~rainbow mondays~ june blooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

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

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ unrivaled unraveling

~1-23-19 to 2-23-19~

 

winter wonderings

Quinn took three classes at Winter Wonderings at OSU this year, and finally got to enroll in one of the Minecraft modules. He also took manual chess programming and Oregon geology. Rich drove him to his class one Saturday while I worked farmer’s market; so grateful for his stepdad presence in Quinn’s life.

he was excited about an idea he had for his next minecraft tag class. he wanted to plant all the different species of trees, and one thing he has figured out how to do is how to plant a giant spruce tree (you plant a 2×2 area of spruce but then let one of the saplings grow, apparently) and then when it’s fully grown, he planned to mine into the trunk, creating a spiral staircase that ends up in a watchtower up at the top.

social and cultural

nestled among the progeny of camp boss

the second middle school dance took place, with a theme of midnight in Paris. He came out afterwards with his scarf and said he was the only one who attempted to dress French. “it was a semi-formal!” i had no idea. obviously a lot of other kids didn’t know what semi formal meant; he was not the only one in jeans. he had a great time, and danced all night again. otherwise, that day was a Friday and so, the usual 3 dinners and a bath.

saturday afternoon quinn binge watched naruto and rich and i napped. then we ate leftovers and went to the little mermaid. quinn had seen it with school, but he wanted to go again. he tried to prepare me for different parts “this part gets a little sad, but it gets better again later on.” he wasn’t the only one; the 3 year old girl seated in front of us breathily whispered to her mom, “it’s ariel!!!!”

quinn’s female friend who will henceforth go by the pseudonym goldberry has become friends with the whole fellowship and has been eating at the same lunch table… goldberry was in the little mermaid cast, and quinn said hi to her afterwards in the green room. this month he asked, “do you think goldberry and i will ever actually go on a date?” she was back in his group in science, and he seemed really happy about that. they were working on green home design. then later in the month, she confided in him that she is gay. he dealt with some disappointment about it not looking like they’d ever date, but also felt honored she had been comfortable enough in their friendship to know she could say this to him and trusted that he would be a good friend to her. he also seemed to appreciate that i had experienced the same thing a time or two in my life.

other social engagements this month included a sleepover at aragorn’s where there was much playing of the game go as well as video games. Rich, quinn and i attended the valentine’s dance performance. we also drove quinn and aragorn to and from their penultimate winter wonderings, and rich and i had a nice lunch and went shopping for fun chopsticks while we waited for them. as we headed home for a birthday sleepover, we got to listen to them singing every word of take on me (every bit as popular in grade 6 this year as it was in 1985 just after a-ha released it – in fact the marching band has chosen it for their song list to memorize for this year). We of the front seats of the car strained not to laugh out loud when aragorn asked, “are you guys familiar with the band nirvana?”

Anime/ramen birthday party! the characters of naruto eat their favorite food, ramen, with chopsticks, so the boys all dined accordingly. They ate lemon cupcakes in the conventional manner. We celebrated with aragorn, legolas, and legolas’s little brother. A good time was had by all, and the boy turned 12.

fine dining

We met rich’s mom for her birthday at the noodle cafe. quinn ordered shrimp tempura and udon noodle soup. he ate the tail on the first one and then said, “oh, you’re not supposed to?”

“it’s fine to eat it but was it chewy?”

he said, “yeah, it was hard to get through it.” the noodles there are amazing and big and homemade. for the first few he’d pull an individual noodle out of the broth onto his plate and cut it into bite size lengths with his fork and stab each one to convey it to his mouth. then he switched to getting one end into his mouth and sucking it in. we were laughing about how he doesn’t get out much. he kept getting distracted by the tv on the opposite end of the room showing cool aquarium fish. and then he would talk about his advanced theory on some topic… then he’d know absolutely nothing about a topic (government shutdown) so we’d explain it to him. it was fun. he asked if we could come back to the noodle cafe again sometime because he really liked the shrimp and noodles. and the crab and cheese wonton appetizers.

karate

quinn is being taken to karate by his dad on occasion, which is a big win in the department of self advocating.

One night i had no idea he would be there, so i walked in for my class to see him working with sifu, which was a pleasant surprise. i got a nice big hug and a short check in and observed that he was still wearing the same yoda socks he left in days earlier. grubby, but happy.

He had his half-blue belt test this month. he did well and got to show off his analytical side as usual, and he is doing better all the time with sparring. he still gets put on the floor in a headlock, but we talked more about the one kid who does that to him every time, about how he really doesn’t do karate when he spars, he just tackles. and how that shows a lack of skill on one level. i was able to point out some specific moves quinn made that were especially showing his strengths like his speed (he was getting punched a bit by one kid, but then got off a really fast punch to the kid’s face (and it was well within the expected range of control, he wasn’t mean or malicious but he was getting a good shot in, and both he and the other boy knew it.) and when headlock/tackle boy got quinn wrapped up, well, quinn wrapped him up right back… neither one of them were getting off the floor… it felt less one-sided than usual.

he did very well on his techniques and forms as he usually does. if someone forgot a technique, sifu would often have quinn demonstrate. he also reacted really well on action/reaction testing.

Over the longer term, it is easy to see so much growth in coordination- things like keeping his hands in fight position when he kicks… he used to always drop his hands and now almost always maintains hand position.

The ceremonial kick was still a struggle. when he talked about it later it sounded to me like he actually doesn’t believe he is flinching or feel himself flinching. i think the way he experiences it may actually be that he is doing his absolute best not to flinch, and he can’t control it. In other areas he is still figuring out how to be consistently aware of his body and i have a hunch it’s in the same category. i don’t think quinn is trying to be defiant or noncompliant, or that he is *not trying not to flinch… i think he truly believes he *is not flinching.

the awesome thing was once he told me his take on that, he moved on and wasn’t obsessed or stuck on it or disappointed with the one thing that didn’t go well, he was happy with other things, and was able to feel good.

we also had a great discussion of goals he has for his karate. he could articulate exactly what a setback it is to not be going to class during his dad’s weeks. he told me he had been discussing it with his dad, and had asked him to take him to at least one class each week so he can go a faster pace and still try for his goal.

after the belt test he grabbed two more pieces of pizza and his graph paper, pencil, and ruler/protractor/circle stencil/triangle tools, and sat at the table drawing an elaborate graph papery something. he would not tell me what it was, just that he *needed to do that at 9:30pm after a 2 hour belt test, before he could let his brain go to bed. intense!!!

we both attended a weekend karate seminar with sifu z at our dojo, which is a pretty big deal for our little town. sifu z is a 9th degree black belt from LA and we’ve been at his seminars before, but only in bigger dojos. we were worn out by the end, and learned a ton. quinn did a great job with his partners, who are both kids he can often goof off with, but they stayed on task. he was very animated on the way home, saying, “at one point we had three black belts helping us! sifu todd, sifu z, and mr martinez!” and then listed all the black belts in order of what degree (how many stripes) and then was rattling off facts about how the different lineages of kenpo pracitioners relate to one another. knowledge he has picked up by absorbing and listening to everything.

sifu todd had told sifu z’s 6 year old that if he behaved throughout the whole seminar, he would get out a balloon for him and he could take 6 tries at popping it on the ceiling fan (our sifu knows how to motivate each individual child). at the end of the seminar, he did as he had promised, and inflated a giant red balloon and the boy started launching it at the ceiling fan trying to pop it. i watched from behind quinn, who was sitting on the bench watching very intently, with his fingers stuck in his ears. Quinn has come so far with tolerating sensory input, but it’s moments like that when i realize sensory intensity is still such a big deal for him. things like popping balloons, he can now deal with emotionally (he isn’t grieving the death of the balloon anymore if it’s not his balloon) however he still wants nothing to do with hearing it pop.

executive function literature

i finally managed to get my hands on the book misdiagnosis and dual diagnoses in gifted children and adults through interlibrary loan. it’s something i should have read 6 or 7 or 11 years ago. i think i remember my therapist telling me about the book, back in the 6-7 years ago time frame, and it would have helped me sort through my is-this-asperger’s quagmire. had i been gainfully employed at the time, i may have just bought it, but that was part of the quagmire and all.

i also enjoyed another book called differently wired, written by the host of the tilt parenting podcast. both the book and the podcast i would recommend to anyone else with a person in their lives who doesn’t quite fit into the neurotypical mold.

finally, an audio book on processing speed called bright kids who can’t keep up has been on while i’ve been analyzing lab data. i have only been passively absorbing some of the soundbytes from it, but some of the things standing out are examples like your kid not remembering a party invite until it’s the last minute; or staying on the edge of the playground deciding what to do and meanwhile all their time goes by… there are lots of glimpses of how processing speed could easily be part of quinn’s package.

