Unearthing a More Colorful Brain.

“1 is red – right, mom?”

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This matter-of-fact question Noah asked Monday morning while doing his math (in my dirty dressing room floor as I hung up clothes) turned his school day on end. What followed was a fascinating day of me interrogating him while becoming more and more intrigued with his brain as he very factually and without hesitation answered all of my inquiries.

“Do all numbers have a color?”

“Yes!”

“0?”

“Black.”

“2?”

“Yellow. 5 is yellow too.”

“3?”

“Blue.”

“4?”

“Orange. And 6, 7, and 8 are purple, 9 is pink. 10 is obviously red and black.”

Now it made so much sense why, after deciding to use colored pencils for math a couple weeks ago, he had started to want to do more math each day.

“What about letters? Do they have colors?”

“Obviously. A is red. B is blue and pink. C is yellow and D is brown. E is orange and F is blue and purple.”

“Days of the week? Do they have colors?”

“Yup. Yesterday was a yellow day and the day before that was a red day. Wednesday is probably a brown day. Brown or beige.”

“So what about Saturdays?”

“What did I just say that they were?? Red, Mom!!”

I had just discovered that my six-year-old had grapheme-color synesthesia. AND I WAS TOTALLY GEEKING OUT.

Grapheme-color synesthesia: When an individual’s perception of numerals and letters is associated with the experience of colors. Like all forms of synesthesia, Grapheme-color synesthesia is involuntary, consistent, and memorable.

I’d heard about synesthesia in all its forms in my psych classes in college (a fascination that I pursued in my electives), and had more recently listened to a podcast about a woman with Mirror-Touch Synesthesia – a very real and terrifying condition that caused her to physically feel everything that she saw anyone else physically experience. Hug, punch, shivers, itches – whatever.

Synesthesia is a phenomenon where two or more senses are triggered by each other in an involuntary way. Color Synesthesia is the most common, and approximately 1% of the population experiences it. A theory is that it is associated from first memories of learning the letters – kids latch onto the colors of their refrigerator magnets, or the letters in their alphabet book. But this was disproven when they discovered synesthetes who couldn’t possibly have had those early life associations. I can’t help but wonder if there is still some connection there, and if more kids have synesthesia now that they learn their letters with blazingly colorful learning apps.

There are many more bizarre synesthesias, such as where you experience tastes when certain words or sounds are spoken, where smells have a color, when time has a spatial place around you, and where letters and other things are personified as little personalities. Often, people who are synesthetes will experience more than one type, so we had other fun conversations yesterday as well, such as,

“What color is the smell of chicken fingers?”

“What?? Mom! That’s disgusting!!”

“Where is Wednesday? Is it to the left or right of you?”

“I have NO idea.”

I found an online test for synesthetes and started Noah on it. It asks you to pick a color from the whole spectrum for each letter and number, randomized and multiple times, to see if you’re consistent with your answers. It was a bit long for a six-year-old’s attention span, however, so we haven’t finished it yet. But it was delightful to listen to his dialogue as he tried to pinpoint the colors.

“No…it’s a little lighter than that…more of a lavender. Mom, how do I get this to be lighter?”

“It’s more of a green-yellow. No, not that green. Not that one either.”

“9 is definitely pink. Not green. Help me get off the green!”

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What fascinated me most was his complete consistency. When he got to B on the test, he asked “B is blue and pink. How do I do that on here? Should I just pick one or the other?”

All day long I randomly asked him the color of numbers and letters and he’d shoot back, with complete accuracy, what he’d told me before. I kept a running note in my phone because there was no way I could possibly remember his answers from one ask to the next.

While he was taking the test, Ali walked in and asked what he was doing. I explained to her that Noah saw letters and numbers in color.

“Oh! I do too. 1 is blue, 2 is lime green – “

“WRONG!” Noah didn’t even look up from his test to inform his sister that she was categorically incorrect about the properties of numbers.

Ali wasn’t so convinced that letters had a color, but she did think days of the week had color.

She started going through her list, with very specific colors, like “Tuesday is lime green and light yellow mixed together” and when she got to Friday,

“…and Friday is sunshine yellow…”

Noah piped up, appalled, “What?!? That’s Sunday!! You’re so weird.”

I had never had a more surreal conversation with my children, and I was loving every minute of it. I had turned into psychologist mom and there was no going back.

I found this picture online and showed it to him.

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“What is in this picture?”

“Fives and twos.”

“How many twos are there?”

Without taking even a second to count, he said “there are six twos,” then pointed them all out. Because apparently, his brain comprehends them much bolder than my brain does.

