~a month in the life of a lifelong learner~ enigma

~9-23 through 10-23-19~

One Saturday in October Quinn was invited to a d and d sleepover party at the house of Legolas. The fellowship seems to be going strong, and I am so pleased he has these friendships. I know friends can be a very challenging area in middle school, and especially with poppies, but it is one area I just don’t feel I need to worry about him. These kids want to play d and d together!!! Soon they’ll be wearing trench coats! Legolas got a whole bunch of dice so they can each use a set of one color (Quinn chose green).

I listened to Quinn read sections of the latest Trials of Apollo (Rick Riordan) out loud – hilarious as usual. He pronounced the cat’s name (Aristophanes) as ah-RIST-o-fanes. I countered, “Air-ist-OPH-an-eez,” but he would have none of it. Then Tarquinius superbus, an emperor the characters were trying to defeat, instead of superb-us (picturing someone grandiose) was pronounced super-bus (it’s big and yellow and full of school children). I got him laughing but he would keep reading it the same way. He also came across a couple of words he didn’t know. “Ella the harpy was an enigma wrapped in red feathers, wrapped in a linen shift. Mama, what’s an enigma?” And Apollo talked about he and Meg being “sympatico” about some topic. I had him look them both up in the IRL dictionary from the shelf in the living room.

Meanwhile, he spent the week with me getting caught up on work he missed from skipping school on the Friday of the climate strike. He ran into one issue with a class where he hadn’t realized he had been expected to be taking notes each day, and here it was week three. He had to problem-solve that, which took a few days, and he was only just getting started on that when he went back to his dad that Friday, but got all his other assignments done. There were several for social studies like a map of Rome – Rich was incredulous again, “he procrastinated that?” and current event summary, which I helped him not take too seriously and just get-it-done, a health assignment or two, something from language arts, studying for math test, and getting his math notebook all caught up as well.

He problem solved the math notebook on his own, having figured out where in the online textbook the notes were coming from, he knew he could just copy them from there. He made plans to stay more on top of that now that he knew how long it took to catch up from a whole unit with seven sections. He had taken some notes during class on some of the sections, and a few not at all. He needed to make them very neat and the perfectionism is still a big hurdle, but he can also talk about that, and this awareness is an ability to take one step back from it and therefore be just a teensy bit less likely to succumb. His attitude for all of this homework was just so good. On the following Thursday night he told me, “I would like to participate in the climate strike again, but I really don’t think I can afford to take tomorrow off.” He is being very pragmatic and level-headed. For math note taking, we talked about strategies for staying on top of it in class. I asked him what it looked like for him during class- was it hard to split his attention between teacher and notes, etc. He said he thinks it’s hard for him to switch back from group work to individual notetaking work- once the group work is activated it stays activated. So we talked about picturing a switch and being able to activate the notebook work again and what does the switch look like. He could describe his image and what it would do and how it would help him in the long run to take most of the notes in class instead of having to copy them over after school. Again, his dawning awareness felt like such a huge step in the right direction.

The next Saturday, Quinn got up early to ride with Rich for firewood. They came to market when they were done and surprised me. They hugged me a lot then went together for pastries.

It was nacho night!

map of Rome!

I was forced to play Risk, and of course Quinn took over the world. He put an app called my singing monsters on his phone (he asks me permission and also knows I have to electronically approve the app based on the phone family link thing, and he seems good with that arrangement. I tell him I trust him to let me know if something seems off or there are inappropriate ads.) This app is cute, each monster you add to your collection does one type of music and then they all do their thing together and make songs. You can also add your own music, so Quinn googled the sheet music for his current jam, the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army and got the monsters to play it. That night I overheard him in the shower singing the Beatles song do you want to know a secret, which seems like it is on our local radio station a lot. Ooooooh is one of the major lyrics. I remember being a sponge for radio song lyrics at his age.

Sunday morning after pancakes, he hadn’t tackled homework yet so he got his social studies current event homework done quickly so he could play my singing monsters some more. Then he got his math homework done quickly after lunch for more video game time. He’s getting more efficient for sure.

I worked on the Haunted House that day, and I’m still not sure why slicing into a salt dough brain, spray painting creepy skulls onto plastic tablecloths, and developing a menu for a haunted cafeteria was so satisfying, but I  strangely enjoyed myself. When I got home, we had dinner on the earlier side and Quinn asked me to play his new game he was creating. It was a build-your-own Jurassic park game, and I managed to accumulate 8 triceratopses in a forest enclosure on a piece of graph paper that evening.

Quinn had a rough day at school on “committed cubs day” during which those students who have all their work done/turned in/graded/passed get to take off the last hour of the school day. He worked really hard to finish things, but couldn’t get the follow up signatures with the teachers done in time. He went in that day feeling hopeful, and got in the car at the end of the day looking defeated. I just let him tell me about it and validated his disappointment, and then when we got home I copied the white stripes album with seven nation army into his computer and he played it on repeat for about an hour. He felt better. I made sure to point that out to him. Music makes us feel better!

