~rainbow mondays~ adapt

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ parsimony

 

One afternoon just after his birthday I fed Quinn a mountain of food. A bowl of hard-boiled eggs (dragon eggs) had been the only snack the kids hadn’t eaten at the D&D party, so I suggested one for snack. “You made eggs for the party?” They were sitting right there in front of him the whole time. He ate two, then said he’d eat “the rest” for dinner (+5) but I convinced him to let Rich and I have two for our Caesar salad. And he did proceed to eat three more for dinner! And chicken, and veggies and the raspberries he needed at the co-op… oh my goodness.

Sifu gave him a birthday present- it is a grocery bag FULL of snacks; he knows what’s up!!! One of the carrot slices I served was a “snowman” from a mutant 3-prong carrot and he was putting off eating it and I encouraged him to just take a picture and eat the thing. He wanted to use my good camera, but since I had it on manual setting, it took a dark photo. I explained why and showed him how to change the shutter speed one step slower, take another photo, over and over until he got one he liked. Then I had him keep going to slower shutter speeds so he could see how it can make the image more blurry. He tried a 1″ and a 30″ shutter speed so he could see just how blurry (30 seconds is max on my camera). Then he finally ate the carrot.

Going to bed sometimes takes a few minutes. One night at 9:30 I was ready to be done but he needed to sit on my lap for a snug. Then he asked me to sit on him to see how that felt, and I did. I read him the part of the blog post from when he was three (into the heathers of the waters!) when he got in my jacket and told me when he got big he’d put me in his jacket… and then asked me to sing him a quiet song about the indigo girls. (He really got a kick out of hearing that he told me, “that means so much to you!” and now he will insert it into conversations and giggle.) I do not have documentation of which indigo girls song I chose to sing him back then, but I think it might have been power of two. Thirteen year old Quinn asked me to sing one now, so I sang Galileo. “Galileo’s head was on the block, the crime was lookin’ up the truth…” Which resulted in him reading the wikipedia article on Galileo Galilei.

I finally got him to go to bed, but his brain was just on. He was talking about a billion brainy things. We got on the subject of Occam’s razor (he brought it up – it was mentioned in ender’s game series but I am not sure why it came up as I was delirious by this time) and he gave a great example of a scenario to illustrate Occam’s razor (I threw down the word parsimonious for him and that was new, unschool at bedtime is how we roll). He said, “if you have a school of fish, and then you look at the place they were and they are gone, and you decide there are three possible conclusions to get you to this outcome

  1. they swam away
  2. a big fish came and ate them all
  3. a man in a boat came with a grenade and exploded it in the water and killed them all

and you have no other evidence to work with, you should definitely not conclude 3, because that’s very contrived and involves a whole bunch of unrelated pieces to the puzzle that don’t even really fit (why was a man there? why did he have a grenade? why did he detonate it in the water??) so the best, most parsimonious choice is 1 that they swam away, because it doesn’t require any extra agents (without evidence of them occurring) to be involved in the scenario. (But maybe we can’t rule out 2 because it also “fits” in ways that 3 does not.)”

Okay Quinn, perfect example, make your brain go to sleep now!

After we talked about the indigo girls I played their CDs in the car driving to and from school.

In science class this month, Quinn enjoyed the ecosystem modeling lesson because it involved an interactive computer simulation.

Lesson

Simulator

The simulation enabled the student to control the linkages in the ecosystem between primary producers, herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores, and then ran over time based on some built-in parameters that would result either in an equilibrium balance point where population levels reached a point where they stabilized, but in some cases depending on how you set up the links, you might cause the extinction of some of the players and one or a few species might take over the whole system.

Quinn related it back to dinosaurs. I was stealth recording audio at the time anyway, because of how excitedly he was talking about the simulation, and caught this:

“Time for a lesson on the Cretaceous Paleogene extinction real quick. The reason that all the dinosaurs died during that is because, so basically a meteor hits the earth. All of earth, even at the opposite end of the planet, the sky is just covered in solid dust for centuries and millenia. And the reason that earth’s life survived at all was because mammals at that time were incredibly diverse creatures in what they could eat. The thing is there’s dust everywhere so the herbs, the plants, the producers have nothing, no sun at all. They all died. Except the ones that didn’t need any sun in the first place. The plants in the polar ice caps survived, they never get any sun so they’re used to it. All those places that never have any sun anyway, they survive, but all the other plants are gone. So all the herbivorous dinosaurs are finished. All the herbivorous dinosaurs die because all the plants are gone so they have no food and it continues up the food chain so then the omnivores have nothing to eat – all the producers and herbivores are gone. The omnivores can’t eat the top predators because they’ll get eaten themselves, but once the omnivores are dead the top predators don’t have anything to eat so they die. So it went all the way up the food chain. Not to mention that half of them were suffocating from dust from the meteor (and all the ones in the immediate area of the meteor got blasted to bits).”

I asked, “How come the mammals didn’t go extinct?”

“Because we were diverse. Basically we could eat pretty much anything at that time period.”

“Okay. When you say ‘we’ you’re basically talking about rodents?”

“Yeah. But we can eat pretty much anything so we have no limits on specific things to eat. We can eat the dead trees and the fungus growing on the dead trees… All the death around us doesn’t affect us. Like we can eat the dead stuff, and we flourished because we were the only class of species that could. We were the only ones left who were able to like not have nothing at all to eat. And so what happened here (back to simulation) was the bunnies were eating one thing. Grass. The snails ate two – grass and ferns. So the snails are like the mammals in this scenario, and the bunnies are the dinos. Everything except the grass here is trying to get the grass gone. Even if that’s inadvertent and they need the grass. The bunnies need the grass, it’s the only reason they’re alive. But it’s not able to have balance. So they have no backup plan because the grass just got eliminated by bunnies, snails, ferns and trees. So bunnies have nothing to eat so they basically just groundrocketed….”

