a month or two in the life of a lifelong learner ~ quintuple blast!

christmas happened! it was a big day for legos, pokemon, and games… why does it feel weird to be posting this in the middle of march? ah, well. this post concerns the time from december 23 through february 23, spanning both christmas and birthday, so it’s no wonder i have been too busy to keep things up to date!


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the board game risk was a special request and rich got it for quinn for christmas. we all played that very day and haven’t played again since, but world domination is truly right up his alley, as he suspected.


bart wants in on the lego fun.


in anticipation of christmas, i convinced quinn that we should clean up the lego area and we worked together to achieve the above state of “ready for more legos”. thank goodness i had the presence of mind to keep all of the legos out of the storage garage when we began our long vacation… in the foreground, you can see the stack of veggie trays we’ve accumulated from thrift stores that make sorting through lego pieces a lot easier when you’re looking for that certain one, and provide a way of keeping them just ever so slightly up off the floor. (in theory.)

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during a bike ride to the jetty we encountered a helicopter flying crazy loops dangerously close to the bridge, and realized, “they ain’t from around here.” it turned out it was the film crew for the new tv spinoff of the deadliest catch, capturing the departure of the lady law, a local crab boat (a friend’s husband was on board, and rich has worked on that boat with his welding torch; just to give a sense of the small town we’re talking about here).

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i got quinn his own journal just before new year’s day, and made him some writing prompt cards to choose from on days he can’t think of what to write. he loves it! he decided to write his own ideas mostly, and has filled quite a few pages. writing at bedtime seems to be a calming activity for him. he also got a karate journal so he can keep track of his karate accomplishments and practices.  his writing has come such a long way during this school year.

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quinn helped me play with my own new years’ day project. i spent the day with my exact-o knife, cutting out some new bokeh shapes for my camera. he was especially fond of the lego guys and dragons, shown here.

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some of quinn’s recent photography work. i was feeling pretty crappy the day he took this photo, and bart had crawled into my lap (he’s a healing kitty). quinn spends weeks at a time not thinking about photography, but every now and then will just *need* my camera, or my phone, quick! here are a few of his other recent shots:

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movie studio update! it is about time for another long-awaited stop motion movie, don’t you think? here are some “making of” images, and you can watch the newest movie below!

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arctic 2 quest for the crystals by quinn’s movie studio; grab your popcorn!

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 lots of reading, snuggling, drawing, studying, building of lego dragons. he drew a really cool band of musicians for himself on graph paper with many different instruments. it’s no wonder he’s into music as i’m always making up songs to sing him, like good morning boopaloo (nobody knows that song but him and me) and the grubby song, which is reserved for bath time inspiration.

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in other personal hygiene news this month, the tooth fairy came, in spite of the fact that the tooth was not just lost, but also lost. quinn lost his special 21st tooth (most of your kids have 20, but quinn always had 21!) and the extra tooth came out in some mysterious way during his school day and was never found. the tooth fairy must have known it was a big deal to him to lose that one, so she wrote him a special letter, left him some glittery one dollar bills, and some bigger kid toothbrushes and tooth flossers shaped like animals. also, here’s a gratuitous baby photo.

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he got a new karate bag and sparring gear. as a purple belt he moved up in sparring level and now needs to wear extra padding to practice. i got him a pair of prescription sports glasses and am so glad i did! i don’t think his regular glasses would still be intact in just a few months of advanced sparring, and i like that his eyes are protected… quinn has gotten very good at folding his karate uniform and keeping his gear in good shape. the uniform folding has also helped him with his newly adopted chore of doing his own laundry. he is now a pro, and i think he takes pride in knowing how to do it all by himself.

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we did a simple machines project in his classroom, as part of the local school science fair. i acted as “science fair mentor” every friday afternoon, and then hung out at the huge science fair exhibition night (held at my place of work) and got to greet the kids coming and going as they showed off their work to their parents.


of course, he’s no stranger to using simple machines in his creative endeavors. (shown here on the movie set, constructing pulley mechanisms to lift his helicopters off the ice and lower them down for a landing.)

jan 23-feb 23


same wonderful posture as his mama, sigh. same need for paper and pencil to always be within reach, grin.

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we consciously made an effort to be in the wild whenever possible.