Quinn’s math class started geometry (he was thrilled). on his homework, he was calculating area of a parallelogram and said, “whenever i see a parallelogram, i think sandcrawler, from the jawas.” (is it okay if i’m a little disappointed he doesn’t need to slay monsters anymore to get his homework done? it was so brief. he is impressing me with some observable work ethic improvements.)

on to trapezoids, one problem gave him the area of 160, and the height of 8 and base2 of 30, but he had to solve for base1. this stumped him briefly, as he had so far been calculating area from b1 b2 and h. i said, “they give you…” and restated the values listed, “so you basically solve for x.” i continued rambling about how i thought he should write down the steps and he interrupted me “10.” then it took until the next night’s homework session to get the steps written down, though he had solved it in 2.5 seconds. there was no fretting or fighting though, just time wasting and lollygagging now. less stressful these days. this same month was when he had to determine the surface area of the pyramid of Giza but got sidetracked on the fact that the base length was a fibonacci number.

he had an A in math at the halfway point through sixth grade! most of his grades were good, though he would have had more A marks if notebook grades were not factored in (his math teacher being an exception – she overlooked his incomplete notes given he had clearly absorbed the material). he will need to work on note-taking skills more. executive functions include things like note-taking, and while some kids might just start writing down what teachers say or write on the board and develop the skill without direct step-by-step instructions, i think quinn is a guy who needs more steps spelled out such as, “if i am writing it on the board, you should write it in your notebook,” or “make sure you write down xyz notes during class today,” and most likely beginning the sentence with the name “quinn” would help it take effect. other contributing factors for him might be that it takes him extra time to write anything down, and i think he has trouble dividing his attention between listening and writing; he is absorbing all the information without taking notes, and acing his exams, so there’s that. he will continue to find his balance of effort required to learn the material vs effort required to achieve a certain grade; he has no problem learning material without taking notes, but notes are often part of the grade.

one social studies assignment had been due on friday but he “thought”‘ he could get more time to do it monday. i told him i’d rather he got it done at home because if it had been due it made more sense to get it handed in asap, and also i am encouraging him to get a grip on his notebook, so focusing his class time on that seemed wise.

they did mayan and aztec civilizations and had moved on to inca, and i remember loving the quipu knot tying code system of the incas. their assignment was to make up their own code system analogous to quipu, so basically if you have 1 knot it means A, double knot means B, etc. he did the project completely backwards. he tied knots in some yarn, “i just did what felt right,” and then he was in a position of having to reverse-engineer a code that would result in his randomly tied knots to make them stand for something meaningful.

so it was a very good thing we tackled it at home because he was stuck (how could he not be) and i encouraged him to start from where he was, and write down how many knots he had of each kind (single, double, triple knots) and then we’d decide how to reverse it. we did come up with a system, and between choosing letters to represent what he had already tied, plus adding in a few more knots or untying a few that were extra, we made it work. he is such a funny guy. this is where the executive function comes into play (or fails to) and in one of the books i am reading they use executive function interchangeably with “judgment” and say how in gifted kids judgment can lag behind intellect. he is the poster child.

somewhere buried in a homework episode about tying and untying knots to reverse engineer a solution is a metaphor for parenting.

in between busy weekend and busy school days, he has read 3 books (warriors and 2 books from the diary of an 8-bit warrior minecraft series; none of them terribly difficult but he is just as insatiably absorbing literature as ever….)

another stuck moment occurred on a math homework question: give an example of a real world application where one would need the exact area of a circle, as in, the area expressed in terms of π instead of a decimal approximation… photos were placed beside the question, one of which depicted a round skylight window. i am not sure how or why quinn would or should know why it would be necessary to calculate exact area of a circle, and i personally do not know how an area of, say, 4π  square feet is ever useful in practical application, so i was little help, but i encouraged him not to overthink it, and notice the image clue of the window. i asked what it made him think of… “a hobbit house!” and he wrote down, “to build a round door in a hobbit house,” and moved on. yay for avoiding stuckness!

his whole math class failed a test, so she gave them all a retake, and quinn worked on it thursday with everyone else, got 1-6 (out of 28 questions) done, but got stuck on 7. on friday he finally figured out 7, but got stuck on 8. i found this all out monday, with prodding and interrogation. “well, let’s go over the types of questions so you can get it finished tomorrow.” it turned out that he could reproduce the problems 7 and 8 verbatim (drawings and everything) and we sat there until he could tell me how to do them (i said i would help but not tell him how, since they were test questions) and he finally got it. he was just so convinced he “couldn’t” so therefore he could not. he just lost confidence again.

we discussed a couple things i think we can also file under executive function skills.

  1. if you struggled through problem 7 and went home that night knowing you would have the next day in class to finish the test, but went back to it with no extra preparation, you probably struggled just as much! next time, go home and figure it out or ask someone to help you figure it out. you have to believe you have the skills and were taught the things you need, and that you can find them out with a little bit of effort.
  2. if you don’t know how to do #7, skip it and come back to it after you finish the rest of the questions. when i was helping him prepare for the next attempt at finishing it, i asked him what other types of questions were left and he hadn’t even turned the page, so he didn’t know. now he hopefully will be less stuck on doing the questions in order every time. i asked him if he was open to going out of order if he was truly stuck, and he was honest and said he did prefer to go in order, but that now that we’ve talked about it he feels like he sees the benefit of skipping and coming back in this type of scenario, to save time.

one car conversation launched from quinn telling me he is going to drop out of accelerated math. his teacher told him they would either have to take the state test at the end of the year, or take her own test of the material, which was not going to be any easier than the state test. he had planned on opting out of state testing forever, but he also did not fancy the idea of taking her test, at least not the way she so threateningly advertised it. our conversation centered on talking him down from dropping out (he may have learned to look for extreme “solutions” somewhere); providing reasoning such as that the other math level teachers may have the same requirement so leaving his current level may not solve the issue; discussing how his current teacher’s communication style can sometimes feed his anxiety (and when i reworded what she said, re-framing the end of year testing as a choice he could make, simply providing reasoning that she needs to see how far they have come this year and what level they should be pursuing next school year, rather than making it sound so daunting and threatening, he admitted that didn’t sound as bad); and speaking of how the state smarter balanced testing works and why it is stressful for him, and how we can work on coping strategies if he does decide to try that one again this year. my understanding is that the sb test keeps presenting the student with more and more incrementally difficult problems until it eventually stumps them, and thereby determines the extent of their knowledge by measuring an “end point” of sorts. “but i’m a perfectionist and it causes me an unrivaled amount of stress!” said quinn. i love that he realizes why this bugs him, but also that he can carry on a conversation with me about why it doesn’t need to be a source of anxiety for him, since we agree the scores mean very little to us (we measure learning differently), that if he goes in knowing there will be some too-tough problems, he can head off that stress.

on being differently wired

during another car chat after school one day, quinn and i had another installment in our ongoing conversation about his learning style and his particular challenges and strengths in school, which i believe is helping him develop the language to talk about it all. he was telling me something about naruto and one character was said to have “an IQ of over 200!” and after he was done telling me about it, i asked him if he ever wondered about his own IQ.

“no…. yeah, actually.”

i asked him more about it and he asked, “can you give me an IQ test?”

“no, it’s a pretty involved test, so it just takes some planning… and i’m not sure if you can have one at school or not, but maybe.”

“okay.”

i was trying to convey with my tone, “if we were interested and wanted to pursue it, we could,” not stating that we were going to pursue it yet… just seeing where he stood and how he felt about it all.  delving more into what he believed would be beneficial about knowing his IQ, he told me he wasn’t sure other than knowing he would like to know.

