did not smash, and his design involving a tissue paper parachute was very well put together and worked exactly how he wanted it to. it was fun to watch it float slowly to the ground. he was proud both because of the results and because other kids had liked his idea and gone with similar designs (he had even requested i give him more tissue paper to bring to school to share with others). the other approach we saw was more about having excess padding inside a closed container, but i definitely think style points go to the parachutes. he decided if he were to do anything differently to improve it, he would add a little bit more padding in the bottom of the cup in which the egg was riding.

end of the school year writing/reflection exercise. and i always liked this “ways writers keep going” sign his teacher had up, so i figured i’d document it as well, in case we want to refer back to its helpful suggestions in the future.

writing assessment for fourth grade – about his fishing pole

poetry unit “owl quinn” acrostic poem.

spirit animals fan fiction! this series of images is from his journal, which his dad wanted to hang onto, and so i documented it all before sending it to his house.

quinn comics series; i know he spent much of his free-write time creating this series.

map of his special place – his bedroom at home!

his journal also contained writing about albert einstein, ralph waldo emerson, and ghandi.

 

deschooling involved some free time on the laptop. we had further discussions about the site “cool math games,” which in times past i had more openness (not much, but more than now) for him playing, but when i walked over to see ads for “the laci peterson case. the untold story” and motor oil, i felt that i had reached my limit of tolerance for this travesty of a website. as much as he may enjoy some of the games, i have seen very little in the way of learning, much in the way of games that seem to promote compulsive mouse clicking, difficulties with letting go of screen time while playing them, issues with the site crashing my computer, and far too much advertising, including completely inappropriate ads for children to be seeing.

instead, i encouraged minecraft play, the game prodigy (which is math practice and he used in his classroom in fourth grade, and likes to play), and looking up things he wanted to learn or listen to with you tube. he listened to some ok go songs (and watched their amazing music videos) and looked up how to draw mandala tutorials, creating several beautiful ones while pausing and following along step by step with the videos.

in case this isn’t obvious to everyone in the world, this is how quinn keeps track of his favorite path through a choose-your-own-adventure novel. (but everyone does that, right?)

and this is how he reads calvin and hobbes. he stays up late into the night reading by head lamp, and this is how i find him some mornings. yay for summer vacation and sleeping in!

other fun tidbits: water play with koala; checking out his new polaroid camera, obtained for $1 at a thrift store. he hasn’t even tried it with film yet, but he’s already very much in love with looking through it.

we wound up this month with a karate sleepover! the kids stayed up and watched movies (moana and lego batman i think) and spent the night in sleeping bags on the mat. i did, too, but crept out early in the morning to go work at farmer’s market. my kiddo stayed for the saturday morning activities, including rock panting and tie-dying t-shirts, and he tie-dyed a shirt for me as well!

other posts you may enjoy:

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ a may zing!

the last lifelong learner post was posted over 6 months ago! wheeee, 2017! so it’s time for a lifelong learner catch-up series. do people binge-read blog posts?

time traveling back to the end of april….

  

self-initiated dragon-drawing lessons. he got this book out of the school library, brought it home, and applied himself to learning to draw a dragon.

baby dragon book; more drawing research.

  

quinn made some linocut stamps and sent grammy a card.

 

grammy correspondence also included his newly learned skill of email!

more artwork involved a new card game he is designing.

in his tag group at school, he was supposed to join edmodo in order to coordinate things… that never really panned out, but he did open himself an edmodo account as instructed, and i mention it because i love his choice of features for his avatar, including a beard!

i received minecraft lessons from the lad and built rainbow terraces and a rainbow greenhouse in my first world.

