What We’re Doing: Edge of Seventeen

[NOTE: I wrote this on June 13th … and then forgot to finish and post.
Please donate to RAICES of Texas and the ACLU to help asylum seekers and their children who’ve been separated by the U.S. government.]



IMG_7254Dragon will soon be 18. Everything we planned together has not come to pass, and as parent and child, we’re at a crossroads. There are many decisions they’ll need to make in the coming days, including how to complete or continue their education. College through Running Start didn’t serve them in the end. Though the academics were well within their capacity to understand, they faced major challenges with depression and social anxiety that are now being addressed with their doctor. Priorities have shifted for all of us, and with legal adulthood on the horizon, Dragon is caught between frozen fear and possibility. I’m proud to say, they had their first job interview for a position well-suited to them, and awaits word with impatient excitement. The interviewer told them, “I hope you feel good about how the interview went.”

35531981_10155620461543059_7789139301165432832_nLittle Fox Five is ready to take on more challenges these days. He’s interested in adding dance classes after seeing a performance of the Alvin Ailey Dance tour, and is especially interested in tap after his first trial class. He still adores drama and gymnastics, but the former isn’t available in the summer, and in a year, the latter will require him to be segregated by sex. His father and I have agreed he needs a martial art, as well, and are wavering between Aikido and Shaolin Kung Fu. Dragon learned the one, my partner learned a variety of styles related to the other. This means, by autumn, Little Fox will have four or five classes a week to take, and I’ll be teaching at least two classes of my own each month.

35815038_10155620461523059_8073277054520393728_nWhy so many classes for one child? For one, he gets restless, and needs to move his body more than I can accommodate with my health and mobility issues. For another, I need time to work during the dayand hiring a nanny is outside our budget. At his age, finding consistent care for a few hours a week in our area isn’t feasible, as schools want full-time enrollment and nannies want more hours of work. Without outside care available, I either take him to classes and work on my laptop while he learns, or I stay up until 2 or 3am every night, which is, quite frankly, not working well for me at present.

What I have managed to get done these past few months: hired two video editors to create book trailers for The Grasp of Time, both the live action ad I filmed in January, and a text-based teaser; written a handful of short stories and poems for my Patreon; completed a revision of Seal Breaker (the sequel to TGoT), ready to be sent to my editor; make progress on re-organizing and decluttering the house. I’ve had some delays due to health, including a miscarriage that threw us all for a loop, but I’m making steady progress.

My partner has started to hit his stride at his new position, and considering returning to martial arts. When we met, he was, among other occupations, an assistant Wushu and Tai Chi instructor. Since he shares his birthday with the Dragon, there’s planning in the works for him as well, though this year, they’re far more subdued than those we have for the soon-to-be-adult.

And yes, they’re registering to vote!


9781681689173Besides reading a chapter a night from Space Opera by Catherynne Valente to my son each night (not intended for kids; read it anyway). When we’ve finished Space Opera, I want to start up with The Neverending Story.

Over the last year plus, his father has handled the majority of bedtime stories, so I either have to read them again with him during the daytime, or sneak them and look through them to know what they’re up to. Little Fox is enamoured of the science and math books his dad has been selecting, especially those with ghosts as the narrators. He’s also quite insistent about reading and re-reading Squirrel Girl and My Little Pony comics, some of which we’ve had to start checking out from the library, because our budget can’t keep up with demand.

In May, Little Fox read almost all of Green Eggs and Ham with little assistance from me. It took over half an hour because of the many feline and bathroom distractions one experiences at five, but he read the book. I recorded most of the audio on my phone for my partner.


Dance videos and more dance videos. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Recently introduced the Little Fox to The Secret of Nimh. Though normally I encourage my kids to read the books prior to watching the films, I have to admit, I find Tolkien’s writing style dull and prone to numerous, distracting genealogical tangents. As for Nimh, I was the impatient one; I spontaneously decided it had been far too long since I’d seen the movie, and so we were going to see it. He can read it later.


Little Fox recently made his first banana bread the same night Dragon followed the careful steps to making some scrumptious Ma Po Tofu. Both turned out beautifully. The ma po tofu was served with my fried rice, pea vine, and asparagus. The banana bread was still hot when we cut it up and served our portions with ice cream (Mukilteo Mudd by our local Snoqualmie Valley ice cream).

Here’s my Grammy’s banana bread recipe (with my modifications):caelansfirstbananabread

1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar (it used to be 1c.)
3 eggs, beaten
3 bananas, mashed
2 c. of all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3 T. of cold water
1 t. vanilla extract
walnuts and chocolate chips optional

Cream the butter and sugar together. Mash bananas and stir in beaten eggs. Add banana/egg mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, stir dry ingredients together, then add to wet. Stir in water, then add any extras (e.g. nuts, chocolate, etc.). Pour batter into a greased bread pan or baking dish.

