~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ connections, finding eggs in unusual places, and the oxford comma

camp boss verbosity warning: please excuse the verbosity of this end-of-schoolyear/start-of-summer month of lifelong learning and grab a cuppa!

pizza rolls and rubik’s cubes

quinn and i solved his christmas stocking rubik’s cube this month! He is pictured showing the initial progress just after the first step of solving one side (the green one, of course.)

he wants to know more about tides (the math of how they work) and the oxford comma (i gave him the zombie dinosaur spiel but he wants more details).

after a sleepover at aragorn’s house he reported that pizza rolls are yummy. the next time i made pizza for dinner i gave him some dough to work with. we ended up with a few odd attempts and some awesome commentary about pizza blobs, pizza nuggets, and a meatball pizza taco!

he procrastinated on social studies homework- he had to make greek mythology trading cards (rich laughed, “he put that off?”) chalk it up to perfectionism. he wanted to do some seriously intricate drawings, the tradeoff being he handed them in over a week late.

perfectionism likewise struck in his band assignment to record himself playing a few songs for placement next year, but these he managed on time!

middle school band concert! hard to capture great photos of percussionists, as they stand in the back!

he helped me plant impatiens for grammy.

You find an egg… in a tidepool

we went tidepooling on a drizzly day. he had so much homework that i almost called it off but he expressed really wanting to go. we mostly hiked and didn’t peek into many tidepools. there were lots of seals in the areas we might normally explore further and we didn’t want to disturb them. a baby seal was right in the path to get around the last headland, so we didn’t go any farther. on our way back we found an egg (!) in a tidepool… it was so out of place, it did not immediately compute what it was. both of us had “you find an egg” thoughts like “is it a dragon? a dinosaur? A pokemon?” before returning to reality. it was a seabird egg, but had obviously been laid in the wrong spot or had gotten moved or washed out, so it was in the water, with a little sculpin treading water next to it. The bizarre context stopped us in our tracks and made us think impossible thoughts.

We saw lots of fossils on the beach, and with his upcoming paleontology camp they stood out to me. each time camp dawned on me i would get excited all over again.


Starlight parade

On the way to the parade, it was shouted around the bus “band attention! it is tradition to play living on a prayer when we are halfway there!” thus was bon jovi the 27th singalong of the trip. Most of the singalongs were crazy train, because that was one of their chosen marching songs, and the best thing about singalongs on band trips is that they sing their individual instrument parts.

when the instantly recognizable (or so i thought) intro to dream on started playing and several kids asked, “what song is this?” the other mom sitting kitty-corner from me on the bus exchanged extremely amused glances with me. We had the same reaction about them not knowing jump!



We chaperones marched along with our kids in the Starlight Parade, wearing “i’m with the band” t-shirts. some of the parents had squirt bottles of water with which to hydrate the kids in between songs; the three doctors among the chaperones were especially good at inserting water into kids without making them choke or gag, or soaking their uniforms.


I stuck with photo documenting. i overheard some choice quotes from the crowd of spectators and saw some killer dance moves as the evening light dwindled towards the end of the second mile of marching. The whole experience was magical. As I heard one little girl in the crowd say, “I can feel my heart vibrating!” Indeed.



at the end of the parade quinn was very tired. we got back on the bus and he got out of his uniform top and said, “mama can you hold this because i feel like i want to just drink water, and sleep. sleep while drinking water. yeah.”

And also, this was quinn’s shoe! his band teacher encouraged me to document this to show people why we need fundraising!

on the way home, we took the band to the zoo! quinn loves penguins.

outdoor school

day 1

the sixth grade outdoor school trip started with a climb up the dune at camp kiwanda state park. Highlights from day one included an after dinner beach trip for nature/sensory immersion and some capture the flag; meeting silvana and her mom, the girl quinn brought up in this post whose inspiring mom bonded with me throughout the trip; her story is so relatable, advocating for a differently wired child; also memorable were campfire and s’mores and camp songs!

it is also necessary to mention a boy (not actually) named pippin who is the second example of a new kid at school whom quinn has been the first to befriend this year. Pippin sidled up to me and laid the story of his life right on me at the start of the trip. his mom had died less than a month before. three weeks before, he had started school here, having moved from vegas with his three year old sister to live with his aunt. the day before i met him, he had received his mom’s ashes. “i think i want to get one of those necklaces where you can put some of the ashes in it to always have a part of her to carry with me.” the stories of these kids’ lives crack my heart open.

