~two months in the life of a lifelong learner~ anthropomorphization of vegetables

lifelong holidays learning!


one saturday rich was working so i brought quinn to farmer’s market with me. i parked him in front of my display that i was building and had him put bundles of broccoli raab into a rainbow arch around the basket where the bell peppers would be going, and he got right on that. then after he finished that job, i showed him that the cauliflower would be going in a big basket, but kind of cascading out of it onto the cloth, and he was like “great! i can make a cauliflower cascade!” and just kept following my instructions and being legitimately helpful. he likes all the people i work with, and they all like him, so i would ultimately look around for him and he’d be helping someone else doing things. he helped put up the price signs and someone would tell him “cipollini, those are the flat onions.” and give him hints so he could learn what things were (he knows a lot but the farm has a LOT of veggies and some of them are hard to differentiate if you don’t know that, say, parsnips have an innie belly button and parsley root have an outie! actually he knows those two… and one of his favorites is romanesco! but some of the other turnips and roots and shallots… less so.) if he started needing my attention more than i could handle while i was helping customers check out, i would send him on a task. i had him fetch some empty totes and build me a side table and cover it with a piece of fabric so people could set their basket/bag on it while checking out. then i sent him to buy himself a pastry and get rich a cinnamon roll, it’s only about 100 yards away and in line of sight of numerous people who would throw themselves in front of a bus to protect quinn, but still… it is not lost on me that he is getting big and independent. then he went and picked up my coffee for me, including adding the milk “and about 3 blups of honey and 3 shakes of cinnamon.” i let him buy a honey stick and a small honey bear even though we have 4 gallons of honey at home. his final task was to figure out how many apples for his lunches he could buy with the money he had left over. he entertained himself really well reading his book, drawing in his minecraft journal (a graph paper composition book) and then he ate most of my lunch from the german food vendor, which was really yummy meatballs and mushroom sauce. he loved it and said he wanted me to figure out how to make mushroom sauce.

he brought home some interesting and unique vegetables like the cutest tiny jalapeno pepper… he and my friend rachel found it together, and were chatting (i heard later) about its cuteness and describing its attributes, and then he came over to me with it and asked me with a grin, “how do you feel about anthropomorphization?” and then giggled uncontrollably. i love how he knows what will make me laugh or surprise me or catch me off guard. he gets my humor, it’s almost like he’s related to me.

he was my farmer’s market elf when he was a toddler, and he is still my farmer’s market elf now as a big kid.  at the end of the market day, i tasked him with sorting the baskets by shape and fitting them onto the cart, a job we both have the right kind of brain for.

another day i brought him with me again, since the first time had gone so well, and he was very taken up with a project, so he helped a bit less, but was still delightful to have along. “i’ve just created a new runic language. if you want to take the oath to join my tribe, you can be allowed to learn the language!” again with the graph paper. i should buy stock in graph paper.

when we got home, i took a bath while he read and then we had leftovers and got ready to go to a play. the addam’s family was fun, and it’s entertaining to watch quinn watch a play. he gets so sucked into the plot but at the same time he can analyze what’s going on back stage, on how they made a certain effect: “i think the lever was just a prop, and they made the chains move from behind the panel” was discussed at intermission. he memorized his favorite lines “wednesday is growing up, before you know it, she’ll be thursday!” and so on. after the play he got a hug from his theatre camp counselor, who was a member of the cast. i love how he reads through the program now and finds all the people he knows…. it’s a small town after all.


in december, i had quinn for the very beginning and very end of the month, for christmas. this is our second year of doing a two-week swap around the holidays (we used this trick last summer as well) which has worked out very well. it is one of the things that i am proud of after the years of toughing it out with a difficult coparent, that on topics we once couldn’t handle negotiating at all, we have become rather flexible and win-win about the process. the biggest winner, of course, is quinn, who gets the best holidays in either household (solstice there, christmas here).

the one drawback on this end is that he misses a large chunk of the season of advent at our house, which has always been something he really savors. the anticipation and expectancy of the coming holiday has always been my favorite part of christmas time as well. this year we made the most of our one week of advent together, feeling a little more settled into dragon house 2.0 for our second christmas in residence here.

on that sunday, we slept in and had pumpkin pancakes. rich’s mom had given me a form that makes the pancakes into christmas shapes just the day before, so i figured i’d use it right away. we already had his playmobil and lego advent calendars out, sparkle advent stories and color-in calendar in use. since this day was turning out to be glorious, we figured we should get the tree now, while he could help pick it out and decorate it (as opposed to last year’s tree which we put up on december 23rd).

