Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


We've been doing First Lego League since 2007, with only last year off. Bit-Boy is feeling done with FLL, and has asked "What else is there?" Here's what I've found so far.

BEST, and it's local affiliate Rocky Mountain Best have a season that run in the fall like FLL. Like so many things in Colorado it seems centered around Denver, and I haven't had any luck getting them to return my emails to get more info about getting started here in northern Colorado.

Lawrence Tech sponsors Robofest, which looks intriguing. Their comparison with FIRST competitions exaggerates the cost of FLL, so I don't know if all their other info is correct. Also, it looks like it's (quite reasonably) centered around Lawrence Tech. and I don't see any affiliates local to us. I wonder if we could convince some one else to start one up?

also has robotic competitions. It is no longer used with any FIRST programs. Locally the Thompson School District still supports and hosts VEX competitions.

And of course there is always FIRST. In addition to First Lego League, there is the FIRST Tech Challenge and the FIRST Robotics Competition. FLL we already have done, it uses the LEGO Mindstorms kit.

As far as I can tell the FTC is affordable. It also uses the Mindstorms kit plus add ons like Samantha WiFi Module and seems to allow other programming like RobotC. This makes it much more do-able for a home based team than the FRC.

FRC requires 2 engineers, 2 adult volunteers, access to a machine shop, and a $6500 recommended minimum to start a team. If my kid really wants FRC, he's going to have to go to the only local high school that supports it.

At the moment FTC is looking like our next direction in robotics. I'd love to hear about any other resources out there, and about any of your experiences with these or other robotics programs.

Friday, November 25, 2011


- So, I've been thinking... dh, ds13, ds10 & ds7 need some names. You know like those cute pseudonyms that some bloggers have for their kids. I ran this by the family. Here is what we came up with

dh= Firelord - this would because of his recent experiments with homemade gunpowder. Enough said. Really.

dh13 = bit-boy, geek boy, - but his voice has changed, he's taller than me, and wears bigger shoes than Firelord, so I'm thinking "boy" is a bit of a misnomer.

dh10 = Lego Boy, Lego Dude - I liked Wild Child or Tigger, but both are being used by other bloggers I read, so those don't feel original enough. (And Lego is?)

dh7 = chatterbox, Sir Chats-a-lot, Jabberwocky - but he wants Hot Dog. Why? I don't know.

Me? - the suggestions from the peanut gallery weren't so flattering - Nag Hag for one. Thanks guys. I'm thinking something like Mama Bear or Dragon Mama. (Maybe I'm over compensating?) Firelord suggest something with "music" in it. I've called myself a musical slut, but it's not a nick name I'd like to answer to regularly.

So, any suggestions? Be nice, 'kay?

Monday, November 21, 2011

No one likes talking about it, but we need to

The sexual abuse of children is real. It's epidemic. And it's not stopping. It won't stop as long as we are silent. It won't stop until we protect and believe the children. It won't stop until we own our obligation to our children as greater than any other obligation.

I usually don't do this, but Jennifer says it just fine. Go read this Blogging 'Bout Boys post.

She's got some important information to help you keep your kids safe from sexual predators.

I would add - believe your child. If your child tells you that something happened, believe them. Comfort and protect your child. Seek help and report the abuse.

Please, don't get trapped into worrying about what it says about you as a parent. It's not about you, and most perps are very, very good at grooming not only their victims but also the family that surrounds them.
They are very good at making it seem like you and your child are the problem. Remember your job. Protect your child.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Since we started homeschooling we've used the library even more than your average bibliophiles. Our library has a 100 book limit on each card, and we have occasionally needed more than one card to leave the library with all our selections.

I try not to buy books so much any more. Not only could I not afford to buy all the books we want to read, but we have quite literally thousands of books already. Despite a large room filled with wall to wall book cases, and book cases in every bedroom and hallway, we just don't have room for anymore.