I told quinn how much i appreciated his way of welcoming newcomers, and quinn went the extra mile with pippin, changing cabins and leaving behind the rest of the fellowship (in sleeping arrangements only, but still) so that pippin would have a friend in his cabin. The teachers seemed to find it helpful that he had connected with an adult who would support him (he and quinn both gravitated to me at meal times) and who was also able to redirect him when necessary (he was frank about his adhd and that he had already gotten to know the principal pretty well in his short time here.) we found out we have martial arts in common and i invited him to come check out our dojo!


day 2

Tie dye art class with our group turned out to be a personality test… quinn needed his own space so no other dye mess got on his fabric, and he wanted to make a perfect spiral but was upset about his folding job, and wanted to make perfect pie slices of each color but he felt he was messing up… many pep talks and he was the last one to unfold his, but he got it done and was happy with the result. pippin was the first one done, all blue, with a few red spots, and he had left a big puddle of dye on the plastic tablecloth.

then our group walked to the lake and fished. a few volunteers who knew fishing were there to help keep lines untangled and reels working properly, and each kid was issued a rod and stood on the edge of the lake and fished. Some kids knew just what to do, like quinn, and others had never fished before. Some required a quick lesson, others an in-depth confidence boost: “you’re doing something that takes ton of coordination and some kids have done before but you’re brand new to it and it’s hard! but ‘we can do hard things’” (glennon doyle’s words came in handy a few times this week.)

Back at the lodge for our next art session, we laid on the floor and made big banners with the sharpies. “outdoor school 2019” block letters got written and filled in with doodles, and kids all added their personal touches. quinn declared “fractals!” and did a bunch of his math doodling in lime green. as most of the kids began to lose interest and wander back outside, quinn and i and the art teacher stayed and kept doodling for a while longer. quinn and i were our normal selves and the art teacher said, “i am really enjoying listening to the conversations you two have.”

while the kids did skit practice with counselors, i had break time… i filled up my coffee cup and i wandered off to one of the camp areas we weren’t using and sat in a pavillion out of the rain and read my book. at one point i laid my head on the book and power napped. in spite of the coffee, i was pooped. The quote at the beginning of the book i brought to read, unsheltered by barbara kingsolver, read:

“after the final no there comes a yes

and on that yes the future world depends.”

~wallace stevens

this spoke to me, echoing how i feel about these 12 year old people as they mature, the unfortunate state of the world they are inheriting, and how they are rising to the occasion against the odds.

At dinner i was again joined by quinn and pippin, who talked my ear off. then ran off. then ran back and checked in. he asked me for a hug and i said of course! motherless boy asking me for a hug. what am i going to do, say no? i don’t have it in me.

after dinner we went back to the campfire pit for skit night. more songs were sung, each of the six cabin groups did their skits, and smores were consumed. i sat with silvana and her mom a few rows behind quinn and friends. (he was with pippin and eomer, goldberry, aragorn and legolas.) one of the songs that was sung all week was boom-chicka-boom (with all the variations “janitor style” broom-sweep-a-mop-a-sweep-a-mop-a-sweep-a-broom…  valley girl style, taco bell style, emo style “boom chicka rocka chicka MOM GET OUT OF MY ROOM” which both quinn and silvana thought was HILARIOUS and would look at their respective moms and sing loudly. all through the week, i loved hearing the sound of kid groups marching through the forest echoing repeat-after-me-songs “what can make a hippopotamus smile?”


day 3

there was unstructured time while the counselors had the kids cleaning and packing. quinn and a few of the kids were sitting around playing the one word story game. i went off to my own zone again for a bit with my coffee, as well as a short walk to the beach by myself. as i was walking through nature, i saw a flower i haven’t seen in almost 20 years called a “single delight”. it is tiny and appears to me to be rare (i had no idea it even grew in oregon and only saw it once or twice in olympic national forest) and has a lemon-lime fragrance. it was a lovely surprise to find them all over my own little adopted corner of the camp.

We made one stop on the way home at the tillamook cheese factory for a tour and ice cream. q had cookies and cream. i had hazelnut salted caramel.


starting to feel like summer

weekends… pizza and family movie night… watching the hobbit. filling up his plate with pizza 4 times. We launched our free family boating season on a beautiful sunday, kayaking for an hour.

He worked on his travel hacking assignment; the final 6 week grade was all one project, a “dream trip” itinerary and budget (they had $10k to work with). he had the itinerary roughed out but he needed to put some time in on the budget. all the googling “public transportation in perth australia” and “are there any restaurants on penguin island” and prices of admission on whatever museums and parks he would visit. he did well on his own, pricing out airfares and hotels. the small details bog him down because it feels never ending to him. i sat with him and talked him through some steps when he was really despairing of ever finishing.