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  sometimes he brings up a topic from calvin and hobbes that i recognize, such as, “when you look at your reflection in a puddle, do you ever wonder whether you’re actually the reflection, and your reflection is really you?” (while we walked to the wind chimes and took pictures of cherry blossoms.)

calvin reflection

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on his first tip test as a purple belt, quinn, and many other of the students in the advanced (purple through brown belt) class, did not fully earn their tips. (each increment of curriculum earns you a “tip” which is a band of black or red tape on the end of your belt to mark progress.) it takes longer to earn tips as an advanced student; the purple curriculum is simply that much harder than yellow, orange and white, during which quinn always advanced another tip any time he tested. this time, he got “half a tip” as he calls it, which meant he got tape on the other end of his belt, showing that he had indeed been working hard and had learned a lot this round, and would probably get there in the next testing cycle.

he was really upset and stomped off the mat after class, and in my opinion, his dad fueled the upset, both before the test by building up his expectations of advancing, and afterwards by encouraging quinn to quit if he wanted to and claiming that the teacher engaged in “shaming” of the kids.

and this is one more way in which i feel that leaving my son’s strong will intact is a favor that i have done him. he ultimately didn’t want to quit, and once he calmed down enough, he was making magic cards of his karate instructor, “because he’s a black belt!” he knew what he wanted, and had the presence of mind to realize quitting might feel good temporarily, but getting a black belt was his goal, and quitting would make that impossible. he was ready to understand that testing will take longer from here on out. i reminded him that he set a very specific goal to be a green belt by the time he is 11 years old, and helped him realize he was still very much on track to meet that goal, even if purple and blue belt tips take several cycles apiece to earn. he bounced right back to his regular smile-bringer self. even if highly tempting negative choices are presented by someone quinn loves and looks up to, he follows his own internal compass.

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during a two-day break from school (i like to call them “can’t afford to keep the lights on days”) quinn attended a theatre workshop for 3rd-8th graders for a whole afternoon. i wanted him to check it out to see if he will want to sign up for week-long theatre day camp this summer, which i was thinking he might enjoy. when i dropped him off, i wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for me to leave right away, but he didn’t even look back once he saw an older boy he knows and likes from karate. when i came to pick him up, he didn’t want to leave, and kept playing the game that was going on, even after his group finished their improvisation performance (pictured on the left). the pictures are awful but you can see his face all lit up nonetheless. he is definitely going to sign up for theatre camp, he says.

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i also signed him up for an extracurricular art class on a friday afternoon – he learned to make paper bird masks and use paper folding to add shape and texture to the mask. we have a piece made by the teacher of that class, which is why i knew he’d love it. (the dragon that hangs in our dragon house and was a prop in the first play we got to watch rich perform in after we first met him: the woman who fell from the sky.) once again on drop-off, he saw a friend (from both ols and karate) and i was not needed.

in school, quinn’s teacher is happy with his grades but feels he could accomplish more than he does. they get along well, and he isn’t being harsh on quinn about it. from quinn’s side of things, he has mentioned that the math review (one of the things he accomplishes very little on, daily, but not because he lacks the ability to do so) is “hard” for him, and i think the way in which it is hard is that is under-challenges him. he also seems very unwilling to perform the tasks involved in showing and explaining one’s work in math lessons. instead of writing the expected reflection paragraph explaining how he solved the problem in step-by-step manner, he one day wrote, “i am very very very quick and good at math.” which is, truly, a type of reflection, just not what is expected. i recently learned that his favorite class at school is “walk to math” at first because of the multiplication, but now “because of decimals! and even better, we get to do rounding and adding and subtracting decimals!” yippee skippy! since walk to math placement is based on test scores, i can tell he feels more adequately challenged by the material, hence his love for decimals.


also in the department of school challenges, quinn is working on some social struggles. there has apparently been an ongoing dynamic with a few of the boys in his class that has been hard for him to shake, and he finally spoke up about it just recently. he had been getting kicked in the knees under the school lunch table by the same two boys every day, and there had also been some pushing and shoving, as well as general bugging/taunting by the boys.

i do everything i can to help quinn speak the language of nonviolent communication, including refraining from labels and judgments, and sticking to the facts in a situation. instead of calling it “being mean” or “bullying”, i feel it’s much more useful to say what was actually done and said, and encourage him to explain what went on in those terms. it makes it easier to move on and find solutions, and harder to get stuck in victim mentality.