      

class memories – love the focus on reflection (in case that wasn’t obvious about me): “my happy memory is the rubber band cars because right at the end of school i hit the sweet spot. sweet!” i’m pleased he remembers that victory, as it was one i watched him work through frustration and persevere until the very end of the school day. also from school: i have a dream poster, comic about plastic water bottles, poster about saving owls, mood meter, and his wonderful journal from 4th grade. i got a tour during his school conference, and was very impressed with the writing he had been doing, including a fan-fiction spin-off of the spirit animals series. here is his synopsis on the inside front cover: “a dark force has risen from the depths of time and now it’s up to two brave kids.” i know i am dying to find out what happens!

quinn’s class also studied the native american tribes of oregon, and his project centered on the nez perce people. while making his diorama, he went into business making toothpick people for classmates, and was proud that his design was in high demand! we did a little further research at  home concerning the nez perce, because i thought he would be interested in their cultural and spiritual traditions, in particular their version of spirit animals, or weyekins, who came to an individual in spirit form, bestowed their own characteristics on the individual, and stayed with a person throughout their lives. he learned all about their way of life in order to build the model and to report on what he learned. for their project he also led his group’s presentation and although i know he would have contributed some wording, i’m pretty sure he let someone else in the group be the scribe!

he found an owl’s face in the driftwood

tidepooling always makes for wonderful lifelong learning.

certified hummingbird feeder filling technician.

 

half-orange belt test for karate! he had a great test, once again such a positive learning experience for him, including the camaraderie with his fellow students, and caring guidance from his instructor.

 

part of what i love so much about our dojo is how far beyond the karate our instructor goes to make the kids feel a part of a community. there are movie nights, board games, sleepovers, seminars with our sifu’s sifu who visits from california. in addition, sifu takes the kids running around downtown when it is a nice day, and the little main street in our town has a lovely clay studio from which giant bubbles sometimes go floating by. finally, both sifu and his wife take time with each kid to discover their passions and invest time into connecting with them. quinn has sat with each of them this month helping them make their d&d characters. i don’t know if i realized how rare this was in teachers, until i saw it in action here. i know that quinn will remember the way they’ve made him feel when he is much older, that what he cares about matters to them, and that they are so available to help him learn but also to just simply be there for him.

outside times increasing in frequency as the spring weather truly hits its stride.

and  inside times… creating a lego dragon game we played on a grammy play quilt spread out on the living room floor one afternoon.

whistling while he works! this month held a big milestone for quinn, who happened upon the ability to whistle at last! he was startled by it at first, and then was very exuberant in his practicing, excited to be able to accomplish louder notes with practice.

certified pancake flipping technician.

overnight field trip! we took our 4th graders to our state capital! it was a lovely trip, and believe me, i had some doubts about how it would be to chaperone 27 ten year olds for a sleepover in a school gym. it was extremely well planned, however, and his teacher put together a great trip. one of the places we stopped was champoeg state heritage area, where the kids got to check out the oldest barn structure in the state of oregon. inside, they ground some kernels of wheat the old fashioned way, and learned about the importance of wheat to oregon’s pioneers and overall economy. inside the museum were displays concerning native oregonians as well as pioneers. i did not get a chance to wander over to the heirloom apple orchard off to one side of the heritage area, which i would like to return to with my parents for a visit!

newell pioneer village was an easy walk from the state park entrance, and we went there to tour historical buildings like newell house, which was filled with historic artifacts, and do some experiential learning about what pioneer life might have been like. quinn liked writing with a quill pen and making “buzz saw” toys with a button and a string.

he thought being a pioneer child in a pioneer classroom was fun, including having to answer “yes, ma’am” to everything the teacher said to him, and having to stand beside his desk to answer a question, to practicing sums on his slate.

historic flood levels on a humungous cottonwood tree.