Grammy and grampy!

on the last day of school, i picked quinn up at noon and he spent a good part of the afternoon watching pokemon. we started gathering materials for a journal project. i took him to karate that night since his belt test would be the following wednesday.

Grammy and grampy arrived around midnight. The next morning quinn woke up and asked for grammy to come in for his wake up. aw. they were hugging and smiling at each other, so happy to see each other. There was a visible shock reaction at how big he has gotten since last year.

We sat outside any chance we got, quinn played uno with whoever would play (always grampy, sometimes others). Grammy and grampy took walks in the morning together while i went to work to feed fish, and when quinn woke up would hang out with them. some days camp boss and kids came to bounce.

That week q had his first swim lesson. He put his face in the water more for his teacher than he ever has for me in one half hour session. she also saw the challenges he faces, and when we talked afterwards she said, “i really like him. and i think this is exactly what he needs.”

I had to take quinn to karate right after getting back from swim, and he was very put out. His prevailing feelings were, “i just need more down time,” But he also doesn’t want to not do any of the activities. i let him know how hard i had to work to get him exactly 5 lessons scheduled for the ENTIRE summer. once i got my point across i think he calmed down a bit. i can’t expect him to know what it takes for me to arrange these things to enrich his life, unless i explain. So i explained, not to guilt him into feeling grateful, but so he could understand and relax and realize it wouldn’t be every day that he would have swim/karate back to back.

One day camp boss and i packed hot dogs and snacks and all the kids in their swim stuff and we brought chairs and sat by the river in the sun-dappled shade. We enjoyed the relaxing sound of the water and kids splashing in the creek, the sight of kids with caterpillars crawling up their hands, kids throwing rocks in the water, and kids being kids.

Grammy, grampy, rich and i all went to quinn’s belt test. Quinn did very well. He received compliments from multiple people, including sifu in front of the whole group, for how well he did and how much hard work he has been doing. He was again asked to demonstrate techniques and forms the others had forgotten or didn’t know from memory, so he really got to showcase his skills. he was the only one testing who could remember kick set from start to finish and he got to lead them all through it. also he did long 2 form, which is the highest form he has learned, and did it by himself, so he got all his stripes on his belt for forms. he did GREAT for the kicks, and did not flinch! I was so proud! And i think he was even prouder of himself. After the test and pictures, he came right over to grammy and grampy and hugged them both. they were very proud and told him so. then we went home for nachos.

at lunch one day quinn saw grampy spreading liverwurst on his bread and asked, “what’s that?” he wanted to try it and gobbled up a whole sandwich of it. If grampy likes it, it must be good.

dishes washed by quinn

That night we had a very small party in the back yard. Rich had made a nice campfire, so the kids all ate smores.

on Saturday after market, quinn and i painted plywood for the band haunted house fundraiser.

that afternoon all five of us were sitting around the backyard and mom and dad were telling family stories. Quinn got to hear about grampy’s summer trips to his grandpa and grandma’s house (my great grands, quinn’s great great grands! This is the grandma from whom we got our typewriter). He described their house in Gowanda, NY, and its long, narrow yard with vegetable garden, raspberry bushes, and fruit trees, extending “all the way back to the crick.” He told how it was odd to be away from his brother tom, but grandma and grandpa took them for a week each, one at a time.

One time Uncle Tom built himself an airplane, an inventor then and to this day. it was all going great as he ran it off the edge of the hill, until the wings folded up. Dad just laughs when he tells about their childhood… one time tom was trying to get him to play ball (dad was reading his book) and since dad refused, tom put a wasp on him! it stung dad, he chased tom around and then finally decided he’d play ball after all.

Dad remarked that he might have a touch of ADHD in the sense that he cannot Just Sit. He spent his time visiting us in constant engagement, or asleep; he read books, split firewood, went for walks, fixed things, played guitar, did crosswords and sudokus, and instigated philosophical discussions. Thinking of his brother tom, i mused that if the two of them were children now, he’d also likely have a diagnosis; perhaps ADHD or asperger’s. i think it is possible they both fall into the same category as quinn, and their “challenges” are mostly a result of the intensity that goes hand in hand with giftedness. This article about overexcitabilities and the gifted explains the different forms this intensity takes, and it is easy to see how certain intensities can be confused with other types of challenges, a topic covered in depth in the misdiagnosis book i read earlier this year. If i were to make a table for the overexcitabilities (OEs for short) in our family, it might look like this:


Overexcitability Me Quinn Dad Mom
Intellectual *** *** *** ***
Sensory ***
Emotional *** *** ***
Imaginational ***
Psychomotor *** ***


Or how about:


Overexcitability Me Quinn Dad Mom
Intellectual makes grids to understand a topic studying calculus and the periodic table at 12 writing book on the electoral college apple variety identification autodidact expert
Sensory sound, touch, smell, taste

blenders made him cry, toothpaste was too spicy

Emotional overthinking, perfectionism and existential depression, oh my! perfectionism; refusal to throw away sentimental objects like dryer lint my first call when i have something big to process
Imaginational you find an egg
Psychomotor gardening when not hauling water or slinging veggies splits wood for fun


Intellectual OE is not just being a little bit intellectual, it is being intensely insatiable in needing to know every detail about a topic, to always be absorbing information and engaging the brain, to be asking questions, interpreting data, proposing new ideas. This makes for great lifelong learning potential, but also means we handle anything, from a hobby to a diagnosis, like a college course. Likewise, with each of the other OEs, there can be a next-level intensity in some people. There were key imaginational intensity components to some of the difficulties of quinn’s early elementary education, though i would never trade the sparkling magic of his imagination for all the world. Learning about these intensities has helped me understand myself better, for example, how my friend in high school pointed out that I never just felt medium about a song, I either LOVED this song or HATED this song… intensely. It’s not a bad thing, it just is a thing about me, but it can pose challenges if one is too intense for others’ comfort. It also means we have the potential for extra insight and strengths in these areas; emotional intensity, with awareness and seasoning, can go hand in hand with empathy and compassion; my mom was the long-time prayer-chain coordinator at her church, and couldn’t have been more perfect for that (intense) role of receiving the heft of other peoples’ gravest concerns. This handy exercise with the grid also illustrates how, while the rest of us have a grab bag of intensity, Quinn has collected almost the whole panel!

Speaking of really liking songs, through Grandma rew’s sister ida, dad received old 45s from the jukebox in the hotel she ran and was introduced to a wide variety of music. One that he recalled fondly was “highway 101” by the cheers, and he quoted parts of it, and it is of course a funny coincidence because highway 101 runs through our coastal town. And since we live in this fascinating modern age i went ahead and looked it up:

black denim trousers and motorcycle boots by the cheers

All five of us played uno in the backyard that night. It had gotten to be routine for quinn to bring out the cards, fetch the card table out of the shed, set it up, and get grampy to play, but this time he got us all involved, it being his last night before going off to camp.

Quinn spent some of the day packing; he handled it mostly himself (12 really is sublime!). We had gotten him a sun hat, clip on sunglasses, a head lamp, and work gloves, to fill out the list. He counted the exact numbers of undies, socks, shirts and pants the list told him to bring.

Once he was mostly packed, he and i spent some time together while he glued the quotes i had printed for him into his journal. We had done little parts of the journal book making throughout the week. We layered alternating graph and lined pages and sewed them in bundles; i carved four dino skull stamps at his request (t-rex, triceratops, mososaurus and pteranodon), and he stamped them on the cover; we added a green ribbon for a bookmark. My hope is that it inspires him to journal a bit on some of these trips he will be taking, with paleontology camp for starters, and on to italy next spring!

As he glued, he mentioned some anxiety about never having been away from “both parents” for this long. i said i remembered the first time i went to camp i had felt that way and wondered if i would make it or if i would need to come home the first night, but i had stayed and loved it and by the end of the week, didn’t want it to end and couldn’t wait for the next year. i said he would feel that way too, i was sure of it. we talked about each quote and how it applied to his situation. discussing the mark twain quote “you’ll regret more not going” and also how he was like a hobbit was going out his door on an adventure, his anxiety seemed to dissipate pretty quickly.

Grammy and grampy said goodbye to quinn before everyone went to bed, since we’d be leaving before they had to get up in the morning to take him to camp. I know he thoroughly enjoyed having them visit to launch his summer vacation!


Paleontology camp

We woke up early the next morning and took him to camp! Day one of camp was 6-23, the last day about which this lifelong learner post is concerned, so stay tuned for the next post where all the juicy camp details will be posted. Sharing about camp was one of the most effective motivators for catching up on these backlogged posts. this amazing opportunity seemingly manifested itself in quinn’s lifelong learning path because of how perfect it would be for him. several years ago when i signed up for the e-newsletter from the university of oregon’s museum of natural and cultural history, the day camps in natural sciences (including paleontology) never felt practical due to our distance from the museum. I have to applaud their targeted marketing because I have not felt inundated with emails from them, but this winter when the email subject heading read: “you might be interested in: middle school paleontology explorers camp” i thought, “heck yeah i might be interested in that!” (search terms for anyone else interested: sternberg camps, through fort hays state university’s sternberg museum, who partnered with university of oregon for the inaugural oregon camps this year.)

