a month or two in the life of a lifelong learner

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two months fly by quickly when they are august and september… one minute you’re camping on the river, playing baseball and pokemon and dungeons and dragons, and the next minute you’re in new york visiting family, then whammo! school starts. whew! time for a lifelong learning check-in at last!

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one minute you’re a yellow belt, the next minute the belt is orange.

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thank goodness for relaxing days, playing with friends.

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thank goodness for flexible jobs where kids are not shunned. here is quinn dissecting a salmon; something he refused to even watch during our living school… however, he has now removed his very first pair of otoliths, so i think he’s got it in him after all. oh, and that thing in the jar is its stomach.

in vocabulary, i have heard quinn use words such as loopholes, shall and perish. we also had a great discussion of when to use less vs. fewer in describing quantities (of continuous amounts vs. discrete, countable units).

“when you yawn, it puts electric needles in your balloon and pops it.” (quinn, on the subject of popping your ears while driving up and down hills 8-17-15)


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also while he hangs out at work with me, quinn gets some reading done and listens to a lot of sparkle stories. a few recent favorite chapter books checked out of the library:

winter turning by tui sutherland, book 6 in the wings of fire series

spirit animals, a series written by multiple authors; first book is wild born, by brandon mull (he made up his own activity of listing the various possible spirit animals mentioned in the book, and picked up the skill of skimming back through passages he had already read for key words, and also worked on creating a game based on the book.) speaking of vocabulary, we just had another great conversation about “redoubled” and “abated.”

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when it was time to head off to new york for his uncle’s (my brother’s) wedding, our first stop was to see rich’s daughter and her boyfriend before we hit the airport. a quick game of pokemon and a lesson in paintball later…


my good little traveler, rolling his r2-d2 suitcase through the airport, flashlight the bear tucked under his arm.


i got him a few fun distractions for the plane, including some pokemon cards and a set of ionix, a brand of lego-compatible bricks that have how to train your dragon themed sets…

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and we made it to grammy and grampy’s house at last. legos galore, room to run around, and garfield books aplenty to read.



any time we helped with wedding set up, quinn and cousins took a dip in my brother’s pool afterwards.

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then climbed out and turned into penguin eggs.



q got to learn some new video game systems, and played mario on the wii for the first time. then he proceeded to draw new mario, the game, levels for mario, the boy.

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the cousins were very helpful in wedding preparations. quinn sorted out all the pieces and fasteners for a bench swing that needed to be assembled, and read the instructions. the boys all carried coolers and chairs, wielding wheelbarrows and wagons to transport them across the backyard.

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with plenty of time left for running around and eating pizza.



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the day of the wedding, my dad decided he had better disc his field, and the boys each got to ride with him a few times around the field.

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then the farmers all jumped in the shower and got all spruced up for a wedding.


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i think quinn’s experience of the wedding would probably center around all the food, including corn on the cob, yummy chicken and potatoes, and pasta salad, as well as amazing cookies and an ice cream sundae made with a scoop each of strawberry and black raspberry ice cream. there was also a ton of great music, a handful of kids to run around with, and lots of space for a guy who likes to go off on his own and sort through his pokemon cards.


the crew was hired back for wedding take-down the next day.

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then they switched gears to helping harvest the apple crop!

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peach pie was consumed. the sandbox was frequented.

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grampy and quinn took the whole family up in the field for a bonfire.

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quinn spent some special quality time with each uncle. uncle t offered to actually play a round of pokemon with quinn so he (the uncle) could learn the rules, and uncle b showed q his game cube and the game animal crossing. quinn thoroughly enjoyed both of these bonding experiences.

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another day, another apple gathering wagon ride. this was more of a research expedition for grammy to discover what later-season apple varieties would be ripening in the next month. she has identified some really obscure and rare old varieties!

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we met norman, an inchworm, who hitched a ride on quinn. (and it was norman’s name, more than anyone else’s, that quinn mentioned missing on the last night before we left new york, and he was sad about it. i think that was one lucky worm, to find such a good friend.)


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several nights found quinn spending time watching the mets play baseball alongside grammy and grampy, and i noticed that on the nights we popped popcorn for a light dinner, quinn opted to take his bowl out to the porch “to watch some baseball with grampy,” rather than sit at the table.