“well, i think those tests usually say other things about how you learn and what your intellectual abilities/strengths/challenges are. people have all different combinations, say even if you have high IQ, you could have lower processing speed, or someone could have high math ability but low verbal ability, or different things like that.” i was intending to give non-specific examples but he picked right up on processing speed.

“yeah, like how my processing speed makes me need more time to think of what to write, or to take a test, but i can easily do the test, and understand the material,” and he listed some of his own quirks. and it was cool to hear him talk about his particular spice blend.

then he said, “i feel different, and i know i am, but sometimes i would like to know for sure.”

more talk about what it means to be gifted and how it’s not that someone is better or worse, it’s a difference, and it can come with things that are beneficial and others that are challenges, but it’s real and true about him. we talked about how sometimes it is nice to know and be able to name things and for example say to a teacher, “i get stuck. i really have a hard time getting unstuck sometimes. i’m stuck right now and can’t figure out how to start this assignment….” and using his teachers as a resource, once you know this Thing is something about you that maybe not everyone experiences, and being able to see yourself starting to have that experience again and call it what it is and go to your resources (teacher, peers, book, google classroom, etc.) to help you with unsticking, not just stay stuck. or, “hey i sometimes struggle with processing speed, so i need more time to finish my test,” might be something worth knowing about your learning and be able to articulate it to someone who when they hear those words will understand what they mean. i explained that sometimes tests can be beneficial if they help identify areas that can be solved or improved for the way a person learns, if that person isn’t able to just go and ask for what he needs and has to prove it to teachers that they must give more test time (or whatever the accommodation may be), but that tests are not always needed if one can self-advocate.

on the topic of identification of gifted students it turns out quinn has quite an opinion about it and feels that some kids get missed who should be in tag, and that a lot of the kids who are being missed are also being labeled other things. he said, “i’m not sure i want to have slow processing speed identified by a test or if it is, to have that told to my teachers, because a lot of people get labeled things like that and end up getting stuck in special ed.” i did not want to jump to a conclusion about what he meant by that so i asked if he knows any kids in special ed, and he said not really but he knows of one kid, (we’ll call her), “silvana. she is in special ed but the times that i have met her or been around her, i could just tell she was like me. i think when you’re like me, you can tell when other people are the same way, and i felt that with her. she may not be able to speak the same or show off what is inside her the same way i can or others can, but i just *know she is every bit as smart as others, probably a lot smarter.”

i melted into a contented mama puddle, hearing him say that. silvana (not her real name) is a dear sweet child who indeed is in special ed, does have language and learning disabilities. however, i see what he sees in her; she has been on numerous field trips with quinn’s class over the years, when i have been along as chaperone. i just love that while so many would assume that she is unable to understand, he sees right through that.

he seems to realize that gifted isn’t necessarily an easy path, it comes with its own obstacles, and not everyone who is gifted is recognized as such, and recognizing struggles sometimes means you get treated like you’re anything but gifted… and just discussing how gifted is its own special need, too. he is also seeming to appreciate having a vocabulary for his path and a way to articulate what it is like to be him in a learning environment.

i told him that for some kids, special ed is exactly what they need, in order to learn in a way that suits them. i agreed it would not be the best setting for him to learn in, and what his special needs require is maybe more time on tests, help with stuckness, etc., but also acceleration of material so he does keep moving forward with his learning. i wanted to give him perspective on how being placed in special ed isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it is the right thing.

it was a really nice chat, and he seemed to feel validated by it all, and latching onto some of the language and ways of articulating needs and solutions to challenges.

~summer shorts~ circle geometry

The circle of life encompasses all, yet sometimes seems to have a frustratingly small diameter. Walking towards the Chelsea Rose to buy some salmon, my eyes glanced at each plaque lining the bay front, those on the many benches donated in memoriam, as well as the tiles cemented into the sidewalk, defiant attempts at permanence in the face of so much that is fleeting. Many of these engraved names, these painfully abbreviated circumferences, are now familiar to me, not just from walking these blocks, but from hearing them spoken by the voices of many friends or family members i have come to know, who loved and lost the men bearing these names to the sea.

I watched the vividly coral-colored meat parting from the bones willingly and swiftly, the recently living swimmer who would nourish our bodies that night smothered in butter and fresh herbs, and I pondered the difficult geometry of mortality. A floating rectangle beneath me swayed gently, seagulls plunged past on arcs of summer breeze, snatching scraps washed from the working fishing boats docked on this bright monday. Diesel engines and fish processing plants of the town i call home laid a familiar background scent-scape i scarcely registered.

At the beach with my parents an hour earlier, i had picked up a tiny sand dollar, mostly intact, and handed it to my mom. She took a closer look before putting it into her pocket like humans since the beginning of time have known to do, as though bringing back essential minerals within the shell to sustain life ashore. As though. A circle of a shell, remnant of a living being. Its five petals radiating from the center reminded me of the vibrant five-petaled impatiens I had planted before mom’s visit, knowing she always saw their five petals as representing our five-person nuclear family. This floral impression etched in a now-vacant vessel. It crossed my mind how a sand dollar is a little bit reminiscent of the shape of a breast. Life-giving circle. Mostly intact. Flowers, shells, breasts, all fulfill their roles in nature, and yet all are so ephemeral.

Mom recalled visits to jones beach with aunt margie and uncle george, or to oyster bay. She also remembered going to rockaway beach with her mom and dad, “because you could get there by train.” “my earliest memories….” she trailed off, reliving the beaches of New York, where she was taken from the time she was no more than a year old.

Then i was the baby in the memory. “i remember standing in the ocean holding you when you were three months old and telling you, ‘this is a very special place.’ That the water felt cold on my toes but the air was clean and lovely to breathe, that the sound of the water and the birds was so beautiful. I never imagined you would end up living here and all the ocean-related things you would end up doing.”

Then nobody was a baby anymore and we were here, now, 70 and 41, farther around the circle than it seemed like we should be, but sitting side by side on a sunny, deserted beach on a monday gazing at the pacific ocean, its horizon a circle whose extent we could never hope to measure. But we have learned to trust that its diameter is  exactly the right length.

~summer shorts~ striking out

a scrap of green t-shirt sleeve, followed by the brim of a floppy, khaki hat wobble out from near the front of the line of campers, the one glimpse i’ve caught of quinn on his very first sleepaway camp experience. the t.a. and videographer is bringing up the rear behind the six campers attending Paleontology Explorers: Oregon, and after they take a few steps, the camera pans over the white tufts of beargrass flocking a stark high elevation flatland studded with snags spearing the sapphire sky, an inverted green bunting of young conifer triangles painted across its mid-section.

he is up front behind the leader, hopefully too out of breath to be talking her ear off. the group is already cohesive, one entity moving with brisk purpose in an intentional direction toward a common goal. the sense of anticipation, ownership, and belonging seem palpable, even through the filtered lens of an instagram feed. the one other boy on the trip, D from L.A., is at quinn’s heels, the four young women comprising the rest of the group of six campers marching along in step. i think i spot the one he first introduced himself to, R from california, who, like quinn, has a dinosaur pillowcase. shedding her NASA sweatshirt as they team-carried gear to the van, she revealed her next layer of a harry potter t-shirt. As quinn and D carried either end of a duffel, i overheard a snippet of conversation about “ender pearls,” and i felt it all sinking in – these were quinn’s people. this was him finding a few more of his tribe. The other ones for whom dinosaurs were not something they grew out of, nor got over. the other ones who may possibly be more proud of achieving a grade point average of 3.14 than one of 4.0. the other ones who might see HGTV through the lens of house flipping to afford more expeditions and more plaster. the other ones whose bed stickers may have been classified at age 6 into jurassic and cretaceous species. The other ones whose parents stood around awkwardly at camp drop-off trying not to let on how relieved they were that our kids are finally finding one another.

somewhere in the eastern cascades, a boy is laying his head on his dinosaur pillowcase, among a pack of campers each with their own heads on their own dinosaur pillowcases, out in a big world doing his thing.