 

as pioneer children, they also got to dip candles, felt wool, and wash laundry using a washboard.

fun times with friends. before we camped on the gym floor, we took the kids to the northern lights theatre and all watched lego batman while eating pizza for dinner! this was a stroke of genius on the teacher’s part, because it enabled all of us to breathe for a few hours of fun and laughter while relaxing our head counting and behavior-curbing efforts. we had a pretty easy time as parent chaperones, given she had recruited enough of us that our ratio was essentially 2 children to 1 parent, and 1 of our 2 was our own child.

the next morning we ate cafeteria breakfast, and one of the dads made a heroic trip for a gallon of coffee to bring back for the parents. a visit to a botanical garden inspired quinn to draw this violet from memory upon our return home. i have been gleaning parenting/education support and information from an online community called “raising poppies” and this photo of quinn in the poppies makes me smile. poppies is a term that resonates much more with many poppy parents than “gifted child” and refers to the practice of “cutting down the tall poppies,” the practice of holding kids back in order to encourage uniformity in an educational setting; instead, the group focuses on how to help our tall poppies thrive in life, learning, and all the areas where they may struggle. as parents of these actual children know, poppies come with quirks that don’t always feel like a gift, and can make life extra intense sometimes. far from the common assumption that gifted kids are set up for success, there is often a lot to overcome in spite of their intelligence.

i have more to say on this topic, and still haven’t elaborated much, because it’s a really hard topic to tackle and not be perceived as humble bragging. or just plain bragging. or complaining! none of which are my intent. in reality, some of the hardest challenges of my parenting career have stemmed directly from the peculiarities of having a gifted/poppy child, especially when attempts were made to evaluate him and categorize him into one diagnosis or another. a lot of poppy parents have been there, and it’s validating to find them, because they get that asynchronous development, the hallmark characteristic of poppies, is what we were really looking at, but professionals are rarely trained to see it for what it is. asynchrony means your 3 year old may accurately tell you whether you are driving north or south, has memorized and regularly recites the lorax, is a little professor using 5 syllable words on certain topics like dinosaurs and garbage trucks, but isn’t yet sleeping through the night. it may mean your 6 year old is able to read at a high school level and do long division, speaks eloquently with adults, but does not remember to take a break to use the bathroom, and comes unglued about “his” disposable plastic water bottle being floated in the buoyancy bin and has to leave the home school group for the day. or it may mean your 10 year old is able to comprehend high school math, makes complex inferences about concepts like author’s point of view, but has his shirt on inside out and backwards and doesn’t ride a bike.

so your kid can be ages 3/1/7, or 6/15/2, or 10/18/5 in the course of any given day, encompassing all of the blessings and complications that can present.

there’s more… there are overexcitabilities, some of which, like emotional intensity, can be crippling and lead to a tendency to underachieve. there are sensory ones as well, which can make daily tasks like grinding coffee beans or vacuuming potential landmines for an epic meltdown (thankfully no longer quite so epic), and mean that your kid still can’t stand having his face or ears in the water.

i wouldn’t know anything personally about the pitfalls associated with being a poppy, but i have a post draft that i created in may 2016, and since it is not yet perfectly articulated by december of 2017, i can’t yet publish the post. when i do, its title might have something to do with how i dropped out of the tag program at my school when i was in second grade. so i definitely do not have a chip on my shoulder about this topic at all! (wink.)

i digress! the overnight field trip, continued:

   

the willamette heritage center was our next stop, and we got to tour some historic mill buildings containing impressive machinery for processing wool, learned about the industrial revolution, and more about the economy of oregon.

 

   

wandering back across the campus of willamette university (home of the aforementioned botanical garden) we also got to visit the rose garden, as well as a grove of cypress trees whose five crowns formed a star high above our heads.

 

we finished up the trip with a tour of the state capital! not only did we get to visit the house, we got to stand on the floor of the house, which is only possible if accompanied by a representative. we were in luck, and our representative david gomberg was our tour guide for our visit to the floor. this was cool, not only to get to stand on the amazing tree carpeting, but because we got to look closely at the desks occupied by representatives when the house is in session, and see such things as the buttons they push to vote yes or no on measures. after having our questions answered, we bid farewell to mr. gomberg and walked up the spiral staircase to the roof to see the gold man. finally, we visited the senate briefly, though not the floor of the senate, just the viewing balcony, with its coordinating salmon carpeting, and then we were back on the bus to head home! it was a long journey packed with learning to top off a fabulous month.

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