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(I did ask him if he saw them in color or in black and he looked at me like I was crazy. “They’re black, Mom!!”)

The next morning, I had the kids separately make their color charts.

This is Ali’s:

Ali Synesthesia Chart

I checked it against my note, and she Ali stayed consistent with her choices, other than flip-flopping on 5 and 8 being light blue / dark blue.

And this is Noah’s. The really bold characters are due to the fact that they are supposed to be purple, and he wasn’t happy that they looked a little pink on first pass.

Noah Synesthesia Chart copy

The only deviation he made from the day before was that he decided that 7 was actually green, not purple. Additionally, he informed me that uppercase e’s are yellow, but lowercase are orange – and he preferred lowercase. I asked if all uppercase and lowercase letters were different, but he said only e and f – uppercase f is blue and purple (he got mad at himself for forgetting to add blue to it, although he did draw the dual-colored B), but lowercase is beige.

One interesting fact that I found while researching: although each synesthete has their own color-mapping, the majority make A red and O white or black. Noah has consistently told me that A is red and O is blue or black.

I have no idea what this brain phenomenon really effects, other than my children’s minds being delightfully more colorful than my own, but I’m excited to figure out how to integrate it into their education.

Noah Colors

As is, apparently, Noah.

So it might be worth the question – offhandedly, out of nowhere, to your kids:

“Hey – what color is the number 5?”

Report your findings immediately.

Note: an update can be found here.

A Valentine To Remember.

I have strong personal convictions about Valentine’s Day.

I think it is inanely stupid.

It’s contrived, it’s expected, and it’s downright annoying.

It forces single people to feel sad, it obligates non-single people to feel pressured to write something disgustingly mushy on Facebook, AND it’s the single worst night in the year to attempt to eat out, making one choose to either a) wait 4 hours to be packed in like sardines at a prix fixe meal out, or b) COOK AND WASH DISHES AT HOME.

WHY would we allow something so ugly into our culture*?

I mean sure, Chris and I celebrated it for a number of years at the beginning of our relationship – until that beautiful day that we got comfortable enough in our love to have that most romantic conversation.

“I think this is stupid.”

“Really? I do too!!”

We would much rather celebrate romance on our anniversary. It’s ours and we don’t have to share it with every other couple on the globe.

Welcome to the romance of the cynical.

* Feel free to disagree with me. You may find Valentine’s to be the most romantic, loveliest of holidays and that is 100% fine. Continue to enjoy the pinkest and reddest of days and by all means don’t let me sour you toward it.

Anyway. My lack of disregard for this holiday is why, when my Dad texted me Tuesday morning and asked if he could stop by, I didn’t even think for a second that it had to do with Valentine’s. I wondered for the next 30 minutes to what exactly we owed his visit. Although it’s not unusual for Dad to stop by, his text implied more than the usual “I’m dropping by.”

He walked in with a big red envelope in hand.

“I brought you a Valentine.”

Now. I derive 105% of my cynical genes from my Father.

This was clearly a confusing turn of events.

I opened my Valentine to find a handmade card, in my Mom’s writing. So this was a joint card….still feeling a bit odd.

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And then I opened it. And I remembered why my parents are THE best parents in the world.

FullSizeRender 63“Twisted” is the word that is obstructed by Herman’s Grade A Packaging, just in case you couldn’t figure that out via context.

Have you ever seen such a perfect way to celebrate this holiday?

No. You haven’t. Because my parents just created it.

After I opened the card and gushed at my Dad’s thoughtfulness, he pulled out another baggie.

“It’s a two-for-one day!”

That’s right. I was gifted not one, but TWO dead mice for Valentine’s Day. No $200 bouquet could top such a thoughtful, personalized gift.

I squealed with happiness.

“I even had a Valentine’s balloon in my roadkill kit that would have expired today if I hadn’t found something!!”

Dad beamed, obviously proud of his perfect timing.

After he left, Noah and I headed out to the driveway in bare feet, and I put the rubber gloves in my kit to use for the first time – after all, Herman and Marge would have to be posed.

I got them how I wanted them, but the plastic stem of my balloon kept popping off the ground, sending Herman rolling over.

Carcass Models are such divas to work with.

I finally had to employ my toes to hold the stem down, then had to crop out the tippy top of my big toe to finally capture the essence of the moment.

Yes, I had gotten what I wanted. Now it was time to write A Valentine Tale worthy of the image.

Herman and Marge the Valentine Mice s

Marge tried to feign excitement about Herman’s proud cheesy gift of an oversized balloon – she knew he loved her to death, after all – but all she really wanted was for him to have not been such an idiot when he decided to make their home near that tempting, deadly, beautiful, terrible Mouse Trap Subdivision.

