~rainbow mondays~ winter’s threshold

rainbows abound! i think i must have accumulated an ideal level of foggy grime on my phone camera’s view finder, because it keeps manifesting this tricky rainbow effect lately.

i’ve also manifested the neurosis in my son of needing to have a picture of a thing; the above photo resulted from his disappointment that we didn’t get a shot of the sunrise before dropping him off at school. as i approached my work, sunrise was done, but the sky still looked pretty cool, so i snapped this for him.

rainbow veggies for thanksgiving, to offset all the meat and potatoes!

red: while we’re on the subject of thanksgiving color to accent the beige foods, 2018 will be remembered as the year i dumped fresh local raspberries into the cranberry sauce!

orange: fungus among us beneath a cedar of the dragon house.

yellow: the gentlest hue of winter afternoon sunlight

green: the wedding trees, a view of which i will never tire.

green: this little guy with his jade feathers all puffed up on a cold, bright day.

blue: sunny fall days prior to thanksgiving, motivating me to prepare pie crust and filling ahead of time. the sun electrified the blue chairs, overflowing the visual sense so you could almost hear their electrons hum.

blue: the magical edge, where air, water, and land caress, tickle, and tumble with one another, the sunshine superimposing the sky onto the wet sand, creating confusion about which element you’re beholding.

blue: and purple and green iridescent bubbles in the surf.

purple: or shall we say violet? my sweet husband pointed out these late season bloomers to me.

red violet: borrowing a quote from gratitude 2017:

“it is not coincidental that this little harbinger of joy is returning to my awareness today. while i have a tendency to let thoughts weigh me down, these tiny beings show me how they alight here and there, without all that heaviness. they change direction as often as needed; they remind me i always have a choice to redirect towards joy. they guard fiercely, but dance joyfully, and choose to drink in sweetness. they surround themselves in flowers, hovering amid beauty, embodying lightness of being.”

red violet: as always, i am grateful to these tiny birds for their ever-present reminder to look at life through my red violet heart-shaped lenses.

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

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

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ math goblins

we had an eventful weekend of pressing apple cider and playing with friends on saturday, and then attending a very exciting gender reveal party for quinn’s step-niece! he has been elected as future babysitter already for this new bundle of joy, coming to our family in march.

once he handed in his historical interview, his overall grade in social studies went from F to B, and it was a lovely piece!

he got to choose a book for blackout poetry in language arts, and he picked anne mccaffrey dragonsong. he is excited to create poetry in it, but also to now read anne mccaffrey. his friend l got him into a game concerning the warriors series about cats, so we were off to the library to collect some supplemental reading beyond the math textbook variety. (we ended up with the next rick riordan installment in the trials of apollo as well.)

this age is the odd juxtaposition of hearing him obsess about a crush on a girl, to waking him up in the morning and having him say to me, “you find a planet” and being requested to carry him while spinning (he was orbiting me?) and set him in his chair for breakfast. my completely oblivious to time/date son, knew the date of the first middle school dance. i knew i’d have to remind him to put his shirt on frontwards, but he was already committed to going. probably even with deoderant on. sheesh!

we had another parked car meltdown of a similar theme as last month; “pressure” and school sucks and everything is bad in middle school and “i just want my old life back.” it ended on a pep talk from me about how it’s really normal to feel like so much has changed and to want to go back to your old life, and feel overwhelmed a lot, and have a lot going on, as a brand new middle schooler. i reemphasized the “This Is Super Normal” part several different ways. at one point he was angry about the president. he was in tears over it, as though the angry apricot is somehow responsible for putting quinn through middle school. i tried to reel him back in to his immediate self and stop trying to take on unfortunate political officials, and he came around in the end. it is normal to not want to do your homework. and feeling pushed is normal. even if mama isn’t trying to push but just support. and i stated that and he agreed he feels i do support him and he does want me to remind him to do his homework. there was no actual problem i could put my finger on besides emotional overload, and once he got it out of his system he went and cheerfully did his last 5 problems (verbally while writing his answers… which helps him get it done faster).

 

on his last day with me of the two weeks, there was a day off from school, so quinn participated in a theatre workshop that was being offered (and had a great time performing in his group’s skit) and then he and i spent the remaining afternoon hours on the beach, something we haven’t been doing very regularly as of late. once again, my big huge middle schooler revealed the little person still inside, as he scampered around on hands and knees, re-enacting cat battle scenes from the warriors book he had just finished. then he buried my limbs in the sand.

after a week away, quinn came back to me on friday, the last day of his first 6-week term, and although he handed in a few things at the very last minute, there was only one assignment that was left incomplete. the assignment was an autobiographical “my name is” poem for language arts, but since that was worth 50 of his 250 points for the term, it meant the difference between a 94% A and a 81% B. he had 2 lines of the title typed into the google doc, after two full class periods of work time, so at least he’s using his class time efficiently. it was due thursday, and at that point, the teacher entered an F, and quinn despaired and didn’t communicate or finish (or really even start) the work.

 

until he got home to me. after a brief discussion, he stated he did want to try to finish it and hand it in, and we both suspected it may be accepted for a grade if it was done by midnight. i sat him down and filled him full of food, then encouraged him to do a verbal brainstorm of what he wanted to write. he jotted a few words on a list that he wanted to include, but what finally got him going were my outlandish examples of imagery and sensory details. after one descriptive phrase about slaying orcs in a tunnel of trees in a forest (vs. “i kill orcs”), he jotted down “tunnels” and in the end, he crafted his whole poem as a d and d adventure, taking along his band of merry elves/dwarves/rogues. (the teacher’s instructions for the poem were “Peel the onion…you have layers.  You have MULTITUDES. This can include your hopes, dreams, fears, talents, family, personality, history, future plans, and ideas. Use imagery.  Make me see and feel your poem.  Show me your life.  Show me who you are!”

he wrote (crew names changed to pseudonyms by mama):

Name: Quinn

Date: 10-17-18

Period: 2

 

My Name Is Quinn

My Favorite Color Is Green

My Favorite Animal Is An Owl

My name is Quinn

I am a dragonborn wizard

I have a pet owl

My crew of adventurers is strong

We have me

Aragorn the human fighter

Legolas the elf fighter

And Gimli the dwarf rogue

We walk in diamond formation

On a quest to find the ancient mithril drum set

We have a map to show us the way

To the treasure

A dragon will be guarding the other treasure

The mithril drumsticks

They are required to play the mithril drum set

I alone can read the map

It leads us through the forest of Everygreen inhabited by ninjas

The tunnels of Diamondrain inhabited by ninjas

And the Skytrayl of the high mountains inhabited by ninjas

We reach the dragon and it’s ninja minions

They are very powerful

But we defeat them

And gain the mithril drum sticks

We now possess limited but large power

After we find the mithril drum set we will have unlimited power

Our journey was difficult

But we return home with both treasures

The mithril drum sticks

Whose power is to play the mithril drum set

And the mithril drum set

Whose power when played remains unknown

Who knows

Maybe one day

All mithril instruments will have been found

 

he doesn’t know what happens when the mithril drum is played yet! it remains unknown! i told him it keeps it very mysterious and he agreed. it makes us all want to know, and sets up for sequels with these other mithril instruments! i loved his requirement for all of the place names (diamondrain!) to have unconventional spellings so google docs would red underline them. hence skytrail became skytrayl.

on saturday i worked farmer’s market, and left him pancakes and bacon for breakfast. and a couple of haikus (they wrote some in language arts, but apollo also begins each chapter with a haiku). he sent me one in response, via text:

my life as it should

be. nothing to do but what

i want. thank the gods.

when i got home on saturday, quinn and rich were watching monty python and the search for the holy grail, after quinn’s social studies teacher used clips of it to elucidate economics principles, and quinn came home quoting them, with a perfect accent.