 

 

 

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~black and white wednesday~ love letter with no words

 

 

 

~rainbow mondays~ april may

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

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

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ more cowbell

~12-23-18 to 1-23-19~

we had family visiting on christmas eve. rich’s mom, daughter and son-in-law came, and his mom made dinner for us all. it was fun to impart messages of non-worry and support to my pregnant step-daughter, and encourage her to refrain from consulting the dreaded google about that sore hip or that swollen foot. she had a cold she had been trying to shake for months, and i told her that it was a good sign for her baby, that during pregnancy your immune system is dialed down to accommodate the baby, and that was just what it was doing (accommodating the baby, instead of fighting off the cold particularly efficiently). i know there is a metaphor in there for life, parenting, and everything.

quinn had a good time catching up with the family. that night, he slept in his sleeping bag on the living room floor. everyone came back christmas morning for pancakes and bacon and presents.

quinn fits right into the christmas model of the rew family, with whom he has only spent one christmas when he was not quite two years old. the rews take their time, take turns (in order!) opening presents, and time is also taken to pass around, explore and savor a present, and for expressing thanks. this can take an entire day, with breaks taken for meals, and back in the day, barn chores. rich’s family gets it done in a half hour. quinn took 15 minutes unwrapping rich’s mom’s present, a cool calendar, because he was reading the comics in which it was wrapped. it’s the way that he has always been, in fact, we would often spread just a few presents out over a period of several days when he was younger.

i approached this christmas a bit the opposite of last christmas, when it came to quinn. last year, when he was in 5th grade, a big fish in a small pond, maturing… i gave him practical gifts and not as many toys. this year he is swimming hard into the middle school current, and everything is so serious all the time that i felt like this christmas should be as playful and fun as possible. he got lego sets, a game, a rubik’s cube, a bunch of books he wanted (minecraft guides, life of fred trigonometry, a role play game book four against darkness, hexaflexagons by martin gardner, harry potter y la piedra filosofal for continuing to practice his spanish, and to be extra playful: p is for pterodactyl, the worst alphabet book ever, because it had a dinosaur on the cover and it makes me happy to think of his struggle against silent letters as an early reader. i had fun reminding him about how i had to really play up how funny i thought those silent letters were, to get him to lighten up about them. he can laugh about it now, but he would get so frustrated each time he encountered another offending letter!

rich has been working on a boat called the pegasus, and the skipper had given him a hat and a hoodie printed with the boat logo. when he wore it home, i noted that there was a picture of the mythological winged horse on the boat, and we both remarked how quinn would appreciate it. a few days later rich came home with a hoodie in size (adult) medium for quinn. when he opened it on christmas morning, quinn realized the reason for it (aside from it being the boat rich is working on). quinn smiled knowingly and rich joked, “isn’t it from some chinese mythology or something?” and quinn hilariously downplayed his encyclopedic mythological knowledge saying, “i think it’s greek” and i laughed. “you think?” litotes much? and then we got to hear him tell how poseiden and medusa fell in love but decided to go on a date in athena’s palace, and athena cursed medusa and her sisters to punish medusa for the offense, and then (he included more details i am unable to regurgitate…) when medusa was killed, her three unborn children were released, and one of them was pegasus, god of the winged horses. and everyone agreed, that sounded 100% correct.

he wanted to read each book, look at each lego set, open each yu-gi-oh card expansion pack and read every single card. there were so many good, funny moments. one of the first stocking presents he opened was a bright green cowbell and he shouted, “more cowbell!” and everyone laughed and talked about christopher walken but quinn said, “it’s from the trials of apollo.”

 

 

he was 3/4 done with the lego sets by the next morning, and he had opened every book and finished at least one. he had specifically asked for jurassic park legos and was very happy with them. after building each set he went about recombining dinosaur parts and making “hybrid” species (complete with imagined backstory of how rare/common they are, their habitat and diet, etc.)

grammy and grampy gave him a model strandbeest (a wind-powered automaton beach-walker that quinn learned about and was fascinated with a few years ago when he watched theo jansen’s ted talk.) once again, he recounted amazing facts to the live studio audience about the original strandbeests and how the inventor wanted them to exist in the wild so he would add features like a “brain” made from a water bottle that somehow helped them sense the water’s edge and keep them from going into the water.

rich and i were visited by a gray bunny rabbit on solstice in the yard, and it kept returning to visit each evening, including on christmas eve and christmas day, when quinn got to see it as well. we called it full moon solstice bunny. it was gone again a few days later, but we felt its magical appearance was a gift. rabbits are often said to be symbolic of creativity and fertility. with our time off to indulge in creative pursuits, and our anticipation of new family members, this meaning certainly applied. a creature at the mercy of the elements, rabbits are able to make use of mere blades of grass to sustain life, so this bunny in our yard was surrounded by abundance. whereas they can seem afraid and skittish, this one was approachable and less fearful than most. i think bunnies can symbolize overcoming fear and anxiety. with so many predators (eagle, hawk, owl, coyote, bobcat) it is no wonder that rabbit could succumb to fears, but focusing on abundance brings more abundance, whereas giving power to fear can instead bring fear to reality. i am going to go out on a limb and say bunnies are a good mascot for the law of attraction, and manifesting abundance. turning anxiety around, rabbits can be seen as very alert and perceptive to their surroundings, and this gray bunny made me think of how perception can give us flexibility to process the gray areas of life. finally, the softness and vulnerability of rabbit are a great lesson in embracing the softer side of our natures, being open and approachable, being vulnerable enough to put our fears out there can sometimes bring us closer together.

q and i had a fun day of yu-gi-oh (he slaughtered me) and laying around with our laptops (yugioh on netflix and coding a game on scratch). one evening i opened up the martin gardner hexaflexagons book to a random page and found a game called hex, and had dryly mentioned that i was sure he would hate this book, “here i’ve just arbitrarily opened to a game involving hexagons. sounds awful.” he replied, deadpan, “oh man, yeah, i will hate that.” at lunch the next day he brought the book to me and said, “i know we’ll hate it, but will you read to me about hex?” i did, and then we printed out a hex game board from the internet, and picked out green and yellow buttons as game pieces… and he proceeded to clobber me over and over again. the kid is good at math strategy! sheesh. he is seeing things i may be able to see with time, but he’s just already got a handle an 11 by 11 grid of hexagons.

already, that book has proven to be fun and he hasn’t even really read it. martin gardner wrote a column in scientific american for many years on recreational math, and vi hart talks about him a lot, especially in her hexaflexagon videos. i figured quinn would appreciate reading directly from the source. gardner’s columns are collected into a pile of books, so i got him the first one. it’s intended for an audience of adults, but i was reading to him concerning proofs from game theory on how the hex game works, and he was posing really good questions, obviously with no trouble grasping the concepts, seeing new angles, and taking it further in his mind.

142,857, a fun cyclic number i grabbed from facebook for him to puzzle over.

we also discussed his life of fred journey. i asked if he knows what’s next after trig and he said, “yes, calculus.” and i said, “are you planning to go right on to read calculus after trig?” he did not hesitate: “yes.” i said, “ok, but i think when you’re done reading them you might want to go back and do some of the exercises to make sure you know the Procedures to do the problems,” (practice) and he said he plans to. he doesn’t plan to start back at the beginning with fractions, but just with the later books, starting with beginning algebra. he thinks he has the lower level stuff down now, and he can go from there. but his plan is to read the calculus book, and then start doing the beginning algebra problems in his math journal, and work his way on up through geometry, trig, calc, after that. i’ve told him the good things i’ve heard of the math teachers at the high school; the one married to the teacher quinn has had for theatre workshops (she teaches drama and is also the tag teacher up there) is said to allow kids to keep learning on beyond calculus if they are capable, and will hold class for as small a group as needed. i wanted to give him a little bit to look forward to and make sure he is still thirsty to learn this stuff the way he has been. he seems to know that he does his best learning at home, and isn’t looking at school as his primary place of learning. therefore dreading anything about school (as he has sometimes felt with his current math class) doesn’t get automatically linked (for him) with dreading anything to do with learning. i think they are essentially two separate things in his mind. strangely, i think this compartmentalization is a good thing in his case. one can ask why one might attend school if one learns best at home, and it’s certainly an open discussion in my mind.