Bake in a 350°F oven for 45 – 60 minutes. Less time for muffins or smaller containers.

Facing Challenges

We’ve been plagued by household crises, from plumbing to septic to water-logged carpet to the theft of sentimental objects and photos.

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks, especially as it’s coupled with demanding volunteer work that is taking precedence over my writing, and the start of our new school year.
Having to bail gray water from our bathtub and wash all our dishes in plastic tubs has made doing much of our to do list monumental. When two minute showers take an additional twenty minutes of work, when dishes go from a quick chore to one that takes over an hour, we’re left with little time to ensure we’re going out enough, playing enough, and touching base with all areas of education.

It doesn’t mean we’re not trying, though. Despite the unpleasantness, we still sat down with Daughter to create an overview of the themes and topics she’s most interested in learning. We’ve also begun summer courses outside the house.


Private Couples Lessons at DanceWorks Studio

Private Couples Lessons at DanceWorks Studio

For the dual birthdays in our house, I purchased both Daughter Dragon and my partner ballroom dance lessons.  Daughter is taking youth lessons that occur soon after her martial arts, and both academies are within walking distance from one another. She can even take a bus home after (but not to her classes, thanks to cuts in bus service for our area).  My partner and I are taking couples lessons at a studio in the same area, and finding a bit of awkward joy in one another.

Little Fox is taking a break from gymnastics, but only because summer classes are early mornings only, and he doesn’t get up most mornings until after class has started! We’ll return in the Fall for more tumble time, but meanwhile, we’ve been visiting the pool again, both to swim and to use facilities currently inoperable at home. He’s also really into vehicles with wheels (buses and planes are favorites), bubbles, and his new Ponyo toy brought back from Japan by my step-mother who was born and raised in Kyoto-shi.

Amidst the chaos that our house has become, we’re slowly becoming more organized. Cleaning out the den helped immensely, and it seems to have cleared our heads a bit to allow us to focus on what’s important.

Daughter’s topic list for 2015-2016:

  • English/Language: various assigned texts, book basket*, essay writing, poetry
  • Sciences: Astronomy texts and videos, emailing her astronomy-loving grandfather for tips, use of binoculars and telescope (“I’m just really interested in stars and stuff.”)
  • Arts: NATURE study, sketching, leaf prints, painting, collages w/ found objects (she expressed a desire to expand her drawings beyond humanoids)
  • Civics/History: Goal is exploration of WWII, which she understand requires some background in German, Japanese, and American history, including WWI.
  • Movement: ballroom class, Aikido class, swimming, walking, yoga at home
  • Maths: (my partner filled this part out, since he’s in charge of all maths above Algebra) Geometry, Physics, Pre-Calc, Vectors, Trig, Differential Calculus, mechanics, kinematics, Newtonian, Force/energy, Linear and circular motion
  • There are three other areas we’ve not filled in; they’ll likely change throughout the year, and we’ll add to them and those above as we go: Artisanal Crafts, Domestic, and Technical/Engineering

In the next post, I’ll go over ways we integrate these topics of focus into our days.


Mysterious Patterns

Little Fox picked out a nifty book on fractals at the library: Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell. Not only does it show a variety of fractals found in both nature and architecture/landscaping, it explains the patterns and a bit about the history of mathematics that help explain fractals. The book also differentiates between the shapes easily named in the past (e.g. cone, sphere, etc.) and fractal shapes.

I’ve been distracted from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, but will return to it soon.  Daughter is now reading Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys now that I’ve completed it. For Little Fox, I checked out several books of Anansi stories to read to him.


We’re back to watching Crash Course in the mornings.  One episode of World History 2 a day, and we’re nearly through all thirty episodes, which means we’ll be embarking on another of their topics later.  We also ran across this viral video of a Da Vinci instrument never before constructed until 2013, which looks like a piano and sounds like a full orchestra.  It’s called an viola organista:


Sandwich and saladWith all the problems with our septic, we’re not cooking much.  Our diet the last two weeks has been mostly sandwiches, salads, PCC hot foods, and Vietnamese or Mexican take out.  And since we thought everything was fixed on Thursday, I went shopping on Sunday with the impression I’d be cooking again this week.  So, most of our home-cooked meals are ones involving foods that can be baked on parchment paper on a cookie sheet in the oven.  No recipes, but to give examples, we’ve toasted tuna melts in the toaster oven, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes to eat as sides and whole meals with hearty condiments, we had a sandwich bar on Sunday evening with kale, purslane, and arugula Caesar salad, and mixed berry smoothies.  Tonight we’re having roasted chicken thighs in garlic and lemon with broiled cauliflower.  I might risk making a cheese sauce, and thus having another pot to wash, but it’s worth it.  Right?