We talked more about ecological modeling, which I know only with a passing familiarity, and mentioned how it’s even more fun when you can control more of the parameters behind the scenes. Sometimes I point out when other areas of learning point back to dinosaurs, or when they involve skills that could be applied to his future paleontology career. Other times, I don’t need to point anything out. This time, he immediately transitioned to designing his own simulation in Scratch, and though he didn’t get far with it yet, I think it inspired him to delve back into computer programming.

In other news…

During a Minecraft Monday before his cousins arrived in the sandbox, Quinn discovered that cousin Luigi had left a giant taco floating in midair. He decided to populate the levitating taco with cats, each of which he named, obviously, Tacocat. (Q loves palindromes, and knows his cousins love cats as much as he does or maybe even more in Mario’s case.) I love that they leave little easter eggs of “Cousin was here” for each other to find in their shared world.

helping out with mini-karate one time when we were there for open mat

This month marked the beginning of our coronavirus reality; schools closed, we had the last swim and karate classes we will have for a while, and Quinn’s trip to Italy was postponed.

I shamelessly click on my own blog posts “other posts you may enjoy” and this one felt good to read at that time. My favorite part was seeing how Rich is still that same positive, solid guy who gets stuff done. Well that, and Quinn in a seal suit. It is fun to reflect on how Q is taller but still into math and in-depth characters.

Quinn and I started doing video calls and sharing our time together in various ways: reading books aloud or playing taboo or sharing a screen to watch vi hart’s pi day 2020 video or wellington the penguin touring the shedd aquarium. During one of the first visits he held his guinea pigs up for me to see and snuggled one in his lap for a while. Another time he talked me through solving his 2×2 rubiks cube after I scrambled it. He really blew me away with how he could visualize what I needed to do based on what I was looking at and then tell me how to orient and twist the cube to solve it again. He does not have an analogous cube at his dad’s to reference.

We talked about him directing some home learning for himself (with me as consultant sharing ideas of things to put on his list or not based on his choice and then to be accountability person when he does do things he can report back to me) and he went right to work on a schedule. Computer programming, drums, and electronics feature prominently.

He read Ready Player One this month, after he finished a Neil Gaiman book called Norse Mythology and was inspired to subsequently speed-re-read Magnus Chase.

I sent him picture of quokkas (they have a permanent smile and are an Australian marsupial starting with the letter Q so… duh) and he hadn’t seen my text so he googled it on a new tab while hangout was going, then screen shared with me so I could see what he was seeing. Digital telecommunications skills, check. Treat yourself to a quick google image search, you will not be disappointed.

Quinn and I took a social distance hike at Ona beach. We looked at textural details of drift logs and he came up with a new plan to create his own Jurassic park but without carnivores. He instructed me to take images of the various dinosaur skin texture inspirations on the driftlogs.

On the last day of this month of lifelong learning, we began our Risk game, and he was already well on his way to taking over the world by the end of session one.

~thankful thursday~ take care

Saturday 5-9

I am grateful for a beautiful day. Rich worked, but he didn’t go in until 8 so we slept until it was daytime instead of “still nighttime” as I describe normal 4:15 wakeups. After he went to work, I meditated, worked on lifelong learner (13th birthday edition) and then spent an hour in the garden, arranging dahlia bulbs, black eyed susan roots, and moth mullein and chrysanthemum seeds in the freshly weeded yellow terrace. Then I drove to pick up my veggies, stocked the fridge, did some more writing and some more gardening, and got on the video call with Quinn. We read about when the nine leave Rivendell, and their fight with the snowy pass on Caradhras, when they turn back and the men have to carry the hobbits through the snow, but Legolas can walk on top of the snow to bring hope back to all that the journey is one they can endure.

Rich came home mid-day and then we spent the afternoon together in the yard. He mowed while I transplanted pansies, verbena, monarda, nicotiana. I planted some more seeds out in the red terrace – hollyhocks, cosmos, scarlet sage. I found him on his knees in the rhododendron bed we planted a year ago, weeding. I joined in and did the perimeter where lots of new columbines are joining the herd.

Sunday 5-10

While I made breakfast, Rich played George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass disc 2, which we had pulled out because Sheryl Crow played such a lovely version of Beware of Darkness the other night. We hadn’t played George’s version yet, but I woke up with the song in my head, and when it came through the speakers when Rich pushed play on track one, it merged seamlessly with what was already in my head. Synchronicity.

“Beware of darkness

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness
It can hit you
It can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for”

Gardened all day on Mother’s Day. Nothing to do but power through. I added ten buckets of compost in the front garden, where the slugs have been preventing any poppies or nicotiana or lilies from growing. I’ve been on regular patrol, and now I have Lauren’s grape poppy seeds on their way to me in the mail to start again. I had a lovely extra visit with Quinn. He showed up at noon after sending me a Sierpenski’s triangle Mother’s Day card, freshly showered and with a button-down shirt on. He dressed up for me.

Monday 5-11

I am grateful Mother’s Day is behind me.

I gardened hard from 6-8am thinking it would rain any second… got lots more compost spread around and seeds are ready for a good soaking. At 3pm there was not really much rain yet, but a wee sprinkle.

Picked up groceries and filled my tank. Just shy of two months on one tank of gas.

