Friday, April 25, 2008


Ever since we've gotten back from the FLL World Festival, Mackenzie has been working with the robot. Inspired by a team that used the ultrasonic sensor, he hooked one up to our 'bot and wrote a program that navigates around the house by sampling the sensor and if it encounters an obstacle it backs up and turns in another direction. It does have a slight problem with stairs (going down), not unlike my kids when they were small.

It's one of the greatest testimonials to the wonderful competitors at the World Fest that the kids came back so energized and inspired. We will be presenting our experiences to the Eugene Kiwanis group next month, and are also planning a public presentation to get more kids and potential coaches involved in starting up their own FLL teams. Mackenzie has already been talking with younger neighborhood kids and he is thinking about mentoring them as a JFLL team as well. Exciting stuff!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

We're Back, Many Amazing Tales to Tell

There were 81 teams at the World Festival from the 11,000 FLL teams around the world. Our team made friends with teams from the Northwest that were on our airplane (big wave to the Gothic Lawn Gnomes and Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies, who were awesome!) an all-girls team from Saudi Arabia staying in our hotel, and the team from Mexico that had the pit table right next to ours. All of these teams had won their region or country's championships to get there and they were not just technically incredible (!!!!) but wonderfully nice kids. It was such an amazing experience, we're all still processing it, but I will put up a slide show as soon as I can make it through the 600 photos I took and cull out some great ones. To walk up the ramp into the Georgia Dome with these kids and compete on the floor with teams from all over the world was just incredible, and made all the hard work of the last few weeks really worth it.

There were also over 300 teams of the high school age robotics championships (working with much bigger robots, some the size of small refridgerators!) and the kids were really impressed with them and are excited about future opportunities as they get older as well.

Monday, April 14, 2008

And We're Off

There's a pile of suitcases in the entryway, I'm praying I haven't forgotten anything important, praying even harder that the TSA will let our robots through in our carry-on luggage, and can't wait until we're on the plane and underway. Miraculously, both kids are already asleep after much excitement this evening. It should be one for the memory books, for sure.

World Festival, here we come!

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Spring has most definitely sprung here with beautiful weather over the weekend, and lots of time to enjoy the sunshine, the sprinkler, and a tandem family bike ride (along with 4 straight days of robotics practice!). And while I'm at it, here's a few funnies from around here lately:

When the kids were arguing, I overheard Asa telling Mackenzie very loudly "Oh, go back to your own beehive!"

On another day when I was the target of her wrath, I got "I'll remember that when you're old and you need me, mom."

On another afternoon, I overheard Wayne asking Asa to do something she apparently didn't want to do. After she didn't answer him, he asked her again, then asked if she had heard his request. She replied "I'm having a silent moment."

I was in the kitchen one day when I heard Mackenzie gasp as if he'd been burned by something hot. I looked over and he was carrying some apparently dangerous object to the counter at arm's length and I overheard him saying "At least it's got a protective shield on it!". The object in question? A pink (oh, the horror) crayon, one of those twistable ones in a plastic casing. Apparently, he's become allergic to the color pink. Maybe now's not the time to tell him he used to dress up in sparkles and fairy wings...

But probably my favorite quote from recently was not from one of my own kids, but one of their friends, who I will mercifully refrain from naming here....

"I've always wanted to mooselip a teapot!" Background story, a friend of mine from Alaska used to call it "mooselipping" if you drank straight from the milk carton or other bottle or pitcher, so that's what our family calls it.

Monday, April 07, 2008

One Step Ahead of Total Chaos

We leave for Atlanta in a week and one day! Having just got back from D.C. last weekend, and having a ton of stuff to do as the coach of a Team in Training triathlon team (a position I took on when I had absolutely no idea that our kids would end up going to this robotics World Festival thingie), and having our usual activities and homeschooling and all that, I feel like I'm just one step ahead of a gigantic rolling 8-Ball. I know once we get to the World Festival, it will be a total blast. The kids are very excited about meeting other teams from around the country and around the world, and they've been working very hard on their robot.

That's one thing I'm always excited and impressed with about our team. They're never content to just rest on their laurels, they're always trying to improve. When we won the Regional Tournament, our robot's top score was 230 points. We mostly won on the strength of our research project and our 100% teamwork score. At State, the kids had added programs and totally re-worked our table run, and the robot scored 290 points, which they were extremely excited about. Of course, the team that won state managed a whopping 400 points, wow. This last couple of weeks they have been working hard to implement two new missions, and that brings our best table run up to 325 points. We all know we won't be in the league of some of the incredible teams at Worlds, but I am very proud of them all for continuing to improve on their robot's performance and on the number of missions they're attempting. They are awesome!

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Smithsonian.... Without Kids

It's kind of like a banana split without the banana. I spent last weekend in Washington D.C. by myself. I went for a triathlon coaching seminar, and just couldn't find an airfare low enough to bring the kids along. Wandering through the mall, the monuments, and spending an afternoon at the Smithsonian by myself was a little eerie. On one hand, it was kind of strange and wonderful to have a whole day where the only influence on my time was what I wanted to do (I even took a little break with a paperback in the middle of the afternoon - oh my!). On the other hand, it made me realize how much I love sharing things with my family. Being in the Smithsonian by myself, well it was cool, but I couldn't help thinking how Asa would love the animal exhibits, or Mackenzie would be fascinated by the section on asteroids. I only stayed a couple of hours and then wandered on.

One thing I did love was that I got up very early on Friday morning and went to see all the monuments at sunrise, by myself. That's something I wouldn't have been able to drag the kids along for anyways, and it was a very moving experience. The sun rises behind the Washington Monument and fills up the Lincoln Memorial with light. There was no one else around and I spent a good amount of time with Mr. Lincoln overcome by emotion. This monument is one of the most awe-inspiring places I've ever been on the planet. The sheer size and scope of it, Lincoln's words on the wall, and his statue that looks like it is ready to stand up and walk forth, it is a very powerful place. When it's crowded with people, it is still impressive. But when you can stand there in the hush of dawn and watch the sun fill it with golden light, and read Lincoln's words, which still echo forth in the issues of our day, well that is something else altogether.

So now that I'm back, I'm both grateful for the time spent on my own, and doubly appreciative of the small people that I get to share my world with on a daily basis.