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although i waited all week, camera poised, for “the” annual picture of the boys walking together to happen organically, it did not, and so we went outside in the dark on the last night and contrived the shot as best we could.


jump! then we took some other crazy photos, while we were awake past bedtime and playing in the dark.


…and this is what quinn looked like when we pulled into the driveway of the vacation house the next day, crashed out on his pokemon binder in the back seat of the truck.

first day of third grade

… and whoooosh! this is what he looked like on his first day of third grade.

i believe i may have more words and fewer pictures this year, when it comes to the learning that happens to take place at school.

we went to “back to school night” the week before school started, the day after we got home from new york, which is when we found out who his teacher would be and he could bring in school supplies, see his classroom, and so on. his teacher taught at the same school where my after school program was, and he was one of the only teachers who spoke with me, and was supportive of what i was doing. i had a couple of his 4th graders. then he transferred to the school q is going to now, to teach 3rd grade last year. he used to bring his dog to class, his wife is a retired teacher and she would teach right alongside him, so two teachers for one class. he has a guitar in his room. i can’t see him tolerating bullying or teasing. all the kids love him and respect him and want to hug him. i think there is definitely potential for a positive teacher-student relationship.

he was at his dad’s on the first day of school, and dad wanted him to ride the bus that morning, but also thought it was a good idea for me to meet him to walk him in to his classroom, as a lot of parents walk kids in on the first day (they make a point to tell you it’s the only day it’s allowed.)

he got off smiling and saw me and we walked into the school and the whole world was in the cafeteria with their parents, so it was standing room only. so we stood there, and he kept spotting kids he knew from ols, and everyone he saw smiled and waved or said hi if they were close enough. he saw his teacher and said hello, held my hand but didn’t seem clingy. and then the bell rang, and he seemed like he knew what to do and we walked to his class, and sitting at the desk across from his was a girl from karate who he gets along with, and so that was a nice surprise, and they said hi to each other. he put his stuff on his hook, and in his desk, and i said okay have fun and he said okay bye, and i snapped that picture and left.

that night the bus took so long getting him back to his dad’s that i got a text as i pulled up to karate with only 5 minutes until class saying “still waiting for the bus.” i ended up driving to the school to make sure he didn’t get taken back there, and i knew his dad couldn’t call because the bus stop is out of cell range. i was just one of several parents there just before 5:00 pm asking where their kids were. they explained the buses were way behind schedule with all the changes to the school system this year (there was much reconfiguring).

on wednesday, the second day of school, all was going well until 12:17 (after i got finished dissecting 104 fish in one morning) when his dad texted me that it was not early release after all (every wednesday the schools all dismiss students an hour early because they literally can’t afford to keep the lights on) and asked if i would pick quinn up. i emailed the school because that is a “change of plans” and they have to hear from a parent by 1:00. so i emailed and asked to verify if i needed to pick up at 3 (i tell them he can’t bus at 3 or he will miss karate, and that i will pick him up as a “escorted walker” based on info i received third-hand that “parent pick up” is at one door and “walker” is where you can park and that is easier, not driving through the hamster wheel. so i specify “escorted walker” and they get back to me right away saying actually it’s only the busers who go at 3:05, everyone else is still early release, so i need to come at 2:05. so once that was all sorted out, i let them know quinn would have no idea of this change, and that he would need to be guided through it. (in all the reconfiguring, the playing field was leveled in some ways, in that new kids don’t stand out, but then, when someone is new, they can also fall through the cracks…)

so i went at 2:05 and all the walkers came out, and quinn didn’t come out. so i went up to the walker door, and talked to the teacher there, and another teacher went to try to locate quinn. it took them 40 minutes to determine that q had been taken instead to the parent pick up door. (they sent him a note to his class, and he heard “line up for parent pick up” and NO ONE EXPLAINED it to him so he was in the wrong line. so, they got him back to me finally and then i walked him out the walker door so he knew where to go in the future if jim or i is picking him up, and explained about saying he is a walker, instead of a parent pick up, and it was all fine. i handed in my volunteer parent paperwork too, and i think the staff like me in spite of seeing way more of me than they probably wanted to on days one and two.