Four wilsons! In the bayou. A whole wilson family! And more hummingbird bayou visits to the twinberry.

Tuesday 5-12

Quinn and I started an email story where we each write one line and send it back and forth. It began,

Once there was a boy who lived in a land where

the only things were a chain of islands and the ocean.

I’m excited to see where it takes us!

I am grateful to be starting to learn not to explain myself.

Rich and I went on an errand date to pick up more garden hose, lightbulbs, cat litter, whiskey, and coffee beans, and put gas in the highlander. Then I made nachos, of course. Always grateful for nachos.

Wednesday 5-13

I have been through the abundance meditations twice now and picked favorites. Number seventeen with the flowing stream and bird sounds, “I move through my days lighthearted and carefree knowing all is well,” is good for me to repeat.

Also cathartic is my walk around the rainy yard sacrificing slugs. I’m grateful for balance. Water sounds always help, even if it’s rain. I’m happy about this rain as it is timed very well to soak all the flower seeds I just planted, though I, and the seeds, will be ready for sun again soon!

Yelling also feels good. Playful laugh yelling at Rich’s mischief, yelling at the butthead deer who eat my flowers. Lighthearted and carefree is easier after a good yell.

 

Thursday 5-14

Grateful for music and literature. One of Quinn’s favorite bands, Ok Go, put out a new song called all together now, and I love it, as well as what they wrote. The song references Rebecca Solnit’s piece where we are melted down in the chrysalis, which I also love.

“There’s another analogy that comes to mind. When a caterpillar enters its chrysalis, it dissolves itself, quite literally, into liquid. In this state, what was a caterpillar and will be a butterfly is neither one nor the other, it’s a sort of living soup. Within this living soup are the imaginal cells that will catalyse its transformation into winged maturity. May the best among us, the most visionary, the most inclusive, be the imaginal cells – for now we are in the soup. The outcome of disasters is not foreordained. It’s a conflict, one that takes place while things that were frozen, solid and locked up have become open and fluid – full of both the best and worst possibilities. We are both becalmed and in a state of profound change.

“But this is also a time of depth for those spending more time at home and more time alone, looking outward at this unanticipated world. We often divide emotions into good and bad, happy and sad, but I think they can equally be divided into shallow and deep, and the pursuit of what is supposed to be happiness is often a flight from depth, from one’s own interior life and the suffering around us – and not being happy is often framed as a failure. But there is meaning as well as pain in sadness, mourning and grief, the emotions born of empathy and solidarity. If you are sad and frightened, it is a sign that you care, that you are connected in spirit.”

~Rebecca Solnit

I’ve been thinking about how being able to live with my choices includes not just my decisions about where I go, how I behave, what I do concerning Quinn and our physical safety and the physical safety of others around us, but also how I speak, write, react, how I treat others. It’s not unique to this time, but right now there seem to be so many opportunities to put this into practice. It helps when I can remember The Four Agreements, to not take personally what is coming from other people. My integrity is based on me being responsible for me.

For me, fear is not weakness; bravery is not absence of fear; delving into emotions is not the opposite of courage. I’ve definitely been swimming in the deep end, emotionally. Anything can make me cry; tonight it was the encouraging note from Quinn’s algebra teacher, for example.

But I know that for me, the alternative to stringing these weekly beads of emotional intensity on a continuous strand, is to let the strand tie me up in knots. There is a certain amount of tension in the line I must maintain; too much slack and snarls start to form. I am grateful for the tool of writing, for the way the strung beads can sometimes reflect light when the sun shines again to remind me when I look back over its length.

Friday 5-15

The sun is coming out, and it lit up every spider web in the woods as I went for an early morning walk. Everything is still wet from the rain, and the wet edges of things allow the light to refract so the edges are visible in a new, crystalline, gossamer way. I love the fresh new beginning of the sun after a three-day rain. I love spotting the spiraling new beginnings everywhere around me, bending the light.

Mercies are new every morning.

~rainbow mondays~ columbines of the dragon house

dusty rose fairy gown columbine (my columbine names are all made up, i have no idea of their real names!)

pink lemonade columbine

gryffindor columbine

“you might belong in gryffindor,

where dwell the brave at heart.”

western columbine (the original wild columbine of our region)

wilson’s warbler named wilson; actually we have a whole wilson family!

dragon above dragon house

purple fairy gown columbine

six-fingered man columbine

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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

~thankful thursday~ three little birds

Saturday 5-2

It seems like everywhere I turn the talk is of fear; of fears we feel, of fears we reject, of fears we perceive or reject in others. I want to check in with myself and see whether I am making decisions based on fear, but I am still feeling solid that I am making decisions based on information and knowledge, especially inner knowing. I have plenty of fear coming at me on all sides, but the way I think of bravery is that it isn’t the absence of fear, but the willingness to engage with the depths of what is. I am grateful for the ability to revisit my own words a few fathoms back along the unbroken line I keep stringing along to not lose myself, and remember what I said early on about being able to live with the decisions I make now, and that metric still feels right for me. I am grateful for the clarity.

The purple and blue baby quilt on my lap, handmade by my Mom for my baby shower so many years ago now, has butterfly fabric all around the border. Another visual reminder of the internal knowing, the compass within.

I let lots of time go by in between bringing up with Quinn when he will come back. He still says he is staying there longer…. “for now.” The last time I said, “if that means I don’t see you until you’re fifteen that’s a little hard for me,” and he said, “I know.”

I am grateful for the two little yellow birds were flying around the bayou salmonberry patch and the hummingbird who visited and flew just about right up to us (we think he is the juvenile we watched getting fed). They might just be three little birds, but they remind me that every little thing is gonna be alright. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or that there won’t be fearful things. It means this too shall pass.