in between resisting math homework, it was a weekend full of finding him on page 503 of his advanced algebra textbook, asking me for more logic puzzles, and asking me to play “guess the function” with him. i made up functions for him to guess, after he gave me an example because i didn’t know what he meant (or what fred meant). his example was:

dog 4

cat 4

human 2

fish 0

bird 2

the function is “number of legs.” i was making pancakes while he was asking me so i gave him:

pancakes 3

pizza 4

cookies 2

biscuits 1

playdough 1.5

the function was “number of cups of flour” and even though he knew it had something to do with ingredients, it took him a while to get it. it’s so clear to me that he digs math, and yet resists it so strongly when it is “forced” as he believes of the homework.

good old fred.

we went to a midsummer night’s dream because once quinn heard that his friend l was in it, he stated “we’re going.” his friend was one of the little goblin-minions of puck in the play, and had quite a few lines and some great action. she is in a lot of quinn’s classes, and has played magic with him. the play was great, lots of 80’s references and songs, quite a few kids with real roles, and a great balance of making you like shakespeare while also poking fun at shakespeare. (the funny rhyme stuff… with characters correcting each other on pronunciation followed by “but that doth not rhyme” and so on. also song lyrics changed by varying degrees, but always with “you” changed to “thou”. “every step thou take, every move thou make, i’ll be watching thou.” when we got home quinn asked, “so are there any plays coming up?” and i think his lapsed interest in participating in one at some point might be rekindling.

he wanted to go back to the green room to talk to his friend, and they gushed at each other with thanks for coming and what a great job she had done. rich asked if he got all the 80’s references in the play and he said um, no. none of them.

i rolled up strips of dinosaur kale into mobius strips that i held together with toothpicks… hoping to get him to eat raw kale. and he totally did! and called them mobiosaurs. then he took the toothpicks, stuck them between his fingers, and said “i’m freddy kruger.”

me: what?! how do you know that 80’s reference?

q: “everyone knows freddy kruger, it’s not from the 80’s.

(i told him to ask rich, who proceeded to read him the copyright dates for the entire nightmare on elm street series.)

he also made me chuckle with his use of the word “litotes” which i recall learning in maybe 9th grade enriched english. litotes means understatement; he likes to announce overstatement with “‘hyperbole” so when i said something that was an understatement and he said “litotes” i said, “what? how do you know that?” (i seem to say that a lot.) that one came from life of fred. more than just math in there.

he sat on my lap (painful torture and laugh therapy all in one) and we were covered with the blanket and lisa decided to sit on top of him on top of me for a few minutes one morning. he’s a confusing mix of big and little and clueless and know it all right now!!! knows exactly what pokemon he wants to dress up as for halloween (rowlet the owl) and exactly how many components of his costume to wear to the dance to be extra quull.

i mixed up cookie dough sunday night after dinner and stuck it in fridge, so i was baking the cookies monday morning while i made breakfast and packed lunches. when i woke him up, i told him pancakes for breakfast and a cookie for breakfast dessert. that got him out of bed on a monday morning.

after his pancakes, he chose a cookie, and i got out a plate for him to catch crumbs. i came walking back into the kitchen and he was at the sink running the water, and i witnessed him wash his plate without being asked! then when he put it in the drainer, a jar lid fell into the sink, and he rinsed it and put it back in the drainer! when he turned around i made a super big deal hugging him and fake-sobbing about what a wonderful thing i had witnessed.

while sitting in a boring monday morning meeting, i jotted ideas on a sticky note (i have no idea where quinn gets his distractedness!) about how to make math homework more playful and less torturous. i decided to try making it into something of a d and d game…

  1. he has to roll the d12 to see how many goblins are attacking.
  2. for each problem he completes, he gets one chance to attack them, and
  3. if he completes the problem in under 3 minutes they don’t get to attack back (surprise bonus).

i had already tried giving him one of the egg timers from a game, to show him time passing while he did math problems, and it was just a distraction, something to fidget with. i had tried using a stop watch while he did problems and giving him his lap times as he finished a problem, which only seemed to make things more stressful, and made them take longer. i have had 4011 versions of the logic of time management conversation with him. if quinn had 35 math problems to do and each problem takes him 1 minute, how long does his homework take? what if he takes 10 minutes per problem? etc. the resistance is strong. i was hoping to use the game idea to bring him more awareness of time passing…. or connect it to his reality in a way he could actually embrace.

the game worked like a dream. he slayed all the goblins for days. he wanted to add features to make the game both more fun and more mathy, such as renaming it integers and irrationals. he built a table of goodness knows what, and all i know is it involves pi, tau, and wau, and other irrational numbers!

he was excited when he saw my rules sheet (complete with pi rats/midsummer nights dream slant rhyme/vi hart dragon dungeons proprietary mama inside joke blend) and then spent 10 minutes creating his grid of wonder. something about upgrading from level 1 to wau?

i eventually just said ok, time to roll for your goblins!

he did most of the problems in under a minute.  some were done in 15-20 seconds. we adapted rules as he played, such as allowing 2 attacks for problems completed in under a minute. he has added different enemies and when he had a problem or two left in a section but had already defeated the enemies, out of nowhere a couple of pesky twig blights would swoop in and attack. a clever mama always keeps a couple of twig blights up her sleeve.

of course it worked; he is the kid who couldn’t get in the car; but he could get in the batmobile.

i told him he could do this for his homework any time he wanted; with any work he “has to” do. there is usually a way to make it fun. there are always choices.

i guess that goes for parenting as well. thankful to be remembering these lessons a mere 6 weeks into middle school.

there is almost nothing easy about the steep learning curve of embarking on a middle school journey. except for, in quinn’s case, probably figuring out the slope-intercept equation for said curve.

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ middle school debut

~august 23 – setpember 23, 2018~

i picked quinn up from his dad’s, and received the tour of his self-built kayak, including the original concept drawing, the official plan drawings of the eleven, and the 11-foot-long boat itself! quinn explained the parts he did himself, including drawing the centerline, and then taking measurements off of centerline from the plans and inscribing them onto the plywood. he showed me his favorite power tool, the screw guns, and performed a paddling demonstration. by the end of the first week of school, they had it finished, painted, and varnished, and had launched it for a maiden voyage in beaver creek.

  

 during our final week of summer vacation together, quinn and i attended family boating for the final two sessions of the season. we had the family of aragorn over for pizza and trampoline fun. quinn also ran one unofficial cross country practice, culminating in the 3 kids who ran tossing blackberries into each others’ mouths. i walked up to the middle school with quinn to get his schedule sorted out, but also to practice walking up, making sure he knew where to go and helping him feel confident it wasn’t too long of a walk.

quinn’s first day of middle school arrived! i delivered his laptop to him, hugged him and wished him luck, and snapped a photo of him distracted by the spider web behind him on the bush. “spider math!” he sang, and marched up the hill to sixth grade.

right after practice on friday there was excited/happy talk about school, schedule, classes, lockers, friends. after cross country we headed to the karate party centered around dessert and jump tag. quinn took me step by step through his day: he has first period spanish, second period language arts, third period math, fourth period band, then lunch/recess/homeroom, fifth period social studies, sixth period p.e., and seventh period science. he has been eating lunch with the fellowship.

everything he said was upbeat. he got his locker combo down by day 2, is getting to classes on time, and knows what to drop off and pick up and when. he likes every single one of his teachers, his language arts teacher being his favorite.

lots of games of jump tag and several cookies later…. he had a fairly extreme meltdown as soon as i parked in our driveway. the floodgates opened and he had a lot to say, and a lot of emotion to emote. we sat in the car for maybe 45 minutes while he poured it all out.

