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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Camp boss\ wedding boss

    So much happened this summer!! Sad that there was no camping post, but there is always next year!!!

  • wow! so many wonderful things! love the way you are raising sweet quinn. the farm that you went to… is that gathering together? absolutely beautiful adventures. i like how you made some of the pictures smaller for a more manageable post… but i must admit i wished i could see some of them in a larger size!!! 🙂 looking forward to mommy blogger gathering in october!

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