Surgery update

Hey all, I think this blog is losing steam.  That makes me sad, but also not surprised with the influx of social media and group chats; plus my kids are getting bigger and less interested in having their private lives on public record; and that whole working thing that takes up a lot of my time these days!

I am gloriously home this week, relaxing on the couch and watching too much tv.  They call it “resting,” not something I’m generally good at! :)  Actually, this week we’re calling it “healing” and something that is very needed, mentally and physically!

Third paragraph and third time sitting down to write this.  Sigh.  Things are going well.  I’m healing.  My throat is feeling less sore and I haven’t taken an pain reliever since 1pm this afternoon.  :)  On Tuesday the ENT surgeon did a “quick procedure” (only 74 minutes fully sedated!) to remove some scar tissue from my trachea in an attempt to open up that airway and help me breath a little easier.  I’ve been dealing with this for awhile now and tried several different asthma meds first, with minimal success.

I’ve been on so many meds (pain relieves, antibiotics, stereoids, and the usual vitamins and stuff I take every day), that I haven’t really been able to tell if the surgery made any improvement.  Also, it’s not too hard to breath when you’re just sitting on the couch all day, not moving!  :)

This afternoon I took Arlo for a walk down the street and it was colder than cold so we walked at a very brisk pace!  It was not a long walk, but I found myself noticing on the way back that my breathing was up slightly, but in a natural “I’m walking fast in the cold,” sort of way, not the “I’m having trouble catching my breath,” sort of way that it has been for the past year or more.  I’m going to tentatively say the surgery was useful and worth it (the forced recovery time was definitely worth it as I’ve been running on stressed out fumes for awhile now!)

Yesterday I made it out for a few errands and lunch with a friend.  I was exhausted by the end and my throat was sore.  Today felt like “back to real life” with karate and Lego League practice requiring me to be up and out the door early.  Tomorrow is the Lego League competition and it will be a LONG, LOUD day!  I’m going to bring extra pain reliever, just in case!  Monday is a full day of school, and I’m already looking forward to Tuesday and Wednesday, my quieter days in the library!

Ok, outta here for now!  Lots to prep for tomorrow and we have to be out the door bright and early!

Coding and Robotics

I’m at a course this week learning to teaching Coding and Robotics to the Elementary and Middle Grades.  I’m LOVING it!  I’m so thankful to have a job I can immediately apply this new knowledge too as well.  We met Friday to learn a lot of stuff, then this week we are “teacher helpers” at a coding camp for kids.  It has been interesting learning with and from the kids, several who have coding experience already.

We have been focusing on code.org, and Lego WeDo 2.0, and touched a bit on Scratch as well.  Here is my first Scratch project.  :)

The WeDos are similar to the NXT and EV3 programs that Lex has and loves. It has been interesting and challenging learning this “simplified” program because Lego made it more cartoony, but less usable. These kids (and teachers!) are struggling with the lack of functionality, inconsistent outcomes, and vague icons. As someone who has studied usability in the past, I can honestly say there is no excuse for this, especially from Lego! That said, I will continue learning it and developing ways I can introduce it in my library without having 250 confused kids!

Big thanks to Alan and my parents who team up to take care of the homestead while I’m away for five days!

A few more First Lego League Competition photos

One of Lex’s coaches put a bunch of pictures online from the FLL competition. Here are two I like a lot. :)

Lex's expression in this one cracks me up.  It was just a momentary camera snap, just  a passing expression, but so funny.   He wasn't at all annoyed.  He also looks much older in this picture.  :)

Lex’s expression in this one cracks me up. It was just a momentary camera snap, just a passing expression, but so funny. He wasn’t at all annoyed. He also looks much older in this picture. :)

This one caputures Lex and FLL perfectly!  He had just started his mission running and was excited to see it succeed (or IF it would succeed!)

This one caputures Lex and FLL perfectly! He had just started his mission running and was excited to see it succeed (or IF it would succeed!)

We also got a copy of the final scoring rubrics for the project, core values, and robot design presentations. The kids did amazing! Their robot didn’t score a ton of points on the field, but they did outstanding in the presentation. The comments included, “The team had vivid enthusiasm and were clearly having fun,” “The team was phenomenally compatible with each other,” and “respect and inclusion.” I’m so proud of how well they worked together, how well they support one another, and how well they perform. I couldn’t ask for better teammates or coaches for Lex.

One of the older kids suggested Lex take home the trophy for awhile and the coach agreed. When I questioned “wouldn’t an older kid, on their final year, rather take it first?” but the coach said they thought Lex would like it. Boy were they right! His face lit right up when I told him and he was so proud it carry it out of the building. Happiness is.

First Lego League Competition

We just wrapped up another year with Lex and his FLL team. This year they called themselves Reduce, Reuse, Robotics! They change the name each year to fit the theme. This year’s theme was TrashTREK, all about finding a better way to handle trash, or create less of it in the first place. They changed the requirements this year and we had to compete within the state of Vermont, so we were at a different place today, but mostly it’s all the same. The kids did a great job and had lots of fun.

The day was split in half with the projects and presentations in the morning, and then the robot competitions in the afternoon.

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Their project this year was on how to increase recycling in school. Their idea was to have a team of students run the recycling program, and to make it more fun! I volunteered to run the project part of the competition this year and it was fun. We didn’t win any project awards, but we did ok.

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Revving up for the Core Values presentation. This is one that the coaches and families can’t watch. The kids go in and are presented with a challenge (completely unknown before that moment) and they have to work together to solve the problem. I heard rumors after the fact that this year’s challenge involved hula hoops. I haven’t gotten the full story yet.

It’s always a long day with lots of waiting around. They have a total of 37.5 minutes where they’re actually doing something, and the rest of the day is spent waiting. Good thing there are usually lots of things to watch and see and do!

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Turns out there were a few hockey games going on in the same area we were in at Norwich University. We watched a bit of hockey off and on, but I think they had the most fun cheering on the zamboni! (that’s what they are doing here)

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Lex, driving a First Robotics Competition robot. This what the high-schoolers do after they’ve aged out of FLL. Eve got a turn to drive too. The whole thing is controlled by that game controller in his hand.

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Meet Bud the robot Bud (Abbot), his friend Lou (Costello) was back at the lab. Eve LOVED this little guy!

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Bud can sit down, stand up, walk forward, backward, and even sideways! He can also hold your hand and walk with you, recover and stand back up when he falls, and…

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Bud knows karate!

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Eve was fast friends.

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If anyone has $16K laying around and is looking for a gift for Eve….

After lunch it was robot time! They had three separate matches, each 2.5 minutes long. It’s hard to get good pictures because the set up wasn’t great, but Alan took tons of pictures and videos that he posted on Google+. Some of them may be better than what I got.

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Time for the actual robotics competition!

Between matches we did decided to get some fresh air!

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Rolling down the hill. Everybody needs a break sometimes.

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Lex and his friend were in awe at being so close to a school bus. They even stuck their heads right under (it was safe, don’t worry) and got a good look!

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Hahaha… they tried hard to take down the goal post! Fortunately they were not successful!

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Eve thought this would be a good way to go down the hill. Guess who is now completely covered in grass stains!

By the end of the day everyone was wearing out! We had about 40 minutes to wait before the closing ceremony and I saw a whole lot of tired kiddos!

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By the end of the day they were all getting worn out. This scene made me laugh with five of them behind the table, snugged with the jackets, and cozying up together to read and play on the iPads.

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I love that they are playing chess together on the iPad! Of course, they played plenty of Minecraft too!

During the closing ceremony they give out the awards. The team didn’t have strong robot this year and didn’t earn many points, so I think everyone was surprised (and excited!) when they heard Reduce, Reuse, Robotics called!

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They won an award! Truth be told, we were all surprised! They won the mechanical design award again, just like last year, for their “super slidey slick thing,” (or “slidey thing,” as Lex prefers) which is a method of attaching the interchangeable pieces needed for the different missions. It makes it quicker and easier for them to switch attachments in the middle of the competition.

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I couldn’t get a good picture! Too many distractions. Eve being just one of them! :)

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Guess who got to take this trophy home tonight?! Oh yeah, I have one happy boy this evening.

It was a long, but fun and satisfying day! I even got a sweet thank you for helping with the project. :) Not that it’s about me, of course, but it did make me smile.

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Awww… Coach Tessa. :)

Happy Saturday!

For the first time in awhile we have a pretty low-key weekend on deck. I woke at 7:30am to find Eve carrying a tray (“the shiniest one,” she said) with oatmeal and hot tea on it. She was super excited to announce that she had made me breakfast in bed! She cuddled in the bed with me for awhile while I ate. She is super sweet!

Once we were all up Alan took Lex to karate while I took Eve to track practice. She is now running in the town rec program and a local AAU program. Next weekend is her first meet!

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Running the 200m

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Running the 400m

While Eve did her practice I spent nearly an hour and a half walking/running around the track as well! She wants to run in the CHaD 5K this year and wants me to run with her, so I gotta do some training myself!

Eve and I stopped at the Farmer’s Market on the way home and enjoyed cheese and jelly samples and a few purchased cookies. When I got home Alan told me that Mandy was on her way up and they were going to tear apart the mudroom. We have leaks and the floors are coming apart so they are tearing out the floor and starting over.