Sunday 5-3

First swallowtail butterfly spotted in the yard!!! Today I am grateful for a nice long talk with mom while I weeded the patch of yard by the honeysuckle. Beautiful sun. Light on things. Yellow birds in the bayou.

Monday 5-4

Today I am grateful for robin hatchlings! I was outside taking pictures of our blooming lilacs when one of the parent robins landed and I heard Peep! Peep! Peep! And there they were! Three little birds! An auspicious birthday – May the fourth be with them.

I had settled into my lawn chair a little while later with my camera and my laptop to multitask, and a parent bird landed with another worm. It eyed me, stuffed the worm down a throat, and then stared at me, hard. I stopped my camera clicking and sat very still. It leaned forward into the nest again, grabbed something, and flew off.

Oh no! Did it take one of the babies? Is it moving them because I’m here? Is it because of the neighbor’s brush pile burn? Are they moving their babies up wind? Is it the deer repellent Rich sprayed yesterday to stop the buttheads from eating my columbine blossoms?

I continued to watch, convinced it was me. I was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Mom came back with a worm. Three little birds strained to be fed first… wait, one wasn’t gone?

She fed, stared, left.

Dad. Three babies. Fed, stared, left.

They’re still here.

Next time mom came in, she pulled a black object that I could tell was smaller than a baby bird, maybe it was spit-up or poop, and she removed it from the nest when she left.

That must be what I saw.

This pandemic is a house of mirrors, making things seem one way and then another. Making me check whether my instincts are faulty, whether I am removing my child based on a false sense of danger. But no, the danger is not false, and the metric of being able to live with the decisions is still in play. Keep taking it one day at a time.

5-5

My purple asparagus crowns are starting to grow where they were hastily heeled in. I finally order the compost I need to build up the bed where they will be planted.

I am grateful for a beautiful day with lots of outside time, sweating as I weeded, moving my nursery area around (slug intervention). An evening walk and homemade pizza with sausage from the farm and a yummy stout aged in a whiskey barrel. In bed before 9.

Quinn doesn’t want the pressure of thinking he might carry covid from one house to the next. I wonder if he would feel a sense of relief of having the weight of deciding taken off his shoulders. If one of us got sick, the responsibility would not be on him. But that’s not really how I’ve parented him. He is aware of his own inner knowing. So aware that he cannot be distracted from it.

Wednesday 5-6

Today I am back on day 16 of the abundance meditations: today I will remember to be grateful.

My three yards of compost were delivered and I feel grateful for how working with soil helps me get grounded.

Quinn emailed me before bedtime to see if I want to do an extra one hour video call on mother’s day. The wording woke up some deeper fears. Rich researched what the plandemic video was all about. It was not a good time of day for me to overhear it, so I walked outside to check if my makeshift cover for the asparagus bed was still intact. I sat in the Adirondack chair in the gloaming. A chirping bird flew overhead, and as I looked up, I saw that it was chasing a much bigger bird, also flying over, but silently. An owl! It flew straight into our woods and landed. A shadow soaring silently through the shadows. Boy am I peering into the shadows right now. I felt like I was getting a grip today. Got some spreadsheet work done, listened to Brene and Sue Monk Kidd and Jen Hatmaker, and Glennon reading Untamed, planted asparagus, had chili in the crock pot and cornbread baked by the time Rich got home. The day started out with gratitude doodled in rainbow colors in my journal. But I cannot lie. It is ending with a gaping hole in my heart that I am not sure how to reckon with.

The moon came up over the ridge when Rich came outside to find me. He got to see one swoop of an owl through the trees as well, under the full super moon we didn’t even realize would be rising tonight.

Thursday 5-7

Tomorrow it will be eight weeks since I’ve had Quinn home.

Since I had said that thing about not seeing Quinn until he is fifteen, he talked about the concept of dividing that amount of time up into 2 or 4 or 8 chunks of time. I said, “fractions. You’re doing math to it.” A phrase Vi Hart uses is to “do math to it” or “do algebra/calculus to it”. He said, “I do math to it when I get nervous.”

His face. His precious face and the way his lip curved when he said that. Vulnerability. (Still so grateful for video calls.)

It is not resolved but I am not letting myself dwell on it. I am trying to focus on gratitude for how much integrity my kid has that he wants to prioritize long term goals like us all living past this pandemic, and how he is able to recognize that doing numbers is a defense mechanism… the awareness he has. It’s kind of blowing my mind.

Friday 5-8

The robin babies are gone, fledged already. I believe I miscalculated and they actually hatched earlier than the 4th. Now I am seriously empty nesting, bereft of my son and my robin nestlings as I head into mother’s day weekend. I thought I had more time with them. I don’t know why I thought that.

Today I will remember to be grateful for the time I’ve had.

mother hands

I stood rinsing the dish soap off of the strawberry dinner plates and setting them in the drainer this morning, letting water run over my hands, I pondered whether I would write a mother’s day post. The strawberry plates in my hands were a mix of those that actually belonged to my mother’s mother, and those that I bought from a vintage etsy shop for my birthday this year, to replenish the stack that had dwindled to only three. An eight-by-ten-inch swatch of Nana’s strawberry wallpaper hangs to my left above my sink. Dish washing is not my favorite chore, but it is mine to do, and I try to keep my sink area cheerful with reminders of the reason behind the love labors. Part of mothering is washing these dishes, and I am thankful to have the chance to mother, and grateful for the long line of mothers who washed the dishes before me, and all of the other mothering they did to bring me here.