so far, the biggest challenge is all the coded language. when the bus brought him back to his dad late that first day, the bus driver demanded of quinn, “who’s your ride?” while his dad stood at the door of the bus saying “he’s with me,” trying to help but not realizing they can’t accept the answer from the adult, and q didn’t even understand the question. i don’t blame him, as the question was not even being asked in english. “who is picking you up” might have worked, but “who’s your ride” is a question q has never been asked, and wouldn’t know why he was being asked.  i guess learning the local vernacular and institutional code is part of joining the so-called “real world.” like knowing how to tell people, “my mom doesn’t want to drive through the hamster wheel, so i am a walker, not a parent pick up.” anyway, we’re getting the hang of it. i’m laughing and keeping a sense of humor about it, slightly snarkily.

after the first day of school, his dad said he seemed upbeat and happy about the day and not phased at all about the extra long bus ride. it’s not as if he has a reference to compare to. when asked if it felt like it was long, quinn said, “i watched generations of kids get off this bus before me!” that kid and his poetry. quinn also reported to his dad about sitting across from his karate friend, saying, “i look at her face all day, and she looks at my face all day.”

overall, quinn in general answers “good” about his days, but if pressed on the matter, will not agree that his day was awesome or wonderful, “just good.” but also not terrible. he comments that he doesn’t like being taught things he already knows. helping with that, he is now doing “walk to read” and “walk to math” each day, in which he commingles with 4th and 5th graders to get a little more challenged at his level. he is taking so much in stride that would have been so much bigger a deal two years ago… things like heading to a new classroom twice a day. i asked if anyone from his homeroom goes to math or reading with him, and he said, “no, but i am glad about that, because it means i get to have whole new groups of friends.”

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the weekend after his first week of school, quinn and i spent a lot of time together, baking two pies. i made the pie dough, but he did every other step of the process, from picking and peeling, to rolling and filling, to folding and forking.


i miss looking at his face all day.

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karate remains quite a passion for him. he has started wearing a stretchy headband to keep his hair out of his eyes, which he intends to grow long like my hair.

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back in the classroom of life, quinn spent a good ten minutes studying the filling of the brita filter pitcher. he added a little, poured a little, until he found the exact maximum amount of water that could be filtered through without leaving any water in the top chamber. i think some top notch science experimenting was done that day, and one satisfied young mind answered a question for himself. it is my hope that nothing that happens in the institution will dampen that curiosity and enthusiastic drive to learn all he can.

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~

it’s still monday for a few more minutes…

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red: yeah, that is a tiny bride and groom in the distance, it’s almost like they are part of his thought bubble. had a beautiful walk on the beach on sunday with this handsome guy. look at that beard he is growing. hot!

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orange: algae on the beach rocks

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yellow: my sweet saturday market gig was looking particularly picturesque this weekend.

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green: it was the greenest of the beach photos, but this post is predominantly blue. this is my ruby, i am her lucky fairy dog mother. she is responsible for taking us to the beach, and i presume for calling the whales in close to see us.

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green-blue: kelp in the breakers

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blue: whales. actually, they were gray whales. but the ocean was such a pretty blue that day! these were the best mediocre whale evidence photos i could muster, but what a delight to see seven of them, right from the beach.

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purple: the predominant color in my vegetable palette this weekend. and yes i meant to spell it palette, in the sense that i get to paint with vegetables. but also, they do come stacked on a pallet, before i turn them into a rainbow waterfall of antioxidants.


~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~


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pink: i admittedly do not count myself among the people who celebrate the arrival of fall, because usually i am too busy grieving the passing of summer. rather than be the grinch who stole equinox, however, i am trying to be a good sport this year and one of the things i am appreciating right now about being up before the sun is collecting more sunrises. the vacation house provides a much more open vista for both sunrise and sunset viewing than did the dragon house, and i have really been enjoying that.

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red: blueberry leaves

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red: last night’s sunset was winding down by this time, and looking its reddest.

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orange: this was a few minutes earlier, a bit more orangey. yup, that’s the ocean we can see through the trees at the end of our street.

