~a month and a half in the life of a lifelong learner~ camping, camping, theatre camp, kid’s camp, and pokemon go

i’m going to report on a 6 week time period of learning because my regular month ended right in between the first and second week of theatre camp, and it seemed more reasonable to report on the whole camp situation in one post. who knows when i will get around to posting about the next month, anyway! it’s a busy summer of learning….

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quinn’s belt test! i was watching ben harper that night (doh! when new year’s resolutions get in the way of being there for your kiddo… alas, we had bought the tickets before the belt test was even on our scheduling radar…) it was a dad week, so thankfully he took a video of the test for me. and you!

 congratulations to our blue belt!


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this season of learning has been dominated by various camping experiences. quinn spent a week with his dad at crane prairie reservoir, their summer fishing spot. quinn showed off his boat, frog, to me, as i was dropping him off with his dad to head out camping. quinn got to help a lot with the fixing up of his boat, including climbing under the bow to connect the wiring for the running lights (which he is hugging here), as well as wiring up the turn signals on the trailer.

as soon as he was back from camping with dad, we headed off on another camping trip…. our annual family fourth of july tradition.

big kids IMG_8211 big kids IMG_7785 big kids IMG_7808 big kids IMG_7958 big kids IMG_8060 big kids IMG_8148 capture flagIMG_7948 q josiah IMG_8106 poke IMG_7742 poke IMG_7758

quinn and the big kids… pokemon, capture the flag, phase 10, and creek hikes!

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guarding his team’s flag

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quinn and the little kids… helping with balancing on the tight rope, holding hands for creek crossings, cuddling babies, organizing “what time is it mr. fox” games, pushing youngers on the swing, and blowing bubbles for little girls to chase.

littles IMG_8208 q z miniIMG_8302 kids kora IMG_8126 s q IMG_8117 s q elsie IMG_8120q s IMG_7922 q s IMG_7914 z q IMG_8293 z q IMG_8289

q bubbles IMG_8241 q bubbles IMG_8244

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q raftIMG_8056 q catch raft IMG_8077 q catch raft green IMG_8079 q catch raft IMG_8073

also catching the raft full of littles before it floated downstream, and hauling back up again to let it go floating gently down the stream once more.

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writing on pavement with sparklers!

comics hope q IMG_8253 mb kabob IMG_8318 q crab IMG_7986 steelhead IMG_8163 steelhead IMG_8160

reading comics, building kabobs, eating crab legs, touching steelhead eyeballs!

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thinking deep thoughts…

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taking time for himself…

summer has been so refreshing after a full year of public school. i have been stewing on a post for a while (since before the camping trip) concerning schooling and research i have been doing about kids like quinn and how to make their learning experience as positive as possible. when i do get it written, it will explain why summer unstructured learning time is so important to a kid like this one. hurray for camping fun and learning!

back at home, we resumed karate and quinn and i practiced side by side during one open mat class. as we were stretching, he went into a perfect pigeon pose, my very favorite yoga pose, one that happens to be a rather extreme hip stretch. i asked him how he learned it, and he told me it was something he came up with on his own in order to stretch “right here” (pointing to his outer hip – loving his awareness!).

i also witnessed a recent instance of quinn getting into crow pose (a yoga arm balance) in his room… in an august post from 3 years ago i referred to quinn doing spontaneous yoga poses, in this seasonally appropriate quote about unstructured summer learning: “…repressing my urge to plan and schedule quinn’s long list of unfinished projects into completion in the next 2 weeks, and instead letting him spend entire half hours in plow position on the bed, humming star wars theme music and being elsewhere in his mind, no doubt coming up with a dozen more projects to begin.”

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albeit much too brief, we got to enjoy some ruby time!


i managed to complete one home improvement project in our family bathroom, which i’ve decided is going to have a star wars theme… project number 1 in the star wars bathroom was to make quinn a mason jar droid organizer to help him remember his three jobs upon entering the bathroom: brush teeth, wash face, wash hands. bb8 is now waiting to hand him his toothbrush and toothpaste, a washcloth is peeking out of r2d2 to remind him to wash his face, and r3d5 dispenses soap for hand washing. so far it has been helping this absent-minded professor get his “bathroom chores” done with marginally fewer reminders from mama in between each and every step. droids are designed to make life easier for humans, right?

pokemon go

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i’m sure it comes as no surprise that quinn is interested in the game pokemon go. observing the incredibly opinionated masses on the subject of this game has been amusing, and we feel like we’re approaching it in a  balanced way, letting it be a game, using it as a way to connect not disconnect from each other, making sure our priorities are straight, and keeping our awareness. quinn is of course excited about it and had already heard about it when he came back from his dad’s. i looked into the pros and cons, discussed them with quinn, and then we spent several days trying to get it to work on my phone (his screen name is quulltrex.)

while waiting for the game to start working, quinn spent his afternoons mapping out our entire backyard on graph paper because, as an “ace gamer,” as he called himself, he came up with a plan for us to be able to play the game here in our yard together while the technical difficulties were getting sorted out. i’m sure you’ve heard how the game is getting people outside and walking; it got us doing that without even being able to play the game. (while we were sitting in the grass mapping things out, we found 3 grapevines trying to grow in the lawn!)

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once we were able to play the actual game, his first pokemon was caught in the dining room: a bulbasaur. he was pretty stoked.

he assured me we will still do our paper version as well, which hasn’t been played yet, because we’re still measuring the yard and making the map! but when it’s done, we’ll take turns hiding pokemon on the map for the other one to find. “mama, will you please make togepi one of the pokemons that i get to find?” personally, i can’t wait to find suicune, who “embodies the compassion of a pure spring of water. it runs across the land with gracefulness. this pokémon has the power to purify dirty water.” suicune is also purple and green, perfect for me. neither of these favorites are found in the app so far, but we are not limited by such constraints, we have an ace  gamer under our roof. we’ve been using graph paper, tape measures, and consulting the survey map of our property ever since this fine learning opportunity presented itself.

in the meantime, there are lots of pokemon to catch by the performing arts center, as opposed to the pokedesert surrounding our extremely rural house, so we had a great way to spend the hour between theatre camp and karate classes while we hung out in town! speaking of…

theatre camp!

  theatre camp phantom of the pac IMG_8770 theatre camp ace and bobby gar IMG_8781 theatre camp purple IMG_8783 theatre camp flowers IMG_8787

this was quinn’s first year of theatre camp, and he had a blast.

when i was picking him up from his second day of camp, i was intercepted and told, “i think maybe there might have been a little bit of a meltdown.” cue that sinking feeling… i went inside the auditorium where they were finishing up their day, and the leaders were reminding them to take home their dirty socks, etc.  i got to the front after they were all dismissed and quinn was still standing there (most kids had walked out the side door to go get their stuff) and he was talking the ears off two of the high school-aged counselors. he was in a great mood. one of the leaders saw me and came up to talk to me.

the three of us walked into the green room (quinn was proud of showing me he knows his way around behind the scenes) but he tried to tell me, “there isn’t anything we need to talk about, so let’s go.” the leader talked to him directly at first, which i loved, and reminded me of how i talk to kids. she asked him, “how did your day go?” and he said good.  she asked, “how was it doing the machines game?” and he said it was fun. his answers were short, and it seemed unlikely that he was going to open up right then and tell me what was up. he seemed like he couldn’t relate to the “feeling frustrated” or “felt unheard” that the leader suggested maybe she wondered if he had felt. the leader turned to me saying basically she walked in on the game and did not see anything out of the ordinary going on. she gave me enough information to know something happened, it wasn’t terribly serious, and i concluded that if i wanted to know more, i would have to piece it together. someone labeled whatever happened as “meltdown” while quinn was telling me absolutely nothing, and i was hearing only a piece of a second-hand account as it was.

i appreciated the leader’s approach. it gave me a chance to mention that i was guessing that if there had been any frustration during a day at theatre camp, it could be amplified by someone not eating his lunch or having any water to drink, and quinn confirmed that he had not, he had eaten 5 blueberries all day out of his lunch and did not touch his water bottle… and i was grateful to pass this bit of “forgets to pay attention to self care” knowledge on to someone who might mention nutrition and hydration in his range of hearing over the course of the next few days.