a predominant theme was that he was lied to, he was told his friends would be in classes with him. he only has legolas In one class, p.e., and zero classes with either gimli or aragorn. middle school is basically the worst place he has ever seen. there is almost no time for lunch, and even less time for recess, because all you have is the time leftover after you eat. he only has aragorn with him for cross country after school, and that isn’t even very fun. he feels like he is slow and the last one to finish every time, and hates when they clap for him coming in last and would prefer no attention at all. he doesn’t want to do activities where he isn’t going to be pretty good at them by maybe the 3rd or 4th practice. he feels like maybe he has signed up for more than he can handle. he needs at least a one month break from everything, and especially from middle school, which he would actually like to just drop out of completely.

i tried not to problem solve any further or argue any of his points right then, but instead told him it seemed really normal to be quite overwhelmed after his very first week of taking on so much new stuff. middle school and cross country basically in one week. a new school building, 7 teachers instead of 1, 7 different classrooms instead of 1, figuring out a locker combination, being in an upper level math class with a teacher giving lectures about how she won’t slow down for them. (never mind that he doesn’t need her to: the class is pre-algebra, 3 textbooks of which quinn read to himself this summer. he began reading the first algebra text in the life of fred series at the time he started middle school, because by golly he is in a hurry to get to geometry. the boy can solve for x. there is no issue over content or pace.)

he calmed down a lot after he got to vent all of it, agreed not to try to tackle it all in one sitting, and agreed he wanted to keep trying. it was time for a bath and bed. once he was in bed, he talked to me more, and was back to happy and positive. he has a crush on a girl, and he was happy about having a couple classes in common with her.

“can i ask you some advice? i mean, you were once a girl. now you’re a woman but… what i’m wondering is how do i even approach her?”

he’s absolutely right, i was once a girl. i told him not to put any pressure on himself in this area of his life. i said girls are just like boys and all they want in a friend is to know someone cares and is listening. you pay attention to things she says until a natural common interest comes up, then you strike up a conversation with her about that topic, with good reciprocity. i said it’s realistically going to look pretty much like a friendship at this stage/age in his life, so not to worry too much about gf/bf stuff right now. i also told him about a friend of ours refusing to date his good friend freshman year, because (even though they are of an age to realistically go on a date) he didn’t want to damage their friendship by dating, and then maybe breaking up and not even being friends anymore, as he had seen other friends do.

he also asked me at one point whether i would be volunteering in his class? “there is a science class, you know.” so he still wants me around.

quinn interviewed grammy and grampy and made an outline to remember what he wants to write for the historical interview assignment. (watching astronauts hit golfballs on the moon!)

paring pears

i was distressed about leaving town for 2 weeks having only had 5 days of his first month of middle school to cram in all the logistical skills (which browser to use to get connected to school wifi?) and coping skills as he makes this enormous transition. he had a sleepover with aragorn the day we left for oklahoma, and ran in his first cross country race while we were gone. i received photos from camp boss/stand-in mom (there’s a reason why she’s my emergency contact) of both his start and a strong finish! he was pleased to not be last, though we’ve talked about it not being about rank/placement, but about your own process of improving and strengthening, challenging yourself to complete a race and accomplish inner goals.

during our drive home from oklahoma, there was a text marathon between quinn and i, mainly concerning the procedure for charging his computer. apparently, he wasn’t as competent on that as i thought, so i walked him through finding the charger, plugging it in, and waiting an hour for it to be ready to try to turn on since no one had charged it in the ten days since i had last done so. while he waited the hour, we played emoji chess. i had a sinking feeling about what i would find when i got him home.

after the two weeks at his dad’s, quinn brought home zero materials and a completely drained computer, having quit the cross country team. he had an F in math and a slew of missing assignments. i only found that out the day before he came back to me, when i hacked into the school’s gradebook interface. the school has yet to mail out the log in info to parents of new sixth graders as of december, but i found my id number on school registration papers, and i did an end-run around by claiming i forgot my (never issued) password, and miraculously, i was emailed a link to reset. so i did. and then i promptly went to visit his math teacher, who reaffirmed his belonging in this level, and was very open to hearing what strategies i felt would help her help him.

he got to decompress for a little while, then started at square one on the math homework on friday night. sometimes he was in good spirits, other times were more angst-filled. he finished block 1 sunday afternoon, and he got started on block 2. we went over some of the questions he had been psyched out about (“i can’t multiply decimals”) until he was comfortable. both rich and i reminded him of how “i can’t read! i’m never going to read! reading is impossible!” turned out for him in the end. once he regained confidence, he started blurting out non-obvious answers left and right.

“Ivan has a board that is 5/8 yard long. He plans to cut the board into smaller boards that are each 5/32 yard long. How many boards will he be able to cut?”

almost instantaneously quinn said, “he gets 4 boards.” then it took him around 10 minutes to write out the problem and show the work to solve it. we discussed strategies for types of problems, like identifying the operation to perform based on key words in the word problem. none of this is new, but he hasn’t needed to think much about it yet. his learning style is such that he goes straight to the 100th story, then has to build the 99 floors underneath his levitating self. another strategy that seemed helpful was verbally articulating the steps to someone else who doesn’t automatically come up with answers like he does… how would you say this to a kid if you were their teacher? i think he likes to fancy himself in the teaching role, so that perked him up in between bouts of grumbling.

then i found him reading his life of fred algebra textbook in his bed tent. (an excerpt below in case anyone is curious about fred.)

he came to the kitchen later in the evening and asked, “do you know carl gauss?”

“um… well i think he died about 2 centuries ago but i know who you mean….”

“well, he was a problem for his teacher because he was bored, and the teacher sent him to the corner to add 1 through 100 including 1 and 100. the teacher came back later and gauss was just sitting there, not doing anything and the teacher accused him of not working on it but he said, ‘i’m done, it’s 5050.’ and the teacher went to the board and began doing the equation and it took a long, long time and sure enough, it was 5050 but he didn’t realize the way gauss did it was to add 1 and 100, 2 and 99, 3 and 98 (all = 101) and quickly realized that would happen 50 times, and therefore multiplied 101 times 50 to get 5050. and that was how he did it so fast. he was such a funny guy, carl gauss.”

special thanks to vi hart for telling him that story. also, why are we fighting about you being able to do math homework, son????

also from vi this month, quinn became obsessed with scutoids, the latest and greatest new geometric shape. vi’s video introduction to scutoids was as engaging as ever, and complete with a paper pattern to download so you could build your own pair of scutoids. he got out his sharpies and tape and set to work. the video featured pomegranates, and the way their seeds grow in the shapes that they do, and the fact that indeed, some of them grow into scutoid shapes, to fill the space as efficiently as possible. some of the seeds may be underdeveloped, so some of their neighbors may have 5 instead of 6 sides, to accommodate the spacing, whereas in other sections, 6 sided arrangements may pack together nicely. vi mentioned wanting to learn more about the way the scaffolding inside the pomegranates develops, and how the decision process for seeds becoming who they are works. i couldn’t help but see a metaphor in the intricacies of development and scaffolding and how they become ever more fascinating, the deeper you look.

that saturday i had farmer’s market, and left him a jellybean fraction multiplying problem and had him do a few problems before we went to the farmer’s market crew party where he had a lot of fun playing with magnatiles. he wanted me to play d and d with him during his “breaks” between doing homework all weekend, and sunday as he was waiting for me to play he sat contemplating his 20 sided dice, and realized “i know how many sides our magnatile creation had on it now!” because his 20 sided dice was the same, made of triangular faces that come together in sets of 5.

we also took a bayou walk and played his version of outdoor pokemon. we walked around and he told me what pokemon i could find and catch. we saw some actual wildlife so it made it more fun to say what pokemon they represented; i caught an ekans (snake) a kabuto (we saw a spider; kabuto is a fossil of some kind but he said it looked the closest to him) a poliwag (frog), a pidgeotto (hawk) and a caterpie (dragonfly).

that weekend also included me finding an egg (which hatched a triceratops).