I chose this photo for my mom’s card this Mother’s Day, originally because heart-shaped flowers seemed right for the tenderness of mothers, and the way these hearts lined up, with the long line of our grandmothers in mind, stretching into the past. My own heart has bled during this season of separation from my son, another layer to the flower’s symbolism, one that is common to the hearts of all mothers, I imagine. I know there have been seasons when my own mom’s heart bled for me.

Mom has taught me so many things throughout life, and most of them I have not rejected, although her habit of reading the last chapter of a book first to determine if it is worth reading the rest is one I never adopted. Mom does not like to sit with uncertainty, not even in a work of fiction. Even though I start stories from chapter one, right now I am finding it a daily challenge to live with so much uncertainty of how this story of world chaos ends. How the story of my separation from my son will resolve itself finally. Here I sit on Mother’s Day, without my child, and knowing so many who sit without their child or without their mother, and wonder if the holiday is worth the trouble of the grief it cannot help but bring along in the celebration of mothers? The older I get, the more I realize what a tough holiday it is, and that for so many good humans, today’s status is, at best: it’s complicated.

I busy my hands in the garden, working to achieve my 2020 garden goal of more flowers for butterflies. I add compost to the front garden bed, seeding scarlet sage, seashells cosmos, and black hollyhocks in a freshly weeded area, and spend a while weeding around the bleeding hearts on the edge of the yard today as I ponder, and try to keep from pondering, all the hard topics of Mother’s Day. My mom is having a lackluster Mother’s Day herself, and she makes me feel better in the solidarity when we talk on the phone.

I lean heavily on the butterfly metaphor lately, at the risk of cliché, but I find it coming to mind again, when it comes to not writing the ending of the story before it can be lived. I am holding out hope that we will emerge in a more beautiful form than we went into this darkness, transformed into beings capable of things we could only have imagined in our wildest dreams, Before.

In one November gratitude post I wrote about how I am grateful for overlapping generations, unlike the monarch butterflies who never know their parents at all. Still, I can’t help noticing that our nature is not that different from theirs; I know my own mother, and I knew her mother briefly, but the long line of mothers that stretches back in time before her, I never knew. A few have names to me, Patricia Ann, Anna Hilda, Hilda Louise, Anna Louise, but beyond my great great grandmother even names fade out of memory. I repeat their names today, as I began to do on my first mother’s day as a mama, another string of rosary beads I work through my hands, these hands that wash the strawberry plates, till the soil, make the lasagna according to Mom’s recipe, these hands that resemble the hands of the women whose names I utter. Despite not knowing them all, I am tied to them by that soul heartstring which is much too elusive to describe but irresistible to try to capture in words. Tied by apron strings longer than centuries and as impossible to pin down on the page as a butterfly’s fluttering flight.

These names are in my blood even if I can’t know the women who bore them. Their meanings include noble, grace, and warrior. A quadruple helping of warrior, in fact, with two of Hilda and two of Louise among my recent maternal lineage. I can only hope that the triple helping of grace (Anna/Ann) will help me through the times I grow weary in my warrior capacity. I believe that grace and gratitude are related in their roots, and default back to this trusty tool of gratitude that I carry in a prominent place, like a sword that I wear as part of my warrior armor. I look down at my hands, the hands of my mother, my Nana, of each noble warrior mother walking ahead of me, as I pull it from its sheath once again.

Today I am grateful for the hearts and hands of mother warriors.

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ my backstory is yes

Three parties and a dance, not bad for a birthday month!

Quinn got to have a sleepover on Sunday of MLK day weekend. Sunday afternoon Aragorn invited Quinn, Legolas and Goldberry over, and they played D&D. He described some of the action to me, and a lot of it seemed to center around Legolas’s character’s tendency to eat foreign objects in his environment, which strangely is a tendency the real-life Legolas has been known to exhibit. His character got eaten by whale, only to eat the whale from the inside out, and so on. It sounded like Quinn had a ton of fun. Goldberry of course left before sleepover time, but I love that she was there up until that time. I suggested to Quinn that he could invite the three of them for D&D on his Sunday birthday, but of course without sleepover since there will be school that Monday.

Pancake W came for a visit (Christmas observed)! She loves Quinn so much. She wanted to eat his Hawaiian burger, used him to push herself up to standing a million times, held onto him for balance, crawled over to him and climbed onto his lap while they played with the big duplo legos.

He is so good with her, and she already adores him like B and Z seem to do. He is a big enough kid now that he is game to build things for her to deconstruct, because that is the phase she is in developmentally. As soon as he heard that, he built structures all night for her to take apart. He just laughed as she opened his Christmas present for him. Rich and I reminisced about how he was a bit less flexible when B was the baby pancake deconstructionist, and Quinn was only five. Q got a lesson in backgammon from his brother in law; my game knowledge is finite, so it’s good he has a large pool of adults to glean games from!

Another find-out-at-last-minute middle school dance, this time Rio theme. He said, “I think bright colors?” I loaned him my Hawaiian shirt that I bought in Fiji twenty years ago which FITS HIM and he put on his gray owl hoodie over it and no one ever saw what he wore. He said Goldberry wore all black, the boys just wore their normal stuff but friend M wore light blue. Apparently, M and Legolas are “together” so that was the big deal of the evening.

same shirt size, but his hands are now wider than mine.

mammoth tooth

baby mammoth femur

coprolites!