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orange: the best of my mediocre attempts at capturing the moon when it was fully eclipsed two nights ago. on the extremely rare occasion of a clear night on the coast during an astronomical event, you gotta at least pull out the camera and give it a try, right? maybe santa will bring me a tripod and a remote for christmas…


yellow: my shaggy long-haired sunset companion with the sun at his back.

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green: it’s more inhabited, but we still live on gravel. it’s pretty awesome.

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green: a little tidbit from my sunday self care; which also featured a hot bath with tea and a book.

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blue: oregon coast fall weather….

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purple: hummingbird friend, sipping from the butterfly bush.

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

other posts you may enjoy:

~this moment~

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school may be in session, but we still live at the vacation house. breakfast with a view.

~a friday ritual~

a photo capturing a moment from the week.

a simple, special moment.

a moment i want to pause, savor and remember

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~

a new york rainbow!

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pink: cosmos, right before i cut them and decorated my mom’s cane with flowers for my brother’s wedding.

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pink/red: got a few nice sunset photos throughout the trip.

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there was one kind of like this two years ago

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orange: sunset, jewelweed, quinn baking beside the bonfire, night-before-the-wedding tables glowing in afternoon sunlight

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yellow: black-eyed susan, goldenrod by the acre, cinquefoil (the one with heart-shaped petals), echinacea, eastern swallowtails, silver queen corn on the cob.

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green: sunset over the orchard, green flowers (one of the myths i never bought into as a child was that i shouldn’t use green crayon to color my flowers, and i am always so happy to see green flowers; as i now know, there are plenty of varieties), lots of sweet corn blanched and bagged in my family’s freezer for winter.

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blue: wedding decor and flowers, the old harvestore silo against partly cloudy central new york sky.

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purple: more echinacea, thistle, asters, and sunset (you can never have too many sunset pictures).

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~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

other posts you may enjoy:

~this moment~

Picture 622 walk

may 2013

cousin stairs Picture 302

october 2014

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september 1, 2015

~a friday ritual~

a photo capturing a moment from the week.

a simple, special moment.

a moment i want to pause, savor and remember

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~

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good morning glory! there are some vibrant sunrise (this morning) and sunset (last night) colors in this week’s rainbow, thanks to smoke blanketing the whole northwest. a little beauty coming of all the tragedy.

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pink: sunrise roses

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now that we’re awake…


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red: afternoon apple at the vacation house

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red: just wow.

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orange: sun melting into the pacific


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orange: i couldn’t choose….

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yellow: lighting the ocean aglow

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green: afternoon sun through the bushes

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blue: the porch light at the vacation house! isn’t it rad?

blue: like the well-known haiku by hokushi:


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i hung the moon on various

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 branches of the pine.”

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(it was out while i was watching the sunset show last night.)

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purple: mystery flower that my mother out-law was given; with a little help from google i think it is brunsfelsia, also known as yesterday, today and tomorrow, which makes sense as in the early part of its blooming, several different shades of purple were present.

we are off to new york to celebrate love and family!!! prepare for photo overload bombardment in one week’s time…

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning (or evening. really, even the day of the week is optional.)

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

other posts you may enjoy:


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this is it, right here: love.

i have emerged, victorious, from the peach frenzy of 2015. 63 quart jars plus 17 pints of peach bbq sauce. 152 pounds of peaches later, i am ready for a canning break, so i have decided to not bring home a single box of tomatoes until september. the only reason i believe i can manage to hold out that long is that we will be headed to new york next week and won’t return until september is underway. i only have one farmer’s market left between now and then, and i think my will power is strong enough to come home this saturday sans tomatoes.

at work it’s more of a fish frenzy, and i am mindful of the way this temporary position is speeding along rapidly towards its conclusion mid-winter. i am hopeful for more job opportunities coming down the line, either in the same position (extended, with projects i am currently helping to develop) or in something else marine-oriented. i have been enjoying being back in the lab, and i just put in an application for another opening in the next building over from mine at the marine science center, in case this one doesn’t last.