And that’s how I received the best Valentine’s Day gift ever.

Diary of a Tired Mom: New Year, New Rambles.

Musings, stories, and random observations of a tired mother don’t always promise to make sense.


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Saturday morning, as I was driving to my favorite place to run, which happens to be in the middle of Birmingham’s fanciest suburb, I saw a fully grown man,

with a salt and pepper beard,

skateboarding down the road,

in a bathrobe,

that was printed in a fine leopard print.

I took a picture of him as I drove by.

I swear he posed an especially serious face just for me. Because he KNEW I’d have to take a picture.

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For that one moment, finding him was better than finding roadkill.

You be you, sir. You. Be. You.


Later that afternoon, I was attempting to make my way quickly through the drive-thru at Starbucks. I was behind a little car with a large “I Love My Labradoodle” sticker.

The Barista asked through the loudspeaker, “Can I help you?”

“I just need a few minutes to read the menu, thanks.”

I watched as the few minutes turned into more few minutes, and pondered to myself that perhaps this was not why drive-thrus were invented. You shouldn’t have need to read the whole menu if you’re choosing to stay in your car.

Finally they drove forward, and I quickly gave my order, assuming the Barista needed some decisiveness in her life.

As it became the Labradoodle LoveMobile’s turn at the window, I watched in horror as the Barista brought all the lunch options, fanned out in her hands, and held them out the window, three at a time, to show the indecisive driver what the options were.

SHE HAD TO SEE THE ACTUAL LUNCH OPTIONS, y’all.

And then she didn’t purchase one.

If you need to see actual food before ordering, please for the love of all that is even 1% right in the world, GO INSIDE TO ORDER.


What if you substituted “pelvic floor” for “dance floor” every time you heard it in a song? I found this is a fun pasttime, until I realized that “why don’t you kiss me on the pelvic floor?” is a somewhat bizarre question, and Michael Jackson’s “Blood on the Pelvic Floor” is just a really unnecessary topic to sing about.

So instead, every time you’re watching some serious movie or the news and you hear the term IED, replace it with IUD. The Korean terrorists throwing intra-uterine devices at Jack Bauer is downright pleasurable to imagine.


I realized the other day that I’m lash privileged. I’ve always had extremely thick, long eyelashes because my body hair grows approximately an inch an hour.

But. I allow my lash privilege show when I scoff at all the outlandish things other people do to have long eyelashes.

Fake lashes? So much trouble. And you would put those on for work? How is that a worthwhile operation?

That prescription that may cause heart failure as a side effect? Really? Are lashes worth all that??

But I’m not allowed to have an opinion. Because I’m lash privileged.

However I am not, apparently, eyebrow privileged, as I have one eyebrow that has decided to go prematurely grey. Yes, sadly my left eyebrow has gone rogue and keeps growing multiple white hairs, despite the tenacious grasp of youth that my right eyebrow maintains. I find this quite upsetting.

Maybe my entire left side is weird because I also have one rogue hair on the left side of my ribs that will grow to the floor, except that I yank it out for fun and amusement twice a year. And also if I rub the inside of my left elbow, it makes the left side of my jaw tickle-itch in a horrifically annoying-yet-fascinating way.

Do all left-handers deal with such body trauma as this?


Those matching underwear ads on Facebook draw me into their made-up fantasy every time. Chris and I need matching underwear. Look how frolicsome their lives look! But what are the chances that mine and my husband’s matching underwear would be clean at the exact same time? And furthermore, that the kids wouldn’t be totally weirded out by us wearing no pants at the dinner table?

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Has anyone named their kid hashtag yet? Because the ability to easily refer to one’s kid’s actions would be really fun. #Poop #Jerk #Mess #TimeOut #ScrewedUpAGAIN


Noah likes making up gibberish, and pairing words and phrases that he feels like sound good together.

Trouble is, he has some seriously refined taste.

He’s played with the word “Dammit” on many occasions.

(He swears he made it up.)

We had to forbid all made-up words that began with the letter f last month because they all tended to include the same four letters.

(He’s never heard that word.)

On Friday, he was repeatedly calling me, in a sing-song voice, “Hot Butt.”

(He’s never heard his father call me that.)

And on Saturday, as I was chasing him up the stairs while teasing and goading him, he screamed out, “Somebody get this Nasty Woman away from me!!”

(He’s never heard our president call an opponent that.)

I feel like he *may* have a supernatural power of word and phrase osmosis. That or he’s getting up in the middle of the night and watching television.

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But my bet is that the kid is a foul language savant.