I told him I was sorry that this reward for some kids can feel like a punishment to others like him. I told him he didn’t do anything wrong and I was proud of him working hard. I also told him I think he has a chance to try again and that the first one of the year (it happens every six week term) was bound to be harder for him because he takes a little longer to get the procedures (aka executive functions) dialed in with each teacher, whereas other kids might not have as much trouble with that. In this case, he had handed in health current event assignment #1 one day late, but the health teacher does not accept current events late at all (Quinn hadn’t caught that detail at first), so Quinn got a fail on that; the teacher was still willing to sign off that he did it, because he DID do it, but he didn’t get to follow up with him so he was lacking that one last signature on his form. He had really hustled to get the math caught up, so he was a disappointed kiddo.

I was glad this happened for Quinn while he was with me so I could help him deescalate his emotions, rather than make the school the enemy and encourage Quinn to quit trying. I want to encourage him that even when things are hard it is worth trying, and that the trying is what shows his character, and that we can do hard things. It felt kind of like one of those moments the Asperger’s parenting books talked about: if your kid can’t deal with adversity, you need to let them come up against some small adversities incrementally so they can get to a point of being more able to deal with life’s unpredictability and difficulty. I am never one to arbitrarily put stumbling blocks in his path, or make his life hard intentionally, but when those things arise organically and he has to come up against hard things, I’m for it. I’m for him learning he can handle the disappointment, I’m for him figuring out how to bounce back from it, learning how resilient he can be.

Quinn was a zombie both Friday and Saturday nights for the opening weekend of the Haunted House fundraiser for marching band. He was awesome. The previous set of marching band uniforms are amazingly creepy. they looked SO cool behind their screen under black light in the haunted band room… Quinn loved all the details – stuff you may not even see when you are a customer touring the house, but the “band concert today” poster in the band room has some sheet music attached to it… only when you looked closely could you see it was music for the itsy bitsy spider. His band teacher is arachnophobic, and one day she told the class the two sources of material for the haunted band room were that “the only excuse for missing a concert is that you’re dead” (hence the zombies still making it to the concert- they are undead). And number two, the legend of spider mouse… a spider she found in her band room one day that was so huge she thought it was a mouse. She had the principal come and remove it from the room for her. So fake spiders (and itsy bitsy spider music) were featured heavily in the band room.

It was pretty amazing taking all the money from all the people who wanted to go in our haunted house. I mean I DIDN’T WANT TO GO IN IT. I did go through one night with Rich, and Quinn went through it with a few of the band kids, all in their zombie garb.

He had a hard time with makeup removal and I was no help. Thank goodness another mom passed on some removal wipes and the awesome tip of using coconut oil.

We kept playing his Jurassic park role play game. He really developed all the details to an impressive level. In addition, it encouraged him to work on his spelling, because he wanted to spell each dinosaur name correctly so he kept consulting his dino book. Words like field and other “ie”s and research have given him trouble so we also made a list of spelling words to continue to work on.

Seventh grade parental relationship with the gradebook: checking my motive for looking, and then not looking if it isn’t necessary. He is now looking at it as needed, and is doing well with recognizing what he needs to do about his work. He had mostly As and Bs and I think a C in health class.

His homework waited until one Sunday because he was busy being a zombie all weekend. Sunday morning I had him draw up a schedule for his day, and he alternated hour-long “HW” sessions with half hour “break” sessions, in which we played dinosaurs. He also helped me bake zucchini-blueberry muffins after dinner. He told me stories about school, such as the fun warm-up in social studies where they have to rename objects using words other than what they’re normally called. The first example was his phrase for trees “wood plants” that he had used on me in a game of Taboo, but the best example was “Magical knowledge pianos,” as one kid renamed chromebooks.

minecraft monday with cousins!

The one math teacher at the middle school who he hasn’t had yet is the one going on his Italy trip in March, and she subbed for his math class one day. She is known to be very enthusiastic about math (I think Q will really like her on the trip and they will bond about rubik’s cubes and mathy nerdy things).  He was at the back of the room with his hand raised to answer her question about what to do with x3. Other guesses were “square root?? Divide?”  But Quinn knew: “cube root!”

He is an enigma, wrapped in a flannel dinosaur sheet, wrapped in a Grammy quilt, wrapped in a mama pokemon rainbow star quilt, wrapped in a fuzzy owl blanket, which he sorts into four separate piles in his sleep.

He finished off the month doing dishes, “because I am already good at vacuuming the car, but I need to get better at washing dishes” in work trade for the Lego set I had bought him at the grocery store. The Jurassic world Dilophosaurus set, of course.


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