we are having a great time at the vacation house, although nothing i have been doing actually suggests vacation. (example from 7:30 wednesday morning: in the rush to get out the door, get quinn to camp boss summer program, and get to work on time, i removed a splinter from quinn’s heel while brushing my teeth.) it’s more the atmosphere of the house itself that gently whispers ideas about rest and relaxation. breezes through screen doors, sunshine on the front porch wicker love seat, roses blooming, apples reddening, kitties milling around and snuggling.

the kitties have adjusted well to the vacation house, and taken up new hobbies of unprecedented cuteness and mischief. just in the past week, lisa has started climbing up from underneath the bed to snuggle under all of the blankets, making herself into a little lump in the middle of the bed.


the first time i saw her do this, i laughed, checked to be sure it was her and that she was breathing, and then went back downstairs to shower. when i came back up, i found her big brother, sitting smugly where she had been, looking like he had eaten her!

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quinn seems to be adjusting fairly well, too. he likes his room, and has encrusted the entire floor with legos in a very short time. he is reading big books, doing big math problems at the dinner table, and tackling his responsibilities with increasing, um, responsibility.

last friday, he tested for his orange belt in karate! unlike his yellow belt test, this time he was the only yellow belt promoting, so when it was his turn to test, he got to stand up alone and do all of his forms. he was so crisp and professional! he practiced very diligently all that week, and had not only gained his second black tip but also his red tip (which signifies ready to promote) all in the same week. his head teacher had told him he could test for red tip, and when one of the other teachers was leading the class, quinn advocated for himself and let her know that he had permission to test for red tip, and his willingness to speak up, more than anything else, made me feel so proud. the student creed begins with the phrase, “to build true confidence…” and i think this is something karate really is helping quinn to develop.

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red tip!

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waiting to test

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belt promotion ceremony

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the new orange belt!

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joy bubbling up through his seriousness after the ceremony was complete!

“student creed: to build true confidence


through knowledge of the mind


honesty in the heart


and strength in the body


keep friendships with one another, and build a strong and happy community

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never fight to achieve selfish ends, but to build might for right.”

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yup. we live here. karate on the beach! throwing ninja stars in the sand.

here’s a little action movie, filmed from above-mentioned front porch love seat.


“universal set 1” by quinn

and since this post is so full of the non-sequitur, here is a random image of the 3 mugs we brought with us to the vacation house. one each. i am thinking that we might go with a “one each” theme in the kitchen at dragon house 2.0 and keep enjoying the simplicity of having just enough (beautiful) things (we really like) when we live there.

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i’m feeling so grateful for my family, the abundance all around us, the ability to live simply during this busy time, love, martial arts, trips to see family to look forward to, simple pleasures like sitting on the back porch with my love after dark, talking about real estate and looking at the north star, that make every day life like vacation. love is true north, and all the other details fall into place when i stay on that course.

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~


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red: back yard apples getting redder at the vacation house.

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orange: flora and fauna of the vacation house provide ample self care photography sessions.

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orange: presenting the newly promoted orange belt in the family!

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yellow: most of these yellow transparents have since been turned into applesauce after having their portraits done.

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yellow: back yard goldenrod

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green: squirrel eating the next to last yellow plum.

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blue: summer sky with roses

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blue: steller’s jay in back yard orchard

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purple: bolting leafy greens reveal a chicory relative

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black and white: bart and lisa, yin and yang, clockwise and counterclockwise, reminding us to find the balance between effort and surrender in life. sometimes you have to keep stuffing 152 pounds of peaches in a jar. other times you have to take a nap on a fuzzy blanket.

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

other posts you may enjoy:

~rainbow mondays~


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when black looks white: white light on asphalt, the road to the campsite.

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red: sun going down on camping trip.

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red: sun setting trees aglow.

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red: another chucks week at karate. karate kid needs a headband now to keep his hair out of his eyes.

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orange: going back in time, sun still a little higher in the sky.

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yellow: this pretty butterfly let me take so many pictures of it, it qualified for three of the colors this rainbow…

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yellow-green: wading in the creek.

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green: alders in afternoon sunlight.

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blue: just the vacation house being magical again.

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purple: i think this butterfly has seen some better days, as you can look closely and see the purple through some thin spots on its wings.

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purple: nightshade has always been a favorite of mine.

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

other posts you may enjoy: