archive update ~ quinn age 3 ~ haul away on the one unbroken line

over time, i have filled in gaps in my blog, and the final frontier that has been awaiting its day is the time between quinn’s third and fourth birthdays. i established the blog just after he turned 3, but was not posting thorough updates again until just before he turned 4, when i posted the first ~a month of unschool~ post, which technically covers “quinn’s forty-seventh month.”

in the spirit of honoring my story and attending to its integrity as one unbroken line, i have recently revisited that time period in my off-blog archives in an attempt to weave a splice joining the two dangling ends of the line. whereas the age 1 and 2 update posts filled themselves in relatively easily via mostly unedited text grabbed from emails to lau and piles of toddler photos, turning 3 was a time that i could just tell i needed to spend some more time and energy unpacking. i was attempting to define some independence for myself, and my parenting journey was particularly dramatic around that time. turbulence on many levels may be what has kept me from grappling with this chunk of my storyline up until now, but i have been rewarded for summoning the courage. the twinkling sapphires i am unearthing from the larger pockets of darker stuff reveal more wealth than i remembered. i am allowing myself to savor the quickly typed emails and simmer them down into their essence this time around (read: i tried to bridle the verbosity). i allowed myself to write from both perspectives, to acknowledge the time and distance from which i am gazing upon the artifacts, but allowing them to glimmer for themselves as well.

i back-dated each individual post, so they are less likely to turn up in your current blog reader feeds or emails (though if you did catch them, let me know through what venue? i’m curious…). here is a compilation of links to those ten posts comprising the splice in the line, one snapshot and text excerpt per post to hint at what you’ll find there. in case anyone is up for another blog binge-fest!

i feel a deep sigh of relief, gratitude and contentment to have this gap filled.

quinn’s thirty-seventh month (february 23, 2010-march 23, 2010) into the heathers of the waters

“three was a time of still needing to figuratively crawl back inside the womb and reconnect with mama regularly, interspersed with bouts of shoving off the mama dock and paddling the canoe of his person purposefully away with equally great frequency and intensity.”

quinn’s thirty-eighth month (march 23, 2010-april 23, 2010) long, long ago, in the great days of the grass sidewalks

“during that trip, quinn just kept walking and walking, an impressive distance for such a small hiker. he was filled to the brim with enthusiasm, fueled by easter eggs and the promise of treasures along every stretch of sand. on one of our beach hikes he told me, ‘those two seagulls are having a bath! i’m amazed by it!'”

quinn’s thirty-ninth month (april 23, 2010-may 23, 2010) melody, harmony, rhythm

on mother’s day, we cuddled in bed, then after a lazy bagel and granola breakfast we played a game of soccer-on-the-stairs, risking life and limb to toss the ball up and down, quinn at the top, me at the bottom. he would laugh hysterically every time the ball made it past him and hit the washing machine, making a gong sound. an audio recording of his laugh reverberates across the years that have elapsed, reminding me in one more sensory modality of just how much he has grown. his voice plays a deeper music now, and is on the very cusp of plummeting yet another octave, accompanied by the background refrain of time whooshing past.”

quinn’s fortieth month (may 23, 2010-june 23, 2010) rebirth

“the recollections from this month that don’t read like a report on our saturdays at the farmer’s market, read instead like a menu of the food i prepared from our first csa boxes, our garden, and the wild.”

quinn’s forty-first month (june 23, 2010-july 23, 2010) now i’m free!

“this was the month i was establishing this blog, this glass bowl into which i began attempting to place some small portion of the petals as they fell, realizing even then that this, too, is all going to pass away, but knowing that it will always be worthwhile to cup a petal in one’s hand and contemplate it for a time.”

quinn’s forty-second month (july 23, 2010-august 23, 2010) blackberry blueberry peaches

“pancakes from scratch, sweetened with honey and applesauce. (another beginning whose future  importance i can now see vividly through the wide-angle lens of time, from this point onward, not only did pancakes earn the favorite breakfast title and become a staple in his diet, but other loved ones have been folded into our lives to whom we refer as pancakes, based on our sunday pancake tradition and their sweetness.)”

quinn’s forty-third month (august 23, 2010-september 23, 2010) untamed wildness

“i would find ropes and strings secured to all manner of objects throughout the house. in one image a string was tied to the step stool, with one of his toy boats tied to the other end. as much as i celebrated him becoming himself, i hoped he would remain this tightly secured to me as he grew.”

quinn’s forty-fourth month (september 23, 2010-october 23, 2010) storm season

“storm clouds were gathering in the mama realm as well. the mountain of my ideals promised of a rain shadow, but i was still climbing up the other side where the moisture piled up, sliding back down in each deluge, unable to bridge the disconnect between what i believed i ought to do, and what i was actually doing.”

quinn’s forty-fifth month (october 23, 2010-november 23, 2010) hard-won

“dried plant skeletons withered in the fog of the autumn marsh. blackberry vines had turned a deep merlot, surrounded by brown of every shade. there was still so much green, only now with ecru lace (dried angelica) and beaded silk (spiderwebs collecting droplets of fog) woven throughout. the change of season kept me mindful that all things pass, and that winter storms would come and scour the landscape, scrubbing it bare and making space for new growth come spring.”

quinn’s forty-sixth month (november 23, 2010-december 23, 2010) stirring the pensieve

“by this magical age of three, many of the most quinn-ish aspects of quinn-ness had emerged and i was starting to observe and take notice of them. the blog has been a bit like dumbledore’s pensieve in which i have been able to store memories, and at various times revisit them, swirl them around, and discover connections among the memories and the present days’ events, coming to understand both more fully. i find it incredibly fitting that the memories in the pensieve seem very much alive, as though pulsating with bioluminescence.”


best served with tea and small oranges!


~thankful thursday~ in which we sing the last verse


~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

today i am grateful for a full day to relax and cook only with my microwave.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

i am grateful for color; the rainbow veggies of market, the orange and yellow leaves of the vine maples, the red violet of my strawberry-beet smoothie and my rose elixir. i’m a rainbow person, but red violet-colored lenses help me see the world with an attitude of gratitude.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 25

today i’m thankful for animals, who remind me that it is important to play.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 26

last night after a wonderful spontaneous mid-day date of doing nothing, which turned out to be some of the very best something, watching seals and whales play in the ocean surf, rich and i watched christopher robin. i was reminded how grateful i am for winnie the pooh. i loved pooh as a kid, and i remember re-reading pooh when i was a teenager and realizing there was more substance layered in those stories than i had realized. which paled in comparison to how i felt when i started reading the same book to my two-year-old, who gobbled up chapter after chapter. when he had reached the limit of his attention span, he would shift into incorporating pooh stories into every aspect of his imaginitive play. we played pooh sticks whenever we found a nice bridge over a stream, we hauled piglet up to the letter box, we found a new house for owl, we pounded eeyore’s tail back on, we hunted for heffalumps and woozles. the hundred acre wood took up a good percentage of his internal landscape from an early age. i of course had tears rolling down my cheeks over the movie last night, not necessarily sad ones, but the ones that have everything to do with the inevitability of little boys growing up.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 27

i am grateful for all of the twinkly lights bringing light into the lengthening darkness.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 28

today’s facebook memory was an all-photo post about dolphins from gratitude 2016. it reminded me of my gratitude for their existence in this world, and how they’ve been a symbolic guide for me this year. i chose the word “streamline” for 2018, and of course, there is no better mascot.

i wrote about this on my 40th birthday, as the days were lengthening rather than the nights, and as the first trilliums were blooming, rather than the last blossoms drooping.

“…in a more metaphysical sense, streamlining is a term that makes me think of the ways i spend my life energy, and ways i could conserve it more efficiently. dolphins have been friends of my spirit for more than half my life now, and provide the perfect mascot for becoming more streamlined. some of the definitions of the word focus on how the motion of the fluid around the object is smooth, or the condition of being free from turbulence; however the more i think about it, the less it has to do with the status of the flow of life around me, and more to do with shaping myself in such a way that i present less resistance to the flow.”

this was only part of what i wrote, but i’m focusing on this excerpt because out of all the ways i intended to use this year to streamline, the part about getting out of our storage unit and finally getting all the way moved into our house was not the part i achieved. however, i think i’ve improved on the part about presenting less resistance to the flow. so i’m grateful to my spirit friends who’ve helped inspire me in that area this year.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 29

it’s penultimate post day! it really flew by this year, it doesn’t seem possible that november is already coming to an end. it seems like i’ve only just begun to notate the things for which i’ve felt grateful recently. some of the ones i may not yet have mentioned:

i am grateful for saving 13% on my groceries today because my fairy mother-outlaw snuck a handy coupon onto  my passenger’s seat. best outlaw mother in all the land.

i am grateful to feel like a real adult, depositing my little supplemental income paychecks from my farm job into my son’s savings account. i think the two dudes doing their banking were slightly jealous that he has almost earned enough scottie saver bucks to get the light sabre!

i’m grateful my husband is always burning holes in his clothing so my sewing machine motors don’t seize up due to lack of use. mending isn’t my favorite sewing to do, but for that smoking hot guy i’ll gladly zigzag his clothes back together. i am also grateful to have learned a useful skill set such as sewing from a panel of very talented women while i was growing up.

i’m grateful when the sparks only burn the clothing layers, not the man. (he barely notices, but still.)

i’m grateful for kitties! and wood stove fires!

okay, maybe i’ve mentioned some of these before, but are you sure it was this year?

finally, i’m grateful my son comes home to me tomorrow. i’ll give you three guesses what we’ll be having for dinner on gratitude day 30!


~30 days of gratitude~ day 30

gratitude is powerful stuff. three years of doing this have taught me that gratitude is a self-perpetuating spiral; i keep being pleasantly surprised how many times the words just flowed, because the feelings were so easy to access, because… practice. you get to where you’re just so darn grateful for gratitude.

but now it’s time to sing the last verse of the song for this year. the part of the song where it all comes together metaphorically and the sound waves ripple through the air to touch your heart, and though it has the same melody as before, there are several strains of harmony woven in now, and when you get to the chorus, you reach down to your toes to send the last few notes up a third or a fifth or an octave. you take it higher, you take it on home. you know, that part of the song.

(30 days isn’t long enough if i haven’t been grateful for music yet! good thing we’re squeezing it in before the finale.)

this is where i stall briefly in writing today’s gratitude, because PRESSURE! because finishing a song is something to take seriously and anyone with a perfectionist side can find this to be an obstacle. i believe i finished day 30 sometime in january last year, but i promised myself i’d end on time this year.

so i have been thinking about it for days, and i can’t think of a better way to close the circle on this 30 days than by coming back to where we started, with a certain navigational aid called Buoy. Buoy was stationed in one spot in the sea, but sometimes when he was ready for a nap, he would travel in his mind down the long chain that anchored him all the way down to the sea floor… each color of the rainbow would fade away as he dove deeper, until only those creatures who could create their own light dwelled…

“then down the chain. to the seabed. and there, rooted in the depth of the Sea, Buoy felt a humming. a hum that seemed to come from deeper than the Sea. it reminded him somehow of the song of the Whales. but he did not hear this song. he felt it. it seemed to be a part of who he was. he did not understand that it was he who was a part of the song.”

thanks for singing along, friends.

~thankful thursday~ it’s working


~30 days of gratitude~ day 16

“time is but the stream i go a-fishing in. i drink at it; but while i drink i see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” ~henry david thoreau

not that long ago, i was reading buoy to a three-year old who was obsessed with boats; he built himself a kayak this summer, and in just over a year he plans on riding a gondola down the watery streets of venice. he went through a phase of night waking when he was 2, and we would sometimes bake muffins at 2am; now he is signed up to learn how to bake italian cookies, in rome. i am grateful for the opportunities my boy has laid out before him. i got myself a passport when i was 19, and some of the most important lessons i’ve learned were from traveling. i have not been to europe yet myself, but plan to get there one day. in the meantime, i’m grateful my kid will need a passport before he is 19.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 17

it should be mentioned as frequently as nachos, if not more, that i am grateful for my bathtub.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

i’m grateful for the man who sleeps by my side. i believed i was crushing the bones of his hand last night to get myself through the migraine pain until the ibuprofin started to take effect. when i thanked him this morning he assured me i hadn’t been squeezing his hand very hard. i’m also quite grateful for sunday, my one day a week to sleep in, and for waking up without pain to a sunny morning of hummingbirds, pumpkin pancakes, and coffee.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

i am thankful to be back in a little groove with writing. words have such power to divide or unite, to destroy or to heal. i will not claim my own words have the power to do any of those for anyone else, but i do know that writing is healing for me. it takes some nerve to put original thoughts into a post, at least it does for me. so often, i hear voices advising against it… in my head, of course. who am i to post about migraine pain when others are in so much worse pain? who am i to post about my son when others have lost children or been unable to have them? or my parents, when friends have lost theirs? who am i to post about my loving husband when so many are lonely tonight? who am i to post about the comforts of home when so many homes have burned? it’s enough to shut a person right up, and friends, that is the story with me for 11 months out of the year on this here social media platform. so i pray that my november spree of words have not offended anyone out of lack of consideration or ignorance of your experience, or in my excitement or earnestness about mine. i am grateful for all the kindness sent my way through sweet comments. and i am grateful that what i set out to do with the written word, my selfish goal of healing my own soul, is working.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

today i am grateful for my mom and dad. 20 is their day, and in a month they will celebrate 43 years of marriage. some marriages are long, and some marriages are great, but it seems to me that only a lucky few marriages get to be both long and great. theirs is one of those.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

i am feeling grateful for the words chosen by several friends and family members concerning my day 19 post. it felt really nice to know that other people understand the struggle, and that they would not want me to silence my voice.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

when i was transitioning my son this afternoon to his dad’s for thanksgiving (as a two-household kid, he has even years with dad, odd years with mama), a rainbow appeared in the sky. i recalled one of last year’s gratitude posts about transitions, and the magic around the edges of things, including the edges where sunlight and rain meet. today’s rainbow was so vibrant (and its double shimmered in and out of view) that i took a different route home and pulled over a few times to take a cell phone photo. it outlasted the average rainbow, accompanying me all the way home to where my husband of exactly one year and four months (today is our dorkaversary) was standing in the driveway with my real camera, having just witnessed the same rainbow, and having been attempting to capture it for me. since i have been dating him for 6 years and 11 months, i think it’s okay if i repeat a gratitude, on this day of gratitude, during a month of gratitude feedback loops creating waves of even more gratitude simply because i’m looking for it consciously. so today i am grateful for rich, my rainbow love.

happy thanksgiving!!!

~thankful thursday~ snails, whales, puppy dog tails


~30 days of gratitude~ day 8

there is the usual ebb and flow of the gratitude juice, modulated by snags in the fabric of my experience that focus my gaze inwards, and then disasters both natural and unnatural that draw my gaze back outward again. each time the latter occurs, the gratitude surges forth, for all that i have, the health and safety of my loved ones, the ease of my ordinary life. today i feel gratitude for opportunities to be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud, or the buoy on someone’s horizon, in keeping with my theme. and i feel so grateful, in turn, for the buoys who shine their light to me, out on my own horizon, the friends who shine by reaching out and loaning me their ruby dog, the friends who shine at me across  cyberspace and cheer me on, the friends who shine from down the road to make a plan to get together. i wish to use my own light to reach someone else’s gaze from out on their horizon in those same ways.

i’m also grateful for clear nights filled with starlight, and for the miracle of star names that are still lodged in my memory.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 9

today i am grateful for date night on the bay front, for wood stove fires built by the husband i’m dating, for his sweet gestures like starting my car to defrost on a chilly morning, for the way he makes me laugh over his “gratitude” that he did not having to read yet another really long post on day 7 (the night off). i am grateful for him always taking the time to read what i write, and for knowing it means pretty much everything to me (and that he checks this and every other box on a wish list i made 8 years ago). i am grateful for how good he smells and how diligently he sweeps and vacuums me off my feet. i am grateful for his amazing popcorn and the lessons he teaches my son and the way he snuggles the kitties so well that they run to the door to greet him. i am just so darned grateful for every second i get to spend with him!