i ask him if i can peruse his binder, and he says yes. some of his “just write” entries for language arts:

monday morning i had him write himself a post-it note listing what he needed to do that day: hand in math homework, schedule test retake, bring home music books and binder/planner. also, text mama if retaking the test after school that day. having him come up with the things needing to be on the list was pulling teeth, but he got there eventually.

he is going to work on keeping his planner filled in (the two weeks were pretty sparse), and told me of difficulties with that in some of the classes, for which we discussed solutions. he also had missing assignments from spanish and social studies, including his historical interview write-up.

that day of the sticky note, he completed every step of the to-do list, up to and including send me the text! we have been working on establishing some two-way communication via phone, so this was a win. when i picked him up after his retake, he was all smiles. carrying his binder, he hopped in and said his day was, “great!” i asked whether he felt that he and his math teacher had turned over a new leaf together and he said, “well, it’s more like it’s the same leaf, but less brown. it’s kind of light green now.”

he told me he went in after school and “she gave me a brand new test and i just did it all!” and i asked if he felt confident he knew how to do all the problems and he said, “yeah, it was like almost all fractions.”

um, yes my young genius, i know that, i just spent the entire weekend making you do the homework on all the things to do with fractions. he is such a wonder. later while taking a bath, he refused to close his book because, “i’m right in the middle of fred solving some fractions!” totally a reason to let your bath water get cold.

he felt great about it all, told me how he got his whole planner filled in with no problem, and immediately opened up the seaweed snacks i had bought while at the grocery store and devoured the whole package. we made sweet tangerine positive energy tea and he ate 2 more boxes of seaweed snacks. i figured he’d finally get over his cold.

we drank our tea and played d&d. he is taking me through an adventure (celvin, a dwarf wizard and starlefea, an elf cleric are the characters he is having me play) and i get to listen to him say lots of pretty phrases, “he regained his feet…” and pretty words “burnished, escarpment, cistern” etc. some of it is by the script from the book, but it’s a lot to keep organized (sort of choose-your-own-adventure on steroids) and yet he weaves it all into a story with appropriate inflection, and enough specific details to verbally orient you in the dungeon physical space and tell you how many doors go off in which directions and what your options are… he’s fun.

sometime during the evening, i logged onto the grade book and sure enough, his math teacher had already updated his grade. 37% F went to 88% B, quite literally overnight.

middle school operates on 6 week grading periods to give the kids a chance to get the hang of it all. he is not the only one to ever struggle with this transition. in order to minimize stress, there is some flexibility with retakes and grace periods with due dates. and also, a chance to start fresh if all else fails.

i feel it is important for team quinn not to encourage or feed into the negativity that he can sometimes default to, like any of us, when he is hungry/tired/thirsty/overwhelmed. he does not need help developing negative storylines he can latch onto… such as “he feels like he is being treated like an object and expected to perform.” “he feels pressured” was mentioned so many times with respect to cross country and math, and i believe he was encouraged in feeling that way and jumping to an extreme “solution” of quitting to alleviate it, rather than allowed to endure a small amount of positive encouragement to persevere aka “pressure”. i think quinn needs guidance from people who care, who know his goals and have his happiness in mind and his well-being as our most important priority. i am visualizing being a container for quinn to help keep his river in the proper channel and help it keep from spilling out over the banks or getting all dammed up. it’s a balance of not being too rigid, flexing enough so he cannot be bent out of his own shape by the “pressure”, but firm enough to keep him from spilling out and abandoning his own path.

another day when i picked him up, he was in a bad mood. “i know more about science than my science teacher. and i have lunch detention tomorrow.”

a kid in the lunch line said that day’s lunch detention was canceled and would be happening wednesday instead, and that quinn was also in it. and quinn believed the boy. i explained that only a teacher can tell you if you have lunch detention,  not another student (it took a while to establish that no teacher told him he had done anything wrong, nor had he had 3 tardies or whatever else you can get detention for… and knew of nothing he had done to earn a detention) and i said i thought the kid was messing with him. “ohhh.”

quinn disagreed with things his science teacher said about the water cycle, and he refused to fill in the worksheet because he wouldn’t write things he didn’t believe to be true, and he would get an F if he didn’t, so it was all bad. i talked to him about focusing on what he did believe of the article, or writing “according to the article” and giving the answer the teacher wants, even if according to you it’s a little off. (the article was not inaccurate but was oversimplified, and quinn is very strict about abiding by the laws of physics and logic… he just doesn’t apply it in every situation, such as when a kid tells him he has lunch detention.)

he listened to some sparkle stories to unwind, had hot dogs, cauliflower, kefir and bbq potato chips for snack (hangry much?) and did a few math problems before karate. when we got to karate i went on the back mat with him to try to help remind him of techniques he was fuzzy on from being away for 2 weeks, and he wouldn’t do it, and said, “it’s just… the math. you’re not listening to me. i can’t do it, i shouldn’t be in the class, i should be in the other class…” all over again. we argued about that for a bit, then he joined his class as it was starting.

stalling and complaining notwithstanding, he had no trouble with the second homework on integers and finally ended up blazing through the last page of it and going to bed to read… math. specifically, the quadratic equation. he didn’t need to “study” or do the even problems this round, as there was nothing he “didn’t know” how to do on this whole assignment. at one point i made up a harder problem to enable him to articulate the steps to “someone” because he couldn’t explain how to add -6 +2 other than saying “‘you add 2 to negative six” so i gave him -1694 +252 and then he could say, “subtract the smaller number from the bigger number and assign it a negative sign because the bigger number is negative” because then there was actually enough to justify an explanation. again, he was saying the answer immediately as he got done reading the questions… and then had to write out the “work”.

the math class was still being debated. it is hard for him to hear from me that the other class isn’t the answer to his woes, that it would require just as much busy work on his part, (it’s still a middle school class), but it would be on topics he already knows and would get bored with.

“buddy, do you want to spend a whole year getting to this topic you’ve already mastered??? you’re ready for the pythagorean theorem.”

“i already know the pythagorean theorem,” quoth he.

gah!

i asked him to trust me that i know something about what goes on in middle school classes, and what the options are, and why he was placed this way; to trust mrs j from last year, trust mrs z (current teacher), because all of us are saying you belong in this class right now.

i tried to give him perspective that it would soon feel less overwhelming, since he had just done the first month of math homework in 4 days. i gave him kudos for working hard to get caught up, but also the assurance that doing one assignment every 10 days or so will feel a lot more doable.

when i asked him about his unit 2 math test after school, he told me he probably got a perfect score. he hadn’t seen his grade yet but she had told them it would be on the gradebook already so we could look it up. 100% on the test, 100% on the homework, and now a solid A at 94% overall. he grinned when i showed him. i said, “are you convinced you’re in the right math class yet?” and he said, “you know i am.” i took that as acknowledgement that i had believed in him even when he doubted. i am hoping we can put the “i need an easier class” argument to rest now for good.

rich teased him later, “i hear you’re going to change math class after all… to college math.” it was one of those moments where quinn was confused briefly (“you like spicy food, right?”), then caught on. still the same boy. he took his bath then put on his hexaflexagon shirt backwards. i found him still wearing his glasses in the morning when i went to wake him for an all-day outdoor school field trip on the beach. he had stayed up late and finished his algebra textbook by firefly jar light.

archive update ~ quinn age 3 ~ haul away on the one unbroken line

over time, i have filled in gaps in my blog, and the final frontier that has been awaiting its day is the time between quinn’s third and fourth birthdays. i established the blog just after he turned 3, but was not posting thorough updates again until just before he turned 4, when i posted the first ~a month of unschool~ post, which technically covers “quinn’s forty-seventh month.”