quinn was ready to go, “ok, mama, we’re done talking,” but i requested 2 minutes to check in with the leader, and asked him to wait in the lobby for me. he said no. i offered him my phone’s timer to hold me to the 2 minutes and he wanted to negotiate to one minute. i stayed firm at 2 minutes but said that when the timer got to 30 seconds left, he could start walking back from the lobby to the green room, and he did that. in that brief check-in she asked if there was anything she should know? inside i was kind of at a loss and also kind of freaked out, but i answered that there is nothing that really qualifies as “need to know” but said that he really experiences things intensely, so if he’s frustrated, it can feel like the end of the world to him, while if he’s happy, he can be overjoyed… that most of the time he goes with the flow, but that when he feels strongly he feels s t r o n g l y. i told her that he doesn’t have any labels that fit, but that if he experiences a series of frustrations, and the first few are not resolved, that third one might lead to him having to sit it out for a period of time, because it can really push him over the edge to meltdown. i said he is brilliant, but forgets to drink water, and gets caught up in the amazing fun he’s having. i was getting lots of nods and smiles and could tell she got it. at the same time she was saying she really didn’t see anything that was a big deal, she had walked in after it had already blown over… so maybe he reacted to something, but he didn’t seem to take long to get himself back together, so that was encouraging.

that night as i was processing, i think i hit on something key to unlocking the mystery of why quinn can get stuck like that. he’s really into theatre camp and excited about it. the first night at dinner i asked if he thought he’d continue to do theatre camp next year. he said he would be doing it “all the years.” he was explaining to me how one day he will be one of the older high school kids at which point he can be a counselor, and then when he grows up he can be one of the leaders…. he only talks about his most beloved other activities that way, like karate, where it’s not just about having fun now, it’s also about one day earning a black belt and having his own dojo someday. so i know that means he is going to be intense about this activity. if he’s bummed, he’ll be super bummed. it’s not like school where most of it doesn’t matter to him, so most of it… isn’t intense.


i did not get any further information from quinn while we chatted, though he was quite willing to share about his day with me over dinner again. his favorite thing of that second day was a toss-up between machines and the small group play they put on. he decided the play was his favorite. he told me all the kids and all the counselors who were in it. he said they all came up with the play together, and this was how it went.

it took place in the temple of pans and there were two people and a talking dog. the two people were recruiting other people to join the “unit”. the unit was a group of 3 people who were already attached to one another, whose line was, “we are all one. come and join us.” in unison. quinn was the middle person in the unit, with “ginny weasley” to his right and another girl to his left (i had asked him about “ginny” on day one and he obviously thought my nickname fit, and bothered to learn her actual name the second day as well). the rest of the people would come in one or two at a time, get asked to join, and then they’d join. “joining” looked like this: the people and the unit would exit off stage, stomp their feet and make screaming noises, and then come back on stage as a whole chain with the new people added on to it, all saying the line in monotone unison. after they had recruited and attached everyone to the unit, the talking dog (quinn’s new friend cameron whose name he also established on the second day) told the two temple people that he believed, “we are all beautiful as individuals, we don’t need to all be a blob.” and then the dog broke apart the chain and turned the unit members back into individuals. then the two temple people fled and the rest of everyone celebrated their individuality. (mmm-hmmm, yup, that’s how great theatre camp is. incredibly affirming to the artsy, long-haired, blue-haired, quirky, creative individuals who attend this thing!)
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for the machine game, his group was a blender, and i only learned after he told me all about it that choosing a blender as their machine had been quinn’s idea. i’m now wondering if it wasn’t that he felt unheard about that idea, but maybe he then had ideas within the blender idea that weren’t followed and he might have felt like they should have let him be in charge of it… anyway, he didn’t indicate any frustration or anything in the telling. he told me all the people in that group and explained the blender. cameron was the button, and another kid was the person to push the button, and then william was the blade and he spun around like this, and three big kids (the counselors) were joined in a circle to be the container, and then there were kids to be the fruit in the blender.  i asked, “and were you fruit?” he smiled, “yeah, how did you know?” hehe because i’m mama. i asked if they had to be on top of william the blade, and he said no, they crawled on the floor in a circle around william and he spun his arms around above them. i told him i could picture it because he described it so well, and i thought that it sounded cool, and by the way, whose idea was it? which is when he told me it had all been his idea.