~30 days of gratitude~ day 10

grateful for rainbow food for the eyes, soul, and body.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 11

i am grateful for the way my fairy dog pulled me outside and down the trail this morning while the sun was streaming through the trees and the frost was just starting to melt. i’m thankful for the reminder to sniff out paths i might not have gone down in a while, to remember to wander and stop and appreciate. while standing and pondering and letting her sniff, i decided to picture a fairy dog in my mind, tiny enough to wander down the paths of my neural circuitry, but powerful enough to pull me out of well-worn grooves that may not serve me, and into lusher, if more challenging, terrain. i’m thankful that there are always new ways to look, and for getting to see rainbows in the frost.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 12

i am grateful that today i got to see some whales.

“’i see them!’ cried Buoy.

closer they came. moving the water with their magnificence. the sweep of their great flukes a metronome to their song.

when they were finally very close, Buoy spoke.

‘hello, Whales!’ he called.

‘hello, Buoy,’ said one.

‘who do you sing to?’ asked Buoy.

‘we sing to the Stars,’ said the Whale.


‘to let them know that we are here, and that we are watching still.’”

~ excerpt from buoy, by bruce balan


~30 days of gratitude~ day 13

this kid. the greatest teacher of my life. would rather be reading his self-chosen geometry textbook than doing his algebra homework. would rather be building a new magic deck than playing a sport. demolishes seaweed snacks in 30 seconds. huge feet attached to lanky legs. sorts his blankets into 3 separate piles while he sleeps: one sheet, one grammy quilt, one fuzzy owl blanket. has a birthmark on his back in the same spot i do. has 21 teeth. doesn’t want to take a bath, but won’t get out once he’s in. loves pancakes. loves nachos; ergo, belongs in this family.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 14

gratitude for the st. john’s wort/vitamin B-C-D/iron/rainbow salads or whatever component of that is giving me enough energy to make it through these long/short days and not feel as much like my gratitude gland is shrunken this year. on the contrary, right now it feels more difficult to choose one thing to write a gratitude post about, the gratitude rolodex of my mind offers up too many to choose from some days!


~30 days of gratitude~ day 15

i’m grateful that my boy comes home to me tomorrow, in time for a nice week off from school!

~rainbow mondays~ droplets of moonlight

a quaint little rainbow slice of life…

rainbow: even now, some rainbow flowers are still adorning my windowsill, though the last of the dahlias are finally succumbing to frost. (these were from a few weeks ago.)

red: this one is slightly anachronistic as well, from early september, the end of melon season. found art in the form of randomly placed veggie bits during market set up.

orange: last hurrah of the dahlias (from this week).

orange: fire magic in the rain.

yellow: sunday morning fairy dog walk with camera.

green: a few weeks old as well, but i wanted to make sure camp boss got to see the resurrection of the easter lilies she gave me. born again in the same year!

green: morning light and shadow

green: next year’s purple poppies forming inside.

green: frost edged leaves of the bayou.

blue: in eastern oregon, where we spent our last night of our journey home from oklahoma, we watched the full moon set first thing in the morning.

purple: also made of moonlight, and so named midnight moon, one of my favorite dahlias.

purple: another midnight moon bloom.

purple: the new favorite kitty spot in the dragon house.

~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

~thankful thursday~ third annual nacho november


~30 days of gratitude~ day 1

unlike last year when i debated joining in on 30 days of gratitude, this year it was a no-brainer to sign up for a third season. a few of the odds are stacked in my favor, such as my husband being away at play rehearsals on week nights this month (time to write), the pantry being stocked with tortilla chips (easy dinners planned), and on off days, say, when i’m standing over my eleven year old cracking the homework whip, i will just lazy-post facebook memories from gratitude challenges of yore. (let’s be honest, we don’t remember what i wrote, so it’ll be ok if we air some re-runs. it’s not lying, i’m still grateful for all that stuff!) i was curious how much i posted since last november, and while my timeline is sprinkled with fun messages from friends, as well as karate functions and family weddings in which i am tagged, my single original post for the rest of the entire year appears to have been about the founder’s day sale on tillamook cheese. but no one here is deluded about my priorities: gratitude and nachos.  exhibit a, word art compiled from previous 2 novembers’ gratitude topics.

i am grateful for a sweet little out-of-print children’s book by bruce balan called buoy that i found when quinn was obsessed with boats as a toddler. i was a tad isolated as a new mama, which i know is common for new moms, especially those who have moved places without family or friends, and/or been the target of someone’s emotional abuse for a while. the book got lukewarm reviews, apparently some critics don’t think children can be captivated by a story about an inanimate object, but i find it to be a delightful piece of literature, winnie-the-pooh-esque in the way that its messages have meaning for people of every age who might come to read it. i revisit it often, and so does quinn.

on one evening with just the right conditions, Buoy and his friends Seal and Gull were watching for the green flash, and arguing over what caused it. the ruckus dies down, and Buoy decides to trust in his hunch about what was causing the green flash. when he saw it, he flashed his own light as brightly as he could in response, so The Other Buoy could see it, so The Other Buoy would know he was not alone either.

Buoy has a characteristic flash, as all navigational lights do, which in his case is flash flash flash… wait…wait…wait… flash flash flash … wait…wait…wait… (repeat forever). i am trying to be like Buoy in my facebook postings, and if i can’t find anything nice to say, i’m doing a lot of wait…wait…wait… apparently around 11 months of that. but come november, i am set to flash my light as brightly as i can, moored to a sentiment called gratitude that keeps me safely focused on the right things.

the spaces between the flashes are part of Buoy’s identity, part of how his light has the ability to shine out when he flashes it. i’d like to say i have spent my waiting time storing up summer sunshine to boost my ability to radiate light to share with my fellow humans, but as is my usual status this time of year, my light feels depleted. a friend flashed a beam of light recently through a post that had an impact on me. i don’t even think i liked or commented, or told her that it did, we all know how potential meaningful connections slip away into the abyss of the endless scroll-down. but a snippet of what she shared said, “if your body doesn’t make enough neurotransmitters, store bought is fine.” i spent $1.10 on my own self care and brought home st. john’s wort and made myself a “collect light like a plant” tincture that i am happily taking every morning. as the dimmer switch of fall gets dialed down i think i’d like a little help to make the most of what light there is. i am visualizing my newly enhanced light-absorption capacity gathering to myself what is needed and actively converting it into life-affirming, life-giving necessities. anyway, that other buoy shining her light made me feel less alone. and i am grateful for that!


~30 days of gratitude~ day 2

tonight, quinn attended his very first school dance. and today i am feeling grateful for middle school teachers and the invisible capes they wear. the transition from fifth to sixth grade, from elementary to middle school, has been rather daunting, with bumps on the roller coaster ride that hearken back to the ones that derailed his successful matriculation into kindergarten. luckily in this case, he has stayed enrolled past the two-week mark and doesn’t even have any Fs anymore as of this writing. i have now met each of his teachers and i have been delighted to find that they are all wonderful people who clearly care about my kid and every other student they teach. it takes something just a little bit extra to willingly, enthusiastically, spend all day with a rotation of 30-40 (how ‘bout them class sizes?) eleven-year-olds. and then to give up their friday evening to show a crowd of tweens a good time on the dance floor! just feeling very grateful for the local superheroes who teach my kid.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 3

feeling well fed and quite sleepy after a bowl of curry winter squash soup (varieties: scarlet kabocha and buttercup, if you must know), it is easy to feel a lot of gratitude for the good people and land over at gathering together farm. i lucked into this sweet veggie-slinging gig over 4 years ago and i still feel like i’ve won the lottery every time i go home with my saturday haul of organic produce. this year i feel like i leveled up as a part-time farmer when i embarked on an evening you-pick adventure with my husband and son in late august to “clear out” the siletz tomatoes still lingering on vines slated for ploughing under the next day. we cast our long twilight shadows across the first 10 feet of a tunnel that felt like it might be a mile long. we filled up the bed of the pickup truck with tomatoes too ripe to go to market, and therefore no longer worth the price of the real estate they were occupying. now they are filling up our bellies every week, tucked away in their 67 quart jars for the winter. and the good farm people acted as though i was doing them a favor by not allowing those ten feet of the crop to go to waste, when i was really the one reaping all the tomato wealth a gal would ever want to put up for one season. don’t tell nachos, but i love pasta just as much, and a pot of organic sauce simmering on my stove is a happy thing in cool november weather.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 4

cracking the homework whip on a sunday night is making me feel grateful for another book, one that i read back when my three-year-old was full of intensity and a sense of his own agenda. the book playful parenting was not the only source of the concept that has been so helpful in my parenting journey of infusing even the most mundane aspects of parenting with play, but it was the most succinct and direct communication of the concept i came across.

middle school is turning out to be a timely moment to recall this concept, and i’m feeling pretty grateful to have remembered to engineer a playful approach to math homework just 6 weeks along. at 3 (and 4, 5, 6, & 7) he just would not put on his clothes or get into the car when asked, but he would get dressed in his hogwarts robes or hop in the batmobile. “do your math homework,” has been about as appealing and likely to rise to the top of his priority list as “put your clothes on,” but once it became about slaying goblins, he was down.

i was just telling him about when he was 3, and how even that long ago, he had the endearing quality of completely ignoring what i was saying. back then, i was explaining to him in calmer moments how i really wanted him to acknowledge what i was saying, even if it meant just telling me you heard me and aren’t going to do what i asked, for whatever reason. one time when he sensed that i was about to get testy after several repeats of a request receiving no response, quinn shouted, “i recognize your knowledge!” which given how it made him giggle tonight may soon be trending at our house as the way to “use your words” when you ignore your mom.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 5

i wrote about my gratitude for karate during my first annual gratitude challenge, and just over a week ago i tested for my green belt in the art of kenpo. as i sat nursing my sore muscles, i reflected on what i have learned from this journey the past two years since that writing.

like my time on board a schooner, karate has turned out to be something i love even more than i anticipated. also like sailing, i have taken some serious hits and have been lately in a process of reassessing to try and articulate what i am doing, risking injury on a regular basis, to continue to practice and progress in this art. my years of sea time ingrained in me a respect for the ocean that means i’ll never take it for granted, but also means i don’t live on a boat anymore.

when i was a kid, i added “find out how i would do in a real fight” to my bucket list. i’m not sure i ever wrote it down, or admitted it to anyone, but this has always been something i wondered about myself. it turns out, i can hold my own in a sparring simulation-of-real-fight, and it’s sort of thrilling to know that for sure. what i said 2 years ago still holds true: i would not cower.

while i feel my odds of surviving any attack encounter have greatly increased as a result of my training, i am also very much more aware of how vulnerable i truly am, and the limits of my skills against truly sinister forces that exist in the world. it’s not that i live in fear of being attacked in my actual life in rural oregon, and truly i know i would handle any true attack with much more competence, confidence, and reflexive skill now than i would have any time before 3 years ago. it’s the old conundrum of, the more i know, the more aware i am of exactly how much i don’t know. (i remember rolling this around in my mind when the knife attacks happened on the portland trimet bus, the same bus system i used to ride around on several times per week with my infant… would i, given my training, be able to counter a knife attack any better than those men who stood in harm’s way? probably not.) i am keenly aware of my own limitations as a result of paying this much attention to honing this skill set.

for example, my husband is 3 inches taller than me, but weighs one and half times my weight, plus in the dimensions that really matter, such as upper body strength, he is truly four times my size. when i sit shoulder to shoulder with him, it hits home that anyone in his same size range (a good percentage of the male population) who truly wished to do me harm, even without any training, most certainly could and probably would. my best bet is to be married to a soul who would never raise a finger or even his voice to hurt me, because as i know too well and is well documented in statistics, harm is ever so much more likely to come to a woman from within her home than from anonymous sources. if i were to be faced with an actual attack, i know my non-karate husband would stand in front of me and be the one to do the actual defending. (i haven’t had a fit of mushy husband gratitude overtake me yet on this year’s posts, but it’s sure to happen. so grateful for him!)

a few years ago, i went out there on that mat because of my kid, and after all this reassessing, i’m staying out there because of my kid. it’s a bond between us, and a way we can both practice asserting ourselves in the world, in a safe environment. it’s also how i know i would stand the best chance of being able to defend him in a fight, because you never know.

i have learned what my assets are in a fight, how to assess the opponent, see their weaknesses, and use them to my advantage. my reflexes are trained through all the repetition – i routinely catch heavy round vegetables falling off the veggie scale at farmer’s market, so these skills even play a practical role in my every day life.

before my test, i helped one of my fellow testers adjust some things in one of his forms, and at the end of my test, i read aloud the green belt pledge which plainly states that the requirements of this belt rank are to actively teach in the art. huh, i guess that does start happening if you just keep showing up long enough. i remember the thing that hit me from the blue belt pledge, last time around, that i will actively defend the weak and vulnerable; and the purple belt pledge before that, to never use my skill to harm or make afraid. there is much more to the art than how to punch and kick and win a fight. one could even apply these principles to voting in tomorrow’s election! i’m grateful for my instructor and all i have been able to learn, as well as the character traits that have been instilled in my son that reach a long way beyond the edge of the mat.


~30 days of gratitude~ day 6

one of my goals is to only be grateful for nachos one time during this round of gratitude… and today is the day! it’s national nacho day, and gosh i think there’s something else going on, too. oh yeah, voting! it was my pleasure to vote against several appalling measures on our local ballot, and i think everyone ought to reward themselves for voting with a big plate of nachos. last year i could not think of any appealing images of nachos, but as i was scrolling through the toddler archives i came across one i quite like.

vote nachos! vote gratitude! gratitude for voting! gratitude for suffragettes, the 19th amendment, and the equal rights amendment (oops, still haven’t ratified that last one yet! gratitude for e.r.a. pending future ratification!)


~30 days of gratitude~ day 7

i am grateful that i can just take the night off, because you don’t have to get an A in gratitude!


a gentle indian summer exhales its smoky spiced cider breath easterly across this season of harvest. meanwhile, i experience the ebb of summer as a riptide so rapid that it threatens to pull me under. tumbled around and pummeled by a tempest of tasks, toppling piles of things, trips to take, transitions to tackle. a rather nontrivial transition in lab jobs upended my thought patterns for months, and then it was time to transition my tween into his new life as a middle schooler. somewhere in the middle of all that, oklahoma! forget self care september, i blinked at the end of august and it was october. i arrive on the threshold of this seasonal shift with additional vitamins in the arsenal, and a st. john’s wort tincture steeping on my counter. a friend posted something to the effect of, “if your own body doesn’t make enough neurotransmitters, store bought is fine.” i like that validation of appropriate use of pharmaceutical antidepressants, because there absolutely is a time and a place, and one wrestles unnecessarily with not wanting to depend on something outside of oneself. at this time and place, i conclude that a little help with inhibiting neurotransmitter reuptake is wise, and i’m going with nature-made, in hopes that some preventive care will help me achieve a better balance.


i know i am a step ahead of the game to be able to make this conscious choice. lately reflecting on aging and memory loss, the topic of neural connections has been salient for me; i recognize that if ever the clockwork of memory starts winding backwards, the neural grooves in which i dwell most now could be the ones i revisit. if i pay rapt attention to my family and delight in my daily routine, these are the patterns i reinforce in my neural firings; if i drag myself through a perceived grind with aversion and resentment the emotional backdrop of my days, these could be the negative default mode to which i someday succumb. (which reminds me to see also: surrender)

today i draw a line in the sand (figuratively but also literally, on the beach). i make a choice and state my intention to the universe to move forward placing my attention on healthy thought patterns to the best of my ability. i leave behind on the other side of the line, and release into the ocean, the tangle of thought patterns, resentments, fears, insecurities that hinder my wellbeing; something i have done before, and will need to do again. i let the ocean wash them away, and even the line, leaving behind a wide canvas of clean sand promising of renewal. the spiral begins again.

~rainbow mondays~ every little thing is gonna be ok

this will be less verbose than some, but it is time to reconnect via rainbow…

rainbow: portrait of the artist as a tidepool…

rainbow: dahlias and hydrangeas being the rainbow.

rainbow: anemone and seaweed being the rainbow, too!

rainbow: heck, even a double-trailered coca-cola truck on a highway in idaho is being the rainbow. or at least, reflecting the sunrise.


red: oklahoma hummingbird sipping on some texas hummingbird sage.

red: by the way, rich and i just got back from a road trip to oklahoma!

red: some of the 67 quarts of tomatoes i have already mentioned from summer days of yore.


orange: dahlia beginnings in an enchanted garden.

orange: an enchanted garden from which some transplants have been shared with my own garden, like these wonderfully prolific helenium.


orange: my own garden is becoming increasingly enchanted over time…


orange: more flora and fauna, they are ok.

yellow: from the hick-a-rew daisy crop.

yellow: dahlias just beginning…

yellow: dahlias in their full glory, keeping the bees busy.

yellow: this is a special hollyhock, grown from seeds sent to me years ago from my friend in durango, and what a delight to find out they are the most delicate pale yellow imaginable.

yellow: black eyed susans, another delightful surprise that took until year 2 after seed planting to flower.

green: the rainbow terrace garden still reads mostly green, even in the height of summer. something about oregon… don’t mind that husband person with some sort of tool in his hand lurking in the upper right hand corner.

green: home sweet bayou hammock.

green: summer ocean productivity in abundance.

green-blue: heron taking flight on a lovely tidepooling excursion.

blue: whales surfacing in the surf zone during same lovely outing.

blue: one thing that is very definitely ok about oklahoma, is that they have blue butterflies there.

blue: this one perched for me in the amazing “gathering place” in tulsa, a community wonder.

purple: speaking of communities, a large village of sea urchins.

purple: mostly purple, but one red.

purple: glad to see these glads.

purple: swallowtails meet on the butterfly bush. “hey, do you come here often?”

purple: purplicious, to be exact, but also leaning a little bit towards red violet.

red violet: flat bride has been wanting me to grow stargazer lilies since i was very young, and i am happy to say they came back healthy and thriving in their second summer in the rainbow garden.


~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

~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ playing games, gaming plays

quinn and i went to the pool several times this month, and he made some progress on learning to swim. the pool was almost empty and we had an hour each time to work on swimming skills. he is motivated to practice and a huge milestone was putting his ears in the water without plugs, a major sensory challenge overcome. he did back floats (he did brief ones with me letting go) and lots of bobs, i had him do bobs without holding his nose a couple times, and some tea parties sitting on the bottom. we also worked on kicks and stuff. it’s a lot to coordinate physically, but he needs this skill; it’s fine if he never rides a bike but i require him to swim for safety reasons living on the coast. he has come a long way just being willing to trust what i’m asking him to do, as not just his mama, but someone whose first summer job after babysitting and farm work was teaching swim lessons. each time he got water up his nose (3 or 4 times) he wasn’t too phased, and i’d use variations on his sifu’s line, “did you die?” “nope.” “see you didn’t even die” etc. he was still smiling each time, and he felt good about it when we were leaving.

venn diagram pancakes, following a viewing of a vi hart venn diagram pizza pie-a-gram video in which “fish make sense!” in quinn’s pancake venn diagram, there is overlap between fresh strawberry topping and maple syrup.

math boy got dropped off at my work one friday, and he chose, of all the sprinkles and frosting donuts in the box of leftover donuts, the “infinity donut” with just glaze, nothing fancy, but mathy. he decided he really liked how cute artemia are, when i showed them to him under a microscope, and wants to establish his own sea monkey colony at home.

he made a batch of thumbprint cookies on his own, and put together a wooden lobster sculpture.

grammy and grampy brought quinn with them when they came to visit the farmer’s market (and i worked just the set-up portion). then quinn and i got dropped off by grampy at the start of the summerfest parade, in which we were marching for karate. he was ambivalent about being in the parade leading up to the day, but afterwards he ran up to me and asked, “can i do the parade again next year?” he got to hold the banner (alternating with another of the bigger boys) and swing his chucks around.

q and i took grammy and grampy to the beach to go tidepooling. we looked at crabs and sea stars, and grampy and quinn had fun racing each other. quinn looked like he was studying the mathematical patterns of the waves coming up the sand.

grampy, quinn and i played parcheesi. quinn did some work on how to win and lose gracefully during the visit, given ample opportunities to practice his gaming social graces with grampy available as such a willing adversary. battleship, uno, war, pokemon, bone wars (the game of paleontology), and risk. i believe he even got grammy to play a round of simpson’s clue with him!

quinn used the typewriter to craft a letter to each of his cousins to send back with grammy and grampy, and included a spirograph design in each one, incorporating the favorite colors of mario, luigi, and schroeder.

quinn read many pages of life of fred to grammy, she of long patience for children reading. life of fred is quinn’s self-inflicted curriculum for the summer, and he has read through three life of fred texts so far: fractions, decimals and percents, and pre-algebra 0 with physics. the next two, pre-algebra 1 with biology and pre-algebra 2 with economics, are on deck. he’s excited to keep going through algebra and advanced algebra after that, because then he gets to do geometry. wau! this kid.

quinn got to ride in the back seat between grammy and grampy for our farm visit. i walked them all around, because i have taken the tour myself enough times now… and the crew was all over frantically harvesting for the next days’ markets, but we got to say hi to several of the people i know. mostly we just enjoyed the growing things and abundance and the beautiful day. and the boysenberry glazed potato donuts from the farm bakery. grammy took a rest in the flower garden gazebo while dad looked at machinery, and quinn followed around the bees looking for “bee butts” sticking out of flowers, especially the huge cardoon flowers. i took pictures of hummingbirds and flowers, and soon it was time for our lunch reservation in the farm restaurant. that place is so beautiful. we could eat grilled cheese in there and it would feel like an amazing meal because it is so beautiful with koi pond/fountain among blooming flowers just outside the big windows with light pouring in. flowers strewn everywhere around the tables made from giant slabs of trees, and over in the corner, a hand built clay oven where you can watch them cooking your pizza…

lunch was yummy. we got sandwiches and salads and quinn got a pizza and also wanted to try half a reuben sandwich… it sounded good to him when grampy ordered one. he didn’t end up loving it, because i think he didn’t care for the sauerkraut, but boy was it worth the price of half a sandwich for the sweetness of him wanting to order what grampy was having. then we all got ice cream for dessert. quinn and rich got blueberry cinnamon in waffle cones (the server said it tasted just like blueberry pie and quinn looked at me like “excuse me, why have i not had blueberry pie???” and we made a plan to make a blueberry pie back at home.) and mom and dad got boysenberry (such a pretty red violet color and so yummy) and i got cardamom rose. a perfect treat. “what’s a cardamom?” quinn wanted to know.

quinn and grampy played music together a bit (grampy playing guitar and quinn using his frog to play percussion) including renditions of country roads.

the whole family came to extract me from farmer’s market, and we got extra peaches so i could make peach salsa for sunday and grammy could make a peach cobbler. quinn was invited to aragorn’s birthday in the afternoon, so he made a card (a cool spirograph, for which he needed me to text aragorn’s mom and ask his favorite color; red) we stopped at the store to buy some yu-gi-oh and magic cards for aragorn on the way, which quinn wrapped in the back seat, and we took him over. by the time we left, quinn was helping mix up bubble solution, and barely registered us leaving.

we picked up quinn at 10 am. he had a blast. he was carrying a cup full of mini snickers from the pinata, and was eating bacon and cinnamon rolls when we showed up.

a lot of sunday was getting ready for our anniversary potluck. quinn and grammy rolled out pie crust i had made earlier in the morning for blueberry pie. quinn did much of the labor, under grammy’s helpful supervision. we had originally planned to do a campfire, which meant the menu was to have been hot dogs and smores, but two days beforehand, a complete fire ban was in effect, so we decided not to do a campfire, and changed the menu to nachos (kind of a no-brainer. the default food of our household!) the family of camp boss was in attendance, so quinn was absorbed into a pile of bouncing children on the trampoline.

grammy and grampy got to go to karate one night during their visit. this was a class both quinn and i could participate in together, so they got to see us both on the mat. sifu talked to them both while we were practicing stuff, and they really like him. no surprise there!

quinn and i took them on a beach driving tour. we stopped at a few awesome overlooks and drove the little tiny scenic loop along the cliff beside the ocean. at two of the stops we were able to see whales spouting. then we went to the lighthouse because we figured out that we could use grampy’s national park pass to get into any federal protected land, such as the lighthouse. they had made good use of their pass in yellowstone and the tetons, and then also the grand canyon on their trip home. but we didn’t stay long at the lighthouse because it was very crowded and extremely windy and cold!

we then made the required stop at the grocery store (grammy and grampy love going to fred’s), got an oil change for their car, and then we stopped at the toledo farmer’s market.

family boating!!! after he went back to his dad’s he even got his dad to take him, for which i want to award some points to quinn, in advocating for his interests and extra-curricular activities!

grampy remembered a sloth song, and sang it, then we had a fun time teaching him how to “ok google,” and ask things like “who wrote the sloth song” or “what will the weather be in grand canyon on monday?”

more uno was played. a 3 way game with grampy quinn and i. then i took q to his dad at 3. when presented with the idea of staying until grammy and grampy left, quinn said he’d rather not be here when g and g left, and just stick with the routine.

we had a few dinners where grampy would kind of explain some facet of his ideas and research on the electoral college so that was really cool for quinn to absorb, in terms of the discipline and lifelong learning going on.

quinn was away for a week, during which he spent his days at theatre camp, and then back home to the dragon house for week two of it.

we tested out a spell quinn read about in his d and d player’s handbook called “prismatic spray” which has a different effect depending on which color the opponent is exposed to; you roll a d8 to find out…yep, a rainbow spell, which for some reason, he knew i’d love. red for fire, orange for, acid, yellow for lightning etc. prismatic wall is a similarly color-coordinated spell, and depending on your distance from your attackers and so on, you may strategically choose one spell over the other. another morning before theatre camp (he would actually wake up early to make sure we had time to spend together doing this), we ran simulations on prismatic wall as well, while sharing seaweed snacks.

i listened to his story dictation incorporating these new spells. his story was about a pack of orcs being slain by a mage using prismatic magical spells, culminating in a very exciting ending in which the head orc “erupted in a towering column of flame!” language arts.


i encouraged quinn to write down his amazing prismatic attack scene into a blog post on the blog we have been establishing for him. (he has it set to private right now, so no link yet, but i’m very excited about the design of his blog and the initial writing he ended up doing! it was brief, but he appears to have a whole novel taking shape in his mind in which the prismatic attack on orcs scene is just one chapter. the book seems to begin with a very dramatic opening!

another activity we squeezed in during this week was to play with anagrams at the breakfast table. words we anagrammed included, canteloupe, prismatic wall, peppercorns (scorn, copper, person), spirograph (pi, gosh, hippos!), pancakes (snack, pen cap, ack!), and clipper ship (peril, perish, relish, pipers!).

in spite of having read 3 (and counting) math textbooks this summer, i still wanted to honor his teacher’s request that he continue working in khan academy to complete the 6th grade curriculum therein. based on his learning style, however, we decided he did not need as much repetition as khan automatically supplies. instead, we made an analog version of the progress chart in khan and filled in stoplight colors for him to color in as he familiarized with each concept in the  curriculum (with green signifiying confidence that he understands the concept), rather than striving to achieve the virtual percentage points by repeating questions where he already grasped the concept.

gratuitous photos of playing with the family of camp boss whenever we could squeeze in some time!

theater camp flew right on by. on the final thursday, i went and saw his 2:00 performance and rich and i went together to the 6:00 performance. the theme this year was board games, and his group did the game of life. he was a blue peg! he had a distinctively stiff walk and monotone speech, and did a great job of staying in character.

a peg only has a few simple purposes in life. repopulation, occupation, education, and dedication… as a peg, quinn had to repeat these four purposes after his peg teacher. the plot involved action surrounding pegs obtaining living assignments,  job assignments, and the “start a family” task. they were told that, “compliance is key. your job as a peg is to adhere to the rules, and the giant fleshy creatures that often come down from above to sculpt and shape our malleable space-time.”

the female protagonist is told one morning, “you’ve landed on the marriage square. please report to the marriage office sometime today.”

she makes a decision to go ahead and accept her task, and approaches quinn’s character to marry her. he replies, “oh! i would like that very much! i hope we are lucky enough to land on the children square! i heard if you’re lucky they’ll send you triplets. right through the mail, three pink and blue little pegs. i once saw a peg with 50 peg children.”

as soon as she requests that he meet her at a certain time at the marriage office, he launches into the exact same “i hope we are lucky enough…” monologue once more.

some of the clever turns of phrase by the student writers (these plays are all written by camp participants and their counselors) remind me to have hope for the future. these young people are wide awake and paying attention!

that goes for the camp leaders, two dedicated people who were once campers and counselors themselves. their improvisational fill-in segments between each of the 5 kids’ group plays also made me smile at their wit. each time they’d pull a game box out of the drawer, there was discussion of the merits of the game and whether or not to play it. of risk one of them said, “it’s just trying to make imperialism look cool.” and of the pink and blue pegs of life, they both agreed such a color scheme was outdated, that game pieces should be gender non-specific.

it was fun to congratulate my young thespian with a bouquet of dahlias from the garden, and watch him interacting with his camp friends after the show.

q brought his life of fred book along as we drove out to the farm for tomatoes, then once it was too dark to read, fell asleep in the jump seat of the truck.

after his last day of theatre camp (a half day), he spent a few hours at work with me: “i’m going to make a painting app,” he decided, and worked on that in the khan academy javascript module. it’s only a matter of time before he is creating programs that are truly useful to humanity.

he spent the following two weeks at his dad’s house, mysteriously building “something that gets wet” in their back yard (stay tuned next month!). i went to the middle school on his behalf to get him registered for school, and looked forward to having one more week of summer to spend together before the school year begins!

~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ the wau of quinn

(pronounced, “wow.”)

just one month this time. still make tea.

this month in executive functioning…

rich suggested getting quinn a watch, and he wore the one i ordered for him all weekend and gave us frequent reports: “it’s 5:36.” we’ll see if it helps with time awareness in the more applied sense…

quinn spent hours on the computer, making a “build your own droid” game in scratch, and didn’t realize he wasn’t logged into his scratch account. when my computer crashed, he lost the whole thing, many hours of work. i think i was more upset than he was. he learned a lesson about how you have to be logged in to have your work saved. on the plus side, he’s doing really detailed work with drawing things (one pixel at a time) and building skills towards his game designing goals.

emotional intensity is still trending. quinn’s handling of the computer crash, the subsequent interactions between us, and between him and rich, all indicate work he is doing in the emotions department. i can see new levels of capability in his resilience to challenges. in several cases, i’ve received a response from quinn of not wanting to talk about something because he already knows what i’ll say. he’ll then eventually talk with much coaxing and reminding that sometimes i am unpredictable with what i say, and sometimes what i say turns out to be worth hearing after all. in one case in particular, i think he actually enjoyed the latter part of our conversation about how he could handle his friend at school who had stomped on and eaten his paper spring. (he knew i was going to say that “people are more important than things,” but agreed to discuss the details with me anyway.)

i think quinn felt validated that i didn’t think it was okay for someone to eat his spring without his consent. (at ols, we always valued safety of our bodies, feelings, and work. this would fall under the heading of the safety of his work being jeopardized.) he did know my stance on retaliation for such an offense (people>things), and the serious part of the discussion was a reminder of his belt status in karate and how he was approaching a purple belt for which the pledge is not to harm or make afraid. we talked again about how boys of his age group may not all be fully cognizant of the types and nuances of humor, and how the receiving party must find the joke funny for it to truly be a joke, but that 11 year old boys may not know that yet. we also reviewed the grammy wisdom we explored back in third grade, when we were learning about a different boy attempting to be quinn’s friend in the most awkward, doofusy way possible… and i pointed out that this seemed to me another likely example of a doofus attempt at friend-making. i felt that although we didn’t know the boy’s motivations, we could assume the best of him given the facts, and give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe he didn’t know you didn’t want your spring eaten… so you should tell him that, but also indicate that he is forgiven (i reminded him that forgiveness is one of the school’s eight essentials and pointed out how this was an opportunity to practice it). once we got to the solution-oriented part and were discussing taking charge of the situation and clearing the air between them in a proactive move to make the next 6 years of school together more friendly, a darning needle dragonfly appeared before quinn.

we walked through some potential dialogue, thought about worst case scenarios (that the boy would not want to talk but remain unfriendly) but realized we predicted he would instead be receptive and likely to respond positively.

i couldn’t see the dragonfly at first so i had him describe it to me. he said it was shiny blue, and i said it must have been there for him specifically. i said he should take dragonfly spirit helper medicine with him the next day, because they are good at maneuvering, and deciding which way to go, and by being brave (dragon) and bringing up a difficult topic, he would be taking charge of the direction he wanted things to go between himself and the friend.

the next day he told me he talked to the friend, asked him to not eat his springs, and the friend said “ok, whatever.” ha!

later that same week, we arrived 15 minutes early for school and quinn climbed on my lap and told me, “life is sucking for me right now” at school because “everyone basically thinks i’m a jerk.” he had resisted doing his homework summary during the drive to school, but that wasn’t the thing bugging him, so this conversation took some coaxing and guessing as well… mainly guessing that there wasn’t actually a major event, just a knot of social anxiety that had taken hold.

i asked questions to try to get to the heart of it, trying to narrow down who “everyone” was, it was not the fellowship; not spring-eater; not any of the girls. finally i named some of the boys he has never really hung out with, and he said, “yeah, i mean if i go up to them on the playground they don’t do anything. they just walk away, or keep doing what they’re doing.”

by the end of my line of questioning it was clear no one had been particularly mean, but he hadn’t felt included warmly when attempting to mingle with other kids he doesn’t mingle with daily. it took me a bit longer to put together why he was trying to do that in the first place.

it turns out aragorn, gimli, and legolas are all currently obsessed with yu-gi-oh cards, playing the game and having pretend battles on the playground, and also naruto (another anime series) and quinn has felt unable to truly participate because he doesn’t know those series or cards or the game.

he was pretty upset about it, saying he liked yu-gi-oh and wanted to know more, but *hates naruto because he knows absolutely nothing about it (yu-gi-oh he at least can look at their cards and familiarize with, but for naruto he has no reference at all). when they make up complicated spells that have intricate hand gestures, he has no idea how to do any of it. i guess he drifted off and tried to play with other kids, who probably already had their own thing going on, and he felt snubbed.

we discussed how it would be okay to appreciate your friends’ excitement about a subject even if you are unfamiliar with it, and the validity of sticking with the friends who are historically warm and welcoming towards you. but also, we covered that if he is interested enough in the subject, we could look up yu-gi-oh at the library and see if we can find books or get online and do some research. the shift was so immediate, it was like flipping a switch. yeah, can we do that tonight?”

with 3 minutes until the bell would ring, he changed the subject, “oh, can you text dada and ask him if he will take me to aragorn’s for a sleepover tomorrow night?”

more educated guessing… i found out that they had been planning a sleepover for a week or so, and aragorn had invited all 3 boys, but since quinn knew it was scheduled for a night he’d be at his dad’s, he thought he wouldn’t be able to go. then (time management/executive function) he forgot to follow up and ask and all week went by. my speculation is that between not wanting to feel let down about not being allowed to go, and not being into the game his friends were into, he used the latter to alleviate the disappointment of the former. he didn’t want to feel too excited if he might not be able to go, so he decided not knowing the game mattered more than it did.

however, once i unlocked the yu-gi-oh problem for him (he has been watching episodes through the library app ever since, and we used his christmas money from grammy and grampy to get him a dinosmasher’s fury yu-gi-oh deck, plus a two-headed king rex card), he realized he truly did want to be at the sleepover.

his dad was somehow on board, and i got the details from aragorn’s folks, since we were missing approximately all of the details.

after we got home that afternoon, quinn and i snuggled and watched first 2 episodes of yu-gi-oh on my phone.

homework that afternoon was still a struggle because, “i just wish i was already at the sleepover.”

we have a new purple belt in the family! he had spent that day at our friends’ house while i worked and then i went and got him and played a little settlers of catan with them.

quinn got changed into his uniform and we drove to the dojo. i had quinn talk to sifu, because he was stressing about the part at the end of the test where sifu kicks you, which is tradition and it’s not quinn’s favorite part. at his last test he flinched, and if you do you have to get kicked a second time. i was explaining it is a trust thing, but he said it has hurt him enough to cry every time… and i told him i thought he should tell sifu that and ask if he has advice on getting through the kick well. “i know what he’ll say and i don’t want to talk to him about it,” but i got him to eventually give sifu the benefit of the doubt that he wants to help q cope with the kick and is an expert and probably has advice. it was around that part of our discussion that i realized that quinn had been thinking all this time that he should not tighten his core muscles but leave his stomach relaxed. i said, “well no wonder it’s hurting you, but sifu has told you to tighten up, right?” he said yeah but that he figured it’s like when you strain to hold your breath you can’t hold it as long, so just relax and you can hold it longer… DIFFERENT CONCEPT, BUDDY. i assured him i had tightened up my stomach for my kicks and not gotten hurt at all, and he should try that instead, but to ask sifu what he thinks. he went out on the mat with sifu and he took quinn to the far corner to discuss and then to practice getting hit in stomach (just with a light punch, but practicing how to get ready for a kick) and then had quinn punch him to feel the difference from the kicker/puncher end, and by the end had him laughing and totally relaxed about the whole thing. it was a much needed and very successfully delivered pep talk.

i made coffee for parents and grandparents, and especially rich and i since we were getting up at 4:15 and rich was working lots of overtime, and the kids started warming up for their test.

the dojo was crowded because there were 4 kids (including quinn) testing for purple, one testing for blue, and 2 testing for half brown/advanced green. 7 kids total, all testing for intermediate/upper ranks, was very cool to witness. the kids were serious right from the start, and the test was dialed in right away.

when there was a break so the kids could have a drink of water (and so sifu could deliberate with mrs. todd about some aspect of the test) quinn came right to his dad and hugged him, then rubbed his shoulders, and then said he was giving backrubs to all the people who came to watch his test. then proceeded to move to me, then rich. rich joked “are you rubbing?” and i told quinn rich would need karate chops and so he did chops to rich’s shoulders and they were both laughing and then quinn had to get back on the mat. it obviously means a lot to quinn to have the men in his life come see him do karate.

so if karate is broken down into techniques (these are short), forms (these are longer), and sparring (this is spontaneous/not choreographed), quinn really shines in techniques and forms.

they had to show short form 1, which most of them had mostly right, but quinn’s was pretty stellar among the purple belt testers. then sifu had just the purple belts do long form 1 together, and quinn executed it perfectly, and was done before anyone else (not rushing… just confident and sure of what to do) and the other 3 all had small or big areas they struggled through before finishing. one kid was obviously nervous and didn’t even finish it that first time. so sifu said he’d watch them do it again, but then he said, actually quinn, i don’t need to see you do it again, because i saw you and that time was solid, but would you like to showcase it? and quinn said yes, and so he had quinn do it all by himself, which he did super well again, and sifu was so pleased he initiated a round of applause for it… i could see how proud quinn was. then sifu asked quinn to do it alongside the others even though he didn’t need to see him do it again, and quinn obliged. so they eeked out that one, then went to short 2 later on, and quinn again did very well, and markedly better than he had done on his previous test (because it’s a new form for him as of this belt and he literally learned it a couple days before the half belt test but still went ahead and tested on it). earlier in the week he had some feedback from sifu about lining up his stances on the proper angles (which was where he had struggled last time around) and quinn had clearly incorporated that new feedback. the other kids had minor or major struggles again.

the test went smoothly, and the kick wasn’t as bad as last time, but there was an added surprise that mrs. todd got to kick them all as well, since she is now a black belt. so quinn still had some trouble with flinching, but he didn’t get hurt, so that moved in a positive direction. also there is a whole rumor going now of “mrs. todd kicks harder than sifu!” which diverted the focus away from fear. she and i were laughing at the way urban legends are born.

all in all it was a great test, very positive and well balanced (the kids were all pretty well matched for sparring in size and ability). it was two hours long but with a fast-paced, good mix of material to keep it interesting, and kids got to show their stuff… he had them all do the activity “point of origin” where instead of going back to the normal starting spot, you do the next technique (several in a row) from where you end up on the previous one. then he had them continue doing that, but with their eyes closed. so in addition to letting them all show their strengths, he took them into uncharted territory and showed them all ways in which they can all still grow a lot in the future.