at least i get to facilitate project-based interest-driven learning on breaks. over this break he worked on a card-based role play survival game with dinosaurs. i steered him into generating dinosaur artwork for the cards. check out his resulting drawings!

we had some outside time before break was over!

he had an emotional meltdown  in the car coming home from karate one night. he was feeling criticized, wanting to quit school, life, not wanting to grow up. i helped him name it overwhelm. i gave him a visualization of drawers in his mind, having him picture what the drawers look like and what they are made from, right down to the details of the handles. i said, “sometimes all of your little drawers have their contents tucked inside and are neatly closed, and it’s peaceful. sometimes though, too many things are out of their drawers trying to be dealt with at once, and that is what overwhelmed feels like, and so now i want you to take karate, put it in its drawer, and close the drawer.” i waited to let him do it, and had him visualize closing each topic (school, friends, etc.) in its drawer. we talked about taking them out one at a time the next day, when we’d be able to look at them on their own, and they wouldn’t seem nearly as overwhelming.

another topic we discussed this month had to do with control and compliance and relating to adults as a pre-teen who is used to being in charge of his own person. i don’t remember exactly how it came up, but some adult in his life had expected compliance from him and he had felt it was undeserved. i felt it best to explain why i think he was having a reaction to such a thing. i told him that because i have mostly not required compliance from him based solely on the premise “i’m the mom, i’m older than you, and therefore i’m in charge,” he is used to making the choice to comply with my requests (which are almost always accompanied by information and reasoning) rather than have compliance extracted from him by an adult. if he gives me his respect, it is because i have earned it and he has chosen to give it to me, not because i’ve demanded it. but i explained that most other adults operate in a different way from that, and insist on compliance and believe children owe them that because they are older. since i’ve done it differently i may have put him in a position where he notices it a heck of a lot more than other kids, who are conditioned to the other way, and that may be hard for him on some level. however, i also hope he can see it as an advantage in that he knows his own mind, and knows that when he complies he is doing so by choice, because he has decided he can trust this adult and what they are instructing him to do. on the other hand, he also has the strength to question or defy when he knows or suspects an instruction is unjust or incorrect, and the wherewithall to ask for information about why a command is being issued, rather than blindly following. it’s been my goal to raise a critical thinker, not a blind follower. i think he could see the pros and cons, and the perspective was helpful in alleviating his disgruntled feelings of the moment.

his new haircut makes him look taller yet again. though he is legitimately taller! i measured him xmas day at 5’2 ¾”!

this month marked the first call home from the principal, concerning quinn’s reasonable response to an unprovoked shove/hit by a kid with a neighboring locker. ahh, middle school milestones.

one saturday while i worked farmer’s market, rich and quinn did firewood work together. rich had me look in the back of his truck when i got home and he was starting to unload the wood, and said that quinn had been the one to stack it into the back, though he waited for quinn to “offer” to do this. rich started setting wood in the truck and quinn said, “i’ll climb in the back!” quinn talked alllll about minecraft to rich, and i think stacking firewood appeals to quinn because it’s real life minecraft block stacking. he would stack it ever so evenly like puzzle pieces and then fill in the spaces with smaller pieces. rich said there was twice as much wood in the same amount of space he usually fills because quinn was analyzing how to fit more pieces in the same space. he would ask rich for certain sizes “i need a big one for the base” and rich would be a joker and hand him a “big one” that was a tiny twig. rich commented on quinn’s story telling (or minecraft details) and the way quinn occasionally trails off in conversation; he would be left in the middle of a sentence and would look over like, where did he go? i know that speaking style very well.

we had a mellow, sleeping-in sunday with pumpkin pancakes. quinn and i figured out how to play multiplayer minecraft together on both our laptops, which was hilarious. we held a librarian hostage, installed purple and green stained glass windows, and tamed wolves to be our pet dogs.

the librarian traded with us for enchanted books. i am not sure why he was still willing to trade us when we had commandeered his house and held him captive, but i guess he’s just cool like that.

he finally got a larger size (but exactly the same brand and color, his requirement) backpack, and i was delighted to find his collection of wedding detritus from his step-sister’s wedding over a year ago in the pocket, along with the other treasures (petrified orange!!).

he had math and language arts homework that took him hours even though it was 2 math problems and 3 google slides… but he got it done, and then had a bath and he ate a million pounds of food (he had eaten all the meals and then while we were working on the logic puzzle before bed he pounded 4 fig newmans. this was the evening that he broke google with his logic question.

i got quinn to school ready for his math test that monday, prepared to talk to his spanish teacher about making up a quiz he had missed before break, and ready for his social studies test. he is a long string bean in a green hoodie.

i showed quinn a photo from when he was 4 and fell asleep on the happy spot foot stool. he wanted to re-create it. i’m not sure this has anything to do with lifelong learning, but certainly gives a sense of scale of just how much he has physically grown!

 

encouragement from crab

i was tagged in a facebook post by a woman whose friend is having surgery for breast cancer, with a request for sending love and encouragement from one woman to another, so her friend would arrive home to a pile of cards and well wishes. it is easy to ignore such a post, because i think it makes us face our own fears, and what do you even say anyway, and then there is the fact that i don’t even know this woman.

but i do know her on some level, don’t i?

aside from the fact that she is a friend of a friend, we’re all one, when it comes right down to it. so i decided to snail mail it up, sent her a mix cd, a buoy quote in a card that i printed, and some beach sand in a film canister. it felt nice to share, and it prompted me to do a teensy amount of writing as well, which i will also share here, in case anyone else can use some encouragement today.

this crab jumped out of the card pile to come to you and i figured out why. cancer and crab are written together in the stars, but i see another layer of meaning. crab wears protective armor on the outside, and follows the moons and tides just the way all of us women do in the salt water cycle of our blood and tears. what’s inside is vulnerable and soft, but crab is tenacious, knowing how to hold on, clinging to rocks as challenging waves wash over, knowing when the best way forward is sideways. crab intuits what needs to be shed, and though it can be extremely vulnerable when it is exposed, it replaces its armor, a little bit stronger each time, taking what it needs to rebuild it from the healing waters of the ocean surrounding it.

i wanted to send you a little beach sand and ocean healing magic, from one woman to another.

~rainbow mondays~ spiral heart tunnels

why i love spring: metaphors for rebirth literally growing on trees; the mascot for lightness of being zooming past my head each time i walk out my door; the spiraling of life curling outward into the light; and oh, the light!

rainbow flash!

perhaps inspired by spring, my husband and i are purposefully taking brisk walks, and some slower but longer walks… on the beach!

so nice to catch a sunset on the beach!

lightness, light, and pink blossoms!

baby pink: i am having fun being a nana.

petal pink

red: this rufous male has been showing off quite a range of colors! he is pictured multiple times throughout the post.

red-orange!

orange: moths and bumblebees fluttering in the flowers.

orange: this was amazing to witness! hungry robin (with rusty orange breast) yanking on a worm!

orange: flashy face with backlit tail feathers.

yellow: skunk cabbage in bloom

yellow: angled to shimmer like gold…

green: and emeralds!

green: dusty rose fairy gown columbine foliage emerging!

green: skunk cabbage after a spring rain

green: trilliums! we are amazed at how early these have bloomed this year!

green: i think i am somewhat related to plants in that i only start to feel alive again this time of year. grateful for the light activating my chlorophyll!

green: even the trout lilies are up! depending on how you tilt your head, you can see their curled leaves as spiral heart tunnels.

green: trout lilies almost ready to bloom!

blue: i spied the first forget-me-nots yesterday!

blue: i also witnessed a bald eagle flying overhead stealthily, because i just happened to be looking up.

purple: this young anna’s male has a striking plum color to his plumage.

purple: and perhaps a little candy pink mixed in for good measure?

tan: sand like dragon scales. love the texture!

brown: dahlia spiral memory; in addition to the benign neglect creating habitat for beneficial insects, it provides a  frequent perch for the hummingbirds.

white: spring rebirth inspiring me to dust off my heart-shaped lens to look upon this beautiful world!

~rainbow mondays~

a splash of color on monday

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

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ raven on the riverbank

ridiculously verbose! you have been warned!

