~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ becoming a dragon

10-23 to 12-23

quinn and i collaborated once again to create a fun halloween costume: bulbasaur the pokemon.

we took quinn’s fourth grader free state park pass on the road and hung out at the yaquina head lighthouse one afternoon to watch waves and marvel at their enormity.

quinn’s fourth grade class took a hike and toured the community college.


reading… too many books to make an exhaustive list! he has been reading the red wall series at his dad’s, so we listened to the audio book and he borrowed the book from the library to finish when the last cd was scratched, then ended up re-reading the entire novel; he spent more time with calvin and hobbes, and i could tell even if i hadn’t seen him reading it, because he mused one day, “i wonder if anyone on mars is looking out and saying i wonder if there’s anyone on that planet with all the blue on it.” he read all 8 greek gods graphic novels owned by our library; he could be found spread out on the floor with newspaper comics on several occasions; he read an article in national geographic about a dinosaur fossil found trapped in amber with complete feathers (!) that a friend had shared on facebook. all of this in addition to listening to the last of the heroes of olympus, then switching to harry potter on audio while reading a variety of other books (the latest diary of a wimpy kid, trials of apollo, and a few other graphic novels.)

quinn attended another seminar with mr. sepulveda at aurora martial arts in corvallis. he had a good time, and learned a lot once again.

he became a certified bed making technician

games a-plenty these days! pictured are a fraction of those played and created: a pirate card game called loot, a pokemon role-play-game of his own invention (here he is drawing up a character attribute sheet), pokemon go, scrabble, thanksgiving scattergories, numerous computer games (lots of knights, forging of armor, settlements, that type of thing going on in recent games), we learned to play settlers of catan at long last, and then got to play it again, and quinn drew up his own set of catan hexagon cards, and played quite a few games with his buddy luke, including risk (thank you, luke, for one less game of risk i have to play!) there were numerous other games not pictured!

the recent book fair, as always, was a big deal for quinn, and he bought himself a book about coding games in scratch (a kid-friendly programming platform). he was telling me about a game he is going to code in scratch about pirates, and the pirates start at the lowest rank and work up to becoming first mate. but then the only way they can become captain is “if the captain is slain, or the captain resigns.” others might say “is killed/leaves” but quinn’s vocabulary strikes again. my pirate name for the game is barnacle beth the brave, on board the ship the blue bottlenose. so far we are still playing it all in quinn’s mind, but he has big ideas!

in fact, he made a list of “jobs to have when i grow up,” and game designer is on the list.

  1. a musician
  2. a famous kenpo teacher (karate)
  3. a paleontologist
  4. a game designer (it came up in conversation when he formulated an idea to play pokemon go as a d&d style role play game, with character sheets for the trainers; we can hide pokemon in imaginary maps (not realistic ones like our back yard, so this is a different game but similar to what he originally invented) and roll dice for how many pokeballs, etc. i told him he always had such great ideas for coming up with new games, and he thought being a game designer seemed like something he could do.)

in his journal list by the above title, he wrote numbers 1-23 all the way down the page.  i am looking forward to seeing what other “jobs to have” he comes up with!

number one on the list: musician. time to get him some music lessons!

enjoying green eggs and ham, sam i am.

enjoying time with family at thanksgiving.

baking sugar cookies to share with friends! he got creative with the cookie cutters, and generously sprinkled his star tree with “snow” powdered sugar.

when i searched “cookie” in my media files to see whether i had already uploaded the recent cookie photos, this is the one that came up. my cookie helper, in his mini form. i can’t believe his whole legs, including feet, fit on top of the counter…

outside time, stolen bits of fresh air on sunny days when we could get them. including a day spent at the lab with mama (school conference days). he also got in some cursive handwriting practice that day.


i attended his student-led conference, and there were writing samples, creative projects (3-D self-portrait, map of his special place), goal-setting plan for the school year, and the last item on the conference agenda was, “ask your family to take you out for ice cream to celebrate!” i did. he ordered cookies and cream and vanilla.