we took a drive to get our tree, and it’s out past where we camp in the summer, so on the way back we stopped at the campsite to see the river. at the tree farm, we walked up the hill, rich with his chainsaw in hand, and the three of us walked and pointed out trees of the right height. we told quinn that it needed to be not much taller than rich so he was looking back and forth between rich and the trees. then he got to one and it was the first one where he commented “ooh this one looks nice.” just then i heard a hawk screech and looked up to try to find the hawk, then started taking pictures of it flying over our heads. rich asked right then, “which tree should we get?” i said, “i think the hawk just told us.” and quinn said, “yes, this one!” so it was decided. i had quinn hold my camera while i held the tree and rich sawed it. quinn’s documentation is mixed into the photos above. then we carried our tree down the hill and took it home with us!

quinn got in his bed and spent the rest of the entire day reading calvin and hobbes.

i made my mom’s swedish meatball recipe but added mushroom soup to the gravy to make it mushroom sauce for quinn. also since he’s reading norse mythology i pointed out the connection there, and told him we have norwegian ancestry, but he said, “mom, magnus chase takes place in boston.”

after dinner rich went outside and then stuck his head in the door and said we should come outside and to bring my camera. so we went out to look at the supermoon. quinn went back inside because i sent him to check if his bathtub was full, and it was, so he didn’t come back outside. instead he read his trials of apollo book in the tub.

on monday morning taking quinn to school, i realized that i haven’t been at school much to pick him up or drop him off, it had been 3 weeks without me going there… his dad had him, then i had him for the thanksgiving week off, then dad had him again. so i’ll have him for drop offs and pick ups this single week in december, and then i won’t do it again until january! i was remarking on that as we walked up to the school, and i decided to be a dork and squeezed his hand more firmly and said, “so i’m going to do a really good job taking you to school this week! don’t you feel like you’re being taken to school well?” and he played along swinging our hands and we giggled the whole way there.

we spent monday evening putting on the lights, garland, and decorations!

he chose to finish waking up the next morning beside the tree.

and whooooosh! it was christmas. lots of fun presents were opened, and a modest family gathering revolved around playing risk and parcheesi.

in the department of books, he received wizardology, a minecraft book, 365 days of wonder (mr. browne’s precepts), and the mother-son journal called between mom and me. i wasn’t sure how his presents would be received this year… i felt as though i gave him a few that were organizational tools disguised as presents (a mallet holder, a music stand, and a karate belt display hanger). i thought he would like the book of precepts, having read and watched wonder in the early days of fifth grade, but i was not sure he would embrace the mama-son journal. then to top it off, he got a shirt, a hat and a scarf… clothes! but he was delighted with every single gift, and expressed his gratitude.

it turned out that he was very into the journal, and was excited to start working on it with me. i’m pleased he sees it as more than another writing assignment, and instead as a way for us to connect through writing. he does like to write, even if it isn’t his easiest subject, and opts to write for his own creative purposes frequently. one night at bedtime he was torn between reading his book (the second in rick riordan’s kane chronicles), writing in the mama/son journal, and drawing “because i just thought of a book series i want to write and a movie i want to make” with 5 minutes until lights out. the flood of ideas right at the time he needs to fall asleep is epic as ever!

i told him about thumbnail sketches and had him do a few for the movie script, then put down a jot list of reminders for the book series so he’d remember his idea, and we filled out our “guidelines” pages in the journal. “people who are close to us are allowed to know about it” is one of the guidelines, so i don’t have to keep it a secret. it’s a pretty good format. we decided how we’d keep track of where we are with a special bookmark (and when he misspelled special we added a guideline that we will correct each other’s spelling because i asked if he wanted me to correct him on things or let them go and he wants the spelling “100% perfect.”) the bookmark will need to be made but will have a green owl stamp on the left and a purple dolphin stamp on the right. and our address with “return to” on it, but written in pencil, so it can be updated as needed.

we still often lean on the “dolphin story” during bedtimes like these for relaxing and emptying his busy brain, but he shared that lately his best strategy to calm down alllll the thoughts, is to choose one thing to really focus on. at bedtime he will name it out loud “i’m working on the next chapter of my mage novel in my head tonight” and then he can drift off.

something dragon-related is happening here… on graph paper.

he and i played risk again, and he beat me as usual. then he became inspired to work on programming a risk game in scratch, on his piper computer. he started out by drawing a world map (divided into the proper territories for risk) out of shapes in the background, but realized he would need to start again and make each territory a sprite that could behave independently (attack, defend, be conquered). he did further research on the scratch website and played someone else’s versions of risk on scratch, a wwii version and a napoleon version, which he then plans to study for how to code his own. as he was playing, he ended up with the world atlas in his lap, studying flags of european countries. when i talk about using the screen as a tool (for learning/creating/accomplishing goals), rather than simply a platform of consumption, this is what i mean.

we talked a bit about his progress in khan academy, where he is going through the 6th grade math curriculum at school. he is plugging along, and he was explaining his latest lesson on calculating volume of a rectangular prism. we got to chatting about finding volume of spheres, pyramids, cylindrical prisms, and such, and he was having so much fun that we developed a math problem for calculating the volume of goods able to be carried by an oregon trail conestoga wagon.

brain surgery (still going strong with lunch-making!)

is it wrong to tell your child you will only buy them tangerines for their lunches if they write it on the shopping list in cursive?

one night we were driving to karate for open mat, and he let out a gigantic sigh. “hey buddy, keep breathing.” he said, “it’s just… the paper mill.” (we have one in our town…) “it makes me upset because it’s destroying the earth.”

what do you even say?

other worries he carries are… less worrisome.