the bus stop is another classic game they played that day, where two people sit on a bench chatting and being in character, waiting for whatever bus to wherever they’re going, and then one gets up and leaves (gets on the bus) then another person comes and sits down in their empty spot, and it can go on indefinitely with lots of improvisation… i asked quinn how that went for him and he said he was just checking out how that game worked. he did not jump in but just watched, and seemed like he loved just doing that.

i was able to continue chatting with all of the leaders and the counselor who actually witnessed the “moment” the next morning. i love the theatre peeps. i just went into the green room, and the counselors and leaders were all in there so i sat down with them and i just let them know that i had gotten zero info from quinn, so i knew the truth could be found somewhere between the words “meltdown” and “everything seemed fine” but that i still really didn’t know what had happened. the counselor who was in quinn’s blender group happened to be sitting there too, and so i asked if he wanted to tell me what happened. he had been giving quinn some feedback on something, and he could see quinn kind of shut down, and tense up, ball up his fists at his sides, as though fuming but not speaking. the counselor asked him if he was okay and finally quinn responded, “i’m just trying to figure out if i should punch you….” or muttering something along those lines. i thanked him for sharing what had happened, and reiterated that i think quinn is super intense and explained to them all (which was awesome to get to do) that this is up there with karate for him, his intense LOVE for it and how he wants to do it forever and grow up to be a leader, and how i think because of that, and because he is a perfectionist, he might take it hard when he gets feedback. i followed that up with that i WANT him to learn how to handle feedback, i’m glad he is getting to practice having that. one leader commented that it’s great that he processed with words, instead of doing any hitting, and leader number three was saying how intense theatre camp is for everyone, and they all nodded like yup, definitely some tears will be shed, he’s definitely not the only one whose emotions will run high. they were happy to hear that quinn was all about it, and that he felt yesterday went “great!” that he didn’t want to share details wasn’t a big concern for them, they want him to have positive associations with the whole experience and i confirmed that he definitely does.

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best of all, the people in the room this morning all know my face now, they know whose mama i am, and they know a little slice of his  story and quirks, which is all for the better for his experience. they all expressed that “he’s such a great kid” and shared that he seems thoroughly engaged and having lots of fun. they all know what strategies i talked to him about, mainly that we talked about specific go-to people he could count on to help, and i got to share that he really looks up to them all.

i handed quinn off to his dad for week two of theatre camp, and saw him and heard from him very little all week (except for a text on thursday morning asking what pokemon i had hatched!) but then thursday evening, rich and i got to attend the theatre camp performance, both the 2 and 6 o’clock showings, and got to see what an amazing time he had been having. each group (quinn was in group 5, he told me, though their skit went first in the line-up of the 6 groups), performed skits aligned with the theme of “local legends.” quinn’s group performed “the phantom of the p.a.c.” complete with ghost busters theme music and whole-group running up and down the aisles of the theatre, chasing the ghost.

quinn’s role in the skit went by the name ace, and he informed me “i’m acting the role of an actor who is acting the role of a knight!” he was quite excited about the nested layers of richness in his theatre experience, and sharing with me the play-within-a-play effect they got to perform. i can’t help thinking of one of the great examples of this type of effect in film, a wonderful film whose story-within-a-story is supposedly based on a work of fiction by a non-existent author named s. morgenstern.

it was a thoroughly entertaining skit entitled, “the phantom of the performing arts center” in which the actors are all being bullied by their mean director, who accuses them of causing lots of problems (which are actually being caused by the ghost). quinn’s character, ace, was a “secretive guy” as quinn put it, and had a bodyguard, bobby gar, into whose ear he would whisper whatever he wanted to say to the group. bobby gar would repeat his statements out loud. this happened several times as the group tried to problem solve the haunted p.a.c. situation, including hiring some ghost catching specialists (cue the ghostbusters theme music) and running up and down the aisles of the p.a.c. as a group, until at one point bobby gar says, “hold on! ace has something to say!”

everyone freezes, and ace whispers into bobby’s ear.