in the spirit of honoring my story and attending to its integrity as one unbroken line, i have recently revisited that time period in my off-blog archives in an attempt to weave a splice joining the two dangling ends of the line. whereas the age 1 and 2 update posts filled themselves in relatively easily via mostly unedited text grabbed from emails to lau and piles of toddler photos, turning 3 was a time that i could just tell i needed to spend some more time and energy unpacking. i was attempting to define some independence for myself, and my parenting journey was particularly dramatic around that time. turbulence on many levels may be what has kept me from grappling with this chunk of my storyline up until now, but i have been rewarded for summoning the courage. the twinkling sapphires i am unearthing from the larger pockets of darker stuff reveal more wealth than i remembered. i am allowing myself to savor the quickly typed emails and simmer them down into their essence this time around (read: i tried to bridle the verbosity). i allowed myself to write from both perspectives, to acknowledge the time and distance from which i am gazing upon the artifacts, but allowing them to glimmer for themselves as well.

i back-dated each individual post, so they are less likely to turn up in your current blog reader feeds or emails (though if you did catch them, let me know through what venue? i’m curious…). here is a compilation of links to those ten posts comprising the splice in the line, one snapshot and text excerpt per post to hint at what you’ll find there. in case anyone is up for another blog binge-fest!

i feel a deep sigh of relief, gratitude and contentment to have this gap filled.

quinn’s thirty-seventh month (february 23, 2010-march 23, 2010) into the heathers of the waters

“three was a time of still needing to figuratively crawl back inside the womb and reconnect with mama regularly, interspersed with bouts of shoving off the mama dock and paddling the canoe of his person purposefully away with equally great frequency and intensity.”

quinn’s thirty-eighth month (march 23, 2010-april 23, 2010) long, long ago, in the great days of the grass sidewalks

“during that trip, quinn just kept walking and walking, an impressive distance for such a small hiker. he was filled to the brim with enthusiasm, fueled by easter eggs and the promise of treasures along every stretch of sand. on one of our beach hikes he told me, ‘those two seagulls are having a bath! i’m amazed by it!'”

quinn’s thirty-ninth month (april 23, 2010-may 23, 2010) melody, harmony, rhythm

on mother’s day, we cuddled in bed, then after a lazy bagel and granola breakfast we played a game of soccer-on-the-stairs, risking life and limb to toss the ball up and down, quinn at the top, me at the bottom. he would laugh hysterically every time the ball made it past him and hit the washing machine, making a gong sound. an audio recording of his laugh reverberates across the years that have elapsed, reminding me in one more sensory modality of just how much he has grown. his voice plays a deeper music now, and is on the very cusp of plummeting yet another octave, accompanied by the background refrain of time whooshing past.”

quinn’s fortieth month (may 23, 2010-june 23, 2010) rebirth

“the recollections from this month that don’t read like a report on our saturdays at the farmer’s market, read instead like a menu of the food i prepared from our first csa boxes, our garden, and the wild.”

quinn’s forty-first month (june 23, 2010-july 23, 2010) now i’m free!

“this was the month i was establishing this blog, this glass bowl into which i began attempting to place some small portion of the petals as they fell, realizing even then that this, too, is all going to pass away, but knowing that it will always be worthwhile to cup a petal in one’s hand and contemplate it for a time.”

quinn’s forty-second month (july 23, 2010-august 23, 2010) blackberry blueberry peaches

“pancakes from scratch, sweetened with honey and applesauce. (another beginning whose future  importance i can now see vividly through the wide-angle lens of time, from this point onward, not only did pancakes earn the favorite breakfast title and become a staple in his diet, but other loved ones have been folded into our lives to whom we refer as pancakes, based on our sunday pancake tradition and their sweetness.)”

quinn’s forty-third month (august 23, 2010-september 23, 2010) untamed wildness

“i would find ropes and strings secured to all manner of objects throughout the house. in one image a string was tied to the step stool, with one of his toy boats tied to the other end. as much as i celebrated him becoming himself, i hoped he would remain this tightly secured to me as he grew.”

quinn’s forty-fourth month (september 23, 2010-october 23, 2010) storm season

“storm clouds were gathering in the mama realm as well. the mountain of my ideals promised of a rain shadow, but i was still climbing up the other side where the moisture piled up, sliding back down in each deluge, unable to bridge the disconnect between what i believed i ought to do, and what i was actually doing.”

quinn’s forty-fifth month (october 23, 2010-november 23, 2010) hard-won

“dried plant skeletons withered in the fog of the autumn marsh. blackberry vines had turned a deep merlot, surrounded by brown of every shade. there was still so much green, only now with ecru lace (dried angelica) and beaded silk (spiderwebs collecting droplets of fog) woven throughout. the change of season kept me mindful that all things pass, and that winter storms would come and scour the landscape, scrubbing it bare and making space for new growth come spring.”

quinn’s forty-sixth month (november 23, 2010-december 23, 2010) stirring the pensieve