another school field trip, this time to the aquarium and for a tour of the noaa vessel rainier. the ship tour was fascinating, and the kids asked some really great questions about the use of sonar to map the sea floor. we came up with an analogy of the “layers” created by the sonar, that if you made a fort with chairs and blankets, then lifted the blanket off of the chair legs, keeping all the dips and peaks in place, the blanket would act like a layer of sonar data.

science projects at school: kinetic and potential energy using string, straws and balloons, and then mechanical rollers made from cups, rubber bands, and straws, trying to roll a certain distance and stop in the “sweet spot”, both of which i got to help out with in the classroom. i liked how she had the kids write up their results, but modeled for them how to do that on the overhead projector, and i liked how she sat down with individual kids who were having trouble getting started. that included quinn, but when she sat down and asked him about his potential/kinetic energy string/straw/balloon experiment, he had brilliant insights to share about how “the air wanted to come out of the balloon”, and then after he’d gotten to tell them to her, he was able to go forward with putting them on paper. i also got to sit in on a presentation of why a class award, if won, should be spent on obtaining a bearded dragon. quinn is a natural at public speaking; he does not inherit that from me. also in school learning: essay publishing, and of course, the dab.

one of my favorite features of quinn’s classroom is the mood meter. each day (and at various times throughout the day) his teacher asks them to write on a sticky note something that is on their mind and place it on the mood meter, which has four quadrants. the kids choose where they are feeling along the continua of energy, from high to low, and pleasantness, from happy to sad. where they intersect along these two axes (bet they don’t realize they are working their coordinate plane skills… sneaky) is where they place their sticky note. i walked in one afternoon and found quinn’s in the far happy quadrant, reading, “i feel happy because i am going to my mom’s house after school.” insert all the rainbow heart emojis.

when you walk up to the school building, quinn’s classroom is the one with all the shades open (fluorescent lights off, sunlight pouring in) and a peace sign in the window. that’s how i can tell i asked for the right teacher.

while i’m singing her praises, i will also share that she builds a yoga flow into the start of each school day. quinn demonstrated one morning’s “flow” that they did, and as a yogi myself i can see that they have learned quite a lot in their daily practice. it was fun to watch, because he is such a gangly, bouncy, and angular string bean that he just springs into position and names the pose, then springs into the next one, with all of his bones sticking out every which way. he knows most of the poses by their traditional names, tree, triangle, mountain, but a few have obviously been made more kid-friendly. low lunge is “dragon” and then becomes twisting dragon when he plants his shoulder behind his knee like no adult could ever do at the rate he does it. i like the “wash away” pose they do at the beginning, crossing their mid-line, always good for brains. the way he gets into triangle pose… priceless… had to be captured on video.

also in reading, i assigned quinn some advent reading. a little background on the “you are brave” affirmation…

one night recently, quinn got up to use the bathroom at 3am, and came and got me to re-tuck him in. rich mentioned it to him in the morning, to point out logically that he is brave enough to walk around at night with no lights on (downstairs to our room, back up to the bathroom because it was actually an emergency, then back down again to retrieve me), so he shouldn’t feel scared to go in the bathroom during the day with lights on throughout the house. rich also put in that one day he’ll be able to get back into bed without even waking anyone up. after rich went off to shower, i translated for quinn that rich wanted quinn to know that he is very brave! that seemed to unfurrow his brow, the look that sometimes follows in the aftermath of a “talk” with rich. i then reassured him that i will miss it in a few years when he no longer comes and gets me to help him back to bed, adding that i’m glad it’s not something that happens every night anymore. we chatted about when he was a baby/toddler and woke me up multiple times every night, and he thought that was funny and wanted to know all about it. then he was finished eating breakfast. into the bathroom he marched, hands covering his ears, and then i heard, “i’m brave!” and the sound of peeing… with the light still turned off.

back at the vacation house quinn would ask me to accompany him to the bathroom to help him turn on the light. it was around a corner and through a dark small hallway which had a light switch which  the rest of us didn’t turn on to get to the bathroom but he did. he would turn on all the switches on the way to the bathroom, but the switch for the bathroom light required you to go inside and reach behind the door for it (poor design, granted) and so he never liked it and always felt scared to go in and pee no matter how many conversations he had with rich on the subject.

