~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 and 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 lying 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!”

~rainbow mondays~ colors of renewal

this rainbow wrap has snuggled several special babies including my own… and now one more!

rainbow dragon hand warmers hand made for me by my dear friend!

hard at work on color wheel assignment; finishing up red violet, best for last!

rainbow dragon camera mama selfie superimposed on smiling boy

the rainbow tree tunnel to date night

pink: cherry blossoms, the promise of renewal!

red: sailor’s delight

orange: bayou overlook view at the golden hour.

yellow: in spite of all the snow, sleet, slush, and hail…

yellow: looking down on golden ripples

green: a bayou date

blue: a beach date

blue: a bayou double date with hawks

purple: a sunset date in the driveway

purple: i’m starting to believe spring is really going to come!

~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

twelve is sublime!

twelve is a sublime number, a number that has a perfect number of divisors, and the sum of its divisors is also a perfect number. there are six divisors of twelve (1,2,3,4,6,12) and 6 is perfect; adding 1+2+3+4+6+12 = 28, which is another perfect number; this double perfectionism defines twelve as a sublime number.

something about two scoops of perfectionism feels familiar, almost like i’ve written about it in the context of quinn before.

sublime also means “of such excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe.” i think that may turn out to be true of twelve as well. i may be a biased observer, though!

1+2+3+6. i have found the months leading up to 12 to be rather intense. the list of divisors adding up to 12 and making it therefore a semiperfect number all happen to be ages i can look back on and say were also ages where i noticed intensity. it remains to be seen what level of intensity is in store for this new year of quinn.

there are only two known sublime numbers, 12 and (2126)(261 − 1)(231 − 1)(219 − 1)(27 − 1)(25 − 1)(23 − 1). The second of these has 76 digits:

6086555670238378989670371734243169622657830773351885970528324860512791691264, so it’ll be a little while before he celebrates another sublime number birthday. i believe he is excited for next year, however, since it’ll be a fibonacci birthday! his first since becoming aware of the existence of fibonacci birthdays, so it’ll be big, aside from other reasons why people blow 13 out of proportion (eek! a teenager!).

he climbs into the front seat of the car to ride home from school now, so nearly adult-sized (he has surpassed several of my good friends in height, in fact) that he is safe up front. the same kid whose outgrown car seat (with 5-point harness) i had to gently remove while he was at his dad’s, because he was quite attached, not even 3 years ago. i pull away from the curb, and he immediately starts rocking back and forth, the sign that he needs a bathroom badly and hasn’t gone all day. we chat about strategies for actually using the multiple bathrooms provided by his institution of learning, i have him picture them, decide which ones he likes most, picture where they are in relation to each classroom, and then have him mentally walk through his daily schedule to try to find the most likely mid-day opportunity to fit in the use of his preferred one en route between classes. he decides on the way to or from band will work best, since he passes a good one, band takes place just before lunch, and he is only carrying sticks and music books, as opposed to his gigantic binder and computer.

later that same day, he is finishing his math homework with some reluctance, when he notices that the last problem is about the great pyramid of egypt, and forges ahead so he can get to that one. when he does, he reads that he is to calculate the lateral surface area of the pyramid, which (the math text claims) originally had dimensions of 754 feet slant height and 610 feet along each side of the base.

q: oh! 610 is a fibonacci number!

me: um, is it?

q: i remember, because 144 is a fibonacci number, and 610 is the one that breaks the pattern of double numbers… 144, 233, 377, then bam, 610.

me: huh.

q: maybe the ancient egyptians knew about fibonacci numbers! and phi! do you think they could have?!

he is cuckoo for irrational numbers, and phi is one of his faves. the asynchronous life of a poppy at twelve is struggling with bathroom planning, while being 100% set for a dissertation topic.

actually, it turns out he is not the first person who noticed something phi-ish about the pyramids at giza. he was thrilled to hear the google results, as he really didn’t much fancy the idea of writing a dissertation, but he does want to go visit the pyramids one day, and is glad they may reflect a number sequence near and dear to his heart.

although i have gotten away from enumerating quinn’s life in months, he can appreciate that he is now 144 months old! 12 squared! 144 being a member of the fibonacci sequence, to make it extra awesome.

other than being sublime, 12 makes an uncanny number of important appearances in mathematics. i read in a paper on the occurrence of 12 as the solution to lattice polygons that the various methods of proving this fact suggests connections among seemingly unrelated branches of math. which reminds me of another math research paper we came across recently. we were tackling a logic puzzle together, and quinn had wanted to try the most difficult one. after two nights of post-dinner work, we were getting close to finishing, but the final steps were dependent on a single clue we weren’t entirely sure how to interpret. we did trial runs of the results based on two different interpretations to see if either one came up with a valid solution, or hit a dead end. if we decided to read the clue as “neither x nor y is z” implying that x is also not y, then we could complete the grid without conflicting results; but if we decided that “neither x nor y is z” leaves the possibility that x could be y, we could not complete it, but also did not end up with conflict, we simply lacked enough information. quinn felt we couldn’t be sure, and said, “i have to google something,” pulled out his computer and typed in, “if neither x nor y is z, does that imply that x is not equal to y?” and google gave him one result. both of us reacted with, “that’s never happened before,” and laughed about that one time quinn broke google. the one result was for a 51-page dissertation on math logic which mentioned david hilbert on the first page, with whom quinn was familiar because vi hart talks about him. not a lot of other 11-year olds would say, “ooh, hilbert!” but now he is no longer eleven, he is twelve.

one of the biggest deals in math relates to 12, in that a function in number theory, the riemann zeta function, is considered to be of great significance, in fact it is considered the most important unsolved problem in pure mathematics, and its solution promises a million dollar reward, as one of the millenium prize problems established in the year 2000. hilbert, that guy who quinn and vi hart keep mentioning, had declared the importance of the problem exactly 100 years before that in a celebrated speech at a 1900 international conference. the function relates to the distribution of prime numbers, and where 12 comes in is that the value of the zeta function at −1 i.e. ζ(−1) = −1/12

-1/12 is the theoretical sum of the harmonics of all the primes. the zeta function not only relates to prime numbers, it also describes the music they make, which, if the riemann zeta hypothesis is true, turns out to be beautifully harmonious, and if it is false, dissonantly ugly. the hypothesis has yet to be proven, but this has not stopped its provisional use in a towering pile of proofs of other theorems on the assumption of its being one day proven true. if not, the pile will collapse like an epic game of jenga. euclid, euler, gauss, have all worked on this problem of the primes; riemann took it to imaginary number land, wrote a ten-page paper, and cracked the mystery. with how tickled quinn is by irrational numbers, i think imaginary numbers will be right up his alley when he gets there.

twelve is symbolic for quinn in other non-math venues. he is of course an avid fan of greek mythology, and the twelve olympians and the twelve labors of hercules are just two of many examples of the appearance of twelve therein. in norse mythology, another of quinn’s interests, odin has twelve sons. quinn was born a fire pig in the chinese zodiac, a fact of which he is fond, and we have now come full circle to a new year of the pig. so anyone born this year is a pig like quinn (can we think of any newborns? yes we can! though this year’s babies are earth piglets! and speaking of people with twelve sons, one of our new babes is named for a couple of the sons of jacob!)

uncle quinn holding new pancake w

there are twelve lunar cycles in a year, so each time quinn travels once around the sun, the moon goes from kayak moon to boat moon to fender moon and back again a dozen times! many other aspects of timekeeping (a skill around which i hope to see much great development during his year of twelve) involve twelve, of course.

it’s the number of noon, of midnight. of magnesium and cranial nerves. of a hurricane wind on the beaufort scale. of humans who have walked on the moon. of the seats filled around king arthur’s round table. of notes on the chromatic scale (see also twelve tones by our favorite mathemusician.)

speaking of music notes, i just learned from my twelve-year-old that his synesthesia extends to them. i finally thought to ask if he saw music notes in colors like he does letters and numbers. “eighth notes are orange,” he told me. “quarter notes are blue. whole notes are green. they used to all be orange and yellow, but now they’re different colors.”

“what about half notes?” i asked.

“i think those are white. sixteenth notes are red.”

“and rests and other symbols?”

“rests are black. they’re devoid of color because they’re devoid of sound. i think.”

i had wondered about it, thinking maybe he saw the color corresponding to the letter name of the note (A orange, B red, C gray, D black, E white, F brown, G red), rather than colors designating each type of note, and when i brought that up, he said that yes, he does also have those letters still associated with the same colors when they are naming a note, but the note itself has the note color, not the letter color (reference chart here – and he still names the same colors for the same letters, 3 years later).

things about quinn at twelve:

he knows how to self-soothe with graph paper.

he is a nonlinear learner. giving him harder version of problems helps him articulate the procedures laypeople might use to solve them, when he just *knows the answers without knowing how he knows.

he still wants to be a paleontologist. for a presentation on occupations that he had to give to his spanish teacher, he included a slide about it. he was nearly undone by the dreaded literal interpretation nemesis, given that he was supposed to write 10 sentences about future occupations, and technically, he did. he wrote 5 questions and 5 answers for his 10 sentences, however, his “sentences” for the answers were “no,” and “si.” i spent a few days convincing him that wasn’t what his teacher had in mind, and he finally agreed, added 5 more slides and questions to his presentation, and scored 100% instead of 50%.

as he cruises past 5’3”, he still manages to tuck himself into position to tell me, “you find an egg.” being his mama, i feel even more sublimely lucky than if i found a dozen eggs! happy dozen years to my mighty quinn!

thankful thursday ~ heartstrings

28 days of gratitude ~ day 15

i am grateful the special at cafe mundo was so delicious, that the company was excellent, that the movies we rented at the grocery store were particularly heartwarming this time, and reminded me of my son’s affinity for australia (just like the protagonist of alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day). his new elective class is called travel hacking and his first presentation is about perth, australia. i believe his trip to europe next year may be just the first of many travels, judging by his interest in faraway places and desire to visit other continents. he fancies australia because of the cool architecture, the dinosaur fossils, the dialect, and of course, wombats. i am trusting our connection will be such that while he may travel far away, he will always return, just like a boomerang from down under.

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 16

there’s always a token day in a gratitude challenge that reminds me to be grateful i don’t need to earn an A in gratitude. this is that day. a day full of blessings like the rest, but through which i admit to have trudged with less of an ability to access the gratitude attitude.

28 days of gratitude ~ day 17

it’s a no-brainer on a day like this. a slightly delirious, sleep-deprived, elated day. today i am grateful for the absolutely amazing experience of being present for the birth of my sister camp boss’s newest bundle of joy. when i recently shared with her my ambition of having a parallel life to this one in which i become a midwife instead of a marine biologist, she said i could tag along. of course i am grateful as well for the health and well being of my sis and safe delivery of my new nephew, but selfishly, being able to check the box by “attend a human birth” on my bucket list, is something for which i am thankful and will cherish the memory forever!

28 days of gratitude ~ day 18

i am thankful for being able to give a friend what i needed when quinn was born. someone to come in and clear the dishes from the sink and give it a rinse; to handle the homeschool algebra lesson; to make sandwiches for lunch and prep the dinner and hold the baby so she could stretch her hips and systematically put the laundry pile through the machines. i needed it, way back when, a lot more than she did, she always does such a good job of coordinating her household, but it still felt healing to my 12 years ago postpartum self who was very isolated and lacking support. immense gratitude for the community of women surrounding and supporting me now, in all kinds of ways.

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 19

tonight i am grateful for moon dates with my rainbow love, a rainbow ring around the moon.

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 20

today my husband had to go to the dentist and jury duty, which made me grateful that all i had to do was go stand in a 2 degree cold room for a few hours, performing water changes on tanks full of arctic cod eggs. i have been feeling more grateful for my day job(sss) than i had been in january, with my current funding stretching out a year ahead, and government shutdowns at bay for the time being. also helpful for stoking the gratitude fire is my husband cheering me on about being a badass whenever i am blah-blah-blah-ing to him about work.

being so busy also is a great time to remember to be grateful for nachos!

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 21

i am thankful for rainbow lights and laughs. our bedroom lightbulb needed to be changed. my husband says he didn’t spend very long in the lightbulb section of the store before choosing this one. he had installed it and i saw it right away when i went to change clothes and turned on the light and oohed and ahhed. later that night at bedtime, he was in bed and had the covers pulled up and i could tell by his eyes he was laughing. “what???” i asked. he said, “there’s still something else you haven’t noticed yet.” he waited. and waited. he had to 100% point it out to me and even then my reaction was, “oh that’s different?” apparently the lights over our bathroom sink have 3 bulbs and apparently one was burned out, and apparently all 3 had been mismatched bulbs…. the one that was out was the round kind that was supposed to be in all 3 fittings, but the other two were random ugly bulbs. he had gotten 3 of the nice round ones. he explained how it had been bugging him for a while. obviously i couldn’t then lie and say it had been bugging me! if it was up to me, they’d be mismatched forever and i might wait until all of them burned out to replace any. i am thankful for balance, rainbows, and bringers of light to my life.

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 22

i am grateful that i get to be a grandma so early in my life. today my third granddaughter was born, a girl birthday sandwich on 2-22 (we always celebrate on the 22nd around here; dorkaversary!) in between one uncle on 2-21 and her uncle quinn and her daddy who share their birthday on 2-23. a week of celebration forever after it shall be!

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 23

i am grateful for so many new babies leading up to my son’s twelfth birthday this week, reminding me of just how lucky i am to have the honor of parenting a whole new person in this lifetime. as he gets less new and more gangly and sometimes surly, it can be easy to lose sight of what a privilege it is to bring a child into the world, as someone who always knew i’d be a mama. my new nephew’s birthing bore a lot of resemblance to my own home birth, and witnessing it was an amazing gift both in itself, and in the ways it allowed me to revisit the wonder of that moment twelve years ago. my new granddaughter came along in a more mainstream manner, but i’ve been reminded of the hospital angels who helped me through my recovery from blood loss and who helped me figure out how to survive the pumping life of a nicu mama. i am so grateful both of these babies entered the world in good health, and so proud of both of their strong mamas whom i’m blessed to have in my life.

28 days of gratitude ~ day 24

i am grateful for all of my family, and my step-daughter is in particular on my mind today. i have always felt 100% embraced by her as her dad’s partner, although i am not technically old enough to be her mom. we are doing some pretty major bonding, as she is seeking new mama advice and reaching out with questions for my input. if you know me, you know i don’t believe in tmi, so i am open to discussing any topic or seeing any human part or fluid. nothing’s really off the table, everything is better with more knowledge. saying i’m open to it is litotes, i love to get into lengthy discussions of uteri or breasty-booby stuff! it’s making me grateful for my husband raising such a good natured woman, for my experiences leading to having some potentially useful advice, and this awesome new feeling of pride and joy in a daughter person when i thought i wouldn’t have one of those. i wasn’t sure if i was going to be called a grandma name or be mary beth to this new little one, because mary beth is what my other two granddaughters learned to call me when i was their grandpa’s girlfriend and they were very little (they don’t call quinn “uncle quinn” either, since they are not much younger than he is!). however, as we were leaving from our visit, she told baby girl to say bye bye to nana. it was at that moment that i was overtaken by a cloud of either pollen or cat hair.

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 25

though i had good intentions to mindfully practice gratitude each day this month, i have to admit i have written many of these gratitudes after the fact. some were bullet points that i elaborated, and some were fabricated completely out of looking back through texts or photos and remembering what happened on that day for which i was retroactively grateful (and would likely have been grateful in the moment, though i wasn’t paying serious attention to it.) i don’t think it’s cheating, but i’m also not taking this class for a grade, so there’s that. i am grateful for writing, the process of looking back and reflecting on life’s moments, because sometimes there is just no time for writing while living!

 

28 days of gratitude ~ day 26

i am grateful for a new fluffy pillow.

28 days of gratitude ~ day 27

today i am grateful for big snowflakes, and a gangly brand new twelve-year-old sprawled on the window seat, describing their movement to me. “i saw three helicoptering ones! and one that was gliding! and look, there’s one that’s just like a parachute!”

i am also grateful for a young woman who has for the past several years looked up to me as a mentor in science, since before she began pursuing her undergraduate degree in biology. when she texts me out of the blue to ask if i can give her an example of experimental pseudo-replication in a marine setting, i text her back right away, explaining my understanding of the concept with examples, and why it’s an ethical issue. it’s a string of several rather verbose and jargon-filled text messages. she writes back letting me know she was on the verge of tears, and her professor still hadn’t emailed her back, and she needed to finish the assignment so she could study for tomorrow’s exam; which on some level i just knew, because i’ve been there, in that space where it seems like experimental pseudo-replication is the most important thing, instead of one of the many small things. it’s a little difficult to reconcile how i feel lukewarm towards my own career path and have even considered alternatives, and yet, i encourage her interest in this field and give her a leg up every chance i get. it’s almost tempting to stay around just so i can work for her one day.

28 days of gratitude ~ day 28

28 days went by so quickly, what with new babies i thought might both wait until march to make their appearances. if i have learned anything this round of gratitude, it is how much complaining i still do, how far i have to go yet to be in gratitude for a greater percentage of the time. i am grateful for the new awareness, as much as i wish for a different result, and to not be so bothered by the cold, my son’s lingering cough, and being too busy to write. the thing i love so much about gratitude is every moment is a new opportunity to start again. from the first sip of coffee in the morning, to the last bite of nachos in the evening, my days are packed full of blessings. babies, kitties, angular tweens to cuddle. trees swaying in the breeze, rainbows peeking subtly around clouds, flurries of snow. day lengths are becoming almost tolerable, and i can feel the trout lilies and trilliums are ready to bloom, right around the corner.