“by this magical age of three, many of the most quinn-ish aspects of quinn-ness had emerged and i was starting to observe and take notice of them. the blog has been a bit like dumbledore’s pensieve in which i have been able to store memories, and at various times revisit them, swirl them around, and discover connections among the memories and the present days’ events, coming to understand both more fully. i find it incredibly fitting that the memories in the pensieve seem very much alive, as though pulsating with bioluminescence.”

~~~

best served with tea and small oranges!

 

~thankful thursday~ in which we sing the last verse

11/23/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

today i am grateful for a full day to relax and cook only with my microwave.

 

11/24/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

i am grateful for color; the rainbow veggies of market, the orange and yellow leaves of the vine maples, the red violet of my strawberry-beet smoothie and my rose elixir. i’m a rainbow person, but red violet-colored lenses help me see the world with an attitude of gratitude.

 

11/25/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

today i’m thankful for animals, who remind me that it is important to play.

 

11/26/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

last night after a wonderful spontaneous mid-day date of doing nothing, which turned out to be some of the very best something, watching seals and whales play in the ocean surf, rich and i watched christopher robin. i was reminded how grateful i am for winnie the pooh. i loved pooh as a kid, and i remember re-reading pooh when i was a teenager and realizing there was more substance layered in those stories than i had realized. which paled in comparison to how i felt when i started reading the same book to my two-year-old, who gobbled up chapter after chapter. when he had reached the limit of his attention span, he would shift into incorporating pooh stories into every aspect of his imaginitive play. we played pooh sticks whenever we found a nice bridge over a stream, we hauled piglet up to the letter box, we found a new house for owl, we pounded eeyore’s tail back on, we hunted for heffalumps and woozles. the hundred acre wood took up a good percentage of his internal landscape from an early age. i of course had tears rolling down my cheeks over the movie last night, not necessarily sad ones, but the ones that have everything to do with the inevitability of little boys growing up.

 

11/27/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

i am grateful for all of the twinkly lights bringing light into the lengthening darkness.

 

11/28/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

today’s facebook memory was an all-photo post about dolphins from gratitude 2016. it reminded me of my gratitude for their existence in this world, and how they’ve been a symbolic guide for me this year. i chose the word “streamline” for 2018, and of course, there is no better mascot.

i wrote about this on my 40th birthday, as the days were lengthening rather than the nights, and as the first trilliums were blooming, rather than the last blossoms drooping.

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

this was only part of what i wrote, but i’m focusing on this excerpt because out of all the ways i intended to use this year to streamline, the part about getting out of our storage unit and finally getting all the way moved into our house was not the part i achieved. however, i think i’ve improved on the part about presenting less resistance to the flow. so i’m grateful to my spirit friends who’ve helped inspire me in that area this year.

11/29/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

it’s penultimate post day! it really flew by this year, it doesn’t seem possible that november is already coming to an end. it seems like i’ve only just begun to notate the things for which i’ve felt grateful recently. some of the ones i may not yet have mentioned:

i am grateful for saving 13% on my groceries today because my fairy mother-outlaw snuck a handy coupon onto  my passenger’s seat. best outlaw mother in all the land.

i am grateful to feel like a real adult, depositing my little supplemental income paychecks from my farm job into my son’s savings account. i think the two dudes doing their banking were slightly jealous that he has almost earned enough scottie saver bucks to get the light sabre!

i’m grateful my husband is always burning holes in his clothing so my sewing machine motors don’t seize up due to lack of use. mending isn’t my favorite sewing to do, but for that smoking hot guy i’ll gladly zigzag his clothes back together. i am also grateful to have learned a useful skill set such as sewing from a panel of very talented women while i was growing up.

i’m grateful when the sparks only burn the clothing layers, not the man. (he barely notices, but still.)

i’m grateful for kitties! and wood stove fires!

okay, maybe i’ve mentioned some of these before, but are you sure it was this year?

finally, i’m grateful my son comes home to me tomorrow. i’ll give you three guesses what we’ll be having for dinner on gratitude day 30!

11/30/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

gratitude is powerful stuff. three years of doing this have taught me that gratitude is a self-perpetuating spiral; i keep being pleasantly surprised how many times the words just flowed, because the feelings were so easy to access, because… practice. you get to where you’re just so darn grateful for gratitude.

but now it’s time to sing the last verse of the song for this year. the part of the song where it all comes together metaphorically and the sound waves ripple through the air to touch your heart, and though it has the same melody as before, there are several strains of harmony woven in now, and when you get to the chorus, you reach down to your toes to send the last few notes up a third or a fifth or an octave. you take it higher, you take it on home. you know, that part of the song.

(30 days isn’t long enough if i haven’t been grateful for music yet! good thing we’re squeezing it in before the finale.)

this is where i stall briefly in writing today’s gratitude, because PRESSURE! because finishing a song is something to take seriously and anyone with a perfectionist side can find this to be an obstacle. i believe i finished day 30 sometime in january last year, but i promised myself i’d end on time this year.

so i have been thinking about it for days, and i can’t think of a better way to close the circle on this 30 days than by coming back to where we started, with a certain navigational aid called Buoy. Buoy was stationed in one spot in the sea, but sometimes when he was ready for a nap, he would travel in his mind down the long chain that anchored him all the way down to the sea floor… each color of the rainbow would fade away as he dove deeper, until only those creatures who could create their own light dwelled…

“then down the chain. to the seabed. and there, rooted in the depth of the Sea, Buoy felt a humming. a hum that seemed to come from deeper than the Sea. it reminded him somehow of the song of the Whales. but he did not hear this song. he felt it. it seemed to be a part of who he was. he did not understand that it was he who was a part of the song.”

thanks for singing along, friends.

~thankful thursday~ it’s working

11/16/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

“time is but the stream i go a-fishing in. i drink at it; but while i drink i see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” ~henry david thoreau

not that long ago, i was reading buoy to a three-year old who was obsessed with boats; he built himself a kayak this summer, and in just over a year he plans on riding a gondola down the watery streets of venice. he went through a phase of night waking when he was 2, and we would sometimes bake muffins at 2am; now he is signed up to learn how to bake italian cookies, in rome. i am grateful for the opportunities my boy has laid out before him. i got myself a passport when i was 19, and some of the most important lessons i’ve learned were from traveling. i have not been to europe yet myself, but plan to get there one day. in the meantime, i’m grateful my kid will need a passport before he is 19.

11/17/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

it should be mentioned as frequently as nachos, if not more, that i am grateful for my bathtub.

 

11/18/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

i’m grateful for the man who sleeps by my side. i believed i was crushing the bones of his hand last night to get myself through the migraine pain until the ibuprofin started to take effect. when i thanked him this morning he assured me i hadn’t been squeezing his hand very hard. i’m also quite grateful for sunday, my one day a week to sleep in, and for waking up without pain to a sunny morning of hummingbirds, pumpkin pancakes, and coffee.

 

11/19/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

i am thankful to be back in a little groove with writing. words have such power to divide or unite, to destroy or to heal. i will not claim my own words have the power to do any of those for anyone else, but i do know that writing is healing for me. it takes some nerve to put original thoughts into a post, at least it does for me. so often, i hear voices advising against it… in my head, of course. who am i to post about migraine pain when others are in so much worse pain? who am i to post about my son when others have lost children or been unable to have them? or my parents, when friends have lost theirs? who am i to post about my loving husband when so many are lonely tonight? who am i to post about the comforts of home when so many homes have burned? it’s enough to shut a person right up, and friends, that is the story with me for 11 months out of the year on this here social media platform. so i pray that my november spree of words have not offended anyone out of lack of consideration or ignorance of your experience, or in my excitement or earnestness about mine. i am grateful for all the kindness sent my way through sweet comments. and i am grateful that what i set out to do with the written word, my selfish goal of healing my own soul, is working.

11/20/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

today i am grateful for my mom and dad. 20 is their day, and in a month they will celebrate 43 years of marriage. some marriages are long, and some marriages are great, but it seems to me that only a lucky few marriages get to be both long and great. theirs is one of those.

11/21/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

i am feeling grateful for the words chosen by several friends and family members concerning my day 19 post. it felt really nice to know that other people understand the struggle, and that they would not want me to silence my voice.

11/22/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