Sometimes I find myself renewing a book the maximum number of times and then checking it out again. When I do that enough I can convince myself that, yes, maybe we should buy this book. "The Best Old Movies for Families" is one of those books. It has not only lots of great suggestions for movies I had forgotten about, or didn't ever know about, it also has enough description that I can gage whether my extra sensitive kids would be able to deal with the movie.

Teach with Movies is a website that has more suggestions. (Although it looks like it's geared to high school kids. Your mileage may vary.)

Media gets a bad rap, but really it's they way the media is used that is the issue, not usually the media itself. There are some excellent resources out there to help parents find the good stuff.

I'd love to hear about any resources you know about.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gracious Professionalism - double take

Last night my FLL team won 1st place in Gracious Professionalism, followed by an invite to the state tournament. I was floored by this unexpected conclusion to yesterday's qualifying tournament.

I slept on this. Actually I stayed awake unable to quiet the turmoil in my brain for quite a while, then entered a comatose state. I can't explain how surprised I was by how well my FLL team did at the qualifying tournament.

When I woke up, I understood better. Sleep is good that way.

This team earned their ticket to state the hard way. They were a solid well rounded team. They were up for project presentation award, had a solid rating on their robot design despite a poor run in the tech judging, scored 8th in the robot game, and obviously did well on the teamwork exercise.

That last bit was what surprised me, but it shouldn't have. This team had to learn gracious professionalism, or totally fail. I have 5 adolecent alpha males and one very quiet and thoughtful adolescent male on this team. (By quiet and thoughtful I want you to think mute, then add about 5 words a day.) We have kids on this team who actively don't like each other. There's only one boy on this team that doesn't tower over me, and I think there's some latent (or not so latent) sexism being explored. We had to share our space with a younger sibling team, and mentor them while still making progress on our own work. We had even younger siblings running around (too young to be on an FLL team) who had to be treated with respect and kindness, even when they were in the way- spying on and teasing the bigger kids.

My method of explaining my behavioral expectations centered around the Core Values and Gracious Professionalism. I told them that I expected this exceptional good behavior in and out of practice, in my home, and anywhere they were in public. I corrected poor choices when I saw them, and tried (not always successfully) to model my expectations. I expected them to control their behavior irregardless of their personal feelings. We are all committed to working together towards a common goal, and being angry with the person next to you doesn't change the fact that you must treat him with respect. This corresponds well with the First Principle in UU, and with the Golden Rule. My expectations weren't a surprise to these kids, but that didn't make it any easier to implement.

These kids earned their award. Not because they were best buds and got along so well. They earned it because they weren't, and found a way to get along and work together well anyway.

Well done team. I'm proud of you.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The weirdness never ends....

This has been the strangest day. Down right weird.

Just now my 7 & 10 yo decided to practice. Piano. All on their own. At 7pm. After an exceptionally long day. And then my 10yo old said "I love to practice." "Now I see why you wanted me to learn piano."

See what I mean? Coming from him, that's just weird.

Our exceptionally long day was spent at an FLL tournament. It was a crazy busy day. But that's ok, right? Because after today we're done for the season. Right...

Right off the bat, at 9am, we had our Project Presentation followed by Technical Judging at 9:20. They ran the robot for the judges and had an interview to discuss their robot and programs. Everything went wrong with the robot run. My team has had a low scoring robot game this season as it is. The team really didn't get a chance to show their stuff. I didn't get to hear the actual tech interview, but it had to go better than the run! Except I had to interupt it to get the team to their 9:40 team work exercise. That probably didn't help. I thought they probably did ok with the teamwork exercise, since they looked liked they were having a good time. (Coaches aren't allowed to do more than watch from a distance) Then we had some practice runs, lunch, and our scored runs. Followed by 2 hrs of presentations and awards. (The first hour of presentations are just vamping so that the judges have some time to complete their rankings and award decisions. I should post about the judging process sometime.)