since we’ve been at dragon house 2.0, he has been fine with bathroom use and turning on the light himself, it’s not down a dark hallway, the light switch isn’t hidden behind door, and it’s on the same floor as our living room/his bedroom/kitchen. he does, however, often cover his ears (inexplicably, unless you consider it a form of sight-sound synesthesia) while he walks into the bathroom until he gets the light on (which i think he must do with his elbow!)

after i explained to quinn that rich was trying to point out that quinn is obviously brave enough to walk around in the dark, because he has seen him do it, quinn seemed to grasp it with that positive spin. leaving the light turned off wasn’t exactly the intended result, and indeed i told him he needed to turn it on when it came to face washing, so he could see his grubby face in the mirror to get it clean, but i was happy that the internalized message was affirmative.

courage and indomitable spirit… yes, he has them. he is brave. he endured a particularly grueling belt test and promoted to his green belt just before christmas.

still bringing the smiles.

elfing. relaxing in the happy spot on christmas eve, just back from his dad’s for two whole weeks! i picked him up the afternoon of the 23rd, stuffed him full of food, had him take his first bath in two weeks, and then he slept for 15 hours, so it’s no wonder he looks so refreshed on the morning of christmas eve. i was just remembering that we called my rocking chair “the happy spot” back in the day, when he fit in it on my lap just a little bit better than he does now. we’ve shared some quality snuggle time in it this week, in spite of his gangliness. he also helped me elf together some friend presents, and wrapped the gift he chose for luke himself.

christmas morning! a glorious sunny day, spent with family.


after explaining (with hand gestures) how one would make a robotic bb-8 and what his motion is like, quinn pulled out his birthday present piper and showed off having built his own computer. that brief detour enabled me to show him that scratch is already loaded onto his piper… so i imagine there will be some game programming updates in future lifelong learning posts. after a while he continued opening presents, including lots of pokemon cards, some legos, and a few books.


an epic pokemon battle occurred, during which the rest of us sat around shaking our heads in awe of the way he could backtrack several steps of the battle and change the outcome, seeing it all in his mind like a chess game. he also built k2so, a droid we all recently grew fond of watching star wars: rogue one.

sun and kitties.

pokemon and wrist warmers.

he’s holding the dungeons and dragons player’s handbook, his 300+ page present from grammy and grampy, which he obviously loves! he has spent lots of time reading it and designing new characters with it since. he also got to meet the artist who did the cover art (and a few of the pieces on the pages, as well as many magic cards, one of which quinn was in possession of…) because he’s my former boss’s nephew. he got these items autographed, but the best part was listening to these 20-something guys talking with quinn about d and d adventures, and beyond that, relating things like, “yeah i was always being told i needed to pay attention, and instead i was drawing.” others who don’t fit all the molds. they exist, and they’re okay. your people are out there in the world, quinn. i love that in answer to my question, “how big was the original painting,” tyler answered, “i painted it digitally, so it’s actually of infinite size,” and quinn just kind of nodded like, yeah, i get that. kids these days.

for quinn, it’s not always drawing that steals his attention, but he is often “out there” in his brain, creating in some other realm. i think it’s great for him to meet people who took their creative talents and made a living. i also love that he came home and was inspired to actually draw his new character (a wizard) and the character’s pet owl.

we got in some play time with buddies over the holiday break.


we’re transitioning right now to a new karate dojo and instructor, and so far that has all been going very smoothly. we got to go to extra classes over the break, and although quinn may backtrack a little bit on belt rank to catch up on some curriculum, he seems very game to make this overall positive change, and his belt rank will now be considered adult instead of junior, so in many ways, he will come out ahead. he will also get to practice teaching karate, himself, which is one of his stated goals. his new teacher mentioned that karate students naturally start out as tigers, fierce and impulsive, but as they mature and progress in their practice, become dragons, with more tenacity and wisdom. i like the metaphor, of course, and though i have nothing against tigers, i do have a special place in my heart for dragons. i see the maturity of which he speaks starting to develop in this young lad, who has become reinvigorated for karate in the past two weeks. while i was anticipating some resistance to this fairly substantial change, he has shown an amazing amount of resilience and perspective and has gone with the flow. just another aspect of amazing lifelong learning to look forward to in 2017!

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