~covering 11-23-18 to 12-23-18~

i only had quinn for one week plus a partial weekend of this time period, because of trade negotiations over winter break. the next month, i would have him for 3 out of 4 weeks. i ended up having a lot of things to say about this month despite seeing him so little. it’s a reminder that i’m parenting all the time, even when he is not with me, and the parenting i do while he is away can be some of the most challenging parenting of all.

not enough quinn pictures, so lisa is filling in.

his grades fluctuated wildly this month. quinn is frolicking on the river bank, oblivious to test retakes and missing assignments floating past him on the river of time. he has not gotten the hang of checking on his own grades and assignments, and is still having a hard time remembering to write anything in his planner; paying attention to what it says is another matter entirely. he has not grasped the utility of writing what assignments will be due, and is not putting it together on his own that classwork he doesn’t finish in class becomes homework. he needs many promptings to initiate communication with teachers concerning make-up work, and doesn’t always internalize their instructions or expectations for assignments, classwork documentation, or note-taking.

he can legitimately believe he has no homework, but then when i talk him through each specific class he had that day, it can trigger him to remember what the class work was, whether he was going to have more class time, and in the cases where he wasn’t, realize that those assignments now shift to homework…. this is a thought process that is not automatic for him that he needs help both initiating, and seeing through to completion. he can and will build these skills, but rome wasn’t built in a day.

the only way to eat this executive functioning elephant, it seems to me, is one bite at a time.

coparenting, cognitive dissonance, choice

there was some coparenting strain this month, and it does relate to lifelong learning. i’m often torn how much to include of these behind-the-scenes moments because they may not be enchanting to quinn if he reads them in the future, yet they are probably very relatable to many parents. i think even parents who like each other will sometimes be at odds when trying to understand a new set of challenges their child is facing, and historically for us, times of high challenge for quinn have coincided with the absolute worst coparenting struggles. i foresaw that the transition to middle school may be analagous to quinn’s kindergarten transition, which i’ve been revisiting in my off-blog writing, a time in our lives that i have to partake of reading in small doses because it brings a tremble to my mama heart.

on the topic of quinn staying on top of homework, my job of parenting my child at his other house was impossible to carry out, because my coparent did not believe me when i brought up assignments i knew had not been done (via online grade book), because coparent did not trust me about quinn’s need for support in identifying or remembering what homework he did have, and accepted quinn’s  daily “i don’t have any” at face value, instead of realizing that meant “i haven’t thought of any yet,” and then, because coparent would ask me to back off if i tried to involve myself in helping quinn stay up to date. coparent just kept telling me “he is caught up” and “he is keeping me informed of assignments” and then quinn would arrive under a big pile of unfinished work each time he came home to me.

he held tag status up as threat to quinn, saying if his grades don’t get better he may lose it, but also is encouraging quinn to not put much effort in, just learn to “do the system.” then providing such misinformation as his belief that high school grades are not important once you’ve gotten community college grades. there is a lot of work in undoing such erroneous messaging.

coparent told me quinn had been pulled off a bells part on a song for the band concert, and it had happened last minute. he said he wanted to give the teacher a piece of his mind about it; i said i had a feeling there was more to the story that we didn’t know, and suggested he could ask her about it if he was concerned.

at the concert coparent told me, “he is all caught up” and said quinn was telling him he didn’t have homework to do besides math. quinn did do some of the math at coparent’s house, but when we got to transition time after the short 2 day stint during which i cracked the whip over quinn’s 3 incomplete assignments outside of math, coparent said he was starting to feel like quinn wasn’t being honest with him. i didn’t engage that, but said, “he’s almost caught up now,” and filled in more details such as the schedule for his upcoming math test. he restated, “i think quinn is lying to me,” and sort of exasperatedly ranted in front of quinn, “if it’s not a learning disability or something, i mean do other parents deal with this?”

i feel like i have perspective on that, and attempted to explain. my sense is that it is not exactly the same as what other parents deal with, and while i don’t think it’s a learning disability per se, i do think quinn struggles in his own ways that other kids do not, and he has strengths other kids don’t have. i think he’s his own situation and he is still working out the skills to connect dots like “classwork not completed in class is homework” that other kids may not struggle with picking up on the fly. i said we should extend him the benefit of the doubt he is doing his best and being honest, if he said he would get it done in class on friday i imagine he did not intend to deceive, he may have thought he could do it, but it turns out that it is difficult for him to accomplish much classwork during class time right now, so he will need to be doing that work at home as long as he is having that difficulty. coparent cut me off to state that he does give quinn the benefit of the doubt, so that was productive.

talking to rich about it later helped me realize why it bothered me and why i stood up for quinn. i remember how messed up it always felt to be accused of lying. it was good to take a moment and remind myself that what he was doing to quinn is called gaslighting, lashing out to blame anyone else for dishonesty so he can deflect the focus from his own. to benefit quinn, a much more constructive conversation could have been had, if we had focused on how to scaffold executive functioning skills in a coordinated two-household manner instead.

days later, coparent wanted to talk about the bomb threat called in to our local high school. i did my best to dampen hysteria, though school attacks make the list of my own misgivings about public schooling. i have found coparent’s aversions to public schooling hard to tolerate in light of his historic insistence that quinn attend it when i historically sought alternatives to meeting quinn’s educational needs. my feeling is, if we’re choosing this, we need to fully embrace our choice. he kept pressing for my input about whether to send him the next day, which of course i knew he would disregard or hold against me. i stated simply that my goal is to teach quinn to make decisions not based on fear.

he kept quinn home.

i admit that it is disconcerting to me that there was no discussion of the bomb threat among parents. parents discuss parenting things all the time; the confusing letter from our pediatrician about their relocation to a new office, what’s going on at school, the dance, fundraisers, the recent concert. we all got a robo call and a text from school saying a bomb threat was received, high school was evacuated to middle school, everyone is safe, and authorities have cleared both schools. where are the parents discussing “are you sending joey? i’m not sure if i should send molly” or even just “thank goodness it was handled, thankful they are all safe, sobering to think of threats when this is all so very real.” i think everyone must become paralyzed by these things.

i had just been browsing back over the passages i highlighted in charles eisenstein’s book the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. he talks about this, through the lens of sandy hook.

 

the absurdity of war has never escaped the most perceptive among us, but in general we have narratives that obscure or normalize that absurdity, and thus protect the Story of the World from disruption.

occasionally, something happens that is so absurd, so awful, or so manifestly unjust that it penetrates these defenses and causes people to question much of what they’d taken for granted. such events present a cultural crisis. typically, though, the dominant mythology soon recovers, incorporating the event back into its own narratives. the ethiopian famine became about helping those poor black children unfortunate enough to live in a country that still hasn’t “developed” as we have. the rwandan genocide became about african savagery and the need for humanitarian intervention. the nazi holocaust became about evil taking over, and the necessity to stop it. all of these interpretations contribute, in various ways, to the old Story of the People: we are developing, civilization is on the right track, goodness comes through control. none hold up to scrutiny; they obscure, in the former two examples, the colonial and economic causes of the famine and genocide, which are still ongoing. in the case of the holocaust, the explanation of evil obscures the mass participation of ordinary people – people like you and me. underneath the narratives a disquiet persists, the feeling that something is terribly wrong with the world. 

the year 2012 ended with a small but potent story-piercing event: the sandy hook massacre. by the numbers, it was a small tragedy: far more, and equally innocent, children died in u.s. drone strikes that year, or by hunger that week, than died at sandy hook. but sandy hook penetrated the defense mechanisms we use to maintain the fiction that the world is basically okay. no narrative could contain its utter senselessness and quell the realization of a deep and awful wrongness. 

we couldn’t help but map those murdered innocents onto the young faces we know, and the anguish of their parents onto ourselves. for a moment, i imagine, we all felt the exact same thing. we were in touch with the simplicity of love and grief, a truth outside of story.

following that moment, people hurried to make sense of the event, subsuming it within a narrative about gun control, mental health, or the security of school buildings. no one believes deep down that these responses touch on the heart of the matter. sandy hook is an anomalous data point that unravels the entire narrative – the world no longer makes sense. we struggle to explain what it means, but no explanation suffices. we may go on pretending that normal is still normal, but this is one of a series of “end time” events that is dismantling our culture’s mythology.”