this month, quinn took possession of his phone. it is my former phone with the cracked screen, and it is mainly intended for him to be able to communicate with both his parents directly. he wants to paint the (blue) hard case lime green, and we had a really good discussion of expectations and responsibilities. he immediately used his 4 library app borrows for june, watching yu-gi-oh episodes. we discussed taking plenty of breaks and observing the same limits we’ve always observed with phone/screen time: not before school, not between dinner and bed. he is to keep it in the “parking lot” in the kitchen when not in use, and i was suggesting he use it only in the main house, not his room, but then realized he would be watching yu-gi-oh and he wanted to do that in his room (and i realized i wanted him to, too) and so i think i’ll amend it to “in room is ok with door open.” it charges in the parking lot, and just like my own phone, is not in his bedroom while he sleeps. he has to check with me to put new apps on, he agrees to not get any apps or accounts that require him to lie about his age and say he is 13. which he doesn’t want anyway, he says (he is particularly vocal right now about not wanting to join facebook). he does want to be able to text, not just email, so we talked about the $10 phone plan and he felt the specs of 500 phone minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of data would be sufficient… that means he can play pokemon go once in a while, but he can’t consume it endlessly with a modest data plan; and can call and text within reason but not excessively.  i left a fair number of my own contact numbers on his phone who are friends and family i think he might call in a pinch, and whom i trust to be on the receiving end of such a call.


we got to take care of our fairy dog. quinn stayed up past his bedtime to greet her. ruby jumped up on quinn’s loft bed to help tuck him in. i had market that saturday and left quinn a note of ruby tasks (feed and walk) and he did a great job being her caretaker. the afternoon following market was lovely, glorious sunshine. i laid on a blanket on the lawn with ruby for quite a while. quinn joined me and drew on graph paper. (a game with army men.)

i played risk outside with quinn and he destroyed me while ruby kept us company. then after dinner  he got out scrabble and i dominated. near bedtime, i was leading by over 100 points, and he said, “let’s just be goofy and do whatever now,” and started making up words. i strung together as many ooooo’s as i could and was singing operatic “ooooh” whenever i’d point to it. he made up “QFAXEXL” and put it on a triple word space for 99 points… i added a Y to it to make QFAXEXLY and he protested, “that’s not even a word” at which point i was rolling on the floor laughing, because i had clearly crossed the line. “mom. you can’t just add y to a word, and make dogly, or boxly.” he was giggling like crazy in between mock-serious statements. i loved pronouncing all the double consonant two letter words created at the intersections with QFAXEXLY, and XJ was my favorite because it’s the sound made by a light-sabre.


for their end-of-year science unit, quinn’s class was discussing geology, and i got to help them with several hands-on projects in crystal-growing that, if nothing else, taught them through experience that things don’t always go the way we plan. our rock candy project crystallized in the jar, but not onto the candy sticks (we learned we need to let it cool more, and let the sugar crystals dry onto the cake pop stick before inserting into the not-boiling sugar water mixture. our alum crystals completely failed (we think it was a product issue with the alum quinn’s teacher had ordered). but the borax crystals were wonderful, and it was nice to culminate the year in science with one success under our belts, and a nice souvenir to take home.

on the penultimate day of school, i was very under the weather with a bad head cold, so i did not get to participate in the all-day field trip. luckily many other parents stepped up to help, and i know the kids had an amazing time bowling, playing in the park, swimming, and stopping for frozen yogurt! because his teacher and aragorn’s mom both sent me photographic evidence.

at last, the final day of fifth grade arrived. i picked up all four of the boys from school, and they came strutting out of the building, shoulder to shoulder, chanting, “we’re middle schoolers now!” they immediately wanted to show me their gifts from their wonderful teacher, who had every kid choose several words to describe each of their classmates, then configured them into word art pieces for them to take home. quinn’s classmates said of him that he is helpful, kind, clever, inventive, mysterious, and “follows his own path.” i’m not sure why no one chose, “most likely to get lost in the library,” but they didn’t ask me. the boys got right down to business playing yu-gi-oh and pokemon when we got to our house, snacking on cherries and peanut butter pretzels. they made use of the trampoline for a time before they ventured into world domination (i always try to encourage quinn to find opponents for risk other than myself!) finally, their families joined in the celebration over pizza, ice cream cones, and cupcakes. rich made a campfire and some of the younger siblings indulged in s’mores. it was a nice way to mark the end of their elementary years!


the following day, legolas and quinn were both participating in yet another sleepover, this time at the karate dojo. there was a trip to the pool, lots of food, and the movie black panther before they even thought about sleeping. the next morning, they tie dyed a new set of dojo t-shirts before heading home for a nap.

after his nap, quinn woke to find his new quilt (a graduation present from mama in addition to his new old phone). i think he likes it.

he then started in on his math placement test, and went to the movie solo with his dad for father’s day.

his teacher asked me to administer the placement test at home because she had run out of time in school, but trusted me to oversee it. at first quinn resisted the test and “borrowed trouble” (anxiety) about not being capable of working out such hard questions. he told me he should be placed in low math class and would barely look at it. by the time he got going and i needed to drive him to meet his dad for the movie his tune had changed, “aww, but i want to do the graph!”

his score would indicate that he is at least 97% ready to be done with grade 6 math, and that’s considering that the person who created the answer key (presumably the grade 6 math teacher) only scored about 96% on the test. i know that because quinn’s answers that differed from the key, instead of being errors, pointed out to me where there were errors in the key. (i checked and made corrections.)  although he had 100% of the math numerically correct, he had a small number of notation omissions, and that was where i deducted the 3 points.

i don’t think he will have any trouble with the 7th-8th accelerated math class intended for him by his teacher!

[lunch at the picnic table at work:]

quinn: (shoving fava beans in his mouth until green is dripping down his chin)

mama: you’re being embarrassing.

quinn: (giggling at me stealing his line)


later, discussing his method of eating fava beans…

quinn: first i like to put a myriad of fava beans in my mouth…

mama: thank you for using words like myriad.

quinn: it’s only normal for a kid my age.


mama: do you remember growing fava beans?

quinn: i remember the gardens at the orange house, the community garden, and the dragon house. at the orange house, the fava beans were growing right next to the peas, so that was convenient.

mama: (shaking head in amazement)

later, i did a quick search of the blog for fava beans, and sure enough, peas and favas were growing side by side, as he said.

“look at that captain and crew of peas in there!”


still looking closely at veggies; in this case, to determine the fibonacci-ness of romanesco.

quinn’s mathemusician hero, vi hart, has an amazing patreon site (one option is to support her for $3.14/month!) where he can now access ongoing new math videos and content.

and i got this awesome green hexaflexagon shirt for quinn!!!

we had fun with this video about hexaflexaflakes… the logical progression once you’ve conquered both snowflakes and hexalfexagons is naturally to combine the two (and i hope you watch the video i linked to experience her refreshingly layered, dry humor). quinn and i made a hexaflexagon and i was cutting the centers out and folding and testing what it would do. apparently he didn’t think i did a skillful cutting job because he told me, “i’m surprised it functions at all after that lob-oh-TOE-me you just gave it.” there was a whole beat before i understood what word he had just said and i burst out laughing. i asked where he learned the word; calvin and hobbes, of course, and he’s been “saying it to myself that way in my head for years!” waiting for a chance to drop the word “lobotomy” on an unsuspecting mama…..


one night quinn asked to watch star wars after work. i started dinner prep and then took a bath while rich joined him for the rest of the movie. i could hear them chatting. when i was done with my bath and finishing making dinner, quinn was playing minecraft, still sitting in the living room with rich, and they were chatting about minecraft stuff. rich told me later that he was just saying outlandish things to cause quinn to correct him. then quinn told rich something about a mathematical constant called wau. rich teased him, “you’re making that up,” and made quinn giggle.

me: what were you telling rich last night about wau?

q: if you take euler’s identity, but then you replace all the pi’s from it to be wau instead, you end up with 1 instead of -1.

me: what’s euler’s identity?

q: it’s like e to the i pi is equal to negative one. or something like that.

me: how do you spell euler?

q: e-u-l- something. why?

me: because i was curious

q: everyone knows euler’s identity.

me: …

me: so how much is wau?

q: i don’t know. i don’t even know if it has a value, i just know there are a lot of cool things you can do with wau.


all i can say is, wau.