At the same time our sibling team was making the same rounds with just a slightly different schedule. And I mean sibling team literally. There were 4 sets of siblings each split between the 2 teams that practice at my house, plus a couple of extra kids on each team. ( A couple of weeks ago ds10 quit his team, but I think that story needs to be a different post. Can I just say that things are crazy and I'm confused no end on so many levels, about so many things?)

It was a long day. And it's tough to keep the kids positive by the end of it. We were all tired and getting short tempered by the end. Then.... Then...

The sibling team took the 2nd place award in Project Research - but the description of their work mirrored my team's (because, did I mention? It was a sibling team. So we did all our field trips together, shared research, etc.. There was a lot of cross pollination between teams.) My team was literally getting to their feet as the description of the award winning work was listed when they heard the other team's name and number called. Such conflict! They were so happy for their sibling team - and so disappointed for themselves. I was proud of them, even though their faces showed their disappointment, they congratulated the other team, and were truly glad for them.

And the awards went on. And on. There were 49 teams at this tournament each being acknowledge and picking up their tournament medals (which were very cool this year), with 25 awards given. I wouldn't want to deny any team their time in the lime light, but we were ready to go home. The kids started chatting, not kindly, about a kid they knew from another venue, when their name was called - for the 1st place Gracious Professionalism award.

Can I just write this again?

My team. You know, the team that has been beaning each other with snowballs, bashing each other with boffers, and refusing to run the robot with "him" because of one thing or another, got 1st Place Gracious Professionalism.

To top it off our team got an invite to compete at the state tournament. Only 12 out of 49 teams from this tournament got such an invite.

The sibling team didn't get an invite. It was their turn to practice being happy and disappointed at the same time. They were gracious.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. Of course, that could be the exhaustion as much as the shock.

But wait. There's more.

After we put the littles to bed the sibling team's coach called me. A mistake had been made at the tournament. A team that didn't submit a project had accidentally been issued an invite to state. You have to submit a project to qualify for state. The sibling team earned the last golden ticket to the state tournament.

We're going to state. Both teams. 4 more weeks of practices.

Watch that feather, 'cause I'm just not that steady right now.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's ok. Really.

Thanks so much friends. I had no idea y'all were actually reading this blog. You can stop worrying about me now. (insert Monty Python accent here please)
I got better.

Yes, I had a bad day, and I wrote about it, and I posted it. The only unusual thing was the posting bit. Bad days come, and then they go. That was the point of the post, that the bad days go just as often as they come.

I'm having a good day today. Do you want to know what a good day looks like?
Here's what we did today:

Folded a couple baskets of laundry
Check out facebook and find a new favorite mommy blog
Stark. Raving. Mad. Mommy. , lordy, I needed that today!
Went to the library

Got allergy shots for 3 kids and went to allergy doctor appointments for 2 kids got a thumbs up and one child will get to go to allergy shots every other week starting next month (Woot!)

Went to Discount Tires to have tires checked, they balanced the air in them and sent us on our way.
Took 3 bags of clothes and toys to the charity thrift shop.
Went to lunch w/ kids and husband. Said "hi" to 2 different folks from church there. (UUs are everywhere!)

Home for the afternoon, where another friend came to visit our foster kitten. She didn't end up adopting her, but the visit did prove that Kate is not demon spawn, just acting fierce at the shelter because she's so scared. So if you're interested in a playful kitten, who is good with a dog, cats, and kids, Kate's available for adoption through the Fort Collins Cat Rescue. But she's living at our house.

We dug the rest of the potatoes out of their bed, and I planted garlic there for next year. Wonder how that'll work?

Took 7 year old to his pottery class. He had very muddy shoes from the potato bed. Teacher noticed. Because it got all over the floor. Sorry about that.

Went back to Discount Tire to assure them that we needed more than air - they finally found a nail in the rear driver side tire and fixed it.
Took 1 very heavy box of children's book to used book store and got a lot of store credit for future use, read HP3 with 10 year old while we waited.