when i was transitioning my son this afternoon to his dad’s for thanksgiving (as a two-household kid, he has even years with dad, odd years with mama), a rainbow appeared in the sky. i recalled one of last year’s gratitude posts about transitions, and the magic around the edges of things, including the edges where sunlight and rain meet. today’s rainbow was so vibrant (and its double shimmered in and out of view) that i took a different route home and pulled over a few times to take a cell phone photo. it outlasted the average rainbow, accompanying me all the way home to where my husband of exactly one year and four months (today is our dorkaversary) was standing in the driveway with my real camera, having just witnessed the same rainbow, and having been attempting to capture it for me. since i have been dating him for 6 years and 11 months, i think it’s okay if i repeat a gratitude, on this day of gratitude, during a month of gratitude feedback loops creating waves of even more gratitude simply because i’m looking for it consciously. so today i am grateful for rich, my rainbow love.

happy thanksgiving!!!

~thankful thursday~ snails, whales, puppy dog tails

11/8/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

there is the usual ebb and flow of the gratitude juice, modulated by snags in the fabric of my experience that focus my gaze inwards, and then disasters both natural and unnatural that draw my gaze back outward again. each time the latter occurs, the gratitude surges forth, for all that i have, the health and safety of my loved ones, the ease of my ordinary life. today i feel gratitude for opportunities to be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud, or the buoy on someone’s horizon, in keeping with my theme. and i feel so grateful, in turn, for the buoys who shine their light to me, out on my own horizon, the friends who shine by reaching out and loaning me their ruby dog, the friends who shine at me across  cyberspace and cheer me on, the friends who shine from down the road to make a plan to get together. i wish to use my own light to reach someone else’s gaze from out on their horizon in those same ways.

i’m also grateful for clear nights filled with starlight, and for the miracle of star names that are still lodged in my memory.

11/9/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

today i am grateful for date night on the bay front, for wood stove fires built by the husband i’m dating, for his sweet gestures like starting my car to defrost on a chilly morning, for the way he makes me laugh over his “gratitude” that he did not having to read yet another really long post on day 7 (the night off). i am grateful for him always taking the time to read what i write, and for knowing it means pretty much everything to me (and that he checks this and every other box on a wish list i made 8 years ago). i am grateful for how good he smells and how diligently he sweeps and vacuums me off my feet. i am grateful for his amazing popcorn and the lessons he teaches my son and the way he snuggles the kitties so well that they run to the door to greet him. i am just so darned grateful for every second i get to spend with him!

 

11/10/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

grateful for rainbow food for the eyes, soul, and body.

 

11/11/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

i am grateful for the way my fairy dog pulled me outside and down the trail this morning while the sun was streaming through the trees and the frost was just starting to melt. i’m thankful for the reminder to sniff out paths i might not have gone down in a while, to remember to wander and stop and appreciate. while standing and pondering and letting her sniff, i decided to picture a fairy dog in my mind, tiny enough to wander down the paths of my neural circuitry, but powerful enough to pull me out of well-worn grooves that may not serve me, and into lusher, if more challenging, terrain. i’m thankful that there are always new ways to look, and for getting to see rainbows in the frost.

 

11/12/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

i am grateful that today i got to see some whales.

“’i see them!’ cried Buoy.

closer they came. moving the water with their magnificence. the sweep of their great flukes a metronome to their song.

when they were finally very close, Buoy spoke.

‘hello, Whales!’ he called.

‘hello, Buoy,’ said one.

‘who do you sing to?’ asked Buoy.

‘we sing to the Stars,’ said the Whale.

‘why?’

‘to let them know that we are here, and that we are watching still.’”

~ excerpt from buoy, by bruce balan

11/13/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

this kid. the greatest teacher of my life. would rather be reading his self-chosen geometry textbook than doing his algebra homework. would rather be building a new magic deck than playing a sport. demolishes seaweed snacks in 30 seconds. huge feet attached to lanky legs. sorts his blankets into 3 separate piles while he sleeps: one sheet, one grammy quilt, one fuzzy owl blanket. has a birthmark on his back in the same spot i do. has 21 teeth. doesn’t want to take a bath, but won’t get out once he’s in. loves pancakes. loves nachos; ergo, belongs in this family.

 

11/14/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

gratitude for the st. john’s wort/vitamin B-C-D/iron/rainbow salads or whatever component of that is giving me enough energy to make it through these long/short days and not feel as much like my gratitude gland is shrunken this year. on the contrary, right now it feels more difficult to choose one thing to write a gratitude post about, the gratitude rolodex of my mind offers up too many to choose from some days!

11/15/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

i’m grateful that my boy comes home to me tomorrow, in time for a nice week off from school!

~rainbow mondays~ droplets of moonlight

a quaint little rainbow slice of life…

rainbow: even now, some rainbow flowers are still adorning my windowsill, though the last of the dahlias are finally succumbing to frost. (these were from a few weeks ago.)

red: this one is slightly anachronistic as well, from early september, the end of melon season. found art in the form of randomly placed veggie bits during market set up.

orange: last hurrah of the dahlias (from this week).

orange: fire magic in the rain.

yellow: sunday morning fairy dog walk with camera.

green: a few weeks old as well, but i wanted to make sure camp boss got to see the resurrection of the easter lilies she gave me. born again in the same year!

green: morning light and shadow

green: next year’s purple poppies forming inside.

green: frost edged leaves of the bayou.

blue: in eastern oregon, where we spent our last night of our journey home from oklahoma, we watched the full moon set first thing in the morning.

purple: also made of moonlight, and so named midnight moon, one of my favorite dahlias.

purple: another midnight moon bloom.

purple: the new favorite kitty spot in the dragon house.

~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

~thankful thursday~ third annual nacho november

11/1/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

unlike last year when i debated joining in on 30 days of gratitude, this year it was a no-brainer to sign up for a third season. a few of the odds are stacked in my favor, such as my husband being away at play rehearsals on week nights this month (time to write), the pantry being stocked with tortilla chips (easy dinners planned), and on off days, say, when i’m standing over my eleven year old cracking the homework whip, i will just lazy-post facebook memories from gratitude challenges of yore. (let’s be honest, we don’t remember what i wrote, so it’ll be ok if we air some re-runs. it’s not lying, i’m still grateful for all that stuff!) i was curious how much i posted since last november, and while my timeline is sprinkled with fun messages from friends, as well as karate functions and family weddings in which i am tagged, my single original post for the rest of the entire year appears to have been about the founder’s day sale on tillamook cheese. but no one here is deluded about my priorities: gratitude and nachos.  exhibit a, word art compiled from previous 2 novembers’ gratitude topics.

i am grateful for a sweet little out-of-print children’s book by bruce balan called buoy that i found when quinn was obsessed with boats as a toddler. i was a tad isolated as a new mama, which i know is common for new moms, especially those who have moved places without family or friends, and/or been the target of someone’s emotional abuse for a while. the book got lukewarm reviews, apparently some critics don’t think children can be captivated by a story about an inanimate object, but i find it to be a delightful piece of literature, winnie-the-pooh-esque in the way that its messages have meaning for people of every age who might come to read it. i revisit it often, and so does quinn.

on one evening with just the right conditions, Buoy and his friends Seal and Gull were watching for the green flash, and arguing over what caused it. the ruckus dies down, and Buoy decides to trust in his hunch about what was causing the green flash. when he saw it, he flashed his own light as brightly as he could in response, so The Other Buoy could see it, so The Other Buoy would know he was not alone either.

Buoy has a characteristic flash, as all navigational lights do, which in his case is flash flash flash… wait…wait…wait… flash flash flash … wait…wait…wait… (repeat forever). i am trying to be like Buoy in my facebook postings, and if i can’t find anything nice to say, i’m doing a lot of wait…wait…wait… apparently around 11 months of that. but come november, i am set to flash my light as brightly as i can, moored to a sentiment called gratitude that keeps me safely focused on the right things.

the spaces between the flashes are part of Buoy’s identity, part of how his light has the ability to shine out when he flashes it. i’d like to say i have spent my waiting time storing up summer sunshine to boost my ability to radiate light to share with my fellow humans, but as is my usual status this time of year, my light feels depleted. a friend flashed a beam of light recently through a post that had an impact on me. i don’t even think i liked or commented, or told her that it did, we all know how potential meaningful connections slip away into the abyss of the endless scroll-down. but a snippet of what she shared said, “if your body doesn’t make enough neurotransmitters, store bought is fine.” i spent $1.10 on my own self care and brought home st. john’s wort and made myself a “collect light like a plant” tincture that i am happily taking every morning. as the dimmer switch of fall gets dialed down i think i’d like a little help to make the most of what light there is. i am visualizing my newly enhanced light-absorption capacity gathering to myself what is needed and actively converting it into life-affirming, life-giving necessities. anyway, that other buoy shining her light made me feel less alone. and i am grateful for that!

11/2/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

tonight, quinn attended his very first school dance. and today i am feeling grateful for middle school teachers and the invisible capes they wear. the transition from fifth to sixth grade, from elementary to middle school, has been rather daunting, with bumps on the roller coaster ride that hearken back to the ones that derailed his successful matriculation into kindergarten. luckily in this case, he has stayed enrolled past the two-week mark and doesn’t even have any Fs anymore as of this writing. i have now met each of his teachers and i have been delighted to find that they are all wonderful people who clearly care about my kid and every other student they teach. it takes something just a little bit extra to willingly, enthusiastically, spend all day with a rotation of 30-40 (how ‘bout them class sizes?) eleven-year-olds. and then to give up their friday evening to show a crowd of tweens a good time on the dance floor! just feeling very grateful for the local superheroes who teach my kid.