We went to “fossil fest” at the marine science visitors center. Quinn spoke with a few people who have found some cool fossils in Oregon, including mammoth teeth and bones, parts from sharks and turtles. He had me take pictures of coprolites and some of the fossils and send them all to him. One guy gave us his card to call him so we can send Quinn floating down the Yamhill river with him looking for fossils (including snorkeling – which inspired some “I’d better practice snorkeling!” on the way home) over the summer.

Lots of building lego robots this month. Still to come: the programming of said robots!

We got to go to a friend’s birthday party being hosted by Goldberry’s mom, and when I asked if 13 year old boys were wanted at this party, Goldberry’s mom said “Goldberry would love to hang out with Quinn.” I had been wanting to connect with their family more… they are also theatre folks (Goldberry’s mom was dear sugar in tiny beautiful things). I let them know Goldberry was invited to Quinn’s birthday party in two weeks and they said she can come!

The biggest deal of the weekend (for me) was Quinn started independently cleaning his room! I mentioned on Friday that he’d probably want to think about cleaning it this weekend, since when he gets home the next time, it will be time for his birthday party and having room for friends would be good. After we got home from the party he really started turning onto the idea of cleaning, and Sunday he worked at it a whole bunch. “I knew how to clean a room, I just chose not to.” He’s being thorough, putting things in reasonable places, pulling things off his desk, organizing it, making it so he can use the surface again, organizing legos into their cases, thorough. All this time I’ve been invested in my hippie approach of not nagging/requiring room cleaning with the optimistic hope that one day self-motivation would actually occur. It is a wonder to behold. He’s doing it cheerfully!!!!!

It may seem that not much academic learning is going on; it is, and it’s not that it’s unremarkable to speak about, it’s that time is racing by. I have these funny images of Quinn letting me know how he knew the exact dimensions of the unit of measurement “hogshead” and if I had not taken them, I would have completely forgotten the hilarious memorization moment of him showing me the inside cover of a composition book.

We had a Friday night karate class with Sifu Diaz (our sifu’s sifu).

Then a Saturday trip to go to a birthday party for pancake W. Cuteness overload, and a special big sister got Quinn and her little W each their own special giant birthday cupcake. She said, “I hope he likes lemon…” it’s only his favorite!

Then on Sunday we had a Quinn birthday!

His friends are so cool. Goldberry showed up first, just before 2:00. She was so sweet, “your house is so nice! I love it here!” and loved our cats, too. She did the same with Quinn’s room, “oh your room is so awesome!” and he gave her the tour of his (clean!) room. I was still baking cookies but eavesdropping of course. She gave him a card and a pack of peeps! “I didn’t know what to get you for a present!” I thought her choice was perfect.

Legolas came next, and his present was also food: ramen! Ahh, he must have had good memories of last year’s Naruto/ramen birthday. Then Aragorn showed up, and he gave Quinn a tiny 3D printed D&D figurine.

Then the snack bowl emptying/D&D playing began, and Aragorn had my guitar in his hand as soon as I gave him permission to use it and apologized for the old strings and out-of-tuneness. He can play quite a few tunes! After they worked on their characters (and emptied all the snack bowls) for a while, they took a break and went out and swept off the trampoline and jumped.

They came back and worked on characters some more, the conversation was entertaining. Quinn was being dungeon master (“DMing” is the lingo) but the other three were making characters. Legolas had John the paladin who apparently ate his family. Goldberry worked on her dragon-born bard Bob, who played death metal on his ukulele. Aragorn didn’t have a character because he had been DM the other times they played, so he made up Swaylor Tift, a ranger. “My backstory is yes,” he announced. They drew stick figures of their characters in the box provided, and Legolas and Aragorn both had pretty pathetic drawings, but the banter about their stick people was gold: “he missed leg day; he has muscles on his muscles; he has a keleven-pack….” just hilarious. One of them said something about Bob, I don’t know which pronouns were used (male for Bob or female for Goldberry?) but she responded, “don’t assume my character’s gender!”

There were singalongs galore. All star, Africa, Bohemian rhapsody, etc….

At dusk, the teens just came inside briefly to stack pizza on plates and take it back out to the trampoline – it was dark out! I couldn’t help feeling like they’re such teens already!!!! Wahhhh! I finally lured them inside with ice cream and lemon cookies, and every one of them had seconds. All cookies gone.

After they left, I asked Quinn if he wanted to blow out candles but he said that he had done that the day before, and one wish is enough, but that lit candles would be nice. He finished his thirteenth birthday reading by candlelight.

~thankful thursday~ exponential

Saturday 4-25

Grateful for coffee…. biscuits and gravy… lounging and talking. A gray and overcast morning drive to pick up veggie box; a meander home along the bay road, no tail gating, no rushing, fog and vibrant greenery, rhodies starting to bloom along the way. A bayou walk, then some weeding. Always grateful for a nacho dinner.

Sunday 4-26

Another beautiful day; most of which was spent in the garden. With all of the extra light Rich has enabled to enter the garden, I can expand the dahlia habitat across the whole rainbow terrace bed. He studies the angles of light; at one point today he had to go outside at a certain time of day to “research” whether the garden would be in the path of light by this time if he rents a man-lift for a day to reach the next level of branches of the cedar so he can remove a few more. He concluded this plan is good, that it will result in even more light for flowers.

I am thankful for my husband’s patience with me when I overthink all things. He lets in the light to my garden and does the same thing to my mind, and finally the butterflies can find their way in.

Monday 4-27

I am grateful for Rich’s hugs; “I was giving you lots of energy.”

A gray drizzly day in which to wander around the yard yelling at deer and murdering slugs.

I am grateful to feel like I am back in the groove with routine. Attending to the little things. Not trying to solve the big ones.