Picked up 7 year old from pottery, go home.
Dh comes back home from dropping 13 yo off at his fencing class
4/5 of us are home for dinner (thawed homemade chicken tortilla soup)

I leave to pick up 13 yo from his fencing class. It's the last of the series and he comes out sweating and carrying a king size bag of Twizzlers. It's the prize for winning the tournament! He's so happy. I love that. Also, I like Twizzlers, and there's a Mama tax on all candy.

We go home where I get to cuddle children while dh finished reading "Puck of Pooks Hill" aloud and then I get to read some more of HP3 w/ ds10. Then ds13, dh, and I go watch 2 Avatar episodes while I eat Twizzlers and the chocolate my husband gave me for our anniversary last month.

See? A good day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The difference a day makes

Today feels so much better than yesterday. Today I know we're doing the best we can, and that it is good enough. Today I see that we are learning from the challenges we face and the mistakes we've made. Yesterday though... Yesterday was a hard day.

I thought about not posting what I wrote yesterday, and then I remembered...

I remembered all the times I've read an article or someone's blog and felt hopeless because they seemed to have it all together and I don't. I remembered the time when I posted to a Facebook friend that it was ok to fall apart. I remembered the time when a friend was surprised when I admitted to gloom "You're human after all!" And I remembered how validating it has been to find that others struggle, fail, and then get up and try again. So, for you, here's a peek at my feet of clay.

Hopeless (written Fri. 11/4/2011)

That's how I feel today.

I feel like a huge failure. I have given up so much to homeschool, so much to coach FLL this season. And at this moment it all seems for naught.

The FLL kids don't want to be there, especially my own.
I am so tired and frustrated. I'm over booked and under rested. I haven't had more than 5 hrs of sleep in a row since the power went out for 37 hours last week. I will have done FLL events 3 Saturdays in a row by next Sat. I've got meatballs to cook for a church event, and have to be at both services on Sunday to sing with the choir.

My kids aren't learning anything. My youngest is feeling left out and bereft. My middle child has quit jujitsu (which he loves), lego robotics (which he loved) and has missed most of his fencing class, which he had been looking forward to for years. My oldest wants more peer interaction to the point where he is considering going to school to get it even though he would be bored senseless with the academics.

I feel like this semester has been a total waste. I've given up a huge chunk of my life to coach an FLL team, host another, and both my kids are hating it. My house is trashed. (In part because there are two 7 year olds entertaining themselves during practice, one of which is mine. And in part because I'm so wiped from everything that I'm not keeping up even the little I usually do.) My 10 year old has quit his team. My 13 year old wishes he could quit and hates that I am his coach. There are ability and age differences that mean that not all team member are participating equally. There are conflicts between my team members. There are 2 kids on my team who, as it turns out, are arch enemies at their mutual enrichment program. That's made the season fun, fun, fun!

And to top it off, yesterday, playing in the snow after practice my oldest accidentally gave the bully of the team a concussion. He cried himself to sleep last night over the guilt of it. It was a freak accident, but he was the one who threw the snowball. Lordy, I'd like a reset for everything since Sept.

Reset (11/5/2011)

So what's different about today? Mostly my attitude.

Also, a few things more tangible than attitude:
We're getting healthy. I'm recovering from Thursday's tumble down the stairs. My kids are finally getting over a 2 week virus. (That means ds10 is back to wanting to do his activities, and ds7 (the one w/ asthma) is breathing well again.) The injured team member is healing, and knows it was a total accident. My 13 year old is learning that sometimes we can't fix a mistake we made, but that we can be forgiven. He's learning we can have compassion for those who are hurt and for those who do the injury. I'm remembering that FLL is not about how well the robot does, it's about how well the team pulls together - and this team is quite capable of pulling together. It remains to be seen whether they will. I'm remembering I can't make them. I can only point them in the right direction and remind them of our expectations. I hope they step up.

My house is still trashed, but somehow today that's not as important