11/3/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

feeling well fed and quite sleepy after a bowl of curry winter squash soup (varieties: scarlet kabocha and buttercup, if you must know), it is easy to feel a lot of gratitude for the good people and land over at gathering together farm. i lucked into this sweet veggie-slinging gig over 4 years ago and i still feel like i’ve won the lottery every time i go home with my saturday haul of organic produce. this year i feel like i leveled up as a part-time farmer when i embarked on an evening you-pick adventure with my husband and son in late august to “clear out” the siletz tomatoes still lingering on vines slated for ploughing under the next day. we cast our long twilight shadows across the first 10 feet of a tunnel that felt like it might be a mile long. we filled up the bed of the pickup truck with tomatoes too ripe to go to market, and therefore no longer worth the price of the real estate they were occupying. now they are filling up our bellies every week, tucked away in their 67 quart jars for the winter. and the good farm people acted as though i was doing them a favor by not allowing those ten feet of the crop to go to waste, when i was really the one reaping all the tomato wealth a gal would ever want to put up for one season. don’t tell nachos, but i love pasta just as much, and a pot of organic sauce simmering on my stove is a happy thing in cool november weather.

 

11/4/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

cracking the homework whip on a sunday night is making me feel grateful for another book, one that i read back when my three-year-old was full of intensity and a sense of his own agenda. the book playful parenting was not the only source of the concept that has been so helpful in my parenting journey of infusing even the most mundane aspects of parenting with play, but it was the most succinct and direct communication of the concept i came across.

middle school is turning out to be a timely moment to recall this concept, and i’m feeling pretty grateful to have remembered to engineer a playful approach to math homework just 6 weeks along. at 3 (and 4, 5, 6, & 7) he just would not put on his clothes or get into the car when asked, but he would get dressed in his hogwarts robes or hop in the batmobile. “do your math homework,” has been about as appealing and likely to rise to the top of his priority list as “put your clothes on,” but once it became about slaying goblins, he was down.

i was just telling him about when he was 3, and how even that long ago, he had the endearing quality of completely ignoring what i was saying. back then, i was explaining to him in calmer moments how i really wanted him to acknowledge what i was saying, even if it meant just telling me you heard me and aren’t going to do what i asked, for whatever reason. one time when he sensed that i was about to get testy after several repeats of a request receiving no response, quinn shouted, “i recognize your knowledge!” which given how it made him giggle tonight may soon be trending at our house as the way to “use your words” when you ignore your mom.

11/5/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

i wrote about my gratitude for karate during my first annual gratitude challenge, and just over a week ago i tested for my green belt in the art of kenpo. as i sat nursing my sore muscles, i reflected on what i have learned from this journey the past two years since that writing.

like my time on board a schooner, karate has turned out to be something i love even more than i anticipated. also like sailing, i have taken some serious hits and have been lately in a process of reassessing to try and articulate what i am doing, risking injury on a regular basis, to continue to practice and progress in this art. my years of sea time ingrained in me a respect for the ocean that means i’ll never take it for granted, but also means i don’t live on a boat anymore.

when i was a kid, i added “find out how i would do in a real fight” to my bucket list. i’m not sure i ever wrote it down, or admitted it to anyone, but this has always been something i wondered about myself. it turns out, i can hold my own in a sparring simulation-of-real-fight, and it’s sort of thrilling to know that for sure. what i said 2 years ago still holds true: i would not cower.

while i feel my odds of surviving any attack encounter have greatly increased as a result of my training, i am also very much more aware of how vulnerable i truly am, and the limits of my skills against truly sinister forces that exist in the world. it’s not that i live in fear of being attacked in my actual life in rural oregon, and truly i know i would handle any true attack with much more competence, confidence, and reflexive skill now than i would have any time before 3 years ago. it’s the old conundrum of, the more i know, the more aware i am of exactly how much i don’t know. (i remember rolling this around in my mind when the knife attacks happened on the portland trimet bus, the same bus system i used to ride around on several times per week with my infant… would i, given my training, be able to counter a knife attack any better than those men who stood in harm’s way? probably not.) i am keenly aware of my own limitations as a result of paying this much attention to honing this skill set.

for example, my husband is 3 inches taller than me, but weighs one and half times my weight, plus in the dimensions that really matter, such as upper body strength, he is truly four times my size. when i sit shoulder to shoulder with him, it hits home that anyone in his same size range (a good percentage of the male population) who truly wished to do me harm, even without any training, most certainly could and probably would. my best bet is to be married to a soul who would never raise a finger or even his voice to hurt me, because as i know too well and is well documented in statistics, harm is ever so much more likely to come to a woman from within her home than from anonymous sources. if i were to be faced with an actual attack, i know my non-karate husband would stand in front of me and be the one to do the actual defending. (i haven’t had a fit of mushy husband gratitude overtake me yet on this year’s posts, but it’s sure to happen. so grateful for him!)

a few years ago, i went out there on that mat because of my kid, and after all this reassessing, i’m staying out there because of my kid. it’s a bond between us, and a way we can both practice asserting ourselves in the world, in a safe environment. it’s also how i know i would stand the best chance of being able to defend him in a fight, because you never know.

i have learned what my assets are in a fight, how to assess the opponent, see their weaknesses, and use them to my advantage. my reflexes are trained through all the repetition – i routinely catch heavy round vegetables falling off the veggie scale at farmer’s market, so these skills even play a practical role in my every day life.

before my test, i helped one of my fellow testers adjust some things in one of his forms, and at the end of my test, i read aloud the green belt pledge which plainly states that the requirements of this belt rank are to actively teach in the art. huh, i guess that does start happening if you just keep showing up long enough. i remember the thing that hit me from the blue belt pledge, last time around, that i will actively defend the weak and vulnerable; and the purple belt pledge before that, to never use my skill to harm or make afraid. there is much more to the art than how to punch and kick and win a fight. one could even apply these principles to voting in tomorrow’s election! i’m grateful for my instructor and all i have been able to learn, as well as the character traits that have been instilled in my son that reach a long way beyond the edge of the mat.

11/6/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

one of my goals is to only be grateful for nachos one time during this round of gratitude… and today is the day! it’s national nacho day, and gosh i think there’s something else going on, too. oh yeah, voting! it was my pleasure to vote against several appalling measures on our local ballot, and i think everyone ought to reward themselves for voting with a big plate of nachos. last year i could not think of any appealing images of nachos, but as i was scrolling through the toddler archives i came across one i quite like.

vote nachos! vote gratitude! gratitude for voting! gratitude for suffragettes, the 19th amendment, and the equal rights amendment (oops, still haven’t ratified that last one yet! gratitude for e.r.a. pending future ratification!)

11/7/18

~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

i am grateful that i can just take the night off, because you don’t have to get an A in gratitude!

riptide

a gentle indian summer exhales its smoky spiced cider breath easterly across this season of harvest. meanwhile, i experience the ebb of summer as a riptide so rapid that it threatens to pull me under. tumbled around and pummeled by a tempest of tasks, toppling piles of things, trips to take, transitions to tackle. a rather nontrivial transition in lab jobs upended my thought patterns for months, and then it was time to transition my tween into his new life as a middle schooler. somewhere in the middle of all that, oklahoma! forget self care september, i blinked at the end of august and it was october. i arrive on the threshold of this seasonal shift with additional vitamins in the arsenal, and a st. john’s wort tincture steeping on my counter. a friend posted something to the effect of, “if your own body doesn’t make enough neurotransmitters, store bought is fine.” i like that validation of appropriate use of pharmaceutical antidepressants, because there absolutely is a time and a place, and one wrestles unnecessarily with not wanting to depend on something outside of oneself. at this time and place, i conclude that a little help with inhibiting neurotransmitter reuptake is wise, and i’m going with nature-made, in hopes that some preventive care will help me achieve a better balance.

 

i know i am a step ahead of the game to be able to make this conscious choice. lately reflecting on aging and memory loss, the topic of neural connections has been salient for me; i recognize that if ever the clockwork of memory starts winding backwards, the neural grooves in which i dwell most now could be the ones i revisit. if i pay rapt attention to my family and delight in my daily routine, these are the patterns i reinforce in my neural firings; if i drag myself through a perceived grind with aversion and resentment the emotional backdrop of my days, these could be the negative default mode to which i someday succumb. (which reminds me to see also: surrender)

today i draw a line in the sand (figuratively but also literally, on the beach). i make a choice and state my intention to the universe to move forward placing my attention on healthy thought patterns to the best of my ability. i leave behind on the other side of the line, and release into the ocean, the tangle of thought patterns, resentments, fears, insecurities that hinder my wellbeing; something i have done before, and will need to do again. i let the ocean wash them away, and even the line, leaving behind a wide canvas of clean sand promising of renewal. the spiral begins again.