 

as a chronic overthinker, this is exactly what i observed; the dominant mythology instantly recovered, the event seamlessly incorporated back into its narratives, we pretended normal is still normal. i am grateful that charles eisenstein was able to articulate the cognitive dissonance that makes me feel.

last year i was in quinn’s fifth grade class volunteering during a lockdown drill. i hid behind the cupboard in the corner with the teacher and all 30 kids (they all knew to get down, be quiet, hide behind something solid where they cannot be seen from the window). i can’t help but think that this isn’t the type of experience i want to saturate quinn’s brain with, drill or not.

but we are doing public school. we are embracing it since this is what we’re doing right now; if we want to pursue other schooling options, i’m game to discuss them, based on information and observations of what would work well for quinn’s learning. but let me say it one more time so the people in the back can hear it: i do not want to teach him to make decisions based on fear.

in more positive discussions, coparent observed out loud recently that telling quinn that he is smart all the time can backfire and set him up to be looking for our approval rather than tuned in to his own compass. i recommended alfie kohn; the well-worn orange cover of unconditional parenting still spends more time on my end tables for frequent reference than on a shelf, though i first read it when quinn was toddling around in cloth diapers, reciting curious george books, chatting knowledgeably about garbage cans, and pretending to catch heffalumps and woozles. i have tried to make a practice of asking him what he thinks, giving him space to decide if the painting he has made is how he wants it to look, what he likes about it, what he meant it to represent, or what direction he might take it in next. weighing in on what i think of his work may teach him to look to me as the dispenser of approval and trains him to disproportionately seek external evaluation for his thoughts, actions, and work. when i do comment on my observations, i try to speak to specific things i noticed rather than overall stamping my approval or disapproval on what he has done, or my assessment of his smartness. instead of me saying the painting is good, i can hear from him about his color choices and creative ideas. we can talk details all day, delving deep into connection, without subjecting him to the approval process.

now that he has started asking me about when i was once a girl, i am seeing one of my anticipated payoffs materializing. he doesn’t see me as predominantly being a source of evaluative judgment on his thoughts and actions, instead he sees me as a sounding board and source of guidance and information. that’s been one of the long-term goals i’ve had my sights set on, and i think it all ties together. thanks, alfie.

 

he read aloud from eragon of “paring roots” and when i asked if he’d help pare roots (rutabaga, to be specific) he was glad to do so.

oddments

there is a recent trend that he will eat three meals and have a bath during the course of his first evening home.

i left a wicked spanish phrases book in his room after sorting through a box of books. he started reading and got to the phrase “yours is the prettiest piglet, but it has sh@t in my lap!” he giggled like crazy, and pulled off the phrase with impeccable accent.

one saturday quinn spent the entire day in his room watching yu-gi-oh, and i didn’t really try to change that. he was content. rich and i discussed how at some point i’ll miss his clingy barnacle ways, but right now it feels kind of nice to not always have him neeeeeeding me.

tangential tag topics

i have mentioned at other times that i am still trying to get comfortable with the chip that is giftedness resting persistently on my shoulder, because as much as i have tried to shrug it off, it remains. it seems to be a no-brainer to all parties involved that quinn belongs in the tag program, though he hasn’t been formally tested, other than achievement testing. we can talk all day about how that type of identification misses a whole bunch of gifted kids, who have legitimate special needs related to giftedness but who won’t receive services because they are not high achievers; gifted english learners are also especially overlooked. my high scoring test-taker happens to have blown the ceiling out of every star test he has taken, and with achievement conflated with giftedness, no one is disputing his placement in the tag program. however, he is now hearing, from the tag program teacher for one, that because he is in tag, he should have all A’s on his report cards. “i mean, you’re the smart kids. that’s why you’re here.” this goes hand in hand with the common misconception that gifted kids do not have special learning needs, that they are fine in the system as it currently functions and shouldn’t receive services. the commonly held belief that giftedness only bestows advantages is at the root of the struggles our family has been navigating all along. it is sobering to realize that is the stance of the actual guy assigned to teach the tag class right now.

i disagree with the view of tag as a status and a privilege rather than a recognition of a learning difference and an attempt to provide desperately needed enrichment. i think TAG should be entirely disentangled from grades. the more i understand how his wiring diverges from the neurotypical, the more i see it as a special set of learning needs, not incompatible with the presence of other neurodivergences (learning disabilities, processing speed disorders, executive function delays, ADHD, ASD) that may mask/be masked by the presence of giftedness, may have their own sets of learning needs, or at the very least, combine to form a confusing mix of traits; a brilliant, intense kid with his shirt on backwards and an occasional D in social studies.

the chip on my shoulder tells me nobody wants to hear mamas talk about their kids’ giftedness and the unique challenges of parenting such a kid. it’s a popular parenting meme topic all across social media, and a common vibe in parenting forums: we don’t want you to talk about your kid’s giftedness, so i come by the chip on my shoulder honestly. but i also believe the memes come from a place of misunderstanding and assumption of what the g word means, not truth or knowledge, and that this closed-mindedness would dissolve into the wider basin of understanding if some of us continue to expand it by stubbornly sharing what we have to say, at the risk of being seen as chronic humble-braggers.

i want it to stop being heard as though i’m saying my child is “better than” when i say he is “gifted.” gifted is a different set of wiring. i appreciate the tilt parenting podcast founder’s use of “differently wired” and her inclusion of giftedness under that umbrella, and i appreciate the community of parents who refer to these kids as poppies (named for the hostile-to-gifted educational practice of “cutting down the tall poppies”), because these are closer to the reality of our experience. “every child is gifted” is only as true as the statement “every child has dyslexia.” fill in the blank with any other neurological difference and you will see why that statement is absurd. see also the myth, “gifted kids are the easy ones.” only if by easy you mean prone to intensity, existential depression, sensory issues, executive function challenges, crippling perfectionism, and asynchronous development.

it has taken me years to realize that the approach taken by quinn’s teacher at our living school also missed the mark. her idea was that every child benefits from the interventions beneficial to gifted kids, such as individualized, constructivist, emergent curriculum, and saw no benefit in singling him out. however, in retrospect, i believe she was uninformed about what goes along with giftedness besides the intellectual intensity; the emotional and sensory intensity, social skill and executive function lags, and asynchrony. i think if she had been more aware, she may have come to a different conclusion about quinn when she reached for asperger’s as an explanation for his collection of quirks. this is not a blame statement; our evaluating neuropsychologist lacked this awareness and missed it, too. while all involved could recognize the utility in identifying asperger’s had it been present, nobody felt it was useful to identify giftedness. i’ve had to do that through my own research, finding out what it does and does not mean, the other neuro-differences that can look similar and in what ways they differ, and how to support the child in front of me.

this is all it has ever been. giftedness is all it has ever been, and it’s not nothing, and it’s not what all kids are, and it’s not better than other kids, and he’s not an “easy one,” and it is a big deal, a big fat hairy deal at certain extra-pronounced stages of asynchrony, and the g word has seldom served to help raise awareness, help quinn receive what he needs, or help convey to adults around the boy who it is they have in front of them. but having no language at all to convey isn’t better than having one inadequately understood term.

not all kids benefit from some of the things that can benefit gifted kids. gifted kids often need grade or subject acceleration to avoid stagnation and boredom with their learning. to preemptively provide a rebuttal to, “some boredom is good for kids to learn how to deal with,” we’re talking about chronic 24/7 boredom that dims the lights of learning, not occasional healthy experiences of learning how to self-entertain. high achieving, hardworking smart kids who are not gifted often thrive in regular classes and continue to achieve well, whereas in accelerated settings, they eventually fall behind. those are the easy kids, if there is such a unicorn: focused, on task, on grade level, synchronized across social, emotional and academic aspects of themselves. gifted kids can paradoxically fall behind in regular classes, making it hard to convince anyone they need to move up. gifted kids are not always inclined to work hard, in fact they may not even start if they can’t see how to finish perfectly, or if they don’t see the point. they already know the material before you teach it to them; but try to get them to show their “work”. they grasp the accelerated material and it still isn’t moving fast enough for their brain. they can be frustrating and impossible and they neglect to turn in their assignments. they maybe don’t ride a bike or remember to use the bathroom, just to add another dimension of flavor to their particular spice blend.