As we climb into bed I ask Rich, “should I clench my jaw? Should I hold my breath?” And let him tell me I should let it all go. I am grateful he knows the answers to these questions.

Tuesday 4-28

I had a laugh at Glennon’s morning meeting ditty, “Jesus loves me this I know, for he gave me lexapro.” I’ve certainly been finding lovejoy’s “herbal rescue remedy” to be a gift from the goddess right now.

Work from home struggles: typing with a 20 pound cat lying across my arms. Both cats are sitting on me.

Chapter infinity of zero is read, and I mentioned quintessence theory to Quinn, as the final chapters were all about the universe’s end, but the book was twenty years old and I wanted Quinn to know the theories have expanded maybe as much as the universe itself during that time. Quintessence has such a nice ring to it, and feels hopeful to me, the idea of a fifth dynamic fundamental force, an unknown mystery exerting itself in the cosmos whose impact on the speed of the expansion of the universe is an open question. Open questions in physics feel like hope, like that little thing with feathers can fly right into the opening. Also, for obvious reasons, one of my sources of hope in the universe goes by a name starting with the same letters. Quinn told me his ideas about black holes, wormholes, and time travel, and I will save the details for a lifelong learner post, but he is the quintessence of the human race, in my opinion.

One of the memes I particularly enjoyed in the early stages of the pandemic was the graph with “month of 2020” on the x axis and “time spent looking at exponential graphs” on the y-axis. The relationship was…. exponential, of course. This doesn’t hold true for me, as a person who works in a microbiology lab at least sometimes, I actually looked at them a lot before 2020. One way that I am keeping science alive for myself is that I began my very first sourdough starter a little over a week ago, which means that I am just about ready to use it to make some bread. Culturing a wild yeast is something I’ve done before (I’ve made things like blackberry wine and apple cider vinegar) but I have baked bread with store bought yeast all along. I am reaching the end of the 2-pound package of yeast I bought several years ago, which has lived in a plastic tub in my freezer. I am down to about 3 teaspoons and the baking aisle is as bleak as the toilet paper aisle now, so it was time to start a new experiment. The first few rounds of the culture get mostly thrown away, as you capture wild yeast (in my case off the surface of dried apples, apricots, cherries and raisins I had lying around my cupboard), and feed them on water-flour paste in a jar. After a day or two, it’s time for another feeding, but you only bring over a small portion of the original mixture, seeding a new jar of paste with just a half teaspoon of the live bubbling culture you began. After the third round of this, you’ve diluted any impurities out, while nurturing a healthy culture, and it’s time to build it up. Now instead of throwing away most of the material each time, you’re just feeding it, and it doubles in size with each feeding. Fast-growing organisms with short life-cycles grow in this manner – exponentially. You start with just a few tablespoons of flour and water, but just two days later, you have a quart jar full of bubbling flour paste. If you don’t cut away some of that and bake with it, a few more days of feedings would start to take over your kitchen!

Some more nefarious organisms exhibit exponential growth much like my jar full of wild yeast, but I’m trying to stay focused on the growth curves of things that are beneficial and life-giving: the love I see and feel around me grows and expands much like my dough, given the proper ingredients and conditions, sweetened with honey and kneaded well. Quinn’s maturity level, how he is finding new ways for us to be together, his expressions of love in new ways, these are seeing rapid, vigorous growth and I’m so grateful. I have fears about him wanting to stay at his Dad’s forever and never return to me, but when I can return to what I know within me, it’s that we cannot be separated. There is no undoing that. It’s baked in.

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ existence

Christmas was just the three of us. We were sick so I called off plans and visitors. There was something sweet about it, and though we missed our family we know we will see them soon. For me it resembled Rew Christmases of days of yore; we took turns opening presents and took time to express our thanks. We sank into the slow simplicity, Quinn explored his gifts and learned some html on the side; learning extra as he does when he has a break from school. Speaking of school, this fall has been pretty laid back; comparing in retrospect to sixth grade, seventh grade has been a breeze.

Quinn made me a trio of origami dolphin ornaments, which I adore and will treasure for years to come.

 

Quinn is rocking the texting this week! I heard from him tonight and the last few days and he’s been gone over a week so this is a big deal. getting closer to italy so the timing is perfect of course. putting in his paleontology camp application tomorrow for the first round deadline, and some of the texting was about getting letter of rec from his teacher and he texted me back “i did it” and I’m just feeling proud of the kiddo.

Quinn had a tearful moment writing his letter of intent for his paleontology camp application. He was bogging down and asking for wording suggestions… a wall went up when I suggested he not only say why he felt the camp would be fun for him, but also why he would be a good candidate for the camp – why they should invite him, why he would be a great addition to the group. It took some time to see behind the wall, but ultimately what was bugging him was trying to say he was any better than any other kid. At first he was phrasing it that he didn’t want to “make the decision for them” with his letter, and then I explained all kids applying would be writing similar letters, and the admissions people would have to make a tough decision if more than enough kids applied… well, he was just hating all of this information, but it was presenting more like anger or just simply aversion to “having to” write the letter but I didn’t go there… and then I finally got it. “Are you picturing the kids who don’t get to make it into the camp?” and the tears spilled over. Oh, not stubbornness, resistance, or aversion. Just empathy. Just intensity of emotions. That’s my kid. I finally got him convinced that most kids got in, that if there were kids who would cause problems, they’d figure it out from their teacher letters or things like that and maybe not invite those kids, and that worst case scenario, worthy kids who didn’t get in this time around get put on waiting list and get in next year. He still had scenarios he needed to cover, “what if this year would have been their only chance?”