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My dining room for the next few days

While they were hard at work in the mudroom, Eve and I went for a walk to meet our new neighbors. They moved in last week. They have a girl in Eve’s grade, and two boys, one younger and one older than Lex. We took them on a walk around the neighborhood and introduced them to the children in the area. It turns out the older boy is totally into Legos and the First Robotics Lego League (he already signed up for next year’s team!). He brought some EV3s over and the boys are all upstairs building some EV3 battle bots! Eve, and two neighbor girls are upstairs in her room playing dolls.

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The girls

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The boys (the two new neighbors are not in the picture)

Somehow my house is under construction and I have seven kids in it, yet I am able to talk on the phone with my bestie for an hour and now write this blog post! How’s that for an awesome Saturday afternoon! I’m off now to order pizza because who can cook when there’s construction going on!? :)

A day at the Brick Fair

On Sunday we went to visit the Brick Fair, basically a Lego expo, but not sponsored by Lego. People brought amazing Lego creations they’d made and had them out for display. There were also a bunch of vendors selling Legos and Lego related stuff. It was really a fun time.

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A cool scene.

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A “cake” that someone made to celebrate a First Lego League anniversary.

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A rotating restaurant.

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“The Great Ball Contraption” – This was super cool. A group of people built a long chain of contraptions that carry little plastic balls all the way around the loop. Alan took a long video of the whole thing. It was amazing to watch.

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No kragle here!

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A big city. They had fun little Lego pigs and Godzilla and Ninja Turtles and other silly things all throughout the displays. The kids had fun finding them.

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A map of New England.

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They had some pretty cool Lego artwork. This one is about 24″x24″.

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Extra, extra, read all about it!

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Eve makes such funny faces in all her pictures.

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The biggest bouncy house ever! I didn’t love how dark it was inside and how few windows there were, but the kids had fun.

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This coloring table was set up next to the bouncy house for the parents to color. :)

We left the show around 4pm and headed out to find some dinner. We ended up at the Portland Pie Co. and had a super delicious meal. We wanted to sit on the patio to enjoy the day, but the painfully loud motorcycles and stinky smokers that kept going by quickly changed our mind. We settled instead in a quiet back room and thoroughly enjoyed our meal. After dinner we walked up the street a bit further in search of dessert. Good thing ice cream was just around the corner!

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Everyone loves Ben & Jerry’s! Notice his shirt? It’s his First Lego League Team shirt. He thought it would be appropriate for the day. :)

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This wild one really liked her chocolately chocolate Chocolate Therapy ice cream! Then she ran it off for awhile.

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On the way back to the car we stopped by to say hello to the giant inflatable Lego man.

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A nice, old-fashioned “us” picture to end the evening. :)

Then we headed home, tired and happy.

If you’d like to see more pictures of cool Lego creations, check out the rest of the photos.

First Lego League (FLL) Championships!

Lex and his team, the #10 Pencils, spent Saturday at the FLL Championships in Nashua! The rest of us went along too. :)

We drove down Friday night to avoid a ridiculously early Saturday morning drive. Turns out we made a good choice because the weather Saturday was awful and it was nice to have a very short drive from the hotel. We got in late, basically went right to bed, and left early the next morning. Eve observed that we were at the hotel for less than 12 hours, probably our shortest hotel stay ever.

Saturday morning, bright and early, we were at the First Lego League Championships!

trophies

The trophy table!

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The main event. This is where the matches were held. Also where the opening and closing ceremonies were.

smiling eve

Eve was a good sport and spent her day tagging along. She brought books, coloring supplies, and stuffies to keep her busy.

Just like the Dartmouth one, this competition consisted of three matches where their robots competed against other robots to complete missions and earn points; a design presentation where the team presented their robot and demoed it for the judges; a project presentation where their presented their FLL project; and a “core values” meeting where the team had to meet with the judges, without coaches or parents, and demonstrate their understanding of FLL’s core values. They are scored on all four parts.

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The first match of three.

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Lex setting up the first mission. He had the most reliable program on his team. They ran it first every time and it worked every time!

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Lex, excitedly bouncing and flapping his hands as his program ran. :)

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The design presentation where they tell the judges about their robot, how they made it, why, and demo some of the attachments.

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In “the pit” (team table areas) all the teams had presentations of their FLL projects. Lex was fascinated by this one.

lego office

This project was about learning in a classroom and they built a whole Lego classroom with working parts and all. It was pretty cool.

This is their second match. It didn’t go very well, but the video gives you an idea of how it all works. The robot drives around the table completing missions (pushing, pulling, opening, closing, etc.) and earning points for each one it complete successfully.

practice table

They had five practice tables available that the teams could sign up to use. Between matches the teams can refine and retest their robot and programs before their next match.

tired team

They were all a little tired.

The main room had four tables, two by two, and two giant screens so everyone could see what was going on. They held matches on one pair of tables while the other pair was being set up for the next match. The whole thing moved very quickly. It took a few matches before the kids realized you could see them on the big screen… then they were all excited and waving to themselves. :)

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Lex on the big screen, setting up for their third match.

