Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lego Robotics!

I've probably mentioned it somewhere in the last couple of months, but I'm coaching the kids' Lego Robotics team for the first time this year. Last year, they had a great time with the months of teamwork and then the big competition (which is really for fun, not seriously competitive for them).
Their coach from last year moved away, so I took it on this year and that certainly has made me appreciate all of the work the coach did last year! I've been meaning to write about it for awhile but... I've been too busy!

All in all, the Lego FIRST League competitions are an excellent experience. They stress teamwork, "gracious professionalism", honoring the process over the end-product, and having the kids do all the work. So the coach literally can't even make a suggestion as to how they should do something (which is very hard for this engineering brain of mine to keep in mind!)

Our team has six kids, ages 8 to 14. Two girls and six boys. I am constantly impressed by their abilities to work hard as a team, put in a ton of effort, and come up with creative solutions. The robotics challenge this year was exceedingly difficult - an order of magnitude more complex than last years'. On top of that, the kids had to select a public building and perform a utility audit of the building, then research alternative energies and make suggestions on how the building could become more energy-efficient. In addition, they need to present this information in a public forum. They'll be doing that today with a presentation at our public library.

Next week we will go to our competition. They'll have three tries with their robot on the challenge table, they'll present their research project to a panel of judges, face another panel for technical judging, and a third panel for teamwork judging. I have faith that they will all do a terrific job, but I'm not sure if I will survive the day without an anxiety attack. My to-do list to get ready for this event reads about as long as the one before my wedding day (without having to make 500 hors d'oevres however). I have to have robots, spare parts, batteries, cables, connectors, presentation materials, kids, t-shirts, paperwork, parents, folders, nametags, sack lunches, and probably a million other things all in the right places. I remind myself, that just like when I do a triathlon (which is also an equipment-heavy event with complicated timing) that it will all be fun and totally worth it once its underway. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Unexpected Gifts

One thing I like the most about life with children is the unexpected moments when you come upon some scene and just laugh out loud. Don't get me wrong, when you want to take a bath it can sometimes be frustrating to have to remove an entire herd of horses from your bathtub! But at the same time, you have to smile and think to yourself that even in just a few years the horses will be relegated to a shelf at best, a box or Goodwill at worst and their days of galloping around the rim of the tub will be all in the past.

And who will tuck the potholders into bed at night when my little ones are grown?

Monday, November 12, 2007

More Kitten Pics


Asa and Bandit:

Monday, November 05, 2007

Kittens Aplenty, Kittens Galore

By popular demand, here's a bunch of pictures of the kittens I've taken over the last month or so. We're trying to find a good home for some of them. Here they are in all their cuteness!

Garfield, who has also been knicknamed "Mr. Trouble"
Smokey and Bandit waking up from a catnap...

Garfield and Ginger with the kittens' favorite toy monkey

One of my favorites, I love the expression I caught on Smokey's face as she and Bandit were playing!

We rolled up the carpet so the kittens couldn't ruin it when they were small. But they've taken to climbing up and sleeping all the way up near the ceiling!

It's the getting down that's the hard part though...

Mr. Garfield: "Who me? Try to eat your socks?"

Bandit's favorite piece of string

Looking fierce here, but he's really nursing here.

Smokey the curious investigating the underside of the piano bench

Ginger: "I'm a little tied up at the moment"

Ginger" Do I blend in with these striped pajamas?"

Bandit, practicing his black panther impression

The last photo I managed to take of them nursing. I think mama cat has weaned them now.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Celebrating The Halloween Season

Halloween isn't just an event for my kids, it's a season. So the last week or so has been filled with trips to a couple of different pumpkin patches, hayrides, Halloween parties, picking out and creating costumes, carving pumpkins, and of course the big night last night. It reminds me of why holidays exist in the first place - to mark a season, to have a sense of the year turning 'round again, to create family rituals and moments, to let free our creative spirits, to remember the joys of being truly childlike and imaginative, and of course to have fun and eat candy!

So without further ado, here's our photographic tour through the Halloween season...

Stop #1: On a family bike ride, we stopped by the harvest festival thrown by the one of the "city farms" - big community gardens. They were pressing cider, had a blacksmith shop, worm bins and composting, and of course pumpkins!

Then later that week, it's on to one of the bigger pumpkin patches just out of town, to feed the goats and get some bigger pumpkins...

Except that their hay ride was taken over by busloads of school kids on field trips... (and I always wonder when I see this, how our school districts can complain about class sizes and not having enough money to buy books, but I digress...). Bottom line, we couldn't even get on the a hayride to get a pumpkin! So we headed to a different pumpkin patch the next day. This one was fun because "Crazy Walt" gives the hayrides, and he sets up pumpkins on top of scarecrows and all the kids go pick tons of tiny pmpkins to use as ammo, so as Walt crazily drives the tractor, the kids are trying to knock the pumpkins off of the scarecrows. It was really fun!

And of course the hay fort!

Then it's pumpkin carving with crazy dad, not to mention the curious kittens...

And last but definitely not least... costumes and The Big Night...