miles under my moccasins

i’m lying with my eyes still closed, most of my head huddled under the covers trying to ward off hypothermia (rich opened windows in the middle of the night without knowing he did so, and also my hair takes 28 hours to dry and i had taken my fortnightly shower just before bed). i am trying to avoid getting up just yet, when i swear i feel a bird land on the piece of my head that is not covered. this is what makes me finally open my eyes, and when i see a bird actually fly across the room away from me, i keep them open, the covers now clutched under my chin, waiting for rich to come back into the room.

“honey? there’s a bird in here. it just landed on my head.”

somehow, in my sleepiness, i have determined that this falls squarely in his department, and with both duty and joviality (“i bet it thought your hair looked like a good nest”), he takes it upon himself to throw the sliding door open wide and usher the bird out. we laugh all day long (off and on, including via text) about how he is really outdoing himself with his wake ups and if monday was this creative, just imagine what tuesday will bring!

Pictured 107 love

my wake up technician


maybe because we live so rurally, rich and i tend to refer to any trip into town, in each others’ presence, as a date. i like it. you know, we don’t want to let the romance fade just because we are a year and a half into this relationship. some of the dates were what others might think of as dates, like watching shakespeare over dinner and a beer. others are borderline- watching fireworks from a bridge (two nights in a row) or swinging by the new maritime museum after perusing the farmer’s market. others are just plain excuses to be in each other’s presence as mentioned, such as sunday’s date: to buy a newspaper and a new lawnmower blade, and put gas in my car.


the bird situation sorted, i head for work, where the child i nanny for (k) is finding out what the different textures of wood chips, rocks, sand, pavement and grass feel like under his moccasins, and seeing how much mileage he can get out of the word, “uh-oh.” quinn, meanwhile, is explaining to me the intricate details of how crabbing works, including tides and weather and timing and what comprises a “sunny night”, and seeing how much mileage he can get out of the word “technically.”

Picture goodnight gorilla map

last wednesday morning quinn and i went to our living school for the day. he is now welcome as long as i am present, and we plan to go on wednesdays for the summer program, and see what will make sense for fall in terms of how much “enrichment” will feel right. i hesitate to make any pronouncements given that i have seen circumstances change rapidly and dramatically several times before around his schooling and my work life, but i will just say that i feel pretty happy with our current unschooling life and quinn’s world seems pretty enriched. quinn picked out his clothes the night before going to school: orange shorts with orange shirt, and red socks. this is an ewok outfit, one of several. he also quite calmly chose his underwear with luke skywalker and his blue light saber on them, the calm contrasting wildly to the controversy we experienced over them the day before. that day’s ewok outfit, a light colored hawaiian button down shirt with light colored sweatpants, had to be worn without underwear, because the luke skywalker underwear with the blue light saber were not available, and no threats about wearing other dirty pairs of underwear or not going to take care of k with me that day were able to goad me into extracting the special pair of undies from the laundry basket locked in the trunk of my car where it was being held in order to be laundered later that day. assuring him that he could wear them the very next day, just as soon as they were clean again, i allowed him to gradually come up against that disappointment, trying to place fenders in between the hard places so they didn’t hit too awfully hard, but knowing in my mama heart that handling disappointments smoothly is an important life skill, i allowed this one to unfold.

Pictured 088 love

quinn brought with him a drawing he had done the day before to share for show and tell; it was a map of the zoo from the book goodnight gorilla. he explained to the class very thoroughly how he had drawn each animals’ cage, and how the zookeeper’s keys were color-coordinated to open the cage of the same color, and proudly showed the compass rose of his map. he went with the flow of the ritual as it has been established in the school, for how to ask, “does anyone have any questions or comments?” and then how to ask, “does anyone else have show and tell?” and then chose the next child to share. when he fielded questions, he would ask, “what?” instead of naming the individual asking, but that was the only piece of the ritual he needs to work on. mainly what i noticed was that he felt comfortable belonging in this group, even though it was a brand new group for him (a few of the kids are the same, or are children he knows from outside ols, but some were brand new faces for him).

Pictured 097 trek

teacher kelly prepared a lesson on independence day for the morning, and later quinn told me that the best part of his day was watching the battle of lexington and the shot heard ‘round the world (a reenactment of it on youtube). she showed the children a parchment replica of the declaration of independence and talked about what the american revolution was fought about. we also watched a reenactment of the ride of paul revere.

Pictured 113 river

while quinn and the other kids were occupied on the play structure outside, i got to chat with kelly about handwriting curriculum, and the importance of correct letter formation. i think i have a better handle on the why behind that now, and the reading i’ve been doing on neuroplasticity makes me think there is something to it, that handwriting practice is not just tedious busywork. i left feeling armed with some new strategies of how to encourage him in beginning his letters from the top (he often starts from the bottom) and then got online and got even more insight from the handwriting without tears website. kelly explained the wet-dry-try method to teach a letter using a small handheld chalkboard, where i would write the letter in chalk, then he would use a small wet sponge to trace it, then a dry cloth to trace it dry, and then “try” it himself with chalk. i appreciate the full sensory approach to handwriting that this curriculum uses.

Pictured 147 happy

quinn seemed to be quite comfortable being back in a school setting, and i couldn’t remember if that was how it had been last year. in fact, i think it was more comfortable now, given the way we have spent the past year, including homeschool group and just being a kid in the world growing a year older. he sat on a bench with another boy at lunch, and proceeded to cover his face with berry juice.