Lex’s team was done with all of their tasks by mid afternoon, then we had a few hours to hang out and wait until the final matches and closing ceremonies. Lex and his buddies played hide and seek while Eve entertained herself with more coloring and reading. It was less then thrilling, but the time passed quickly enough.

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Eve did this for a long time. She ended up laying down with the book on the floor. I thought she fell asleep for a bit. :)

Finally it was time for the final matches between the four highest scoring teams. It was amazing to watch. The top teams scored three to four times what the next highest teams did and they had some pretty amazing out-of-the-box ideas. After that was the awards ceremony, which was fun and entertaining. Lex’s team didn’t win any awards, but they did amazing and had a great time. I was so proud of them and Lex.

dancing

While waiting for the final scoring there was a lot of dancing in the aisles. Everyone had lots of fun!

Lex came home full of ideas and enthusiasm for next year. He decided to set up his own test mat and missions. He has been working on it ever since. I love his excitement.

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Lex’s own mat and missions.

I have more and deeper things to say about Lex these days, but right now it’s late (I swear it’s always late!) and I’m tired (Story of my life these days!) so I’m going to bed. And by “bed” I mean to fold laundry, clean up the kitchen, have a snack, then go to bed. Sigh. Good night.

First Lego League Competition

This year Lex joined the local First Lego League group and finally found his tribe. :) There are ten kids in the group and they have been meeting twice a week for the past few months, designing and building a robot to complete a variety of challenges (aka “missions”). Today was the big competition. Nineteen teams from around the area competed in robot missions, design challenges, team work exercises, and presentations. It was a full day for these kiddos and a day of firsts for Lex! Overall it was AWESOME!!

The event started at 8am today at Dartmouth College. Lex and I went while Alan took Eve to karate. Suddenly we are that over-scheduled family! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but parents from last year said there is a lot of waiting and just hanging out. I personally felt the day flew by! Alan brought Eve over around 11:30 and I was having a great time hanging out. I loved watching the kids on the team work and play together. You could clearly see who had been there before (the older kids) and who was new (the younger ones) and how they went about things differently.

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#10 Pencils, hanging out before the events begin.

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My #1

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#10 Pencils, getting ready for their turn.

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Lex gets final updates on the mission order before their first match.

design meeting p1

Part of the competition is a presentation and demonstration of their robot design. Each person had to read a part and then they all had to answer questions.

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Question time.

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I love how Lex stepped right up to answer questions without hesitation. He was so confident!

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Team picture!

challenge meeting p1

Another part of the competition was to solve a non-robot challenge. This years challenge was to design a new way to teach someone something. Their team came up with a new way to teach someone to run. Then they had to present it to the judges.

challenge meeting p2

He looks so little in this group! He did great though.

Eve and Alan got there right around lunch time. We had some lunch, hung out, went to one of the team’s presentations, and then Eve talked me into leaving. More like she wore me down with her whining. I was conflicted because I had told her ahead of time that Alan and I would probably switch off and that she wouldn’t have to be there all day, however I was having fun and really didn’t want to leave! I didn’t want Alan to miss out on the whole thing either though, that didn’t seem fair. I begrudgingly left around 1:30 and we went home. Eve wanted to play house and dolls and all I wanted to do was text Alan to see how it was going. We settled on reading, which I did not do very well. Eventually she asked if she could play on the computer and I flopped over on the couch and took a nap!

Alan took a video of their third match and sent it to me. It made me very happy. The team had tried the “sports” mission (where the robot throws the ball into the net) twice before and each time it missed, but this time they got it! Hence the cheering. :)

Lex and his team ended up winning an award for Best Robot and progressing to the championship round next month!! I am super happy and excited for them!! It will be a busy day and I am totally looking forward to it! Alan is excited because the championship is held at his old high school. :)

award ceremony

The team won an award for the best robot design. Alan sent me a picture. :)

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The actual award. I wonder what they will do with it.

Lex today wore a shirt that matched everyone else’s (or at least 10 other people), stood in front of a group (twice) to do a presentation, and happily survived a day full of noise, people, and chaos. I’m so proud of him!! He is growing up into such a strong, smart, fun little guy. I’m so glad that he is introducing us to this fun new world. That’s one of the many joys of parenting, all the places your children bring you. I think my parents would agree with that!

A return to chaos

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We unorganized the Legos today.  Sorry Joyce, it seems we just can’t maintain order without you around!

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The cabinet still needs to be emptied, then we will use it to display FINISHED pieces only!  The rest will be returned to the sheet and then into the giant bucket!

PS. Joyce, Lex told me the other night that there is a small, half-built car in the Lego pile that you built. He said he never takes pieces off of it because it reminds him of you and make him feel happy. :-)