“You mean if they’re a senior in high school?”

“Yeah.” We talked through all the scenarios, and how the instructors want for all the kids to go, and that’s why they have been expanding these camps (there are a whole panel of new ones this year- more fossil prep, one on illustration, etc.). I had been giving him words like “positive attitude” and “making contributions to group work” and he hadn’t been able to start typing yet but then I said let’s think of a time at last year’s camp when you showed these qualities… and tell it that way, like a story (finally a good idea) and he ended up using the story of last year’s camp having rainy weather and how he maintained a positive attitude and they still found fossils, and even pitched in to redo their instructor’s tent that flooded.

Since last time he was here, we have been playing lots of double nine dominoes (the game called chicken foot that Aunt Margie taught my brothers and I as kids). I guess I got a set of dominoes at the thrift store a while back and forgot about it, but they have been so fun. Funny when all the new Christmas toys are sitting here and we’re playing the 50 cent game. Hid play with his new stuff too, but playing games together might be his love language.

All the dinners last night. I made pizza for third dinner for everyone. He ate lots of pieces while playing dominoes. I am bragging about winning at point accumulation (which means I’m losing). I had market today, and while I was gone, he ate breakfast and more pizza, and by the time I got home he was back in bed asleep! He never does that. He slept for a couple hours and I woke him up at 4:30 to play more dominoes and eat more pizza.

We giggled a lot about contranyms.

As we played dominoes I would ask him one of his spelling words (on our list from words he had been misspelling that I gathered from his homework) every so often. One was field (he was writing feild). I told him about i before except after c, and then showed him, “except when your foreign neighbor Keith receives eight beige counterfeit sleighs from feisty caffeinated weightlifters.” because that also made him giggle.

He wasn’t ready to sleep last night at 10pm because of his nap, so I left him with headlamp and magic cards (his dinosaur themed deck needed some rearrangement to add in his new rampaging brontodon card from his christmas stocking) and went to bed.

I did a free two week trial of the headspace meditation app. Originally it was to help me kick off my new meditation habit, but it ended up being a help to Quinn in a few difficult moments. One afternoon, overwhelmed about his homework piling up from not being up front with his dad about how much work he had, I encouraged him to take a break and listen to his favorite song. When seven nation army didn’t do the trick and he still wasn’t feeling able to get started, I asked him to come do a five-minute meditation with me. He was still grumpy after that but no longer flopping around refusing to even start, and was able to make some headway on his work. At bedtime I told him that headspace has sleep meditations and he said, “yes!!!” with both arms thrown up in celebration. I let him choose from the options, one of which is “sleepcast” which is “storytelling in a range of soothing voices” and he scrolled through and found one with an owl icon called “sleeper mountain” and he fell asleep that night listening to a 45 minute sleep story about the mountain and meditating with crickets and forest sounds.

In thinking over what to do about Quinn’s homework stress at his dad’s, I do think something will need to be said, but I think it’s going to have to come from Quinn. I am trying to keep my eye on the long term goal of Quinn self-advocating, even with his dad. The short term fix of me bringing it up to coparent could risk a blow up and I already told Quinn I wouldn’t. I’m having an ongoing conversation with Quinn about how preventing his dad’s anxiety attacks is not his job, and that it is causing his own anxiety to increase when it gets in the way of him getting his homework done for a week at a time.

He was doing better a few nights later… mostly caught up, and in pretty good spirits.

I have always sort of figured I should be able to meditate yet I have never done it. On the other hand, I realize I actually do it all the time, just not for very long. I quiet my thoughts, focus on my breath, when I’m feeling like I need to re-center. I also do it with Quinn, so he’s quite familiar. Another morning I gave him another 5 minute headspace one and he just sat on the couch with it and it’s a beautiful thing to see him sitting with his eyes closed just breathing. What do I want for him in life? That. Being ok in there.

Q asked me for a snuggle today after school and he had me sit on couch and laid himself on my lap with two fuzzy blankets over him (he was basically in egg configuration but didn’t play the egg game just then) and then Lisa kitty came right over and climbed up on top of him and curled up and we sat that way for ten minutes. I kind of want to brag on facebook about my kid, but not necessarily that he is in bed reading statistics right now, but, “my son, age twelve years ten and a half months, five foot eight inches tall, still asks to get on my lap.” It’s mildly painful but it is so sweet at the same time.

He is writing something but I don’t know what, and when I asked he wouldn’t tell me but said, “when I’m done you can read it.” I told him I totally get that, I am the same way! The apple doesn’t fall far.

~rainbow mondays~ from

Where I’m From

 

I am from a shovel full of soil.

From the worn handle of the pitchfork

And the lurching advance of the hay wagon.

I am from gentle nurturing and sweaty stubbornness.

I am from enduring apple orchards.

(They slept, hidden beside farm fields

and wrapped in brambles.

Uncovered once more, they beckon

Butterflies and bees and me.)

I am from rolling green hills where mantises pray

And calves surreptitiously slipped into the world.

Apple pie and grilled cheese with tomato soup.

I am bursting from a screen door on a summer day

Across a lawn full of dandelions and clover.

I’m from, “it’s time to do the chores.”

I’m from Country Roads.

Even here, there is still dirt under my nails

And untameable roots.

Apple saplings sprout unintentionally

In every neglected flowerpot.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

Then sings my soul.

(I found the prompt for this fill-in-the-blank where-I’m-from poem on rarasaur’s blog. I did not expect to end up liking the results scribbled in my journal!)

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday morning

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