Quinn had to write a letter of intent and request a letter of recommendation from a teacher as part of the application process; the very first of probably many in his lifetime. It turns out that the paleontology explorers: kansas camp has a waiting list each year and is fairly competitive, but as this was the first year of paleontology explorers: oregon, there were six kids who applied, and all got in. you might be hearing more about kansas next year!

The six campers were instantly absorbed into helping their two instructors load gear into their van, with which they would be traveling around oregon to various sites of paleontological interest. Rich and i mingled with some of the other parents discussing all the dinosaur t-shirts our kids had packed.  Then the leader of the program spoke to the parents while delegating the van packing to the staff and kids.

he talked about why he started these camps in 2014. he sees mentorship as a huge focus (this was obvious…  even in the simple things like the layering of staff – lead instructor, t.a., high school assistant, students… for example, empowering the high school assistant figure out coordinating the middle school kids carrying gear from point a to point b… “got a plan? ok go for it.” he talked about connections and how there is a guy he was a counselor with when he went to camp, who is now the head of paleontology in eastern kansas, and this great connection is part of why this program is successful. It was amazing to think of these camp friendships about to form, and how they can have lifelong impacts (i know this very well as applied to my own life, as i obtained a sister-in-law from summer camp!) i had told quinn that when i went to camp i wrote down each of my new friend’s phone and address to send letters – we didn’t have email or text yet. I encouraged him to do the same (or the modern equivalent) if there was a new friend with whom he wanted to keep in touch.

The Sternberg program is running another first-time trip this year at the high school level; paleontology explorers: Australia. I get chills just thinking of this, as Australia is a place Quinn has always dreamed of going. i asked about the probability of the australia trip happening again in future years he said, “well, i have 3 kids on the wait list for next year already.” i said, “quinn is saving up for it,” and he said, “i now have four kids on the wait list.” Ha! He encouraged him to come to kansas next year, as most of the australia-bound students were repeat students from paleontology: kansas.

he also mentioned his philosophy on outcomes/jobs and how not only is this kind of program good for resume/college application building but also the actual skills they learn on the trip prepare them well- very hands on, it shows them not only the “college professor” option of this line of work, but that there are many other ways to be in the work force besides that – everything from grant writing to lab and field technical work to scientific illustration.

the kids all popped out of their gear organizing and said to each of us, “i was told to come and say goodbye to you. goodbye!” after a quick hug, they all went cheerfully off to camp. it was just awesome to see him blend right in.

rich and i mused on the way home how it’s like hogwarts and camp halfblood becoming reality for him, but in his favorite subject.

3 comments to ~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ connections, finding eggs in unusual places, and the oxford comma

  • mamaC

    I was with Rich, a reaction along the lines of “He put THAT off?!” because of how many cards get made just for fun around my house and, I know, yours. (As a related aside, Noel just launched “Nic Nacs, INC” where you can “ask for what you want, and we will try to get it for you. Free of charge.” His written explanation is that Nic Nacs INC is a “thing library” so you can check out what you want and get to keep it for a week. The slogan at the bottom of his ad is “Get things you want!” One caveat is that the “thing” has to fit in an envelope. But you know, bottle caps will fit in an envelope, so if you wanted bottle caps you’d be set. The reason I thought of this is that Joe mentioned that he wanted baseball cards, so Noel immediately set about making a handsome set of cards featuring his favorite players, past and present, from the Red Sox. Some who are favorites just because, when he was really little, he liked their name. He has been making wizard cards for a long time, and once had a trading card shop with Linus for Town in school.)

    I loved Quinn’s work on his Greek mythology trading cards. Very impressive.

    Wow, this was such a great read. Such a lot of beautiful moments, and also some really wonderful-seeming experiences that you and Q got to take in during this time. (The school trips sounded REALLY awesome!) And, of course, the launching of the camp experience. I missed your initial post about the swim lessons (just saw it today and skimmed it but haven’t watched the videos yet) but that match sounds really great, too. This makes me happy for you guys.

    Ocie has dreamed of going to Australia for quite awhile, as well. (I think for her it is maybe mostly about productions at the Sydney Opera House, but travel/experiences too.)

    So good to read you.

  • mamaC

    (Ha, I was just reading over my comment above and when I got to “so if you wanted bottle caps you’d be set,” I thought: you really WOULD be set. He has already prepared several envelopes with a nice assortment of bottle caps from his collection that are ready for anyone who happens to want bottle caps!)

  • camp boss

    Thanks for the warning! It was not just but verbose but it was a lengthy post, but it wonderful to see Q life so full!!

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