March for Our Lives: the QW experience

As you can probably tell from our photos, Orono’s March for Our Lives event injected us with a good dose of hope. One of my recent publications is an essay about our family’s experience:

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Needless to say, the photo the editors used didn’t come from me, nor–I would like to emphasize–did the headline. Liam and Reid’s teachers wow me with their professionalism and generosity every day. The essay is about our family’s decision to take a headlong plunge into America’s gun-violence conversation and the many benefits we reaped from activism. You can read the whole commentary here.

Below is a picture of Liam and Reid, joined by an awesome group of mostly-older students, talking with Senator King’s staff about the group’s gun-control petition:

Photo Bangor area schools

A new update: A few days ago, I held up one of the kids’ cherished NERF guns and asked if their feelings on these toys had changed after our activism. “Ugh!” Reid said. “Disgusting. Get rid of them.” Liam immediately agreed. These guys don’t normally win prizes for their willingness to give away toys or really anything they’ve outgrown. Their categorical response was intriguing.

Reid, the Comic Book Author

Reid and his friend Jack have been writing a series of comic books about a dynamic duo–Bob and Bob. They got the idea to advertise the series by putting up notices around school (picture little kid scrawl announcing “CominG sOon” and hard-to-decipher drawings of stick figures in capes fighting off a monster who looks like a four-armed ball of cotton candy). The school’s prize-winning custodian, Mr. Joe, took the time to make sense of one of these announcement and said he wanted to buy a copy.

Before we knew it, Reid and Jack were meeting with the principal, agreeing to donate proceeds to a local bird sanctuary their wonderful teacher Ms. O had introduced them to in an owl unit, and (with some help from Tim) reproducing their books. They have now released two issues with copies going to all classrooms at their school and many teachers generously donating money to their cause. One saintly teacher (I tell you, the generosity of the people who work at the kids’ school really is astounding) said she’d only buy a copy of the book if the “authors” promised to join her for lunch one day. She then donated something like $15 for the first issue (Reid’s not real sharp on that detail–I think mention of lunch with Ms. Nielsen had him distracted–but he insists the financial contributioin was “a TON”).

The cover for the third issue just recently left our coffee table and made it into Reid’s backpack to pass off to Jack. Sustaining interest in writing a whole book, let alone co-authoring, can be a tenuous process at age 8, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for issue three. In the meantime, here’s book two. I dare you to try the maze.

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La Musica!

We’ve enjoyed so many performances this year–a 12-piano symphony for which Liam played Take Five, Reid’s Circus Concert, Liam’s recent show choir performance, and a chorus performance earlier where Liam sang songs from the musical Newsies. We’re so grateful for all of the wonderful music opportunities in our town!

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Lotusland Garden

We were fortunate to take a tour of the botanical garden, Lotusland, in Montecito. The garden, now a non-profit, was the estate of an eccentric Polish opera singer who, if I remember correctly, married six different men over the course of her life, four of whom were the wealthiest men in the world at the time. She then invested her resources in plants. The result is a truly awesome garden featuring a number of exotic collections, including ferns, cyads, cacti, succulents, and bromeliads.  Reid’s assessment: “It was even better than Costa Rica.”

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Cali outings

Locals complained of cold during our week of highs in the low 60s in California, but we were quite happy–kids wore shorts, the rest of us pulled up our hoods, and we all relished the sun. I enjoyed morning walks with Dad and Reid, runs with Bri, and with everyone, lots of outdoor outings to the zoo, the seals up the beach, the public pool, and a surfers’ beach.

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California dreaming

The kids and I made our first visit back to California since our move to Maine 7.5 years ago. We were joined by Sal, O’da and Bri in Carpenteria, south of Santa Barbara. The kids’ home state allowed us to re-live so many fond memories: winter sunshine, Mexican food on every street corner, mountains, vibrant February community gardens and farmers markets, loaded citrus trees, tart dried apricots, friendly strangers, Amtrak rides, outdoor winter swimming, seals and pelicans. All of this combined with time with our Quirk family made the week pretty perfect. If only Tim and Anna, who had to stay home for work, had been there!

Origami finger puppets

While Reid builds with blocks, Liam is busy making origami finger puppets (photos and photo effects his):

Designing games:

And reading tomes:

The latter activity–eating through books as if one’s life depended on it–is something that Tim and I never really managed as older children. We noted recently that the kids are more literate and more musical than their parents. Generational progress!