“something that has been worrying me ever since the end of 4th grade is, if a fly is flying inside of a train car, is it still going the same speed, or is it going faster because of how fast the train is going?”

i gave him the “it depends” answer based on what frame of reference we are measuring velocity with respect to, the ground or the train itself, we discussed some high school physics definitions, and talked about how the math works, depending on whether the fly is flying in the same direction as the train is traveling, or the opposite direction. oh yeah, and mentioned that this was the type of question that inspired albert einstein to develop his special theory of relativity, bringing a big paradigm shift to the field of physics.

i came across a podcast called brains on that had an episode entitled the flies on the bus that further addressed his “worry”. he listened to it, and then proceeded to choose a few more of the brains on podcasts to listen to next (they’re great, i think the segment called “um” is my favorite name for a radio show segment ever) and his first pick was farts smarts; understanding the gas we pass. so you know, it’s rare, but sometimes he does act exactly his age.

i love finding new audio for him to explore, he is soothed by it. he can be overstimulated through his ears (with sound, water, etc), and yet that is also the sensory pathway that is easiest to reach him to help restore calm in him. it is not lost on me that my sound-sensitive one who used to flip out over the use of the coffee grinder or vacuum cleaner, is the kid driven to take up drumming. within the problem are the seeds to the solution, sometimes.  i wonder how many other sensory channels this can be said for, in other kids with sensory differences.

we had the delightful opportunity to offer quinn a chance to go to a winter wonderings 6-week saturday class on a nearby college campus, and be a poppy in a field of other poppies. he got signed up at the very last minute, based on his initial lukewarm response to the pamphlet that was sent home from school (you’re pre-approved!), and my uncertainty whether my coparent would drive him the 45 minutes to it on his 3 saturdays, and especially since we knew going into it that we’d miss the final week due to our upcoming trip. given that this was such a cool opportunity, though, i jumped on his last minute enthusiasm for signing up, and we made it happen. the clincher was really him getting on the phone and advocating for himself with his dad, which is an ongoing theme, and worthwhile lesson. i called the head of the program and although quinn’s top class choice of minecraft ancient civilizations was full, he was excited to try the outdoor survival skills class. i got him in just one day before he was set to attend the first one! and the first one went very well!

wake-up time with lisa kitty, a boy folded up in child’s pose on the couch, and another yoga pose of unknown identity while reading calvin and hobbes. (he’s pretty perpetually reading calvin and hobbes!)


these months in music: “there needs to be a way to write in the music for it to go in a circle.” like his insightful observation of “fourth person point of view,” quinn grasps yet another concept (the musical repeat, and the need for its notation in sheet music) before being taught the formal lesson.

now that we’ve been doing lessons and practice for a while, it is becoming trickier to keep him motivated to practice. writing his own songs definitely helps, and playing along with the practice cds, or with me on another instrument, is helpful. but sometimes it is as simple as me renaming “clair de la luna” as “luna lovegood” and he smiles and tries to play it. he has also arrived at the space where he cannot instantly memorize the entire (8-measure) song (of repetitive half and quarter notes), and must actually fail at the first attempt, and absorb the imperfection and go on to try again. even now, each song (now with 16 measures and more variation in quarter notes) may only take 3 or 4 tries to master, but that was the first high hurdle for him in his musical education. his perfectionism can be a huge stumbling block. after he mastered luna lovegood, he tried the next one… felt like he had failed, and had to be talked into trying again. i used the “be goofy” trick again and sang him the lyrics to “down by the station” which include the word “pufferbellies.” finally, he worked through the page of luna lovegood and pufferbellies, with the added bonus lyrics learned as well, and i think he is in a better place to keep learning increasingly difficult pieces.

back in december we also attended quinn’s school concert, and a good time was had by all.

karate practice in the sun!



this is the happy face i want to see after a long day of learning… there is one pretty spectacular title teacher at his school, and even though there is no tag program at school this year, she has her ways of reaching them all, including the way she made sure his pamphlet for winter wonderings came home, but also her time in the classroom is always something quinn looks forward to. he got so excited about learning origami after her lesson on making an octahedron! he was so on fire that i heard about it after school, on the day she introduced the project, when he had only reached the halfway point of his finished octahedron. describing it, he told me, “it has 6 vertices!” and other fancy geometry jargon. by the next afternoon, he was bringing it home completed, feeling accomplished, with a big smile on his face.

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