Pictured 154 happy


Pictured 031 sparkler

this year on the fourth, i have been feeling the miles that have passed underneath my own moccasins more acutely than in years past. holidays in general seem to call up previous holidays in my mind, along with whatever attachments they bring. this year i sifted through all the fireworks i could remember… the ones where quinn and i went to bed before the fireworks, the ones more recently when he has stayed up to watch them, the ones i watched 14 years ago from the deck of a schooner in the middle of new york harbor, the ones even earlier when i ran track at the empire state games. still farther back, the ones when i was a teenager holding baby cousins in my lap on a dock on a lake in the adirondacks and listening to their cooing voices exclaiming, “ooh, yay!” the ones in 2010 when i declared my independence from oppression. the ones in 2012 when i stood on a bridge with rich and watched fireworks together for the first of what will be many, many times.

Pictured 140 troops

the three of us joined our local adopted family for camping over the weekend. i baked my first rhubarb upside down cake in a dutch oven. quinn went with the rest of the gaggle of children to kids’ fishing day at the hatchery and caught his limit (3), two of which were “this big! 17 inches! too big to fit in any of the pans!” he helped tend crawdad traps, got married to snow white (you do a dance and have a hug) and wore a plastic bucket helmet on his head to fight battles all weekend. he was nervous about crawdads pinching his toes, but he still waded in the river and joined the other kids at the swimming hole which one of the uncles helped all the kids “swim” across. quinn’s bride is one of my favorite children, and she is the most warmed up to rich of all the children. she consistently calls him richard even though no one else does. she and rich could be found being “vampires,” both had on sunglasses and were alternately growling and giggling, and then she chased the rest of us with her vampire care bear.

Pictured 143 grownups

quinn experienced porta potty sensory overload this year, and flatly refused to use it. i insisted he use it exactly two times, the rest could be handled in the great outdoors, but in his effort to avoid using it, he experienced a few close calls. i basically had to inform him that he actually had to go, even though he would insist he didn’t (dancing a jig all the while) and bodily place him inside the john, hold the door open for air, as he tried to decide whether to use his hands to cover his ears or plug his nose. the onslaught of sensory input in there was simply overwhelming, and really, i can’t say i disagree. i had the fun of “playing pioneers” with my friend one morning, washing a few sleeping bags and pajamas in the creek and hanging them to dry in the tree branches.


Pictured 157 light saber

Pictured 171 swirl

Pictured 162 express

Pictured 168 express

Pictured 169 express

Pictured 160 express


sitting around a campfire with my sister-friends is always therapeutic for me, and it also occurs to me that i have grown enough as a person that i may actually have something to offer in friendship. the miles i have walked have not always been easy ones, but  i’ve come all this way for good reason. the more i share my story, the more i feel i gain from that sharing, and receive so many gifts in return: gems shared from their lives,  and of course, inside jokes about olympic hand holding. each time i try to articulate how it is that i have found a way to open up my heart to love again, i find it opens up even a little bit farther, sometimes so wide that a little bird flies in.

6 comments to miles under my moccasins

  • mamaC

    So nice to read this post! For so many reasons.

    But, I have to tell you that a bird landed on me two days ago!!! (I hadn’t yet told anybody about it, and I was kinda marveling about that, and then I read your opening lines in my email notification and thought I had to tell you!) But I was outside when it happened. I was hunched over screwing some metal brackets on the back of a wooden kid-sized Adirondack chair (to hold an umbrella securely) and I felt a gentle pressure. It felt like Noel was putting his hand on my back/shoulder, but I disbelieved that was it because I hadn’t heard him approach & didn’t see him/his shadow, and when I turned to discover what actually was happening, the small BIRD flew to the other side of the garden! So amazing!

    I was interested to read your comments about handwriting, and to hear that you are feeling some clarity or conviction about the purpose in stressing some aspects of process. Good to know there’s reason for such clarity! Also it made me think of your quote in a recent post (I think it was from the book “The Brain That Changes Itself,” which is a title on my mental list/back burner because several favorite authors/sources/experts in various fields have mentioned or cited that title) that referenced the near-fanatical focus on handwriting from years gone by.

    I also wanted to say that yes, the laundry in your trunk being unavailable, and you not changing reality (underwear reality!) for him, is exactly the thing of bumping up against a limit. I think the combination of a “yes” environment with the reality of personal limits within it is a really solid one. I think in the past some (SOME!) of my “yes” efforts were about managing things to avoid upsets, and my increased tolerance for upset feelings (my capacity to navigate them comfortably enough to offer support while I let them happen) has been a benefit to all of us.

    Things sound really rich in your life (didn’t intend the pun, but there it is!) Love to you.

    • i adore puns!!!!!

      i knew you, of all people, would understand the underwear reality thing.

      i am not sure how convicted i am about the handwriting, but i do feel like i need to be open to it. and you and i were both thinking of the same quote… i have had the brain that changes itself out of the library so long now i’m surprised they are still letting me in the library to use the internet…. sheesh! but it is a fascinating read, when i do have time to sit down and turn pages.

      it makes me happy that a bird has landed on you, too! thanks for your words, as always.

  • A Mom of 5 friend!

    Our bucket head warriors look strong and fierce!! Next trip we should make more desserts in the Dutch oven!!

  • I know that feeling of how holidays conjure up the whole rolodex of previous years’ holidays, and how it’s good to find yourself back in the same place one year older. Bittersweet, at least. Sounds like Quinn is integrating back into his school with the comfort of your presence, and that you are comfortable with whatever the next school year brings. I like his zoo map very much.
    rachel recently posted..this, right now

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