raven

with all that was going through my mind concerning quinn and school and learning, it was fitting to choose the raven “intuition guides the way” card from my trusty card deck around this time. the cards always seem to make sense and involve inexplicable synchronicities. i was simultaneously writing about quinn’s age 3 lifelong learning circa 2010, which it turns out is when the cards were printed; and i found a journal entry while delving into those memories. in a dream quinn told me about, a raven told him, “i’ll take care of you if you are ever in danger.” raven, the messenger, seems to show up when there is some time we need to spend peering into our shadows and paying attention to what lurks in the darkness. ravens are more solitary than crows, so maybe it makes sense it shows up in times when i feel like i’m on the edge of society, perceiving myself as an outlier to the mainstream. raven seems to me to be associated with going inward and pondering big dark mysteries. in the dark, things can seem more fearful than they are; but bringing them out and letting light shine upon them can transform and heal what we are working through.

language

quinn’s language arts work has been fun and engaging all year, and i have to hand it to his teacher for assigning great material to encourage meaning-making and providing practice for quinn’s most reluctant area: writing. in addition to the writing practice, there have been thought-provoking assignments for inspiration. i particularly enjoyed the art box assignment and the six word memoir from this month. his six-word memoir was:

i wander but i’m not alone

 

his art box:

he also has some really cool blackout poetry going in the dragonsong book.

 

music

first band concert! we listened to the choir first, then the beginning band, and then quinn’s band performed last (intermediate band).

i am glad quinn got to listen to the beginning band and hear how spectacularly awful they sound; as it should be, and i applaud the teacher for letting them play their awful songs, 4 measures of whole notes, with such earnestness. she spoke highly of their effort and progress and how she doesn’t usually give a full length piece so early in the year, but they begged her and they learned it in two days. i know quinn likes her as a teacher, and i can see why, with the positive regard she has for students.

quinn played the smaller parts in his band (he was on tambourine for one song, jingle bells for two, and bass drum for one), but he was really into it (his head bopping is my favorite) and he still played twice as much music as anyone in the beginning band. i think it would have been fine for him in beginning band, if not for the math conflict. but being part of something that actually sounds musical, though they are still rather new to this stuff, is a happy thing for quinn.

the teacher expressed appreciation for the intermediate band students as well, praising that they cheer one another on when they get something right they’ve been working hard on, and that they coax one another along when something is difficult. supporting and celebrating with each other, kindness. nice kids. it was good to hear they are that way, and nice to hear that she supports that culture in her room. he wouldn’t be the first kid in the world to find a place of solace in a band room, though, would he?

quinn played a lot on the bells that weekend, perhaps feeling inspired after the concert. he played his harry potter song, and a bunch of stuff from his practice book. i asked him if he had played the hp song for his teacher and he said no, but he had played it among his fellow percussion mates. i asked if any of them know it, too. he said only one other kid does, and the other kid just moved to this school two days before the concert. quinn told me his name and grade and what they talked about and that he had introduced him to aragorn (who is in beginning band on clarinet) the night of the concert. i told him i was happy to hear he had been friendly and welcoming to a new kid, because it had to be a big deal to change schools, especially in the middle of a school year. i mused that it must have been hard for the new guy to learn all the songs at the last minute. quinn said yes but that the teacher gave him parts he could do easily, and also that he is pretty good so she also gave him parts others were struggling with. she had switched quinn off the bells on the one song, because she needed a part for the new kid to play. i asked how he felt about it. “i was fine with it!”

more to the story indeed.

accessing encrypted files

i had quinn from a friday after school until a sunday at 3. in order to head off his “where is my trigonometry book” (which was to be under the christmas tree), i checked out the next 2 books in the warriors series for him and they were waiting in the car. he got in after school and opened up a book and didn’t talk all the way home.

i fed him all the dinners, sent him to the bathtub, and let him read and watch yu-gi-oh and just chill. he wanted to play a warriors game with me, made out of legos. we didn’t actually play the game, but we did get it set up, which involved building our cats, and naming them. mine were in the “ocean clan” and had names like wavestar and rainbow eye. quinn’s were in forest clan and he had leafstar and white streak. i haven’t read any of these books, so i had to keep reminding him that he’d need to give me some background info about how to choose a clan and how the naming works, and he was happy to oblige.

on saturday we went and chose our christmas tree. when i had told quinn that rich and i might get the christmas tree while he was at his dad’s he was devastated, so i had taken a day off from farmer’s market to fit it in on this one and only possible day, on the weekend of rich’s play. it was fun to walk around commenting on the trees with my guys. after it was cut, quinn grabbed the trunk to help rich carry it down the hill to the truck. seeing him be all teenager sized, and helping without being asked: quull. we set up the tree, and quinn helped me hang the “bird family” ornaments.

i spent the afternoon nudging quinn through his science assignment. at first, all he could tell me about the assignment was that he had to draw a box of crayons. he had spent the class time looking up a tutorial for drawing a crayon box, but he hadn’t gotten it done. he did a very painstaking drawing of the crayon box, spending an inordinate amount of time dividing the rectangle of space in 7. he eventually “remembered” what the rest of the assignment was; to name the colors, using alliteration, incorporating the climate terms from the unit they are studying. he knew he wanted to make “land breeze light blue”. he had the hardest time recalling whether it was supposed to be colored in. as he went, he seemed to recall details of the instructions, and ended up coloring, writing “convection crayons” and a slogan, “100% recycled, 100% recyclable” before he finished. in addition to the painfully slow start, he got stuck another time; there wasn’t a term in his list starting with y, but he needed a yellow crayon, because the tutorial had one, so he couldn’t get past that without help. i suggested putting ‘yearly’ in front of a term and call it done.

through talking with him, it’s apparent he doesn’t use class time efficiently, and gets sucked into the internet of ideas (he did this for spanish too, looking up food words for his food rainbow assignment, but applying none of them to the sheet of paper). he also doesn’t seem to observe what other students are doing (i asked if the kids colored theirs in, and he had no idea). then just when it seemed as though he hadn’t heard the instructions at all, it was as though he had stored them in some type of encrypted manner and incremental details started being revealed only as they were needed.

i said it was fine to bring work home, if he just couldn’t do it at school, and also tried to offer support to find solutions to using the class time, like blocking out noise (put in earbuds) or finding out missing instructions (ask teacher) or obtaining missing materials/ruler/computer paper (same) and encouraged him to make a point to go past those obstacles, not stay stuck behind them.

executive function skills as applied to yu-gi-oh cards are all in order.

theatre and literacy

that night we went to rich’s play! quinn seemed to enjoy it. i heard him giggle when one of the animals rich pulled out of a paper bag, “salmon,” was a spatula. bear was made out of a berry bucket, a cup for the snout, and some buttons. quinn immediately memorized the line, “i wonder what would happen if grandmother found out i put holes into her berry bucket.” when housman asked for some tea and rick went out to get tea but instead came back with a big log that someone must have left, housman said, “i wish to once again register my complaint that this (gesturing at log) is not tea!” another line quinn insta-memorized.

at the very end as the authors all walked out and rick was peeking into the stacks after them, housman came back and said, “more of them are coming! i can see edgar allen poe… and elinor wylie …. and oh god, it’s tolstoy!” rick responded, “tolstoy!” and burst out laughing. on sunday as i was telling rich about quinn loving the “tolstoy!” line, i was having a hard time remembering what book he wrote, and quinn chimed in from the kitchen, “war and peace!” that kid. my bff suggested a new segment on the blog called, “how do you know that???”

his answer: “charlie brown.”

there was also a line in the play to the effect of, “if you want to get to know somebody, just go to the library and ask for their checkout list!” on the way home quinn and i discussed that line, and talked about going to the library and saying, “show us every  book quinn has checked out.” he listed percy jackson, kane chronicles, magnus chase books, guardians of ga’hoole, diary of a wimpy kid, wings of fire, spirit animals, lemony snicket, etc. i said, “if this play had been about quinn, it would have been 3 of your favorite authors who came out of the stacks to talk to you.” and he said, “yeah, rick riordan, tui sutherland, and kathryn lasky, probably!”