i wish i was not the only parent who felt that way. when quinn says, “he kicked me” and i ask “and what happened next” or “and what did you do/say” or “did you ask him to stop?” we can get somewhere. some of this is a matter of quinn taking a while to grasp (because he’s not wired to intuitively grasp social nuance with the same command he has of, say, decimals) things like, “other kids say things just to get a reaction sometimes,” or “i don’t want to be kicked/taunted and it’s okay for me to say that or get help to make it stop.” these are not “givens” in his mind like they might be for other kids. these areas needing extra social scaffolding are more and more spread out all the time, but they remind me of having to spell out for quinn when someone was (good-naturedly) teasing, how to recognize when someone who isn’t familiar with his chosen conversation topic is ready to move on to another subject rather than continue to listen to quinn’s treatise on the subject, or when it’s best to keep your honest opinion of store-bought vs. homemade waffles inside your own head.

still, i think a meeting with quinn’s teacher and my coparent was beneficial, because teacher made my coparent aware (as i already suspected) that quinn does retaliate physically when he is hurt, and is sometimes the one who initiates a physical interaction. this has been an ongoing conversation now for several weeks, and definitely feels like progress is haltingly being made, albeit in a week-on (regroup and progress), week-off (fanning the flame on the neuroses) sort of rhythm.

my mom bestowed a bit of wisdom on me after her years of teaching first and then third grade. i may butcher her words, but the gist is that in first grade, kids are still playing side by side. in third grade, they are now interested in being friends, having friends, exploring friendship… “but they are the worst friends you would ever want to have!” she would say, lovingly. the work of being a third grader is learning how to have, and be, a friend, and they’re just not good at it right now. i am trying, in my own way, to give quinn a piece of that helpful insight from grammy, in that, i think these boys are being doofuses (or doofi) but it may be because they admire and like quinn, and want to be his friend, but have no idea how to go about being a friend yet.


one lazy afternoon, we sat around looking at a big book of animals that belongs to our housemate, and hippos were a hot topic of conversation. apparently, more people are killed by hippos each year than any other animal. quinn flipped through the book and found many other animals to comment on, and we mused about rhinos and pufferfish and other animals and how they’d fare against a hippo (either in a fight or in a race). then asked me for some blank comic strip pages so he could make a comic strip about a race among various different animals. it took several heats of one-on-one animal races, but in the end (spoiler alert!) the hippo won.


magic cards are a new interest, and we bought a few, but he is pretty happy to make his own right now, more than anything.

quinn magic card purple belt  owly card

chicky saurus card

i can’t remember which came first, the magic card or the egg, but close to when he made the above card, we re-watched the ted talk by jack horner about making a chickensaurus that quinn used as part of his “dinosaurs are birds” presentation at ols.

he also made these awesome pokemon cards of our family. i love the details he paid attention to in deciding on our special attack powers. quintuple blast! watch out, or mama dragon will wise flower you!

Mama_Dragon_ex_Deckromancer Primal_Q_M_R_Deckromancy Quinn_Ruby_ex_Deckromancer Rich_Cat_ex_Decromancer


sometimes it’s easier to absorb the words you’re reading if your foot is strumming a guitar…

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birthday and piper.

i mentioned in the piper post the ongoing work of emotional development… when he asked for the sledgehammer to “solve” a challenge he was facing with his piper, i recommended listening to stories to help him get centered. at dinner a half hour later i asked him if the story time had helped, and he calmly told me with a smile, “yes, and i think it was the right thing! because the story that came on was the day when martin and sylvia were feeling grumpy.”


one of the boys from school has told him when he wears a ponytail, “you look like a girl.” i am working with him on realizing that what matters is how he feels about himself. i also told him i think that other kids might be jealous and wish they could grow long hair, or have been told things like that by people close to them so they don’t know any better. he is strong in spirit, so i am confident he can handle the taunts and know that he doesn’t have to give them any power over him.

also, i told him who he and his ponytail remind me of:

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“imagine all the people sharing all the world…. yoo-hoo-oou, you may say i’m a dreamer, but i’m not the only one…” ~john lennon

my young man has that kind of ability to imagine. i will end by sharing a vision he regaled me with during a meal (i can’t even remember now which one it was, but it wasn’t dessert! that part was all in his vivid imagination.)

” i am eating an ice cream cone, 5 scoops high! and watching 3 movies!” when asked what flavors, he told me two of the scoops were vanilla, two were strawberry and one was caramel. it took him the whole first movie to eat the first two scoops, a second movie was watched while the third and fourth scoops were polished off, and the last movie was the shortest, and is only one scoop long.

i hope you have a day filled with imagination ice cream.

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