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bobby announces, “ace says, ‘ahhhhhhh!'” and the running and screaming recommence. (quinn told me about this scene before the play, and was thoroughly tickled to be included in what he considered the funniest part of the skit.)

later on, the director of the play ace is supposed to be rehearsing for is off stage, and the group is considering what to do about the play now that they’ve befriended the ghost, and ace whispers in bobby’s ear. “ace has an idea!”

ace steps forward, and says his line out loud for all to hear: “oh, buttercup cumbersnitch!”

theatre camp buttercup cumbersnitch IMG_8773

the director storms in, fuming, “what have i told you about using my full name?!” and then promptly sees the ghost and faints. the actors, ghost, and ghost-catchers all celebrate. the end.

beaver bones “discovery”

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quinn walked down to the bayou with rich and i one night, and “discovered” for himself (though we had pointed it out to almost no reaction on earlier walks) the beaver skeleton lying on the ground. he decided right then and there that he needed to collect the bones, research how to articulate the skeleton, and start practicing how to do that on this perfectly wonderful specimen. he and i walked up to get a cardboard box and he gathered the bones into it. more to come on this wonderful self-imposed biology lesson in coming months, i’m sure. i have replaced the faulty keyboard on my old laptop, and it is now quinn’s laptop from which he can google all the ways to articulate a beaver skeleton.

kid’s camp

duck duck goose IMG_8838 kickball IMG_8791 kickball IMG_8798 kickball IMG_8800 kickball IMG_8801 kickball IMG_8803 kickball IMG_8804 kickball IMG_8813 ninja whatever IMG_8852 ninja bocce IMG_8847

we had a wonderful kid’s camp weekend at camp boss’s house. kickball, duck duck goose, zoom boom bocce

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red rover

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put a baby on this boy if you want to distract him from a bad mood.

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pokemon go was played both in app format, and in the “redneck” format, as camp boss calls it, of walking around a field catching pretend pokemons by throwing apple pokeballs at them.

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we got to spend a few wonderful moments reconnecting with friends passing through town. quinn and his pisces brother were fun to watch, as they simply picked up where they left off. they clearly maintain their mutual affection over time and distance.

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quinn has been using air quotes quite a bit lately. it is really amusing me, his little sarcastic side. there is a tracking device in pokemon go, which doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the actual pokemon in the vicinity. quinn refers to it with large air quotes as the “so-called tracking device.”

also worth recording, he said something funny when he was talking about a poke-stop. the one he was referring to was a church, so he was searching his memory for its name, “when we go past the… christian… the episcopal… the church of christ, that’s it.” but it was the way that he said eppi-SCOPE-al that was awesome. i smiled and he asked, “what?” and i said, “episcopal.” and he laughed, “well i read it!” there is a meme about that… something to the effect of not making fun of me for mispronouncing words, because it means i learned them from a book i read! yeah. that would be my kiddo.

tip test mirror IMG_9004 tip test chambered arms IMG_9008 tip test IMG_9003 tip test IMG_9042 tip IMG_9050

and already another six week cycle of karate has passed. i haven’t been taking as many pictures, but i noticed in looking at these few, that quinn has made great strides in some of the body mechanics that he practices at every karate class, such as keeping his elbows tucked in when he does a side kick. (you know, not flailing both arms in random directions when you do your kick.) just the other day, quinn earned his first black tip on his blue belt! it was an interesting day to watch him testing, because i could tell he was really sweating whether he would earn his tip or not, by the expressions on his face. in the rather more difficult blue belt curriculum, there were a few moves he was still a bit unsure about. for one of his techniques (clutching feathers, a self defense move for when someone grabs your long hair) he immediately knew what to do when his teacher actually fake attacked him, though he was drawing a blank when it came to doing it solo. he also needed a reminder on another move, and i could see his concern written all over his face, but then he pulled it together. at the beginning of the class for warm-ups, one of the junior instructors had them do leg lifts, holding their legs off the ground 6 inches (which the instructor did alongside them), and another of the students kept dropping or lifting his legs, resulting in added time for the whole group. quinn was clearly in agony, and at one point a sob actually escaped him, and yet, he persevered and did not quit doing the exercise, in spite of the hardship. (also of note was that he did not lash out at the student who was causing the added seconds.) i think between the grit he showed during his warm up, and his teacher’s acknowledgement of his steady effort and progress (not perfection!), quinn is absorbing wonderful take-home messages from all of his favorite activities these days. it’s wonderful to behold.

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